Goldi's Locks of Yarn

My place to discuss my raging obsession with yarn and crochet along with happenings in my life and the world at large

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Wild and Wooly - it's a Kool-aid Jungle!

Well, I finally pulled my confidence together to try my hand at Kool-aid dyeing. Yarn is nuking as I type this line - oops! Beeper just went off, time to go peek!

Okay, I'm back, after nuking the package several times, it is now cooling down so I can rinse it off and see what the results are.

Never one for plunging timidly, I decided to use 4 colors for this first foray into the dyeing jungle! I used the yarn I received from the Crochetville Christmas in July elf, a nice fuzzy wool. I'm not certain of my color choices yet, am waiting in particular to see what resulted from the inevitable overlaps, especially where the runoff liquid from all of the colors combined below the plastic film - it managed to hit at least one of the crossover points from one color to another (the last one, go figure! And I was being so careful!). I used Lemon-Lime, Grape, Berry Blue and Mango (now there's an interesting color! Definitely gotta hightail it over to Woodman's and snag as many of those as I can lay my hands on!). Don't ask me why I thought the Mango would be yellow, might've been the pitcher of yellow liquid being splashed by the Kool-aid Pitcher guy. This stuff is - well, Mango colored, kind of an apricot-orange. Very very pretty - but will it work with the other colors? I dunno yet. All I know is I want more of it - lots more, for other color combinations. I can see it mixed with a more lemony-yellow and maybe a darker (or brighter) pink, even red!

I wonder how long it will take for the yarn to cool down?

So far, no coloring disasters, such as blue hands, even though I wore a glove on only one hand - I have a pile of crappy surgical gloves, I think they were expired which is why Phil found them at the second-hand shop. The latex is very fragile, and you can only get one wear out of them - if that. Some of them disintegrate upon trying to slip them onto your hands. Fortunately for me, that didn't happen with the one I used, and (glory be!) there were no holes in the fingers either. I was going to leave it on until I could rinse the yarn, but it started splitting at the wrist (just a matter of time) and my hand was getting mighty sweaty! And I couldn't do much of anything else! It wasn't helping my impatience.

Even the runoff liquid is clear now, which I guess means that color got soaked up by the yarn too?

Time to peek again...

Okay, I "decanted" the yarn (removed it from it's plastic sleeves and rinsed it). Not a lot of rinsing was necessary, this stuff ran clear immediately! It all looks rather nice, except, well... maybe the purple. I'm not sure about the purple yet, whether I like it or not. The overlap points will be another area of interest, once I can remove the ties. I've taken a pic of the hank hanging outside my back door, drip-drying. I am feeling a nap coming on, so I will upload and post it later (maybe I'll even try Blogger's new nifty feature for this pic). Once the yarn is fully dry, then will come the moment of reckoning - we will see how it looks when wound up into a cake... Then, on to the hook. Tomorrow the stars! Or, the back of the closet... Okay, well, I said I needed a nap!

Oh where oh where has my energy gone? I will be seriously shocked if I can find it in time to mow the lawn today - I may have to leave work early one day this week to get it done. Or ask somebody to do it for me... But then they'll mow down all of my wildflowers, not just the ones in the middle of the grass. I didn't plant any of these, but they are gracing the back edge and up the sides a bit of my property here, as well as along the garage. Without them, the place is soooo bare! I took a few pics this morning, in anticipation of the mowing job, will share those later as well. Now, for that nap!

Ripple Wrap - Done!


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Loose Ends!

This little pile represents the last of the tails I had finished hiding. I hadn't thought to save all of these pieces for a photo-op, only thought of taking the picture after I'd gathered these together to throw 'em out, lol! They are shown here with the tools I used to hide them all...
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The LAST end! Boy did I do a happy dance once I got that one weaved in!
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Ripple-in-process

This is a picture I took of the wrap last Sunday, after I had managed to hide the ends along one side and some on the other before continuing with the project. Each colored row had four, count-em - FOUR strands to hide, two on each side! But don't it look purty? At this point, I was pretty well over halfway through the project.
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Saturday, July 30, 2005

Still tired after all these naps!

Well, okay - so it was ONE nap, but who's counting? It was a good two-hour nap, at any rate. But I still feel tired and draggy, so I haven't done a whole heckuva lot today. Been mostly working on my Seraphina - am halfway through the third row today, woo hoo! I'm speeding right along! At this rate, it shouldn't take me all that long to finish this baby up, just 5 1/2 more rows to go, then we wrap things up. I'm still toying with the idea of fringing it as well, will see once I get the 8 additional rows done on it and see where it is at that point - not to mention how much yarn I have left on the ball.

I am sorely tempted to start another Seraphina once this one is done, but will hold off because I want to try my hand at making a shrug/bolero/short jacket. I have several nice tops I'd like to wear to work, but they need a cover-up such as a shrug, too much bare skin exposed, and it gets darn COLD in that office! Then there are also the many WIPs laying around begging to be finished up, and the requested items that I need to get on as well, so my crochet hooks will not have much time to get cold!

Later (or tomorrow more likely - the pics are ready to upload, but my system is dragging even worse than I am today, with that "resolving host" issue continuing to plague me. I just don't have the patience for it!) I will put up some pics of the ripple wrap I've been yacking and whining about this past week or so, now that my pal Jessica is the happy owner of it. She has told me she's packed it to take on her trip to California this coming week, which was what I had planned this wrap for - she made a couple of cute tops for the beach that this will go nicely over when the sun sets and a little extra cover is needed. And, of course, I'm sure she will get plenty of opportunities for wearing it at home as well. It's more of a "sporty" style than fancy, so should go well in most any setting, day or night. I'm pretty proud of the darn thing, it turned out even better than I'd imagined it would, all those tails notwithstanding. One thing I can say from that experience: I am now an expert at hiding loose ends! And having washed it before shipping it out to her, I am also confident that these will stay hidden, as well, yay! If you can't wait for my pics, you can go here and scroll up to message #496 to see the pic she posted of it!
(Or, if you visit this link after tomorrow, you may have to switch to the previous page in the thread to find the message, the link takes you to the last message posted.)

Tomorrow is shaping up to be a busy day for me, lots of chores to catch up on, seeing as how I didn't even try to get anything done today. After about 8 weeks, the lawn finally has reached the stage where it needs a cut, so the Queen Anne's Lace that has been growing in the middle of my back yard will finally have to go, not to mention the Chicory that popped up along the walkway to the garage. Oh, and the horizontal spider webs that popped up all over the front yard too. The place has taken on a bit of a wild and wooly atmosphere, lol! The little bit of rain we got last weekend really didn't amount to enough to revive the grass more than a little bit, it's still mostly brown, but the trim might do it some good now without traumatizing it further.

I may finally also try my hand at dyeing some wool tomorrow too, if I'm feeling ambitious and energetic enough. I've got everything gathered together that I need, now it's just a matter of doing it! Still, I'm nervous, lol! Note to self: Just DO IT!

Okay, gonna go back to Seraphina, and then off to an early bedtime. Hopefully I'll wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed tomorrow! I may even put on a pot of espresso, which I usually don't do on the weekends, but I need to rev that engine, so I'll make an exception this time. The two cups of regular coffee I drank this morning hardly made a dent in the fog, so we will have to resort to more extreme measures tomorrow.

Postcard mystery...

Okay, so I received a lovely little postcard in the mail yesterday, figuring it was from someone at Crochetville. When I finally got to sit down and read the message on it, though, I'm not sure! There's no mention of the forum or anything crochet-related. And the message conveyed concern for me, stating they hadn't heard from me in awhile. I know I've been pretty quiet just about everywhere I hang out at online (some places more than others) beyond this blog, especially in the past couple of weeks as I was forced to drop everything in my serious need to finish up that project by the stated deadline (am waiting impatiently for it to be delivered today). Between that and my job, and my health challenges, there was little time for much of anything else. I was getting so scattered and disorganized that I was making really stupid errors on my project, further putting pressure on me as the deadline approached, I had to eliminate all the distractions so I could stay on task to get it done. Same with my previous project for the Bathroom and Kitchen swap - they all kind of hit me one right after the other, with no time in between for me to catch up on other things. So, yeah, I've been quiet, even on the forum, but I have posted at least a few times there! I think.

Anyway, it's a sweet card, but I don't know which direction to go in responding to the message on it! It came from Nashville, TN and was signed by Courtney, and sent to my home address. Outside of the forum, not that many people have that bit of information, so I have to assume it came from there. But then again, maybe it didn't. What a mystery! Based on her comments, it doesn't seem like Courtney has read my blog (again, I think), and I just hate to think that anyone is worrying about me, and I can't even contact them to let them know I'm all right (still tickin' last time I checked, albeit a bit slowly).

Now that all my swaps are done, I will be slowly catching up with everybody starting this weekend, as best I can. And I am back on Seraphina, hopefully will get her finished up within the next few days to a week, and have pics to post of her in all her glory. Started up on her last night, and I've almost reached the halfway mark on the first row. It didn't take me long to swing back into gear with this, thankfully! I was a little concerned about going from the heavier yarns back to the laceweight, but the adjustment was quick and smooth, and I'm loving it!

Still waiting on word of receipt of that package... (what - ME, impatient? Nah! LOL!)

"Resolving host" GRRR!

I can see today is already shaping up to be a frustrating day, computer-wise. Every time I try to load a page, or send an email for that matter, I first have to go through a very lengthy "resolving host" session! EVERY time! I can see I won't be getting much done here today! Fortunately, I don't have a whole lot planned for the day, but it's STILL frustrating!

