Friday, February 29, 2008

Note to self

Do not open email after 5:00. Even if my conscience says that I am on three search committees this semester, and that I have students who might need to ask me questions, and that the responsible thing to do would be to check email, I should not listen to it. My conscience clearly took quite a few recreational drugs in its youth, and its opinions are not to be trusted.

Further note to self: if, in spite of knowing that this is a bad idea, I do, in fact check email and find horrible bomb-like messages waiting for me, I must not give in to the temptation to pour myself a stiff belt of Talisker and wander around the house ranting and raving about the family connections of the writers of said missives. They are, in fact, not misbegotten newt-spawn, and I should remember not to insinuate that they are. Furthermore, I should not turn over my email program password to my children, cackling madly, and suggest that they write responses for me. If I do manage not to take these dramatic steps, I should not take the alternative route of locking myself in the bathroom with a gallon of ice cream, a jar of chocolate sauce, and a spoon, to while away an hour or two sobbing into the frozen dairy products, only to be brought out by representatives of the local fire department. (Further note to self: planning to flirt with the aforementioned members of the fire department will not go over well if one is a bloated wreck covered in ice cream drippings and chocolate sauce.)

The good news is that these little hints to myself on the appropriate response to stressful events at my place of employment seem to have worked. After posting last night, and listening to my drug-addled conscience, and finding more hideous email yuckiness, I neither drank myself to distraction nor ate the lovely Double Rainbow vanilla ice cream calling from the freezer. I instead turned to two of the most soothing activities I could think of besides the drinking/overeating options. First, I made dinner. In my 12-inch cast-iron skillet. I don't know about you all, but nothing in my kitchen makes me happier than the combination of my cast-iron skillet and my stove. Nothing. So, I made a frittata, which is one of those lovely things that comes together quickly and makes everyone happy (I've put my "recipe" at the end of the post; it ain't classy, but it works). After that was done cooking, I cleaned out the skillet and made Irish soda bread. Mmmm....

While everything cooked, I sat down and began knitting my bracelet with my handspun silk yarn. Remember how I said that spinning was more fun than a basket full of kittens? Well, knitting with one's own handspun is more fun than a basket full of kittens with whipped cream and cherries on top. OK, ewww, but you know what I mean. Honestly, though, when it was knitted up, it kind of looked like, well, you know -- yarn. Real yarn, I mean, not yarn I made. This could get addictive.

I'm off to Clear Lake tomorrow for fieldwork, and then back again. With luck, Sunday will be a day to recover, get some grading done, and maybe do some more knitting.

Frittata recipe: Get out the skillet and some olive oil. Turn the oven on to about 350, or, if you're baking something else, to whatever temperature that thing needs (I am all about flexibility in the kitchen). Heat some oil in the skillet while you chop up whatever vegetables you've got that look good. If you're a meat-eating sort of person, you could also cut up some sliced ham or prosciutto, or a bit of bacon or sausage, or something else of that nature. Saute all of that, either together, or, if they have different cooking times, add the longest-cooking stuff first, and keep adding the rest until everything's in the pan. Cook until they're not quite done. While everything cooks, crack between 8 and 10 eggs into a bowl and mix. Grate some cheese and throw it in with the eggs (or crumble in some goat cheese or feta). Put in salt and pepper, or paprika, or herbes de provence, or whatever floats your boat. When everything in the skillet is done, turn the stove off and spread the cooked veggies evenly across the bottom of the pan. Pour the eggs and cheese in on top. Chuck the whole thing in the oven (see why I love cast-iron?) until the eggs are set and the top is browned. It actually took me longer to write this than it does to make it. And the kids like it. Sometimes I do potatoes and bacon and goat cheese. Last night I did broccoli and cheddar. Sometimes it's leeks and goat cheese and herbes de provence. You can chop up veggies like bell peppers to put on the side if you like, or make a salad. Buttered toast is a nice accompaniment.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

"Cheer up, things could get worse...

so I cheered up, and sure enough, things got worse."
-- my mom

Mom clearly has a dark sense of humor.

Things at work just refuse to become better. I am working very hard not to give in to the temptation to storm the halls, shouting, "Behave like grown-ups! This is not kindergarten!" But as that would be a bit childish in itself, I'm guessing that it wouldn't make the situation any better. Alas. Because I'm thinking that it would certainly feel good in the doing.

The effort to control my baser impulses has been heroic, and has had several implications for my evening hours. The first is that I find myself avoiding my computer like the plague, as I never know what email bombs may lurk in its depths. The second is that by the time I get home, get dinner going, get the kids through homework and into bed, I'm done for. I've been crawling into bed soon after the girls do. This is not conducive to knitting, as I can't seem to lie down, read, and knit at the same time. It's also not conducive to taking pictures of anything, so I still have no photos of the silk that I spun over the weekend. Soon, soon...

OK, I decided that was a cop-out, and took a quick picture using the computer, just so you can see. Here:
This is the silk that Wanda sent me, along with a lovely spinning video that I haven't had a chance to post about (one more thing to get to). I'm still planning to knit myself an i-cord bracelet out of it, and as soon as Jan suggested finding a bead for a special closure, I knew what I had to use. These are two lovely greenstone markers/pendants that Stella sent me in the fall that have been waiting for the exact perfect use, and I've found it. The colors don't show as well here as they should, but the green picks up some of the darker greens in the silk and is a lovely complement. Now I just need to figure out in my head how to make a loop on one end to go around the beads at the other. Contemplating this has gotten me through several interminable meetings with cranky people lately.

