Friday, December 03, 2010

Miracle on L Street

I was the recipient of a random act of kindness this morning. As I went up to the cashier at Starbucks at 1734 L Street, N.W., to pay for my grande skim half-caff with whip dark cherry mocha and Mallorca sweet bread, I was informed that an unidentified person left his/her Starbucks card behind with instructions to the cashiers to pay for everyone's coffee until there was no money left.

Many thanks to this unidentified benefactor for making my morning sweeter and spreading the holiday cheer! Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, or Happy Festivus to you, whatever you may celebrate. Your kindness has given me hope and I will pay it forward!!

In the meantime, since my last post nearly three years ago, I have become a mother to two lovely children and doubt I will blog at all here except at random like today. I now get my knitting fix on Ravelry and connect with friends and loved ones via Facebook and e-mail.

Happy Holidays and best wishes to all,


Saturday, January 12, 2008

On to Knitting!

I just wanted to separate out the HP stuff from my knitting. On the knitting front, since October, there has been some more action. I made a scarf with my niece's name on it for Hanukkah, and I began my most ambitious project to date: this cape out of Knit.1's Fall 2007 issue.

I swear, I bought the magazine only for this. I've been working on it religiously, but it's a loooong haul; I knit on the metro and I'm lucky to get in a row and a half a day (it's those pesky 372 stitches). This is also my first foray into cabling. I altered the pattern a little to make the cabling symmetric, moving away from the edges. I've also had to frog countless times; it took me a good long while to get going. I have learned, however, how to ladder down several stitches and reconstruct cables I screwed up, so it's been a good learning experience. This cape is so beautiful and I want to knit it for myself very badly. The only things I've knit for myself are a hat, my wedding shrug, and a Ravenclaw scarf. Although they're pretty, I would really love to knit something I can feel truly proud of achieving.

Other than that, there's this really pretty bolero sweater I found in Simply Knitting's November 2007 issue; I bought some very pretty cherry red Plymouth Galway yarn to make it.

I'm thinking of alternating one week on the cape and one week on the bolero.

In terms of recent acquisitions, my husband got me the set of KnitPicks' Harmony needles for my birthday, and I can't wait to give them a whirl. I need to buy longer cables for my cape project. Although I love my Denises, I'm beginning to feel a desire for sharper needle points, and I think my new needles fit the bill.

One of my friends also moved back to the States from Europe, and his girlfriend, who is originally from Mongolia, is going to be joining him here as soon as she gets her visa situation squared away. I would like to knit her something really special to welcome her to the States. I came across this stunning lace pattern, and after reading this review of Hand Maiden's Swiss silk/cashmere blend, I was sold. So I bought two skeins in the "Autumn" color (the Loopy Ewe, where I bought it, seems to have sold out really quickly so the pic is no longer up) - a real splurge, given that I'm a total knitting cheapo - to make the scarf for her.

That's what's new on the knitting front.

On other fronts, I've changed jobs, we're moving our rooms around in the house (our old bedroom is our future joint office and my old study is our bedroom) and working on home improvement (laminate and a big picture window in our basement), and life is going pretty darn well.

Hope you're all well!


Carnegie Hall Shocker

Okay, so I'm not the best poster on the planet. I probably won't be posting as much as I used to when I first got into this thing. You know, a post here and there, every several months. It's not that my interest for knitting has waned - far from it - but it's just that I feel my energy is better spent in discussion forums and nurturing my own, quite real, analog life and the people in it whom I feel I don't have enough time for already.

I promised everyone several months go a run-down of what happened during J.K.'s open book tour. My husband, although he had to - somewhat - be dragged to New York, is now very proud to report he was there for Dumbledore's outing. We had a couple hours' head start on the media, and we called all our friends; we thought it was fun to have a leg up on everyone else for a change. That said, I don't think Dumbledore's outing really adds anything to - or subtracts from - the story at all, because J.K. Rowling never discussed her characters' sexuality and it matters not one whit to the outcome of the story. I just wish she had discussed Snape in further detail; he's my favorite.

I'm still going through HP withdrawal; I'll have to go back and read the books.

Here is the run-down of events in NYC, with pics:

Before you read on, the Death Eaters, also known as Carnegie Hall ushers, would not let me (or anyone else) take pictures. At all. The pictures of J.K.'s throne below were snuck in, and then I still managed to get yelled at. After that, there was an usher standing right beside my row, so I had no hope to catch J.K. in the flesh.

You know how lengthy I can be, so steel yourselves; this is the whole enchilada as far as I can remember, though childlike excitement dulled my senses somewhat. I will try to limit myself to HP-related events.

