Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I just finished the scarf -- yay! It's on the blocking pins now, and it is, of course, after dark, so there's no good light for photos, but I thought I'd share a couple of pictures now, just because I'm so excited. This was really zipping along towards the end there, as I got the stitch pattern nailed; I'm working very hard to convince myself not to immediately cast on another one for myself (I'm pretty sure I have enough yarn left over from this one to do it, which makes it a deal on wheels, if you ask me).
Isn't the stitch pattern lovely? It's so lively, and in that picture, it reminds me of water, merrily flowing along. Here's the long shot:
Neither of these really does any kind of justice to the amazing colors in this yarn. I'll be sure to get some daylight shots tomorrow, but in the meantime, here are the basic details.
Pattern: Boing! from Knitspot
Yarn: Lanas Puras Melosa laceweight, in the Desert Bloom colorway
Needles: Size 4 KnitPicks Harmony needles

I had so much fun working with this yarn, and Lis, who helped me to get it in time for the test knit, was absolutely wonderful. This is the same yarn (in a different colorway) that I'm knitting the new shawl in, so I'm getting a lot of face time with it (needle time? hand time?), and I'm not even approaching a state of any kind of boredom with it yet. This pattern is another amazing addition to Anne's "little nothings" series. This is the second one I've knit (I have a third OTN right now, but I probably won't get back to that one for a while), and I love them; there's something so satisfying about knitting a small something out of one perfect combination of yarn and stitch pattern, and they end up being these lovely little warm bits to keep around for those moments when your neck is chilled (or, in my world, when Older Daughter's neck is chilled; the child has an unnatural penchant for handknit lace).

My classes are done for the week, and next week is the last week of this semester. I can't tell you how ready I am to be done. To be fair, this has nothing to do with my classes themselves; they've gone surprisingly well (I say surprisingly, because I was teaching field methods for the first time and was nervous about it), and my students have been great. My relief has more to do with everything that I haven't gotten done because of all of the work I've been doing on committees. I need to make a list of the things that have to happen before mid-June, when I leave for a week for a workshop, and then leave for another week for a conference. I don't know why, but I have this theory that having a list will somehow make things better (I can't be the only one who thinks this, can I? Does anyone else out there ever add things to their lists that they've already done, just so they can feel the satisfaction of crossing them off?)(not that I'd do that).

So, tomorrow is going to be a quiet, contemplative day at home. Just me and my list. The big list of Things Which Must Be Done. If you don't hear from me by Friday, send the rescue team to save me, ok?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I've been doing some spinning when I can, and trying more than anything to create more consistency in my drafting. I recently bought Start Spinning (from Interweave Press), which has been a big help in at least improving my vocabulary for describing what I'm doing. It would appear that I've developed a short forward draw, without really knowing that's what I'm doing. At this point, it's working, but I know that I'll need to try other kinds of drafting for different materials. I think it's developed at least partly in response to a need to control this more slippery yarn (the tencel has something to do with that, I believe). Here are the results of my latest spinning and plying.
I may be fooling myself, but this looks much more consistent to me than my first batch of yarn spun from this roving. At this point, it looks like I have about 350-4o0 yards of this, so I need to figure out the best thing to do with it. I'm seriously considering knitting a cover for a throw pillow, which I think would be soft and pretty, without needing the kind of consistently spun yarn that a garment might need (maybe one side from the first batch of this yarn, and the other side from the second batch?). We'll see.

In the world of knitting, I'm still working on both Boing! and the triangular shawl. Most of my effort has been focused on Boing! (I take a certain childish glee in writing that name, so please forgive me), as my self-imposed deadline for that one is next Monday night, when I am planning to give it to a friend. I'll write more about the whys and wherefores of that tomorrow. This means that I've set the triangular shawl aside for a few days. This little scarf is a nice palate cleanser, as it goes quickly, and the rows don't get any longer (!). Rick and I did some math, and I figure that I've got about another 20-24 hours of knitting on the triangular shawl, given the increasing length of the rows. We'll see. I'll be glad to get back to it, as I'm dying to see it blocked!

