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Solid-Gold Midwinter Survival Tips

Dear Kay,
As the bleak midwinter descends, I’d like to share some solid-gold survival tips that get me through.
Tip No. 1: Humidity.
Go to the drugstore, past the bunion aids and the section known as Digestion, and set yourself up with one of those cheapass steam humidifiers. I know you’re going to resist this, but listen: once you’ve had a few nights of sleep with your SteamMaster 2000 filling your room with tropical air, you’ll never go back. This is a potentially life-changing deal, I promise you. Your skin will thank you, your poor nose will breathe free, and you will at some point go back for some Vicks Vapo Rub to make the experience a complete return to childhood.
Tip No. 2: Flowering branches.
This is even easier than forcing a bulb. There’s no dirt involved. You go buy flowering quince or forsythia branches, stick them in water, and wait. In about a week, this miraculous thing happens where the branches sprout little beautiful flowers. Right there on those bleak, leafless twigs. There is nothing more heartening than seeing this happen.
Tip No. 3: Make something.
Even if it is excruciating at every moment. Such as (I don’t know why this comes to mind) the Fair Isle-laden sleeve of a sweater that you covet. (Kate Davies’s clever Boreal.) This where Mason-Dixon Rule No. 98 kept me going when nothing else would: No project is too ambitious if you crave the result enough.
I absolutely do not mean to be negative, but the 34 rows of Fair Isle on this sleeve (a re-do, as you may recall, of a failed earlier sleeve) were tedious. Wildly tedious. Doing Fair Isle on double-pointed needles, at large gauge, is weirdly hard for me.
I kept losing Needle Number 5 in the chair cushions. I couldn’t get any speed going, what with the knit 12, move to another needle. Worst of all, Kermit the cat kept biting the ends of my double-pointed bamboo needles, leaving tiny tooth holes that ruined needle upon needle. I went through two sets of DPNs. I am going to refinish them at some point, but what I’d like to do is refinish that cat.
The rapture I experienced upon finishing Sleeve 1 was worth it. I slid it on my arm, and it felt fantastic. It fits.
I have started Sleeve 2. My strategy is to blast through the dread: 34 rows x 55 stitches = 1,870 stitches. A knitter can stand anything for 1,870 stitches, right? I’m going to use my failed sleeve as a Kermit Restraint Device. This is going to work out fine.
Special Bonus Slimming TIp
I can’t emphasize this enough. Really don’t eat your son’s leftover birthday cake for breakfast. The self-loathing and gloom that hit once the sugar high has faded rank right down there with the feeling you get upon realizing the hideous fact that you just called a mom by her daughter’s name.

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  1. That very vaporizer, in that very color scheme, is a permanent part of my bedroom decor in the winter.
    Forget those stupid gentle, cool-air doohickies. Steam is the real deal!
    Meantime, I have no heart for Fair Isle, but does taking on a dreaded pick up a zillion stitches along the edges of a man’s XXL vest (knit in sport weight on No. 4’s) count for something? And then finishing them by dividing the stitches and grafting them together? It really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be in the end…As always, love your posts.

  2. You could expand on the experiment on empathy in rats – http://sciencelife.uchospitals.edu/2011/12/09/helping-your-fellow-rat/
    Will your other cat try to free Kermit from the fair isle restraint?

  3. Hang in there – tomorrow is a new day and you can start it with oatmeal…The sweater is beautiful!

  4. Will Kermit be satisfied if you keep one dpn on hand for his exclusive use? When he comes over to bite on your dpns in use, hand him his personal dpn and see whether he’ll chew happily on that one and leave yours alone. (I once had a cat who insisted on chewing my emery board when I was trying to file my nails – when I gave it to him and resumed my manicure with another file, he was happy to continue munching his own).

  5. Yay, finished sleeves and a few seconds more sunshine every day! (PS You are *so* right about the birthday cake).

  6. I’ve never ventured into the Fair Isle world….that Boreal sure looks good though (but clearly not for beginners!). I like your #98 commandment though – am on the last few rounds of a log cabin blanket that has been on the go since mid last year – aiming to get it complete in the next month (as part of tidying up UFOs, which I seem to be doing well with, so far).

  7. Have a cure for loosing DPN’s , place a small blanket or a towel in the chair you are knitting in, sure saves time looking for said needle or tipping the chair over.

  8. I need to cross-stitch Rule No. 98 into a sampler, frame it and keep it hanging in front of me when I’m working on one of “those” projects…

  9. Amaryllis bloom is helping here, and I really will work on my hat today. Lately when I get out of the shower, my face has been feeling like it has been surgically tightened to my skull. Feeling, not looking. Thank you for the vaporizer advice!

