October 31, 2004

I RETURN HOME; AMISH COUNTRY REVISITED

On the flight home from Pittsburgh yesterday, I read a couple more chapters of The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp. This book is so rich, I read it slowly and savor it. I found this book in the "Self Help" section of University Book Store, which I thought was a slightly strange place to shelve it, as I thought the book was an autobiography. Now that I've read about half of it, I understand the reason behind that shelving: This book contains Twyla's insights and directives into forming good work habits that will foster creative works, and at the end of every chapter there are creativity exercises that she recommends. There is an autobiographical element to the book, as she recaps her own work habits, and recounts her process when choreographing certain shows of hers, but perhaps the book is more of a self-help guide. In either case, it is the best book about creativity that I have read in a long time!

Also during the flight I knitted on the Karis poncho, as well as the socks I am designing for my daughter Jennie.

This morning, knitting in bed with my cup of coffee, I arrived at a crucial point in the poncho: I am exactly halfway finished with the bottom edging! The orange marker is at the center front of the poncho:

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Is the mohair really that fuzzy, or is this picture out of focus?!

Now that I'm back home with my camera and its little cord for transferring photos from its memory bank to my computer's, let me show you the photos from the tour of Amish country. Our tour group went to the New Westminster/Volant area of Pennsylvania. The Amish farms all had white houses with doors painted a lovely shade of aqua blue, and white curtains drawn to one side in the windows:

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We stopped at Teena's Quilt Shop, a shop that was in a private Amish home and sold goods handmade by the Amish -- quilts, table runners and placemats (both quilted and handwoven), aprons, candles and soaps, wooden baskets, beanbag rag dolls, and wooden toy horse-and-buggies.

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You can see to the left of the door bags and bags of heating coal.

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Quilts on a handmade rounder; in the foreground are quilted chair pads.

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I was drawn to this quilt, but didn't have enough cash with me, had left my checkbook in my hotel room, and the Amish don't take credit cards. I bought an apron instead.

Two young Amish women were running the shop. The younger one wore a little white cap and a purple dress, so we assumed she was unmarried; the other wore a blue kerchief and a black dress. The Amish women don't use buttons, zippers, or other fasteners. They use straight sewing pins for closures. I noticed that their waistbands were pinned at the back, the pin going in and out of the fabric several times, like sewing stitches. I cannot imagine how long it would take or what contortions these women would have to go through, to pin themselves into their clothes every morning.

Behind the front desk they used as a checkout stand, the wall was plastered with the typical kitschy signs you might see anywhere: "If you are grouchy, irritable, or just plain mean, there will be a $10 charge for putting up with you." And the like. I wondered what this said about the Amish women's sense of humor. The two women shared a pocket calculator when figuring out the charges, so that modern convenience was in evidence, although the receipts that they gave us were hand-written.

I tried to get a picture of the horses and buggies that we passed, but it was beyond my skills to get anything that wasn't a blur. A single horse would pull a small, boxlike buggy, and in this area the local custom was to have the buggy cover be orange. (Apparently, black is a typical color for other Amish communities.) The horses trotted along the pavement at the side of the road; I did hope the pavement wasn't too hard for their legs.

I'll leave you with this picture, which goes back to the beginning of my trip, when Stormy was helping me to pack:

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Posted by Karen at 10:42 AM

October 29, 2004

TRAVELOGUE

Pittsburgh has exceeded my expectations as a beautiful city. Last night on our way to dinner, our driver told our group that Pittsburgh was voted last year as having the second prettiest skyline in the country. (And what city came in at number one? Seattle!)

Pittsburgh was built where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers converge and become the Ohio. So the city's downtown is very geographically defined. Although it once had a reputation for its pollution, the city has undergone Renaissance I, II, III, and is in the midst of Renaissance IV. It's very clean and, well, pretty. There are parks and walkways along the rivers, and the bridges are beautiful, especially when lit at night.

