Sunday, December 31, 2006

Full disclosure.

I close 2006 with the gory details of my SP9 activity. I haven't posted about it for fear of giving away my secret identity to the knitter I am spoiling, but I'm beginning to believe my previous hints have been in vain and she will need much more substantial evidence, so a full disclosure here will help her find me.

I'm delighted to report that my secret pal (Angela, the one I’ve been spoiling) loved loved LOVED the package I sent her last month . After I read her SP9 questionnaire, whenever I went shopping many things just fell into my hands for her. I have to admit I thought it was a rockin’ good haul of knitterly and pampering treats (I would be doing my own Snoopy dance if someone sent it to me), but I’m always a bit anxious that the recipient of a gift won’t like what I chose.

Here's a full breakdown of what I sent her:

The knitterly stuff consisted of two large skeins of cushiony hand-painted merino sock yarn: Forest, shades of blue, green and brown - from Cavyshops on Etsy and the SP9 special ChaCha colourway, shades of sky blue, silver grey, white and black - from to knit perchance to dream. I added some of those cute cable-sweater shaped plastic needle holders from Clover brand, and there were a couple of stitch markers: one with clear and blue crystals & one a small gold bell for the holiday season.

Some nifty soothing green-tea eye-pads jumped out at me because she was also participating in the recent Knitters Tea Swap (I have to get into the next round for that one!) but those tea bags are for external use only, so I sent along some bags of Orange-Ginger Chai to drink if she’s craving a cup.

There was Life Brand Coconut Lime body wash - my own most recent fave (mmm… citrusy and tropical). They also used to have a great Pina Colada scented one, but I can’t find it anymore. I will definitely be going back to the health food store get some of that yummy Jason Organics Cranberry scented hand and lotion for myself too. There’s a small Life Brand hand held glass massager that can be used with or w/o massage oil (that's between her and her hubby). I hope she’ll use the cute foot-shaped foot file and the matching polka-dot toe-separators to give herself a soothing pedicure (or maybe she can talk her hubby into it – I haven’t succeeded with mine yet, but hope springs eternal). And I say a girl never has too many bath scrubbies!

There were a couple of Lindt dark chocolate bars, one w/orange and almonds and one from Ecuador, some seasonally appropriate Balssen chocolate covered gingerbread cakes, and three miniature liquer-filled chocolate "bottles". I also sent some sweet earrings made from lavender shell and beads with a silver leaf accent, a silver-toned butterfly-shaped hair clip with blue crystals, both of which should suit her beautifully, and last but not least a mini teddy-bear with a candy cane – because it’s all about the B.E.A.R. here at casa MezzoDiva.

While I was procrastinating waiting to send the package, I saw a funny little book on the current demise of manners and courteous behaviour Talk to the Hand by the same author who wrote Eats, Shoots and Leaves and it seemed only appropriate to add it to her package, since I kept telling her it was on the way and then only managed to send it a couple of weeks ago week (finally)!

Whew. I’m not ashamed to admit I was more than a little nervous about it. I’m a virgin swapper and she is a much more experienced knitter, blogger and swapper than I am. Hey - even the exalted Yarn Harlot reads her blog! And guess what? I was praised by the Yarn Harlot! Awwww, shucks... Stephanie said I am awesome (if you don't believe me, see the comments on Angela’s blog). I am such a sucker for positive reinforcement. Actually, my other SP (Laura, the one spoiling me) is in awe that I live in the YH’s city - I had to promise her that if she comes to town I will take her to the SnB at Lettuce Knit.

I almost forgot to mention that some beautiful wheel-made and hand-dyed home-spun goodness from Julie arrived in Friday's mail - the last mail received for 2006 (scroll down to the purple and white stuff in the dye pot - it's plied together with some lovely soft green and blue). It is a gorgeous token of her thanks for supporting her Wheel Fund-raising efforts a couple of months ago. I know she has been diligently working for weeks to spin all the thank-you yarns for her wheel donors, and I suspect mine was the last due to some unforseeable dye adventures, but I have to say that I love it! Now it will have to decide what it wants to be when it grows up...

Oh, yeah -saved the best for last: we have a digital camera!!!! DH and I recently purchased a Kodak EasyShare Zoom Z650 with a 10X optical zoom lens, and we got a 1GB SD card & Reader. Now if I can just learn to use the lovely thing, you'll be getting alot more visual payoff for putting up with all my excessive verbiage.

See you all in 2007! Best wishes for health, fulfillment, prosperity and peace, in the coming year and forever beyond.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Haley at my fave LYS Knitomatic is knitting Evelyn Clark's Shetland Shawl from Wrap Style. The pattern is easy, with a repeat that you can pretty much memorize after a couple of times through, and I'm a sucker for these pretty leaf/flame shaped laces. Though I am a lace-knitting fiend in garments, I haven't made an actual shawl per se, so I'm willing to cut my shawl-knitting teeth on a simple pattern.

It's on my list for early next year - maybe in my lovely FA cosmic-dawn Kidsilk? But I only have one skein of that (repurposed from the SKB when the new shipment to my LYS didn't match my older one enough to make a tunic). I'm at least 100m short of the pattern requirements and I really want an even bigger shawl anyhow. Perhaps I'll use one of three huge skeins of Fiddlesticks Country Silk I'm still hoarding.

I really love the pointy edging, too. Hmmm... I still haven't found quite the right finish for 2D-Girl's Leaf Lace scarf and those points could be very nice. Maybe I'll try a swatch of 'em alone to see. Here's my dilemna. She crocheted an absolutely gorgeous scarf for me. I finished her scarf and the Leaf Lace is beautiful, but it needs a little something to finish it off. A fringe isn't quite right and tassles are gorgeous but too heavy for the Leaf Lace. It really needs a somewhat delicate yet funky touch for the edging. I ordered all three of Nicky Epstein's "...Edge" books from the library to look for more ideas, but they haven't arrived yet. I also want to press-block the scarf between a couple of towels using a gently warm iron to help define the lace (in the absence of blocking rods).

While I wait for the books, I continue work on (cue the fanfare, please)MY OWN sock pattern (It's nearly done! I am SOOOO excited!! Does anyone out there want to be a test-knitter for me? Please leave me a note in the comments) and a Manos vest for my stepdad's upcoming 70th birthday on New Year's Day (or for the DH, if stepdad won't wear it). I showed it to Mom a couple of days ago and she reiterated her concern that Manos colour 111 (Navy, Plum, shot through with some Rust & Golden Peach) is OTT for stepdad, after which I had to set it aside for a few days to clear my head about it. I suspect my Mom is mistaken about the Manos being too flashy for him and a mutual friend agrees with me. I also found the grey SRK monkey scarf I started a few weeks ago (bowing my head in shameful admission of a lingering fondness for cheesy fake fur novelty yarns). It was hiding in a bag with music from the show I was working on at the time (never unpacked in my hasty leap into the next gig - you'd be amazed what miscellany I find months later accidentally tucked away with my music) so I picked it up again for a few reassuring "let's get reacquainted" rows.

We went to a terrific Xmas party last Saturday night! There were lots of new and old acquaintances, there was great food and drink, some carols for the kids, more food and drink, hot and cold running laughter. We are generally not party people: though we both play well with others, we each tend to mix best with different crowds. But we both had a truly great time, we both drank just a bit too much wine (mine red, his white), and then we stumbled home on the TTC giggling and cuddling. It was great!

The day after (Xmas eve) was spent sleeping it off, puttering around in our pyjamas, rehydrating with water and herbal tea, and tidying up the house which I swear was clean before we left for the party! And on Xmas day I dug out the crock pot and made a yummy Boeuf-Bourgignon inspired beef stew we are finishing the last of today. I used some raspberry/red-wine vinegar instead of wine for deglazing the pan after searing the beef and caramelizing the garlic and onions, and threw in some extra root veggies found in the larder (turnips, sweet potatoes) because they needed cooking.

I had originally planned to cook the beef on Xmas eve day (the day after the party), but I lost any kitchen-craft impetus when a family friend brought an overwhelming car-full (really, a car full - stuffed to the roof!) of second-hand clothes for me to choose from before it goes to charity. OY! Just what I needed! More STUFF to sort and purge. But she has a great sense of style and the champagne budget I lack, so I'm methodically digging through it all. A diva's gotta look (and dress) like a diva, if you know what I mean.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Too busy to blog, but I have knitting news (and DH weaving) to report later. I'm dashing away (not through the snow, but still) to sing a fabulous Xmas concert in a beautiful art gallery an hour north of the GTA. Recognizing among my many blessings: I am blessed to be willing and able to do what I love for a living!

Meanwhile, I leave you with this: Jen at 144 Inches of I-Cord concluded one of her recent posts with possibly the most elegant expression of the tao of knitting. "This is why I love knitting. Because if you have 140,000 stitches ahead of you or 14, all you can do is knit the next stitch."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Gotcha! Secret Pal not a secret anymore!

