Sunday, December 30, 2007

Uh Oh

I've been knitting the second Gentleman's Fancy Sock all week, with the goal of having the sock finished by New Year's Eve, so Tom could wear them that night. As I was knitting early yesterday morning, it seemed very likely that I would actually achieve that goal. I was within 20 rows of reaching the toe when I looked at the amount of yarn left. "Hmmm," says I, "It seems like I've got an awful lot of yarn left." At this point on the first sock, I was beginning to wonder if I was going to have enough yarn to finish the sock. A nagging suspicion crept into my mind. I pulled out the first sock, matched it to the second sock at the heel, and...



Yep, my suspicion was right. The second sock is smaller. I matched gauge on the cuff, the first pattern repeat and possibly the heel. Other than that, every thing is knit at a tighter gauge. I made Tom try on the second sock to be sure. Try as he might, he couldn't get the second sock over his heel. A quick gauge check revealed that the first sock pattern repeat and foot is knit at my standard 10spi on 2mm needles. The second sock is knit somewhere between 11 and 12 spi. So, dear readers, the second sock is headed for Frog Pond. On the return trip, it will be knit on 2.25mm needles. And you can bet that I'll be checking gauge throughout.

The lack of an active sock presented somewhat of a problem yesterday afternoon. What could I knit on the drive up to my mother-in-law's? It takes about an hour or so to get there. I pulled the Counterpoised shawl off the shelf and figured that I could make a bit of progress on that.

Trouble-free knitting is clearly not in the stars for me right now.

The first row I knit presented no problems as it was a purl row. The second row was a pattern row. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get the pattern repeat to come out right. The border and the first 12-stitch repeat looked fine and after that everything fell apart. I unknit, looked at what I had, and tried again. No luck. It didn't help matters that we were driving on bumpy, twisty country roads and the light was poor. So Counterpoised was unceremoniously (and rather grumpily) crammed back into its little Ziplock (TM) bag.

I think both projects are going to sit for a while. Next project? A nice soft easy hat for a friend who is currently going through chemotherapy for breast cancer. She's doing amazingly well and is still training to run the Miami Marathon at the end of January.

My Mother's Knitting
Mom seems to be having similar problems with her knitting. The project that she started on Thanksgiving has been relegated to the knitting bag until I can get down there to figure out where she started to take artistic license. My sister-in-law Barbara has turned out to be an enabler and started a little stash for Mom this Christmas:



Barbara did an excellent job of choosing yarn and needles (rosewood...yum!). Mom's been enchanted by the Villandry Lace Scarf that Sheepish Annie knitted up a couple of times this month and decided to take advantage of the new needles and yarns and give it a go. Sadly, that project is not going well either and appears to have been relegated to the knitting bag as well. Mom's comment? "It looks like a knotted mess." It's a good thing we're visiting next weekend so I can get her back on track.

A Christmas Present
Every year, the adults in both families draw names for the exchanging of gifts (our families are a bit large). Yesterday was the Simonds Family Christmas Celebration and a good time was had by all. In a bit of serendipity, my brother-in-law Steve and I drew each other's names. I presented him with several books about World War II (it was Tom's idea; he's been waiting for one of us to get Steve's name), which he loved. Steve gave me this:



His son Martin made this pendant. The stones (a Herkimer diamond and some other greenish mineral) are wrapped in sterling silver. Each piece is one-of-a-kind and all of them are stunning. Martin uses all sorts of different stones and works primarily in silver. If you are interested in seeing more of his work, contact me by leaving a comment and I'll get in touch with you.

The Year in Review and a New Year
It's hard to believe that 2008 is upon us. Where did the time go? I swear, each year seems to go by faster than ever and most of the things that I want to accomplish don't get done. I did finish some projects this year, but not many. Two pairs of socks (almost three, darn it), one shawl, and one scarf. I didn't manage to get much spinning in, either, despite what seemed to be a good start.

What does next year hold? More socks, to be sure. After some reflection, I think I need to approach my knitting and spinning with some structure, given that I have a lot of UFOs that are most likely failed projects about which I'm in denial. So, I'll take the approach of a scholar and start a project, working through the techniques until I understand them. I will finish one project before starting another (socks don't count, although I will keep only one pair of socks on the needles). After "mastering" a particular type of knitting (as evidenced by a finished object, I will dive into the UFO basket and finish a project of the same type of knitting. I will not try to knit as many things as I can. That said, here is what I would like to accomplish in the coming year:
  • Lace

  • Colorwork mittens

  • Sweaters

That last one is going to take some thought and planning. I see so many sweaters that I'd like to knit, but I find the yarn and time investment daunting. I've been shying away from bulky yarns, but perhaps that's my ticket to a completed sweater, since for all accounts and purposes bulky sweaters knit up quickly.

What are your knitting goals for 2008?

Have a very Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

'Twas....Christmas!

I had grandiose visions floating through my head of a clever 'Twas the Night Before Christmas post. Alas and alack, fate conspired against me. I had to work yesterday and my company did not let us leave early. That seriously cut into blogging time and last minute preparations!

We're in town this Christmas and opted to stay at home, instead of visiting friends and local family (that celebration is next weekend). The hibernation instinct is strong in us this year. However, staying home gives us plenty of time relax and eat ourselves silly play in the kitchen. Christmas Eve dinner:

Everything was very good, although the bourbon in the sweet potatoes tasted very raw.

And then it was Christmas! I was up a little after 6:00 this morning and finished wrapping Tom's presents. We exchanged gifts over morning coffee. I do believe we are the only couple who has a matching set of half-sheet pans!

Christmas breakfast:

  • Bloody Marys

  • Grapefruit

  • Baked Pear Pancake with Gingered Maple Syrup

The rest of the day has been rather leisurely. Tom went over to friend's house to install a new kitchen faucet while I worked on the running club newsletter.

Tonight's dinner:

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. It's hard to believe that the new year is just around the corner. Where did the year go?



Emma's thinking that maybe it's in the tree.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

The Good
My husband. When I came home from work yesterday, he had set the stage for a relaxing evening at home. My current favorite cocktail (a Sidecar) was waiting in the shaker, the dining room was illumined by candles, and the Christmas tree was lit and a fire was burning in the living room. Tom was in the midst of preparing a delicious dinner as well: sole stuffed with crabmeat and scallops (from Omaha Steaks, his mother's Christmas gift to us), steamed asparagus, sauteed smashed potatoes (made with homemade chicken stock), and salad and bread. Everything was absolutely perfect. Tom is wonderful, even if a bit irascible at times. But that just makes him more lovable!

The Bad
Emma. How can something this cute



be so bad? The badness revolves around the Christmas tree. Last year Emma was pretty good with the Christmas tree. After the initial curiosity wore off, she hardly ever bothered it. This year is different. She nibbles on the lights, she nibbles on the branches, and even worse, she has taken to selectively removing ornaments from the tree. The other night as we were enjoying pizza while watching the Food Network, she wandered in and dropped an ornament on Tom's foot. Fortunately, it was one of the handmade ornaments and not breakable (the breakable ones are at the top of the tree). When Tom returned the ornament to its rightful place on the tree, he noticed there were several other ornaments laying on the floor. Sheesh. And this morning my knitting session in the living room was cut short because Emma would not leave the tree alone. She nibbled on the lights and on the branches and sat in front of her favorite ornaments and calculated what it would take to remove them from the tree. After unsuccessfully trying to persuade her to have a lap or relax on a warm radiator, I gave up and moved to the cold kitchen with its hard chairs. At last, I was able to knit (albeit somewhat uncomfortably) in peace.

The Beautiful
A vintage hand-knit sweater from Birdsong. Scroll down a bit in her post to see the cream sweater. As Birdsong says, the knitting is awesome. The sweater is a comfortable fit, perhaps a tad on the loose side, but it's so comfortable. It will look great over my standard winter turtlenecks. Here is the back neck and shoulder:



Here is the buttonband; I love the ribbon reinforcement:



Thank you, Birdsong, for gifting such a beautiful sweater. I'll definitely wear it!

