Tuesday, March 31, 2009

AI- Top 9 Performance

Ryan…suit…lineup…This… Is… blah blah blah… voice over.. Randy in a vertical striped cardigan… Kara in a black sheath… Paula in a short, strapless, foofy, red Barbie dress and big plastic beads… Simon in a black sweater with the sleeves jacked up to the armpits…any song from I-Tunes top download lists… Ryan in one of his thousand other jobs… kids at the radio studio… don’t expect to recognize a single song…yep… American… Idol…

Anoop has a silly pretend mustache (the kind that fourteen year old boys try very hard to grow, and then color in with an eyebrow pencil when they realize that they can’t manage it). He’s wearing a black jacket with Michael Jacksonian trim over a red-striped knit shirt. He’s singing Usher and he sounds fine to me, given that I don’t know the song. But my husband, who is more familiar with radio music than I am, says it’s nothing more than karaoke, and not very good karaoke at that. The judges agree with The Hub.

Megan interviews in a Heidi blouse and declares an intention to sing Bob Marley, via Lauryn Hill, which I hope is an April Fool’s joke. No such luck. Megan has a teal bustier, Mardi Gras beads, jeans and 8’ long legs. Oh yeah, and her hair is a mess. I suppose she sounds as good as she can sound, but as always, I can’t get past her winky/grinny/swivel-y performance. Caw! Caw!

Danny is wearing a Danny Uniform, and he’s singing What Hurts the Most, by Rascal Flatts. It’s a lovely song and a good showcase for Danny’s huge voice. The Hub says it sounds exactly like the record, so I brace for the “K” word from the judges, but maybe they’re not familiar with Rascal Flatts either.

What the hell? Allison’s hair is indescribable, and her dress is nearly so, though I’ll try: strapless pink lace tiered ruffles with strange lines of intertwining white lace running the entire length of the center front, over leggings and white plastic platform shoes. The hair? Nope. I give up. Her outfit is so over the top it’s distracting. It looks like a costume except that costumes look better. But the girl is a performing savant. She’s so comfortable and natural onstage, and I love listening to her voice. She has become my Season 8 favorite. She’s not going to win (and I don’t want her to win- imagine her being forced to sing the perky Disney crap they would deem suitable for a 16 year old), but I’ll buy her album.

Scott is in a pompadour and black leather jacket. He’s at the piano, singing Just The Way You Are. I’m not so sure that he didn’t miff the lyrics early on, and I think this version is too slow. But there are some soaring moments, and the judges like it. Paula tells Scott that his voice makes her forget that his eyes don’t work.

Ryan says that the next two singers will do The Fray and Celine Dion, and for a moment I fantasize about Matt warbling that Titanic song. No such luck- he’s singing The Fray, and doing a pretty bad job of it, not that I know the song or anything. He’s standing at a keyboard and I don’t need my husband to tell me that he sounds rough.

Though I would rather have had her choose anyone else, if Lil was going to sing Celine, I would have liked her to sing that one Celine song that doesn’t sound like a Celine song, but she’s singing I Surrender. Lil has a pageboy wig and is wearing a slate blue chiffon formal with a complicated bodice construction. She sounds better than she has the last couple of weeks, but I wonder if she wouldn’t be better served by choosing something more contemporary. Or less likely to put us all to sleep. Honestly, it seems like Lil is coasting on her talent (which is considerable), when she should be blowing us away week after week. Her little one likes hearing criticism even less than Lil herself does.

Adam is still dressed like Kurt Russell playing Elvis. He’s singing Play that Funky Music, and you know what? For the second week in a row, I like him. But even when I don’t like him, his talent is more than evident. He takes chances every single week, and when it works, it really works. This really works.

Note to Kara: Studio 57 (the Heinz Studio) is 3 doors down from the disco place.

We’re finishing up the evening with Kris, singing Ain’t No Sunshine- him, a keyboard, a string quartet, and another one of those proto-staches. Wow, I like this a lot. So Kris isn’t just a pretty face. I think this is the best performance of the evening.

Bottom Two: Megan and Matt

Middle Three (in ascending order): Anoop, Scott, Lil

Top Four (mostly in ascending order, though I liked all of the performances, and the Top 3 pretty well tied): Danny, Allison, Adam, Kris

Tomorrow night- David Cook.

You not only can't get there from here...

... you can't get here from here.

It's March and this is South Dakota, and I've lived here for 38 years, so late winter blizzards (doesn't matter what the calendar says- March is Winter in SD) are no surprise. And yet, we're still a little surprised by the power of this storm.

We're right in the middle of this one, which began last night with some Thunder Snow (yes- lightning and snow at the same time). It's hard to measure how much snow we've gotten so far, because even though it's wet and heavy, it's drifting because we're having 40mph+ winds. We could get up to 14", and certainly, we have drifts over 3' now. This is snowman snow, a rarity here (note that it stuck to the sides of the buildings and trees). Visibility is under 1/4 of a mile, and no travel is recommended anywhere in the north eastern portion of the state. This storm is expected to howl well into tonight and very early tomorrow morning (which means that my already-postponed dental appointment, may be postponed again). Then we get to dig out.

Luckily, I ran all of my errands yesterday. And I have plenty to do today. I plied the 2nd bobbin of the Batty roving (no pic because it looks just like the first skein, only a little smaller) last night, and have the final bobbin to ply. I spent about 3 hours yesterday afternoon cutting out fabric panel dolls to sew for the 3 Grands, plus 2 Honoraries for Easter, so I can haul the sewing machine downstairs and get to work. And I have an entire season of Dexter to watch. I'll just stay inside and admire Mother Nature.