The excitement really began when I started packing my costume. Packing my robe and wand were what got me going the most.
DH and I left DC on Friday morning. No Hogwarts Express, no platform 9 3/4; we went through Gate E at Union Station and hopped an Amtrak train. In the hopes of staying as faithful as possible to the books, however, I brought a bunch of HP candy, and DH and I got all sugared up on our way to NYC. My chocolate frog package yielded a Severus Snape card, which I took to be a good omen. DH got Filius Flitwick.

We got to New York, checked into our hotel, grabbed some lunch, and went to F.A.O. Schwartz to buy an owl to take to the event (a friend's Christmas present). They had a terrific display of Harry Potter-related stuffed animals at F.A.O. Schwartz.

Then, we retrieved our tickets at Carnegie Hall. It was then that we realized we were really spoiled seat-wise; the throne pic should give you a sense of where we were.

We went to the event, and the line to get in snaked around the building. I was one of the very rare ones to be in costume; I felt a bit self-conscious. I was hoping that as many people would be dressed up as for the Deathly Hallows release party, but not at all. Buncha muggles, th'lot'o'em!

My husband was a really good sport and wore the "Muggle Pride" scarf I knitted for him.

Right before I entered the building, there were a bunch of teenagers with camcorders, and I pulled out my wand at them and said, "DON'T make me hex you." They cheered.

So aside from getting yelled at by the ushers for daring to take pictures, the event went really smoothly. There was an emcee to warm up the room - like that was really necessary - and J.K. got a reception worthy of the Beatles at the height of their glory. Standing ovation, of course, and lots and lots of screaming; I would have been interested to see a decibel reading at that moment; it was insane.

She was as I had imagined her; mid-height - maybe 5'7" - and prettier in person than in interviews. I think she is one of those women who aren't photogenic, and TV interviews I've seen of her make her seem more reserved and not as warm as she is. I got a terrific vibe from her. She is warm, wickedly smart, and very funny. She began with a reading from the Deathly Hallows, at the point where Ron comes back. This is after saving Harry and destroying Slytherin's locket, and when Ron and Harry return to the tent. The confrontation between Ron and Hermione ensues. It was a very lively reading, and she did Hermione's hysterics very well; everyone was laughing hard.

Then she started taking questions (I'm paraphrasing the ones I remember):

Q: Why did the basilisk fang not destroy the portion of Harry's being that was a horcrux in the Chamber of Secrets?
A: Fawkes' tears.

Q: Did Neville ever find love and get married?
A: Yes, Neville fell in love with and married Hannah Abbott, who ends up managing the Leaky Cauldron. His herbology students find it infinitely cool to have a professor live above a pub.

Q: Why did Tonks and Lupin have to die?
A: She said she felt that by starting the story with an orphan and ending it with an orphan, the story would come full circle. Her idea was to show that war is horrific in that it orphans children all the time. She also said that the reason she did it is that Teddy would end up having a terrific godfather in Harry, someone who would be there for him and who would genuinely understand what he was going through. She also wanted to contrast Harry as a godfather with Sirius as a godfather. Sirius obviously had his issues.

Q: Many people have found parallels between Voldemort's reign of terror and the Nazi regime. Are the parallels deliberate?
A: Yes, but even though she took a lot of inspiration from the Nazis, she said that she took inspiration from totalitarian regimes, including "modern-day administrations we all know and love." This got a laugh. She said that she wrote the books as a plea for tolerance. It was important to her to show that there was prejudice in the wizarding world too, and that Harry was leaving behind one set of prejudices to confront another.

Q: Why was there no portrait of Snape in Dumbledore's office, and does Harry ever go back to speak to Snape's portrait?
A: A portrait of Snape did not appear immediately after his death because Hogwarts' Castle's perception was that he had abandoned his post. Harry, however, would make sure and remedy the injustice. He would not, however, return to talk to Severus' portrait; they established a kind of truce and left it at that.

Q: Why did you choose Molly Weasley over Neville to finish off Bellatrix Lestrange?
A: "Bellatrix Lestrange, as you know, is obsessed with Voldemort. Although it's unhealthy, I suppose you could call it love - sick love. I wanted to balance another kind of love against the extent of Bellatrix's obsession: motherly love. Also, motherly love is what saved Harry; I wanted to show its power. I also wanted to show Molly Weasley to be a very capable witch. As we find out with Ron, Harry and Hermione in the tent, magicking food isn't easy, and I wanted to highlight that Molly was a capable witch for being able to do it; all without being showy. This isn't a woman who wears her abilities on her sleeve. Just because women choose to raise their families and give up their careers doesn't mean they are any less competent." This was cheered and clapped at.

