Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas Joy!

My very own copy!! The library will be so pleased to get their copy back!! What am I yammering about? Why, Mason-Dixon Knitting, of course! I received my very own copy for Christmas and I'm one happy knitter!

I also was able to make my very first Big Yarn Buy. That's 10 skeins of one yarn! It's so soft and wonderful...and it will make a wonderful shawl/ soon as I finish swatching...because naturally all that yarn has totally freaked me out and I'm terrified I'll do something wrong once I get started!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

10 Christmas CD's to Knit By

Warm up the cider and grab your knitting....

1) Handel's Messiah
2) First Call "Beyond December"
3) "Christmas with the Rat Pack"
4) George Winston "December"
5) Glenn Miller Orchestra "In the Christmas Mood"
6) Mannheim Steamroller "A Fresh Aire Christmas"
7) Mannheim Steamroller "Christmas"
8) Michael W. Smith "Christmas"
9) Bing Crosby "Christmas Through the Years"
10) Nat King Cole "Chestnuts Roastin'"

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Life Without (Much) TV

It's been a full week now...and what I realize is that limiting the tv is harder for me than for the kids! I had already greatly curtailed their watching, mostly because I much prefer their DOing something to their just sitting and watching. What has hit me most in the last week is my own attachment to tv. I really love old movies!

We have moderately interesting conversations during meals now, and we can really work on 6yo son's table manners (ick!). This morning the kids and I played "animal lotto" during breakfast.

I have to find a new place to knit. My knitting bag has always sat next to my spot on the couch (the end closest to hubby's chair), but that spot is also directly opposite the tv. I swear it calls to me sometimes! So I've been knitting very little--I'm afraid to sit down there! I can't move the knitting to the bedroom, because the minute I sit down in there, I will have a cat in my lap. Cats and knitting are not mutually beneficial.

The bad thing about kicking the tv habit during Christmas: all those great Christmas movies. The good thing about kicking the tv habit during Christmas: all those great Christmas songs on the radio. And our tendency to play board games as a family during the holidays. And bake cookies. And get out and go look at Christmas lights. And do Christmas crafts.

Maybe by January, we'll be so used to doing other things....
well, I'll finish that sentence in January!!

An update as of April, 2007: The TV is not on all the time, but neither is it off all the time. The kids are much more apt to find something else to do than ask to watch something. We get a movie for "Family Movie Night", we watch the History Channel, and right now, a lot of Baseball! But TV watching is no longer the first option and sometimes we just read a book together! I think, all in all, we have benefitted from our experiment. It has made us THINK about how we spend our time, instead of frittering it away. And that's a good thing!!

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Great Experiment

Perhaps it's a combination of things. I've been reading 109 East Palace, about the physicists who gathered at Los Alamos to develop the atomic bomb in WWII. I've also been alarmed at my children's conversations and how they consist primarily of quoting or discussing movies or tv shows. Perhaps it's a combination of these things that caused me to turn off the tv this week. By lunchtime on Monday, it was off, and it has remained off since then (3 1/2 days and counting).

If this experiment had been conducted at an earlier time, maybe a couple of years ago, surely there would have been bloodshed in our home. But I've been cutting down on tv consumption since I began reading John Rosemond and it had already made a surprising difference in the attitudes and behavior of the kids. Plus, they're old enough to play together and keep each other occupied.

Then I picked up The Plug-In Drug, to bolster my efforts and reassure me that I was doing the right thing. Now I wonder if I'll ever turn the tv back on! I want something better for my family than sitting in front of the tube, watching dumb stuff just to be watching something, shushing the conversations, complaining when someone stands in front of the set, arranging LIFE around the tv schedule.

So I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Things I Won't Be Including in My Christmas Letter This Year

**My achievements in the art of making little foam ducklings out of styling mousse...
**How my kids got "discovered" when the director of a hit reality show was in town filming something strange at the neighbors'...
**How I got a red mark on my eyeball when a new pair of contacts refused to be removed...
**How that red mark bears an uncanny resemblance to Abe Lincoln...
**How the kids and I spotted a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker--a bird that I thought was only a figment of Bugs Bunny's imagination...
**How I've finally trained the cat to give massages like that one in the Walgreen's commercial...
**How I won Yard of the Month for my artful planting of summer annuals spelling out "Jesus Loves You" in the flower beds...
**How mid-year I gave up doing laundry and have been successfully selling our dirty clothes on e-bay...
and last but not least:
**How Daisy is training for the Iditarod sled dog race...