Knitting Progress
The sock is progressing and today we have flappage. This is the halfway point on the heel flap:



And the inside:



See the line of stockinette stitch? That's a "seam." It's actually a one-row rib and provides a slight bit of expansion on the heel. I find it immensely intriguing.

So, the goal for this weekend is to make it through the heel. If I get some quality knitting time in, I might even be able to finish the sock before Christmas.

I just can't knit in the living room.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Our Big Fat Winter Storm

The significant winter storm that was predicted for this weekend turned out to be a big fat bust. See?



Nary a flake of snow fell last night. There was some sleet, but it was gone by the time we got up. And now it's raining. And it's supposed to be warm today, with a high of 47 degrees. Bleh. I really wanted a nice blizzard. Stupid snowflake earrings didn't work, even though I wore them for three days. Do you think I wore out their effectiveness?

Knitting Progess
I did manage to get some knitting in yesterday and this morning, although not as much as I would have liked. The sock also seemed to have gotten into a bit of mischief. As I was knitting last night, I noticed that something looked odd. I looked at the back of the knitting and saw a float that spanned six stitches. I thought I had dropped a stitch. After tinking a row, I found that I didn't drop a stitch. I had slipped six stitches. How the heck did that happen?! I suppose I could have attempted to knit those stitches and accidentally didn't pull the working yarn through. But not for six stitches worth.

And I still can't seem to read a pattern consistently. Once again I followed the P2, K2 pattern when I should have be doing a P2, K2, P2, K4, P2 at the beginning of the first needle. Sigh...so out came another four rows.

Here's the second sock; it's not much bigger than the last picture of it.



I probably won't get much knitting accomplished today. I need to clean the house a bit, decorate the tree, compile the running club newsletter, and then have dinner at a friend's house. And then it's back to work tomorrow, which definitely means I won't get a lot of knitting done.

The Christmas Meme
I don't usually do memes, but this one seemed kind of fun. I grabbed it from the PurlingPirate. So without further ado, here it is.

  1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Both; it depends on the shape of the gift really.

  2. Real or artificial tree? Real

  3. When do you put up the tree? After we get it, usually the second week in December.

  4. When do you take it down? On New Year's Day or the following weekend

  5. Do you like eggnog? Yes; the best I had was made with real cream and uncooked eggs and lots of booze!

  6. Favorite gift received as a child? A walking doll that was about as tall as I was.

  7. Do you have a nativity scene? No

  8. Hardest person to buy for? One of my sisters-in-law

  9. Easiest person to buy for? My husband; give him fine Belgian beer and he's happy!

  10. Worst Christmas present you ever got? There haven't been any, although my friends were a bit upset when Tom gave me a road emergency triangle and an electric toothbrush for Christmas one year.

  11. Mail or email Christmas cards? I gave up sending cards several years back; too much procrastination and lack of stamps.

  12. Favorite Christmas movie?My favorite Christmas show is A Charlie Brown Christmas.

  13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? After the first of December, although if I find the perfect gift earlier, I'll buy it.

  14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes, why let an unused gift take up space when someone else can use it?

  15. Favorite thing to eat on Christmas? Everything (except haggis)

  16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? I prefer clear; Tom prefers colored.

  17. Favorite Christmas song? Carol of the Bells, Silent Night, and Walking in the Air

  18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? We alternate years with our families, so this year we're home.

  19. Can you name all of Santa’s Reindeer? Of course.

  20. Angel or star on top of tree? Nothing goes on the top of the tree, if I'm remembering correctly.

  21. Open presents Christmas Eve or morning? One present Christmas Eve and the rest Christmas morning.

  22. Most annoying thing this time of year? The fact that commercial Christmas decorations go up after Halloween. I hate that. It makes Christmas less special.

  23. Do you decorate your tree in any theme or color? No, we have lots of handmade decoration from Tom's mother. We're not really theme-type people.

  24. What do you leave for Santa? Nothing; Emma would eat it before Santa even got close to our house!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Precipitation

It's been a cloudy week in my hometown. The sun finally made an appearance yesterday; it was nice to greet an old friend. And right now, the sun is attempting to shine through clouds, which makes it look weak and watery. The forecast for this weekend consists of the dreaded words "wintery mix." In fact, instead of predicting the amount of snow that will fall, the NWS is predicting sleet accumulation. Yuck.

Knitting Progress
I continue to make progress, albeit slowly, on the second Gentleman's Fancy Sock. I painstakingly unknit the eight incorrect rows and reknit them. Since the weekend weather is supposed to be bad, I'm hoping that I'll get some good knitting time in. However, today is looking busy (farmers market, yoga, kitty shopping at the shelter, and Christmas tree shopping). If we find a tree, we'll decorate it tomorrow, which means cleaning the house. Right now there's a stack of dirty dishes in the sink and papers and such scattered about. I've really let the housecleaning go these past several months.

Best Cat Toy Ever
Are you looking for the perfect gift for the cat who has everything? Perhaps your cat has become a bit Rubinesque these last couple of years and you're looking for a toy that provides good aerobic exercise? Look no further! Da Bird is what you've been looking for! Its unique combination of feathers and a fishing toggle thing-y make Da Bird act like a real bird in flight. Emma goes crazy over it and performs amazing acrobatic feats to try to snag it out of the air. If you had to buy only one cat toy, I'd say buy Da Bird.

That's it for now. Hopefully I'll have some pictures to post tomorrow.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Of Snow and Squirrels

Earlier this week, the forecast called for light snow, with an accumulation of 1-3 inches of the white stuff. Oh boy! I could hardly wait! Every kid (and apparently every teacher as well) has a ritual intended to help encourage the snow to fall earthward. I'm no exception.

At the slightest hint of snow in the forecast, I don my snowflake earrings and wear them every day until it snows (or until I realize that no matter how much I want it to snow, it is physically impossible when the temperatures are hovering around 70 degrees). Understand that my employment is not in the vaunted halls of education. That means that if it snows on a workday, I still have to go to work. Which means driving in Washington, DC area rush hour traffic, which is bad enough when the driving conditions are perfect. During a snow event, the traffic can reach epic proportions. (When I was living in Baltimore and commuting to Reston, a 65-mile commute, it once took me over 5 hours to get home one evening. Actually, I never got home; I turned around and stayed at a friend's house that night. I think I had traveled at total of 30 miles in 5 hours.)

So, ignoring the ramifications of snow on a workday, I wore the snowflake earrings on Tuesday. The snow was supposed to start falling around rush hour, but the forecasters assured us that the road surface temperatures were too high and the snow would stick on the grass. All would be well. Traffic would still be snarled, but it would be because everyone would be admiring the snow as it gently floated down from the sky, not because of treacherous driving conditions.

Ha!

The snow actually started in the middle of night and when I arose Wednesday morning, my little world was blanketed in snow. The grass wasn't totally covered, but it was close. I did a little happy dance, thought briefly about working from home, then ditched the idea because it was probably snowing only in my town and I'd look foolish if there wasn't any snow at the office 25 miles away. And a glance out the front window showed that the road was relatively clear. I prepared for work, girded my loins for the commute, and headed out.

I think of my commute as being tripartite: toll road, Route 28, and Route 50. Each presents different driving environments and a smooth commute on one leg of the journey does not necessarily mean a smooth commute on all legs of the journey. The first half of the first leg lulled me into a false sense of security. The traffic was very light, although it was moving at a slightly slower pace than normal. I was pleasantly surprised because people were actually driving responsibly, including those in SUVs. Most people had opted to stay home, I thought. Excellent, they probably needed a day off from their stressful jobs. Good for those type-A personalities!

