Archive for August, 2014

How to reward a knitter…

August 29, 2014

I neglected to show the prize I won for the double-knitted baby blanket at the Yarn & Falafel Annual Fiber Fest this year.  I must remedy this oversight.

knitting prize - blanket

Knitting needles, stitch markers, 3in1 needle gauge tool, Knitscene Summer 2014, and yarn!  Lots of yarn…

Alize Superwash, a whole pile of Soul Wool Safari (cotton/viscose), and two skeins of Valley Yarns Huntington.

I have been spoiled.


And as we move into the Sabbath:

Shabbat Shalom.


Of Buckets and Ice and Charity

August 27, 2014

I have lost two people very dear to me to ALS.  Two of my mother’s best friends.  It’s a horrendous disease, and there is no cure.  The only treatments are designed to relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life for patients.  Even drugs that “improve” survival only lengthen it by a matter of months.  So I have been aware of this for a long time.

2014.  Cue the Ice Bucket Challenge.  In case you have no TV and refuse to look at facebook, it works like this:  A person is nominated by someone to meet the challenge.  The challenged person must – within 24 hours of the challenge – fill a bucket full of ice and water; they will then state who nominated them to do the challenge and will nominate three other individuals of their choice to take part in it. The person then dumps the bucket of ice and water onto themselves. They are then to donate US $10 (or a similar amount in their local currency) to ALS research at the ALS Association in the US, or Motor Neurone Disease Association in the UK, or another local research foundation. Anyone who refuses to have the ice and water dumped on them is expected to donate US $100 to ALS research.

It began to gain momentum when personalities from sports and morning news programs performed the challenge live on the air. This was quickly followed by numerous celebrities, politicians, athletes, and everyday folks posting videos of themselves meeting the challenge online and on TV.  According to The New York Times, people shared more than 1.2 million videos on facebook between June 1 and August 13 and mentioned the phenomenon more than 2.2 million times on twitter between July 29 and August 17.

This fund-raising craze that has gone viral has both pros and cons.  On the pro side, it has increased awareness of the disease on a phenomenal level, and has raised millions of sorely needed dollars for research.  As of August 25, the Ice Bucket Challenge raised $79.7 million for the ALS Association, compared to $2.5 million raised over the same period in 2013.  On the con side, there may be dangers for people with specific medical conditions to take the challenge, and the craze has been criticised for being self-congratulatory, focusing primarily on fun rather than donating money to charity.  (Some folks, like Bill Gates and Charlie Sheen, have emhasized in their videos that the point is to donate money.)  Other critics have said that considering the water shortage in places around the world, it is a foolish stunt.  (Matt Damon, co-founder of, an organization focused on providing access to safe water and sanitation throughout the world, brought this up when he was challenged.  He solved his dilemma by using water he scooped out of his toilet, so as not to waste any.)  There have also been some spectacular fails as people attempt stupid stunts to go along with the ice and water, some causing injuries.

If that much money has been raised to fund research, I don’t have much of a problem with the silly fun of it.  And there will always be foolish people who do foolish things in the name of “fun”, not much we can do about that.

There have been quite a few videos of Israelis taking the challenge.  Several were interrupted by air raid sirens warning of a rocket attack, adding a little extra drama.

Yesterday kidlet got her first challenge.  Today I became her photographer as she met her obligation.  Money has been set aside to donate.

She nominated three more of her friends (after telling her own challenger to “drop dead, thanks”).  She forgot some of the script she had practiced, but added it to her facebook post.

At least she kept me out of it.  I don’t need ice on my head to give to charity…

Catch that Cootie! …and knit?

August 25, 2014

Remember that game we used to play as kids?  Where you fold up a piece of paper in what is actually a traditional origami model, add colours, numbers, names, whatever, then flip the corners back and forth according to a number, or number of letters, until you end up  turning over a flap and learning your fortune, getting a task, or whatever else was written there for you?

cootie-catcher colours

The most common names in English for this game seem to be Fortune Teller or Cootie Catcher.  From looking this up, it doesn’t really seem to be a regional thing, as both names are found all over.   I made dozens – if not hundreds – of these throughout my childhood – and I can’t for the life of me remember what on earth we called it.  If anything.  It’s driving me crazy!

