"The Nation's Leading Bi-Regional Knitting Blog" --Ann's husband • "Kay sure is wasting a lot of time on this" --Kay's husband

October 30, 2009

New York Marathon: Cousin Dan, on the Run

Dear Kay,

I know you love the New York Marathon, because a) it takes place in your front yard, and b) you've run the thing, TWICE.

I love it too, mostly because it's one of those triumph-of-hope-over-reason type athletic things. People aren't spoze to run 26 miles without stopping for coffee. Or donuts. Or a nice long nap.

Sunday's the day, folks! Get your knitting ready!

This year, I'll be watching with extraspecial attention, because among the 40,000 runners will be my superfly cousin Dan Meador (who I'm outing here as a sometime LURKER on the blog despite the fact that he does not even vaguely knit).

He's running in memory of his wonderful mom, Jan, my aunt, who passed away last year. And he's running to raise funds for Team Fox for Parkinson's Research.

It's the sort of effort that is supertender, and if you knew Dan . . . you'd know how he pretty much epitomizes Good Person.

If you guys are inclined to help Dan in his efforts, the mighty Internet has Dan's page here for contributions to Team Fox, which is a program of the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

And I'd like to point out that Team Fox is one of the deep interests of our super-knittin' friend Mary Sue--so this is one of those rare opportunities to support an MDK lurker AND a superknitter at the same time.

I'm going to rig up one of those fancy runner-tracking technologies (NYT link), just so I can semi-be there when he comes across the finish line.

So excited!

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 09:53 PM | Comments (11)

October 28, 2009

Indigo Fisherman Dreams

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Dear Kay,

Upon returning from Rhinebeck--I mean, in the gate lounge at the airport, moments after sitting down, as soon as I could possibly get to it, forgoing a pretzel, even--I started work on a swatch. It was like having a dollar in my pocket at Smith's Variety.

It was all because of this yarn, made by Buckwheat Bridge, a small angora goat and Cormo sheep farm and mill located in the Hudson Valley.

They call it North Sea Fisherman's Yarn, because it has the dense twist and gauge of the yarn seen in the traditional fisherman ganseys of England. It's spun in a mill powered by a giant roof of solar panels. The sheep eat nothing but delicious things grown nearby. The goodwill captured inside these skeins is palpable--you hold it in your hands, notice the unfussy look of it, and you realize that your sweater, made from this stuff, is going to make the world a better place--FOR JEEPER'S SAKE GET BUSY!

It's indigo dyed. My shopping enabler and gansey expert Mary Neal culled through all the skeins to find ones that matched close enough, though the fact is, there's variation in the batch I bought and of course that's a GOOD thing when you're knitting a sweater so filled with authenticosity.

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ExACTly. I wondered if I was going to have the thrilling blue-fingered experience that comes with knitting denim yarn. But the dye behaved, and when I got home, I had this:

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Excellently dense stuff. 24 stitches = 4" on a size 4. I could go down to a size 3 and have a fabric that could withstand a North Sea blow. When I stuck it in a cup of water to block it, I forgot about it for a couple of hours. When I came back, the water was a deep, fine blue, and I thought I'd sapped the yarn of its vital indigo life force.

Not really. The yarn is as deep a blue as it was before its soaking. It's eternablue in there. None more blue.

I have in mind Mary Neal's cool gansey pattern from Knitty, Jamesey. But I lack the same coathanger physique of my dear nephew who is the model in those photos, so I may cook up a more forgiving version. Must think about this.

Which is, after all, the fun.

Love,

Ann

Posted by Ann at 10:24 AM | Comments (34)

October 22, 2009

Clarissa O Clarisssssssssaaaaaaaaaa

Dear Kay,

Remember Clarissa? From Issue 6 of The Knitter? The uncharacteristically decorative cardigan I started a few weeks ago? My awesome new BED JACKET?

Well, it's done. But getting to Done took so very much longer than I thought it would.

I cranked the body easily enough. It's one piece, just a lot of yarnovering or yarningover or whatever (like jump-roping when I was growing up--nobody called it jumping rope).

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When I finished the body, I didn't even blink and cranked some sleeves. At that point it was only 15 rows to glory--just a little edging, and zipzapsnipsnap I'd be lounging around like Rachel Menken in her Mad Men boudoir. (Look! Thank you to whoever pointed out the resemblance of the Clarissa model to the fabulous department store owner Rachel Menken in Mad Men.)

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Well anyway, I think you know where this is headed. It was the edging. I feel like I've eaten two Krispy Kreme boxes of edging. I'm suffering from Edging Lockup.

