Thursday, July 27, 2006

Happy Camper

I'm a happy camper today! I finally got my car back from the body shop. No more rental car that smells like an ashtray! The shop did a good job, but I'm going to have to take it back in 30 days to get it wet sanded and buffed. Because of the heat we've been experiencing, the new paint dimpled. But other than that, they did a great job. It feels so good to have my own car back!

We fly out to San Francisco early tomorrow morning. Tom will be running the San Francisco Marathon on Sunday. I won't be, but I'll be cheering him (and fifty million other runners) on. Maybe I'll get pictures of the sock's travels. But given my record so far, that's pretty slim. After we get back from San Francisco, we head down to the Outer Banks for a week at the beach with Tom's family. The group is going to be smaller this year. Both my brother- and sister-in-law have to work. And I'm not sure how many kids (young adults, now...yikes!) will be there. They seem to have all gone their own ways.

So the cat/house sitter is scheduled, the laundry is in process, and packing is about to begin. I might do a quick post on Tuesday before we head out again, but I'll bore you with provide full details on my return.

Happy weekend!

Monday, July 24, 2006

A Shower of Love

That's the name of the pattern for the baby blanket, from Leisure Arts Our Best Knit Baby Afghans. As promised yesterday, here is a picture of the finished blanket (click the picture for a larger view):

Here's the detail of the knots (a little fuzzy, sorry 'bout that):

A friend asked me today if I'll be taking a break from the 5:30 a.m. knitting sessions. I wish, but I've been getting up at 5:30 for so long now, it's become habit! The hope is to take some of the knitting time and turn it into exercise, meditation, or yoga time. We'll intentions are good, but then I get lazy.

Happy knitting!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Praise the Lord and Pass the Metates!

Hallelujah! The baby blanket is done! I finished the 592nd French knot at 9:17 this morning. The blanket is now blocking and will be delivered to Mom, Dad, and Baby on Tuesday. I certainly hope they like it. And yes, there will be a picture, but later.

We have another friend whose wife will deliver in a couple of weeks. I had planned to knit a bear or some other stuffed animal. But yesterday morning, as I was embroidering French knots, Tom says to me "Why don't you make them a quilt?" And me, being quintessentially me, gulped and blinked and said "Okay."

I've made one quilt in my life, for my brother's second son. That quilt was hand-pieced and hand-quilted and it was a dang good piece of work, if I do say so myself. My second attempt at quilting was a king-sized quilt, machine-pieced. It's in pieces, in the attic, and I'll probably never finish it. Tom's idea is to find Superman flannel fabric (assuming it's a boy) and cut out squares and sew them together with the machine and then machine quilt it. Thirty minutes to cut out the squares and a couple of hours to sew them together and then another couple of hours to quilt it. doesn't work that way. It also means that I need to re-aquaint myself with my sewing machine and try to sew a straight line. And given our schedule for the next couple of weeks, I won't be able to even start looking for fabric until the second week in August. And quilt sewing cannot happen in the wee hours of the morning because my fiber room is next to the bedroom. I'm going to have to think on this.

In knitting news, I've started the second Rasta Colors hat and the Jaywalker sock is a little bigger. I'm almost at the point where I can start knitting my mother's boob. I'll use the leftover Martina, so it should be nice and soft. The boob might become the new early morning knit.

Eating Local
I joined One Local Summer where at least one dinner each week is made of all local ingredients. So far, I've done pretty badly, mostly due to poor planning. I do okay with the veggies and fruit, but the main dinner ingredient isn't local at all. I suppose I could search out rockfish or make meatloaf from the ground beef from our local cattle farmer, but I keep forgetting. Oh well. I'll do better after we get back from San Francisco and the beach.

Nonetheless, I'm trying to eat as locally and organically as possible. It's nice to have a farmers market within walking distance and I stock up on veggies to grill later in the week. The only way to cook at the height of summer is to grill outside. I've found a source for local eggs (not that we eat a lot of them) and possibly for local milk, too. There are some things that I don't think are produced locally (wheat, sugar, all manner of spices). But that's been the way of it for hundreds of years. Most spices were imported from the Orient.

My apologies for this brief foray into politics. The current conflict between Israel and Lebanon (more accurately, Hezbollah) is breaking my heart. In my opinion, the aggression from both sides is uncalled for and is causing too much suffering. Phil from the running club put it rather eloquently. "Escalation leads to...escalation." The more rockets that are fired, the harder Israel will strike, which will lead to more rockets being fired and lead to more retaliation. It's a positive feedback loop that doesn't have a good end.

Why can't everyone get along?

Monday, July 17, 2006


"Joyful" describes the weekend perfectly! There is something incredibly special about spending a weekend with amazingly talented, creative, and strong and caring women. It was a weekend of discovery and exploration and learning to let go of expectations and frustrations.