Meanwhile, in other news, Older Daughter grows apace. Her school shoes became too small, apparently overnight, and in a fit of desperation I dove into my closet and appeared with a pair of shoes that I bought myself some time ago that just don't make my feet happy. They fit her. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the fact that my not-quite-ten-year-old can wear my shoes. In looking for the silver lining, it occurs to me that this means that she will not be able to borrow my shoes when she's in high school. This is good, yes?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Warning: Actual knitting content

I had planned to post this all on Sunday, but with one thing and another, it's Tuesday, and I'm just getting to it now. I woke up Sunday morning to find a note on my bedside table from Younger Daughter, asking if I would make muffins when I woke up. There was even a line for my response (Younger Daughter is nothing if not organized in reaching her goals). She seemed very disappointed that I told her that I would make muffins, rather than using the line provided for my use in answering. I asked if she'd rather I wrote her a response, or got cracking on the muffins. She conceded that she would forgo a reply note in favor of quicker muffin-baking. The coffee, of course, got started first, but then I managed to throw together some blue cornmeal and dried cherry muffins (with buttermilk of course), thanks to the handy-dandy Tassajara bread book, without which life would be a lot less interesting.

As I had finished Gust on Saturday night, I wove the ends in while waiting for the muffins to bake, and looked at the usual heap o' lace that is a pre-blocked scarf.
(The bad light is the result of rainy weather and indoor lighting.) Lace never really looks like much when it's just off the needles, does it?

So, I chucked it into the sink for an hour to let it think about its behavior.
(Note the cup of coffee up there in the right corner. Nothing happens on a weekend morning before coffee. Nothing.) Muffins eaten and scarf thoroughly wet and chastised, I ruthlessly pinned it out and let it dry. The nice thing about silk is how quickly it dries (especially with the ceiling fan on), but there was plenty of time to play a new board game (Ticket to Ride Europe -- a gift from Rick's sister; it turns out to be great fun) with Rick and the girls while casting on for the second violets rising sock. Then I went to unpin the scarf. I have declared myself pleased with it, and wore it yesterday (and yes, I did again plan an entire outfit around one knitted piece) and again today.
I love the colors of this scarf.
And the geometry of the lace pattern makes me very happy. It's incredibly light and folds down to a very small size (ah, silk), but it's nice and warm around my neck, which is perfect for the slightly cool weather we're having. So, to recap. This is the pattern Gust, by Anne, knitted on size 4 Addis, in Ball and Skein Arequipa in the Atlantic colorway. (I can't seem to link to Anne's blog or shop right now, but if you go to, you should be able to find it.) I didn't use the whole skein, and am now looking at what's left trying to think of what interesting thing I could do with it. Something will come to me.

Speaking of silk, I also finished spinning and plying the lovely silk that Wanda sent me; I'll post a picture of that next time. I have some ideas for how to use it, but I need to let them ferment just a bit more before I start anything.

I never did get a chance to post any pictures of the knitting I did for the Loopy Swap, and looking back, I realize that I only took one picture of one of the things I sent, alas. But here it is.
These are Anne's zigzag mitts, which I knit in Louet DK weight yarn in a lovely bright red. I was a little worried about the red, but I liked the mitts so much in the solid color when I was done that I had some trouble letting them go in the end. I also ended up knitting a modified zigzag scarf, just one pattern repeat wide, and short enough to wear tucked into a sweater, out of the way. Part of the swap was to include something from where I live, so I packed up Peet's coffee, See's candy, and two Bacon avocados. Californians, did I represent us appropriately? (For those who are keeping track, it was the avocados that caused me to postpone mailing the package until a day after the last of the mailing dates; I wanted to get some from the farmer's market that would be underripe enough to ripen in the box on the way there.)

At this point, I'm well on my way down the leg of the second violets rising sock, which will go to Older Daughter when I'm done (in spite of the fact that they fit me; that child is growing!), and then it's on to the second of Rick's socks. I should get quite a bit of knitting done today, between a faculty meeting, and our on-campus knitting group meeting, and sitting through Younger Daughter's Irish dance lesson. Meanwhile, I'm already starting to contemplate what knitting project I should take with me on our trip over spring break...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I know it's cold when...

Gwilim spends the day following me around the house, meowing plaintively whenever I leave the room, and actually jumping into my lap and lying down. You have no idea how rare this is.
Can you see him there on my lap, curled up while I'm trying to work on the computer? Yup, that's Gwilim, the original not-lap-cat. Neither of the cats is really a lap cat, which I am still adjusting to, as my beautiful Simmer, who died two years ago at the age of 16, was the ultimate lap cat. She could sit on my lap by the hour, which served many purposes, not least of which was to pin me down when I needed to get reading or grading done (it would appear that I am congenitally incapable of disturbing a sleeping cat, or even a cat who is pretending to sleep so that I won't disturb her; I'm a sucker that way).

When it's cold, though, Gwilim decides that the warmth afforded to him by my lap (or by my legs at night), is worth the trouble of jumping up and settling down. And thanks to him, I did indeed have a very productive day. Yesterday was the first Friday I've had in weeks that didn't involve a three-plus hour meeting. What a relief. I spent the whole day tucked away in the house, alone, getting work done. It was raining and cold, which was perfect working weather, and I made the most of it. If I can get two more piles of grading done tomorrow, I might start to feel like I could actually catch up someday. Imagine that. I'm almost afraid to say it out loud, but with luck, the Universe is illiterate and won't notice that I'm tempting fate.

Today dawned sunny, and knowing that rain was coming again tonight, we made the most of it. We had a relaxing morning and then headed down to Balboa to go to the museums (museum entry is half-price this month at thirty museums in San Diego county). The only major disappointment was that we'd planned to go to the Copper Age archaeology exhibit at the Museum of Man, and in spite of the fact that it's still advertised on their web site, it had already moved on. However, we had a lovely time, and then Rick and the girls went to see an IMAX film at the Fleet while I read outside (IMAX makes me sick to my stomach). We even got Ethiopian food for dinner. Mmm...

I forget sometimes how much I love watching people in an urban setting like Balboa park. Anything that a person can be, someone is, in a setting like that. I watch all of these people around me, everyone doing their own version of this thing we call living, in all of the infinite variations that are possible, and I feel an overwhelming affection for all of them. And you know that if I met them all individually, there are probably some whom I'd really dislike, but there's something about seeing everyone together that just makes me so glad that people are different from me and from each other. It makes me happy to see all of the ways that there are out there to do life, some better than others, many of them really good, and every one unique. And, as I used to say about living in Berkeley, there's almost nothing that I can do that is stranger than what someone else is doing within arm's reach of me in a place like that. It appeals to the part of me that prefers to blend in; I'm completely unnoticeable when there are so many people who are out there performing life with so much more overt exuberance than I.

