Saturday, June 30, 2007

Today's the Day

Or maybe it's more accurate to say tonight's the night. Tom and about six other crazy runners will take off from Harper's Ferry at 7:00 this evening and run to Georgetown in DC. The crew (which outnumbers the runners) will be waiting for them at various aid stations throughout the night. After my yoga class this morning, I need to make chicken soup (about the only thing runners can stomach after running a very long distance), boiled salty potatoes, and oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. At some time, I'll need to work in a nap. We stayed up way too late last night (and most nights this week, to be honest) to watch...

You absolutely must go see this movie! It's excellent. The animation is beautiful, the story is cute, and...well, it's just a good movie. I left the theatre feeling delighted. I'd see it again in a heartbeat, which is high praise coming from me, given that I'm not a movie fan.

Knitting News
I managed to squeeze in a couple of rounds on the simple stockinette sock while waiting participate in the annual event that most of us have grown to know and love hate: The Annual Squishing of the Boobs. For the last several years, I've gone to a breast imaging center, which was tastefully decorated and very comfortable. Plus there were no men in sight. This year, in the interest of not taking more time away from work than necessary, I went to the imaging center near work. The reception desk was a teeny office down a narrow hallway. The waiting room was poorly lighted and was shared by a number of different doctors, which meant I was probably sitting with a bunch of sick people. And there were men going through the same door to get to the same reception office. When they were finally ready for me, not only did they instruct me to bring my valuables, but also my clothes. If I had known that I'd be hauling my bra around for everyone (including men) to see, I would have brought a bag to stash it in. The woman who was doing the boob squishing was very nice but even so, next year I'll go back to the breast imaging center.

Yarn Shop News
Due to a number of circumstances that I cannot control (ridiculously high rents and my husband's business unit being put up for sale), the bricks-and-mortar yarn shop is on indefinite hold. I'm contemplating an online shop and selling some of the hard-to-find yarns (like Sea Silk) as well as yarn that is produced (or at least dyed) locally. So, to my small base of loyal readers, I ask:
  • What yarns do you have a hard time finding?

  • What other things do you buy from an online yarn shop?

  • What things do you wish online shops would carry?

That's it for now. If I'm coherent tomorrow, I'll report on the Mule Run. There's going to be a lot of waiting and I'll be either knitting or napping. Maybe I'll finish the second sock. Or at least the foot.

Have a great Saturday!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sneaking One In

Since Emma religiously wakes me up every day around 5:00 a.m., I thought I'd take this morning to sneak in a rare weekday blog post. Yeah, I know. I could be knitting. Maybe I'll do that tomorrow.

The weekend ended on a pleasant note. We fixed a delicious dinner for Leigh and, as usual, we overdid it a bit. Everything was fairly simple to make, but there was a lot. We started out with a chilled soup made with canteloupe, honeydew, cucumbers, sweet onions, jalapenos, mint, and cilantro. It was very tasty and very refreshing. The soup was followed by a salad of twice-grilled peppers with fresh mozzarella and caper-basil vinaigrette. For the main course, I grilled chicken cutlets that had been marinated in olive oil, lemon juice (with a few shallots thrown in for good measure). I topped the chicken with an arugula and tomato salad, with a side of orzo with peas and herbs. And is any dinner complete without dessert? Of course not! We had a summer berry shortcake (Leigh made the shortcake). Try this if you want to take your strawberry shortcake to another level:

Wash and prepare the berries (I cut the strawberries in quarters, vertically). Put a small handful of fresh mint leaves in a cup with about a tablespoon of sugar. Using a muddle or a wooden spoon, work the sugar and the mint together until the mint is all ground up (it will take you several minutes). Add the sugar mixture to the berries, along with the zest of one lemon. You might want to add more sugar to the berries, depending on how sweet they are and how much juice you want. You can also add a little bit of lemon juice if you'd like. Let the berries sit for at least 30 minutes. Serve on a warm shortcake, with fresh unsweetened whipped cream.

There are few things better than enjoying dinner on the deck with good friends (or family). We sat and talked much later than we should have. Tom and I didn't get to bed until 11:30. That's late, given that we're usually in bed before 9:30!

And speaking of going to bed early, that's something we won't be doing this weekend. Saturday is the first (annual?) Mule Run. It's a semi-organized 62-mile run, starting in Harper's Ferry Saturday evening and ending in Georgetown sometime Sunday morning. I'm not running; I'd probably be dead after five miles. Enquiring minds want to know. Can middle-aged people still pull an all-nighter? The last time I stayed up all night was 12 years ago, in Spain. It will be run. It should be fun, if your definition of fun is staying up all night and being eaten by mosquitos!

