Monday, May 29, 2006

Of Food and Yarn Shops

It's Spring (well, if feels like Summer today) and the best part is that our Farmers' Market is now open. Every Saturday from 9:00 to 1:00, farmers, bakers, and craftspeople sell their wares. When we moved to town almost nine years ago, there were very few vendors; now, there are folks selling everything from free-range beef to homemade salsa to cheese and yogurt to fleece and handspun yarn.

Liz, from Pocket Farm got me thinking about eating "local." So much of the food that we consume is imported and for a lot of people, highly processed. It's possible to get asparagus in the dead of winter, as well as strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. These fruits and veggies are imported from Central and South America. Think of the cost to transport them. Peaches can be had in March here in Virginia. Have you tasted one off-season? They are very un-peach-like. Think about the meals the average person eats--most likely it's a frozen meal, laden with sodium and preservatives.

There's a web site called Eat Local Challenge. Wander over there and read what the authors have to say. And if you aren't "eating local," think about ways you can incorporate more local food into your life. After you start getting food, especially produce, locally, at the peak of ripeness, you might never want to buy another peach from the regular grocery store again!

So what local food did we eat last night? Grilled green onions, grilled asparagus, and roasted new potatoes. We rounded out the meal with wild-caught grilled Alaskan salmon and halibut. That is definitely not local, but it is on the eco-friendly fish list.

Of Yarn Shops
Okay, so I'm going to do a little informal poll here. I've had this idea for about a year now to open my own yarn shop. And with every day that goes by, that idea gets stronger and stronger. If it comes to fruition, it's going to be more work than I can imagine, I'm going to take a huge cut in salary, and I won't have any time to knit or spin (and forget about picking up weaving again). And the business could fail. But still, that idea persists.

So, here are some questions that have been rolling around in my head and I need other knitters to provide the answers.

  1. What do you like best about your favorite yarn shop?

  2. What are the characteristics of your least favorite yarn shop?

  3. What do you think about the idea of combining a yarn shop with say, a coffee shop or a wine bar?

  4. Is there a particular yarn that you wish your yarn shop would carry?

  5. Describe the yarn shop of your dreams

You can post the answers in the comments or send an email to me at tlhsimondsAT verizonDOTnet. And thanks for helping out!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Wild Weekend

It's been an exciting weekend, nay, week, chez nous. On Wednesday, there was a fun-filled picnic at work at which I got to try my hand at playing cricket. For those of us who aren't comfortable with team sports, cricket's the ticket, especially if the majority of people playing haven't played it before. It's mostly a lot of standing around, interspersed with some bowling (or pitching to us Americans) and maybe some batting. You don't run bases, you run between two wickets, which aren't placed that far apart. And if your fellow batsman hits the ball far enough, you don't even have to run; the team automatically scores four or six runs, depending on the distance hit. And the best part? When you bowl, you get to throw like a girl! And you get to bounce the ball on the ground! How cool is that?

Yesterday morning was spent knitting and running some errands. Run of the mill stuff. However, after I got home, pandemonium ensued. Somehow a wren managed to get into the house. That in itself was not a problem. The problem was the cat was also in the house and doing her best to prove that she was a mighty huntress. I was yelling, the bird was fluttering, Jez was pouncing, and Tom was trying to get Jez away from bird. Feathers and fur were flying! Tom grabbed Jez and took her into another room. The poor wren was huddled on the floor underneath a table, trying to be very small. I gently picked it up in a towel (it didn't even move) and took it outside to the garden and examined it. The wings didn't look broken, there wasn't any damage other than most of its tailfeathers were gone. It simply sat in my hand, beak opening and closing. Its eyes slowly closed and I thought it was dying. Then, after a few minutes, it flew away, despite its missing tail.

The rest of the day was spent visiting wineries in Rappahannock County with our friend, Leigh. We visited Farfelu, Unicorn, Rappahannock Cellars, and Gray Ghost. All the wines we tasted were quite tasty, even some of the reds. Virginia is not known for high quality red wines, but they are getting much better. I found them to be undrinkable ten years ago, but now I could probably drink a glass of some of the reds. The terroir in the reds comes throug loud and clear for me; the reds have a very mineral or chemical characteristic. For some reason, it is not noticeable in the white wines. A couple of the vineyards had some excellent local musicians playing. It was a wonderful way to spend an absolutely gorgeous day.

