Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Post With No Name

Today we veged around the house all morning - Gerry took the kids for a drive to buy milk and find a playground we'd spied before (they couldn't find it...) and I spent the alone time writing up two patterns for IK's book, Folk Style (they were late - sorry Mags!) and tried as best as I could to answer email on this dial-up line at the lake. S L O W. How soon we forget the miracle of the internet and take for granted DSL speed!

This afternoon while Gerry and Maxie canoed around the lake (three lakes, to be exact), Hannah and I went into Minneapolis to visit yarn shops. Actually, I got lost (I misread the map), sort of, and it took me until 5:00 to make my way to Clickity Sticks. It was great to meet Tamara in person - Hannah fell in LOVE with her and the shop (and tried on EVERY hat, scarf and jacket in the store, and modeled every purse...) and I bought a few balls of yarn (including their shop brand, Treliske merino wool.

There was a knitting group meeting at Clickity Sticks (which, incidentally, will be one of my sponsor shops when I teach here in MN in November) but I'd promised Deb that I'd meet her group & a partner group at Nina's in St. Paul - so off Hannah and I went!

I was chagrined when I realized, after walking in and asking if this was where the knitting group met, that two of the women had been in my Thursday class at Creative FIbers, but they understood (it must be vacation-brain - yeah, that's it...) It was lovely to see Louise again (from the Yarnover) and to meet Deb in person (who had invited me!)

I was having a wonderful time - in some ways the best time I've had (what is better than sitting with an iced coffee, checking my email, knitting and meeting new friends!) and then every 15 minutes a small red-headed girl would say to me, "Mawwwm, you said we were going home at seven!"

She wasn't to be assuaged with Neopets all night, so we left around 8:15 - and I thoroughly enjoyed EVERY minute I spent in the cathedral section of St. Paul (an area I hadn't visited - it's SO beautiful! Hannah said, "Mom, it's like a clean New York!" I thought it was more like Brooklyn...)

Above is a panoramic view of the lovely knitting ladies at Ninas - you should stop by, it's a great place!

(oh, Ellen, I'll bet we HAVE been in every house you pass! We're narrowing it down, tomorrow more houses in St. Paul and a few in Minneapolis! We're also looking at a home in Hopkins tomorrow - can't wait to see that area)

Tomorrow we're having dinner with Jennie The Potter (wife of our erstwhile real estate agent, Joe, who has been adopted by Max as his god-father...) for dinner and a stroll to Minnihaha Falls. (One day I have GOT to read Song of Hiawatha... I promise I will before we move here. Do they make kids learn that in Kindergarden, here?)

I'm incoherent. I'm trying to blog at 11:00 pm while simultaneously playing a game of killer Sorry! with Gerry and the kids and watching David Letterman. Gerry's been grumbling through the whole thing like a Hanna-Barbara villian and - of course - he just won. Does life get any more exciting?

Good night. Sorry.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Foul Weather Fair

It's absoutely the BEST time to go to any outside event when it's cloudy, intermittently raining and folks are scared off by possible thunderstorms. Ah, life is good for the very, very fair people on a rainy day at the fair. No sunburn, no sunblock, and very few lines!

The kids were NUTS to get to the rides, of course, but as we passed the young farmer exhibit they changed their minds. They absolutely LOVED the little tasks they had to do (why is that so hard at home?) and enjoyed every step of their farm "day." They were given a dollar of play money to spend (Max got Lucky Charms, Hannah chose can of corn - excellent to carry around all day...) and we were off to sit in every John Deere device ever invented.

If Max could just move from tractor to earth mover all day, not even turning the equipment on, just sitting on it, it would make him happier than anything else. We had to DRAG him away from this - honestly, he didn't enjoy the rides half as much as sitting on these tractors.

But we did go on to the rides. We didn't understand that we were in the kiddieland section, the kids really seemed to enjoy the thrills, so when we finally wandered onto the MIDWAY I thought they were going to EXPLODE! A total of 50 tickets went a LONG way - and when we got down to the last 8 tickets it was a hard decision. Here's how we divided them up:

6 tickets for Whack A Mole
(Han, Max and Mom played - Mom won a dog)
2 tickets for another carny game
(Max rolled 5 balls into 5 slots and win a piggie - Hannah got the dog)

Life is good.

Here are the promised extra pictures of the fair - the SideShow...

The Award Winning Cakes

Max Bonds With Piggie

We ended at the Creative Arts building (I kept looking, but couldn't seem to find it...) I loved the knitting I saw - these clogs were so simply made and SO lovely! But I especially liked this stamp collection - it just seems to sum up the stereotype about Minnesota, eh?

We ended our day at the fair by stopping by Barnes & Noble, where Gerrry and kids dropped me off so I could get online to check email, etc., while they went across the street to Famous Dave's for dinner. When they returned I had a few loose ends to tie up, so they wandered around the mall and Hannah befriended a college girl working at Merle Norman and chatted with her for quite a while. The girl, Colleen, was SO kind - so wonderful to Hannah - who is in that heroine-worship stage of being 9 years old.

Hannah has told us that it's okay now for us to move to Minneosta because she has a new friend (Colleen).

It's funny - all day long I was thinking of my mom - of her ability to outsmart the rain (it always seemed to stop when she needed it to) and how we were experiencing some of her good luck at the fair. Then the whole Merle Norman thing just sealed it. It's the only makeup mom wore - she loved it - and when she passed on and we took her body to WV for burial I forgot to bring her cosmetics. I stopped by the Merle Norman in Parkersburg and the women there were SO kind, giving me all kinds of samples for the folks at the funeral home to use. I know this sounds a little ghoulish, I'm sorry, but it was such an odd thing for Hannah to make a new 'friend' at my mom's old make-up haunt.

Mall of Whose America?
After looking at a few houses yesterday (two of which are excellent for us (one as a single family in St. Paul and another as a duplex in Minneapolis - we're leaning toward a single family...) we had a great lunch at the Hennepin Diner (WHAT an excellent fajita wrap!) with our Real Estate agent who suggested that if we were going to visit the Mall of America anyway, and since we were going to attend the Twins Game that night, that after we finish our shopping and thrill riding we take the train to the Metrodome and then take the train back to pick up the car.

