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August 31, 2009

Monday List

This was supposed to be a little ditty about Jack & Diane... or rather about baby booties, which I completed and photographed so carefully then I forgot to bring my camera, so no pictures. Ah well. The only thing people are talking about anyway are the fires.

Driving into downtown today the smoke was so thick and heavy it obscured even the skyline. I have a lot of coworkers who live in or near the fire area, it's scary. This season is worse than usual, it reminds me of that awful summer five years ago when my ex-husband left abruptly and I was living in that huge condo alone and I would sit on the patio each night and smoke even though I knew it was redundant. Just breathing was bad enough. But that's what people do in hard times, they do whatever it takes to get through a single day and I don't regret a minute of it. Regret is useless, it robs you of living right now.

Can you believe it's been five years? By nature I am a very private person, and sometimes I'm shocked how much I poured out in this online diary. I think about removing it sometimes, it's all just the past. But then I get an email from someone who's going through it right now, today, and she says it helps and in the end I guess I'm glad I went a little crazy that summer and the whole next year, a majestic meltdown. And all captured in words. What I remember most about it is sitting out on the patio alone at night and smoking after all the tears had dried up.

So I'm grateful for having opened up and poured it all out. I'm happy when someone else finds it useful, or at least comforting to know she isn't the only one.

Other things I love today:

1) Firemen. California has the best firemen in the world, I am sure of it. They work so hard! And they're so goodlooking.

2) Those traffic signs that tell you how many minutes to wherever. Like this morning it was 80 minutes to downtown. It helps to know it in advance so you aren't getting more and more anxious as traffic crawls into the haze.

3) My ipod. I love the ipod, it's such a perfect invention. I love being able to carry a bazillion songs around so that when I wake up and have the line "Girl, put your records on..." stuck in my head, I can just pull out my little portable music library and listen to the song until I'm sick of it.

4) Coffee with milk.

5) Those little re-usable cold packs you can put into your lunch bag. Genius! Keeps lunch cold during an 80-minute commute. I have them in all different sizes.

6) My dad using email. It's so much fun to get an email full of pictures of the dog and the truck and family members and anything he sends. Now if we could just get my Uncle Truman on email we'd be all wired.

7) Finding sunglasses I forgot I had. They were in the seat pocket in the Jeep. It was like Christmas!

8) How your life can be something completely different and better than you expected in just five years. I love not knowing what will happen next. I love finally being able to believe it could be something even better than I imagined.

So that's Monday in Los Angeles, pictureless and bootyless but full of hot firemen.

Posted by laurie at 10:08 AM

August 28, 2009

News and more news

Headline #1: Los Angeles, the hottest destination this summer!

Last night a few of us stayed late and at one point I heard a coworker say, "WHOA. I CAN SEE FLAMES!" so I took a few pictures out of his office window.

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Because there was no wind at the time, the column of smoke was flowing straight up and it looked a little like a volcano. Nutty. Fire season, what can you say?

- - -

Headline #2: The babies are coming, the babies are coming!

The first coworker baby has arrived! Here at Big Corporation, Inc., I have three bosses and the boss I am closest to is the one whose wife has been pregnant (they're the ones getting the red sweater with the ladybug buttons.) Bossman is really a sweet guy and his wife is lovely and they had the baby last night and all is well. It's very happy news.

- - -

Headline #3: Bob ponders his navel
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Or, more likely, Bob naps. He gets so tired you know, all that sleeping can wear a guy out. He just gets so exhausted he has to take a little rest in between the shuteye and the snoozing and all.

Have a great weekend!

Posted by laurie at 9:21 AM

August 27, 2009

Turning a corner

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Sobakowa: Not interested in all the knitting.
(Also: Every time I see her in this pose, I think of a band we used to LOVE in college called "Government Cheese." They had a song called "Grandma Drives The Bus" and when I see the Sobakowa on her little cardboard boat I sing "Grandma drives the bus..." to her. This sidebar will make sense to the two other people on earth reading this who lived in Murfreesboro, TN in the 1990s. Long live the 'boro.)

- - -

I'm not sure when or how but I feel like I turned a corner with my knitting and I've gone from being a beginner to a real knitter. Notice I didn't say I'm a real good knitter, but I do feel confident to knit just about anything even if I do complain about the lack of real words in some patterns.

I've made scarves and hats and mittens and socks and bags and more scarves and hats and I think that recently, when I dug into entrelac, something just clicked. I didn't care if I did it wrong, I just wanted to try it (for lifelong perfectionists such as myself, this is a sea change.) There's a big misconception that perfectionism makes you an overachiever but it can have the inverse opposite effect, paralyzing you and keeping you mired in inertia. It's such a relief to let go and just be willing to mess up and learn as you go.

I'm still a little intimidated by big huge charts but I don't feel like I can't do it. That's a change, too. I really like making sweaters, maybe I'll make one for myself. First maybe I'll make one for my dad, for my mom, for their dog... sweaters are completely addictive! Socks were OK, everyone said once you got into sock knitting it would grip you like caffeine-laced crack but it didn't really take with me. I did LOVE knitting all these baby booties to match my sweaters, though. All booties. Booty!

But I prefer mittens and gloves to socks, maybe next I'll make real gloves with fingers. I have a whole list now of things I want to knit! I'll never be the best or the fastest or the most experienced knitter and yet I just don't care, being superlative isn't why I do this. I do it because it's so relaxing and fun and sometimes challenging, because I love yarn and I love the feel of needles in my hands and I like all the little accessories, like stitch markers and that awesome "click" sound you get from ticking off another row on the counter.

It's just the activity of it that makes me happy. That's enough for me. It's not about being perfect, it's about pleasure.


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Sobakowa is (of course) always perfect.

Posted by laurie at 10:11 AM

August 26, 2009

The smoke gets in your eyes (and your hair, clothes, and throat)

I had an appointment this morning and I drove in to work a bit later than usual. The smoke is just everywhere and there is no mistaking the smell of a California wildfire.

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Traffic shot, driving. Perhaps not my best work.

It's eerie, all the smoke. And the summer is back, the heat was oppressive even in the morning. As I drove in I thought, I love this city. Even when it's smoking. Smokers need love, too, you know.


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Downtown, skyline obscured by smoke.

Posted by laurie at 10:42 AM

August 25, 2009

Don't fall over or anything, but Co-worker Baby Sweater #2 ... is finished! Finito! Exclamation point!

If you need any proof at all that I have been gripped by The Knitting Fever here it is, yet another finished baby sweater:

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Finished sweater avec morning tea. Also, that little pile on the double-pointed needles is the beginning of a baby booty.

SO CUTE.

I knitted this whole sweater while I was procrastinating on seaming the little red one. For this sweater, I took my friend Ellen's advice and used a free pattern found online called the Five-Hour Baby Sweater. This pattern is really well-written and I think it explains how to knit the sweater very clearly. There are a few minor errors in the pattern, but I don't mind errors -- even in knitting books -- because we're all just people, and people make typos. What drives me crazy is a pattern that is written in such abbreviated shorthand that it becomes unfathomable and you have to consult experts, books, online help guides and the Magic 8 ball just to knit a row. Writing is writing is writing, folks, make it readable. (Or, in patternspeak: (Wrt)* to end. BO readable.) (Hah.)