It still seems to be very popular, after a history of almost 100 years in English-speaking culture.  Kids are still making them!  They are used as party favours:


One can find hundreds of templates for theme fortune tellers – for birthdays, holidays, weddings.  The Country Chic Cottage has a Dr. Seuss template.

cootie catcher dr seuss

This one has a mandala of the seasons, and on the flip side different meditations:

cootiecatcher mandala

Amazon has whole books of different cootie catchers

cootie-catcher book 2

cootie_catcher book


Why the sudden interest in a children’s game, you ask?  You didn’t ask?  I’ll tell you anyway.  It’s simple.  The Leethal Adventure Knit Along  2014.  Much much more about this KAL later, but Lee has provided us with a custom-made fortune teller to help randomize the stitch patterns we use in the first section of our project, to make each project truly unique.  Printed out and folded, we got this:

fortune teller closed

Using various methods in the KAL, we flip away:

fortune teller partly open

Until at last our next stitch pattern is revealed!

fortune teller open

It is a lot of fun, and has sparked quite a lively discussion in the KAL group.  So far the names (other than or in addition to cootie catcher or fortune teller) the knitters in the group have for this game are clackers, flutter book, whirlybird, salt cellar, 4 cups, chatterbox or scrunchie (in Australia), consequences (in Britain), Heaven and Hell (in Germany), crow (in Finland), and flea (in Sweden).

The Origami Spirit blog compiled this list a couple of years ago:

  • Catalan: cuatre sabates
  • Danish: flip-flapper, farveskifter, farvevælger, nip-napper, rap-rapper, spå, spå-maskine”, rip-rapper, lusefanger,  saltkar
  • Dutch: knip-knap, peper- en zoutvaatje
  • English: fortune teller, cootie catcher, salt cellar, chatterbox, whirlybird
  • French: coins-coins, salière
  • German: himmel und hölle or himmel oder hölle, salz und Pfeffer
  • Greek: Alatiera (Αλατιέρα)
  • Hebrew: qua-qua
  • Hungarian: sótartó
  • Italian: acchiappanaso,  inferno-paradiso
  • Polish: niebo-pieklo
  • Portuguese: inferno e paradiso, quantos queres
  • Spanish: adivinador, sacapiojos, salero, pollito, comecocos, sapito, cielo e infierno, día y noche, piquito, cuatrobocas, cumpleaños, el poto de doña María, juego de la fortuna, aguaderas, estafador de sueños

So…   What do you call it??

I honestly don’t recall if this ever had a name when we played.  Now I guess I have to go search out my childhood friends and see what they remember.

(Well, at least I still remember how to fold it…  There is that.)

Ye Olde Stash of Yore

August 25, 2014

Well, the catbeast managed to knock down a big canvas bag that has been in storage forever and stuck on a high shelf.  It holds yarn that I used ages ago before (quality) yarn could be acquired online, brands that I knit with and/or bought back in the 80s.   (I still have the knitting magazines, with the patterns I knit with this stuff…I usually managed a few sweaters per year.)   I haven’t touched it in years, but since the cat knocked it all down, I decided to do some housecleaning, at least sort and catalogue it all.

There were balls of yarn, partial balls of yarn, several unifinished objects, including scarves, a sweater that was finished except for the collar (and which I have no recollection of knitting…), and a few swatches.  Some of the yarn was organised in separate plastic bags, but a great deal of it was in an incredibly tangled mess.

yarn mess

So… I got to work.  In total, I found 110 full skeins of yarn in there.  With the exception of one yarn, all are 100% acrylic. That was all that was available in the local yarn shops in the 80s and into the 90s.   And not the most pleasant to work with, compared with some of the yarns available today.

I remember some of my old projects knitted with much of the partial skeins.  I still have a few, many were gifted.   (That one sweater sure baffles me, though.  Kidlet kind of likes it, asked if maybe I would finish it for her.  Doubtful.)  I never put any of them on my Rav project page.  Maybe I should?