I will say that the prospect of this edging was not an unpleasant one. It was a giant pickup, all the way around the front, the collar, the other front, then around the back in a giant, circular edgefest. How fun is THAT? How fun is it to pick up 328 stitches?

Here's an up-close-and-personal view of the increase situation on the edging.

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I hadn't really considered how it was such a ruffly sort of edging. Until I got to round 5. It just kept being more and more. From 348 stitches to 924, like a grocery store where each checkout line closes just as you get there. The never-ending pile of sugar you spilled and can't quite sweep up.

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I'd needle my way through an entire episode of Top Chef only to find that I was only halfway through one round.

And then, when my will to live was completely demolished, I remembered the part that I had sort of ignored: the crocheted edge.

Ohhhh, crochet. I've successfully avoided you for my entire knitting career. I mean, I like you and all, but I don't really want to sit next to you in biology or anything.

As I dragged toward that final round, with the impending problem of "cast off 2, chain 5" along the 924 stitches of the edge, I realized that this Clarissa Bed Jacket Rachel Menken Fantasy Garb was not going to fly unless it had the crocheted edge. It looked naked without it.

So I did this.

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For a long, long time.

The relief I felt at finishing it was akin to coming out of a bad pair of pants. Sweet deliverance! And it was such a relief to slap on the sleeves that I immediately donned my Clarissa Bed Jacket Rachel Menken Fantasy Garb

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and made David take my picture. I wore it all day. I wore it to Harris-Teeter, and I wore it to the hospital, and I'm wearing it right this minute, as a matter of fact. If you wear it under a jacket, it gets less crazy. David said I looked like a pirate, a creepy mom pirate.

It's not going to be much of a bed jacket, it turns out, because to wear this in bed means sitting on that edging, and what I really don't need from this thing is any further pain in the heinie!

A superfun pain in the heinie, of course. It's why we knit, right? To take on horrible problems, fix them, and move on to the next one. It's so much easier than real life.

Love,
Ann

P.S. From Kay

Dear Ann,

Not for nothing, but I think (a) David has a point and (2) you're all set for Halloween.

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And, of course (III): I love your exquisite Clarissa and will take her off your hands, any time.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Ann at 12:21 PM | Comments (82)

October 21, 2009

Rhinebeck '09: Tales from the Holidome

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Dear Kay,

Ay yi yi! We're gonna just go Jazz Odyssey on this and see where it leads us.

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Rhinebeck this year was the sort of weekend when time moves superslow and superfast at the same time. I LOVE IT WHEN THAT HAPPENS. The basic configuration was Kay, Ann, and the sublime duo of Mary Neal de Chicago and Bonne Marie de Chicago.

In the calm before the Holidome, it was important to have a little palate cleanser. After reconnoitering at La Guardia, we beelined for the Met, where we managed to see Vermeer's Milkmaid (tiny) accompanied by a guard standing one foot to the right of The Milkmaid (staring right back at us like some animatronic sculpture of a bored-looking museum guard). All that lapis lazuli paint was great, but we really lost it in the new Roman Art wing.

By the way, just to be clear, the deer hides were not at the Met. That was later. At the Ravelry party.

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Whoops. (They have GOT to come up with a better name than FRIED DOUGH for this product. I'm thinking Pillow Clouds or Sugar Dream Puffies or even CRISPY Dough if they have to keep Dough in there. Even McDonald's knows to call something CRISPY if it's been dropped into a vat of boiling oil.)

Ah, here we go:

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Mosaaaaaaics. Knittable mosaics!

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Really, now.

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We learned that in ancient Rome, life was pretty much exactly the same as life today:

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How do you say Wal-Mart in Latin?

After an epic run to Rhinebeck that led us through a dinner involving crepes on fire and a long discussion of Eileen Fisher and the Evolution of the Elastic Waistband, we finally finally FINALLY made it to the Holidome. Once we cracked the door to Entrance 4 and let that rich, cleansing scent of chlorine wash over us, we knew we were HOME.

The simplest way to start a conversation with anybody at Rhinebeck is to ask, "How many handknits are you wearing?"

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I discovered that Bonne Marie shares my love of reenactors.

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I was grumpy that President Washington's stockings weren't handknit. Did he think we weren't going to notice THAT?

I think the cold brought out the pioneer spirit in everybody. The vibe seemed to me extraordinarily cheerful. Or maybe it was that I was just buzzing from all the vegetable-dyed fumes in the air:

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Among the handknit accessories spotted all weekend long was the Belinda Wrap that I have been working on for SOMEbody's big birthday, which I finally finished after an epic two-week stint in the blocking parlor.

