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


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!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I've been feeling distinctly bleh and blah these past few days. I lack energy (although I can manage to knock off a couple of rows on the Clapotis each day), motivation, and a general joie de vivre. As a result, I want to hibernate and I'm particularly good at crawling inside my head and contemplating Very Important Issues. The conversation in my head goes something like this.

Me: Look at the mountains and how the mist is wafting down them. It's so pretty and peaceful.

Me: Uh oh...are those survey stakes in that field over there?

Me: Yes, those are definitely survey stakes. They're probably going to putting in a housing development where ordinary people can't afford to buy the houses.

Me: And you know what that means. After the houses come, they're going to be putting in strips malls and town centers and totally destroying the habitat. Where will all the animals and birds go? They'll lose their homes and feeding grounds.

Me: You know they'll put in a golf course, too. All those pesticides and such to keep the greens green are going to leach into the ground water and contaminate the wells. We'll see a rise in cancer and birth defects...

And so it continues. I can really work myself into a state thinking about Very Important Issues. However, I think that we live pretty lightly. We compost, buy local when we can, recycle religiously, and don't go shopping for the sake of going shopping. So imagine my surprise when I took this quiz to calculate my ecological footprint and discovered that my ecological footprint is larger than the average in the U.S.

Take the quiz; you'll be surprised at the results.

On the bright side, my favorite NSLYS (not so local yarn shop) started the ECOnnection, designed to introduce people to eco-friendly and sustainable products in the yarn industry. The first package came today and it contained a small ball of O-Wool Balance, a blend of 50% organic wool and 50% organic cotton. It feels very nice--soft but with body. It will be interesting to see how it knits up.

All for's bedtime!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Lazy Weekend

Yesterday was a day of unsurpassed slothdom. After finishing yesterday's post, I went to the farmers market and stocked up on vegetables for the week. Tom came home from a long run shortly thereafter and we spent the rest of afternoon watching television (cooking shows only, mind you) while I knit. I think the last time I spent a whole afternoon watching TV was back in the late 80s, when I watched all of Brideshead Revisted. A friend was having a small, casual dinner party last night, which meant no cooking dinner. We didn't get home until after 11:00 (which is also pretty much unprecedented, given that we're usually in bed by 9:30 or 10:00 at the latest).

Today is almost more of the same. After a club run at Morven Park and the usual coffee klatch afterwards, Tom is now watching Children of Men. I'll be writing up notes for a knitting class I'm teaching tonight (the women will knit; the men will watch football). Because it's a football night, Tammy is having a potluck dinner, which means no cooking tonight either.

There are things I should do today. Like laundry, so we've got clean underwear for the week. Or grocery shopping, so we'll have things to cook. But I'm not going to. Emma is napping and I do believe she is sending out sleep waves.

I might just go take me a nap.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Lean Horse Recap

Warning! Long, detailed (potentially boring), and somewhat picture-heavy post ahead!

Last weekend (and the week) turned out to have less blogging time than I thought. A couple of runs and two days of housecleaning, plus friends visiting from Baltimore (hence the housecleaning) conspired against me. It was a great weekend, despite the housecleaning.

Here's a South Dakota recap. We arrived in Rapid City (after a lengthy delay in Chicago), picked up the car, then headed out to Custer State Park to find our campsite. It took longer than we thought, because of the twisty roads on the Needles Highway. The views, however, were worth it:

We finally arrived at Sylvan Lake Campground and found our site (#13). After we set up the tent, Tom inflated the air mattresses (no more sleeping on tiny backkpacking sleeping pads!). I put the first mattress in the tent and quickly realized that we had made a major logistical error. We didn't check to see if both mattresses would fit inside the tent (they didn't). After trying various things to try to get both mattresses in the tent and close the tent door, we gave up in defeat and headed into Custer to try to find a place for dinner. We met up with Mike and had dinner at the Sage Creek Grille, which had excellent food and service. Then we bagged the camping idea (at least for the first night) and checked in at the Rock Crest Lodge. The rooms were funky but clean and relatively comfortable. It was definitely more comfortable than sleeping in a tent with the door open and all manner of bugs and critters coming to visit!

The next morning, after eating a huge breakfast at the Cattleman Steakhouse and Fish Market, we headed back up to Custer State Park to do some hiking and to further think about our little camping dilemma. Our first stop was the Eye of the Needle formation:

There were rocks there, so we just had to play. What's this?'s my husband in climbing mode!

We also hiked the Cathedral Spires Trail, which made us realize that the elevation in South Dakota is much higher than it is in Virginia. The hike was beautiful and we saw a mule deer which didn't seem to be at all phased by hikers. After the hike, we had lunch at the Sylvan Lake Lodge, which was a bit of a disappointment. We headed back to the campground and debated once again whether we should stay or go. Given that there was a very good chance of rain in the evening, we decided to pack it up. This was a big disappointment because the air was so fresh and scented with pine and the wind moving through the branches was soothing. Oh, well...that's what we get for not testing our equipment before leaving. Farewell, sweet site...we hardly knew ye.