The renaissance and renovation came about through people like Randy, our waiter at lunch today. He called himself a "street artist," and was someone who renovated a rundown neighborhood, by planting flowers and painting murals, and taking it as his home.

After bringing us our iced tea and rolls but before bringing us our main course, he showed us a stack of photographs of his neighborhood. The mural he'd painted on his house was a garden scene, and in front of that he had planted shrubs and flowers. The inside of his house was colorful -- red ceilings, every wall a different color. He said, "I don't know how to paint, but I paint. I don't know how to garden, but I garden. Inside of you are unused rooms, and you just gotta open the door and go in."

Amen!

Posted by Karen at 08:21 PM

KARIS CONTINUES

I'm currently knitting the bottom edging of the Karis poncho. The bottom edging makes the same pointed edge, and has the same little flower in the center, as the collar edging has -- only difference being that the bottom edging is knitted on as you go, and also includes a row of faggoting. And, of course, since the poncho flares, there is a lot more of the bottom edging to knit!

The bottom edging will have 50 points in its edge when completed. So far, I've knitted 10 of these points. We fly home tomorrow, and I predict that this project will once again be my airplane knitting (much as I would like to finish it today and wear it to dinner tonight!).

Posted by Karen at 12:15 PM | Comments (2)

October 27, 2004

GREETINGS FROM PITTSBURGH

Rats! I forgot to pack the little cord that I use when transferring photographs from the digital camera to the computer, so that I can share photos with you!

My husband is in Pittsburgh on business this week, and I have the good fortune of traveling with him. I spent all of Sunday getting ready, and knitted not one single stitch. But I more than made up for that on Monday, while waiting at the airports and during our flights. We left home at 6:45 AM and arrived at our hotel about 12 hours later, during which time I had barrelled through 14-plus rows of the Karis poncho. Made it through row 16 by bedtime. (These rows average about 250 stitches, so you understand that that's a lot of knitting.)

This afternoon I finished all 36-plus-one additional rows of that second repeat on the body lace of the poncho. I'm ready to start the bottom edging!

Tomorrow, I'll be on a tour of Amish country, and am really looking forward to it.

And meanwhile, back at the ranch, our house-sitter, baby-sitter, horse-sitter, dog-sitter, cat-sitter (also known as my sister) has been busy. We noticed on Sunday that our horse Mugsy had lost a shoe, so on Monday Dear Sis had the pleasure of meeting the farrier and watching Mugs get his hooves trimmed, filed, and new shoes put on. She'd never seen anything like that before, and I must say, it is an interesting process -- rather like a manicure, only on a large scale!

Posted by Karen at 09:38 PM | Comments (1)

October 24, 2004

TANGLED UP IN BLUE

I was knitting in a Seattle coffeehouse yesterday afternoon with my dear friend Felina Schwarz. You know how it is when you knit in public: You want to look like knitting is a genteel art, of which you are a calm, competent practitioner.

I was working on the Karis poncho. I had attempted the first four rows of the second feather-and-fan repeat (a repeat of 36 rows) the night before, but somehow had managed to get things awry, so I began the afternoon by tinking those four rows. I was holding the ball of yarn in my lap, tinking a row, picking up the ball of yarn and rewinding the freshly tinked yarn onto it, setting the ball back onto my lap, tinking some more, rewinding some more....

Then I began making forward progress, knitting rows 1, 2, then 3, when I noticed that back at row 1 I had put 7 yarnovers into a feather, instead of the 6 that should have been there. Consequently, the remainder of that row -- about 50 stitches across -- was off. Well, that was nothing I couldn't ladder down to fix. While I didn't have any dpns handy for the laddering, Felina offered me the use of her vintage circular plastic knitting needle. I did use it, although the cord was coiled so tightly it kept whipping around and hitting me in the nose, and that plastic needle kept a death grip on those Kidsilk Haze stitches so that it was a struggle to get them to move. I tried to keep up the appearance of the calm knitter, though.

