Saturday, August 27, 2005

Speed Record

Ha! Not in knitting. On Wednesday, I cooked up an Indian feast in less than three hours. This is an all-time record; usually it takes me all day. Of course, it helped that I found pre-made panir, so I could dispense with making my own cheese. And even though I mixed the dough for the chapatis, I didn't actually make them (the dough is in the freezer and I'll make them at some later time). What was for dinner?

  • Panir with peas in a minty tomato sauce (matar panir)
  • Spiced green beans (masala barbatti sabji)
  • Simple yellow rice (haldi chaval)
  • Shredded carrot, coconut, and radish salad (mooli nariyal kachamber)
  • Vanilla ice cream with sliced mango

  • The salad was a bit dry and benefited from adding a little yogurt. And I discovered that the rice (cooked with all sorts of spices) works well in the rice cooker. All recipes are from what I consider to be the most comprehensive Indian cookbook in the world, Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, by Yamuna Devi. It's 800 pages and includes all types of dishes, from rices and dals to breads and snacks, to drinks and desserts (the ras malai is to die for!).

    Fern Leaf and the Sock
    I'm slowly making progress here. I've almost finished the center motif, with only four rows to go, followed by three repeats of the edge motif and six rows of plain knitting. Fortunately, I haven't had to tink much lately, but it takes knitting in absolute silence. I can forget knitting with the radio on because I get sucked into the music or the commentary and whoops! I insert mistakes. I predict that the shawl should be finished sometime soon after next weekend.

    We're off to Annapolis this afternoon so Tom can run in the Annapolis 10-Miler tomorrow. Unfortunately, it looks like it's going to be a bit rainy, which will make running (and spectating) not so much fun. I should be able to get in some sock knitting on this trip.

    I predict that the second sock will be complete by the end of next week. I'm going to take three days and go visit my parents. It's been a while since I took a trip down there and in addition to having a good time (and good food), there's always some good knitting time to be had. I'll get to visit with my grandmother and see my nieces and nephews. And, there's one more little niece or nephew who will make an appearance in February or March. I need to figure out soon what to knit, so I don't end up giving the gift a couple of years later.

    That's it for now. Have a great weekend!

    Wednesday, August 24, 2005

    Still Waiting...

    Well, no word on the job in Rockville. The hiring manager was able to go on vacation this week after all (his dog recovered from an allergic reaction to some vaccinations) so the company has postponed making a decision until next Monday. I'm trying very hard to maintain my cool and not read all sorts of bad things into it. Mostly I'm succeeding. But there's a little part of me that's saying that I'm not going to get the job and he didn't want to go on vacation having just delivered bad news. Of course, it can work the other way, too. He didn't want to enter into salary negotiations just before going on vacation. See, I'm trying to remain balanced!

    I had a fun day yesterday with my friend Pam, who is also jobless at this time. We had lunch at this yummy Vietnamese restaurant, A Taste of Vietnam, in Sterling. Pam had never eaten there and really enjoyed it. After lunch, we went back to her house and had tiramisu for dessert. I had made the tiramisu last Friday. Tom didn't like it (it was a bit soggy) and it would be a very bad thing for me to eat it all myself. So I shared with Pam. Fortunately, it has gotten less soggy over time and is actually quite edible now. Then I whipped out a ball of yarn and some knitting needles and proceeded to teach Pam how to knit.

    It was an interesting teaching experience, not because Pam wasn't an apt student (she was), but because it forced me to deconstruct how I knit. Teaching the long-tail cast on was the hardest. I could cast on correctly. I could guide Pam's hands through the correct sequence, but it just wasn't working for us. We kept getting an extra loop of yarn on the needle. I finally figured out that thumb placement is key. Dropping the thumb that holds the yarn causes a twist; holding the thumb closer to the index finger doesn't cause a twist. We then moved on to the knit stitch. This was much easier and within a few minutes, Pam was happily knitting away. Her tension looked great, even though she was knitting with LP Cotton Fleece on slippery aluminum needles. Every now and then, she'd make a mistake and I would demonstrate how to fix it, then recreate the mistake and let her fix it. She was thrilled that she was creating fabric with string and two pointy sticks! We'll get back together in a couple of weeks for a purl stitch lesson. And yes, I'm teaching the continental method.

