Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I just can't win with the Sweater of Frustration Christine sweater. Maybe it's me, but I'm finding the chart for this pattern to be ambiguous at best. It has two markings for the five sizes and markings indicating sleeves, edge stitches, and a 10-stitch pattern repeat. But what does one do with the different size markings and the edge stitches? The number of stitches cast on is a multiple of 10, plus 5. But the marking for the size I'm knitting seem to suggest no right side edge stitch and a single wrong side edge stitch, and that does not work out to a multiple of 10, plus 5. This morning I knit the blue and beige band and after it was all said and done, tinked it. Tomorrow I'll knit the five edge stitches and the pattern repeat and see what that does.

I seem to be approaching this process by trial and error. Try it, see if it works, if it doesn't, rip it out and try something else. When it finally clicks, I know it will stay with me forever. Getting to that point is a painful process.

But as Margene says, it's the process. I'm just ready for this process to work.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Just Shoot Me

Last night we went out to Samurai in Ashburn for some great sushi and sashimi. The chef owner used to work at Kobe in Leesburg and dreamed about opening his own restaurant. He did and he makes some amazing sushi and sashimi. My favorite is the white tuna. It's very buttery and tender and oh so tasty! The white tuna has displaced regular tuna as my favorite.

I returned home fortified and ready to tackle the Christine sweater. I read through the instructions a couple of times, circled the stitch counts for the size I'm making and proceeded to cast on, going for 195 stitches. Long tail cast on, of course. I reached 70 stitches and realized the long tail was not nearly long enough. I ripped it out and started over. I counted my stitches twice, getting the same count each time. Excellent! Maybe this time the sweater isn't going to whip my butt. The lower edge consists of four rows of seed stitch. I knit three of them and then went to bed, feeling pretty pleased. Of course, the seed stitch edge has always gone well.

Except this time.

This morning I opted to knit the Christine sweater instead of the Jenna sweater. I started the fourth row, moved the button band stitches to a pin, knit the remainder of the row, moved the other button band stitches to a pin, glanced at the pattern and it said "185 stitches remaining." Suspicion grew and my heart sank. 185 stitches remaining. I counted, then counted again. I have 175 stitches left. I hadn't cast on enough stitches! Resignedly, I slipped the work off the needles and started to rip back. I really hate casting on hundreds of stitches. I looked at the cast on tail and decided that I had enough tail left for the remaining 10 stitches. So carefully, oh so carefully, I removed the last row and placed the cast on row back on the needles and cast on the remaining stitches, with yarn to spare.

Tom came in while I undertaking this operation. "I hate this sweater," I said. He replied "Don't knit it."

He's got a point. But I cannot let a mere sweater get the best of me. I will prevail.

Here's a picture of the Sweater of Frustration:

Emma, however, is not fazed by any of this.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

90 Rows

This is what 90 rows of cable-y, bobble-y sweater looks like:

That's about 10 inches. There are just over three inches left to knit before I start the shoulder and neck shaping and then I can move on to a front or another sleeve. There's hope that the Jenna sweater will be completed before my niece enters high school.

However, the Christine sweater? Sigh...it has been relegated to the basket of unfinished work. I'm going to rip out the sleeve (again) and start on the body of the sweater (there's minimal shaping). If I can make progress there and feel good about it, I'll continue on and get help with the sleeve later. If it isn't happening for me, I'm going to give it up and find another sweater to knit.

Several weeks ago, I ordered a copy of Victorian Lace Today. Of course, I want to knit everything in it. But I chose a simple diamond lace rectangle and purchased the yarn the other day. See?

Kidsilk Haze, in color Drab (588). It's not the prettiest color, but it's sort of neutral. I've never knit with this yarn but everyone who has seems to think it's wonderful. I'm a bit concerned about the mohair-y part, given my tendency to have to rip over and over again before I get things right, but hey...everyone needs a little challenge, right? It's very tempting to open up one of those balls and cast on and start knitting. But I don't need another work in progress at this point.

Weather Update
We actually got some winter weather on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, about four inches of snow and some ice, causing school and government closing and prompting me to work from home. (It's nice to have the technology to work from home, but it also means that there's no reason to take a snow day.) The temperature hasn't moved above the freezing point, so the snow (and ice) is going to be around for a while. In fact, I can walk on it and not sink in. Our driveway is a mess; Tom cleared only tire tracks and only for the part of the driveway closest to the street. I should have cleared the rest, because now it's near impossible to shovel. And it makes for getting in and out of the driveway very interesting.