Now I am stepping off my soapbox and my high, high horse. Ahem.

So this is a great pattern. Compared to my first hand-knit garment, the little red sweater I knitted for Coworker #1 Also Expecting Girl Child, this was a breeze! It took me longer than five hours to make this sweater but I'm a pretty slow knitter. That's fine by me, I don't plan to compete in the speed knitting Olympics any day soon. Knitting is my relaxing, happy thing and not a competition so I just go at my own pace.

Picking out the yarn was a little challenging but in the end I couldn't be happier with the result. You see, the coworker who is having this baby doesn't want all traditional girly colors like pink and more pink so after standing in the baby yarn aisle at Michaels until it was almost closing time, I finally decided on Patons Decor in the variegated color "First Spring Ombre." Now I know you wouldn't at first glance pick Patons Decor for a baby sweater but the colors were perfect for the mom-to-be and after touching all the yarn at the store, including the baby yarn, I decided this was plenty soft for a little jacket. Plus, it's machine washable and dryable. I wasn't sure what the results would be and I had my doubts but I bought two skeins and started casting on that evening. Leap of faith, etc.

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Midway through the second sleeve.

This sweater used only one skein of yarn and knitted up quickly. I worked the body on very long size 7 needles -- vintage aluminum Boye needles in a minty green that I got from a coworker back when I first started knitting. She had bought a pile of knitting supplies in the 1960s and had stopped knitting for decades and one day she dug them out of her attic and surprised me with them and I love them.

The yarn came together so much better than I would have expected and the finished sweater is adorably old-fashioned-looking. I love the colors and the way it stripes irregularly. I found some little buttons for it (I love buttons, the money I can spend on buttons is just silly) but this pattern does not have buttonholes, so first I sewed on tiny snaps then added the buttons on top. Voila!

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When I get a chance to write it up I'll share my secret for sewing on buttons and fasteners that will withstand total nuclear annihilation. Trust me when I tell you I can sew a button that would take heavy artillery to remove.


If you decide to knit this pattern you may want to read here what the author says about the sleeve instructions. Also, on the second page of the PDF pattern on row 28: the stitch count given at the end of the row is 150, but I think it should be 152. And on row 30, the final stitch count should be 160 (if you increase one stitch before and after each marker and there are four markers, your stitches increase by a total of eight ... yes?). The rest of the math worked out exactly so I was happy.

I also made the sleeves a bit differently, for one thing I didn't use stitch holders. I used double-pointed needles to hold my stitches so I could easily knit them off later. I waited to seam the sleeves until both were knitted to be sure each sleeve was the same length. And I didn't understand how anyone could stitch up the seams and start knitting with the same ball of yarn because you'd be sewing with half a big ol' skein threaded through the needle, so I broke the yarn and sewed up each sleeve and then re-attached the yarn to knit the body and front. Maybe I did it some weird way but it all worked out great in the end.

This was such a fantastic pattern because I found it easy to follow and well-written, meaning I didn't have to consult six books and a mystic oracle to figure out the pattern. It knits up very quickly even if you're a slowpoke like me and I love the way the yoke has little ridges of stitching detail. Plus, I'm still happily surprised that this yarn worked so perfectly for the pattern. I have a full skein left and I'm using it to make matching booties. BOOTY. Best word in babywear, by far!


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It's so tiny!

Posted by laurie at 9:09 AM

August 24, 2009

Comments (testing, testing)

Thanks for all the emails about the Great Pumpkin Massacre of 2009. I'm sorry I can't respond to all of them... all eleventy-nine thousand... but I read them and appreciated your notes. Also, let me just say that if I ever want to exact revenge on anyone who has greatly wronged me I know who I am coming to for ideas. Oh yes I do.

I know that it is annoying to have to do all communicating by email especially with someone who hates email and often breaks it or avoids it. Last October I needed a little silent time and turned off the comments. Then after a while I got over myself and one day I tried to re-open the comments but with some very minor code modifications and I broke them entirely. Nice work!

Now, a mere nine months later, I am getting around to attempting to fix this mess. Testing new settings below. Let me know if it mysteriously eats your comment, which it started thanks to my "fixing" it. Mind you, I can't fix it or anything, and it only happens sporadically but there it is. Your name still appears underneath the comment. I can't fix that either. Gack. I'm officially halting all efforts trying to fix this website and designing a newer fancier website which will be ready sometime when cars fly and jetpacks are the preferred method of commuting. Or in 2010, maybe.

Also: I delete comments that I think are mean-spirited, nasty, abusive, spam, or blatant attempts to get free advertising. Probably some other stuff too. It's not a policy, it's just common sense and it's how I roll. I'm not a corporation, I'm simply a person and I won't pay to host crud. And I might have times when I don't want public feedback -- not because of something you did but because I am occasionally just too thin-skinned for my own good, so on those times I close the comments. I know many people disagree with that approach. Luckily, they get to do whatever they want on their own website. Viva la difference and all that.

Finally, and most importantly, I want to thank every person who was surprised when I shut off comments, then annoyed they never came back but kept reading anyway. Thank you. Thank you to all the people who emailed, who wrote just to say hi, who laughed at me and with me at my dorky internet ways and understood that sometimes I am just fallible and persnickity and want to hide in a cave. I appreciate it more than you know.

Thank you! I'll go hide in my cave now.

Posted by laurie at 5:42 PM

Little red hand-knit sweater ... all finished!

It's completed! My very first sweater. I'm ridiculously proud of it.

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Without a model to pose it looks kind of boring. But it's really cute in person. The couple who are receiving this little sweater to don't have animals so I can't even threaten to model it on a cat.

For this project I used three skeins of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino Yarn, in color Red #700 and I followed the pattern exactly with two minor changes: I knit the seed stitch using a size 3 needle and the stockinette using a size 4 (I have learned to always go up a needle size with my SupaTight knitting madness.) (Although honestly, if I had knit this whole sweater with one size needle all over it would have saved a lot of blocking after the fact.)

And the other change I made was that I picked up a few extra stitches on the neckband and then on the next row knitted the extras together to keep the stitch count but prevent any gaps in the fabric. I love picking up stitches. It's like voodoo magic, making stitches where none existed!

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The pattern is the seed-stitch cardigan from Debbie Bliss Baby Knits for Beginners. The buttons are the cutest things EVER, little painted red ladybugs that match the red yarn perfectly. I found the buttons at JoAnn's fabric store.

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The finished sweater is so sweet (if I do say so myself) and I am really happy with how soft and pretty the yarn is. I know I complained loudly and with great vigor about the pattern being hard to read but I don't know how much is the pattern and how much is my inexperience with sweater patterns so I'll leave it at that. I will say I took a leap of faith with ol' Debbie Bliss and I used her instructions for seaming that are illustrated at the beginning of the book (I wish she'd mentioned in the pattern which kind of seam to use, but I did eventually figure it out) and when I seamed the shoulders and I was shocked (shocked! I tell you!) at how perfectly they came together:

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Seams coming together.

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The completed seam on the wrong side.

