Wednesday, November 28, 2007

You know you've been knitting too much when...

You dream that you're going camping with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, and you spend half the trip getting to the campsite wondering if she's going to hate you because you might actually choose to go for a hike instead of knitting the whole time. What does this mean?

I'm done with the second set of large feathers on Simurgh, and have started the small feathers. These are going much faster for me (I think because the WS rows are all purl, except for the edge stitches; this means less thought per pair of rows). I am still loving this stole, which strikes me as a very good sign. If all continues to go as it has gone, I should be blocking this weekend (!!).

One thing about doing this test knitting is that it's given me a chance to do a lot of thinking about my personal knitting style and history. Looking back at what and how I was knitting last fall, I realize just how very far I have come. I could never have test knit something then. I didn't have any confidence in my ability to read my knitting, to know what is supposed to come next. So if I something looked off-kilter to me in a pattern, I would have assumed it was me, not the pattern, which doesn't make for good test knitting.

Now I feel like I have some kind of intuition about what's supposed to happen next in a pattern. The great joy of this is that, if something is wrong with the pattern, I am far less likely (although not entirely unlikely) to sit beating my head against the nearest wall trying to figure out what's wrong with me. This was a huge benefit this past summer when I was knitting the millicent socks for Tess and knew, just knew, that something was really wrong with the stitch counts. Turns out I had a beta version of the pattern, so it wasn't me at all, but there was a time, not so long ago, when it wouldn't have even occurred to me to write to the designer to ask about it.

But it's not just the joy of less headaches that makes this stage so much fun. It's also the fact that I'm starting to get what I think of as the jokes in the ways that particular designers handle design elements. The closest experience I have had to this is in music. I played piano for years and years (my first job was teaching piano). I was trained in classical piano and learned to read music starting at about four years old, so for quite a while I was a proficient sight-reader. One of the most fun experiences of sight reading music (aside from that amazing feeling of flow you get when your eyes are directly connected to your fingers, with no intervening brain) is when you're moving along, reading a few measures ahead, knowing what's "supposed" to come next because that's what music does, and the composer does something unexpected. And it's beautiful, and it's fun, and you know that it's there just for someone like you, who will understand that it's unexpected and that it's precisely that quality that makes it wonderful. I always thought of it as a composer's little joke with those in the know (Mozart is particularly good at it). And there was a thrill to being in the know, and being in that flow state and laughing as I played.

I don't think I'm really there yet with knitting, but I can see that it could be that way. You're moving through a pattern, and everything's going as you'd expect and then there's this sudden unexpected left turn, and you know enough to see how it's going to work, and that it's precisely the unexpectedness of it that makes it not only something that will work, but something that is just a bit glorious. Too cool.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Halfway mark

First, thank you all so much for your kind comments about my husband's bike; he was really touched that The Knitting Bloggers cared. I think that, as devastated as he is by the loss of his bike, what made it all worse was the thought that someone could have really been hurt. He's so relieved that it didn't work out that way (and he's definitely buying a new rack!).

Aside from that ending, we really did have a lovely weekend. Friday was a very relaxing day for us; we puttered around the house, and I knitted and listened to knitting podcasts (this is a dangerous discovery, as it extends my knitting time almost infinitely). My favorite local yarn store was having a sale (20% off everything!), so I popped over there in the afternoon. I picked up a few things that I've had my eye on for a while, which strikes me as the perfect use for a sale (as opposed to being lured into buying things just because they're on sale). First, I got this:
which is much less orange and more goldy in the real world. It's already been designated for Anne's acorn socks (the little bitty acorn that goes into the heel flap on those socks just kills me every time I see it, and I lust to possess a pair of my own; you all know how I feel about California's live oaks, so these are the perfect socks; between these and my raven stole, I shall feel quite mythic)(or something).

I've also been wanting for some time to knit a lap blanket, probably a log cabin one (a la Kay and Ann), so I got some yarn for that, too. This really was the perfect use for a sale, since the yarn for a blanket is no small investment. I got some of the Lorna's Laces worsted weight, which I have been lusting after for exactly this purpose for some time. The only trouble was choosing the colors!
But I think that these will do nicely. I got two of the navy, since that'll also be the edging for the blanket. This will be a nice mindless break from complicated knitting, and, until it gets too big to lug around, perfect meeting knitting.

On Saturday, we spent the day in San Diego. First, though, there was a brief detour at Common Threads, since they carry a set of blocking wires (with yardstick and t-pins, no less!), which I know I'm going to want when Simurgh is done (Rick and the girls were very patient with this detour). We went to Hillcrest and pottered about until we'd found a place to eat lunch (this is something we rarely get to do, so it was part of The Plan For the Day). Then we headed to the San Diego Museum of Natural History in Balboa Park to see the Dead Sea scrolls exhibit, which I've been looking forward to since before it got here (I love the whole archaeological/historical part of the find).

I must say that I was tremendously disappointed with the way the museum handled the crowds. We knew we were going on a bad weekend, but it's been the only weekend we've had to go. We bought our tickets ahead of time, for a particular time slot, and then got there 15 minutes early. The security line (which was apparently a relatively new thing) took over half an hour. They were taking away people's pens. I'm not sure I entirely understand why, since everything was under glass, but there it was. In the long run, it's not so much that I object to the security (although I do feel quite a bit of frustration with the culture of fear, but that's for another post), as to the fact that they put up no warnings on their website about either the security line or the pen-confiscation, nor did anyone mention it to Rick when he called to buy the tickets. That strikes me as silly in the information age.