It sounded like a plan - also a chance to see the Light Rail in action - and would force a time limit to the MOA portion of our trip (I don't think Gerry or I were thrilled about it, but the kids wanted to see it, and I was curious, too...)

We parked at one side of the mall, but then learned that the light rail was on the OTHER side. So we drove around the mall and parked closer to it so when we came back from the game we'd have not so far to walk. We entered the mall, found the entrance to the light rail and asked the woman at the information booth if she knew how long it would take to get to the dome.

Now - please bear in mind that we knew that we'd be spending some $$ at the mall (we ended up dropping about $50 between rides for the kids and books). Just keep that in mind.

- Excuse me - do you know how long the train trip is to the Metrodome?

- [nastily]If you're planning on going to the game, you'll have to move your car to the lot on 28th street. Our parking is ONLY for patrons of the mall.

- We are shopping at the mall.

The woman was such a - well - such a playground supervisor. I can understand that there may be a problem with folks parking and going to the game, but we were going to be shopping (it just seems ludicrous that we'd park our car in a rather empty lot, then shop, then MOVE the car to another CROWDED lot - this was a Tuesday evening...)

This woman was the first, the absolute #1 person we'd run into so far in Minnesota who was downright rude. It wasn't so much what she said, but her attitude told us that she assumed the worst about us, and was going to give us a stern lecture about it. I said to her, almost laughing, "You're the first person we've met here who wasn't really, really nice!" Gerry, more pragmatic, asked, "So do you know how long the train ride is? We're planning on shopping here and probably having an early dinner at the mall..."

Not very happily, she slid off of her stool and got a train schedule and handed it to us as she said, Well, I certainly hope you're intending on patronizing some of our tenants...

And that got under my skin. It made me feel so sad - but I think that was an upshot of a VERY stressful week (mostly happy stress, but stress none the less) that it affected me so strongly. Gerry and the kids ran off to ride the rides, I shopped for a book and had a cup of tea and checked my email. Life on the road.

When we left our car in the lot to take the train I made sure we left our receipts and ticket stubs on our dashboard so that anyone who was interested would see that yes, indeed, we had spent money with the tenants at the MOA. In full disclosure, the information guy at Barnes & Noble and the cafe counter person there were as nice as they could be!

The game? It was fine - odd to be inside such a big room, and the Twins lost (which was sad) and which also really PO'd the teenage boys behind us. They seemed to be about the age to go in a group to the game for the first time, and were swearing and yelling (but it was oddly entertaining - as if they weren't quite good at it, yet, but thought that's what guys were supposed to do at a game...) The train ride back to the car was long and crowded - but nowhere NEAR as crowded as a subway ride! We were all happy to get home last night into our beds.

Today I'm taking Hannah on a yarn crawl in the Twin Cities, and then to a knitting group in St. Paul. That way Gerry and Max can do some "guy" canoeing (to the other side of Lake Algae) with no girls to muck things up.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Campfires & Red Carpets

Last night after just hanging out around the lake rental, driving up to St. Cloud for some lunch and then back home for another killer game of Sorry!, the kids and Gerry and I started a little fire in the pit down by the lake - bunching up newspapers and laying out the logs. It was a good fire, if a little smoky (which was actually wonderful as it kept the mosquitoes away - I don't think I was bit once!)

Every now and then I'd run back up to the house to check and see if they'd gotten to the category I was waiting to see - Best Actor in a Miniseries. Finally there was Helen Mirren (looking remarkable!) and Hugh Laurie announcing the nominees.

I was bummed that they weren't showing the nominees sitting in the audience (as they usually do) but instead projected a little montage of them in their nominated roles. That meant that Andre would HAVE to win if there was a chance of showing Ami in the dress. Fingers and toes crossed - the envelope...

"Andre Braugher for 'Theif!'"

I was SO excited!

Not only is he a great guy - just a really wonderful person and a heck of a dad - but Andre's an absolutely amazing actor. YAY!! And, of course, his series has been cancelled, like so many of the award winners - what is UP with that?

My happiness turned to pillow-throwing, all-out yelling GLEE when he thanked his wife, Ami, and the camera showed her (oh, all too briefly!) wearing the RED DRESS!

In all honesty, I didn't know if she'd be wearing the dress. She'd picked out a stunning brown gown, very simple, and I thought she might go with that. I was SO jazzed that she chose my dress. She wrote to me a few days before the award, "It's so simple and sexy. The length is perfect. It's lightweight and has that retro/classy look about it. I can't wait to show Andre. He's gonna love it."

That's the absolute best thing I could have read!

I'm so happy for both of them - and, of course, I'm happy for me, too. Even better, after all of my screaming and happy shouting, the kids came up, we hugged, then we all went back down to the lake and toasted marshmallows and ate smores until bedtime. And that is exactly the best thing in the world to do after you've seen a dress you've designed (and knitted) at an awards show on national TV.

I may work up the pattern and sell it - it's a nice shape and very flattering - I have to see what Ami feels would be the right thing to do (in a way, it's HER dress...)

And, the icing on the cake? Ami's a knitter - she loves knitting, she's good at it (she learned by knitting socks in Maryland during Homicide) and that's how we became friends, as knitting buddies. All good things through yarn. I'm telling you, the stars were in alignment on this one! And, yes, I did knit the dress in absolute record time, and my fingers still have the blisters to prove it.

At any rate, I would absolutely LOVE that tape, Sorka - thank you SO much for going to the effort of taping it!!

Scrip Update
Target to the rescue!! My Dr. phoned the scrip into Target today, we stopped by on our way to the State Fair (much, much about the amazing time we had there today) and picked up the albuterol. It was so easy, and everyone was SO nice. (I hate when folks characterize the NYC area as full of rude folks, but it is true that I do get tired of the underlying nastiness quotient that you have to deal with on a daily basis over stupid little things - like picking up prescriptions - when folks make you feel like you've ruined their day with any request, no matter how small.)

