Thursday, April 28, 2005

Too Much!

I've got too much rolling around in my head and not enough time to post. Perhaps this weekend will provide an opportunity to show the almost finished sock (about 20 rows and it's done!) and before and after pics of the plaster work. I want to do a book review, too.

However, I was most heartened to hear that it appears that the ivory-billed woodpecker is not extinct! It's so sad to leaf through my copy of the Golden North American bird guide and see pictures of the North American birds that are on the verge of extinction. And to hear that the ivory-billed woodpecker has been sighted in Arkansas is such good news! Maybe there's hope after all. For more information on the search for the ivory-billed woodpecker, go to the NPR story.

That's all for now.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Waiting Room Knitting

Sometimes things happen in the strangest ways. I had a doctor appointment this afternoon and decided to take my sock along in case the wait was long. As it happened, I got to knit about one round before my name was called. When I went into the doctor's office for the consultation part of the visit, she noticed my knitting and said that she used to knit. She's from Switzerland and said that she had to learn to knit before she started school and that they knit in school. Before we finished the visit, she said that I had inspired her to start knitting again! Imagine that...lil ole me and my little sock inspiring someone to knit. When I go back next year, I'll have to ask her if she did start knitting again.

There is an interesting post by Renee on knitting and feminism or rather, anti-feminism. The majority of the comments indicated that we (and the "we" includes both men and women) knit because we like it, not because we're trying to make a statement about our gender. How true. Everything I do I do because it interests me, or challenges me, or educates me. Some of those things can be considered traditional female roles or activities. Some can't. And interestingly, most things that are now considered to be a woman's domain, like knitting, used to be dominated by men and strictly regulated by guilds. I think there is a section in the Vogue Book of Knitting (I might have the title wrong) that discusses that.

Well, I would say that I'm going to go knit on the sock (I've got about 2 inches to go before the toe), but I'm on day 2 of a migraine and am going to go to bed instead.

Monday, April 18, 2005

13.1 Miles

Warning! This is a long post with no pictures!

This past weekend was the Charlottesville Marathon and Half Marathon, so Friday evening we loaded up the car and headed to Charlottesville. I drove, so no knitting on the way down. We arrived around 9pm (after taking a wrong turn) and had a very mediocre dinner at the hotel. Then it was off to bed so we would be well-rested for the run (Just for the record? I didn't run; I knitted.) Around 1am, Tom and I woke up out of a sound sleep. It sounded like there were people talking in our room. Or maybe outside our room. Nope, it was a small party going on in the room next door. They didn't quiet down until after 2. It was very annoying and I could feel the tension rising in me because I knew that Tom really needed to sleep well. We turned on the air conditioner, which helped drown out the voices somewhat and managed to get back to sleep.

Race day dawned sunny and not nearly as cold as expected. The race started at 7:30. The walk to the start was nice and after standing around a little bit, the runners were off. I watched Tom run out sight and headed back to the hotel for some breakfast and a little knitting before meeting Tom at the finish line. He had said that he would finish in a minimum of 2 hours and probably longer. I thought it would be nice to walk the route the runners were taking and then I could run with Tom to the finish line. I watched runner after runner pass me. No Tom. I got to the finish line at 2:03 and watched more runners come in. No Tom. The time is now 2:11. Still no Tom. I was beginning to get anxious, thinking he had a really, really bad run. Then I turned around and there he was. He finished in under 2 hours! His official time was 1:59:something (the results page appears to be down right now). What an awesome time, especially considering that he felt his training was bad. I was sooo happy for him! And sooo bummed that I wasn't there to see him finish.

After a brief recovery period, we hit the pedestrian mall. My main goal was to visit The Needle Lady for some stash enhancement. I think the store is set up well; it feels spacious and light. The people there are extremely helpful; one woman spent quite a bit of time helping me find just the right sock pattern for Tom and then the man in the store helped with choosing yarn. I also bought some Noro yarn in the most gorgeous color and have earmarked that for a hat. The one thing that I didn't like about store was the feeling of being rushed. After I selected the sock yarn, they were ready to ring up the sale. I said I wanted to look around some more. Tom saw a hat that knitted in chenille and like it. After being persuaded to not purchase the chenille yarn (it stretches a lot) and picking the Noro for a hat, they were ready to ring up the sale again. But...but...Look at all the yarn! Look at all the cool patterns and books! I could have spent hours looking around. As I recall, I think the same thing happened last year. Oh, well. I'm happy with my yarn purchases. I need more time synthesize everything. I am a Libran, after all. Decision-making, especially when presented with a myriad of choices, is not my strong suit.

