Saturday, July 28, 2007

Bear Meets Cat

As promised, I present to you a guest blogger, albeit a day late. That's better than being a dollar short, eh? So without further ado, I turn the blog over to Keith (who is, alas, neither blogger nor knitter).

This occurred... in our front yard.

I had spotted the bear in our back yard and went to get the camera. By the time I got back to the rear deck, he was nowhere to be seen. Thinking maybe he had wandered out front, I opened the front door and found him on the front porch.

He did not care for this up close and personal meeting and scooted off the porch. Then he discovered one of our two cats (NoName), who had been sitting on the swing but, seeing the bear, had opted to attempt invisiblity under the swing.

Young Mr. Bear decided to see who was under there, and rather hesitantly tried putting his paw under the swing.

By then, both Barbara and I were on the front porch, and all of this seemed too much for Mr. Bear who decided to beat a hasty retreat.

Keith lives about an hour west of where I live and lives on a mountain. It's not unusual for all manner of wildlife to be found on his property. Last year (or maybe year before last), they would occasionally see a mother bear with two cubs wander through. Keith thinks that this bear is one of cubs. Rumor has it that a bobcat has also been spotted on the mountain. Fortunately, Keith and Barbara (and their cats) have not had an up-close and personal meeting with it.

It's Beachin', Baby!
Today's the day we head down to the beach. The house sitters are all lined up and the supply of cat food has been replenished. All that's left to do is to pack and leave. Tom is out on a 20+ mile run and I've got yoga class in a couple of hours. We'll be getting a late start, in the hopes that we'll miss most of the traffic.

One of the more important tasks is to decide what and how many projects to take. Definitely a sock or two, an unfinished project, maybe a new project, and some spinning. Do you think I'm overpacking?

Happy knitting!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tag! I'm It!

Fat Chick Crafts tagged me a couple of weeks ago with the Five Thing meme. So, without further ado, here goes.

INSTRUCTIONS: Remove the blog in the top spot from the following list and bump everyone up one place. Then add your blog to the bottom slot, like so:

  1. BitterSweet

  2. Ren Knits

  3. left-handed knitting in a world of right-handers

  4. Fat Chick Crafts

  5. The Knitting Libran

Next, select five people to tag:
  1. Anybody who wants to be tagged

  2. Anybody who wants to be tagged

  3. Anybody who wants to be tagged

  4. Anybody who wants to be tagged

  5. Anybody who wants to be tagged

(Sorry, I'm not good at tagging)

What were you doing ten years ago?
Let's see. Ten years ago I was a newlywed (one and half years), was in my ninth year at a company that was great (but couldn't move into management no matter how hard I tried), and owned three houses (mine, his, and ours; I don't recommend it). We had had our beloved Jezebel for four months; she was the cat that turned around Tom's opinions of cats. I was driving a old Nissan Sentra station wagon.

What were you doing one year ago?
I was getting used to a new job and learning how to work within the consulting industry. We celebrated our 10th anniversary in Costa Rica in February. We probably did some other stuff that I can't remember. Go check the blog archives!

Five snacks you enjoy:

  1. Chocolate

  2. Fruit

  3. Cupcakes

  4. Popcorn

  5. Potato chips

Five songs that you know all the lyrics to:
That's hard. If I had to recite them (trust me, you don't want me to sing them!) cold, I'd have to say there aren't any. However, let me put on a CD and I could probably sing along with any songs of these artists:

  1. Simon and Garfunkel

  2. Steeleye Span

  3. Loreena McKennit

  4. Blackeye Peas

  5. Richard Thompson

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:

  1. Invest

  2. Take care of my parents

  3. Help the remaining nieces and nephews get through college

  4. Travel

  5. Do good works

Five bad habits:

  1. Continuing to eat after I'm full

  2. Not exercising as much as I should

  3. Letting Tom do all the home repairs, bill paying, and yard work

  4. Being disorganized

  5. Being a packrat

Five things you like doing:

  1. Yoga

  2. Knitting and spinning

  3. Cooking

  4. Running

  5. Camping and hiking

Five things you would never wear again:

  1. Makeup on a daily basis

  2. Spike heels

  3. Clothes from the 70s (shudder)

  4. Polyester

  5. A bikini

Five favorite toys:
  1. Laptop

  2. Yarn and needles

  3. Spinning wheel

  4. Kitchen gadgets

  5. My bicycle (if I ever ride again)

So there you have it. Five things to distract you from the lack of knitting photos. I have made progress on the Blue Danube sock and am currently knitting the heel gussets. However, at least one stitch liberated itself from the needles and the gusset stitch count doesn't match. So I have to figure out what happened and hopefully I won't need to rip back to far.

Tomorrow (if all goes well), there will be a special guest blogger.

Now it's off to play with Ravelry! Ciao!

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Sometimes you're just going with the flow, minding your own business, when you start noticing how odd life can really be. As I was driving to work sitting in traffic one day this week, I glanced in the rear-view mirror and was startled to see the woman in the car behind me flossing her teeth! Then there was the message left on our answering machine this week:

Hey, I hope I've got the right number. I'm trying to reach Father Tom Simonds. Tom, if this is the right number, it's W---- calling. I didn't know whether your cell phone was working today or not. I just wanted to touch base with you about getting together and doing some shooting tonight. Give me a call whenever you can. If this is the right number, I hope you guys are well. Talk to you later.

My husband thought it was pretty funny that someone was asking a priest to go shooting. It certainly isn't something you'd expect from a man of the cloth.

But the most fascinating thing that I observed one evening was a banana and what appeared to be a bowl of cereal, balanced on the bumper of an SUV. I was entranced by it, particularly since the car was traveling at highway speeds. I followed the vehicle in town; the breakfast items even stayed put through turns.

What's the strangest thing you've noticed?

This weekend promises to be busy and will probably afford little time for knitting. I have to do the usual house chores today, along with some cooking. We've got the running club progressive run dinner this evening and we're one of the stops. I have no idea what we're going make. I'm opting for a chilled soup of melon and cucumber with crispy prosciutto. Tom thinks that's too fancy. I think it's delicious and could care less about fancy. I also want to make a spice cake for the main event afterwards.

Tomorrow we're going up to see my mother-in-law. She's having the garage painted and wants Tom to pressure wash it beforehand. There's a yarn shop in her city, Woolwinders, and I'm hoping to get a chance to visit it. However, it would be poor form to leave Tom to do the pressure washing and immerse myself in wonderful yearn yarn (why do I always type "yearn" for "yarn?"). I don't need more yarn. In the evening we're going to Wolf Trap to see Lucinda Williams, preceded by a picnic on the lawn (which means we have to make something). The last time we went to Wolf Trap was to see the original Nosferatu, with live orchestra. That was before we got married so I'd say that it was about 13 years ago. Far too long!

Knitting and Spinning Progress
I continue to make zero progress on the Rambouillet. I have been making progress on the Blue Danube socks, although there's a fair amount of ripping going on. Apparently, I can't count to either three or five. I lost one of the DPNs, and am forced to knit with four needles. I much prefer five. And since it's been more than a year since I completed the first sock, I'm getting a way different gauge. The first sock leg is looser than what I'm currently knitting. I was hoping these socks would be suitable for a gift, but now I'm not so sure. Maybe the first sock will shrink up some after a nice bath. The yarn is a merino/silk blend, and perhaps the silk is causing it to not bounce back after numerous tryings-on.

In one week, however, there will be plenty of time for knitting and possibly some spindling. We'll be heading down to the Outer Banks for the annual Simonds family beach week. The trip is about six hours and then a whole week of sitting on the beach, with plenty of knitting time in the mornings and evenings. I need to figure out what projects to take. Maybe I'll take a new project, an old project (perhaps the Too-Many-Choices Top, since it's a gift for one of my sisters-in-law), and a sock project. I'll also take the drop spindle and the Batt from Hell and try to perfect my drop spinning.