Some days just seem to be worse than others. Today is one of 'em.

Tapping my foot, waiting for that package to arrive at it's destination...

DOG Tired!

I'm not quite sure how that term came into being, but - it fits! I just didn't have a chance (or the juice) to post all week. Work, as usual, was insanely busy, made worse for me because of two lost days, and piles of stuff to process for end of month. I am waaay behind on my work, got a day's worth of frantic cramming ahead of me on Monday to finish catching up. My boss has (mercifully) not mentioned the Lost Class, I think she knows how upset I was over missing it. I know she knows I haven't been feeling well. After over nine years, she's seen me through my best times and worst, she knows me well. Sometimes that helps. Thankfully, this is one of them.

And when I wasn't working, I was consumed with my project, and frustrated over how long it was taking me to get it done. Tuesday night, I came to within a row and a half of completing the thing - and ran out of my main color! I saw it coming as I stitched away, feeling a tad surreal about it. Went through the initial "why me???" stage of pulling my hair, and trying to figure out how to squeeze the money out for one more ball of yarn (no small feat this week, let me tell ya!) when I suddenly found myself looking at my little scrap basket on the coffee table. Sitting right on top of the heap of small scraps of yarn left over from other projects was a "swatch", the scrapped rows of my first attempt at the project! There was more than enough of the color I needed for that last row and a half.

But it was nearly 2 am by this point, and work was waiting on the short end of a quickly fading night, so I packed everything up and crawled off to bed for at least a few hours of sleep. Meeps obliged me by staying in again, and worked mightily with the alarm again to pry me out of bed in the morning. Don't know how I managed it, but I got to work on time.

Finished up that row and a half at lunch, and then contemplated the "last task" to finish it all up - those lovely little strings hanging all over the place! Saturday, I had managed to hide all of the ends on the one side and only about a quarter of the ends on the other before I gave up for the day (and the week, lol!). But that was at the halfway point, and I now had ALL of the ends to hide on the second half, plus that 3/4 from the first half. I had determined that I would stay after work for this, both for the brighter lights and the worktable (much easier on my back than doing it on my lap and therefore - hopefully - faster) But I couldn't stay real late, as I had to make a stop on the way home, and that place closes at 9 pm. I got most of the first 3/4 done - these being more difficult than the ends in the second half. After I got home, I went right back to it, and worked until around 1 am on it. It became rather obvious well before that time that I was not going to be able to get all those ends hid in time to ship it Thursday. I managed to get all the ends on one side completely hid before I had to quit for the night. I decided I would stay late at work Thursday to finish hiding the remaining ends.

Meeps had other plans, however! Thursday morning, after dutifully hauling my protesting body out of bed yet again, she insisted she just had to go out! I don't like letting her out in the morning on a weekday, as a rule. But it had been a long time since she'd bugged me about it. So I let her out. She was nowhere to be found by the time I had to walk out the door. I had to leave for work with her left outside somewhere, something that really messes with my head! Fortunately, we've got an out - Phil. I figured I'd give him a call and he'd come by to let her back in the house later. So off to work I went, running behind as usual but miraculously managing to clock in within the "on time" framwork - seems like I'm always making it by the skin of my teeth! Just once, I would love to experience what it's like to drive to work at a leisurely pace - la di da! - and wander in to sign in with time to spare! It gets tiring to literally race my way from one state to the next, testing my psychic "radar" as I push the speed limits to the max of what they'll let you get away with (and often over those limits, if the "radar" says it's okay), slamming into the closest parking spot I can find and running (as much as I can run, loaded down like a pack mule as I am, and clutching that life-saving engine-jumping travel mug of double-espresso!) to get into the building, down the long haul to my suite and to my computer, where I have to quickly sign in with password to get to the "time card", our electronic time and attendance system, type in yet another username and password, and then click on the "punch in" button, all the while nervously eyeing the clock (did I make it?). That, folks, is my daily morning routine!

Anyway, back to Meeps. In the mad rush of trying to get work caught up and various other sundry things, it slipped my mind to call Phil, until around 1 pm or so. I hadn't figured he'd be able to get there any sooner anyway, so I wasn't real worried yet. I finally remembered to call him around 1:30 or so, getting voicemail and leaving a message there. He called me back about a half hour later - from the dentist's chair, where he told me I should have called earlier, he'd been home all morning. Aargh! But he promised to swing by after his appointment, which he did, only she still wasn't around! That effectively ended my plans for staying late to work on the "hiding of the ends" saga, I would just have to finish them up at home. I did manage to get a pretty decent number of them hid at lunch, and the end was definitely in sight - it had to be! I was bound and determined to have it all done and ready to be shipped out Friday - today!

And I made it! The package is winging it's way to my pal even as I write this, scheduled for delivery tomorrow. Once she posts that she's received it, I will then be able to "reveal" it here too!

So, I somehow managed to finish wrapping everything up that was going in her package, as well as some Christmas in July stuff I had been trying to get prepped to mail, all while continuing my efforts to get the piles of work to shrink. So far they're not cooperating!

So now it's Friday night (TGIF!!!), and all I want to do is go to bed, have spent the evening drooping over my keyboard here. I did pull Seraphina out and got a few stitches done, but I think I will just give it up and go get that well-deserved rest, from which I can awaken whenever I want to! I dare say it's about time anyway, seeing as how it's already after midnight again! Where the time goes in the evenings, I have no clue. But right now (and for all of the evening since I got home), I am just dragging. Think I'll go drag myself to bed.

Oh, and Meeps? - she was there waiting for me when I arrived. She tore past me into the house and scarfed up a bunch of food, and then insisted on going right back out! I didn't see her again until this morning when I got up, and she was happy to come in for the day this time!

More tomorrow!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Heat wave - day 2...

Well, don't quite know how I did it, but I survived the heat yesterday - barely! I had a pretty miserable night, thanks to the heat and a horrendous case of indigestion brought on by a truly horrifying meal, not to mention my continuing female problems, which I won't go into any further. No, it wasn't Phil's food that did me in. It was around 7:30 pm when I finally managed to drag myself together and make the trek to his place for that Shrimp Curry - and I was starving by that point, or I might not have found the strength at all! There was nothing to eat at my place! Just call me "Mother Hubbard", lol!

Anyway, when I got to his place, I was met at the door by a man with a crazed look in his face. If I'd thought my house was hot, his apartment was TEN times WORSE! He couldn't take it anymore (and neither could I, after being inside that place for all of five minutes, lol!), and suggested we put the curry up for leftovers later and go find an air-conditioned restaurant for dinner. I needed no convincing, and out the door we went.

If I hadn't been so hungry, I would have been more than satisfied to just drive around town all evening in his nice air-conditioned car! But hungry I was, and so we looked for that magical place. The first restaurant we tried, we both had a funny feeling it wasn't going to work. There were few cars in the lot, and this place had a reputation which didn't match the scene. Sure enough, when we went in, we discovered that their air was out - they had fans blowing from some of the tables to make it less oppressive, but that wasn't good enough. So back to the a/c cooled car we went and continued hunting. Neither of us could come up with any good ideas, and so we settled for a "sure thing", a restaurant we had frequented many times before, one of our "AAA" restaurants. Well, it's not a "AAA" anymore!

The place was busy - very busy, and (most important of all) the air-conditioning was working. We had our first twinge of concern as we waited to be seated by a very ditzy young hostess. We stood next to two empty booths for what seemed like forever, obediently waiting for her to return from wherever she had disappeared to after telling us it would "be a minute". Someone finally came by and cleared one of the booths off and set it up (they were both dirty from the last occupants) and she finally appeared and waved us into the newly cleaned up booth. We didn't waste too much time poring over the menus (did I mention that I was starving?) and got our orders in right away: he ordered the special of the day, which was a surprisingly mundane NY Cheesesteak sandwich and I ordered the New Orleans Cajun Chicken Breast, which he said he'd had before and was good.

This restaurant's specialty is fish, which isn't surprising for a place called "The Boathouse" and situated right on the lakefront, at the harbor. We had dined on some of the BEST fish dinners ever at this place in the past. Our first clue that things were amiss, therefore, should have been the surprising lack of fish in the "specials" menu for the day, of which the cheesesteak was the sole item. But it took awhile for it to sink in.

We sat and watched absolute pandemonium for the next HOUR, with our waitress appearing briefly about 15 minutes into that hour to inform us that they were "working on" our order, but that it was taking longer because they had to "cajun up my chicken" and Phil had requested fries without salt as the side for his sandwich. ???! Since when does withholding salt from the fries cause a delay in processing a meal? I finally had to go hunt the waitress down, and she acted all surprised that we hadn't received our order yet (giving the impression that someone else was supposed to have delivered it). She said she'd take care of it, and sure enough, finally showed up with our dishes - which had obviously been sitting for awhile at the service station!

By this point, I was so hungry, I didn't really care, all I knew was that I finally had food in front of me and proceeded to wolf it down. From the first bite, I knew I was going to be in trouble. The dang thing tasted like somebody had spilled an entire salt-shaker over it! Not only that, the "meat" was definitely not identifiable as "chicken breast", beyond the whitish color. The texture was all wrong, and if there was any chicken flavor to it, it got drowned out in all that salt. I opined to Phil later that I thought it was one of those "chopped and reformed" meat products, with god-knows what kind of ingredients tossed in as "filler". I can't even begin to describe the texture of this "meat" adequately, it was so strange. Believe me, if I hadn't been so hungry, I would never have eaten it otherwise. Later, I wished I hadn't!