None of this, as happy as it all is, has been conducive to much in the way of knitting. I did get quite a few repeats of Gust done last night while playing a new game with the kids and Rick, and I'm hoping that I might be able to finish it tonight. If so, there will be blocking shots tomorrow, and with this one, comparing the before and after shots should be good fun. Then, it's the second violets rising sock, and on to Rick's second sock. I am not typically a person who takes a break between first socks and second socks, and having two seconds to finish is making me a little bit nervous, I must admit.

I'm so glad that I threw the Kestrel question out there to you people; I knew I could count on you. I got some amazing suggestions of yarn that's already out there, as well as an offer to dye a colorway like the one I'm looking for, which may be the route that I go, if it turns out to be possible. I'm feeling fairly picky about this one, as I know that I'll be putting a lot of time into Irtfa'a, given the fact that I've never knit a shawl this big before, and I've never knit anything with faroese shaping. But if I could finish it before our various travels this summer, it seems like it would be the perfect plane/cold summer evening shawl, so it will be well worth the time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

On the road again

I tell you, I don't think I can take any more meetings. Aren't I supposed to be a teacher? I mean, I'm pretty sure that was what it said when I applied for the job. It didn't say anything about endless meetings. Nope, definitely not. There's no way I would have signed up for that.

The worst is that many of these have been non-knitting meetings. So I don't even have a) the feeling of having accomplished something even during the meetings that involve talking in circles, or b) that little something that helps me to pause that crucial moment between thinking something and opening my mouth. I say far fewer stupid or impolitic things when knitting during meetings than I do when I'm not. This is especially true when I've been in four hours' worth of meetings in a row, as I was today, after which I had to impose an email moratorium on myself, lest I say something truly stupid in documentable form.

I have been making progress on Gust, though. It is a very nice knit; the pattern is memorizable, and the yarn entertains me with its color shifts -- I keep looking to see what will come next. I've decided to get a bit further with it, and then to cast on for the second Violets Rising sock for Older Daughter, and after that's done, to finish Rick's second sock. Meanwhile, I am on a mission, a mission with which you can perhaps help me. It goes like this.

I want to knit Irtfa'a. I still love the motifs, even after knitting Simurgh, and I have always wanted to knit a shawl with faroese shaping, and judging by the fact that I keep revisiting pictures of it and admiring the ones knit by others, this is the one for me. I want to knit it not in a ravenesque colorway, as I did with Simurgh, but in colors like those of a kestrel. I adore raptors in general, but there's something about kestrels that really captures my imagination. Maybe it's their small size and spunk (over-identification? see above discussion about impolitic comments). Maybe it's the way they are able to hover, mid-air, by beating their wings like figure eights in the air. Whatever it is, I think that finding a yarn with those colors would make a lovely summertime shawl, and I'm on a mission. What does a kestrel look like you say? Why, like this.
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Lovely, no? There are more pictures here; I won't inundate you with them here. I have this theory that somewhere I'm going to find a laceweight yarn, more of the wool sort than the silk sort, with the same beige/tan/grey/blue shades of this bird. Wishful thinking? I'd like to believe it's not. But meanwhile, it gives me something to look for, eh? It's a way to prolong the knitting pleasure.

I also finished spinning the beautiful silk that Wanda sent me, using my turkish spindle. I'm hoping I'll get to ply it soon. It's a relatively small amount, and I'm considering knitting an i-cord bracelet for myself with it, which seems like a fun way to keep something beautiful and some of my spinning around me, all at the same time. I'll post a picture of it next time.

Meanwhile, I'm off to Fresno tomorrow evening and Thursday to do fieldwork, so I probably won't get to post again until Friday. I'll be taking some knitting with me, so maybe there will be time in the car to get something done. In the meantime, I do believe that a glass of port and a piece of dark chocolate are waiting for me next to my knitting chair.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Spinning my wheels

Yes, that would be what is known in the trade as a double entendre. Not a very good one, I admit, but I'm goin' with what I've got.

The brief story on work is that it's the same. The crises are the same, so the talk about them is the same, which is my least-favorite kind of situation: one in which we talk again and again about how bad things are, and how there's nothing more to do about the bad things than we're already doing, but what are we to do? (This is not unlike American politics, come to think about it.)

So, I worked my tail off all week last week with the stated goal of taking a few hours off on Friday morning to go to Encinitas before the next big crisis meeting. Why Encinitas, you ask? Well, because the wonderful women at Common Threads have decided to bring spinning to their store, and were having a spinning open house, complete with lots of women from several guilds from as far away as Orange county there with their wheels, some of which were even available for neophytes to try. I was there.

In fact, I was so there that I arrived some time before any of the spinners did. Apparently, I was a bit eager (I also wanted to be sure to be back in time for my meeting, while still getting maximum spinning time). So I poked around, and then watched happily as spinners galore arrived and began to unload wheels. The first to arrive was a Majacraft, and two travelling wheels whose names I didn't catch, made by a man in Massachusetts, which fold up into lovely little boxes that have carrying bags. Then two Ashford Kiwis arrived, and the owner had her Louet Victoria set up. Life was good.

I did my part, chatting to two other watching women who had been thinking that spinning was maybe interesting, but had never tried it, and who were shocked at the wheel prices that were being bandied about. I promptly snagged a spindle from a nearby basket (I so wished I'd brought mine, as they are much prettier), and told them that a spindle was a much easier entry point than a multi-hundred dollar wheel. I also pointed them towards the lovely roving that the store had laid in, after snagging the most beautiful one for myself (I'm an enabler, but I'm not foolish). Of course, in the interests of honestly, I explained to them that I only got my spindles a little while ago, and I love them, and I'm thinking it might be time to add a wheel to my collection. But I'm thinking I did my part to lure innocents towards the dark side. Janice, are you proud?