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A linen-and-silk wrap really ties together a look, especially a black puffiecoat and red Hunter rainboots. Thank you for valiantly transcending the seasons to give ol' Belinda a tour of Rhinebeck.

The load-out at the end was tricky, but we made room for the cones of yarn and the rug hooking loom and the indigo-dyed fisherman wool and the yarn made from Petra the ewe and Shadrach the goat, and and and. It all fit once we snarfed the Kettle Corn.

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It was so great to see everybody--my cheeks still sort of hurt from all the laughing. What a reunion! And a special hello to Rose of Norfolk, Virginia, who introduced herself to me in the bathroom of the Metropolitan Museum. See? Those knitters are everywhere.

Love,

Ann

Posted by Ann at 02:39 PM | Comments (37)

You May Already Be a Weiner

Dear Ann,

With unaccustomed efficiency, I shut off the comments to the previous post at 12:04 New York Time, and promptly drew the winners. The stitch dictionary was such a huge favorite (this is a knitting blog, come to think of it) that it took 7 more draws until the random magic struck someone who wanted the sewing book, fab as it is (we're not worthy).

The winners, blogless both, are:

400 Stitches That Could Change Your Life and Make You See Double goes to Mimi (I think the only Mimi who competed).

A Sewing Book That Could Change Your Life and Make You Go On a Diet goes to Evelyn (the Evelyn who has "mama" in her email address). I am emailing both winners.

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Mimi and Evelyn: don't be surprised if there are a few tooth marks (Olive's) and tear stains (mine), as we are both a little sad to see these tasty gems leave the Maison de Oui Oui. (Olive's photo pose is always "Utter Despair/Life Is Not Worth Living", but this time she has a reason.)

For those who long to hear how Rhinebeck went for us, Bonne Marie and Gale can give you a full picture. The only thing they left out was how we bit our lips to hold back the tears when we realized that there were a lot fewer Utilikilts on the grounds this year. Skirty-boys: see you in 2010? Please?

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Don't jump, Olive! The publisher will send more books, I promise!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 12:25 PM | Comments (27)

October 20, 2009

Let's Give Away A Book or Two, Shall We?

Dear Ann,

Our dear publisher has sent me a couple of most excellent books, so I thought I'd get busy and give them away this morning.

First up:

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400 Knitting Stitches. Not 399, not 401, but 400! This is a good solid stitch dictionary with a really pretty cover. I was tempted to keep it, but since I seem to have talked myself into all 4 of the Barbara Walkers (5 if you count the Learn-to-Knit Afghan, and I think you should), one Lesley Stanfield, and a Harmony guide, that would be a bit piggish.

Next, for our young & bangin' friends with sewing machines:

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Olive likes it, obviously.

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Twinkle Sews.

This book is crammed with beautiful examples of Twinkle at her insouciant best. Everything is young, fun, and different-but-not-weird.

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I would keep this book to make clothes for Carrie if that were not the most unrealistic idea, even for me. (What with the rug-making operation and all.) I really would love for this to go to a loving home. It's special.

Da Rules

To enter the contest, leave a comment to this post no later than noon (NY time) on Wednesday, October 21, 2009, telling me which book you'd like (choose one). (Note: Anyone who says anything unsupportive about Twinkle's models being skinny (as skinny as --gasp! shock and horror!--fashion models) will be disqualified. There's no First Amendment in book giveaways!) The winner will be chosen by separate random drawing for each book.

In a Twinkle State of Mind

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Coinky-dink: today I'm sewing up my re-gauged version of the Best Friend cardi from Twinkle's first knitting book. It's for Carrie or, if it doesn't fit her, someone equally Twinkle-riffic. (But not Olive.)

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 10:29 AM | Comments (716)

October 19, 2009

Rhinebeck Rughook Hangover

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Dear Ann,

You probably knew this, but I'll tell you anyway. Yesterday's drive home from Rhinebeck just about killt me. Don't get me wrong: the company was great. You, Mary Neal and Bonne Marie were every bit as shiny and charming on Sunday night as you had been on Friday morning--and you can't say that about many other carloads of hard-knittin' wimminfolk. But it was eating away at me, mile by mile, stitch by stitch of my Ladies Panties Scarf:

The visceral longing to be HOOKING A RUG ON MY NEW RUG-HOOKING FRAME.

