Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Stayin' Alive I seem to have this problem with work, life, and blog balance. Work is going passably well. Everyone I work with is very nice and very helpful. I feel lost, though, and suspect that it's due to the lack of high drama. The last five years of my working life have been imbued with high drama. So now I have no road map. No one here runs up and down the halls, waving their arms, wailing that the sky is falling. When there is a crisis (a real crisis, like the production system went down and it's going to take several hours to bring it back online), people take notice, roll up their sleeves, and work to solve the problem. It's quite refreshing.

Life is also going passably well. There is a lot of knitting. I'm still not done with the Christmas knitting. But I have finished four hats, a pair of mittens, a scarf, and one sock (not a pair of socks, one sock). I still need to finish the poncho (I'm applying the I-cord now), a sock, and maybe a couple more hats (the rasta colors hat was very popular) and perhaps another scarf. I drew Tom's sister for gift exchange and gave her a gift certificate for the knitted garment of her choice, so we'll see what comes of that. One of my Christmas gifts was a copy of Folk Mittens, which is very good. I can't wait to start knitting mittens with colors and patterns. The only problem is that I can't quite figure out how to read the charts. It's going to require some studying.

And then there's this blog. My poor, neglected blog. And the poor, neglected Extreme Knitting entrants, who I have not forgotten. I think about you every day and feel guiltier and guiltier. The problem, I have figured out, is that it takes me too long to load the photos to Blogger, then incorporate them in an actual blog, instead of having one photo per blog entry. The workflow goes something like this: Upload a photo, mark the blog entry as draft, upload another photo, mark that entry as draft, write the actual blog, go back to the draft entries with the photo links, then copy and paste to the real blog entry, then publish it. And for the life of me, I cannot figure out how to upload more than one photo per blog entry using Picasa. Someone told me how to do it, but I was still only able to load one measly photo at a time. It's very frustrating and very time-consuming. So there you have it--the true reason I haven't published lately.

And once again, I'm going to apologize for not publishing the Extreme Knitting entries. I really haven't forgotten. And once again, I'm going to drop off the radar so I can finish the Christmas knitting. I will strive to maintain a better work, life, and blog balance after the New Year.

I wish everyone Merry Christmas (a little late), Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, and very Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Too Long Gone

My apologies for being out of the loop for so. Adjusting to the new job has taken more energy than I anticipated. Many thanks to those of you who have continued to submit entries for the Extreme Knitting Challenge. I will post them soon, I promise!!

In the midst of it all, there has been knitting. And there are even finished objects! The School Colors hat and mittens are done, the Rasta Colors hat is done, as is a scarf for a niece. I made the unfortunate mistake of showing what I did to family members at Thanksgiving and they'd all like me to knit something for them or one of their kids. I might be able to eke out another scarf or two but it's going to be tight. Especially since the Fates decided that the Simonds' family Christmas should be held a week before Christmas (and I have to knit a poncho that I haven't started yet). Of course, that's balanced out by the fact that the Hallinger family Christmas will happen sometime in January. Except I think I mentioned something about mailing the kids' Christmas presents. Sigh...

So, I'm going to drop off the radar again. I hope to be able to post the Extreme Knitting entries this weekend. But other than that, it's going to be working and knitting, and knitting and working.

And then? I'll be back.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Knit and Run

Well, it's been quite a while since I last posted. Life sort of got away from me, starting with the Steamtown Marathon. Despite the buckets of rain we got on Friday and Saturday (about five gallons leaked through the sunroom roof), the weather on Sunday (the 9th) was perfect marathoning weather--mid-50s, overcast, with the occasional slight drizzle. Tom ran really well (although he would strongly disagree with me), knocking four minutes off his best marathon time and setting another personal record. I met him at all the viewpoints to cheer him on and even ran with him a little bit at the 17-mile point (he was feeling a bit tired at that point). At mile 20, he was hurting pretty bad, but kept plugging along. At mile 26.2, he was definitely ready to be done and fortunately he was. We walked back to the hotel and he had a snack and a nap, then we walked the streets of Scranton in search of a beer. We found this really nice Irish pub called The Banshee. The band "Old Friends" was playing and the Guinness was good. We had dinner at Carmen's. The food was excellent and the portions gigantic, making an expensive dinner a relatively good value. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at what Scranton had to offer. The people are very friendly and the city has beautiful architecture. And the steam train that runs right past the Radisson is very cool.

Here's a picture of my favorite marathoner close to mile 7:

Job Update
Well, my "sabbatical" is about to end. I received, and accepted, an offer from CGI-AMS and I start work on Monday. Yikes! I don't think I'm ready to get back into the work maelstrom. My challenge will be to stay detached and calm and not get sucked into any potential drama on the project I'll be working on. CGI-AMS is a very big corporation and I haven't worked for one of those for five years. This means that I need a new wardrobe, given that I've been accustomed to wearing jeans to work. Plus I've continued to lose weight and the only business clothes I have that fit are my suits. I spent all of Tuesday at Talbot's revamping my fall wardrobe. Let me tell you, I am amazed. I tried on a pair of low rise boot cut slacks and was stunned, literally stunned. I shed another five or ten pounds and grew about five inches! I shunned boot cut and low rise as too trendy and too young, but now I'm sold. I may never go back to high waisted, pleated front slacks. I do not look like a frump in these clothes. If you ignore my face, lack of boobage, and the fact that I'm 5'2", you might take me for a model. Okay, that's a major stretch. But I do look pretty good. I haven't said that in a very long time.

Another Year Goes By
Tossed into the marathon and job mix was a birthday. I celebrated my 47th year last Friday (the 14th, in case anyone is wondering). I received beautiful cards from my parents and mother-in-law. My running partner Lorrie and I went for a 6-mile birthday run, followed by a light "brunch" at South Street Under. I worked on some Christmas knitting. My friend Beth gave me a gift card from Capitol Yarns and Leigh and Tom and I went out for drinks. On Saturday, Tom and I had a very good dinner at Tuscarora Mill, aka Tuskie's. All in all, a very good birthday!

Knitting Progress
The Christmas knitting is progressing. One sock is completed, the School Colors Hat only needs the topper to be finished, and I've purchased the yarn for the Rasta Colors Hat. I think I'm going to purchase this bag as my main purse, primarily so I can get in a little knitting time at lunch at work. Any thoughts on that?

Extreme Knitting
No pictures today, but I've got three entries that I'll post tomorrow. They are good!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Don't Leave Home Without It

Your knitting, that is. You never know when that nice smooth traffic flow is going to come to a screeching halt, leaving you mired in creeping, crawling traffic for hours.

Paranoid? I think not.

That was the scenario on Tuesday as I was heading south to Richmond to meet the client for the current job-on-the-burner. I left at 10:00, with the intent to be in Richmond in plenty of time for a 1:00 meeting. Well, as I hit the outskirts of Falmouth on Rt.17S, traffic slowed. Then it stopped. It inched forward. And stopped again. And inched forward. And stopped. After about an hour, I could see the entrance ramp to I-95S. It was blocked by a sheriff's car. The traffic on I-95 wasn't moving. I whipped out the map, looked for an alternate route, then whipped out my knitting, as it was clear that it was going to take another hour to get through Falmouth proper and Fredericksburg. So I had the experience of knitting while driving, which might qualify for Extreme Knitting, but I didn't have a camera with me. So what was the problem? It turned out that a couple of tractor trailers and some cars had the audacity to get intimate with each other, causing two lanes to be shut down.

Grrr. I arrived at the meeting around 2:45. My body felt like it was tied in knots, I was hungry (no time to eat), and jazzed from a trip that took twice as long as it should. What was supposed to be a "meet-and-greet" turned into an interview and I don't think I answered their questions very well. The people from the company looking to hire me did an excellent job of supporting me. But I'm not optimistic. The recruiter called on Wednesday to my impression of how it went. I haven't heard anything since then.

In knitting news, I came close to finishing one of Mom's socks while sitting in traffic. My main focus has been on the baby blanket. The yellow yarn finally came in, so I decided to see how it all goes together. I've almost completed the first kitten panel. It's looking pretty good, although the tension on the left side of each kitten is wonky. The stitches seem loose, even though I'm trying to get the tension as tight as I can. I'm hoping (Ha! Hope springs eternal!) that everything will even out in the washing and blocking.

What's that you say? The baby isn't due until March? What about all the Christmas knitting? Not to worry! After I complete the first kitten panel, I'll set the blanket aside and start working on the Christmas knitting. I've done some swatching and wrote out the pattern for one hat. The gauge for that hat will serve at the gauge for the mittens, so I'm almost done, right? And if this job doesn't come through, I'll have plenty of time!

This weekend will also afford some good, enforced knitting time. Tom is running in the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, Pennsylvania on Sunday. The sock will go with me and so will the hat. Who knows? Maybe I'll have some FOs by Monday!