You can bet that my knitting is going to go along.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Simple Twist of Fate

Yesterday turned out to be a lot of fun, despite the nagging migraine that developed in the morning. Yoga class was fantastic and I was pleasantly surprised to see one of my former neighbors in it. My muscles are pleasantly sore, which never happens when I'm practicing on my own.

The trip to the farmers market was also full of surprises. By the time I arrived (after yoga class), they were sold out of a lot of items. I saw the same former neighbor who is in my yoga class. And then I bumped into my running partner, Lorrie, who I haven't seen in what seems like forever. We've been thinking about each other a lot but never pick up the phone to call (she works nights, I work days). We set a running date for Thursday. It will be good to catch up with her.

Then it was on to the housewarming. As I suspected, I knew only one other person there. He brought his wife and kids and we made small chitchat. Then Steve let it drop that Pam had a loom. Hey, I have a loom, too! Well, that just started the conversation flowing. She also has a spinning wheel. She doesn't knit, though, but that's perfectly okay. It was such an unexpected and nice surprise to meet someone who shares the same esoteric hobbies as I do. I hope we keep in touch.

Knitting News
I made a little bit of progress on the second Simple Stockinette sock. The toe is actually looking toe-like.

I don't think I'll have much time to work on it today. Said former neighbor is allegedly coming over around noon to finally see the kitchen renovations (it's only been three and half years) and I have cleaning and laundry and menu planning to do. That also means that I won't have any spinning time, either, or time to continue working on entering the stash in Ravelry. I started entering the WIPs, though, since it doesn't require taking new pictures. And I might start entering the FOs for the same reason. This Ravelry project is taking my organizational skills (random at best) to new heights.

Emma doesn't care so much about Ravelry. She says "I've got me some bugs to catch!"

Saturday, June 23, 2007

It's the Weekend!

The week is finally finished and I'm plunging into the weekend. Today promises to be busy. I have my first yoga class this morning, followed (or maybe preceded) by a trip to the farmers market. Then I visit Cathy who will put scissors to hair for a much-needed hair cut. After that, a trip to the supermarket to pick up a dessert for a friend's housewarming party this afternoon. Then it's back home again to relax and have dinner on the deck. Maybe we'll even pop open a bottle of bubbly because...well, because we can.

Tomorrow will be almost as busy. The weekly partial housecleaning, followed by another trip to the supermarket, and fixing dinner. We invited Leigh over for dinner, so expectations (both hers and ours) for a yummy dinner will be high. I'm thinking that it might be nice to start with a chilled soup, maybe cucumber. I'll have to see what veggies are in at the farmers market. I'll leave the grilling to Tom (although I'm quite proficient on the grill) and focus on dessert. How do Boston Cream Cupcakes sound?

Knitting News
There's been precious little knitting this week. I managed to finish the toe on the simple stockinette socks on Wednesday while waiting to have blood drawn, and picked up the stitches from the provisional cast-on yesterday during the weekly knitting group lunch. I really need to practice a crochet chain provisional cast-on. I went to unzip the chain and instead of a quick unzipping, I ended up with a tangled mess. It was painstaking work to pick up a stitch and pull the waste yarn through several stitches. Clearly what I thought was the back of the chain was not. Or else the chain twisted in the making. Most likely it was both.

I continue to enter my stash in Ravelry. This is a good exercise for me. It's reminding me of all the yarn I have. It's also made me realize that I really don't need to buy any more yarn because I'm not knitting what I have. Of course, we know that isn't going to happen. I fall in love so quickly with some designs that I just have to knit them now and I buy the yarn and pattern. Then into the stash box it goes for a little bit quite a lot of aging. If the yarn is so fortunate to make it to the needles, it will likely be discarded for yet another project, which will then be discarded for my latest infatuation. Anyway, I digress. I have some nice yarn and nice projects in mind and henceforth, I pledge to knit from my stash. Yeah, right. You all can stop laughing and pick yourselves up from the floor now.

The latest offering from the Socks That Rock Rockin' Sock Club magically appeared on my doorstep this week. The women at Blue Moon Fiber Arts are incredible. This yarn is lightweight and fiery. The slip stitch pattern looks simple enough and that will probably be my next sock project. What other socks in progress? I don't see any other socks in progress!