All of this means that I don't have much to show for all the knitting I've been doing (the pictures just look the same, which is somewhat depressing). So I'll distract you with a card that I bought for myself years ago, and which I haul out from time to time when I've had a year like the one I've just had. I thought it might amuse some of you.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


It's a funny thing about grocery shopping. I don't know about you, but it's never been my favorite thing. The florescent lighting, the scary food products that I can't identify, the stressed out people, the strange magazine headlines at the checkout. I don't know what exactly it is, but I have always gone into a state of terminal overload the moment I enter a big store. The bigger it is, the worse the overload. I think partly it's my problem with shiny objects. I'm thinking to myself, just get the peanut butter, just get the peanut butter, but then look! there's some cheese over there that I've never seen before, I should go look at that, but then look! that cereal's got a new picture on its box and I should check that out, but then look! what's Brittney gone and done this time? And by the time I've been in the store for five minutes, I have eight things in my basket and none of them is peanut butter, and I'm ready to go home for a nap.

A girl could go broke shopping like that. Or crazy. Or both. (Which could explain something about the 90's, now I come to think about it.)

When we lived in Berkeley, I discovered a store called the Berkeley Bowl. As overwhelming as that store was in many ways, it wasn't quite such a bad experience, I think because (in its first incarnation), it wasn't too big, and the people who worked there had worked there for years and came to know me, and the boxes of stuff weren't quite so shiny as they are in the usual grocery stores (probably because there weren't that many boxes; everything was sold in bulk).

And then we moved here, and I found out that we live a mile away from the longest continuously-running certified farmer's market in the area (I have heard it said that it's the oldest certified farmer's market in California, but I can't find the reference for that right now, and I like to be able to cite sources). And we started going there. A few months later, the employees' unions of the major supermarkets around here went on strike, and we stopped going there. By the time that was over, grocery shopping had changed for us forever. Between the farmer's market, and the local grocery (LGS?), and an occasional visit to Trader Joe's, we're pretty much covered.

And I find I don't mind shopping so much anymore. There is something fundamentally different about shopping outdoors, and about buying food from the people who grow it. A very large portion of the farmer's market is certified (which, in farmer's market parlance, means that the sellers are the producers; there are no middle-people in this process). And the people who come, come every week, rain or shine, summer or winter. While Rick goes even more often that I do (he, too, goes every week, rain or shine, summer or winter; sometimes I get to stay home and have the house all to myself, and as much as I love the market, alone time in the house trumps all), I go often enough that folks recognize me, too (although usually as the wife of the tall guy, and the mother of the incredibly active girls). Where else can you buy chard, and also have the seller tell you that your daughters really do look like you? She also knows that we want the tops on our turnips and carrots, because the guinea pigs eat them, and that Rick will visit her stand twice every week, once to buy veggies, and the second time, on the way out, to buy sweet peas, so they won't wilt before he gets to the car. The teenager who works for her uncle at the apple stand regularly comments on how tall Younger Daughter is getting, and the bread guy holds aside a loaf of multigrain organic, because he knows Rick will want one (which hasn't stopped him from convincing Rick to also try the corn/rye bread, which is delicious).

It sure beats florescent lights, strange foodstuffs, and overload.

Now, I know that this isn't for everyone. Not everyone lives so close to a market. Not everyone has time to go to at least two places to shop during the week. A lot of people hate shopping as much as I did, and will do anything to keep it to one place. But as I said to a dear friend of mine the other week, maybe some of us hate shopping because of where we shop, rather than the other way around. Maybe...

What does all this have to do with fiber, you ask? (This being, after all, in theory a fiber-related blog; but come on, don't we all like food, just a little bit?) Well, I'll tell you. Our market now has a lovely woman who comes and sells her yarn and her roving. She's in the certified section now, because she raises the sheep and llamas whence the wool comes. And she brings her wheel and spins at the market. How cool is that?

Why yes, I did get some fiber when I was at the market today, now that you mention it. (We must support local business, no?)
The stuff on the bottom is from a Jacob. The fleece is white with black splotches, and she's carded them together to get that lovely heathery color. It's tremendously soft. And then, just as a teaser, she handed me that little bit on top, which is from a Wensleydale. I think she's an enabler.

I'm almost done plying the second batch of the wool/tencel blend. Here are the singles.
And plied.
I have my new niddy-noddy, so if I can finish this off tonight, I'll wind it into a skein and wash it to hang to dry.

