Monday, December 27, 2010

Not Quite a White Christmas

Every year Tom and I alternate spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with our respective families. This year, we spent Thanksgiving with his family (in North Carolina) so that meant that Christmas was spent with my family in the Tidewater region of Virginia. It also meant that we traveled for both major holidays, but them's the breaks.

For the last umpteen years, Mom has dispensed with the big Christmas dinner and opted for lots of snacks--ham biscuits, homemade clam dip, crab pate, punch, cookies, pies--and the rest of us have contributed as well. It's nice and relaxed, but can be a lot of work. This year, Dad decided he wanted to have a sit-down dinner. That's a lot of work for Mom, even if everyone brings side dishes. So Tom and I traveled down there Christmas Eve so we could help out Christmas Day.

The best laid plans...

During dinner on Christmas Eve, I noticed that the light was bothering me and sounds seemed particularly loud. I was feeling a bit headache-y and went to bed early. I woke up early Christmas morning with a migraine of epic proportions, the likes of which I haven't seen in a very long time. Fortunately, Dad made a run to the drug store to get some Excedrin (which is the only thing that works) and within a couple of hours, the pain was gone, although I resembled a wrung-out dishcloth. Tom helped Mom with dinner preparations. The family assembled at 4:00 instead of 2:00 and the Christmas celebration was saved.

After dinner, gifts were distributed to the children and that was a lot of fun. Christine (age 9) has been knitting with a knitting loom and wanted to learn to knit with needles (she also wants to learn to do cross-stitch and embroidery). My gift to her was a nice bag filled with yarn, a learn-to-knit book, knitting notions, a book of knitting loom patterns, a cross-stitch kit, an embroidery kit, and a punch-loop kit. She was thrilled. Christine is a knitter. She mastered the knit and purl stitch easily, then went on to stockinette stitch, seed stitch, and ribbing. But the one thing that makes her a real knitter? She wanted to start a second project but had only one pair of needles. Instead of finishing the project on the needles, she started her second project using chopsticks for needles!

My 15-year old niece, Shauna, also had asked me to teach her to knit. Her gift was a pair of knitting needles, two balls of yarn, and knitting lessons. She, too, picked up the knit stitch quickly and was well on her way making progress on a garter stitch scarf. Then she had a knitting accident after she got home and lost her work. Do you know how hard it is to explain casting on and knitting using text messaging? It will be interesting to see if I explained it well enough for her to correctly form the stitches. If not, we'll have created a new art form.

However, the best Christmas gift (for me at least) was the snowstorm that hit Tidewater Christmas night. It started snowing around 8:00 and snowed all day Sunday. Tidewater doesn't get snow. When I was growing up, most snowfalls were about an inch. I think we got six inches one year and that was very exciting. But Sunday's snow? Thirteen inches!! Tom wanted to leave Sunday night, after it stopped snowing, but it would have taken forever to get home. Fortunately, the roads were clear today and traffic normal. As it turns out, that was the third largest snowstorm on record for the area.

Of course, snowstorms bring enforced knitting time and I was able to finally finish the second Vancouver mitten (the first was finished during the Olympics last year. Here's the pair:

It's not a very good picture and the mittens look a little wonky because...well, they are a little wonky. The thumb for the right mitten is a little tight and the curled tip on the left mitten is a little long. And the fabric is a little puckered (but that should block out, right?). Overall, I'm pleased with them. They're quite warm and comfy (except for the right thumb). And it's the first thing I've designed and completed!

That's it for now. I hope everyone had a lovely holiday.

Happy knitting!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Eyes Have It

Last Saturday was the inaugural Stone Mill 50. As much as I would have liked to run it, I wasn't prepared. But I could crew for my friends. And I could even run with them in the latter stages of the race.

We met the runners at mile 21. Pat, Diane, and Allison were all doing well. I was so impressed with Allison because she was running with a terrible cold and couldn't breathe. If it were me, I'm not sure that I would have even made it to the start. Fortunately, the day was sunny and mostly warm (although a wool sweater was needed to make sitting around comfortable) and I knitted and knitted on the Spiral Scarf. Eventually, our runners came back through (they passed through this aid station twice) and everyone was still looking chipper.

At mile 35 or so, I changed into my running clothes so I could run with them the last 15 miles. About a mile in, I tripped (although how I could do that on flat, soft trail is beyond me) and bruised my knee. No big deal; it happens all the time. About a half mile further, Diane tripped on a rock and went down hard, and in slow motion. All that I could see was this jagged, slanted rock that was right in the trajectory of her fall. It got her and it got her good. After she rolled over, the damage to her knee was evident: a three-inch half moon gash right on her kneecap. She had a couple of band-aids and another runner gave her a couple more, so we were able to "suture" the gash. Diane is tough. After saying it didn't hurt (even though we had to pick grass out of the wound), she was thinking she could finish the race. We advised her against it. The wound was deep (down to the adipose layer, we would later find out) and she still had 13 miles to go. We declared game over for her (if she finished, it would have been her 30th race of marathon distance). Pat and I continued on, while Tom B. stayed with Diane.

The miles flew by. Pat was worried that she wouldn't get to the last aid station before the cut-off, but I noticed that there were reflective trail markings interspersed amongst the ribbons (meaning that they were expecting some people to run this section of trail towards dark) and I knew that we were way ahead of the cutoff. We saw Diane at this aid station; she was on her way to the hospital to get her knee stitched up (it would require 17 stitches; note to self: never, ever embark on a trail run without your bandannas, no matter how short or "easy").

