A rare moment of quiet has descended on the household (quiet being a relative term!). The boys (son, husband and friend of son) are playing video games, Abby is working on Sudoku, and Izzy is blissfully sleeping. While I can still hold my eyes open, I’ll try to catch up.

Per requests, here are some detail shots of Izzy’s Christmas outfit:

Zebra

Sweater

Dress

Christmas06

Stats: Dale of Norway pattern, yarn also Dale (Baby Ull). Definitely worth the trouble!

Santa (more specifically, my husband) was very good to me. With a little help in the advice department from Lorette, he gifted me with six glorious skeins of off white cashmere in sport/dk weight. Of course, I couldn’t hurt his feelings and so I had to cast on right away. The one Faroese shawl I have is out of Silky Wool and is a little lightweight. I’ve been wanting one in a sport weight and this is perfect. I’m whipping right along and at this rate will be done in no time at all. Pictures will follow soon.

My parents left yesterday and called today to say that they arrived safely at home. Thankfully their flights in both directions were picture perfect with no delays and no turbulence. This bodes well for convincing them to fly out again (right, Mom and Dad?).

I’m grateful that we got some good pictures of Izzy because in the last two days, she’s fallen twice! She has a nice scrape on one side of her forehead and a nasty goose egg on the other. The scrape happened on mommy and daddy’s watch, but the goose egg happened on mine. And a bloody nose to boot! I hope they let me watch her again. I promise, I wasn’t knitting or anything while I was supposed to be watching her. She was literally inches away from me when it happened! Man, that kid can move fast.

What a wild, crazy, wonderful Christmas we are having! And I won’t make you wait one minute longer for this adorable picture of Izzy in her Christmas outfit:

Izzy1

Isn’t she precious? We are having such fun with her. She is so sweet and so active! She doesn’t sit still for a minute. Thank goodness there are usually at least 7 adults around to keep tabs on her. Here’s a picture of the whole crew – me and hubby, my sister, two sons, daughter-in-law, granddaughter and parents:

Family2

We have a very small house and to say there are wall to wall people is no joke! But it is wonderful and we are enjoying every minute of it. I’ll see you in a few days to catch you up.

Ok, are we ready?

Crib – check
High chair – check
Baby locks on cabinets – check
Constantly forgetting baby locks on cabinets and trying to jerk doors open – check
Diapers – check
Baby wipes – check
Baby wash – check
Bathtub toys – check
Christmas knitting done and wrapped – check
Camera battery charged – check
Kitchen remodel finished – check
Oven repaired and ready to go – ok, so the plan’s not perfect, but the repair guy comes tomorrow.

So, I think we’re ready.

And the final photos:

Before:

Before_1

After:

After_1

Now, if you’ll excuse me – we’re going out to dinner because we don’t want to get it dirty! Merry Christmas to all!!

Never fear! Missouri Star is still here and has not been blown away by the fierece windstorm. But man, was it fierce!! We were quite fortunate in that we only lost a few minor trees and none were on top of our house! However, we were without power for a little over 24 hours. Thanks to a generator and a husband who believes in being prepared, we hunkered down and were only a little incovenienced. In fact, we have a new staff member who just moved here from Florida. I couldn’t get in touch with her by phone, so I drove out to her house and found her shivering in the dark. So she came home with me and spent the night. We had a nice little house party! I even managed to finish Isobel’s Christmas outfit – and block it! But no pictures until after Christmas.

The storm, however, has put another glitch in the kitchen remodel. As you may remember, ordering the wallpaper was delayed because the countertop installation was delayed due to our snow and ice storm. Shipping was delayed because of a snow and ice storm on the other end. Now delivery is being delayed because of the windstorm!!! We were hoping the wallpaper would come in yesterday so we could work on it this weekend, but the paint store was closed due to power outage and therefore, not taking UPS deliveries. Drat!! Abby mentioned that Izzy would be more than happy to help us wallpaper when she gets here and we may just have to take her up on it.