Gwilim says it's hot, and he's right, so we're grilling tonight. Fresh nopales (must go take the prickers off now; you've got to love having Younger Daughter asking -- loudly -- at the market, "Mama, why can't we eat the pricks?" Sigh...), and tortillas, and tomatillo salsa. Mmm...

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Last night, we all went to a wonderful klezmer concert on campus. A friend who is a fellow faculty member was playing soprano sax with Hot Pstromi (a klezmer group) and some other musicians from the Visual and Performing Arts department, so we headed off to listen. It was amazing. To begin with, I adore live music. There is something about watching musicians work together, on the fly, to make such gorgeous sounds that thrills me every time. I know exactly how much work goes into making something like this happen, how much practice lies behind every note, every phrase, and it's a pleasure to see it all come together. Good musicians make it look easy, but I know it's not.

The girls also had a blast. I just about had to hold Younger Daughter down, she was having so much fun dancing in her seat. Both girls have an extremely physical and visceral reaction to most music (I'm the same way, wonder where they got it?), and I'm trying to find that fine balance between letting them enjoy what the music does to their bodies and minds, and keeping that enjoyment contained enough to not have an impact on the pleasure of their fellow audience members. It's a work in progress, I think.

I find that I love klezmer music in the same way that I love jazz and the blues and Celtic folk music. There's something about those musical traditions that's minor and dark and joyous and raucous all at the same time that just appeals to me in a deep way. I adore the measured chaos of a jam session, the conversations that take place between musicians working together; it catches at my heart. I think that this is why I so rarely have music on "in the background"; it's almost impossible for me not to need to listen to it with a kind of full-contact engagement that doesn't leave a lot of room for other things.

I have also been knitting away on my two lace projects. I'm having almost as much fun with these as I was listening to the concert last night. The pictures of Boing! look very much as they did before, so I won't put any more here for now. I keep knitting on that as a palate-cleanser of sorts; I've done the repeats often enough now that it doesn't take a lot of concentration, and I can make measurable progress in shorter amounts of time, which is always satisfying.

I'm also working on Anne's latest pattern, which is a triangular shawl, knitted from the tip up. Progress was swift at first, as it always is on a pattern which starts with three stitches. I'm five repeats in now, and the rows are taking longer. It's a wonderful pattern, though. The body of the shawl has all the work on RS rows only, and the edging, which is knitted at the same time, has lacework on both sides. So I get these wonderful RS rows which require just a bit of concentration, and then, just as I get tired of concentrating, I get a nice long purl row on the WS, with some lacework on the edges for fun. And just as I get tired of purl, whaddaya know, it's time for a RS row again! (Clearly, I am easily amused.)

The yarn is a lovely bright fern green that just screams spring to me. There is just enough color variation in the dyeing to add depth to the yarn without in any way distracting from the pattern. I am dying to block this baby out!
Look at that green, isn't it gorgeous? It's even richer than it shows up in that picture, a bit brighter, and I am having such fun knitting it. I should really spend less time admiring it between each row; I'd get more knitting done. Here's the part that just about charms the pants off me (for reasons which are unknown to me, I am a huge fan of the bit between the body and the edging on shawls).

The pattern calls for five repeats for the scarf version, and probably 10 for the medium size. I'm aiming for 10 at this point, which I think will make a nice size. Of course, the rows go more slowly as I progress, so it'll take much longer to cover the second set of five repeats than the first, but it's going to be worth it, I can tell. I made great progress at yesterday's Senate meeting (who ever thought I'd look forward to Senate?). It looks like it's going to come in under one skein, even. This is particularly nice, as I think I'm going to be giving both this and Boing! away, so knowing that I have enough yarn left to knit one of each of those for myself at a later date (I have two skeins of the green) is a happy-making thought.

Sock progress continues, too. This was my knitting project at last week's very long meeting, and I think I'm almost ready to turn the heel; these won't be very long socks.
But these guys are on the back burner until I work some of this lace out of my system.

Last but not least, my favorite sign of spring: the sweet peas that my lovely husband brings home every week from the market for me for the duration of their so-short season. They smell heavenly.

Monday, April 21, 2008

It's Monday

And how I wish it were still the weekend. Ah, well. Only three more weeks left of classes, and then we're into finals, and then I can start catching up on everything that I wasn't able to get to this semester (research? I'm supposed to do research? oops...).