Monday, March 30, 2009


I finished spinning a bobbin full of the Batty roving, and then 3-plied it. It came out 1.5 ozs and 83 yds. I have another smaller bobbin spun, ready for plying, with a hank of roving left to spin. I don't think I'm going to have enough yarn for a pair of socks from this 4 ozs, but I can stripe it with some coordinating yarn. Or I can do toe-up anklets. Or I can knit a pair of gloves. ooooohhhhhh.... gloves.... That would be gorgeous. And it's been awhile since I knit a pair of gloves, which means that I have forgotten what a PITB they can be, and therefore might begin with enthusiasm.

I'm still listening to, and totally enjoying, the Librivox podcast of Miss Mapp. I'm up to Major Benjy's duel, and am still amazed at the brisk and bracing malice of Tilling. This book has a variety of readers, most of them really good, and none of them bad (though two chapters sounded as thought they were read from the bottom of a garbage can). I know that Queen Lucia has been recorded, and I hope the volunteers are working on the other books in the cycle.

We're slated for a major snowstorm today- up to 10". Here's what it looks like this morning. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Happy Hookin'

I can crochet. I just don't do it often, and haven't tackled a complex project in years. But I was asked to contribute a design to a new crochet compilation book (too soon for details to be released), so I thought I'd try something lacy.

Since my Crochet Bookshelf is sadly bare, I ordered a couple of stitch dictionaries from Amazon: The Complete Book of Crochet Borders and Designs (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1579909140 ), and The Complete Book of Crochet Designs: 500 Classic and Original Patterns (http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Book-Crochet-Stitch-Designs/dp/1579909159/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b ), both by Linda Schapper. They're both reissues of older books, put together with the newer terminology, and charts.

I was pleased and delighted to learn that crochet charts are quite easy to read. It's not as natural for me as Fair Isle charting, because nothing is on a grid, but it's still easy to see where you are in the pattern, and what stitches to work next. The books are chock full of good photos, with hundreds upon hundreds of stitch patterns and motifs, each with both written instructions, and those easily deciphered charts. There are also clear and concise illustrations for creating each stitch used in the books, which is a great help for newbies, and those, like me, who need a refresher course.

I crocheted a test swatch last night, using designs from the books as inspiration (sorry, can't show it) and was very pleased with the design. I think it'll work for the *thing* I have in mind. Lacy crochet is fun to do, and while I'm not as speedy with the hook as I am with the needles, it still works up pretty quickly- owing, I suppose, to the high air-to-yarn ratio, and the fact that I'm going to be using sock-weight yarn and a size F hook (no teensy little hooks and thread for this one).

I already have notions for other projects and designs. This is going to be a grand adventure.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Now with ultra-violent zombie mayhem

Have you heard about this book? I don't know whether be amused or outraged. Or intrigued.

Has anyone read it yet? Should I order it? Will I laugh?

Batty Batty Batty

Okay, that header isn't going to make sense to anyone who is not in my immediate family- it's a line from the movie Hollywood Shuffle that somehow became part of the Taylor Phrase Dictionary. It has no bearing on anything, except that the Twisted roving that I am spinning right now is called Batty. I don't know why it's called that (probably nothing to do with Robert Townshend), but it's a totally gorgeous bit of fiber, dyed in shades of plum, sage green, and pale yellow. It's going to make a beautiful yarn (the shot of singles on the bobbin was too fuzzy to upload, but the other picture shows the colors well). I had thought that this blend was strictly Merino (I lost the tag listing the fiber content), but I see a bit of sheen, so now I think it's the Merino/Silk blend. Regardless, it's lovely. I will probably 3-ply it to retain the striping.

When I'm not spinning, I am ripping out socks. I didn't like the eyelet structure of the first version of this pinkish sock, and so I reverted to my easy eyelet texture (K 4 rnds, next rnd : *YO, K 2 Tog* around), which compliments this short-length variegation. These colors are not particularly to my liking, but I'm not an 11 year old girl. I think she will like them just fine.

And when I am not spinning or ripping, I am reading. I read Neil Gaiman's Coraline yesterday. I bought it for me, but also with an eye toward gifting it to the voracious reader in the family. I loved the story, but there is no doubt that it is very dark, and vividly unsettling. On the other hand, said VR reads far above her grade level, loves the supernatural, and is not easily spooked (and will probably see the movie). I'll consult with her parents before making the decision. But for adults, and young readers who are not prone to nightmares, I heartily recommend the book.

And no matter what else I'm doing, I am thinking about the Fargo/Moorhead area. My brother in law lives on The Red River. In '97 (The Awful Year, The Year Where We Had a Blizzard Every Week, The Year of The Floods), their house was spared. They're not going to be so lucky this time around. They (along with most of those two towns) have evacuated, and are waiting to see what the river decides to do. Here in South Dakota, there are flooding issues as well, all along The James River. We, personally, are on what passes for high ground, and Turtle Creek (which runs behind our house, but quite a ways downhill) is high but so far not causing damage anywhere. Please send whatever good energy you can spare toward those who are dealing with these problems.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

AI- Top 10 Elimination

We open with a Smokey voice over, and Ryan prancing down the grand staircase again as he tells us that 36 million votes were logged last night. This news excites him. He also says that Ruben Studdard is in the house, and that Stevie Wonder will sing.

Randy has a screen printed t-shirt, Kara is in macramé, and Paula is wearing some sort of drapey metallic fabric along with a heavy pendant, and her cleavage. Simon explains that he was joking when he said that he stood Mr. Obama up. And then he said that he and Paula got a room last night. Another joke? They’ve been really touchy-feely-horseplay-flirty this year, and I saw a clip that looked like they were holding hands under the table last night. So, maybe. Or maybe not.