I am delighted to report that my Secret Pal (the one who is spoiling me so wonderfully) is the lovely Laura at A Frayed Knot. I've been stalking her stealthily for the last few weeks and finally uncovered her secret identity last week. Actually, I've been reading her blog for a while (before SP9) and always wanted to comment about how gorgeous her baby girl is, but I didn't want to worry the nice knit-blogger about some strange lady ogling/stalking her baby!

How did I track her down? Well, I had it narrowed down to a few potential SP9ers from her somewhat obscure clues.

1. She has a (did I mention gorgeous?)baby:
Q: Now when you say "the baby" (hint one) – is this a real honest-to-goodness human-child baby? I have to ask only because in my blog-trolling so far you would not believe how many people refer to their pets as "the baby" or "my baby" and so on... not to put too fine a point on it, what do you consider to be the age parameters within we can legitimately refer to someone as "the baby"?
A: Yes, in this case, the baby is in fact a baby who was growed right in my very own belly. I do refer to one of the dogs as my baby, but only when I'm talking to him or asking my husband about him. To me, a baby is too young to walk. Once they're walking, they're toddlers in my book. Because of, you know, the toddling.

2. Her Socktober confessions:
Hmmm...I should give you another hint. Okay, how's this: I participated in Socktoberfest and (sort of) finished one pair of socks. No, I won't explain what I mean by "sort of." Tee hee! Okay, lots of folks had their best Socktoberfest intentions fall through the cracks of the calendar (me included), but when I put this one together with the other hints, it really did help me narrow down the list of suspects.

3. She was a square in Rhinebeck Blogger Bingo:
I will be prepared to send your first package after Rhinebeck. (I'm a square, which you would think would be a hint, but I think everyone who has a blog and is going to Rhinebeck is also a square, so let's not count that one). You bet it counts, baby - every little breadcrumb in the forest...

4. And then I received my first package, followed by a note:
So here's the thing. Because you're in Canada (or possibly because I'm in the US, but let's not pick nits here), I had to fill out all this crazy paperwork to send your package to you. The PO dude wouldn't let me put "Secret Pal" for my name. Or Mamie Van Wunderpickle. So all the forms have my real name on them. You can either: studiously ignore the paperwork OR see my real name, Google me, and find nothing interesting (also, there's more than one of me -- I just did a vanity Google and I'm not everyone who comes up). It will not lead you to my blog, or to anything related to knitting or any other fiber(re) arts I may or may not partake of, or anything about me that I've ever mentioned on my blog. So you'll know who I am but not who I am, if you see what I mean. Your choice. Laura's "secret" email address was a play on the transliteration of her real name initials, and I traced it to one of her online photo galleries with some very cute baby pix. I compared these to some pix posted by several of my likely suspects and lo and behold: same gorgeous baby (and some of the very same pix)!

Now, since gorgeous baby girl's lovely face was the key to how I found them, I figure baby and I deserve a little face time someday. Don't you? Not to worry, it's okay, because as the saying goes, she know where I live. I just wish I lived close enough to babysit!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

One. Word. Answers. Only.
No. Explanations.

1. yourself: becoming
2. your boy/girl-friend (spouse): amazing
3. your hair: beautiful
4. your mother: learning
5. your father: absent
6. your favorite item: teddybear
7. your dream last night: forgotten
8. your favorite drink: coffee
9. your dream car: chauffered
10. the room you are in: kitchen
11. your ex: irrelevant
12. your fear: despair
13. what you want to be in 10 years? mommy
14. who you hung out with last night? husband
15. what you’re not? weak
16. muffins: carrot
17. one of your wish list items: peace
18. time: elusive
19. the last thing you did: nap
20. what you are wearing: smile
21. your favorite weather: sunny
22. your favorite book: next
23. the last thing you ate: chocolate
24. your life: evolving
25. your mood: sanguine
26. your best friend: husband
27. what are you thinking about right now? knitting
28. your car: bicycle
29. what are you doing at the moment? daydreaming
30. your summer: languid
31. your relationship status: forever
32. what is on your tv? DoctorWho
33. what is the weather like? brisk
34. when is the last time you laughed? today

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Benign Stalker and Baboon Brunnhilde.

I am participating in SP9, the current round Secret Pal gift swap and so far I've been beautifully spoiled by my pal. She sent me a first package a few weeks ago that was absolutely perfect: a pattern book I had not mentioned in my SP9 questionnaire but confessed to coveting in an entry some two weeks later, possibly a half-tonne of ab-so-lute-ly mouthwatering to-die-for chocolate truffles (O.M.G! What a way to go!) and some breathtakingly lovely Schaefer yarn Anne, a handpainted merino-mohair (fingering weight) yarn that's too exquisite for socks (darn it!), it will have to be a shawl or something elegant when it grows up. All this came inside a beautiful board suitcase decorated with pictures of painted clay pottery. I was and am suitably grateful and I just want to reiterate to my pal that if this is a sign of things to come: Please, will you adopt me?

Alas, my spoiler pal is avoiding this potentially awkward family expansion (aside from the domestic fallout, there are cross-border issues) by cleverly concealing her identity. I have spent many hours and days attempting to track her down using the meager clues she's been throwing me (pardon while I wipe my brow to the accompanying strains of Stravinsky's Song of the Volga Boatman). Until now, my arduous endeavours have been fruitless, but I believe I may have finally figured out her secret identity! In order to ascertain the veracity of my claim, I continue to accumulate the evidence and once sufficient data has accrued I will be happy to reveal the extent of her subterfuge here. Please stay tuned.

Meanwhile I am happily collecting a massive pile of happy to ship to my spoilee pal. Unforeseen obstacles have repeatedly delayed my trip to the post office for the last few weeks and in order to assuage my guilt I keep adding trinkets, toys and tasty treats for her to the package. I'm also piecing out a few obscure hints for her. In the absence of any solid evidence in her hands, it is only fair to give her some means of tracking me down in the knit-blog sense.

If you've been following the saga, you'll recall that when I first got in touch with my spoilee, I was dismayed to see that my internet provider lists my real name in the header of outgoing mail for all my accounts. I panicked (fearing that I had just spoiled the fun of the chase for her) until I realized that it won’t help her find me in the blogverse (the only one that really counts) because my profile name is an alter ego and searching will not connect my real name to my blogger identity. I suppose she could try hacking into Blogger, but I doubt she'll go that far.

I am told she spent the entire afternoon hunting for me today - to no avail. Whew! I've been having a recurring nightmare lately in which she finds me before I get a chance to send her the package: There will be a knock at the door and I'll open it dressed for my opening night as the Baboon Brunnhilde (it's a concept opera), wearing a gorilla mask, blond braids and horned Valkyrie helmet, only to be hauled off by the Secret Pal Police to God-only-knows what eternal knitting torment, all while yelling on a high C: "no, wait - it's right there, on the coffee table..."

Damn. I'll bet the understudy tipped her off.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Fall Cable Fiasco: Dogfood or when Good Yarn goes Bad.

This was bad. Very bad. So bad that I avoided posting about it for nearly a week. I avoided facing the truth for even longer.

But first, a little history narrative for poetic balance. In our many years of living together one fact has been established: Both DH and I are intuitively very good cooks (owing in no small part to our mutual love of food and culinarily adventurous tastes). We both enjoy discovering new flavour principles and learning to apply them in making delicious and satisfying delights to seduce each other's palates and we continue to seek new and wonderful ways to prepare and enjoy food. We are true epicurean sensualists and proud of it.

However, it is only fair to admit, we have each on separate occasions taken perfectly good ingredients and concocted something so humanly inedible it should only be fed to the dog (if we had one). In short, we have each once (and happily only once) made dogfood. As there was no dog nor other creature present in our household who might be persuaded to consume the results of our horrible experiments, once the painful truth was reluctantly accepted by both chef and diner, these meals were regrettably consigned to the trash.

Well I can painfully report that I have now accomplished the same remarkable feat of ingenuity in a medium which has hitherto brought me only joy (with occasional periods of ennui during long stretches of stockinette, or frustration untangling a skein gone fubar, but I usually find even that soothingly meditative and satisfying).

Hello, my nom-de-blog is MezzoDiva and I have knitted dogfood. (Please interpolate appropriate 12-step program responses here).

I tried to ignore it but it wouldn't go away. I kept on knitting until the awful truth could no longer be denied. It was staring me in the face: a two-foot swath at least four feet long of beautifully cabled and drop-stitched D.O.G.F.O.O.D. I saw it coming after the first twelve inches of growth but I just winced and pretended it would all be okay.

You see, in my naivete I assumed that Beautiful pattern plus Beautiful Yarn plus Got Gauge must equal Beautiful Results. I forgot to account for such things as fibre content and structure, with their predictable consequences for drape or (in this case) lack thereof. A flowing design for a 50-50 wool-silk blend
will not somehow magically work out in a fabric knit from a beautiful but rather stiffish thick-thin single-ply 100%wool. Not. Gonna. Happen.