Folks here are just so - darned - NICE! I am loving it. And my kids don't seem odd when they say, "Please" and "Thank you" - at least they don't get the comments, "What nice children!" that they do back home, everyone here seems to say it. That's nice, too.

And we found on-street parking for the State Fair 1 1/2 blocks from the main gate. Could life be better?

Tomorrow - Our Day At The Great Minnesota Get-Together
I won a stuffed dog at Whack a Mole - or should that be Whack A Gopher?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

First Night At Chez Greenwater

We spent the day looking at homes in St. Paul (and saw some LOVELY ones!) getting new ones on our list and scoping out properties that we won't be able to get into until later this week. I think the more we look the more we are settled on a Duplex (if we can find a good one - we'd love a side by side!) to help offset living expenses if a job isn't in the immediate future for Gerry.

At least once every day I've asked myself, "Just why am I moving my family here?" and as soon as I have that thought Gerry or the kids says something like, "We really love it here!" Of course, this is after 2 days. I think I'm having an overwhelming sense of responsibility that if I'm the catalyst to move us here, I'll be the one to blame if it doesn't work out...

I said to Gerry, "What if we just moved farther out in NJ? Away from the really high taxes?" He answered that he'd still have the job he hates and a longer commute. The truth is, I feel in my heart that he needs a break with the NY area. As long as we're near NYC, he knows that he can get steady money working Union jobs which don't satisfy him, and create such an overwhelming sense of dead-end I'm-heading-nowhere-ness that infects all of us.

If Gerry isn't happy, none of us can be happy - we all love him so much!

So we're crossing our fingers that when/if we move here/somewhere he'll find something that will make him feel more connected with what he loves, more appreciated and happier to go to work. I'm lucky - I can do what I do anywhere...

A Pharmacutical Thank You!
Going to Target or another pharmacy and having them call my Dr. at home was a GREAT idea - I'll do that as soon as the pharmacy opens on Monday. As I said, I'm running low (not out) and if I do run out I think I can probably get a rescue inhaler at any Emergency Room, but who wants to get into that situation. I'm still tearing up my luggage looking for my spare, which is probably on my dining room table...

Things I've Noticed
In the first few days here we've definitely noticed that on the side streets drivers are so great, but on the highway they're a whole other animal! I've also noticed that folks are very nice, very kind, wave a LOT, and also feel compelled to make comments about you (to you).

This morning while you're working online in Panera's, after I'd kissed the kids goodbye while Gerry took them off to the park so I could work online & answer email, an older man sitting next to me turned and said, "You know, there IS more to life than that computer..."

Yeah, thanks. I got that.

Not rude, just - well - interested - with the tiniest hint of judgement.

I've also noticed that my own annoying habit of talking to every baby I see is much better recieved here than in NJ (where sometimes I get the feeling folks think I'm about to walk away with the baby in question (Why would she pay so much attention to a kid that's not hers?)

Dad To The Rescue
So we arrived at the rental and it's much nicer inside than we had any right to imagine! Unfortunately, due to the really HOT weather here this Summer, the lake is an algae fest and not really swimable. Darn.

The kids were pretty disappointed, upset even, and I was thinking, "WHAT did we get ourselves into?" when after Dinner last evening Gerry said, "Hey kids, want to take the canoe out?" They paddled around the lake for a bit, enough to make them happier than I've seen in weeks, then home to the rental house.

Swimming is out, no fishing (no license!), but we can CANOE with the best of them!

Tomorrow is the State Fair, and Tuesday evening we're going to a Twins Game (we're sitting in the family section - anyone want to join us for a Stitch & Pitch?) The rest of the week will probably take care of itself, we're leaving a lot of time open for the museums, the Mall of America (high on Hannah's list) and the other stuff you guys are telling me about - thanks so much for the suggestions!

Further Assistance Requested
If any of you computer savvy folks are going to be watching the emmys, know how to tivo something and send it on to me (or youtube it or whatever...) I would so greatly appreciate it. I'm not sure if we'll be able to actually SEE the emmy's tonight (reception difficulties) and we definitely won't be able to TAPE them. Just a shoutout to anyone who might do this relatively easily - I'll be very, very grateful!!!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Hells Dentists

Before I start the entry today, I feel I should mention our flight out here.

We were prepared for a VERY long wait, so we arrived at 5:30 for our 7:20 am flight. It may have been the time of day, or the luck of the draw, or the fact that our driver dropped us (intentionally) at the very last Continental curbside check-in point, but we had our bags checked and were on our way to the security gate in short order. I did notice, though, as we were triumphantly heading up to the gate that the short line we'd been in had grown to about 40 people in 10 minutes. Timing is EVERYTHING!

When we got up to security we got in what seemed to be the right line, and the guy who sent us through grumbled a little about "folks getting in the wrong line" but he let us pass (yay!) Apparently we'd wandered into the Elite Access line - the sign was askew and it wasn't clear which line it was pointing to - so we got through security in, at least for me, record time.

Before we left we made a conscious effort to pack as little carry on as possible (just 2 bags between us, plus fanny packs for the kids) with no liquids, etc. Jacqui's clear Woolwinders bag was also key to us getting through - at least that's what I think!

The kids were fascinated by the moving sidewalk, there were cartoons on the TV monitor in our small downstairs waiting area, and once on the plane it was not totally filled so we were able to spread out a bit. The food was remarkably good because it was so simple (cheerios & a banana, juice, tea - just a nice breakfast!) and we arrived in MN feeling healthy and pretty calm for such an early morning flight.

It Had To Happen
From the time we got here everyone's been SO nice, the kids remarked that when someone finally WAS rude it would be really noticable!

It happened yesterday. A guy on a motorcycle (hey, what is it with no helmets here in MN? I mean, I understand the whole 'helmet laws suck' culture, but do you really want to be riding a donorcycle?) and I approached a merge about the same time. He was going a little slower than me, and it didn't seem like a bit deal, so I merged in ahead of him. Not cut in, not cut him off, not anything bad - just safely maintained my speed. To let him in first I would have had to come to a complete stop, and to be honest I REALLY didn't want some guy on a souped up hog with no helmet in front of me - I don't need the responsibility for someone else's Freedom over Sanity attitude.

