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Book It 2016

Having set a goal to read more in 2016 -- and to "read" more audio books -- I could not be happier with my Goodreads stats:

Books 2016 summary 2

I just finished reading the 22nd book this morning! That is certainly not a lot of books compared to some, but it is pretty darn good for me! Half of those books were audio books, too, so you can see what a difference that makes! I love to read and have been an avid reader in the past, but I've not devoted a lot of time to it in the past several years -- work, grandkids, knitting, sewing, cooking, laundry (not dusting), etc. have all hampered my game in recent years -- and the pages turn very slowly!

I've belonged to a book club for years, but have often not read the books -- when one reads few books, one is a bit choosy -- I'd often be in the middle of something else that I preferred (or perhaps still reading the previous selection). I raved so much about a couple of books this year (A Man Called Ove, Lab Girl), that they were chosen as book club selections even though it wasn't my turn to pick!

 

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2016-Books 1

Books 2016 22

A fair number of these books -- 13 of them -- were squares on my BINGO card, which I love for the potential broadening of one's reading horizons. Also, I love a game that's open to a bit of interpretation/personalization. (I'm still playing that card and trying to finagle Born to Run into the "Presidential Biography" category... what do you think? He is THE BOSS!)

I am grateful, too, for the likes of you -- fellow bloggers and dear readers -- from suggestions on how to ease into listening rather than reading to book recommendations... Thank you.

Stand outs? I loved the memoirs, especially Composed, Not My Father's Son, and Lab Girl.  A Man Called Ove, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Boston Girl, Code Name Verity, and Hamilton: The Revolution were especially memorable audio -- actually, all of the above were audio books!

The bar has been set, now, and I'm looking forward to setting & reaching a higher goal next year!!

Happy New Year!!


Holiday mid-weekending

We definitely had a White Christmas!

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Most of that has already melted, thanks to a little rain.

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I had a wonderful Jólabókaflóð gift from Judy year. Aren't those stitch markers adorable? This traditional, annual (two years in a row for us now!) book & chocolate gift exchange was once again organized by Susan!

I can't wait 'til next Christmas!!

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I cut the panels for Part 2 (the bottom half) of the bathroom curtains project, and sewed up the first panel on Christmas Eve Day... because that's what I wanted to do! There are a million other things I could/should have been doing (working on/finishing presents for Gin & Jun, for one), but here you are.

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This is a very different look... and much "cooler" in temperature. The light in there is pretty amazing now! I still have to piece & sew the panel for the other window -- maybe on New Year's Eve Day! There will be a bit of fabric leftover and I think I'm going to make a pretty dress for Gin -- she'll be just like the Von Trapp children, roaming about in drapes next summer. Heheheee.

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I finally buckled down and got some "wrapping" done... I went lazy gift-bag style this year! I've had this old Boynton gift bag in my stash for a long, long time and finally busted it out for Jun's presents this year. (And it's back in my stash once again!)

I sure wasn't thinking, because Junah was all about "unwrapping" presents this year, and the gift bags just weren't doin' it for him!

It was just Kate, Rusty, and me for Christmas Eve dinner, and we went all out...

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I'd receive a nice grocery gift card from my employer this year, and used to it buy a couple of good-sized lobster tails. Kate made some Saffron & Mushroom Barley Risotto (Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matrix), and we roasted some asparagus.

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Oh, my, but that was good...

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And there was a half-tail leftover... enough to make a Lobster Bisque!

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On Christmas morning, I checked the amaryllis.

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There's been some obvious growth...

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...but the award for Most Improved goes to this guy! It might not look like an award winner, but there's vast improvement in color and, well, let's say "tone."

I was just about to get the Christmas stockings hung and filled... (I know, and it still hasn't happened!)... and the kiddos arrived!

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And it was nonstop all day!! We Skyped with Maddy, had brunch, opened presents, played games, admired the tree, watched movies... er, watched one movie three times... ate a bunch more goodies, played more games...

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Another holiday, another mega crossword puzzle! The New York Times had an entire section devoted to puzzles this season.

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And we had a crawler for Christmas!! Away we go...

Rusty's birthday was the day after Christmas. We met some friends -- among them, another 12/26 birthday -- to celebrate with drinks (and cake!).