And then traffic stopped at a place that indicated that most people didn't stay home. Instead, most people were sitting in traffic all around Washington metro area. One traffic report reported that time to drive from Reston Parkway on the toll road to I-495 (the infamous Beltway) was 55 minutes. That portion of the drive should take 15 minutes. The problem was that because it started snowing earlier than expected, the road crews didn't start treating the roads until rush hour, after the bridges and ramps had frozen over, causing unsuspecting commuters to lose control of their vehicles. I was beginning to think that I should have worked from home after all, but too late; I was committed (it was also my turn to bring the bagels). It took about 90 minutes to get to work, which in the grand scheme of things wasn't too bad. It took some people (covering about the same distance as me) 3 hours to get to work. Bleh.

It continued to on and off throughout the day and by the time I left work, it was snowing right properly. Fortunately, most people had left early and traffic wasn't nearly as bad, even though the driving conditions were worse. It took me 50 minutes to get home, which is only 20 minutes more than normal).

And the morning, our backyard looked like this:



Of Squirrels
At various times in the morning over the past couple of weeks, I've heard odd noises coming from the roof over our bedroom. It varies from what sounds like someone running over the roof to mourning doves cooing. Every now and then, there are scritching noises. Tom figured out what it was yesterday.

We have squirrels living in the ceiling.

Of course, this provides endless entertainment for Emma as she tries to figure out how she can get through the ceiling to catch them. However, squirrels in the ceiling are not a good thing. They could end up chewing through the wall that separates that portion of the house from the main attic and have access to the rest of the house. My main fear, though, is that they'll chew through the wiring and burn the house down. Tom's mission today is to figure out how to rid the house of squirrels and block their access area. Given that it's cold and rainy, that's going to be hard. The squirrels are not going to want to leave their dry, cozy home.

Knitting Progress
I have knit 13 rounds on the Gentleman's Fancy sock. However, I haven't made any progress because I am apparently incapable of reading the pattern. I knit five rows of the pattern, only to realize that I forgot the change the pattern at the center back. Out came those five rows and I started that repeat again. I was so pleased because I was making good progress. Then I looked at the pattern again and realized I had just knit the next repeat instead. So now I've got to rip out eight rows. The sock and I (or perhaps the pattern and I) are no longer on speaking terms. This is a problem, because it's my one piece of Christmas knitting. Sigh...

The Counterpoised Shawl, however, continues to hold me in its thrall, even though it sits all alone most days. I managed to knit one pattern row this week. The next row is a purl row, then comes row 7, my nemesis row. Will I be able to knit this row without error? Or will I discover an error at the end of row 9, which will involve tinking hundreds of stitches? Stay tuned!

Since today is gray and rainy, it's a perfect knitting day. It's also the day we're supposed to get our Christmas tree. I'm hoping that Tom will be too tired after his run this morning to feel like going out and finding a tree. I'm really not feeling motivated to get a tree. Next week would be much better.

Happy knitting!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Weekly Recap

This week turned out to be busier than I anticipated. There was lots of stuff happening at work, including a trip to Richmond to attend an Excellence in Government awards ceremony, where our VP was one of the recipients of the Innovation in Government award for the procurement software created by the team I work with. There were also performance evaluations to write, meetings to attend, and documentation to review. And of course, most of it seemed to happen on Friday.

Best of all, I seem to be firing on about half of my cylinders. A month ago, I was probably firing on about half of a cylinder. (Yes, that's physically impossible, but work with me here.) I have more energy! While I'm not quite ready to take on the world or run a marathon (or even run a mile), I'm no longer totally and utterly exhausted by the time I finish getting ready for work in the morning; I'm only slightly exhausted.

Yesterday proved to be busy as well, although I did take some time to knit a few rows on Counterpoised in the morning before my yoga class. After yoga, I returned home to find Tom preparing pork and sweet potato empanadas for dinner (the pork had to marinate in a dry rub for a couple of hours and then cooked slowly for several more hours, hence the early start). We put up the outside garland and lights in preparation for the Christmas parade that evening. Even though the Christmas parade takes place the first Saturday in December every year, this is the first year we've actually been decorated for it. Then it was off to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients for a Spanish-style split pea soup to round out dinner.

Today I've got the usual complement of chores to do: laundry, housecleaning, straightening my work room, which once again looks like it exploded. There's also some cookie baking in the works and possibly some bread baking as well.

Knitting Progress
Most (which is to say not much) of the knitting this week has been focused on the second Gentleman's Fancy Sock. I still like knitting this sock, which says a lot about the pattern. It's easy, yet engaging. I'm on the fourth (of 12) pattern repeat of the Counterpoised shawl, with very little ripping out. The pattern is finally beginning to make sense and is working its way into muscle memory.

When I called my mother today, the first thing she said was "I have a knitting question for you. How many times can you rip out something before the yarn isn't good anymore?" Uh oh. Despite the ominous nature of the question, her knitting is going well. She frogged the scarf only once but is glad she did because her gauge relaxed a lot the second time 'round. She's ready to frog it again because the stitch pattern section is not working out. If I had been thinking, I would have given her some test yearn yarn (why is it that I always initially spell "yarn" "yearn"?) so she could get some knitting practice in. Oh well...lessons learned.

During the course of our conversation, Mom mentioned that they went to their local farmers market, where there was a woman selling alpaca yarn. Get this...she was selling a 110-yd. skein of hand-dyed, hand-spun alpaca for $15.00! Personally, I think that's an excellent price, especially when you factor in that the purchase of said yarn is supporting a local business and helping to keep land in agricultural use. Mom didn't buy any. However, I did a quick search on the Internet while we were talking and gave her the name, phone number, address, and directions to the farm. Maybe some fine, local alpaca yarn will be the beginning of Mom's stash!

Oh my! Will you look at the time?! Time to start the chores!

Happy knitting!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Stuffed

I meant to write the obligatory Thanksgiving post before travelling down to my parents' place on Thanksgiving, but time got away from me. And then I was going to post from my parents' house, but once again, time got away from me. Oh well...

All of my family was together at Thanksgiving (with the exception of a a step- niece and nephew), making 19 at dinner. Long gone are the days when Mom did all the cooking. Now everyone brings a couple of dishes and the hosting family provides the turkey. I brought macaroni and cheese. It's not exactly a traditional Thanksgiving dish, but everyone loves it. Mom's oyster dressing was excellent. We also had green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, corn pudding, and mashed potatoes. Laurie made an excellent pumpkin pie and Cindy's chocolate pie was delicious. And Barbara's apple tart? There wasn't enough of it. I overate, as usual, because everything tasted so good.I admit it, I'm a taste junkie.

Everyone had a great time. It was nice to see my brothers again. They've grown to be outstanding fathers and wonderful men. Who would know that these are the same brothers who destroyed dissected performed "dental work" on one of my dolls just to see what made it cry? They are truly awesome.

Tom and I spent Friday helping Mom and Dad around the house. Tom chopped kindling wood and sawed up some downed trees and I helped straighten up the house. Carl and Laurie brought over a big pot of shrimp creole for dinner, along with the leftover pie from Thanksgiving. Their three kids kept everyone amused with their antics.

And of course, there was knitting. I worked on the Counterpoised shawl and managed to complete two repeats of chart 2. If you count the number of times I had to tink and reknit, I could probably have the shawl done by now. Row 7, for some reason, is my nemesis row.



See that stitch marker a couple of rows down? It marks a dropped stitch. I'm not sure that I can successfully work the stitch back in, so there's more tinking in my future.

I wasn't the only one knitting.



Mom is knitting, too! Despite having not picked up the needles for a good many years, she's doing a great job. Her tension is even and she remembers the knitting lingo. Way to go, Mom!

We drove back yesterday, stopped by the house long enough to feed the cat, then headed up to Rockville for a second Thanksgiving at my mother-in-law's house. My MIL doesn't like to cook, but despite that, she made the best sweet potato casserole. The sweet potatoes were whipped and flavored with orange. The turkey was good, too, and she did something that even we don't do. She butterflied it! It was perfect. Once again, Larry outdid himself and made a stellar pecan pie. True to form, I ate too much. Oh well...we'll be back to our normal eating this week.

