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.


Where To Begin?

Time has a way of getting away from me. I cannot believe that so much time has passed since my last blog entry. And now I have so much to report that one entry simply won’t do. If I report everything that has happened since my last entry in just one post, you will quickly become bored with reading me yammering on about hockey, knitting, birthdays, etc., etc., etc. So I shall break it down into smaller parts in order to keep your interest, dear reader of mine.

In answer to the title question, I think I will begin with my nemesis, Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Adult Surprise Jacket, or ASJ for short. The ASJ is back in time-out. It has been behaving very badly and doesn’t deserve my attention. I have tried to seam up the sleeves and shoulders using umpteen different methods, and everything I have tried comes out looking like hell. I hate this project more than any other knitting project I have ever done. I’d rather knit a 4ft x 7ft afghan with Red Heart yarn than make an ASJ with pure cashmere. As much as I love EZ, I have to say that this design is a big stinker.

Warning! Hockey Metaphor Ahead!

I consider the Adult Surpise Jacket to be the Alexander Ovechkin of knitting.

Ugly and obnoxious, it plays dirty. People talk like it’s the greatest player in the world of knitting projects, but when you shine the light of day on it, not only are you dumbstruck by how ugly it is, you realize that it is little more than an attention whore disguised as a knitting project.

I haven’t packed the ASJ away, yet, but I think I will do so soon because just looking at it lying on top of my knitting pile makes me queasy, kind of like seeing Alexander Ovechkin’s ugly mug.

End of hockey metaphor.

Sorry about that.☺

I bet you are asking yourself, Well, if Pinko Knitter isn’t working on her ASJ any more, just how is she spending her knitting time? I’m so glad you asked. I’ve worked some on my reworked Froot Loop Socks. Sock #1 is close to completion.

This is a fun pattern to work on, but it doesn’t go well with watching hockey on TV. Hockey takes a lot of concentration, so my hockey knitting must be totally mindless.

Mindless Knitting Project 1

Mindless Knitting Project 2

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. I made two, count ’em, two hats in “Blaze Orange,” also known as hunter safety orange. I supposed it isn’t surprising that one can purchase hand knitting wool yarn in such a bright orange. After all, hunters need to keep their heads warm just like everyone else. My older sister hunts deer and she subtly hinted that she would like a hat in orange. I Googled to find a source for blaze orange yarn and, violá! Bartlett Yarns in Harmony, Maine, offers a nice worsted-weight, woolen-spun, 2-ply wool in “bright orange.” Bright orange? That’s something of an understatement. I swear this yarn glows in the dark☺.

The Bartlett yarn is similar to Briggs and Little Regal, with lots of VM (vegetable matter, that is, vegetation that got caught in the sheep’s wool as it was out grazing and doing whatever it is that sheep do) that I picked out as I knit. I don’t mind VM in yarn because it is an indication that the wool has not be over-processed. The yarn from Bartlett is pretty scratchy before it is washed, but it softens a lot after washing. It also blooms a lot when washed. The beanie I knitted on 3.5mm needles looks almost felted since it was washed. I’m glad I used 4.0mm needles for the ribbed hat.

Preview of upcoming features: another hat, another sweater, more hockey, and a very special birthday. Stay tuned. You don’t want to miss a single episode.

Not A Bed Of Roses

I am quite certain, dear reader, that you are well aware that life isn’t always a bed of roses. Even when life is sweet, there are always a few dark clouds around. Yeah, I know, I’m mixing my metaphors. So, sue me!

Anyway, right now life is pretty sweet. It’s autumn and that means football is in full swing and hockey is just around the corner. Yesterday was a pretty exciting day in the NFL. My beloved Buffalo Bills finally beat the Boston New England Patriots in a very exciting game. I think it was the Bills first victory over the Pats since 2003, and folks, these two teams are in the same division and play each other twice a year. Yikes! That’s a lot of losses to your arch rival, and to finally get a victory feels really, really, really nice. It actually makes up for the Mountaineers losing to LSU on Saturday night. And last night the Steelers managed to limp to a victory over the Colts. It wasn’t purdy, but a win’s a win. I’ll take ‘em any way I can get ‘em.

And then there is hockey. The season begins in earnest on October 6, but the preseason is in full swing. The Pens are 3-0 in preseason games and looking great. Evgeny “Geno” Malkin has recovered from his knee surgery and has never looked better. The Pens are so deep that they will have to send some mighty fine hockey players back to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. I just hope Eric “Big Dog” Tangadi isn’t among them. I really want to see him stay in the Burgh. I think we need his rather sizeable presence in front of the net. And the best news of all is that Sid Crosby is progressing very well in his recovery from last year’s season-ending concussion. He had some set-backs earlier, but now he’s not only skating with the team, he’s scrimmaging with them. Let’s hope that there are no more concussion symptoms and that he will soon be cleared for contact. Maybe he’ll even be back to playing before the end of the year. Wouldn’t that be grand?