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Instructions

The sewing part didn't even phase me when Corey picked out this pattern. My little brain just assumed sewing was sewing. I have been hand-sewing since I was a child -- I can't remember a time when I didn't know how to hand sew. I grew up making my own doll clothes and later doing all the laundry mending and alterations by hand and I feel 100% confident that I could hand sew you a wedding dress tomorrow and you wouldn't know if it was sewn on a machine or by hand. So I felt pretty full of myself when it came to seaming.

Uh, yeah, so anyway.

Seaming on a hand-knit item and seaming on fabric are two very different skillsets. I kept trying to sew like you would with fabric, right sides together, inside out and I kept messing up. I had my doubts about sewing up anything with the right sides facing me but once I got past myself and followed the directions, lo and behold it worked! I had to take out the seams and re-do them several times but I think I finally got the hang of it. I am so much slower at seaming than I would have imagined! It took me several hours to do it all perfectly, but hopefully I will get faster in time.

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Side seam, not bad for a first-timer.

Of all the patterns in the world, this was probably a much harder pattern to pick as a first sweater but it was good experience for me. I'm glad I started with this one. I got to experiment with picking up neckband stitches, knitting buttonholes and sweater construction but all on a very tiny scale. And I have just enough yarn left over to make some little baby booties, which I already started, I just need to buy some extra ladybug buttons for the booties. I think I'll say booty one more time for good measure. Booty.

So there it is my first sweater, knitted, seamed, blocked and finished. Now the baby just needs to show up.

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Frankie helped by holding down the pattern.

Posted by laurie at 9:41 AM

August 19, 2009

And Hollywood's calling for the movie rights, singing "Hey babe let's keep in touch..."

Sometimes it's so easy to find one nagging thing to dwell upon until everything else goes grey and sour. (I'm not talking about any one specific thing, just in general. In life.) But it's so much more comforting to look for even one thing that's going right and focus solely on it so that you're not as fixated on the other stuff. It's not easier but it is so much more satisfying.

Yesterday a coworker and I were talking about this -- her boyfriend watches the news and is well-read and intelligent and watching the news and being informed is really important to him. I don't remember how we got on the topic but she and I were both agreeing that we just don't have it in us to watch all the emotionally charged stuff on TV news right now about politics and the frustration and the yelling and the breakdown of discourse. (Well, I feel that way about most of the news, getting upset about topics that I have absolutely no control over is just a waste of energy. No matter how upset I get, it has no effect on the outcome.) Is this putting your head in the sand? Or is it maintaining sanity? Guess it depends on your point of view. Whatever works for you, that's what I think.

What's going right today? The weather for one, it's so cool for August! The low clouds start coming in from the ocean late in the evenings and by morning it's cool and overcast and even in the Valley it hasn't gotten over 90 in about a week. Last night I got home and it was 79 degrees! It felt like winter. I love cold weather (or I think I do, what do I know from cold weather?) and last night the cats snuggled on me as if I were their personal heater.

The kitty posse. They're all healthy, knock on wood. (I'm very superstitious, you know.) Last night I was picking up the stitches and finishing the neckband of the little red sweater and Frankie meowed until I put everything aside and gave her all the attention. People who have animals will get it, there's something so uniquely goofy and pleasurable about having to put everything aside so you can pet and coddle and murmur to this little creature who lives in your house, especially one who ignores you most of the time.

Infecting my coworkers with yarn instead of swine flu. It is so enjoyable to come to work and see what new thing Work-Jennifer is creating (today it's a Brangelina hat in a beautiful variegated wool blend) or see how Corey is doing with her entrelac or confess to one of them that I just spent all my discretionary income this month on yarn. A few years ago I was the only knitter in my office and now it feels like everyone is in on it. I love that so many people around here are getting knocked up so I can make baby sweaters -- it must be in the water. (Also: "I'll take bottled water for $200, Alex.") The weather helps, it's easier to pretend you're knitting during a long winter in Finland when you're not sweating through your clothes at 8 a.m.

Here's more: Coffee with milk, putting your ipod on shuffle and getting songs you'd forgotten about but love, rice and beans for lunch, finding SWS on sale online and buying it in every color, being able to call dad at anytime just to say hi, finding clean trousers to wear today even though I forgot to do laundry last night, traffic lighter than usual on the way to work. Cats yawning.

Yes, it's easier to list the crappy stuff and I am naturally accomplished when it comes to complaining, but it's so much less stressful to list instead all the things that smooth out the rough edges.

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Posted by laurie at 10:21 AM

August 18, 2009

The writer at work

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Posted by laurie at 8:40 AM

August 17, 2009

And there was great gesturing and hollering and carrying on, and alas, all for naught.

There is very little dramatic turmoil in my life. I have managed to get my life to a place where it's quite small and usually fine, and sometimes I have my days at my job or in traffic where I am a little emotional, but for the most part I am not an angry crazy person waving around tiny fists of rage.

On Saturday I went to the grocery store and it was so nice outside -- there was a marine layer, so it was cloudy and cool and I had been listening to a good song on the radio and traffic was light. I pulled into my driveway and the gardeners were there. As I was getting out of the Jeep one guy turned on the front sprinklers. He saw me, I mean he was four feet from me, and I just shook my head and said, "Excuse me, hello!" and he said, "Oh, yeah." and then waited until I got my groceries and went inside.

I don't like these gardeners. I miss Francisco. I know that Francisco used to hack away at the shrubbery and he was strange and sculpted all the bushes out front into tiny stunted trees. But he would have a beer with me sometimes and he was funny and he never bothered me. These gardeners are obsessed with the stupid grass and they leave me mean notes about the sprinklers -- which they themselves break quite often -- and they're loud and they ruin Saturdays. But I try not to complain because hey, it's hard to make a living and I figure they're doing the best they can and why complain, right?

So I take my slightly sprinkler-dampened groceries into my house on Saturday and as I am walking toward the kitchen I look out back and I notice something is very, very wrong.

This used to be my garden:

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Leafy, gorgeous pumpkin vines trailed up the wall and all along the corn stalks and it was so pretty and happy out there.

This is what was left after the gardeners came:

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That's my still-growing pumpkin stash -- the pride of my entire garden -- now attached only to the hacked off-ends of what were green, happy vines.

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I'm getting angry all over again. But on Saturday it was like I grew a new head and my new, hungry angry head wanted to EAT THE ARMS OFF THE PUMPKIN MURDERERS.

I flew out the door and I was on them and let me tell you, a hissy was pitched. Yes, in the middle of Saturday morning with all the nighbors out and about and watching, I pitched a hissyfit to end all hissyfits. But the gardener was not apologetic. He didn't plead no hablo ingles (which would have been the smart move) or even try to act dumb. He argued with me. He became defiant.

This only enraged me. I mean, enraged.

"The landlord told me to do it!" he yelled at me.
"Oh REALLY NOW LET US CALL HIM AND FIND OUT."

So I called the landlord, who I had specifically asked back in April what I could do to keep the gardeners from cutting the pumpkin vines this year and he said, "Put a border around it and they will leave it alone." So I got the landlord on the phone and the landlord talked to the gardener and the gardener started to argue with him! Then "the gardener" changed his story. First it was, "They were all dead anyway." So I offered to take pictures on my phone and send them right then and so he changed the story again, "They were damaging the hedges." Finally I just took the phone and told my landlord I would talk to him later when I was less HOLLERING MAD and then I hung up.

