Friday, December 30, 2011

Oh, the places I've been!

This is an interesting little gadget I just discovered from a member in Ravelry...and it made me realize how much I've traveled! This summer I'll be adding Iceland to it and maybe I can toss in a couple more states or provinces before I embark on that voyage.

It would be wonderful to touch the soil of every continent at some time in my life. If you could visit just one place in the world, what would it be?

visited 34 states (68%)
Create your own visited map of The United States or Like this? try: Vendian

visited 5 states (38.4%)
Create your own visited map of Canada or Like this? try: Auto Poster

visited 18 states (8%)
Create your own visited map of The World or Like this? try: Caerfai Chemical Simulation

Monday, December 19, 2011

Clothes from Outer Space

For some reason I can't explain, I can't stop inventing clothes. Sure, they're totally goofy -- like Toe Cones, Faux Toes, Sleevettes and My L'il Joey -- but I like 'em even if everyone else thinks I'm...well...special.

For those who haven't had the privilege of a private viewing, Toe Cones were to be placed on the toes of your shoes when you (like all of us who worked at The Worst Company in the Whole Wide World Inc., now a division of IBM) weren't permitted to wear open-toe shoes. Executives feared that if the ladies' toes were exposed, the men would be in such a frenzy of passion, they wouldn't be able to concentrate on their work. Stop laughing. I'm not kidding!

For those of us who wanted to achieve the open-toe look without a painful and humiliating visit to the HR department, I created Faux Toes. These were attached to the tops of your shoes and they looked like real toes. Only the office foot fetishist would have known they were fake.

Sleevettes were short sleeves that predated the shrug. They were invented when The Worst Company in the Whole Wide World Inc. told us we couldn't wear sleeveless garments because "shoulders are sexy." (I wish I were making this up!) I wondered out loud, "The new Lexus is sexy but our CEO gets to drive his to the broad daylight with everybody watching!"

The HR department told me to stop gawking and to hurry up and complete the mandatory "Sexual Harassment" online seminar for department managers. They were so surprised when I passed it that they called to say, "Hey, it turns out you actually know the rules. So, why do you break them all the time?"

My L'il Joeys were not designed to counter clothing regulations in Completely Crazy Corporate America, but were crafted to provide us middle-aged ladies with a darned good excuse for having a belly. These were underpants that featured the face of a baby kangaroo peeking out from the waistband. When you wore them you'd say, "I'm not fat. It's my l'il joey!"

Needless to say, these garments did not take off, although they did earn me a session with an HR counselor who looked at me suspiciously and said, "You're weird."

(The "Nude Look Bikini" I crocheted in flesh-tone fabric to which I added some shockingly human features was another abysmal fashion failure.)

This weekend I invented the Hubble Shirt. It required a bit more work than usual. First, I downloaded photos from the Hubble Telescope. Then I had them printed onto fabric. This one has multiple images of a supernova, or gaseous cloud, or something else equally unearthly and delightful. I bought a Vogue pattern and used the fabric to create this t-shirt.

It's a little too loud for me to wear. (I dress pretty conservatively most of the time.) But I kind of like the thought behind it.

What do you think? Is it creative genius? Or creative "just stepped over the line to crazy"? I won't be hurt if you don't like it, but I'll probably think twice before I present you with the brand new Ele-pants I've just designed for men.

20% off all Kollage Yarns now at Yarnmarket. No minimum purchase required!

Jan just released another Yarnmarket sales letter and this time she's told our shoppers that they'll get 20% off all Kollage yarns until January 9th, 2012.

Be sure to read our newsletter, and sign up if you don't already subscribe, because they'll not only inspire you with great knitting and crocheting ideas, they'll also help you save a little money!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Alex is a hopeless romantic...but don't let anybody know.

For thirty years now, Alex and I have loved each other for richer and for poorer, for better and for worse, and in sickness and in health. We moved to a new country together, bungee jumped off the Kawarua Bridge together, and I have no doubt that we'll both meet the end of our lives together. (It will be when he makes a left hand turn on a yellow light.)

For thirty years he's been putting up with my goofy sense of humor while I've ensured that the top drawer of his chest is replenished weekly with clean, neatly folded underpants.

He's been tolerating my love of David Bowie, Rupert Sheldrake and Bernard Haisch while I've cleaned soap scum from the shower stall, polished the bathroom mirrors, and scrubbed the toilet bowl until it sparkles like diamonds.

He's been putting up with my lunacy while I've been howling at the moon and scratching my ears with my hind feet.

When our 30th Anniversary was approaching we both promised one another that neither of us would buy a gift. We were both lying, of course. We simply had to negotiate how big a lie it would be.