Monday, October 02, 2006

Happy Birthday, Julius Henry Marx!

Happy Birthday to Groucho, one of my favorite laugh inducers. Here are some quotes that have been attributed to him:

"Quote me as saying I was misquoted."
"I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception."
"A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five."
"Go, and never darken my towels again."
"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."

and one more:
"You better beat it. You can leave in a taxi. If you can't get a taxi, you can leave in a huff. If that's too soon, you can leave in a minute and a huff."

Monday, September 25, 2006

Great Stories

Some say that love's what makes the world go 'round. I, however, think it is great stories. Consider, if you will, the greatest of all books, the Bible. Remember how it was published a few years ago, in paperback, in the "old" Living Version, with the title "The Book"? The idea, I think, was to attract those who might never read the Bible as a list of do's and don't's, but just might read it as a collection of really great stories.

Jesus told great stories. I can just imagine the crowds gathered around him, hanging on his every word, completely caught up in the stories he told. In an age without radio/TV/film/internet, a great teller of great stories was no doubt in great demand!

In my opinion, what makes a story truly wonderful is it's relation to the listener. Can the listener or reader identify with some character, with the settting, with the emotions, the actions, the theme?

In our homeschooling journey, we have encountered many stories. Some of these were read from books, some were listened to as books on tape (car-schooling at its best!), and some were listened to from live tellers of stories. Those that were great stories were memorable, quotable, and worthy of a second visit whenever this was a possibility. We still chuckle about the story told by my aunt and uncle over a Tex-Mex dinner, about my grandparents and the mysterious prowler. Anyone who was at On the Border that night probably worried about the potential choking hazard of so much laughter!

One story that I have just re-visited is "The Tale of Despereaux" by Kate DiCamillo, the auther of "Because of Winn-Dixie" (also a great story, but a better book than movie).

Our first encounter with Despereaux, the too-small mouse with the too-large ears was last year as an audio book, read with spell-binding ability by Graeme Malcolm. I have just this week finished reading it in book form. Superlatives fail me. Chock full of truth and vivid characters, it's a delightful story of a quest. DiCamillo says that " an extraordinary word, isn't it? So small and yet so full of wonder, so full of hope." And love " a powerful, wonderful, ridiculous thing, capable of moving mountains. And spools of thread." I love what she says about forgiveness and about healing broken hearts.

The stories that stay with you, that change you, these are the great stories.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Returning to Square One

This morning while edging the yard and trying to avoid the Palmetto Ants that LOVE the ground in front of our mailbox, my son was making his first attempts to ride his bicycle sans training wheels. As he started and stopped and pedaled along the grass next to the driveway, I worked hard to deliver the appropriate amount of encouragement. It's tricky with an almost 6 yo. He needs applause at times like that, but he doesn't want TOO much. I mean, 6 is, after all, almost grown! So tell me I'm doing well, but don't overdo the praise, 'cause a guy's gotta be cool, Mom.

He really did remarkably well, even falling several times without so much as a whimper. Beyond the obvious--oh, my baby is growing up!!--it was a teachable moment for Mom. It isn't as though I haven't learned from my children in the last 9 years, but I think the nature of the lessons may be changing. Whereas before I learned patience, fairplay, completing two-handed tasks with one hand, and how long a human being can go without sleep and still be pleasant, today I learned something different. Within us there is an incredible amount of drive, determination and room for growth, and if we fall off the bicycle, we will never figure out how to ride on two wheels unless we get back up and try again. This lesson makes me uncomfortable. Too often it's easier to give up than to get back up. My son isn't afraid of growing up--is this the key? He doesn't see the responsiblities that await him as he grows; he just sees the new privileges, added fun, different skills, exciting adventures.

"For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, 'I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom.'" ~~Matthew 18:2-4, The Message.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Mason-Dixon Fan is Born

I can't believe how much I'm enjoying Mason-Dixon Knitting! I have dropped everything to get involved in it--including frogging a half-finished dishcloth last night. It had just developed some nasty looking holes and I thought---I can either spend the time to fix this, OR I could frog it and start a ball-band washcloth, or find out what's so great about Log Cabin, or we've got a window that simply must have a Bubbly Curtain....! Aside from the incredible wit of the writing in the book, I also appreciate the encouragement to "Go, do!" without always having to stick to patterns. While I greatly appreciate patterns and the feeling that comes from finishing one, M-DK gives me permission to try something big without a pattern. My daughter has never been afraid to do this, but Mama needed a little push.