Annie was supposed to arrive from Spain later on the 26th and I was going to go pick her up in Green Bay, but due to plane problems/switch, they ended up spending the night in Detroit. So Rusty picked her up yesterday morning, instead (the boys flew into Madison), and whisked her to Appleton for a scheduled eye appointment. She met a friend for a leisurely lunch, did some shopping, had a massage, and I finally met up with her after work. We were enjoying a beer & a snack in the brewpub at the mall, thinking about ordering some food to go, when we suddenly noticed a steady stream of people exiting the mall, and were informed that the kitchen was closed... Um, it was more than a little freaky. We heard no announcement or anything, but were informed that the mall was being evacuated, and the gate to the mall had come down (thankfully, there's a separate entry/exit door to the pub). Turns out, the police had been alerted by concerned family members about a man who might have had a gun and might have been heading to the mall... which sounds sort of WTF? The entire mall was shut down for the evening, and "the man" was never found at the mall. But we're all safe... so weird.

After today, I have four wonderful days off! I had the option of a) taking Monday off or b) working Monday and floating the holiday, and I'm going for the float... there's some travel coming up this year and even one extra day will be welcome!

Tomorrow, the boys will be coming up from Madison -- and I cannot wait for Junah, Mack & Addy to get together again. The boys are going to be blown away by Jun and how much he's changed/grown/matured!!

On Friday, both Michael & Karen will be here, too, and we'll have a little family celebration on the Eve of New Year's Eve! It's been a long time since we've all been together, and I can't wait. (Pray that I remember to get some photos!)

It's been a year of tough losses, in more ways than one. I will be relieved to flip the calendar to 2017, and hope for -- strive for, work for -- better.

I hope all is well with you!


Eve

It's just doesn't seem like a proper Christmas Eve if I'm not up 'til the wee hours...

And LOOK, it's already Christmas!

 

We used to have a big Christmas Eve dinner at Mom's. We tried everything over the years: Standing Rib Roast, Crown Roast, Yorkshire Pudding, Beef Wellington, Cornish Hens, Ham, Turkey... Mum would draw the line at Goose (too greasy). My sisters and brother would all be there, sometimes even my Grandma (her birthday was on Christmas Eve).

VirginiaHoppSuttonBlum

Virginia, b. Dec. 24, 1912; graduation from Normal School


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Someday I'm gonna make a Christmas Goose.

I'm a terrible procrastinator, so would never really even start to wrap presents until after we came home and got the kids to bed -- which would be later and later every year. Rusty was never any help in that department, so I'd make the best of it... channel surfing and watching Christmas movies on TV, or...

...(best ever) listening to a Steve Martin comedy album while wrapping presents and filling stockings.

 

I miss my sister Sharon, and my mom, and my grandma, and I miss those crazy days when the kids were young...

 

Alas, life is good; I'd make a few changes, but generally things seem to be proceeding as they should....

 

WE HAVE A CRAWLER! She made a few moves when I was 'sitting the other night, and Alison confirmed this evening that Gin is crawling! They'll all be over sometime tomorrow morning for Christmas brunch and opening presents.

 

Merry Christmas Friends! Peace and Love to You!


On the cusp of three

Independence. Right now it's all about independence and doing things for himself -- taking great pride in accomplishments. Jun's been dressing himself, distinguishing front from back, getting all the fingers correctly placed in gloves, sometimes even doing the snaps and zippers on his pants.

But, oh... it can be so very frustrating.

He was wearing some cozy knit pants on Friday and there was some difficulty.

He tried putting them on. They were backwards. He got angry, cried, and completely shut down my offer to help.

He tried again. Um. They were backwards. Again. He got angry, cried, shut me down. Again.

Did I mention stubbornness?

After a few minutes of crying, he came over and sat on my lap... to get a hug and cry on my shoulder. When he felt better, he got up -- with confidence and purpose -- to try again.

And, ohhhh... it did not go well.

This time he came right over to sit and cry and just let it all out.

And then he tried ONE MORE TIME -- while I was able to quickly intervene and straighten them out (prep is everything!) -- and SUCCESS!

It was just the sweetest thing... how he wouldn't allow me to help him, but would allow me to give comfort.

  


3-Day Weekending

I had a very welcome day off last Friday! I spent some of it with Ali & the kids, doing a little shopping before the predicted big snowstorm, and lunching.

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Afterwards, Jun wanted to "Stay at Nona's!" so he & I spent a few hours together on Friday afternoon. I really enjoy our one-on-one time. His language and communication/conversation skills are exploding.