Time to check the bucket in sunroom. It's raining like there's no tomorrow and the roof is leaking. So is the basement. What's with the rain this year? It's either non-existent or else when it rains, it's a veritable deluge. Why can't we get a nice, gentle rain that lasts all day?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Lives of the Cowboys

As I was driving back from Y2Knit this evening, I happened to catch A Prairie Home Companion and the episode of The Lives of the Cowboys on the local public radio station. And guess what? Those cowboys were knittin'. You could even hear the clack of the needles in the background. From the sound of it, they weren't very good knitters because the sound wasn't very rythmic. But the dialogue was spot on for a group of people knitting. I thought about reaching for my knitting needles and settling in for a knit and chat session, but then I remembered that I was driving. Bad idea. If you can, try to catch the repeat on your public radio station on Sunday. If not, you can listen to tonight's show after Monday here.

So, I spent the last five days in a yarn shop! It was a great experience! I got to help people choose yarn, I had some time to knit, and I got to open shipments that came in. Thursday was help day. At least four people came in wanting help with their projects. Unfortunately, I couldn't help all of them and had to ask them to come back when Susan was there. One was a lace project and I'm terrible at reading lace and fixing problems (hence the lifeline every other row in Fern Leaf) and the other was a sleeve that had been set aside for too long. I was embarrassed that I couldn't help the woman figure out where she was in the pattern and in the increases. The lesson that I learned was that I need to become more proficient with knitting before opening my own shop.

I did enjoy the work and it was fun to meet all the different people. It wasn't difficult to remain patient with those folks who just weren't getting what I was saying; the problem was most likely in how I was communicating. However, I was totally exhausted by the time the shop closed on Thursday. That surprised me, because I didn't feel that the work was that hard.

In other job news, it appears that I'm again a top candidate for a position in Fairfax. I need to meet the client on Tuesday and if they like me, I might get an offer letter. Apparently, meeting the client is a formality. The other position that was looking good fell through; that company imposed a hiring freeze the day I was supposed to interview, so the interview was canceled. And the Red Cross called this week, too. They wanted me to deploy today, which I couldn't because I was working at the shop.

Extreme Knitting
Carla H. (who I think is blogless) sent in this photo for the Extreme Knitting Challenge. All I can say is "Poor sock!"

Has anyone else taken their sock to get a mammogram?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Extreme Knitting--and Lots of It!

Well, after a relatively dry spell, the Extreme Knitting entries are beginning to roll in again. Two of the entries (from Folkcat and Celia) are aging like fine wine. Jenna's is brand new. And I have it on good authority that another will be winging its way to me soon. What fun!

Folkcat has taken the Extreme Knitting Challenge to an entirely different level. She writes:

Since I wrote to you with the "11 Bridges in 140 Minutes", I have changed a lot about my blogs. Five of them, including Folkcat's Fiber Crafts where the "Bridges" photos were published, have officially been retired and folded into a single new blog. You might want to check it out - the theme is all your fault, really! I've taken to calling what I'm doing with the Extreme Knitting "Knitting Around", and so the title of the new blog is I Knit Around. ... [Y]our Extreme Knitting challenge is at least having an influence on my life! I want to thank you for having issued that challenge, and for getting me to see my knitting - and its place in my life - in a whole different way.

Here is one photo from the "11 Bridges in 140 Minutes" adventure. This is the Old Intervale Bridge, built in about 1916:

Here are the links for the entire adventure. Give them read; I found them to be quite interesting. And it's wonderful to see all the different types of bridges.

Bridges Part I
Bridges Part II
Bridges Part III
Bridges Part IV

The next entry is from Celia. She participated in the San Francisco Fringe Festival in a movement theater show called Shiftings. Here she is, knitting on stage:

You can read more about her experience here.

And for our final Extreme Knitting entry today, I present Jenna:

She's knitting in the Shenadoah Mountains in the George Washington National Forest on the Buzzards Rock Trail. On the way back, they snapped this photo:

Motorcycle knitting! That's a first for the Extreme Knitting Challenge. Jenna did say that the motorcycle knitting shots were a bit treacherous to take. I can only imagine. I feel like I'm in a very precarious position whenever I'm sitting on a moving motorcyle, which (thankfully) isn't very often.

Thanks to everyone for all the good Extreme Knitting entries! I'm sorry it took me so long to get them posted.

Parting Shot

I couldn't resist. This is Kim's new puppy, as of yet unnamed. Isn't she sweet?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Sensory Overload

Oh. My. God.

What else can I say about the expo at Stitches East? And how cool is it that Stitches East is going to be at the Baltimore Convention Center next year, November 2-5? I think Baltimore is a much better city for Stitches than Atlantic City. Lots of good restaurants, lots of activities in the Inner Harbor, and it doesn't have the aura of...well...sleaziness (my apologies to the fine residents of Atlantic City).

I was up at 5:30 and out the door at 6:35 for the drive to Towson to meet the gambling bus. I arrived in plenty of time, given that rush hour traffic wasn't as hideous as I thought it was going to be. My friend Gina arrived and one of the gambling buses arrived. As we were getting ready to board (the driver didn't have our reservation listed), another bus arrived. This one had the rest of our group on it. We boarded, I tried to get a picture of everyone but the camera decided to not cooperate, so there are no pictures of our intrepid knitters.

The gambling bus is an excellent deal. It costs $25, but they give you a voucher for $20 for gambling (redeemable for actual cash) and a $10 food voucher. The $5 "profit" pays for your entrance into the expo, if you have the $2 discount card.

Most of us had some knitting with us. I took Mom's sock and made good progress, although I had to knit and unknit the heel about three times because I just can't knit and talk or listen at the same time.

The photo doesn't do justice to the stitch pattern or the color.

Gina brought a sock and a sweater, Nancy brought her very cool lime green bag, and Emily brought a scarf. I don't know what Stephanie brought, and Margo, poor thing, didn't bring any knitting.

After an uneventful trip (except for passing a hellatious car fire on the interstate), we arrived at Trump Plaza and went to redeem our vouchers. The casino reeked of smoke and there were some rather interesting-looking people playing the slots. I found the whole casino atmosphere to be rather depressing. The people didn't look happy; most had glazed expressions on their faces. The noise, the mirrors, and flashing lights were enough to drive me crazy, had we not beat a fast retreat to head over to the convention center.

My main goal for the expo (besides not spending a ton of money) was to find the Yarn Harlot, which was accomplished in short order. The Yarn Barn of Kansas was conventiently placed at the front of the expo hall and I nearly tripped over Stephanie before realizing I was in the right spot. She graciously signed both bookbookbooks, although she may have thought it strange that I was kneeling in front of her. No, I wasn't doing homage (although the thought had crossed my mind). I just felt like I was towering over her while she was sitting. I'm barely 5'2". I typically don't tower over people; I'm usually the toweree. But there you have it. I also felt like a blithering idiot or at least a blithering groupie. She was witty and funny and I was...well...dull.

Gina and I visited most of the booths there. There was lots of yarn. There was lots of buttons. There was lots of beads. There was lots of books. Did I mention there was lots of yarn? Now, you must remember that I'm a relatively new knitter. I've never been to Stitches and I've never been to Maryland Sheep and Wool (shame on me!). So to have this much yarn in one place was overwhelming to say the least. I touched, I admired, I fondled. I especially the fondled the cashmere. Poor Yarn Harlot. Her second book signing of the day was right smack next to the largest amount of pure cashmere I've ever seen. She wisely turned her back on it, muttering something about it being a slippery slope and a mortgage payment.

Despite my vow that I wasn't going to buy anything (what planet did I think I was living on?), I bought a couple of items. There was a cute little pattern for making tiny baby booties and hats out of scrap sock yarn that would be perfect for the niece or nephew who will be arriving this winter (late winter, I might add). I bought two hat kits to make up for two of my nieces (tres expensive, but the kits included the needles). But my favorite purchase was a sock kit with silk/merino yarn in it (oh happy feet!), and 8 ounces of a gorgeous light brown baby alpaca fleece to spin. See?

I forced let Yarn Harlot touch the alpaca. It is like touching a puff of warm, soft, silky air. I hope my spinning can do it justice.

The others in our happy band of knitters did a little bit of buying, too. Gina had the most stash enhancement, with yarn for socks, a sweater kit of Colinette yarns, skeins and skeins of yarn for a scarf made out of the most stunning mix of novelty yarns, couple of books, and two balls of qivuit. Nancy and Stephanie both scored with a kit for a cashmere something for only $60. They also each bought a very nice poncho kit from Philosopher's Wool.