Phil, in the meantime, had requested both steak sauce and ketchup when our order arrived. He waited, and waited, and waited. Finally, I got up and went to the waiter's station to request the missing items, noting our waitress over at the bar, getting a drink order for another table. We were halfway through this nightmare of a meal when our ditzy hostess showed up with a bottle of steak sauce and ketchup in her hands! Apparently, our waitress had asked her to bring these things to us (and, I suspect, had also asked her to bring our food to us as well). The fries were hard, cold and dry, totally inedible, and his cheesesteak was missing ingredients that had been listed on the specials board (onions) and was also cold, from having sat for who-knows-how long, though our waitress assured us this wasn't so (I do believe she was lying!). As hungry as I was, I could not finish the mystery sandwich that was masquerading as a New Orleans Cajun Chicken Breast. And what I did eat of it later came back to haunt me. For the entire night. Such that I felt deathly ill from the combined effects of the serious indigestion from that nasty sandwich and the continuing heat, which didn't let up until near dawn this morning.

We figured out, and confirmed with our "too-busy" waitress, that the restaurant had been sold and was now under new management. From what we could see, the new owners are also new to the restaurant business. As Phil also noted (from better knowledge, as he's eaten there more often than just the times with me), there was not a single familiar face among the wait staff, all the original ones were gone. Most of the ones now there appeared to be from the local college, though our hostess didn't look old enough to be in college yet, but who knows? The most obvious thing about the place, though, was the enormous disorganization with everybody rushing to and fro, and getting nothing done! The only good thing we could say about our experience was that at least it was air-conditioned! What a nightmare! With a huge flourish as we were walking out of the place, Phil brought up their phone number on his cell phone - and deleted it.

Thanks to all of that, I got no more crocheting done yesterday, setting me behind again. And today is promising to be nearly as hot as yesterday, though it is fairly comfortable, though warm, as of this writing. As soon as I'm done writing this little woeful tale, I'm back on it, though, hopefully to catch myself up and get lots done, and (knock wood) without any more mistakes. My glaring errors on the 2 1/4 rows I had to frog yesterday resulted in my coming up short on the yarn (which, of course, had already been cut for the color-change row by the time I caught the mistakes), by TWO STITCHES! I had to patch in an extra length of the main color in order to pick up those last two stitches, resulting in two more tails to hide. Yesterday, while not the worst I've ever had, came pretty durn close, all told!

If I wasn't still feeling so lousy, it probably would have been a more comfortable day for me, temperature-wise, if I had gone in to work - at least I would have been in the air conditioning all day. But then again, I would have been driving home in the worst part of the day's heat, this evening in my NON-air-conditioned car. I just hope I'm feeling better by tomorrow, as I will have lots of work to catch up on. And the discussion with my boss about that missed class, which I do not look forward to. I hate eating crow! I just hope it doesn't give me indigestion too...

Sunday, July 24, 2005

How incredibly SWEET!

I wanted to post this last night, but - wouldn't you believe it? - my camera batteries pooped out on me, and my backup set was doa (don't know what happened to them but they won't take a charge). Finally got charged up but then, I haven't been moving too swiftly today, with this heat and all.

Looky what Fran sent me as a "thank you" for the yarn swap! Really, Fran, you didn't have to do this - but I'm soooo glad you did! This is perfect, something I really really needed, and it will definitely be put through it's paces. So now here I am, thanking YOU!

In case anyone isn't sure what this is, it's a little bag to hold a ball of thread, and a nifty little beaded hook holder! Is this cool, or what?! Image hosted by Photobucket.com

I'm Mellllltttting.... !!!

Just took a look at the hourly temps, we hit 100 degrees at around 4 pm today. Currently, it's 99...

Despite that, I have been continuing to plug away at my project. Due no doubt to the heat, I did have a small setback from which I am nearly recovered - had to frog about 2 1/4 rows because of missed stitches. When things get too intolerable, I just go downstairs to check the laundry, it's about 20 degrees cooler in the basement. Too bad it's nothing more than a storage area - it would be a perfect place to hang out in this kind of heat if it was finished. As it is, I can't stand to be down there for too long, and I worry that it will just make it harder to adapt to the heat, which hits me like a punch as I climb the stairs. Wow!

But I'm drinking lots of water, and soon I will jump in the shower to wash all this sweat off and put on some drier clothes, and I will amble on over to Phil's for dinner and lounging on his balcony "overlooking" Lake Michigan. I say "overlooking", because you can barely see the lake for all the trees blocking the view. It's nice and cozy feeling, despite the fact that he shares the balcony with the other 5 or so tenants on his floor. He's lucky, though - he's on the end by the lake, so he's got the best spot on it! There should be a good breeze there tonight. He has done all the preliminary cooking for the shrimp curry he has planned for tonight's fare, shrimp is the last to go in just before dining. MMMmm MMM! I'm sure I will have no problem relocating my appetite by then!

I will be taking the project along. I'm getting REALLY close to finishing it! I didn't get a whole lot of rows done yesterday, only 13 - but I got over half of the ends hid up to that point in the process. Based on my experience working with those, I made a few modifications in how I was beginning and ending the color-change rows, to make the hiding a little easier. And I started being less frugal with how much tail I left. It's a royal pain to try and hide a tail that's less than 6 inches long, let me tell you!

I spread my creation out for a few photo shots, which I will share once the recipient has received it. It currently measures to 46 inches, only 14 more to go!

Oh (back to weather and other mundane topics), to further complicate my life, I'm having my usual humdinger of a period. I hadn't gone into this before because I think I've been in a little bit of shock over it, I'm still not reconciled with how this could have happened. Friday was the day of an important event for me, something I had actually been looking forward to with anticipation. It was an advanced Excel class, being given by one of the gals from another branch of our now-large company. She is known as the "Excel Guru" among those in the know, and I'd had a chance to see just how much she lived up to her name earlier in the week, so this was something to look forward to (besides, I just love learning new things, especially on the computer). Only one small problem, to start it all off: in all the hoopla leading up to this class, the TIME of it somehow seemed to never be caught by me. I had only ONE email giving me that crucial bit of information, an email I had received on Monday and quickly glanced at and flagged for later review because at the time I was rather busy with other things. But I never got back to that email, and the schedules were never posted on any of our scheduling calendars by our always-organized (NOT!) boss!

Friday was NOT a good day for me, from the moment I opened my eyes. For once, Meeps had stayed in overnight, and she rallied with the alarm clock in persisting to pry me out of bed, something my body did NOT want to do. My brain had gone awol, couldn't be found anywhere, and I was forced to leave home without it. Ever have "one of those days"? Well Friday was mine. It was payday, and I had stretched my gas to the maximum, meaning I had to stop for a fill-up on the way to work, groggy and tense because I was already running a few minutes late. I thank the farmer that was pumping gas on the other side of the island from me that morning, as he saved me from making a fatal (to my car) mistake - I was at a diesel pump!!! He caught me just in time, as I was about to stick the nozzle in my gas tank, having already authorized my debit card for the purchase. Sheesh!

Raced on in to work, running into zombie traffic along the way (not like I wasn't a zombie myself, but I was still more aware than most of them!), and arrived 15 minutes late. And, as it turned out, forty-FIVE minutes late for the class! What I had failed to absorb was that the class was at 9 a.m.!!! Had I noticed it, I would have SAID something, or at least been aware I needed to make the effort to arrive earlier than my normal 9:30! As it was, the class would have been wasted on me, my brain was STILL awol, and I was not feeling too swift physically, either. I was so damned depressed on top of it all that I forced myself to focus enough to get the things I HAD to do that day done, and I took the rest of the day off. I have yet to talk to my boss about this, it was because of my yowling for a class of this kind that this had been set up, and then I end up being a no-show! How mortifying. I am STILL upset about it!

I took a four hour nap when I got home Friday, and never quite could seem to fully wake up even after that. By Saturday it became apparent what was ailing me - good old period! They are coming on more frequently now, and I am practically hemorrhaging every time, it wouldn't surprise me if I haven't gotten a bit anemic. Today's a heavy day, and tomorrow will be worse, so I am going to stay home, even though it's the last week of the month (not that it matters much anymore - every week brings challenges at my job). I need to de-stress a bit, it's been rather overpowering me lately. And on my next paycheck, I am budgeting in for a doctor's appt, finally. At least there will be money available for it.

Okay, I think it's time to go check that laundry again...

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Progress Report

Well, the gravy train, as I have been calling it lately, has been moving along steadily, I am happy to report. Thursday, I managed to get 11 rows done, yesterday it was a total of 14! Today, so far, I have only done two rows, but that is because I decided to take a break and start working in all those tails. I just did NOT want to leave them all for the end! So, it will take me awhile to get the ends hidden, as this part of the project is highly stressful for my back (which is an area of chronic concern to begin with), but I will get them all done, and then get rolling again with the hook. Seeing as how I have nothing much else planned for this weekend (on purpose, and because I'm not feeling well - more on that later), I am still intending on getting a minimum of 18 rows done today, more if I can. And I intend to hide those infernal ends more frequently as I go along, once I get caught up on them all (there's an awful LOT of them!).

And, if I do say so myself, this project is looking mighty fine! I can hardly wait to finish it and get it off to my secret pal!

