Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Tomorrow G and I are off to Connecticut to spend Christmas with his family. I must admit, I am having a hard time this year not going home. I love Christmas with my family. It's very cozy. We're a big family: eight not counting the spouses and kids. But that big circle of people creates this wonderful, cozy, intimate space. And I miss it. I miss the whole season: baking with my mom (my favorites are the gingerbread cookies with just a touch of frosting), shopping with my dad for my mom's presents (an annual tradition that we didn't do this year for the first time in a decade); going to church on Christmas Eve; listening to Christmas songs (mom starts them early); watching White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life. After church and a yummy dinner on Christmas Eve, my brothers and I would help my mom put out the gifts. With six kids, that took some doing. There were PILES and piles of presents. I have no idea where she hid them all. Getting up early on Christmas morning and opening our stockings (all handmade, see mine and Geoff's).
The stockings are my favorite part. Dad makes tea and hot chocolate (I like mine with cinnamon and chili pepper!). Then we opened presents until noon. When I was very little we all just opened our gifts at once. But then we decided it would be more fun to take turns. But with eight, that took forever. Then we went to all opening one present at once, showing, and then moving on to the next.

A typical December evening at my parents': my dad is playing Christmas songs on his keyboard in the living room. My mom or brothers are cooking dinner, another brother is reading in the living room by the tree. Maybe the youngest is watching a South Park Christmas specials. It's idylic without being cheesy. Everybody is happy to be together. Doesn't mean there isn't any arguing or fighting, but no one doesn't want to be there. No one is affecting that "holidays suck," "families are all dysfunctional" 'tude.

But we grew up. My married brothers started going to their wives' homes for Christmas. We all live too far apart to do Christmas Eve w/ one side and Christmas day with the other. So now it is my turn to go to the in-laws and I am not happy. I have been kinda pouting. I don't like that I won't be spending Christmas with MY family for the foresable future (you see, Thanksgiving is our big day and I never want to miss that either, so doing an every-other-year thing is not an option. Unless we could do Thanksgiving AND Christmas at my family one year and then just Christmas at G's the next. But that probably won't fly. :)

But then I remember that this is my first Christmas with my NEW family, my husband. And we can create our own traditions (borrowing heavily on mine, of course. We'll see if any of his make the cut. By the way, I am not really this shrewy in person. His family is lovely and I'm sure I'll have a lovely time.). For example, I am going to continue the stocking tradition. My mom made G a beautiful stocking this year and gave me mine to bring home, plus gave us a bag of goodies for them. I managed to stuff both stockings by closing my eyes so I wouldn't see what was going in mine. I am going to bring them along to CT, and G and I will open those in the morning before we go downstairs, just the two of us. And for the past two years we copied my family's tradition of decorating the tree on a Friday night with a fun dinner. Another cool new tradition: last weekend we had a fabulous holiday feast with a turkey and this amazing stuffing, cranberry sauce and a yummy pumpkin cake. (We were trying out our new covered roasting pan, a wedding gift.) We decided to cook this meal every year in mid December.

So, I do look forward to our new traditions, but it is lonely thinking about not being with my family.

Ok, on to knits. I finished G's scarf. Even blocked it. Here it is ready to be wrapped up.

And I finished the first sleeve for my sweater. I started with the sleeve, so I still have a ways to go, but this yarn knits up fast. It is Cascade Eco, 100 percent wool. I like it. Hope it doesn't itch too much.

And here's a spot of cheer. I opened my door to find a box of the best chocolates in the world from a work associate. Yeah! As you can see I've already dug in.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mid Week Update

I have three projects on needles. One is a Christmas gift for G. It is almost done and I can probably show it here, but just in case.

Also, I tracked down a very special gift for him today. He'll be so surprised! I can't wait to pick it up and see his face when he opens it.

I am also working on a hat w/ some stash yarn. It seems to be going OK. But it is really hard on my wrists. I think it is the combination of really rough yarn and wooden double pointeds. It is a fight to get the stitches off the needles sometimes, even though I am using bigger needles than the yarn calls for.

The third project is a sweater. In truth I started this sweater a couple of months ago but wasn't getting gauge. Well, I was getting gauge, but didn't like the gauge. I am just going for it now, who cares. It's my first sweater.

Saw the winter Knitty is up. I really like the red and pink hat on the "cover." But colorwork is very down on my list of things to learn so I'll probably never make it.

I am taking Friday off this week. I get to take a "comp" day to make up for the two weekend days I worked in Arizona. Yeah. I plan to do some shopping and then actually mail gifts on time.

And then on Sat., G and I are going to see Damien Rice in D.C. I am very excited about this show. I got the tickets the day they went on sale and apparently they sold out very quickly. I think we are going to do dinner in D.C. before. I need to check into restaurants. The show is at the Lincoln Theatre (normally, theaters in the U.S. that spell it theatre annoy me, but this one looks so pretty on the inside that I'll let it pass) on U Street, near the Ethiopian place we went last time. So we might eat there again. But I would kind of like to try something new too.