I tinked out those three partial rows, which resulted in a big loop of yarn hanging from my knitting. Now, the ball of yarn, which had slid off of my lap and onto the side of my chair, was looped through, over, and around this big loop of yarn. When I lifted up the ball of yarn to disentagle it from the loop -- I discovered I had managed to wrap the ball of yarn around my upper thigh.

In the words of Bob Dylan, I was tangled up in blue.

Felina pretended not to watch while I extricated myself from the yarn. As much as I wanted to be discreet, I made a spectacle of myself because I was laughing so hard. So much for being a competent knitter. Knitting as a genteel art? It probably looked as though I wasn't knitting, but rather, doing something obscene.

You will recall that Felina is a crackerjack knitter, but her forte is nagging. Well, her nag-o-meter was all a-quiver yesterday.

"You know what I find irritating about your new blog?" she asked.

Irritating?! No -- what?

"The font size is too small! I just get so irritated when I read it. That's why I haven't left any comments."

I'm all about keeping my readership happy, so, effective today, I've upped the font size.

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Off to Camp: Allegra and I continue to enjoy our Camp Granada game. To play, you "drive" the little red camp bus around the board to destinations that are determined by cards that you draw. The destinations are places such as:

"Go to the William Tell Archery Range to hold your finger on the bulls-eye so the kids can see it better" (Allegra's fave)

and

"Go to the Haircut 5-cents [it's a guillotine] to take the wart off your buddy's knee."

And to add to the Gross-out Factor, if you succeed in driving to your destination without the bus breaking down, you get to collect an icky animal! Allegra is the perfect age for this game, as she is in the 6th grade and this is the year her class went to camp. She stayed in Cabin #3 -- guess which Bunkhouse she always claims as hers when we play?

Posted by Karen at 01:49 PM | Comments (3)

October 21, 2004

PLAYIN' HOOKEY

They say confession is good for the soul. So I'll just get this off my chest right away: I played hookey from Guild yesterday, so that I could stay home and make sure that the Red Sox won. (That first inning was such a cakewalk, though, I did think about jumping in the car and going to Guild after all.) I knitted while watching the game, of course, and discovered during the ninth inning that I had 6 fewer stitches on the left side of the center marker than I did on the right. Somehow, four rows back, I had missed some yarnovers. Aargh.

And after the Red Sox secured their American League Championship, I set aside the knitting and played a game with Allegra. Anyone recognize this?

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From time to time, I've just gotta indulge my Inner Brat. And this was a recent score on eBay . . . a bit of nostalgia from my childhood . . . something I've gotten into insane bidding wars over, and been the loser of, recently. But of course, word gets around on eBay as to what the hot items are, and another of these games was listed as a Buy-It-Now item. Didn't need to ask me twice!

On the drive to school this morning, Allegra said to me how much she liked playing my game last night. (Post in the comments what you guess this game to be!)

And you know, much as I am devoted to my Guild, I know that going to last night's meeting would not have measured up to making this connection with my child, sharing this game from my childhood with her.

I hear that my dear friend Kit won Best of Show at the Guild meeting for her felted hat. And I tell you, there's no way that either my felted beret from last February, or the orange-and-pink yet-to-be-felted cell phone bag would have been a contender against her hat.

Yesterday morning I spent knitting while waiting for 60 bales of hay to be delivered, as well as knitting during the ALCS baseball game. After the baseball game, after playing the board game with Allegra, I fixed my missing six stitches by putting a fan and a feather on smaller bamboo needles, tinking that section down to the error, picking up the missing YOs, and knitting back up. Yes, I was holding my breath the entire time! But what did I have to lose? It was laddering down, or else tinking back and then re-knitting four entire rows of 200-plus stitches per row.

And I've found some time to knit today. The Karis poncho continues to grow.