We played...

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...well, he played. We'd recently watched Toy Story, and I found an old Woody hanging around my house -- he was thrilled to discover it! And also, quite by accident, to discover  that he stills says, "You're my favorite deputy!"

He helped me find the treetop angel...

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And helped with some more decorating...

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Haha!

I read about an estate sale on Saturday morning and got the bug to go! The weather wasn't too bad and it wasn't very far. I certainly don't need anything, but I was drawn to to this sale. I used to go to estate sales with my mom, and Sharon used to come up for regular antique auctions... it was Saturday... And sure enough, I found some UK/England travel stuff that would have caught my Mom's eye (some of the same brochures), and a couple of booklets about Kokopelli that would have intrigued Sharon, and there was also some bedraggled pansy stuff (of which I have a collection). It was Day 2, so had already been picked over, but everything under $50 was half-price and I managed to find a couple of brown transfer plates and a kitchen tool, all for a whopping $3.50.

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The amaryllis are... well, one is doing great -- the shoot is plumped up and firm; the other is struggling a bit. I am keeping a close watch.

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We had a nice chat with Maddy on Saturday night. She was pretty worn down after her recent hike and got slammed with a cold, but is on the mend and currently working on a farm near Abel Tasman. She has plans for Christmas... and I hope we'll be able to chat again once or twice during the thick of the holidays.

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I finally cleaned up my workroom a bit and started some sewing! First up: Bathroom window covering re-do. I've been unhappy with those since the day they went up, and they're finally in the trash. I still need to re-do the bottom half of both windows, but the tops are done! I don't know how long that flimsy fabric will last -- the sun is brutal in this location -- but I am loving the bright white!

I've been knitting my Project Peace Cowl nearly every night. I measured yesterday afternoon and it was exactly 3 feet long.

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It looks nice with the living room rug... and my socks match, too! I've about a foot-and-a-half to go, but am concentrating more on finishing another couple of projects this week:

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Christmas presents for Jun & Gin! Some pieces crucial to finishing will be arriving this week!


Six years

Sharon-wee Kate-web

Sharon with a wee Kate, April 1987.

And missing you every single day. I love you, my beautiful sister. How is it six years already?


Light my fire

Kym! I do have a fireplace!!

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It's one of the first things I pulled out of a box of Christmas decorations last night! A gift from one of the girls years ago -- Ali, I think.

So I lit the fire...

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Kate made me a drink* (vodka, campari, limoncello, orange juice, soda water)...

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And together we trimmed the tree!

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I never ran across our tree-top angel, though! Where could she be??

*She also cooked supper last night... and, to me, having my children cook for me on occasion is truly one of the pleasures of life.


Year in Review: 2016

It's that time again!

As I have done sometime in December for quite a few years: Year In Review. I do it in words (the first sentence of the first post of each month) and in pictures (a favorite posted photo from each month) -- the two are not necessarily related.

 

January 2016:

In addition to (or, as a set-up for) BEGIN AS YOU MEAN TO GO ON, I spent some time cleaning things up at the end of the year.

January - quilt


February 2016:

I walked to the library on Saturday morning to pick up the latest addition to my Reading list: Mink River.

February - Chicago

 

March 2016:

Way back before Christmas, it was decided that while Rusty was traipsing around the west coast, we'd have a girls' weekend in Chicago.

March - Oregon Coast

 

April 2016:

I lunched & shopped & hung out with my sister on Saturday.

April - Trucks

 

May 2016:

Virginia Frances

May - Jun-Gin

 

June 2016:

Knitting: Too many things.

June - succulents

 

July 2016:

Anticipating... our first Farmers Market of the season tomorrow morning!

July - Flowage

 

August 2016:

Ten on Tuesday:  10 Things On My Summer Bucket List

August - boys

 

September 2016:

And now, a little shameless promotion.

September - family

 

October 2016:

I knit this adorable hat using leftovers from Gin's Elwood, and I couldn't be happier (except that I wish I'd knit it one size larger) (listen to the voices in your head!).

October - Cara-Ann-Gnome

 

November 2016:

It's November, which means it's time for NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) -- little sister to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

November - Squad Mitts

 

December 2016:

This is why.

December - Gin-Alfalfa

 

I can't quite believe 2016 is almost over!