I'll have Extreme Knitting content tomorrow. I promise. Now I have to go wash the kitchen floor. The cat is beginning to stick to it. I'd rather be knitting, though. I'm still on a yarn high!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Cherry Crumb Pie and Vanilla Ice Cream

Yes, it's another boring post, sans pictures. Will there ever be any pictures of knitting again? Will I ever post the two most recent entries for Extreme Knitting? The answer is yes. Right now I'm finding it hard to find the energy to go through the machinations of taking pictures, loading them to the laptop, then uploading them to Blogger. Some would call it lazy.

I completed all of the required Red Cross disaster services training and now am available to be deployed to the Katrina disaster area, or to where Rita is going to hit. It's entirely possible they may keep me here to do family service work. Loudoun County has several hundred evacuees from the New Orleans area. In any case, I've decided that deployment or no, I'll become a Disaster Action Team member. The DAT deals with local disasters like floods, fires, and gas leaks. I've always felt guilty for not becoming a volunteer with the fire department, but it really wouldn't be a good fit. Work with the DAT will help allay some of that guilt.

I'm off to Stitches East in Atlantic City tomorrow. Up at 5 a.m, drive to Townson to meet Gina and Nancy and hop on a gambling bus, spend all day fondling yarn, and hopefully meeting the Yarn Harlot, then back to Towson by 8:30 then drive home. Yawn! I'm getting sleepy just thinking about it.

The sock is still progressing and will continue to progress tomorrow on the bus ride up and back. I got Mom's foot length so will be able to gauge when to start working the heel short rows. I also cast on for the baby blanket and managed to work ten rows in...well, we won't say how long it took. Let's just say it's going to take me a very, very long time to finish it.

So what's with the cherry crumb pie and vanilla ice cream? Well, I seem to continue to lose weight even after hitting my goal weight. I'm now six pounds lighter than my goal weight. Without even trying. This is scary, especially since it took so long to lose those last five pounds. I have several theories:

  • I'm not drinking enough water and it's all water weight

  • I enjoy not working and I'm not indulging in stress eating

  • I've eaten dinner around 5:00 the last three nights and my body is metabolising dinner much better than eating and going right to bed

  • I have a terminal disease whose main symptom is effortless weight loss (just kidding! I feel wonderful)

  • The small slice of cherry crumb pie and meager scoop of Edy's Vanilla Bean ice cream every evening is doing the trick

  • So, what do you think?

    Hopefully I'll see some of you at Stitches tomorrow! Ciao!

    Monday, September 19, 2005

    Oh Dear...

    Bad news. Today's the day that Tom took the Westy to be inspected. It's not pretty, not pretty at all. First, the power windows don't work. Nor do the backup lights and a parking light or turn signal. The headlight harness is loose and the shop can't figure out why. A transmission bracket is rubbing on an axle. The shop isn't a VW speciality shop, so they can't find parts for an '87. It's going to be expensive. Well, I don't know that, but mostly when you take your car in to be fixed, it's easily $200 for one small thing. We have several small things and some large things. I don't have a job. I'm trying really, really hard to not participate in stash enhancement and not to buy knitting books.

    It's not working well. When I found out that the Yarn Harlot was going to be at Stitches next week on exactly the same day I was going to be there...well, I just had to order her new bookbookbook. And since I only had to spend $15 more to get free supersaver shipping, I just had to get Sensational Knitted Socks. And while I think I can exercise extreme self-control and not buy anything at Stitches on Friday, I'm a little worried I might get caught up in the heat of the moment and come home with bags of cashmere yarn and silk boucle.

    And speaking of socks, I really, really, really love working with Cascade Fixation. The knitting is easy and smooth and peaceful, just like knitting should be. The Toe-up sock pattern that I'm working from knits up relatively quickly and has a short row heel and toe. I'm working it in a solid color and the stitch pattern shows up better than with a multi-colored yarn. In short, I love these socks!

    Extreme Knitting
    I do have some Extreme Knitting entries waiting to be posted. I will try to post those tomorrow. Yes, I know. I'm a bad blogger. But right now, I need to go fix something to eat so I can get to the Red Cross Family Services training. The class runs from 6:00 to 10:00, which is a bit inconvenient, given that we normally eat around 7:00. However, it's for a good cause.

    Shiver Me Timbers!
    It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day, matey! Arrr, I hope ye've been astonishin' ye're mates and striking fear in the hearts of ye're enemies by talkin' like a pirate. Arrr...

    Sunday, September 11, 2005

    New Arrival

    It's been an eventful weekend chez Knitting Libran. I was up at 4:30am Friday morning to take Tom to the airport to catch a flight to Atlanta to pick up this:

    It's a 1987 VW Westfalia camper van. Tom has been searching for one ever since he sold his to his nephew at Christmas. He finally found one on eBay that looked like it was in decent shape and was a reasonable price. As it turned out, he was the high bidder. So down to Atlanta he flew to complete the purchase and drive it back. He arrived home around 1am Saturday morning. Fortunately, the van runs well. It seems to have more power than his other van. Unfortunately, it's not in as good a shape as he thought, although he doesn't think the seller misrepresented the condition of the van. It belonged to a smoker and the interior is yellow with nicotene. Blech.

    So, we donned rubber gloves, filled buckets with a TSP solution, and armed with that and Goof-Off, we proceeded to clean every surface of the van. I washed all the curtains (some are missing) and then laundered the mattress upholstery. Tom lined the drawers and shelves with cork. It's looking much better now. But there's still work to do. We need to get the stove, sink, and refrigerator working. Tom would like to put larger wheels in. The carpet in the cockpit needs replacing and so might the upholstery on the seats (they have holes from cigarette burns). We'd like to find a faux Oriental rug for the back. Ultimate renovations include putting a new Subaru engine in (165hp instead of 90hp) and replacing the interior door panels with wood paneling. The front electric windows don't work and need to be fixed.

    But the coolest thing about the van is there is a lot of storage space (or so it seems right now). I envsion a cedar-lined storage area that can be used to store a small travelling stash for extended road trips. I asked Tom if he would do that and he almost said yes. How cool would that be?

    Well, I got my very first tag, from msubulldog. So, here goes...

    Ten years ago: I was living in Paris, France, working as a technical support representative for a software company, doing telephone technical support in French (and I wasn't fluent). I was also in the throes of making preparations to return to the States in October so I could focus on wedding plans.

    Five years ago: We (read Tom) began renovating our 1906 house in earnest, which meant removing all the paint from the exterior, repainting, fixing the windows, and removing the asphalt shingles from the attic dormers and replacing them with wood siding. I was support staff, and did the front porch. I was also working for a startup and was building a testing and technical writing team. There was sporadic knitting.

    One year ago: I was working for a different startup and was approaching major burnout. I was also knitting a lot more and I think that helped me keep my sanity.

    Five snacks: Hmmm...dark chocolate, potato chips, dark chocolate, french fries, dark chocolate (I really don't snack much)

    Five songs I know all the words to: That's a hard one. I mostly listen to instrumental music. Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme; Anachie Gordon; Ballad of Mary Magdalene; All in Green Went My Love Riding; My Father

    Five things I would do with $100 million: Buy a farm and raise sheep and alpacas; put my nieces and nephews through college; do good works; travel (assuming I can find someone to take care of the sheep and alpacas); help my brothers and parents however I can

    Five places to run away to: France, Rocky Mountains (US and Canada), New Mexico, Pacific Northwest, Abacos

    Five things I would never wear: anything polyester, makeup (well, almost never), 60s- and 70s-style clothing, high heels, a bikini

    Five favorite TV shows: I don't watch TV often, but when I do watch I watch Good Eats with Alton Brown, Nature, Frontline, Iron Chef America, BBQ with Bobby Flay

    Five biggest joys: My family, Tom, my cat, my friends, my knitting

    Five favorite toys: knitting tools, spinning tools, cooking tools, laptop, books

    Five people to pass this on to: Cerridwen, Mia, Margene...hmmm, I have to come up with two others.

    Knitting Progress
    The kitten blanket swatching is going slowly (which doesn't bode well the knitting the entire blanket). I'm at the point where I'm knitting the kittens, but they don't look like much at this point. I've started another pair of toe-up socks (for Mom this time) using Cascade Fixation. I love knitting with that yarn, maybe because the cotton feels so soft. I haven't knit on Fern Leaf at all. I'm screwing up my courage to correct my errors yet again. And no spinning progress either. The free wool forlornly sits next to my wheel.

    Extreme Knitting
    Okay, the picture finally loaded. Here is Folkcat, knitting on stage at her local theatre, the Wilton Town Hall Theatre:

    The theatre looks a bit empty, but there are people there. And I doubt highly that many people have gone on stage solely intending to knit. Follow the link above to read more about the theatre and Folkcat's knitting.