Before we headed back to Leesburg, we had dinner at Four and Twenty Blackbirds, which specializes in food using local ingredients. The menu changes frequently and the food was excellent. At first glance, the menu is expensive, but the portions are large (leftovers!), giving you a good value. The wine list is small, but good, and very reasonable. I don't think there was a wine that was priced over $50. And that is very unusual in these parts. We would definitely go back.

I plan to spend today and tomorrow (gotta love a long weekend!) getting some chores done around the house. The dust buffalo are getting a little out of control. There will be knitting, of course. And if all goes well, maybe some spinning on the deck. Chris is inspiring me. Go check out her new wheel!

And finally, pictures!

The swatch for my Trek Along with Me socks...I definitely think Jaywalker will be a good match for this yarn.

And the blanket:

I just started the sixth ball this morning. You are looking at 158 rows, with at least that many more to go. To put a little more pressure on this knitting, the baby arrived Thursday a week ago, 11 days early. Ack!

Must knit fast!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Okay, I think things are finally beginning to get back to normal. I'm home again and back at work. Mom continues to get better every day. And the best part? The final pathology showed her to be clear of cancer. We couldn't have hoped for more. The family is breathing a major sigh of relief.

So, what's on the agenda for this Libran? The never-ending baby blanket (I'm seeing the end of ball 5) is top priority. This effort involves a daily 5:30 a.m. knitting session (yawn!) and if I'm lucky, a little bit of knitting in the evening. The Blue Danube sock is cast aside again for the (you guessed it) never-ending baby blanket, and as of June 1, for a pair of Jaywalker socks, knit in Trekking XXL #100 for Margene's Trek Along with Me knit along. This picture doesn't really do the yarn justice (my swatch is much more subdued). I'm pretty excited about my new sock adventure. And best of all, it gives me a chance to get out and take a hike, assuming I can pry my husband away from his running persuade my husband to take a post-run hike some Saturday or Sunday. Hiking opportunities abound near my home--there's the Appalachian Trail, the W&OD Trail (quite nice for an urban/suburban/rural trail), and any number of trails at Great Falls National Park. Maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to get in a backpacking trip.

And I've decided to knit my mom a new boob. No, seriously! I read about it in the latest issue of Interweave Knits, which was delivered right after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It's a great idea and it should be a fast, fun knit. Especially if I use a cashmere/silk blend or some other luxurious yarn. And if Mom decides to go with the reconstruction surgery, it will be a memorial boob. You can find the pattern here.

That's it for now. Hopefully I'll get a chance to take some pictures this weekend.

Happy knitting!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Quick Update

I'm still at my parent's house and plan to go back home tomorrow. Mom came through the surgery fine on Thursday and came home from the hospital on Friday. The initial biopsy showed that the lymph nodes were clear; we'll get the final report on Tuesday. Mom is in pretty good spirits and with the help of Percocet, is not in a lot pain. I'm thinking that they should rename Percocet to "Perky-cet" because Mom has become quite chatty.

Thanks to everyone who kept Mom in their thoughts and prayers. We couldn't have hoped for a better outcome. Our circle of family and friends (which definitely includes my blogging acquaintences) is amazing. I'm deeply grateful and humbled.

I've been able to get a fair amount of knitting done this weekend. The Blue Danube sock has grown a little bit and I'm on the fifth ball (out of 12) for the blanket. I started swatching for my Trekking XXL socks for the Trek with Me knitalong, but quickly discovered that I can't knit and translate charts or instructions from knitting in the round to flat knitting. At least I've got an idea of gauge in stockinette. Does anyone have any suggestions for a pattern that would look good with color #100? It stripes very subtly.

And for my One Skein "Seekrit" Pal, here are my answers:
  1. Which yarn is most like your personality (you can be specific or general with your answer- brand, type, color, fiber, whatever)?