Happy knitting!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

These Things Are Sharp!

True to my word, I finished the first Gentleman's Fancy Sock. I had enough yarn, thanks to the liberal application of toe decreases. Here's the sock, next to the remains of the ball (all 19 inches of it).



That was cutting it a little too close for comfort.

I felt total love for the first sock, although I didn't quite feel the love for the yarn. It was a bit splitty on 2.0mm metal needles. But I survived and the sock survived. Not too many stitches leapt from the needles, which was a pleasant surprise given how slippery they are. And even though the needles have sharp points on them, I suffered nary a scratch (although I came close to poking one or two eyeballs out). As soon as I finished weaving in the ends, I pulled out the second ball and cast on for sock the second.

I'm not feeling the love for the second sock. The yarn is being cantankerous. It's sliding off the needles, splitting beyond imagination, and is being totally uncooperative. Maybe it's a bit miffed that I knit an inch of cuff with it about a year ago (swatching, don't cha know) and then abandoned it. It took three attempts with casting on before I was able to start knitting the cuff.

But what's worse is that the needles seem to be in cahoots with the yarn. They work themselves to the beginning of the knitting and then the stitches leap free. The points seem to have gotten sharper, leading, dear readers, to a small laceration on my left index finger. I'm left-handed and control the yarn with my left hand. To keep a nice, even tension, I work with the needles and yarn very close to my fingers. Every time I work a stitch, the needle lightly grazes my index finger, creating a small callus over time. This time, however, the needle viciously dug into my finger with each stitch, oblivious to the protection that the callus afforded. After about 12 rows, I surrendered decided it was wise to set the sock aside to allow my finger to heal.


See? They're really pointy!

That doesn't mean there won't be any knitting for a while. I'm switching to a different project; one where the needles aren't metal or aren't so pointy. I'm resurrecting the Monkey sock (knit, thankfully, on wood needles) and am having another go at the Counterpoised Shawl, which is knit on metal needles but the needles are much larger and therefore should not have the potential for laceration that the DPNs have. Before I continue with Counterpoised, though, it might have to be frogged. The stitch count is off on the current row and I cannot for the life of me find the mistake.



Now it's off to bed. I've got an early and busy morning tomorrow: two sets of cats to feed, coffee to make for the husband, macaroni and cheese to make for the family Thanksgiving feast, and a four-hour road trip.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Happy birthday to my dear and wonderful husband! May we share many, many more.



While we were partaking of the celebratory dinner last night, Tom said "Next year we're not buying anything except necessities." My heart skipped a beat. He continued "We're not going to buy any TVs or electronic equipment or furniture. No clothes." "How about beer?" I said (knowing full well that he loves a fine microbrew). "No, beer's okay." Then the next question "Can I buy yarn?" "Yes, you can buy yarn" he replied, giving me a funny look. I couldn't quite tell if he was thinking that I have enough yarn already and really didn't need to buy more or if he now considers yarn necessary to my existence and was wondering why was I asking such a silly question. Maybe he thinks both. (And in the interest of full disclosure, we do not buy TVs or electronic equipment or furniture on a regular basis, so this moratorium on large purchases won't be much of a hardship.)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Crushed!

Yesterday started early (4:30 a.m) and cold (28 degrees according to one bank sign). I can hear you thinking "What in the blue blazes were you doing up that early?" Not much; just getting ready to crew for Tom as he ran the JFK 50.

The running club had four runners participating. Each had trained all summer and fall for this event. The course is somewhat difficult, both physically (13 miles are run on the Appalachian Trail) and mentally (27.3 miles are run on the C&O Canal towpath). There are two starts, one at 5:00 a.m. for the slower runners and another at 7:00 a.m. for the "regular" runners. All runners have until 7:00 p.m. to be off the course. Tom once again opted for the 7:00 start.

After gathering at the Boonsboro High School gymnasium and listening to the instructions, runners and their support crew walked the one kilometer to the start line (the stop light in town). The gun went off right at 7:00 and they were off and running! I'd see Tom and the others at Gathland State Park, about nine miles into the race. Because of the number of spectators, parking at all of the viewing points presents challenges, especially since the roads are narrow and shoulders are mostly non-existent. Add to that the presence of trees, rocks, and Civil War-era stone walls and parking can be as much of a challenge as running! I got to the park in enough time to see the front runners come through. They were flying (the winner finished the race in 5:50:34; that's a 6:59 pace over 50 miles!). Our runners came through (considerably behind the front runners) and looked strong. After we saw the last one off, we packed up and headed to the next stop.

The second stop, at Weverton Cliffs, is where the runners come off the Appalachian Trail for a brief period. Most take some time to change out of their trail shoes into their running shoes because the towpath is a much softer surface. They also take the opportunity to eat something (Tom's fuel of choice these days is Ensure). Once again, all our runners looked strong, although the distance between them was beginning to spread out more. Jill was flying, Tom was running strong, Phil was looking good, but taking his time, and Casey had slowed down a bit because she took a rather hard fall on the trail (lots of people trip over roots, rocks, and slip on wet leaves). After Casey left, it was on to the next stop at mile 27.1.

The third stop was at the Antietam Aqueduct and is one of the places where you can start to see runners getting tired. Jill, our fastest runner, was visibly hurting as she came through this stop; Pat started running with her at this point. Tom was still looking good, but said his feet hurt. Phil had fallen behind somewhat but was still looking good; he said he was just taking it slow. Casey had also slowed but she was still smiling and energetic. Mike (one of her crew members) donned his running shoes and took off with her, giving her a boost. Next stop: Taylors Landing, the "38 Special" stop.

To get to Taylors Landing, you must drive past some of the Antietam Battlefield. It's incredible that such a beautiful, peaceful area saw such a terrible, terrible battle. As I drove past, I thought of all the men and women whose lives were forever changed by the war. My great-great-grandfather was at Antietam and it felt strange to know that I was seeing the same land on which he once walked.

Parking was extremely difficult at this stop; fortunately, they had Park Service personnel and race volunteers to direct people. As I was walking toward the aid station, I saw Jill fly by; it looked like she had recovered nicely (it would also be the last time I saw Jill until the finish). Tom came by a little while later and still looked good, although he said he was beginning to tire. I waited for Phil and Casey to come by but they didn't arrive before I had to leave to get to the next stop, at mile 46.

I arrived at mile 46 and had about a 10-minute wait before Tom came by. I thought he was looking pretty good, but he said he was very tired. Then he was gone. I'd see him next as he crossed the finish line in Williamsport, Maryland.

When I got to the finish line (after walking what seemed to be forever from the high school parking lot), I met up with Jill's crew. She finished in 8:53:26 and placed 12th in her division. That's not bad for a first 50-mile race. Tom crossed the finish line a little after 5:00, in 10:05:03, crushing his time from last year (10:36:43)! He placed 59th (out of 197) in his division. I am so proud of him! And he wasn't even cranky during the race.

We saw Phil sitting in the lobby of the middle school where the post-race activities were being held. How did he pull that off? It turned out that he missed the time cut-off at mile 34 and was pulled from the course. That is such a disappointment, but he seemed to take it in stride.

After Tom had a quick shower and grabbed some sustenance that wasn't GU or Ensure, we headed outside to wait for Casey. She crossed the finish line in 11:36:42, although when she saw us, she thought we were the finish line. After running 50 miles and going that long, you are easily confused. One older gentleman turned off the course and headed toward the school, thinking the finish line was there. The spectators corrected him and he made it across the finish line safely.

Congratulations to all the runners of the 45th Annual John F. Kennedy 50 Mile Race!

Knitting Progress
Given that the greater part of yesterday was taken to standing around waiting for the runners to come by, you'd think that I'd have finished the sock and started its mate. Not so. With the temperatures hovering in the low 40s most of the day, my hands stayed encased in wool mittens (sadly, store-bought). The thought of knitting on 2.0mm metal needles was not a pleasant one, so the sock never saw the light of day, even though it was my constant companion. And no, I don't have any traveling sock pictures. I didn't think about it and I was using a camera that used real film. How quaint. And how frustrating not to know if the pictures you took are any good until after the film is developed!

