Monday, December 24, 2007

Again, some more.

I admit, I set about to make an official Maudlin Holiday Post tonight. A lot of words about the what and the why and the how much of my gratitude for everything, and to everyone. But I am actually aiming for a goal of Plum Texan being readable and amusing at some point (again?), and in the interest of this being a blog and not a slog, I'm going to gloss it over quickly.

Every day, no matter how much I want to pull my hair out or wish I could sleep through a week or wonder when the hell it's going to lighten up, I am grateful. My life is truly an embarrassment of riches, full of debts of kindness and love that I have no idea how I'll repay, though I will certainly spend the rest of my days trying.

To all those who have extended gifts far more generous than I could possibly deserve...thank you.


Oh look...real purpose ahead!

Thanks to the standard piles of work and taking care of the Buddy,* I've largely been too worn to get nearly as much holiday in as I would have liked. But I did manage to eke out a little. There are photos, which I'll share with you...when I finally unpack the box that has the USB cable for my camera. (That's any day now. I can feel it.) But in the meantime:

- Five of the houses immediately surrounding our new place put up quite a lot of bright and sparkly. I didn't want the world to think we were completely bah humbug, so I whipped up a little twinkle of my own for about six bucks. Two strands of lights and an 18-inch floral wire frame, et voila...a Very Plum Texan Window Wreath.

- I was short of time and energy to begin with, so I'd largely ruled out most of the handmade-for-the-holidays plans I'd hoped to accomplish. Then, in some evening's Bloglining, I happened across a post on Jeri's organizing blog** in which she promoted some lovely Japanese paper boxes...and that company led me to the site for Tansu. The link called it an online store...and then I discovered that the brick-and-mortar Tansu is right here in Houston...score!

Last week, I made a quick trip in and discovered a wonder of cool and awesome stuff, including a rather impressive selection of origami and chiyogami papers. I spent just over $20 for a nice stack of small items, some of which I'm using in gifts. Amy and others have said that they want everything in Tansu...and I'm pretty close to agreeing.

The best part of all this? The photos of these projects...will come with tutorials! That's right: I'm actually going to show you how to do something really cool that's not too hard, not too expensive, and really, really pretty. Crafts? On a craft blog? Who knew?

* Who is doing much better, thank you, after a week at home and tube feedings and...lots of other stuff.
** Note: while Jeri just happens to be my mom's name as well...this Jeri is someone different. :)

Since it does *just* happen that this is an obligatory holiday post, best wishes to everyone for a merry Christmas, or whatever happens to float your boat during December. Tomorrow, it's lunch with my parents at Kim Son, then presents and such at our house. A little bit of tasty, a little bit of togetherness, a whole lot of quiet and easy. Just about what we need right now.

As another year crawls to a close...I wish you all just what it is you might need, today and always.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Finally right.

A few of you have been telling me that things would get better. Not that they "have to," but that they *would.* And finally, I have no compunction against saying that you were right.

I'll spare the goriest details, but indeed: the Buddy still smells like hospital, and is still in it...but after his sister gave him a blood transfusion* yesterday, the doc feels he's strong enough for his next procedure. The cause of his troubles has indeed been the hepatic lipidosis; the cause of that is, apparently, completely random in his case. But he's been keeping food down (if not taking it himself) like a champ and strengthening up overall. If all goes as planned, he'll be home by the weekend. Huzzah!

There will still be follow-up, and while it's far better than touch-and-go now, we still have to be very careful with everything for at least a month more. Hand-feeding will have to continue until he's doing it himself (which he's not yet). But there is no reason to think that his recovery will be anything other than complete.

I won't lie - it's been a rough week. Yesterday was almost (~almost~) worse than Wednesday, and I had a few good solid meltdowns, a couple of them a little embarrassing. But today was better - my boss and coworkers are great and there are some good developments at work, and with my "kids" being OK, and my kitchen being ready for baking tomorrow...

...well, all isn't quite right with the world, but it's getting close. I'm looking for this trend to continue, and fully plan to be grinning ear-to-ear by this time next week. No doubt that baked goods and Amy time will be the icing on the healthier-kitty cake.

* She was pretty freaked out but has recovered well. And it was a good thing we tested her for donor compatibility - the other possible donor cat was no match whatsoever, so Fuzz saved the day. Buddy was nosing the cage wanting to check on Fuzz when we picked her up. Who knows if this was thanks, or if he just missed her...or both...but it was adorable. And sad...but mostly adorable.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Four words.

Four words that will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about my day:

The Buddy is purring.

The Buddy is purring!!! He wasn't doing that yesterday. Also, fairly *demanding* (by way of nose and repositioning) continual head scratching. Now THAT'S my cat.

He's still having to be fed, but keeping it all down, and just altogether looking much more himself (but still yellow and still dandruffy). Ultrasound results and further bloodwork show nothing to be concerned about in the way of the Big C (though we're still waiting to see if they can do a liver biopsy).

We're still waiting it out and probably won't know much more for a couple of days. In the meantime, I am unbelievably grateful for all the wishes and kindness. It means the world and has been a huge comfort.

Now I'm just hoping that I can actually get back to, you know, creative(ish) blogging. Hey, it could happen.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Smells like hospital.

A million thanks for all the good wishes. Y'all are the best!

The Buddy Cat is improving. Hydration has done wonders, and he's getting medications for the stuff the bloodwork showed wasn't so good. Plus, they're feeding him soft food through a syringe, which he is not resisting, and is now able to keep down.

There are still some pretty serious concerns, though. His doctors believe that he has hepatic lipidosis, which happens when a cat stops eating (significantly or altogether) and the liver tissue begins to convert to fat. Hence, the yellow. They have ruled out all infectious causes (which is unsurprising since he and the Fuzz only see each other and people), but they're still worried about the possibility of the Big C (which I refuse to utter) and, simply, how much damage his liver has taken.

What did help a lot when we visited this evening - because I'm stubbornly guilt-ridden and paranoid, and have thus far been too much of a dumb ass to listen when people who love me told me this - was when the doctor said that we had nothing to blame ourselves for. That cats are notoriously finicky and secretive, and that Buddy probably made it pretty near impossible to notice anything but the weight loss. He also said that Buddy doesn't fight them on the treatment and is, in his words, "a sweetheart." So true. He's always been one to know when people are trying to help him, and he's such a love anyway.

Bryan and I spent quite some time giving our boy cuddles and head scratches. I kept noticing an odd smell that I recognized from the days when my family had dogs that had puppies a lot: animal baby food, of which Buddy had a bit on his paws (right next to the yellow tape around the IV line) and face. While he was still clearly drained, he was alert enough to rearrange, plant himself, and nose me and Bryan alternately for petting. I consider this a Very Good Sign.

As for what's next, I guess we wait it out. He probably needs at least a few more days of TLC in the ICU before we can bring him home. I didn't feel up to SnB tonight, but I think I can breathe a little bit more easily, even with the smell of kitty hospital still in my nose.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A screeching halt.

Progress on the new bank heart, when Amy said last night: "Why is Buddy yellow?"

Pablo, aka the Buddy Cat, has not been himself lately - a little lethargic, weight loss that started out looking positive (he was, after all, a bit chunky) and ended up quite a bit less than, and a lowered appetite. But he'd seemed on an upswing, the stress of the move notwithstanding. Until Amy brought it up, we hadn't noticed the very ill tone of the skin around his ears. Eyes, gums, even a little area above his nose...

Jaundiced. And in short order, we'd looked up enough information to get really scared.

To fast-forward, our beloved Buddy is having a stay in the hospital. He's had some tests (bloodwork and ultrasound) done and has been getting IV fluids; liver biopsy and a couple of other scary procedures will have to wait until the doctor considers him stable.

The good news is, while he's still definitely not Himself, he is still alert and responsive to everything, moving around slowly but still moving nonetheless. I took him in this morning and stayed until they settled him in; TechieBK went by to visit and cuddle him this afternoon. He's getting great care from nice people, and we feel somewhat better about it now than we did.

But still, our Buddy is not well. And he's not home.

There are a ton of details that I'm just going to gloss over; it took me half the day to stop bawling every half an hour, not productive when you're going back to work after a week off. But I'm going to shamelessly ask for all the best that y'all can spare in the way of wishes, thoughts, prayers, vibes, whatever you care to call them. We're just not quite ready to give him up, and we're ready to do whatever we must to keep him around, healthy.

His sister Pandora, aka Fuzz, seems to think that one cat in the house isn't quite enough. We agree. And as soon as we know when we can fix that problem, I'll give y'all a holler.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

So done.

