Best Birthday Ever

I recently turned 60. 60? Really? How did that happen?

I happen to have an excellent husband; he’s loving, kind, generous, and thoughtful. He set out to make my 60th birthday the best birthday ever.

<Begin historic present tense>

It all starts a few weeks before the big day. The DH asks me if I’d like to go to a Pittsburgh Penguins game for my birthday.  The only NHL game I’ve ever seen in person was a preseason game–the Pens vs the Washington Capitals in the Giant Center in Hershey, PA–in which none of the “star” players participated. So, DUH!!! Of course I’d like to go to a hockey game in Pittsburgh for my birthday. He gets on the Internet and finds four seats together in the lower level of the Consol Energy Center for the night of October 15. The Pens vs the Buffalo Sabres. I like the Sabres. I love the Pens. Four tickets so we could bring the boy and his sock-worthy GF along. The excitement is building!

Next, the DH says to me, Let’s go to Bleacher Bums and I’ll buy you a hockey sweater for your birthday.

What? say I. You already bought tickets for a hockey game.

That’s as much for me as for you, says he. Let me buy you a hockey sweater to wear to the game.

Okay, say I.

I mean, it’s a no-brainer, right? So, we go to bleacher bums, and as soon as we walk in the door, I spy the hockey sweater I want.

Yep, a #87 Sidney Crosby dark blue alternate jersey, aka a Winter Classic jersey. Best birthday ever. But, believe it or not, it gets even better.

Gameday arrives. We leave Carlisle in the morning and hit the PA Turnpike headed west. It’s a glorious, sunny day, and the autumn leaves have set the hillsides ablaze. I have my knitting along and work on another Winter’s Coming hat, this one in two shades of pink, one of which is very purplish. The yarn is Brown Sheep Nature Spun worsted weight wool in Peruvian Pink and Victorian Pink.

Winter's Coming Again Hat

Knitting in the car makes trips go much faster. We have an uneventful trip and arrive safely at our hotel in Monroeville. We couldn’t get a room in the city; the hotels are filled because both the Pens and the Steelers have home games. After checking in and getting everything stowed away, we drive to the GF’s place in Shadyside where we visit, watch college football, and eat Chinese take-out until it is time to leave for the game.

We leave the house and walk to the corner to catch the bus that will take us to the CEC. It’s been along time since I’ve ridden public transportation, so I’m enjoying myself immensely. I have a lot of really good memories growing up of riding the bus with my Grandma B, and this bus ride is bringing them back. The bus stops right smack in front of the CEC, which is an amazingly beautiful building. We walk around to the other side because that is where the will-call window is, and we have to pick up our tickets at will-call.

The will-call entrance is across the street from The Igloo, aka Mellon Arena, but for me it will forever be the Civic Arena. The old arena is in the process of being demolished, but the demolition is barely underway, so there it stands in all its glory. I never attended a hockey game in the Civic Arena, but I have been there for a political rally, dog shows, and a jazz festival. It’s kind of sad to see it go because it is definitely a Pittsburgh landmark, but the building has outlived its usefulness.

We enter the CEC, pick up our tickets, go to our seats, and soak up the atmosphere. The CEC was built to be a hockey arena.

It is very well designed. When you sit down in your seat, you realize that you are seated high enough that you can easily see over the heads of the folks in the row in front of you. You can look to the sides and see the action on the ice without having to lean forward and obstruct the view of the people beside you. The seats themselves are wide and well-padded and surprisingly comfortable. And there is plenty of leg room, even for the 6’4″ DS.

Our seats have a perfect view of the face-off circle and goal net in what will be the Pens offensive zone in Periods 1 and 3. That means that during the warm ups, I get some really good looks at the Sabres goalie, Ryan Miller, who is one of my favorite hockey players.

You may remember him as the USA goalie in the last Winter Olympics. He looked so sad after the OT loss. If you don’t remember him from the Olympics, you might recognize him from the Comcast  Xfinity commercials where he’s playing air hockey with Shaquille O’Neal and says to Shaq, “You’re in MY world now.” I love that commercial. Miller isn’t in goal this game, but I have a nice unobstructed view of him in the goalie’s corner of the Sabres bench.

The hockey game is really exciting.

It’s a little disappointing that the Pens fall behind, but they keep scrapping and get within one point of the Sabres in the third period when Jordan Staal scores a goal in the net right in front of us. The ending of the game is very exciting, but the Pens fall short and lose 3-2.

Under normal circumstances I might be a little disappointed because the Pens lost, but nothing could put a damper on this day.

Greg and me enjoying the game.

On a day when I get to spend the day with my husband, son, and son’s GF; when I get to eat Chinese take-out; when I get to see an NHL game live and in person; when I get to wear my #87 hockey sweater to the game; on a day when I get to do so many wonderful things, something even better happened. I got to meet, live and in person, Michelle The Knitting Lady and her DH Mike. I have followed Michelle and Mike’s Pittsburgh Penguinss hockey adventures on Ravelry and Mike’s blog for a while now, and finally meeting them in person was a real thrill. I actually had a pretty nice view of Mike and Michelle from my seat at the opposite end of the arena thanks to the telephoto lens on my camera.

Knitting Lady Says Do It!

Yep, Michelle is knitting! She’s able to knit and watch hockey at the same time because she can knit without looking at her knitting. I can knit when I watch hockey on TV, but not when I’m at an actual game, so I didn’t bring my knitting to the game.