The rest of the day was spent eating, wandering around, sitting in a park swatching the new sock yarn (even though I'm working on a perfectly fine sock), eating some more, wandering around, and eating some more. We visited Splendora's for some absolutely fabulous gelato. I got vanilla and chocolate, and oh my...what a rich, dark chocolate it was. Tom got raspberry and something that was chocolate with hazelnuts. I can't remember the name; it was in Italian. It did begin with a "g."

We met some friends at the Blue Light Grill for cocktails and oysters before dinner (yum yum!). Dinner was at Fellini's #9, just off the mall and it was quite tasty. I had a salad of grilled romaine with anchovies (marinated, not canned) and an onion relish. Dinner with baked trout on polenta with a pepperocini sauce. We had a yummy Zinfandel (whose name I can't remember) and cannoli for dessert(the filling was made with sweetened ricotta, not mascarpone).

And that was that! Back home on Sunday to yardwork and laundry. I made good progress on the sock on the drive back and should be able to finish it next weekend. Funny, didn't I say I was going to finish the sock this past weekend? And maybe finish two socks? Ha! I lied!

Friday, April 15, 2005

It's the Weekend!

Well, it's been a long week in Leesburg...

The plastering is done and the walls look really good. No more exposed lathe or plaster grains filtering out of the wall. Most of the plaster dust from the final sanding has been cleaned up. All that's left to be done is to wipe down the walls, prime, choose a paint color, and paint. But that means there are two more windows for Tom to refurbish. He's become quite the expert at dismantling old double hung windows, re-glazing, scraping, and re-assembling. He even gets the upper sash to work! I have quite the wonderful husband.

I managed to knit 11 rnds on my sock.

This weekend we'll be in Charlottesville for the Charlottesville Half-Marathon. I feel a little guilty about not running. I can't seem to get my running motivation back. I think it's because my running partner and I aren't on the same running schedule any more. And I'm still cold. That doesn't make sense because I'll warm up as soon as I start running. I'll eventually get back to it.

My goal for tomorrow is to support Tom at the start of race and then go visit the LYS, The Needle Lady, on the pedestrian mall and a brief walk from our hotel. It should be fun and I'm looking forward to some stash enhancement. And I think I'll be able to finish the sock.

It's time to finish laundry and start gathering stuff for the trip.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


That's what the repaired plaster walls look and feel like in the little front bedroom. I'll post before and after pictures after the work is complete, which will be tomorrow. It will be nice to have yet another bedroom completed. And another good thing...there isn't a lot of plaster dust floating around the house. The last time we had plaster work done, I remember that there was dust everywhere!

I worked from home today so there'd be someone here while the plasterer was working. That was kind of nice. And even though my sock was sitting on the kitchen counter taunting me and daring me to knit, I resisted. I finished making one set of revisions to a certification document and started working through another set. If all goes well, the document might be complete enough by the end of the week for final evaluation. But then I have to start writing up the "evidence" documentation. And that's assuming that we have no testing, customer service, or "manufacturing" crises.

So, it's 8:00pm, I've finished eating dinner, and I'm going to work on my sock. Woo hoo! Week night knitting!

Sunday, April 10, 2005


That word describes the weekend perfectly. The weather was gorgeous...high 60s, low 70s...and sunny. The first mowing of the grass occurred. We planned a stone patio just off the garden and hope to get estimates this week. If it isn't too expensive, it's going to be sooo nice! Tom wants to plant shrubbery around it for privacy, but I want fragrant herbs. We should be able to compromise.

And tomorrow we've got a plasterer coming to replaster one of the front bedrooms. We started to strip the wall paper about a year ago and Tom was going to attempt the plaster work himself, but decided that it would be better for someone else to do it. I agree. Plaster work is so messy and I'd rather someone else clean up. It should be done by Wednesday. And then we (Tom) can start painting and refurbishing the windows.

The stress part of the weekend came because I've been dumping my stuff in that front bedroom and it's got to be totally empty for the plasterer to work. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I'm a packrat. And I acquired quite of bit of extra stuff from my grandmother's house (my mother's family saved everything). So I've got lots of fabric that would be good for rags and tons of Irish linen handkerchiefs, a couple of kalinskies (the dead fox wraps that were popular in the 30s or 40s), old hats, old sewing implements, some kitchenware and stuff. I tried to throw it away, but couldn't. Just like I couldn't bring myself to toss out some old silk dresses. I might be able to use the fabric to make a quilt. Or something. Sigh... So now all that stuff is in the other front bedroom which will become my "studio." It's a bit more organized than it was in the other room and I did take a quick inventory.