Sad news: my coworker B (who works in the Wis. headquarters) is moving to Seattle. He and his partner had been contemplating it for awhile, but decided to make the move after Wisconsin voted for a marriage amendment in Nov. This saddens me. He is a great coworker and will be missed. And I am sad that my former home state passed that amendment. I always brag about how great Wis. is (it's got a amazing library system; you don't have to pay $1 per reserve like you do in Baltimore County!) and now I feel like I can't brag as much.

And my college roommate, who currently lives in Alexandria, is moving back to Madison. This is less sad, because I'll get to see her on my fourish trips back to Madison each year. We'll probably end up seeing each other as often as we do now. But I am still sad cause we always talked about doing things in the city that we didn't get to do yet. Last winter we met on a Sunday at the National Gallery of Art and had a blast and talked about doing more museum days. And I really wanted to spend a day in Alexandria with her on a nice spring Saturday. It's great news for her and husband. He got a wonderful new job. They'll be so close to her parents and be able to buy a whole house for LESS than the teeny little apartment they live in now.

So, it's been an emotional week. It was really bad the other day when I got teary while watching a CVS commercial. Dude, the pharmacist went to some guy's home after work to cut his pills cause he wasn't able to. How could I NOT get teary?

hee hee hee. Now it just makes me laugh at how sappy I am.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Back from Arizona

I was so happy to arrive home late on Wednesday night. Phoenix was beautiful, but I didn't get to go outside during daylight until Tuesday afternoon; I arrived there on Saturday night.

I was exhausted and very dry! I couldn't moisturize enough. There is the tiniest possibility that G could someday be transferred to Phoenix. I don't think I would like it much. It is just too dry!

But the mountains were beautiful. This is the amazing view from my room. And it was warm enough to sit by the pool on Tue. afternoon, which was lovely.

My room was nice. All the staff got upgraded to suites. Check out my bedroom. And my sitting room. :) Seemed like a waste to have all the space just for me.

I had a yummy sushi dinner with my coworkers one night. We went way off property so we could relax and not worry about attendees lingering around.

I did a lot of knitting on the plane there and back. Almost done with G's Christmas gift. I'll be able to finish it up when he works late this week.

I started a hat over the weekend to have something to knit while he read Catcher in the Rye to me. It is one of his favorite books; he used to teach it as a high school teacher. He's got a voice for radio (reminds me of Garrison Keillor) and reads very well. It was a lovely way to spend a Friday evening.

The Road to Tibet

My brother and his girlfriend are doing well in Tibet. Here are some pictures they sent of their students, a gathering of monks and somewhere on the road from China to Tibet.

They've both been sick a lot but seem to be on the mend. Good.

He said he recently used a washboard to wash his clothing for the first time in his life and got some blisters. Hmmmm... they've been on the road for more than a month. Did he really have that many pairs of clean underwear? Ewwwww.... Seems that his girlfriend (our sister-in-law's youngest sister) has been more diligent about clean clothes and has the blisters to show.

So far this is my favorite story. In his last e-mail, he wrote: "I’ve never seen such competition for selling yogurt, until now. In 'Yak Square' (that’s the real name of it) these old ladies, looking half asleep, set up their bowls full of yogurt and wait for an interested customer to come by. Then all of a sudden they spring to life and bombard you, shoving their bowls of yogurt at you, all shouting and probably saying something like 'This yogurt is made from the finest yak's milk.' Our friend Loyo, who helps us get our groceries does the negotiating and we just stand back and enjoy the scene."

I miss him but love getting the emails and finally seeing photos. It is amazing what they are seeing.

A Gift for Me!

Look what my (blogless now, but hopefully not for long) friend L made for me! It is the Wandering Aran Fields capelet from Wrap Style.

Isn't it beautiful?

It was perfect for my trip to Arizona. I often get cold on the plane or extremely hot. So I wanted something to wrap around my shoulders that wouldn't be too bulky and that I could easily take off and put in my purse.

Check out the beautiful cable work:

I love the color; I love the yarn. It is from knitpicks, one of the alpaca blends. It is wonderfully soft.

And it isn't the first knitted gift from her. She made me this scarf from Scarf Style for my birthday before last.

L was my roommate when I moved out to Baltimore. We made a good team: she took out the garbage, I made dinner (OK, not every night). We would sit and knit in the evenings while she told me funny and sometimes horrible stories from the vet clinic where she works. We watched Love Actually and Pride and Prejudice (the long, BBC version) like once a month. I miss our girly nights. We still have them, but now they are planned in advance. I miss the possibility that every night would turn into a girl knit night. (Don't misunderstand, I love my husband and being married to him; I wouldn't trade him for more girl nights, ever. But it is possible to love what you have and miss what you had. I am sure anybody who is a parent gets that!)