Marcia and I arrived at the camp in the early evening, a little later than planned because traffic around Harrisburg was terrible. Even so, we were the first ones there. We set up our sleeping quarters (I chose to stick to my tent because there were too many spiders in the cabin) and rearranged the lodge to be more conducive to the weekend's activities. As the other women began to arrive (about 30 in all), we helped them unload their gear. We had pizza and salad for dinner and a wonderful berry crisp for dessert, not to mention fascinating conversation as we became acquainted with one another.

Despite going to be late, I woke up early (you tend to be up with sun when sleeping in a tent) and got some quiet time knitting and reading. The Joy Weekend officially started with the opening circle. Each woman was invited to bring into the circle a woman who has been a guiding force in her life. It was very emotional and very powerful to hear everyone speak of their friends, mothers, teachers, and even pets.

Saturday was full of crafty activities, of which learning how to do mosaic was the high point. Marcia's sister Gretchen recently took a class in mosaic and that was her contribution to the weekend. Unfortunately, the mosaic area was very crowded all day, so I didn't get to make a mosaic. I did make a pinwheel and a beaded bracelet.

My idea of teaching knitting also didn't work the way I had hoped. I didn't have any structure or a project in mind and that might have been part of it. Several women said that I (or rather my sock) inspired them to take up knitting again, so perhaps I'll have better luck next year. I taught Marcia how to knit and did manage to make some progress on the second Trekking sock.

Saturday's dinner was amazing. Marcia made chicken and lamb (and unfortunately nearly torched herself in the process), Gretchen brought an amazing eggplant parmesan, and there was the usual assortment of salads and side dishes. These women can cook and even more importantly, they know how to eat! After dinner was cleared and the kitchen cleaned, a couple of women started drumming and several of us started dancing. What a great feeling to move with abandon! After dancing, we set up for the evening's entertainment, which was a series of skits that had been prepared during the day. Each "troupe" was given a bag of costumes and props and a list of words to be used during the skit. The kids did an amazing job. There was also singing. Julianne, who is quite young, sang a couple of blues songs that were incredible. Laurie, Marcia's older sister, sang a couple of songs and invited the rest of us to join in. And we did. It was so much fun! The evening had a feel of stepping back in time when entertainment was something you actively participated in. Today it happens to us, with television and movies and recorded music. We tend to be observers, not participants.

Sunday morning was the perfect time to try my hand at mosaic. It was quiet, no one else was around. I discovered that I tend to be more creative early in the morning or perhaps I'm more creative when I'm alone. Gretchen brought a variety of tiles and glass and stones. I learned how to cut the glass to get the shape I wanted for my design. It took all morning and a little bit of the afternoon to complete the piece. I'm very pleased with the way it came out and can't wait to see what it will look like after I've grouted it.

Here are my FOs from the weekend:

Knitting Progress

Here's the first Jaywalker, off the needles and on my foot:

And there's not much else to see. Sock #2 is a little longer. I haven't made any progress on the scarf or blanket, and I haven't cast on for my nephew's rasta hat. And no spinning, either. Although I do have a lead on some local alpaca and I'll track that down later this week.

May you find joy in all you do this week.

Friday, July 14, 2006


I'm taking today off to compensate for having to work over the Fourth of July weekend. As luck would have it, one of our running companions invited me to a women's retreat up near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This "Joy Weekend" was started several years ago by her mother, about a year before she passed away. Marcia and her sisters have continued the tradition and it now encompasses family, their friends, and friends of friends, and their daughters. The theme for the weekend is Color, which should be interesting given that I'm trying to get more adventurous with color. There will also be drumming, food, skits, hiking, swimming, and general relaxation and hilarity.

The weekend promises to be hot and humid, which might put a damper (literally) on my plan to teach knitting. I left my "teaching" skein at work and the only yarn that I could find after rummaging through my stash was a wool/cotton blend. From past experience, wool/cotton, high humidity, and knitting don't mix. I might wander down to the Ben Franklin to see what nice wool yarns they have. And it might be useful to pick up a couple of extra sets of aluminum needes. High humidity, knitting, and wood needles don't mix, either.

Car News
The good news is that my car is not totaled. It was on the threshold, with about $5500 worth of damage. The bad news is that it is going to take a long time to fix. The shop estimates that it will be done on July 28th. Apparently, it takes a long time to get Volvo parts. But the good news is that I don't have to go car shopping this weekend.

Also in car news, I haven't seen any more spiders in the car, little or otherwise. The smell is also diminishing, but now a cigarette odor is beginning to make itself known. I don't understand why people treat things that they rent worse than things they own. I was raised that if you use something that is not yours, you treat it as good as, if not better, than your own things. Am I hopelessly old-fashioned?