At least with the moving part. TechieBK and I finally got the last of the stuff out of the old place, cleaned it up a bit, and voila - in slightly less than three days, we are completely out of one home and into another.

HUZZAH!!! While the prep and packing were still quite stressful - and there was a bit of drama (not ours) that delayed us getting our keys for a full day - it's all been ironed out, and now there are about 5 dozen (no kidding) boxes in our living room, plus many in the kitchen and a few in other rooms. This means that the truly hard part is over.

Only now, there's the exhaustion. And since I've planted myself at Borders - with TechieBK sitting next to me reading his latest purchase - I figure I ought to crank myself up and head on home. Amy took a few pictures (and wrote awesome comments on my boxes) when she was over on Thursday helping us pack up. She's promised to tell the story, and I'll let her - let's just say that everybody got punchy, and MUCH MUCH hilarity ensued. (P.S.: big, big thanks. I had no intention of "moral support" turning into "help packing," but I thank you, and my tea thanks you.)

Most importantly, I have imposed on my BFF for moving assistance for the last time. We could not possibly have accomplished everything we did, in the amount of time we did, were it not for Caety. I cannot possibly express everything I'm thinking, but I think she pretty well knows.

Also, I'm going to pay her even if it takes me forever to do it.

This Thursday, there will be knitting. Other than that, there will be unpacking and errand-running (and two more days work-free). And now, since Bryan is asleep in the Borders Cafe and I'm not far behind him, I'll just say hasta and catch up when I'm not falling over tired.

Happy December!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Still a secret. Also, still moving.

Which applies both to my Pal spoiler, and - for y'all - of what she sent me. I'm moving, folks. Don't expect me to know where my USB camera cable is.

Rest assured, it's a package of awesomeness. My response was so great, I don't want to give anything away until I can show you. Let's just say there was a ton more non-itchy goodness - all of which I love! - and I'll do my level best to fill in the blanks in a Sunday Evening Post.

Yes, this week. Hush.

As you may have gathered by the time stamp, I'm already on "vacation." While I hate using scare quotes onscreen, it's the only way to express my mild frustration that my week off work will be filled with packing and boxes and moving and cleaning and unpacking.

I say mild because I've actually gotten past a lot of my stress about it. Things have gone better this week, and I finished everything at work that I possibly could without having to do any of it today.

Plus, my I Scarcely Deserve a BFF this F*&$ing Awesome BFF Caety is still heading in this evening to help, despite having a cold of yuck. My I Don't Mind Your Clutter but I'm Glad For You That You're Fixing It pal Amy will join in tomorrow for moral support. And my It May Take Me A Lot to Get Started but Once I Do I Rock his title there.

Many thanks to the others of you who've offered good wishes and more. Particularly Jenny, who offered more than once to help pack. Rather than horrify those of you who have never been exposed to the Plum Texan/TechieBK House of Clutter, I will try to have the locals over for a knit-in sometime soon, once we've remedied the situation.

My 15-minute break is over. Back to packing! See you on the flip side of the 16-foot truck.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Update of little import.

The packing for the move, she continues apace. At, erm, a-pace much higher than I was expecting. *ducks* Today especially, I made a handful of accomplishments that gave me back a bit of pride in the whole process.

The sick, she has greatly abated. I don't feel like passing out...don't even feel dizzy...and I can *almost* hear normally again. Unfortunately, as per usual, the congestion in the chest area continues to be pretty heavy (the nose, thankfully, is minor). I still have a touch of that ugly cough that I always get with bronchitis. (If you've known me in person for any considerable length, you know the one.)

Not much else has changed; I'd love to have more to say, but you know, I'm knitting the same things (well, I started another basketweave dishcloth), doing the same things, working the same, not feeling much different. I did have quite a bit of fun holding up a wall in a laser tag bout with the work peeps on Friday, and the hanging out shooting the breeze after. Today, there was Yum Yum Cha and a bit of Amy's company, too.

The only bit of excitement is that I ordered some yarn...for my Secret Pal. I still don't want to give away too much in case she's sleuthing, even though the end of this round is the same day as my move. But rest assured: it's pretty, and (unlike the last yarn I gave her) it's something I'd be able to use myself.

This week holds a ton more SSDW*, but also: Thanksgiving with my folks, a trip to the Twisted Yarns sale (wherein I shall likely purchase more Claudia...or maybe more Cotton Stria), and a party at my boss's house (which promises to be hardcore good times). I am positively dying to start new lace, yet resisting heartily due to all the other projects (like MOVING) I have to handle. I think it will be Tuscany, when I get a Round Tuit.

Enough of my rambling! I am up way past my bedtime and really tired of boring the hell out of everyone. Since many of you will likely be out of touch later this week, I wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving with as much good food and as little family drama as possible.

OK, one more thing. I just realized that I have no idea if anyone who's in a place that doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving (or celebrates it at another time) is in my tiny legion of readers. So: if you're not in the U.S., please leave a comment and let me know who and where you are. Thanks, and...happy fourth week of November!

*SSDW = same sh!t, different week. Akin to SSDD, "same sh!t, different day."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Title about being sick here.

Sorry, y'all - that's practically all I've got today. I have to save up a bit of energy for house/packing stuff, since the cold that's been creeping up with me chose today to wallop me full-force. There's just never a good time for this.

I also have to maintain some strength for dinner tonight, as my BFF Caety is in town, her birthday is on Monday, and we're hitting the Melting Pot to celebrate. I was excited until I woke up feeling like I was carrying bags of water behind my nose. (I know...disturbing, but not *too* gross, I hope.)

In other birthday news, happy happy to David, whose fiber festival attendance I am again year, it will be Rhinebeck AND Kid 'n' Ewe, I swear.

And I'm off...with a weak promise to try not to make Short and Pointless Saturday a habit.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Excuses, excuses

Except that I'm not going to make any. I had a long and tiring - but very enjoyable - day out at the quilt show yesterday, and then a long day of running around randomly and helping Amy warm up her new house a little. No photos today - it's late, I'm exhausted, and I only just got rid of a three-day headache* - but a bit of good news.

Our realtor informed us that we have passed the potential new landlord's credit check. We weren't too worried about this, but we know that these can be squirrelly. All that's left now is the rental history check, but we're trying to take confidence in our impeccable rental histories. By tomorrow, we very much hope to have word that we have a new home (as of Nov. 30, anyway).

In an attempt to be happy and relaxed, I am in complete denial about how much really has to be done before then, and am just trying to do it. Not much else I *can* do about it, really.

Though perhaps getting more/better sleep would help. Fingers crossed.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Out of the depths

Oh dear. I did not realize that it had been quite so long, so mired in stress and tired have I been. And be warned: this hand-to-forehead style will likely continue post-long, so look away now if you're the eye-rolling sort. Unfortunately, I've had such a long, painful, on-and-off crappy week that I am invoking the My Blog Dammit rule.

But since I also really love to give mad props to people who do things to improve my day...many thanks to my Secret Pal, who gave me a big thrill when I came home (following dinner with Amy, who is MOVING BACK TO HOUSTON TOMORROW, and TechieBK) to a package from Amazon. This I tore open with abandon (so much abandon that I almost paper-cut myself to death) to discover something that, in part, resembled this:

I got a little excited. I may have squeed. I may, in fact, have said "Shut UP!" a couple of times. I know, I still didn't post pictures of her previous gifts, for which I was also quite grateful...SP, please forgive the picture-less-ness, but rest assured that I am overjoyed! Thank you!

I don't much wish to recap the stress (now, don't all of you sigh in relief at once), but there's half a chance that the Sunday Evening Post will resume this week, and that I will tell you a little about Dim Sum Lisa's wedding and the rest of Jet's visit. There may even be a report on tomorrow's trip to the Quilt Show. And pictures. Maybe. Just a few.

I swear I'm not trying to cop out in advance. I can also report that I've done several rows of the Red Shawl Dammit and a couple on the Emergency Dishcloth. It's something, isn't it?

When my eyes begin to cross of their own accord, I think it's time to wrap up...but not before I wish Amy good luck tomorrow with the MOVING BACK TO HOUSTON. Have a fabulous weekend, y'all.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Because I just couldn't bring myself to use an expletive stronger than "crap" in a post title. But indeed, I've done a great deal of jack s#!t over the last few days...or at least, jack s#!t that I can show you. No knitting whatsoever, and no cooking either.

Well, the "no cooking" is only true if you don't count our third anniversary dinner on Tuesday. Those three years have been longer and shorter than I could have imagined...mostly in the good ways. :) But aside from a lovely fondue dinner (stop snickering, I guarantee you it's awesome), we didn't do a whole lot anniversary-wise except take the day off and schlep around a lot. Oh, and we saw Michael Clayton (well-acted, intriguing story, slightly thin on development).