My birthday was this week and my staff and family went out of their way to make sure it wasn’t lost in the hustle and bustle of Christmas. Here was what greeted me when I arrived at work:

Birthday

There was also a Christmas mug and tea supplies from my British co-worker. Bill outdid himself with this:

Lacebook

I have SO been coveting this book and it is fabulous!! I want to make just about everything in it. And, Bill went the extra step and included a 2300 yd. cone of cashmere lace yarn in a beautiful orchid color. Of course, I had to cast on for a project right away. I am doing the sampler shawl – I’ll post pictures as soon as I can get it on a longer needle. Right now it’s scrunched up on a 10″ straight.

I was patting myself on the back that this was a pretty easy pattern until I hit the second section that has pattern on every row. Not as easy as it looks! But I muddled through and it’s getting a little easier as I go along.

And my son, Allen, had this delivered to my office:

Curious

It’s a candy bouquet! Being the considerate son that he is, he told the shop to make it sugarless since I work in a dental office. My boss was certainly pleased. The Curious George fireman is from my sister, along with an offer to take me to tea at the Fairmont Hotel in Seattle.

We spent our powerless time yesterday decorating the house. I had several appointments scheduled, but they were all cancelled due to the power outage. So we are all ready for everyone to come. Just some last minute baking to do. Not sure if I’ll find time to post before Christmas, but I promise lots of cute, cute pictures to come!!

Breaking news – you know that last minute baking I was going to do? Well, we have an equipment malfunction. My oven doesn’t work! And, I’m not sure when it will be fixed. The soonest service call is Thursday, so Bill’s going to work on it to see if he can get it working before then. But on the positive side – no pressure to bake! Safeway bakery – here I come!

Tuition, $250 per credit (up 5% from last year), Books, $100 (way overpriced for paperbacks), Time spent studying and squiritng blood out the eyeballs, way too much, Getting an A in Statistics – Priceless!! Yes, Dear Readers. I did indeed get an A. And please forgive a little shameless bragging here, but my score on the final was (drum roll, please) – 100%! The teacher wrote “Outstanding” across the top. A gold star and the circle would be complete, but he must have been out.

Mid semester I was soundly kicking myself for taking this class in the first place. It wasn’t required. But I have this little (LITTLE? my husband would say) competitive streak in me. My goal is to graduate summa cum laude. But it would mean a lot less to me if I just skated by with the easy classes. Of course, my husband pointed out – what EASY classes have you actually had? And, I had to admit none have actually been easy. But I needed something to really challenge me and go outside my comfort level to prove that I deserved a summa cum laude. I guess this puts that to rest. Of course, the summa is not in the locker yet. Four more classes and one seminar to go. Because I refuse to take out any student loans, that will be another year and a half. But, if I graduate in 2008, that will mark exactly 10 years since I went back to college.

Last weekend we went on the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train, courtesy of my boss. We had a great time:

Dinnertrain

And, in between Christmas knitting, I’ve been working on Icarus. I actually frogged what I had done so far. I’m not sure why I started on 1’s, but the fabric was too firm, so I restarted on size 2’s. Much better:

Icarus

This is the last picture I’ll post of it for a while, but it just gets to be more of the same until you get to the very end.

Marguerite had requested a report on the other class I took this semester in which I trained a dog. If you’re not interested in dog training, you can check out now, but for the rest of you . . . . The class was titled “Principles of Learning” and was basically on operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is a principle of behaviorism that proposes that just about any animal (human or otherwise) responds to a series of rewards and/or punishments. And the position of this class was that people and animals learn more quickly using a program of rewards. In other words, catch someone doing something right and reward them for it. This is basically how all the dolphins and whales at Sea World are trained. This is also the theory of “clicker” training with dogs. You start by conditioning the dog to associate the sound of the clicker (the secondary reinforcer) with a primary reinforcer – usually food. Hester was my subject and food is definitely a primary reinforcer for her.

