Saturday, August 26, 2006

Fingerless mitts for CIC

The August challenge for the CIC knitting group was "fingerless mitts". Fingers or no fingers, the wooly hand-warmers have been a challenge for ME during the recent 100 degree temperatures. Nonetheless, I finished five pairs, pictured above. The red cabled ones were made following this pattern at Knitty . com . I made up the pattern for the striped ones, following the same general idea as the cabled mitts, but with simple 4 x 1 ribbing throughout and smaller needles for the cuff and top of the hands.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

1L/1M, 3, 3, 1L/1M, 1L/1M

Our kids are Suburban with a capital S. Their entire lives-to-age-18 have been lived on the outskirts of major cities. It's a good life; I don't think they've suffered any lasting trauma from the locations and we've always made lots of trips "into the city" for museums, zoos, theater, what-have-you.

Always made plenty of trips into the city.

By car.

The downside to our locations has always been a lack of public transportation. There has never been public transit that has reached out to where we live. If we want to go somewhere, we jump in the minivan and off we go. If parking is occasionally a problem, well, that's life. When gas prices go up, we think twice about longer trips, but gee, you do pay a price for living out on the outskirts, and sometimes you just have to deal. It's a good life.

They've even been exposed to good public transportation. Washington DC, Vancouver, Denver. Read the maps and timetables, buy a token, hop on, hop off. Under mom's and dad's watchful eyes, it was just one part of some fun family vacations.

Elizabeth headed off to college in Boston and as part of Freshman Orientation, she learned to navigate the MBTA. She adapted quickly and shows us the best ways to get from point A to point B when we visit her.

Next week, Alex will head off to join thousands of freshman Longhorns living in a dormitory at U-Texas. Compared to the ordeal of getting Elizabeth to Boston, this will be a walk in the park. No packing and shipping of boxes of clothing. His winter wardrobe won't change from what he wore last winter; as a matter of fact, it's already in his closet. We will pack the minivan and move him in. If he happens to forget something crucial, we can get it to him the next weekend.

He will NOT have a car on campus. Like Elizabeth, he will learn to get where he needs to be using the resources available. Unlike Elizabeth, a tour of the Austin bus system probably will not be a part of orientation.

So, today, Alex and I set out to learn.

We chose three major stops, and he found the online route maps and schedules. We drove to the nearest Park-and-Ride (about 11 miles from home, as it turns out - why have we never done this before?) and caught the first bus, which took us to the campus. There, we switched directions and proved that it is really, really easy to get from the campus to his favorite miniatures/gaming store (this may not be a good thing!). Back to campus, then on through the downtown area and right to the front door of my favorite yarn shop (you didn't think I was doing this just for the joy of bus travel, did you?). And then, back on the northbound route, and amazingly, that same bus that goes right in front of the yarn shop took us right back to the Park-and-Ride.

It was quite possibly the hottest day of the year. We walked as necessary, 2 blocks here, a block there, 4 blocks out of the way to have some lunch, and we enjoyed every minute. We bought a small robot model at the game store, as much to prove that we had BEEN THERE as anything, and took notes on the relative locations of bus stops to Alex's dorm. We enjoyed the scenery of the Capitol building area without a thought about traffic. We wondered to each other about the reasoning that allowed some people to get on the bus carrying a coffee mug or frozen latte, yet others were asked to toss their food or drinks before entering the bus. We were amazed at the number of people who really DO make use of the "bike route", placing their bikes on the racks on the front of the bus, then removing them after the bus ride and pedaling away. We shared the space with a blind couple and their tiny baby daughter, numerous college-aged kids with iPods engaged, an elderly woman and her extremely large, furry and brown Service Dog, a young man who appeared to be moving all his worldly goods, one bus load at a time, and a flamboyant cross-dresser well known in South Austin.

And you just KNOW where this is heading, don't you?





Two specialty coffee drinks to get the day rolling - $6.84
Two all-day Cap Metro bus passes - $2.00
One plastic robot model to prove we'd been there - $4.99
Lunch for two at Arby's (with an extra glass of water, please) - $8.68
Two skeins of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino - $16.00

The view from the other side of the bus window, and a day with my son - Priceless.

Alex, you've earned a front seat. Enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

One man's trash

Every ten years, we have a garage sale.

It didn't exactly start out that way, and we didn't exactly plan it, but 10 years ago, shortly before we moved from there to here, we had a garage sale. Last weekend, we had another one. The good Lord willing, it will be 10 years before we have another.

I'm a big fan of "donate it and take the tax deduction", but with children growing up and moving on, we suddenly seemed to have quite a few "larger ticket" items that might just bring in a significant amount of cash.

The truth of the matter is - we're not fond of Texas camping. Lots of camping equipment in the garage, but unless global warming takes a sudden backstep and large spiders all suddenly migrate 500 miles south, the chances of us actually tent camping again any time soon are small. No, not small. Nonexistent. In addition, the days of floating pool toys and blow-up riding pool animals are pretty much over. If we go to the pool, it's for a few quick laps to get the heart rate going, then home for a shower. No lounging around on the purple inflatable shark.