[... Sorry... I need a moment...]

Four balls of lovely Manos have been frogged into yarn-vomit and rewound. Maybe in two weeks or so I will knit it up into a nice quick scarf for my stepfather whose birthday occurs on New Years Day. The ten remaining unwound unused skeins will be returned/exchanged ASAP, either for very different colours or for other yarns altogether. I cannot bear to look at them. They offend my eyes. They broke my heart.

In happier knitting news, I am now swatching for the curvy cabled cardi using some beautiful Filtes King Extra 100% Merino Wool in Solid Red#2997 - I picked up 7 balls in the sale bin (bargoon) at Knitomatic yesterday, and I'm blissfully working on the scarf for the swap (scroll down) I'm doing with my new friend. We met yesterday at Knitomatic to finalize our plans, choose and purchase the yarns and after a couple of hours of informal SnB we took the materials home and tried not to drool over them.

She's crocheting a scarf for me like this one (scroll down) using three gorgeous colour of Lamb's Pride Bulky: deep fuschia, medium charcoal, and a heavy heathered lime - the colours set each other off beautifully, the soothing effect of the charcoal softening the dissonance of the fuschia and lime, and the brights zinging next to the sombre charcoal. I am knitting a Leaf Lace scarf for her in Cascade 220 colour 9453, a vibrant medium-toned purple with heathery effects of lilac and magenta. We held the yarns up next to her face yesterday and this one made her skin and features just glow! I heard from her earlier tonight and we're both already about 1/4 of the way done.

I'm also excited to report that I am in the early stages of designing a sock pattern (my very first own design, though really I am always tweaking and modifying my projects so much that they might all qualify to some degree). Please stay tuned for further notices regarding my sock-designing adventures. If it works out I will post the pattern here for you to enjoy. I might also ask for a small token fee which will be donated to charity - possibly connected to the walk to end breast cancer I'll be doing next fall. We'll see. It's probably premature to consider fees for a design that is not yet more than a gleam in my eye and has only just arrived on the drawing board.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Whoops – here I am! Sorry, I haven’t posted in almost two weeks and I've been more or less incommunicada. I’m just having a bit of trouble resurfacing after the opera. After a show is over and done, with all that enormous creative and energetic output condensed into a very short time, often I’m right into prep for a new one with my gigs overlapping or back-to-back. Otherwise, I have a weird sort of “after-the-party’s-over” period of adrenaline withdrawal and I get a bit hibernatory for a couple of weeks before returning to my usual sociable self.

I was planning to go to SnB last week, but late in the afternoon I realized that I want to stitch, but not to bitch: I’m just not feeling very sociable in the broad, room-full-of-loose-acquaintances kind of way. If it was just a couple of close pals, sure, but I was’t in the mood for the whole clacking gaggle. Instead of SnB, hubby [hobby?] and I just spent a lovely night crafting together, weaving and knitting, listening to music, cooking together, and then (at midnight) we decided to watch Harry Potter #4 on the Movie Network.

To anyone who has been concerned, I want reassure you that I'm fine. Well, maybe "fine" is not quite the right word, but that's the short answer anyhow. My Secret Pal sent me a few questions and since the answers pretty much sum up my situation right now, I'll just post them here:

Happy December!
I am in complete and total denial - I refuse to believe it is already December. When/how did that happen? I still haven’t packed away my flip-flops! Much as I love both early-fall and mid-winter sweater weather for the inspiration/motivation (both the snuggling and the knitting), I always have a tough time adjusting to the change of seasons in the late fall. I just can't find a way to feel warm. Despite being physiologically, er, very “well-insulated”, I have a bitter aversion to extreme cold and particularly hate the kind of damp wet cold we’re getting right now. I much prefer 20F, but sunny and dry, to 45F and soggy. That’s aside from the seasonal affective (sun-deprived) humdrums and the imminent desperate online search for specifications and materials to build an ark… Is there a kit you can order? (It has to be mail order - I am so not going out shopping in this weather!)

So, I'm shopping for swag for your next package, and I'm wondering...Are you a cat person or a dog person? I don't mean "do you have pets" but rather when you're buying cutesy themed things, do you like things with kitty stuff or doggie stuff or neither? I realize now that it sound like I'm going to send you some horrible coffee mug with a kitten hanging on a branch that says "Hang In There!" or something awful like that, but rest assured we're talking about something useful AND tasteful.
I regret to inform you that I am highly averse to “kitty” and “doggie” stuff both, and anything “cutesy” goes straight into the re-gift/donate/recycle box. However, as an alternative, may I suggest that any variety of “bear” goes over VERY well with both DH and me. We have a belovedly anthropomorphized, adorable yet dignified teddy bear (surrogate child) who sleeps between our pillows and is (sometimes jealously, as in: “don’t Bogart the bear!” or “hey, I’ve been bear-napped!”) shared between us. When he learned that I had been bear-deprived in my childhood (I had other stuffed toys and dolls, but sadly there were no bears) DH got him for me for my 21st birthday (wow – that’s half my life ago!) and he’s become symbolic to us of the love and family we share. I will admit it took three days post-adoption for us to figure out his name, which I am not at liberty to disclose. We both see changes of expression on his face – I swear I’m not making this up. We are a one-bear family. We learned this the hard way several years ago when someone vey thoughtfully presented us with another lovely bear and after several weeks we decided to find her another home as it was unfair to keep her if we couldn't love her as much as we do our cub. Should we ever bring our own human cub into the mix (this topic is still up for debate) we will of course provide them with their own bear. This one is ours.

Also, I'm respecting your wish not to get drawn into the world of spinning, but are you one of those people who says "I really don't want to" and means "I'd love to but I need a little push" or do you really not want to try spinning? I'm more than happy to be an enabler, but I don't want to be a pusher. :)
About the spinning – I admit to a desire to do that someday, so I would not regret being enabled into a very small (inexpensive!) entry-level spindle, and maybe just a little roving to play with, but I make no promises about how soon it might be used: could be on arrival, could be several months. I have numerous immediate knitting hills to climb and I’m a champion procrastinator. If I add another crafty pursuit, albeit fiber related, the potential for distraction is guaranteed to hamper current endeavors... My but you are a sneaky one! I see right through your nefarious plan. I'll bet you think that if (okay, when) you hook me on spinning, I'll have even less time to go blog-trolling and then I'm even less likely to uncover your secret identity. Nice try, MacSly!

How's everything going for you?
As you may recall, I’ve been mucking out the psychological stables to find my own personal pony and I’m making emotional space for that to resume. I'm a card carrying member of the Walking Wounded Society. I've endured the dark regions in my soul for much of my life. Sometimes I felt well and did a remarkable imitation of happy health, but there were times I was sure the light at the end of the tunnel was nothing but an oncoming train. I am fortunate to recognize the demon on my back - so many don't and they succumb to its destructive influence. I am blessed to have a loving personal support system at home and a community of soul-sisters, friends both face-to-face and online, who care for me. It's two steps forward, one step back, but I'm working to shine the light into all the dark places in my soul, addressing the roots and the symptoms bio-chemically, nutritionally and psycho-therapeutically. And I can testify that there are creative and spiritual advantages to a legacy of born of hurt - you can transform it, reclaim your natural joy and vitality, and the hardest-won wisdom will become a profound source of truth, strength and peace.

I saw that you've brought your DH over to the Knit Side...
Well, he is an ardent admirer of the knitting mysteries and now a bona-fide fiber-junky. He’s totally hooked on weaving and his delight is a joy to behold. Since we are both night owls and neither one of us occupationally-afflicted in the usual 9-to-5 sense, we are spending many nights just hanging out until 2 or 3 a.m. with a movie or some music, with me ensconced on my corner of the sofa knitting away and DH on his chair happily teaching himself new woven patterns on the simple kiddie frame-loom.

... wish I could get mine interested. Maybe the handknit socks I'm making for him will turn him...(that's not a clue -- I'm knitting the socks for Christmas, so I haven't mentioned them on my blog. Now, that might be a clue...).
Yeah, I can see how the handknit socks you’re making for your hubby might be a clue. Gee, thanks ever so much. That should narrow it down to about a hundred or two hundred blogs! Sheesh.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Mwaaahahahaha! Got'im! Hook, line and needle. I am delighted to report that I have successfully infected recruited a new fibre-addict. You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I brought home a small frame loom for the DH to play with. He's already spent many hours joyfully entangled with his new craft, delving through the greater portion of our public library's weaving arts selection, discovering new patterns and practising with the cheap rainbow variegated chunky acrylic that came with the loom. Now he's started to hint about the need for some more and better materials to continue his line of investigative experimentation.