It's good to love a knitting book. Here are some others that I love:

Knit and Stitch for Beginners by Wendy Freeman
Knitting Stitch Bible by Maria Parry-Jones
Vogue Knitting Quick Reference
New Knits on the Block by Vickie Howell
Knit Scarves! by Candi Jensen

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Ahh, Peace!

While I believe firmly that children learn all the time, even when it doesn't look like it, I still can't help but appreciate days like today. It looked to me like they actually learned something!! Maybe it's just my extreme affection for books, but I get excited when many books get read and discussed. And my 5 yo son actually wrote something on his own!

So today I feel (almost) successful as a homeschooling Mom. I've had a glimmer of peace and of pieces falling into place in our homeschool adventure. I close the day with a contented sigh and a prayer of thanks. And a mental note to let tomorrow be its own day~~without unfair comparisons to today. Matthew 6:34 already!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Grand Opening

Although I usually try VERY HARD not to be too serious on a Monday (if ever there was a day that needed levity, it's Monday), I have something that's not all that comical, and pertains in no way to knitting--unless you count the fact that I knitted in the car on the way there. As a passenger, I promise!

Yesterday was the Grand Opening celebration for the main campus of my church. We attended the main campus for almost 2 years, so we dodged construction debris pretty much the whole time we were there. Leave it to us to switch to a different campus right before the work is finished and the kids are out of the trailors! Even though I wasn't there physically yesterday, I celebrated for a couple of reasons: 1) It's my church and I'm supposed to, right? 2) It was an occasion for some really good free pubicity (no, not for me!). Now think about it---a large church + article in local paper = good pubicity ???? Something is definitely wrong with THAT equation!! But, you can read it for yourself here. Pretty cool, huh? Seriously, it's a great bunch of people, and I'm happy to be there. God's Word is preached, people are loved and changed, and I'm challenged--all the time! Doesn't get much better than that :)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

She passed her test!

I'm so proud I could burst! This last weekend, my 9 yo daughter passed her very first evaluation for Cecchetti. In my own limited ballet training, many moons ago, I only vaguely remember hearing of such things as different techniques. It's all so much more complicated than I originally thought--and ain't that just like life? Anyway, the kid has passed her Level I test and her mama is proud. I'm so happy to see her work hard toward a goal and achieve it. It's not the same as doing well in a performance or recital--which of course she has done many times. It's the individual nature of the evaluation, proving to her (and me) that she worked hard and succeeded.

Way to go, Red! You're my Dancerina!

A side note---it was during her evaluation that a good friend described my knitting as "compulsive". I immediately pointed out that while driving, I only knit when the traffic is stop-and-go (Palmetto Driving). This defensiveness stems from my thinking of compulsive as neurotic or uncontrollable. Rather, I will accept obsessive, passionate or enthusiastic as apt descriptions of my habit, I mean hobby. At least so long as it remains a healthy pursuit... If I ever have a closet that won't close due to the incredibly large stash of yarn therein, I will seek help. I promise. :)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Take me out to the ball game

This goes along with my finding knitting everywhere---and wanting to take my knitting everywhere, too. I've thought several times, while enjoying a Riverdogs game, that maybe if I brought my knitting with me...but I never have. When my husband watches baseball at home, I usually pull up a sofa next to him and knit while watching the game. Well, I discovered today that I'm not the only one who's thought of this! I found a link to Stitch n' Pitch . I almost spilled my tea, I was so excited to see photos of knitters in the stands at Major League baseball games!

The folks at the Riverdogs are big into promotions (Aren't You Glad We're Not in Boston Night, Salute to the Cardboard Box, Dog Day [bring your dog to the game], Talk Like a Pirate) (I am not making this up!), so maybe they need a heads-up from yours truly. If the big leagues can have a Stitch n'Pitch, so can we!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

"Palmetto" Time

It is one of the ironies of living in the South that only on days that are not quite so hot does one have the energy to complain about the heat!