They recap last night’s performances, which I did already, so I’ll skip over that part. The group-sing is a medley of Motown hits, beginning with You Keep Me Hanging On, segueing to You’re All I need to Get By, and ending with Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. I don’t know if the sound is wonky or if the kids are lip synching, but there is something off about the visual here. They sound good together however. Lil is front and center for most of the medley, and she’s exponentially better than she was last night.

The Fordmercial production values are still cheesy, and the song, Pocketful of Sunshine, does not benefit from close proximity to Motown.

Ruben, ready to visit The Treasure House in his Captain Kangaroo jacket, sings a new song that consists mostly of ooohs and yeahs. I always liked Ruben (his A Whole New World remains my favorite AI performance of all time). This song is nice, but nothing special.

The kids are arranged in two rows, as usual. Ryan asks Adam, from the top row, to stand, and no one in the entire world is worried. Even if he isn’t safe, he’ll be safe via the Deus ex Machina vote. But, of course, he’s safe.

Matt, who has a strangely odd speaking voice, is up next, and we’re all surprised (none more than Matt himself) to find that he’s in The Bottom Three (which designation Ryan uses specifically, so there’s no doubt that he’s there just for the drama).

It’s obvious to me that Kris is safe, since he’s the next one standing, but it’s not obvious to Kris, who is totally faked out by Ryan’s delivery.

Lil and Michael stand up next, and it’s pretty certain that Lil does not worry until Ryan screws with her long enough to frighten (or, more likely, annoy) her. Lil needs to work on her poker face, and Michael joins Matt on the Silver Suction Cups of Doom.

Smokey and Joss Stone sing next. Joss is wearing a flowing and very long (as in it drags on the floor) prom dress. Her hair looks like she and her 8 year old BFF braided it during a sleepover. The song, called You’re The One For Me, is nondescript, with very little in the way of a recognizable melody.

Starting at the other end of the bottom row, Allison stands next, and since she’s the first one, we know she’s safe (which pleases me). She’s having problems with her cute red high heel shoes, and fiddles with them throughout the night.

Anoop, at the other end of the bottom row, is safe as well. (damn straight)

Danny is still a Sure thing, which leaves Scott and Megan. We all know who I want to join Matt and Michael, so of course, it’s Scott, who is led over by Ryan.

And just as quickly, he’s led right back. Matt looks like he’s going to be sick, and Michael looks as jolly as ever.

Stevie Wonder sings many of the songs that have been murdered by hapless contestants over the years. Paula knows all of the words, and the kids look gobsmacked to be 10 feet away from freakin’ Stevie Wonder, as he sings a mini concert. As well they should.

Then the lights are dimmed, and Michael gets the boot, which is okay. He’s going on the tour, and he’ll get a lot of exposure and experience and make some money, and maybe get a recording contract out of the deal. He has the good sense to worry about following Stevie, but as per usual with Bootees, he sounds better than he did the night before. I would certainly rather have gotten rid of Megan, but he wasn’t going to last much longer anyway (and she has no chance whatsoever of winning).

Simon and Randy pretend to consider using their one precious immunity vote, but it’s all for show. Michael, who seems like a genuinely nice guy who truly enjoyed the experience, is gracefully, and maybe happily, on his way home to his adorable wife and little girls. I wish him the best.

Thursday Tab- Dell Jane and Jack

Pause and think a moment, about being dressed just like your fraternal twin.

Next week, little brother and sister, Pete and Peg.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

AI- Top 10 Performance

This. Is. My. Top. 10. (well, except for Megan, who isn’t my top anything) (okay, she’s my Top AI annoyance this year).

Randy is wearing a pastel golf sweater and chains. Kara’s in a bibbed blue Junior League sheath. Paula’s sporting a tutu. And Simon is Simon. Ryan makes a stairway entrance, and points out that Smokey Robinson, whose forehead is as smooth as a baby’s butt, and Berry Gordy, are in the audience, which makes sense, since this is Motown Week.

The kids sojourn to Motown to gawp at the pictures and the history (as well they should). Of all of them, Lil is the most moved. This music is right in her wheelhouse, and it should be her night to shine.

We open with Matt, who is continuing the Golf Sweater theme in a v-neck cardigan, blue shirt and tie. He’s singing it Let’s Get On, which is one of my favorite Marvin Gaye songs. He misses a note or two, but for the first time, I really liked Matt’s performance. This was an excellent song selection for him- good piano accompaniment and falsetto.

Kris is wearing a vaguely militaristic shirt with zip codes near the epaulettes, and a binary solo on the bottom. He chose How Sweet it Is, and while I have a hard time forgetting James Taylor, Kris sounds very good up there with his guitar. I notice that Kris’s wife is labeled as Kris’s Family, and I wonder why.

I groan when I hear that Scott is singing You Can’t Hurry Love. He’s wearing a pin striped jacket and a paisley shirt, and is sitting at the piano (which I think is a good idea, no matter what Paula said last week). I like the slow beginning- Scott’s voice is pure and lovely. But when he swings into the uptempo portion, I cringe. It’s a bad arrangement and the whole thing feels awkward and more than a little weird.

I do wish that Simon would shut up during Paula’s critiques. She may not be making much sense (though tonight she’s not doing badly on that front), but it’s her turn to talk. Paula surprises Simon with a box of crayons and a coloring book to occupy him while he’s not actually talking (side note: There’s just something pretty about a new box of crayons- all those colors lined up so neatly).

Megan “Joy” has Joey Heatherton hair, and a Connie Stevens dress (circa 77 Sunset Strip)(damn, now I have Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb in my head). She’s singing For Once in My Life, and it is beyond bad. It’s embarrassing. You know you’re in trouble when Paula begins your critique by telling you how beautiful you are. I think Megan got a pass last week for being sick, but it’s time for her to go home.