Weekending: O, Christmas tree

We finally brought the tree up on Saturday morning and I promptly took off all of the dead and half-dead strings of lights.

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Well, not all. There is still one string near the bottom with the non-working half wadded up and stuffed near the trunk. I just couldn't bear to detangle one more string...

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Then I went shopping and, among other things, came home with these:

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There shall be an "amaryllis watch" at Chez Knitorious this year! It's been a few years and I'm really looking forward to it. They're your hardware store variety bulbs, so nothing special... except that they're amaryllis and that's special enough!

I took a nap, and then went over to babysit the grands.

There was some snoozing.

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This was a pretty common photo op when Jun was a babe, but very rare with Gin. Everything's always go-go-go, we rarely have time to snuggle together. 

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After everyone woke up, I had some fun with Snapchat filters. Reindeer games!

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We had our first official snow storm:

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It started Saturday evening and snowed steadily through about mid-afternoon on Sunday, accumulating to 5 or 6 inches.

On Sunday morning afternoon, I finally got back to lighting the tree. First the top:

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I'd been unable to find a string of 50 with a green wire, so there are 100 on just the top. We don't take the whole tree apart every year, but we do remove the top, so it needs a dedicated string of lights.

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And, finally, 500 more new lights later. There's some unevenness, but it'll all work out in the ornamentation.

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There was a mismatched string of LED lights on the tree, probably a last-minute addition last year, so I took them off and strung them up in the Garden Room! They always seemed jiggly and weird, but I didn't realize that they really were jiggly and weird until I went to take a photo. There's a video on my Instagram feed if you want to see for yourself.

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Finally, we made paella for dinner last night. We used the guidelines in Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matrix cookbook (birthday present last month), which I've only just begun to explore. We loved the paella -- and I believe we did achieve soccarat -- but I can't wait to visit Valencia (home of paella) to see how close we really are to the mark.

I hope you had a great weekend!


Best Nine 2016

My #bestnine2016 on Instagram!

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These are the Instagram photos from the past year that had the most "likes." Heh. There's a little bit of everything, including break dancing!! I love that the grandkids are there -- both knit-related, too, other than the photo taken on Gin's birth day -- Parcheesi is in there, my TTL Mystery Shawl, a bit of my house/yard, Alabama Chanin (on our way to the Rosanne Cash concert), and all the love from january_one.


Christmas Tradition

I have been known to decorate my Christmas tree with only three ornaments:

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That was highly unusual. I don't recall the circumstances, but it's safe to say that no one was available/willing to help me!

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Most years, we're fully loaded and I usually have help.

Just at Kate's left hand in the photo above is a little "band" of ceramic bear ornaments -- each of them bears one of our names and a year -- and that's just the beginning of the ceramic ornaments. My Grandma Blum taught ceramics from her home studio for many years. The first dated ornament I received from her was in 1975, and it is a treasure!

One year in my young adulthood, there was an early Christmas at Grandma & Grandpa Blum's prior to their departure for Florida for the winter. She had decorated a small tree with her ceramic ornaments and we stuffed it -- lights, ornaments, and all -- into the back of my boyfriend's VW Van and voila! "It's Christmas now!"

I know it didn't begin at birth (none of my kids has a "My First Christmas" ornament), but at some point when Katie & Ali were preschoolers -- actually, it was probably when St. Nicholas started to visit our house on the regular -- I began to buy an ornament each year for St. Nick to deliver. The girls each have their own box in which to store them, along with ornaments made for them by Great Grandma and my sister Karen, and the ones they made in school.

I really need to document them better.

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One-Eyed Santa was made by Kate in probably 2nd or 3rd grade. She didn't make him with only one eye, but somewhere along the line one fell off and, well... we love him!!

There's a skater made of pipe cleaners and beads, with small paperclips as the skates. One of his skates has been hanging on by just a bit of fuzz (mostly osmosis, I swear) for years...

These are the types of things we ooh and aah over and laugh about every year!

One of my most favorite tree-trimmings was a year the girls wanted a real tree. It was smaller than our artificial tree, so I decided that it would be decorated with only the ornaments that the girls had in their boxes -- and only by them! I did the lights, but they did all the rest while I sat back with a glass of wine and LISTENED. It was pure heaven -- the chatter, the memories, the laughter, and the tears (of laughter).