That said, I predict the first sock will be completed today. I'm so close to finishing. I'm still worried about having enough yarn. This is how much is left:



What do you think? I've got 12 more rows to knit, plus grafting.

Surprise!
When we got home last night, there was a package from Wooly Wonka Fibers on the doorstep. I eagerly ripped it open to see what wonderful exotic fiber Anne choose for us this month. I found this:



Alpaca in the most beautiful chocolate brown. The pattern included for this fiber is a lace shawl pattern by Miriam. Hoo boy...is this ever going to test my spinning and knitting ability! I think I'll not attempt to spin this until after I take the spinning class that's offered at Maryland Sheep and Wool. My fear of spinning yummy fibers is akin to my fear of cutting into cloth...you've only got one chance to get it right. Once the fiber is spun, it can't be unspun and spun again.

So, today will be spent finishing the sock and doing some quiet activities around the house (yesterday sort of drained me, given that I forgot to pack food for me). Maybe, just maybe, if I'm a good girl and finish the sock, I'll pull out my wheel and spin a bit!

And Finally
I want to thank everyone for your concern and good wishes during my thyroid scare. It meant a lot to me, especially during the last biopsy. I finally met with the holistic physician (she spent over an hour with me) and she identified additional mineral deficiencies that are probably contributing factors to the thyroid dysfunction. So, while the fix might not be fast or easy, I'm confident that there will be fix. The journey to health continues, and it will be an interesting one.

Happy knitting (and spinning)!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Results Are In

The waiting has ended. The results are in and the nodule is...benign! This is very good news, indeed. I can remove one item off the list of things that are potentially wrong. I've got an appointment with a holistic physician tomorrow and I think we'll be able to figure out how to get my energy levels back up.

I haven't been too worried about the results, though. Mostly I've been worried about how much it will hurt to have my thyroid yanked out. This, of course, is based purely on how much my neck hurt after the biopsy.

So, life is once again good.

Knitting Progress
The toe is not quite finished, although I have started the decreases. I'm just hoping that I'll have enough yarn to finish this sock. It's going to be very, very close.

That's it for now. Have a great rest of the week!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Overdone

I had a fairly good weekend. I managed to get to yoga class on Saturday morning and get through the class without hurting my neck. I straightened up my workroom (which once again looked like a clothing and yarn bomb had detonated). I knit some on the sock, although sadly I did not finish it as I was hoping. Why?

Because Sunday I kicked it up a notch.

I was up early and went for a six-mile walk with some of the other walkers in the running club, followed by coffee (hot chocolate for me) and pastries at the local coffee shop. That was followed by a grocery shopping which was followed by actual cooking. By me! We dined on:

Our friend Leigh came over and what with cooking and talking, we lost track of time and she ended up leaving around 10:30. I didn't get to bed until about 11:30. That was a very bad thing because today I was totally exhausted and back in a brain fog. The exhaustion was so bad that I felt like weeping when I discovered that the nice folks at Panera had given me the wrong to-go sandwich (I ordered the Mediterranean Veggie and got turkey, bacon, and gouda instead). But I managed to pull myself together enough to drive back to Panera and pick up the correct sandwich. It was a struggle to get through the remainder of the afternoon.

Note to Self: Even if you think you are feeling better after a procedure, you really aren't!

Knitting News
I've got about 20 rounds to go before I start the toe decreases on the sock. And the ball of yarn is looking mighty...thin. I would think that one ball of Socka would make one size medium man's sock. We shall see.

And I've fallen in love. I was leafing through EZ's book Knitting Around yesterday and came across the Jogger's Mittens. They are lined mittens with a curved top and no thumb! I'm entranced and I think they'd be wonderful knit in the leftover Manos I've got. Or even Cascade 220. Must...not...cast...on. Must...finish...socks.

That's it for now. It's past my bedtime and the furry, four-footed alarm clock is going to go off around 5:45.

Have a great week!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Adventures in Medicine

Yesterday was FNA Day, aka Biopsy Day. Hoo boy...it did not turn out like I was thinking. We'd waltz into Johns Hopkins, they'd stick me a couple of times with a really skinny needle, say everything is great, and a little while later Tom and I would be lunching at one of Baltimore's wonderful eating establishments.

The best laid plans...

The first snag of the day was parking. The parking garage was almost filled to capacity, even the very top. There were a couple of spots that Tom deemed to have insufficient space. He finally took one of those and we waltzed into the Outpatient Center. And then we proceeded to walk, and walk, and walk some more to get to the Nelson basement.

After we reached our destination, I registered. Or rather attempted to. I presented my Johns Hopkins id card, and then my insurance card. The nice registrar was clearly puzzled. "Do I use the ID number or the card number?" she asked me. I suggested the ID number. "Do you have a referral?" "No," I replied, "I thought everything was done internally through Johns Hopkins." "It's asking me for an authorization number." At this point, I could feel my blood pressure rise. I sighed. "I didn't know I needed an authorization." She asked who made the appointment and I told her. It eventually got all straightened out, but it was very frustrating.

Eventually we made it back to the exam room, or rather, the procedure room. A doctor came in and explained, step-by-step, the procedure. Then she left, followed by Tom, who was at this point feel a bit woozy (he doesn't like needles, or the thought of them, at all). The ultrasound tech came in to map my thyroid and the best spot for the needles. She was followed by a nurse who set out all the tools. The first doctor reappeared and prepped my neck, numbing it (thankfully) with lidocaine. Then the procedure began. All in all, they took five samples, at least one of which had enough material to work with. The actual biopsy didn't take all that long (thankfully). I'll have results in about a week.

The nurse cleaned up my neck and bandaged it, then proceeded to describe aftercare: no hot foods or beverages for two hours, don't let your head go below your waist, no strenuous activity, don't remove the bandage for 24 hours, don't shower for 24 hours. Oops...guess that means I can't go to the office. He then rolled me out to "recovery," which was the waiting room. Ick. It felt very strange laying on gurney in plain sight of everyone. He eventually moved me to one of the curtained cubicles but neglected to draw the curtains.

And then the workmen arrived.

So here I am, laying on a gurney in a hospital gown, with an ice pack on my neck and feeling a bit light-headed when two workmen come into the little cubicle without so much as a "by your leave" and stare at the door two inches from the foot of the gurney. "Need the combination" one says. They stare at the ceiling tiles and point and indicate that these need to come out, too. Then they wandered off to get the combination to the door, reappeared, and proceeded to unlock and open the door (which had a big sign on it that read "Asbestos project in progress.") It was odd, very odd.

Yesterday's hospital visit reinforced the fact that, even though I find medicine to be fascinating, I really don't want to spend time in a hospital. When I registered, there were several patients laying on gurneys, with multiple IVs and wearing surgical masks. It was distressing, and sad.

Knitting Progress
I've turned the heel and completed three (out of seven) pattern repeats on the foot. I should finish the first sock this weekend. Woo hoo!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to rest my neck. It's still a bit sore.

Happy Friday!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Finally, a Post!

It seems like, these days, everything goes by in slow motion until I look up and realize that the trees have changed color (when did that happen?!), it's no longer 90 degrees outside, and we're now in November. Part of it, I'm sure, is due to my brain-fogged state and my obsession with my malfunctioning thyroid. Fortunately, the brain fog seems to be lifting somewhat and my energy levels are a bit higher. I can get out of bed, take a shower, and not feel like I need a nap.

This is a very good thing, because I was tapped to coordinate a large software and upgrade project at work last week. When my boss told me that he wanted me take on that responsibility, my heart sank. Ordinarily, I'd jump at a chance to take on that kind of challenge. But when I can't add two and two and get the right answer, my first reaction was that we'll be heading for disaster.