Okay, here come the clouds. 🙂

If only my knitting were going as well as football and hockey. Sadly, it ain’t no bed of roses. I decided to finish up some WIP before starting anything new and now I’m committed. Or should I say that I should BE committed. LOL

Ages ago, I started one of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Adult Surprise Jacket. This is a grown-up sized version of EZ’s famous Baby Surprise Jacket (BSJ). I’ve never made a BSJ, and maybe I should have followed Meg Swansen’s advice–Meg is EZ’s daughter, for those of you who don’t travel in the wonderful world of knitters–and made a BSJ before starting the adult version. The  BSJ is an adorable baby sweater; the ASJ is anything but adorable. All that freaking garter stitch in worsted-weight wool?!?!? What’s the word I’m wracking my brain for?  Um, ugly. Yeah, that’s the word. Ugly.

I started working on the ASJ back on October 1 of 2009. Like a tattoo, at the time, it seemed like a good idea. And I will admit that there are things about the ASJ that are fun. The construction is really ingenious. But it get very boring very quickly. Very. Boring.

I had progressed this far

ASJ in progress

when I set it aside to knit socks. And there it sat, on top of my knitting basket. Looking forelorn. Making me feel guilty. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. I just didn’t want to pick it up again. Did I mention it was boring? But I’d gotten this far, and I needed something mindless to work on while watching football and hockey. And endless rows of garter stitch is about as mindless as knitting can get.

Last night I finally got the button band started. It was my third or maybe fourth attempt at picking up stitches along the edge of the center front of the sweater. I kept ripping it out because it looked like sh#t. This most recent, and dare I say final, attempt looks better than all the rest, so I’m going to live with it. I have the buttonholes done and only a few more rows of mindless, boring garter stitch are left. Then it’s on to the sleeves. More mindless, boring garter stitch. Then comes the fun part–folding the messy-looking blob into a sweater and trimming it with I-cord. Oh, I cannot wait to knit yards and yards of I-cord. (That’s sarcasm, folks, in case you couldn’t tell.)

I’m bound and determined that I am going to finish my ASJ. And wear it, too, even if it is less than lovely to look at. Normally I have no qualms about ripping out a project that is not going well, even if it is nearing completion. But the ASJ is such a trainwreck that I just cannot take my eyes off it. If I don’t finish it, it will haunt me to the end of my days. So my plan is to finish it, then toss it into the corner of a closet and forget about it. 🙂

The ASJ isn’t my only knitting cloud. As you may recall from a past episode, I started a sock in the Froot Loop pattern using a lovely sparkle yarn from Draygone Yarnes in a colorway called Prom Dress. The knitting was going very well, and I had progressed to this point…

Froot Loop Sock #1 ripped

Froot Loop Sock #1 before I ripped it out

and I decided to try the sock on. Yikes! It was just a little too tight. Not so tight that I couldn’t pull the sock on and off, but just tight enough that the sock wasn’t comfortable. What’s a knitter to do? I can only speak for myself, but what I did was–you guessed it–rip it out and start over. On bigger needles–2.5mm instead of 2.25. What a world of difference a quarter of a millimeter can make.

Froot Loop Sock #1 Remake

The fabric is much nicer and the pattern looks even better. I think the sock will fit this time around, but I won’t know for sure until I have turned the heel and knitted a few rounds of the gusset decreases. Fortunately, I enjoy knitting this pattern, so it isn’t a big deal that I had gotten so far only to have to start over.

I have a few more unfinished projects waiting for my attention, most notably St. Moritz,

Dale of Norway St. Moritz in progress

so as soon as I finish ASJ, I’ll get to work on St. Moritz again. The big question is, can I restrain myself from starting Joan Schrouder’s lovely lace sweater in A Gathering of Lace when the yarn I ordered for it arrives?

I was thinking it would make a nice Winter Solstice present for a certain someone, but I doubt I will have enough time to finish it by then if I finish St. Moritz first. Oh, what the hell. St. Moritz has waited this long; what’s another three months?

In The Pink

I had an urge to knit some girly-girl hats, and there’s nothing more girly-girl than pink. I had Knit Picks Wool of the Andes on hand in two shades of pink, Rouge and Blossom Heather, as well as some WotA in White, so I went to work.

The Candy Stripes Rolled Brim Hat is my own design, which you can download by clicking here or clicking the Patterns link. It’s worked in Blossom Heather and White.

Next came the Sixteen Hearts Hat. This hat was inspired by the Loving Hearts Hat , but I completely redesigned the hat, changing even the colorwork chart. While the Loving Hearts Hat is knitted from the top down, I knitted my hat from the bottom up. I changed the heart pattern from a 12-stitch repeat to a 14-stitch repeat. This gave the hearts a little more space so they don’t look so jammed together. I used K-P WotA in Rouge and White, and to great effect, if I do say so myself.

If you like this hat, the pattern can be found here, or click on the Patterns link.

While I was working on these two hats, I couldn’t help but think about making a hat that used both shades of pink. The design that kept calling to me was Winter’s Coming (, which I had knitted in red and white a while back. I thought it would look lovely in Rouge with Blossom Heather as the contrasting color. I have named it Double Pink Diamonds Hat and here’s a picture of it for your viewing pleasure so that you, dear reader, can judge the result for yourself.

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?