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Isn't it a beaut? I got it from the wonderful Betsy Reed, who is my new Rug Hooking Role Model. It looks enormous in this picture, but it is lap-sized. This little frame has already been transformative of my rug-hooking experience. I no longer have to wrangle the hoop and hold it just so to create the necessary tautness of the linen. I can sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. (OK, the metal teeth are a little scrapy on the wrists, but I'm equipped against that.)

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So naturally I stayed up until 1:30-something a.m., slicing up my new rug-hooking stash and hooking on my new bluebird rug, watching Bleak House on PBS (o no! smallpox! I had forgotten that part!), and hooking my little heart out.

I leave it to you to tell of our adventures at the Holidome. I've got rugs to hook.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 03:37 PM | Comments (40)

October 15, 2009

Sometimes The Yarn Crawls To You

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Dear Ann,

It's always a thrilling moment every year when the Rowan Free Gift arrives. (For non-Rowanistas: if you subscribe to Rowan Magazine's 2 issues per year, they send you a sweet little kit of yarn and instructions for a small project.) Well, almost always. Last year the gift was 6 skeins of Rowan Denim to make a little bag. To most people, this was probably awesome, but, you know, I'm kind of familiar with the Rowan Denim. Happy to have it! Newcastle is always accepting more coals! But I like it even better when the Rowan gift is something that I might not otherwise try. (Remember the Kaffe Tumbling Blocks Cushion? No WAY would I have made that beautiful thing without the kit landing in my lap.)

I have always, always been a sucker for the Free Gift With Purchase. Remember those awesome Lancome black patent bags in the 80s and 90s? The Clinique zippered makeup kits that never failed to include a tube of brown lipstick and a teeny bar of complexion soap? The glass tumbler that came in a box of Duz detergent? (OK, that's too far back for me, but I remember hearing people remember it, and I completely get why they remember it.) And the Kraft pimiento cream cheese that came (and probably still comes) in little cut-glass juice glasses? (To this day, when I go to France, I come home with mustard packed in juice glasses. Once I got mustard in a goblet.)

But I digress. Last week I got my Rowan kit, just as I was digging around for something to amuse me during any lulls in last weekend's double-mitzvah for niece Maggie and nephew Paul. (Here's Joseph enjoying a moment of irreverence after a long day of Hebrew.)

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The good: There are 2 choices of project, and it was hard to decide which to make because both are good! I am going with the lace shawl (pictured up top), because it will suit Carrie, whose accessories need daily, if not more frequent, refreshing. Also, the Pure Wool 4 ply is really nice yarn, and a generous amount. (A full-size brown lipstick, for sure! None of those teeny Avon-lady sample lipsticks--much as we loved them as kids-- for Rowanistas!)

The bad: Beigey peach has got to be one of my least favorite colors. It's beige! It's peach! It's neither beige nor peach! It's the color of that "flesh-toned" crayon that was not the color of anyone's actual flesh. I'm going to be looking for an invitation to somebody's walnut dye vat when this thing is knitted up. (Don't go composting your fallen walnuts, Cristina! ) I must be in a good mood, though, because I think it's a plus that at the end of the knitting, I'll get to garment-dye my scarf.

Anyhoo. That's been a highlight of my week.

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For Olive's fan club, a photo of our darling girl. Don't get me started on the list of things I would never do, that I am doing now. (Speaking baby talk to another species? Check.) She has won me over with her sweet kitten paws and her incredible ability to Appear Heartbroken.

Soon, I hope she will Appear Housebroken. I know that's asking a lot.

Love,
Kay

P.S. RHINEBECK ALERT! Ann and I (and Special Sassy Guests) will be at Rhinebeck on Saturday and Sunday. Both afternoons, circa 2 p.m., you can find us at the picnic tables near the Artichoke French stand. (Pure coincidence! Just a landmark! Not really!) Stop by, say hi, show us what you bought, save us from buying a spinning wheel.....What if there is no Artichoke French stand this year? We're going HOME.

Posted by Kay at 04:56 PM | Comments (104)

October 07, 2009

Learning to Crawl

Dear Ann,

The big news up here is that the very first New York City Yarn Crawl is coming up this weekend, October 9-12, Friday through Monday.

We have a Fambly Double Whammy this weekend--a bar mitzvah and a bat mitzvah occurring simultaneously (luckily they are brother and sister, so the simu-davening will be occurring at one convenient location)--so my personal Crawling Time will be somewhat limited. I am determined, though, to hit at least a few of the shops that are participating, focusing my efforts on venturing out of my regular circuit of fave shops.