I’m not sure about Anoop’s choice of Ooh, Baby Baby, but, WOW! This is absolutely the perfect song for him. Anoop has upped his game for the second week in a row. The judges aren’t gushing nearly enough- that was a beautiful performance.

Michael may not be too proud to beg, but maybe he should. Paula didn’t even bother to compliment his looks before saying how very bad that was.

Lil is wearing a 20’s style fringe dress and wig (in tribute to that famous flapper, Diana Ross). I get a sinking feeling when she tells Smokey that she’s singing Heatwave. I don’t feel any better when she starts her prancey dance, and shrieks this shouty song. Out of the entire Motown catalog, Lil with the wonderful voice, chooses one that effectively masks her talent. It’s not a terrible performance, but for the second week in a row, I’m disappointed. Lil’s face plainly says that she’s not used to hearing real criticism, and once again, I want her to shut up.

Adam is slicked up like a teenage Kurt Russell. He’s singing Tracks of My Tears, and are all y’all sitting down? I love this spare arrangement (no backup singers, just guitars- very Jason Castro), and I love what Adam does with this song. He gets a Standing O from Smokey, and deserves it. If I did iTunes, I would download this one in a flash.

Danny’s jeans are bunched funny at the hems- at first I thought he was wearing big black scrunchies around his ankles. He’s singing Get Ready, and he sounds great as always, but there is nothing special about this song or performance (especially coming right after Adam’s surprising performance).

Allison is decked out like Kelly Osbourne. She’s singing Papa Was a Rolling Stone and she is flat-out killing it. She bypassed the girlie cuteness of the Hannah Montana ilk, and went straight to Bonnie Raitt. AI has wanted a girl rocker from Season 1. Now they finally have one- and she’s 16 years old (going on 59). Paula delivers her glowing critique in a crayon mustache (serves her right for handing them to Simon in the first place). Given that she was in the Bottom Three last week, I threw a few votes in Allison’s direction tonight.

Top 10 Great Performances: Adam, Allison, Anoop (not necessarily in that order, but not necessarily not in that order either).

Tonight’s Good Performances: Matt, Kris, Danny (probably in that order)

Tonight’s Mediocre/Blah Performances: Scott, Lil (order irrelevant)

The Bad Performances: Megan, Michael (definitely in that order).

Please let Megan go home tomorrow night.

Various Finished Things, and a Couple of Beginnings

It's been a wrap-em-up sort of week:
My page proofs are back with my editor (and we're going over the changes on a daily basis).

I finished listening to The Moonstone, via Librivox podcasts. I had only read the book once, and loved it in print, and I loved it as an audio accompaniment to my treadmill work. There were days when I was sorry to finish my miles (I have a strict exercise-only policy when it comes to these audio books. It makes getting sweaty a little more tolerable). All of the readers were marvelous, but one, and the story holds up extremely well. I know this book hasn't sunk into obscurity, but I'm not sure it gets as much reverence as it deserves. It's smart, funny, a cracking good mystery, and surprisingly modern in tone (the prologue drags, a bit but it picks up instantly, once you get to Gabriel's narrative). In fact, in honor of Gabriel Betteridge, I may even listen to Robinson Crusoe.

I finished reading Stephen King's Just After Sunset, and enjoyed all of the short stories except for the last one. I have outgrown poop as entertainment (the same reason I finally gave up on South Park), and did something that I never do- skipped to the end to see if the hero got out of the porta-potty. Otherwise, it's a very good book.

I finished spinning 9.2 ozs of mystery wool/silk noil. I thought there was a full pound, but I was off by about half. I ended up with 336 yards if soft and squooshy, worsted weight, 2-ply yarn. Plenty enough for a pair of heavy socks, or a hat and mittens, or as stripes in a sweater. I'm not sure what this yarn wants to be yet, so I'll let it percolate for a bit.

And I finished the Lion Brand socks (not Loin Brand, as my fingers invariably type). These wildly striping socks (plain vanilla pattern- 56 sts, short row heel) will be a Christmas present. The stripes matched up almost perfectly in the pair, which is a sort of minor miracle, given that I had to change balls in the middle of the second sock, and the other ball was wound backwards. It took awhile to find the proper place in the repeat, in order to continue on.

I'm not sure what will be up on the wheel yet. I like knitting with worsted weight yarn, but I don't particularly enjoy spinning it (something I forget in between times). My Ashford Joy complains (and makes my legs ache) when I have to treadle heavy bobbins. I like a strong draw, and in order to get that with heavier singles, the poor spring is stretched out almost to the max. Whatever I spin next, I'm sure it'll be a finer yarn. And I'm sure I'll find something to spin, in my mess of a Wool Room. This is bunch doesn't even include all of the hand-dyed rovings that I have on hand. Think I should organize a bit?

I cast on another pair of Christmas Gift socks- this time from some girly pastels in a very simple little nubbly eyelet pattern. The future recipient likes pink, and I thought about hitting etsy or eBay for pink sock yarns, and then decided to check the stash first. Lo and behold, there was a 100gr ball of Sox 4 Color Twister. I have no idea where it came from, or how long I've had it, but I'm glad it waited around for me to find the right project.

And I started another book podcast. I thought I was going to listen to My Man Jeeves. Not a lot of P.G. Wodehouse is available on Librivox yet (not Uncle Fred in the Springtime, which I think is the funniest book I've ever read)(it's set in the Blandings universe, which does not cross over into Bertie Wooster's world, except for a couple of minor characters). But a friend mentioned E.F. Benson, and that set me off in search of Mapp and Lucia. I was thrilled to find Miss Mapp and Queen Lucia both available. So I am currently, happily ensconced in the village of Tilling and the War of the Chintz Roses. Miss Mapp has had several readers so far, but all of them have been very good (though none with British accents, which is a little disappointing). I love these books, and hope all of them will be available soon.