But this really, REALLY, pissed off the middle aged, balding, eye-glass wearing, paunchy dentist on a souped up Harley. He tailed us for quite a while, buzzing up close, at one point he drove right alongside of us and yelled in the window, "It's not a *&$^ing race, lady!" Okay, then why are you right next to me??! Oy. As if that would rattle me. Piker. I slowed down to let him go all the way around me, but apparently either he lost his nerve or he just liked the view from behind the sky-blue PT Cruiser.

He was more annoying than anything else, but it wasn't fun for the kids. I made it fun by asking Hannah to take a picture of the guy, and she pondered for quite a while whether he deserved to be called a "dude", or whether that was too good for him. He was no dude, he was just an a*$hole.

Pretty Homes, High Expectations
We saw 3 homes yesterday, we're going to go for about 6 today. What we saw were nice, but of course none were right. The one we liked the best had the same feeling, color scheme, architecture of our home in NJ, but at about 3/4 the size. Gerry and I are BOTH amazed at the general small size of homes here (he thinks it has to do with the price of heating a house) and I have to admit that so far we've seen more things we like in St. Paul (for some reason there's a lot of gardening there - perhaps it's because the yards seem slightly bigger? This is after a week in April and a day, so don't be too hard on my first observations!)

What's amazing to me - well, maybe not so amazing given the real estate boom in the past few years - is the prices that some of these folks are asking for their homes! I had mentioned to several folks who commented that we'd find houses SO much cheaper out here that on my last trip I'd noticed that the houses we'd be interested in were going for roughly what we expect - hope - to get for our house in NJ. Having said that, we'd like to get at least the same rough size of our home in NJ (which is NOT big, but it's well designed with big bedrooms and lots of usable space.

In our box of tools are tax information sheets on many of the homes we're looking at (the internet is a wonderous thing...) so we can see what the current land and building assessments are, and also when the house last sold and what the price was. This gives us a rough - also taking the taxes into account - of what the house might be worth in a less volatile market. Since it's pretty obvious - to me at least- that the market isn't going to stay strong forever, we need to keep all of this in mind so we can find a home that will retain value and not be a bubble house.

The worth of a home can only be determined when someone's willing to pay a certain price for it. You can ask $340K all day long; but if the house is assessed at $270K, the taxes reflect $260K and the house was purchased 2 years ago for $148K, I'M, not going to be the one to pay $340K. Of course, I could be wrong (and folks are going to be making the same value judgements about our house when it's on the market in a month!) and if someone will pay $340 for a 1,200 sq ft house, then good on the seller!

So with this attitude we sally forth to look at more homes today - and the SUN IS OUT!! Here's what greeted me as I drove to Creative Fibers the other day - ah, it's just like my childhood in Toledo!

Alert! Are there any MN physicians who can write me a scrip for albuterol? I can't find my replacement inhaler and I'm getting low. Not an emergency, but I don't have a doctor out here and might need to get a rescue inhaler before I end up at an emergency room Thanks.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Welcome to Small World, MN

So we're here at the Marriott in Eden Prairie (good location and a kitchenette - excellent for kids) and decided to run over to the Cub to get some groceries. As I'm feverishly bagging the groceries (I'm so out of practice) a voice behind me says, "Well, I hate to interrupt, but hello, Annie!"

I cannot believe it - how odd! A student from one of my classes at Yarnzilla when I was here last happened to notice Hannah (and Gerry and Max and me) and also happened to be bagging her groceries at the same time. So - the first time I'm ever recognized for anything in a supermarket and it's in Minnesota. Is this a sign?

The kids are taking to this place like loons to a lake - or kids to a pool.

Please note that the temperature today was 68 and it was overcast - yet they INSISTED on swimming in the outdoor pool. I slept. Gerry did Dad duty while he read the help wanted page of the local paper.

I'm leaving in a few minutes to go up to Creative Fibers to teach a class on Combo knitting. I tried for quite a while today to get my handout to print in the "business center" here, but to no avail. It is the continuing saga of a girl and her inability to print out handouts...

After this class, I'm free for a week. Albeit, free with conditions - a LARGE box of yarn arrived for me here from Lana Grosso for a dress I'm working up for VK, just when I think I'm getting away they keep dragging me back...

I can't wait to see who I run into at the Caribou Coffee - maybe an old college chum?

Oh - the piece de resistance - once again we're in a PT CRUISER! Life is pretty damned good.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

At Long Last - I Give You Emmy!

Now, be advised that I'm not sure if she'll be wearing it, but it's finished - we had a fitting and it looks really nice - a good color (and a bra dyed to match...) However, there IS a backup dress, and I told her that when push comes to shove she needs to wear the dress that makes her feel the most beautiful. We'll see...

The yarn is Playful Weekend by Classic Elite. It's a 100% silk ribbon, and when it's knitted up it has the most wonderful velvety - suedey look to it, and it was a pleasure to knit with!

Here's the front detail, and what the hem looked like after the crochet edging. Each row of that edging took me a half an hour - it's a very FULL skirt...

It's midnight, the car is coming at 5:00 to take 3 Landy's and 1 Modesitt to the airport. The dog is at the kennel (and we miss him so much already!) The cats are arranged for (neighbor will be feeding and loving them.) The bags are packed except for toothbrushes. We have no liquids or scissors in our carryon luggage and the boarding passes are printed out. My big question/worry is that the hotel won't let us check in early (so I can nap before my class tomorrow) but I have a feeling that will resolve itself.

So enjoy the Emmy's on Sunday - if you see a beautiful black actress in a red knit gown, it might be mine!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Models Are Brave

You'll notice this model is sitting mere inches from the GIANT CICADA-KILLER WASP that invaded our shoot. We had these in our front yard a few years ago, so I sounded frighteningly like Cliff Claven (uh, yeah, your average cicada killer wasp won't actually STING anyone, they're more interested in killing cicadas, hence the name...) Eventually we gave up on this shot, but the wasp had nothing to do with it. Really. Honest.