  2. Hmmm...some would say dishrag cotton! I think I would say cashmere/silk...elegant, but casual (okay, that's what I wannabe). Colors would be muted, earthy tones...(understated elegance?)

  3. What is your favorite color yarn to knit/crochet with?

  4. Given that most of my knitting recently has been for gifts, I don't really have a favorite. But when I'm in a yarn store, I gravitate to pinks, greens, purples, reds, and some others.

  5. Have you ever used variegated, or magic, yarns?

  6. Yes, with interesting results. The jury is still out, but I think I like them. They certainly are easy!

  7. Do you tend to favor certain fibers when choosing yarns?

  8. Natural fibers!!! I am a yarn snob, but mostly because I hate the way most synthetic fibers feel as they move through my hands. However, I do try to keep an open mind.

  9. Do you prefer to work with center-pull or traditionally wound balls of yarn?

  10. Either is fine; I have a swift and a ball winder.

  11. Have you ever worked with organic yarns or are you interested in trying them?

  12. I have not worked with them and I am definitely interested in trying them. I've had my eye on Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton for the robe that was in a past issue of Interweave Knits.

  13. How many and what projects have you made in the last year?

  14. Oh goodness...several hats, some scarves, mittens, baby blankets, a couple pairs of socks...see the list of FOS on my blog (pay no attention to the UFOS).

  15. Will you be knitting any gifts this year?

  16. Absolutely. Some socks and a baby blanket. Maybe some more hats and a couple of children's sweaters.

  17. What is your favorite one skein project?

  18. Well, I haven't worked much with one skein projects, but I would say socks. I did knit a small scarf for my niece using one skein. It was extremely satisfying and relatively quick.

  19. How much yarn do you have in your stash and how do you store it?

  20. I don't know. I'll have to take an inventory. I've got one large flat Rubbermaid contain filled, and another one partially filled. As stashes go, mine is rather modest.

  21. Do you have a yarn in your stash that you love so much you can never use it or part with it?

  22. Not really, but I do have several yarns in my stash that are destined for something I design, after I get over my fear of failure.

  23. Do you knit less or differently in the summer?

  24. Not really. I might not be knitting with worsted anything (cotton is extremely sticky in the humidity). Maybe more socks?

  25. Do you belong to any knitting groups (online or offline)?

  26. I occasionally attend the Loudoun Knitters group, but mostly I knit solo.

GTB starts in 5 minutes! I wish we could be there. Maybe next year...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mush Brain

I decided that I have had enough with the blanket. Oh, I'll continue to knit on it and it will be finished soon sometime after the baby is born. Knitnthings asked why not just leave off the French knots? Well, the couple for whom this blanket is intended is Greek and Tom thought it would be nice to make a blanket in the colors of the Greek flag. It's obvious that I wasn't thinking clearly ("Oh, what a pretty blanket. Aren't the French knots adorable!) and that I could have easily picked a blanket that didn't require embroidering over 500 French knots in Greek flag blue. Sigh...

So, I picked up the Blue Danube sock again. I had knit part of a round at the Knit Bloggers' Knoll at MDS&W and figured it would make good lunch time knitting or car knitting. I couldn't believe what I saw...the knitting was a mess. An absolute mess! The first pattern round is *sl3 purlwise, p3; repeat from *. Simple enough, right? Nope. I got the slippin' right, but seemed to get my knit and purl stitches mixed up (I think the whack of knit bloggers really freaked me out). So off to the frog pond on round 8. But my troubles were not over. I knit the one 12-round pattern repeat and and first half of the second repeat (which are the same). I managed to keep my knit and purl stitches straight, but got off on the count somewhere. The pattern was very off-kilter. I counted and counted and couldn't figure it out. So off the the frog pond again. This time I ripped back the whole thing and started over. The sock is looking much better.

Musings about Mother's Day
I didn't get a chance to visit my mother yesterday, but we did send flowers and I'll be making a trip down home on Wednesday to help out after her mastectomy. Mom has such a great attitude about the breast cancer. Actually Mom has a great attitude about almost everything. She's a very strong and determined woman and I admire her and love her a lot (don't get teary-eyed when you read this, Mom!). I suspect that she's doing much better with all this than I am.