And on a weather note- we're having nasty weather (25 degrees this morning, a little new snow over very slick roads), but so far, we've been spared any flooding danger. Both north and south of us are having a much harder time of it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tiny Baby Appearance Schedule

My calendar is starting to fill up already, which is pretty cool. Here's a list of the places that I know I'll be in the next 7 months, and one place I desperately hope to be. Some of the details for September appearances are murky still. I'll add the info when I know more. Hope to see some of you at any, or all of these places:

  • April 13, 7:00pm, Brookings Public Library, Brookings, SD- talking about the transition from craft writing to mystery writing back to craft writing. And whatever else occurs to me (or the audience)
  • August 6-9, Sock Summit 2009, Portland, OR- okay this one isn't official, and I'm not on the teaching roster (though I am on the sub list, should the need arise), but if I can possibly manage it, I'll be there. And my editor has promised to do what she can to make a few advance copies of The Big Book of Socks magically appear in time for The Summit. I want to go so badly, I can taste it.
  • Sept 18-21, NCFF (North Country Fiber Fair), Watertown, SD- Not sure what class(es) I'll teach this year, but I'll be there.
  • Sept 26, Athena's Fibers, Sioux Falls, SD- not sure of the time, but I'll be there in the afternoon
  • October 23-25, SAFF (Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair), Asheville, NC- I'll be teaching 5 workshops: Graduated Color Band Dyeing (from Yarns to Dye For), Spiral Stripe Dyeing (from The Big Book of Socks), an All-Day Fair Isle Class (we'll be knitting a toddler-sized, worsted weight version of the Snowflake Hat that was my most popular Freebie Friday pattern), a Short Row Heel Class (from The Big Book of Socks), and a workshop on Writing Patterns for Publication. Details about the workshops will be up on the SAFF site very soon (link on the upper right side of this page)

The schedule will likely fill up more, as time goes on (especially once BBoS hits the stands in September). If you're interested in having me come to speak, sign, teach a class, sit and knit, whatever, e-mail me (kathleentaylor1952 at gmail dot com) and we'll see what we can work out.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spinning Wheel, Got to Go Round

I've been in spinning mode lately (except when I'm in fencing mode on my Facebook farm- fences are now available, and while they don't do anything but look pretty, they sure do look pretty, and it's important for me to protect my pixillated chickens with animated fences purchased with pretend money earned by growing computer generated crops. Amazing how much time that takes...). Anyway, though I have a pair of socks (the Lion Brand self-patterning)(side note: I almost always type Loin Brand...) nearly finished- just the toe left on one sock, I've been drawn to the wheel.

Last night as I watched Kings (I would watch Ian McShane in anything. And I would probably happily allow him to be my King), I 3-plied the last of the Finn roving from Girl on the Rocks. My friend Lorah calls this Happy Yarn, and it is- lovely sherbet colors, in a fingering weight 3-ply (with some bloopies in the plying). At 4 ozs and 269 yds, it's just enough for a pair of socks. It should knit up in yellow/green/pink/orange stripes. During a commercial, I rooted around in the Wool Room (I should take a picture of that sometime- maybe it would shame me into organizing it) for the next project, and a bag of mystery wool and silk noil called my name.

So that's what I'm spinning now. I think I got this from Kelly Knispel at the South Dakota Natural Colored Wool Studio (link in Stash Enhancers)- it's shades of pink, purple, blue, and just a bit of green, with pink silk noil throughout. I must have recarded it, because it's in nice little bumps, and since the noils make a smooth yarn impossible, I'm letting it be a bit lumpy and bumpy. I'm also spinning it heavier than my usual fine-tight-hard single. This is 1.9 ozs and 74 yards of soft worsted weight yarn. It spins up very quickly, I'm half-done with the 2nd bobbin for the next skein. I have nearly a pound of this wool, and have no idea what to make with the yarn. It'll tell me what it wants to be eventually.

I was going to the dentist this morning (needles and fillings and assorted ooky stuff), but the Dr. is sick, so I have another 10 days to stew. I'm a big baby when it comes to needles, but I would rather have gotten it over with today. Oh well, now I can eat my lunch without drooling (or at least without drooling more than usual).

Friday, March 20, 2009

Yarny Surprises

It's been a tough week- my cold was still in full snot-production mode (inelegant description, I know, but apt), and the deadline for going over The Big Book of Socks page proofs was barreling down on me like a racehorse. Checking page proofs is never fun, in fact it may be the most miserable part of being published. Well, no, having strangers stop at my house unannounced, with their handwritten manuscripts in hand, asking me to #1 read their "books", #2 recommend them to my agent, #3 get them published, with the unvoiced #4 that if I don't do it, I am somehow turning my back on the public, is the most miserable part. But checking page proofs ranks right up there with dental appointments that involve needles (which I have on Monday).

Think about it- there are 75 patterns in TBBoS- almost every one has multiple sizes, and a majority are sized from toddler through adult (some through adult Men), which means that each pattern has a minimum of 10 measurements, and many have over 20. Each one of those measurements is a potential typo/error/omission disaster (1/4 is not the same as ¾, anywhere, but especially so in the knitting world). Add to that, the fact that 10 books into the game, I know without a doubt, that I am a wretched proofer. I can look at the same mistake 30 times and still not see it until the ink hits the page (by which time, it's too late).

So this week was tough- mind numbing and exhausting. The upside is seeing those words and pictures together on the printed page for the first time (wow, this is going to be a beautiful book!), and knowing that this thing that I worked harder on than any of my other books, is going into good hands. The proofs are ready to go back to my editor today, and I'm free to think about something else(besides the fact that my cheekbones hurt- damn sinuses).