Most of the local yarn companies and almost all of the yarns no longer exist.

old stuff

I’m still debating what I’m going to do with all the yarn I sorted and recorded.  A few are sweater quantity. Some are odds and ends.  Some are clearly matched for a colourwork project.

I put it all on one page of my Ravelry stash, with all the details, and titled it “Old Stuff”.

In the meantime it’s back in the canvas bag and back on the shelf.  At least I know now what exactly is in there.

Any ideas?



The Patient Diary

August 23, 2014

Last month we had a bit of personal drama when I spent a few days in hospital.  I’m fine now, but it was a bit worrying at the time.  Having nothing much else to do while there, I jotted some thoughts down when I could.  Presenting you with a wee glimpse into the health system.

The Patient Diary

So it seems that the national drama being played out isn’t enough, my body has to create some of its own.  While sirens wail and missiles fall,  I get to deal with my own crisis.

Woke up with vertigo so bad I couldn’t even sit up.  Very disconcerting when the body is lying flat and the mind is absolutely sure you’re in freefall.  Scary as hell.  When I finally managed to get up with kid’s help, the nausea took over.  Partner decided not to take any chances.

Bad side:  the gurney the ambulance team brought in scared the cat badly.  Good side: one of the very nice team was a sweet immigrant trainee from the US.  Bad again:  I may have been too out of it to thank her/them properly.

Bad:  spent the next 6 hours undergoing a whole lotta uncomfortable tests.  Good:  was wheeled around to many of the tests by a funky funny dude with dreads who made me laugh.

Good:  brain CT was OK.  Partner was somewhat surprised by this.  Told her that until she does one and it’s OK she shouldn’t make remarks.

Bad:  blood pressure is high for me.

Was admitted for observation overnight in the Neurology ward.

Good:  room is clean and comfy,  roommate is nice.  Bad:  I really really don’t like the backless fashion statement.  Does nothing for me.

Good:  I finally managed to eat a meal and keep it down.  Doubtful:  this  may be due to all the Pramin they pumped into me earlier when they got tired of my throwing up spectacularly every time they tried to do balance tests.  (The Ear doctor holds the record – he succeeded in making me throw up once more than anyone else.)

Good:  they let me go to the bathroom.  Finally.  Holding the  infusion pole on wheels helped me stay on my feet, as did the two strong nurse hands at my back.  This was much better than the (bad:) wretched bedpans I had to use until then.  Somewhat bad:  they didn’t allow me to lock the bathroom door and it wouldn’t stay closed.

Bad:  kid is pretty freaked out by all this, especially my staying overnight. Good:  managed to convince her to sleep at home with partner instead of in the armchair in my room.

Bad:  no TV, no news.  Good:  no TV, no news.

THE VERY WORST:  Too dizzy to knit!!!  Can’t yet wear my glasses without random things like walls and furniture spinning, so no reading either.  I do have my kindle with me, so may try later.

Day 2.

Good:  night was quiet and uneventful.  Bad:  kept waking up every couple of hours, mostly due to the infusion doohickey taped in my arm.  Couldn’t get comfy with that jabbing me.  Good:  roommate said I didn’t disturb her, so either she’s a very deep sleeper or I didn’t snore.

Annoying:  had to get up at 6:30 to pee in a cup.  Even more annoying:  they can’t use the existing doohickey to take blood, since it was used to give me various concoctions the day before, so they had to jab the other arm.  Ouch.  Pfui.  Not fair.

Bad:  Still having dizzy spells, but good: only when I move my head too much.  Or stand up.  Or look or bend down.

Took me for Doppler/ultrasound tests (neck and head).  Orderly parked my wheelchair in the hallway,  handed me my paperwork, and left.  Lots of hall traffic but no one came for me.  Finally snagged a nurse who checked on things.  Bad:  doctors were in a meeting so no telling when they would get to me.  Good(??):  only had to wait an hour.  Funky dreads dude came by and we joked a bit.

Came back to my room to a worried partner and a now-cold breakfast. Good:  nurse was happy to reheat everything.  Bad:  reheated oatmeal is truly disgusting.