I told the guy to leave, get away from me and my murdered pumpkins. There was a whole lot of conversation here I won't repeat but suffice it to say it ended with something like, "And when I move out and the new tenants have four giant dogs and you're picking up dog poop and hoping you don't get attacked by them you will wish you had never killed off the nice lady's pumpkins!" or something equally lame which completely bored the gardener and he left. And I was alone with my poor, dying pumpkins and my empty ugly grey cinderblock wall.

And then I called my dad and I cried. About my garden. People, I know there is real tragedy in this world and I am not here to tell you that the worst thing which has ever happened involved a pumpkin. But I have so few pleasures in my life. My life is this tiny, compressed little sentence and the only things that give me great joy are my cats and talking to my family and my knitting and writing things here and there and sometimes going on a trip. Gardening is something I do because there's such happiness in every aspect of it, picking the site or pot, finding the soil, picking out your seedlings and arranging them just so in the dirt, smiling at your handiwork, watching it grow and bloom and flourish. It's life-affirming.

And they killed it.

So now I have to decide if I'm going to stay in this house and walk around the back yard every Saturday following them to be sure they don't hack away all my tomatoes and herbs or if I'm going to move. I haven't made any decisions yet. Maybe it's time for a change. Maybe I can find a cheaper gardener and my landlord can fire these guys. I don't even care anymore, they can't bring my garden back. I'm just full of give up. Maybe I'll move to the beach and have one nice potted plant and call it a day. The only thing I know for sure is that this year's garden is over.

I'm still mad.

Posted by laurie at 10:02 AM

August 14, 2009

Dinner at Rivera

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Our little work group went out for dinner last night at Rivera in downtown Los Angeles. It was delicious! The ambiance is warm and posh, the food is unbelievable and the chef and waitstaff look like they stepped out of the pages of Vogue Dining. If you're looking for a perfect Los Angeles culinary experience you can't do better than this.

Rivera Restaurant
1050 S. Flower Street #102
Los Angeles CA 90015
213-749-1460 (reservations a must)

I forgot to take pictures of the lamb chop because I ate it too fast. Whoops. But here are some pictures from the evening. We did a tapas sampler/appetizers evening but of course you can do a full dinner, too.

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Min, Joe (whe arranged the entire evening) and Chef chat about dinner.

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Best salsa I have had in years.

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Cool plate stencils made of chocolate and spices.

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Corey and me.

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Dessert, apparently these pictures are out of order..

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Jen with chef John Sedlar.

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Jennifer and me.

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Roasted red pepper with cave-aged Gruyere and chorizo.

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Hot and cold soup that you drink. Indescribably tasty.

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Lovely Min with her handmade corn tortilla, they press fresh flowers into each one.

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I'm hungry all over again!

Posted by laurie at 9:43 AM

August 13, 2009

Thursday knitting day

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A little sleeve on the bus ride home yesterday.

I'm almost finished knitting all the pieces of my red baby sweater, I have about an inch more to do on the final sleeve and then it's just all the finishing and so on. For this, my very first sweater, I obviously need a little help and hand-holding on the seaming technique and how to do all this and the book I am using, Debbie Bliss Baby Knits for Beginners (FOR BEGINNERS) gives the following help and detail on this important matter:

Join shoulders.

Yeah, that's it. That's the whole instruction. Awesome! Luckily I have two things on my side. First, my background is in sewing so I don't feel overly nervous about seaming from a garment-construction point of view and second ... today is Knit Secretly In The Conference Room Day and the guy who leads our group is an amazing knitter who has already made this sweater and he said he'd help me with all this finishing business. Thank goodness. Reading this pattern is like trying to decipher Cyrillic with one eye shut while on a bender.

And tonight after work all the folks who Knit Secretly In The Conference Room On Thursdays are going to walk down to a nearby restaurant for dinner and hanging out which normally would make me nervous (actually, I would usually just decline the invitation) but Corey and Work-Jennifer are going and I really am trying to make more of an effort not to become a complete antisocial hermit living in a cave.

So that's my Thursday. Somewhere in between I will complete a 92-page branding document, drink peppermint tea and annoy my coworkers. There you have it. Thursday.

Posted by laurie at 10:02 AM

August 12, 2009

Summer Reading circa 1979

Last month columnist Nicholas Kristof offered up his list of top-ten summertime reads for kids. Then he had to write a follow-up column because of all the comments (people are very passionate about books!) I love children's books. When I was little, I didn't watch TV, I read books. Lots and lots of books. Books were my best friends and sometimes my only friends since we moved around a lot. I loved Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and Betsy, Tacy and Tib and later all the people in Sweet Valley who attended the high school of my dreams. One of my all-time favorite books is on Kristof's list, On to Oregon (when I first read it back in the late 1970s, it was called "Seven Alone.") It was that book which made me come up with my own list.

My top-ten childhood favorites:

1) The Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia I can't help but wonder if this fueled my lifelong interest in all things relating to that period of history, and my near-obsession with the stories of the European Jews. This is a great read, based on the author's actual life story but is suitable for children.

2) On to Oregon! ("Seven Alone") I remember reading this book when I was about seven or eight and being so scared of what would happen to the Sager kids that I stayed up all night reading to the very end. It's also a great picture of what life was like for our pioneering forefamilies.

3) The Grounding of Group 6 Great read, probably best for teens. I loved this book and have read it over and over.

4) The Laura Ingalls Wilder The Little House Collection of books. All of them. I was obsessed. I even made my own bonnet and walked around the farm pretending I was Laura. I WAS A STRANGE CHILD.

5) Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle I read every Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle book I could get my hands on. I still love her to this day.

6) The Betsy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. I found my first Betsy-Tacy and Tib book in a dusty corner of the old Comfort, Texas library back in the 1970s. I read the whole collection one summer, following Betsy all the way to Betsy's Wedding.

7) Go Ask Alice My girlfriends and I passed this around in the ninth grade. It was by ANONYMOUS! It was so scandalous! Of course now you have kids making pornos on their cellphones and texting sex tips so what do I know. But back when I was 13 or 14, this was right up there with Forever . . . and Wifeyas the must-read books that we knew would scandalize our parents.

8) Bridge to Terabithia Beautiful, tragic, lovely.


9) The Misty books -- Misty of Chincoteague, Stormy, Misty's Foal, Misty's Twilight, Sea Star: Orphan of Chincoteague. Do girls still read horse books with rapt enthusiasm? I think maybe I'll write a horse book. What the world needs now is more horse books.

10) The Chronicles of Prydain books by Lloyd Alexander (The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, and The High King Perfect for your fantasy side. And the Black Cauldron was scary!

11) From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler Oh come on. A CLASSIC.

12) A Wrinkle in Time I know this is on everyone's list but it really is one of the all-time great reads.

So there is my Top Ten-now-Twelve. I'm sure I forgot about 400 books, but those are my picks this morning. Just looking at this list makes me want to go home and open up a book and get wrapped up in its pages. Nothing makes you get out of your own head and into someone else's like a deliciously well-told story.