The "no knitting" is an absolute, but it's for a good cause. Over the weekend, my generous best friend made the first of three (count 'em) trips down to help me get my s#!t together - the right way - for our move at the end of November. (I may have mentioned this before.) I can't show you that either, but suffice it to say - when TechieBK returned from a trip with his dad and best friend, having caught me several delicious bass, he was utterly stunned at the altered state of our living room. I'd be jazzed too, if I wasn't still so overwhelmed by the enormity of the rest of the task.

But so it goes. Despite the rather high level of jack s#!t being done on my Monday and Tuesday off, they did go a long way to helping my work fatigue. There's been a lot of Raveling, quite a bit of cheezburgering (despite the fact that the Buddy Cat was denied - DENIED! - even a place on the voting page), and a whole hell of a lot of Rhinebeck attendee-based envy.

(I *will* by God go next year, even though I'll probably have to keep my hands in my pockets the entire time.)

Yep, four days off and this was the best I could do. I even skipped SnB *again* trying to get a handle on this moving thing. I am so going next week, since clearly the Red Shawl Dammit isn't knitting itself.

Perhaps the best news I have from all this (well, aside from the three years married to the lovely husband, and the unbelievably generous best friend) is that I found my own personal pair of these, which I'd thought lost for nearly a year. I may not be sewing again anytime soon, but it's nice to know that I won't have to drop another $25 for the best.shears.ever.

That's as crafty as it gets tonight. Time to put the smaller of my Very Own LOLcats to bed and try not to pass out before I make it there myself.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A little peek

My first package arrived from my SP11 pal yesterday! She (I'm just guessing) provided an adorable summer fun theme, complete with a loofah crab, pretty papers, bath stuff, and best of all, two balls of Panda Cotton! It's officially my first sock yarn!

Sadly, I opened the package last night in a semi-exhausted state just before bed...and I write this post in almost exactly the same way, minus the "semi" part. Last night I spent a couple of hours at my folks' house; tonight, it was late home from work, bake a batch of oatmeal cranberry pecan for a baby shower tomorrow (note to self: trust the cookies), and try not to collapse before I finish this. That is: no photos of my lovely haul for now.

I will do my best to catch up, at least briefly, as I make way in my messy, messy place for Caety's arrival midday on Friday. Key to peaceful moving: pack early and often.

This incoherent post brought to you by Plum Texan: Backing herself into corners for 34 years and counting.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Squash for dessert

That's essentially what you get with pumpkin sweets. And while I can't say I love squash across the board (grilled zucchini being a notable exception), pumpkin makes me indescribably happy. For one thing, it's a sure sign that - no matter what the thermometer says - it's autumn, and autumn is my favorite season.

For another thing, pumpkin is damn tasty, almost no matter what you do with it. A lot of folks are all about pumpkin pie; I admit that this most classic of applications is a great one, but not my favorite by far - I'm just not as much of a pie person. Culinarily speaking, the big orange gourd is a fantastic chameleon (witness Central Market's pumpkin polenta)...but what's more wholesome, and more satisfying, than a dense, spicy quick bread?

Very little, I can tell you. Especially when you take this purist recipe and use it to make autumn magic. At some point in the last 5-7 years (Caety, do you remember if that's right? It's at least 5, anyway...), I went digging for something simple; much as I love Alton Brown, shredded fresh pumpkin was a bit too much work for me,* so I went with something more basic.

I confess that mine isn't drastically different from the original, but over time and (much) repetition, plus a few disasters and several near misses, I've gotten it down to a science. Or brass tacks. Or something like that.

And away we go...sorry, no photos - I got ahead of myself and forgot to take any this time. Maybe later this week, when I'm at it again.

Plum Texan's Legendary Pumpkin Bread
(with credit to Cathy Lowe for the basis)

- 3 loaf pans, 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches. NEVER, never use dark non-stick; I've had perfect results from disposable aluminum pans, and those are cheap, if you need them.
- If you're using silicone or disposable aluminum pans, you'll want a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan to stabilize them.
- 1 large mixing bowl, 4 quarts minimum, for the mixing. My favorite is an IKEA stainless steel, but porcelain and Pyrex are completely respectable.
- 1 medium bowl, 2 quarts minimum, for the dry ingredients.
- 1 medium bowl, for lightly beating eggs before adding.
- Measuring cups and spoons as needed. A gradiated one-cup, handled half-cup, and a teaspoon will cover you in a pinch.
- Rubber or silicone spatula for scraping down sides of mixing bowl.
- Mixer of your choice. Your KitchenAid is perfect for this, but I personally love using my electric hand mixer.
- Wire cooling racks.
- Enough butter/Pam/shortening and flour to get the pans ready.

2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs (large or extra-large)
16 ounces canned unsweetened pumpkin
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (preferably King Arthur)
1 1/2 teaspoons extra-fine salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 to 4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
2/3 cup 2% milk

Place oven rack at center level and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour loaf pans. Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl.

Stir together sugar and oil in large mixing bowl. Beat eggs lightly in separate bowl, then stir in eggs and pumpkin. When first four ingredients are combined, blend dry ingredients and milk into wet mixture, alternating. Scrape down bowl sides occasionally.

Divide batter evenly between the three loaf pans (if you're measuring, it's about 2 1/2 cups each). Spread lightly to make sure the tops are even and no large bubbles have formed.

Set a timer for 30 minutes to start. After 30 minutes, rotate pans 180 degrees, and rearrange. Continue baking until cake tester comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.

Remove from oven to cooling rack and let stand 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool loaves on rack.

And, of course, enjoy thoroughly. My stepdad loves to put slices in the toaster oven and then butter them; I've added sweetened cream cheese a few times, which I must say is my personal favorite. And this is one of those creations that's even better the second day...dense, moist, and full of warm autumn flavor.

Yep, I know it's cheesy. It's also true.

I'd love to hear how the Legendary Pumpkin Bread goes for you, should you try it. Give me a shout anytime. And stay tuned for more baked goodies. Coming up next, baking-post-wise: MomDK's oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and a remembrance. (Bring Kleenex. I know I will.)

Also, if anyone was still wondering, the Forest Canopy is definitely going to Grandma. I can always make myself another, and it just seems right.

*Perhaps not forever, though; I may actually try adorable AB's recipe at some point this year.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Amethyst shift

I'm posting this as I wait for Amy's birthday present to finish baking so that I can rush it over to Stitch 'n' Bitch. Nothing will be spoken of the kitchen catastrophe that caused her pumpkin bread not to have been finished last night.

At any rate, I have found myself with a dilemma. Suddenly, now that I have finished the Forest Canopy and had a few days to think about it, it occurs to me that I have a very deserving recipient...and it's not me.

Biologically speaking, I don't have any living grandparents. TechieBK's maternal GPs are still around (and gladly so - I adore them and vice versa), but I have only one personal known-me-all-my-life grandparent left. Grandma C is my stepmom's mother, a lovely, strong-willed, practical, able person who began treating me like her own granddaughter the day I met her, when I was seven. And so, I *am* her granddaughter.

And while I'll have to tell you all about her another time, here's to the business at hand: Should I give her the Forest Canopy that I thought I was making for myself? To some point, I've wondered all along if this shawl was really mine; much as I loved making it, and adore the color, it felt like I was making it for someone else.

I think I already know the answer, but of course I need affirmation. So if you have thoughts on whether the Amethyst Forest Canopy should become one of Grandma C's Christmas presents, please feel free to share. I know the Red Shawl Dammit is definitely mine, so it's not like I'd be deprived...

And now, to cool the pumpkin bread. Pictures, recipe, and story this weekend.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

FFFO: Forest Canopy Shawl

(Another long, image-heavy post. Please forgive me if you view in Bloglines. Until Blogger has a behind-the-cut option that doesn't require programming knowledge and the sooper-secret code word, it's the best I can do.)

Well, it's about time. This Finally F[rea]kin' Finished Object post brought to you by the letters OMG, and the number (US)4.

This story begins, as so many of my knitting-related stories do, with Yarn Enabler Amy. I'd been tossing around the idea of doing a lace shawl for some time, so after several previous e-mails on December 28, the irrepressible enabling individual purchased me a PDF of the pattern for the darn thing.

I ordered the yarn and cast on within a month. From that point until now, I was ill three times in two months, had 10 months of stress from Mostly Unnecessary Insanity at my (really) Very Fun Job, dealt with TechieBK's bout with a Crohn's disease flare-up in June, and started getting ready to move (coming in November). My hands were pretty tied at times...and not in any of the fun ways.