Once we got in, the crowds were insane, which made it hard to see the exhibit (especially since grown-ups who should have known better were leaning against display cases and wall posters, making it impossible to see). This was a pity, since the exhibit itself was very well put together, and did a great job of conveying what makes the Dead Sea scrolls such an amazing archaeological find. If the crowds had been half their size, or better managed, it would have been a wonderful exhibit. As it was, it was good (and it wasn't just this weekend; my friend who went months ago told me the crowds were bad then, too). I particularly loved the last part of the exhibit, which was about the art of printmaking, and which showed some illuminated manuscripts. At the end, they also showed three pages from a King James Bible which had been illuminated in the 1990s -- the first illuminated version in hundreds of years. It was truly a work of art, and (in keeping with this week's theme of continuity), I loved the idea of people sitting down to a task which printmakers did for centuries. Griping notwithstanding, I'm very glad we went.

The rest of the weekend was spent knitting. I am now over halfway through with Simurgh. I was very tempted to block the first half before picking up the stitches for the second half, but couldn't bear the idea of waiting for it to dry before knitting again, so I didn't. However, here it is laid out.
It's about 30 inches long, with no stretching at all, so I think it's going to be the right length once it's been blocked. The lace motifs are lovely. Here's the larger feather merging into the smaller feather motif.
And here's the quill section and the edging at the bottom:
This yarn has the most amazing sheen to it. It really does look exactly like a raven's feathers. I can't wait to be wearing it -- and it looks like it'll be done in time for Rick's company party (I hate company parties, and have no idea what to wear -- but this stole is something!), which is a good thing.

Tomorrow it's back to classes. I really should be reading right now, but am having trouble getting back into the swing of things. Wish me luck!

P.S. Kate: thanks so much for your wonderful comment from yesterday. I will definitely check out that cookbook -- I have a shelf of vegetarian cookbooks (they're some of my favorites) and that one sounds like something I'd love. Hope you're feeling better soon!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

My poor husband

Some of you may remember that Rick had his bike stolen from a locked roof rack when we were in Berkeley this past summer (he doesn't have the best luck with bikes, as you will soon see). He spent months researching what bike he wanted next, waiting for the insurance money to come in, and trying to decide whether to go with the bigger wheels (a mountain biker thing). About a month ago, he made the decision and ordered a new bike. He loved that bike (notice the past tense) like a child. Rode at every opportunity, was so happy with the bigger wheels.

He went riding today, while I finished the edging on Simurgh. We were having friends over to dinner, so he called on the way home to see what I needed from the store. I got a call five minutes later and thought he'd forgotten the list. But what I heard on the phone, in a dull voice, was, "The bike came off the bike rack. On the freeway." He sounded ready to cry. Long story short, the bike flew off the rack, dented the hood of the car behind him, and got completely smashed by everyone behind that guy. Thank god, no-one was hurt, no-one crashed. But the bike is destroyed. (Dinner got cancelled; thank goodness it was my dear friend who was totally understanding and supportive.)

I was planning to wait until tomorrow to write a nice, long post about our weekend and about the lovely Simurgh (which is now at the halfway point), but I had to tell someone. Thanks for listening.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanks giving

I meant to post yesterday, and I meant to take pictures to show all of the wonderful food we ate, and the amazing friends who came to share Thanksgiving with us, but I was so busy cooking and eating that food and enjoying those friends, that the pictures didn't happen, alas.

It was a lovely day, though. On Wednesday night, Rick and the girls helped me to make an apple pie and a walnut tart (we have to have three desserts every year: walnut tart because I love it so, apple pie because no holiday is a holiday for Rick without one and because he says he loves my apples pies and I'm a sucker for flattery, and pumpkin pie because it's Thanksgiving and we're not complete traditionless heathens), and the cornbread for the stuffing. Then on Thursday we cleaned the house (our poor vacuum gets a bit overwhelmed with all of the oos from the pets that it's responsible for cleaning up on days like this), and I cooked. And cooked. And cooked. Sausage, leek, and mushroom cornbread stuffing, the turkey, butternut squash, and mashed potatoes. Zucchini with bay leaves. I have two friends who come every year -- one of them has an eastern European Jewish background and brings stuffed cabbage; the other is from Bombay and brings cranberry chutney (I tell you, I hated cranberry relish until she came and brought this the first time -- I LOVE this stuff!). Layers of food traditions on the table. We also had a family of friends over and they brought salad and pumpkin pie. All in all, we were well taken care of. My table just barely seated the 12 of us, so we were all very friendly. I hauled out our good china, which was my mother and father's wedding set, and which I loved throughout childhood, and which they therefore gave us when we got married. It glowed against the newly-waxed pine of our old farmhouse table.

I have long ago removed the whole pilgrim/Squanto hideousness from Thanksgiving (and spend every year unbrainwashing the girls when they have to hear it at school), which leaves me with my favorite holiday of the year, one which is about feeling thankful for what we've got, and which ties in to every harvest celebration humanity has ever had.