After breakfast they took me for X-rays.  Right next to the ultrasound room where I was before breakfast.  Seems kind of inefficient, but hey, it gets me around more.

New doctor joined old doctor on rounds for more tests.  Wobbled around for her flashing my backside. They’re keeping me here for another night.

Sigh.  Good?  Bad?  Routine tests are discovering little things unrelated to the vertigo but needing to be followed up.  Consults with other doctors who come dropping by.

They start me on fluids again.  I ask about the possibility of taking a shower.  Nurse says maybe tomorrow.  Ick.  I feel icky.

Good:  partner has brought me toothbrush and toothpaste and shampoo.  Bad:  can’t use the shampoo.  Very bad bed hair.

Try to knit for a half hour before dinner.  Good:  I knit English style so I’m not moving the left arm with the infusion too much.  Irritating:  the tube still seems to get in the way.  Manage about 3 rounds.  (Hey, they’re long rounds.)

hospital knitting 1

Nurse comes in for more tests so I park my knitting on the infusion pole.  Nurse is not amused.

hospital knitting 2

Partner and kidlet come after dinner.  We ask for an extra hospital gown I can put on “backwards” over the other so my backside is decently covered.  Kidlet is mortified by my unshaven legs.  I tell her to get over it.  Good:  I can now walk (slowly) with them down the hall to the ward lounge to watch TV.  Bad:  news on TV.  First cease fire attempt- one side says yes, one side says no – it all continues.

After visiting hours, knit some more. Very good.

Day 3.

Bad:  the extra fluids In the infusion kept in overnight caused me to run and pee every hour.  (Well, shuffle…can’t really run while wheeling the pole.)  Around 2 or 3 am I head out to the nurses station to ask if this will continue all night.  Bad:  they tell me that that’s what happens.  I say I would really like to sleep for more than an hour at a time.  Good:  one of the nurses says let’s try this and sets the drip for much faster.  He says this way it will finish much sooner.  Bad:  one of the other nurses clucks at him in disapproval so I guess he shouldn’t really have done that.  I thank him.  After a half hour I’m up to pee again.  There’s still more to drip so I decide to wait instead of going back to sleep.  Do puzzles on my phone for another half hour then give up and go back to sleep.  Good: sleep through until 7.

Good:  Shift change:  I am now described as “independent”.  I am inspired.

Good:  morning nurse unhooks the damn tube when she comes to measure blood pressure.  Bad:  blood pressure is still higher than usual.

Small victories:   I succeed in raising the head of my bed by myself.  I can take my empty breakfast tray out to the nurses by myself for the first time.  Only very slight flashes of dizziness.  I’m making progress.

Bad:  slight headache, can’t knit.  Good:  doc says more tests today with the ear doc and I can go home tomorrow.

Excellent:  doohickey is out!  Bad:  removing the tape left two bare strips in my arm hair.  Which wasn’t so noticeable before but now is.  And it hurt.  Good:  now I can finally take a shower.

Ah.  The pure simple pleasure of a shower.  Partner hypothesizes that the earlier headache was caused by dirt.  I’m not ruling anything out.

Off to more tests.  Weird:  for some odd reason the orderly brings a child’s wheelchair for me…slightly tight fit, sitting very low with my knees up.  Not amused.  Not comfy.

Ear doc thinks vertigo may be migraine-related.  A new theory.

Good:  blood pressure is down.  Bad:  headache is back and worse.  Nurse brings meds.  Feh.

Headache causes me to leave a meal unfinished.  Meals have been pretty decent.  They always ask me in the morning what I want for lunch.  Usually choice of beef, chicken, fish, or veggie.  Bland but not bad.

hospital meal

Roommate is released, many good wishes all around.  I take a nap, wake up when new roommate arrives.