Many thanks to my cheerleader squadron for keeping me motivated, but you can put those pom poms down now - they keep tickling my nose! Cheers still gratefully accepted, though!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Riding the Gravy Train

Well, gonna try and make a post from work (from my sneaky remote location, more about that sometime later) since I absolutely have no time to write from home – I’m too busy crocheting!

I managed to get about 2 rows done at lunch yesterday, was itching to do more but unfortunately, work got in the way. Oh well! Left work a little early to go to the boss’s house for a bbq which I had forgotten about until I was reminded Tuesday, the same day I discovered I had the dentist appt.

The get-together was very nice, my boss has a lovely home and it was really nice hanging out in a pretty setting, with her husband playing a five-star restaurant waiter to hilarious perfection! I had thought about bringing my crochet project in with me, but I just didn’t feel right about it when I arrived, so I left it in the car. It probably would have been fine to do so, but by the time I’d figured that out, I didn’t feel comfortable running back out to the car to get it. I decided to wait until I got home, with the hope that I wouldn’t feel too pressured by the lateness of the hour and how much I would need to do to make my minimum goal for the day.

It was about 9:15 pm when I got home to my hot little box, and Meeps made her getaway quick, choosing not to linger at wrapping herself around my feet in greeting. I barely saw her the rest of the evening/night! But I got windows opened and fans running, and soon the house cooled down to acceptable levels. I took the barest of minutes to go online and check emails, and the forum, and then it was off to the crocheting races!

By the time I fell into bed last night (this morning), I managed to get 7 rows completed and about a 3rd of the 8th row done, for a total of over 9 rows done yesterday! Woo Hoo! I think I’m gonna make it!

I’m getting ambitious again, as I am feeling much more confident and less mistake-prone, so I am going to set the bar for today at 10 rows minimum, more if I can. This will get me close to the (calculated) halfway mark of this project, with Friday’s efforts hopefully carrying me over that point. And then I’m gonna REALLY go to it over the weekend! Maybe I’ll even surprise myself and manage to get it completed by Sunday night! Well, except for the weaving in of the ends, that’s going to take some time by itself.

So, I’m feeling worlds better than I did the other night, when I had my 12 row setback followed by numerous errors caused by my hysteria, no doubt. And I’m gonna ride this gravy train all the way to the station!

Okay, so now I have to quit fooling around and get back to work, while I watch the storm roll in. Will there be rain? It’s looking promising. But much as we need it up by where I live too, I hope it misses us there – this time! Why? Because like a dope, I forgot to shut the house down this morning, all the windows are wide open and two fans blowing from their respective windows. It’s like I’ve invited the rain right in!

Updates will be reported when I can tear my hook out of my hand! I can hardly wait to show this project off, but I’ll wait until my secret pal gets her dibs in on that. I know she’s gonna like this!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I will make it.

Remember, last night I said that if I managed to get more than six rows done on a weeknight, it would be gravy? Well, I got two rows of gravy tonight, and would have got more if I wasn't so blasted tired! Almost didn't make it through the last row, as I kept falling asleep in the middle of my stitches. I am off to bed now, and looking forward to getting more gravy tomorrow! With a bit more sleep, who knows, I could end up swimming in it.

Okay, I hear a pillow calling my name, gotta go answer it! Until tomorrow...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I will NOT let this beat me!

Setbacks and more setbacks. At lunch today, Isis helped as best she could with trying to untangle that stubborn yarn, all to no avail. But between us, we managed to free up enough of it so that I could at least finish the row. Even after I cut it and started up with the next color row, she kept at it, now having a free end - which should have made it easier. As she put it, it's like this yarn is refusing to be untangled. A half hour goes by quickly, and I was in fact, late getting back to my desk (and fortunately did not have to suffer the indignity of a dressing-down over it, which would not have gone over well with this PMS-crazed woman!).

I managed to grab a short bit of time during my afternoon break to work a few stitches, and then... ::Sigh:: I discovered a missed stitch on the previous row, my nemesis row, that cursed row! All I had time to do at that point, besides sigh like crazy and stifle the tears of frustration that threatened, was pull out the half row I had managed to work between lunch and break, and mark the spot where I need to rip back to on that evil row. As soon as I post this, I will go do the necessary frogging and REstitching, and hopefully I will be able to make it safely beyond this danger zone, with smoother sailing ahead. I say it will be so, and it is so, damn it!

I would have been at it sooner, but was reminded that I had a dentist appointment this evening, just got home. I was also reminded that tomorrow after work is the barbecue at my boss's house that I had agreed to attend. I do hope she doesn't mind if I crochet while hobnobbing with fellow employees, because I simply can't lose a whole evening's worth of crochet time! I also plan to leave somewhat early, as early as I can without insulting her, so I can get home and hopefully make progress. I have a lot of catching up to do before I will be able to even say I'm "making progress", will see how many rows I manage to accomplish tonight.

One way or another I am going to get this project done! I know how pretty it's gonna be, and that it is very worth all the trouble I'm going through to make it. I am going to try to stay calm and as relaxed as I can manage as I work on it, and hopefully will be able to maintain the needed focus and concentration that will serve to protect me from making the incredibly dumb errors I've made. I had been doing very well with the first 24 rows, gonna see if I can get back into that groove again. Wish me luck!

Okay, now I'm demoralized

Perhaps some sleep will help, maybe it's just because I'm tired. But I am completely and totally demoralized over my project. Ripping out 12 rows of work, representing a third of what I'd manage to accomplish was hard. It hurt, it hurt real bad, especially while I'm feeling the pressure of that deadline. But now, to find myself at a total standstill...

After ripping and rewrapping the various lengths of yarn (3 short ones, one for each of the contrasting colors; 2 long ones, for the two sets of 3 rows of the main color), as well as the long length from the "current" rows I had been working on when I discovered the missing row (this still being attached to the main skein), I figured I'd try to at least get a row or two in before packing it all up for tomorrow (with the hope of getting, maybe, a row done during my paltry half-hour lunch - and besides, I never go anywhere without my crocheting, there might be an opportunity missed to cast a few stitches). It didn't take long for the next problem to rear it's ugly head - tangled yarn. As careful as I was to roll it up, it insisted this was unacceptable, and promptly turned itself into a hopelessly tangled mess. The more I tried to untangle it, the worse it got! I finally had to just wrap it all up and put it away, before I did something drastic in the throes of a tantrum.

I will get it untangled tomorrow, if necessary it will be with the assistance of my daughter. But is this what will be in store for me throughout this next 12 rows? Granted, I could just scrap the yarn, but that means I would have to go buy more of the main color at least, as I will run short. And I just seriously have a problem with wasting that much good yarn!

Seeing as how I will have to spend my lunch period untangling yarn, I will not make any progress on stitching my project, and I can only hope I can be a bit more productive and error-free starting tomorrow night. I keep thinking about how many rows I need to do (120 in total, as of post-frogging session I have 24 completed, subtracting that gives me 96 left to go), how many days I have to get them done (using a "last day to ship by" of July 29, a Friday, giving me 10 days total, not including the shipping day) and figuring out the average number of rows I need to do daily (9.6), I know for a fact that I am not going to be able to complete this on time. And remember, this is assuming I don't make any more dumb mistakes!

Sorry, folks - I'm thinking out loud here (you get to peek at the internal dialog tonight, thanks to this little mini-disaster)... The best I can confidently say I can accomplish on any given weeknight is 5, maybe 6 rows. Any more than that would be gravy to me, and to accomplish even that will require that I stay almost completely off this computer, at least until I get the minimum number of rows accomplished. Eight days times six rows equals 48, plus the 24 already accomplished, for a total of 72 completed rows, leaving another 24 rows to finish the project. I would have to work 12 rows apiece on my two weekend days, minimum. And I haven't factored in the amount of time that will be needed for finishing, things like hiding a bazillion tails, and washing, blocking and drying. The tails alone will probably take several hours...

Given my track record, these numbers are not looking very realistic to me. I am going to have to sleep on this, and figure out what to do tomorrow. The only certainty in all of this babbling is that I am not abandoning this project. I will get it done. But I may be forced to ask for a few extra days, taking me past the end of July. It would give me two more weekend days in which to work on it, as well as an additional weekday, making it much more likely that I would be able to get the thing done.

Okay - to sleep, perchance to dream. And hopefully they won't be nightmares! Considering the hour I again find myself crawling off to bed, nightmares are a good possibility - not to mention concerns about oversleeping in the morning again. I'd better get going!

Monday, July 18, 2005

I just. plain. cannot. BELIEVE THIS!!!

Excuse my hysterical tone, but - GAAAAAH!!!

Risking the possibility that my secret pal gal may stumble across my blog, I MUST rant for a moment. I am FLOORED by the utter, stupendous, ridiculous mistakes I manage to make, and NOT NOTICE them even when they are GLARING at me!

I have been in a minor state of panic since last night when I realized that, despite putting quite a lot of effort into it, I had not made anywhere NEAR the amount of progress I had been under the impression I'd made. Never mind the fact that it only took a quick perusal to determine just how far I'd gotten with the project, it had seemed like much more until last night. Granted, it's been hot as hades here, which has slowed me down (a LOT, I'll admit), and I also spent quite a bit of time writing up blog posts and puttering about the house with various other small projects and laundry and such, so when I actually considered it, it really wasn't that surprising. But it put me into that state of panic nonetheless, thinking of that looming deadline - with time moving twice as fast as me, part of my "time issues" I mentioned relative to my tardiness problems. I swear there's a black hole in my bathroom, it sucks time up in great big 15 minute gulps while I think only a few of those minutes have gone by while I brushed my teeth! I swear, I'm not that slow, but sometimes it feels like it. Anyway...