But in and around all that...with much cheerleading from the SnBers, my work girlfriends, and most wholeheartedly, YE Amy...I managed to do this:

My God. It's done.

On the rails.

In the bushes. And OFF MY NEEDLES.

Now, the Forest Canopy was pretty much a breeze. It was designed that way, put forth as an easy first-lace-type pattern. It's stockinette-based, drapey, and light (but not impossibly so). $6.50 gets you written instructions as well as charts, all of which walk you through a simple leaf pattern with a basic point border.


...and mid-blocking.

Other than knit and purl, all you have to do is YO and sl-k2tog-psso at the right places. And also not drop anything...which I didn't always manage, of course.

Fortunately, I'd already learned about lifelines. This saved my ass at least twice; the most I had to rip back was five rows. Amy suggested leaving one previous lifeline when I set each new one, which was great for my peace of mind. And Laura gave me a great tip for setting them, just before I finished the original row count: since I was working on the KnitPicks Options, I threaded my lifeline through the keyhole of the empty needle and knit on. Brilliant.

A few lessons from this one:

- I love Sea Silk.
- Even so, I should not try to knit lace when I am (a) so stressed out I'm vibrating, (b) so ill I can't breathe, (c) so tired I can barely lift the remote, or it is (d) after 10 pm.
- Even on the rare occasions that items (a) through (c) did not apply since the beginning, I was absolutely correct about (d) and always stopped working on it as soon after 10 as I could manage.*
- I can knit lace on slippery needles.
- I really love Sea Silk.


Pattern: Forest Canopy Shoulder Shawl by Susan Pierce Lawrence

Final dimensions (wingspan x center back, in inches): 66 x 27.5

Yarn: HandMaiden Sea Silk in Amethyst – one standard skein, plus somewhere between 2 and 4 yards from a second.

Needles: KnitPicks Options, US 4 (3.5 mm). I started on Clover Bamboo, but found the Options much easier going.

Modifications: Added several pattern repeats to achieve a larger shawl. Pattern was written for sport-weight yarn to be knitted on US8 (5 mm). It’s still a bit smaller than I expected, but thanks to blocking, it will work fine as a shoulder shawl.

Additionally, I shortened the eight-row edging to six rows. I thought that would give me enough yarn to finish in one ball, but alas, going up to US7 (4.5 mm) for the bind-off ate up much more yarn than I expected and I took a couple of yards off a second ball.

And finally, when I knit another of these (and I definitely will), I will change the center stitch. It was written as a k1b right side, purl wrong side. It looks OK, but I preferred how it looks on the wrong side – so next time, I'll be purling on the RS, k1b on the WS.

Pattern difficulty: 2 out of 5 (advanced beginner to intermediate).

Knit it again? Oh hell yeah. This is a great way to build your confidence and discover if you will hate, like, love, or become obsessed with lace. So far I’m at the “love” stage and expect to wind up beyond.

Many, many thanks (as previously mentioned) to everybody involved:

- Amy (who declared how thrilled she was that she was "a part of history" when I called her in the middle of binding off, and who was here to help me get the blocking thing right), Kelly, Laura, and Katharine all helped save me from disasters, ranging from simple missed YOs and lace "reading" problems to tragedies of near-epic proportions. All hail the Lace Doctors!
- Plus a little extra to Kelly, who prevented a total meltdown in my very amateurish pre-blocking attempt (which is better left further undescribed).
- Laura's additional contribution of the brilliant lifeline thing was a HUGE help.
- Everybody else who cheered me on (which was most of the Cafe Express group), especially Jenny (it's very helpful to have real medical help on hand when your lace is melting).

Now that I know that lace doesn't have to be a big bunch of drama at all times, there will be more – much more. I'm hooked and I can't stop staring. There's a big bunch of Sea Silk hanging around waiting for me...not to mention that Claudia lace silk (which is still trying to hook up with my MacBook – it's getting embarrassing).

Finally, one more photo for the road...because Pablo just loves being covered up (no, seriously).

He is so very metro. Though he did let me know in subtle gestures that the Amethyst isn't quite him and that he rather prefers the Sangria – more striking against the black and white, don't ya know.

On that note: Happy 10th birthday to patient Pablo (aka The Buddy, Buddrick McFatStuff, and Big ‘un) and his darling sister Pandora (aka Fuzz, Darlin’ Girl, and Sweetness). They don’t look a day over two.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go knit some stockinette.

* Well. Except for the night I finished the knitting...because I was gosh-darned determined that I was going to finish before I went to sleep. I finished the last stitch at the stroke of midnight.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Comment. Ary?

It's quite a business, this blogging thing. I am quickly realizing that there are far more of you reading all.this.rambling than I had imagined. And a lot of you have been commenting recently too...who knew?

Being that I'm still breaking bad correspondence habits, and that I don't have a lot of utilities at my disposal for quick replies, I've been really lazy about saying hello to some of you when you give me a shout. Pretty shameful, really - it's not like I have hundreds of e-mails to wade through.

In lieu of making excuses or promises, I just wanted to take a moment to say HI BACK, and thanks for every time you make the effort to type something in. I am always oddly thrilled at every comment I receive, particularly if I don't know you very well (or at all) but you still found something I said worth responding to.


Ever the f*#&ing apple polisher, I've started something else to make my readership even more attentive. Beginning with this post, I'm going to run an ongoing, semi-invisible, randomized contest. Winners will receive a nice little reward.

Here's the official rules:

- Every reader who is willing to provide a working e-mail address and accept a shout-out is eligible. You may win up to twice.
- To enter, you MUST e-mail me at plumtexan at earthlink dot net with your answers. Please include "Plum Texan Random Secret" in your subject line. In the event that I receive more than one correct answer, it's first come, first win.
- Do not enter by submitting a comment, and if you figure things out, PLEASE don't reveal the overall contest idea.
- No hints as to the nature of the game or the winning answers will be provided. Prizes will vary slightly in value depending on the game installment, but all of them will be good.

That's right: y'all have to figure it out for yourselves, heh heh heh. Again, please note that the contest begins today and runs until it doesn't amuse me any longer. Going forward, I'll announce when someone has won, but I won't tell you what or how.

So read well, my peeps. I'm really, really hoping that some of you actually win - for it will reinforce even further that in the blogosphere, truly, I am among my people.
Speaking of anybody watching Heroes? I LOVE THAT SHOW. Give me a holler if you do too.

And finally, be prepared, because next week is going to be a plum humdinger. (Sorry, couldn't help myself.) The Sunday Evening Post will be a BIG one (if you happen to know why already, please keep it a secret until then!), and there will also be baking on Wednesday. (I've promised Amy my legendary pumpkin bread for her birthday...the first pumpkin bread of the cooler seasons!)

I wish everyone true autumn weather and a very, very enjoyable weekend.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


(Warning: image-heavy and very long. I *know*!)

Not exactly original, I know. But if you'd had the time I had last night, you'd feel that way too. There just wasn't much that sucked that one couldn't expect of Houston, really (count 'em: heat, humidity, mosquitoes, and traffic).

Enough of that, then: I am ready to move on to the fun.

For those of you unfamiliar with the sprawling purgatory of concrete that is the metropolitan Houston area, I'm providing map links. It won't quite do it justice, but perhaps you'll gain some understanding of the lengths to which we'll go for the Harlot (and, of course, for great yarn sold by great staff).

I begged an early afternoon off weeks ago, even though this is the last week of hell for this particular work season - and got it. (Believe's been earned.)

So I left the Hobby area just before 3:30 and headed for the Rice campus to grab Everwhelming Liz, then to Montrose for Meredith. Rush hour considered, we fairly sailed all the way out to Spring and Twisted Yarns, grabbed a quick dinner, and found a parking spot just as Stephanie was walking in. I'm really, really glad I didn't run over her.

I couldn't quite believe my eyes (or my luck) when I saw him in the parking lot, so imagine my surprise when, a mere few minutes after we arrived, a comfy chair opened up in the vicinity of:

David, all the way from San Antonio - replete with sweater, kilt, Marshmallow kilt hose, cute knees, kick-ass camera, and...well. You get the idea.

Christine was also on hand for the circle of comfy chairs (and throughout the evening). I pulled out the Red Shawl Dammit, and Liz nestled herself into the Cotton Corner:

as Meredith (and I'm pictures of you were sub-par) did a bit of shopping. We whiled away a good 30-45 minutes before taking a "short" walk over to the Wunsche High School. Folks, let me just say: this was not a high school, it was a mini-mall. New construction, fabulous decor, an OPERATING coffee for the knitters, and most importantly: killer air conditioning. Aaah.