I feel about cooking very much the same way that I do about knitting. It ties me in to traditions and histories that are larger than myself. Standing at my stove, cooking stuffing and smelling the turkey roasting, I feel connected to generations of people who, at this time of year, looked around at the stores that were going to keep winter's wolves from the door, and said "let's make us a feast", and they roasted and stuffed and baked and stewed. I often wonder at this deep connection to tradition and to family history, given that I am adopted. It's not something I think about often, in spite of the fact that people throughout my life have, at one time or another, tried to insist that I must feel cut off from my past and history, that I must feel abandoned in some way, because of it. I have considered carefully whether I am hiding this from myself, but what I really feel is that, far from being abandoned, I was chosen, and in the end, the history of my parents is mine, too. I grew up with the results, both good and bad, of their personal histories, no-one else's, and so those histories are mine and have made me what I am today. When I had Older Daughter, far from feeling some deep sense of betrayal that someone could have given me up when I was a baby like her (as a friend of mine insisted that I should feel), I felt instead a renewed sense of amazement that my mother had had less than 24 hours' notice that I was coming along; can you imagine? I was barely prepared for having a baby, and I'd had over 9 months' notice -- 24 hours' would've killed me!

I thought about much of this as I cooked, and realized that for me (and speaking only for me), this is part of the reason why I've not taken the logical next step in my desire to eat closer to home, in the sense of using up fewer resources in eating, by becoming a vegetarian, instead of limited myself to free-range. When I cook sausage for stuffing, I don't see (as my vegetarian friends tell me they do) some disgusting byproducts from some poor animal stuffed into further disgusting byproducts (although I can understand how it's possible to see that, no matter how free-range the animal was), but an ingenious human response to the desire to waste no precious resources. I know that this doesn't mean that I need to eat sausage, as I have far more resources than my ancestors, but cooking as they did sometimes reminds me of why they did it, and I feel connected to those reasons. When I make french onion soup, something which so many people think of as elegant or fancy, all I can think is that it is the ultimate it's-winter-and-I'm-running-out-of-food meal. I mean, you take a beef bone, and maybe a bit of some wine and make stock, then use onions -- the ultimate wintering-over root vegetable -- in a bit of whatever fat you've got around, some stale bread, and the tail ends of cheese, and you've got a meal. How creative is that? I can imagine a mother at the end of a long day, looking around a bare kitchen and thinking, NOW what do I do? I know exactly how that feels.

So, I am thankful to have those connections, reaching in all directions: back in time, towards my family and my ancestors; forward in time, towards my daughters, who are building their own memories of family traditions in our Thanksgivings; out, to my friends who come to build those traditions with us, year after year, and to all those parents who have come home at the end of a long day and have cooked dinner for their families, and who have found a reason to celebrate as the dark nights of winter close in; to all of you who are kind enough to read what I write and to send me comments and emails to let me know that you're thinking about me. How lucky am I?

Today has been a day to sit and contemplate that feeling of thankfulness, with my husband and daughters safe and healthy at home with me, and my house clean and smelling good. I went to yoga this morning, and then came home and knitted. I'm almost done with the smaller feather motifs on Simurgh, and might be able to start the pinfeathers edging tonight (the joy of leftovers means no cooking for a night, and you can't tell me that every parent, ever, through the history of the world hasn't felt that joy!). Then I can go back and unpick my provisional cast-on (it's my first, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed here) and start the second half.

I've also been (re)reading the next book for my book club: The Bone People. I haven't read this book in ages, and, while it's always been on my top-ten list, I had forgotten just how many things I love about this book. I love the writing style, I love the characters, I love their complexity and the lack of easy answers, I love the hope even amidst the despair. It's an amazing book. Have any of you read it? I'd love to hear what you think, too.

There's also some knitting reading going on (the other day, Rick came in the house and said to me, "some yarn porn came for you in the mail" and handed me the KnitPicks catalogue. That man makes me laugh), but I'll tell you all about that (and the yarn purchase I made today in an effort to support the sagging U.S. economy -- we all have to do our parts!) later this weekend. For now, it's time to finish this last repeat before everyone gets home from piano lessons. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

In which all is revealed

All right, I guess I'm done being mysterious.

It's been a couple of good days for knitting. Last night's TV marathon really paid off in knitting time, and I made it through the first chart's repeats. I had thought I would have some knitting time waiting at my doctor's office yesterday, but things didn't work out quite as planned. I headed in for an 8am routine blood work appointment (for a physical), figuring that I'd also get the x-rays I needed for the follow-up on last year's back surgery. Of course, I forgot the x-ray orders, but Rick kindly agreed to drop them by on the way to work. Then, as I was about to get stuck, the technician asked me if I had fasted that morning. Of course, since no-one had told me to, I hadn't (believe me, there is no fasting chez Ahlers unless I've been told to do so). So the whole appointment was for naught, I told Rick not to worry about the orders, rescheduled for today, and headed off to do my Thanksgiving shopping (the only good thing here being that I got to the store early enough that they weren't out of sage yet -- whoo-hoo! livin' large). So, no knitting time.