Posted by laurie at 9:03 AM

August 11, 2009

A little email Q&A day

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I've gotten a lot of email about one apparently hot and inflamed topic spurred on by the close-up picture of my baby sweater on this page:

I think your stitches look the way they do because you are twisting your stitches...

Ah, the dreaded twisted knitter! To set your mind at ease: No, I am not twisting my stitches. But I was curious about the case of the not-so-perfect Vs, too. Thanks to all the great folks who wrote in and educated me about the ply of the yarn making the difference in the way the stitches look on the fabric. I had never seen my stockinette look like that (and I have knitted MILES of stockinette in the past four and a half years, it's my go-to stitch, yo yo) and I was happily enlightened by all the people who sent me this link to the article about yarn ply. It even has visual aids, hooray!

When I read the article it was sigh of relief. Blame the yarn! Blame is so good, so healing, so cleansing. It was also nice to hear from other knitters working with this Baby Cashmerino who had the exact same results. I don't mind the look of the finished fabric, I just wasn't sure why it was looking that way, and now I know. Knowledge is power. Word.

- - - -


Laurie, I want to know how you did it. The no spending for 3 months. Did you start with a plan, how did you decide what was a necessity, what did you do when you caught yourself starting to fall off the wagon. I admire you (ok, I'm really jealous)of what you have accomplished from that endeavor and I want to do the same. If you could give me any advice, what would that be? I need to simplify my life so that I can enjoy it.
Thanks, Linda


Hi Linda!
Well, the first time I did a no-spend it was for three months (and it was hard!) But in 2008, I vowed to go from Memorial Day to Christmas without spending on non-essentials, and it was revolutionary in my way of thinking, living, shopping.

Essentials vary from person to person. If this is all new for you, I would start with just a month. Try to buy only what is absolutely necessary: food, toiletries as they run out, gas, etc. Every time you see something you want that is not a dire need just write it on a list (I kept a little notebook for this) and tell yourself at the end of the month you can buy it if you absolutely still must have it. I kept a list and told myself I could buy all of it when my no-spend was over, but by the time a month or two had passed I found I didn't still want most of what was on the list!

That's how I got started. It took a while to get good at it, and I didn't beat myself up when I had minor slip-ups. I found that simply not being at the stores or at the mall every weekend helped enormously. I filled my time with other things besides shopping. I knit from my stash, made food from my pantry, and decided I could live without a new outfit for a month or two. And I could. I did. I do.

I have found over and over again the number one way to increase the amount of money you have in the bank is to just stop spending it. Even small periods of time used for a shopping moratorium -- a month here and there -- help boost your bank account. But really committing to it for at least a three-month period is where you can see the most benefit and where the payoff really starts. I found it takes about that long to kick the consumer habit.

It's also an excellent way to see how much of our time is spent buying and shopping and returning stuff and more buying. When I stopped shopping it amazed me how much instant free time I had every weekend. I made one trip to the grocery store per week and if needed a trip to Target for household stuff like toilet paper or shampoo or whatever. I found I really only needed to go to Target about once every month, not once a week. Funny how that works.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with shopping and buying things you love and make you happy and comfortable when you have the means to do so. Nothing. I'm not advocating that everyone turn all minimalist and live in an empty room with a single mattress on the floor.

But I personally had confused buying/shopping with happiness. There was a time in my life when I shopped to fill up something empty. And I did it to excess, and I had credit card debt because of it. Plus I had a clutter problem that was insane. So I needed to stop bringing new things into the house, stop spending money, and start figuring out what I was trying to fill up with stuff. It has taken me a long time and I'm still not perfect at this. I still take spending breaks every few months. Sometimes I go nuts shopping (last month I spent all my discretionary money on yarn!) and then I dial it back for a while. After four years of working on this personal issue, I can tell you my house is less cluttered than it's ever been, I still have plenty of stuff that I love and enjoy but now I can see it. It no longer takes me eleventeen days to clean the house, moving piles of clutter from here to there. And after all this time, I'm not one single cent in debt. So for me it has been worth it.

I hope this has helped, I know it's a long answer! Money and spending are so personal, and what is essential for one person may not be for another. I took a pretty dramatic approach and it worked for me, but I think you could do a modified approach and still see some great results.

Good luck to you on your quest to spend less!


- - -

Hey Laurie, I am thinking about getting one of those DKNY wrap sweaters you blogged about. Two questions if you don't mind asking. I wear a size 16. Do you think the L/XL will fit? (I think I recall you saying you were about my size at one point.) Second, most of my upcoming travel will be to LA. Do you think the merino blend is thin enough to wear in Sept/Oct in LA?


Hi there! The L/XL will fit you perfectly. I have varied in size from a 14 up to a 20 (yeah, yeah, I know) and still that sweater has fit me. It's extremely flattering to any body type. Of course I can't wear it all wrapped and tied behind me like the stick skinny gals in the brochure pictures, but I prefer one long end draped over and across one shoulder, it feels very glamorous to me!

About our L.A. weather -- unless we have a freak cold spell, that sweater will be more than enough for September and October, which are traditionally our hottest months. It's not unusual for it to be 100+ out here in October. It does get quite chilly at night sometimes -- well, if you consider 60 chilly, which we do -- and a wrap sweater would be perfect.

Hope this helps and have a great trip!


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That's me illustrating how glamorous book tours are. But anyway, I'm wearing my DKNY wrap and rolling with my Samsonite bag which now appears to be sold out.

- - -

I could swear that I have heard of a website, I THINK from you, where I can say "I want to leave Pittsburgh to anywhere, find me where I can go cheap!" and the website will do this. Am I crazy or does such a site exist? If it doesn't, don't you think it should?

Yes indeed! Try this one:

http://www.kayak.com/buzz

You can pick just U.S. cities or different regions of the world and once you get the display of results, it has all sorts of advanced search filters too, like if you want the results to be sorted by your preferred airline, or by price or date. The only caveat is that the prices displayed often don't figure in taxes and fares -- and that can add a lot of money to the final cost! But it certainly is a cool feature to see what's on sale in the world.


- - -


Hey Laurie,
Since you are my "packing mentor" I have a question for you.I am getting ready for a long weekend (5 day) with family at Disneyworld and am hoping to go with just carry on...My biggest issue is my make-up/toiletries. How do you manage to pack them and be within the TSA guidelines??? I usually can get by in the summer limiting my clothes but ALWAYS have issues with bathroom accessories!!
Thanks moochly!
Beth


Hello, Beth!
Packing toiletries is not easy and the TSA made it even harder when they instituted the 3-1-1 rule. I usually check on the hotel's website or on traveler review forums like Trip Advisor to see what sort of amenities the hotel offers to begin with. Usually a good hotel offers soap and shampoo, maybe lotion, bodywash or conditioner. I bring travel-size portions of contact solution, conditioner, face cream and toothpaste and put them in a ziploc baggie that meets the TSA requirements. I also add in lip balm, lip gloss, mascara, a few other things. That plastic baggie goes in my shoulder bag so it's easy to remove when going through security.

In a separate cosmetic bag I bring the rest of my non-liquid stuff. Sometimes I bring my own soap, I bring a few Qtips, some wet wipes, kleenex, medications, makeup, a comb, toothbrush, stuff like that. I have found over time that I don't really need much and if I do forget something I can buy it while I'm there.