Then, check-in, door prize tickets (plus a hug from Janet), and row stakeout. I gave Meredith an extra chair on my left due to my significant seated arm span, and two very cool, very vocal characters took up residence at the far end of the row. We soon spotted Amy and other SnB denizens, who chatted at the entry for a bit, leaving an empty seat to my right...

...just long enough for David to ask if he could occupy it. How could I refuse? ;) In short order, he'd semi-unpacked, offered to buy me coffee, ended up sharing his water, and laughed heartily at my witty repartee.*

Amy took a seat by Liz, and we soon saw Jen and her cute mom, plus Jenny and Sarah. During the door prize giveaways, it quickly became apparent that our entire section was a bit rowdy, and I thanked my lucky stars, because the smartasses are so much fun. Liz lucked into some Cotton Yarn of Orange Randomness, I whimpered at others getting the Lexie Barnes and Della Q bags, and the color commentary grew more and more colorful. Then, some intro from Twisted owners Eve and Shelley, and finally:

HARLOT. (Yes, she's blurry. Blame me if you must.) There were Traveling Sock photos. There was (briefly) a curly head on my shoulder (that didn't belong to me). There was a lot of laughing (especially at shared knowing looks with Amy, and at David's well-placed cough). There was a lot of nodding in agreement. There were a few "amens." People, it was Knitters' Church, and Stephanie is well and truly the traveling preacher. We all seemed to love every minute. (I did so while trying desperately to neither sweat nor blush too profusely. I was only somewhat successful.)

Afterward, I discovered that Melissa was now a *former* colleague (but she landed on her feet and is employed again), and that Amy was parked at the school so that she, Jenny and I managed to avoid walking back. Thank God. Because the humidity had multiplied...and I swear it was hotter at 8:45 than it had been in broad daylight. We gathered at the Twisted Yarns door:

Tried to figure out what the hell this bug was:

Queued up (and P.S. - I'd love to know if the really adorable ladies from Austin who were behind me in line ever stop by - give me a shout, I was too goofy to catch your names!):

Obliged each other some photos:

(Jenny at left, Amy at right.)

Got the giggles:

(That's Melissa on the right.)

Realized that the Harlot reads our blogs:

and completely lost our shit and turned into blithering idiots. (Well. I can only speak for myself on that one. Bless Melissa for catching the moments for me!)

Oh, and gave her presents (Brown Paper Chocolates and Central Market honey-roasted pecans):

The "reads my blog" part was reinforced when she asked if I wanted a sock picture. I said yes, but that I couldn't touch the actual sock. She said, in that very astute Stephanie way: "I know."

I held it by the needles instead.

Beyond that, there was blerphing, a little milling, a lot of repressed squeeing, and a shit-ton of driving. Not to mention not nearly enough sleep, which I seem to be repeating** in the interest of avoiding as much blog-heckling as possible.

And would appear I've done it. I've made a photo-laden post only one day after an event. Is that a plague of locusts outside my window?

No, wait: I live really close to a major side street. And there's still traffic at midnight. That's Houston for you.

*Nice work if you can get it. Though the Divine has a wicked sense of humor to not let such things happen to me for most of my life...until after I'm married.
**Confidential to one anxious reader: 15 hour...what's the difference? :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Oh yes, my faithful few, it is now that I recall what a complete pile of DORK I become when too many awesome things happen in one night. I may have been a squeeing fangirl in the presence (and due to the kindness) of not just one very famous knitblogger, but also other very lovely knitbloggers with varying degrees of notoriety.

For the title? Is what I heard coming out of my mouth when I met the Yarn Harlot for the second time tonight. And she remembered me. And what I gave her the last time I saw her (Texas dishcloth and St. Arnold's beer, for the record). And there's more, too.

It's also what was running through my head off and on throughout the evening, for a variety of reasons. Considering my second instance of serious intoxication due to Harlot influence, yarn fumes, kilt happiness, and camera envy, I think I'm saving most of the rest for tomorrow.*

So let me keep this simple, lest I embarrass myself still further: many thanks to Liz and Meredith for fun carpooling; Amy and Jenny and Jen and Sarah for being good company as always; David for being a great row-mate, providing a great deal of mirth, and tolerating my silliness; Melissa for photos with the Harlot; the passel of knitters with whom I chatted at random, most notably the two adorable ladies from Austin who were behind me in line.

Pictures and more stories tomorrow. Seriously - this time it will actually happen.

(Amy. I can hear you all the way from the island. You are NOT allowed to laugh that loudly at me.)

* Note that there is no mention of the late hour. It is presently 12:24 am, whatever my post time might say, and I doubt my ability to sleep for a while to come.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

An acceptable time

Wind, unicorn, and boy merged into a single swiftness.
- A Swiftly Tilting Planet

Madeleine L'Engle knew how to make children believe in magic. Scientific abstractions, thin veils between worlds, mythical creatures...she knew them all, and how to tell their stories.

She also understood young girls awkward in their adolescence, little boys isolated by their genius, children whose parents or personalities or looks make them stand out in ways that they'd rather not. And she knew that the magic she spun was something these children needed - something that made them less lonely, that let them know that someone else in the world could see life through imagination's eye.

I don't know if she imagined that millions of people would adore her for the love and sadness and wonder she poured into every word - but we do, and always will. Madeleine L'Engle wrote books, raised a family, won awards, and lived a very long life...and in my world, that may be the greatest fantasy of all.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Feast or famine

I just realized that's how it's going to be around here, at least for a while. Right now we're at the "famine" stage. You see, I just put in something approximating 2/3 of a workday in time, but thanks to the magic of being at home closed in a quiet room with no one interrupting me, it equals at least a full day, if not a day and a half, of actual work.

With, of course, the added benefit of delivered Indian dinner, plus an adorable husband and cats to cuddle on stand-up breaks.

All this to say that while my interest in keeping all dozen of you informed about my latest snoozeathon goings-on has not waned, my ability to do so is hampered for at least another three weeks. Last week's photo fest was an anomaly inspired by two solid work-free days (you'll note that I didn't actually get an entire holiday weekend) and sufficient sleep. I'll be bucking to hang on to the sufficient sleep, but my brain will still be a fritter until the last weekend of the month.

I'm rather itching to give y'all more, and it's available! Cat pictures. Yarn pictures. Pictures of more yarn molesting my MacBook. Progress updates. I'm going nuts to cook and bake again, and I'm getting through even more of the clutter, a little bit at a time. If my workload were normal, I don't think anyone would recognize my house, much less this blog...for I would be achieving previously unimagined levels of productivity.

But alas, all I can do is yammer. And also mention that since my brain is rather taxed, I took the Red Shawl Dammit back up temporarily, and managed a lovely non-wool new-ball join thanks greatly to TECHknitting's advice in several posts (yes, I'm being lazy about this part). Having something to keep my hands busy also satisfied my need to multi-task and helped prevent me from becoming distracted by the Internets as I worked. Now if they'd just let me do it at the office...'course, I might be tempted to use my sharp-pointed sticks for endeavors not related to fiber artistry...

And to my Thursday-night knit sibs (tm Brenda Dayne) - believe me, I was not fit for public consumption or any kind of knitting last week; I hope this week is different, but it's not entirely likely. So the Forest Canopy sits, still missing a YO and not getting any more finished.

Rest assured that y'all will be the first to know if another anomaly comes along. Oh, how I miss my rather limited sanity.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The many loves of Plum Texan

This post brought to you by my newest love affair, an as-yet-unrenamed MacBook whom, I think you will agree, is quite the luscious lovely.

Yes, despite the recently-mentioned work insanity, I find myself in love with a number of things these days. Work itself, for example - Friday was two years since I first walked in the door. No matter how much it wears me out sometimes, I'm really lucky and really grateful.

I also don't have a great photo you haven't already seen for the next one: adorable Thomas turned three on Friday. No, I didn't miss it; I left his mom a voice mail to play for him, and now I just hope they all survived the weekend (two parties yesterday, I was told). It just seems remiss not to pay Interweb tribute to the first (and so far, only) person whose birth I attended. Happy belated birthday, darlin!

Catching up from last week, a little more love:

The gorgeous Claudia silk laceweight from Twisted Yarns, in the Last Night's Wine colorway. It would also seem that the Claudia and the MacBook have developed a mutual admiration society:

They sure do look cozy. Now that's a pile of pulchritude I could really go for.

Oh...did somebody mention birthdays?

Yep, you guessed it: the last love for tonight is the love of my life. Here, my freshly-groomed TechieBK Bryan holds forth during dinner at Saltgrass (mmmm), all in honor of his third turn through the Chinese zodiac, also known as his 36th birthday. Amy, my parents, and more friends - Bryan's BFF Kirk and his wife Patty - joined in for a nice long sit-around, replete with jokes and inappropriate humor, how-we-met stories, and it's-a-wonder-we-made-it-through-childhood stories. The best kind of evening, in my opinion...and, it seemed, in his too.