This morning, it was back for a later (and hungrier) appointment, x-ray orders in hand. I should say here that I am often not fond of getting blood drawn. It turns out I have very small veins, and the ones I do have, have a tendency to collapse. This means that hospital stays are hideous, since the only place they can ever put an IV is in the vein that runs along the bone on the outside of my wrist. (I'm still paying for this one from the back thing -- they put it in there, and I got phlebitis, which let me tell you HURTS; that spot still bugs me when I knit sometimes, sigh.) So this morning's tech was no different -- she poked and prodded, had me pump little squeezy balls, checked both arms, looked at me, looked at my arms again, and finally agreed with what I'd said to start with, which was that she'd need a very very small needle to get the job done. All that aside, she did a good job and only went through the vein in one place (where I have a nice little blackberry colored bruise to show for it -- this is why we do this on my right arm, as I am left-handed). All I can say it's that it's a darned good thing that I have no aspirations to become an intravenous drug user, because it would never work.

Then it was off to x-rays. Those went smoothly, and I headed home (hence the lack of knitting time). I have to say here that it is disconcerting in the extreme to look at an x-ray of your spine and see screws in it. I'm talking real, live, threaded screws (I don't know why I find this particularly weird, to see them looking just like regular hardware store screws -- altho' these are titanium). It just feels like, at any moment, something might come unthreaded with an ungodly SPROING (shades of Kauni here), and I'll end up on the floor with strange metal pieces falling from my back. It hasn't happened yet, but whenever I try to do something I haven't done since the surgery (you should have seen me when I did my first backbend in yoga!), the fear is there.

I did, however, comfort myself with handknits. I wore my new socks for the x-rays.
I found them comforting (yesterday, I was wearing other handknitted socks AND Kauni; it's so nice to now have enough of my own knitting to be able to wear something I made even through rescheduling messes).

So, this is all by way of saying that, while I did get a lot done, I'd wanted to be able to show you two of the motifs on this thing that I am knitting when I Revealed All, but I can't. However, I promised a reveal today, and a reveal you shall have. (all this drama for such a small thing)

I (and the wonderfully friendly and supportive Rachael) am test knitting Simurgh for Anne Hanson (check the link on the name for the full story -- I love it). I love this stole and this yarn with the flaming passion of a thousand white-hot suns, truly, madly, deeply, but it's amazingly hard to photograph, as it mostly just sits there looking crumpled, and not giving any sense of how gorgeous the yarn is, and how perfect the feather motifs are (Anne designed this one and the faroese version, which I adore equally -- I'm a bit of a slut that way -- for the new Raven colorways at Blue Moon). So, with that in mind, here are a few pictures:
The first one is from yesterday; I included it because I think the color is more accurately represented on that one. The next two are from today. I've finished three repeats of the bigger feather motif, and pinned it out loosely to try to show it a bit -- without pinning, it tends to look like a puckery lump. I can't wait to see what this baby looks like all blocked out.

So there it is. I'm thrilled Anne's letting me do this one. I love all of her designs (there is a bee stole in my future, and some acorn socks as soon as I can afford them), but this one is just exactly right for me. I am such a fan of all corbae. I have to be one of the most magpie-brained people I know -- you know, the brain is thinking along on one train of thought and then it says, "ooh, look, shiny object!" and goes darting off in another direction to grab something to take home to its nest. It amazes me what I find in there sometimes, and believe me, this is not to say that I have some amazing brain. Most of what's in there is the mental equivalent of a bottle cap or a gum wrapper -- there are very few diamond bracelets to be found. But knitting a shawl that's inspired by ravens, now that is cool.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Next clue

We made it home. Whew. And I made it through the guest lectures I had to do in a friend's classes yesterday. Double whew. With luck, things will now ease up for the rest of the week (says the woman who is hosting Thanksgiving dinner -- but only for twelve people total, which is a dawdle, really).

The weekend was, as always, incredibly intense. It's a training for people who are working to revitalize endangered California Indian languages. I've been going to these trainings since 1994, and I never cease to be amazed and awed by the dedication and tenacity of all of the people there. It is a constant honor and privilege to be allowed to be there and to work with these teams. This training was particularly wonderful in that there were families there in which the parents had learned their languages through this program and were now raising their children speaking these languages as first languages. Unreal.

It's also held in one of my all-time favorite places on earth -- the Marin Headlands. The whole family came up with me; this is one of the places where Rick and I (and the dog!) used to come and hike and hang out on the beach before we moved -- hell, before we had kids. I love going back. There is some part of me that gets to the Headlands and just unwinds, like all the muscles in my body say aahhh... We went for a few hikes, but mostly I was working. The hikes were foggy and wonderfully cool.
I know it's blurry, but that's how it looked out there. I honestly could not be happier than in weather like that -- fog so thick it's almost, but not quite, rain.

You know, I just really looked at that photo. T is almost as tall as I am. Wow. OK, I can't think about that right now. Moving along...

The girls each sat in on some of the meetings with me, which is a new thing -- they're finally old enough for this to mean something to them. After the first evening's meeting, which T attended with me, and in which all the participants introduced themselves and talked about their goals for the workshop, I asked T what she had gotten out of it. She said, "Well, people want to learn their languages so they won't die." (she meant the languages, not the people) I said, why do you think they want that? She looked at me like I was nuts and said, "Because their languages are part of who they are." (there was a clear note of duh, mommy there) All right. Full marks.

Knitting took place as well. This is the only benefit of over 1,000 miles of driving in three days (well, that and listening to Harry Potter on audio book). I finished the Embossed Leaves socks, but don't have a picture of them right now. To be frank, the second one looks just like the first one (a definite plus in socks), so it's not like you'd be seeing anything new and exciting. I also made some progress on the sweater that I'm knitting for Kivrin -- only about five more inches to go, and since I'm now decreasing for the yoke, that should go relatively quickly. I also cast on for a pair of socks for Rick (with the Trekking I've been hoarding, and the now-not-so new size three sox stix I bought last time we were up north). However, all of that was a way to keep myself entertained because I hadn't received the necessary stuff for the Mystery Project (which most of you probably already know about from other sources, but allow me to maintain my Air of Mystique for one more day; I don't often get to be mysterious).

