Thursday, August 30, 2007

Quick Update

This post will be quick, dashed off before I get ready for work. The trip was great--there was a variety of weather (ranging from distinctly autumnal to broiling hot), lots of interesting things to do, plenty of knitting (I love Clapotis and Monkey!), and a great ultra marathon. I even met a knitter in the wild!

Tom finished the 50-mile distance in 10:46:00, 16 minutes off his JFK 50 time. He was disappointed (he wanted to beat his JFK time) but the first and last 16 miles were very hilly. Add to that an elevation significantly above the 400 feet here and the heat. I think he did really well. Marcia completed her first 50K race in 7:25:00. Out of the running club's three 100-mile contenders, only Diane finished, completing the distance in 25:02:00. Phil decided to drop just after mile 50; Mike made it to about mile 60, but decided to drop because of extreme nausea.

After Tom finished, he swore that he'd never, ever run 100 miles. However, he's now looking for his next 50-mile and 100K race and is starting to contemplate running the 100-mile. I think the 100-milers inspired him.

Lots of knitting was accomplished. I finished four repeats on the Monkey socks before deciding that I might not be able to get them on my feet. I started the second sock on larger needles, so we'll see how that goes. However, I don't like the way the colors are arranging themselves. On the smaller needles, the colors striped nicely. On the larger needles, the colors are pooling, so one half the sock will be one color and the other half another color.

Clapotis is a great knit. Easy enough to memorize, but with enough stuff going on to keep it interesting. I finished the increase rows and one repeat of the straight rows. The Brooks Farm Duet is a dream to soft and smooth. I'm using Addi Turbos, but the yarn would work well on bamboo; it's slippery enough to easily slide off the needles.

South Dakota
South Dakota is gorgeous. I was very impressed with how friendly everyone was. Even teenagers on skateboards (known around here for being churlish and rude) said "hi" as they careened past. We need to make another trip and explore more. Depending on what winters are like, this state might be high on the list for our next move. The only drawback is the lack of yarn shops (but that could an opportunity for my own shop) and the lack of vegetables, at least served in restaurants. The restaurants we went to were heavy on beef and potatoes. By the time Friday rolled around, I was craving fresh vegetables.

Okay, I'm running out of time. Once again, not as quick a post as I intended. Full details and pictures to follow this weekend.

Happy knitting!

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Another finished object, hot off the needles!

Yarn: Plymouth Sockotta Sock Yarn, color 6
Pattern: Wendy's Generic Toe-Up Sock
Needles: 2.0mm DPNs
Gauge: 10 spi

Sockotta is a nice yarn with which to knit, even in hot and humid weather, despite its cotton content. This was my first time using Wendy's toe-up pattern, which I found to be clearly written and easy to follow. The socks fit fairly well, although it's clear that I need to play around a little bit with sizing. I think slightly fewer stitches would improve the fit (I sort of winged the stitch count, based on Wendy's gauge of 8 spi versus my 10 spi)(actually doing the math would be nice...duh). I also need to tweak the heel width and length. I ended up with these little ears which suggests that the heel is either too wide or the foot too long. I used EZ's sewn-cast off which creates a nice stretchy cuff. Unfortunately, I neglected to see her admonition of "not advisable for ribbing." Oh, well...we'll just have see how it holds up in the wearing. All in all, this pair of socks was an easy comforting knit, with the short row toe and heel providing a touch of challenge.

And speaking of short row toes and heels, there are at least two methods: the wrap method and the YO method. I've tried both and I found that the wrap method was easier for me to master. The YO method produced less than stellar results, often leaving huge gaps in the side of the heel. I highly recommend test driving both methods (using worsted-weight yarn) before attempting either on a sock. For the wrap method, here are a few tips that will improve your odds of creating a nice toe or heel:
  • Sit in a place where there are no distractions when you first attempt either method; you will need to pay close attention to the counting

  • Wrap loosely to better see the wraps when picking them up later

  • Do slip-wrap-slip-turn instead of slip-wrap-turn-slip to lessen the chance that you knit or purl the stitch you just wrapped

After you get the hang of it, it's easier than you would have ever thought. Now, go forth bravely and knit using short rows!

