Category Archives: christmas

All the fancy blogs make me sad

All the fancy blogs and Instagram feeds make me sad if I think about them. They have elaborate holiday displays all over their houses. I’d love to have that sort of thing. I’d love to not have cats that don’t knock everything over and nest in Christmas trees. Also, most of them take hours and hours of work to put out. That’s just not my life.

This is my holiday display. It took fifteen minutes to put out, including getting it out of storage.

Yes, that’s the only tree I do. It’s little and ceramic, but the cats can’t nest in it.

I wanted a vintage ceramic tree, but they were all super expensive on Ebay. Like $200 and more. I got this one for $40 last year on sale from the Vermont Country Store. I’ll keep it until it’s vintage or until the cats decide to test gravity with it. So far they haven’t managed that, so I’m feeling good about it.

The poinsettia wreath I made years ago. It was a skirt around some real candles for years, but it’s just the right size be a tree skirt. The fake candles complete the retro-kitsch look. They turn on and off automatically and aren’t a fire hazard when the cats decide that kitten-psycho-playtime needs to take a lap on my buffet table.

The roommate’s father made the wooden tree and manger scene on the sides of the table. They’ve held a place of honor ever since he gave them to her. They’re simple and beautiful and won’t break if the cats decide to knock them over. That last part is a bonus.

My white porcelain creche is put up until the time we don’t have cats. I think it’s beautiful and want to display it. I also don’t want it broken. It’s the same for a good number of my holiday display items. They’re just not practical at this time in my life.

All the fancy blogs make me sad, but only if I think about them too much. My life is too busy to compare to other people’s Instagram feeds.

Christmas Scarf Watch: 20161224 –  Completed

I made it. The scarf is now drying after it’s initial washing. No scarf IOUs will be needed this year.

The roommate documented the measurement for me. I ended up being slightly short on my count. It actually took a full six tomatoes (three hours) to complete the last of it. I’m unsure if the deviation was just that I slowed a bit as I went due to my hands hurting, or simply knit faster when I was timing myself to try to figure out much longer I would need to finish.

I felt so accomplished that I gave myself the rest of the evening off from knitting and watched the roommate play her new video game: The Division. The storyline of the video game is good because how could it not be good when it’s based on work by Tom Clancy.

I’m still just a little disappointed at the lack of zombies in the game. Thugs? Yes. Bioterrorists? Of course. Zombies? Completely missing. It’s so sad. I think it’s a tragically missed opportunity for zombie Knicks fans.

At least the game is educational. I’ve been learning lots about New York. The game maps are actually based on Google Maps for the city. I’ve even been to Virtual Madison Square garden, which makes me want to go visit the real thing.

The most important thing I’ve learned from the game so far, though, is that pretty much everyone has military grade weapons stashed around their apartments for you to find once they’ve been evacuated because of the Dollar Flu. I’m surprised that more New Yorkers aren’t just climbing up onto their rooftops and camping out in lawn chairs with their sniper rifles and machine guns and picking off passers-by for fun while they wait out the whole Bioterrorist plague thing.
I would have expected the roommate to do more sniping, like she’s done in Fallout and other games, but The Division doesn’t seem well set up for solo play and many of the scenarios seem to need to be seriously over-leveled in order to play them out alone. Because of that, there haven’t been as many opportunities for her to find a good spot to set up and head shot mobs.
I made the roommate (read: pestered the roommate to do it until she acquiesced) pick up her free holiday hat for her character. It’s a nifty red and white holiday themed fair isle stocking cap complete with Norwegian Star motif and Deer. It screams holiday cheer as she’s mowing down AI opponents with her AK-47, so at least there’s that.

Christmas Scarf Watch Update: 20161223 – The race is on

​Scarf watch: length 65 inches of 78 inches.

Tendonitis report: Yes.

Tomatoes behind schedule: Let’s call it one. It should be three, because I should have planned on finishing today and not tomorrow, to allow for blocking. I did take time to weave in the ends so far, so I’ll only have one end to weave in when I finish.

Tomatoes remaining: Let’s call it 5, just to be safe. 

Odds of finishing before Christmas: Promising (Don’t get cocky!)

Desperation level: Waning (Seriously, don’t get cocky!)