We're planning to go away next summer, so we tried to pretend that would be our Anniversary trip. But summer's a long way off and we wanted to do something special. I thought dinner would be great. Alex had other ideas.

Before I knew it, he was plotting to take me somewhere and all he'd tell me is that I'd be leaving on December 8 and returning December 13th. Now, if you know me, you know I can think of all sorts of spectacular things that could happen in a period of five days. Like a really, really quick trip to Paris. A seminar with Eckhard Tolle in Vancouver. Five days at a monastery where they chant the Vespers in Latin.

There's no end of wonderful things I can imagine Alex would be planning. Weekend in Bermuda? Visit to Quebec City to practice our French? Up to Alaska to be enthralled by the Northern Lights?

Unfortunately for Alex, when I'm lacking information, I don't imagine the worst. I imagine stuff so unbelievably fantastic that no one could hope to deliver it.

As the trip drew nearer, I started questioning Alex about where it was we were going. Did I need to pack my 1850 watt 120 volt hairdryer, 120 volt flat iron, straightening serum and Frizz-Ease hairspray? Or did I need my 1850 watt 240 volt hairdryer with the three prong plug for Britain, 240 volt flat iron with three prong plug for Britain, straightening serum, Frizz-Ease hairspray and an umbrella? Or did I need my 1850 watt 240 volt hairdryer with the three prong plug for Europe, 240 volt flat iron with three prong plug for Europe, straightening serum, Frizz-Ease hairspray, umbrella and French-English dictionary?

He refused to say a word.

But as the day drew nearer, he showed up with three carry-on suitcases and said, "We've got to put everything in these.

Everything? My hair styling aids alone would fill up 1/3 of the space! Where on Earth were we going? On a donkey ride up to Macchu Pichcu? Taking a ride on the Space Shuttle? Not only would he not give me a clue, he was getting downright annoyed that I wouldn't stop asking. But he agreed to tell me the night before we left, just in case there were something special I needed to pack -- like rain boots, a blow torch and a Snuggie. It was then he informed me I needed to get up at 3:00 a.m.

Yup. Three in the morning. Three hours after midnight. It's not "up at the crack of dawn." It's up before dawn has even reached Portugal! And then he gave me the news; he told me we were going to Seattle.

Seattle in December.

Cold, gray, wet, windy, gray, more wet, and more bone-chilling, freezing cold, foggy, wet Seattle.

To say I was stunned is an understatement. I simply refused to believe it. There was no way my husband was taking me to Seattle in December to celebrate our 30th Anniversary. Absolutely no way. Seattle is a place you leave in December. I've been there many times on business trips and even the people who live there say they can't stand the constant clouds and rain. Sure it's a gorgeous, modern northwestern city. In the summer, it's a paradise on Earth. But December? Hideous. Hideous with a raincoat and frostbite.

(Now, I hope I haven't given the impression that I'm spoiled rotten and demand exotic and expensive destinations. That's not true. I'd rather have a romantic dinner at The Wine Guy in Pickerington, Ohio than go to someplace cold and wet and gray. And cloudy.)

I decided to set aside the idea of going to (gray, wet, cold) Seattle and gave Alex the gift I'd had made for him. It was a beautifully framed, typewritten letter on a piece of memo stationery from Saffer, Cravit and Freedman Advertising. Alex had typed it the first day we met -- in 1979 in Toronto -- when I'd come for an interview for a job. He offered me the position on the spot and I was so shocked by the offer, I asked that he put it into writing. I'd kept that letter for well over 30 years.

I'm sorry to say that he was as shocked (and disappointed) by the letter as I was with the trip to (gasp!) Seattle. But he thanked me and reminded me we had to get up early in the morning.

We said our goodnights, cool goodnights I might add, and it wasn't until my crying kept him awake that he finally confessed he was taking me to Victoria, BC.

Ahhh...Victoria. Pilots call it the "blue hole" because the sun is almost always shining. For Victoria, BC I could get up at 3:00. Hurray!

We flew out of Columbus, Ohio when most people are still saying goodnight to each other, and landed in Chicago an hour later. After a brief wait, we got on a plane to Seattle. I think I slept. I'm not sure. I was getting really excited about going to someplace nice and sunny.

After we got to SeaTac, we took a bus to a little airport operated by Kenmore Airline. It's a little operation that flies into Victoria, taking off and landing on water. Having never been on a seaplane before, this was something really exciting. And it explained why we could take so little luggage.