Then I got to play on a Kiwi. The woman who'd brought it apparently does demonstration spinning at places like Renaissance Faires, and clearly loves not only her craft, but also teaching people about it. I got a quick run-down on the parts of a wheel (which made me feel much better about approaching one; this must be the academic in me -- information first), and then I had at it. All I can say is what I said last time; spinning in general, and a spinning wheel in particular, is more fun than a basket full of kittens (and a lot less poky, to boot). I finally ceded a wheel to one of the other nice observers, bought my roving (in spite of the longing looks of another woman standing there who informed me that if I'd let it go even a little bit, she would have snatched it immediately), and raced to my meeting. The roving is an interesting merino/tencel blend, dyed in beautiful, almost goth-y, purples. Oh, do you want to see it? OK:
The picture doesn't really do it justice. It's quite lovely. Now, you could all say to me with some justice that it was rather ludicrous of me to buy more roving, given that I already have a small stash of gorgeous roving, and only two spindles upon which to spin it. You might say that it was a particularly senseless thing to do, given that it involved denying the purchase of the roving to another woman who might have very much enjoyed it (just so you all know I'm not a complete meanie, I will tell you that the woman who dyed the roving was there, and took an order for another one just like it from the person who wanted it; I just love a happy ending). You might be right but for one thing.

The woman who owns the store has decided to set up both of her Louet wheels in the store for customers to use, assuming that they're willing to buy the Louet bobbins to spin on. How very cool is that? And while she didn't say anything like this, it does seem to me that if one is going to use someone's wheel for free in their store, one ought to use it to spin roving purchased at that store, no? Hence the grabbing of the gorgeousness while the grabbing was good. And, as a matter of fact, I was back there yesterday with Older Daughter (with whom I was running errands that just happened to take us further and further south until, my goodness, there we were in Encinitas! And I just happened to have my new roving in the car! How providential!), and I spun for almost an hour. Which I should mention is a long time if you're new to this spinning thing. Here's what I produced:
Yes, it is uneven. But for my first real time spent on a wheel, I'm pretty pleased. Note the weird squiggles in some places, where the yarn didn't wind onto the bobbin right. I was sure that was me. For one thing, every time someone walked up to me and said something, I completely lost the whole drafting rhythm I had going, and a couple of times somehow got the wheel going backwards for a turn. But when I got home late last night, there was a message waiting for me from Nancy which said, call me, I've got an insight on your spinning. I called her today, and it turns out that the band which should have been on the spindle apparently wasn't, which meant some pretty wonky behavior. All she said was, if you were doing that well without everything set up right, you were doing well. Which was nice to hear. I told her I'd be back (apparently I'm a sucker for compliments, however untrue they might turn out to be).

Meanwhile, there has been knitting. I have been testing Anne's new Violets Rising sock pattern, and have completed the first sock. I made them Older Daughter size, but her feet are now so big they're almost my size, so I modelled them for the pictures. The different color toe is not part of the pattern; it's a reaction to my fear that I might not have quite enough yarn to finish the second sock. I'm using the Dream in Color Smooshy that I used some of to knit my SIL's Christmas mitts. This is such a fun pattern; it reminds me a little of the Marie Antoinettes, in that you do need to keep the chart handy, but it goes so fast because of that; there's just no chance at all of getting bored, and the results are so pretty -- I kept waiting for the next violet to appear, and was thoroughly charmed each and every time (apparently, I'm easily amused).
I love the violets on the top, and the vines towards the bottom, all very curvy and organic.
You've got to go see them knit up in the yarn that Anne's using; it's for a sock of the month club that allows buying only one month, and I tell you, I'm tempted. The colors and the pattern together are perfect. I'm really looking forward to casting on the second one. I finished the first this morning while at Older Daughter's swim meet (she swam all four 50-meter events, even fly -- I was very proud of her; then all the kids swam not one, but two relays, and a couple of them even went for a third!), and with luck, I'll start the second tonight, after I finish the laundry, and vacuum at least the main rooms. I'd far rather be knitting.

Tomorrow, I do not have President's Day off, so I will be teaching classes, as usual. Let's see how many students make it, shall we?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Coming and going

It's been a week for packages, one way or another. I'm about to leave to post my Loopy Swap package. I'm a day past the deadline, but in this case, it's actually because there was something I wanted to add that I needed to get this morning (well, to be totally fair, that I needed Rick to get; he's doing it now). I'll share once it's been received, but I'm hoping my swap partner thinks it was worth the extra day! Here's a picture of everything but those last things all packed up.
I'm rather pleased with the way all the coppery tones came together.

And, of course, I received my amazing Loopy Swap package. This is only the second swap I've ever done, but I seem to be very lucky in my partners. Here's everything unwrapped (each item was individually and lovingly wrapped up with a little label, but of course I ripped into all of them so fast that there were no pictures to be had).
Yes, that would be three, count 'em, three, beautifully handknit items all for me! I've only ever had one other thing knit for me (that's a story worth telling sometime; it was before I was a knitter, and I realize now how much I didn't adequately appreciate everything that went into it). The bag, which is felted, is long enough for a straight needle project, while being shallow and wide enough to find everything inside. And the lighter blue item is a gorgeous lace shawl, wide enough to cover my shoulders, and short enough not to get in the way. I can tell it's going to be my all-time favorite sitting and reading and grading shawl. And then right there on top, a pair of socks. Someone knit me socks!

The socks and the shawl are gorgeous; Jessica clearly knows her lace. Check them out.
(I'm so glad I waited for better light to take these pictures, by the way; these really deserve to be shown off.) And of course, the barbecue sauce is sitting on my counter, waiting to be used. I'm thinking I should plan a meal around barbecued pork something-or-other tomorrow night. What do you think?