There are just a bit over 13 inches of scarf left to knit and perhaps 2 and a half hours of work left before the knitting is finished.

I’m on Winter Shutdown now. It varies a bit from year to year, but The Day Job shutters the doors from from December 23 through January 2 in order to do vital maintenance in the factory and facilities. Lucky me, since the office is closed, too. In theory, I should be able to manage knitting time over the course of the day to finish the scarf and block it.

In practice, the roommate may have other plans for maintenance around the house that I need to help with since we’re hosting the Holiday festivities here this year. 

There’s a fighting chance of actually meeting my self imposed deadline. Wish me luck.

It will take a miracle

Let’s not talk about how far behind I am on the scarf. I keep telling myself that I can make it, that I can finish it before Christmas Eve. In a fit of starry-eyed optimism, I even put a tomato on it before work this morning.

In my saner moments, I keep hearing this scene from the Princess Bride in my brain.

I want to succeed. I just don’t know that there’s quite enough time left between now and Christmas Eve, especially if I leave time for trivial finishing things like “blocking” and “weaving in ends” and “sleeping.”

Finishing and sleeping are overrated, right?

Enough stalling by writing. Back to knitting.



The days really ARE getting shorter

The Christmas Scarf rolled up around it’s cake, because I’m now desperate enough to try to transport it.

Scarf watch: length 49 inches of 78 inches. (does not include another four screwed up rows because I tried to knit in a room too dark for the yarn color).

Tendonitis report: Still an issue. Icing when I’m not actively knitting.

Tomatoes behind schedule: 1.5 (adding a half a tomato for the second round of knitting fail that I need to fix.)

Odds of finishing before Christmas: Not good.

Desperation level: High, bordering on all out panic.

Christmas Scarf Ribbing Mishap of 2016

Productive knitting is knitting that goes forward, not backward. See those four rows on the right hand side, near the tip of the needle that look like ribbing? That was not “productive” knitting. That was four rows of congressive knitting (congress being the opposite of progress.)

It’s knits and purls. How hard can it be? Apparently harder than I thought.

What. The. Hell. Fingers?

The Fingers would like to point out that this is not their fault. They’re not in charge. Ask Brain, they say. Brain is “the boss” and “in charge.”

Brain disavows all involvement in the incident. Brain was engaged in obtaining a status report from SCIENCE! about the long promised instantaneous caffeine delivery system. Brain says that fingers can take care of such trivial knitting as double seed stitch without constant supervision, and besides, the update from SCIENCE was full of important data.

Instantaneous caffeine delivery is still “under development” and will be available “soon.”

Toes suggested they could easily take over since Fingers obviously couldn’t handle a simple job, to which Fingers replied, “Shove it in your sock, shoe dweller.”

Rather than listen to such partisan ad hominid attacks, I ignored them and set about figuring out what my options were. Ultimately I had two choices: Frog back to the last good row and redo the last four rows correctly, or successively drop down each of the 10 stitches involved in the Christmas Scarf Ribbing Mishap of 2016 and fix them in situ.

Recalling the Great Sleeve Mishap of 2008, which lead to both an entire sweater walking the long green mile to the frog pond and my current lack of status as a “sweater knitter,” I decided to fix the stitches in place, even though I knew it was likely to take a whole tomato.

It actually took 20 minutes, so most of a tomato.

I think it looks pretty good. Now if I can just find a few more hours before Christmas that aren’t already scheduled. 


How many tomatoes until Christmas?

According to my calendar, I have 8 more knitting days until Christmas. Nine, if I convince the scarf’s recipient that I want to give it to him on Christmas Day proper and make it a proper Christmas gift.

Except he reads this blog and will know I’m just making up things to stall for time.

The scarf is less than half as long as it needs to be. It needs to be 78 inches long to be of sufficient length. I’m barely managing a single pomodoro at a sitting when I’m sitting down to knit. If this continues, the scarf won’t be ready until Easter of 2018. I exaggerate, of course, but not much.

It’s this time of year that I really think of my Mother. Mama (pronounced like Morticia Addams talking to Grandmama) spent the entire time from Black Friday until Christmas Morning baking, and crocheting and knitting, and sewing, and generally making to produce the magic we saw each year at Christmas.