Happy knitting!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Wooly Wonka Goodness

Oh joy! The second installment from the Wooly Wonka Exotic Fibers Club arrived yesterday. The selected fiber is Cormo. It's very, very nice.

I'm once again afraid my spinning skills (or lack thereof) will not be able to do this wonderfully fluffy fiber justice. And I'm definitely afraid that they won't be able to justice to this:

Yes, it's another ball of white fluffy stuff. But it's a blend of 80% Cormo and 20% angora rabbit. Talk about lucsious! The Cormo is wonderful, but just a wee bit of angora takes it from wonderful to sublime. I nearly swooned when I touched it.

Thanks, Anne!

On the knitting front, very little. I knit a few rounds on the simple stockinette sock when I found myself waiting for the tool rental guy to get back from lunch. On the spinning front, none. The Rambouillet is exactly where I left it several weeks ago.

Tom is making wonderful progress on the back bedroom. He rented a flat sander (as opposed to a drum sander) from the aforementioned tool rental place and should finish sanding the floor in the back bedroom this afternoon. As usual, he is doing an excellent job. The floor is going to look almost like new when he's done. Then all that's left to do is prime, paint the walls, paint the trim, install crown molding, come up with some sort of closet system et voila, the room is finished! Three down, one to go. At least for the bedrooms. We still have the dining room plaster to restore and the library, although we aren't too sure what to do with that one. The walls are covered with dark paneling so we don't have a clue as to how sound the plaster underneath is. The room is long and narrow, with two windows on the outside wall and pocket doors leading to the front room. That makes it difficult to place the television. We might end up (in several years, mind you; prices have to come down first) getting a flat panel TV; they take up much less space than the traditional TV.

The dishwasher gave up the ghost again and this time turning the breaker off and on didn't fix it. That means doing dishes by hand so it's time to get creative with food that doesn't take a lot of utensils (I'm famous for using every pot, bowl, and spoon in the house when I cook). The stove is also on the fritz; its electronics didn't fare well with all the power flickering that happened earlier this week. Fortunately, the gas bit still works, but the clock, timer, and oven don't. Sigh...

Emma doesn't care; she just wants a comfy place to take a nap.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

SSS Abated

In my last post, I confirmed that I have a raging case of startitis as well as accepted that I suffer somewhat from Second Sock Syndrome (SSS). Have no fear; it's not as serious as it sounds and might even be downright positive. You see, I made an astounding discovery this week.

Startitis is a cure for SSS!

I know that you are skeptical. But think about the symptoms of startits (as documented by the Yarn Harlot in her fine book Stephanie Peal-McPhee Casts Off:
  • A general and vague discomfort or ennui with knitting already on the needles

  • A keen interest in any knitting that isn't on the needles at the moment

Now consider the general symptoms of SSS:
  • Finding the second sock less charming than the first

  • Using derogatory adjectives to describe the first sock

  • Appearing dazed and refusing to admit that there is a sock, despite being surrounded by hundreds of single socks

It's logical that, given enough time and distance from the first sock, instead of casting on an entirely brand-new project, the second sock of any of the unfinished sock projects would make a great new project to cast on. Given that a sock is a relatively quick project, the patient should be able to get most of the sock done before the urge to start a new project strikes or before the sock once again loses its allure.

At least, that's what I found. Behold!

This is the second Blue Danube sock. The simple stockinette sock had lost its charm; I needed something a little more challenging (but not as challenging as the Sweaters of Despair). I needed something new. This second sock fit the bill perfectly. The Texas contingent might recognize this sock as the one that I was attempting to knit at the blogger meet-up at MDSW in 2006. I was so excited and so intimidated by all the awesome knitters that I messed it up royally and had to frog it later. I started it again, only to have the same thing happen. So the poor sock was relegated to the Basket of Unfinished Projects for more than a year.