But anyway, this the first year that I've noticed that pretty much all the cashiers in our local grocery stores kept telling me "Happy Mother's Day!" I'm not a mother and at this stage in my life, I'm probably not going to become one. How did I react? I smiled and said "Thank you, to you too." But that got me thinking. Is it because I'm clearly a woman of a certain age and wearing a wedding ring that people automatically think I have children? What do you think? Is it polite to wish a total stranger a happy "insert generic holiday here" when you don't have an inkling of their personal situation? I wasn't offended, but it did make feel rather odd.

We did get a chance to visit my mother-in-law. We cooked dinner and delivered it to her (she hates to cook, so cooked meals are alway a good gift). I made Rick Bayless' Grilled Salmon Vera Cruz with Lemon-and-Thyme-Scented Salsa, a spicy black bean and chile salad, Fruit Salad with Cannoli Cream (from Everyday Italian). Fortunately, everything could be made ahead and didn't require an final cooking. All of these dishes would be perfect for a picnic. And it was all quite yummy. A good time was had by all.

My apologies for lack of pictures this post. The blanket looks much like it did last week except longer and the sock is almost ready to be photographed.

My next post will probably be from my parents' house. In the meantime, have a great week and for those of you in the Northeast, don't float away!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Fleece That Got Away

It's time to reminisce (and do a little show-and-tell) about my trip last week to Maryland Sheep and Wool. As I've already mentioned, there was a lot of fiber and fiber-producing critters there. There were also knit bloggers in their natural habitat and it was a lot of fun to watch everyone and wonder if they blogged. I never did get up enough courage to approach someone and ask "Excuse me, do you have a blog?" But I did meet some very nice bloggers at the knit bloggers convergence on the grassy knoll.

So, on to fiber and the fleece that got away.

One of my goals for Maryland Sheep and Wool was to buy a whole fleece and clean, card, and spin it up. But as I was looking for a fleece, it became clear to me that that would be a whole lot of work and I had almost decided to buy a lot of roving. Almost, because I came to one booth that had the most gorgeous fleece I ever did see. It was silvery-grey Coopworth,very lustrous, with a nice long staple and crimp. The locks were soft and smooth and lanolin-y and very, very clean. The fleece weighed in at almost six pounds and seemed to be priced right. Should I buy it? Will I have the time to be able to do it justice? I was almost ready to commit when another woman stopped and admired it. She also wanted it. Oh what to do, what to do? I accepted reality and did the honourable thing...I let her have it. Regrets? Of course. But I wrote down the name of the sheep and the vendor. That fleece is mine next year!

So, what did I get last weekend? A little bit of yarn:

From left to right, Jade Sapphire Cashmere Silk (800 yards!) in Vintage Rose, some hand-dyed Spirit Trail sock yarn, and two skeins of Duet from Brooks Farm Fibers.

I also bought a little bit of fiber:

From left to right (my apologies for the fuzziness), some beautiful dark grey and brown Border Leicester wool (from the same vendor of the fleece that got away), a bit of merino/silk roving in reds from Shadyside Farm, and a hand-painted Clun Forest/Cormo roving from Spirit Trail. The pink reminds me of cotton candy. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it. If I can perfect my spinning, it might make an interesting pair of socks.

Of Secret Pals and Knit Alongs
The One Skein Secret Pal thingy has started. This is my first Secret Pal event and it should be fun. I already have some ideas for my secret pal, but I'll have to see what her yarn preferences are.

Margene and Norma are hosting a Trek Along which starts June 1st. It's simple, just grab some of the yummy Trekking XXL yarn hiding in your stash, start knitting a pair of socks, and take a hike (or two or three) with said socks-in-progress. This is my first knit along, too. I'm hoping that it will help get Tom and me back into hiking a little more (the Appalachian Trail is so close!) and that I'll be able to get some Extreme Knitting pictures.

And speaking of Extreme Knitting, I'm still accepting photos. You can find the details of Extreme Knitting here. Scroll down to the July 12th post.