Q: Why did you abandon the idea of offing Arthur Weasley in The Order of the Phoenix and off Fred instead in The Deathly Hallows?
A: "The reason I considered it was that I wanted to put Ron on equal footing with Harry so that he would understand Harry's loss and he would have to grow up. I also wanted the Burrow to no longer be the refuge it had been for Harry. I wanted to show that war strips people of their sense of safety and warmth. I gave it up, though. [In another interview I read online, she said she had given up the idea because Arthur was the only "model father" in the series, and she felt it was important to maintain a good father throughout the books.] I decided that Fred should die to show the horrors of war and what wars strip us of." She also said that Ron was the last of the three to mature into adulthood.

Q: There was a question about Aberforth getting prosecuted for mischief involving goats; it was asked by an 8-year-old who used the word "prosecuted." J.K. asked her, "How old are you?" The girl said, "eight." It was cute.
A: "This can be read on a number of levels. My answer to you is that Aberforth likes goats and that's why he keeps them as pets." There were many laughs.

Q: "Did Dumbledore ever fall in love and get married?"
A: Pregnant pause. Deep sigh. Then she said very fast and not terribly loudly, "I always thought Dumbledore was gay." There was a short pause, and the whole house erupted. There was loud whooping, clapping, and screaming; several people in the audience gave her a standing ovation; I think I must have had the deer in the headlights look. "Wha? Huh? NO." When the clamor died down, I said a little loudly, "Well, that puts the thing with Grindelwald in a whole new light." Several parents sitting around me turned around and shot me dirty looks. And then she went on to say, "Gosh, if I had known that would make you so happy, I would have let it out years ago. This actually came up recently when I was doing a script run-through for the sixth movie. There was a moment when Dumbledore mentions a woman in his past, and I grabbed the scriptwriter's script and wrote in the margins, 'Dumbledore is gay,' so they took the reference out. This came to light when Dumbledore met Grindelwald. This was the first time he met someone as brilliant as he was, someone very charismatic, and he fell in love. That's why he was blind to Grindelwald's darker side. Once he came to realize Grindelwald's true nature, he was sorely disappointed and that's why things turned out the way they did." She paused. "I can only imagine the fanfiction that's going to come out of this." This I loudly cheered at (yes, yes, I'm a dork and have been writing Snape fanfiction).

The questions are out of order and I know I've forgotten some, but I thought I would save the best for last. Our "scoop" lasted all of a couple of hours, because we were only able to call our close friends before the news was, well, all over the news. As DH's best friend said, "I always thought there was something fishy about the man liking to wear dresses."

After the Q&A session, they lined us up to walk past a table where she was signing books at warp speed; she had 2,000 to sign and the line was moving very fast, so I just had a chance to quickly say "Thank you," grab my book and go. There were people from Scholastic in the line who made it a point to be nice to people who were decked out, so it was nice of them to acknowledge my costume. I got kudos for DH's scarf, too.

Because we were so well-seated, we only had to wait five minutes before we got our signed books. We went out for dinner, and as we were walking back to the hotel, I noticed on the street a young girl and her mother I had seen in the ticket line earlier that day. It was a good 2 1/2 hours later, and they had just gotten out. I can only imagine the state of J.K.'s hand muscles after all that - yikes. Then, later in the evening, I saw a girl and her father walking away, the girl clutching the book to her chest as though her life depended on it. It was touching.

All in all, I really got the feeling of a less staid J.K. Rowling, of someone who was willing to let her hair down a little bit now that she's done with the books. She's obviously liberal, and she seems like a genuinely nice, warm, and funny person. I was really, really happy to have been given the opportunity to go.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

FOs and Harry Potter madness

All righty folks; as you well know, idle hands do the devil's work. Well, while my hands have been idle blog-wise, they haven't been idle craft-wise, so I thought I might share with y'all (that's right, I'm not from Texas) my work over the past couple of months, just in case you were afraid my fiber frenzy had abated somewhat.

I found this pattern in my 2007 Crochet calendar, but it is available for free here. I might add that I did make a few mods because I didn't like the way the purse puckered toward the base; if I were to tell you how I did it, however, I wouldn't remember; I just eyeballed it. Once I got to the end of the dcs on the outermost dc row, I did hdcs, scs, and sl s to flatten out the base as much as I could. I used Noro Kujaku in Color 21, which I believe is discontinued; I doubled the yarn and I'm pretty thrilled with how it came out.

This is the cool color side:

This is the warm color side:
The pics came out darker than the real thing, but it should give you a sense. The pattern doesn't call for a strap, but I liked the idea of a button in the center with a strap. I used these buttons I bought at The Big Box Store from Hell and covered them in yarn, and I made a strap starting with two rows of sc, then picking up the stitches and knitting linen stitch, and then two rows of sc, and crocheting the loop to go around the button. This was all eyeballed.