Pat and I continued on, running the flats and downhills and walking uphills. Her pace and energy were good (much better than me when I ran my first 50-miler). We hit the last aid station: only 7 miles to go! She had it in the bag and crossed the finish line under the 12-hour mark. Way to go, Pat!

The Eyes Have It
Right before I started running (and actually a couple of days before), my left eye was bothering me. Actually, I thought it was the contact in my left eye. But upon further examination, I discovered a fluid-filled bubble on my eye. It got worse over the weekend, and last Sunday I called my optometrist, who thought it was an allergic reaction and prescribed a steroid drop and Benedryl. On the follow-up visit, he diagnosed chemosis. The condition was apparently caused by a tiny sliver of a leaf embedded at the edge of the cornea (which he removed [the leaf, not the cornea]). Fortunately, the chemosis wasn't painful, but it was highly annoying. My eye itched like there was no tomorrow. That made last week a bit challenging: I couldn't wear my contacts and I deemed it better to work from home since my desk at work is right under an air vent. My eye is much better now; I'm wearing contacts again and the itchiness is gone. But there still is a little bit of a bubble.

Knitting News
The Spiral Scarf is finished and blocked! At last, a finished object! I've started the second Cloning Anemone Rib sock. I'm swatching for something that could be construed to be a sweater. And I need to dig out the almost-finished second mitten that I started last winter. I have only a few more rows to finish on the tip of the mitten and then I need to knit the thumb. I'm very excited about these mittens. They're going to be so warm (and pretty)!

My mother left me a rather cryptic text message the other day. She said that Christine (my nine-year-old niece) considers me to be her heroine. So of course that led to a phone call to see what this was all about. It turns out that Christine is very interested in hand work. She's knitting on one of those knitting loom things and is teaching herself embroidery. She said that she wants to "do everything that Aunt Teri does." So, her Christmas present is going to be a sewing basket filled with all sorts of hand work goodies: embroidery hoops, embroidery floss, needles, and of course, knitting needles and yarn. She also said she wants to learn to play the harp (she's taking piano lessons now). I used to play, long ago before I moved to Paris and Baltimore (the commute from Baltimore to Reston precluded any type of lessons or practice). I've offered to loan her my harp and music if she really is interested. But her mother and I agree that it would be best for her to continue piano at least through the summer.

Then, my eldest niece sent me a text message this evening asking me to teach her how to knit the next time I'm down to visit my parents. Shauna will be 16 in March and has gone through a rough spell after her boyfriend committed suicide last year. Her mother isn't a good role model and I'm trying to bond with Shauna, but it's very difficult when I see her only once or twice a year.

So, now I've got two nieces who look up to me. That's a huge responsibility. I hope I'm up to the task.

That's it for now. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Happy knitting!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Time Flies, Whether You Like It or Not

I'm still alive and kicking, although sometimes I'm definitely not kicking. Work is...challenging...shall we say and there are days when it makes my brain hurt. And the weekends are far too short. I'm behind in everything: housework (the herd of dust buffalo is in need of some serious culling), cooking (thank goodness Tom can cook, otherwise we'd be living off of beanie weenies), blogging, and other things that I'm supposed to be responsible for. My memory is like a sieve and I remember things just-in-time, which isn't a good way to make one's way through life. I get organized and make a to-do list, but then it all falls apart and disorganization reigns supreme. It's all very tiring.

And once again, about all I can muster for a blog post is random bullet points.
  • I'm annoyed with our ancient crockpot. It's been cooking for nigh onto 12 hours and the carrots and onions still aren't tender
  • We're going to eat it anyway. At least it smells good.
  • See what I mean? I wrote those first two bullet point last week!
  • There's been knitting in the odd moments chez Knitting Libran.
  • And as a result, the Monkey socks are a pair!
  • I'm swatching for a sweater thing that might have sleeves and buttons and a collar
  • I'm not getting gauge
  • I'm so not getting gauge
  • I went up a needle size and I got 1/2 a stitch more than with the smaller needles
  • And yes, I checked the needle size and counted the stitches many, many times
  • Stupid gauge
  • And I'm not happy with the colors
  • Tom thinks they're fine
  • I started knitting the Spiral Scarf again
  • Apparently, I can't read knitting instructions, even after they're explained to me
  • I cannot seem to remember the "k to end, turn" instruction when working the short rows
  • The scarf doesn't spiral if you work short rows on each side
  • It just gets wonky
  • I'm on a roll now, though
  • I just can't stop knitting until the scarf is complete
  • That won't make my employer happy
  • Knitting is not part of my job description
  • Tom cooked an awesome dinner last night for me and four of our friends
  • It was another of his "restaurant openings"
  • Sesame crusted salmon, butternut squash soup, adobo roast turkey with red chili gravy, green beans with crispy prosciutto, sweet cornbread pudding, gingerbread with spiced creme anglaise
  • YUM!
  • Tom is phenomenal
That about sums up the last month or so. Hopefully I'll remember to post sooner than a month. I'm not optimistic.

Happy knitting!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Turning the Corner

In my last post, I mentioned that I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, which surprisingly is extremely controversial. The controversy rages around all aspects of the disease, from how to diagnose it, to how to treat it, and whether or not chronic Lyme exists. Unfortunately (but fortunately for me), several of my friends have also been diagnosed with Lyme, so I was able to get information from them about the progression of the disease, doctors in the area who are Lyme "literate", and information about treatment.