Sheer Joy
Remember a few weeks ago when I thought my iron stopped working but it turned out that the outlet had stopped delivering electricity? Well, the iron actually did stop working later on and the outlet works just fine. After extensively researching the ironing options, we bought a Black and Decker Digital Advantage. It isn't the holy grail of irons, but ironing with it is sheer joy! The steam power is amazing and makes short work of wrinkles in cotton and linen. I can't wait to block something with it!

Emma Update
Our little cat seems to have gotten over whatever drove her into the deep, dark recesses of the basement. And once again, we learned that we cannot leave food or food scraps out. Tom cooked a stuffed turkey breast for Valentine's Day and put the pan with the drippings in the sink before bed. Interestingly, Emma did not sleep with us that night and when I got up in the morning to feed her, I discovered why. She spent the night lapping up the turkey fat. It's cute, but annoying. She's very interested in whatever it is I'm eating and would very much like to share what's on my plate. I don't let her, of course. Jez was not interested in people food at all, except for vanilla ice cream. Emma also loves vanilla ice cream and comes running whenever she hears the freezer door open. Now that is cute!

Monday, February 12, 2007


I didn't freeze to death on Tuesday while walking to the gym. For the record, the low Monday night and Tuesday morning was not 1F, as predicted. It 7. I still walked to the gym, but I wore my down jacket instead of the usual fleece jacket with a sweatshirt underneath. It wasn't too bad, but the walk home was a little more unpleasant since the wind picked up. After the unseasonably warm weather we've had this winter, I'm relishing the cold.

My parents ' anniversary dinner went off very well. The dining room at Smithfield Inn was quite nice. The service was very attentive and I thought the food was good, although not quite as good as it should have been for the price. My parents seemed to enjoy themselves and all the kids were on their best behavior and fairly quiet. When the family gathers at my parents' house, it's typically pretty loud, which was another reason why I thought a private room was a good idea. I didn't want to disturb the other diners with loud conversation and potentially crying infants. My brother's girls wore their best party dresses and acted quite grown up. All in all, there were 18 of us. Daniel wasn't able to make it back from college, as he's got a pretty heavy schedule this semester (organic chemistry and lab, physics and lab, genetics, microbiology and lab). A good time was had by all.

For several weeks now, we've been hearing suspicious scratching sounds inside our dining room wall. It could be one of two things: either a bird flew down the unused chimney or a mouse (or several of them) has taken up residence in our walls. Since Emma was very interested in the goings-on behind the walls, we suspected a mouse. The mouse theory proved to be correct (I think the bird theory is also true, but short of breaking into the chimney, we'll never know).

When Tom got home from work the other day, he discovered Emma following around a very tired mouse. It had left its cozy home in the walls by way of the pocket doors and immediately became a cat toy. Emma didn't kill it, but did a good job of wearing it out. Tom scooped it and put it outside. I don't think that's going to be the last of the mice, though. As I was backing out of the driveway yesterday, I saw at least two mice scurry towards the house. I just hope Emma doesn't catch one in the middle of the night and bring it to us in bed. That would be quite the rude awakening!

Recently we've been noticing that Emma's fur has not been feeling quite as clean and soft as it normally does. She's also been disappearing for long periods of time and has been impossible to find. She enjoys going into the basement; it's her refuge when there are guests in the house.

Our basement is not the cleanest place in the house. It's an old-fashioned, unfinished basement, with pipes and wires running through the joists. Since there isn't a ceiling, dust filters down from the first floor through the floor boards. And there are cobwebs...lots and lots of cobwebs. In the early days of the house, the house was heated by a coal furnace, then by an oil furnace before we made the switch to natural gas several years ago.

Well, it turned out that Emma discovered a way to get up on the pipes and into the joists. Our pretty, soft, stripy kitty has turned into the Pigpen of cats. She emerged from some hiding place Friday morning, looking pretty pleased with herself, with huge cobwebs hanging from her tail and whiskers. After I touched her, my hands came away tinged with black. I wiped her down with a wet paper towel and it came away black. A second wipe down produced the same results. There was only one thing left to do.

Give her a bath.

Cats don't like to get wet. A bath involves getting the cat wet, immersing it, if you will. Cats have claws, often very sharp, pointy claws. They can inflict a lot of damage. Emma's claws are of the very sharp, pointy variety, making a pedicure a prerequisite to the bath. Hoo boy. It was going to be a fun day.

I haven't quite mastered the art of claw-clipping by myself. And whenever I'm ready to clip claws, Tom isn't. So I've developed the stealth method, clipping only a couple of claws while Emma is sleeping. It takes a while, but it's effective.