Did I mention how spectacular and gorgeous Old Westbury Gardens were? I could have stayed here all day (hey, I did!) and I will LOVE going back for more visits. It's not far from my Mother in law's house - the kids would really love this place!

I have a traffic problem with Maryland - or, rather, with my drives to Maryland. This was a real DOOZIE, the Delaware Memorial Bridge was bumper to bumper, and it didn't get any better for a LONG time. The drive took me a long time. I could have been knitting...

Look at this groovy truck. Cool, man. Anyone have any Doritos?

Obviously, I found my camera, it was in the pocket of one of my several Potter Craft Bags. Love those bags...

Monday, August 21, 2006

Rounding Third

I feel as if I'm coming to the end of a long, long summer of work!

The Emmy dress is going pretty well, I think I should be able to finish it by Wednesday. I have two pieces that I'm putting the finishing touches on (is a sleeve a finishing touch?) that I have to send out this evening to Colorado. With the finish of those three pieces my summer of work will be complete. Oh - and a class in Minneapolis on Thursday (the day we arrive in the Twin Cities...)

This weekend I taught at Woolwinders in Rockville, MD and it was a joy - as always! I taught a knitting with beads class, my first time teaching it, and it felt like a successful out-of-town tryout. Thanks, Jacqui, for once again giving me such a great group to try my material out on!

I love Jacqui's shop, I love her customers and her staff - such wonderful folks! After a few days of the photo shoot I drove down on Saturday (a 3-1/2 hour drive that took about 7 hours this time... yikes! BAAAAAAD traffic on 95!) It felt great to arrive, sit down to dinner with Jacqui and her knitting husband Lew and sons, have a great dinner and then settle in for an evening of knitting. Life is good!

After the second class was over on Sunday I drove back home (this time up 15 to 81 to 78 and I was home in 3-1/2 hours!) and settled in here for another evening of knitting. Life continues to be good.

Except for the stress of deadlines; which are never fun - and the stress of trying to find common ground between different editorial and artistic visions; which is only to be expected - it's been a wonderful summer of working at home.

Oh, How We Danced
Thirteen years ago today Gerry and I were married. It was exactly 9 months to the day after he'd heard me on the radio (that's how we met...) and - even with the rough spots - I think we both feel pretty happy and lucky. Some days happier and luckier than others... I n celebration today was the first day that we had our lawn cut for us by Anthony & Son (Tony) and I'm very happy we did. Our lawn mower broke 2 weeks ago, I could tell Gerry wasn't 100% thrilled with shopping for a new one, and with us going away for a week and perhaps putting the house up on the market it seemed like a good idea to just have the lawn done for a spell. So far, so good! My own anniversary gift to Gerry -

I didn't realize that today was the day my segment on knitting the corset top would be on Knitty Gritty, but there it is! I found out because I'd received about 15 orders in an hour for the pattern (it's slowed down, that must have been when it was first on!) and I KNEW something was up! I haven't been in touch with them about doing a show this year - I really should - but I just can't see how I can spare the time, etc. Oy. It's so much planning because the guests have to pay for themselves to get out there, so I have to line up teaching gigs, etc., to make the trip pay. If you saw the segment and liked it (I don't have cable so I never get to see these - happily!) and/or just like Knitty Gritty in general, please email the DIY network and let them know - that would be a great favor, thanks! When they hear from happy viewers, they're more likely to keep a knitting show on the air!

Oh, for those who are interested, the Corset Pattern DOES have an additional little extra pattern for adding sleeves!

Photo Free
I left my camera in Maryland. At least, I hope I did! I can't find it - so I'm thinking I left it on the table in the yarn shop. No pictures for a bit... Darn!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Hello Ms. Rubber, allow me to introduce you to Mr. Road...
(or, scorn is easy, respectful communication is hard...)

A hard day at the salt mines today!

I think it must be the hardest thing for your work to be a spectator sport. I feel that way when I teach, and I have the same feeling about models and photographers and folks who have to perform their job in front of a bunch of gawkers, well-wishers (and no-so-well wishers.)

And it becomes clearer to me why there are so many art shots of sweaters in books and magazines, and so few good, clear shots of the knitterly details that make a sweater comprehensible to the average knitter. You see, it's all so - well - J. Jill... (I'll explain later)

We all like to feel that we can express ourselves in our work, be creative and artistic. But there are restrictions and parameters, some of which can feel tighter and more constraining than others. Hand-knit & crocheted design is like no other kind of designing; aside from the creation and execution of the garment, instructions must be written so that an average knitter can decipher them and recreate the sweater. Key are the visual clues; schematics, charts, and not least, the actual photo of the sweater.

It's like writing a sonnet - rules must be followed, but within those parameters there can be great creativity. Finding a way to bridge the creative and the pragmatic is the hard nut to crack.

No one likes to feel like they're an automaton - mechanically dishing out what someone else has cooked. We determine if this is how we view ourselves, though. I realize that it must be very hard to be a photographer and have folks tell you what shot they need, what's vital to be communicated, when all you want to do is take a beautiful and compelling picture. However, making needs known is not a show of disrespect - it's communication.

So what have I learned in the past two days? Here are the unspoken lesson I've gleaned:

The lowest form of photography - to an artistic photographer - is catalog work.
A knitting book is just slightly above catalog work in the evolutionary scale of for-pay photography
It is possible for a hairstyle to be too J. Jill... (who knew?)
Questioning two styling choices (out of dozens) is a sign of disrespect. (once again, who knew?)
When a photographer says, "What detail do you want here?" there is no right answer. Or at least there wasn't today.

The real difficulty began and ended with two styling elements I questioned: The White Cloche Incident of Thursday spilled over into Friday when I made matters worse by questioning a pair of pants.