So what am I thinking about? The surprise in this morning's mail.

Pat and Chris, from Decadent Fibers (link on the right, in Stash Enhancers), are dyers. They've supplied fantastic yarns for designs in I Heart Felt, the cover design of The Prayer Shawl Companion, some of the socks in TBBoS, and roving for a project I have in an upcoming Interweave book project (not sure if I can announce that yet, so I'll hold off) (aha, the listing is up on Amazon: All New Homespun Handknit: 25 Small Projects to Knit With Handspun Yarn- http://www.amazon.com/All-New-Homespun-Handknit-Projects/dp/1596681446/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1237559012&sr=1-2 , out Sept 1, which is the debut day of TBBoS- woohoo!)(I designed, spun, and knit a pair of self-striping socks for the book). I love their yarns- beautifully hand-dyed in gorgeous colors (and colorways), high quality, the kind of yarn you want to sleep in. And this morning, I got a box of new yarns and colorways from them. When I was whining about the miserable aspects of this job, I forgot to mention that there are many more perks. This is one of them: Surprise yarn. In the Mail. When I wasn't expecting it. When I was kind of tired and cranky.

So here's the booty: 2 large skeins of Crème Brulee (worsted weight, 50% merino, 30% silk, 20% mohair, 490 yds. 8 oz), one the most beautiful light sagey greens, the other in woodland colors of teal, browns, and dark sage green (so soft, so beautiful), 2 large skeins of Cookie Dough (worsted weight, 80% merino blend, 20% mohair, 490 yds, 8 oz), one in pinky reds with orange, one in darker reds; 2 skeins of Marshmallow (sport/dk weight 80% alpaca, 20% merino, 315 yds, 4 oz- I used this blend in my project for 101 Luxury One-Skein Wonders, which I forgot to mention above), one purples, one burgundy/maroon. And topping the treasures, a 1lb hand dyed Jelly Roll Batt- it's 90% Corriedale, 10% mohair, and it looks like a summer day at the lake- greens and browns along one edge, fading blues throughout the rest. It's a huge batt, and it could be wet felted into a fantastic piece of fabric, but I think I'll spin it a little heavier than my usual single, and make worsted weight yarn from it.

I happen to be free at the moment, so I see some wonderful design-playing in the near future. What a perfect way to end a tough week!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hamlet on Facebook

This is beyond hilarious, even if the only Hamlet you know is the Mel Gibson version (and the musical version they did on Gilligan's Island).


Thursday Tab- Whitman Petticoat Junction, #1954

This is a partially cut set, and I don't know if it's complete or not.
Can you believe that the town was called Hooterville, and we didn't get it?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

AI-Top 11 Elimination

Ryan warns us of a possible shocking elimination, though he thinks every elimination is shocking. Maybe he should watch the show sometime. Randy is wearing an arty scarf. Kara has her hair pulled up in a severe bun, and is wearing a black and white print top. Paula has straight hair, and is draped in gauzy mourning.

Trouble is the group sing. The guys begin arranged around the piano (so Scott doesn’t have to dance, I presume). Tonight, Fox (or Dish Network) is plagued by sound issues, so I don’t hear much of this song, and when the sound does come through, it’s tinny and thin. Allison looks so comfortable on the stage, and Danny is letting his inner dork out to dance.

We’re treated to another Idol Exclusive Moment during the commercial- we see a girl with long blonde hair and pink bangs. Her audition is okay, and I feel like I should know who she is.

The first ’09 Fordmercial is pretty low-tech: the kids throw water balloons at each other while singing a tune that may or may not be called Here it Goes Again (I’m old and I don’t listen to the radio, so the song is totally unfamiliar).

After last week’s elimination, Lil cried, Jasmine cried more, and Jorge reminded everyone that their time is coming.

I never know if Ryan’s pre-elimination chatter is significant, or if it’s just a time waster. Tonight he talks to Alexis, Michael and Megan (who is feeling better, though everyone wore masks during rehearsal, so she must still be contagious).

We start the elimination process with the easy ones- Danny is safe. Lil, in a weird green top with a flared hem and flared sleeves, is also safe. I wonder if Anoop will continue a tradition of being eliminated after a really good performance, but he’s safe too.

Allison, in a short vest over a print t-shirt, and Michael, wearing whatever style Michael usually wears, stand together. Paula predicts that Allison belongs in the Bottom 3, and she’s right (well, she's not right about Allison belonging there, just that she is). Allison makes her way to the newly repurposed Silver Suction Cups of Despair. Michael is relieved, but not for long, because Ryan informs him that he’s in The Bottom as well.

Brad Paisley takes the stage and sings something called Then, or perhaps Them. It’s a country song, it goes on for quite awhile, and then it ends.

Back to the eliminations, Scott stands and smiles because he’s smart enough to know that the show would never telegraph all of its punches this early in the hour.

Megan Joy (lordy, I wish she’d make up her mind about her name) tucked her chest safely away tonight. I figured she’d get at least another week to practice her awful dance moves. Unfortunately, I was right.

In short order, Matt and Kris are added to the tour roster, which leaves Alexis and Adam fighting it out for the final spot off the stools. As much as I would like to say goodbye to Adam (note to Adam- Simon and I get you just fine, I just don’t like you), I am pretty sure he's not going anywhere. Ryan asks Randy which of the two belongs in the Bottom 3, and he says Allison, which perfectly illustrates Randy’s usefulness.

Alexis joins Allison and Michael, and then Allison is given a reprieve. Allison is happy but a bit graceless in her celebration. On the other hand, Allison is graceless whenever she’s not actually singing, so it’s no real surprise.