Foodwise...we had dinner at a friend's house last night and it so good. Everything was vegan (except the chocolate cake) and the recipes were from the Millenium cookbook. Millenium is a vegan restaurant in San Francisco. We started with some sort of tortilla torte that was served with a mango salsa. The main course was a polenta lasagna with mushrooms, spinach, a puttanesca sauce (sans anchovies) and a cashew cream. And there was a fennel, artichoke, and parmesan salad (okay, so that's not vegan). Yum, yum! I may have to find that cookbook and get it. I keep looking for different ways to cook tofu.

Tonight's dinner was Grilled Salmon with Thai Red Curry and Basmati Rice. It was served with a slaw made with green cabbage, cucumbers, fresh mint, and cilantro, with a rice vinegar and soy sauce dressing. The Thai red curry was quite tasty. Of course, anything made with curry and coconut milk is good. For dessert, I made mango with sticky rice, to use up the leftover coconut milk. For our listening pleasure, we played a CD by Vas (Feast of Silence). It's Middle Eastern in flavor and reminds me of Dead Can Dance's music.

And in knitting news, I finished the heel on the Top Down sock. Woo hoo! I think I've finally gotten the hang of picking up the wraps. A nice trick is to knit through the back loop when picking up and knitting the wraps. Doing so hides them quite nicely. And my stitches are behaving...not many have jumped off the needles lately. One did today, but I caught it before it could get away. If I'm lucky, maybe I'll have a sock finished by next weekend. Actually, I might finish the pair next weekend. We'll be in Charlottesville for the Charlottesville Marathon and Half Marathon. I'm not running; I've only run 7 miles since the Marine Corps Marathon last year. I feel guilty, but not too guilty. Tom is running and that means that I'll get some good knitting in. And I'll get to visit the knitting shop on the pedestrian mall. I can't remember its name, though. And it should be fun since I know more about knitting now than I did last year. Can we say "stash enhancement?"

Because of the renovations on the front bedroom, my spinning wheel has been relegated to (gasp) the closet. She'll come out again after the dust clears. And my husband is talking about taking a weekend climbing trip the last weekend in April. That will be a perfect time for me to knit, spin, and putter about in the garden.

It's late; I need to be up early tomorrow (the plasterer is coming at 7:30) and I need to clean up dinner and finish some laundry.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


What did I predict when I said it was too cold last weekend? That we'd go from winter to summer? Well, I wasn't far off. It got into the 80s today. Fortunately, the humidity stayed fairly low. My car was registering the outside temperature at 80 at 8:00pm! But, alas, I missed the day because I was at work. My husband suggested I take a day off during the week. That suggestion has merit. A warm day, sitting on the deck, knitting...or spinning...or both... Hmmm...

The plum tree is in full bloom and it smells so good, sort of spicy sweet, and almost like a corn tortilla. If all the stars and planets are aligned and the birds and squirrels behave, we might get some plums this year. We've been in this house for 8 years and have gotten enough plums for eating and making jam only once. Yum, yum!

This is a short post. It's not too late and I'd like to knit a couple of rows before bed...perhaps finish the heel on my sock.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

A River Runs Through It

The basement, that is. We've had about 3 inches of rain in the past week and after yesterday's rain, there are little rivers running through our basement. Thankfully most of them head straight to the sump pump and are gotten rid of. More troubling is the water that's beginning to ooze from the ceiling in the sunroom off our bedroom. It means that all the time Tom spent fixing the roof this past summer came to nought. There's still a major leak in the roof. Given that it's the original metal roof and the house is 99 years old, I suspect that we need to replace that roof. But that means that Tom is going to have to rip out the drywall and insulation and replace it and that's not going to be fun. After the heinous renovation project 2 years ago (we essentially ripped off the back of the house and rebuilt it and I was without a kitchen for 4 months), any thought of any kind of demolition work makes me want to run screaming from the house.

In nature news, all sorts of things are happening. The yard is greening up nicely (mostly weeds, I think, but hey, it's green), the forsythia is blooming, as is the quince and the periwinkle. The plum will probably be in full flower later is week, and the daffodils are blooming. I can see the tulip tree across the way and it too is blooming. Our neighbor's willow is greening. Spring is definitely here. I wish it were warmer and sunnier. Now that I've said that, we'll probably jump straight to 90 degrees and high humidity.