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Another confession: I had a Duh! moment, about four rows into the body of this poncho, when I realized that the stitch pattern is feather and fan. I didn't recognize that from the photo in the magazine. The beautiful hem edging, as well as the fact that this feather and fan has increases and so goes off at an angle, distracted me so much that I did not recognize the feather and fan. I'm not a big fan of feather and fan stitch, and so wasn't familiar with it enough to recognize it from the stitch directions, which are written and not charted. But the good thing about feather and fan is that it is easily memorized and knits quickly.

As of this writing, I have finished the first lengthwise repeat (of two) of the feather and fan body. Can't wait to get to that beeyootiful hem edging!

Posted by Karen at 07:06 PM | Comments (2)

October 18, 2004

UGLY KNITTING

This coming Wednesday, the Seattle Knitters' Guild is holding its annual fashion show, where Guild members get to show off things that they've knitted. This year, it's all about felted items.

I've been knitting this little goodie, off and on, since February. I even had the pleasure of working on its little Fair Isle self at the Ferals meeting last Monday, when, simultaneously and miraculously, I finished the knitting at exactly the same moment that I had to leave. (How many times does the amount of knitting you have to do equal the amount of minutes you have to do it in? It's a rare occurrence, for me.)

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I know you're thinking that it's a long hat, pictured upside down. In fact, it's supposed to felt down into a small purse, something you can tuck your cell phone into. The pattern is from Knit One, Felt Two, which shows it in orange and hot pink. My teenaged daughter Jennie thought it was cute, and so I knitted it with some Jamieson Shetland DK that I had on hand: Cornfield, Lemon, Sorbet, Blossom.

Maybe the fact that this project has dragged on since February tells you just how unenthused I am about my color combination. Furthermore, I bought some Pony Pearl needles for this project -- I must've been trying to entice Jennie into knitting it, as this project would be a good one for a first effort in Fair Isle -- and I just did not enjoy using these needles, especially having so few stitches in a round on dpns.

Meanwhile, I've bought for the store some other colors of DK, including Buttercup and Flax, both of which work much better with the Cornfield than the present Cornfield and Lemon combination; the Lemon is just too wimpy to stand up to the Cornfield. Wait, let me say that more positively, as the Lemon is one of my favorite colors, act'lly: The Cornfield overpowers the Lemon.

I think my Cornfield and Lemon purse is so ugly, I don't even feel like felting it. But there is this, though: Guild members will vote for four categories of felted items: funkiest, funniest, favorite, and most beautiful. This purse hasn't a prayer for most beautiful . . . Hmmm. . . Maybe it could be in the running for funkiest?

So, Dear Reader, what are your thoughts about orange and hot pink? Trend, or trouble?

And, just as I am making progress on the Karis poncho, just as I am catching up to the fashion trends, I see today's headline on MSN is "Friends don't let friends wear ponchos." Here's a photo of my "doily on steroids:"

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I finished the edging, also known as the collar, over the weekend, and started working on the body. I've read some advice on the Rowan list about knitting the poncho in the round, but I couldn't wrap my brain around that advice on Saturday, so am working back-and-forth as the pattern directs.

Here's a tip, concerning the cast-on for the edging. I was eager to get started, and went with the long tail cast-on. However, as the lace gets started, the long tail cast-on gets a little bunched and distorted. If I were to do it again, I would use a crocheted cast-on, which would allow a stitch's worth of space to each stitch on the following rows. (I like the crocheted cast-on that Sally Melville uses in her books.)

Here's my cast-on:

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Not bad, but not as straight as it could be.

For the bind-off, I used the stretchy one that Evelyn Clark used for the Flower Basket Shawl. Notice how it leaves the lace nice and straight, doesn't pull at all.

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Posted by Karen at 01:13 PM | Comments (1)

October 15, 2004

A PONCHO IN MY FUTURE?

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Oooh, oooh, oooh, can't get enough of that Kidsilk Haze!
Can't get enough of those Sharon Miller designs, either. I've started the Karis poncho, from Rowan #36. I'm using the indigo blue color called Lord, which is a newer color in the line and one that I just got in at Two Swans. What you see in the picture is the collar edging, which is knitted first, and then stitches are picked up along the edge and the main part of the poncho is knitted downward.

