Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial 2005

This morning at breakfast I announced to Karl that I am quite looking forward to becoming 40. *gasp*

Hear me out.

In your teens, you are just beginning to discover life. In your 20's, life is grand - it's exciting, it's new, it's adventurous, you're beautiful and you don't have to try hard at it. In your 30's, life is work, work, work - marriage (maybe), children (maybe), career, cars, home ownership and hitting the gym because it's necessary. Then in your 40's, life gels - you know what you like, what you want and you don't have to do anything you don't want to do. You are comfortable in your own skin the way it is, you have hit your stride. I look in the mirror these days and struggle with conflicting emotions - I feel like I'm working hard but I haven't reached that level of contentment just yet. I'm waiting to hit my stride. I'm almost there.

I've managed quite a lot in the past week. 3 of my 4 projects at work are finally finished. This extra long holiday weekend was filled with a lot of good things - we spent quality time with friends and went on a great hike, I finished Diane and made good progress on my sock(s). Diane has been an interesting project and I learned a few things. For example, texture can be dramatic yet simple. Another one is, figure out what the pattern is saying. Third, cotton really sucks to knit but it is comfortable.

My sock is coming along fine. I accomplished the heel turn and gusset on the drive from Sacramento to Stinson Beach on Saturday. I was quite pleased, but I put down the knitting before the road became too winding. Otherwise I would've been sick. I broke one of my DPNs while watching Empire Strikes Back, aka Episode 5. It was a Brittany birch 5" #1. Fortunately I had a set of Clover 7" with me so I didn't have to stop knitting but I was perturbed that the birch broke so easily. I'm a tight knitter but I didn't think I was that bad. I emailed Britanny to see if they would sell me just one replacement needle. Who knows, maybe they will replace it for free.

In other Memorial Day weekend activities, we spent Saturday on a very nice hike at Stinson Beach. we didn't go up to the top of Mt. Tamalpais, but the view was stunning nonetheless. The day was gorgeous so we had a lot of company on the trails. The hike started in Stinson Beach, through some woods, opened up in a meadow, through a redwood grove and then back along the coastline. It was about 7.5 miles roundtrip. Here's a view of the Pacific from the woods....

And this is the beginning of the meadow. It looks like we're climbing to the top but the trail fork towards the coast. That's Karl and Vandana ahead. Notice the prickly thistle and how high the grass is. You can see it better in the next picture, which is of me with Tim in the background.

I had to keep my arms up to avoid the thistle from scraping me up. Oh, the trials of being vertically challenged. I briefly entertained the idea of bringing my knitting with me but I didn't think I could pull off hiking and knitting simultaneously. Besides, I would never hear the end of it.

After a picnic lunch, we headed down into a redwood forest - amazingly different from the earlier woods (which had no redwoods) and the meadow. It was cooler and damp as the trail wound alongside a creek. Most of the flora and fauna were tropical plants like ferns. Karl was impressed with these two giant redwood trees that looked like they had split apart.

Despite that I've gone on countless hikes, I never lose the thrilling feeling of coming up over the crest of a hill and seeing a vista open up ahead. Not very long after we left the redwoods we hiked up a short slope and were rewarded with this view...the crescent of sand that is Stinson Beach.

We ended the day with drinks at the Pelican Inn, an excellent English-style pub and lodge, and then dinner in Sausalito. My friend McGinnis asked me and Karl, on the way home, if this was a typical day for us. We were surprised by the question, but it made me realize that we are pretty lucky. We actually do this type of thing on a regular basis and don't think twice about it. Yet there are many people who don't have this luxury. Certainly I have become spoiled because before I moved to California I never went on trips like the ones to Stinson Beach or to Tahoe. Karl is from the East Coast too, so we know to take advantage of where we're living now to visit as many special places as we can. We know several native Californians who have never been to Yosemite! Imagine that! We go at least once a year. Anyways, hope you enjoyed seeing the hike. Come out here and check it out. We'd love to take you on a tour. Plus, there are some great yarn shops in the Bay Area.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Time Out

