Monday, December 29, 2008

Post-Christmas Contest!

In honor of handmade Christmases everywhere and my own free yarn gift from captioning a picture over at Jane's Quiddity Blog, I am inspired to have my own little contest.

I really want to hear what your favorite handmade gift was this year. It can be one you gave, or one you received. It can be knit, quilted, sewn, crocheted, glued, woven, whatever. Just handmade.

Leave me a comment on this post by midnight on Tuesday, January 6th (the official "end" of Christmas, the end of the 12th day), and I will pick a winner by random number generator. I'll give you a skein of the same yarn I used for my favorite handmade gift this year (this pair of socks for my stepmother), ONLine Supersock 100 in Savanne Color, and a surprise.

I look forward to hearing your stories!


Christmas, In Sum

For my first half of Christmas, I went to one set of my parents' house.

I stuck my little camera disk into the computer and there were lots of pictures. But almost all of the pictures were of animals... typical Shannah I suppose.

So here are Bob and Elf, enjoying the wealth of having a real tree indoors.

Bob really liked it under the tree:

In fact, all of the animals thought the tree was just a fantastic thing (including Sarah and Roxie).

Roxie and Bob have a special relationship. (The first picture is a silent bark, not a threat, from Rox. I was standing in the kitchen, and she felt that she deserved some of the cheese ball.)

Oh, and there were some people, too. Here's part of the fam:

(I'm there on the right, with the messed-up bangs...why doesn't anyone ever tell me to fix my hair? Click here and scroll down to see what I mean. Do I walk around with my bangs like this all the time?)

Roxie had some bang issues, too. So we put a bow on it.

And she rested happily.

Some other wonderful wonderful Christmas things:

1. Every single gift I got was thoughtful. I felt very special. From this book and this book to a crock pot (complete with vegetarian cookbook!) and an unbelievable necklace from a local shop to prismacolor colored pencils and a sketchpad and other things I've forgotten to mention, I was very grateful. I got my requested gift: a nice warm fleece, too.

2. It was fun giving gifts this year. I gave mostly handmade things--either by me, or from etsy. That felt really good, too.

3. I now own a new sewing machine. A Kenmore Model 15358. I researched and researched and read reviews and articles (I found this article particularly helpful) and decided that for my pricepoint, this Kenmore was my best option. Thanks to my father and stepmother, some of this machine was a birthday gift from them and some a gift from me out of my Christmas bonus. So far I am thrilled. I am a beginning sew-er (?), having devoted most of my energy to knitting over the years, but I am ready to add another craft. I am really really excited. I can't wait to really dig into another project. (I tried to make a shirt from a Simplicity pattern, but I'll spare you the gory photos and just say that I may need a bit more practice before I jump in to set-in sleeves.)

4. On New Year's Eve I go to my other parents' home, and get to continue Christmas. It's actually pretty fun, spreading it all out like this.


Just A Quickie

Still alive (and well, and happy!) here.

I had a joyful, wonderful Christmas that is on hold for two and a half days, and then will continue in West Texas over New Year's Weekend.

I will post pictures soon and tell all about the goings-on thus far.

But first, I have to go to work.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Card From Me to You

Love to everyone!

(And special thanks to Abby for taking my sketch and turning it into a card!)


Monday, December 22, 2008

Stripey Socks

Well these are done:

I'm kind of sad to see them go. They've been on my needles since June. But I think I'm ready to move on. They'll be finding a new home this Christmas.

And with those gone, there's something new to start on, something I bought with Carlyn last weekend. See, over there, by the tree:

(And look at all my pretty Christmas cards!)

Let's take a closer look at that yarn.

It's Blue Ridge Yarns Alpaca Delight Mini, a 2-ply lace, and I bought a pattern from Anne Hanson yesterday to go with it. And that's all I'm going to say right now, because it's for my mother's birthday. It's going to be lace, though. I'll say that. ;-)


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Knitting Weekend

Carlyn came Friday and stayed for a visit. She's the other knitter in my life, and has been writing a lot lately, too.

Roxie was really happy to have another person on the couch. She cuddled with us while we both knit.

Tonight is not only the longest night of the year, it may be the coldest night of the year for those of us in Dallas. So wrap up! Stay warm!

(It's the big week!!! I'm thinking of my knitting friends desperately working away on those last minute projects, but not me...I've only got an inch or two left on one sock...*gloat gloat*)


Friday, December 19, 2008

That Face

I woke up this morning to this face:

She looks very intense, doesn't she? She's been following me around with that face, being demanding. I've checked her food, her water, taken her outside, opened the door to the patio, sat and petted her, played tug with the rope, and yet... that face. She needs something, but until she learns to speak, I don't understand. I don't understand at all.

Couldn't I have found a less demanding dog? One who doesn't look at me all the time?