The following day, the brain fog lifted, so I'm a little more optimistic that I'll be able to do the work. The second biopsy is scheduled for next week and I'm hoping the results will be conclusive this time. I dreamed last night that the surgeon called to tell me the biopsy results were clear. That's a good omen.

So, enough about health stuff. On to...

Knitting News
I've make good progress on the sock in progress. See?



I've finished the cuff and am about halfway through the heel flap. I'm using Fortissima Socka (color 1026) and knitting on my usual 2mm DPNs. This is the first time I've used metal DPNs and I thought that they'd be very slippery. I'm happy to report that the needles have been on their best behavior, staying put and not escaping from the stitches' embrace. Every now and then a stitch will quietly slip off the needle when it thinks I'm not looking, but I'm quick to catch it. I don't normally like knitting on 6-inch needles, but the length is key to keeping the stitches on the needle.

Hey, Mom! Here's your yarn:



This is Yin (color 822) from Southwest Trading Company. It's a wool/silk/bamboo blend. Don't be put off by the color. It's a beautiful dusty green, a little lighter than the socks I knit you. While the yarn is a bit finer than I wanted, I think it will be a pleasure to knit with and will have a wonderful hand. It's in skeins, so I'll need to wind it into balls, and I still need to buy needles for you.

As to the other WIP, the Counterpoised Shawl, it's still in time out. I'm focusing on the socks for now.

And finally, for a bit of color. I've been meaning to post this picture, but keep forgetting (that's a surprise).


(Click for a larger picture.)

This is one of the swatches that we knit in the Color for Knitters class at Stitches. It's worked with two and three different yarns, in Half Linen Stitch. By themselves, the yarns were nice, but really nothing to write home about. Combined, though, they are gorgeous (which surprised Laura Bryant; she thought nothing could help that gray yarn). This exercise proved that I do know what I'm doing with color (mostly it's a confidence thing) and that by combining yarns, you can design a very unique fabric. When it comes down to it, it's all about the swatch, baby.

Once a Technocat, Always a Technocat
Some things never change.

That was then:



This is now:



Emma's a wee bit bigger, but still loves a laptop, especially since the weather is cooler.

Well, I'm off to yoga class! Have a wonderful Saturday!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Scary Doctor Appointment

I had the scary doctor appointment on Friday. It turned out to not be as scary as I thought. The surgeon was very nice and understanding. It turns out, however, that the biopsy slides did not contain enough material to make a definitive diagnosis (duh...that's what the pathology report said). They want me to come back to Johns Hopkins for another fine needle aspiration (aka FNA or biopsy). If the results are still inconclusive, then I suspect the surgeon will recommend a partial thyroidectomy. Blech. Stay tuned.

When we arrived home from Baltimore, I had a nice surprise waiting for me. The October installation of the Rockin' Sock Club had arrived, featuring wonderfully black wool and a sock pattern by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, aka the Yarn Harlot. It's quite the nice sock. And it doesn't require cable needles or anything. After I replace my ball winder and finish the two pairs of socks I'm currently knitting, that might very well be the next sock project.

I'm sure you are all dying to know what project I chose for my scary doctor appointment. Was it socks? No. A simple garter stitch scarf knit from the most squooshy wool? Nope. I decided to live dangerously and pulled out the Counterpoised Shawl kit that I picked up at Stitches. Yum...silk...it's going to feel so good to knit and how hard can it be? YOs, SSKs, and K2togs only on the right-side rows. It will be a piece of cake.

Not!

First, even though the silk is yummy, my hands have more rough spots on them than I ever dreamed possible. And the yarn is a single. So between it catching on my hands and the needles splitting the yarn, the knitting was slow going. Oh, and did I mention having to unknit and frog and start over again?

I put the silk aside and opted to go for a Zephyr silk/wool blend, in a lovely shade of blue. I figured it would be much easier to handle and after I get the hang of the pattern, then I can knit the silk. It is much easier to knit with the Zephyr than the silk, but apparently I cannot count. I managed to get through the first 18-row chart (having frogged it twice). I cannot for the life of me get past row 7 of chart 2. I'm off one stinkin' stitch. The shawl wasn't a bad choice for the doctor appointment, since there wasn't all that much waiting time. The problem came when I decided to continue with it at the PJ Party this weekend. I figured I'd have lots (about 40) expert knitters around to help me if when I ran into trouble. Well, there are a lot of conversations going on with 40 knitters and after not having seen some of them for an entire year? Let's just say that after knitting and tinking the same three rows several times, the shawl was relegated to time out.

Thank heaven for sock yarn. I'm now happily (mostly) knitting away on a really cool sock. But I can't show you yet. I need to rip out about five rows because I missed an important instruction in the pattern and now the stitch pattern is all wonky. My attempt to cleverly fix it in situ just caused more problems. Sigh...

The weekend, though, was quite nice. The mystery guest was Jonelle Raffino from Southwest Trading Company. She talked at length about how they developed their fibers and their impact on the environment, and we got to see some cool new yarns that aren't out yet. There was some stash enhancement in the way of give-aways (sorry, no pictures yet). And I started my mother's stash this weekend.

Hee hee! That's right...thanks to Sheepish Annie and the Yarn Harlot, my mother has once again caught the knitting bug. Mom attempted to teach me to knit when I was nine, but it didn't stick. I think it had something to do with the fact that she's right-handed and I'm left-handed. Way back in the 50s, Mom knit a gorgeous ripple afghan in black, with blues,greens, red, pinks, and magentas. I loved that afghan (sadly, it deteriorated over the years and it's sitting in my workroom waiting for me to figure out how to repair it). Mom was also quite the knitter of argyle socks. I think what pushed her over the edge was finding a half-finished pair of socks that she started...oh, about 40 (or more) years ago. Right before I left for the weekend, Mom asked me to take a look at some yarn online to see if she should buy it. I didn't get a chance to look at the yarn, but I found some really nice yarn for her, as well as a pattern for a nice scarf.

That's about it for now. I'm in the process of doing laundry and straightening up my workroom before I leave yet again, this time to the Commonwealth of Virginia Procurement Forum (which is being held in the city where I grew up). I'm getting rather tired of flitting hither and yon. My life should calm down a little bit mid-week.

Happy knitting!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Yummers!

It's a dilemma. My cold is on its way out, but I'm still sneezing and coughing and have a residual headache. Should I go to yoga class this morning or not? The yoga will help me feel better, but I'm terrified of having a sneezing or coughing fit in the middle of savasana, which certainly won't serve the other students well. I've missed so many yoga classes this session, either because I was waiting for deliveries while Tom was on his long runs or because we were out of town. I'll miss next week's class as well, because it's the Hunt Country Yarns Pajama Party weekend.

I'm thinking I'll skip class and try to practice on my own. If I go to class, I'd have to disturb the cat on my lap. Because the weather has been so hot, she hasn't wanted much lap time. The weather is still too hot for October, but at least the mornings are chilly and she actively searches out a quiet lap. She's enjoying her morning nap as I blog.

So without further ado, I offer for you viewing pleasure my Stitches acquisitions. First up, lovely merino wool in autumnal colors (Spice and Squash)...Mission Falls 1824:



I'm thinking that this yarn would make a nice hat or small scarf. It's very soft. It was also a give-away at Stitches

Next up, Sterling Silk and Silver by Kraemer Yarns:



If you look closely, you can see flecks of real sterling silk. The silver is antibacterial, which makes it a perfect application for socks. I purchased this yarn from Susan and Jill at Y2Knit. It's destined to become the Sterling Lace Shawl. Y2Knit now has the yarn in black as well, which would make a stunning shawl for those holiday parties.

By far the yummiest yarn I acquired is this:



This is Geisha, 100% dupion bombyx silk, by Just Our Yarn. It's gorgeous and is destined to become the Counterpoised Shawl. Diane Smith is one of the women behind JOY. I met her at Stitches last year and spent an inordinate amount of time at her booth trying out (and eventually purchasing) a drop spindle. I was introduced to her a second time by my optometrist. She's local to my area and will be doing a trunk show in January for the Blue Ridge Spinners and Weavers Guild. Knitter's Review wrote up a review of their yarn Caravan here.