South Dakota, Here We Come!
In just a few short days, we head out to South Dakota and a vague sort of panic is setting in. I can't decide on a sock project. After actually reading the patterns for what I thought were the top contenders, I scratched them all because they all incorporated cables as a design element. I suspect that those patterns are best reserved for the privacy of my own home and quick access to the Internet in case I break yet another 2.0mm needle (the Brittanys are getting a little bendy and it's just a matter of time).

So what to do? I'm considering doing what any self-respecting knitter would do and probably will sort of design my own. Of course, that means I'm under considerable pressure to find a stitch pattern I like for the yarn I've chosen, of which Tofutsies is a top contender:

I'm leaning towards the pink. Opinions? Does anyone have a favorite pattern for Tofutsies yarn?

The other project, by unanimous vote, is the Clapotis shawl, by Kate Gilbert. I think one of the reasons I want to knit this is because it feels so French and if I feel French, then (using my questionable twisted logic) I'll grow a couple of inches, lose several pounds, sport high cheekbones, and have lovely thick, shiny, swingy hair. Right?

Today's activities will involve cleaning, laundry, and frantic swatching to make sure that I take the correct tools for my projects. There aren't many yarn shops where we're going to be and I think I'd be hard-pressed to convince Tom to make an emergency side trip to a yarn shop 50 to 100 miles away!

I provide full details when I return. In the meantime, have a great week and happy knitting!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Almost All Local

I can't say that I consciously planned it that way, but the majority of my Julia dinner on Sunday was almost all local. Here's the menu:

Canapes with a mushroom fondue au Gruyere
Poulet Poele a l'Estragon (casserole-roasted chicken with tarragon)
Concombres au Beurre (baked cucumbers)
Gratin Dauphinois (scalloped potatoes)
Salade Verte (green salad)
Clafouti aux Myrtilles (blueberry "flan")

The chicken, tarragon, cucumbers, blueberries, and salad tomatoes were local. Unfortunately, the potatoes, milk, cheese, flour, bread, and mushrooms were not. But still, the main ingredients were local. Every little bit helps!

I started cooking around 12:30 on Sunday, about 30 minutes behind schedule. I prepared the "order of battle" (a phrase the Julia is fond of using and one that I find amusing), working backwards from serving time (7:30) to determine when the various dishes needed to be in the ovens and working back from that, when I could start prepping them. Despite a late start, everything went as planned. I even had time to clean up as I went (anyone who has watched me cook a multi-dish meal knows that the kitchen tends to look like a war zone when I'm done). In fact, the meal was ready a little early, which was surprising. The last minute preparation for the chicken (carving and sauce preparation) did leave the kitchen looking like it had exploded, but that's okay.

And how was the food? Well, given that I tend towards flavorful ethnic cuisines (Indian, Thai, Mexican), I thought the dishes were a bit on the bland side. However, the canapes and cucumbers met with rave reviews. The chicken was a bit dry, despite being baked in a casserole. Since it was a free-range chicken, it was more lean than the grocery store variety and I think I overcooked it (the meat had drawn away from the leg bones). The sauce wasn't as thick as I would have liked it to be, but it was very good. And the clafouti was excellent. It's not like a Mexican flan, which is essentially an egg custard. The clafouti is more like a pancake batter that bakes into a thick cake which lacks the crumb of a traditional cake.

To continue on with the Julia theme, I made Potage Parmentier for dinner last night. That would be potato and leek soup. It was tasty, but much thinner than I was expecting; we tend to make our soups thick. It's very easy to make...just take water, sliced leeks, chopped potatoes, and salt, and simmer them until everything is tender. Pass through a food mill or mash with a fork, add a little bit of cream or butter and serve.

So, that's my Julia experience. Time-consuming, tasty, and possibly worth the time. I'm going to have to work on refining my execution of the recipes.