    I didn't get home until almost 6:00, which meant that I missed going to the Loudoun Knitters meeting. I've never been and really feel a need to connect with local knitters. Fortunately they meet twice a month, so I'll go next time.

    More Extreme Knitting Entries
    It's interesting how there seems to be a theme for some of the entries that I get. For example, knitting while climbing rocks or knitting while doing work-related activities or knitting while on or in the water. Today's entries involve bridges (and suspension...more on that later).

    Celia decided to take her knitting on a little sightseeing trip. While showing off the sights of San Francisco to a visiting East Coaster, Celia and crew decided to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, creating the perfect photo opportunity for some extreme knitting:

    Celia is definitely knitting on the edge there. And here is a photo the captures the majesty of the bridge:

    Folkcat also chose a bridge for her extreme knitting. In this case, it is an old bridge (Savage Bridge) near Milford, New Hampshire, that spans the Souhegan River.

    Folkcat not only took her knitting to the edge, she took herself too, by precariously perching on the railing:

    Remember, no knitter or knitting is to be harmed during the challenge. And that brings us to the final entry today and a review of the rules.

    In the interest of being open to diversity, but also in the interest of not alienating this blog's audience, I'll mention the activity, but not post the photos. Alice, in the UK, submitted an entry that documented the combination of her love of knitting with her love modification. (The squeamish and faint-of-heart will want to stop reading now.) Alice was photographed knitting a lovely garter stitch scarf while suspended from two hooks in her back. While it looked extremely painful, she appeared to be quite content and peaceful. (I may have to go have a lie-down now. Whew!)

    I have to admit that this is by far the most extreme entry thus far. Unfortunately, it is also the most questionable. I debated long and hard about whether or not I should even mention this entry and in the end, decided to include it as an example of what isn't appropriate, extreme though it may be. As a reminder, the rules are:

    All contenders should submit a picture of themselves (or their knitting) knitting where no (wo)man has knit before. Knitting while skydiving, scuba diving, bicycling, rock climbing, on rooftops, up a tree, etc. are all examples. It isn't necessary for the knitting activity to take place in the great outdoors, either. The key is to be imaginative (while keeping it clean!) and not harming the knitter or the knitting in the process (safety first!). While Alice clearly consented to the modification, I would classify that activity as a knitter being harmed. In the future, entries such as Alice's will be returned to the contestant and will not be posted or mentioned.

    I also received a question if it's possible be a serial extreme knitter and enter more than once. The answer to that is absolutely! The only caveat is that you must follow the rules. So enter early and enter often!

    On A Lighter Note
    It's a gorgeous day today, slightly breezy and in the low 80s, just perfect for knitting outside. So Jez and I are going to do just that. With any luck, I'll get one or two more rows completed on the Fern Lace Shawl before it's time to start dinner, which tonight will have an Indian theme. Details on the next posting!

    Monday, August 22, 2005

    Silly Me

    The weekend was pretty quiet; I spent most of it cooking (more on that later). But the highlight of the weekend was watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on DVD Saturday night. For some reason, we missed seeing it in the theatre when it was released. Tom got everything set up for an 8:00 showtime and I wandered in, sock knitting in hand. Tom was incredulous. "You're going to knit while watching Harry Potter?!" "Sure," said I, "I can knit and watch a movie at the same time."

    Silly me. I knit not one stitch on that sock. The movie was so engrossing and, as always, so visually rich that I didn't want to miss one little bit of it.