Knitting Progess
On the baby blanket front, I've completed four columns of French knots. It takes about an hour per column, not including weaving in the ends. I'm doing that as I go along because I can't stand the thought of having to weave in hundreds of ends all at once. I estimate I've got about 16 more hours of work on the blanket.

In Trekking news, one sock is done and the other is in progress! That will be one of my projects of choice while on retreat and maybe, just maybe, the sock will go on a hike with me and be photographed. The pair will definitely be fraternal twins, despite my best efforts at finding a similar color progression. I don't think it exists for this colorway.

Now that the blanket and the socks are winding down (I'm optimistic, no?), it's time to cast about and on for a new project. Tom's nephew wants a rasta hat like I knit for my nephew, so that will be my other project for this weekend. The drawback is that it's cotton, so depending on how humid it is, that might be a non-starter. But that particular hat pattern knits up fairly quickly and if I'm lucky, I'll have it finished by the time we go to the beach, which is when I'll see him next.

Thanks for the comments and suggestions on the scarf. I did a little research into how to block silk yarn and it seems like I should be able to block it so both sides are similar. The yarn is not Lion and Lamb (good guess!), but is Artyarns Royal Silk, color 123. That will be a beach trip project.

In Stitches
And finally, I registered for a whole slew of classes at Stitches East in November. Even though I registered online the first day, I'm not sure that I was able to get my first choices. I checked them the second day of registration and most of my first choices were filled. I just hope that I'm one of the ones filling them! They had over 500 people register the first day. Amazing. It's going to be a bit frustrating to be at Stitches and know that I'm going to have to severely limit the amount of yarn I buy. As I was making balls of yarn for this weekend, Tom wandered in, took one look at my stash and said "Do you think you have enough yarn?" The obvious answer is "No, you can never have too much yarn." The reality is that my stash is pretty small, less than two plastic storage bins. And most of my stash was bought mindfully, with an idea for a particular project. Tom doesn't have any idea of size of most knitters' stashes.

That's it for now. Time to finalize packing for this weekend. I'll post pictures when I return.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Rental Car Woes

I don't consider my identity to be tied to the car I drive. In fact, I'm sometimes embarrassed to be driving what I consider a "luxury" car (a Volvo S70). But it turns out that some part of understanding my place in society at large is indeed tied to the car I drive.

Given that my car is going to be at the shop for a couple of weeks, I opted for the lowest car on the car rental menu, to minimize any out-of-pocket expenses. What I got was a Kia Rio whose driver-side door wouldn't lock or unlock with the key, that vibrated at highway speeds, and whose gas cap tether was broken. And it only had 27,000 miles on it. I arranged for an upgrade, partly because it's a major pain
to have to unlock the passenger side to unlock the driver side and partly because I was sort of embarassed to be driving a car of such ilk (my apologies to any readers who do drive a car of such ilk. I'm not really a snob). Plus my dislike of Kias stretches back 10 years when we made an epic trek over the Cascade mountains on our honeymoon in the dead of winter in a blizzard in a tiny Kia SUV. But that's a story for another day.

On Saturday, I went to the rental car place to pick up the new car. They suggested another Kia, which I turned down, and they offered instead a Ford Focus, which then they couldn't find. We finally settled on a Mazda 6, which seemed to be a solid car. It seems to drive well, but this car smells like someone spilled a bottle of cheap perfume in it. The smell was so strong that I left the car open all day to air out. And I had to wash my clothes because they had absorbed the smell (from about a three-minute drive home). The car also has another that is a potential safey hazard.

It might be infested with spiders.

Let that sink in for a minute. This car is going to be driven by a woman who, when Sheepish Annie recounted her adventures with a spider, let out an involuntary shriek and jumped out of her chair.

After I got home, I noticed a spider nestled by one of the back windows of the car; I got an appropriately long stick, and with much shrieking, managed to flick it away from the car. Then I noticed something that looked suspiciously like a spider egg sack (empty, of course) on the passenger side view mirror. As I was wiping down the inside of the car in a futile attempt to rid it of the smell, I noticed a tiny spider on the dashboard. And I noticed a tiny spider crawling on me after I closed up the car for the night (it didn't register that it was a spider until after I brushed it off).

This is bad, very bad.

Why can't I get a nice, clean, non-smelly, non-spidery, working car?

In Knitting News

I've woven in the ends and started the French knots. See?

(The knots are more noticeable in real life.)

My idea is working, so the knots will go faster than I was fearing, but still not fast enough. It's hard to see, but I'm running the yarn for the French knots up the back of cables.

And finally, I need your expert opinions. This is the fledgling scarf for my One Skein secret pal. I think the yarn works nicely with the Milanese lace pattern, but I'm unsure about the left side. It angles out more than the right side. What do you think? Is it a keeper or should I go back to the drawing board?

And finally, I'm closing in on the toe of the Jaywalker. And even better, the gauge gods didn't smack me down. The sock fits like a If I get some knitting in today, I might even be able to finish it. I think I'm going to love wearing this pair of socks!