Ah well. I've been in a funk lately and haven't felt like doing anything including blogging. It's a combination of spring fever and stupid work. I'm restless but feel tied down. Concentrating on detail tasks and just mustering up the attention certain activities require have been challenging of late. I am distracted. Sometimes I wonder if I have developed adult ADD. I am truly the type of person who likes to work on one thing at a time, complete it and move on. Multi-tasking makes me frazzled. This past weekend I made a list of things I absolutely needed to do and nothing more, then tackled them one by one. It was productive and I was calmed. Then Monday happened.

But, I'm sure you didn't come to this blog to read about that dull stuff! Progress on Diane is going well, but I am still miffed. Both pieces are done, ends have been woven in and she's been blocked. All that's left is seaming her up which won't be difficult but I wasn't motivated last night. The pieces are OK...but bigger than I wanted them to be. I started wet-blocking using a steam iron but I wasn't getting results so I soaked the pieces for a while. Now I'm afraid I stretched them. After I sew them up I may just block again. Is there a way to shrink a cotton/cashmere blend? Really. I'm not kidding.

My socks project is next. I'm so relieved to be working on them finally. Although I have lots of WIM's (works in mind...or maybe it should be PIM's, projects in mind) I'm the most relaxed when I can just focus on one. So the socks accomplish several things: first, they're socks! I haven't done those before. Second, I'm working on DPN's! Which makes me look very knitty. Third, the yarn is fingering weight and self-patterning. Even more knitterly and the "fair isle" pattern that is unfolding is fascinating.

Speaking of Fair Isle, I scored Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting from a wonderful seller on eBay. She offered a reasonable buy-it-now price (this book is OOP and selling for well into triple digits on Amazon) so I couldn't resist. Other recent purchases include a bunch of Lorna's Laces for future socks and the
Madil Giamaica from Little Knits. I swatched this over the weekend and fell in love with it. I'm going to use it for Soleil in the latest Knitty issue. OK, a plug for Sue at Little Knits - if you've never ordered from her, give her a try. She's fun to talk to, bends over backwards to help you find a color or yarn for a particular pattern and has good stuff at her store. Plus she is having a sale on Cascade 220! It isn't listed on the website but the 220 is $4.65/skein. Just in case you were interested.

Well, I'm taking the day off this Friday for the long holiday weekend. We had thought about going backpacking but it's too late to plan now...a hike and a barbecue would be doable. Then next weekend we're going up to Tahoe to visit with some of Karl's family. I'm trying to finagle a trip to Jimmy Beans Wool (in Truckee and Reno) . The weekend after that we're considering doing a
charity bike ride on the American River trail. It will be good to spend more time outside.

That's all for now, hope ya'll are having a good day!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Miffed at Diane

I have reached the point at which the Diane pattern is starting to annoy me. Perhaps it's because I am itching to start something new. Maybe the pattern is too vague. Or it could be the lack of a proper schematic/picture. Anyways, I'm done with shaping the neckline for Diane and have started the shoulders which the pattern calls "neckbands". I've read the instructions over and over...

Cont even on 13 sts each side until neckbands, when slightly stretched, meet at center of back. BO. Sew shoulder seams. Sew sides of neckbands to neckline. Sew bound-off edges of neckbands tog at back of neck.

Acckk! I think I have to email Melissa Leapman. To me, these instructions sound like I'm making a halter but the pictures and schematic do not show that. I am particularly confused by the directions to sew the sides of the neckbands to the neckline. What the *%$&? Time to start the socks!!

I so appreciate everyone's very nice comments about the garden and fountain. I read over the post later and was embarrassed that the yard photo showed some of our untidy tasks. The great expanse of dirt is supposed to be a rock garden island in the very near future, if it will ever stop raining. I also have plans to surround the AC unit with a wrought iron screen that will support either potted plants or a climbing vine.