If this is your first time attempting the carry-on-only thing, you may want to make a list ahead of time of everything you packed and mark off what you use as you go. Then when you return home you can see what you really needed and what you could have left behind.

If you plan to travel a lot, you may want to keep a packed toiletries bag ready to go. I started doing that when I was on my book tour and I've kept it up. I have a little spot in my cupboard for my travel essentials and when it's vacation time I pull everything out and take what I need. It varies from time to time -- I needed extra sunscreen in Hawaii, for example, but not for London in November.

The most important thing is not to forget your ID or passport, everything else you can purchase or improvise.

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Packing is fun. Maybe I am crazy.


- - -


I love the fact that you travel by yourself. I haven't gotten up the guts to do that yet, and honestly you really did inspire me as Ireland is the #1 place I want to visit. I've been waiting and waiting to go with someone, but it never seems to work out, so I am beginning to think that next year I will just pick up and go by myself.

OK, I'm not sure this was a question but I emailed a book in response.

I felt the exact same way about wanting to go on vacation and none of my friends could make it when I wanted to go. So I went by myself and on the first trip I learned a whole lot about traveling solo. For one thing, I got a little lonely at night. So on all my following trips I knew I needed to bring a great book, a great knit (delicious yarn helps, I usually bring one or two skeins of something and make a hat or armwarmers) and now I bring my tiny netbook so I can skype my folks or Drew if I get lonely. I can also watch movies on it. A coworker loaded up a bunch of movies on a USB drive for me and honestly, that and a bottle of wine and some yarn and I love my vacations alone -- even at night! I like booking a luscious room and getting into a fluffy bed to read or have a glass of wine and knit or watch a movie after a long day of walking and sightseeing.

When I'm out, I always bring a book so I can look "busy" if I feel self-conscious at a restaurant. When I want help taking a picture, I look for a couple that seem like tourists and ask the woman to take my picture, then I offer to take a pic of the two of them in return, which works out well for everyone.

Aside from that, I honestly think it is easier to travel alone than with someone!

One of the things that is better about traveling alone is that fewer people bother you because you don't look like an average tourist. I think the street buskers and the scam artists at the main tourist sites seeking out gullible tourists look for pairs and groups. I noticed this in Rome. On the way to the Vatican the streets are full of people trying to give you a rose, a ring, ask for money, sell you something, ask you to sign something, it's all a racket. But they left me completely alone. I think they saw a woman walking alone with a handbag as someone who maybe lived there, was on her way to work, or lunch, or whatever. I had this same experience in Paris, in Madrid, in London, in Dublin. As long as you keep your wits about you I think in some ways you are less of a target, especially in western Europe.

Having said that, I don't do the nightclub and bar scene when I travel. I think it's too dangerous to drink alone late at night in bars without a buddy to keep track of you. This is just my opinion and what works for me. Safety is always my first priority and anyway, I hate clubs. We have the world of clubs right here in Los Angeles and I never go. When I'm on vacation I prefer to get up early and take pictures of the city or go to museums or browse in the local markets and spend the day walking, watching, searching, browsing. Doing it alone is not at all the lonely adventure I dreaded, it's the epitome of freedom. You set the schedule, you see what you want, you pick the restaurant.

I'm planning to take a trip next year with two of my friends but I still intend to keep seeing the world solo as often as I can.

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Frankie wants to be my travel partner.


- - -

Finally, three things I am grateful for today:
1) People who love emailing and writing and reading about travel as much as I do! I know I'm no expert and I learn as I go, but it is so much fun to swap tips, even when I am just armchair traveling from my desk.

2) Learning about yarn ply. I had no idea. I love knowing new stuff. Thank you to everyone who helped me with this.

3) My three little balls of fur.

Posted by laurie at 10:31 AM

August 10, 2009

Do you think the diet is working yet?

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Posted by laurie at 8:16 AM

August 7, 2009

My first sweater, my first freak out.

It took me less time to knit the entire back piece of the baby sweater than it took to figure out what the pattern wanted me to do for the last two rows. I had to read, re-read, scrutinize, guess, prognosticate, channel. Still I was clueless. I know that I am a real picky pattern reader and also that I am not some great advanced knitter, but seriously people. One or two basic connecting words could do a whole lot to make most patterns go from Sanskrit to readable. Help a knitter out will you. Embrace the preposition!

Anyway, I was on the bus and I was at the very end of knitting the back piece and all I had to do was finish the last two rows and I pored over the instructions as if they would somehow rearrange into real words that made sense to me, which they did not, and I felt my frustration growing higher. I was on the crappy bus with minimal air conditioning and it was lurching and belching its way up the freeway and I couldn't call anyone to ask for help and finally, as I was about to devolve into frustration and give up, I had a little talk with myself which ended with, "Screw it! Do the best you can and move on!"

So I did. I followed the pattern to the best of my ability and moved on to the next piece. Take that, inner perfectionist! If I knitted the last rows of the back section all wrong I will figure it out during seaming and you know what? If I have to unravel and re-knit a couple of rows the earth will still keep spinning on its axis. It's not nuclear disarmament, it's a baby sweater.

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This pattern is the seed-stitch cardigan from Debbie Bliss Baby Knits for Beginners. (If these are the beginning patterns I must belong with the remedial patterns book.) (Hopefully the more I get used to reading patterns I'll get better at decoding it all.) The yarn recommended for this project is just scrumptious, though, soft and rich and supple, it's Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino Yarn, I'm using color Red #700. I am knitting it with needles a size larger than recommended -- though I could have gone up one more size and my stitches would probably sit better. Yesterday at lunchtime Corey and I went to the cafeteria and knitted and when I told her the pattern called for a size 2 needle, she said, "Oh man, if you had tried to knit with a size 2, all you'd have would be a tight little knot!" and we laughed. I am a SupaTight Knitter. I can make impermeable barriers of stockinette.

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See how my stitches look like herringbone instead of perfect stockinette Vs? I think it's either because I purl less tightly than I knit or because I should be up one needle size. But I don't mind it. I doubt the Knitting Police will come to my house and repossess my stash. In case you have not noticed, I am henceforth renouncing my ridiculous perfectionism. I'm over it. Mostly.

Edited to add: I'm getting a lot of emails from readers suggesting it could be the yarn ply making that stitch look the way it does. I love blame, so I am all about it. Let's blame the yarn! Here is the link to Knitty's yarn ply story. Thanks to reader Megan for the link! And Beth! And Kristen and everyone who emailed!

The needles I'm using are Crystal Palace bamboo straight needles that I bought here. These are by far my favorite brand of needles and they aren't any more expensive than the Clover needles I see in local shops. I happened on my first pair of these needles a few years back in a local yarn shop that has since closed and I can't seem to find this brand anywhere but online. But they are worth the shipping, in my opinion, smooth and warm and I love the way they feel in my hands. I mostly love the old-fashioned perfect ball at the end of each needle. Little things like that make me happy. I think these are the smallest size needles I have ever knit with, sizes 3 and 4! Insane.