We had a peaceful weekend, which I really needed. Yesterday, we took the dogs for a nice long hike at Calavera, which was exactly what the doctor ordered. I think we wore Kia out.
Even Tilly slowed down for a little while, although she was happy to help out when Rick and the girls washed the cars.

I got caught up on some grading, which was a relief, and got a little bit of knitting done (I'll show you when I have a picture). I also ordered some bobbins and a niddy-noddy on eBay. I figured that only having one bobbin was going to be annoying at some point, and that plying might be more successful if done from two bobbins rather than from both ends of a center-pull ball (these are the things I tell myself to feel better when I compare my spinning to "real" yarn).

I got the niddy-noddy not only to make skeins of spun yarn, but also because of a thought I'd had about knitting Aberlady (yup, that's still floating around in my head). Remember this?
This is the lovely yarn that my friend Jill brought me all the way from Iceland for my birthday. It's laceweight, and I've been admiring it and petting it and carefully considering what I might knit with it. And then, as I was contemplating Aberlady, and thinking indignantly to myself that 9 sts/in is, if you really think about it, laceweight, for goodness' sake, it occurred to me that I have laceweight. Lovely laceweight in a color I adore.

But I don't know how much I have. And it occurred to me that if I had a niddy-noddy, I could wind off a certain number of yards, and, if I had a good scale, I could weigh those yards, then weigh all the yarn, and then do some basic arithmetic (I think I'm good for it), and then I'd know whether I had enough to make a sweater. Of course, I could also go with the ol' eyeball method ("this certainly looks like enough yarn for a sweater!"), which brings a certain je ne sais quoi to the knitting process, a frisson, if you will. But I'm thinking that for this one, maybe I'll go with the surefire method. What do you think?

(P.S. Marilyn -- Those mitts that you asked about are Anne Hanson's ZigZag mitts; you can get to them from the pattern store link on her blog. They were a great pattern, and I had a blast making them; I used Fearless Fibers merino for them, and they turned out beautifully.)

Friday, April 18, 2008


"Can we go for a walk mama pleeeeese?"

I'm dying here. Look at that face. But I found out yesterday that little miss thang here hadn't been vaccinated prior to coming home. ACK! It's a very long story, but it involves the fact that she was diagnosed with parvo when the adoption folks took her in to be spayed. So they didn't spay her (I knew this), and hospitalized her for three days, and then sent her home on meds when she was safe to be around other dogs. That's how we got her: two days out from being done with her medicines, and not spayed. What the adoption agency didn't mention (I swear, I would have remembered if they had) was that she therefore also hadn't been vaccinated. This means that I should not have been taking her out where there are other (potentially unvaccinated) dogs, or their leavings. ACK!

I found this out yesterday afternoon, and promptly called our vet to make an appointment to get her in. So she has now had her distemper shot, and will be OK to go out again in a couple of days. In the meantime, no walkies. This means that I had to cancel my planned walk on the coast with my friend Jill this morning (grump, grump, grump), as I need to be able to go to a meeting today, and going out this morning without Tilly would mean a very long day in a crate for the small one. Sigh... It also means that I'm going to have to try to find a way to wear out an active puppy without going for a walk. It could be worse, though; at least I found this out now before she got anything else!

So, grading at home this morning, and then a lovely two and a half hours of knitting time (read: long meeting). And maybe I should go hunt for a tennis ball to throw...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Progress, of a sort

There comes a time in every knitter's life when she must realize that there is a cost to playing around. No pleasure comes without its price. Or as Heinlein would say, TANSTAAFL (this, by the way, is a watchword around the house; we've taught the girls this acronym already, and have translated it loosely as, "if it looks too good to be true, the chances are it is too good to be true)(admittedly, we mostly use it when explaining to them why it's not a good idea to send back all of those "get one free if you sign up now" ads that come in the mail).

It's times like now that I realize the cost of project polygamy.

You know what I mean. You knit here and knit there and maybe spin a little, and it seems like all of that should add up to something, but it doesn't. And you wonder why, and ask yourself whether you've fallen through a wormhole into some alternate universe (those eddies in the space-time continuum can be dangerous if you're not careful) in which knitting and progress are in no way connected. It's like a patch of Stockinette Slog, but without the stockinette.