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I've had this well-worn/bedraggled ornament since 1st grade, when I won it in a spelling bee. As previously established herein, I was a pretty good speller thanks to the coveted Big.Gold.Stars awarded by Mrs. Kelly on perfect spelling tests. She was one of my favorite teachers, and I love remembering her every Christmas.

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Peanut!! Words cannot express our love for this little... actual peanut. Simple things.

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This one of the very few ornaments I have that were my Grandma Koenig's. It's not very big, and always gets a (secure) front-row seat.

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And this is a cross-stitch ornament that I made for the girls -- he's backed with fabric, sealed, and jointed! I haven't actually made very many for them... hard-pressed to think of any other than this one. Heh.

The tree still hasn't happened this year, but I'm thinking Saturday's the day!

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FO: Alfalfa Baby Hat

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11-4-16 too

I know I knit this hat when Jun was wee, but I don't remember him ever wearing it and I never documented it on Ravelry or anyplace.

Gin has been wearing this at A LOT, though, and could not look more adorable -- even (especially) when worn slightly askew. So adorable, that I just had to add it to my Ravelry project page.

And I definitely need to knit another! The pattern is written for only one size, but I think I'll try going up a needle size or two and see what happens.


Weekending

It snowed (lightly) all day long yesterday, and there was a nice warm glow under the pergola last night when the lights came on.

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Inside, I finally dug out and copied some old floor plans. We've been talking about doing some reconfiguring to add another bath -- or (after pricing shower units - yowza!) at least a half-bath.

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Fixtures/appliances may not be to scale... heheh.

I spent a fair bit of time knitting on my Project Peace Cowl. I had a party on Friday night, so had a little catching up to do! I'm right on target, though, and the piece is actually 4x longer now than shown below.

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And I am loooooving it!

We had a Plated delivery over the weekend. One of the meals was trout (delicious) and the other was bibimbap!

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I've never ordered bibmbap for myself at a restaurant before, having only tasted Kate's. It was good -- obviously, good enough that I ordered when it came through as a menu option (and I knew that Katie would like it)!

You cannot see the crispy sushi rice underneath it all. Arguably my favorite part, I loved a little bit of crispy rice on my fork with every bite. Atop the rice is some beef, wilted spinach, a pickled carrot-cucumber salad, a fried egg, and a dipping sauce for the beef to finish it off. I'd certainly never have attempted, out of the blue, to make this myself from scratch... but send me a box with all of the ingredients and step-by-step/photographic directions? I'm on it. And now that I've done it, I will certainly do it again -- it was SO good. Kate said that she even liked it better than the restaurant version! I have a few trial invitations for Plated (worth up to $72); if you're interested in trying it out, let me know.


Hello December

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This is why.

Whenever I think to myself, "Hm, do I really need to put up the big tree?" I think of how much fun this was. And if it was fun last year, it's gonna be even funner this year!! Yes, FUNNER!!

December is hard.

I was looking ahead/steeling myself to the dates later in the month and then was reminded first thing this morning that it's Rusty's dad's birthday -- he'd have been 88.

Kate shared a story about a frustrated, insistent customer who ended up leaving the book store in tears yesterday. I got tears in my eyes right away. Ohhhh, that woman has a story -- there's a reason why she's insistent and on-the-verge, why she needs things RIGHT NOW. Poor things -- the woman and the book store employees, too; they were all a little stunned.

HELLO DECEMBER!

 

Projectpeace

I'm going to knit myself a peace this month. I wrote about Project Peace before, but then the pattern came out and it's one of those long, in-the-round cowls and, well, there's nothing "peaceful" about that to me. So, even though I'd read along everyday, I decided not to knit the cowl -- or perhaps to designate another project as my "peace" knitting.

I said as much to Kym. And she said, "Doofus, you could convert this one to straight needles pretty simply! Just cast on for the width and then knit back and forth until you’ve got a long enough piece. Then just... 3-needle bind-off!"

She didn't really say, "Doofus," but I know she was thinking it. Haha!

Well, of course...

I guess I needed a push. So I did the tiny bit of math, got excited about knitting an i-cord edge as I go -- in a contrasting color because, lo & behold, along with the 500-yard hank of Jill Draper's Esopus, I also bought a contrasting 250 -- like it was meant to be -- and, yeah, so I'm back in.

Peace out.

UPDATE: My mods for the Project Peace Cowl can be found on Ravelry.

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