Panic never serves me well, I've discovered, because it usually causes me to make those stupid mistakes I am always lamenting about. Last night, as I neared completion of a row, I discovered a "stupid mistake" on the row below, necessitating a frogging session. To complicate matters, it was over a color-change row, meaning that the row I had to frog was only a set length, since I had long since cut the yarn for that row. When I tried to start up again at that point, I discovered that the error had actually been made on the row below it, requiring more frogging! Okay, so I calmed myself down and got it done, managing to redo even the color change row with the short length of yarn. And on I went.

I am working a striped pattern repeat series, with 3 rows of the main color separated by one row of three different contrasting colors (in other words, it's 3 rows MC, 1 row CA, 3 rows MC, 1 row CB, etc). I am just now on the final row of the current series of my pattern set, and was looking forward to getting (hopefully) a good 3 or 4 rows into the next series tonight (yes, I was feeling ambitious), when it happened...

I noticed that when I started this series, I had somehow managed to crochet only TWO rows of the main color, not three!!! I was on row 12 of a 12 row pattern set when I discovered that I had MISSED row 12 of the previous set - and I didn't notice it until NOW!

One step forward, ten steps back. That seems to be my routine with my crocheting lately! I swear, I'm beginning to feel like I've been brain-damaged or something. How could I have NOT seen this sooner!

I have no choice but to get busy frogging... There is NO way I can leave this blatant error. ::SIGH:: Except for a bit of a rocky start (had to frog and redo from scratch on my first couple of rows), I was moving along nicely (albeit slowly) with this pattern, with last night's frogging session being the first I'd had to do. I had so hoped that this time I wouldn't be plagued with this tendency toward the stupid mistakes that I've been struggling with so much lately, and it had seemed like I was going to make it okay. Until now.

It makes me wonder if I'm going to be able to manage to get this done in time, after all. I may just end up having a nervous breakdown in the process of trying, at the rate I'm going.

On the good news front (so I don't end on such a franticly sour note), I cleaned up at my grocery store when I went seeking Kool-aid packets. I had been missing blue in my selections previously, and I found it and then some at Woodman's, where it is on sale 8 packets for $1! I came home with 24 packets and fingers smelling decidedly fruity from handling them all! I probably won't get to do my first yarn-dyeing session until the weekend, my evenings are just too short and this project has total dibs on all free time this week (and next), especially now. My next installment in my "working-gal Blues" series will be posted whenever I manage to find the time to finish writing it. No doubt you're on the edge of your seat in anticipation, lol! But we'll get there, sooner or later. It's something I really need to do.

Okay, gotta go set up for the morning, and then it's a froggin' I will go... ::SOB::

Sunday, July 17, 2005

I'm now Officially Certifiable!

As if there was ever any doubt.

Last Sunday, I reluctantly relinquished the plans I'd had for making a trek to the fabulous JoAnns near where I work, after having blown my yarn budget at the Arcadia Knitting shop the previous day. I'd had notions and plans of stocking up on a bunch of Lustersheen as well as what remained of the limited supply of Cotton-ease they had at clearance prices at a further reduced price. I had figured that by Monday, there wouldn't be much left, seeing as how I think everyone suffers from the same malady I do.

Monday, figuring I would go and mourn my loss, I stopped in on my way home. Wheeee! There was still LOTS of my coveted yarn left! So I whipped out my collection of coupons and went to work, slithering out of there with a little over $20 worth of yarn after all discounts had been applied! I felt satisfied, my need for yarn having been fully satiated - at least for awhile!

Friday, I made one more pass-through, mainly to pick up a couple of specific yarns I needed for requested projects. Seeing as how this would be my last opportunity before the sale was over (it's foolish to drive 40 miles to a store on the weekend when you work near there, after all, what with these gas prices and all!), and I just couldn't resist grabbing some more of that yarn, which I was surprised to find was still available! I even grabbed some of the Homespun that was on clearance, getting it at an unheard-of price of $2.10 each! Five skeins, and I was wishing there was more (I emptied the bin). It's probably a good thing there wasn't, it's not like I'm about to run out of Homespun anytime soon, lol! But I liked this blend of neutral colors, not sure what I will make from it yet...

I am positively Certifiable! I have stuffed the hall closet now with bags of yarn, the second closet I have filled, and I still have piles of bags in both the bedroom and living room! I think I have enough yarn now, time to start making something of it all! I stash yarn like some people stash food, fer cryin' out loud! And I just can't seem to stop.

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If I suddenly go quiet for a very long period of time, it's a good bet I'm up to my eyeballs trying to crochet this stash down a bit! I have ideas for most all of it, just need to find enough time to get everything done. At the rate I'm going, I might need a few extra lifetimes, though!

(Sorry, Deneen - I just know you're gonna accuse me of torturing you again! I wish I could stop, really I do! I'm not doing this on purpose!)

It has taken some real creative flair to fit this into my budget, of course. It's gonna be a bit tight heading down the stretch to payday, but unless I missed something (I hope not!!!), I should be able to make it, with pennies to spare, lol!

Okay, so this is it, for now! Somehow I need to save at least a little bit of extra out of the next paycheck or two for spending money for the Stitches Midwest conference coming up next month! I'm hoping to get a knitting lesson there to get me rolling with that, something to look forward to. And of course, there will be yarn...

Yup - certifiable! AND incorrigible.

Working-gal Blues, #3

Previous posts in this series:
Part 1
Part 2

Way back in the first installment, I opened with a comment to the effect of "just when you think it can't get any worse...", so I figured I'd relate what happened this past week that made it so stressful. If you've read through the previous installments, this will make more sense to you!

The previous week had been busy because of "end of month" duties that had to be accomplished rapidly while still managing to stay on top of the regular demands, and with many interruptions from the boss seeking "assistance" for various aspects of her duties relative to the end-of-month balancing and reporting requirements, as well as the usual urgent requests from folks in other departments for assistance in servicing clients and convention participants. Busy, yes. Unusual? No. This is a typical scenario of the first week of the month for us.

This past week, my former manager (who now handles those client payments I spoke of), went on vacation. Because of my knowledge and former responsibilities for said client payments, I am her backup. She busted her buttons the prior week to get everything as set up as she could, even to processing most of the reports for the most complicated of the payments that were due this particular week, since they are the only ones who's reports run the prior Friday. I'm soooo glad she was able to do that! So, along with that mostly completed one, there were a total of 7 client payments that had to be processed and sent last week, in addition to my own duties. Not a problem.
But then...

One of our clients who's meetings had run in May called, looking for their final payment, which hadn't been done yet (there is alot of post-meeting cleanups and adjustments that have to be processed before the final payment can be done, usually takes anywhere from a month up to 2 months before they are ready). They had to have the reports RIGHT AWAY, as they were closing their fiscal books and had to have those figures! That very same day, in addition to the 3 scheduled payments I had to process, I also had a large rooming list request to process, with a total of 43 checks to produce. When I went to run the reports for the client payments, I discovered that the computer I had to use to access the reporting program had mysteriously DIED and refused to be resuscitated. Sent an urgent work order to our technology department, and the guy who handles these issues was also out on vacation, not due to return until Monday (tomorrow)! So I contacted the guy, same department, that is in charge of the program I needed to use, and requested that he install it on my primary computer ASAP, explaining my urgency. He said "sure", and then proceeded to go to lunch for an hour! Then twaddled around for another hour, at which point I called him again, near hysteria by this point, as it was 2:30 pm and I hadn't even been able to START on the payments! Being the lazy lout that he is (can you tell I don't like the guy?!), he decided he'd rather do the installation remotely rather than physically walking down from the 4th floor to the 2nd to get the installation done. I sat for another hour and a half with no clue what was going on and unable to do anything else - he had some problems with the installation process, but how the hell was I to know? And of course, it was still too much trouble to come down and do it. Sometimes technology can be a real curse, especially combined with meatheads like this guy! I had to keep calling him to find out what was going on. He also has a huge reputation of never communicating with anybody, so had I not continuously called him, the job could have been all done and I wouldn't even have known it!

So now, here it was 4 pm, and I was just now starting to schedule the reports I needed in order to process the 4 payments I needed to do that day. Other than the rooming list, which I had been smart enough to process first, none of my other regular work was touched either. Obviously I wasn't going to be able to get all 4 of my payments done that day, unless I camped out overnight. No way! I went ahead and ran all of the reports for the payments, finished up the nearly-completed one so that the checks (there are two payments associated with this one) could be cut the next day, and processed that urgent final report so the wire payment would be able to be sent and the reports faxed to the anxious client, both a day late unfortunately, as it was just too late to do it same day. I stayed an extra hour over my regular schedule (and will probably hear about it, but we will cover that later).

So now, on Wednesday, I had the prospect of processing FIVE payments instead of the scheduled 3, and of course, trying to catch up with my regular work as well. Thanks to numerous interruptions and other distractions, I had only managed to prepare 3 out of the five for payment by the end of the day, and it was too late to cut the checks for them. I also received more nasty news: two more clients were demanding their final reports ASAP, for the same reason! And BOTH of these were of the more complicated variety, meaning it would take hours to get the job done on each!