Happy birthday, handsome. You're another year goofier and I love you for it.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Unbridled joy, straight out of the box

That's right...Plum Texan is now coming to you from my couch, courtesy of my kickin' new MacBook. Woo hoo! I've waited a long, long time for this, and so far, it's everything I'd dreamed.

I chose the 13.3-inch MacBook, which you'll notice is not appended with a "Pro." While I would certainly have loved the extra functionality, size was paramount, and even the smallest Pro has a bigger footprint than I wanted.

But I otherwise topped out the speed and other features, and with the able assistance of one TechieBK, upped the RAM to 2GB. She floats like a dragonfly, this one - especially with the addition of a wireless router (huzzah!) and a $40 IKEA Dave laptop table. I picked her up on Friday evening and spent today getting to know her, which has included a little fun and a fair bit of work - only mildly to my chagrin.

Meanwhile, Saturday was spent on an exhausting but satisfying adventure with one Sea Anemone, who let me twist her arm so very, very hard and have her join me on a trek to Twisted Yarns. We got to enjoy fantastic yarn talk with Janet, the other awesome store staff, and a handful of lovely customers from Pasadena. Then we happily let IKEA beat us to pieces, experienced the somewhat unnatural but very refreshing perkiness of Container Store staff, and heartily bitched nearly non-stop about the late August heat. Ah, good times.

Perhaps tomorrow I'll have a moment to share my small but lovely yarn bounty. I may even aim for a photo or two!

Monday, August 20, 2007


As one might have gathered, I've been in a world-class funk the last few days (though I did just give myself a chuckle at a typo I made trying to type "funk" the first time). I have a variety of reasons, many of which are TMI...and some of which are just...ugh.

Not least of which, the kick-assedness that is Sea Anemone Amy, aka Yarn Enabler Amy, is moving way the hell back to Galveston. I'm thrilled that she was able to escape her yucky job for a great brand new one, but DAMMIT my bestest local pal farther away DAMMIT!

So when I visited tonight to see her tell the story to the blogosphere at large, I was not surprised to see that someone had nominated her for this:

But you see, that's not here because I just nicked it; it's here because Amy nominated me today. So here I was, enjoying a perfectly good wallow, planning a pity party, Grumpytown population: me, and I go and I'm all ready to mope all over Sea Anemone Knits, and instead...I melt into a puddle of grateful.

Well, OK...maybe I still moped a little. But it's hard to keep a grouchy countenance in the face of such...niceness. Seriously: friendship means everything, and the day-to-day things matter more than we know. But when somebody tells the world that you rock - well, that just sets
things spinning a lot differently.

So thank you, my favorite Yarn Enabler...and may the next step on your path be the best ever. (But I'm still going to miss you, dammit.)


And in honor of the award's spirit, my RGB mad props go out to Sharon of Sharon's Knitknacks, the first knitblogger I ever read and still one of my very favorites; and Colleen of The Pretty Pear, a repository of awesome knowledge on good-looking plus-sized clothes and fashion. (Not that there aren't many more...just that most of the rest I know have been nominated already!)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Weekend blehs

Feeling not so hot for a couple of days + too much alone time + WORK TO DO + headache + actually needing to get on my own computer but can't + having to rearrange stuff so that the maintenance guys don't get stuff all over my yarn = yeah, not so much of an update. I even have Random Photos that I can't load up, because my husband is using my computer and I've griped at him enough, little fibery stuff.

Suffice to say, the weekend did not go as I'd hoped; the major positives were a nice tapas lunch on Saturday with Amy and her BFF, about a row of the Forest Canopy, and some really great pork loin (courtesy of Soup King and Pork Prince TechieBK). I'm not even going to put hopes or projections up today; I can't bear to miss any more deadlines.

I'm sure that you'll all be glad to hear that I'm keeping the not-so-perky post a short one. See y'all at some point this week...and I'll try to be in a better mood.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

SP11 contest, etc.

Abnormally for a Thursday night, I'm at home - hence why you're seeing me before Sunday. That fibery update will still wait till then, as there's nothing new to report.

My attendance at SnB tonight was already in question when Erin swung an arm over Houston today and dropped several inches of rain, but feeling under the weather (and not just under the precipitation) sealed the deal. Still not 100%, but I can't sleep too much or I won't sleep tonight.

So instead, I'm going to respond to the Yarn Yenta's SP11 contest. I already accomplished the first part (yay me) with my questionnaire. Now I'm answering these:

1. What is the one knitting accessory you could not live without?

This sounds like a duh, but: my measuring tape. Instead of a roll-up job or a sewing one, I carry around a compact, quarter-inch-wide Stanley 10-foot metal tape. Never stretches, never catches, quite useful for stuff like shawls and blankets.

2. If you're heading on vacation, do you take knitting with you?

If so, how much and what type of project? Oh, definitely. I usually take 2-3 projects, depending on what I've got going - a shawl or blanket, if it doesn't take up too much space, and almost always a dishcloth. I'll probably have a traveling sock at some point too.

3. Where have you travelled to that you'd consider your favorite spot?

Edinburgh, Scotland. There wasn't anything I didn't love about Edinburgh: the touristy-historic stuff, the amazing restaurants, the scenery (landscapes AND men in kilts), the underlying warmth...and of course, the people - I found most Scots as friendly as most Texans (which is to say, very), and I felt very much at home there. And it's much easier to get a sense of how old the world is when you're not in the US.

I rang in 2002 on the Prince's Street in Edinburgh with my best friend and my ex. Thousands of people speaking dozens of languages...a true teeming throng...and I can honestly say I've rarely felt safer, and never enjoyed a midnight more. I can't wait to do it again someday. :)

4. What is your favorite knitting book at the moment? Do you own it?

I love what No Sheep For You is doing for allergic crafters like me, and how it's introducing everyone to all the amazing sheep-free fibers out there. I don't yet own it because while the patterns are beautiful, I'd only make the Tuscany Shawl. I'd still like to have it at some point for the rest of the advice within.

5. Do you listen to podcasts? Which is your favorite(s)?

I listen to a few podcasts and have tried a few more. CraftyPod is great, though I don't usually listen all the way through in one sitting because it gives me ideas and gets me thinking about other things... :) I always go back to finish it, though!

My favorite is Cast On; I really like Brenda's stories and the guest essays are absolutely spectacular.

And it's not knitting-related, but NPR posts podcasts of selected This I Believe essays. I highly recommend this one; they're usually 5-6 minutes and often really uplifting, thought-provoking, etc.

See y'all this weekend!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Secrets and plies

Secret Pals! Knitting! Get it?!

...OK, that's about my bad pun quotient for the month, I think. Now that I've got that squared away...

It's Secret Pal 11 time! I've signed on for my first round, and I think it's going to go really well. Obviously, there's not much I can say about my spoilee, but she will be easy to spoil, I think. We've already exchanged notes and she seems really cool. I'll say the same for my spoilER - a nice note from them makes it sound like a great time will be had by all. Many thanks to you both, though probably only one of you will see this... :D

This may not make for much in the way of generating interest, so I'm going to do some shameless trolling for comments while I let y'all do some shameless self-promotion. If you sell your handwork of most any kind - hand-dyed yarns, knitting accoutrements, natural candles, bags, anything affordable and easily mailable - leave me a comment with a link to your Etsy, eBay, or personal shop and I'll come check it out...I may even buy something!

I promise to at least stop by and take a good look at your stock. This offer applies even if I know you IRL, but especially if I don't (so that I may share the love as much as possible). Handcrafters unite, right?

Oh, and if I don't know you (IRL or otherwise) and don't already know how you found me, could you pass that along too?

In other news, the Seven Weeks of Hell have begun at work. It's again time for the biggest trade show of the year, which is when I most appreciate how much I like my co-workers. We are slammed, buried, up to our eyeballs, busier than one-legged men in a butt-kickin' contest, more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. And so far, we're still having a great time.

But since that may not last...and at the very least, since I'll be getting home much later than normal for the next six weeks...there's a chance that you'll only see me for the Sunday Evening Post. That's almost certainly when you'll see me next, at any rate, at which point I promise an update of a fibrous nature.

Until then, I trust my fellow denizens of the Texas Gulf Coast to keep their heads (more or less) dry during our first tropical storm deluge of the season. Fingers crossed for everybody in the path - this is a small one, so maybe it'll just be...squishy.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Only a little bit late: My SP 11 profile

(Updated 9/1 with new book and fiber info, and a couple of tiny details.)

1. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with? What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?

I guess I can get the not-fun part out of the way: *allergic knitter warning.* I break out in rashes, itching, and sneezing when I handle anything that was once on a sheep, a rabbit, or a llama-type animal. (I specify because a lifetime of pets has drastically reduced my dog and cat allergies.)

Fortunately, silk and plant fibers are no problem whatsoever. :) The quality of synthetics has also improved drastically in the last few years. So nearly anything that falls in the "no sheep" category is OK by me.

My all-time favorite (of course it's a pricey one) is Sea Silk. It's OUTRAGEOUSLY great to work with and so beautiful! I'm also a big fan of Manos Cotton Stria, KnitPicks Shine, Patons Grace, and Patons Bohemian. Dishcloth cotton that ends in "'n' Cream" is always welcome.

2. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?

I use mostly KnitPicks Options, and I have the set with the zippered binder. My few sets of DPNs are in there as well.

My hooks are now stored in a zippered pencil case. And my other tools are in a Clinique GWP cosmetic bag, plus a lovely little multi-compartment box from Container Store (less than $3!).

3. How long have you been knitting & how did you learn? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?

I learned to knit in December 2003, the first time I attended a Houston Stitch 'n' Bitch when I'd just moved back to town. Right now I'd call myself an intermediate knitter – I'm working on my first lace shawl & it's going very well. I technically know how to knit in the round; I'll learn socks when I need a break from lace (which could be a while).

4. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?

I do have an Amazon wish list: click here to see it.

5. What's your favorite scent?

Ack, another touchy one. While I have scents that I love, I have to be careful with them; my sensitivities can leave me with headaches and nausea from the wrong thing.

Happily, I've discovered that a lot of what method home makes not only smells good, but is completely tolerable. I love their pink grapefruit, lavender, and mint scents. There was also a holiday offering of peppermint vanilla, which may be my favorite of all time.

Even as much as I love method, I have tested their lemongrass, green tea, and sweet water scents and have not been able to tolerate them.

6. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy?

Chocolate (with any combination of caramel, cookies, pretzel, almonds, cranberries, or toffee), whenever it's NOT summer in Texas...and when it is, any of those components without the chocolate. :) Also sour belts and other gummy sours, Pixy Sticks, almost anything sour apple, and butter candies (like Werther's).

7. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?

I love to cook and I'm CRAZY about baking. Cookies (especially oatmeal chocolate chip) and quick breads (especially pumpkin) are my favorites, but I love to try new things.

Trying to learn to sew properly; eventually VERY MUCH want to do mosaic and glass etching. I bead a little and make quite a few marble magnets; I've also been known to do glass painting, as well as decoupage, paper stuff, stamping, and assorted random small crafts.

I don't spin; I plan to learn down the road, but there's a lot of other things in front of it.

8. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)

As a child of the '80s, most any pop music from that era is still a lot of fun to me. I like a lot of Celtic stuff as well: Enya, Blackmoor's Night, drum-and-bagpipe. I admit a significant fandom for the works of Roy Orbison and Weird Al; I think Shakira completely rules; I cannot resist ABBA. 10,000 Maniacs (in the Natalie Merchant era) is my all-time favorite band. And finally, my two completely oddball genre loves: big band/swing and disco.

I have an iPod and my car can play MP3 CDs, as far as I know.

9. What's your favorite color(s)? Any colors you just can't stand?

Love: deep or fiery true reds (garnet, ruby, claret), a wide range of purples (plum, amethyst, aubergine), a variety of rich blues (sapphire, cobalt, cornflower, deep teal), greens (forest, emerald, sage), and anything that accents them well. I’m partial to silver over gold, but I like both.

Not so much: yellows, most shades (except as accents); super-bright/neon-type things; pea green; super-pastels and "baby" colors; 70s-type harvest colors.

10. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?

Married since October 2004 to the most with-it muggle ever (a sweetheart techie gamer geek with a big ol' dose of goofy); no kids; two cats (littermates, almost 10 years old, one male and one female – catnip-free).

11. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?

Not really – and even if I did, Houston doesn't provide much opportunity to wear, I'm quite warm-natured. Though I would (see next two questions) wear a light shawl even in spring and autumn.

12. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?

Blankets, shawls, and dishcloths. (Yes, I realize that these are all flat...)

I completely adore working lace! Very addictive and so satisfying. Cozy blankets are a lot of work, but I feel so accomplished when I finish them. And dishcloths are a) my go-to shove-in-the-purse project, since I don't yet do socks, and b) the perfect way to practice stitch patterns.

13. What are you knitting right now?

I’m trying desperately to finish my Forest Canopy Shawl in Amethyst Sea Silk (LOVE!). I have determined that I am two repeats, the edging, and the blocking away from completion.

The other, which has moved somewhat to the back burner, is a design I call the Red Shawl Dammit (a rectangle with zigzag eyelets) in Manos Cotton Stria. Both are making me very happy.

This is something of a rarity for me; I'm normally working on between 4-5 things at a time, not to mention the 2 or 3 additional UFOs in the closet. My mind is a bit too Short Attention Span Theatre* to think I'll ever achieve project monogamy, but I'm going to try this two-at-a-time thing for a while to see how it goes.

(As above, my corollary is: Dishcloths Don't Count.)

14. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?

Of course! What kind of a crafter would I be if I couldn't accept someone else's loving handwork? :)

15. Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?

Circs, circs, circs. 24” cords minimum. I have big hands and find straights uncomfortable. And metal – I adored Addis before the KnitPicks came out; now the Options are my Holy Grail needle – they bring with them a cute little secret that makes setting lifelines a hell of a lot easier. (I've handled the Addi Lace needles and didn't care for them.)

I will most likely use DPNs instead of circs when I get to socks. So far, of the couple I've tried, I actually like the Boye Balene II.

16. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?

Neither. I prefer to hand-wind and work from the outside of round balls, so I probably won't get a winder – but I find swifts very helpful. I tried a portable (Japanese-made?) metal umbrella swift at SnB once and loved it.

17. How old is your oldest UFO?

When my best friend was in labor with her son – whose birth I attended – I started a blanket for him. I have now handily missed the most recent deadline: his third birthday was August 31.

Though as I wrote this, I realized that I have a UFO that pre-dates that: a cosmetic bag in Lion Brand Microspun, which I started about two months after I began knitting. It is on the last pair of single-point straight needles I own.

18. What is your favorite holiday?

New Year's...because every year that passes is another chance to get it right.

19. Is there anything that you collect?

Mostly motifs: dragonflies (big time) and other members of the Cute Bug 4 (ladybugs, bees, butterflies); cherry or citrus prints; cats; pop-art florals.

I used to collect Tarot decks and am still fascinated by the artwork. Religious icons intrigue me as well.

20. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?

Oh, this is getting dangerous. My current obsession: Knitting Lace Triangles by Evelyn Clark, not available on Amazon and desired over all other knitting books. I would love to get my hands on Victorian Lace Today and A Gathering of Lace; I'd also like to have No Sheep For You (no, I haven't bought it yet! :) ) and Big Girl Knits. (All but the first are on my Amazon wish list.) I very much want to knit the Diamond Fantasy Shawl by Sivia Harding.

I'm DYING to try Blue Moon Fiber Arts Sock Candy (but don't like the kit colors) and Silk Thread (I love Covelite, Tanzanite, Lunasea, and Tide Pool) , as well as Claudia Handpaints lace silk (UPDATE: just bought my first skein of Claudia in Last Night's Wine!). And I'm curious to try KnitPicks CotLin; HandMaiden Silken or Flaxen; and most anything nice made with alternative/innovative critter-free** materials.

I don't subscribe to any knitting magazines because I rarely see more than one pattern I want to make; I usually borrow them or pick up single copies.

21. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?

I need to start learning charted lace, and how to modify cardi/shrug patterns to size up.

22. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?

I don't yet knit socks, but it's on the agenda because I have giftees who'd like to receive some. I almost never wear them myself...which is probably a good thing, since my foot is wide and over 10" long.

23. When is your birthday?

June 15. I’m 34!

24. Are you on Ravelry? If so, what's your ID?

Yes indeedy. I'm plumtexan there as well.

* Big, big points if you recognize this reference.
** In this particular Texanese usage, a "critter" is a four-legged mammal.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


(If you're not familiar with Queen Anne's Lace - though I'd love to see a show of hands if anyone is - imagine that sung in seven-part harmony. It's really quite lovely.)

I suppose at least three of you want to know who won. That's right, three (count 'em!) entries were received for my contest. I was stunned to discover that only Laura, Kara, and Jet were interested in free stuff, but of course that made my job a bit easier...which I am all about.