    The Loudoun Road Runners' annual picnic was scheduled for Sunday. Given that all of the runs would be finished by about 10:30, I figured some kind of brunch food would be appropriate. So I spent Saturday making homemade cinnamon rolls and a quiche. We showed up at Market Station at 7:00 (that's AM) on Sunday and only one person was there. Eventually, another person wandered in, but certainly not nearly enough people to have a picnic. Tom, Mike, and Sarah headed off for their run. They run a lot faster than I do (even more so now that my running is mostly not happening), so I opted to not run. I invited them back to the house for a post-run snack of the picnic fare, cached water for Tom, and scurried back to the house to do a little straightening. Of course, no one came. But the cinnamon rolls and quiche were quite tasty.

    If you like spicy Thai food, here's a recipe that I developed that you might enjoy. I used grilled catfish, but it would work equally well with other white fish, chicken, shrimp, or even tofu.

    Catfish Thai Red Curry
    2 catfish fillets (more if you are serving more than 2 people)
    1-2 Tablespoons of canola oil
    1 onion, chopped
    1 Tablespoon Thai red curry paste (I use A Taste of Thai brand)
    1 Tablespoon brown sugar (or to taste)
    3/4 Cup unsweetened coconut milk (approximately)
    juice of one-half to one lime (or to taste)
    chopped cilantro or basil
    sliced or chopped mango
    steamed rice

    Rinse and pat dry the catfish fillets. Season with salt and pepper. Grill over a medium hot fire until done (about 6 minutes per side). Remove and set aside. Alternatively, you can pan fry the catfish (or chicken) before sauteeing the onions.

    Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and sautee until soft and translucent. Add the red curry paste and blend with the onions, then add the brown sugar and coconut milk. Blend thoroughly. (You may need to lower the heat at this point; I've found that if coconut milk gets too hot, it has a tendency to "splurp" up like molten lava.) Add the lime juice. Cut the catfish into bite-size chunks and add to the curry sauce. If you are using shrimp or tofu, add them now. Heat thoroughly. Serve over hot steamed rice and sprinkle chopped cilantro or basil over top with a side of mango.

    Note that this dish is very spicy hot. You might want to decrease the amount of red curry paste. The mango makes nice accompaniment and helps cool the heat.

    Knitting Content
    Thanks to everyone who offered advice to improve my counting skills. Believe it or not, I do use stitch markers to mark the lace repeats. But the shawl is triangular; how do you account for a two-stitch increase every other row if you place stitch markers every 10 stitches? Wouldn't the number of stitches between the stitch markers be greater than or less than 10? (Of course, I could try it myself and see what happens...duh!). I do use stitch markers when casting on a large number of stitches. It definitely keeps me honest.

    I managed to knit about four rows on Fern Leaf yesterday. And characteristically, I had to tink part of the two pattern rows that I knit. I missed a yarn over on one row and had an extra yarn over on another row. After a bit of reflecting, I realized that this is probably an exercise assigned by the Universe to help me become more mindful. When my mind wanders, I make mistakes.

    Parting Shot

    I snapped a quick picture of this little guy, hanging out on our deck:

    Other than the great pose, I found this squirrel to be very interesting. If you look closely, you'll see that fur on his jaw and front paws is a deep brown, which is not characteristic of the grey squirrel. At first I thought he might be diseased, but after looking at him through binoculars, determined that, yes indeed, that's the color of his fur. But then I noticed a black walnut on the deck, still in the hull. The squirrel has been eating walnuts, which dyed his fur a nice brown. Unfortunately, I don't think we get enough walnuts from our tree for dyeing wool.

    And finally, I should find out today whether or not I get the job in Rockville. I don't know anything about the other candidate's background, so I have no sense of which way the decision will go. Oh, the suspense!

    Thursday, August 18, 2005

    Let Me Count...