And speaking of things new to Two Swans, I've just got in some copies of Knit Socks!, by Betsy McCarthy. I've known Betsy for a long time, from knitting classes at Weaving Works and from Guild -- she used to edit the Guild newsletter, an editor or two before I came into the job. I'm thrilled for her that she has authored this book!

Posted by Karen at 08:37 AM | Comments (5)

October 10, 2004

CAN YOU STAND IT?

Can you stand to see one more picture of some lace knitting, blocked out on my dining room rug? Look here, if you dare:

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I finished the knitting last night, and blocked it this morning. It finished out at 46 inches across the top edge, and about 19 inches long. This is much smaller than the predicted 54 inches by 27 inches that the pattern claims. The difference can be accounted for by these factors: I used a single strand of Kidsilk Haze, rather than the double strand of laceweight yarn that the pattern calls for; I am a tight knitter; also, I used a size US 6 needle rather than the size 7 called for. Since I am not a tall person, I don't mind that my Flower Basket is smaller. All in all, I am delighted with it.

I hope to show it off at Lacy Knitters Guild this afternoon!

Oh -- don't let me forget to mention this one other statistic: The Flower Basket Shawl took a little less than one entire ball of Kidsilk Haze.

Posted by Karen at 12:07 PM | Comments (7)

October 09, 2004

Only Eight More Rows

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Only eight more rows to go on the Flower Basket Shawl! I'm going to settle in for an evening of knitting. (Yarn is Kidsilk Haze, a Two Swans favorite!)

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Lady may be on the opposite side of the fence from Bobby, but that doesn't stop her from thinking that she should herd him! Border collies are working dogs, and as is typical of her breed, Lady would rather herd than eat, sleep, or anything else.

We've lived here at the Chateau for exactly one year, as of yesterday. At our old house, Lady had complete access to the horse pasture all day -- and she put in her hours, leading the horses around. Those patches of her coat that are so beautifully white now often were green, before, because she loves to roll in horse manure. Here at the new house, we rarely let her into the pasture, so she herds the cats and the birds, instead.

Posted by Karen at 06:54 PM

October 07, 2004

LEAF STUDY

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Our homework for the color theory class I am taking at Weaving Works, taught by Peg McNair, is to make several collages using leaves. This one is my first.

Posted by Karen at 06:38 PM | Comments (3)

October 06, 2004

BLOCKING DAY

Okay, a Dear Reader asked for 'em, so here they are: pictures of the Bronte scarf during its various phases of blocking.
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Prior to blocking, the scarf measures 57.5 inches long by 12.5 inches wide.

This kind of an event lacks plot. The only thing that's driving this story is the question: How big will it be after blocking?

According to Evelyn Clark, garter stitch lace can expand by as much as 30 percent.

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After soaking the scarf in tepid water for a little more than 20 minutes, I began inserting the blocking wires.

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All pinned out, at 66 inches long by 17 inches wide.

Is it a scarf, or a stole?

A note about the knitting: The center, the bead lace stitch pattern, was completely memorizable and I could whip through that portion of each row. I always referred to the chart for the border lozenges, however. Aside from the error in Row 97, the chart was accurate and easy. The Bronte scarf is a Sharon Miller design and appears in Rowan's A Yorkshire Fable; it uses Yorkshire Tweed 4-ply yarn.

Posted by Karen at 08:13 PM | Comments (6)

October 04, 2004

WHAT WOULD YOU DO TODAY IF YOU KNEW YOU COULD NOT FAIL?

So, let's see . . . where was I? That's right. I was in the midst of recounting the various classes I participated in.

In mid-September I flew to San Diego and took an intensive workshop with Jill Badonsky. The purpose of the workshop was so that I could become trained to lead Muse Groups, following the model Jill has laid out in her book, The Nine Modern-Day Muses (and a Bodyguard).