  10. I hear what you’re saying about birthday cake but I have to tell you that it’s my most favorite breakfast ever! Buttercream frosting and chocolate cake with a big cup of tea IS the breakfast of knitting champions!

  11. Funny, I have a cat that teethed on my walnut Brittany needles, back when they made them, perhaps they are related? As for me, I’m about to embark on my year of seasonal knits, beginning with the Dark and Stormy Cardigan and moving onto the Cloud Chaser Vest by spring. You will love Boreal, sleeves and all once you start wearing it.

  12. I’d suggest that you get something for the cat to chew on, but it is an unfortunately well known fact that they, like children, want the things you are using. Good luck on your fancy Kermit restraint!

  13. Birthday cake for breakfast? how about for a pick me up instead of chocolate?
    I want to go out and buy a branch that will flower. Somehow I am killing bamboo plants. And we are supposed to get snow. Botching my plans to go into the City to see “Follies.”
    Flowers – Spring, and hope, right?

  14. Now I want cake. Duncan Hines Gordon supper. Be glad he isn’t biting through the working yarn so you come to a slimy unexpected end while you knit. I wonder who’s forsythia bush I can raid.

  15. Now I want cake. Duncan Hines for supper. Be glad he isn’t biting through the working yarn so you come to a slimy unexpected end while you knit. I wonder who’s forsythia bush I can raid.

  16. Can’t believe the vaporizer is inducing me to comment when the booklist didn’t. I too purchased the exact same vaporizer and it does everything you say. Life changing.
    As for the booklist, thank you, thank you, and let me put in a belated plug for Lonesome Dove.

  17. Oh, Ann, I do love to be given marching orders! Not from just anybody – but when you do it, I put my mac and wellies on and stump down to the drugstore. I do believe that humidifier thingy is going to stop hubbo snoring. I’m bursting with hope!
    And I’m going to replenish my earplug supply just in case, while I’m in there.
    Now, on the matter of cake for breakfast, I am about 85% lined up and signed up to forgo it, as you urge. Except… mmm… once a week. Perhaps that’s too often. But I LOVELOVELOVE cake for breakfast.

  18. PS Pleased to read about your Boreal redemption!

  19. If you are at a meeting with a bunch of women, if you carefully memorize the names of any First Babies (infants), and refer to their mom by the baby’s names, or by So and So’s mom, you don’t need to remember anyone else’s name. Moms of older kids and more than one child understand about learning names poorly (they already call their second kid by the first one’s name, regardless of gender!), and first time moms are over the moon to hear you call their baby by name, or themselves called by baby’s name. They don’t care if you don’t know theirs!

  20. When you figure out how to refinish a cat do let me know as mne decided to pee on my yarn stash and I am decidedly homicidal.

  21. Apple pie for breakfast is way better.

  22. I think apple pie for breakfast, warm, would be perfect. Though I confess to the birthday cake meals as well.

  23. Cake is ok for breakfast, but pie is really better suited. Unless it’s cake and cold pizza, in which case it’s a meal fit for kings!

  24. Leftover birthday cake is really just pancakes with syrup in a different (and much better!) form. Any fruit pie is really just biscuits and jam in another format. And fruit cobbler a la mode is really just biscuits and jam and a glass of milk.
    I used that last one to great effect on vacation in Oregon once when marionberries were in season; we all ate cobbler and ice cream almost every morning and loved it!

  25. That’s funny! I am having the exact same problem with larger needles trying to make a pair of mittens with three colours on 4 dons.
    I am so used to my skinny pointy slidey 2.75 Signatures and knitting socks that I find I am all thumbs trying to knit these mitts which I may finish by spring!

  26. The first tip isn’t really applicable to me in San Francisco (the whole city is a humidifier after all. However, I just got a craving for a vase of flowering branches especially since it’s taking my amaryllis forever to open. Eating leftover birthday cake while staring at those beautiful twigs sounds like a perfect morning activity to me.
    Good luck with your 1,,870 stitches! It looks like Boreal will be wonderful when done — and a great winter treat.

  27. The cake is a lie. We have apple pie for breakfast once a year at our church to honour our first minister and his penchant.

  28. You may have persuaded me on the humidifier, but you’ve got a ways to go on the fair isle. Wait, the direction was to make something, not specifically a desired but tedious to make something. That I could handle.
    I think it’s far worse to call a daughter by her mother’s name than the other way round.

  29. Can I just say thank you? The comments about Kermit….almost shot a gummy bear out of my nose. And today….well today is almost over. Thank goodness…on to better things!


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