    Not only am I math-challenged, I appear to be counting-challenged as well. While being math-impaired creates challenges for knitting, I don't feel too embarrassed asking for help. After all, I'm a relatively new knitter and haven't learned all of the tricks of the trade. Asking for help with counting, on the other hand, is highly embarrassing.

    What's so difficult about counting? It's not that I can't count; it's that I never seem to come up with the same number each time I count. I take to heart the carpenter's maxim "Measure twice, cut once." "Count twice, start the next row." It goes like this:

    "Whew! I'm glad I finished that pattern row. Let's count...should have 113 stitches."
    "2, 4, 6...110. Grrr...that's not right. Let's count again."
    "2, 4, 6...114. Aargh! That's still not right. Let's check the knitting against the pattern."
    "Everything's okay with the knitting. Let's count it again."
    "2, 4, 6...113. Hmmm...let's count again just to make sure."
    "2, 4, 6...113. Okay, let's go to the next row."

    Now, I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent person. I graduated from college with good GPA; I can grasp complex concepts. But the conversation above illustrates how I spend my mornings with the Fern Leaf Shawl. I've taken to putting lifelines in every other row. I count, and count again. This morning, I counted (after having ripped back to the lifeline because it looked liked a couple of yarn overs disappeared), knit the next row, moved the lifeline, and at the end of the pattern row I was short one stitch. How did that stitch go missing?!

    It's enough to put a girl off knitting lace.

    More Extreme Knitting

    Emily submitted this photo for the Extreme Knitting Challenge:

    The location is the Ansel Adams wilderness of the Sierra Nevada. But wait, you say, she's not knitting. Yes, she is. But when one is solo backpacking, one can't knit and snap a photo at the same time. Emily is knitting the Norsk Strikkedesign sweater sleeve at a high pass (10,000 feet altitude). You can read about Emily's (and her faithful dog, Tiko's) adventure here. Frankly, I'd be terrified of meeting up with a bear, even with a bear canister. And Emily? Nice spork!

    Tuesday, August 16, 2005


    Having a blog is a mixed blessing. It provides an excellent opportunity to improve one's writing skills and is a good way to document progress on knitting projects. It allows friends and family to stay up-to-date on what is happening in one's life. And that's where I got busted by my mother (Hi, Mom!).

    Tom and I typically spend the first week in August with his family in the Outer Banks in North Carolina. We also typically stop by my parents' house for a quick visit on the way down and back. Well, this year we didn't stop. Even worse than that, I didn't even call to let my family know that I was going. A few days ago, my mother calls and says "It's a good thing you have a blog so I know what you've been up to. How come you went to the beach and didn't stop by?" Oops. No excuses, I was a bad daughter. I hadn't called in a couple of weeks (I usually call every week). I didn't stop by on the way to the beach. I felt horrible. So, I'm going to try to get down there during the week (perfect, since I have no job responsibilities) either this week or next. It will be good to visit. I'll give you a call, Mom, and let you know when I'll be coming!

    Employment News
    The second interview with the company in Rockville went well. I'm one of two top contenders. They should be making a decision early next week. A friend gave me another job lead that sounds like it could be's closer to home, working for a non-profit, and sounds like it could be more structured and less hectic than my previous jobs. So we'll see where that ends up.

    I spend Friday afternoon working with my friend Susan at Y2Knit. And that got me to thinking. How many yarn shops can a geographical area support? There are four that I would consider to be relatively local, although they all at least 20 miles away (which to me isn't very local). Could my town support a yarn shop? What would it take for a yarn shop to be successful? Can I earn a living wage after it's established?

    Having a yarn shop would certainly meet the need for wanting to earn a living by doing fiber things. But would I enjoy it? I know that I'd get less knitting done than I do now. Susan recommended developing a business plan, so that's what I'm going to do. I think it also means that I need to visit a lot of yarn shops (oh, the torture!) to see how they differ from each other.

    Extreme Knitting
    And last, but not least, there are three Extreme Knitting entries today. And they are linked by a common theme. All of them were taken while working!

