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.