The slip stitch pattern this pattern uses is wonderful. It's simple enough to memorize, it's easy to knit (assuming that you can count to five), and it looks amazingly complex. And the yarn is a luscious blend of merino and silk. What more could you ask from your knitting?

Emma says "Flies...I need more flies to catch!"

Happy knitting!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I'm So Good

Going through my somewhat small stash and entering it in Ravelry has been a very good exercise. I met up with my old yarn friends, the ones I met long ago in the yarn store, quickly befriended and brought home to meet the other yarn. They've been enjoying each other, having a stash party, without inviting me. Well, maybe they did invite me and maybe I forgot about it because I was busy making more yarn friends.

The upshot of this is that I really have more yarn than I need, although to be fair, the majority of the yarn was acquired with a specific project in mind. In addition, the suspicion that I have a raging case of startitis was confirmed. As I was pondering what to knit this evening, did my mind turn to any one of the myriad projects already on the needles? Oh,noooo...not at all. I was thinking that I would start swatching for a couple of stealth projects. It's clear that I enjoy the process of thinking about knitting and starting a project rather than taking it to completion.

I'm pleased to report, though, that no matter sweetly the yarn sang to me, I ignored its siren song and closed the yarn bins, thus lessening the din somewhat. I've got three unfinished pairs of socks in front of me on my work table (indicative of second sock syndrome) with another two pairs lurking in the Basket of Unfinished Objects.

So here I sit (with a rather large, flat, dead spider underneath the chair, which is creeping me out quite a bit; it's a good thing I didn't meet it when it was alive because then you'd have to scrape me off the ceiling), blogging instead of knitting. I know that once the yarn starts running through my fingers, I'll be hooked. But then again, maybe I'm simply a knitting wannabe.

(PS: The air conditioning at work was still broken, with the temperature in my office staying in the 80s. However, at the end of the day, it was a mere 80.1 degrees, which means that tomorrow the temperatures will be back in the meatlocker range. I have sweater and socks at the ready.)

Monday, July 09, 2007


You would think that with all of our high-tech gadgetry and engineering knowledge that heating and cooling a building, even a large one, would be reduced to mere child's play. I have yet to work in a building where I'm comfortable both summer and winter. That's held particularly true over the past couple of weeks.

During the last warm spell, part of the floor that I'm on got a little on the toasty side. It wasn't too uncomfortable (for me) but I had the guys called building engineering to cool things off a wee bit. The request was fulfilled and everyone was happy.

Over the next several days, however, the temperature in the building kept dropping. It was pleasant outside and I dressed for the weather, given that we had turned the air conditioning off at home and opened the windows. By the end of the week, I was feeling the need for wool socks, and a scarf and hat at work. So today, I dressed for the office conditions...stockings and shoes, slacks, a turtleneck sleeveless sweater with a cardigan to go over.

As I stepped into the elevator at work, I thought it felt a little warm. It was a warm weekend and the air conditioning is usually turned off during non-working hours, so I didn't worry too much. As I stepped off the elevator on my floor, it became clear that the air conditioning wasn't functioning at peak efficiency. In fact, the air conditioning wasn't functioning at all. The temperature in my office was a tropical 84 degrees. Facilities eventually managed to get the A/C working again and the temperature dropped a couple of degrees. But it never got below 82 all day. By 6:00 this evening, it was up to 85. That does not bode well for tomorrow.

I'm in a quandary about how to dress, although I'm leaning toward a nice cool linen dress with sandals, with a pair of wool socks on the side and maybe a scarf and a fleece jacket. Fingerless gloves would be the icing (no pun intended) on the cake.

Actually, I don't blame the A/C for not working today. It reached 99 degrees in the shade on our deck, so it had to be warmer in the more urban areas. My car thermometer registered 103 on the way home! I think everyone's A/C is working overtime. Just before I started writing this evening, we had several power blips and short brownouts. Hopefully we'll have power overnight; otherwise it's going to be one hot, sticky miserable night. More hot weather is promised for tomorrow and for Wednesday as well. All I can say is thank heaven we aren't out West; it's brutally hot out there.