The most pressing thing on my mind lately is my job. I must have a much lower tolerance for stress than most people. Either that or I have a different sense of what's acceptable and what's crap. The shortcutting that goes on, the hurried ambivalence, the fear of speaking up, the bureacracy, the scapegoating...all make me crave a simpler life and a simpler set of values. It's time for a change. The problem is, will I recognize the opportunity when it presents itself to me?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

A Little Ditty About Diane

So Diane was supposed to be completed by the end of this week but as usual, there were complications. As a project manager I should understand this but I can't help being an optimist about my knitting (Karl, are you reading this??)

Diane was close to being finished but I had a massive brain burp while watching the 7th game between the Pistons and the Pacers today, and decided that I had made a mistake and needed to frog 16 rows. I was so wrong.

The photo is post-frog of the neckline. It's OK. I am massively disappointed in what looks to be "rowing out" as Stephanie has been talking about (I hope this is not contagious) but Violet assures me that all I need to do is BLOCK and life willl be fine. Well, I do not like blocking but I wil do it this week...every day if necessary! :-)

Besides the knitting, I worked in the yard again and realized I have yard envy. While I was planting the ground cover, I snuck a few peeks in my neighbor's yard. What an overachiever! I can't believe it. His yard is maybe 5 yards wider than mine and he put in a pond, slate, a spa and tropical plants. Grrrrr. Oh well, everyone has different tastes. I prefer my garden to be low maintenance, although Karl can't really attest to that right now, and kind of whimsical. Wait until we begin the last phase.

This is the status of our backyard. We have the smallest lot in the subdivision due to the fact that a good 1/3 of the lot is beyond the opposite fence. I like having a small yard because it makes us really focus on how make the best of it. Plus, I do not have grass. I think this is a bonus. I grew up in a state where a lawn was absolutely mandatory but I thought it was supremely boring.
Thanks to everyone who was sympathetic about my fountain. I wish you could see the actual fountain cascading over the copper ball but today has been overcast and the fountain is solar, so...well...maybe by the end of the week. I like the idea of using decorative stones to mask and absorb the tinny sound. Most fountains are stone or are stone-like but I like the copper color because it matches the house and the stepping stones.

This may sound ridiculous, but I was looking at the Lorna's Laces colorways today and realized that the skeins I bought last week were the same colors in my garden..."Motherlode"...And speaking of Lorna's Laces. Ewe Knits is having a sale on this yarn for the Yahoo group Socknitters only. The Shepherd Socks are only $6.99 per skein!! Get it while you can.

Have a great week, keep in touch.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Circular Knitting - I'll Stick to the Old Fashioned Methods

Last night Kaedean taught the Guild's circular knitting workshop and I was simply a basketcase. I don't know what was wrong with me - maybe the large glass of wine without dinner was the culprit - but I was all thumbs. I sat with Kaedean's mother and the poor lady had to put up with me knitting on the wrong needles and going backwards.

I was quite interested in the Magic Loop and knitting with 2 circulars techniques. Both of them were rather easy, actually. Of the two I'd say that Magic Loop is the less confusing once you figure out which "side" you are knitting at any given time. Plus there's only one needle. Two circulars would be a good method for knitting 2 socks at the same time and that's about it. I found
this tutorial by Sheron Goldin on it that I will try because I love, love, love learning new techniques. However, I would probably not use 2 circs for anything else besides socks.

A few more notes about last night's meeting. First, it was the second time that I was in a Guild meeting with
Lorna Miser. She is the founder of Lorna's Laces and now operates under Lorna Miser Designs. She wouldn't know me from Adam but I was thrilled to be in a class with her. And she was so nice. Second, Beth C., who is one of the lovely people, talked to me about the importance of doing what you love. For me that would be writing. Beth - now that I know you read my blog - thank you. And third, Kaedean is a wonderful instructor. Her lace doily is a thing of beauty.