I am thrilled that the DH is finally experiencing the soul-satisfying experience of handcrafted fibre arts. Bonus: No more will I suffer the refrains of the past when opening packages received in the mail or returning from a stash acquisition expedition at my LYS ("What's that? Do you really need more yarn?"...etc... "blah, blah, blah"). However, the flip side is I will soon have to become a lot more sneaky about where I hide my stash. DH, reading this over my shoulder, asks snidely: "Oh really? Where will you hide it? There's more visible wool in sight all over this house than you could possibly ever hide." The poor dear. Little does he know that's just what he's supposed to think. Sorry to disappoint you, darling. That's the decoy yarn.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Another 5 minutes of fame! MezzoDiva will appear on the Gill Deacon Show on CBC television tomorrow morning, knitting and singing. (I am such a media whore.)

The Marriage of Figaro finally opens tonight in a gorgeous theatre way out in the burbs - I’m leaving at 4 pm to get there! I forgot to mention that I play Marcellina and I'll be wearing a little knitterly gag on my costume: a miniature baby-hat-and-booties pinned to my quasi-Baroque gown. Hey, this knitterista's gotta represent! And if you know the story, it makes total sense.

In a nutshell, for those who don't know the story: I'm a middle-aged spinster who hopes to marry the much younger Figaro by means of an old contract wherein he promised to marry me if he couldn't repay the money I lent him. However, unbeknownst to all, in my younger days I had a lovechild with Bartolo and the babe was kidnapped shortly after his birth. Spoiler: it turns out that Figaro is our son!

It will be so good to finally get back to S&B next week! I really miss that regular weekly night, rehearsal schedule conflicts prevented me attending for a few weeks. You know, this opera career is really messing with my knitting life (despite reports to the contrary on CBC).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Has it already been a whole month?

This is the only day off I've had in weeks and I was so hoping to show up at Knitomatic for a little S&B therapy I've missed due to rehearsals in the last few weeks. Last night was the orchestral dress rehearsal for The Marriage of Figaro - we open tomorrow night(Yay!).

Yesterday was also the first day of my period. Let me just tell ya: big final opera rehearsal + big first day of menses = some very bad voodoo. Fortunately, after the first couple of days, things tend to ease up for me. And the adrenaline rush would get me through performance anyhow, but I'd pay for it later.

So sadly there will be no S&B for MezzoDiva tonight. The only way I’m leaving the house today is if I am dragged kicking and screaming from a smoke-filled burning building. My cramps have cramps and there’s a magnificent migraine trying to take up residence behind my eyes. I can't see straight enough to knit. I’d cry but that would hurt my head too much.

I'm going to crawl back over to the sofa now and wallow in self pity until this day is over. Sing it with me ladies: “I enjoy being a girl!”

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pssst... I have tentative plans to go camera shopping tomorrow (which is now today, I suppose, as the clock struck twelve here half an hour ago). If my rehearsal ends in time before the store closes, DH and I will go buy ourselves a little something happy. Yeah, I know you've heard it before. But this time I mean it! (Keep your needles metaphorically crossed for me.)

As soon as a camera is acquired I will post pix of the Stitch-Diva cardi-wrap in progress and also of the container and contents of the fabulous first package I got from my Secret Pal (ummm...okay, so the chocolate truffles may will be conspicuous by their absence by then, but I can show you the box).

Work on the cardi-wrap progresses slowly now as show-time approaches and rehearsals become more intensive, leaving less tiome for backstage/offstage knitting. I have to say it gets lots of positive comments from curious onlookers as I'm knitting, though it's just a baby rectangle so far - I'm not even up to the first armhole yet. It's amazing how a simple rectangle with sleeves can become something glamorous and divalicious - at least it is in the pattern and in my mind so far.

The Manos wool is definitely fighting me on the dropped stitches. I'm now laddering down after about every dozen rows to avoid the velcro-like tendencies which seem to increase in direct proportion to the number of new rows knitted since the last dropped section. However, the colour striations are coming out exquisitely in the cables and the dropped sections.

A friend and I decided to do our own mini scarf-swap: She's crocheting for me, and I'm knitting for her. She wants something sleek, chic and elegant, and after perusing patterns and suggestions, requested a Leaf Lace Scarf like this one Bernie made from Nora's modified vogue pattern (go see Nora's terrific designs).

Nora decided to be a designer and so she is one. I think it's terrific that she is sharing these (for free!) with the knit-blogging community. What goes around comes around and she will be rewarded, whether financially or otherwise. All Nora's designs are lovely. I'll definitely be visiting her pattern site frequently for inspiration.

I too have ambitions to design and Nora has motivated me to tidy up my own home-made efforts and offer them here. Once my current crazy schedule slows down a bit, in a few weeks, I'll go for it!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

On November 1st my Secret Pal sent me a little note:
Happy November! And prepare to be spoiled.
A little something-something will be headed your way tomorrow morning... ...Is there anything special from here that you have trouble getting there that you'd like me to send along in a future package?
Until next time,Your Secret Pal
Since she asked me for special requests, I mentioned the curvy cabled cardigan pattern I wrote about in my blog a couple of weeks ago is still making me weak at the knees. I could reinvent one on similar principles, but it's not a no-brainer, and at present I don’t have the powers of concentration to reverse engineer it from the pictures (I am too busy cramming a full length opera into my brain in less than two weeks!) I am still drooling over this pattern, and the more I look over the other pictures, the more intriguing a few of the others become as well, so the whole booklet would be put to good use. So I said that if it’s not exorbitant I would love to receive it in a future package.

Meanwhile I've been eagerly and ignorantly awaiting the mailman every morning and guess what arrived yesterday: My very first package from my Secret Pal. I'll just break it down for you: A gorgeous cardboard suitcase exquisitely covered with beautiful pictures of decorated clay pottery. I just love boxes and containers and tins and pretty package things - I will find a very special use for this! Inside that were more amazing goodies: a huge skein (560 yards!) of Schaefer Yarn Anne handpainted merino-mohair (sock/fingering weight) - this one's too pretty for socks, it will have to be a shawl or something elegant when it grows up. A very heavy overstuffed box of Evelyn's hand-dipped chocolate truffles (and they're boozy all the important food groups are covered). And - come on, I know you guessed it - this Classic Elite book: 9075 Luxe, which contains... (fanfare please, maestro - heavy on the horns) the coveted curvy cabled cardigan!

Note that I asked for this AFTER the package had been sent. How my Pal must have chuckled when she read my email. All I can say is - I have the best Secret Pal - you ROCK!!! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! THANK YOU!!!!!

And thanks for the hints update last time. I need something fun to do in the middle of the night when I come home from rehearsals too wired to go to bed, so I’ll be stalking you. When I figure out who you are, you'll be getting a very special personal thank you.

Me so happy!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Fall Cable KAL 2006

Who knew? It seems, despite all my previous opinions and professed identity, I am actually a joiner at heart. I would not have believed it, but clearly knitting and blogging is bringing out my true nature. Go figure.

I finally succumbed to the urge to join the Fall Cable KAL 2006 and make up some delicious cabley goodness! Unfortunately, my blog and I are still pictorially challenged, but I anticipate acquisition of a digital camera before month’s end (I hope) and then I can finally post pictures of WIPs, FOs, and other knitterly goodies.

Meanwhile, here’s my fall cable project info (with pictures borrowed from the product web-sites for your enjoyment).
I am making the gorgeous glamorous Cable and Dropped-stitch Cardi-Wrap from Stitch Diva, using Manos del Uruguay wool, in colour no. 111 (Navy, Plum, Rust & Golden Peach).

Wow! How beautiful is this? And just wait until you see it worked up in the pattern!

I am modifying the pattern slightly: instead of the regular double rib lines, I added a twisted rib worked on the same rows as the pattern's cable, for a complementary cable accent to the horseshoe cables.

I started knitting it yesterday, and I am totally captivated. I have to mention the Manos wool has a sticky tendency to felt itself together just from being knit up, which makes dropping the stitches a bit difficult. I am already unpicking it row by row with a needle - I have to gently coax them apart. So I am dropping the stitches in sections, laddering down after every 24 rows or so, instead of waiting to drop them all in one fell swoop. I’m afraid that if I wait until it's all knit up the yarn will have bonded with its neighbouring strands make dropping the stitches at the end a major painstaking effort.

Glad to be in on all the cabley fun!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I am up in the wee early hours of dawn - a highly unusual occurence. I was so cold my insides were shivering. Have you ever had that feeling? It's very different from a surface shiver. It really feels as though your viscera are shivering and it's a bizarre disconcerting sensation. Particularly when lying snuggly next to a nice warm DH in our nice warm bed in early November. I have had this feeling on prior occasions, but only outdoors in a mid-January freeze-over with a windchill of -20. (That's celsius, darlings. Do the math. I'm not awake enough to do it for you.)

So I decided to make a nice pot of herbal tea to warm up my internal organs. I'm sitting in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil, with a vague "how did I get here?" look on my face. I figured I may as well be blogging to stay awake long enough to accomplish the making of the aforementioned tea. The tea which really should be progressing further long about now, come to think of it... Oops. Hold that thought I'll be right back.