From the sea plane I could see sparsely populated, forested islands where very lucky people lived in small cottages, grand mansions and everything in between. I couldn't imagine living so remotely, and wondered if the rainwater were enough to fill their reservoirs. And then I remembered...cold, wet, rainy... Yes, they'd have plenty of water.

When we landed in sunny Victoria, Alex told me it would be a short walk to the hotel, so we grabbed our luggage and started our trek up a hill. Much to my surprise, it WAS a short walk. (Even our kids will attest to the fact that Alex's idea of a short stroll is a Roman Legionnaire's campaign march. That man can walk so far that our sons-in-law have warned one another, "If he asks you take a walk, don't do it!")

It had been a long day, and I was ready to rest. Little did I know that the night had just begun. Alex had made reservations for us to eat at Stages, a great little restaurant that serves the world's best french fries and duck confit. And then we went to see a play, Jitters. It was a Canadian-written production (of course!) and was funny...but after being up for 22 hours straight, I have to admit we were both relieved when it was over.

We were exhausted. I thought the bed in the Chateau Victoria was wonderfully comfortable for the 2.5 seconds I was conscious.

The next morning, after a breakfast that included gluten-free French Toast, Alex announced that I was going for a massage at a local spa. Ahhhh... It was heavenly. I had a steam bath, massage, and reflexology. It's amazing what they can tell you just by touching your feet. I couldn't help but think of all the money I've wasted on CAT scans, MRIs, EEGs, EKGs, and Myelograms when all I needed was a lady who could read my feet.

After the surprise visit to the spa, Alex met me at the hotel. He'd bought flowers for our room and gave me a card that was so sweet it made me cry. What a romantic he is!

Instead of going to lunch, as he'd originally planned, we decided we were still full from breakfast so we went on a tour of the city. Victoria's a great place, capital city of British Columbia, and it has a rich history that's celebrated on plaques throughout the area and in lots of local museums.

Our first stop was the Christ Church Cathedral where we were greeted by the nicest lady who gave us a private tour. She was a member of the congregation who volunteered a few hours a week, and she was only to happy to speak about the history of the building, pointing out particularly interesting features. My favorite was a stone carving of a robin and a nest perched at the top of a column. It turned out that when the cathedral was built, a robin had her nest there and she tormented the workers for fear they'd destroy her nest. They waited patiently for her fledglings to leave before they completed their work on the column, then immortalized the bird with a statue.

Isn't that great? Right there in this massive stone cathedral is a carving of a bird who protected her babies.

The pulpit was also very interesting. It was sponsored by the Hudson Bay Company, who paid for the wood used to make it. An enormous tree was felled and stored for 30 years before the carving began! The artist paid tribute to the company by decorating the altar with intricate carvings that included a beaver and a bear.

We stayed a couple of hours at the cathedral before wandering through the many interesting shops, boutiques and book stores. For dinner, Alex had made reservations at the city's most celebrated Italian restaurant. Fantastico!

The next day, and our last in Victoria, we were up and out of the hotel to see an IMAX movie about the proud and noble beaver. Unfortunately, Alex had accidentally purchased tickets for the previous day and instead of a movie, there was a private event. Oh, well... That gave us time to enjoy the city before a surprise at 4:00 in the afternoon.

TIME TRAVEL BACK TO JUNE 1975. I was engaged to a guy whose cousin was being ordained as a minister, so I went with him and his entire family to see the ordination in Depew, New York. It was the first and only time I met Craig Knight.

Since that time, Craig has left the Lutheran Ministry and ended up working with the Minister of Health in British Columbus. I reconnected with him sort of by accident through e-mail (thinking he was someone else) and when he realized who I was, we struck up a great long distance friendship. He's got a really sick and twisted sense of humor...just like mine! Alex met Craig last summer when he was attending a photography seminar in Victoria, so he'd arranged for Craig, his wife Diane, and us to have dinner together. What a delight!

Craig and Diane gave us a tour of the city and their neighborhood, blissfully close to the ocean, and then we went to their home. Their gardens would have been lovely if it were summer. I could tell by all fruit trees, lavender and rhododendrons that the blossoms would be spectacular. The four of us had dinner at an elegant French restaurant and while I don't recall what I ate, I do know that when I returned home from our 30th Anniversary trip I weighed six pounds more than when I left.

It was a wonderful trip. Alex, who NEVER plans our vacations, had organized everything entirely on his own and had done a fantastic job of it. (This makes me wonder how I ended up as our official Travel Agent. He says it's the same reason I was assigned the role of Official Wirer of Electronic Equipment: He doesn't want to be bothered. What I thought he'd couldn't do, he simply didn't want to do!)

I hope that everyone has a 30th Anniversary as wonderful as mine. I can't imagine how it could have been better.