Thursday, December 18, 2008

I'm Dreaming of a Handknit Christmas

This is the busiest December I've ever had! I have a few homemade gifts this year, but if they are not done by now, they will not be done. So, in the "spirit" of Christmas, and thinking that "it's the thought that counts," here are the gifts that I would make if I could stay at home and knit every day until Christmas, and if I could knit this many gifts in a week. (I still will have gifts, and they might be handmade--even handknit, but they won't be these. Sorry. Just imagine with me.)

The new knitty is out, and it has inspired me. So note, I couldn't have made these gifts, even if I wanted to, because the patterns just became available a week ago Wednesday. And there's always next Christmas, right?

1. A school of fish hats for my friend Abby, her husband, and her darling boy.
2. A Tushy Cushy for my brother. Because what 14-year-old wouldn't want a butt?
3. Some really funky house shoes for my friend Rebecca, who's really more into moose, but, you know, ox are cool, too...
4. Knit earrings for my friend Faries, who is a jewelry queen.
5. These fancy socks for Carlyn because she is the sock queen. And I would make them out of
this yarn. (Just imagine them, soft and pink and pretty!)

And then, there are other patterns in other places that I would like to make:
1. The trees on this afghan would make it perfect for my gardening stepfather.
2. The Tsock Tsarina's York and Lancaster Socks would thrill my mother to no end. (But this kit isn't even available to me until July 2009, so I'm off the hook here, right?)
3. I just think that a cupcake apron made out of washable cotton would be really cute, and I'd love to give it to my stepmother.
4. And for my dad, a scarf knitted in Oklahoma State colors.

Also, I started making mini mitten sets for everyone else, as a little gift, but that's not going to happen either. Sorry. Maybe next year. (Maybe not.)

So there. I spent time thinking about you. But the combination of Advent bulletins, out of town trips, vacation, carpal tunnel symptoms, eating, and sleeping was too much.

But you all will get something. And some of you will get something handknit. I'm finished with my Christmas shopping, and now I only have to wrap. I love you all. It's been fun to think about you and what you would like these past few months.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Gratuitous Roxie Photos (And a Narcissus Bloom)

In celebration of returning to my dog after a weekend away, I brought out my camera and tried to take some photos of Roxie. You can see the progression here:

That last one is a photo I've been trying to capture for years. It is, in fact, Roxie in mid-hup. What is a "hup"? It's hard to explain. It's the way Roxie usually "barks": a snapping of the jaws together that is silent and yet--demanding in its own way. It can mean that she needs to go outside, that she is out of food, that she needs attention, or, in this case, it means "Good grief, Mom, that's enough pictures. You're stressing me out."

So I gave her a cookie, and I took one more picture.

And then I photographed my Paper White Narcissus, which was a much more agreeable subject. (Perhaps because it understands its own beauty?)


Graduation (Not Mine)

My friend graduated this weekend, see:

That's Danielle, with her hand up.

And that's her boyfriend, with the ponytail and the arm around her. They graduated together, and I thought it was sweet.

I was there, too, in the crowd:

See my smile? It was nice to be there with friends.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008


My bulbs are growing like mad

(they even have little buds)

so, in celebration I decorated my new tree for Christmas,

strung lights across my window

and then I looked outside.

There's snow! It's beginning to really feel like the winter, and I love this weather (the cold is so brief here). The dark kind of depresses me, but I like celebrating the change of the seasons. I like knowing the dark, so that I will be surprised by the light, eventually.

So, happy Advent, friends.

(No matter what you believe in, it is good to celebrate the return of the Light.)


Monday, December 8, 2008

Sacrifice ...?

Today, I had a discussion with several "older" folks about love--real love. The kind that helps you live a little longer so that your daughter can say goodbye to you, the kind that makes you throw yourself in front of an angry dog, the kind that changes things.

And we talked about Pearl Harbor and The War and the way that the nation had to unite together through sacrifice.

And I don't know too much about sacrifice. I've never had to grow a Victory Garden, save stamps for sugar, or even knit out of necessity. We, our generation, don't know too much about sacrifice.

These folks recognized this, too. They worry about our ability to sacrifice for each other, should something really terrible happen.

Sometimes I worry, too. Sometimes I think that we are hopeless, selfish beings.

But mostly I think that we are still capable of that kind of sacrifice--of consuming less so that others can have more, of seeing beyond color and gender to the heart underneath, of offering ourselves when we have nothing else to give. Mostly I think that we will be able to love the way that our grandparents did.

I do hope, in a small growing way, deep down.

I hope that we will be able to offer something in our defense to the generations that produced us. I don't like the thought of them sitting around talking about us, wondering if the future they worked so hard for is lost.


Birthday, Bookstore, and Bulbs

'Twas the little bro's birthday this weekend. He gets a two-week birthday this year since his day was taken over by a soccer tournament, but I got to be there for the first one, complete with a giant cookie with frosting instead of a cake. I can't believe who he is becoming. He's interesting, intelligent, caring...he is curious about world events and forms conclusions that he can articulate. He's good at all the "manly" physical things, too, which helps if you're a boy. And, in addition, he's good looking (if I do say so myself). Fourteen!