L is also incredibly generous: witness the incredibly beautiful hand knitted gifts above, but also, as one of the personal attendants at my wedding (I didn't have bridesmaids), she took tons of pictures at my reception with her digital camera. She doesn't think twice about staying overnight to take care of a sick friend, sick friend's child and dog. And if one of her friends needs a place to crash, she'll open her home to them and their pets. She has taught me a lot about being a good friend.

Thank you, L! I love you dear. Sorry if I made you blush. :) Can't wait for shopping tomorrow!!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

My Brilliant Husband

My talented and handsome husband won second place in the Baltimore City Paper fiction contest! Don't mind my bragging. I am just so happy for and proud of him.

Read the story here.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Thanksgiving Recap

First, a finished object!! My socks are done. I love them.

Lately I feel like I've been running from trip to trip, hurrying to get my laundry done and squeeze out a blog post before I leave. I am only just back to normal after my Thanksgiving trek home. Laundry is drying on the folding rack and it had better dry fast because tomorrow I am off to Phoenix for a work trip. I've had a reprieve from work travel for a few months, but now it picks up again. I do enjoy most of the travel, but this Dec. trip I take every year is rough: when I return home, Dec. whizzes by and I am always a step behind, getting my tiny Christmas tree up and shopping and don't even think of baking.

But, I will have lots of time to knit on the ONE small present I am knitting this year that I can't work on at home.

I knit a lot last week on the drive to and from Wisconsin. Thanksgiving was wonderful. In my family, it is not just a day. It's an four-day event. On Wed. my mom bakes the first turkey (she needs two huge birds to feed 40some people). G and I made the cranberry sauce. Ok, I just stirred it once; it was his project. Wed. night is the first family dinner with my grandparents and brothers and sometimes an aunt's family who came in early.

Then on Thursday, the crowds trickle in. Or usually come all at once and you kiss like 20 people in five minutes. My mom's four sisters and two of her cousins and all their families come for the weekend. Another turkey is cooking, plus potatoes and stuffing and gravy and all the other stuff. Everyone pays $6 for eight changes on the football pool grid (I didn't win any cash this year; in fact I haven't won since college, when the $8 was a HUGE windfall!).

I got to hold nephew number one. He was tiny and adorable and slept a lot, except for each time I held him when he was fussy. But we discovered that G has "the bounce" that puts babies to sleep. Good to know.

Baby O and grandpa taking a nap:

My brother came w/ my niece M. My sister-in-law and the other baby boy stayed home to rest w/ her mom. Little M is not yet three and is already a world traveler. She's been to Canada, of course (seeing as she is half Quebecoise), Japan, France, England, I'm not sure where else ... So, she does fine on the plane. And it was her first trip with just Papa. I don't think she even noticed that her maman was not there. After all, she had an entourage of my younger girl cousins for the next three days. At almost all times there was a group of five girls surrounding her. She loved it!

So, Thursday is spent eating (mostly), napping, watching football, catching up with relatives, playing games and more eating.

A few of my younger cousins knit. In fact they are the ones who started the knitting craze in my family. One summer vacation two middle-schoolers taught all the women how to knit. Here's two working on scarves:

Then on Friday, we have leftovers for lunch and then about 34 of us (we lose a few to basketball tournaments, naps, work) trek to the a movie. This year it was Happy Feet. We arrive at least an hour early to get in line. And when they open the doors, we are that annoying family running to save three rows of seats. Happy Feet was cute; G could not stop laughing at it. He hasn't seen a children's movie since, probably, he was a kid. "It's about a penguin who tap dances to get more fish!" he kept repeating.

Friday night dinner is always chili and another soup. In the past I've made tortilla soup, but this year it was my uncle's hamburger soup. My aunt J makes the chili and homemade butter (she does this with her kindergarten class; I don't know how, but it is tasty!).

After dinner some of us played a very fun game called Mafia. One person narrates the game and designates a few people to be mafia and the rest townspeople (with a doctor, cop and vigilante for good measure). The mafia know who each other are, but everybody else just knows what they are. Then you have town meetings where you try to decide how is bad and then vote to execute one person. This could be a mafia or a townsperson. You don't really know. Then everyone goes to sleep and the mafia wake up to kill a townsperson. And it goes on until there are just a few people alive and the winners are the group that dominates: if there are more mafia alive; they win, etc. Google it for more info. It is fun and a good game to play with adults and kids. And good for new people to get to know the family. It was G's second Thanksgiving with us, and he did really good w/ the adults, but the little girls were all one to him until playing Mafia. Now he can see them as individuals, instead of M's entourage.

Saturday is usually shopping for the women and sports-watching for the guys, but G and I left on Sat. since we had to drive home. We packed up our car w/ tons of wedding gifts and were able to bring everything home except a mixer. Don't have counter space for it anyway.

I did a lot of knitting and (finally!) finished those socks! I like them and I liked doing socks, but I think I am going to take a break from them for a bit to work on bigger projects.