However, when we arrived home on Sunday night, guess what was waiting for me? The Yarn. It's Geisha, in the Shadow colorway. I adore it. Truly, madly, deeply. It's gorgeous. I was really torn between Shadow and Haida, which I'm just going to have to get for something else sometime. Anne can tell you how I agonized -- she patiently talked me through it. I actually ordered the Haida, and then decided that I just had to have the Shadow. The nice folks at Blue Moon were kind enough to change the order for me. I am SO glad. This yarn is stunning. It shimmers. It's black. Really black. In a subtle variegated way, so that looking at it is like seeing the Pleiades when you live in the city -- you can spot the light spot where they are out of the corner of your eye, but not straight on. This yarn is like that. I have pictures, but they don't do it justice.
The pot is very black and shiny; the rock is a slate (ha) gray. Maybe that helps give a sense of what this yarn is like? Except it's blacker than in that photo.

The pattern was waiting for me, too. And then I discovered, to my horror, that I had no needles. My needle list says I have size 5s, but they were nowhere to be found (note: they were found this morning. Ah, well). So I had to wait until yesterday, after giving the guest lectures, to drive an insane distance to the only yarn store in the area that's open on Mondays to buy needles. I came straight home and cast on. I'm one and a half repeats into the first bit, and tonight will be a marathon (Bones, House, and SVU are all on). Tomorrow, I will lift the Veil of Secrecy, and All Will Be Revealed.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Still waiting...

I hate waiting for yarn. Hate hate hate it. I am clearly an instant gratification sort of person when it comes to yarn. When I order yarn online, I want it NOW. If this means that I am a childish sort of person, then so be it. I can't be the only one who feels this way. I keep checking the website to see what's going on, but all they can say is that they have notified the shipper. What does that mean? Given that Fox news (there is a sneer when I say the word "news" there, in case you can't see it) can give us the sordid details of any gossip that's happening anywhere in the world just as soon as it happens, you'd think I could get shipping details. Alas, no.

However, all was redeemed by a package from Stella -- I actually stopped being cranky about my yarn for a whole day! Go, Stella! Here it is:
Look at all that good stuff! Yarn, music (gotta love the music -- it made it onto my iPod as the inaugural album), bracelets for the girls (and do you see the cute little bags they came in?), and greenstone stitch markers for me (with an option to make one into a necklace). In case you can't see those, here's a closer shot:
Gorgeous color, no? I'll be using these on my drive knitting (heading up the state tonight -- 1,000 miles of driving this weekend; thank goodness for Harry Potter on audiobook!)

The sheep wrapping paper was a particularly nice touch. Although I have sheep issues. Big Sheep Issues. I keep gearing up to write about my Sheep Issues, but haven't quite gotten there yet. The sad thing is that I love wool. How can I so dislike the creatures that give us such a wonder fiber? It truly doesn't get better than wool -- fire-retardant, warm even when wet, springy, and light. Cotton is good, but not nearly so fun to knit with. But the animals which run around with this wool on their backs? Meh. Oh, all right. Here it is.

Once upon a time, there was a young girl and her younger brother. They lived in a big house on two acres with a barn and a corral in back. The neighbors had horses. The other neighbors had cows, and there were some peacocks and llamas and chickens in the neighborhood, but it's the horses we're interested in now. The girl and her brother wanted a horse. They really, really wanted a horse. They pointed out to their parents that there was a corral and a barn, and really what more could they possibly need to get a horse? These parents had grown up city dwellers -- real working-class urban folks, one in Jamaica, NY, and one in Woonsocket, RI. They had moved to this house with this land and this corral, I think, to give their kids a running-around-outside-without-getting-hit-by-cars kind of lifestyle, but farm animals were not their strong suit. How do I know this? I'll tell you how.

They came home one day with animals for the corral and barn. But the animals were not, alas, a horse. They were two sheep (to this day, the parents claim they have no idea what they were thinking when they bought the sheep). And I am here to tell you that, in the mathematics of the animal kingdom, two sheep do not make one horse. Really.

The girl and her brother tried to make do. But you can't ride sheep (ask me how I know). They don't like it. And they get lanolin all over your jeans, which is not nearly as romantic as saddle leather conditioner. They don't like to be petted, and they head butt dogs. Sheep are not horses.

If the girl had been the knitter she would one day become, this experience might have been different. But she wasn't, and here I am today, confessing publicly to a Sheep Aversion. I've tried to get over it. I've travelled to England, Scotland, Wales, and New Zealand. All sheepy sorts of places. I'm still not over it. But I'm trying. Put another quarter in the therapy jar, will ya?