Emma's first bath took place in the clawfoot tub, since the high sides would make it a little more difficult for her to escape. I strategically positioned the baby shampoo and towel. I grabbed the poor little kitty, took her into the bathroom, shut the door and plopped her in the tub. Emma didn't like it, but she didn't fight it. Mostly she stood there looking like a drowned rat, shivering. When I rinsed her, the water ran black. I think she must have found a mother lode of ancient coal dust.

I'd like to say we now have a clean kitty, but darned if she didn't go up into joists yesterday. Fortunately, she's not quite as dirty, but she leaves black smears wherever she lays. I think another bath is in the future for her.

Gymnastics Competition
My sister-in-law and her daughter were in Leesburg this weekend for a regional gymnastics competition and stayed with us. The gymnastics team from Poquoson High School is small, only three girls, although there were a couple of schools that had even smaller teams. There are four events: floor, vault, beam, and uneven parallel bars. Holly competed in the floor event, while her teammate Caitlin participated in all four. As it happened, Holly didn't place, but Caitlin placed 8th in vault, 3rd in floor, 1st in both beam and bars, and 1st in the all-around, barely beating out a girl from Goochland. Caitlin qualified for the State competition next weekend.

It was interesting to watch these young women compete. Not all of them were good and some were clearly struggling with their chosen apparatus (I had a major flashback to junior high and high school gym classes). But they still competed and seemed to be supportive of their competitors. Even the parents cheered on their daughters' competitors. I never had the opportunity to learn gymnastics or ballet as a child but like to think I would have been good at it. Of course, that would have meant having to practice and be focused, and about the only thing I was good at focusing on was reading.

Knitting Progress
Two words: not much.

The Divine scarf continues to be my travel project. One ball is almost gone, which means I'm about a quarter or a third complete, depending on how long I want to make it. If there's leftover yarn, I think I'll make some wrist warmers or fingerless mitts. They'll be simply divine in Divine!

The Jenna sweater back is about nine inches, leaving three inches to knit. We aren't even going to mention the Christine sweater, although I'm rethinking the wisdom of knitting the sleeves first. There don't appear to be any increases in the body, so I might rip the sleeve one more time and start on the body. Anything, anything to make some progress!

That's about it. They are calling for a significant weather event starting tomorrow, although now it looks like we might be getting freezing rain instead of snow. I'm mightily unhappy about that. I'm hoping beyond hope they'll be wrong and we'll get a couple of feet of snow. What could be better than having a snow day and sitting in front of the fire, knitting and spinning and drinking hot chocolate?

Happy knitting!

Monday, February 05, 2007


That's the low for tonight. That translates to -18C. Add the wind chill and we're talking about -8F or -22C. For Virginia, which is a "southern" state (although it's really the mid-Atlantic), it's a mite chilly.

I'm reconsidering walking to the gym tomorrow morning.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Happy Anniversary!

Fifty years ago today, in Baltimore, Maryland, my parents married. They had known each other for only six months when my father discovered he was going to be transferred to California and wanted my mother to join him. He proposed, she accepted. She recounts that she went home and asked her family what they were doing in two weeks and if would they like to attend a wedding. Two weeks later they were married and off to California. And so began fifty years of what I can only describe as an interesting (in a good way) partnership.

Mom and Dad had four children in the next seven years and lived all over the country. My father's job transferred him far more often than the military transfers its personnel. We lived in California, Washington, Utah, New York, Maine, New Jersey, Maryland, Georgia, and West Virginia before finally settling in Virginia in 1964. We drove from place to place, with at least two kids in diapers. Imagine driving cross-country with several children, in diapers, without the benefit of disposable diapers or any of the electronic gadgets that keep the kiddies amused. Looking back on it, I've come to the realization that my parents had incredible fortitude to survive that experience.

We also camped for our vacations, in a tent. Mom was a city girl, born and bred in Baltimore, so camping was a new experience for her. Dad was raised in a more rural setting, and fished and hunted and trapped. In the early days, the campgrounds we went to had no running water or indoor toilets. We had to pump the water and use outhouses. For us kids, it was an grand adventure! I recall arguing over who got to pump the water. After we returned to the east coast, we camped at Cowan's Gap State Park in Pennsylvania most years. It was these early experiences that instilled my love of the outdoors and to this day, my best vacations have been camping vacations, not luxury vacations.

So, to my parents I say: I love you more than you can ever know and thank you for sticking out the early days. I hope my marriage grows and strengthens over the years as your has.

Happy 50th Anniversary!

Happy 11th Anniversary!
To my wonderful husband, I say: Thanks for putting up with me and all my foibles for the past 11 years. Even though I don't always say it, I deeply appreciate all you do and your support for my endeavors. I love you and still look forward to spending the rest of my life with you.

Happy anniversary, my love!