Emma's Favorite Foods
Our little cat has very eclectic tastes when it comes to food. This is in contrast to Jezebel, who liked only cat food, canned tuna and salmon, and vanilla ice cream. The list of foods Emma likes continues to grow: lima beans, pine nuts, vanilla ice cream, grilled salmon, grilled rockfish, pork barbecue, terra chips, tortilla chips... We're probably setting a bad precedent because the weirder the food is, the more inclined we are to give her a little taste, just to see if she'll eat it.

Have a wonderful Saturday!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day

Before I move into my usual bloggy ramblings, I'd like to wish my father a most wonderful Father's Day (don't worry, I've already called and told him that in person). My father is a pretty wonderful man. He managed to raise four kids (me and my three brothers) without injuring or killing us, no matter how tempting that thought might have been (we were very challenging). He taught us to love the outdoors on our annual camping vacations. He coached my brothers in baseball (Dad had a shot at the major leagues himself). He played basketball and softball and was always busy. As kids, I don't think we appreciated everything he did for us. "Not another camping vacation!" (All of our friends would stay at hotels with swimming pools and eat in restaurants.) "Do I have to mow the lawn?" (I was permanently put off lawnmowing when the lawnmower exploded.) "What do you mean, clean my room? No one's going to see it!" And probably my parents' favorite: "He's looking me! Make him stop!"

Dad also has a wonderfully dry sense of humor. When I was in elementary school (or maybe it was junior high school), our dog had a litter of puppies. They were part wire-hair terrier; it's common to dock a terrier's tail. Dad kept saying how we were going to dock the tail of my favorite puppy. I'd get all upset and argue against it. One day, Dad took puppy and hatchet in hand and said he was finally going to dock its tail. I was horrified. As I ran from the garage in tears, I heard a "thunk!" and then "yi yi yi yi yi!" No, my father didn't chop the poor thing's tail off; he was trying to see what kind of reaction he could get out of me. He thought it was pretty funny; I was less amused.

So, Dad...thanks for everything you've done in your job as our father. I think we finally get it. It took us long enough, didn't it?

I love you and wouldn't trade you for all the fathers in the world.

Knitting and Spinning and Ravelry! Oh My!
I started the second of the stockinette socks and have almost completed the toe. Don't be impressed; it's a toe-up pattern.

I also spent some time spinning yesterday while Emma was enjoying the deck and Tom was making dinner. I've spun almost half of the Rambouillet and I might, just might end up with a nice fluffy yarn. That would definitely be a first for me. Of course, the size of the yarn is somewhat all over the place, but overall I think it will be close to the 13 WPI Anne specified.

And I continue to work with Ravelry. I entered my needle inventory and have started to enter my stash. I don't have a large stash by any stretch of the imagination. I'm daunted by the work. Take a picture, upload it to the computer, upload it to Flikr, link it to Ravelry...I need a nap just thinking about it! Jess and her husband Casey have done an amazing job. It is an awesome site.

Excuse me now; I need to continue documenting my stash.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Emma's Big Adventures

Despite all of my good intentions, not a stitch was knit nor any roving spun this weekend. I spent most of yesterday cleaning the house and washing dishes. Yes, you heard me correctly...washing dishes. When I unloaded the dishwasher, I noticed that the dishes felt slick, almost like they were coated with a thin film of oil. And they were. The dishwasher gave up the ghost sometime during the wash cycle (it's not even fours years old yet!). Let me tell you, that discovery put me in quite the foul mood. I detest washing dishes and I particularly detest it when it is unexpected.

To distract you from lack of knitting content, I'll tell you about Emma's adventures.

When the weather is nice and there aren't any mosquitoes, we eat dinner on the deck. We're surrounded by green and love to watch the bats as they come out. When Jezebel was alive, she'd join us on the deck and make the occasional foray into the herb garden. She stayed close to the house and we had no worries about her wandering off. Although when she was young, she did climb the chestnut tree and get onto the roof of the garage, and occasionally meandered into the neighbors yard. But I digress.

We don't feel so confident that Emma will not wander off. Even though she's a very sweet cat, she does have a bit of an attitude. So we've put up all sorts of contraptions to keep her from leaving the deck. Saturday night we found that they don't work.

Emma is a good jumper and is able to leap onto the deck railing with ease. I find this scary because a) the railing is only three inches wide and b) it's about 12 feet off the ground. After she's on the railing, she walks back and forth and back and forth, like a soldier on guard duty.

Tom made a delicious dinner of grilled chicken stuffed with a mixture of goat cheese, grilled poblano and red peppers, and nicoise olives, accompanied by pearl couscous and grilled zucchini. Emma was on guard duty but she was clearly trying to figure out a way to go AWOL. She finally got up enough courage to jump from the railing onto the deck stairs and had access to the whole wide world.