In my many years there are a number of things I have learned about kettles (there is fleeting wisdom coming so catch it as it passes by). It is NOT true that a watched pot (or kettle) never boils - it just takes a bit longer. However, an unplugged electric kettle does indeed never boil, so I just sheepishly crept back over to the counter to plug in the kettle I filled about, oh, let's say 15 minutes ago, and promptly forgot about until I used it as an excuse for why I find myself awake, downstairs, and blogging at the crack of dawn.

Did I mention I do not function well in the morning? No, I am not lazy. I am a night person. I am a reasonably intelligent and capable woman who will happily function well past the witching hours. In the morning, however, I am an idiot. If you want anything done that requires a modicum of intelligence or basic common sense, let alone physical co-ordination, do not expect it from me before the crack of noon.

The kettle is boiling, so I leave this post for now to go warm up my innards. You might hear more from me before the day is through, but you might not. I have Acts 3&4 of The Marriage of Figaro to memorize before evening, so I can make no promises to update the knitting content today. Here are some headlines for the meantime:

The heating hold-out continues here at casa MezzoDiva as minor contention ensues over who will succumb first to the human imperative to be warm and go buy replacement filters for the furnace... I have resorted to sly knitterly tactics, using the cold conditions to motivate and flaunt completion of my heavy (tweedy doubled Fortissima-socka) socks while simultaneously delaying making promised slippers for the DH, however I anticipate having to brave the laughter of onlookers and knit myself a nose-warmer. Please stay tuned for further reports...

Friday, November 03, 2006

Toronto Weekend to End Breast Cancer

I just took the first step on an extraordinary journey, joining a very special group of people united in their commitment to end breast cancer. I signed up for the 2007 Toronto Weekend to End Breast Cancer benefiting the Princess Margaret Hospital, an international leader in the fight against cancer and the largest institution in Canada devoted to cancer treatment, innovative research, and education programs.

During one amazing weekend, September 7-9, thousands of women and men are joining forces Toronto to walk 60 kilometres through the neighbourhoods of Toronto in a bold display of courage and commitment. It’s a weekend of hope, as we honour lives lost, celebrate survivors, and help bring breast cancer care to those who so desperately need it. Together, we will fight to bring an end to breast cancer forever.

Each walker must raise at least $2,000 for the cause, but I am setting my fundraising goal at $5,000. With your help, I can meet and even exceed it so that we can end this heartbreaking disease for good. The money we raise makes a real difference in the fight to end breast cancer and in the meantime to bring breast cancer education, care and research to those that need it most. CLICK HERE TO SPONSOR ME!.

I am also sending a shout-out to challenge YOU to join me for this vital endeavor! One in every nine Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer - maybe even someone special in your life. The work we do together will help save lives, it's as simple as that. The Weekend to End Breast Cancer is your chance to be a hero. Make a commitment to this super cause. It will be a challenge, but that’s exactly what makes it so meaningful. Please Register for the 2007 Weekend to End Breast Cancer

The Weekend is for everyone - you don’t have to be an athlete to participate. This event is for all kinds of people: mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends, and breast cancer survivors. All you need is compassion, determination and a fighting spirit. The fabulous staff of coaches will answer your questions and help you put together a training plan that works for you, fits in with your life and will get you in shape for the walk. They will organize Training Walks throughout the area where you can get used to long-distance walking, and meet others who will be on the event with you. They'll also give you fundraising advice, or help you recruit family and friends to walk or crew with you. You can reach them by phone at (416)815-WALK(9255) or by email

Start talking with family and friends about your commitment to the fight against breast cancer. Tell them that you are going to walk 60 kilometres so that we may end this heartbreaking disease for good. They will be amazed by your courage, and you’ll be surprised by their generosity. You’re doing something heroic, something that many people never dare to do. Once you get going you'll be surprised by what a successful fundraiser you are! The Participant Centre allows you to recruit teammates and supporters, track your progress, and receive donations. If you are participating as part of a team, you will also be able to get the latest messages from your team captain and monitor the progress of your teammates. You can email potential donors with a link to your Personal Page so they can learn more about your commitment and give directly to your fundraising account online.

October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month across North America. Let’s do something together and move one step closer to a future without breast cancer. Let's make this one of the last times Breast Cancer Awareness Month ever appears on the calendar!

Together we WILL make a difference !

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Socktoberfest Wrap (Toe-)Up.

Socktoberfest has come to a close! This month went by really quickly, and I didn't get as much done sock-wise as I might have hoped. I did, however, finally figure out my perfect personal sock recipe and make a few second socks for my lonely singles. I will have such cozy tootsies this winter happily ensconced in their custom-made merino marvels. I wish I had a camera already to show you some of my FOs and WIPs. Soon, I hope. We are planning a shopping expedition later this week.

Alas, the lovely lace patterns were not in the cards this time, but they are still in the planning stage for impending cast-on. However extensive groundwork has been laid for the next year (or century) of sock knitting, much to the delight of sock-yarn-and-paraphernalia purveyors in the webverse (and the stash-related dismay of my DH). I shamelessly acquired much too much sock yarn this month, as well as multiple sets of 2.0 mm and 2.5 mm dpns and circular needles, to indulge my need to have several sock projects on the go at any one time. In my defense, some portion of this haul will be lovingly packed up and sent to go live with my Secret Pal spoilee.

Meanwhile I bowed to the fates, ripped the lovely SKB (Sob!) and rolled the beautiful Kidsilk (Cosmic Dawn) back into a ball for repurposing. My LYS ordered a few more skeins for me back in July purportedly for arrival in September but the order has been delayed with Fleece Artist and recent reports indicate the estimated time of arrival might be in December. Ah....

Instead, I cast on for the originally intended preliminary SKB using (hopefully great quantities of) my still copious stash of fuschia cotton. And I've got a cute grey scarf on the needles in SRKertzer Baby Monkey held together with a simple light gray DK weight (probably acrylic) inherited from my grandmother (who passed away in 1995). It will go well with several of my grey and black fall sweaters and jackets, and I will feel closer to Grandma when I wear it.

I am trying to choose a pattern for my luscious Manos del Uruguay (colour 111). I want to make a cardigan/jacket, but knitted sideways with some short-row shaping, so the lovely colour striations work vertically instead of horizontally (so flattering on a zaftig curvy girl).

I also picked up 8 skeins of Rowan Chunky Print in a gorgeous deep warm purple which will hopefully be enough for a cardi-wrap sort of thing, though I might have to add a little something else either for a collar border or the sleeves, or both. There are several things in the stash: none have the right weight, but they'll work if two or three strands are held together. But I love the look of this stuff. Maybe I should just look for some more?.... Well, no decisions need to be made until I have an actual pattern found/made-up and a better idea of my yardage requirements.

Oops - I almost forgot: I also started a pair of really warm socks, holding two strands of Fortissima Socka together.

Okay. Off to bed.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Toys are good.

First and foremost I have to report my latest new knitting gadget: MezzoDiva now has a nifty twirling whirling Royal ball-winder gifted by her favourite knit-goddess Haley, the magnanimous mistress of Knitomatic. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I spent last night digging through the stash for various and sundry loose skeins and merrily winding them into lovely centre-pull cakes, process and product much admired by the charmed DH who loves toys of any kind. And we got him a little something too so he wouldn’t feel left out.

You see, DH enjoys several artistic outlets. One of the longest has been drawing increasingly detailed abstract geometric pictures, both free-hand and in computer media, in a style influenced by the ouvres of Escher, Vasarely, and Josef Albers. In recent days we had numerous discussions of fibre arts and potential crafty expressions of his colourful designs. His work would lend itself beautifully to various kinds of needlework, from cross-stitch and embroidery, to knitting, quilting and weaving. The last was very appealing to DH and we fantasized together about having a large enough home, with room for a craft studio or a converted garage/house with space for a good-sized loom, as well as some dyeing and spinning.

When I mentioned DH's loom dreams to Haley, she suggested we start with a smaller version to try out the craft and see how we like weaving, and quickly produced an adorable starter loom for us to try. So of course it had to come home with me. It’s for ages 7 and up so I hope we can figure it out!

DH is absolutely delighted with presents of any kind, not having been properly indulged in his early years (a topic for later discussion). Now that baseball season is over for the year and the weather is getting chilly, I anticipate many domestic hours spent together indulging in our individual crafty pursuits. We’ll just imagine the fireplace for now - or maybe we’ll get one of those DVDs of a crackling log in the hearth, just for atmosphere.

Contemplating a craft studio makes me think of painting and drawing again, too. I haven’t painted in over 22 years. I used to draw and paint a lot when I was a teenager, and then I just stopped, almost suddenly, right after high school. It’s really odd. I wonder why I stopped.

I keep meaning to pick it up again. There is a stretched and primed canvas that’s waited that long, even an easel and a whole case full of new unopened tubes of paints, acrylics as well as some oils, tempera and other media. I also have drawing paper, pencils, charcoal and conte crayons, as well as pens, nibs and jars of ink (some dried out) that are all about 25 years old.