I suspect, on this reasonably mild summer day (87 degrees, sunny, humidity only 49%) that the scorching heat and sluggish humidity of life in Charleston are to blame for certain Low Country perks.

When I first moved back to this area 3 years ago, I encountered--full force--the dreaded mutant species of cockroach the locals euphemistically term "Palmetto Bug". Make no mistake, these monsters certainly deserve a special name, however unprintable it may be.

Two inches long by one inch wide, they drop from the trees in the historic district downtown ("Wow, isn't that a beautiful old mansion? Wait! What IS that crawling on the lovely wrought-iron gate?? Ewww...!"), creep out of your kitchen cabinets, scurry across your bed and skitter over the floor. They fly, too, so help me. It's bad enough that when faced with killing one, you're staring down the LARGEST COCKROACH YOU'VE EVER SEEN, and once you've initiated your plan of attack (spray, swat, whatever works!) the darn thing flies---[1]away so that you've got to spend however long it takes to track it down so you can sleep without fear of it returning; [2]at you so that every inch of your skin crawls in revulsion for days; or [3]in your hair, and I won't even go there! I used to swap stories with other recent newcomers about the terrible **CRUNCH** sound produced by squashing the things. Ugh. The bottom line is this: these bugs are bad news and the people here call them (with or without raised pinkies) "Palmetto Bugs". Pu-lease.

It makes me wonder what other nasty aspects of the area could be re-marketed to sound less negative....
1) Being stuck behind a horrible, snarling, going-nowhere-anytime-soon traffic jam:
"Palmetto Driving"
2) Everyone's late so nothing starts when planned [no doubt due to Palmetto Driving]:
"Palmetto Time"
3) 99 degrees, sun, haze, humidity at 90%:
"Palmetto Summer"
4) South Carolina is last again in nationwide ranking for school test scores:
"Palmetto Education"
5) Swarming, stinging, hydrangea-killing fire ants [found elsewhere, too]:
"Palmetto Ants"

Monday, July 10, 2006

Knitting on the Silver Screen

A funny thing happened when I learned to knit: I began to notice knitting--the act, the results, the supplies. When I got tired of pestering my family to come see so-and-so knitting on tv, I decided I'd just make myself a list.

Everytime I caught sight of a knitter in a movie, I wrote it down. In some cases, knitting was just something a character did (Top Hat[1935], My Man Godfrey[1936], They Wanted to Marry[1937]).

But in others, knitting was integral to the character's identity or to the development of the movie's plot:
"Robin and the Seven Hoods"[1964]
"I Was a Male War Bride"[1949]
"Breakfast at Tiffany's"[1961]
" Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"[1971]
" Mr. Lucky"[1943]
" The Mouse That Roared"[1959]
"America's Sweethearts"[2001]
"Shall We Dance"[1937]
"Chicken Run"[2000]
"Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit"[2005]
"After the Thin Man"[1936]

And when there's knitting, in a WWII storyline, in a movie, well! This gal's in hog heaven, as we used to say in Texas. Any knitting specifically for the war effort naturally ranks high on my list(I Was a Male War Bride, Mr. Lucky).

My husband pointed this one out to me, but I'm not sure if it should count: the scene in "A Night at the Opera"[1935] where Harpo is pretending to knit with two forks and some fringe from the tablecloth draped over his shoulders! Maybe we could just classify that as "Marxian" knitting! Ha!

These are only the recently discovered, mind you. There's no telling how many escaped my notice in my pre-knitting days. And since I often knit while watching movies, I might be missing some crucial scenes even now!

Friday, May 26, 2006

How a Knitter helped win the Revolutionary War

Something I ran across while feeding my son's fascination with George Washington....

During the time of the Revolutionary War, a network of Patriot spies included a woman known as "Old Mom" Rinker. As the story goes, she would often sit knitting while drying flax (now there's something you don't hear about much anymore!) on a cliff near Philadelphia. When she had messages to pass on, she would insert them into the ball of yarn and oops! drop it over the cliff, where it was quietly retrieved by other Patriot spies who kept an eye on that cliff for just that purpose.

Knitting, it's not just for socks and sweaters anymore!

Monday, May 22, 2006

The kids are hanging over my shoulder...

...wanting to know when they get to start their own blogs! Just think, when I was their age we'd never even heard the word.