There are many instructions posted all over about hospital procedure.  I must say I appreciate the diagrams in the bathroom that teach how to wash hands.  Not counting the two pictures how to apply soap and the final picture of rinsed, dry and clean hands,  there are six pictures showing distinct motions one should make to ensure hands are properly cleaned.  I begin to pay attention to a routine I do numerous times a day so automatically.  I am horribly ashamed to admit that I only do 5 of the specified motions.  I’ll have to concentrate on adding the missing motion to my routine.  See?  One is continually learning.

hospital washing hands

Headache returns after nap.  I ask for more meds, idiot nurse (the first person who hasn’t been wonderful) tells me the headache must be from the high cholesterol that tests have shown and that when I start taking meds for that the headaches will go away.  (!?!?)

Bad:  When dinner tray arrives I am in tears with pain.  Good: In front of others, idiot nurse is sympathetic and brings me meds.

Chat some with roommate’s parents.  They are very busy calling in influential connections to ensure preferential treatment for their daughter.  As far as I’ve seen here, everyone gets very good treatment,  but I understand them as a parent.  Even so…

Family and friend arrive and we proceed to get rowdy.

hospital rowdy

We move to the lounge to avoid bothering roommate.  Friend brings me a new murder mystery and partner rolls her eyes.

Day 4.

Didn’t sleep well.  Ear doc recommends I sleep at a 45° angle.  (He explained it all with diagrams of the inner ear, etc.). He told me at home to use pillows or sleep in a reclining chair.  Good:  I have a comfy reclining chair.  Bad:  I prefer sleeping in my own room, but I don’t know how pillows will work on the waterbed.  Anyway, hospital bed is set at 45° but I couldn’t get comfy.  Stayed awake much later than usual.  Knitted some, did puzzles.

Bad:  Headache and nausea are kind of hovering around the edges of how I feel.  Bending and standing still bring a second or two of dizziness but good:  it’s not too bad, and definitely better than it was.

For lunch I order chicken for the 3rd day in a row.  Not feeling adventurous in regards to food at all!  Although after two days of thigh/leg, today we are to get breast.  I suppose that counts as variety.

Negligent:  while making myself tea (see how independent?)  I notice for the first time that there’s a menu posted.  Good:  haven’t missed much with my meal choices.

Roommate’s mom arrives and we all chat some more.

Talk with doc.  Good:  steadily getting better.  She asks if I feel ready to go home and says I can stay another night if I prefer.  I decide to go home later today.  We discuss follow-up.

Doc tells me to take sick leave for another week.  I tell her I have a mean boss.  She says she’ll write a letter.  I explain that I’m self-employed.  She laughs and orders me to give myself a week’s vacation.  Hm.

Good good good:  after lunch I remove the hospital gown and put on my own clothes.  Bad:  I discover that no one folded or even rolled them when they were stuffed into the plastic bag that held them and they are now shockingly wrinkled.  I decide I don’t care.

Relax and knit. I have challenged myself to see if I can finish the drop-stitch cowl I’m working on.  28 more rounds to go.  I manage to finish 20.

Late afternoon/early evening release papers are ready.  Letter and records to my family doctor with copies of everything for me.  Follow-up appointments and tests to have done before them.  Prescriptions for over-the-counter vitamins??  Contact names and phone numbers.  I gather my things that have been ready to go for a couple of hours.  Say goodbyes to roommate and mom.  Get to the ward exit and go back because I forgot my water bottle.  Get back to the end of the hall and nurse comes hurrying up to me to make sure they took all the needles out of my arm.  (?! –  I do think I would have noticed and mentioned it…but I guess they need to check it off the list.). Head out to the street where partner is waiting in a taxi.

Home.  Frantic catbeast sniffs me over carefully then ignores me in a major display of huff.   Gets over that surprisingly quickly and follows me everywhere.  Seems worried that I will disappear again.

welcome home

Kidlet makes me tea and runs out to the market for a few things to tide us over until I can order groceries online.

And it’s back to the real world.

Mirror, mirror, how I knit you

August 22, 2014

I have become a definite fan of double knitting.  For those of you who haven’t yet experienced this fun technique, it’s basically knitting a two-sided fabric, with a stockinette face on each side, and knitting both sides simultaneously.  Well, yeah, that was clear as mud.