Ann, you won't be here, but your knitting will! The Yarn Crawl was kind enough to invite us to be part of the fabulously silly Scavenger Hunt contest that Blue Sky Alpacas is sponsoring. Here's how it works:

Each of the 14 participating yarn shops will have on its premises a sample project from either Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Curious Knitters' Guide, or Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines. The item will be recognizable from its photograph in the book, or for those who (very sadly, I weep for them, really I do) do not have the books, from a quick search of Ravelry's patterns archive using the search term "Mason-Dixon Knitting". (Not that I check this listing daily or anything.) IMPORTANT NOTE: The item will not be hidden, so please do not dig through yarn bins or otherwise disturb the yarn shop. The item will be in plain sight somewhere in the store. The item will bear a tag saying, "Mason-Dixon Knitting #__".

When you have located the item, make a note of the information on the tag AND the name of the shop in which you found it.

At the end of your personal yarn crawl, send an email to [email protected], listing each item you found BY NUMBER, and the shop you found it in. All entries must be received by 5 p.m. New York time on Tuesday, October 13, 2009.

There will be one grand prize winner, of this fabulous prize:

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A kit to make this luxurious Blue Sky Alpacas, quilt-inspired throw. I've seen the kit, all dolled up in a beautiful basket. It is to covet. This is a blanket for people who wrap themselves up in a regular quilt and say, "This thing is just not thick enough for me, and also I'd like 28 skeins of alpaca/merino in it."

There will also be a wonderful second prize involving Jade Sapphire Mongolian Cashmere. Don't lose hope if you don't get to all 14 stores. Enter anyway! Scavenge your heart out!

The winners will be chosen by random drawing from among all entries with the highest number of correct scavenger hunt finds. That is, if several entries have all 14 items, the drawing will be from those entries only. If nobody finds all 14, the drawing will be from all entries that have 13 items, and so forth. Given what I know about knitters, and their energy for visiting yarn shops, I'm guessing there will be a few 14-item entries.

May the best scavengers win!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 02:24 PM | Comments (31)

October 01, 2009

Winners of a Forgotten Contest, Now with More Dog Pictures

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Dear Ann,

Just a quick break from PupWatch 2009 to announce contest winners of our new audiobook. I'm so heartened by the notes we've been getting from people who've listened to it. At the time, I just thought of the recording sessions as a lark for us; it hardly occurred to me that anybody would listen to the thing!

Anyhoo, many people got one (or both) of the right answers:

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The project I am working on is a version of either the Gwithian Beach Blanket from Indigo Knits by Jane and Patrick Gottelier, or the more serene, but still super-swatchy, Sennen Cove Blanket by Jane Gottelier, which appeared in Issue 7 of the British knitting monthly, The Knitter.

The first-in-time correct guesser was Alexandra, and the randomly-chosen correct guesser was Susan. Send me your snail mails, please, and your chatty CDs will be in the mail to you, pronto.

The contest did not ask people to speculate about my reasons for making this blanket, but I'll be glad to share them. I've wanted to make it since the Indigo Knits book came out, because of its pure coolness. I think I like the Sennen Cove version even better, because of its 3 dimensionality more than anything. (It looks like something a puppy would really enjoy chewing on, you know?) But what got me to actually start knitting those huge swatches was a thread in Ravelry harrumphing about why anyone would ever knit a blanket with uneven edges. Got my dander up! It's knitting people! We can do it the way we like it! No sacred cows! Inventiveness for its own sake! All those other things I like! And the third, and probably most important reason I am making it, is, as it usually is with me, one photograph:

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This photo has it all: it cracks me up, it inspires me. I want to be those kids listening to their denim-clad i-Pods on their crazy denim patch blanket. I must have it, and I will have it.

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People have been kindly inquiring about the status of Our Olive. Thank you! Olive is doing well. In four short days she has gotten so familiar with her surroundings, and the buttons that are available to be pushed in all three of her housemates, that she's pretty much running things. In the Department of Wee-Wee Pads, she is Gifted and Talented, and I am Relieved and Grateful. In other areas, however, Olive is more of a Special Needs student, e.g., she needs to be under constant visual surveillance. The vet has given her a clean bill of health, and me some excellent tips on getting her to stop crying from 3 to 5 a.m. Tuff love, and shades of the Ferber Method. There is a thunder of paws-on-carpet that we have not heard here since Joseph was the heavyweight crawling champion of NYC. All in all, a fabulous experience so far. The dog people talk to me now! Easiest clique to get into, ever!

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Kid Silk Haze labels give your breath that mohair-fresh feeling.

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 10:31 AM | Comments (64)
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