Have a wonderful Saturday!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Just a Quickie

I probably won't post photos of the stash enhancement until this weekend. It seems like there isn't all that much time in the evenings after I get home from work. Plus, if I don't take the photos until the weekend, I'll be much less tempted to start working on a new project...say a new pair of socks or Clapotis? much yarn, so little time.

All work on the current socks and the Jenna sweater has ceased. My focus is on the baby blanket, which is coming along oh so slowly. I've knit 75 rows so far and am on the third ball of yarn and the blanket barely measures 9-1/4 inches. The baby for which it is destined isn't due to make his grand entrance until the end of May, so I have a little time. What is beginning to worry me, though, is the fact that I have to embroider French knots in the center of each cable. There are 16 columns of cables and each cable is about an inch long. There are about 36 inches of blanket length which means that I need to make approximately 576 French knots (someone please tell me I did the math wrong!).

I think the baby is going to get the blanket late.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Like a Virgin

A Maryland Sheep and Wool virgin, that is. What can I say, other than "Oooohhhhh!"

It was good. It was beyond good. It was amazing. It was amazing on many levels.

First, there were a lot of sheep there. And goats. And bunnies. And llamas and alpacas. All were very cute. The sheep smelled, well, like sheep and that's a very good smell. Yes, I know, I'm weird. Most people think barnyards stink. I think they smell earthy and good.

Look at these guys:

Mohair goats (or more like mohair goat butts). Aren't they adorable? The sheep were too numerous to photograph, but they came in all shapes and sizes. And voices! Some sheep had deep base baaaa's while others had "normal" baaaa's. I had no idea that sheep had deep voices. It fascinated me to no end.

The other thing that was good was being amongst my own kind. I mean, where else can you see thousands of women (and men) fingering raw fleece and toting bags and bags of the stuff? Kindred spirits, we were. Not to mention all the yarn and roving and top.

And then there were these fine ladies:

A whack of knit bloggers. And that wasn't all of us. Wendy and her cadre were a bit to right of us so we all picked up and trooped over there. It was awesome. And because there were so many people around, the old shyness kicked in. You'd think that after being out of high school for say 30 years that I'd get over feeling like I was tagging along behind the popular folks. But I met these fine knitters from Dallas, who helped me get over that feeling:

From left to right, that's Nanc, Petra (of 200Sox fame), and Chris. They had their own t-shirts and blog business cards! I need to do that for next year.

I also met Jody and Linda, her mother (and, alas, blogless), OneCraftyBitch, Melanie, Maggi and Suzanne.

It felt so right to be with other knitters, since I knit solo most of the time. Everyone hung around on the grassy knoll for about an hour or so and drifted away for more stash enhancement.

And of course, there was stash enhancement on my part, too. But not in a big way. A little sock yarn, some Duet for Clapotis, some fleece for spinning, a bit of roving, a little bit of cashmere/silk. And then there was the fleece that got away (more on that next time). Stash pictures will be posted the next time we get some sun. I don't think the flash will do justice to all the different colors.

In the meantime, happy knitting!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Do You See What I See?

After my 5:30a.m. knitting session (wherein I did not have to tink, I think) and after my 7:00a.m. weight training session, I drove to work (after making the appropriate change in clothes and such). And wouldn't you know it, the car in front of me (a Chevy Subdivision) had this bumper sticker on it: MSWF. And this one: My other vehicle is a spinning wheel. And this one:

I think a saw a vendor.

It's clearly a message.

Even if I have to go by myself.

In knitting news, I knit another two rows on the blanket tonight. I got to the end of the purl row, turned and started working the next pattern row. Ruh roh...something is not right. Danged if I didn't forget another yarn over at the beginning of the last pattern row (this is getting old, very old). So I tinked back the purl row and assessed the situation. I didn't want to tink back a cable row; I really didn't. So I slipped the stitches onto another needle, picked up the yarn where the yarn over should have been and created a new yarn over in situ. A quick slip of the stitches back to the working needles, and I'm on my way. Woo hoo! I'm so proud of myself.

Tomorrow? Another 5:30a.m. knitting session, followed by a 2-mile walk at 6:15a.m. One day I'm going to start running again.