Break out the Euro Linen and stay cool!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Stash Explosion

Whew! What a weekend! It was productive, but productive with "me" time. I finally got my butt out and ran with the club, which was followed by breakfast at Patrick's house. He competes in triathlons and it turns out that his wife used to be a competitive ski jumper for the US Ski Team and did all those cool aerial tricks. She doesn't compete anymore (one, the weather here is not conducive to it) because her knees and hips are shot.

Yesterday I headed up to Funkstown to Y2Knit for the July 4th (and 4th anniversary) sale. Was I good? Was there stash enhancement? Only my hairdresser knows for sure! Suffice it to say that Susan has some pretty good deals.

While I was browsing the yarn shop, Tom saw You Kill Me. He thoroughly enjoyed it, even though he had to leave Leesburg to see it. After we both returned, we met Leigh at our favorite watering hole. As it turned out, several running club members also showed up. We had a good time trading stories and sharing wine. At the end of the evening, Jerry (the bartender) gave Leigh and I blueberry martinis, fortunately small ones. They were quite tasty, but it put me over the edge. I woke this morning feeling less than stellar. So I took the opportunity to work on...

I started entering my stash last weekend. Or was it the weekend before that? Regardless, my fiber room looked like it suffered an explosion:

It was getting to be a rather annoying, stumbling over the piles of yarn. During the endeavor, I learned that Emma has developed a liking for wool and wool/silk blends. I'd leave the room and when I returned, some of the yarn had mysteriously moved to the floor. The first time it happened, I assumed that I had unknowingly knocked the yarn off the table. But was Emma. She'd jump on the table, pick out particularly nice skein of yarn, and carry it off (just now she chose the Adrienne Vittadini Martina over the Provence cotton). At least she has good taste.

But finally, after working in Ravelry all day, all the stash is entered. The bonus is that the stash is organized. I've got the yarns slated for shawls and socks in one bin and all the other yarns in the other bin, further sorted by weight and fiber content. So it should be a lot easier to find what I need. It doesn't hurt that you can enter the location of the yarn in Ravelry, either, particularly if your stash spans several rooms (mine doesn't; it spans two bins).

After I finish getting the room organized again, I'm going to work on finishing spinning the Rambouillet from the Wooly Wonka Fibers Exotic Fibers Club. I think the next shipment comes this month and I'd like to be prepared to start spinning it without having to buy additional bobbins. I also need to start finishing the many UFOs I've got. My idea of not starting a new project until I finish one old project quickly went by the wayside. much knitting and spinning, so little time...

Secret Pal 10
Secret Pal 10 ended at the end of June. My giftee was Toni, over at Fat Chick Crafts. It was a lot of fun to get to know her and see the amazing work that she does. In addition to knitting, she stitches. And I was horribly mean and gave her a CD drop spindle and a wee bit of roving. Bwahahahaha! Despite hiding it deep in the closet, she started spinning and ended up buying a real spindle and roving the very next day. I'm so mean.

My gifter remained very anonymous for the duration. She finally "decloaked" last week. Her name is Suzanne and you can find her over at My Overstuffed Room. Unfortunately, the last package never arrived. I hope she's able to track it down. I thoroughly enjoyed this Secret Pal exchange.

Have a great week!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Mules Survived

The inaugural Mule Run was a success! No one died, although a few runners probably wished they could. No one was arrested by the Park Police (the C & O Canal closes at dark); in fact, we didn't even see any Park Police after dark.

Our intrepid band of six runners and their loyal crew (which can be interpreted as Crazy (or Cranky, depending on the runner) Runners, Endless Waiting) converged on Harper's Ferry and the figurative gun went off promptly at 7:00 p.m. With the runners gone, the crew headed into Harper's Ferry proper to get some ice cream. I chased my ice cream with a cheeseburger, knowing that I was going to need fuel for the long evening that stretched in front of us.