The day finally has to come to an end. We hop on the bus and make our way back to Shadyside. We look at our pictures, finish our Chinese take-out, drink a little coffee, watch a little college football, and do a lot of chatting. And the icing on the top of the cake? Alma the Cat makes up with me. Perfect ending to a perfect day. We drive back to Monroeville, get a good night’s sleep, and hit the road headed east. When we arrive home and walk in the door, we are greeted by a couple of kitties who are very happy to see us. You’re in MY world now. ☺

Best. Birthday. Ever.


Which Came First, The Button Or The Hat?

I have fallen hard for button-tab hats. Buttons are a great way to embellish knitted hats, and the variety of buttons that are available is astounding. One can spend hours looking through buttons at the local fabric shop, not to mention spending lots of money. Buttons come in myriad designs, sizes, and materials, and the selection seems almost endless. So what comes first, the button or the hat?

Sometimes it’s the button that serves as inspiration. I made a trip to JoAnn Fabrics one day for the sole purpose of buying buttons to use as hat embellishments. I saw this big gold button and thought, Wow! That button would look great on a hat. But the hat would have to be all about the button; the button had to be the star. I had to select just the right yarn to show off this button, and I had to come up with a brim pattern that was proportional to the button.

I used Nature Spun worsted-weight wool in Navy Nite, which is a dark blue that is slightly purplish. This jewel-tone color provides a really nice backdrop for the big gold button, don’t you think?

I cast on 110 stitches on 3.75mm needles and because the button is 1-5/8s inches, I worked a 2-inch band using the garter rib pattern: row 1 (WS) k2, p2; row 2 (RS) k across. Then I bound off the first 10 stitches purl-wise and purled across, joined the knitting and knit the body of the hat in stocking stitch in the round. I did my standard crown decreases starting with k8, k2tog. After weaving in all the ends, I attached the button. I had my sister-in-law in mind when I made this hat, and when I showed it to her, sure enough, she loved it! The winters are cold where she lives, and the Big Gold Button Hat is sure to get a good work-out this winter.

Sometimes button-tab hats are built around a button, but sometimes the inspiration comes from elsewhere.

I joined Facebook a while back at the urging of my younger sister. I’ve reconnected with some childhood friends, and it has been fun catching up. I’ve been posting pictures of my knitting to Facebook and have gotten some very nice comments from my old friends. One of them, who now lives in Florida, rides a motorcycle. A burnt-orange colored motocycle. She admired my hats and jokingly said that I should knit her one in burnt orange to match her bike. I have a lot of good memories of this friend and have thought of her often through the years. I remember how much fun we had dancing in the old gym. Certain songs always bring her to mind. I can picture her so clearly in my mind’s eye dancing to those tunes.

Well, I just happened to have a ball of burnt-orange wool in my stash (Lion Brand Lion Wool in Pumpkin). So I thought about what sort of hat would suit this fun-loving and adventurous old friend who rides a burnt-orange motorcycle. What popped into my head was a button-tab hat, but I had to find the perfect button. I went through my stash of “extra buttons” and found a heart-shaped button that was exactly what this hat was calling for. And that’s how Button-Down Heart Hat was born.

I started with 3.5mm needles and a cast-on of 120 stitches. The rest is the same as the Big Gold Button Hat. After the hat had been washed and had dried thoroughly, I packed it up and sent it on its way to Florida. It arrived safely and now has a happy home with its new owner.

Who’da thunk buttons could do so much?

No Baby Knitting

Many years ago, when my older sister was expecting her third child, I knitted a couple of baby layettes–hat, sweater, and matching blanket. I still have the pattern book somewhere. The next time I run across it, I’ll set it aside so I can post pictures of the patterns I made. I know yinz are just dying to see them. 🙂

One of the sets was in a lace pattern, but at the time I didn’t know it was “lace,” and I certainly didn’t know that knitting lace is “supposed” to be hard. (It isn’t, but that’s an argument for another day.) I just followed the directions. Anyway, the layettes turned out well, although to this day I don’t know whether my sister ever got any use out of them. I lived far away from her at the time and didn’t get to see her and the kiddos very often.

Since that time, I haven’t done any baby knitting to speak of. I didn’t knit anything for my son when he was a baby, although I’ve knitted quite a lot for him as an adult. I did start a baby sweater for him, but I never finished it because he grew at a pace that far outstripped my knitting speed. I’ve knitted a few baby afghans over the years, but otherwise, there’s been no baby knitting in my life since the mid-1970s.

Then in early June, my younger sister asked a favor of me. A co-worker of hers had just had his first child, a boy, and because she thinks very highly of him, she wanted to give him something special to commemorate the event. She asked me to knit a baby hat as a gift for her co-worker. OMG! What a compliment! She thought that one of my hats would be a really special gift! How could I refuse.

The first step was choosing the right color. Her co-worker lives in India and is Hindu, and we wanted to make certain that we were using an appropriate color. We settled on blue, which is associated with manliness and courage and thus is a good color for a boy. 🙂 I had a lot of blue sock yarn in my stash, so I dug through it until I found just the right shade, Gjestal Silja Sock Yarn in color 307.

I had the perfect pattern, too, a spiral pattern used in Cathi’s Coast Cap. But because it has been so many years since I knit anything baby-sized except blankets, I had no idea about how many stitches to cast on or how big or small to make the hat. Google to the rescue! I found a pattern for baby hats that included multiple sizes, picked an appropriate size, and went to work. I had the hat finished in no time and sent it on its way to my sister so that she could mail it to her co-worker.

I don’t know how useful a wool hat is in India, but I’m certain that my sister’s co-worker appreciates so unique a gift. And I appreciate my sister’s high opinion of my hand-knitted hat.