While I was at the Guild workshop meeting, work was still being done back at the ranch. Karl made a contraption to keep the voles out of our veggie patch. They have already nibbled on the eggplant and peppers since Saturday, but the freak hailstorm on Monday slowed them down. Last night Karl fashioned a barrier of netting and PVC pipes around the vegetable box. He actually sewed up the netting using 10lb fishing line. Can you believe this guy??? The solar copper fountain we ordered also came in. We set that up easily, but now there's a problem. The tinny sound of water on metal reminded me too much of a drippy toilet. Ack! The fountain really looks's in the shape of a bird bath with a copper ball on top. We bought matching landscape copper balls to put in the garden (sounds kooky but it looks good). However if the fountain will always remind me of a toilet, I will not spend any time in my backyard. So we're in the evaluation phase.

All right, the wine is affecting me. Karl and I (mostly me) have been consuming an average of 3 bottles per week. That's a lot for us (me). Tonight we're (I'm) finishing up the third of 3 bottles of sauvignon blanc and chardonnay from the Marlborough region in New Zealand. I found them at Cost Plus. We spent a couple days in Nelson/Marlborough during my sabbatical last year, and drinking this wine brings back those good how we were stopped for a DUI check...but anyway....

Hope you are having a good week so far. Keep knitting and smiling.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Kitty in a Basket

Cats have an innate ability to find the softest, most comfortable spot in the house at any given time. I had just folded newly washed bedding and left the room for just a second. In that instant, Big Kitty's comfort radar zeroed in.

This weekend didn't turn out exactly like I had planned. While I was happy to spend all Saturday in the garden, we meant to go for an easy bike ride on Sunday morning and then I was going to stage a little bit of work so that I wouldn't have so much to do on Monday. Nope - it rained all day on Sunday and I had left my keys at a friend's house Friday night so we had to drive back downtown to get them. And since we couldn't ride, we went shopping instead...all afternoon long. At least it included a trip to Rumpelstiltskin's where I picked up 2 skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock. I wish Rumpelstitskin had a website. They have terrific foot traffic and I'm sure they would practically double their business if they had a an internet storefront.

Yesterday, Karl and I tackled the backyard again. We planted garlic, jalapeno pepper, green bell pepper, tomatoes and eggplant. I planted half of the groundcovers while Karl trucked in more soil. We cut back and trimmed many overgrown bushes and flowers. The plantings were mostly an experiment to see what would survive and we learned a lot from last spring. Overall, we have been really pleased. Last spring, our backyard was completely bare. With the exception of the patio we've done all the work ourselves including the sprinkler system and the lighting. Here are the results of the onion experiment. I had almost given up on these sweet reds but they revived over the cold and rainy winter. I'd like to plant them again but I need to have a cool weather veggie box first. Karl has promised to build another one. Speaking of building, I asked if him if he would be willing to get crafty and try to make some circular needles for me out of dowels and weedeater line. He loves that stuff. We're still trying to figure out how to make interchangeable ones. I have a set from Webs but just found out that the joins on #7 are horrible. Wonder if Webs would send me a new pair.

That's it for this weekend. I hope to have more knitting-related news after the Guild's first Workshop meeting on Tuesday. We're going to try different ways of circular knitting - I'm looking forward to learning Magic Loop and knitting with 2 circs.

Friday, May 06, 2005

That's What a Miracle Bra is For....

The above comment was made to me last night when I modeled my sweater-from-hell at the Guild meeting. I had explained that I had used the Shapely Tee pattern but that I obviously wasn't all that shapely. Thus the Miracle Bra remark. Not that I was offended...I could tell that wasn't the intent. If I was less confident of my body the comment would've rankled but I know better :-)

Another interesting Guild get-together. It started out better than the last, but the old business/new business talk became less than nice after Kaedean proposed to have a different night for the Programs and workshop portion of the meeting. I heartily support Kaedean's idea! More than likely I will attend the workshop night rather than the regular Guild meeting itself if the nastiness keeps up. Of course, it wasn't all mean. There are some really lovely people at the Guild.