P.S. I'm heading northward in a few hours to a place with no cell phone reception, and doubtful internet access. If you don't hear from me all weekend, that's why, but I'll be back Sunday night, so look for a post on Monday. Meanwhile, carry on without me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The usefulness of sock blockers

I love sock blockers. It turns out that, when you've finished one sock and are still knitting away on the second, a time when the first sock is generally not useful in any way, it can be useful! It can hang around decoratively on a sock blocker while awaiting its finished mate.
I am still loving these socks. I'll be honest and say that I wasn't so fond of the ribbing (a twisted stitch rib that I had to watch my hands to do), but having finished with that, it's been smooth sailing. I was also worried about doing the toe as called for in the pattern, in no small part because it doesn't give me the opportunity to kitchener closed the end (and we all know where I stand on the kitchener issue). But I decided to stop being a great big baby and to just suck it up and follow the pattern (gasp). I'm glad I did. Look:
It's like the leaves just continue right on down the toe.

The heel has garter stitch at the edges, which I quite liked, and may adopt in other socks, depending on how it wears.

The lace pattern is one of those that just calls for you to do the next row, to finish one more repeat. And since my feet really only need 6 1/2 repeats on this one (instead of the 7 1/2 called for in the pattern), the first one went fast, and the second one promised to go just as fast. This is a very good thing, as I'm about to embark on something new and exciting (the yarn is listed as having shipped, yay!), which I'll tell you all about in due course, but for which I'm attempting to clear the decks.

My weekend, while not long (I don't teach a Monday/Wednesday schedule this semester, which I think is half the reason why I'm so cranky and discombobulated, and the girls had school, so I worked), was quite nice. On Sunday, one of my dear friends had her annual Diwali party (the Indian -- as in sub-continent of -- festival of lights), which is always a blast. All the kids either dance or play music in a small piece at the beginning of the evening (that's what all the practicing has been about), and everyone brings Indian food that they've cooked (it turns out I know a lot of people who cook really well -- go me!), and then we all dance around in the living room. The best bit, because I admit it, I'm a bit geeky, is that my friend kindly loans me a sari for these occasions, and I get to dress up. I tell you, there is nothing more lovely than wrapping oneself in a gorgeous piece of fabric that inherently fits the shape of your body because it's wrapped around that body, with no seams to fight. I am also consistently charmed by the ways that so many cultures have found to utilize a nine-yard piece of fabric straight off the loom without doing anything so wasteful as cutting it (think kilt, toga, etc etc). It appeals to the part of me that feels the weight of generations of fabric-makers behind me when I knit. I forgot my camera (can you believe?!), but if something comes from one of my friends that's shareable, I'll post it.

Meanwhile, I'm getting ready to head north this weekend for an endangered languages workshop. It's at my favorite place on earth, the Marin headlands, so that's definitely something to look forward to. Alas, the beach is closed because of the oil spill, so no hanging out on the beach, but at least the bluffs are open for hiking. The family is going up with me, and we'll visit with Rick's grandmom, which is always a good thing. I spent six hours (!!) at Toyota yesterday getting the car checked and getting new tires (the old ones were balding -- a bad sign), so we're good to go.

Stay tuned for a package post tomorrow.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Socks are good

Especially in meetings. On Tuesday night, I cast on for the Embossed Leaves socks from IK's Favorite Socks book. I have been lusting after these socks for a while, and had even bought yarn specifically for them. Don't ask me why these socks just called out to me to be made in a peach color, but they did.
This is Nature's Palette fingering weight in terra cotta. I got it at The Loopy Ewe.

Socks are perfect meeting knitting in so many ways. They are small, and the pattern for these socks, at least, isn't very difficult to follow, so I've got it on a very small piece of paper that I look at once a row, and I'm good to go. The one problem is all those needles. And even that is usually not too big a problem; I make a point of sitting next to some understanding person and of keeping my elbows in. I also try to sit on the aisle, which usually means one less person to bother. Not this time, though. This time, the president of the university gave her report standing in that aisle. And as she spoke, she kept backing down the aisle towards me, until finally, she was standing right by me, with her toochus at eye level. Now, you tell me what you'd do if you were sitting, purple-clad presidential toochus in the face, holding four shiny pointy knitting needles in your hands. Be honest, we're all friends here. You'd probably do what I did.

No, not that. I controlled myself. I told the little devil who sits on my shoulder that discretion was the better part of valor, and just to be sure that she listened, I put my knitting down in my lap and put both of my hands over it. Hard. And I made sure that the friend sitting next to me was ready to move, should the small devil take over those hands. Because I'm pretty sure that the president would not buy The Devil Made Me Do It as an excuse for toochus stabbing.

After she sat down, and I'd breathed a sigh of relief that sanity and common sense had prevailed again in my world, I made some progress. Last night I made more progress. I am loving these socks.
I love everything about them. I love the pattern, and I love the pattern in this color. I love the yarn -- it's just the right weight and softness, and it's not splitty. I'm dying to wear them.

I'm actually further along than you can see here, as I went to my book club meeting today (we read The Yacoubian Building, which I liked more after discussing) and knitted the heel flap and turned the heel. I'm heading into the gusset, people, and after that it's smooth sailing.

I'll leave you with a story. Younger Daughter has her first loose tooth and this is, as you might imagine, a major topic of discussion in our world right now (this is made a more central topic by the fact that I find loose teeth to be a bit, well, squidgy. They give me the cold gruesomes, to be honest -- especially when little kids get them to sit there in their mouths at strange angles. Eeugh. The girls enjoy the rare opportunity to gross me out, as almost nothing else works.). So, driving in the car the other day, YD asks me, "Mama, why do people think that a fairy comes and takes their teeth during the night?" A pause, and then with a touch of disdain, "Because you know there's no such thing as fairies." Said I, "Well, where do you think the teeth go, then?" Instant reply, "The elves take them." Oh. Right. The elves.