    I was very dismayed to see this article on the front page of the Washington Post this morning. The Pentagon is drafting a revised doctrine on the use of nuclear weapons, which includes using nuclear arms to preempt an attack by another country or by terrorist group (who would be using weapons of mass destruction). It also provides the option to use nuclear weapons to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. What gives us the right to use weapons of mass destruction on another country who has the same weapons that we have (regardless of their "enemy" status). That seems to be damned arrogant and hypocritical to me. Didn't we learn anything after dropping the bomb on Japan in WWII? And if it's okay for us to do it, doesn't it follow that our enemies, fearing a preemptive strike us, would consider okay to make their own preemptive strike?


    Wednesday, September 07, 2005


    We had a little excitement chez Knitting Libran last night. I was engrossed in the pithy sidebar content over at Kerstin's when I noticed something fluttering overhead. "Moth" I thought, casually glancing up from the computer. Yikes, that's no moth! That's a bat!

    I yelled for Tom and there we were, crouched on the floor, ducking as this beautiful brown bat was swooping around the kitchen (I hope it was eating some bugs). Tom tried guiding it out the door with a broom, but that didn't work. After what seemed like an eternity (during which the cat came in and was very interested in the bat), the bat found the exit and flew out. I have no idea how it got in. But they are perfectly silent little fliers. One of our favorite things to do in the spring and summer is to sit on the deck in the evening and wait for the bats to come out and then watch them as they flit about the yard. We had bats living behind the shutters on the upper level of our house and I could see them fly under there in the early morning to roost during the day. They are very fascinating creatures.

    I heard from the Red Cross and will go through a volunteer orientation next Tuesday. I told them I wanted to be deployed but need to go through the shelter operations class before that happens. All of the current classes are full and they need to schedule more. It will be an interesting and, I hope, rewarding experience.

    /Begin rant/ I am so frustrated with the Administration right now and their seeming insincerity. I mean, I'm very sorry that Trent Lott lost his beautiful old mansion. But he has the means to rebuild. Most of the people down there lost everything and don't have the means to rebuild (they couldn't even afford to leave). I'd rather see W. offer to help rebuild their houses and sit on their front porches instead of Lott's. That would show more compassion than simply telling the citizens of this nation to provide a tidal wave of compassion for the survivors of Katrina. That man, and his cronies, need to walk the walk. /End rant/

    The socks are done. See?

    I'm rather pleased with the way they turned out, even though they are about an inch too short for his foot. I got the stripes to match up, except for bind-off on the toe. The Trekking XXL felt stiff to work with, but washed up very well; the socks are actually quite soft and fluffy now. It was a little chilly this morning and Tom wore the socks all morning. That made me feel good. The next socks are going to be made using Fortissima Colori (Socka Color) in what Tom calls Tibetan colors.

    I've started swatching the baby blanket. I'm using Cascade Sierra on size 10 needles, but am unsure about the resulting fabric. I think it feels good, but it looks too...well...holey. Loose. Maybe I'll swatch on a size 9 and see what that looks like. I knit the nephew's scarf (also with Cascade Sierra) on size 7 needles and the stitch gauge is about the same. Go figure.

    Job Update
    I'm still unemployed and the more I think on it, the more I think I want to get out of the software business. I've come to the realization that technology doesn't excite me anymore. What does? Working with people. I get more excited about enabling people to do their jobs better or motivating them or coaching them than I do about writing and executing software test cases or writing technical documentation. I'm not happy with the trends that I'm seeing in the software industry. The thought of working mega-hours to get a product out the door in order to provide some amount of testing (but not nearly enough to know what the problems might be) and then turning around and doing it all again, well, makes my stomach turn. But what to do? So what can I do that capitalizes on my ability to work with people? Some of the areas that I've been turning over in my head (and need to research because it will involve additional education) is massage or physical therapy, nutrition, personal training, life coaching, or something dealing with fiber and people (yarn store, teaching?). Fortunately, I know people who either do each of these things or know people who know people who do them. It will be an interesting journey.

    Extreme Knitting
    The Extreme Knitting challenge is still going on, although folks have been awfully quiet lately. I was going to post another entry today but network problems prevented the photos from being uploaded. I'll try again with the next post.

    Saturday, September 03, 2005


    The recent events in the South have made me heartsick. Heartsick and angry. I cannot even begin to imagine the horror and despair and grief the hurricane victims are suffering. I'm angry because the federal government was so slow to respond. It's been a week and they are now reaching New Orleans. Surely the USA can do better than that! I'm angry that the people who couldn't evacuate were too poor or too infirm to do so and no one helped them.

    I'm scared about what this is going to do to the economy. How do we take care of a million newly homeless people when we can't or don't take care of the homeless we already have? The skyrocketing gas prices are going to effect all parts of the economy--anything that gets shipped is going to cost more, whether it's something bought through mail order or something as basic as food. How is that going to affect the poor? Where is the money going to come from to help rebuild? This country is already running a huge deficit because of the war in Iraq. And Katrina has just added to that deficit (and the national debt).

    Apparently a lot of funding was cut from FEMA in order to help protect the country from terrorists. The levee projects that New Orleans needed were never fully funded. I'm afraid that we might now be in a situation where our country could be more vulnerable to a major terrorist attack.

    Since I'm still unemployed (I didn't get the job in Rockville), I've contacted the local Red Cross chapter to see if they need volunteers. I might as well put my time to a very good use, if they'll have me. Tom has put his name on the volunteer list for Habitat for Humanity for when it's time to start rebuilding.

    Knitting News
    As predicted, I got some good knitting time in while visiting my parents. We were glued to CNN most of the time, watching the disaster unfold. I got more good knitting in yesterday and today while I was working at Y2Knit. That has got to be my all-time favorite LYS. If you live in the Northern Virginia area or near Frederick or Hagerstown, take some time to visit Susan in Funkstown, Maryland. She has a very interesting selection of yarns and patterns, including a lot of handpainted yarns and yarns that are produced in the mid-Atlantic region. As an incentive to get all you locals out there, she's having a sale on September 17 from 9-5. I'll be there!

    So, the sock is almost finished. Everyone who sees it loves the yarn and the color. I'm beginning to like it a little more. Certainly the second sock has knitted up a little faster, more relaxed, and dare I say it, in a more zen-like manner than the first sock. The yarn over short rows are just happening, very fluid and relaxed. And the stitches are not leaping off the needles like lemmings leaping into the sea. I'll finish it tomorrow and will have pictures of the pair posted soon.

    Fern Leaf, on the other hand, is still giving me fits presenting a challenge. However, I'm not going to get worked up over it. I'm going to set it aside and pick it up a little later and analyze what went wrong.

    I found a baby blanket pattern and will start swatching so I understand the pattern, which will hopefully make the knitting up go a little faster. And I've got a couple more pairs of socks to make, as well as a hat and mittens for The Nephew, and all of the other Christmas knitting that I decided to do.

    And I got a gift of wool! Sometimes Brown Sheep tosses in a bag of unspun wool as packing material and Susan gave it to me. So I've got about 12 ounces of wool to play with. I'll use it to work on my spinning technique. Woo hooo!

    Saturday, August 27, 2005

    Speed Record

    Ha! Not in knitting. On Wednesday, I cooked up an Indian feast in less than three hours. This is an all-time record; usually it takes me all day. Of course, it helped that I found pre-made panir, so I could dispense with making my own cheese. And even though I mixed the dough for the chapatis, I didn't actually make them (the dough is in the freezer and I'll make them at some later time). What was for dinner?

  • Panir with peas in a minty tomato sauce (matar panir)
  • Spiced green beans (masala barbatti sabji)
  • Simple yellow rice (haldi chaval)
  • Shredded carrot, coconut, and radish salad (mooli nariyal kachamber)
  • Vanilla ice cream with sliced mango

  • The salad was a bit dry and benefited from adding a little yogurt. And I discovered that the rice (cooked with all sorts of spices) works well in the rice cooker. All recipes are from what I consider to be the most comprehensive Indian cookbook in the world, Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, by Yamuna Devi. It's 800 pages and includes all types of dishes, from rices and dals to breads and snacks, to drinks and desserts (the ras malai is to die for!).

    Fern Leaf and the Sock
    I'm slowly making progress here. I've almost finished the center motif, with only four rows to go, followed by three repeats of the edge motif and six rows of plain knitting. Fortunately, I haven't had to tink much lately, but it takes knitting in absolute silence. I can forget knitting with the radio on because I get sucked into the music or the commentary and whoops! I insert mistakes. I predict that the shawl should be finished sometime soon after next weekend.

    We're off to Annapolis this afternoon so Tom can run in the Annapolis 10-Miler tomorrow. Unfortunately, it looks like it's going to be a bit rainy, which will make running (and spectating) not so much fun. I should be able to get in some sock knitting on this trip.

    I predict that the second sock will be complete by the end of next week. I'm going to take three days and go visit my parents. It's been a while since I took a trip down there and in addition to having a good time (and good food), there's always some good knitting time to be had. I'll get to visit with my grandmother and see my nieces and nephews. And, there's one more little niece or nephew who will make an appearance in February or March. I need to figure out soon what to knit, so I don't end up giving the gift a couple of years later.