On a break from that soccer tournament, I got to visit the new independent bookstore in Plano. (Mom, note there that romance author Jodi Thomas--"the Queen of Texas romance" was also there on the 6th.) I'm really surprised that there's a new bookstore opening, what with the problems in publishing of late. But I am so glad. It was a wonderful store (a little light on places to sit, but perhaps that's because you're supposed to buy books at a store, not just look at them) with a whole NPR and Indie Books section. Even a live cooking demonstration area, with a chef making appetizers. It's a good thing that Plano's 45 minutes from my house, or I'd make bookstore visitations a habit (oddly enough, this is the same problem I have with yarn stores--living where I do is good for my finances).

My Paperwhite Narcissus bulbs are shooting up like crazy. I am so excited--they are my visual reminder of Advent, and they're about to burst into bloom.

And speaking of birthdays, happy early 400th birthday, John Milton. How cool would it be to sit down with caffeine and snacks and read through Paradise Lost in one sitting?


Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Dogs...

...they are tired.

Roxie on the floor, Sarah (my parents' dog) in the chair. Greeting each other after 5 days can be such hard work...


Tuesday, December 2, 2008


My first semester in college, in my drawing class, I did a big collage of John Denver. I'm not kidding. I worked on it in front of the class, turned it in, and had a critique and everything.

Tonight, I watched a special about him on public television.

You know what? I think I would have been really cool, oh, about thirty years ago.

Or maybe not.

But I'll let you in on a secret: deep down, I don't really care whether or not I'm cool. I just love John Denver. He was authentic, and I want to be authentic, too.

And you wonder where we're going
Where's the rhyme and where's the reason
And it's you cannot accept
It is here we must begin
To seek the wisdom of the children
And the graceful way of flowers in the wind

(from JD's song, "Rhymes and Reasons")


Monday, December 1, 2008

Prepare Ye the Way

If it was legal, I would post a music clip from Godspell right here--a man's solo voice singing "Prepare ye the way of the Lord..."

As of yesterday, it's Advent again! Only four weeks until Christmas. Not long to prepare.

I think I am going to decorate this year. I want to be a part of the seasons, of the repetition we've created to make order. I want to make my own order.

Tonight, a friend asked why God would create such hopeless lives. And I told this friend what I truly, truly believe: our lives are not hopeless. God creates only things with a future, and it is up to us to fulfill that future. If we are lonely, hopeless, depressed, this is because we are not doing something right. This is not God's fault.

Hope. Fulfillment. God.

So here is another one of my favorite poems that I have turned to often since I first heard it during an important two weeks that helped form my life.

by Denise Levertov

‘Hail, space for the uncontained God’
From the Agathistos Hymn, Greece, VIc

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.

But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
God waited.

She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.


Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
More often
those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.


She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked
a simple, 'How can this be?'
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
perceiving instantly
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –

but who was God.


Thanksgiving Vacation Wrap-Up

In El Paso, I:
* began to like jalapenos (this may be an exaggeration)
* talked a lot with my friend F (hooray!)
* watched this and this.
* window shopped
* had a terrible cold (I had to make my friend take me to get cold medicine, and I was a bit embarrassed by this)
* hiked in Cloudcroft:

(Isn't it beautiful?)
* shocked someone I met with by doing three things: 1. being a vegetarian, 2. having had pet rats, 3. knitting. She'd never met anyone who had done any of those. (I'm quite the unique one.)
* sat on the couch and read while my friend ran five miles each day. (I am also the lazy one.)
* was shocked by meeting someone who "never reads." (Seriously. I did recommend a few romance novels...)
* had a wonderful wonderful time, and I already miss my dear F again.

I flew back to Dallas, with an incredibly strange feeling in my sinuses (sort of like pain, but weirder) due to my cold, and read some fiction the whole way. Because it was Thanksgiving, the stewardess sang (I am not making this up) and we each got a Hershey's kiss in addition to our complimentary drink and bag of peanuts.

Upon arrival, I was swept away by a car full of Beagles (3 to be exact: "Angel," "ESPN," and "Shadow") and my sister and brother-in-law. We arrived at my dad's with lots of enthusiasm and tail-wagging and hugs. We put the 5 dogs in the yard (3 beagles + 1 lab ("Sarah," my parent's dog) + 1 ugly dobermut= 5) where lots of squirrel chasing ensued, and then I proceeded to top my week of eating by eating even more. Oh it was just wonderful.

My Paper White Bulbs are growing like crazy. As soon as I retrieve them from where I left them at my dad's house I'll put up some pictures. I think they may be blooming by Christmas, and I am thrilled. Maybe something I grow will survive? Maybe? It's exciting, like when I was a little kid in science class, watching my bean sprout.

And in all that vacation, I still managed to:
* knit a few inches on a sock.
* edit two stories.
* write a few pages on a new story.
* make a sketch of a painting that will be a Christmas gift.

Ah, Christmas. More on that particular subject soon.

(I also bought more food today. Because I haven't eaten enough.)


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Out of Town

I've gone to the West Texas town of El Paso...

And will return Thanksgiving. To eat.

More on all of that later.