And then it hits you. The reason that you're making no discernible progress on any particular project is because you've got three things on the needles (no, we aren't counting the ones that don't count, hush), and something on the spinning wheel, and all of that time that would add up to progress on one project has been spread thin.

Why, yes, this is all my way of constructing an elaborate excuse for having very little to show you today, why do you ask? Look! I changed out the yarn in my seasonal yarn bowl to pretty spring greens and purples and pinks:
Why greens and purples and pinks, you ask? Here's why:
That's the orchid tree in our backyard. It's covered with these beauties.
And my Douglas Irises have consented to produce some of their rare blooms (I live at the far southern reaches of their range; they infinitely prefer Mt. Tamalpais, but then again, don't we all?).
As for greens, our eastern oak has leafed out; time to hang the hammock out in its shade.
The orange trees are in bloom, and the whole neighborhood smells lovely, especially in the early morning coolth (I don't care what anyone thinks, that word should exist).
And our kitchen smells of champagne guavas, which, alas, no-one but Rick really likes (anyone want some guavas? we're a bit overloaded this year...).
Oh, right, knitting. OK, if you insist. I did get through six repeats of the scarf I'm testing out for Anne. I'd actually gotten through 5 and a half repeats, but then discovered that the half repeat was stuck in between two full repeats, which was most definitely not where it belonged. I frogged it and started over. I love the colors of this yarn!
And here's the spinning that I've been doing. I'm working to finish up the tencel-blend roving. One it's plied, I will move on (finally!) to Linguistics, which has been waiting patiently in my spindle basket. I need to start looking for some additional bobbins for the Traddie, as I only have one (!!), which makes for some interesting finagling during the plying stages of spinning.
Besides that, I've been working on the Dream in Color baby jacket, although it hasn't changed much since the last photo, and the pink and green plain ol' sock that I keep around for Meetings During Which I Ought Not To Be Staring At My Knitting. Stockinette is good for that.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Peace and quiet

Well, it's cooled down a bit, and should stay that way for the next few days. There was actually a marine layer this morning, and I wished for a light jacket while walking the dogs this morning. What a change from the past few days. All of this is making me think that maybe it's our year for solar panels and air conditioning, but there's a part of me that balks. I live eight miles from the ocean for goodness' sake. I shouldn't need air conditioning -- that's what the Pacific is for! However, it would appear that the climate, she is a-changin'.

I was very amused by the enthusiasm that everyone showed for watching me knit a sweater at 9 sts/in. I note that almost no-one else is willing to jump on that bandwagon with me, but watching me do it seems like a very good idea. (Ellen, you're off the hook on this one!) Of course, I'm a fine one to talk, as I'm all for enabling people to go out there and do the things that I'm not quite willing to take on myself (like dyeing, for example). I'm really leaning towards Aberlady in spite of the gauge. I just love the subtlety of the textures in that sweater. I figure I can always do Cromarty as a next sweater, right? The one thing that's giving me pause is the fact that Aberlady is a pullover with a relatively high neck. I'm not a fitted-sweater person, usually; I always feel constricted somehow, like I can't move freely. So I need to consider whether I'll wear it, and if I think I won't, whether there's some way to turn it into a cardigan, or whether that would ruin the lines.

Meanwhile, I've also got to find the right yarn. I think this must mean that I have to visit my LYS, right? Darn. We all know how horrible it is to have to go yarn shopping. (Not.)

Today is looking to be a quiet day. Yesterday I got the word that our faculty meeting was cancelled. I know that it is unbecoming to a professional to cheer when getting such news, but I will confess here that that is just what I did. I then promptly cancelled all other obligations for the day (I even said that I wasn't going to my knitting group, which should be some indication of how desperately I need time all by myself), packed up the huge pile of grading that needs to be done (it's about eight inches high; that may not sound like much, but think of all the paper in those eight inches), and said I'd be at home today if anyone needs me. A whole day, alone in my house. Wow.

