A trip to the bead shop and one very late night, and we made these lovely things:
The green one on top is my sister's, the one on the right is my Mom's, and the other two are mine. I just LOVE them!! (Click on the picture for a closer look.)
I see a lot more of these in my future, and I suspect one will go with me to the "dirty Santa" exchange at the K.N.I.T. guild (Knitting Needles In Tulsa) holiday party next Sunday.
Added Jan 8th at 11:55 a.m.:
Eva asked about how to use these. It's based on the principle of an abacus, with one color of beads as a "ones" row, and the other color as a "tens" row. It's hard to see, but there's a ring of beads that acts as a stopper. It has elastic in it so that you can push the beads through.
So to use it, you'd knit a row, then move a "ones" bead through the stopper. At the end of each row you'd move another "ones" bead through, until you have all 9 beads through. On the next row (row 10) you'd move all 9 "ones" beads back through to the beginning and move one "tens" bead through. You can keep track of 99 rows this way.
For example, if you had four "tens" beads and two "ones" beads, you'd have completed 42 rows.
There is a good set of instructions at http://people.delphiforums.com/knit_chat/knitchat/Counter.htm although we didn't follow them. :-)