My holistic physician wanted to treat using only herbs, on the premise that antibiotics aren't that effective and are dangerous. I wasn't comfortable going the herbal route and got a recommendation from another friend for a doctor in the area who has treated a lot of Lyme. That doctor wanted to put me on long-term antibiotics (six months), using a combination of three antibiotics that are pulsed (Monday, Wednesday, Friday for two weeks, with the third antibiotic added the third week, and no antibiotics the fourth week). That seemed to be a bit heavy-handed until I started reading more about the disease, and that treatment protocol makes sense. I'm also using two herbs (arteminisin and teasel) and taking a bunch of supplements, including potassium (yup, got another mineral deficiency).

In addition, I'm supposed to be on a strict gluten- and sugar-free diet (to prevent yeast infections), as well as no alcohol and no caffeine. Needless to say, I cheat a little bit.

So how's it working out? No sign of a yeast infection yet, despite the cheating. The brain fog and crushing fatigue have abated. And my running might be back to normal. My legs don't feel fatigued, my heart rate has settled down, my speed has improved, and I can run longer distances without feeling like I need to take a nap for a couple of days. I even ran two 12-mile runs this weekend! If this keeps up, I might even be able to run an ultra marathon in the spring. I'm beyond thrilled!

Knitting News
One Cloning Anemone Rib sock (aka CAR) is done. I think that mentioned in a previous post that when I first started these socks, I found the knitting to be tedious and slow. I couldn't get the hang of the cable (either with or without a cable needle) and the sock ended up in the (ever-growing) UFO bin. But I needed a second sock for vacation (I couldn't find the yarn for the second Monkey sock) and I grabbed the CAR sock. After a few false starts, it worked! I now love this sock. And in the meantime, I discovered a cure for Second Sock Syndrome. Knit only one sock, then knit one sock from a different pattern. By the time you are finished with the second first sock, you'll have forgotten what bugged you about the first first sock and you can complete the pair! So now the second Monkey is on the needles (not that the Monkey sock ever bugged me). I'll post pictures at some point (I think I've been saying that for about a year now).

I think there might also be a color work sweater in my future, but I'm making no promises. Oddly, I've been experiencing something that resembles hot flashes, which does not bode well for the sweater wearing. I think it might be a Lyme thing. It couldn't possibly be related to my age.

Happy knitting!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

RRS (Really Random Saturday)

Today was a rather random kind of day, filled with surprises. Some of the were good and some, well, were interesting.
  • I was run sponsor for the club run this morning, meaning that I had to get to the run extra early to put out water.
  • I kind of got lost doing it, but to be fair it was very early, and dark
  • Then I got lost again because there was a tree across the road and I couldn't figure out how to get to the next place to put the water.
  • I eventually figured it out, but not before I was 30 minutes late to the run.
  • It took me over an hour to put out water.
  • Fortunately, the morning was cool and it was one of the better runs I've done in recent memory.
  • The run was followed by a trip to the farmer's market and the health food store.
  • I picked up a copy of Healing Lyme while I was there.
  • Yup, I've been diagnosed with Lyme disease.
  • Blimey! I'm a Lymie!
  • Spent a large part of the afternoon reading how the Borrelia spirochete infects its host. Fascinating reading.
  • The bluejays raised a major ruckus while I was reading.
  • I went to investigate, thinking it was a cat. Instead, I found a hawk in our yard.
  • Then a little later, a larger, different type of hawk perched in one of our trees.
  • A hummingbird also paid a brief visit.
  • The neighbors a couple of doors down had what sounded like a fun party.
  • They even had a bagpiper!
  • Fortunately, the piper wasn't bad.
  • I also managed to clean the refrigerator.
  • Met a friend for dinner at the Vietnamese restaurant in town.
  • We shared a salad, three entrees, and three desserts.
  • The waiter warned us that it was a lot of food.
  • There wasn't much left over.

All in all, not a bad day (except for the getting lost part). I didn't get any knitting done, but I did carry the current sock-in-progress with me.

Now, I must to bed go. It will be another early start tomorrow so I can get to the run on time. Hopefully, there won't be any fallen trees blocking my route. I'd hate to be late to a breakfast run.

Happy knitting!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I Felt the Earth Move Under My Feet

Fortunately, the sky did not come tumbling down. But such a bizarre experience.

On Friday at 5:04 a.m. EDT, as I was getting ready to give the cats their breakfast, there was a terrible racket and the house shook violently. The cats got panicked looks on their faces, laid back their ears, and bolted from the kitchen. My first thought was that the furnace exploded (or something else in the neighborhood had). My second thought was that Tom was moving heavy furniture around upstairs. My third thought was that a huge, heavily loaded dump truck was driving past the house. And all I wanted it to do was stop making that sound.

It turned out that we had a bona fide earthquake, a 3.6. It was a bit disconcerting. The cats returned a few minutes after it was over and they were very wary, and quite puffed up. Fortunately, there was no damage (except maybe our plaster walls have some more key failure).

Running News
Tonight is the 4th Annual Mule Run. Last year I went the distance. This year, I'm crewing. I have not been running well at all this summer. Even slow runs feel extraordinarily hard. More so than they should be for my fitness level. There's some speculation that I might have Lyme disease and I'll get that diagnosis confirmed (for the second time) on Monday. So we shall see.