I also received a surprise package from Anne, with some yarn that I'm dying to play with. But I'm promising myself I'll be disciplined and finish what I'm working on first. Sometimes I hate being a grown up. These two in particular are calling to me.
I'm starting to poke around Barbara Walker's books to see if I can find the perfect motif to use on that one on the right. It needs to be a lightweight shawl for the fall, doesn't it? For me. And look how fun these are.
The ones on the right may have to be something for my mother. The colors are right up her alley. And the yarn on the left is begging to be socks for Younger Daughter. I don't know why, they just are. (There's something about that child that screams future goth, or punk, or whatever the equivalent will be when she's in high school. I have known this since she was born. I'm scared.)

And so my plans get ahead of my needles. Such is life, no?

Anne commented that it seems odd to think of February as spring, and it's true. I'm about to go on a limb and publicly post an observation that is based on living in California my whole life. Rick (the wanna-be meteorologist of the family) laughs at me and tells me this is all in my head. But honestly, I've lived in the San Joaquin valley, LA, San Diego, and the Bay Area, and this has happened more than not in all of those places (all the rest of you out here, tell me if you think I'm right). So, here I go. As many winters as not, February does a very odd thing. For a week or two, everything warms up. And I mean, really warms up. I remember in Sacramento, it would go from 30-degree weather, tule fog every night, to 75 degrees or so. And everyone packs up their winter coats, and gets excited for spring, and thinks that they can believe winter has ended. And just as soon as we've decided that winter is really and truly ended, bam! We're back to cold and sleet. I tell you, it's February's little way of making us pay for assuming that as Californians, it's our right to have good weather.

All right, Rick is back, and I need to get to the post office before it closes. More tomorrow about my adventures with a spinning wheel.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dear Alaska

I'd like to thank you so much for the lovely and unexpected present you sent our way today. It is, of course, entirely my fault that I was unprepared. After all, what sensible person would assume that a sunny, eighty-degree day on Monday was any indication that there would not be a forty-degree hailstorm on Wednesday? Clearly, my bad. And really, even if I'd known, who's to say I would not have nevertheless chosen to wear a cotton sweater and birkenstocks to walk through vertical rain across a parking lot an inch deep in water to get to my car? It's not like I stockpile woollen goods for cold days or anything. I also hope that you know that you shouldn't worry at all about the mudslides. If we hadn't had those pesky little fires in the fall, the hillsides wouldn't have been denuded; it was just bad planning on our part.

Of course, I do realize that I will be rethinking any sarcasm that you might be sensing in this note come July, when we are living off the tail-ends of the snowpack that we get from storms like this. No snow-pack, no summer water, and as we enter our third year of drought, I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. But maybe next time you could call ahead? After all, while it's merely inconvenient for me not to expect an ice storm and snow at 3,000 feet after a weekend which resembled summer, it's got to be really embarrassing for those nice folks at the National Weather Service who were predicting sixty degrees and sun.



Meanwhile, two lovely packages arrived yesterday, one of them from my Loopy Swap pal! I have no photos, so I'm going to wait to extol the virtues of the lovely knitting included therein (one item of which was the only sensible thing I wore to work today, and thank goodness for that!) until I can share them with you in all their glory. But you can come out of hiding now, Jessica, and take your bows, because you outdid yourself with this package!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A pair!

This is the post that almost didn't happen. There was no time during the day to take a break and post, and when I got home after taking Older Daughter to chess club and Younger Daughter to Irish dance, there was dinner to make, and homework to be done, and valentines to be made (the girls are required to bring only homemade valentines to class, and must bring one for each person). By the time I sat down to turn on my computer, I discovered that the internet wasn't working. I rebooted, checked the modem, and generally did what I know how to do, and then gave up until Rick could get home. He rebooted the computer and the modem, and finally gave up and called Cox. An hour later, we'd figured out that it was the wireless modem, and, after more rebooting and reconfiguring, managed to convince my computer to allow me to plug in to the modem. This means that I am now crouched over my computer, hardwired in to various electronic items the precise function of which I am unsure.

I then logged on to blogger, told it that I wanted to start a new post, and it froze and gave me an error message. I was starting to think that this post was not meant to be, but I seem to have caught a break, so here I go.

Look! A whole pair of socks!
I hereby confess that I not only wore them to work today, I also planned an entire outfit around them. (Someone in my knitting group said to me: "Your new socks match your outfit!", to which I responded, "No, my outfit matches my new socks." Does this mean I'm weird?)

I'm very happy with these, and am hoping that the yarn fares better than the other pair I knitted for myself some time ago which, for no readily discernible reason, fulled. Rick's pair hasn't, so I don't know why mine did, but suffice it to say that they now reside in Younger Daughter's drawer. While I like the look of the star toe on these, I've come to the conclusion that star-shaped toes don't work on my feet as well as a wider toe, as I have extremely wide feet (there are those who would say that they resemble the feet of a duck, to which I just respond that I don't fall over easily). But this is exactly why I joined the sock club: to have a chance to try pattern elements that I might not otherwise knit, so that I have a good sense of the possibilities out there.

To recap, these are the first installment of the Rockin' Sock Club, in a pattern called Serendipity, designed by Adrienne; the pattern goes perfectly with the colorway, which is called Dragon Dance. I knitted them on my size one Celtic Swan dpns.

Because I'd finished these last night while watching the first half of the Westminster dog show (I had to stay up 'til the end to see the herding dogs, which are some of my very favorite dog breeds in the world)(at least, my favorite dog breeds besides mutt, as I was careful to explain to Kia Ora, who watched with me), I was able to work on Gust today during knitting group, and while waiting for Younger Daughter to finish dancing. I'm more than a third of the way done.
I'm dying to see this blocked out; the pattern is so perfectly geometric, and such a nice counterpoint to the flowing colors and texture of the yarn. I can tell this is going to be one of those things that I take everywhere, because it's the right weight and goes with so much of what I wear.