Then, HP-wise, I knit a Hip House Scarf from Charmed Knits (p. 94) in Ravenclaw colors, except that instead of spacing the CC rows by 14 rows, I spaced them by 22, which I like better:

This was knitted in Red Heart Soft, which, as its name indicates, is soft; it was really affordable and really nice to knit with, not at all acrylicky-plasticky, so I highly recommend it.

And then I tackled Rosemary Waits' wondrous HP Fair Isle pouch, just about the most exciting HP pattern to come our way in a long time, in my humble opinion:

I knit this in Red Heart Super Saver and, as you can tell by the squares looking more like rectangles, I need to work on my Fair Isle tension, but that said, I'm really, really excited with how it turned out. It still needs to be blocked, although because it's acrylic, I don't have high hopes of making it look perfect, but I'm proud of the thing, durnit! I have some heavy-duty blue cotton twill I will use to line it, and I will crochet a relatively short strap which I will line with the same fabric.

Okay, now this is me geeking out, but I had a dream not too long ago that I really wasn't a Ravenclaw, but a Gryffindor... so I'm wondering if I didn't self-sort myself wrong. In any event, I know I would be either. But where would I have really been? Self-indulgent Hogwarts Identity Crisis Alert...

On a lace-related note, I've been working on charting the Harpoon Lace from Donna Druchunas' Arctic Lace; it's been a bit of a headache given that I'm 1) a bit of a novice lace knitter and 2) not so much a little bit of a perfectionist, but I haven't given up and my experimentations are starting to bear fruit.

I never thought I would learn so much about how stitches behave, but this is about the best lace school experience I could have hoped for. My swatch is turning into a scarf right before my eyes, but it's worth it.

Just a note from experience: don't buy unmercerized el cheapo cotton to swatch for lace and wind it into hee-uge balls. It sticks to itself like crazy, and if it's super-fine and your big ball loses its tension as you use more and more yarn, which it invariably will, you'll be left with a tangled mess on your hands when your ball loses its shape. I learned this the hard way. When you're swatching, knots don't matter, so small balls is the way to go.

And FINALLY, dun dun dun dun.... Drumroll please ... The big piece of news...

I'm one of the Scholastic Sweepstakes winners to go see J.K. Rowling in the flesh in NYC on October 19!!! I never win anything. Never. But boy, am I glad I won this. When I found out about the sweepstakes, it wasn't actually closed yet - I usually find out about cool events and great concerts a week after they've taken place - so I figured the most I had to lose was a piece of paper, an envelope, and 41 cents. I entered. I won. I will leave the monumental squeal that came out of my mouth when I found out up to your imagination.

So, given that I am a severely addled HP fan, and that I belong to the sub-category of Severus Snape fans (aka Snapekins or, more commonly, Sev in the forum where I spend way too much time), I am dressing up. Yup, I bought a robe, a wand, a cool witch-looking denim jacket, and a nifty dark blue crushed velvet purse. I had thought of going as a Ravenclaw student, but seriously, at 32, I'm too old to pull that off, so I'm going as a grown witch, and I'm taking my fashion sense from Tonks (minus the hair color), thank you very much. I also have royal blue mesh tights and suede booties to wear. I promise I will post pics after the event.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!! Jump up and down, jump up and down, jump up and down. DH and I are making a 3-day weekend of it; while there we hope to get to Ellis Island, which I've wanted to see for the longest time, and maybe I can sneak a yarn store in there - shhhhh...

Hope you're all well!


Friday, September 28, 2007

Musical Musings

I've been listening to Mozart's Requiem - Philippe Herreweghe's version - and I remain as attached to that piece as when I first sang it as an alto during my first year in college. Sure, it's gotten to the point where it's gotten to be a little hackneyed; a lot of advertisers like to use the Dies Irae to peddle products. That, btw, makes no sense to me whatsoever. Dies Irae - the wrath of G-d - and you're trying to sell a car? Gimme a break. But what amazes me when I listen to it is how much, unlike other composers, Mozart succeeds at making the alti the backbone of his piece. Mostly, in choir, alti don't get melodies; they get a couple of notes and they are charged with bearing the weight of the piece. Being an alto in a choir is pretty dull stuff. But in the Requiem, I listen to the alti's piece, and I am amazed at how critical their part is to the harmony and how much it rounds it out. And they get beee-yooo-tiful melodies to sing! I know, everybody knows Mozart was an absolute musical genius. And I know that the Requiem is probably sung more often really badly than well. Fine. But listening to the piece seriously drives Mozart's genius home. I get chills down my spine every time I listen to the Dies Irae and the Confutatis Maledictis. In the Confutatis, when the women's voices come in with "Voca, voca me. Voca mecum benedictis," which is such a contrast do the doom and gloom of the men's parts, it just hits me like a ton of bricks every time. Sigh...