Thursday, July 06, 2006


I can't say "Thank you" enough to my One Skein secret pal! On Monday, this arrived in the mail:

My secret pal spun it herself, for li'l ol' me! It's 400 yards of two-ply, fingering weight, superwash merino. And it's handpainted, too! The yarn is so soft, but my pal says that it's very durable. This yarn is going to make a very special pair of socks. It's going to be such fun finding the perfect pattern for it. I only hope my sock knitting skills can do it justice.

The yarn wasn't the only thing in the package. My pal also included a bar of Dagoba organic chocolate, chai flavor. This description on the label says "rustic grown organic milk chocolate infused with crystallized ginger and chai essence." I had a little taste earlier.'ve never, never had such yummy milk chocolate. It's going to take all of my will power not to devour the bar in one sitting. If their milk chocolate is this good, I wonder what their dark chocolate is like.

Thank you, Secret Pal. I am honored and awed by your gift.

Knitting Progress
I was hoping that I'd have some time to knit on the Fourth of July. But, that didn't happen. I didn't get any knitting in. I did, however, get a 6-mile walk in. The Trek with Me sock stayed in the car while I walked. (I'm not doing so well with this knit along. One sock is almost completed, but I haven't taken any hikes with said sock.) Coffee afterwards at the local coffee shop, and then home to knitting. Or not, as the case might be. When we got home, there was an invitation on the answering machine to an impromptu cookout at a friend's house. The afternoon was spent doing that, which was a lot of fun, even if it didn't involve knitting. And then it was back to Leesburg to meet up with the Loudoun Road Runners at Ida Lee Park to watch the fireworks. I must say that the town puts on quite a nice display, even though there was no knitting involved.

My other knitting projects are stalled. The blanket still needs to have its ends woven in and then I can start on the French knots. Do you think I'm not weaving in the ends just so I don't have to do the knots? The Jaywalker is languishing on the needles. My other UFOs are still, well, UFOs. The bright spot is that I've started knitting my One Skein gift for my giftee. It's a handpainted silk yarn and I'm trying out various lace patterns for a small scarf. I thought that I'd enjoy knitting with silk, but I'm finding it difficult to work with. I started with wooden needles, but the yarn just wouldn't slide, so I switched to Addi Turbos. The Addis are working much better, but the points are a little blunt. I'm finding that the yarn is splitting. After I get into the pattern a little more, I'll post a picture.

In Other News
Today did not start well. I hit a deer on the way to work which put both the deer (which is now one of the "deerly" departed) and my Volvo out of commission. I really wasn't expecting a deer to come streaking across a busy highway at 9:00 in the morning. But streak it did and it did a number on my car's front end. Fortunately, it didn't come through the windshield (which was the thought that flew through my mind as I collided with the deer) and I'm not hurt. So most of the morning was spent dealing with insurance, body shops, and rentals. I won't get an estimate until early next week and the shop expects to have the car for at least two weeks. I don't have a rental yet because the car rental place didn't have any cars ; hopefully, they'll have one come in this afternoon.

Okay...That's it for now. This turned into a longer post than I anticipated. I really ought to post more often!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Blanket Has Left the Needles

It's true. I cast off Friday morning. And since then, I've knit only one round on the Jaywalker. No weaving in of ends, no starting of new projects, no (whimper) embroidering of 602 French knots on said blanket.

The reason? Work. Work from the office has intruded into my fibery world. "What!?" you exclaim "It's the weekend. It's potentially a long weekend!" Yes, my friends, I know. But there was a proposal with a deadline looming and work needed to be done. Fortunately, I wasn't the only one. And fortunately, I could work from the comfort of my own home (where my spinning wheel and stash were taunting me). A couple of hours on Saturday, ten hours today. But at least I'm done until tomorrow.

But fear not...there was some fiber in my weekend. Yesterday morning, Blogless Beth and I wandered over to Hunt Country Yarns for the first day of their month-long sale. Unfortunately, none of the yarn that I was looking for was on sale. But I completed my shopping for my secret pal. As soon as I finish this post, I'm going to start swatching for her final gift.

I also got my hair done. It needed to be trimmed in a big way and the grey was beginning to be a little too prominent. So off to the stylist's I went. My hair doesn't quite look like this but then, neither do I. But that was the general idea. And the grey is still a little too prominent. In fact, as soon as I got home, Tom remarked about the amount of grey in my hair. Sigh...some days you just can't win.

In response to the Sheep's question about the soggy kitty, said kitty is fine. She was a bit damp after coming in, but not drenched. She absolutely loves being outside in the evening. While she mostly sleeps on her cushion on the deck, she occasionally forays into the garden, in hopes of snagging some unwary birds. And apparently that night, she wasn't going to let a lot of rain stop her.