    Emily had this photo taken while in full clerical garb. She says:

    I don't have a book tour like the Harlot. I live in Oklahoma, so nowhere near mountains. I am, however, an Episcopal priest, and it occured to me I could at least put on appropriate Sunday garb to knit.

    (Please note the vestments include a chasuble, stole, and alb, plus microphone and Sunday best including plastic "clericool" collar underneath.)

    I don't know, Emily, a plastic "clericool" collar doesn't sound like it would be cool or comfortable. And knitting in all those garments is definitely extreme. Bonus points will be awarded if the air conditioning wasn't on in the church.

    Andrea interpreted extreme knitting in a slightly different way. her knitting to...(dare I say it?)

    I can't do Andrea's story justice, so you have to read about it in her own words. Andrea, your post mysteriously mentions a skiing injury. After you heal and are cleared by your doctor for more extreme sports, I expect to see a picture of you knitting while on skis!

    The third entry is amazing. Kris took her knitting to an amusement park. On a roller coaster. And she knit while plummeting down very steep hills very fast:

    Notice the contented smile (if that was me, I'd have a look of stark terror on my face). For the roller coaster lovers among us, the ride is Goliath at Six Flags Magic Mountain and she's knitting the Soleil tank. Kris has additional pictures of the adventure here.

    Thanks for the great entries!

    I'll be sending the button soon (it's finished!). I've also got the gallery framework set up and should have the gallery linked in the sidebar in the next week or so.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2005

    Bridging the Chasm

    One of the rules of the Extreme Knitting Challenge is to be safe. Does this look like the knitter in question is concerned about the safety of her sock?

    Can we say "reckless endangerment?" Fortunately, the knitting and all the needles were hauled up recovered unharmed. The picture of the sock dangling in mid-air, hundreds of feet above the rocks, struck fear in my heart. If it fell, it would mean certain death for the sock the sock (and its needles) would never be recovered.

    Not long after, the slightly deranged fearless, globe trotting Yarn Harlot bravely stood smack dab in the center of a swaying suspension bridge (230 feet above the deck), in a high wind, cheerfully knitting a round or two on the sock she had just so carelessly dangled above the rocks.

    To read more about the sock's adventures that day, go here.

    Thanks for your entry, Stephanie, and for sharing your adventures with us!

    Non-knitting news

    The job search continues. I had another opportunity drop into my lap last Friday. This position would be very challenging technically. It would also be much closer to home. I don't think there's as much opportunity for advancement, however. I have a second round of interviews tomorrow with the first place. Hopefully, I'll get additional information that will help me make a relatively informed decision.

    And then there's a receptionist position at an engineering consulting firm in town, about a 3-minute walk from my house. That is very tempting, although I have a suspicion that I would become bored in a month or so. Or not.

    But I'm still trying to figure out how I can merge my love of fiber with the necessity of earning a decent income. There are a couple of available buildings downtown that would make perfect yarn shops. Leesburg doesn't have a yarn shop. I don't have the capital to open a yarn shop. My husband claims that I have zero business or financial sense and unrealistic expectations. But I could learn, no?

    Knitting news

    I've made no progress at all on the second sock, nor on the shawl. However, I did ply the singles of the Corriedale I spun up the other day:

    I'm mostly satisfied with it, although it is a bit thick and thin. It should make for an...ummm...interesting...knitting experience.

    Monday, August 08, 2005


    It was a lazy weekend, just the way I like them. Tom wasn't very motivated to work around the house, so I didn't feel too guilty about being lazy. I decided to spend some time yesterday spinning. So, I was sitting at my wheel, spinning up some lovely Corriedale, laptop by my side, listening to XM Radio. Every now and then I'd stop to reply to an instant message. It was an interesting juxtaposition of low and high techologies.

