Monday, December 28, 2009

In Memory

Sorry, this is going to be a rather somber post with very little knitting in it. I'll stick the finished knitted item at the end (it's only one), so, if you're not interested in me lament, just scroll down until you see the picture.

Okay (I'm taking a deep breath here)

This year in October a good friend of me passed away. I learned about it only a few weeks later, as his wife had trouble tracking me down (all the contact information was on his computer and she couldn't get into it). His death was very suddenly, caused by blood clots in his lungs and there was no real warning (his wife should know - she's a doctor). I had no warning, though I thought it was a bit strange that he hadn't answered my last two e-mails. Usually he was very prompt about it, but I figured he was away traveling without any internet access (it happened before, but usually he sent me a warning he would be out of touch for a bit).
I came back from my trip from Florida in November when there was a message on my answering machine from Ann with the bad news. It took me another three days to get hold of her in return. So, now the plan is for my to go to Alaska next May for a memorial service and to scatter his ashes over Denali National Park as to his wishes. Bill loved Alaska and I think it is the right thing to do.
I've met Bill August 1993. I was a student at this time and took part in a work and travel program which allowed me to work for two months in the US. It was my very first time in America and, thinking back, I believe I was a bit naive. I knew about Bill before the trip - he was at that time maybe the biggest distributor of fanzines in the US and I had bought stuff from him before. I remember I contacted him and asked him if he would mind for me to come by his house and meet him. Obviously he didn't mind and he picked me up a the train station In East Lansing, Michigan. He told me he would be easy to spot as he was almost seven feet tall. He also brought two of his border collies and Skylass and I were love at first side. Afterwards, Bill always said, Sky was my dog, even if she was in the US and I was in Europe.
Originally, I had planned to stay only a few days (I didn't want to be a bother), but Bill and Ann insisted that I stayed two weeks. He introduced my to some new series I hadn't known before and Ann's cooking was to die for.
After that we never really lost contact, though sometimes there was a month or two we didn't write. We went on vacations together as Ann, as a doctor, didn't have the time for it. London, Scotland, Germany, several trips to the US, and, of course, New Zealand. Very good memories there and tons of pictures.

After Michigan, Bill and Ann moved to Ohio, but Bill's dream always had been to live in Alaska. Finally, Ann found a job there and they moved maybe four or five years ago to Kechikan. Eventually, they ended up in Kenai, south of Anchorage, and where in the process of buying a house there, when it happened.
Bill was a very generous soul and very sharing. He had a wicked sense of humor. He loved music and movies. He was a very willing recipient half a dozen of my stitching projects and I have a few more I had planned for him. In Alaska Bill had taken up fotographie and had taken some fantastic pictures.

Since I've learned of his passing, there was never a day I didn't think of him for some reason, was it because I saw something that reminded me of him and because of something I thought he would be interested in.
I miss him!

So, okay, some much for the morbid part. I needed to get that off my chest.
Christmas has come and gone. There were not many presents - we have the deal among the adults not to make any and I very fine with that as it cuts down on the pre-Christmas craziness.

I did a bit of knitting and made an hat for my youngest nephew (who's going to be nine in February) from the left over yarn from the pullover I've made for him.
I designed it myself and have no clue if he'll ever going to wear it. I just think it's a funny little hat.

Happy New Year to everyone.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Day Knitting Saved My Life ... Well, At Least My Mind

... and that's without even picking up a knitting needle.

This week a bit earlier than usual and without any pics.

Thanks to my job, I'm doing a lot of traveling. Almost every week I drive about 480 km from my home to Dresden and, at the end of the week, back home. I don't really mind driving. I listen to the radio, some audio book or, lately, to podcasts, and let my mind wander, thinking about my next project or what I'm going to cook on the weekend.
The normal driving time is 4 1/5 to 5 hours, incl. a half hour break in the middle.
Yesterday, however, it took me 9 hours.
Nine hours!!!
And they haven't been fun at all.
End of the week, the temperatures decided to take a plunge to below freezing and it has been between -12 and -14°C all day yesterday. Add a bit of snowing to the mix, and you have the recipe for disaster. A bit after the halfway point I got stuck in a traffic jam for two hours because some trucks had trouble getting up a couple of hills, which did nothing at all to improve my mood.

What saved me, though, were the knitting podcasts I'd downloaded last weekend. I really enjoy the 'Electric Sheep' and am still looking for more good podcasts. I picked a selection and am still working my way through them.
So, here a list of what I've got so far.

Cast On - An American living in Britain
Here's to Ewe - Knitting in Vegas
KIPing it Real - Knitting in Public
Knit Misadventures
Knitmore Girls - A mother and daughter team
Knitting History
Never Not Knitting
The Sassy Sheep

I didn't got around to the last two yet (there's always tomorrows trip for that ...)
So far, I rather liked the Knitmore Girls, though I'm not in love with the voices, the others were so-so.
Well, at least they kept my sane.

I don't really have anything to show this week - I didn't do much knitting, really. The new Zelda game keeps me happily busy. I'm maybe 2/3 through by now and am enjoying every minute of it. I hope to be done by Christmas. I expect my nephew will want some pointers...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Snow Day

When I woke up this morning, we had snow. Yeah, winter has arrived. My guess is, it's gone by christmas....

All three projects I've had in the works two weeks ago have been completed.

The Schokobaktus made with Schoppelwolle Zauberball in the color 'Schokocreme'
I was a bit too careful on the halfway point, and now have a good 20g of the yarn left, even after using some of it to make two tassels.

The flower trim bag also went pretty well.
The pattern didn't make any mention of lining the bag, but I decided to do so anyway and found the absolutely friggin' perfect fabric for it.

The sewing took at least as long as the knitting (at least it felt like it), but it was very much worth it.

Third project was the hat heel socks. I finished them, and they fit perfectly, but I don't know if I really would ever make a second pair. They are nice enough, but the method is a bit too fiddly for my taste.

Off course I've already have something new on the needle. This here is the start for the mitred stripes tote. The first scare ended up at a solid 40 by 40 cm, though it will shrink a bit once I throw it into the washing machine for the felting.

I don't know, though, if I get a lot of knitting time in next week - the new Zelda game came out last week, so there's a bit of the distraction.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Christmas Cookies - 2009 Edition

As every year in the Christmas Season, I throw caution and calories to the wind and make a batch of Christmas cookies.

As every year I have a few classics (in the sense I'm practically make them every year) and a few newcomers.

My favorite recipe is probably the one for Cinnamon Stars.

Sweet, chewy and wonderfully nutty. This year I've made them a bit smaller then before, which I think works well. You can eat more of them without feeling too guilty, right?

A repeater from last year (on special request by my mom) are the Ginger-Fruit Sticks

Made with candied Ginger, dried apricots and almonds, plus some honey and other lovely things there are wonderfully nice and fruity.
I took a couple of those to friends last night and already got one request to pass on the recipe.

Another great hit from last night were the Linzer Cookies, which are a new addition to the list, but have a good chance of coming back next year.

I've made those having my dad in mind, as he rather likes cookies with jam. The cookies are base on a famous Austrian cake. They are a tad on the soggy side, but the taste is quite lovely.

The next cookie recipe is sort of a half cookie / half praline thing, which is in princible not a bad thing, but didn't quite work out the way I wanted.

They are very brittle and I already have quite a few broken bits in my cookie tin, which I really can't offer to anybody else.

Last, but not least, I've made a patch of my favorite short bread with ginger, which was in the oven when I made the pics, but to be honest they are a bit on the boring side of photography. Just imagine a round, light brown cookie. There, that wasn't to hard, was it.
The taste though .... mmmmmmhhhh.