I came across some of my old drawings and paintings while sorting and uncluttering around the house (um,… okay not that you could tell, but I know it happened). There are a couple of pieces that I deemed not worthy to keep for posterity and threw away, but I found a handful that were surprisingly good and just need cropping or mounting and a nice frame. I get a kick out of the idea of decorating using my own work. And maybe having it in view on a regular basis will motivate me to start again.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

So, how's that working for you?...

Oops. I haven’t posted for nearly a week. I kept meaning to write, as there’s been a lot on my mind, but I haven’t been able to clearly articulate what I want to say.

I’m doing a personal thought experiment that is very revealing. It’s made me more aware of my personal dynamics and where they are leading. I highly recommend this exercise to everybody as a valuable annual personal check-in:

Write a detailed and specific letter to yourself from 5 years in the future as though your life was going just as you dreamed. Then to write another letter from 5 years hence, but as though you had continued doing everything pretty much the way you are now, with ensuing results, and note the differences between the two.

This is a huge wake up call. I’ve began to reassess all the arenas of my life: my career and vocation, physical and mental health, spirituality, love-life and family, extended social relationships, my home and living conditions. The more I allow all this to percolate in my mind and my soul, the more I realize what I need to start changing for my life to become what I want it to be. I am not treating these as resolutions, rather incorporating gradual changes in my lifestyle with a more conscious and intuitive awareness of my habitual patterns, observing what I do now and then choosing whether and how I want to change things.

To be honest, I flaked out a bit in the last couple of years. I am beginning to understand that term: flaked out = fragmented and scattered. I was thrown by some overwhelming events that shook my personal world in the year leading up to my 40th birthday, and I didn’t find the resilience to bounce back. As a result, I lost much of the healthy balance, direction and momentum in my life. Over the last few weeks, I’ve really owned that and recognized how I need to reclaim the responsibility for creating my own life.

One of my "unresolutions" is to reconnect with my friends. I admit I'm not very good at the whole keeping in touch thing once the circumstances that brought us together, like work or school, are over. Ironically, for a dynamic stage animal, I'm actually rather an extroverted introvert - I just overcompensate for innate shyness. So I'm working to change those tendencies and make the effort to reach out more when my time is my own.

I had a long extended lunch date with a dear friend a couple of weeks ago. It’s been tricky to get together recently as she has a 15-month-old and lots of baby things on the schedule as well as her own pursuits, and they moved out of the city several months ago so distance has become a greater factor – I can’t just come over on a whim as before. It was terrific to spend the afternoon and evening with her, to have several hours together and cover all the topics from the banal frivolities to the deep chewy issues. It was wonderful to re-establish the connection - almost like we hadn't been apart.

I have knitting news! I got my knitting mojo back in the last few days. It is a great way to keep my hands and my uber-mind busy while I watch the World Series and contemplate life and all of the above from a deeper intuitive place. And after much tinkering and tinking, I finally figured out the perfect sock recipe for my heel and ankles! I’ve been rather unsatisfied with the fit of several standard sock patterns and I can see that’s been at the root of my second-sock-syndrome. Once I solved the formula for the first one, I whipped off a second one to match that same evening. Yippee! So my revised Socktoberfest plan is to fix the fit on my other singles (so I'll actually wear them) and get them all paired off. Once I get a few of those done, maybe I’ll reward myself and crack open one of those pretty lacy sock patterns I’ve been ogling.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Today's agenda:

Funeral this afternoon. Not someone very close, but still…

Cramps? check. Headache? check. Backache? check.
Cranky? check. Moody bitch on wheels? check.
Hormonally challenged to the MAX!

Sock knitting - frustrating. Dropped stitch in short-row heel.

Hot soup, Advil, comfy slippers, sympathy and TLC c/o
underappreciated DH.

Not fit for human company. MIA from S&B - again. Aaargh!

Where the F--- is the CHOCOLATE???

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I am head-over-needles in love with this curvy cabled cardigan from this pattern book.

I might be very sad if I can't make a cardigan like this one.  It's been beguiling me since I first laid eyes on it a few weeks ago during a stroll through late summer postings on Brynne’s blog as she was knitting up a shop sample for Yarntopia: you can see her modeling it here. I may have to get it online - my LYS said there’s no distributor for these in Canada.

This really is the only pattern from the book that’s making me drool, so maybe I don't need the pattern. I just need that curvy cabled shaping. Maybe I can use it as inspiration and re-invent one of my own on similar principles?... I want to modify it anyway for a more open neckline, probably a V-neck, and for an appropriate gauge with whatever yarn I choose from the stash.

That's right. You heard me. I said: "from the stash". I'm not buying new yarn for this one. It's tough, and we'll see how my willpower holds out, but I'm trying to cut back on yarn acquisition, at least briefly. (Sob!) I need to be more responsible and leave the wallet at home when I go to S&B - I can't seem to exit my LYS something fiberlicious following me home. It's not just a question of cashflow. I'm having serious yarn overflow issues in the house and if I don’t start using significant quantities of the stash ASAP I’m going to have to start keeping it with the root vegetables or in the freezer. Maybe the microwave...?

To be totally honest, yarn is not the only thing overflowing around these parts. 2D Girl posted that she has been industriously uncluttering her nest. I'm simultaneously impressed and envious. Maybe I can convince her to bring some of that healthy clearing up energy over to my 3-D house of stuff? I could use a good push to purge this place, if only to make room for orderly storage of my stash!

Actually, we've got so much stuff (how much stuff do you have?) our stuff has stuff, and it's parked three deep in every room. We have stuff in the living room and kitchen, the bedroom, "spare" room and the basement, everywhere. There are books, papers, clothing, shoes, electronic devices, magazines, more shoes, collectibles, art supplies and half finished projects, still more shoes, and of course the yarn and the comic book collections.

You know the drill: Bend, lift, carry, sort, sneeze, purge, argue, clean, reorganize, vacuum, etc... It's a good idea but the process means the house is a much greater mess than usual, as I move things from one room to another to get at what lurks behind/beneath. Maybe George Carlin was right and we just need a bigger house for our stuff to live in. And if we're nice to it, maybe it'll let us visit.

"That's all your house is: a place to keep your stuff... Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore." — George Carlin (1937-) U.S. actor and comedian - Quote from A Place for My Stuff (1981).

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Okay, PAL - make with the hints!
Vee haf vays of makink you tok…

Sorry – I know threats won’t work.
But slip me something, pretty please!

Happy SP9 Day!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Benign stalker.

My SP9 pal dropped me a line a few days ago from her anonymous email account to inform me that she'll be spoiling me for the next few months. She said that she scoped out my blog and my answers to the swap questions and indicated that we have a lot in common (like what?...) and this is going to be tons of fun for both of us. She proceeded to threaten me with yet more questions at a future date. Then she asked me whether I'd prefer that she avoid any hints at all as to her identity, or would I have more fun if she drops obscure hints ("really, really obscure, like you'd have to read every swap blog AND do some extrapolation of those blogs to figure out who I am").

Actually, I wouldn’t worry too much about me figuring out her secret identity: I’m such a complete SP neophyte that I initially set up my anonymous email account (from which to correspond with my own spoilee) using the same name as my blog profile display name. (Hmmm... yeah, that should be a tough one to figure out!) So much for my pretentions of intellect.

Fortunately I hadn’t yet contacted my spoilee, so I quickly set up another new and more obscure account from which I emailed both her and the SP9 hostess. THEN, to my shock and horror, I saw that my internet provider lists my real name in the header of all outgoing mail for my accounts and I quite sensibly PANICKED (fearing I had just spoiled the fun of the chase for my spoilee) until I realized that it won’t help her find me in the blogverse (heh heh…) because my profile name is an alter ego and searching will not connect my name to my blogger identity. I suppose she could try hacking into Blogger, but I doubt she'll go that far.

SO – to make a long story short (it's too late, I know): Yes, I want hints. Lots of really easy hints. Obscurity will be completely unnecessary. You could provide the URL and I might still get lost. For pity's sake, please just give me some breadcrumbs to follow.

And I am looking forward to getting to know my spoiler pal (if not during the next three months, then after secret identities have ben revealed).

Phew! It’s been such a stressful SP9 and I haven’t even started.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What do you do when the fairy dust clears from your eyes?

I’ve been in a bit of a knitting funk the last few days.

The purple raglan cardigan languishes (reproachfully) in her clear plastic zippered bag. I’m not turned on by my Simple Knitted Bodice, beautiful as she is in all her Fleece Artist Kidsilk glory. There’s no magic in either of them for me right now.

I am trying to muster up the enthusiasm to cast on some sock-weight merino for a lace shawl, with either some of the rich mottled brown or the tone-on-tone deep orange, both of which followed me home in the last couple of weeks. I have several sweaters' worth of all kinds of delicious stuff I could be making into something warm and lovely. There’s a mountain of gorgeous Manos upstairs just waiting to become a fabulous sweater-coat. Whatever.