And the large axe. Over 3 feet long. Where did it come from? We can't quite remember. Why do we have it? We're not quite sure. Have we ever, EVER used it? No. What's it worth? Who knows?

So, 6 weeks ago, I started assembling "stacks" which quickly took over the dining room. Games rated for ages 4-12. Jigsaw puzzles which had been built once. Sleeping bags, bed sheets, foam camping mattresses, blankets (so much sleeping gear...why am I so tired in the mornings?).

In a fit of goodwill, I offered a friend the chance to "pitch in" some items of her own. Just mark them and bring them over! The newspaper ad was placed, the stacks were sorted and brightly colored, pre-printed stickers were purchased at the office store and liberally applied. Signs were made ready to post, leading the masses to our front yard emporium.

Note: the printed stickers have adhesive about equal to melted chocolate. Sticks where you don't want it. Peels off of anything that actually requires the sticker.

And did they come? Oh, yes.

The sale was advertised as being from 8-1 on a Saturday. The boys were informed that they WOULD be available by 7 AM for setup. Profits would be liberally shared, it was in their best interest to be interested, but they WOULD be there. And they were. At 7 AM, we began to move tables and merchandise outside. At 7:15, the first customer arrived and began to sort through the clothing. We pointedly ignored her, after all, the sale didn't begin until 8, but she didn't mind. By 7:40, she had plenty of company and we gave in and began to take money.

What sells?

Blue jeans. Any size, any gender. As I watched a dozen pairs snapped up in the first 20 minutes, I wondered at the ethics. I had priced them at 2 and 3 dollars. They weren't fancy, they probably came from Target. They were "whole", but certainly not new. The men who bought them had a tired, defeated air about them. Who was I to take their $3 for something that was worth nothing to me?

What sells?

Electronics. Anything black, rectangular and with a cord. By 9 AM, we had sold 2 TV's, a computer, a PlayStation, VCR player, DVD player and a hot air tool for melting embossed plastic craft designs.

What sells?

Inflatable plastic pool toys. A delighted young man carried away the blow-up shark. May it bring him joy, and live to swim around pools for years to come.

Sales were fast and furious. I wore a pocketed apron with cash and coins stashed in the pockets and made change as fast as I could. Dave, Alex and Isaac all did quick mental addition, took bills and returned change. I'm sure there were errors made. I hope they were all in the favor of the customer. Lower prices were offered and in general, accepted on the spot. Children sorted through our old toys and were delighted by parents who offered to buy "anything you want for 50 cents". An entire bin of Star Wars action figures went for $30. Undoubtedly, those figures are on ebay now and someone is making a killing...but they're out of our closets, and I'm happy.

By 11 AM, the crowds had dispersed and we were down to the dregs. People continued to show up, drive by, take a look, and move on. Tents, we discovered, are not in great demand. Evidently no one else likes large spiders, either.

At 12:30, we began to sort. "Return to friend, unsold". "Keep this, after all" (a VERY small pile...I was ruthless!). "Trash can" and "Load in the car and take to Goodwill". At 1 PM, the van was loaded with the leftovers. May someone use them well.

The cash was counted, accounted and divided. We did well. All are richer than they were. It was a profitable day.

There's just one question left unanswered. WHERE is the axe? No one remembers selling it. No one remembers SEEING it after 7:30 AM. But it's sure not there, now.

Some gloves, a kid and a cat

This month, CIC is calling for fingerless mitts to warm the hands of the patient caregivers in the orphanages. There's a great pattern up right now at

I had my yarn, I had my needles, and in no time at all, I had knitted a pair of soft, warm, bright red fingerless mitts. I tried them on myself, and my wrists and hands rejoiced. Yes, these are a classic. Warm and toasty on 2/3 of the hands, with fingers free to type, write, wipe noses, cut sandwiches. I would certainly knit more.

I was not pleased to find that Alex, age 18, ALSO liked the mitts. Not only had he tried them on (OK, so they stretch a lot...just not sure they are meant to fit adult male hands!), but he discovered that the CATS loved being petted with the furry hands, too.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tough to be a Cat

Not only is it tough to be a cat, it's getting tougher. Not.

The cats now have the chance to eat better than I do. Thanks to Purina, I can now buy "Elegant Medleys" for my cats. These sound like something I would prepare for a fancy Sunday morning brunch. For your enjoyment, might I suggest:

Wild Salmon and Whipped Egg Souffle with Garden Greens

or perhaps

Shredded Yellowfish Tuna Fare in a Savory Broth with Garden Greens (would that be Sushi for Sushi?)

What's the point? I know these cats. They go outside, they immediately feast on the garden greens (AKA "grass on the lawn") then come in and throw up on the carpet.