Everyone got it at least half right. On July 20, 2003, I met TechieBK Bryan, sometimes known as Mr. Plum Texan, for the first time. A great story, but one I'll tell later. At any rate, this is the part for which you all came up roses.

Other (really good) guesses included my "knitiversary" (which is actually about December 15, and it'll be four years this year), and kitty birthdays (September 30, and they'll both be 10!). Only one got the second one right: on July 17 of last year, after ten and a half months as a contractor, I was hired permanently for the Best Job Ever.

Kara, come on down! (Or let me e-mail you...not that I'd mind if you did come down...oh, you know what I mean.)

And thanks also to Cable Queen Laura and Jet Lee, International Crime Fighter for making this fun. Maybe more of you will feel lemming-like next time...


A bit of something to make up for the rambly:

A macro of the back of the Forest Canopy. I've just finished another repeat, and I'm thinking one more might cut it. My dwindling but dense little ball of Sea Silk is still quite the wonder. Also, I still love my camera.


Coming tomorrow: my Secret Pal 11 questionnaire, complete with permanent link for my pal's convenience. Yay! Giving and getting secret stuff! :)

Monday, August 06, 2007

It didn't start out that way

I had an up-and-down but mediocre day that turned into a horrible, awful, no-good, very bad evening. I don't wish to discuss it...I just realized that I said "August 5" and didn't announce a winner for the contest. I hope I can be forgiven if I don't do it tonight, either...but there is one, and I'll try to make it back tomorrow.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

My secret love, revealed

I adore memes. In other online journal incarnations, I've been known to do nothing but; in this one, I've largely avoided it because I really am doing my best not to feel as though I'm copping out.

Of course, if I feel that way, it's my own fault. A good meme can be fascinating, and so I'm giving in today, possibly in lieu of a real post later, possibly not. I'm doing my best to turn this into a guilt-free Sunday.

Here now, attributable to Grumperina's influence and credited to Bella Knitting, my feelings on creative interests. I also like the way Grumperina did it, so I'll do it similarly (with my own twists).

Anyone else?

1. I have no interest (in doing it myself).

shibori, cartooning, toy/doll making, macrame, flower arranging*, calligraphy, video/filmmaking, needlepoint

2. a) Would love to try it.

canning (fruits & vegetables), tile/glass mosaic, hand quilting, decorating, stained glass, polymer clay, dyeing, spinning, machine embroidery

b) Might like to try it.

jewelry-making, paper-making, painting, inventing

3. I do or have dabbled in it.

Do: crochet, beading, stamping, graphic design

Have done, WILL do again: dance (swing, C&W), entertaining, gardening, gift wrapping, storytelling, sewing

Have done, may do again: glass painting, poetry, acting, drawing, music, scrapbooking, dance (tap, raks sharqi [belly dance]), soap making

Have done, not likely to do again: cross-stitch, candlemaking, stage work

4. Love it! This is my thing.

writing (fiction, essays), knitting, baking, cooking, photography (landscapes, scenery, botanic gardens)

* This is mostly due to allergies and fragrance sensitivities.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Thank you, Marvin

This awful business, again.

RIP Marvin Zindler, consumer reporter extraordinaire, Chicken Ranch squawker, man whose yelling his sign-off scared the bejeezus out of me for the first five years of my life...laid to rest today at Beth Israel Cemetery in southwest Houston.

And what a story Marvin's is. His name probably means little to those of you not in Houston - but Marvin is most certainly a local legend, and say what anyone will, he got a lot of things done in the 35 years he was on the air. His weekly "Rat and Roach Reports" exposed health violations at restaurants all over Houston (say it with me: "Sliiiiime in the ice machine!"), and his Blue Ribbon is still the local gold standard for restaurant cleanliness.

Aside from helping hundreds who'd been swindled or otherwise cheated, he recruited Marvin's Angels (local businesses who stepped in to assist those in need) and earned nearly as much attention for his charity as he did for his love of cosmetic improvements. Marvin was a character in many senses - one of a fast-disappearing breed of old-fashioned colorful local broadcasters, and a fixture in the life of millions of Texans.

You'll be missed, Marvin. I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing you an afterlife filled with good golf, good tennis, or whatever makes you happy.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Your Title Here

The only eye candy I could muster today: a crocheted hacky-sack that I did not make. This is one of the things I won on my excursion to Main Event; the rest of the haul went to Thomas, the Coolest Kid Ever.

It figures that today, of all days, I'd come down with a massive case of writer's block. And it would seem that my brain did not return from my mini-vacation as quickly as I did, because I've been pretty well behind all day.

But here it is, y'all: my one-year blogiversary...and all the dragonflies and Sea Silk in the world can't help me find something interesting to say. I know it's temporary, but it's profoundly annoying. Really, just...nothing.

So let me keep it simple. To the 20 or so people that probably ever read Plum Texan (including the 8 of you subscribed on Bloglines), I'm much obliged. Someday, my Nefarious Plans for a blog readable by dozens will come true.

Also on that day: I will finally be able to meet a self-imposed project deadline. (And El Diablo will need a parka because it will suddenly be rather chilly in his neck of the woods...)

At any rate...not the best day for a celebratory post. I'm still happy to be here, though! And thanks to Kara, there's now a second entrant in the contest. You know, that thing where you can win stuff? :) Enterenterenter...

I'll spend the next couple of days trying to get my shiznit together to give you some real content. Hey, quit laughing - it could happen.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ahh (or: What I did on my summer vacation)

Time is running out. Tomorrow, I will again have to rise at 6:15 and get ready to greet my cube with enthusiasm after a mere five days away.

But hey, who am I kidding? I'm seriously jazzed. It's been a nice mini-vacation, and it really didn't feel all that short. Not every day went as planned, but with no major mishaps and a lot of relaxation, I think I'll count it a success.

As for the "what I did" part: haircut, Fort Worth, BFF, movies and bowling and games, coolest kid ever, good food, double dates, not much else. Which is more than fine with me.

Now, sure enough, today is the one-year blogiversary of when I made my skimpy first post. And tomorrow is the 'versary of the full-fledged one. Of course, little to everyone's surprise, I'm woefully unprepared, despite Kelly's best efforts on my behalf. I've had a lot going on (most of it good, but not all of it blog fodder), and I'm completely scattered in my energies as per normal.

I still plan to make a big comeback, though...and reader enthusiasm would sure is anyone else going to enter my contest? So far, Laura is the only one who's hazarded guesses (much appreciated). Come on, folks! Free stuff of your choosing!

The biggest news for today is this:

My Canon PowerShot A570 IS, self-portrait courtesy of the 10-second timer, a nicely lit bathroom mirror, and a flipped image. Preliminary tests indicate that it's easy to figure out and will drastically improve the quality of my photos. To wit:

My everyday bag, shot with my old Olympus D-380. Used the digital zoom for detail, and (obviously) flash. And as you might expect - a little blurry, undefined, washed-out colors, bad white flare, and pixellation even on slight enlargement. This is what I've had to work with; in the words of Agent J in MIB 2, "old and busted." And this:

is the new hotness, shot with the Canon - in this case, 1.5x optical zoom, flash, full auto, macro setting. Sure, there's a bit of white flare...but look at the difference. In focus, sharp definition, amazing detail; I couldn't see pixellation until 300% enlargement on my screen. As impressive as that is, this:

is what took my breath away. It loses a tiny bit in resizing for Blogger, but folks, you can see *the weave of the fabric.* It's slighly less than color-true, but MUCH better than before.

(Be sure to click for larger views...Blogger-sizing reduced some of the drama. :) )

The quality and detail wouldn't surprise me with a good 35mm, or even a well-made digital SLR, but on a point-and-shoot that cost less than $200? It's a godsend, and I'm thrilled. I was expecting this to be a half-step between the Olympus and the Digital Rebel I eventually intend to get; it's starting to look like three-fifths, at least.

As for the rest: Forest Canopy? Still in progress, still fixing missed YOs (IDK WTF I was doing week before last). Red Shawl Dammit? About to come to the fore again, seeing as how I'm a bit brainless these last few days. Husband and cats? Still cute and obnoxious. Other non-blog-worthy things? Rather good.

Odd that I'm feeling a bit out of sorts tonight, but I'm hoping that will improve over the week. As for y'all? Enter my contest, yo. I need to feel the love, even if I'm extending the deadline due to lack of previous interest. See below and change "July 31" to "August 5."

And come hell or high water (both distinct possibilities on the last day of July in Houston), I'm busting out the champagne tomorrow. See you then!

(Note: all photos unretouched except for sizing and cropping.)