I wish I could post a lot more often than I currently do. Unfortunately, work has been keeping me busy. TodayI came in for a 7am meeting only to find out it was cancelled!!! So then I decided to read everyone's blogs and post a short one myself. With a cup of coffee and some fruit, this morning has turned out to be quite relaxing.

On the knitting front, Diane the Tank is making good progress. Maybe next week it will be ready for your review. I started on the Simple Socks and am trying to knit both at the same time on 2 sets of DPNs. It's amazing how large size 6 needles and DK weight yarn (for Diane) can feel after you've knit with size 2 needles and fingering yarn for a while. Now I wish I had learned to knit on the really small stuff so I could better appreciate the chunky yarns and needles.

OK, it's time to get back to the grind. I'm a little sleepy. Big Kitty has lately been taking the stuffed bears from the guest bedroom and carrying them around the house at night, crying pitifully. I don't know what that means. And Little Kitty threw up. Plus she took one of my clean socks from the hamper and dumped it in her water bowl. Can someone please, please tell me why??

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Sweater, Resurrected

Every knitter has at least one of these, a sweater or other UFO that's been thrown into a dark corner of the closet or hidden under a pile of other items in a dresser drawer. They are incomplete, frustrating to the owner for one reason or another. This is mine. This is the Shapely Tee from White Lies. Knit in Reynolds Gypsy, a 100% mercerized cotton, I started this last summer. I really hated it. Not the yarn. The project. For whatever reason, the knitting just seemed endless. Stockinette, *yawn*. My original intent was to practice short rows, and I did do a little bit of that. However, because I'm not bigger busted I didn't need to short row much except at the hem. I then decided to knit the sleeves from the top down, using short rows to shape the cap. I thought that was a great idea because I wanted to avoid seaming sleeves to armholes. Unfortunately, the results didn't look very good (the sleeves looked "pulled away" from the armhole) so I frogged and knit the sleeves from the cuff up. Oh, and I did a little bit of math to make them 3/4 sleeve rather than cap. I also experimented with a 3-needle bind off at the shoulders, which is excellent. I will use that technique from now on. But after all that, I was just ready to put the sweater away for a while - 8 months in fact. When I picked it up again 3 weeks ago, I struggled with the neckline but finally had satisfactory the results. It's still not perfect. I like the patterns from White Lies but I'm not sure they are for me. I just do not have the shapely figure that Joan McGowan designs for. In fact, this sweater makes me look practically bustless. How ironic! Anyways, I am so glad to be done with this.

I am looking forward to my May projects! Finishing Diane should be quite doable now, and a pair of socks under my belt would be ideal. Enough of the practice sock. It was tedious. Plus, it was too big. I want to move on! I'm going to cast on tonight for the Simple Socks from Sally Melville's The Purl Stitch.

In non-knitting endeavors, Karl and I participated in a charity golf tournament yesterday. We arrived at the ungodly hour of 7am but the morning was bright and crisp with just the right amount of coolness. We were part of the only foursome out of 18 who decided to walk (carts are a little wussy on an executive course) and started at the absolute farthest hole from the clubhouse. Since none of use had played golf for many moons, we bogeyed the first 4 or 5 holes but were much better on the back 9. I surprised myself with some good drives early on but tired out at the end. Karl tried to console me later - "I know how well you play, you could've won the longest drive with some practice." He's a good man.

This morning I put my bike on a trainer and worked out for about half an hour. You work up a sweat when you ride indoors! Sometimes I place a box fan in front of me but it's usually too loud. Why train inside when it's a perfectly beautiful day, you may wonder. Well, Karl went on a hike today and I'm paranoid about getting a flat tire or otherwise being in an accident when I'm 20 miles away from here and alone. It's just a quirk of mine. I don't have problems running by myself with no ID or cell phone but am scared at the thought of being stranded by the road on a bike by myself. We started riding after work on Tuesdays, which means long and hard rides coming up. I want to justify purchasing the gorgeous Isis model from Terry Bicycles at the end of the summer.

That's all I have to report from my corner. Hope you are happily knitting away!