On the non-knitting front, things at work are still insane, which I'm finding stressful. There's nothing worse than having no time in the office, and every time I have a second, finding forty new email messages waiting for me (I should say here that it's only the work emails that get me down; finding one in there from one of you out there in the real world is like finding a bit of gold among the dross). And of course the chaos means that, just as I feared, while I finished my knitting for the Loopy Swap ages ago, the mailing dates are between the tenth and the fifteenth, which falls this week, mid-insanity. I knew, just knew, that not being able to mail it right away immediately diminished the chances that I'd actually get to mail the package on time. And here I am, in the target week, with not a single space of time to get the box packed. I've got it scheduled into Thursday afternoon, and I can only hope that something doesn't come up during that time.

On a bright note, though, we had what I can only call a perfect early spring meal on Sunday (it is after Imbolc, and therefore counts as early spring in my book). Rick grilled lamb chops, as well as fresh baby brussels sprouts from the farmer's market tossed in walnut oil, with toasted chopped walnuts on top (thanks to Juno's blog for the idea). I steamed fresh English peas (my very favorite treat from the spring farmer's market), tossed with a bit of butter and salt and pepper, and then made polenta to go with. Perfect. The only thing that could have made it any better would have been if I'd had time to let the polenta set so it could be grilled, too. I do so love me a springtime farmer's market.

Thank you all so much for the encouragement and support around my public panic attack about Older Daughter's move to a new school. It really does help to hear unequivocal support, or at least a strong statement that while choices may change, caring about my parenting is a solid step in the right direction. We're all going to the open house at the new school tomorrow night, and Older Daughter is excited, which is all I can ask.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


I'm sorry I haven't had a chance to respond to comments lately; what little time I've had to spare for the online knitting world I've spent keeping up with everyone else's blogs instead of writing email. (This may also have something to do with the fact that every time I open my email inbox, there are upwards of 40 new messages waiting for me, most marked urgent in some way.)

I made it through this week by the skin of my teeth. The homestretch involved a three-hour meeting on Friday afternoon, followed by a mad dash to the girls' school to bring them the shirts they needed for their Carnival performance last night. The carnival turned out to be quite fun, and, to my complete shock (I so rarely win anything), we won something in the raffle. It's a $100 gift certificate to one of those cooking places where you go and assemble meals that can be put in your freezer. I've been marginally curious about them, but given how much I love to cook, and how much I love my kitchen, it's not something I would pay for myself. I don't mind giving it a try, though, under these circumstances.

On another topic completely, I realize that in my angst-ridden state, I may have been misleading about the whole Older Daughter/new school thing. She's not going off to school yet (thank goodness; I'm most definitely not ready for that!), but she is leaving the very small Montessori school where she's been for kindergarten and all of grade school so far, and going to middle school. When I was a young pup, middle school started in seventh grade, but the times, they are a changin', and middle school around here starts in sixth and goes through eighth. Older Daughter is already young for her grade, and she looks particularly young when seen in juxtaposition to eighth graders. The difference in the number of students is also intimidating; she's going from a very small school to one with about 100 students per grade.

We're looking at a local charter school (part of the public school system in California) which goes from 6-12 grade, which will be nice in that once she settles in, she can be at one place until she graduates. The funny thing is how fraught this choice is. I know that I'm sounding fixated on the past here, but it seems to me that people didn't fret about grade school through high school choices so much when I was in school; college was the big one that everyone worked towards. But now, everyone I know is worrying about whether they're choosing the right place for their child, and whether they'll be appropriately challenged, and not exposed to the wrong kinds of information/people/bad influences. So some part of me feels like I should be panicking, too, and another part of me feels like Older Daughter is going to be fine wherever she is. Speaking for myself, I went through the full gamut of possibilities when I was in school: a small private, religious grade school, all-girls high school for two years, then a large public high school, small private college, huge public graduate school. And in each of those places, there were kids who worked hard, and kids who partied, teachers who expected a lot of their students and got it, and teachers who clearly didn't care and let us slide through. It's true that the private schools had a higher percentage of the former kind of teachers, but the break-down wasn't one-to-one by any means. See what I mean? I keep talking myself into knots over this, even though I know what we're going to do.

I think part of it has to do with the way other people talk about these choices, and feel free to say less-than-supportive things about choices different from their own. Oddly, in a serendipitous coincidence, the Yarn Harlot has been posting lately about people who feel free to say things that seem less than productive in a conversation; that is, things that aren't unproductive simply because they're mean or rude, but because they genuinely do not move the conversation forward in any way. I thought a lot about what she said, because I have definitely been the target of my share of such comments (I'm sure we all have), and over the years, I've come to the conclusion that a lot of them, at least, are things that people say because they're trying to justify their own decisions to themselves. Speaking only for myself, I know that there's something reassuring about having someone whose opinion I value make the same kind of decision I'm making; it feels like a form of validation. On the flip side, though, that can mean that when that same person makes a very different decision than I have or would make, it can feel like a challenge. Even when I know darned well that it's got nothing to do with me. (That, by the way, is a mantra that hit me a few years ago that I think has made me a much less defensive person: "It's not about me", because so often, it just isn't.)

I saw this a lot when the girls were very young and we were living in the Bay Area, which is the home of my heart, and also the home of a lot of very opinionated people who don't mind sharing their opinions. Folks regularly felt compelled to share their ideas of the ways in which I was parenting right or wrong. I remember one time in particular when I was at the park on a weekday morning with a moms group, and a man walked up to us and said, "Now this is how it should be. Moms who stay home with their kids, breastfeeding, instead of putting them into daycare. This is how people should parent. It's really bad for babies to do it otherwise." He then went on about Penelope Leach, etc etc. The funny thing was that I was working part time (just happened to have that morning off), and was not able (for medical reasons not worth going into right now) to breastfeed. At the time, it was devastating. Now, I'm pretty sure that I can safely say, "It's not about me."

All of this is a very long-winded way of saying that when some of my friends ask very pointed questions about where Older Daughter will be going to school, or when they say that I may make this choice now, but in a year or two I'll be running from this school screaming, I think that I can probably safely say, "It's not about me." (To be fair, when I overjustify our decision, as I'm doing here, that is all about me; must work on that.) She's going to be fine, and we're going to be fine.