You've got to watch out for those elves.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A package!

So, there I was yesterday, working away at home trying desperately to finish this project that was supposed to be done two weeks ago, when the dog started barking. It was the postman, with a delivery! For me! And I hadn't even ordered anything! (Can you sense my excitement? Sometimes only an exclamation point will do.)

It was from Anne, and she sent me all sorts of goodies, beautifully wrapped up in colorful bright tissue paper (sorry, the paper soon went the way of the kitten, as I dug in rather quickly).
Look! Soap (that's the lemon there), and stitch markers, and a book, and yarn! The beautiful autumnal colors haven't really come through in that photo, so here's a better shot of the yarn.
How great is that? I think maybe it might need to be mitts. For me. Doncha think? Thank you, Anne! It's exactly what the doctor ordered.

Which reminds me, I'm done with the second mitt, barring stitching down the hem, which will happen in approximately three minutes, when I go to watch Bones. Meanwhile, I leave you with Matching Cats.
And, Undignified Cat Enjoying Kauni.
Now, if I could just figure out what to knit tomorrow in Senate...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

One down...

I finished the first Wine and Roses mitt on Friday night. While watching the Pirates of the Caribbean on TV (it was uncut! it was Johnny Depp! I mean, come on -- how not?). I must say, that movie just satisfies all my lust for cheap entertainment. It's funny, it's got good sword fighting (have I mentioned I was on the fencing team in college?), and Depp prefers his ship to women. It's perfect. It's escapist. Exactly what the doctor ordered.

Oh, right, knitting. Here it is:
Flash photo, sorry (hey, if there's one thing I have never claimed to be, it's a photographer). The thumb and hand end in a turned down cuff, which I thought would be more annoying than it was. They were a bit fiddly, but not in a particularly bad way. In fact, I'm kind of thinking that I might need a pair of these for myself. Maybe in the Malabrigo? I have some lovely burnt orange laceweight.
Of course, maybe I'll use those for a pair of Delicato mitts, which I've also lusted after... We'll see. These are a bit big for me, but my sister-in-law's hands are bigger, so I expect the lace to show a little better. I'll have to figure out how to make them smaller for me.

Once these are done (and I'm about a third of the way through the second one), that'll be one present down for Christmas. I'm trying to stay reasonable this year, and I'm thinking that other than this, I'll probably just do slippers for the girls, and maybe another pair for my niece. If those go as quickly as these have, I'll try to get through a pair of socks for Rick (size 13 feet make this something of a, if you'll forgive me, feat; get it? get it? I'm trying...). My aunt asked me to make her an Icarus after seeing mine, and I do have yarn for that, but it's a bigger project, so I'm not committing myself, even in my own mind. I have to confess to a small fear that I'll get through it, and she'll decide she doesn't like it and give it back to me (this has happened before, not with knitting, but with other things, but it would annoy me more after putting in that much work). So I'll probably knit Anne's new raven shawl for myself first. I mean, really -- don't I deserve something in all this? (Says the women who just knitted herself a sweater...)

Of course, to be fair, I just treated myself to something really big. I mean really big. I'm not even sure that it'll work, but I've been lusting after this for a year, and had decided already that it was going to be my Christmas present from every single person I know all put together. It's the Socks That Rock sock club. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my sign-up reached them before they were full; I'm waiting for my email. There are so many sock clubs I'd like to try, but that was the first one I saw and lusted after, so that's the one I'm doing this year.

I have a question for you all, before I go to have gingerbread with the family. I was cleaning up today (some friends were coming over -- I'll tell you all about that when gingerbread isn't waiting), and I was thinking about knitting. And I was thinking about friends of mine who can knit, but who tell me they never have time to actually knit. They often say that I must be some kind of miracle worker, or that I must have a time-turner, to get so much done. And I tell them that I don't really get that much done -- I just get different things done. I mean, tell me true: if it comes down to choosing between vacuuming and sweeping the house every day (I have friends who do this -- !!) and knitting instead, wouldn't you choose knitting? Or reading a book? Is it just me? Because I pretty much choose knitting every time. Every time. Vacuuming once a week is plenty. Laundry can get done in between rows of knitting. Right? Am I just a terminal slob who wants to believe that there are other knitters out there like me? Please tell me I'm not alone in my dust-bunnied but knit-ful house. (BTW, linguistic funny for you: my students have to give people a dialect survey every so often, and one of the things it asks is what do you call the balls of dust and fur you find under furniture. My favorite answer of all-time is one that comes from respondents who are Marines: ghost turds. Don't you love it? And of course a Marine would say that. What Marine sergeant would tell the guys to clean up dust bunnies under their bunks?)

Friday, November 2, 2007

But the voices on my blog told me to!

Well, it was unanimous. The hair had to go (you all said it more nicely than that, of course). So, it went. (You should have seen my hairdresser's face when I told her she could cut it off. She kept saying, "Really? Really? Finally? You'll let me cut it off?" She has often pointed out that my hair is less than happy when long. I have told her that I understand this, but that sometimes my hair's happiness is not my happiness, and, in the end, my hair is not the boss of me. Except that it turns out it is.)