I started by clicking and giving her a treat. At first she was terrified of the clicker – it’s quite loud. But it didn’t take very long for her to associate the click with food and the clicker became her new best friend. The class required that I teach Hester two new behaviors. The first trick I decided to teach her was to spin in a circle. Not particularly useful, I suppose, but I wanted her to do something that she doesn’t do naturally. To do this, I used a small piece of food (we used Cheerios) to encourage her to turn her head to the right (this is called luring). Then I clicked and rewarded. Over the course of the session, I shaped the behavior I wanted by luring her just a little further each time. Within two sessions she was spinning on commmand.

The second behavior for her to learn was to fetch. Hester would chase a toy, but refused to bring it back. She would run off into one of the bedrooms with it, or if we closed the doors, into the kitchen. This was where clicker training had an advantage over other methods. The dog associates the click with the rewarded behavior, so it’s easy to “mark” a particular behavior from a distance. As soon as she hears the click, she knows she’s done something right. So, I tossed the toy down the hall. She ran and got it and, just before she ran off into the bedroom, I clicked. She immediately dropped the toy and came for her treat. From there it was just a matter of requiring that she come a little bit further before I clicked. Before you know it, she was bringing the toy back to me.

So, all in all, I was quite successful in clicker training with Hester and I think I will use it to teach her some other tricks. However, although clicker trainers also use this method to teach a dog to heel, I think the standard method seems more logical to me. I don’t see any reason why you can’t combine them.

By the way, we didn’t necessarily have to train a dog. We could train any animal – the only condition was that it not be human and that it have a brain and a spinal cord. The writer of one of our textbooks actually trained a goldfish! And, although our assignment was to train an animal, there are many applications to humans as well. Behavior that is rewarded is more likely to be repeated. Look for opportunities to “catch” people doing the right thing. It certainly works with kids (and dogs!).

Was it worth it? You be the judge.

Before:

Before

During:

During_1

After:

After

Yeah, it was worth it – even if it did cost more than my first car! Of course, my last sewing machine cost more than my first car. We were all set to take delivery on the new countertop, with the old one torn off and the water shut off to the kitchen, when Mother Nature intervened. A terrible snow/ice storm hit our area and the contractor couldn’t get here on our original install date on Tuesday. So, we had to do without the kitchen for a few days. But doing dishes in the bathroom sink really made us appreciate our dishwasher. Now all that’s left is to put up the new wallpaper. I ordered that today and fate smiled on us – the store had two rolls of my pattern left from a case that they had on sale for 75% off! That saved us enough to buy a new coffeemaker. That’s the trouble with remodeling – it makes everything else look shabby. As Sockbug wisely pointed out, the four most expensive words in remodeling are, “While we’re at it!” Boy, can we identify!

On the knitting front, I was working away on the socks for my secret pal at work when they began to speak to me. Does your knitting ever talk to you? I finished the first sock, but when I got just past the heel on the second, it said, “Pssst! Hey, you! I don’t want to be a sock. I want to be a fingerless mitt.” Well, I’ve learned to listen to my knitting and in this case, the sock was right. I had begun to think twice about doing both socks and mitts for my secret pal, and I know she would rather have a pair of fingerless mitts. So, voila:

Mitts

Now I just have to rip back the other sock and reknit to match. This was an easy redo and I think you could use just about any sock pattern. Just knit until the mitt reaches the desired length to the bottom of the thumb. Using waste yarn, knit a thumb’s width worth of stitches (in this case, 71 stitches to start with because the cables draw in a lot, 12 stitches for the thumb). Slip those stitches back to your right hand needle and continue on with the pattern until the mitt is an inch or so from the desired length, end with ribbing. Pull out the waste yarn and place the stitches on the needles (24 stitches – remember, you have a top and bottom). Pick up two stitches in each corner to close the gaps and knit an inch or so or desired length for thumb, bind off. This particular pattern was taken from Charlene Schurch’s “Sensational Socks”.

Tomorrow we’re off for a relaxing day on the “Spirit of Washington Dinner Train” – or in this case “Brunch Train”, courtesy of my boss. Thanks boss!