The lace peplum top had been styled with a pair of tattersall trousers, but because of the lace ruffle that runs around the bottom of the piece, the pairing looked very busy around the crotch area. This particular sweater is a really hard garment to style - it has odd lines, it's unusual. I felt that - being one of the more feminine pieces - a skirt would work better (and would provide a flat background to show off the lace.)

By questioning the pants I had crossed some invisible line, which was unfortunate. I brought in a few skirts, one of which we ended up using for this shot, and apparently that compounded my sin. Shoots are hard - so many raw feelings, such a heightened sensitivity permeates everything. At the end of the day the work was done, I think the photos will be absolutely gorgeous, and although I had to struggle for some of the shots which I hope will demonstrate the techniques clearly, we got them.

It just feels a shame that I had to push hard for some of them. Why asking for a skirt instead of pants for one shot should be the cause of so much grief is both a great mystery, and also painfully obvious - artists have pride, pride can get hurt.

The frustration of the photographer was palpable. It was the frustration of somone who had control of all of the details of the shoot (from the location to her stylist) only to find that she also had the input of a wacky and strong minded designer who felt it was vital to communicate knitting details in the photographs. I felt bad, the photographer felt stifled (hence the J. Jill crack, and other comments about catalog work...) but oddly - the day was still enjoyable!

I absolutely adored the hair and makeup woman, we laughed all day, and the models were so sweet! Our escort at the gardens, Hazel, was terrific and the stylist and I were able to carve a working relationship and even feel a nice bit of respect for each other at the end (I hope...) The book designer and I bonded a bit - and everyone breathed a sigh of relief that the last day of the shoot - mostly still life shots - will be designer & art director free.

Having been in this situation from the other side (as a stylist) I know how hard it is - sometimes the hardest thing in the world. I do appreciate that.

However, I have to admit that the absolute best moment in the day came when the assistant photographer looked up at the model as the above outfit was being shot and innocently commented to the stylist, "I like that skirt - it's really nice!

That was priceless.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

"You look beautiful, baby - can you give me a little less neck crease?"

Yes, I heard those words spoken today in total seriousness. I told the model sotto voce that lack of neck crease is KEY to being a good hand knit model. She laughed - yay! The models were gorgeous, the hair and makeup stunning, the styling was edgy and creative and the photography seems amazing (hard to tell until the finals come back, but the polaroids look WONDERFUL!

I waffle between feeling like a useless moron (I was introduced repeatedly to the crew as, "The Knitter"), vital to the endeavor (I made some nice decisions about garment fit) and a stick in the spokes (I didn't like a white [WHITE] cloche hat and my dislike of it seemed to be the cause of some slightly hard feelings. They'll mend. It's life. I hated being Ms. Bad Guy, but really, the model looked like a Vegas Bobby - all the hat needed was a badge - and you know when I don't like a hat it's a hard-to-love hat...)

But overall it was good I was there. Sort of. Yes. Of course.

I'm going back tomorrow. Wish me luck. I'm tired. I have to knit.

At one point a group of older women walked by, were intruiged by the shoot and watched a while. I felt like I had groupies.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I <3 Eddie Bauer

There's no key for [heart], so I'm using the Omega. Perhaps this is better?

I Eddie Bauer

But is it possible for non-mac folks to see that?

At any rate, I do love my EB. I'm a tall woman, those who've seen the latest IK know that I'm a broad broad, too. I don't like to be too fussy-dressy, and it's hard to find large-ish, tallish clothes that don't look too fussy or too lacey or too much like one is trying to pretend that one is 17 with a 32" bust. Even when I WAS 17 I didn't have a 32" bust.

So, I (^) Eddie Bauer. Does anyone have a cute type symbol for heart?

Things I've bought that I also love...

My Scunci

Nutrogena Wrinkle & Blemish Wash & Moisturizer (I bought this in Indianapolis when I lost my other moisturizer, and now I'm totall hooked - I love it!)

Softsoap Cashmere Body Wash (I adore this stuff, I put it in little bottles and take it with me when I travel - but not in my carry on luggage anymore...)

I have NO reason for mentioning these items - no affiliation with ANY of these products - but I love to hear what other folks use on their faces, etc., and I like to share. My neighbor swears by TONE soap, but has a hard time finding it, so whenever I'm shopping and I see it I pick some up for her.

Oh, Yeah - Knitting...
I'm knitting, knitting, knitting like there's no tomorrow. Here's where the Emmy dress is right now - fitting today went BEAUTIFULLY and it looks wonderful! The actress bought a standby dress shaped like this one (she didn't realize!) as a safety in case there's a terrible knitting incident. Or she doesn't like it. So see, it's kind of like my own personal project runway...

Monday, August 14, 2006

No Time For Celebration

The manuscript for Romantic Knits was delivered into my editor's hot little hands this morning by my most wonderful husband (thanks, Gerry!) YAY! Now, that doesn't mean that it's finished, no - not by a long shot - but it's like a game of hot potato and it's in Potter's hands now (hot potter-tato?) It will come back to me, I'll scramble and do revisions, but until that day I can forget the words Romance and Knit.

Well, not exactly.

I'm finishing up two items for Folk Knits, a vest based on a Chinese silhouette from the 19th C, and a Kaftan based on an Armenian example from a bit earlier.
The yarns weren't my original choice, and they're not bad, but it's amazing how working a yarn different than you've envisioned puts a crimp in the ol' artistic vision. I'm being too precious, must be all that Project Runway I've been watching...

AND - [drumroll] - I'm making headway on the Emmy Dress. It's red now, not blue (which I find VERY exciting since it will look amazing on the actress) and it's silk ribbon (which is exceptionally beautiful - and actually washes very nicely - but man, it's not the fastest stuff in the world to knit up!) I started the bodice this afternoon - here's 4 hours of knitting. Yeah, I know, it's a lot like the top of the corset, but the shaping is different and it will be a tea-length dress (if not floor...)