All winter we've had a hawk hanging around the neighborhood, but I haven't been able to identify it. It isn't a red-tail; it could be a broad-winged or a sharp-shinned hawk. Last Monday, it flew into a tree in our yard. I grabbed the binoculars, focused in on it, and danged if it didn't have a snake hanging from its talons! I feel sorry for the snake, but I've never seen a hawk catch a snake before. It eventually flew away, taking the snake with it. On Friday, I saw the hawk again, perched in another tree in our yard. And, it looked like it was building a nest. I've noticed a collection of small branches at the top of one of the trees and it clearly isn't a songbird nest. I hope the hawk takes up residence there. It would be a good omen, I think.

I volunteered at the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge a number of years ago, helping with the winter bird count. It was a great experience because I got to learn how to hold birds and better identify them. On the last day of the study, I was the first out to the mist nets and, lo and behold! There was a hawk in the net! We put it in the hawk bag and after all the other birds were identified, weighed and measured, and banded, we brought out the hawk. It was a female sharp-shinned hawk. She was very beautiful. The best part is I got to let her go. It was an amazing experience to hold a hawk, then let it go and watch it soar away. I think a piece of my heart went with her. And I still get teary-eyed thinking about it, even though it's been 14 years. Looking back, I think it was a defining moment in my life.

In knitting news, I've knit about 3 inches on the sock. While working on the ribbing this morning, I dropped 2 stitches (see, the stitches did jump off the needles!) and eventually got them back on and looking proper. It's almost time to start the short row heel, as I don't like my socks to be that long. No spinning recently, but I do gaze longingly at the spinning wheel every time I go past it.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

On Tension and Creativity

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I was having problems with loose tension on the purl rows when knitting continental. I don't have the problem when I knit with the English method. Last weekend (it seems so long ago!) I figured it out.

I have an odd English knitting style in that I transfer the right needle to the left hand, throw the working yarn with the right, transfer the right needle back to the right hand and knit (or purl) the stitch. This transferring makes the to-be-worked stitch on the left needle be close to the just-worked stitch on the right needle. As a result, the working yarn length is relatively short.

When I knit continental, I don't transfer the right needle from one hand to the other, allowing me to knit marginally faster (but I'm still the world's slowest knitter). However, I noticed that the tension on a gauge swatch for my next pair of socks was off...purl rows were looser. So, I analyzed the knit stitch (working yarn length is short)and the purl stitch (working yarn length is long). Aha! By knitting closer to the points and making sure that the to-be-worked stitch on the left needle is close to the just-worked stitch on the right needle, the tension of the knit and purl stitches are more even.

This revelation excites me. I'm getting better at analyzing and understanding the technical aspects of knitting and this is a very good thing. I now have to let go of the fear that all of the stitches are going to jump off the needles when knitting close to the points. I'm also finding that it's a lot easier to control the purl tension when knitting flat than when knitting in the round, especially on size 1.5 DPNs.

I cast on a new sock this morning. This is the Top Down sock pattern from Y2Knit. I started working on this pattern a couple of years ago, but couldn't get my head around short rows (I don't recommend learning to knit socks as the second project). And, I couldn't seem to get the sizing right; the cuff seemed too tight and I couldn't get it over my heel. I found a reference for sizing socks on the Interweave Knits web site and realized that I should be knitting the large size. My feet are sort of wide, but short. We'll see how well the large size works.

I did finish the first pair of socks. While they aren't perfect, they'll suffice. Here they are, in all their glory:

And the beginning of the new socks:

So what about creativity? For a large part of my life, I've done some kind of handwork. Crewelwork, cross-stitch, ribbon embroidery, spinning, weaving, crochet, knitting, quilting (wow, that's a wide variety). And people always say "Oh, you are so creative!" But, truth to tell, I don't feel creative. True, I'm making things. But I'm making things that other people have designed. And to me, that's not being truly creative. If I was really creative, I'd design it myself and make it myself. I suspect that I'm being too hard on myself. I don't have the experience to create my own designs...yet. As I learn more about gauge, stitches, patterns, etc., I'll get to that point. And don't forget the math. I'm going to have to get over my fear of math before I can design something that will fit a normal human. However, fear of math is easier to overcome than fear of spiders.

All this knitting and ruminating, not to mention the dreary day, has Jez snoozing.