    That's it for now. Have a great weekend!

    Wednesday, August 24, 2005

    Still Waiting...

    Well, no word on the job in Rockville. The hiring manager was able to go on vacation this week after all (his dog recovered from an allergic reaction to some vaccinations) so the company has postponed making a decision until next Monday. I'm trying very hard to maintain my cool and not read all sorts of bad things into it. Mostly I'm succeeding. But there's a little part of me that's saying that I'm not going to get the job and he didn't want to go on vacation having just delivered bad news. Of course, it can work the other way, too. He didn't want to enter into salary negotiations just before going on vacation. See, I'm trying to remain balanced!

    I had a fun day yesterday with my friend Pam, who is also jobless at this time. We had lunch at this yummy Vietnamese restaurant, A Taste of Vietnam, in Sterling. Pam had never eaten there and really enjoyed it. After lunch, we went back to her house and had tiramisu for dessert. I had made the tiramisu last Friday. Tom didn't like it (it was a bit soggy) and it would be a very bad thing for me to eat it all myself. So I shared with Pam. Fortunately, it has gotten less soggy over time and is actually quite edible now. Then I whipped out a ball of yarn and some knitting needles and proceeded to teach Pam how to knit.

    It was an interesting teaching experience, not because Pam wasn't an apt student (she was), but because it forced me to deconstruct how I knit. Teaching the long-tail cast on was the hardest. I could cast on correctly. I could guide Pam's hands through the correct sequence, but it just wasn't working for us. We kept getting an extra loop of yarn on the needle. I finally figured out that thumb placement is key. Dropping the thumb that holds the yarn causes a twist; holding the thumb closer to the index finger doesn't cause a twist. We then moved on to the knit stitch. This was much easier and within a few minutes, Pam was happily knitting away. Her tension looked great, even though she was knitting with LP Cotton Fleece on slippery aluminum needles. Every now and then, she'd make a mistake and I would demonstrate how to fix it, then recreate the mistake and let her fix it. She was thrilled that she was creating fabric with string and two pointy sticks! We'll get back together in a couple of weeks for a purl stitch lesson. And yes, I'm teaching the continental method.

    I didn't get home until almost 6:00, which meant that I missed going to the Loudoun Knitters meeting. I've never been and really feel a need to connect with local knitters. Fortunately they meet twice a month, so I'll go next time.

    More Extreme Knitting Entries
    It's interesting how there seems to be a theme for some of the entries that I get. For example, knitting while climbing rocks or knitting while doing work-related activities or knitting while on or in the water. Today's entries involve bridges (and suspension...more on that later).

    Celia decided to take her knitting on a little sightseeing trip. While showing off the sights of San Francisco to a visiting East Coaster, Celia and crew decided to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, creating the perfect photo opportunity for some extreme knitting:

    Celia is definitely knitting on the edge there. And here is a photo the captures the majesty of the bridge:

    Folkcat also chose a bridge for her extreme knitting. In this case, it is an old bridge (Savage Bridge) near Milford, New Hampshire, that spans the Souhegan River.

    Folkcat not only took her knitting to the edge, she took herself too, by precariously perching on the railing:

    Remember, no knitter or knitting is to be harmed during the challenge. And that brings us to the final entry today and a review of the rules.

    In the interest of being open to diversity, but also in the interest of not alienating this blog's audience, I'll mention the activity, but not post the photos. Alice, in the UK, submitted an entry that documented the combination of her love of knitting with her love modification. (The squeamish and faint-of-heart will want to stop reading now.) Alice was photographed knitting a lovely garter stitch scarf while suspended from two hooks in her back. While it looked extremely painful, she appeared to be quite content and peaceful. (I may have to go have a lie-down now. Whew!)

    I have to admit that this is by far the most extreme entry thus far. Unfortunately, it is also the most questionable. I debated long and hard about whether or not I should even mention this entry and in the end, decided to include it as an example of what isn't appropriate, extreme though it may be. As a reminder, the rules are:

    All contenders should submit a picture of themselves (or their knitting) knitting where no (wo)man has knit before. Knitting while skydiving, scuba diving, bicycling, rock climbing, on rooftops, up a tree, etc. are all examples. It isn't necessary for the knitting activity to take place in the great outdoors, either. The key is to be imaginative (while keeping it clean!) and not harming the knitter or the knitting in the process (safety first!). While Alice clearly consented to the modification, I would classify that activity as a knitter being harmed. In the future, entries such as Alice's will be returned to the contestant and will not be posted or mentioned.

    I also received a question if it's possible be a serial extreme knitter and enter more than once. The answer to that is absolutely! The only caveat is that you must follow the rules. So enter early and enter often!

    On A Lighter Note
    It's a gorgeous day today, slightly breezy and in the low 80s, just perfect for knitting outside. So Jez and I are going to do just that. With any luck, I'll get one or two more rows completed on the Fern Lace Shawl before it's time to start dinner, which tonight will have an Indian theme. Details on the next posting!

    Monday, August 22, 2005

    Silly Me

    The weekend was pretty quiet; I spent most of it cooking (more on that later). But the highlight of the weekend was watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on DVD Saturday night. For some reason, we missed seeing it in the theatre when it was released. Tom got everything set up for an 8:00 showtime and I wandered in, sock knitting in hand. Tom was incredulous. "You're going to knit while watching Harry Potter?!" "Sure," said I, "I can knit and watch a movie at the same time."

    Silly me. I knit not one stitch on that sock. The movie was so engrossing and, as always, so visually rich that I didn't want to miss one little bit of it.

    The Loudoun Road Runners' annual picnic was scheduled for Sunday. Given that all of the runs would be finished by about 10:30, I figured some kind of brunch food would be appropriate. So I spent Saturday making homemade cinnamon rolls and a quiche. We showed up at Market Station at 7:00 (that's AM) on Sunday and only one person was there. Eventually, another person wandered in, but certainly not nearly enough people to have a picnic. Tom, Mike, and Sarah headed off for their run. They run a lot faster than I do (even more so now that my running is mostly not happening), so I opted to not run. I invited them back to the house for a post-run snack of the picnic fare, cached water for Tom, and scurried back to the house to do a little straightening. Of course, no one came. But the cinnamon rolls and quiche were quite tasty.

    If you like spicy Thai food, here's a recipe that I developed that you might enjoy. I used grilled catfish, but it would work equally well with other white fish, chicken, shrimp, or even tofu.

    Catfish Thai Red Curry
    2 catfish fillets (more if you are serving more than 2 people)
    1-2 Tablespoons of canola oil
    1 onion, chopped
    1 Tablespoon Thai red curry paste (I use A Taste of Thai brand)
    1 Tablespoon brown sugar (or to taste)
    3/4 Cup unsweetened coconut milk (approximately)
    juice of one-half to one lime (or to taste)
    chopped cilantro or basil
    sliced or chopped mango
    steamed rice

    Rinse and pat dry the catfish fillets. Season with salt and pepper. Grill over a medium hot fire until done (about 6 minutes per side). Remove and set aside. Alternatively, you can pan fry the catfish (or chicken) before sauteeing the onions.

    Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and sautee until soft and translucent. Add the red curry paste and blend with the onions, then add the brown sugar and coconut milk. Blend thoroughly. (You may need to lower the heat at this point; I've found that if coconut milk gets too hot, it has a tendency to "splurp" up like molten lava.) Add the lime juice. Cut the catfish into bite-size chunks and add to the curry sauce. If you are using shrimp or tofu, add them now. Heat thoroughly. Serve over hot steamed rice and sprinkle chopped cilantro or basil over top with a side of mango.

    Note that this dish is very spicy hot. You might want to decrease the amount of red curry paste. The mango makes nice accompaniment and helps cool the heat.

    Knitting Content
    Thanks to everyone who offered advice to improve my counting skills. Believe it or not, I do use stitch markers to mark the lace repeats. But the shawl is triangular; how do you account for a two-stitch increase every other row if you place stitch markers every 10 stitches? Wouldn't the number of stitches between the stitch markers be greater than or less than 10? (Of course, I could try it myself and see what happens...duh!). I do use stitch markers when casting on a large number of stitches. It definitely keeps me honest.

    I managed to knit about four rows on Fern Leaf yesterday. And characteristically, I had to tink part of the two pattern rows that I knit. I missed a yarn over on one row and had an extra yarn over on another row. After a bit of reflecting, I realized that this is probably an exercise assigned by the Universe to help me become more mindful. When my mind wanders, I make mistakes.