    I have a question for those of you who spin. How do you not overtwist your yarn? I'm treadling as slowly as possible, but the resulting yarn still seems to too much twist in it. I know that plying will remove some of the excess twist. I have an Ashford Traditional wheel, single treadle. I think I remember hearing (at sometime in the dim past) that Ashfords are prone to overtwisting.

    In knitting news, I cast on for the second sock from h*ll. I will be soooglad when this pair of socks is complete! I don't like the yarn (Trekking XXL), although I know that atleast a few people out there just love it. I don't like the colorway, either. It's muddy. And I knit a few rows of the Fern Leaf shawl, remembering to knit after every pattern row.

    I'm contemplating casting on a hat for the nephew, just to knit something that doesn't feel like it will take forever. Or maybe a pair of mittens. Or perhaps I'll start the poncho I want to make for Christmas.

    And in Extreme Knitting Challenge news, I have an entry from Carole. She took her sock to the top of West Chop Lighthouse. I don't think many socks-in-progress can boast that privilege.

    And here's an artful picture of the sock viewing the shadow of the lighthouse:

    To all of intrepid Extreme Knitters, the button is still in progress. I haven't forgotten!

    Friday, August 05, 2005

    Beach Knitting

    It was a quiet week at the beach. It took over six hours to get down there ("there" being Southern Shores in the Outer Banks in North Carolina) last Saturday because traffic around Richmond and Williamsburg was incredibly slow. Tom decided he wanted to finish reading his current book, so I drove. That wouldn't have been too bad, except he read for all of about 20 minutes. The rest of the time he did...nothing! Ack! All that prime knitting time going to waste!

    It rained most of Sunday, so I worked on the sock. The weather the rest of the week was nice and I worked on the sock. Time actually spent on the beach? About three hours, primarily because I forgot my hat, I forgot my high-octane sunscreen, and we didn't bring the beach umbrella. Ordinarily, that wouldn't have deterred me, but I remembered that the medication I'm on is one of those that make you photosensitive, so I erred on the side of caution. Yes, I know...I could have bought a hat, bought sunscreen, and bought an umbrella. But that meant spending money to buy stuff I already had and besides, I wanted to save my pennies for yarn at Knitting Addiction.

    If you visit the Outer Banks, you should try to stop by. The shop is very nice. It's spacious and she has a nice selection of luxury fibers as well as the standards. This is her second year in business, I think, and she has added a shop kitty, Purrl, who is the sweetest little cat. It's at this shop that I introduced my sister-in-law, Reide, to baby alpaca.

    Reide has been knitting for about year and she has turned out a prodigious number of scarves knit with novelty yarns. Reide has a good eye for color and texture and the scarves are quite nice. She decided to learn a little more about knitting and asked me to teach her how to make a hat. And that's where the baby alpaca comes in. The shop had a basic ski cap knitted up (with pattern available) and it was so soft that Reide just had to get it. So we got circular needles and a set of DPNs and later that evening, Reide learned the long tail cast on, how to join without twisting, and how to decrease. By the end of the next day, she had a hat and was ready to knit another one. So back to the yarn shop we went to get more yarn. There was this really nifty hand-dyed super bulky yarn that would make a great hat and Reide was eyeing that, but decided it was too expensive, so she got another skein of baby alpaca. I've started her down the slippery slope of yummy yarn. Bwah-ha-ha!

    So, about the sock...

    I finished it on the way home yesterday. And despite my best efforts with the heel, I had to rip the blasted thing out because stitches (especially the yarn overs) kept leaping off the needles like lemmings leaping off a cliff. It took about three hours to knit the toe, which seems like a lot of time to knit such a small area. The sock is a little short for my husband's foot; I'll make the next one a little longer. Now all I have to do it get the motivation to knit sock #2.

    Progress on the Fern Leaf shawl? I had to tink about seven rows because I forgot to knit more than one row after knitting pattern rows. Sigh...that's what I get for letting my mind wander during my knitting.