I finished the back piece (or I think I did, time will tell) and I'm about halfway through the left front side. Loving the seed stitch border, so cute! My plan for the weekend is to summer hibernate (did you know there was a word for summer hibernating? Thank you to the reader who emailed me -- it's "estivate." Seriously!) and I hope I'll be able to knit all weekend and finish it or at least get most of the pieces done. I'm still on my kick of watching movies set in cold, snowy places as part of my hibernating. Last weekend I watched Snow Walker and it was pretty good. This weekend it's either Dr. Zhivago or The Cutting Edge ... thank goodness there is no Rorschach test based on your movie choices.

I am thrilled that it's Friday. Thrilled, I tell you. Like exhaling, that's what it feels like. Long week. Five days of one thing for two of another, how's that?

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Bob smiles! He likes weekends, too.


- - -

Edited to add: Thanks to all the kind souls emailing me to help with the pattern... Ellen was patient enough to go over it with me line by line and it turns out I had done it correctly but I still think it's funkadelic. Anyway. I'm moving on... moving on to sleeves....
Thanks Ellen!

Posted by laurie at 8:24 AM

August 6, 2009

People who say that you can't change are dead wrong. Period.

I have been a perfectionist for most of my life, which has also led me into to some serious procrastination. For example, if I do not think I can complete a task perfectly -- the way I want to start it, approach it, finish it -- I will sometimes put it off for so long that I just fail at it altogether.

There are a million examples of this in my life: not writing an email because I want to take the time to write a good one (so I end up never responding, which is worse), not finishing a scarf because I keep thinking of all the ways it could be better (wouldn't a scarf without a needle stuck in it be better?), not eating a healthy lunch because if I didn't eat a healthy breakfast I have not been PERFECT all day, and so the day is shot (ridiculous). Part of me knows the better solution is to just eat a healthy meal the next time I sit down to eat, and part of me is a perfectionist even with failure. I've already screwed it up, why bother?

That is just the sort of mindfuck that leaves you mired in half-completed tasks your whole life and always looking for the perfect diet, the perfect weekend to clean the house, the perfect job, the perfect chapter, the perfect contact, the perfect thing to say, the perfect life.

I first started releasing my grasp on perfectionism when I went a teeny bit crazy during my divorce. It was very slow and mainly started with my clutter situation. I knew I couldn't perfectly declutter my life but I had to do something, any little thing, to just start. It was dire. (I have already talked about that here and here and probably elsewhere. It's been a big issue for me, letting go even while knowing I wasn't doing it JUST RIGHT.)

Then there were other things, like quitting smoking, which I finally had to do less-than-perfectly. I bargained with myself, made a deal that I could start smoking again in my 60s. And it's worked! But that is not how perfections quit, you know. I did it all wrong but I did it anyway.

Traveling was another imperfect perfect. I wanted to travel but didn't have anyone to go with so I just gave up my idea of the fantasy vacation and went alone and it was even better than the fantasy. And it keeps getting better the more I let go. Accepting that there will be new situations where I am not the expert, do not have control and do not know the language has made me a better traveler. And probably nicer to be around.

My whole life I needed to people-please, have people like me, approve of me, give praise not criticism. That went by the wayside one day in a Nashville airport when I realized I was crying in the terminal bar and couldn't take one more comment from another stranger ever. And then I just let it go. I accepted that I would never please everyone and was tired of trying and people would say what they wanted and it would be thiers, not mine, to carry. Then I drank a beer the size of my head and got a plane where I saw Charo. Enlightenment happens at the weirdest times. That was a big turning point for me, that stupid crazy day at the Nashville airport.

And now, with all the knitting I've been doing lately, I saw myself seize up with inertia at times where I got frustrated or scared or just irritated by not being sure that I was just perfect. And each time it was an opportunity to breathe, relax, and PLOD ONWARD ANYWAY. That's right -- move forward even if I am not perfect at it, even if I screw up, even if I have to undo it and start again. I keep reminding myself that no one is grading me, no one really cares about my selvedge edge, no one is living or dying by my gauge and if they are then they really need to pay more attention to their own business. Seriously.

So people change. It can really happen. It isn't fast or overnight or easy, but it is possible. I'm not all the way there yet but I'm pretty sure I will never be perfect at being an un-perfectionist. I will often have times that I want to stall because I am not being just so, just right, just perfect. And I hope I will see them for what they are -- cues that I am scared, frustrated, overwhelmed, afraid of not measuring up. Then I hope I will remind myself I don't have to measure up or be the best or please anyone but myself.

Just do your best. Your best really is good enough.

Posted by laurie at 10:58 AM

Entrelac scarf completed!

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At last, at last, a finished project. And it's so beautiful I keep looking at it and asking myself, "Did I knit that? ME?" All I want to do is stay home and watch documentaries on the History Channel and knit entrelac in Noro. That sounds like a dream job. Throw in an occasional visit from the UPS man and there's my fantasy life.

For this scarf I used the free entrelac pattern available online here. I'm very thick-headed when it comes to reading patterns and I think that Allison Lo Cicero, the woman who wrote this, is brilliant at writing patterns! It's very clear for such a complicated concept. You do have to take a leap of faith when you start the first time because it may not make sense for a while (What? I'm knitting one stitch and then turning the work around and knitting that one stitch from the other direction? Are you nuts?) but it works. My scarf was knit using Noro Silk Garden yarn in color 241 and I used a size 9 needle because I have learned that I just need to go up a needle size for pretty much every pattern. The pattern calls for a size 8, and my friend Corey is knitting this same scarf now using a size 7 and yet she and I are getting the same gauge. Funny.

I also want to point out that if you don't want to knit a scarf that costs eleventy hundred dollars I have seen some entrelac scarves knit from the beautiful and affordable Patons Soy Wool Stripes, which is softer than Noro in my opinion and also self-stripes. I might make my next entrelac with the "Natural Garden" color. Or I might unravel this scarf which I never finished because I caught the entrelac bug and knit with that. So many choices, so little time spent alone with my yarn.

The finished scarf is puffy and textured, which I love. I know some people would prefer this pattern blocked into submission so that it lies flat and even but I prefer the rope-like woven quality. I did block it lightly, I pinned it into place on some fluffy, clean towels that I layered on the little mini-sofa in my home office. The ends were really the only pieces that needed much help, and before bed last night I lightly sprayed the edges of the scarf with water, shaped it with my fingers, pinned a few spots, covered it with a clean sheet and let it dry overnight:

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That's a miniature sofa which folds out into a twin-sized bed, it was the only thing I bought myself with the money from my first advance. The rest went to pay off my divorce lawyer. Fitting, no? Anyway, I usually keep the minisofa covered with a tapestry or slipcover that I can throw in the wash each week, since my cats loooove this sitting spot. That pink monstrosity of a tapestry is from Target. I like it. It was on clearance for something like $4. Wonder why.

The back of the scarf looks like this:

entrelac-back.jpg

As I was knitting this scarf I couldn't help myself and I would take it out and show it to everyone who walked past my office. And I heard more than one comment from folks about the back of the piece, which struck me as odd. It almost sounded like criticism -- which I don't take well, because I'm five -- and besides I think the back looks like madras fabric or something. Then one of my friends said (almost in defense of the scarf) that one could line the back of it with fabric and this appealed to me, I like the idea of lining the scarf with some beautiful jewel-toned velvet or something. I haven't tried that before and I love to sew, so why not? Maybe I will do it at some point, but I don't mind the way it looks without a lining. Anyway, I can't be bothered to stop my knitting projects right now and do some sewing for goodness sakes, I have The Fever! The knitting fever!