Thursday dawned cool and rainy. The rest of our running friends arrived Wednesday and we met them for breakfast, except that it was a non-breakfast. Mini-muffins and overcooked hard-boiled eggs. Phil and Marcia headed off to see the Crazy Horse Memorial, Mike headed out to look for some land, and we opted to hike part of the Mickelson Trail. The scenery leaving Custer wasn't so pretty, but about a mile out of town, the vistas changed dramatically. Imagine having this in (or as) your backyard:

Or these fine critters for neighbors:

We hiked five miles south, a little ways past The Mountain trailhead, to get a view of the Crazy Horse Memorial:

Then, because it was cold and windy (and Tom was wearing shorts and a t-shirts), we headed back. The Sage Creek Grille serves up a lunch that is just as good a dinner and alas, I overate. This was not a wise thing to do, because our evening activity was the much-vaunted Chuckwagon, complete with cowboy hats and bandanas!

The Chuckwagon starts at Bluebell Lodge. After getting our cowboys hats and bandanas, they herded loaded us into the wagons and off we went into the hills.

We went by way of the Wildlife Route, so we saw prairie dogs, flocks of wild turkeys,


as well as pronghorn antelope and deer. We were entertained in grand style, singing all sorts of old-timey songs, with each person having the chance to accompany the performer with tambourine or coconuts. Even though it was a bit campy, it was a lot of fun. The food was good and even though my steak was closer to medium well than medium rare, it was surprisingly tender. After dinner, to get our blood moving and warm up our bodies (it was cold!), the organizers herded us all outside to particpate in a circle dance. Yet another chance for me to embarrass myself...

Mike and Phil saw that this would be an opportunity for blackmail pictures so they quickly exited the circle and whipped out their cameras. Tom wasn't so quick, so they've got pictures of him doing the Hokey Pokey and the Chicken Dance. I must admit that it was a lot of fun being silly. I should do it more often.

The drive back to Custer that evening was exciting. There are lots of deer in South Dakota and like the deer back east, they like to randomly dash across the road. One randomly dashed into our car, breaking the passenger side view mirror and putting two small dents in the side. We don't know what happened to the deer. A few minutes later, Mike narrowly missed colliding with a deer. After my run-in with a deer last summer, in which my car was almost totaled (the deer definitely was totaled), I'm very wary about driving at night in deer territory. It's almost to the point where I want to say "Sorry, can't go out at night. The deer are out."

On Friday we packed up and headed down to Hot Springs, picked up the race packet, and attended the race briefing. We made a run to the grocery store to get some last minute race items. I made a bee-line to the vegetable section and pounced on a bag of carrots and a bag of sugar snaps, I was definitely craving veggies after almost a week of eating nothing but meat and potatoes. Later that evening we attended the pre-race dinner at the Flatiron and pigged out dined on buffalo burgers, spaghetti, lasagna, soup, and cookies. A good time was had by all,

including our intrepid crew:

Then it was off to bed, since the race started at some ungodly early hour.

Race day dawned dark, chilly, and foggy. Fortunately, the start (and finish) line was right next door to our hotel. After roll-call, the runners lined up

and off they went!

Throughout the day they ran, and ran, and ran some more. They ran through prairie:

They ran on the Mickelson Trail:

They ran into the wee hours:

And into the dawn:

Of the five Loudoun Road Runners who ran, three finished. There was a 50K finisher (7:25:00):

A 50-mile finisher (10:46:00):

And a 100-mile finisher (25:02:00):

The winner of the 50-mile race completed the run in under 7 hours and the winner of the 100-mile run finished in 17 hours and change. Congratulations to all the runners!

The rest of Sunday was sort of anti-climactic. To spice things up a bit, we visited Wind Cave and took the Fairgrounds Cave tour. Wind Cave is known for the prevalence of boxwork formations. The cave is beautiful and if you ever visit the Black Hills region of South Dakota, you should put Wind Cave on your must-see list.

So, there you have it. I hope the wait (and the reading) was worth it. We had a great time in South Dakota. I'd like to go back and do more exploring. But next time, I'll be sure to bring some vegetables.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Patience, My Friends

Well, the Lean Horse trip report is taking a lot longer to craft than I thought, mostly because I'm long-winded. So, to distract you from the current lack of content, here is a picture of the Monkey sock:

I'm not knitting on that any more, having fallen totally in love with Clapotis:

I love the Brooks Farm Duet. It's a little fuzzy and the drop stitches don't drop as easily as I'd like. The mohair fuzz flies off and tickles my nose, but this shawl is going to be so warm and cozy! It's going to be perfect for the chilly office.

That's all for now. I'll wrap up the trip report this weekend (I promise!)

Happy Friday!