Knitting Progess
I'm at the gusset on the first Monkey sock and I continue to love this pattern. I plan to get a lot of knitting in tonight while I wait at the various crew stops for the runners to come in. I might even take the second ball of yarn, just in case I finish the first sock. Yeah, dream on...

Renovation Progress
The room, she is done. It's much more workable now. I acquired a second Effektiv cabinet and I think that will serve me well. Now all that I have to do is find the time to knit at home. I'll try to post pictures in the next post.

Now it's time to gather together all the stuff I'll need to crew tonight. It's going to be a long day; I don't anticipate much, if any sleep, until tomorrow afternoon.

Happy knitting!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Melting Bullets

I'm rather enamored of bullet-point blogging. I can be as random as I'd like, which is good, because it's too hot to come up with a coherent narrative. Yes, the house has air conditioning. But even the briefest trip outside reduces me to a puddle.

  • It's almost 9:00 p.m. It's 90 degrees outside
  • That's just wrong
  • It's supposed to be worse tomorrow
  • The air conditioning in my car doesn't work
  • I'm getting a new car; it's being delivered tomorrow
  • I love my Volvo and it still has a lot of miles left
  • It's not a good car for crewing or volunteering for ultra marathons
  • It's a great car otherwise
  • I've had it for 11 years and 153,000 miles
  • It gets great gas mileage
  • Have I said how much I love my Volvo?
  • I hope I love my Outback just as much
  • I feel like I'm abandoning my Volvo without just cause
  • My fiber room is mostly done
  • All I need to do now is to finish organizing
  • The Effektiv line from Ikea is quite...effective
  • I put two bins of yarn in one cabinet (one high unit, one add-on low unit)
  • I needed another cabinet for the unspun wool
  • Plus I seem to have stashed yarn in baskets, bags, and boxes
  • I still think two cabinets will be enough
  • Time will tell
  • Just checked the weather: there's a heat advisory, excessive heat watch, and an air quality alert
  • The temperature tomorrow is supposed to be 101 degrees.
  • I'm not wearing business clothes when the car has no a/c
  • I'll go a little more casual and wear linen; I don't care if it wrinkles
  • I've turned the heel on the Monkey socks; it took two tries.
  • Now I've got to rip out one of the gussets
  • Apparently I can't count
  • The cats think it's time for a bedtime snack and are hunting flies

And speaking of time, it's time to start preparing for the work week. The long weekend was much too short.

Stay cool and happy knitting!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Nothing to See

But there might be tomorrow if I work my plan.

Tom is off in Wyoming running the Big Horn 50-miler again. They started at 6:00 this morning and I expect him to finish in about 12 hours or so, depending on the snow conditions at the higher elevations (they got four inches of fresh snow on Friday)(actually, given there heat and humidity here at home, snow sounds quite refreshing).

Tom is also running slightly injured, having pulled a muscle in his lower back last weekend. He has until 9:00 p.m. Wyoming time (11:00 p.m. ET) to finish.

I took Friday off and managed to get a fair amount accomplished around the house. I played hooky from running this morning and got even more accomplished. Then it was up to College Park to visit Ikea with my friend Val and her daughter, the newly-minted Dr. Molly. The trip was very productive. And I absolutely love how Ikea can take something that looks big put together and package it so it can fit in a regular car. Of course, being able to creatively pack a trunk has its benefits.

Traffic on the way home was horrible; it was slow all the way to the Dulles Toll Road, so my time was not used very efficiently there. But the cats are fed and walked, I've eaten (and blogged), and now it's time to get back to working my plan.

Hopefully, there will be something to see tomorrow.

Happy knitting!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Inspiration and Motivation

I've had this problem with Inspiration lately. And Motivation, now that I think about it. Both seem to have left the building, leaving me feeling decidedly...flat.

Blogging? Not feeling the love. So, tonight you'll get another bullet point post (BPP).
  • I love Radio Paradise with all my heart. Go give them a listen and if you like what you hear, become a member. They are listener-supported.
  • I bought new shoes last week: Jambu. The Cherry model in the All Terra line. I love them almost more than I love my Birkenstocks.
  • I got stung by a bee today as I was retrieving the cats from their evening constitutional.
  • I hope it wasn't a honey bee. I don't want to be responsible for the death of more honey bees.
  • There's enough eco destruction in the Gulf right now
  • I'm feeling guilty about buying a car that isn't either a hybrid or a very high mileage car
  • At least I won't be buying a Hummer
  • Have you noticed there aren't many new cars saleswomen? Why is that?
  • The cats like going for a walk
  • They get to catch bugs and eat grass and roll around in the dirt
  • There's been some knitting
  • Another pair of Monkey socks is on the needles
  • Sadly, the needles were too small, so the sock is now off the needles
  • I don't care; I love knitting these socks with a passion that is unrivaled
  • As soon as the larger needles arrived in the mail, I cast on
  • I might stay up late tonight, knitting and listening to Radio Paradise (and wearing my new shoes)
  • Or not. The weekend runs start at 7 a.m. now. It's 10:16 p.m. and I'm still eating dinner

That's it. Dinner is finished and I'm feeling rather somnolent. I suppose I should get my beauty rest. Tomorrow will be busy: run, test drive more cars, and prepare a dessert to take to a barbecue. And let's not mention the usual chores. And the room renovation.

Happy knitting!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I'm Not Dead Yet

It's been way too long since I've posted. I've had all these brilliant posts rolling around in my brain and absolutely no time to post. Or knit, for that matter. So here's a quick run down of what's been happening for the last month.

