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


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. 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


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.


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!