Even the socks aren’t doing it for me (et tu, Koigu?), though I give them a few rows to keep faith with my Socktoberfest pledge. I might not get to the fancy ones at all, but I am determined to have actual wearable PAIRS of socks by month's end, so I am dutifully knitting up the partners to my lonely singles.

Sigh. It’s just not happening for me. I'm not even interested spelunking through my stash bins for inspiration. I feel somewhat bereft and abandoned by my knitting muse.

Maybe I should just go make an acrylic scarf.

Friday, October 06, 2006

I used to keep Brunnhilde in my wallet. I found her in a newspaper many years ago. Sorry, I don't recall where, or who the cartoonist is. The series title was "Bent Offerings".

She reminds me how much I love what I'm doing and how I am blessed to be doing something I truly love with my life.

I've been seeing alot of personal revelation Q&A memes around on many people's blogs lately. Maybe this has to do with the season: autumn is typically the time when our minds turn to evaluating our purpose and place in the scheme of life. For some it's a religious and spiritual self-renewal, for others the whole back-to-school zeitgeist has been so deeply imprinted on the personal calendar that we never really outgrow it.

I also noticed that although I bill myself as the operatic knitaholic, I haven't ever posted anything about my musical life. So instead of the 10 knitterly things you don't know about me or the socktoberfest questionnnaire, I've decided it's time I told you a little about MezzoDiva's other addiction. (These questions were originally posited for another forum, but they provide a structure I like for this post so I'm using them here to anchor my answers.)

1. Why do you like opera? Why did you pick this genre?

Actually, it sort of picked me. In childhood I was always interested in performing, and pursued singing music theatre and popular music since adolescence. In my early teens I could do a perfect Barbara Streisand imitation, a phase I fortunately outgrew. While singing pop/rock covers with a band in my late teens (from Carole Pope to Pat Benatar) I suddenly started losing my voice, and a band member gently recommended that I might want to see a singing teacher. Good thing too, because I was pre-nodal and could have damaged my voice completely through misuse. I started lessons, somehow gradually drifted into more classical repertoire, and discovered a whole new realm of vocal arts.

Initially, classical singing (vocal technique which encompasses genres from the middle-ages to the present – I’ll leave the stylistic eras and definitions to the musicologists and historians) was one of those “oops, how did I get here and whose idea was this anyway?” experiences for me. But I have come to feel a deep abiding rapport with this realm of artistic expression. Opera is the consummate art form. It communicates the profound eternal truths of human experience in a remarkably visceral way, with a richness of language and musical expression that often transcends the more popular vocal and theatrical idioms of contemporary culture.

2. What is the most difficult thing to learn when trying this genre of music?

I think the most difficult thing for contemporary singers is to learn to respect their own artistry. As students and young professionals we can be overwhelmed by the rigours of training in musicality and style, in technique, language and theatre arts, and we often allow our own creative wills to be subsumed by the axioms and strictures we are taught, as well as by the aesthetics of teachers and mentors. This can foster a culture of restraint, where the artist is always afraid to be "wrong", a confinement which permeates much of the art being produced, resulting in a proliferation of homogeneity which is quite frankly rather boring.

As emerging artists we need to take all we have been taught and filter that through our experience, our own emotional and physical creative impulses, to reclaim ownership of our instrument, our skill and our artistry and take the creative risks to produce truly thrilling experiences we can share with an audience.

3. What is your favourite thing about singing this kind of music?

There is a remarkable euphoria that comes from using your body as your instrument in this way. Particularly when singing in an operatic style, the breath and the open-throatedness are extremely honest and revealing of your vulnerabilities, and can evoke sweeping emotions, passions and deep cathartic experiences, all of which are heightened by being shared when you are truly connecting with the audience or interacting with others on the stage.

4. What is your favourite memory/experience performing or learning?

The most exciting things for me occur in rehearsal when we allow ourselves to play and explore, inventing and discovering different ways to say or sing or do something, reducing a musical or gestural expression to the kernel of its essence or embellishing it to the point of absurdity, and then distilling a clear and powerful authentic communication from that process. And, in the greater sense, I believe that art is more than entertainment: it has a true contemporary relevance. Art can change the world - both through communication of socially relevant eternal themes and through artistic efforts and endeavours on behalf of worthy causes.

5. What do you think about the opera industry, worldwide or local? Is it a strong community? Can you comment on its growth since you started studying it?

We need to provide the much-needed opportunity for emerging artists to hone and develop their performance craft in the most time-honored and effective way: by doing it regularly! We also need a strong networking system for artists and more widely accessible support for professional development, including master classes given by renowned industry professionals with international careers. And we need to foster a sense of social relevance and engagement in the artists themselves, to build an ongoing commitment of artists to social responsibility through artistic means.

There is an unfortunate shortage of opportunities in the apprenticeship programs attached to the larger opera companies in Canada, as compared to those in the U.S. and abroad. These are a vital transitional phase in the developing career of an opera singer, providing on-the-job training, performance experience, and immersion in an atmosphere that prepares one for a performance career. Often application or selection criteria for these programs are narrow or very conservative, and many exceptional and gifted performers fall through the cracks. Many similar programs require the already cash-strapped (student loan bearing) artists to pay for the privilege of performing.

6. What would you like to see happen within the opera community?

I would like to see a greater cross-pollination of ideas among the various art forms. Particularly in the performance arts there seems to be a rather narrow adherence to conventional sub-genre definitions and stylistic performance codes. Musicological insight absolutely should inform current performances of these forms, but when applied too strictly the current interpretations of this knowledge often confine the range of expressions available to performers to virtually archival reproductions instead of contemporary and relevant communications. Some of the most exciting creative work is being done by collaborative partnerships between the conventional opera producers and cutting edge artists from other media, such as film and visual arts, who bring modern sensibilities to the genre while respecting the historical idiom.

Grass roots projects developed by artists for artists and audiences, such as collaborative hybrid performances integrated with storytelling bridge the language barriers and promote contemporary understanding of the classical art forms for audiences unfamiliar with the opera genre as well as for the die-hard enthusiasts, offering artistically and financially accessible opportunities for cultural enrichment, and encouraging audience members to interact with the artists in a warm atmosphere conducive to getting to know the performers as members of the community. Therein lay tremendous opportunities for growth in all the strata of opera and theatre production, as well as the development of future audiences.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Secret Pal 9 - Q&A

EDIT: this questionnaire has been preempted by the next round - see Secret Pal 10 Questionnaire.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Kick up your heels for SOCKTOBERFEST 2006!!!

I'm a relatively recent sock addict, but so far all my socks have been plain stockinette or ribbed.  I am constantly ogling all the sexy sock patterns, totally and passionately enamored of a few patterns I've worshipped longingly from afar for several months. I've done a fair bit of lace work in tops but nothing fancy in the sock department yet. So I set my personal Socktoberfest challenge: this month I am planning to make a pair of Pomatomus and a pair of Baudelaire, as well as finishing the mates to all of my sad lonely sock singles.

Uh oh.  I am hooked on the toe-up version; either on dpns or magic loop, various provisional cast-on methods, short-rows (preferred) or increased - but I always go for the toe-up approach: I just love the way the toe box looks and feels, I can adjust for fit as I go, and I don't have to worry about how much yarn I have, I just start at the toe and knit until it's done (because Koigu is a terrible thing to waste).

Alas, the lovely Pomatomus is knitted top-down.  So it looks like I'm going to have to convert this pattern to a toe-up direction. Aaack! I'm pretty confident juggling sweater patterns, but I don't really think in "sock" yet, so I'm not all that eager to reverse the pattern direction myself. Hmmm... I think I'll be getting some good old-fashioned advice for this one.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Waaaaaah! MezzoDiva wants a digital camera!

Okay. I just needed to get that out of my system. Really.

I’m somewhat cranky about not having a digital camera and hence being unable to post my own pix on my blog. I've become a bit infantile about delaying this particular gratification (in case you couldn't tell) so the DH and I talked about it and decided that we are going to fudge the budget and just get one in the next couple of weeks. It won't be our dream camera - I'm not going to sell an organ or anything. We just want something reasonable and functional. The always brilliant Haley had a great idea about using airmiles or some of the other points that just accumulate around my magnetized plastics and never get used. (Thanks H!)

I’m asking for some info/input from my fellow knitters and bloggers. If you have a digital camera (or if you have your eye on one for future acquisition) please reply in comments to the following questions: What make and/or model of digicam do you use? What do you like about it and why? What do you dislike about it? Is there anything else you think might be useful to know about it? If we get enough data, maybe I'll collate and post our own little consumer report (from the knitblogging demographic p.o.v.) and likeminded folks will get some help choosing one too. Thanks a megapixel!

In knitting news: several sympathetic readers have inquired about the condition of my coffee-soaked sock and its travel companions. I rinsed out the poor sticky drenched thing right on the needles, laid it out and gently pressed it between two hand towels, blocked it a bit... and the prognosis looks good. (Umm, just so you know, I do not recommend recommencing knitting until it dries.)