And now...back to another 30 years of ensuring his drawer is filled with clean underpants, and his toilet is sparkling clean.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Chipmunks roasting on an open fire...

I haven't had time to write much this week, what with my whirlwind tour of Seattle and Victoria, BC. Victoria was a big surprise and we had a fantastic time. I'll write about it as soon as I can.

But in the meantime, I thought I'd share with you the words from a Christmas card I bought in Canada:

Chipmunks roasting on an open fire
Frostbite chewing on your nose
Yuletide carolers being thrown on a fire
And folks dressed up like buffaloes.

Everybody knows a turkey slaughtered in the snow
Helps to make the season right.
Tiny tots with their eyes all gouged out
Will find it hard to sleep tonight.

They know that Santa's on his way
He's loaded lots of guns and bullets on his sleigh
And every mother's child is gonna spy
To see if reindeer really scream when they die.

ANd so I'm offering this simple phrase
To kids from 1 to 92.
Although it's been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas,
Merry Christmas,
Merry Christmas,

...well, I won't type the last line.

I hope this makes you laugh as hard as I did when I read it! (The card is by NobleWorks, PO Box 1275, Hoboken, NJ 07030. I'd love to work for those guys.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Alex has finally told me where he's taking me for our 30th Anniversary. Seattle. Not only am I surprised, I'm not even sure I believe him. He presented me with three small suitcases and said, "This is all we can take with us." Since when does Seattle have luggage limitations?

Obviously, there's far more to this than meets the eye.

Fabulous fashions! The Kollage River Run Cowl and Mitts are yours at Yarnmarket!

Our good friends at Kollage are recommending this River Run Cowl and Mitts project for the holiday season, and we thinks it's a real winner. It's a fun pattern created with Sock-a-licious yarn, and we think this set makes a fantastic fashion accessory.

I love Sock-a-licious because it feels wonderful, the colors are spectacular and big skeins of 354 yards means fewer ends to weave in when you're finished. Right now, we have 20 Sock-a-licious colors in stock for $18.25 for 324 yards.

You can find the pattern and yarn at Yarnmarket, or you can buy the complete project with a single click. (If you've got some of the items included in the project, just un-click them!)

We've recently changed our shipping options, so if you spend over $59 you'll get free shipping in the continental U.S.

Save 20% off Berroco yarns...and see Norah Gaughan's video tips exclusively for friends of Yarnmarket!

We're so delighted that our customers are taking advantage of the 20% savings off all our Berroco yarns.

We're also delighted to offer you this FREE video made especially for our customers by the designing genius, Norah Gaughan. She created this to accompany the variety of projects we featured in our Spotlight on Berroco.

I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

All Berroco yarns now on sale at 20% off! No minimum purchase required.

Every month, I have the great pleasure of writing about another one of our wonderful yarn companies and I'm always so flattered by the responses we get. It seems that our Yarnmarket friends really enjoy learning about the people behind the brands who bring us the fantastic fibers and patterns we all adore.

This month, I'm happy to present you with the Spotlight on Berroco where you'll learn all about the company, its sixth-generation owner, Norah Gaughan, Amanda Keep and the 20% off savings you'll get when you purchase Berroco yarns from now until December 31.

If you don't receive it via email, you can read it online. Be sure to enter our contest because you could win a valuable Berroco prize package!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Whining and complaining...and being an annoyance.

It's been so busy at YarnMartian World Headquarters that I haven't had much time to write the blog. Sure, I've found time to post when I'm shamelessly hawking our yarn. But I haven't had much time to write about important Thanksgiving, Vincent the Squirrel and whatever it is I can say to embarrass Alex.

Our Thanksgiving was very nice and peaceful. I hope yours was, too. Lisa B went home to Pennsylvania for the holiday and returned with her mother who has spent a couple of days here knitting while Lisa works. It's nice to have a Mom at the office to make sure Lisa eats all her veggies before she treats herself to dessert at lunch time. I remember once a few years ago my Mom came with me to work with me when I was at CompuServe. My boss popped his head into my office and said, "I'll be gone next week so you'll be in charge."

I swear to God, my Mom broke into a panic. She looked at him in terror and asked, "Are you sure you want to do that?" This is why NOBODY has a "Take Your Mom to Work Day."

I've think I've got bad news about Vincent the Squirrel. He seems to have disappeared despite the loads of peanuts we were feeding him everyday. We haven't seen him in about a week, so I'm going to pretend that he's found a better place (perhaps once that serves walnuts) because I cannot bear to think that he's...well...I can't even bear to type it.