We see some early footage of Carrie Underwood. You can feel The Show’s chest swell with pride over her unqualified success. Carrie has grown a great deal as a performer (no more Farmbot), and she’s totally gorgeous in a floaty red dress and stilettos. Even the tarantula affixed to her Big Hair Wig doesn’t detract from her beauty. I was so mesmerized by the hair adornment that I missed the title of the duet she’s singing with Randy Travis (if it isn’t I Told You So, it should be). It’s a pretty ballad, and Carrie’s soaring vocals do it justice. Randy plays guitar and grins, enjoying the performance as much as the rest of us. Their voices blend nicely, and this song will probably be a big hit for them.

Back to the elimination, Simon says that one of the Bottom Two (though of course, no one has said that Michael and Alexis are actually The Bottom Two, just that one of them is The Bottom One), might be worth saving, but I can guarantee that the judges are not going to spend their one and only immunity this early in the season, at least not on anyone not named Gokey, Rounds, or Lambert.

We flip to an amusing commercial with Carrie, and then it’s back to the task at hand. Michael and Alexis stand about three miles apart on the stage, but they hug when Michael is given his good news. Simon cruelly toys with Alexis, telling her that she could earn that immunity if she sings well enough. Alexis takes her passable version of Jolene, and messes it up by trying to add the edge that Kara requested last night. It’s not an improvement, but she never had a chance anyway, which Simon coldly confirms.

We then get some of Alexis’s previously unseen audition footage, in her pre-pink streak days, as Ryan informs us that next week, it’s Wednesday and Thursday, and Motown. Lil should sleep easier this week, at least.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

AI- Top 11 Performance

Evidently, the voice-over intro of the judges is a permanent feature. Randy is growing his hair out. Kara is very shiny in dolman sleeves, a tassel necklace, and soft hair. Paula, and the very prominently displayed puppies, are in floral print. Simon is wearing an old t-shirt that probably cost more than my refrigerator.

We’re hitting Country Week early this year. And while every performance is important, the kids left standing tomorrow will go on tour, and that matters a great deal.

Randy Travis is in the audience. Oh- he’s the mentor. With 25 albums and $25million in sales, he exemplifies why AI is perfectly happy to court the Grand Ole Opry crowd. It doesn’t take much psychic ability to predict that the spirits of Brooks, Parton and Underwood will be invoked tonight.

Michael is singing Ain’t Goin’ Home ‘til the Sun Comes Up, which is the CW version of I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major General. This song is not about melody, and I have no idea if he got all of the words right, but the performance is enjoyable, if a little clunky.

Allison reminds me of a 59 year old denizen of the casino slots, but the stylists are helping. Tonight, she’s wearing a ruffled leather jacket over a cute blouse and jeans. Her raspberry hair looks good with the matching rose. She has an amazingly mature voice, and I am liking her more and more. She has a real edge (unlike most of the pink-haired rocker girls on this show), and even more importantly, she owns the stage. She’s singing Blame it on My Heart, and she’s rocking the house. I just might vote for the first time this season.

Kris is singing a ditty that I think is called To Make You Feel My Love. It’s a pretty ballad that is only country because Garth Brooks sang it. It’s okay, but not as good as the judges thought it was. My guess is that Kris can coast on his looks for awhile.

Lil is wearing a short, tight, strapless fuchsia dress festooned with ruffles across the bodice. Her hair and makeup both look fantastic. She's singing Independence Day, which was Carrie’s single. The whole notion of singing CW has Lil shook. She’s overthinking, which is hurting her performance. She finally busts loose on the chorus, and we see a bit of the Lil that we know is in there, but overall, it’s a disappointing performance. Oh Lil, I will say this as gently but as firmly as I can: STFU! You’ve annoyed Simon to the point that he’s calling you Little. And you’re annoying me. I don’t want to be annoyed with you. So hush up. And stay hushed. Please.

I’m with Randy- what in the world do you say about someone in a fussy metallic leather jacket, black glovelettes, black nail polish, prominently displayed zipper on his extremely tight pants, and enough pancake makeup to cover the entire cast of The Mikado? Adam’s Snake Charmer version of Ring of Fire is, perhaps, the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen, or heard, on this show. Tell me, what is the difference between Adam and Sanjaya? I’ll be dipped if I can figure out why the judges fall all over themselves over this kid.

Scott, with his hair looking the best it has so far, sings Wild Angel. It’s pretty, but I think Scott has peaked. Simon decides to pick a fight with Paula during her critique.

The stylists are weaning Alexis from her pink streak- it’s smaller every week. She’s wearing a beaded black dress that would be rather pretty if the bodice wasn’t so oddly saggy. She’s singing Jolene, one of the dumbest songs in the universe. She starts on the stairs, which is generally a sign that what is to follow is unadulterated bad. But I find that I am liking this spare, banjo-accented arrangement, and Alexis’s take on the song. There were some off-notes, especially one long one in the middle, but overall, it was an interesting performance.

We all know that Paula’s ramblings get more and more incoherent as the season progresses, but I am tired of Simon’s eye-rolling rudeness.

Danny has a truly rough rehearsal with Randy Travis, and he’s chosen Jesus Take the Wheel (a song I find annoying in concept). He’s wearing a white safari jacket over a lavender shirt, and his beginning is uncharacteristically tentative. But once Danny hits the chorus, he kills the song (if you can say that about any song with Jesus in the title).

Anoop almost has to sound better than he did last week, even if he’s attempting Willie Nelson’s Always on my Mind. He looks good, in a gray and purple checked hoodie under a dark jacket. Randy is right- this is the best Anoop has sounded in the entire competition, and he wisely eschews the high note at the end. Bravo, Anoop!