So I've taken the dogs for a walk, and I've had my cup of coffee, and I'm about to start on the first assignment. I figure if I reward myself with a couple of rows of lace for every assignment graded, that should keep me motivated, right? Not to mention the joy of knowing that the grading will no longer be waiting for me on my desk, a little smirk on its crumpled up pages, taunting me with its undoneness. I am the boss of my grading. (Why do I hear little bitty titters coming from my bookbag?)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The heat...

I can see I've already used this blog title once, but it's too darned hot to think of anything more creative. Honestly. Yesterday was hot and dry and windy (the worst combination). It went up into the high 90s. This morning, I headed out to take the dogs for a walk with Younger Daughter before picking Older Daughter up from a slumber party. By 9:45, when we were done, it was already 81 degrees. I'm sorry, that's just not OK.

All of this means that I'm not doing much in the way of fiber work. The scarf I'm working on is wool, and as light and airy as it is, knitting in an un-air-conditioned house on a 95 degree day is just wrong. I got through another repeat, and am hoping to do a few more now that the sun is down and (I hope) it's cooling off. I may come to bless Mathilda for waking me up at 6:15 every morning, just because it'll be the only time of day I can stand to walk her!

I have, however, been considering patterns for a bigger project. I think that it's time to get back onto the sweater-knitting wagon before I work myself into fits over how much trouble they are, how hard they are, and how much I suck at finishing. Has no-one ever noticed my penchants for scarves and shawls and socks? They require no putting together afterwards. They're fake-hard; you can do all sorts of fancy stitch-work, and people think they're so tough, but a) there are no pieces (sleeves just slay me; there I think I've actually achieved something by finishing the body of a sweater and then I have to knit sleeves! Oh, the tragedy...); and b) there's no putting together afterwards. Instant gratification. I admit it, I'm a wimp.

So, I ordered this book through interlibrary loan, and I'm looking through it carefully.
In particular, I'm consider Cromarty and Aberlady. The light's bad right now, but I'll post pictures from the book at some point. I'm really drawn to Aberlady, but it's knit at 9 sts/in, and I'm just not sure I'm strong-willed enough for that. On the other hand, maybe it'd be good for me? Or something. I know, I know. If I want it badly enough....

Saturday, April 12, 2008

How soon we forget

It's been thirteen years since we had a puppy. Put another way, it's been two houses, two kids, three cats, and three jobs since we've had a puppy. How soon we forget.

I have felt the same way upon being presented with the new-born babies of dear friends, years after having my own. On the one hand, the memories of their births are so sharp and clear in my mind, but I still hold those babies and think, "They're so SMALL!" And it's easy to forget the little things, like myconium, and that first month, and just how truly helpless they are in that first stage. Once they're about nine months old, the shock is no longer there; I think those stages of early childhood last a bit longer, and are therefore perhaps more strongly remembered (at least for me). But that first couple of months... (That newborn baby cry, though, is something that is instantaneously recognizable.)

It would appear that there are some ways in which getting a puppy is like that. I keep thinking that we've got a problem, because this dog is clearly never going to be able to be as well-behaved as Kia. And then I really look at her and remember what Kia was like when she was a brand-new puppy. For goodness' sake, I remind myself, she chewed the corner off of the lovely Turkish rug Rick's grandmother gave us when we got married. Right. Well-behaved, my left buttock. She was a puppy.

We got Kia's old crate out (yes, we saved it, and yes, I'm now very glad that we've dragged that thing with us through two moves), so the puppy can sleep in it at night and stay in it when we're all out of the house (haven't done that yet, actually). I put her in there the first night and she went absolutely ballistic (this was the first moment when I realized that I may have forgotten a few things in the thirteen years since we adopted Kia). It took about 45 minutes before she calmed down (and lest anyone thing that we stuck her in some room far away from the rest of her pack, I hasten to disabuse you of that notion; the crate was six inches away from my side of the bed, and my fingers were stuck in through the side while I was going to sleep so she could know I was there)(what can I say, I'm a sucker). But then she slept all night, which I appreciated. She settled down much more quickly last night. But I'm dreading the first time we leave her, as I'm thinking her early experiences on the street have left her a bit traumatized.

Ummm, did I mention it looks like we're going to keep her? (As if you all expected anything else.) Her visit with our vet went very well, although the vet said that she has absolutely no idea what she could possibly have been mixed with to get legs like those (maybe Corgie? Dachsund? seriously, can you imagine how a Belgian shepherd/Dachsund mix could possibly happen?). Rick won't let me name her Stumpy. So we've decided that Mathilda fits her personality quite nicely.