I'm preparing for a class down in Maryland this weekend (hi Jacqui!) and I'll be attending the photo shoot for Romantic Knits Oh, right, I wasn't going to use those words... It was a ROUGH weekend, you see, lots of math. My kids know when to avoid me "Mommy's in math hell right now - stay away!" and I don't see how I could EVERY have made sense of this whole mishigas without Donna - thank you SO much, Donna!! She still wants to see some of the items to double check the math, and that gives me the willies (not in a bad way, just in a - "Geeze, I hope I'm not screwed up!" way) but as soon as I'm able I'll send them off to her.

Hopefully I'll have some interesting background shots of the shoot. I'm not 100% sure if my editor / the Potter folks are totally down with me being at the shoot, but they've been very welcoming and I really DO want to see how these things are styled. The stylist is coming from San Fran, as is the photographer, and they'll be staying out in Long Island. This is going to be an most beautiful book!

Apparently on Wed afternoon/evening there's a fitting out there, and I KNOW that at least one dress has to be lengthened, so I really want to be there (and would like to just stay over so I don't lose all that knitting time sitting on the Belt Pkwy)

Driving out to Long Island and back - not my idea of a wonderful time - especially at rush hour! Thank heaven for books on CD!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Birthday Bonanza

I'm off to Target with the insane redheads to buy birthday gifts for 5 friends (FIVE) and for two older friends of mine. Yep, THAT'S how I like to spend a Saturday.

Who knew we had so many Leo friends?

Then it's back to work. I've not been posting as often as I'd like because I've been furiously writing, writing, writing - and in between that pattern checking, question answering, knitting, more pattern writing, more knitting, and just living!

It was the last week of camp so there were talent shows and goodbye parties, etc., and those things are necessary and eat a LOT of time. It's good though, to interact with other parents (on the other hand, that's where I was handed 3 of the above mentioned party invitations...) and always good to get to say Thanks to the teens who were summer camp counselors and wrangled the kids.

The camp is something I'll dearly miss when/if we move. There are so many good things about South Orange - and number one in my book is how truly (and beautifully) diverse this town is. We live in a very special place.

Monday, August 07, 2006

What is editing hell Alex ...?

This past Sat & Sun was a celebration of Romantic Knit corrections from my tech editor (actually the corrections come in the form of questions, much like Jeopardy) and I have to answer them in a timely manner. Here are the rules:

- I have to be nice.
- I have to look up any math weirdnesses (and there are WEIRD math discrepancies...) and fix (!) them
- I have to make decisions on verbiage that may or may not have been relatively unclear (like this sentence)
- I can't buzz in before the question is complete

And, at the same time, the lasers (galleys) for Men Who Knit came in on Thurs and HAD to be returned by 2:00 on Sat. It was fun times, let me tell you. Actually, the book looks extraordinary and I am absolutely THRILLED with the job Lark has done!

The way Romantic Hand Knits is configured the hardest patterns are in Chapter 1, then the medium hard ones, then the relatively easy ones. Not to knit - hard and easy to WRITE and EDIT! Several of the patterns in Chapter 1 were products of multiple knit attempts, and that always screws up the numbers because I'm inputting in a scattered state of miind.

But we got through all of it - hooray! Now I've started refining the non-pattern stuff (like all the bits in between the songs in a musical) The whole goya beanery has to be into my editors hot little hands by Friday (but she didn't specify what time...) and yesterday she dropped the bomb that the illustrations have to be worked up in illustrator. Afraid not. I used appleworks for the past book, I'll do it for this one - besides, the illustrations I turn in are just supposed to be a reference for THEIR illustrator to refine! Oy.

I also have two sweaters for Folk Style that I've been working on between the book edits, and that Emmy dress (for which the yarn arrived yesterday) needs to be whipped up. Whip, whip, whip! I also decided that I HATED the lace mitts I'd done for the book, so I reknit them (and now I hate THESE mitts, but only the color, which is easy to change...) and that was a few hours gone by.

I wish I were as fast as this spider. I remove her web every night, and the next day she's got a whole new one, just as big and just as full of moths and flies. Good eatin' at my house!

This morning I took a nice walk with the newly trimmed doggie while the kids slept. What a lovely day we'll have today - relatively cool, low-ish humidity - a perfect day to compile the pieces of a book. I hope the weather is as nice at the end of next week when we have the shoot for Romantic Knits. We're shooting out on Long Island, at Westbury Gardens (about 10 years ago I went to a dinner there - isn't that odd?) The kids are out of camp, so I'm not sure WHAT I'll do with them on those days. Gerry may be home one day and I may take them with me for a little visit to grandma's (she lives 10 miles from the shoot) on one of the days. Gerry could drive out and meet us after work and then we could all go out to dinner!

These are the models for the shoot - they're absolutely lovely! I can't wait to meet them in person and see all of my sweaters on them (not at the same time.) I don't have cable, but for two weeks NBC ran Project Runway in their Monday night lineup and it just took 2 shows for me to get hooked. I'm not ready to spring for cable yet, but I DID order the first season of the show from Netflix. Disc 1 arrived last week and my friend Athena came over and watched it with Hannah and me. (I ADORE that show! How can I get on it!???) It's so fascinating to see the interaction between the models and the designers (I think they're sort of pushihng the model stuff, though - I watch it for the CLOTHES and the DESIGNING ANGST!) I wonder if either of "my" models have been on the show...?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

House Sick (yet..?)

More kvelling.

We're getting finished with the details in the house - actually putting AWAY some of the stuff would be a nice gesture - and I have two mounds of work in front of me for the weekend. And a special shout-out to Marni for sending me a scan of the IK article - I hadn't read it yet (oh, merciful heavens, I don't look THAT fat, do I?) and it was SO nice to get a chance to peruse it! Issues to non-subscribers go out after the 8/8 release date

Here are the latest pics. Can I just say how much I LOVE Ikea for the continued excellent, simple decor choices in inexpensive but durable fabrics and materials? LOVE them! The blinds are $9.99 (on sale from $14) from Ikea, and the curtains are $14 for 2 panels (6 are used in the large window, 1 each for the smaller windows). The curtain rods are $5 and simple, simple, simple to put up.