Knitting Progress
The Simple Stockinette sock is coming right along and I've got about an inch and a half before starting the cuff. See?

I predict I'll have another FO by week's end. Yippee! Of course, that leaves me with a little bit of a problem. What do I knit next? I need your help, especially since this project is going to be a travel project (we're headed to South Dakota next week for the Lean Horse Ultramarathon). Therefore, the project must be relatively simple, but engaging, and portable. Your choices are:
  • Clapotis, using Brooks Farm Duet:

  • The latest Rockin' Sock Club offering, using Firebird:

  • The Flip-Flop dress from the Summer issue of Knitters, using this:

  • The Shingle Creek Trail socks (from Wooly Wonka Fibers in this:

Come to think of it, maybe I should take two projects, a sock for the plane and something else for other knitting. Heaven forbid that I get bored knitting just one project!

I'll post the results of your votes this weekend.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


The heat this week has been unbelievable. The temperature on the deck (in the shade, mind you) on Wednesday was 102F (38C). Bleh. And, of course, the office was frigid. Even though 71F doesn't sound cold, it is, especially when sitting under the A/C vents and dressed for hot summer weather. There was even a man in the office wearing a light fall jacket! You know that something's wrong when a man wears an outdoor jacket indoors in the summertime. Fortunately, the weather has cooled somewhat this weekend, but the temperatures are expected to climb by mid-week. Bleh.

Not much has been happening on the knitting front. I managed to get a fair amount knitted on the simple stockinette sock while at the doctor's today. I thought I had a 1:30 appointment, but the confirmation call said 11:30, and that's when I showed up. Guess what? My appointment really was at 11:00. The receptionist was having a rather confusing day on Friday. However, the doctor saw me as soon as he was able. Nonetheless, I got a good 90 minutes of knitting in. I'm hoping to have another FO soon.

I came home on Friday to a package in the mail. It was the Bee Shawl kit from Wooly Wonka Fibers (click on New Products). The yarn is gorgeous and the pattern...well, the pattern is intimidating. It does look like it's well-written, though. I'm afraid that I'm going to stash this one for a while, although it was very tempting to wind the skein into a ball and knit a gauge swatch. I resisted the urge and resolved to continue to doggedly knit the simple stockinette stitch sock.

The 25th anniversary of Vogue Knitting also showed up recently and I'm finally getting around to reading it. This magazine isn't my favorite; I find it hard to read (dare I say the print is too small?) and there are a ton of advertisements, which makes it difficult to navigate. Plus, I find that I'll probably knit none of the patterns, ever. There are some good articles and I do learn. Plus, if I want to get into the knitting industry eventually, I need to be aware of what's going on. VK is probably one of the best magazines for that (but I digress). Anyway, this issue is full of pithy comment from folks like Kaffe Fasset, Alice Starmore, and Meg Swanson (the old guard). I particularly liked their discussion of how most hand knitting designers are given short shrift by yarn companies, as well as the effects of copyright violations on designers. The magazine also interviews Debbie Stoller, the Yarn Harlot, Shannon Okey, and Vickie Howell (the new guard).

I had some very insightful and profound comments on both articles, but alas, they have slipped through the sieve that is my brain. Of course, cooking dinner and enjoying a glass or two of wine didn't help matters. Sigh...

I'm somewhat obsessed with the Julie/Julia project. I found the original blog and have been reading it religiously. My copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking now resides on the kitchen counter, open to recipes that particularly intrigue me. My first Julia recipe was cassoulet, a couple of years ago. You know that it's going to be involved when Julia has notes on "the order of battle." It turned out well, although I could have fed an army with it.

And tomorrow night, I'll make my second Julia dinner. We'll have a simple roast chicken with tarragon, baked cucumbers, gratin au dauphinois, a simple green salad, and a blueberry clafoutis for dessert. I'll make some little mushroom canapes as hors d'oeuvres. Of course, I've never made any of these recipes before. And we're having a couple of friends over for dinner. I read once that you should never make something for dinner guests that you haven't made before. I always break that rule. No one has gone hungry (or died) yet!