Meanwhile, knitting has continued. I'm working away on the baby sweater, and am ready to put the seed stitch border on the body. I'm guessing the sleeves will go fairly quickly, and I have high hopes for some knitting time this afternoon when Rick takes Older Daughter to a slumber party (I am going to request that he take Younger Daughter along for the ride).
I still love the colors. Aren't they just the happiest thing you've ever seen? This, however, isn't.
Do you see those ends?! I have to weave all of those in. And all the ends that will be generated in the sleeves. I honestly think it's going to take me longer to finish this sucker than to knit it. I'm really glad that I chose the 12-18 month size for this baby (who, for the record, is now four weeks old). It takes the pressure off.

I've also been working on something for Anne. I'm actually three more repeats on after last night's knitting session (we watched LadyHawk with the girls; anyone remember that movie?). More details to come. Meanwhile, though, I'm really enjoying working with this yarn. It's Melosa Lanas Puras laceweight, sent to me by the lovely Lis, in the colorway Desert Bloom (thanks, Lis!). I'll try to get you all a better picture so you can see the colors, which are subtle and lovely and cheerful: exactly what I like in my spring knitting. This yarn is a singles, which I'm not sure I've worked with before, and it's handling beautifully, even when I have to purl 2 together through the back loops, and I can't ask more than that. I will definitely be knitting with it again very soon (how do I know this, you ask? why, because there are two more skeins in fern green sitting in my knitting bowl, I answer. Oops).
Think of that picture as an amuse-bouche, meant to leave you wanting more (snort; so much better than thinking of it as bad photography, eh?).

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Change of plan

So, I had this lovely post all laid out in my mind today about the joys of being able to knit in Senate (ask me how I spent two hours of my afternoon yesterday). But things have changed.

There's a new member of the clan.
Her legs are little short, but Rick assures me she'll grow into them (at the moment, she looks like an overgrown Corgie)(and before all of you Corgie lovers out there get up in arms, I've got nothing against the Corgie; any dog with legs that short who can herd sheep has my eternal admiration).
She's a four-month-old rescue dog; the rescue agency says she's a Belgian shepherd mix; I'm wondering whether she's mixed with Dachsund? We've been thinking for a long time about getting a second dog while my lovely Kia Ora is still young and energetic enough to a) have fun with a younger dog, and b) help us train a younger dog.

She thinks the puppy is intriguing.

The plan was to hold off until after this long trip, so I started looking around at the local pounds and humane societies this week, and found this beauty. Alas, after falling in love with her, I found out she was actually being fostered up in L.A. (just found out this morning -- talk about the best-laid plans), so today involved a lot of driving.

We've got her for the weekend for a trial visit to see how she adjusts to us and how our menagerie adjusts to her. I'm guessing there will be no returning (just look at that face!).

I know that this is a knitting blog, and there actually is knitting going on in my life, truly. The baby sweater is moving along nicely, and tonight I'll be starting a lovely new little lace project. Pictures tomorrow. For now I'm off to play with a puppy.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Blue seas

Thanks for the great big welcome back, everyone! I have to say that I felt surprisingly bereft, not being able to both filter my experiences through writing. If there's one thing that this blog has made me realize, it's how much I think about the things that I do and see in terms of words. It's not to say that I'm a good writer, but that it's a major mitigating medium for me, if that makes sense. This was made more apparent to me on this trip as I was spending time with my sister-in-law, who is the picture-taker of the family. She took well over 400 photos over the course of the week (I'm waiting for the CD, which will give me more to share). By contrast, I think I took fewer than 15. It's just not the lens (quite literally) through which I filter my experiences. For me, it's words. It never occurs to me to put a camera up to my eyes when I'm doing something, but (I realize this now) I do, unconsciously, have this little running commentary in the back of my brain, searching for the right way to describe what I'm seeing.

Alas, the words often go away if I don't write them down, so I'm not sure that I have as many of them as I probably should, after all of that time. I'll do what I can.