What is a Muse Group, and why would I want to lead one, you ask? Well, a Muse Group is a small group of people who want to honor their creativity. Meeting with others once a week makes you set goals for your creative project and be accountable for reaching them, and forces you to make room for creativity in your schedule. (Jill's model is sort of similar to an Artist's Way group, but far more playful, and does not require morning pages.) I am interested in leading a group like this because I have experienced firsthand the excitement and productivity you get when you can bounce your creative idea off of other people. You come to a group with your rough draft, or your swatch, or your sketch, and you say, I'm not really sure where to go next with this. The comments and response from the others in the group can be fruitful. Also, I earned an MA in Education a few years back; although I am not currently teaching, I feel that leading a group like this would be a good match for my teaching skills.

These five days in San Diego were incredibly intense. At the same time, I don't remember when I've had so much fun! But, what else would you expect from someone who's tag line is: "Coaching Creative People, Motivationally Speaking, Making People Laugh, Making Art, Writing Stuff, Staring at the Sky" as Jill's tag line is.

Jill is as whimsical as her book. She is also incredibly savvy in interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. For example, the first day, there were the five of us who were there to get training, and Jill, sitting around a conference table introducing ourselves. I started off with an explanation of jobs that I have held that had some component of creativity to them, and various creative projects I've dedicated myself to . . . It went like this: "I was Executive Director of Washington Lawyers for the Arts for a year, which I loved because I really felt like I knew what was going on in the arts scene in Seattle and in the state, but I got tired of helping artists when what I wanted to do was to be an artist myself, to devote myself to writing a novel. So I worked on a novel, and studied with a Seattle writer. But my novel wasn't going anywhere, so I got my MA in Education and a teaching certificate and taught English and drama at a high school and directed the school plays. I loved directing the plays, but teaching English along with that was exhausting." Suddenly, it was like my jaw unhinged and shifted into overdrive, and I started blurting out all of these creative projects that have been percolating in the back of my mind. "I've recently taken up weaving, and I want to design a Fair Isle sweater using 14 colors, and I want to start a Shakespearean theatre company, and I want to write the Great American Novel--"

I had to clap my hand over my own mouth or I would have jabbered on like this for hours, so excited was I at the prospect of all the things I want to start.

Jill fixed her eye upon me and said, "You're a boomer, aren't you?"

Okay, okay, so I was born on the tail end of the Baby Boom. So what?

"Boomers think that things are supposed to be easy. They don't know that creativity is hard. If you're always starting new things when the going gets rough, you haven't developed your creativity muscle."

I felt utterly seen and understood. Throughout the five days, Jill continued to deliver pearls of insight into how the mind works and how the creative process works, and I continued to be impressed with how psychologically savvy she is.

My favorite memory of the five days in San diego, though, is the field trip our group took. Our hotel was not far from Little Italy and an excellent art supply store, so one day at lunch we walked to that neighborhood. The art supply store had a table display of notebooks and sketchbooks of various kinds, and one of these had a quote on the front of it: What would you do today if you knew you could not fail? Our little group gathered around this question and pondered the profundity of it.

What if, today, we didn't buy into our own limitations?

A short time later, I was at the cash register paying for some art markers and sketchbooks. I looked over at our group -- and they were uninhibitedly dancing in the aisles to the rock'n roll that was playing over the sound system. So I joined 'em.

My task for today, October 4, is to block this:
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I finished the knitting of the Bronte scarf over the weekend! The blocking of it looms before me.... It's what I'll be doing today, hoping that I cannot fail.

On Saturday, I had the chance to meet my friend Marti for coffee. She gave me these jewel-like stitch markers that she made:
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Thanks, Marti!

Posted by Karen at 06:10 PM | Comments (2)

October 01, 2004

259

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Mt. Saint Helens blew. Edgar Martinez is retiring. Ichiro set the new record for hits in a season. Who can knit in times like these?

Posted by Karen at 09:42 PM | Comments (2)