  • I ran the Boston Marathon. Amazingly awesome. The cheering did not stop for 26.2 miles.
  • Bosco was almost dead when we got home; he had a urinary tract obstruction and was close to renal failure.
  • He made a full recovery and there was much rejoicing.
  • I'm watching him like a hawk for the tiniest signs of recurrence.
  • I've been putting in mega hours at work. 60-hour work weeks are not fun.
  • I never know what day it is now.
  • This weekend will confuse me even more; it's MMT weekend.
  • I'll be up from 3 a.m. Saturday morning and not go to bed (or get any significant amount of sleep) until Sunday night.
  • Since Tom's the runner, he's going to be even more tired than me.
  • I'm thinking about running the Vermont 100 Mile next year.
  • I think all this working has addled my brain.
  • That's why I'm taking a brand-new knitting project this weekend, despite an ever-growing UFO pile.
  • The renovation, she is not done. The other wall needed major plaster repair.
  • My parents are visiting next weekend. All the stuff from my fiber room is crammed into the guest room.
  • I'm in big trouble; there's no time to do everything that needs to be done.
  • Next week is going to be a heavy work week, too.
  • It will all work out.

That's all the news that fit to print. Hopefully I'll be able to carve some time out to write in more detail. But until then, thanks to Sheepish Annie for the bullet point format.

Until next time, happy knitting!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Week in Review

It was a bit of a rough week. Work continues to be extremely busy, which is good for preventing boredom, but not so good for getting home before 8:00 in the evening (to be fair, I normally get to work between 9:30 and 10:00; flex gotta love 'em!). By the time I eat dinner, it's 9:30, which is too late to start knitting (because a) either I won't want to stop or b) I'm tired and I'll make stupid mistakes and have to redo it all). So when I go to bed, I've been curling up with Elizabeth Zimmermann or, most recently, Rachael Herron.

The other thing that made this week particularly difficult was that Bosco developed some sort of urinary tract problem and that had us extremely worried. A couple of weeks ago I took him in to get a distemper vaccine, but even then was noticing that he was constantly in and out of the litter box without much, if any, "output." He seemed to be fine otherwise. The vet prescribed a homeopathic remedy (sulfur), which we didn't need. Bosco seemed fine.

Last week, however, the litter box behavior started again, but this time Bosco definitely was not feeling well. Over the course of the week, his energy level and appetite decreased. We took him to the vet a couple of times and he was diagnosed with crystals in his urine, which is not a good thing. The vet prescribed another homeopathic remedy (thuja) and he needed three doses before it seemed to help. In the meantime, we were petrified that he'd become blocked and would need emergency surgery, especially when he seemed to get much worse towards the end of the week.

Fortunately, he seems to have made a full recovery, although he still isn't producing much "output." But at least he doesn't seem to be in pain anymore and isn't in the litter box five or six times per hour.

Knitting and Renovation Progress
Move along, nothing to see here.

Running Progress
Because of work, I haven't had the energy to get up at 5:30 in the morning and run during the week. This is bad because those morning weekday runs help add to the mileage base. I have been able to get out on weekends to run, though, and at least am getting my long runs in. I ran just over six miles yesterday (in the rain) and 14 miles today (in the rain). (Tom, on the other hand, ran a 50K in the mountains (in the rain) yesterday where the creek crossings were waist-high. And cold from snow melt. With a fast current. Comparatively speaking, my runs were a walk in the park.)

I'm going to try to run 18 miles next weekend. I'll feel better if I can get up to 22 miles before Boston. And despite its cachet, Boston is going to end up being a slow training run. I will not finish in a blaze of glory. I'll most likely be crawling over the finish line.

On the Nightstand: How to Knit a Love Song
Long, long ago and in a galaxy far, far away... I used to read "gothic" romances written by the likes of Daphne du Maurier, Dorothy Eden, and Mary Stewart and found them thrilling (in more ways than one). Then I discovered science fiction and other genres and pretty much gave up reading (most) romance novels (I don't believe I've ever read a Harlequin romance).

So when Rachael Herron announced that her first book (a romance) was being published, I decided to buy it. And I'm not sorry that I did.

How to Knit a Love Song is a delightful book. All the elements are there: a smart, beautiful knitting heroine, a handsome hero (although he doesn't come off that way in the beginning), a truly slimy villain, a (somewhat) contested will, fleece-bearing animals, and a dog. Oh, and very well-written "steamy" scenes (it wouldn't be a romance book without those!) The characters are well-developed; the book fast-paced (although somewhat too fast-paced; I found myself wondering how we got to where we were. Perhaps I was reading too fast.). What really drew me in was Abigail's inheritance: a cottage filled with yarn and wool and spinning wheels. I wanted to be there now. Pure bliss! As a bonus, there's a sweater pattern at the end; you can see the finished sweater here. This book will be a great beach read.

Of Birds and Hatchlings
So, apparently this site is flying through the interwebs at...well...internet speed. I would also recommend the eagle cam from Norfolk Botanical Gardens. There's an infrared camera so you can see the eagles at night. This year, the pair had three eaglets. While relatively rare among eagles, it's common for this pair. Last year, another female tried to get in on the action and the first clutch didn't hatch. The second clutch did hatch, but the eaglets had some problems. Hopefully this year, the three eaglets will do better.