Despite intensive scrambling and nearly 3 hours of overtime (for which I will be chewed out, because I didn't beg and grovel for permission so I could suffer through the usual "should" lectures), I was only able to complete and send 9 out of the 10 payments I ended up being responsible for this past week - and I got very little of my own work done. And I was a nervous wreck by the time I left the office on Friday, but then again, that is my usual state of mind on Fridays.

I still have residual work sitting on my desk to complete tomorrow, including that last payment, which I will have to do despite the gal being back from vacation. But she's going to have her hands full catching up on her other work anyway, and I am also anticipating a blow-out between her and our boss over those final payments, because when something like this happens, our boss blames us for somehow "failing" to do something, even when it has nothing to do with us. This gal has been working for the company for over 26 years, is seriously ready to retire, and will NOT take it lying down! She also has a long laundry list of complaints against our boss, and it won't take much for her to just say "screw you - I quit!" Which wouldn't be a good thing for me, since guess who would be forced to pick up that slack? I've also been nervous because the guy who is doing the refunds has been making similar sounds! I wish I had that option myself, especially if either (or, godforbid, both) decided to do that. I shudder to think about it, and try real hard not to... The climate we are currently working in, they would not be likely to rush to hire someone else to replace these people if they left. And we still have serious restrictions on the overtime. Can you see the picture now?

Well, it is getting late, and I hope to get a bunch more crocheting done (so far haven't gotten as much as I would have liked accomplished, but that seems to be the normal state of my affairs lately), so my last installment of this work saga will have to wait. Seeing as how it's the most important one, I need to take my time with it, and think through all the elements I want to write about, as I am hoping to use it for future "crib notes" in possible discussions with my boss. In order to understand the problem, it will be necessary to talk a little bit about this gal, so you can understand why we have such a challenging relationship, and how it is intertwining with the larger issues being faced by all of the employees at my company.

Because I would much rather end my blogging day on a more positive note, I will have one more post - a crochet-related one! - after this one. I will gladly risk the accusations of torture it will provoke to make it, lol!

Sea of Yarn - outgoing!

And here is what I sent as my Sea of Yarn package, to Fran:
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Fortunately for me, she was able to provide this picture, as I was so distracted and disorganized that I forgot to take a picture of it all before I packed it up! I had wrapped all of the yarn up in tissue paper, or I would have unpacked it to take the forgotten picture. So I am borrowing Fran's pic (thank you Fran!).

The only problem I had with this swap was peeling my greedy little fingers off this yarn in order to send it on to someone else, lol! Now I'm just going to have to go and get ME some more of that Boucle, and the Mosaic (is that ever a soft yarn!). Fortunately, I have a good supply of the rest of it, so that was easier to relinquish - and I was happy to grant Fran one of her Christmas in July wishes in this swap as well, which was cool!

Sea of Yarn!

Here's the fabulous package I received from Kathy (losingmymind2) in the Crochetville Sea of Yarn swap.
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That yummy looking ball of pink yarn is Manos del Uruguay, simply divine! The Simply Soft Quick was one I had never seen before, and as it turns out, apparently for good reason - it's new! And I am looking forward to playing with the Lion Chenille, I have only ever worked with the Thick & Quick before. Wheeee! I'm drowning in a "Sea of Yarn"! Thank you Kathy, it's fabulous! And those cards will come in handy, this was one item I was seriously short on, so they couldn't have come at a better time!

This is just too cute!

Received this link from a friend of mine, it was billed as a "stress-buster".

http://www.nobodyhere.com/toren.hier

Those Germans can be so creative! All you need to do is run your mouse over the bears and watch what they do. Have fun! I keep popping over to play with them, hee hee!

Working-gal Blues, #2

For those who may have missed my opening post for this series, I suggest you read that before reading this one. I will include links for all previous messages in this series at the beginning of each post, in fact, to give people the opportunity (if they so desire) to read them in their proper order, since they sort of build on the prior messages and will make more sense if read that way.

So, to pick up where I left off, thanks in large part to our stability, our company managed to survive the effects that 9/11 had on the travel industry. Because the vast majority of the conventions we handle are of the professional and/or educational kind, there was little danger of events like this no longer being held, but attendance was down at many of them for a long time, especially in the aftermath years that also saw us in recession. Wider internet access for services such as hotel bookings also served to further dampen our volume. Those years saw us have the first ever lay-offs of employees, as they sought to trim expenses, which was very traumatic for us. Every department was forced to trim, even our own little accounting department. And, it was the beginning of the restricted overtime saga, despite the fact that we now had to take on extra work to cover the work of the folks that were laid off. If we had felt stressed before about our jobs, it was nothing compared to what it became, and it continues to this day. In fact, this is one of the major issues I am struggling with and that has prompted me to write this series. The unrelenting stress over a large period of time is finally beginning to have a major negative impact on my health.

After only 5 years, our venture capital owners decided it was time to bail. They put us up for sale. Granted, this had been the plan all along anyway, they were just accelerating their schedule. They had successfully grown us into a very profitable (despite the recession and it's effects) company, and our reputation as an industry leader certainly helped as well.

As so often happens, though, rumors began circulating among the employees that kept us all in a perpetual state of fear. Although I work in a very small department of a company that occupies nearly every floor in our office building (we have the whole fourth floor plus suites on the 2nd, 3rd and 5th, in a six story building), I have always managed to keep tabs on what is going on elsewhere in the company - by being a smoker! You hear all kinds of things in the smoking area and can learn a lot of things just by paying attention. It really is amazing how creatively negative our minds can become in the absence of communication from management! So I heard lots of bizarre stories, as well as the latest scuttlebutt on what was happening and who was ticked-off at whom, and why. One thing that proved to become a major issue, and which frankly surprised me as I had never encountered it before (except, perhaps, in our small air department, the "prima donas" of the company - but that's another issue entirely and not germane to this series), was a high level of favoritism being shown by certain managers toward some of the employees. This has caused the single most major gripe of all among them, and I can certainly see why it would.

In the meantime, our own department had been having it's own issues relative to the way our owner had organized our part of the company - remember we were no longer a stand-alone company, but a "branch" of a bigger company, with a sister branch in another state. They had, in effect, tried to eliminate our department entirely by merging it with the accounting department of the other branch! Because the vast majority of the checks we had to issue were of the "on demand" variety with a same-day turnaround, it just wasn't practical to have these payments issued from the other branch, so they couldn't eliminate us. I'm not sure how much of this was instigated by the head of that other branch's accounting department, but he had muscled his way into becoming the "head" of all accounting operations for both branches, with our accounting CFO being placed lower down in the hierarchy scale. This did not go over too well, especially since we viewed ourselves as the senior branch. We had been in business for about 50 years, while this other branch had only been operating for 18, and among our clientele, they were not liked very much at all, while we were known to be the best (this really isn't bragging, it's just the plain unvarnished truth!). And none of us liked this guy who was suddenly "in charge", me least of all, for he made my job a living hell for quite some time! Don't you just love office politics!

It took several months, possibly over a year (hard to remember now), but finally our company was sold, to yet another similar travel company. Although they merged the 3 different branches into "one" company, they did not, like our previous owners, try to meld the branches into a single unit. For our branch, this was good news, as the merging with the other branch that we had previously experienced had put us into a secondary position which we resented greatly. We were the ones with the high reputation, so from our perspective, this had been a bad idea, business-wise. Our new owners recognized and appreciated it, and wisely sought to capitalize on it unlike the previous owners who had no understanding of our field. Best of all to us, the guy who had tried to "lord it over us" was let go soon afterward, due to personality clashes with the new owners.

Now, I had mentioned previously that the job of processing refunds had finally been re-assigned to someone else. In it's place, I was given the assignment of handling client payments. We paid most of our reg clients on a bi-weekly basis, though we had a handful that demanded it to be weekly. The job entailed running several reports showing the total of their registration figures, then providing a spreadsheet summary of those figures with the activity for the payment period, then writing up the check request for that period's payment. When I took this task over, there were maybe about a total of 20 or 25 of these accounts over a year's time, and the reporting was not all that difficult, except for a couple of accounts. Despite that, the job is a bit time-consuming, especially the set-up phase prior to the first payment, under the best of circumstances. As we grew, the number of reg accounts began creeping up, and many of our clients began asking for more and more detailed reports, requiring a lot of customization, and more investment of time on my part to get their demands fulfilled. Previously, our normal procedure was to get the check written and the package out the door on the same day the reports were run and processed, but that proved to be impossible for me, hampered even more so by demands that I produce the day's checks and present them for signature by no later than 2 pm! And I am talking about ALL checks, not just the client payment checks!

This period of time, when I was responsible for the client payments along with all of my other accounts payable duties, was the peak of my stressful period, and it dang near killed me. It was around this point that I began to feel my health failing, I began to make the many stupid mistakes that had never been a problem in my entire life before, and I began to dread coming to work every day. When I complained of the work load, I got the litany of "shoulds" ("there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to keep up", "these are not that complicated" - yeah, right, why don't YOU try it?! - "you should be able to get these things done by the deadlines" "you need to be more efficient" yada yada yada ad nauseum). Technically, it was no different from before, when I was constantly cramming to get hundreds of refunds processed a day along with paying the bills and coding and balancing expense reports (oh, and I forgot to mention that we have a very complex coding system - some bills and expense reports will have breakdowns that can run anywhere from the usual one account code up to as many as fifteen and even more, requiring a high level of skill and knowledge, and yet another time-consuming process). I think it's telling that there is no one in our entire department that is able to do what I do. At one time, our CFO could, but now even she can't do much of it! I have no backup, which makes it "fun" to come back from a week's vacation, let me tell you!