The first yarn purchase of the day was this sock yarn:



The yarn is from Araucania. The blues just drew me in. I'm somewhat partial to blue anyway and hesitated only briefly before making the leap. They recommend that you knit alternating skeins to get an even color distribution but alas, the vendor had only one skein of that color.

And finally, another door prize:



Yep, more sock yarn. It's the Regia Design Line with the colorways designed by Kaffe Fasset. It really is pretty, isn't it? And a word of warning...before you purchase a lot of yarn from that link, those prices are in pounds, not dollars! (I used that link because they had the best description.)

So there you have it. While I spent more than I intended, I don't think I did too badly. All of the purchases have projects attached to them, except the sock yarn, but I'm thinking that something out of Nancy Bush's Knitting Vintage Socks would be quite appropriate.

I'm still undecided on the scary doctor appointment knitting. Joan recommended the Fenna Shawl, which certainly does look like it would be a wonderful soothing knit. Unfortunately, I don't have the book and am unlikely acquire a copy in time. So, it's back to the drawing board for me.

Happy knitting!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Stitches East Recap

Wow...it's been a long time since I've posted. There's been a lot going on, with the highlight being Stitches East. Once again, it was excellent!

I missed the opening session; I just couldn't get my act together to leave early enough in the morning to get to Baltimore by 10:00. So rather than stress out about it, I took my time packing and arrived too late for the opening session but in plenty of time for lunch (and to do the homework for the first class). I barged up to the registration booth, totally ignoring the group of women who were standing nearby. I didn't occur to me that they might be standing in line. When it dawned on me that I might have cut in line, I turned around, apologized, and motioned for one of the women to go before me. She declined, then introduced herself as Fiona Ellis. Quite the auspicious beginning!

All of my classes were excellent, especially Pattern Customization with Gwen Bortner and Color for Knitters with Laura Bryant. If you can get to a Stitches convention, try to get into these classes. They will definitely change the way you think about knitting and definitely change the way you think about color.

There was some minor stash enhancement, both purchased and through door prizes, but I'll post pictures later. I won a very nice backpack at the Friday night fashion show. It's the Bella Sorella bag and was offered by Ellen's 1/2 Pint Farm. Complete with cell phone and water bottle pockets on the outside, it has numerous pockets on the inside, as well as a "hidden" zippered pocket on the back to store valuables. The straps are curved and well-padded and fit comfortably, even when the pack is filled with yarn, books, and needles. This bag might very well replace the KnitPicks KIPer bags. My only complaint is that the fabric is a bit floppy, but I can live with that.

I finished the Clapotis shawl, wore it on Saturday, and received several compliments on it. I love the way it drapes and hugs my body. I've decided I don't like the mohair content so much; too much shedding. That just means I've got to knit another one! Such a hardship...

The other thing that I picked up at Stitches, although I wasn't aware of it at the time, was a very nasty cold. Yesterday was spent battling a fever and trying not to cough up too much of my lungs. The fever is gone today, but I'm wiped out (hence, no photos).

All in all, my Stitches experience this year was good, even if a bit surreal. How can a knitting convention be surreal (other than getting high on fiber fumes)? Simply juxtapose it with scheduling a scary doctor appointment. As you might remember, I've periodically complained about being exhausted and being in a funk. This is, I think, related to the nodule on my thyroid that developed four years ago, after a bout of De Quervain's thyroiditis. During the last year or so, the nodule has doubled in size. The biopsy results at the beginning of the month were inconclusive, prompting the endocrinologist to refer me to Johns Hopkins for a second opinion, or as the confirmation letter states, a "surgical consultation."

Yikes.

That, coupled with the fact that they will be doing additional blood work and another ultrasound (to check the lymph nodes in my neck), leads my version of Hysterical Mind to jump straight to the conclusion that I've got a dread disease and they'll be removing my thyroid faster than you can say "Jack's a doughnut." In reality, a very small percentage of this type of nodule ends up being malignant. The appointment is next Friday and it should be interesting, to say the least. We're going up to Baltimore the night before, to stay with our friends James and Gina, which will make this whole process quite a bit more pleasant.

And of course, all scary things are made less scary by some good knitting. The suggestion line is open: What would you take to knit at a scary doctor appointment?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

It's Saturday!

This will be a quick post, in between loads of laundry and packing for the Steamtown Marathon. It's been a busy week, full of interesting happenings, with the possibility of more interesting things happening in the future. I'll have more information next week.

The drive up to Pennsylvania will provide several hours of uninterrupted knitting and that should be ample time to finish Clapotis. The decrease rows are moving right along! There's enough length now to try it on and I wrapped it around me yesterday. Oh my! It's luscious and oh so warm! The combination of stockinette and drop stitch make a fabric that conforms to the body and it's like being hugged. I can't wait for the weather to get warm enough to wear it!

Well, the dryer just stopped, so that's a signal for me to wrap up and finish travel preparations (including deciding what other knitting projects to take).

Have a great weekend and happy knitting!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

No Time to Blog

Or so it seems. Much has happened since I last posted an entry. Life at work has been fairly busy, and my father had back surgery (he seems to be recovering well, thank you), which necessitated a trip home last weekend. We've been watching the new Ken Burns documentary, The War, which is very good, but very long.

And the Yarn Harlot came to town. See?



She's not there. That's the crowd, which from the back looked small-ish. But there were over 175 of us there (at least that's how many were in line for the book signing). I stayed with the knitters, way in the back, despite having arrived 75 minutes before the talk started. I didn't get a chance to see how the non-knitting customers were handling the invasion of the knitters. Finally, Stephanie appeared:



She talked for almost two hours and was funny in a very understated way. The room was howling with laughter for the most part. But Stephanie talked about serious things, too. Like how knitting as a business is underestimated by banks (witness the problem that Blue Moon Fiber Arts had with their original bank thinking that the Rockin' Sock Club was a fraud because how could 2000 people want to buy sock yarn? Or the problem that another yarn shop had getting a mortage for a warehouse for its expanding business because the bank, despite at 50% down payment and a strong business plan and year-over-year growth, thought that the business was "implausible.") She also talked about the generosity of knitters, as demonstrated by the amount of money that we've raised for Doctors without Borders.

After talking for so long, Stephanie then signed books. And signed them, and signed them, and signed them. My friend and I were numbers 107 and 109 in the line (thanks to Anne's alertness, she discovered there was a line in which to get numbers; I never saw it, so intent was I on obtaining and retaining our seats). So I knit on Clapotis while waiting and eventually met a couple of other knitters (yes, I'm shy, even when surrounded by my own kind), Nicole and Lee. I managed to complete several repeats on Clapotis and finally, after waiting until about 10:30 or so, our numbers were called. Oh boy! We get to join the line. The line moved relatively quickly and soon I was standing before the Yarn Harlot herself. We chatted, but I think all that the only sounds that I managed to get out of my mouth were "Ergh", "Ahhh", and several other unintelligble articulations (I was beyond feeling exhausted at that point, having been up since 5:30 a.m. and not having had dinner). Stephanie, to her credit, was witty, articulate, gracious, and poised, as you can see:



As I was getting ready to leave, another group of 25 or 50 knitters appeared and Stephanie collapsed on the table, exclaiming "More?!" Poor Stephanie. Such are the wages of fame. Fortunately, the traffic going home was not so bad and I got home a little after midnight.

Knitting News
Clapotis is moving right along. I've finished knitting straight and have just started knitting the decrease rows. It looks like I'm set to have another finished object by the end of the year. I'm still loving the yarn and the pattern. My only regret is that the Duet seems to shed, making this shawl not very practical to wear with black. Oh well...I guess I'll be brushing mohair off my suits and coats.