There were dozens and dozens of cookies. Construction paper ring garlands, popcorn and cranberry garlands, and cakes and sweet breads galore. The tree had to go up with enough tinsel and ornaments to keep the companies that make them comfortably in business until the next year. Lights to string. Clothes and toys to sew. The business of the season was endless and Mama worked late into the night to make everything perfect, though I think she thought we didn’t know. 

I have no idea how she did it all. My parents constant fighting didn’t let up. I think it somehow fueled the frenetic Christmas frenzy. What she did had to have come from somewhere. It was like magic. All these things she managed to do, some we helped with, most though seemed to appear from thin air. Sadly, the magic skipped a generation.

I’m going to be very lucky just to finish this scarf. It’s not made of magic, just yarn and tomatoes of time stolen from my novel. I should have tucked it into a small project bag and popped it into my tote bag cum purse, but I don’t have the right size project bag for it and I don’t want it to snag on anything.

I want it to be perfect, just like the magical things Mama created when I was a girl.

What? The present is under the tree.

an unwrapped amazon box under a ceramic Christmas tree.

The present actually made it under the tree this year.

We have a long tradition of under celebrating Christmas here at the Studio. We didn’t start out that way. I know that I had every intention of decorating like my parents had. Tree done up with lights. Christmas village complete with Lionel train. Garlands of every type everywhere and Christmas cards from friends and family decorating the door frame leading from the kitchen/dining room into the upstairs living room.

Note to self: Crap! I still need to send out holiday cards. Make a note to do this before New Years this year.

The first year that the roommate and I lived together, we got a three-foot tall artificial tree. We also got a little black kitten.

Hilarity ensued.

According to Boo, the natural habitat of a black cat was in nesting in the Christmas tree, bending the little artificial boughs all out of whack. We had to tie the tree to the little side table we put it on to keep it standing upright.

Boo the cat. She’s in our Christmas tree, stalking Santa.

In 2008 the youngest two cats came into the picture and we gave up on the idea of the Christmas tree entirely. Keeping four cats out of the tree was just too much work. Even now that Boo has passed away, keeping three cats and a dog out of a tree when Sophie-dog believes that branches are chew toys is a pipe dream at best and a trip to the emergency vet because Sophie decided to actually EAT the Christmas tree  at worst.

This year I came up with the clever plan of getting a ceramic tree. It’s cheery. It’s festive. There’s no way a cat can actually nest in it. It doesn’t seem like wood, so the dog is uninterested in it.

Now that I’ve got a present under it, I feel so accomplished! Ha ha! I got something under the tree before Christmas Eve. I’d feel more accomplished if the gift scarf were finished, too. One problem at a time. One problem at a time.

Two quick thoughts

  1. Decorating for the holidays is difficult with pets. Between cats knocking over Christmas trees and animals in general eating things they shouldn’t, it’s hard to make the house feel festive.

    I mean, seriously cats. I understand the tree. It looks fun to me, too, but what on earth would even possess you to nom on a poinsettia? You’re an obligate carnivore. This makes no sense to me, but I know we can’t have one despite the fact that my friend gave us the most Amazing poinsettia I’ve ever seen – and I’ve been to Mexico during the holiday season.

    I think I’ve solved this problem with a lighted ceramic tree. Festive and not a climbing hazard. Hopefully it won’t be a “knock it off the sideboard hazard” instaed. Which leads me to. . .

  2. I wanted to buy a used ceramic tree, like the ones my childhood neighbors who did ceramics used to sell. Glazed green with white on the tips, like snow. No glittery crap. White only LightBrite(tm)  pegs a bonus.

    I checked etsy and ebay and ever snuck out to the local charity shops over lunch to try to find one. There were none available in town and etsy and ebay were both strike outs. They came in two kinds “unglazed” – meaning finish it yourself. (And where am I going to find glaze and a proper kiln?) or they were all labeled “vintage” and “vintage” apparently means “It’s old so it should be valuable. Pay me extra for the privilege of buying something old and used.”

    Um, no. I’ll pass on that. So much for reducing and reusing saving you money.

    It was actually less expensive to order a brand new one from the Vermont Country Store and ship it with upgraded shipping than it was to buy a used lighted ceramic tree on either etsy or ebay.