If it hadn't been for the desire of my direct manager to step out of that position of responsibility (which had been hard for her too), I doubt anything would have changed. She had never really been good "management" material anyway, and lots of people had issues with her. Fortunately, I did not. But I did, and I still do, with her boss, who is also my boss, the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) of our company, who took over the management duties from that point on. The client payments were reassigned back to my former manager, who had previously been responsible for them, but by this time, they had grown into a beast, and she has had to rely heavily on me to help her through many of them, as she is not as skilled with working with spreadsheets as I am.

As is always the case, when they take a burden off of me, they quickly rush to replace it with another, and this time was no exception! I was now responsible for handling "unclaimed funds", those checks that had never been cashed... Still, it was not as much pressure as before, but by this time I had been so drained from the unrelenting high stress that I found it difficult to handle much of anything with anything like my former skills. And I just can't seem to recuperate, despite the fact that I have done everything I can to reduce any other demands on me outside of my job. I had taken up the crocheting as a way to do that, but was shocked and displeased to find that it had affected even that area of my life, causing me to struggle with even the simplest of projects! But the payoffs are so huge that it has been worth it to me to struggle on, and I am hoping that eventually I will be able to recover more of my former abilities. Some days are worse than others, and I cling to the "good" ones with a strangle-hold, taking hope from them that it will happen!

Okay, a bit of a lengthy "intro", but at least this should give you some idea of the issues I am about to address. I can almost hear you saying, "There's more???". Yes, alas, there's more. We will get into that in the next installment...

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Singing the Working-gal Blues (first of a series)

So, last weekend I whined about how busy I was at work the previous week... Here it is, a week later, and I'm here to tell ya - that week was a picnic at the park compared to this just-completed one! It never ceases to amaze me, I think "it can't possibly get any worse than this" and then I'm proven wrong! Sheesh!

I've whined and complained so often about my work conditions, but I've never really given much in the way of details. I suspect it makes it hard to even imagine what I'm talking about, so I've decided to give you a peek into my worklife. Besides that, there are many issues I am having with my job that I need to work out, and maybe the telling of my saga will help me to resolve them, somewhat. At the very least, it might give me a list to start from in trying to discuss some of these issues with my boss, who has a hard time understanding the point of view of us, her employees. I try hard not to expend much energy in my off-work times on anything dealing with the job, but things have been getting so bad there that in spite of my "rule", I find myself thinking and talking about it far too much! So maybe if I write it out, I can then shut it out so my other interests and obligations will get their fair share of my time and energy! Because it has been known that people have actually lost their jobs because of things they've written in personal blogs, I will remain deliberately vague about certain details, for my own protection. But I don't think those parts I must remain vague about will make it hard to follow this saga with understanding of what I'm talking about - I've found that the conditions I am about to discuss are spreading to workplaces across America, it seems to be "the way things are" nowadays. Many of you who have jobs may even find that you can relate to this, so sorry for you, if that is the case!

Because this is a lengthy story to tell, I am definitely going to have to break it up into "chapters", so the posts won't be too long. I will also break things up a bit and slip in some crochet-related posts, since after all, that's what this blog is supposed to be about! Just writing this story up will probably take me the better part of the weekend, with breaks for other things of course, but I intend to get it all done before it's back to work on Monday.

First, a bit of history and information, to set the stage:

I have been at my present job for over 9 years now, a length of time that I still find amazing. Prior to that, I seldom stayed at any job more than, at most, 2 years. I guess it shows that I have finally "matured" into a bit more of a stable personality instead of the usual flake that I have always been. I have always been a model employee, though, except for one area - I have a great deal of trouble arriving to work on time. I have often said that I must have been late to my own birth, it just seems to be a fixed part of my personality. I have "issues" with time, and after having spent nearly 35 years trying to improve this, I have met with an extremely limited amount of success. There doesn't seem to be a job in the world that doesn't consider this "being on time" issue of major importance! Many jobs, I know, rely heavily on it, and for that reason I would never go seeking one of them. You could have a sterling reputation as a model employee, but this one factor will ruin all of it, is what I have found.

One of the reasons I have stuck with this company is that, despite the constant carping about it, they have continued to be somewhat lenient about my tardy issues. Most of the time I manage to arrive within the 7 1/2 minute "grace period" of my starting time, which I managed to set with them as 9:30 (I am sooo NOT a "morning" person!), but occasionally I will slip over that and be marked with a tardy as a result, usually once or twice a week. Lately I've managed to shrink that to once or twice a pay period, and I'm still working on trying to eliminate it completely. I am rarely late more than 15 minutes, and even more rarely will I make it in before 9:30. Most of my tardies are due to traffic issues, as I usually manage to leave the house within the specific 10 minute window of time I've allotted for myself, but from their point of view, the reason for the tardiness is not considered. Their response is that I should have just left earlier, as if I had a crystal ball to tell me that traffic was going to be particularly horrid that day! But, no matter... If I could, I would leave earlier, but like I said, I'm not a morning person, needing up to an hour from when I wake up to become fully functional and "safe" for the one hour drive to work. Starting a half hour later than everybody else means I miss most of the worst of the morning hour rush traffic (I know it's been said many times, but who decided to call it "rush hour" anyway?), otherwise it would take up to an hour and a half, and on some days even longer, to make the 40 mile trek.

I work for a convention travel company. Our company handles the hotel reservations for many conventions both big and small, and for some of our clients, the collection of fees for their registrations and events. I am the accounts payable "department" (a lean, mean, check-writing machine!). The only checks I don't write are the payroll, phew (wiping sweat from brow)! Until a couple of years ago, as part of my responsibilities, I single-handedly processed ALL the refunds that were generated from people cancelling and changing reservations for these conventions. I used to keep track of my volume back then, and on average, I processed 5000 credit card refunds and 1000 checks (of all types) per month! In the months following 9/11, those figures doubled, not slipping back down to "normal" levels until about 6 months later. I practically lived at work those months.

I whined, I cried, I complained, and I started fading away, energy-wise, before they finally figured out they were destroying me with the workload (which continued to grow as the company grew) and removed some of my burden. Two years ago, they assigned the processing of refunds to someone else, right after they also set up a program to process most of the credit card refunds automatically, thus reducing the work volume by 75%. Granted, the person who was assigned to handle the refunds only works part time, but he is constantly behind with them even now! And he has little else that he is responsible for! But the process has also become much more complicated for that remaining 25% that has to be done by hand.

Besides the refunds, I also handle the check writing for all of that deposit money to the hotels, we call them "rooming lists" and they can be anywhere from a couple of checks up to 80, depending on the size of the meeting. These have a very fast turnaround time, the checks are needed the same day they are requested as we are on a contract deadline with the hotels. I am supposed to be notified of the request schedule at least a month in advance for these, so that I can make sure I have all the hotel information loaded in my system in order to produce these checks quickly. Nothing wrecks my daily schedule worse than receiving a big rooming list request that I was not previously informed would be coming! The folks who are responsible for these have finally improved in that area, much to my relief.

I am also responsible for processing and paying all of the bills related to the day to day operation of the company, processing advances to employees who travel to the meetings to work onsite, and then processing their expense reports and reimbursements afterwards, plus checks to the clients we are collecting registration and event money for, and a myriad of other miscellaneous requests for money. In the over nine years I've been working there, I think I can recall only one or two very short instances where I wasn't constantly scrambling to produce checks! Needless to say, even without the issues I plan to address in these posts, my job always has been very high-stress.

When I first started with this company, it was considered "small", we had about 150 employees in total, and we had 3 owners, one primary (he owned 72%) and two "small-time" (with the remaining 28% split between them). All 3 were present at work every day, with the 2 "lesser" owners also working - one was a Sales rep, drawing in new business and the other responsible for overseeing all the details of the day-to-day operations. These two were always pretty popular with the employees as they treated us pretty well and were friendly to us, but our primary owner mostly stayed in his "ivory tower" of an office and developed a reputation for being a bit of a skin-flint (my private name for him was "Mr. Scrooge", says everything!). Then one day, Scrooge -er, our primary owner, decided it was time to sell the company and retire. Our two lesser owners would have been happy to buy him out, but he was asking more money than they could come up with, and for some reason, he didn't want to sell out to them anyway. And so it came to be that we were bought up by a venture capital firm, along with a "sister" company in the business, from another state, and the two companies were "merged" into one larger company with "branches". One of the goals of venture capital companies is to buy up companies like ours, grow them at a very fast rate, and then sell them after about 6 or 7 years. Which is what our new owners proceeded to do, more than doubling the number of meetings we handled within two years of taking over. As employees, we were not prepared for the explosion of work that resulted from it! We began to have problems hanging on to employees due to the high burnout rate, and developed a bit of a "revolving door" for awhile. They slowed it down some by raising salaries to match the rest of the industry (I did mention that we worked for Scrooge, right?), which gave more people the incentive to hang in there when things got busy, and the overtime sure helped as well, even if it meant we had little in the way of a "life" outside of work.

Then along came 9/11, which delivered a serious body-blow to our industry. The employees in the rest of the company saw an immediate easing of their work burden, thanks to that event, which I did not get to see since I primarily dealt with the fallout from it as convention attendees cancelled their reservations in droves and demanded immediate and full refunds! Fortunately for us, our company was a very stable one, having been in this business for over 50 years, and we somehow weathered that storm, but things began to change in ways both major and minor from that point forward, no doubt leading us to the point we now find ourselves at.