    Parting Shot

    I snapped a quick picture of this little guy, hanging out on our deck:

    Other than the great pose, I found this squirrel to be very interesting. If you look closely, you'll see that fur on his jaw and front paws is a deep brown, which is not characteristic of the grey squirrel. At first I thought he might be diseased, but after looking at him through binoculars, determined that, yes indeed, that's the color of his fur. But then I noticed a black walnut on the deck, still in the hull. The squirrel has been eating walnuts, which dyed his fur a nice brown. Unfortunately, I don't think we get enough walnuts from our tree for dyeing wool.

    And finally, I should find out today whether or not I get the job in Rockville. I don't know anything about the other candidate's background, so I have no sense of which way the decision will go. Oh, the suspense!

    Thursday, August 18, 2005

    Let Me Count...

    Not only am I math-challenged, I appear to be counting-challenged as well. While being math-impaired creates challenges for knitting, I don't feel too embarrassed asking for help. After all, I'm a relatively new knitter and haven't learned all of the tricks of the trade. Asking for help with counting, on the other hand, is highly embarrassing.

    What's so difficult about counting? It's not that I can't count; it's that I never seem to come up with the same number each time I count. I take to heart the carpenter's maxim "Measure twice, cut once." "Count twice, start the next row." It goes like this:

    "Whew! I'm glad I finished that pattern row. Let's count...should have 113 stitches."
    "2, 4, 6...110. Grrr...that's not right. Let's count again."
    "2, 4, 6...114. Aargh! That's still not right. Let's check the knitting against the pattern."
    "Everything's okay with the knitting. Let's count it again."
    "2, 4, 6...113. Hmmm...let's count again just to make sure."
    "2, 4, 6...113. Okay, let's go to the next row."

    Now, I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent person. I graduated from college with good GPA; I can grasp complex concepts. But the conversation above illustrates how I spend my mornings with the Fern Leaf Shawl. I've taken to putting lifelines in every other row. I count, and count again. This morning, I counted (after having ripped back to the lifeline because it looked liked a couple of yarn overs disappeared), knit the next row, moved the lifeline, and at the end of the pattern row I was short one stitch. How did that stitch go missing?!

    It's enough to put a girl off knitting lace.

    More Extreme Knitting

    Emily submitted this photo for the Extreme Knitting Challenge:

    The location is the Ansel Adams wilderness of the Sierra Nevada. But wait, you say, she's not knitting. Yes, she is. But when one is solo backpacking, one can't knit and snap a photo at the same time. Emily is knitting the Norsk Strikkedesign sweater sleeve at a high pass (10,000 feet altitude). You can read about Emily's (and her faithful dog, Tiko's) adventure here. Frankly, I'd be terrified of meeting up with a bear, even with a bear canister. And Emily? Nice spork!

    Tuesday, August 16, 2005


    Having a blog is a mixed blessing. It provides an excellent opportunity to improve one's writing skills and is a good way to document progress on knitting projects. It allows friends and family to stay up-to-date on what is happening in one's life. And that's where I got busted by my mother (Hi, Mom!).

    Tom and I typically spend the first week in August with his family in the Outer Banks in North Carolina. We also typically stop by my parents' house for a quick visit on the way down and back. Well, this year we didn't stop. Even worse than that, I didn't even call to let my family know that I was going. A few days ago, my mother calls and says "It's a good thing you have a blog so I know what you've been up to. How come you went to the beach and didn't stop by?" Oops. No excuses, I was a bad daughter. I hadn't called in a couple of weeks (I usually call every week). I didn't stop by on the way to the beach. I felt horrible. So, I'm going to try to get down there during the week (perfect, since I have no job responsibilities) either this week or next. It will be good to visit. I'll give you a call, Mom, and let you know when I'll be coming!

    Employment News
    The second interview with the company in Rockville went well. I'm one of two top contenders. They should be making a decision early next week. A friend gave me another job lead that sounds like it could be's closer to home, working for a non-profit, and sounds like it could be more structured and less hectic than my previous jobs. So we'll see where that ends up.

    I spend Friday afternoon working with my friend Susan at Y2Knit. And that got me to thinking. How many yarn shops can a geographical area support? There are four that I would consider to be relatively local, although they all at least 20 miles away (which to me isn't very local). Could my town support a yarn shop? What would it take for a yarn shop to be successful? Can I earn a living wage after it's established?

    Having a yarn shop would certainly meet the need for wanting to earn a living by doing fiber things. But would I enjoy it? I know that I'd get less knitting done than I do now. Susan recommended developing a business plan, so that's what I'm going to do. I think it also means that I need to visit a lot of yarn shops (oh, the torture!) to see how they differ from each other.

    Extreme Knitting
    And last, but not least, there are three Extreme Knitting entries today. And they are linked by a common theme. All of them were taken while working!

    Emily had this photo taken while in full clerical garb. She says:

    I don't have a book tour like the Harlot. I live in Oklahoma, so nowhere near mountains. I am, however, an Episcopal priest, and it occured to me I could at least put on appropriate Sunday garb to knit.

    (Please note the vestments include a chasuble, stole, and alb, plus microphone and Sunday best including plastic "clericool" collar underneath.)

    I don't know, Emily, a plastic "clericool" collar doesn't sound like it would be cool or comfortable. And knitting in all those garments is definitely extreme. Bonus points will be awarded if the air conditioning wasn't on in the church.

    Andrea interpreted extreme knitting in a slightly different way. her knitting to...(dare I say it?)

    I can't do Andrea's story justice, so you have to read about it in her own words. Andrea, your post mysteriously mentions a skiing injury. After you heal and are cleared by your doctor for more extreme sports, I expect to see a picture of you knitting while on skis!

    The third entry is amazing. Kris took her knitting to an amusement park. On a roller coaster. And she knit while plummeting down very steep hills very fast:

    Notice the contented smile (if that was me, I'd have a look of stark terror on my face). For the roller coaster lovers among us, the ride is Goliath at Six Flags Magic Mountain and she's knitting the Soleil tank. Kris has additional pictures of the adventure here.

    Thanks for the great entries!

    I'll be sending the button soon (it's finished!). I've also got the gallery framework set up and should have the gallery linked in the sidebar in the next week or so.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2005

    Bridging the Chasm

    One of the rules of the Extreme Knitting Challenge is to be safe. Does this look like the knitter in question is concerned about the safety of her sock?

    Can we say "reckless endangerment?" Fortunately, the knitting and all the needles were hauled up recovered unharmed. The picture of the sock dangling in mid-air, hundreds of feet above the rocks, struck fear in my heart. If it fell, it would mean certain death for the sock the sock (and its needles) would never be recovered.

    Not long after, the slightly deranged fearless, globe trotting Yarn Harlot bravely stood smack dab in the center of a swaying suspension bridge (230 feet above the deck), in a high wind, cheerfully knitting a round or two on the sock she had just so carelessly dangled above the rocks.

    To read more about the sock's adventures that day, go here.

    Thanks for your entry, Stephanie, and for sharing your adventures with us!

    Non-knitting news

    The job search continues. I had another opportunity drop into my lap last Friday. This position would be very challenging technically. It would also be much closer to home. I don't think there's as much opportunity for advancement, however. I have a second round of interviews tomorrow with the first place. Hopefully, I'll get additional information that will help me make a relatively informed decision.

    And then there's a receptionist position at an engineering consulting firm in town, about a 3-minute walk from my house. That is very tempting, although I have a suspicion that I would become bored in a month or so. Or not.

    But I'm still trying to figure out how I can merge my love of fiber with the necessity of earning a decent income. There are a couple of available buildings downtown that would make perfect yarn shops. Leesburg doesn't have a yarn shop. I don't have the capital to open a yarn shop. My husband claims that I have zero business or financial sense and unrealistic expectations. But I could learn, no?

    Knitting news

    I've made no progress at all on the second sock, nor on the shawl. However, I did ply the singles of the Corriedale I spun up the other day:

    I'm mostly satisfied with it, although it is a bit thick and thin. It should make for an...ummm...interesting...knitting experience.

    Monday, August 08, 2005


    It was a lazy weekend, just the way I like them. Tom wasn't very motivated to work around the house, so I didn't feel too guilty about being lazy. I decided to spend some time yesterday spinning. So, I was sitting at my wheel, spinning up some lovely Corriedale, laptop by my side, listening to XM Radio. Every now and then I'd stop to reply to an instant message. It was an interesting juxtaposition of low and high techologies.

    I have a question for those of you who spin. How do you not overtwist your yarn? I'm treadling as slowly as possible, but the resulting yarn still seems to too much twist in it. I know that plying will remove some of the excess twist. I have an Ashford Traditional wheel, single treadle. I think I remember hearing (at sometime in the dim past) that Ashfords are prone to overtwisting.

    In knitting news, I cast on for the second sock from h*ll. I will be soooglad when this pair of socks is complete! I don't like the yarn (Trekking XXL), although I know that atleast a few people out there just love it. I don't like the colorway, either. It's muddy. And I knit a few rows of the Fern Leaf shawl, remembering to knit after every pattern row.

