Monthly Archives: June 2011

Repaying the Gift

Like many people, I rediscovered lots of old friends I had lost touch with over the years. One of those folks was Beth Lash, who went to Clemson University and eventually moved back to Annapolis. Beth was in the Clemson Players, the student drama group on campus. Clemson now has a pretty serious drama program, with a real degree and everything, but when we went there, it was made up of kids that just really liked theater. It didn’t mean we weren’t good; we had a group (before us) that went to the Kennedy Center. We even did some shows with a guy named Mike Tyler, who you might remember as Gunther from Friends. Still, we were definitely not the type of group on campus that got noticed. I think we preferred it that way, to be honest. We seemed proud to be among the outcasts.

We were a proud snarky bunch and some of those memories are my very favorite. The condiment collection, killed when someone stepped on it and we had a funeral. The insane parties at Mark Charney’s, one that I left at 3 am, only to be told the next morning “Scary Greg showed up with a bag of drugs at 5 am.” (Honestly, we were mostly good kids, I promise.) The pitchers of beer drunk as a group through straws, which would lead to dancing on bars at Nick’s while Madonna played. (Wait that might be two separate incidents.) I remember going to a Jesus, Mary and Joseph party where you were to dress like your favorite Biblical character and finding a book with a new book cover: “The Bible. Drugs! Sex! Violence! On the bestseller list for 2,000 years!” Mostly, we were just a bunch of very irreverent kids. I had found my kind, even if I never appeared on stage. While I love Clemson, I’m not your typical Clemson kid, so I can’t explain how grateful I am to have found this group.

Beth was one of these irreverent ones and the year my parents were on sabbatical in Greenbelt, Maryland, we drove North together in my 1973 VW semiautomatic Bug. We didn’t make it to Spartanburg before Beth told me the story of her bug, which got a freak pocket of air under the hood, popping it up and smashing it against her windshield and cracking it. She was forced to drive between a semi and a huge barrier before she finally pulled over. I was a little quiet for a few miles after that. The rest of the trip, we sang as loudly as we could to the radio. A Pat Benetar song came on and Beth says, “oh this is completely unsingable” and then we sang it anyway. A fun trip, even when the carpet got stuck under the gas pedal and Beth was going “Your car is driving itself!”

Beth's socks

Since Beth was one of my very favorite people at Clemson, I was happy to reconnect and also quite happy to repay her for a gift she gave me. One Christmas, quite unexpectedly, she gave me a pair of slippers. Or socks, I’m not sure what to call them. They were these knee-high socks with a faux-leather bottom on them and they were quite patterned. They were cool in an ugly, funky kind of a way and I had those things for YEARS, thinking of Beth when I wore them. So, when I was thinking about what I’d want to give Beth in the FB craft challenge, I knew what it had to be. So Beth, I give you a pair of socks! These are from Purlsoho and they are made out of Koigu Mori. These are fun socks to make, folks.

My socks

So fun to make, I made two pairs! I think of mine as the Donnie Osmond pair, which I told my daughter when she asked who that was, I said he was the Justin Bieber of his day. So Beth, you can wear yours and think of me and I have a pair that I will now think of you, again.


The Flying Lebowski

Sweater back

The back of the sweater makes an appearance on the Queen Mary.

This week, I flew to Long Beach and back, via Midway, which gave me HOURS to work on the sweater. And work I did. I finished the back and am nearly through the pattern section of the left front! With the #10 needles and the 1 x 1 rib, the rows go slowly but the length goes fast.

I managed to finish the back by the time we landed in Long Beach, which took the majority of the day. A 2-hour flight to Midway and  4:30 flight to LAX and I got a great deal of knitting in. The front, well, I’m up to the armpits.

The pattern is zinging along better than I thought. Still, I’m glad it’s only a section of the sweater. Otherwise, it’d get old in a big fat hurry.

I was shocked, gobsmacked, amazed, stunned to learn that my fellow executive committee members had only seen the movie maybe once, if at all, and did not remember the sweater. This makes me the coolest person on the EC, if you ask me.

Might be a while before I get to it again, though. No more trips coming up.

Vegetarian, two months in

I’m about two months in on this vegetarian thing (OK, ok pescatarian. We eat fish about twice a week.) and I’ve had no less than three questions about healthy eating in the past 24 hours. I’m flattered that people think I might know what I’m talking about!

So, a quick post over lunch about how it is going so far. At this point, I don’t really miss meat very much but it wasn’t a huge sacrifice for me. I have become far more aware of my protein intake. For one, I found out that I was eating way too much yogurt. So, instead of twice a day, which I didn’t do all the time but damn close, I eat it about once every other day. That I do kind of miss, but if you’re up to a twice a day serving of anything, you might have a problem. I’ve fallen in love with dried edamame. (In fact, maybe a little too much in love.) I have a wide selection of nuts and seeds I now eat. And I eat a lot more whole grains. I’ve also made it a mission to keep trying new vegetables. Greens are a challenge for me, at least ones not in a salad. Beans, no problems there. I used to not eat beans, but now I like them a lot. You kind of have to love them if you’re going to do this.