So, another crappy Photo Booth shot (because again with the laziness relative to the camera and the time it takes to download one photo):
You get the idea.

Thanks everyone for the kind comments. I try to get back to anyone who has an email address or a blog I can go haunt (bwahahaha), but sometimes people leave really nice comments and I can't write back. Kim and Kate and Gwen -- thanks! The Two Men In a Boat (to say nothing of the dog) recommendation is an excellent one for the refinding of humor (I also have my kids out look for my sense of humor, in case they took it to play with and left it out in the yard). Either that or Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog, which just makes me laugh every time. And Kim, you're right about the weather -- Santa Anas are coming back, which is not conducive to Kauni wearing. I guess I'll have to knit something else. (I'm kind of thinking that it has to be Anne's new design, when it's done; have you people SEEN the Raven shawl she's working on?!) In any case, I appreciate all the input; I told my husband that whatever happened with my hair was your fault; but to be fair, I also told him that my better mood was to your credit, so it balances out in the end.

He actually said a very entertaining thing the other night. We were out to dinner with the kids, and I mentioned something that one of you had said in the comments, and he said to me, "I wonder when the time will come that I'll say to someone that my wife knits, and they'll say, 'Oh! has she heard of the Knitting Linguist?'" When I was done laughing hysterically, I suggested that that time was probably never, but that it was very sweet that he could even imagine it. I'm still snortgiggling over that one.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


I seem to have lost my sense of humor. I'm not sure quite where or when, but it's definitely taken an extended leave, and I miss it. Maybe it happened when I was trapped in the house watching the county burn down, but if I'm going to be completely honest, I think it must've fallen out sometime before that. I've felt rather light on the humor this whole semester. In fact, I've been positively angst-ridden, which is not like me at all. None of this Germanic angst or schadenfreude for me (OK, there are a few people whose misfortune might make me laugh, just a little, and only for a few moments before I realized anyone was watching). Nope, I'm a good old-fashioned whiskey-drinking, bagpipe loving, you gotta laugh because baby no one is going to do it for you Celt. Full of joie de vivre. I mean usually I totally vive that joie. However, not so much lately, so if any of you have seen my sense of humor as it wanders about on its (presumably) merry way, could you send it home? Because I would really love to be able to laugh at my misfortunes.

While waiting for someone to revoke my humor's passport, I have continued to knit. On Monday, I had knit this:
It's the first of a pair of Wine and Roses mitts for my sister-in-law for Christmas. I zipped right through most of the thumb gusset before I realized that it was too big and that the lace just wasn't going to show well, so I ripped it out, hauled out needles one size smaller, and tried again. Now I have this:
I'm almost back to the pre-ripping point, so that's good. The thing about knitting small objects like this is that I (I can't believe I'm admitting this to a knitting public) don't swatch for them. I figure by the time I finish a swatch, if I had the gauge right, I could have had some serious portion of the thing done. If the gauge is wrong, I'd be ripping out the swatch and starting again anyway. I think I've gotten away with this in large part because I tend to knit to gauge on yarns like this. Now, for big things I do swatch, it's just the small ones.

I'm very happy with this yarn. It's the Dream in Color Smooshy I ordered from The Loopy Ewe a bit ago, and while I'd been wanting to make socks for me out of it, I did get three skeins, and this color seemed right for my SIL, so I'm sharing. At least I get to knit with it, instead of waiting until after Christmas knitting is done.

I also broke down and got myself a really big treat last night. I usually don't spend this kind of money on myself, but I had my reasons.
It's an iPod nano. The young men at Fry's clearly thought I was a whack-job when I told them that I was looking at the iPod shuffle (cheaper and smaller) because I wanted to listen to podcasts (I didn't mention that they were about knitting) and audio books (does anyone else my age have trouble not calling them books on tape?), not music (I didn't mention that I wanted to be able to listen to these things while either knitting or going for a morning constitutional; they clearly already thought I was 85 years old). Unfortunately, the way the shuffle works, you really can't easily listen to things like that, so the nano it was.

My hope (one of so many) was that part of the reason that my sense of humor has left for warmer climes is because I'm just not getting enough exercise. The problem is that, for the most part, having time to walk is going to mean hauling my patootie out of bed at what is, for me, godawful o'clock, so I thought I'd better have a bribe in the form of a book. I lay in bed the other night before finally deciding to buy it (I've been agonizing for a while, is that pitiful?) feeling cranky that once upon a time I lived in a place where I could go hike right near my house, where just being able to see the hills was enough to get me out of bed and I would never have plugged into a book just to get moving. However, I am trying to be realistic, and the fact of the matter is that urban neighborhood walking is not thrilling enough to make me get out of bed early when I could be sleeping, and maybe it's time to up the ante. With the time change coming, I'm hoping I can convince my body that 6 is the new 7.

Pssst. I'm going to tell you something I haven't told anyone else yet. I'm going to chop all my hair off. I think. (I'm hoping a new me might woo my sense of humor back.) In general, I see myself as a fundamentally short-haired person who occasionally tries to become a long-haired person. I always come back to short hair, though, and I think I'm there. We'll see if I have the courage to go through with it at my appointment tomorrow, but meanwhile, I'm going to expose myself to you in all my end-of-the-day, Powerbook Photo Booth glory, just so you have something to compare it to if I'm brave enough to go through with it.
You have 16 hours to either tell me not to do it or find me my sense of humor, or the hair gets it.