Happy knitting (and birding)!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Life Moves On

I'm always sad to see the Olympics end, perhaps because it's the end of a bringing together. It seems that for 17 days, the people of the world are joined together, holding their collective breath as the athletes rocket at incredible speeds down steep hills, narrow tracks, or around tiny skating rinks. They gasp as one (barring time zone differences) as figure skaters jump and twirl and lift, as hockey teams shoot and defend goals. They rejoice as their nation wins medals, but they also rejoice in other nations' victories.

The winter Olympics are my favorite Olympics. They are much smaller than the summer Olympics. And when I started thinking about it, a number of the athletes only have a brief period during the year when they practice, say, skiing or snowboarding. That's pretty incredible. The summer athletes can practice year 'round.

And now this special time is over for another four years. And with it, the Knitting Olympics. This year I medaled, and am thinking that I set the bar too low. But I did what I set out to do and learned a lot in the process. It helped that I was reading a lot of Elizabeth Zimmermann during this time. She provided the guidelines for my mitten design and helped me overcome the fear of knitting without a written pattern. And it was fun! I could do what I wanted and did it with thought, instead of blindly following instructions and not understanding why the designer did "x." If I didn't like the way a part of the mitten was knitting up, I simply unknit it and tried something else. Freedom!

And that got me thinking (and that's not always a good thing)...

I've started contemplating knitting a (dare I say it?) sweater. Like a certain Sheep we know, I too am cursed when it comes to sweater knitting. There must be at least a half-dozen or so laying about the house (well, tucked at the bottom of baskets and boxes actually). There comes a point during the knitting when I just can't go on. I misread the instructions and can't fix the problem. Or I run out of steam. Or worse, the instructions are wrong and I don't figure it out until I've lost all love for the sweater. It's a travesty, really, because I love sweaters and I dream of swathing myself in lovely handknit sweaters during the cold winter months and the chilly spring and fall, and wearing lovely, drapey shells in summer.

So, after I finish the second mitten (just in time for Spring!), I'm going to plan a sweater. I've been reading Knitting in the Old Way as well as EZ. And it's beginning to make sense. The plan is to buy a little wool (or go stash diving) and knit a tiny sweater, maybe doll size, so I can get a handle on the techniques and the (gulp) math. Then scale up for me. And maybe, just maybe, by the time the winter snows are blowing next year, I'll have me a gorgeous sweater!

Running Progress
I am so in trouble for the Boston Marathon. Fortunately, my foot is really almost healed and I've started running again. But now I've got only six weeks to train. My longest run has been about 12 miles, and the long run seems to be the only run I can muster. And those runs are not pretty. I feel like I'm waddling, not running, and by the end, my legs are weak. My goal is to complete a 22-mile run by the end of March. There will be no taper; Boston is going to be a slow training run.

May the running gods have mercy upon me.

Renovation Progress
I managed to get one length of baseboard scraped down to the base paint layer. The sad part is that the baseboard will be hidden by shelves. I'm seriously considering giving up this particular endeavor and move on to painting the ceiling, then the walls. If I don't, my room won't be done until this time next year. And that's too late.

On the Nightstand
I came home yesterday to find a package from Amazon. Inside was Rachael's book, How to Knit a Love Song. It's a very enjoyable read...enchanting, really. I mean, how can you not be enchanted when someone inherits a cottage full of spinning wheels and wool? I'll write a longer review when after I finish it.

So, Rachael, if you are reading this, you're sharing my nightstand with EZ!

Happy knitting!

P.S. We still have snow in our backyard. I think we've had almost a solid month with snow on the ground. Truly an unprecedented event!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Thrill of Victory

Welcome to this next-to-last day of Olympic coverage! It's been quite the competition this year, Jim.

That's right, Bob. Of the 4,049 competitors, we've seen stunning successes and heartbreaking setbacks. Remember "the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat?" That's been so true during this competition as the knitters work through the difficult parts in their program.

Take for example, in the host nation, the organizer of this event, a superb knitter if there ever was one. Stephanie chose a gorgeous sweater to knit, not unlike her entry for the 2006 Knitting Olympics, which she finished just before the torch went out. This year, however, she's been plagued by little setbacks that have added up to being so far behind that it's anyone's guess as to whether she'll finish.

We'll definitely be rooting for her, Jim. And then there's Tee who pulled out of the competition after discovering a serious problem with the gauge of her project. She was gracious in her defeat, saying that the point of the challenge was to make a pretty sweater for her daughter, not to win a race.

And don't forget Carolyn, Bob. She chose a lace shawl for her competition, having never knit anything larger than a baby hat in 17 days. After barely starting, she was unhappy with her program and changed yarns, which obviously meant starting over. I'm happy to report that she finished Thursday night!

And what about one of the returning competitors? Here we have Teri, from Virginia. You competed in the 2006 Knitting Olympics, didn't you?

That's right. My project for that competition was a pair of Norwegian mittens. Unfortunately, I DNF'd, having completed only one mitten of the pair.

And for this year's competition, you chose to knit another stranded mitten, right?

Yes. I knew that I'd have difficulty with finishing the program before I even started, what with the lack of time to knit because of a challenging work schedule. My goal was to finish one mitten, with the catch being that the mitten needed to be designed by me.

That's quite a stretch, because this is your first foray into design, isn't it?

It was a stretch. Fortunately, I had already knitted a prototype mitten and was unhappy with certain aspects of the design. So all I needed to do was to modify it by removing a pattern repeat and changing the cuff pattern. The design was heavily influenced by some of Elizabeth Zimmeramann's mittens, and I chose to do a curled mitten tip and a striped thumb with a gusset, both new techniques for me.