Well, I was going to say something pithy here about the Julie/Julia Project and creativity and cooking and originality and knitting, but sieve brain strikes again. I really need to start jotting these random thoughts down when they occur.

I probably won't post tomorrow, too much cleaning and cooking to be done. I'm about halfway through Harry Potter (I resorted to borrowing a copy from a friend), so my regular blog reading will resume as well. Actually, I've been reading your blogs; I just haven't left comments because I'm feeling a definite lack of profundity. Ah well...

Happy knitting and...

Bon appetit!

Sunday, August 05, 2007


One doesn't often associate vacation with getting a lot of things accomplished, unless it's sightseeing or eating. However, the Simonds Family Beach Week offered the perfect venue for getting things done. Without further ado, here's what I did on my summer vacation:
  • Swatched for the stealth project (completed on the drive down)

  • Finished the Blue Danube socks (except for weaving in the ends)

  • Almost completed the other half of the Too-Many-Choices top

  • Helped my mother-in-law with her knitting

  • Read three books, none of which was the final Harry Potter book (Tom is taking a very long time to read it)

  • Sat on the beach and managed to get a tan despite wearing SPF 30 and sitting underneath an umbrella the entire time

  • Practiced yoga a couple of times

  • Did a little bit of stealth spinning and still produced crappy yarn

  • Ate and drank way too much

  • Turned the heel on the second stockinette sock

All in all, it was a good vacation. The family group was smaller this year. The three nephews weren't there and one sister-in-law had to leave early to go to back to work. The youngest niece brought her boyfriend, which was a trip. He's a nice enough young man. Watching them together brought back memories of what it was like to be sixteen and in "love."

One of the books I read was Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously. It was written by a woman who was approaching her 30th birthday and decided to cook all 524 recipes (except variations) in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days. I was so inspired that I pulled out my copy to leaf through as my bedtime reading last night, trying to find something to make for dinner tonight. (Although after stepping on the scale this morning, I quickly nixed that idea. I did more damage than I thought.) While I don't want to cook all of the recipes in the book in one year (brains, sweetbreads, thank you!), I would like to use the book more than I have.

Knitting Progress
While I can claim success on the Blue Danube socks and relative success with the simple stockinette stitch socks, the other knitting is not going well at all.

The swatch? I didn't get gauge and I don't have the next needle size up.

The Too-Many-Choices top? Even though it looks good, it's an unmitigated disaster. I realized (even though I read the instructions several times) that I started the neck shaping in the wrong place, which could account for the fact that the v-neck was way longer than the round neck. However, what makes it a disaster is that when I knit the second half of the top, I spaced the button holes based on the measurements of the first (wrong) half. Yup, it gets ripped back to the first buttonhole. Sigh.

After I realized the error of my ways, I decided to see if the v-neck on the first half would work out as written. I ripped back to 3.5 inches about the armhole bind-off and started decreasing. The pattern instructs you to decrease until there are 11 16 stitches left (that was another mistake), then knit following the stitch pattern until you are 6.5" about the armhole bind-off. At that point, you can start the should shaping. I was more than 6.5 inches above the bind-off after I completed the decreases (and my row gauge is pretty close). So it's back to the Basket of Unfinished Objects drawing board again. Here's a picture of the stitch detail to distract you from the pain of having to frog almost an entire half of a sweater:

And here's the stitch detail from the Blue Danube socks:

I don't think I'll get much knitting in today. I discovered an infestation of Indian meal moths in the corner cabinet in the kitchen. The suspected source of infestation is the bird seed. Fortunately, the moths don't eat fabric or wool so the stash is safe. However, getting rid of insects was not my idea of how to spend the afternoon.

Happy knitting!

PS: If I don't visit your blog, it's because I suspect that you are reading or have read the final Harry Potter book and that you will talk about the ending. I don't want to know.