So tonight, she’s just Megan Joy (no Corkrey), and I sigh when I hear that’s she’s treading in Cline Territory. Megan Joy is wearing a full-length, green and brown boob-sling, as she warbles about Moooooooonlight and searchin’ for youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu, and does her signature hip swivel (a move that makes me want to throw things at the TV). The performance is flat and shrieky and bad from start to finish, but Kara makes sure that we all know that she’s been sick, which will probably get her another pass. Sigh.

Is Paula sniffing Simon’s arm? Or licking it?

Matt is wearing a nice suit, and singing So Small. There must be something in the studio performance that doesn’t translate to my living room, because I am mystified by the love that the judges throw at him. There is simply nothing about this kid that appeals to me.

The best tonight? Anoop and Allison.

The worst performance of the night was undoubtedly Megan Joy’s, but a visit to the hospital (and some coughing, and a general look of unwell being) will likely save her this week. My guess is that either Michael or Scott will hit the road tomorrow night.

I Got Nuthin'

It's one of those brain-dead days. My page proofing deadline is looming. I am a terrible proofer under the most relaxed of circumstances, and this is not a relaxed circumstance.

I haven't done any knitting for a couple of days, nor have I 3-plied the bobbin of Finn sherbet-colored singles that are glowering at me from the corner. I did run outside yesterday and this morning, for the first time since November. It was lovely to be out of the basement (and under the geese migration- the sight of thousands upon thousands of geese flying over is pretty amazing), though I was reminded that running on the treadmill doesn't make my knees achy, and running outside does (why? uneven ground, I suppose, and a very slight incline in my 1/2 mile long driveway). Our snow is melting, but the frost has not gone out of the ground yet, so it's a muddy, mooshy mess until I tip-toe my way out past the railroad tracks, to the township road, where the gravel is firm. I'm nearing the end of the Librivox podcast recording of The Moonstone which I listen to as I exercise- we're about ready for the big reveal(s), and I'm still loving it. I think I might try some Dickens next- I'm embarrassed to say that I have never read A Tale of Two Cities or Bleak House, and I am curious to know what listening to a *new* book is like.

I managed to sneak in one more Twisted Fiber Arts yarn purchase, before they all disappeared: a Valkyrie Kabam (wool/bamboo) sock yarn, with coordinating yellow heel/toe yarn. I'm not sure what pattern I'll use with the yarn, but whatever it is, it'll be gorgeous.

Other than that- I got nuthin'. What's going on with you?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Books, Music, TV, oh yeah, and Yarn

I dipped into Stephen King's short story collection, Just After Sunset (with the headache inducing cover) this weekend. I'm trying to pace myself, and so am only about halfway through the stories, but I've enjoyed all of them, especially Harvey's Dream, where an ageing wife learns just a bit too late, that being bored is infinitely preferable to the alternative, and Stationary Bike, in which moderation in all things, even diets, is explored in typical King fashion.

Yesterday's mail brought a few books from the Children's Book of the Month (grandkid birthday gifts), including Neil Gaiman's Coraline (which I would have mispronounced, if not for the movie trailers).I imagine the book will be passed down to the voracious reader in the family, but I'm going to read it first. I love all things Gaiman, and expect to love this book as well.

The reviews for Taylor Hicks's sophomore album, The Distance, are about as expected. EW! flat out hates Taylor, and the review reflects that. People is mildly dismissive, and I don't even wanna know what Rolling Stone thinks. I like the album, and hope enough die-hard fans buy it to keep him recording (I don't think anything in the world will keep him from performing). The standout tracks, for me, are What's Right is Right (released as a single which is actually getting airplay on the AC station here), the lovely and aching ballad, Maybe You Should, and the Southern Rocking Seven Mile Breakdown, with a nod to the collaboration with Elliott Yamin on Woman's Gota Have It. Keepin it Real is just a tad heavy handed on the social commentary (I don't want to think about Britney, OJ, or Paris. Ever), and even I think that Nineteen is schmaltzy. The rest are fine- not great but not bad, all listenable. The only track on the CD that I don't like is Wedding Day Blues. The tune is fine, the singing is fine, the production is fine, but the character of the narrator is a jerk and I don't want to spend time with him, even if he's using Taylor Hicks's voice.

I watched the debut of Kings last night, and am still thinking about it this morning, which means… something, anyway. I'm not up on my bible stories, so I didn't immediately recognize the anointing of oil, or some of the name adaptations, but I know enough to know that if the producers follow the source material, we're going to have a very interesting story indeed. I am always amazed at Ian McShane's command of every scene he's in, though I missed his mustache, and the swearing (I kept expecting a few choice words from him, network standards notwithstanding). The surrounding cast is also very good- and I am waiting to see what sort of Lady MacBethian shenanigans the Queen will get up to (plenty of Shakespeare to go around in the imaginary world of Gilboa). Young David is very Heath Ledgerly, and the rest of the cast is fascinating (especially not-so-favored son and heir, Jack). I'm looking forward to the next episode.

And while I watched TV, I worked on the Finn roving from Girl on the Rocks. This is my first experience with Finn, and it won't be my last. It's a lovely wool, the yarn is bouncy and it's going to have a nice little halo. I Navajo 3-plied the first bobbin and ended up with 1.1 ozs and 82 yds of fingering weight yarn which is going to knit up into stripes of yellow/green/yellow/pink/orange (there are some major plying boo-boos in that skein, but they don't show in the picture). I have another bobbin ready to ply, and 2 more to spin. I'll probably work on it tonight, during Chuck and Heroes.

But before I do any of that, I have page proofs to tackle, and a deadline bearing down on me. So I'd best get to work.