Did you encounter any difficulties along the way?

Definitely! There were sections that needed to be ripped out and knitted again because I made mistakes in counting. The thumb gusset was problematic because I had no idea how many stitches I needed. The first go 'round would have produced a thumb of gargantuan proportions, so I had to rip back to the cuff, almost a third of the mitten. I was sure that that incident was going to take me out of the competition. But I persevered and eventually ended up with a thumb that works.

Weren't you thinking that you might exceed your goal and finish two mittens instead of one?

Yes. After a week into the competition, I was thinking that I might be able to finish a second mitten. However, the aforementioned gusset problem dashed those hopes.

But I'm happy to say that, despite twelve hour days at work, I finished my program! The knitting was finished Thursday night and the ends woven in last night. Overall, I'm pleased with the fit. The thumb is a little wonky, so the final pattern will need to be adjusted. It's truly been a great experience to design this mitten.

And for our viewers at home, here's the completed Vancouver mitten:

The back

The palm

Cuff detail

Main pattern detail

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Teri. Congratulations on your winning performance!

Thank you. It's been a pleasure.

Well, Jim, that wraps up today's coverage. Good luck to all the Knitting Olympians who are still working to finish their projects!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Now I've Gone and Done It

I did it. I joined the Knitting Olympics. What was I thinking?! I can't seem to finish any project in less than six months and now I've signed up for finishing a project in 17 days?

So here's the deal: I'm working designing a two-color mitten and the first mitten has some design problems challenges. The concept was good, but something got lost between brain and paper and wool. It needs some "refining," including sizing it for a hand (mine) smaller than Edward Scissorhands. My goal is to fix the design and knit one mitten.

In order for me to finish by the time the torch goes out, I'll need a couple more snowstorms the size of the one this past weekend (to keep me at home) and a major Internet outage (so I can't work from home).

The saving grace is that the yarn is bulkier than I usually knit with, so the knitting goes fast. Still, completing the design and one mitten is going to a be stretch.

May the knitting gods have mercy upon me.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

We're Not in Virginia Anymore, Toto we got about 34.5 inches of snow this past weekend.  This area isn't used to that much snow and they don't clear the roads well with less snow, so I opted to work from home on Monday.  I also worked from home on Tuesday, partially because I had a migraine, partially because I didn't feel like dealing with the roads, and (here's the kicker), they were calling for more snow to start Tuesday.  Foot's Forecast mentioned something about Kahunageddon.  But the National Weather Service wasn't calling for that much snow, at least not initially. 

By the end of the day yesterday, the estimate was for another 10 to 20 inches.

It didn't start snowing yesterday until late in the afternoon, and it was very light. And then it stopped.  I was positive this storm was going to be a bust.  When I got up this morning to feed the cats, it was snowing hard.  Not only that, it was very windy.  A girl could only do one thing:  go back to bed.

When I finally dragged myself out of bed, it was clear I was going to work from home again today.  Yesterday we had a winter storm warning.  Today it was a blizzard warning.  What?!  We don't have blizzards in Virginia. It snowed and blew (why isn't it snowed and blowed or snew and blew?) all day, with the snow finally tailing off late afternoon.  The unofficial tally is nine inches for my little town, far less than the original estimate (somehow, and in a sick way, I feel cheated).  The winds have picked up again this evening and even though no snow is predicted, they are still predicting blizzard-like conditions.

We're not in Virginia anymore, Toto.

So how much snow have we gotten in the 2009/2010 season?  The December 19 storm dropped about 22 inches, then we had two storms that dropped about six inches each, the weekend storm that produced 34.5 inches, and today's storm with about nine.  That's over 77 inches of snow!!!  And I think there might of been one or two insignificant snowfalls.  So let's say 80 inches of snow.  Virginia just doesn't get that amount of snow.

And looking at the long range forecast, there's a chance of snow Sunday and Monday.  The thought of more snow leaves me speechless.

I'll try to get some post blizzard pictures tomorrow, after the blizzard-force winds die down.  In the meantime, here's hoping that our porch roofs don't collapse!

Stay warm!


Sunday, February 07, 2010

More Than I Thought

All last week, there had been rumors of another significant snowfall here in Virginia, something along the lines of the December 19th storm. That storm dropped about 20 inches of snow right before Christmas, wreaking havoc for those of us who don't start Christmas shopping until the week before. (For your information, that would not include me. I do all my shopping online.)

The forecast for the 12/19 storm was accurate, unlike one storm several years ago when they predicted 12+ inches and we got maybe an inch. That storm was a major bust. The forecast for the second snowfall this year was originally for an accumulation of less than half an inch and we got about six inches.

So when this storm was forming, I started watching the NOAA web site. On Thursday, a friend sent me a link to this weather site and I never looked back. I started obsessively watching the forecast and how it was changing and why (I swear I should have been some kind of scientist).

Anyway, to make a long story short, the National Weather Service (NWS) kept changing their total accumulation estimates. It started out as 12 inches, then it was 12-18, then it was 18-24. They finally settled on 20-30 inches, with potentially more than 30 inches at higher elevations. The NWS issued a winter storm warning that was in effect from 10 a.m. Friday to 10 p.m. Saturday.

The region started the standard typical emergency preparations: buying more milk, eggs, and toilet paper than a family could possibly use in a month. My sole purchase was a pair of ski pants, because if we really got that much snow, I'd need something to keep me dry while digging out.