I've also been haunting Home Depot for the spring curtain rods for the other rooms. I'm not the biggest curtain fan - I prefer simple shades - but when I do hang curtains quite often I like to just hang them within the window molding so that as much of the painted wood shows. These curtains are actually vintage embroidered dishtowels I found at a yard sale a few years ago and squirreled away. I don't think they were every actually used (a bridal shower gift?) and they seem very happy to finally be seeing the world (or at least my freshly painted kitchen!)

Gerry's room still needs blinds - we've removed the heavy, heavy, wooden valanced roll shades that had been up since 1956 (literally) and will replace them with something a little lighter. Oh, Ikea... I hear you calling my name... We weren't going to paint his room, just have the trim and ceiling painted, but when we removed all of the stuff so the painters could have a go at the trim I noticed that the walls weren't in as good shape as we thought. So the room was painted Green Tea to match our bedroom (it's right off the master bedroom - a lovely sleeping porch for the un-airconditioned days of 1927 when the house was built!)

I'm not sure how I'm going to get through what I need to get through this weekend - the laser prints are coming in for Men Who Knit today (they were due yesterday, but didn't show up and the tracking number my editor gave me doesn't work at the UPS site. She swears they'll be in today - and in the same email told me that I had to have them sent back to her on Saturday for a Monday delivery. Nothing like working all day on Saturday - I always do anyway, these days) I'm excited to see them.

I also have the first chapter of patterns from Romantic Knits to revise this weekend. THAT'S going to be a headache. My tech editor sent me notes and I have to turn them around and make corrections as soon as possible (the deadline on this book is insane). She also sent a very kind note suggesting that perhaps I'm doing too much. You think, Donna?

Sidebar: Donna is the author of the new and very wonderful book, Arctic Lace which I've had the pleasure of reading. We don't 100% agree on methods of knitting, but that's part of the fun and beauty of the knitting community! At any rate, it's a wonderful book to check out!

I think about that a lot. I am doing QUITE a bit

It's partly because I love it so much, and also, sadly, I have to admit that it's partly because pay for designers is so terrible. We earn less than the stylists, photographers and models who show off our designs in the mags, yet our work is so much more highly detail-oriented and time consuming.

I am NOT a detail person - I never have been - although I try to be when it's important. And, not being a detail person, I have to rely on detail-oriented folks (like my tech editor) to help me see the error of my many ways when I write a pattern. I can come up with the design concept, figure a way to make the garment drape interestingly, choose the right fiber, draft a schematic and even create a "muslin" or sample garment quite easily. It's the putting all of this into instruction form for FIVE SIZES that gets me fuddled sometimes - and, understandably - this is the most important part to the average knitter.

I think I'm going to try to move toward a model that works better for me. I'll try to divide the work of creating a design and writing a workable pattern for it up between myself and a detail oriented tech editor/writer who can take my notes and my initial pattern and make it more usable/workable. How I'll do this on the slim budget we designers get for each pattern is a mystery (I already pay more than 50% of any design fee to the knitters I use to work up that design - just because I'm not compensated as well as I'd like is no reason to stiff the person doing the actual WORK!)

I don't mean to sound whiney - and as I said before, I'm the luckiest person I know! But I wish that there were a more fair way to compensate designers (and knitters!), keeping their fees in line with the fees of the auxillary personnel who model and photograph the designs. I certainly don't think they're paid too much! And I also know that the editors I work with do their best to compensate the designers as well as they can within the established framework. But perhaps the framework has to be changed?

Maybe the answer is fewer designs in each issue? Who knows. I don't have all of the financial facts in front of me, and it's easy for me to sit and make broad, general statements about fees, etc. But my tech editors comment about the fact that I seem to be doing too much really made me stop and think about how much I AM doing, why I'm doing it, and what the actual compensation is per garment. Something to ponder.

Do you love how I start the post by gushing over the cheap prices at Ikea (Made In India) and end by complaining about my own compensation? THAT is really something to ponder. Compensation is relative, and I can't forget how relatively rich I am.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


It's really hot. Hotter than it's been in a long, long time. It's supposed to get up to 103 today (will feel like 115, so say's Janet Huff at WNBC, and I trust Janet!) A good day to crawl into a hole.

But it's beautiful, finally, in LA, I'm so happy for them. Seriously, I am. No one should have this weather, and they suffered through it longer than most. Ick. All of this heat is making me, and my computer a little - how you say - screwey?

But we have two cool areas in the house; the basement (my new office, aka the hole) and the living room (my oasis with the small air conditioner) and that makes me lucker than, oh, 95% of the population. I can't complain.

But I will. Because if you do something well, you should do it often. So for now I'll sit and write and play photoshop games when I should be knitting and designing, and drink many iced coffees. I like my coffee like I like my men, cool, tall and very pale... And that makes me think - does anyone besides me refuse to order coffee in faux Italian at Starbucks on principle?

- "I'd like a Large iced coffee..."
The barista furrows their brow and has to stop and translate (as if English is a foreign concept)

- "You mean Vente?"
- "Yeah. Large."

New Office

So here's my new office. To many of you it may seem a step down (11 steps to be exact, it's in the basement) and although it's dingy and the walls are dank, the Pixar posters make life worthwhile!

Here's where my yarn and books are now (formerly my office, but it was too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter)

Which, of course, frees up our Dining room to be a - well - a DINING room. Now we'll eat together. What a concept...

Back to my hot life. And I have to leave at 1:00 to pick up the kids from camp and deposit Hannah at the Library where she volunteers. Max is bringing a friend home (she called him last night - a date? At eight?) and they'll be taking over the hole -er, basement, to watch Star Wars movies and eat popcorn. Too hot to run around with the light sabres.

Of course, in Minneapolis it's lovely today. And at Caribou Coffee they don't speak Italian (unless you want them to...)
Red Carpet Convertible
Gerry's Multiple Myeloma Expenses Fund

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Snail Mail:
Annie Modesitt / Landy
1043 Grand Ave
PO Box 117
St. Paul, MN 55105

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