She didn't bolt, but she wasn't as cautious as we had hoped. She explored the stairs, then headed toward the garden (I joined her at this point), then back to the house. She discovered the really cool (for a cat) passageway between our house and the house next door and headed to the front. I headed her off at the pass and attempted to herd her back up the steps. You cannot herd a cat. Tom was finally able to grab her and put her back in the house but she clearly was not finished exploring. We're going to have to beef up our railing security.

Or redo the deck and screen it.

Emma's second big adventure also involved the deck. For several weeks now, I've noticed an pale orange tomcat periodically hanging around the yard. He just kind of wanders through (our yard seems to attract hobo cats). I was in the kitchen Sunday evening putting the final touches on dinner when I heard Tom exclaim "Hey, where'd you come from?" I went out and saw that Emma was all puffed up...hackles raised, bottlebrush tail. She was peering over the edge of the deck and there was that orange tom laying on the roof of my car. He had made the leap from the roof of my car onto the deck, which is no mean feat. He hung out on the car roof for a while (he seems like a rather calm cat) and eventually wandered off. A little later, Emma looked like she was trying to figure out how to jump from the deck to my car. She was probably thinking "Hmmm, if he could get up, I should be able to get down."

It was all pretty exciting and plum wore her out.

Mystery Solved
My secret pal enlightened me about the miniature knitting needles. They are actually bamboo seaming pins. Very nice! If I ever finish the Sweaters of Despair, I will definitely use them.

Happy knitting!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Where Did the Day Go?

Good grief! It's already 6:30. This day has literally flown by!

But first things first. A big thank you to my Secret Pal for sending me these lovely goodies:

A skein of Lana Grossa Meilenweit sock yarn, a hank of Blue Sky Dyed Cotton (organic, of course), and a lovely book by Deborah Krasner called Heirloom Skills and Country Pastimes (the illustrations are gorgeous). My pal also included a beautiful card with a photograph by Francis Twomey, as well as a mystery gift. When I first opened the package, I thought it included some knitting needles. Indeed, they do look like miniature needles but there are 10 of them and they are bit short to be knitting with. I'm thinking they are some sort of closure. Secret Pal, can you help me out here? How are the little bamboo needles supposed to be used?

The gift arrived on Wednesday. Please accept my apologies for not posting sooner. And thank you so much; you've been a great pal!

So where did the day go? I have no idea. Emma wanted to be fed about 4:45, so I got up before 6:00 this morning, fed her, and made Tom his pre-run coffee. I did some yogurt yoga this morning, then checked email. I was thrilled to see an invitation from frecklegirl to join Ravelry. Then it was off to the local coffeeshop to meet the running club (they ran, I didn't). That was followed by a quick trip to the farmers market. Tom decided to rid the refrigerator of some science projects and I decided it needed a thorough scrubbing. The next time I looked, it was 2:30. Sheesh! I don't feel like I accomplished anything that I had planned to do.

I did, however, finish the first Sockotta sock last night:

It fits rather well, although the heel is a bit long. I used Wendy's Generic Toe-up Sock pattern, which uses both a short-row toe and heel. The toe fits fine, but I think I don't need to keep as many stitches "live" on the heel. Nonetheless, it's going to be a comfortable sock. Maybe I'll cast on the second sock tonight. Or maybe I'll start the second of the Blue Danube socks. I'm beginning to find that I've got a lot of single socks laying around.

Sweaters? What sweaters? There are no sweaters here. Move along now...

Emma is trying to figure out an escape route.

We're becoming more confident that she won't escape. If she ran away, she wouldn't get vanilla ice cream every night.

And yes, she is a spoiled little kitty.

Now excuse me, please. It's cocktail hour and I hear a fine Negroni calling my name.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Releasing My Inner Artist

Today is a grey, rainy day, perfect for staying inside doing chores, reading, or watching a movie. Or, of course, knitting and spinning. After a delicious brunch with my in-laws at our favorite restaurant and a quick trip to Earth and Fire with my brother-in-law (who's a potter), I headed west to visit a couple of studios on the Western Loudoun Artists Studio Tour. In addition to painting, woodworking, sculpture, and ceramics, there were a couple of fiber artists on the tour. So of course, I had to go!