Digging a path to Tom's office

The snow started at 10 a.m. on Friday, right on time. By the time it stopped Saturday afternoon, we had an amazing 34.5 inches of snow on the ground! That's the largest single snowfall I've ever experienced. We started shoveling Friday night, trying to "keep ahead" but it was all for naught. By Saturday morning, it looked like we hadn't shoveled at all.

The snow is somewhat wet and heavy and we lost a large branch from the maple in the front yard (which happened to fall on my car; fortunately, the car wasn't damaged).

Where's the Volvo?

A large branch also broke off the cedar in the back yard, damaging the windshield wipers on the Westfalia. We were fortunate in that we didn't lose power, unlike a lot of people (including my mother-in-law) in the region. It's supposed to get very cold tonight, about 8 degrees, so Tom might have to go get his mother and bring her here until power is restored.

We walked around town yesterday and some of the roads are okay and some are not. They've already closed schools for Monday and Tuesday, but I suspect that with the cold temperatures and the remoteness of some of the bus routes, the schools are going to be closed all week, especially since they are calling for another snowstorm on Tuesday and Wednesday. Here are some pictures that Tom took while we were on walkabout:

A stream at Morven Park

Old Waterford Road

A local Bed & Breakfast

So, has this snow event left me time for knitting?

In a word, no.

However, I hope to get some knitting time in today and with luck, should finish the hand of the mitten. I was almost finished with the pattern on the hand when I discovered a mistake about five rows down that had to be fixed. I'm back on track, though, and the first mitten should be finished in relatively short order. Then it's on to the second mitten, where I'll need to decide if I want to tweak the pattern a bit, which will mean that I'll have to rip out the first mitten and re-knit it to match the second mitten. It's really cold and these mittens are going to be very warm. I suppose I could wear subtlety mismatched mittens until the worst of the weather is over. Or I could declare both mittens to be prototypes and then knit them again in a yarn that will better show the pattern.

That's it for now. Happy knitting!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mitten Love

There's actually been a fair amount of knitting activity chez Knitting Libran. I'm not quite sure how that happened, given long hours at work. I have three partial skeins of Manos del Uruguay that are left over from a hat project. It's nice yarn and it's a shame to let it go to waste. But what to make from it? There might be enough to make a hat, but hats and my hair do not get along. There's not enough for a scarf. There might be enough for a pair of socks, but the yarn is too loosely spun. But a pair of mittens would be perfect! This winter is cold and Tom has taken my ugly, machine-made wool mittens for running, leaving me with an inadequate pair of thin leather gloves.

I have three different shades of blue (dark, medium, and light) and there isn't enough of any one color for a pair of mittens. That led me to the idea of Fair Isle mittens, since my gauge swatch indicated that a judicious use of all three colors would give me plenty of yarn. So I dug through my books to find an existing pattern. Alas, either the mittens were too big for my hand, or the yarn was the wrong kind, or I didn't have enough colors. Sigh...

So I'm taking the creative leap and designing my own. I'm taking inspiration from EZ's Norwegian and Jogger's Mittens. I knit a gauge swatch to determine, well...gauge. And size. How many stitches do I need to cast on to get a mitten that isn't too loose? After getting that answer, I started looking for Fair Isle patterns in Sheila McGregor's book, Traditional Fair Isle Knitting. There are pages and pages of charts in the book and I figured it would be a piece of cake to whip together a design. Ha!

This pattern is too big and that one is too small; this one would be just right, except I don't like it. And that was just determining the cuff pattern. I finally found something that would work well with my original calculations. I knit the cuff this morning. It looks pretty good, except the Manos is not a good choice for two-color knitting, given the slubbiness of the yarn. The Fair Isle pattern is not as crisp as I would like it to be. But the mittens will be warm!

The cuff is knit in navy with a light blue border pattern. I was originally thinking about knitting the hand in medium blue with a light blue snowflake-y pattern, but I have more light blue than medium blue so the pattern will be medium blue. The palm will have an all-over pattern and I'm considering striping the thumb as well as placing a medium blue stripe on each side of the hand, separating the back from the palm (a la EZ's Norwegian mittens). My next task is to figure out the design placement on the back and which pattern to use for the palm. And how to do the thumbs.

I suspect that this pair of mittens will be a prototype. I'd like to see what they'd look like in a regular smooth, plied yarn. More later!

Room Makeover Progress
As is typical with old houses (104 years and counting), the work in the room is spawning additional projects. Tom is now going full-bore repairing the ceiling and wall. You know how it see a piece of loose paint or wallpaper and you just want to neaten it up a bit. So you scrape or pull and before you know it, you're determined to get every bit of old paint off the woodwork. It will give in to your will, you just have to find its weak point of adhesion. The sound of a whole lot of paint zippering off is very satisfying indeed. It's going to take months before the work it done, though. However, the hard work and the wait will be worth it. I'll have a calm, quiet, organized place to go to read, work, and indulge in my fiber-y pursuits.

Running Progress
I've finally been cleared to run! I did a short run last weekend, maybe only four miles or so, and my heel didn't get worse. So now it's time (if the stupid weather improves) to slowly start increasing the miles in preparation for the Boston Marathon. All of my travel arrangements have been made and everything has been settled. Sadly, Tom won't be able to go. It would definitely be more fun with him there. Only three months to go...yikes!

That's it for now...happy knitting!