Anyway, it’s a technique with colour that knits a mirrored image on the opposite side.  It’s fun for me because there is no wrong side, and no loose yarn ends to weave in, doesn’t pucker like stranded colourwork can, and is great fun.

Back in 2010, Marielle sent me a double knitted hamsa in a swap:

hamsa-cloth-1  hamsa-cloth-2


See the mirrored colours?

I’ve wanted to learn this technique ever since, and finally grabbed my chance.  A friend was expecting her first grandbaby, and I wanted to knit something special.  So I downloaded a chart for the Babydecke blanket, watched some tutorials on youtube, and took the plunge.  And this was the result:

BabyEkstein FO1 BabyEkstein FO2


Nothing like jumping right into the deep end!  By the time I was finished with this, I think I had learned to correct all possible double knitting mistakes and felt ready to tackle anything!  I made it easier by creating an excel chart with the stitch counts.

Oh, I had some yarn left over so quickly knitted up some booties for the baby as well…every baby needs a pair of converse, no?

allstars FO 1


But back to double knitting…

At the annual Yarn & Falafel Fiber Fest, the blanket won a prize, voted on by those who attended.  I was pleased as punch.

I was also asked to give a workshop on double knitting at the gathering.  I wanted to show different edging techniques in double knitting, so I knitted up a Hufflepuff bookmark to show a different style with an invisible edge:

hufflepuff 1 hufflepuff 2


I also wanted to teach the workshop using a simple project that everyone could do to learn with.  I looked around on Ravelry, but didn’t find exactly what I wanted.  So I made a few swatches, wrote up a quick pattern, and taught the workshop using this coaster pattern:


It was a hit, so I wrote it up nicely, added a tutorial, and published it on Ravelry.  And to my delight, within three weeks it was chosen as a KAL in two different groups!  So far 20 projects and counting…

It’s a free pattern, with a link below and on my pattern page.  The tutorial is all on one page, so if you already know how to double knit, just ignore that page.  The chart is also written up separately with stitch counts included, for those who hate charts.

My next step will be learning to double knit with different images on each side…

Now knit yourself a coaster in your favourite colours, make yourself a hot cuppa, and enjoy!





A present to myself

August 21, 2014

Birthday blessings abound!

Was awakened by a happy birthday message on my phone at 5am.  (I don’t think the person who sent it realized that it would wake me….whoops)   and then I became aware of a pile of shiny birthday balloons on my bed!

birthday balloons

The catbeast is quite concerned about these balloons.  She sits in the doorway and watches them warily…and when the breeze from the window makes them move she scoots backwards.  Quite funny.  When the breeze sends them bouncing down and out of the room she retreats to a safe perch to observe.

Then I discovered kidlet’s next gift.  She waited until I went to bed last night and then cleaned the house.  As in move-the-furniture-around-and-get-the-dust-bunnies-scrub-the-floor-and-all-surfaces kind of clean.  Cleaned the fridge too.  And I slept on…  She set the dining room table with fruit, tea, and a birthday letter.

birthday table

There were also little happy birthday post-it notes attached around the house, on doors and other items where I would spot them.  Gifts of love, so much more special than possessions.  And much treasured!

The morning surprises were followed by a lazy day.  Reading, knitting.  Birthday wishes flowed in from friends and family from far and wide on various and sundry social media sites, phone calls, text messages.  Deadlines and bureaucracy were put aside for the day.  News and politics muted.  As much as possible.

Got gussied up for a fancy night out.  Partner fretted (as usual) about not being able to take the dog.  We went to a lovely restaurant and splurged, diets forgotten for the evening.  Wine.  Music.  Sparkler on my dessert.  Much laughter…

l'haim 2014

(Came home and kidlet decided she just had to bake brownies.  Much debate about adding white chocolate chips.  Partner and I did a taste test and pronounced them great.  Most are now saved for boyfriend tomorrow…)

And now it’s after midnight, no longer my birthday.  ‘Twas an all-round satisfying day.  I have much to be grateful for.

It has been far too long.  Life has been crazy.   My biggest gift to myself:  a return to my blogging.  I miss it.  I need it.  I want it back.