    I'm contemplating casting on a hat for the nephew, just to knit something that doesn't feel like it will take forever. Or maybe a pair of mittens. Or perhaps I'll start the poncho I want to make for Christmas.

    And in Extreme Knitting Challenge news, I have an entry from Carole. She took her sock to the top of West Chop Lighthouse. I don't think many socks-in-progress can boast that privilege.

    And here's an artful picture of the sock viewing the shadow of the lighthouse:

    To all of intrepid Extreme Knitters, the button is still in progress. I haven't forgotten!

    Friday, August 05, 2005

    Beach Knitting

    It was a quiet week at the beach. It took over six hours to get down there ("there" being Southern Shores in the Outer Banks in North Carolina) last Saturday because traffic around Richmond and Williamsburg was incredibly slow. Tom decided he wanted to finish reading his current book, so I drove. That wouldn't have been too bad, except he read for all of about 20 minutes. The rest of the time he did...nothing! Ack! All that prime knitting time going to waste!

    It rained most of Sunday, so I worked on the sock. The weather the rest of the week was nice and I worked on the sock. Time actually spent on the beach? About three hours, primarily because I forgot my hat, I forgot my high-octane sunscreen, and we didn't bring the beach umbrella. Ordinarily, that wouldn't have deterred me, but I remembered that the medication I'm on is one of those that make you photosensitive, so I erred on the side of caution. Yes, I know...I could have bought a hat, bought sunscreen, and bought an umbrella. But that meant spending money to buy stuff I already had and besides, I wanted to save my pennies for yarn at Knitting Addiction.

    If you visit the Outer Banks, you should try to stop by. The shop is very nice. It's spacious and she has a nice selection of luxury fibers as well as the standards. This is her second year in business, I think, and she has added a shop kitty, Purrl, who is the sweetest little cat. It's at this shop that I introduced my sister-in-law, Reide, to baby alpaca.

    Reide has been knitting for about year and she has turned out a prodigious number of scarves knit with novelty yarns. Reide has a good eye for color and texture and the scarves are quite nice. She decided to learn a little more about knitting and asked me to teach her how to make a hat. And that's where the baby alpaca comes in. The shop had a basic ski cap knitted up (with pattern available) and it was so soft that Reide just had to get it. So we got circular needles and a set of DPNs and later that evening, Reide learned the long tail cast on, how to join without twisting, and how to decrease. By the end of the next day, she had a hat and was ready to knit another one. So back to the yarn shop we went to get more yarn. There was this really nifty hand-dyed super bulky yarn that would make a great hat and Reide was eyeing that, but decided it was too expensive, so she got another skein of baby alpaca. I've started her down the slippery slope of yummy yarn. Bwah-ha-ha!

    So, about the sock...

    I finished it on the way home yesterday. And despite my best efforts with the heel, I had to rip the blasted thing out because stitches (especially the yarn overs) kept leaping off the needles like lemmings leaping off a cliff. It took about three hours to knit the toe, which seems like a lot of time to knit such a small area. The sock is a little short for my husband's foot; I'll make the next one a little longer. Now all I have to do it get the motivation to knit sock #2.

    Progress on the Fern Leaf shawl? I had to tink about seven rows because I forgot to knit more than one row after knitting pattern rows. Sigh...that's what I get for letting my mind wander during my knitting.

    Saturday, July 30, 2005

    Knitting on the Rocks

    Today's Extreme Knitting theme is on the rocks and in the air. Judy took her knitting with her on a vacation to the Badlands. Her son took the sock on a hill-climbing escapade. Here he is, with sock, after achieving the "summit":

    Barbara took her sock on a rock climbing adventure to Table Rock in Linville, North Carolina. Here she is, between pitches,
    getting in a few rounds:

    Barbara didn't identify the route or its level of difficulty. But I'm pretty sure that it's a first ascent by a sock.

    So now we leave the earth behind, with our first aerial entry:

    Those are Amanda's hands, knitting a bag for her sister while flying in a small plane from Oregon to Florida this spring. She's over the Idaho/Utah border, at more than 11,000 feet. It looks like she's in the co-pilot position. Now I'm wondering...who took the picture? Was it the pilot? Does the plane have an auto-pilot feature? So, Amanda now holds the highest altitude record. Margene, however, still holds the earth-bound high-altitude record.

    Hmmm...I wonder if any of the astronauts knit. Wouldn't it be something to have a picture of someone knitting in space?

    Thanks for all of these week's entries! It's really great to see all the places where our knitting goes.

    The Interview
    Yesterday was interview day. I met a friend for lunch, then drove up to Rockville. This meant navigating the infamous Capitol Beltway, aka 495. My heart sank as I entered the on-ramp...and stopped dead, at 1:30 in the afternoon. It's way too early for rush hour traffic! It didn't help matters any that it was raining. However, traffic slowly moved and I arrived just a few minutes late. I could tell I was getting into the commuter mentality when I thought that 45 minutes wasn't too bad.

    I talked to about 11 people, including the CEO and CFO. The interview took five hours and went very well. They had expected it to take about two hours. I asked a lot of questions, which is unusual for me (I usually freeze up in interviews). And surprisingly, I wasn't exhausted at the end. I was energized. I was still energized after the drive home, which took exactly one hour (through gorgeous western Montgomery County).

    The job would be very challenging. It's in a space I don't know well and I definitely don't have the hard technical knowledge, given that I don't know anything about how computer networks work at packet level. But it will give me a chance to further hone my management skills. And I am as passionate about providing excellent customer service as I am about helping to create high quality software.

    My biggest concern isn't my ability to do the job. It's the long, potentially stressful, hours and the long commute. There's a possibility of telecommuting a couple of days a week and pretty much everyone works flex time, so that will help somewhat. I'd be going against traffic and the commute route right now isn't congested. But that's still a whopping two hours of driving a day.

    However, I don't have to make a decision right away because we're leaving for a week at the beach with Tom's family. I can mull over it while I'm sitting on the beach (slathered in high-octane sunscreen and under an umbrella, of course), listening to the sound of the waves breaking against the shore.

    If you submit an Extreme Knitting Challenge entry this week, don't worry if you don't hear from me. I'll collect them up and post them next weekend.

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday, July 28, 2005

    Too Fast!

    So here I am, enjoying my newly found freedom, when BAM! Out of the blue comes a request for a resume from a former colleague. Soon after I send it to him, the hiring manager calls and would like me to come in for an interview. On Friday. Like of this week. Yikes! It's too soon!

    I suppose that's what happens when you hand things off to the universe. Yesterday, I was feeling incredibly open and light and confident. Today, I'm panicking. Not because I'm afraid I won't do well in the interview, but because I don't think I'm ready to take on another stressful position and particularly one that comes with an hour-long commute, one way. So we'd be looking at 12-14 hour days. That's going to seriously cut into my knitting time!

    On the upside, I'll have money to buy yarn and attend knitting retreats. And I can take the back roads to work, which involves taking White's Ferry, which is about five miles from my house. This means that I can knit a few sock rounds while waiting for the ferry and during the crossing.

    And in sock news, I cast on the sock yet again, using smaller needles. I really like the Old Norwegian cast-on and think it makes for a nice top edge. On about round 3, I looked at the sock and my heart sank. Danged if somehow the stitches flipped around and the inside is now the outside! I ran upstairs, flapped the offending sock at my husband, and ranted about the tribulations of knitting this stupid sock. He simply looked up from his book and calmly said "So don't knit it." What?! But I need to knit him something to wear! And I'm not going to let a mere sock get the best of me!

    Several rounds later (I had decided that since the cuff would never be visible, I could live with it), I realized that it was an optical illusion. Silly me.

    All the knitters I know say that socks are great projects for beginners. I cannot figure why anyone would want to inflict a sock project on a beginning knitter. There are all of those increases and decreases for the heel and toe. Not to mention knitting in the round with five tiny needles. It's enough to make a beginner's head explode (and I know what I'm talking about...I was there and it almost put me off of making socks).

    Well, it's late. I need to get my beauty rest for the interview tomorrow. Ciao!

    Wednesday, July 27, 2005

    More Extreme Knitting

    I have two entries today and both continue with the water theme that Cerridwen started. Amy submitted this photo:

    That's her knitting (and presumably her arms) at the Dead Sea. She was hoping for a photo of her actually knitting while floating in the Dead Sea. For her good intention, she is awarded an Honorable Mention. If you'd like to read about her vacation travels, go here.

    Right up there with Cerridwen for some serious extreme knitting is Janine (who I think is, alas, blogless). She decided to knit, not just on the water, but in the water:

    You can see what's coming next, can't you?