OK, angst over. As I mentioned the other day, I have been knitting through all of this (stressful meetings are good for that at least). Much earlier, I finished the first of the Rockin' Sock Club socks, and started the second. I can't for the life of me find light good enough to show you how rich this colorway is, and how beautifully it knitted up, but here's a try.
The shortrow heel turned out very well; I haven't always liked them, but this one had no holes, and looks very neat.
The star toe (of which I don't have a picture) looks very pretty, and I'm glad that I did it, but of course we all know that for me there's always the disappointment of not being able to use kitchener stitch to finish off a sock. I promptly cast on for the second one, and then a shiny object distracted me, in the form of the SoSquare socks that Anne's designing right now. Of course, she had to tell me that she was working on them, and that they'd be perfect for Rick, and that the pattern might just need a test-knitter, and I was off. (I've taken to calling her Naughty Anne, to distinguish her from Cyber-Twin Anne, because she's so good at appearing with just the pattern I'm dying to knit, at just the moment that I want to knit it.) So I finished the first one last night, and it turned out beautifully, if I do say so myself.

OK, obnoxiously enough, Blogger won't let me access photos any more. What is that about? And after I checked with Anne to see if I could show you pictures, and all. Grrr... Well, if you go to her site (linked above), you can see her beautiful So Square Socks, which are a very fun and quick knit, and which fit like a dream. And I will come back and edit this to include pictures when Blogger gets a clue.

Added later:
And here's the pattern closer up:
That's Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn. I'll post the details later.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Posting is apparently going to be a bit sporadic this week, as I have been completely buried since arriving at work at 8:00 Monday morning. I was either teaching or in a meeting straight through until 7:00 that night, and then in meetings all day on Tuesday (in the interests of full disclosure, I will point out that one of the hour-long "meetings" on Tuesday was my knitting group, but I know you won't hold it against me). The same thing happened today. I've just finished at 5:15, and need to run home. Insanity.

I think some of it is these horrific budget cuts, and the sense of panic and impending doom that they have caused. Some of it is internal departmental workings, which are rather chaotic right now. And some of it is the fact that I am on a large number of one-off committees (read: no regular meeting times), which adds a certain element of unpredictability to my schedule.

In spite of this, I have managed to get knitting done. I am done with the first Rockin' Sock Club sock, and am almost to the heel on the second. I have also cast on for a pair of socks for Rick, and, thanks to a painful and interminable Senate meeting today, am cruising down the leg (more about that in a day or two; the pattern is good fun). And I continue to manage a repeat on Gust here and there. I'm also still reading little bits and pieces of Julia Child's autobiography, which is having the probably less-than-desirable effect of making me want to run away to France.

More when I can; I took Older Daughter to tour the school she'll probably go to next year, and am feeling rather angst-ridden about the whole thing, so I'm sure you all will have to bear with me as I process that (sorry!). Meanwhile, I'll be back just as soon as I can.

Sunday, February 3, 2008


Thank you all so very much for the wonderful birthday wishes! I really appreciate everyone taking the time to pop by and leave me a message.

It's time to pass it on; today is Anne's birthday, so if you get a chance, head on over to her blog and wish her a happy day. There are pictures of two of her newest projects, as well, to tempt you and get you in trouble (at least, that's what always happens to me -- thanks, Anne!).

Yesterday was a perfect day. It wasn't quite what I'd expected, but exactly what I needed. We decided not to make the drive into the mountains; between a long week full of sitting and meetings and email, I wasn't sure I was up for four hours of driving to get there and back. So Rick devised a Plan. He said we were going somewhere in the morning, and wouldn't tell me where. I gamely agreed (much relieved when he did not suggest I wear biking shorts; at least I knew I wasn't going to be dragged up an impossible hill in the name of potential views). Prior to the trip, I was served breakfast in bed by Rick and the girls, which has to be one of my very favorite treats, especially when it involves bacon and a perfect soft-boiled egg (runny yolk, but no snotty whites). We then loaded into the station wagon and off we went. Of course, I had to try to figure out where we were going. The fact that we were in the station wagon was intriguing; we usually save that for trips that require it, and take the smaller car instead. We wouldn't have needed the wagon for a spinning wheel, and we were headed south, away from anywhere I know to get a wheel, so it wasn't that. We didn't pull off at the REI exit, which argued against sporting equipment, and Rick hadn't told me to wear hiking shoes, so it didn't seem that we were heading on an outdoor excursion. I was stumped.

I was even more stumped when we got off the freeway in Encinitas and began driving around a neighborhood. My stumpedness lasted until we pulled up in front of someone's house, and sitting there in the front yard was...(I so wish I had a picture here for you, but it hasn't stopped raining all morning and I'm not going to go stand in the rain with a camera to get a picture)(is the suspense killing you yet?)...a sea kayak. A beautiful, bright yellow sea kayak. Complete with paddles and a seat.

I can't tell you how excited I was. I have been wanting a sea kayak for ages. I have enjoyed playing on my sister-in-law's mother's kayak immensely when we are in Michigan, and have so wanted to try one in the bays and lagoons here. I've also heard that, given calm water and a good launching site, going out into the ocean can be amazing. And Rick found me one on Craig's list and took me to buy it. Wow. It's a very nice one, too, a single-seater, but long enough that I could put Younger Daughter behind my seat if she wanted to come out on still water with me. Talk about a perfect gift, and totally unexpected, which made it even more fun.

It is, alas, far too cold right now to head out into the ocean, especially as I have no wet suit. So the only downside to receiving this gift is that I'll have to wait a while to play with it. But we went and bought a life jacket and scoped out various launching sites at Agua Hedionde and Oceanside Harbor, just so that we'll be ready at a moment's notice should we get some warm weather. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it.