There are a couple of traps I’ve avoided, thanks to some good advice and that was to not load up on too much soy or cheese.

So that is how we’re doing. Last night, I finished off the bulgar salad (from the Kind Diet) and had half an almond butter sandwich, to get that protein in. Tonight, I’m making a polenta dish with lots of vegetables. It even includes cauliflower and asparagus, neither which are favorites but if I like it in a casserole, maybe I will actually enjoy them! Then I’m off on a trip. That is the toughest part right there. You go out to eat and 90% of the entrees have meat in them. You realize how meat-centric the American diet can be.

If you’re thinking of going down the vegetarian path, great. But do it for the right reasons. If you’re doing it to lose weight, rethink that one. You probably need to get a handle on your whole overall eating habits before you restrict them by leaving out meat. In fact, not eating meat and having to work at the protein thing means you might actually be HUNGRIER than if you eat meat.

I’ll leave you with the thoughts I sent to a friend who asked about our new diet.

1. Watch the dairy especially cheese. Cheese is a good source of protein but it’s also a saturated fat. So you do yourself no favors replacing lean meat with cheese.
2. Don’t be afraid of good fats. Olive oils, flax seed, anything like that. In moderation, of course, but lots of dieters (including ME) avoid fat like it’s the problem. It’s not necessarily the fat. It’s the sugar.
3. Build your meals around beans, grains, vegetables and fruit.
4. Fall in love with the bulk aisle at the grocery store. Ingles has a good one. Publix probably does too. Whole Foods for certain, of course.
5. And like I said, it’s very easy to be a vegetarian and still eat very badly. In fact, you kind of have to work to get the protein in. Very doable, but you do need the grains, the veggies and the beans to make it work.

Any other advice I should have included? Anything maybe I’m doing wrong? Thoughts?

An Ornament for a Grown Up

I wish her a Merry Christmas ...

The craft giveaway continues! Next up is Katie S., who I know through Jazzercise. I know her mom better, because I used to work the door with Leslie. If it weren’t for Jazzercise, I wouldn’t know Katie at all as I believe our paths would never cross, unless we happened to jog past each other. The truth is, we probably wouldn’t jog if we hadn’t started with Jazzercise. We  look pretty good from exercise, enough to do “naked Jazzercise.” Not nearly as exciting as it sounds … it just means it’s so hot outside and the air works so hard that we work out in just our bras and shorts instead of a shirt to modestly cover things up. Still, there we were … Katie in her 20s, me in my 40s and her mom in her 50s and we all were not ashamed to be dressed in such a way. The power of Jazzercise, folks! Don’t take it lightly.

Katie is young and single and likes hanging with her girlfriends. Pictures of her in little black dresses with friends pop up on my feed. I’ve seen guns and rods and reels and boats and all these things that are not part of my life. I’ve even seen blurry pictures of Glenn Beck.

Heck, I like her anyway!

So, for Katie, I have a Christmas ornament. Since she watches Glenn Beck, I know she celebrates Christmas! But that isn’t why I give her an ornament. There are two reasons. First, she lives in town so I don’t have to ship a fragile object. Second, owning a Christmas ornament is a settled down kind of thing to do.Katie is finishing graduate school and looking for a job so I’m giving her an ornament as a housewarming gift. Which, I guess she’ll have to keep packed until she gets a house, but hey, I’m always thinking ahead.

The ornament is another Stitch Diva pattern. Boy, her patterns are challenging, but unique. She suggested using a beaded yarn and that was a BITCH. Still, it’s got a nice twinkle to it that should look good on a tree.

Katie, here’s hoping you have a beautiful home in December to hang the ornament on a tree! I know you will.

Lebowski done to movies

Working away while turning my hair brown again

Happy World Wide Knit in Public Day! Will you be doing your part? I certainly will, and have. Since the sweater is a surprise (and yes, you now know my husband doesn’t read my blog), I work on it every where except at home. At least that’s been the case this week. I’ve worked on it at my daughter’s Kuk Sool lesson. I sat in a chair with gook on my hair, waving my needles like I just don’t care. (In other words, proving I have no shame, I sat at a hair salon with my hair covered in goop, shaped like something Ferris Bueller might do in the shower, and knit.) Today, I suspect my husband will stay at home to work on our bathroom with my brother-in-law, so I can sneak it to see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at church. (If not, I have, of course, a back up project.) Yes, I’m watching Harry Potter at church. We’re Unitarian Universalists and we’re using the HP books to teach Sunday school this summer.

But I digress! Back to the movie we all love, the Big Lebowski and his amazing sweater.