I've got really, really good news about the Snow Leopard Trust that we support. Yesterday I received a letter from Marissa that Yarnmarket friends and shoppers helped the group win the grand prize in BBC's World Challenge. That means they're getting a $20,000 grant to continue their good works to save the enormous pussycats. Isn't that fantastic? You can read about them here, if you like. Those of you who want to buy the 2012 Snow Leopard Calendar to help contribute to the charity can find it at Yarnmarket. I think it would make a really nice gift. Don't you?

I have to admit I've been spending more time than I should on the Jack the Cat and American Airlines Facebook pages. I was so upset about Jack the Cat being lost at JFK...and then I was elated when he was found...and then I was devastated when he died. Throughout the incident I kept thinking that American Airlines wasn't handling the situation very well. I know that a lot of their employees were doing everything they could to find Jack, and they were very supportive of Karen (Jack's owner). But the executives seemed to think the situation wasn't deserving of their attention.

Boy, I tell you, if I'd been an executive at AA I would have pulled out all the stops to find that cat, ensure no other pussycat or dog is ever lost again, and then I'do whatever I had to do so people would know I'm not a heartless, uncaring, EBITDA-obsessed creep.

Unfortunately, Gerard Arpey, the former CEO of American Airlines, isn't like me.

So, I'm going to confess that I'm not a nice person at all because I leapt up from my computer and yelled "Wooohooo!" when I read that he'd "retired." That's Corp-Speak for, "They tossed his sorry backside out the door." The only part that bugs me about his departure is that his salary in 2009 was $5 million. (Heck, I could bankrupt an airline for 1/10th that amount!) If he made $5 million per year, he's going to get a really good severance package, isn't he? I'll bet he gets at least $10 million to hit the tarmac and never darken their jetway again.

Now, if it's worth about $10 million for a guy like Gerard Arpey to not work at American Airlines, how much do you think it would it be worth to not have me run the company? $20 million? $30 million? $40 million and a lifetime supply of peanuts? I would think so.

Oh, seeing as how I'm confessing to my dark, ugly side...there's something I need to get off my chest. I wrote something mean on American Airline's PR agency's Facebook page. I couldn't help it! A box popped up that said, "Recommend Weber Shandwick." So I did. I wrote, "This is the agency for you if you killed somebody's cat."

I see that they finally took my recommendation down...but it was up for at least a week.

The next time I fly I'm going to be carrying the Jack the Cat bag I bought from CafePress. Proceeds go to help other pussycats and dogs that need homes. Mary Beth, who started the Jack the Cat Facebook page, has done a fantastic job of helping other animals in the wake of Jack's tragic death. If I were Weber Shandwick I'd hire her because she knows how to get people to care, and then act on their feelings. I paid $18 for a canvas sack with a picture of a very sick cat on it. Imagine what Mary Beth could do for a company like American Airlines! She'd have people sending money to buy Gerard a new yacht for his retirement.

Big Announcement!!!

As of next Friday, Alex and I will have been married 30 years. This proves:
a. I don't know how to use a gun;
b. Alex hasn't yet found the right poison;
c. You eventually do build up an immunity to one another's germs;
d. Of the billions upon billions of people on this planet, I'm the only one who wants Alex and he's the only one who wants me;
e. Those people who made bets that our marriage wouldn't last a year have long lost their money;
f. My mother was wrong;
g. His mother was right;
h. Love not only means not having to say you're sorry, it also means not having to say, "I plead not guilty, your honor."

To be honest, we probably have a better marriage than most. This is for two reasons:
1. I don't listen to a word he says.
2. He doesn't pay attention to a thing I do.

Alex is going to surprise me with a trip on our 30th Anniversary. He won't tell me where we're going. So how am I supposed to pack? Do I bring SPF 900 or Chapstick? Walking shoes, running shoes, sandals or mukluks? My 120 volt hairdryer with two prongs or my 240 hairdryer with three prongs? (If it's the 240 with 3 prongs, which prongs are they? The ones for Europe or the ones for Britain?) Do I bring an umbrella and Pantene Anti-Frizz Shampoo, Pantene Smoothing Conditioner, John Frieda's Frizz-Ease Serum, Elnette hairspray and a flat iron or do I bring a toque?

Men don't understand how complicated it is to be a woman...with sensitive skin, tender feet and frizzy hair.

So far he has told me only this: I have to be up at 4:00 a.m. to catch the plane. That's four hours after midnight. To catch a plane. In the cold and dark. Not even knowing where I'm going. With, perhaps, the wrong hair dryer.

Sweet? Yes. Considerate. Maybe. Romantic? I hope not. I never feel sexy when my hair's a frizzy mess.