First up was the Blue Ridge Spinners and Weavers Guild. I've known about the existence of this guild for a while, but haven't been able to find them. I was quite excited to see them on the tour, so hoofed it down to Round Hill to talk to them about joining. And guess who was there? Maureen, the Barefoot Spinner! And yes, she does spin barefoot. She had some yarn for sale and very pretty yarns they were, too. She didn't have any roving, having been cleaned out at Maryland Sheep and Wool. The next guild meeting is at the end of August and I plan to be there (assuming I can take some time off work; they meet during the day).

The next stop was Solitude, known for their delicious garlic and fine hand-spun and hand-dyed yarns. Gretchen was just beginning to dye some yarn, so I hung around to watch the process. We talked a bit about color, the different types of dyes (synthetic versus natural), and the fact that there is no such thing as a bad color. She encouraged me to get some paints and play around with creating color. I would love to create my own hand-dyed yarn, but am so afraid I'll create a monstrosity in color. I have a color block like I have a math block.

You know how people always talk about the "inner child?" I'm not sure about my inner child, but there's an artist dwelling within and she wants out. This artistic bent has manifested itself in several ways: music, quilting, spinning, weaving, knitting. The problem (if it could be called that) is that I never had any arts training as a child. When it was time to play a instrument in elementary school, I was passed over (I really wanted to play the triangle). I was in chorus in junior high school, but never did get the hang of reading music. I tried the violin briefly, but was the oldest kid in the Salzedo class and never could get the instrument sound like anything but a cat that was being tortured. I finally settled on the harp in my late 20s, played for about 10 years and became good enough to play at a few weddings. But reading music was never easy. I played half by ear and half by reading.

I never, ever took art in school, either. My drawing seems to be stuck at an elementary school level and color theory? I have no confidence whatsoever in my ability to put together colors. But as Gretchen said, it's practice and observation. It's also about being open to what happens during the dyeing process and not having an outcome fixed in your mind.

So perhaps in the coming months, I'll get some inexpensive KnitPicks yarn and try my hand at dyeing. Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 02, 2007


My friend Leigh has been raving about the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. So much so that she wanted me to read it and come to her book club meeting that night. Well, the book club thing didn't happen and when I looked for it in the library, the wait list was about 20 deep. It is, after all, a New York Times bestseller.

So last week I asked Leigh if I could borrow it. She reluctantly agreed. I dove into the book that night and am finding it hard to stop reading. I think it's because I can identify with the author's experiences, from the gut-wrenching heartbreak to the spiritual quest. I found the account of her stay at an Ashram in India to be particularly intriguing. And that has inspired me to start practicing yoga and meditation again. The desire has been there; the motivation hasn't.

Tom had to get up at 4:30 this morning to prepare for a 23-mile run, which started at 5:30. Since he was up early, I figured there was no better time to start practicing yoga. I unearthed my yoga paraphernalia and actually did some yoga. It was pretty bad. I wasn't focused and my body was unbelievably stiff and creaky. Even Child's Pose was painful. I will persevere, however, and practice a little bit every day and look for a good yoga class.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I looked at my "fitness" horoscope for June and read this:

The 1st, it's all about balance when it comes to your workout. Yep, you want to work on standing on one leg. You want to bring on your foot to your thigh. You want to try (slowly and carefully!) to lift your hands and bring them together in front of your heart. You want to keep breathing. You might even want to try a headstand when you're done with the standing postures. Even if you don't do any yoga, look for balance in whatever it is you are doing.

Mostly I take horoscopes with a grain of salt. Sometimes, however, they are so right on that I wonder if the ancients knew more than we give them credit for.

Knitting and Spinning
I didn't accomplish much in the way of knitting this week...maybe only a couple of rounds on the simple stockinette sock. I did do a little bit of spinning, only to find out that my yarn is getting thinner and thinner and is bordering on lace weight now. Oops. I'll have to fix that.

There might be some swatching in my future as well. You know, just to see how the yarn behaves and if I can get gauge. But I cannot, must not, cast on for a new project. Must...finish...the...Sweaters of Despair...first...

Secret Pal
I packaged up my secret pal's goodies this week and mailed them off to her, a bit late as usual. I have a block against mailing things. My own secret pal said that my package would arrive this week as well! It hasn't arrived yet, so my anticipation and excitement are growing. I can't wait to see what goodies she sent this month!

As I was laying in bed this morning, meditating on getting up and practicing yoga, Emma jumped on the bed and laid down beside me. She stretched to her full length and very gently took my nose between her two front paws and held it. She usually strokes my face (or my nose) with a paw, but she's never held my nose before. She's a very funny cat. She also "helped" me practice yoga this morning, most notably by sitting on my yoga book. It will be interesting to see how her "yoga" practice develops.