Crewing at night is a somewhat surreal experience. The perspective shifts when the sun goes down. The creatures of the night come out and you realize that there is another world, totally different than the one you know. There are bats, owls, deer, raccoons, 'possums, frogs, moths, spiders (shudder)... Then there are the human creatures of the night: the through-hikers, the fishermen, the partiers, the homeless, and crazy runners. I love stepping outside of the boundaries of my world and observing the night world. It's so thrilling to come upon a fox, or hear mysterious splashes (very loud splashes) in the water, or hear owls hooting in the distance. It's a little disconcerting to meet up with other humans and fortunately, those we encountered were harmless.

The crewing routine goes likes this: Get to the aid station location, put out water, food, gatorade, first aid stuff, and chairs. Wait and wait and wait, preferably eating the food. Tend to the runners as they come in, which takes all of about 10 minutes, unless a runner needs a little more care. Tear down the aid station, go to the next location, and do it all over again. There's a lot of waiting. The main crew were amazing. These are guys who regularly run trail ultramarathons (like 100 miles), and win. And not just win by a couple of minutes. They win by hours. They know what it's like to be out there and what the runners need, both physically and psychologically.

The weather for this run was perfect. It was a cool, clear night and there was a full moon, which added a silvery appearance to the landscape. It was so cool that after the sun went down, I had to put on a fleece jacket. The runners, however, kept warm by running.

How did the runners do? We had a 50% drop rate, which is normal for a run of this distance. One runner dropped after 17 miles, another after about 25 or 30 miles, and Tom dropped after 46 miles and needed to be rescued. He left the aid station feeling a bit nauseated but felt that he might be able to make it the 10 miles to the next stopping point. It didn't happen. We got a call saying that Tom couldn't make it the rest of the way and needed to be picked up. The challenge was to figure out where he was on the towpath. Phil (the brains behind this run) and I jumped into the car and headed out. We almost needed a rescue ourselves because barely five minutes into the rescue mission, a deer ran across the road and I missed hitting it by mere inches (that area is filthy with deer). Based on the information that Tom provided, we made a best guess as to which lock he was at and set off on a search. We found him as the sun was coming up. He didn't look bad and after drinking some Coke, was doing much better.

The "winner" finished the 62-mile run in 11:42. We were awed by her performance, as she ran strong the entire way. The others finished about an hour later, maybe a little less. The run ended at Thompson's Boathouse in Georgetown. After we collected the runners, Steve (one of the awesome crew) fried up some hamburgers and we had a picnic in the parking lot. We got some strange looks because it wasn't even 9:00 a.m. yet.

Tom and I got home around 11:30 this morning and promptly fell into bed for a two-hour nap. I'm surprised I'm coherent, although I discovered earlier this morning that I wasn't as coherent as I thought I was. Leigh was going to feed Emma in the morning, so I called her around 8:00 to let her know where the food was. She didn't pick up and I left a message. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I left a message for Leigh on our phone! It didn't register that I dialed our number instead of hers (although I do that all the time) and it didn't register that I was listening to my voice on the answering machine.

Knitting and Spinning
Hahahahahaha! I knit during the night? Nope! So much for finishing the foot of the sock, eh? I did do a little spindling at the first aid station, while it was still light. The quality of the yarn is poor at best.

I did manage to get the spindle to spin a little longer but it still doesn't spin well. I also think part of the problem is with the wool. It's wool batting, not roving and it doesn't draft well. My spinning improved with aggressive pre-drafting, but that's not saying much. Either I've lost my touch with a drop spindle or else I have a bad spindle and wool. I'll keep plugging away at it, but I'm not optimistic.

I'm beginning to fade, which is a signal it's time to move on to a different activity, preferably one that involves eating (but not flies):

Or sleeping:

PS: You can find the recipe for the cookies here. I lied about the peanut butter.