I am going to take a break now, I have a major project I am working on and I'd like to make some progress on it. I also have some necessary shopping to do this afternoon (reaching critical mass on the need to restock that all-important t-paper, yikes!). I'll be back with the next installment of this series later, along with some crochet-related messages...

Sunday, July 10, 2005

My first LYS experience... Uh oh! I'm in trouble now!

This past week has been a very busy one, resulting in my getting hopelessly backed up with many things. I spent most of my free time concentrating on getting a couple of "small" projects completed for my secret pal. I put the word "small" in quotes because that's what they should have been, and not been something that would end up taking me a full week to complete! But this is me we're talking about here, and I seem to be suffering an extreme level of ADD or something, because things that normally take a few hours to do are taking me days...

Well, I can rail on about that, it seems to have become my secondary mantra here. But I am happy to report that, all struggles aside, they are both now done, have been washed and dried and are ready to be packed and shipped, hopefully tomorrow. I am now starting on my piece de resistance (with apologies for my sloppy French, just mentally put that accent in there please!) for my reveal package. This is a much bigger project than the two little ones it took me a week to complete, but I've done this kind of pattern before so I am hoping it will go much more quickly and smoothly. If it turns out like I'm envisioning it, it should be spectacular, I think - wish me luck!

Also, on the weekend front, yesterday I made the trek to mom's again. She had called me at work on Thursday and requested it, and I was more than happy to oblige - I think we are finally getting to that point in our relationship that I had always longed for, and it tickles me pink. We had a grand time together, as I ran her around town for some errands and to hit the bank for a cash transfusion (which actually started the trek, logically!), plus we stopped for a late breakfast/early (for me) lunch, guess you would call that a brunch lol!

After I left mom's, I decided to drive all the way to the far northeast side of Chicago (a bit out of my way for the highway home) to have my first experience with a LYS. I'm not sure if this was a mistake or not...

Okay, so JoAnns is having another big sale this week, started today as a matter of fact. I had plotted and planned, and gathered up several coupons I had managed to amass for even bigger savings, and I was planning on going there today to clean up on their clearance yarns, especially the Lustersheen and Cottonease they had marked down to $3 a ball, which for this sale would further be reduced another 30% (not quite as good as the Firefly Frenzy sale, but still not a shabby deal). I have never used Lustersheen before, but I do have a lot of patterns that call for it, and I am further highly interested in stashing as much sport and fingering weight yarn as I can lay my hands on, as these are best for making summer-weight items, so I was really looking forward to this. In fact, I went through the targeted JoAnns TWICE last week, last time on Friday, to check their inventory of the clearance yarns and make sure they still had a good deal of my coveted yarns available, which they did. I had my coupons, I had my list, I had my plans and I was good to go. And then I stopped at Arcadia Knitting...

My plan, after having spent an entire week browsing and drooling over the Patternworks catalog I'd received in the mail last Tuesday, was simply to go see some of these yarns in person and pet them, but not buy - oh no, not that! I had already determined how much I could squeeze out of my budget and still get by, for my planned JoAnns excursion. But I didn't factor in the immediate and complete crush I would develop over one particular yarn, such that I absolutely could not leave that store without it! And, since I was already blowing my budget, I decided to pick through the basket of marked-down yarns they had as well. All told, by the time I managed to escape that store, I'd blown my yarn budget and then some! I (being the silly gal that I am) still held out a small bit of forlorn hope that I might be able to jimmy the budget to allow me to still make the trek to JoAnns today, but after updating my spreadsheet, unless I could borrow some money next paycheck (which is where I go into the red) AND get some decent overtime (still waiting for that to start), I haven't got a prayer. So, reluctantly, I cancelled today's trip. I couldn't even justify the extra gas I would have had to burn to make the drive (the store is near where I work). I may stop by there tomorrow on my way home from work to see if anything is left, which I kinda doubt, and maybe spend a little bit of my set-aside lunch money, maybe. It's hell being a yarn addict, I tell ya! But I must admit, it's good for the figure, lol!

So, what was the yarn that captivated me so? This:
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The store was not real remarkable, as far as design goes, it was pretty utilitarian with little effort made at fancy decorating, just two large storefront rooms with metal shelving units full of yarn, pattern books and tools of the knitting trade, sample swatches and some completed projects made from some of the inventory, and a large folding table in the first room for people to sit and knit. Nothing fancy to speak of - except the yarn! They had it all arranged by color, yarns from many different companies, some familiar many not, most of it very pricey indeed!
To be honest, fancy decorating was probably not all that necessary anyway, as there was a singular sense of focus in this shop, and that was knitting. There were two gals there when I first walked in, but more people came in to take up positions around the table while I browsed, everyone working on sweater projects as far as I could see. I wandered among the shelves, picking up a ball here, a hank there, to pet and read labels and ooh and ahh quietly to myself. At one point, one of the two gals came up to me to ask if I needed any help, or if I was looking for anything in particular. I couldn't help it, I asked: "Can I just take the whole shop home?" She smiled and said they didn't have a bag big enough, lol! And she left me to my browsing, which I proceeded to do, all while trying to keep the drooling unobtrusive. But I was able to resist the siren call of all that yarn - until I came to the black section, the very last area of my browsing. One yarn drew me to it like a magnet, and despite it's price, and my awareness of my plans for shopping at JoAnns, I could not leave the store without it! There were 3 balls of it on the shelf, and frankly I don't know how I had the self-control to leave the third ball behind, but I did - and I'm still regretting it, lol! This would be the yarn at the front of the above picture. It is called Ritratto from S Charles Collezione and is made in Italy, a blend of Mohair, Viscose, Nylon and Polyester, and Lordy is it ever soft! And sparkly. And very very rich looking. And I just plain had to have it! As expensive as it was (at $13.50 per ball), it at least has a pretty good yardage to it at 198 yards apiece. I am seriously considering giving the store a call to see about getting that third ball, which I really shouldn't have left behind...

Since I was blowing my budget anyway, I decided to throw all caution to the winds and went pawing through a basket of marked-down yarn they had as well, which is where I picked up the remaining yarn in the picture, all of it marked down 30%. Click here for a full-screen view of the above photo, and drool with me as I pet my way through the other yarns in my haul! The 3 hanks of Cherry Tree Hill cotton boucle is speaking "tank" to me, or perhaps a shrug - they have a combined yardage of 510, perhaps enough for a short-sleeved shrug, don't you think? The green yarn is from Blue Sky Alpaca, another very soft yummy yarn, and then there's the ball of green mohair (I was on a real mohair kick yesterday!)from Queensland Collection and made in Italy (I find it almost impossible to stop petting this one too!), this one was a real bargain at $3. There really isn't a whole lot of either of these two last yarns (110 yds of the Alpaca and 98 yds of the mohair), anybody got any good ideas on what I might be able to do with these?

So, herewith, is my tale of the first excursion to a LYS. I've learned that I will definitely have to avoid these stores like the plague unless I have plenty of money to burn, as I have zero self-control when a special yarn decides to call my name! But I gotta tell you, as damaging as it was to my budget and my plans, I have absolutely no regrets about yesterday's purchase, and that Ritratta continues to sing a lovely song to me! I just hope I can come up with the right project to show it in all it's glory! If I do manage to get that third ball, I will probably make a shawl or a wrap out of it, perhaps find some really fine black wool/silk blend yarn to complement it and make that butterfly shawl. I can picture that shawl in stripes of the Ritratta and said fine black yarn - picture it with me! But whatever pattern I settle on, my one requirement is that it be something that will allow this yarn to shine just like it did when I first laid eyes on it.

I feel so pampered!

Here is the lovely Christmas in July gift I received from a Crochetville Elf from Alabama this week:
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I have already put all of it to use, am really enjoying the lotion and lip balm especially, they smell wonderful. I just adore (the real stuff) Vanilla - and I really love that washcloth! It is working out to becoming my absolute favorite one, and I suspect I may end up wearing it out from using it so much. Many many THANKS to you, my friend from Alabama, whoever you are!

I am hoping to get my chosen items together for this Christmas in July swap over this next week or two and get them out the door. I didn't get much of an opportunity to study the wishlists for more than a few moments snatched here and there all last week, which has been making it difficult for me to get myself organized for this. I need to clear enough space at the kitchen table and get a light set up there so I can have a place to sit and have enough room for writing notes, cards etc, and reading the lists I printed out, as well as to prepare the mailers. I'm glad this swap runs to the end of July, so many have been showered by generous elves early in the game, I'm looking at my slow start on this project as a way of making this swap last all the way to the end! Hey, it's a good excuse, right?

It also means taking a break from my main focus of working on my reveal project for my secret pal. I am hoping I can get this project done in less than 2 weeks, as I want to make sure she gets it well before the end of the month, mainly because I discovered that she will be travelling and I'd like her to have this for her trip. I will be glad to reach the "reveal" stage with her so that I can speak a little less cryptically about these projects I've been working on, and even get to share some pics of what I've done!

Okay, one more pic and post to share, and then I'm back on my project (and, hopefully, perhaps a dyeing session too? I'm hoping). Once it cools down a bit, I also have to get outside and do some yard work, not to mention a bit of housecleaning - I just love trying to cram a weekend's worth of work into one day! But I was gone for most of yesterday, so there wasn't much of an opportunity to get much done, other than finishing up my 2 small projects for my secret pal gal. But more about that later.