I’ve made good progress while knitting in public. I’m up through the second band of the contrasting color on the back of the sweater and next will be THE pattern. The big one. I made it through the smaller pattern, which was not as easy as I thought. Oh, the pattern itself was easy. It’s doing intarsia on a rib that needs to be fairly stretchy. I tried it once and didn’t like the end result, so I pulled out what took me all of Kung Fu Panda to do and did it again. That was smart. This time, when I carried the yarn across the back, I took a spare DPN (double pointed needle), wrapped the yarn around twice, anchored it in the sweater and then twisted it. This gave me the proper and consistent amount of play that I needed.

Now I mentioned this to my coworker Sallie, who knits. In fact, Sallie knits VERY well. Sallie has been to Ireland on yarn tours and Sallie is not financially well off enough to do this on a whim. Sallie is a true master of the needles. When people tell me I’m a very good knitter, I tell them I’m not even the best knitter on my office floor (of 10 people, of which 3 are men.) Don’t get me wrong; Sallie is awesome and supportive and would be very “don’t be ridiculous” but Sallie definitely gives me something to strive for. And without saying a thing, Sallie keeps me humble. This is a good thing.

Anyway, I mentioned it to Sallie, who does far more intarsia type of knitting than I. I’m more of a yarn over kind of a girl, actually, but I’ve done some of this, just not lots and lots. Sallie tells me, which I always forget, to catch the yarn in the back. SO … I think I’m going to try a combination of the DPN and the catching in the back for this big pattern. The small pattern was 8 rows and not so bad. But this big one? 34 rows. This is the real centerpiece of the whole sweater.

What will you knit in public today?

An Ode to a Fifth Grade Teacher

Remember a couple months or so back when the FB post about sharing crafts went around? Something along the lines of “I’ll make something for the first five people that respond. In exchange, they make something for me and they also make something for five other people.” Remember that? Well, I’ve been slack. Here it is June and I hadn’t sent out the first thing out of the six that I needed to make. Until today.

Today, I sent out the first one and it is to my friend and former fifth grade teacher Bivens R. I made her a hat. Actually, when I made the hat, I wasn’t certain who it would be for, to be honest. I thought it might be mine. So, sorry Bivens, but this is a slightly used hat as I have worn it once. It looked good, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t typically wear hats and I was way too aware of it all day long. So, Ms. Bivens, I am giving you a hat that was made with the attention and care of something I would make for myself. The yarn is from Tilli Tomas, their beaded silk and the pattern is from Stitch Diva. (You can google it, too lazy to link it.) It is the knit version, not the crochet one.

Bivens and I rediscovered each other on, where else, FACEBOOK where I responded to a status from a woman in town that I know because I used to babysit her kids. I’m friends with my former babysittee, her husband and her kids. Her son is a hoot on FB even though he totally ignores anything I put out there. I guess I don’t impress James now that he isn’t eight anymore, sigh. She sent me a message to make sure I was the same Christine Ulbrich that she had in class for fifth grade, which … was a very long time ago. Indeed, I was that Christine Ulbrich and so we friended each other. I put it out on FB that we were now friends and she had been, in a landslide to say the least, my very favorite fifth grade teacher. That I still remembered her teaching me the difference in principle and principal that principal was the guy at the school because he was my pal. And stationary and stationery … the one with the “e” was for writing lEtters. And the comments rolled in. From all over the place, too, including a woman who lives in Chicago. Lots of stories. This is so cool, because we had this woman for a teacher a long time ago. How many of you remember your teachers from that long ago? There are a few, to be certain, but they were the special ones. Or the super-rotten ones. And Bivens was not rotten, to say the least.

So, Bivens, enjoy the hat! I hope you wear it well and that you love it. And I expect my craft to show up soon. ;-)

Lebowski wind up

Finally, I got the rest of my yarn. The third color is not quite as dark as I’d like it to be, but I’ve decided it’s going to be just fine. And this won’t be like the white either. It’s just that the two browns are fair close in tone, but they are different enough to work.

In the meantime, I’ve been making some socks. I found this cool little pattern on and the first two socks went quite quickly! So did the third. But this fourth sock? Well, I’m done with it. Ready for it to be finished. A little tired of knitting in circles, I believe.

So I’ll take a break and get on this sweater for a couple of days. In the meantime, I wound some of the yarn. I do not have a yarn winder. I’m just too cheap to spend on something NOT yarn, really, plus they tend to clamp on tables, which would probably freak out my husband. I’d been draping it over my knees and winding it that way. Sometimes that worked and sometimes it was nightmare. So, I went back to my original yarn winder, that is to say, my captain’s chairs. These chairs are nearly older than I am. I believe my parents bought them when I was a preschooler and I am old, folks. They gave them to me when I set up my own house and I painted them black and put leaves on it. The arms are a great winder and that works much much better. Well, not as great as a real winder, but good enough that I’m not tempted to buy one and have one more thing in the house. Only other problem: my winding system attracts vermin.