    Yes, that's Janine, knitting under the water. Don't you just love the way the skein is gently floating above her? Janine says:

    My husband and I went up to Lake Wazee, WI to complete our open water SCUBA certification. Since we were camping, I started a simple garter scarf to keep me company around the campfire and during our lunch breaks. At the end of our second day with our diplomas in sight, things got a little silly. I wouldn't recommend underwater knitting for most folks unless you're REALLY in a time crunch for a felted project.

    So who's where in the rankings? Very good question. Janine and Cerridwen are right up there, although I think Cerridwen has a slight edge on Janine for knitting while shooting Class II rapids. So, Cerridwen is in 1st place, with Janine a close 2nd. Margene drops to 3rd (high altitude record), with Jen in a very close 4th (she knit at 6000 feet, getting there under her own power). Amy receives an Honorable Mention for intending to knit while floating in the Dead Sea. Buttons and gallery are still in progress, so you'll receive them soon, hopefully.

    I think anyone on the East Coast who knit outside yesterday or today deserves special Extreme Knitting recognition for braving the heat. Yesterday, the temperature at the Leesburg/Godfrey airport at 4:00EDT was 102 degrees Fahrenheit, or 39 degrees Centigrade. Fortunately, the humidity was only 40%. Today is much the same (102 degrees already), with slightly higher humidity. I'm not a big fan of air conditioning, but I'm very grateful for it today. I can't imagine what the women who lived in our house back in 1906 did when the temperatures got this high.

    Keep those extreme knitting entries coming! The first group of prizes will be awarded in sometime in August.

    Knit on!

    Tuesday, July 26, 2005

    Look, Ma! No Gaps!

    I couldn't stand it any more. I was not going to let a knitting technique get the best of me. I grabbed my practice swatch and tried again. Behold!

    No gaps! There's a trick to this. When knitting the increases, you knit or purl the first stitch of the pair. Correct the stitch mount, if necessary, of the next 2 stitches and K3tog or sssp, then turn and yarn over. What is left on that needle will be a set of paired stitches, a single stitch, and another set of paired stitches (sorry, no pictures). Had the instructions for the YO short row method mentioned that, I wouldn't have had gaps.

    Now I had a dilemma. I know what the results should be--should I simply ignore gaps so big that you could drive a Cooper Mini through them? Or should I frog the sock one more time? After much gnashing of teeth and waffling back and forth in true Libran style, I decided to frog it. Once again, the Sock of the Caribbean is no more.

    To assuage my grief at having to frog hours and hours of work, I decided to pull out the spinning wheel and spin. It was just what the doctor ordered. What is it about spinning that soothes the soul? I felt something akin to joy at seeing a fluffy mass of wool turn into a smooth (albeit over-twisted) yarn. It was very satisfying. After spinning, I worked on the Fern Leaf shawl some. And then, the knitting goddess exacted retribution, probably because I was feeling confident in the pattern. So now, here I sit, ready to knit across the WS, but I'm on the RS. Gar! I think I'll return to sock knitting.

    In cooking news, the August Gourmet features a peach blueberry cake on the front. It looks delicious! So, that will be tonight's dessert. There is a little farm stand set up on the corner and they have peaches, so I bought just enough for the cake. Everything was going well, until it came time to halve the peaches and remove the pit. I sliced a peach in half and gave it a deft twist to separate the halves. The halves remained firmly attached to the pit. What ensued thereafter was quite ugly, involving much bad language and stomping of feet civil, involving much cajoling and gentle persuasion. The peaches finally relented. They are slightlyvery mangled, but they are separated from the pit and are now quite happily baking in a moderate oven for a long time.

    Jez, however, was nonplussed.

    Monday, July 25, 2005


    One of the traits that I have is my ability to be content to not do anything. My husband finds this to be very frustrating, because he's all about getting things accomplished. My take on it is that what's here today will be here tomorrow and what bad will happen if I don't accomplish what I set out to do, especially if I find something more interesting to do than, say, clean the bathroom?

    However, I can see where this can become a problem now that my day-to-day routine has been disrupted by losing my job. It's also a problem because Tom works from home two days a week and doesn't like his routine to be interrupted. My plan is to use the two days that he works from home to work on my knitting and spinning. The other three days will be spent cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, running errands, looking for a job (and of course, knitting and spinning). I'm not going to get any more specific than that.

    Since my introduction to the world of knitting and spinning blogs, I must admit that I felt a certain amount of jealousy admiration for those women who devote their lives to their knitting and spinning and writing and children. It seems like a charmed, idyllic life. Now I'm there (minus the children, of course). Will it truly be as charming and idyllic as I thought it would be? Time will tell, so check back often to see how I'm doing.

    And speaking of structure, the sock is still bothering me, in a big way. I visited Terri's blog yesterday and was struck the truth in her "Less than Perfect" entry. It was very timely because the I was thinking about frogging it, again. My husband thinks the sock looks just fine. So Terri gave me the inspiration to carry on.

    Then I got an email from Susan suggesting that perhaps my needle size is a tad too large for the project. I had been wondering about that myself. So, even though I had decided to not frog, maybe I'll frog the sock and switch to smaller needles. Maybe I'll stop using the pattern that I'm using (I mean, I didn't marry the thing!). Maybe I'll practice the YO short row before taking any drastic measures like frogging.

    But I think what I'm going to do right now is work on the Fern Leaf shawl and then spin.

    Saturday, July 23, 2005

    On YO Short Rows

    I've made good progress on the sock, having just completed the heel. But the sock still offends. Or to be more specific, the yarn over short rows still offend. Look:

    See the white? Those are gaps--a whopping quarter inch each! I'm not happy.

    I can understand not perfecting the technique the first time it's tried. I understand the technique much better now. So I expected no gaps. I knit tighter this time. But gaps I have. The only difference between these gaps and the gaps on the frogged sock are that these gaps aren't quite as tall. But I still have gaps. I hate gaps.

    For those readers who have more experience with yarn over short rows, I pose a question. How do you not get gaps? What magic ritual must one perform before undertaking a yarn over short row heel?

    This sock is not going to defeat me. I will not have gaps at the toe. Ha! I will use the slip-wrap-slip short row technique.

    Friday, July 22, 2005

    Kayaking and Knitting

    Well, I must say that the third entry in the Extreme Knitting Challenge blew me away. Check this out:

    This is Cerridwen (formerly blogless, now blogful), knitting while kayaking! And this isn't simply a float down a river either. Cerridwen says:

    [The picture was] taken last April while I was participating in a kayak race down a 10 mile stretch of the Verde River in Arizona. The river has class I, II, and III rapids! I am knitting the Wool Peddler's shawl for my neice from _Folk Shawls_. My family realised that I crossed the line from "enjoying" knitting to "psychoticaly obsessed" when I didn't put down the knitting except for class III's and a few class II's. It was a lot of fun.

    The knitting survived the race unscathed. The same can't be said for me. :)

    And yes, that is a shark on her head.

    So, Cerridwen moves into 1st place, with Margene in 2nd place for achieving the highest altitude, and Jen in 3rd place.

    A couple of notes on the Challenge:

  • There is no deadline for entries; I'll run the Challenge as long as there is interest

  • Your entries don't have to be recent; if you have pictures that were taken years ago of you knitting in the extreme, send them in!

  • Umemployed--Day 4

    (Don't worry, I won't bore you with my day-to-day activities every day, just occasionally.)

    Being unemployed is very interesting. Not only are there all the strange emotions (depressed one day, manic the next), but one also sees interesting things that one normally wouldn't see while at work. I opted to stay home on Tuesday instead of going into the office to pack up my belongings (that was the depressed day). The day was spent blogging, emailing, and chatting online. Things were pretty calm, until I heard an animal squeal. That was kind of odd. Then the neighbor's dog started barking. Being ultimately nosy, I went outside to investigate and that's when pandemonium ensued. Piper (the dog) had cornered a young groundhog. Then she attacked it. Since there was a fence between the two yards, I couldn't do much of anything besides yell at the dog and spray water on her in the hopes that she'd leave the groundhog alone. But it didn't help. She killed the groundhog. That shook me up quite a bit.

    Then this morning I got up early (it's so much easier to get up early when you don't have to go to work!) to do some knitting. Jez was very interested in something on the deck. It turned out that a small family of cats took up residence overnight. There were two black and white kittens sleeping on the deck chairs, and the mother cat would occasionally come by to check on them. I'm pretty sure that these are the same cats that took up residence in our other neighbor's garage. Lyle had wanted to adopt the kittens, but never could catch them. I called her and she came over to get them, but they ran away. It will be interesting to see if the kittens return to L'Auberge Simonds tonight.

    And in knitting news, I'm at the heel on the Sock of Caribbean. But I'm stuck. Well, I thought I was stuck. In trying to explain just how stuck I was, I figured out what I need to do. So, thanks for listening! Here's the sock:

    Hopefully I'll be able to finish the heel today. I'm much happier with the second knitting, but we'll see how the second half of this short row technique works up.

    Ciao for now!