Stitches East
Stitches East is only two short weeks away. Once again, I've signed up for a full slate of classes, from Thursday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. These are the classes I'm taking:
  • Pattern Customization

  • Design with Unpatterns

  • Color for Knitters

  • Norwegian Purl

  • Increases and Decreases

I thought I had signed up for a class on short rows, but either it filled up before they got to me or else I bumped it for a class I thought was more important. The class that I feel is most important to me is Color for Knitters. Color scares me and I'm hoping that this one-day workshop will give me the confidence that I need to use color creatively and intelligently. And maybe then I'll take the plunge into dyeing.

October is shaping up to be a busy month. Tom is running the Steamtown Marathon next weekend, the following weekend is Stitches East, then I'm home for a weekend. Hunt Country Yarns has its annual Pajama Party the weekend before Halloween, and I'll be going. And I'll be missing two fiber festivals in Virginia. October should be designated Fiber Month.

That's it for now. Time to go do some housework before the day is all used up.

Happy knitting!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Still Lazy After All These Years

When it comes right down to it, I'm lazy. Just ask my parents. And even though I'm now an adult, I'm still lazy! My life would be so much more organized if I'd just complete the tasks that I started. For example, there's a huge mound of clean laundry in the basement, waiting to be folded. Instead of folding it as it comes out of the dryer, I dump it on the table to be folded later, which eventually gets done. But in the meantime, my morning routine includes scurrying to the basement and routing through the laundry to find the clothes that I need for the day. But the mountain continues to grow.

So yesterday was a somewhat lazy day. I managed to get my butt out the door for the club run. There are typically slower runners at each run. Imagine my chagrin when I discovered that I was the slowest runner. I felt like turning around and slinking home because I had no one to play with. It turned out alright, though. Diane and Christy hung back with me, then we met Tierney coming back from the long run, so I turned around and walked back with her. We headed to the Leesburg Restaurant for breakfast, as rumor had it that's where the long runners went. The Leesburg Restaurant is probably the oldest restaurant in town and serves typical diner fare. It still has the original bar, stools, and booths from the 1930s, and fortunately none of the more recent owners have decided to renovate the interior. It still has all of the Art Deco touches that it had when it opened, although they are looking their age.

The food is pretty good; I ordered Eastern Shore Eggs, which was a split English muffin with each half topped with spinach, a crab cake, and a poached egg, and lightly sauced with Hollandaise and a sprinkling of Old Bay. It was quite tasty, although the crab cakes were very gloppy. They were fine with eggs on top, but I would not have wanted to eat them by themselves or in a sandwich.

So far, so good. A morning run, breakfast, then back to the house for chores. Except that Tom took a rather long nap, which gave me an excuse for futzing around on the computer. I did manage to pick up a book at the library and do a grocery shopping. But the laundry didn't get washed and the existing laundry wasn't folded.
Oh well...

P-la, you mentioned you were looking for a butternut squash recipe. My mother wanted to pass this along to you. She clipped it from a GE Profile ad in a magazine.

Marinated Butternut Squash

2 butternut squash, halved, seeded, and cut into 1-inch slices
1/4 Cup red wine vinegar
1/2 of a medium red onion, sliced paper thin
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1 clove garlic, sliced paper thin
1/4 Cup fresh mint leaves
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees (Fahrenheit). Season squash with salt and pepper and drizzle with EVOO. Place on a rimmed cookie sheet. Bake in oven until tender, about 18-20 minutes.

Stir together 4 Tablespoons EVOO, the vinegar, onion, chili flakes, oregano, garlic and season with salt and pepper. When squash is done, remove from oven and pour the marinade over the squash. Cool for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the mint and serve. Serves 8.

The recipe can be made earlier in the day and should not be refrigerated.

Mom said that she halves the recipe, since it's only her and Dad and the occasional son who might show up for dinner.

Puff the Magic...Cat?
Emma went on walkabout yesterday (supervised, of course) and met the neighbor's cat through the fence. She wasn't too pleased.



Have a great week!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Finally!

It rained. It actually rained twice this week, some on Tuesday and then again last night. We've been in somewhat of a drought this summer (again) and parts of the county have instituted mandatory water restrictions. I just read this morning that Loudoun County has been given disaster designation because of the crop losses.

Now the weather is finally cooler and hopefully we'll have a wet fall to bring the water table and reservoirs back up to normal levels. The leaves are beginning to turn, although that could be as much from stress as from the weather change. But still, you can tell that Fall is on the way, just by the way the light has changed.

The onset of autumnal weather makes me want to knit even more, if that's possible. I have visions of creating gorgeous, warm Norwegian sweaters and hats and mittens galore. And don't forget about warm, woolen socks, either.

I'm delusional about my knitting output.

A hat or two, maybe a pair of mittens, and one or two pairs of socks might be doable. A Norwegian sweater? Who am I kidding?! I can't seem to finish any type of sweater, be it adult, child, or infant-sized. But still the dream lives on.

Boxy Goodness
Despite the ennui that has pervaded my life this week, there were a couple of bright spots. On Tuesday, I got the first shipment from the Y2Knit ECOnnection club. On Wednesday, another installment of exotic fibers from the Wooly Wonka Fibers exotic fiber club arrived (Pygora goat...soft!)

And yesterday, at long last, Elizabeth Zimmerman's book Knitting Around made an appearance on the front porch. Tom opened the package before I got home and was dismayed to see that it was another knitting book. He doesn't understand why I need yet another knitting book. I tried to explain to him about how EZ was just an amazing knitter and an amazing woman. I shoved a picture of her in his face and exclaimed "Isn't she just the most beautiful woman in the world?" At that point, he looked at me and said "I think you've had a little too much to drink." (I had had a couple of sips of my Friday cocktail.) Oh, well. He waxes poetic about beer and rock climbs; I wax poetic about yarn and EZ. We're both a little crazy, I think.

Knitting Progress
The Clapotis continues to grow and the knitting has not yet lost its charm. I've finished about half of the straight repeats.




I haven't made any progress on the Monkey socks, given that I'm all wrapped up in Clapotis. But the Yarn Harlot is coming to a bookstore near me next Thursday, so it will once again see the light of day.

Living Lightly
I took the ecological footprint quiz againto see what I needed to do to live under the U.S. average (which is 24 acres per person). It turns out that I need to eat vegan, live in a green design residence, drive a hybrid, carpool, walk or bike everywhere, not fly anywhere, and eat 100% local, unpackaged and unprocessed food. That reduced my footprint to 5 acres, which is still more than 4.5 biologically available acres per person that is available now. I'd need 1.1 planets. I found that to be a bit discouraging, although we do have plans to buy a hybrid and our final home will be smaller and most likely be a green design. The next big thing I could do is reduce the number of miles I drive to work, which is going to be very difficult to do. Public transportation is non-existent for intercounty travel and I don't know anyone at work who lives in town.

But small steps are better than no steps. We can reduce the amount of meat we eat (see this article for an interesting discussion about meat consumption and greenhouse gases). We can walk to places in town more frequently than we do. We can replace more light bulbs with fluorescents (although the mercury in them has me a bit worried). Fortunately, we have a pretty good farmers market, so we can get relatively local fruit and vegetables during the summer, as well as beef, pork, and lamb. Here's my haul from this morning:



Eggs, garlic, tomatoes, eggplant, apples, celeriac, parsley, and salsa from Chef Eloy. He had one container of XXXtra Hot Salsa, which should be yummy. We usually get the Xtra Hot, which sometimes isn't hot enough. The pumpkins are beginning to come in too.

We're having friends over for dinner tonight and will be serving:
  • Shrimp Bisque

  • Rockfish Roasted with White Wine, Tomatoes, and Black Olives on Toasted Couscous

  • Grilled Eggplant

  • Grapefruit Tart wth Chocolate-Pecan Crust

The main course and dessert are from the Inn at Little Washington Cookbook. The recipes in this book are outstanding and are not that difficult to make, although some of them can be time consuming, especially if there's reduction involved.

Well, I've got to go...time to do some cleaning and cooking!

Bon appetit!