All in all, this is the most beautiful thing I think I have ever created. I love it! I can't believe I figured it out all on my own, I sort of feel like I grew brain cells from doing it. I'm not someone who is comfortable bragging on herself but I tell you what, if I could have called a meeting with the mayor -- nay, the Governator! -- nay, the President! I would have done so just to brag on my own bad self for knitting up some entrelac. Really now. I'm cookoo for cocolacs.

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Here is my friend Cindi modeling the scarf. If I had a figure like Cindi's, I would just walk around naked all day. I wouldn't even bother with clothes, except maybe an entrelac scarf.

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And here is my gorgeous friend Corey, who I love for defending the back of this scarf... she said, "Lining it? Oh no way! I want people to know I made this sucker!"

So there it is, an actual finished project that I even blocked and forced friends to model for me. And I can't wait to start another one in a different color. It's so addictive!

Posted by laurie at 8:21 AM

August 5, 2009

Summertime, when the living is easy.

Did you see my boyfriend Al Gore on the news this morning? Looking good, Al! Looking good. I called Corey to chitchat about the news:

Me: You think if you and I ever get trapped overseas that our boss will send Bill Clinton to rescue us?

Corey: No.

Me: You think if we ever get trapped overseas Bill will come anyway?

Corey: Definitely. He's The Bill. That's what The Bill does.

Anyway, I watched the live news coverage this morning because I am a sucker for happy endings. I know that there are hundreds or thousands or millions of other people awaiting help in all kinds of other ways but you know what? One person's joyful moment doesn't take away someone else's chance at happiness. That's my philosophy anyway. Take pleasure in joy where you can, savor it. That's probably why I like food so much. I know how to savor, oh yes I do.

Speaking of joy and happiness, Dallas Raines had our forecast:

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Don't you love how our "Fall-like weather" is 79 degrees? Autumn comes to other parts of the country bringing chill and frost. In Los Angeles, autumnlike weather is a sunny 80-degree day! It will be hotter in the Valley of course, the armpit of summer and all. But I'll take it! No one's complaining about it in my house.

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Frankie loves those summer nights.

Posted by laurie at 9:23 AM

August 4, 2009

Tuesday bits and pieces

One:

As far as I can tell from watching my Facebook-addicted friends, that entire application was created for stalking old boyfriends and seeing who has gotten fat since high school and really, beyond that, I'm not sure what people do on there all day.

What I am sure about is that right now someone is composing me a detailed email with all the ways they love Facebook and so on and so forth and I am happy for you, may you forever Facebook in peace. I can barely keep up with my Tivo list, my email, my job and my life, so I am wary of adding new timesuckers. I did however finally send out a Twitter Tweet blahblahblah. Most of it was me just going, Yay! I figured it out! And then I sent out something I hoped was useful:

Ok -- easy one. Mistake Rib Scarf: Any yarn, any needle. CO 27 stitches. K2 P2 across row, purl last stitch. Repeat. BO. Scarftastic!.

But who really wants a knitting pattern in a single truncated breath? I'm not sure. I still don't know what the point of Twitter is, perhaps there isn't one. Maybe I just wanted to feel less antiquated for a few minutes. Anyway, I'm on there for now, @crazyauntpurl.

- - -

Two:

Last week at Big Corporation, Inc., someone asked me to make a graphic representing the progress of a campaign and they wanted a big cartoony thermometer.

I thought, "But that would look like a big penis!"

Just as I was about to say this out loud, my filter engaged and instead I said, "But that would look... um, maybe very intriguing!" And I was so proud of myself. For once I was victorious over my mouth. Work is stressful for me on many levels, not the least of which is my constant feeling that I am inappropriate and eccentric and at any moment I may say something nonsensical that will result in security escorting me from the building.


- - -

Three:

The only promise I made to myself for this fresh, new month was to exercise every day. Even if it's just for a few minutes. I went out for a walk early this morning before work, I made it thirty minutes. Not bad. Last night I had to go after commuting home from work and I was exhausted and grumpy about it. Forgetting to set my alarm on Sunday night meant that I overslept Monday morning and missed the bus and my day was all off-kilter.

There are people who love exercise but I am not among them. It doesn't matter how many times people tell me they feel so good afterward, or how much energy it gives them, or how fervently they assure me I'll grow to love it and need it. They're flat wrong. (And it doesn't matter how many times people try to tell me I just haven't had the right sushi at the right place or the right kind, I don't like sushi. Just like you hate Brussels sprouts or mustard or okra and no amount of convincing will work.) But I sit in an office all day and sometimes I suspect my ass is beginning to form to the shape of my chair. Thus, exercise is necessary if not enjoyable.

So last night I put on my tennis shoes and went out for a walk because no way I'm going to fail a mere three days into the month. And if you can't keep a promise to yourself, really, who can you trust?

I just went around the block and the street next to mine, and midway through I crossed paths with a woman out walking her dog. I saw the dog first -- fluffy and white and adorable, this tiny little cloudpuff of fur and I swear the dog smiled when I told her she was the prettiest thing. I was kneeling down, petting her and her whole body wagged. So it was a moment or two before I looked up and noticed the woman walking the dog was holding an enormous glass of red wine. I wondered if I had stumbled into a Tennessee Williams play.

She saw me notice the glass and waved it around a bit and said, "That's right! Tell all your friends you just met a woman who walks with wine!" and I thought to myself, My God! This is why I hate exercise! I have been doing it all wrong!

- - -

Finally:

The best car on the road, a hot pink mustang with silver reflective mirrors, it was delicious like a piece of candy:

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Driving photos are my specialty.

Posted by laurie at 10:03 AM

August 3, 2009

Mundaneday

Already today my alarm did not go off, I missed the bus and arrived to Big Corporation, Inc. to find an email picking at something I made. Today will have meetings back to back, I'll probably eat lunch at my desk, work late, and I promised myself I would exercise every single day this month so I have to muster up the sports bra and do some form of exercise before puddling into a pile at the end of it all. How can you look forward to the rest of a day that sounds like that? It's like being pecked to death by ducks.

So I am going to lock myself away in my office at lunchtime and knit.

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New project, a baby sweater! My first real garment.

For a while Jennifer and I were emailing each other with three good things each day, and it worked, especially on days like today. So, to offset all the ugliness, here are my three things:

1) I finished my entrelac scarf! I need to block it and then take pictures, but it's done and it's by far the prettiest thing I have ever made and I'm so proud of it.

2) Watermelon. They had organic watermelons on sale at Whole Foods for $7.99 each and I had watermelon for breakfast today. Delicious. It's my favorite fruit.

3) For lunch I brought grilled chicken that I made yesterday and one of my favorite dishes -- mashed potatoes with kale, or colcannon. I make it more like this version, with kale in place of cabbage. It's like sneaking health food into lunch without it being gross.

So there's my list. Two of them are food-related and one is about yarn. I think that pretty much says it all.

Posted by laurie at 9:15 AM