I thought it was all done at that point -- what could be better than breakfast in bed and a sea kayak? -- but no. We went home for a relaxing afternoon. I read, I took a small nap, I knitted. We went for a walk all together around the neighborhood. Then we got gussied up, and headed out to my very favorite fancy-schmancy restaurant for dinner. The girls behaved beautifully, even though, true to the owner's French origins, meals there are totally unrushed. The four of us talked, and watched the other patrons covertly (people watching is a favorite pastime of mine; aren't humans interesting?), and savored our food, and generally had a spectacular time. I didn't even have to pull out the emergency pens and paper I'd brought (I may put the girls in situations with potential for difficult behavior, but I refuse to set them up for failure; we'd made early reservations, they'd had naps and a walk, and I had backup entertainment available). And, although I'd been sure that the sea kayak (!!) would be my only present, Older Daughter gave me a gift certificate to the Loopy Ewe, and Younger Daughter gave me the mailing receipt for a set of KnitPicks Harmony interchangeable needles (which, paired with my sister-in-law's gift of Harmony sock needles, means that I'm pretty much set for life). Between all your good wishes, and all of Rick's plans, I ended they day feeling thoroughly spoiled and loved and taken care of.

I've told Rick that he's earned himself another few years of marriage.

Today looks to be a good follow-on. It's been raining non-stop since the middle of the night. I've turned the heel and am halfway down the foot of the Serendipity socks from the Rockin' Sock Club, and am pleased as punch with the way the short-row heel turned out. I'm glad to have one that I like to add to my repertoire, especially as Rick prefers the look of short-row heels. It looks like there will be plenty of time to work on Gust this afternoon, while playing the Settlers of Catan with the girls and making soup. I am not thinking about work at all. Tomorrow will be soon enough for that. For those of you who are watching the Superbowl, have fun!

Friday, February 1, 2008


In case it wasn't clear (writing makes some thing so difficult), that was a sigh of relief. The good kind of sigh of relief, I should further clarify. There are many reasons to sigh with relief on this Friday.

On the knitting front, I am sighing with relief because I'm done with must-finish-this-ASAP knitting. My Loopy Swap knitting is done, and waiting until it can be sent (not until at least the tenth!). Of course, you know I'll sit here patiently waiting, and then the day will arrive and I won't be able to make it to the post office, or I'll forget, or something will happen, and I'll be late, just because I was early. Such is life.

I came home on Wednesday to find Rick waiting for me. As soon as I walked in the door, he asked, in a tone both plaintive and hopeful, "Did you have a lot of meetings today?" To which I responded, "??" He added, "Because my hands got very cold while the girls were swimming today." Apparently in our world, meeting time = knitting time. So I stayed up and finished the paris-roubaix mitts, to great acclaim and appreciation.
He likes them, and I'm glad, as he's not usually into small knitted froofies (which is how he sees things like this). To recap, these are Anne's Paris-Roubaix mitts, and I knitted them in Plymouth Baby Alpaca DK, using size 5 needles. They knitted up very quickly, and I love how this yarn feels; they're even loose enough on his hands that they'll trap heat very nicely, without being in the way (that's why they're a little shorter than I made my zigzag mitts).

I'm also sighing in relief because the end of deadline knitting means a true end to project monogamy. You all know I cast on for the first little nothings scarf, but that is on a back burner (note that by back burner, I mean not that it's in hibernation, just that I'll knit on it every few days instead of every day). Why is that lovely little bit of a thing on the back burner, you ask? Because I've cast on for the second little nothings scarf! (oops) I told Anne I'd love to test the pattern on that one (look how nice I make myself sound there; really, I pretty much pounded down her e-door demanding to be let at it). I knitted two repeats to check out the charted and written versions, and folks, I've got to tell you (I know you're going to be surprised here), it's a lovely pattern. (BTW, have you all seen her Bleeding Hearts stole in the new IK? I'm slavering to get my hands on my copy, and am considering knitting it in laceweight Malabrigo -- maybe a bright robin's egg blue for spring? What do you think?) She just put it up (you can go to her post to see the pictures), so it's available. Mine is not so impressive:
You've really got to go to her post to see what it's supposed to look like. I'll wait, you go right ahead. Are you back? Did you see how it looks like sailboats with their sails bellied out in the wind? I'm charmed.

I'm also sighing with relief because I both got and cast on for the first Rockin' Sock Club installment. Yay! I'm going to post a picture here, as bad as the light is, because I'm so happy to be knitting socks again I can't stand it. This means that this is a spoiler. If you haven't received your package yet, or you have some kind of superhuman self-discipline and haven't opened it yet, this picture is not for you. Turn around, go back to Anne's site to look at the pretty scarf some more, do something, but do not scroll down. All right, I warned you. Here's the yarn:
And here's the sock (the colors in the yarn photo are more true to life):
It was so nice to just do some plain old sock knitting last night. It's the ultimate comfort knitting for me. I decided to join the sock club, in spite of wondering how I'd feel if I didn't like a) the colors, or b) the patterns, for a couple of reasons. First, I figured it would make me expand my color palette, at least in theory, and I know that if I really hate something, there are always people I know who will like it -- the girls, at the very least (they are nothing if not catholic in their open-mindedness towards colors). Second, I thought that it might encourage me to try out some different ways of knitting socks (I have a tendency to cheat and change patterns to my favorite heels and toes). And here with this first sock, I got both. While I might not have chosen these reds, in person, they are gorgeous, and I know that I'll actually wear these socks. And the pattern itself has both a short-row heel (top down -- I never do short row heels without heel flaps on top-down socks), and a star toe. Just enough change to keep me on my toes, without being so much that the socks are no longer comfort knitting. Aaaahhhhh....

All right, I'm going to stop here and not write today about our lovely evening at Cirque du Soleil's Corteo last night, or about the work chaos that has resulted from the governator cutting $380 million from the CSU budget. I probably won't be posting tomorrow, as it is my birthday, but I'll be back on Sunday while all of you are watching the Superbowl (just for Anne, I will say, Go Pats!) to tell you all about it.