It took a while to rescue the rest of my knitting bag contents, especially the sweater project and the assorted inspirational yarns (I won't subject you to all the horrific details). Fortunately, nearly all the victims of this tragic incident are recovering nicely, though some of the printed patterns still look vaguely ill, a sickly sort of mottled beige that I fear will never go away. The lingering symptom is purely cosmetic, however, and if necessary we will deal with any image and self-esteem issues that may arise.

I just picked up Cookie's gorgeous Katrina Rib pattern (so named because all of the proceeds go to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Katrina aid) and I'm really looking forward to knitting it up! Now I just need to go spelunking in my stash to find something scrumptious to make it with. (Maybe I'll make her part of a funky twinset with Wendy's Something Red...)

And Lolly's fabulous Socktoberfest 2006 starts tomorrow!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Half a sock with built-in aromatherapy.

I was standing at the bus-stop knitting a new sock (plain and satisfying toe-up short-row; Fortissima Socka in a pretty colour-flecked marled blue). Waiting... knitting and waiting... knitting and waiting,... and knitting... There is nothing so good for the public transit experience as a nice happy sock-in-progress to make the trip pass pleasantly. I'm in my happy place.

Every couple of minutes the door of the adjacent Prohibitively-Exorbitant-Fancy-Coffee-Chain franchise would open, and the most amazing warm and spicy enticing aroma waft over me at the bus-stop, as I'm waiting... and waiting... until I couldn’t stand it anymore, and being cold and damp (and completely devoid of willpower), I made the excruciating decision to risk missing the bus which would surely arrive while I’m inside the Coffee-Shop-of-Unconscionably-Expensive-Joe and ducked in to order my first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season.

In my own economically minded way, I chose the largest size cup, as it’s only half a dollar or so more than the medium, which is only half a dollar or so more than the small, and so I feel I’m getting a bargain here. In my own special little world, the small cup will make me feel ripped off: That’s way too much money to pay for a [totally unnecessary decadent treat that only remotely resembles] coffee. The largest size has the attraction of all economy value-packs: buy more, get a deal! [Sure, you can drink the Big Gulp coffee. Just make sure you know the location of all the bathrooms on your route.]

I smugly exited the Egregiously-Priced-Purveyor-of-Syrup-laced-Caffeinated- Confections a paltry $5.85 (Canadian) poorer than when I entered, and feeling oh so virtuous for denying myself the sugar-and-fat-laden baked goodies lined up behind the glass (“no, thanks, just the *coffee*”) to find the bus considerately pulling up to the corner for me to board.

I flashed my bus transfer, smiling apologetically as I climbed in for not bringing the driver a coffee too (next time I’ll get her order in advance), and planted myself comfortably in a seat, *coffee* warmly embraced in my left hand and my purse and knitting bag in the seat on my right. As the bus was two-thirds empty I felt no moral compunction about my bags taking up a seat of their own and this way I could safely enjoy my beverage and then pull out my knitting without fear of elbows or needles causing bodily harm to my fellow passengers.

(You can see where this is going, can’t you?)

Several stops later, the bus pulled into a station platform and most of the passengers exited at the subway juncture to continue their journeys underground. Then, a small horde swarmed into the bus, and a game of musical chairs ensued as the new passengers jockeyed for position to the accompanying strains of the engine roar, and we pulled out of the station to continue on westward.

So far so good. I was still comfortably ensconced, beverage in one hand, baggage and knitting on the other side. Until I found myself in the indignant glare of a woman parked in front of my seat, communicating clearly in the universal unspoken language of bus commuters: “ahem – do your bags need a seat, too?” [Never mind that the bus was still one third empty and there were several vacant seats at the other end of the bus. This woman made it very clear with her pointedly raised eyebrow that she needed to assert her right to sit in the seat beside me, the one then currently occupied by my purse and my knitting bag.]

(This is where the music starts to play real creepy like.)

Being a generally agreeable sort who plays well with others, I foolishly proceeded to make room for the nice lady, so I reached over to move my bags to the floor and my lap, the lid promptly popped off my ridiculously priced coffee-flavoured concoction, the sticky liquid sloshed out and (yes, you guessed it) right into my knitting bag, dousing my sock-in-progress, a couple of other projects, various balled yarns in tow in case of attention deficit, as well as several printed patterns I had brought for eye-candy and project-planning. Whereupon, for no reason I can ascertain, the kind lady decided she no longer wanted to sit beside me, took the now vacant seat across the aisle, and avoided my eyes for the remainder of the journey.

"No good deed goes unpunished," quoth my DH sagely.

Monday, September 25, 2006

You spin me right round, baby...

One of my all-time favourite jokes involves the fellow who prays for years and years to win the lottery until decades later the exasperated voice of G-d* exclaims: “SO BUY A TICKET!” I think the message is obvious, but let me state it anyway: G-d* helps those who help themselves. We need to participate too. *(please feel free to interpolate your universal source or higher power of choice, but this joke needs a little anthropomorphic help)

While tripping the blogverse fantastic this morning, I came across a brilliant example of enlightened self-interest in action: Julie had this idea to raising money for a spinning wheel. For each $10 you donate to Julie’s Wheel Fund she will send you 50g of customized handspun, beautiful yarn created for you on her drop spindle until the wheel becomes hers.

Julie caught the spinning bug a few months ago and realized there's an empty space in her heart and her home where her spinning wheel should be. Since she, like most of us, has a few other three- and four-figure priorities, the cost of a spinning wheel is impractical. But the heart wants what it wants. So Julie asked the knitblogging community for help in manifesting her desire. And because knitbloggers are a friendly, generous bunch she is close to her goal and will hopefully be ordering the wheel by the end of this week! As a member of this friendly, generous bunch, Julie is including tithing in her fundraising and her worthy cause even has a strong thematic relation to her own objective: at least 10% of all the proceeds will be donated to Charkas for Africa.

I'm grateful I haven't yet caught the (potentially expensive) spinning bug - so far knitting is my drug-of-choice, with a serving of (mostly knit-oriented) blogging on the side, and I'm branching out into hand-dyes and some felting in the next few months.  I spend a little bit occasionally on yarn or needles, and some on clothing, cosmetics and shoes (much less now that I have a fiber habit to support).

There are a few longed for items on my own wishlist, some gadgets and toys that would enhance the knitting and blogging experience. But I really can't justify embezzling from the grocery money for them (that's ear-marked for the plumbing repairs anyway). And I also contribute to worthy causes: in my own limited financial way I donate annually to a handful of charities, and I offer my time and talents free of charge to fundraising efforts on behalf of several nonprofit organizations. Those toys won't make me feel happier than paying forward some of the blessings and goodness the universe has sent me.

I must admit my admiration for Julie and her creative approach to fulfilling her dream of wheel-spinning. And I look forward to seeing what she spins for me! From what I've seen on her blog, our tastes run to similar vibrant jewel tones, so I've asked her to surprise me with something soft in a fingering or lace weight. And I've opted to wait until she gets her wheel so she can use it to spin my yarn. It seems somehow appropriate.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Knitters Rejoice - Sweater weather is here!  

Welcome the first official calendar day of fall. 
Socktoberfest 2006 is coming!

Lolly at LollyKnitting Around, the colourful ringleader of Project Spectrum is sponsoring this month-long communal spree of socks and sock-crafting. It's not a knit along, competition, race, swap or sale. Socktoberfest is a freeform celebration of sock knitting in whatever way turns your heel. Sign up here to join.

As a born-again-knitter, recent sockaholic, and even more recent blogger, this is my first ever knit-blogging community project.

Hopefully Socktoberfest will motivate me to obtain my digital camera even sooner and then I can add some colourful visual interest of my own to the vanilla verbal chronicle to which you've been thus far subjected. 

Friday, September 22, 2006

I've lost that lovin' feelin'.

The thrill is gone, baby. The purple raglan cardi and I have been estranged lo these past three days. The guilt of the first couple of days has made way for indifference. I don't know how long she will languish in neglect, but I suspect at least several more days of cold shoulders (pardon the pun) before we make up. Neither one of us has done anything wrong, we've just been seeing too much of each other for a while.

Meanwhile I am spending much time stash-diving, ogling and somewhat cataloguing my amazing hoard of string from the boxes and bags stacked precariously at the top of my stairs. (Mmmm... so pretty...heh heh drool) About once a month or so there's an attempted mass escape and we have an avalanche as assorted balls, skeins and clumps of fibremake a break for the exit. I really need to consider an alternate storage location for the stash.

I'm also working on several sock singles and fantasizing about various shawls, wraps, shells, pullovers, scarves, fingerless gloves, and even hats. Hats! I AM NOT now nor have I ever been A HAT PERSON. At least not in this incarnation. Perhaps I wore bowlers to bed in another life, but this time around no hats for me.