The first night, we flew to Dallas/Forth Worth, and stayed in the airport hotel. Yup. A hotel. Right there in the airport. How big does an airport have to be to be able to fit a huge hotel (there are, in fact, two of them) right in the middle? Plenty damned big, it turns out. The next morning (which was Older Daughter's tenth birthday, in fact; she was extremely generous about spending it all on a plane, and we made up for it the next day), we were up early to fly to San Juan, and then to Tortola. We met up with Rick's brother and sister-in-law and our niece in the San Juan airport, and took the flight out to Tortola together. This amused the girls to no end, to be together with their cousin, and made the last legs of the trip much better. On Tortola, we missed the 6:00 North Island Sound ferry, and ended up eating an amazingly delicious dinner at a place called the Cyber Cafe (can you believe?). The jerk chicken was exactly what jerk should be: spicy and tender. Mmm... Then we caught the 8:00 ferry and arrived at the place we were staying with no troubles.

The next morning, I woke up to this view.
There is nothing in life that makes me happier than to be within the sight of water. Oceans are the best, but really, almost any water will do. It's true that I am, by inclination, a cold gray water person, but it's hard to complain about the azures and ceruleans of the Caribbean, so I won't. The first day we popped right down that hill you see there to a small beach and went snorkeling (it's also true that it's hard to complain about water that's warm enough that you don't lose your breath when you jump in). The girls got to see an actual conch, in an actual conch shell. Life was good.

Most of the week went that way. We'd get up (mostly at godawful o'clock, as the girls were too excited to sleep late, and there was a peripatetic rooster living next door who believed with all of his little avian heart that 4 am was a time of day that deserved to be heralded with great joy and lusty serenades), have breakfast, and hit the water. We spent quite a bit of time on Kewaydin, Rick's parent's boat, heading off to snorkeling beaches. On one day, the kids and I hung out at the Bitter End, while everyone went diving and Rick went windsurfing (where he discovered that a 10-year hiatus really does affect one's abilities in the realm of water starts). We came home to dinner, often preceded by a lovely rum drink (I think that my discovery of the Dark and Stormy this week was a life-changing one; how can you go wrong with ginger beer and lime juice and rum?), and then a game with BIL and SIL, and then bed. (Except for the night we watched the Pirates of the Caribbean; which should be required viewing on a trip like this, in my humble opinion.)

The girls got to actually drive the boat (not under sail, just with the engine). They were both pretty darned pleased with themselves.

Note the faraway gazes -- I think that they're required in the sailing world. Clearly there's a certain amount of baring one's teeth into the wind that's needed to make it as a real sailor.

It was a relief to find that all three of the girls do just fine on the water (even when it got rather rough later in the week). In fact, they loved being on the boat, and had loads of fun switching to the up side on deck every time we tacked or jibed. It's clearly true that there's nothing that's half so much fun as simply messing about on boats.

It was the colors that captured my imagination the most on this trip. Not only the colors of the ocean, which were constantly changing, depending on the sunlight and the depth of the water, and which rippled with little cat's paws in the constant wind. But also the colors of the flowers, and the beaches. I now understand why every single building there is painted in the most amazing array of bright tones; there's no artifice involved, it's simply that those are exactly the kinds of shades that fit the landscape best. Purples and blues and reds and greens, all together, all the time, bright, sun-faded, in between, but always colors upon colors.

And the fish! We're waiting to develop the pictures from Older Daughter's underwater camera (a birthday gift from her doting aunt and uncle), so I can show you, but they were at least as colorful as anything on land. Parrotfish and trumpetfish, swimming among corals and seafans in fantastic colors (honestly, who would have thought that an entire plant could be periwinkle purple? How unlikely! It's like something out of Dr. Seuss). We saw barracuda (and who besides me can't help but think of that song every time you hear that word? I swear I was singing it to myself all week), and snapper, and even a sea turtle coming up for air.

I had so hoped that Younger Daughter would end up liking snorkeling, as it seemed like the sort of thing that would be right up her alley, if she could only get past that horrible first breath underwater. (I don't know about you, but the first time I went snorkeling, last year, it took all of my willpower to convince myself that I could take that first breath. Once that was over, I was fine, but I'd spent my whole life reminding myself not to breathe underwater! It's hard to break that habit.) She just wasn't going for it, until the very last day we went out, when we realized that at least part of the problem was that her mask was leaking, and she was, in fact, getting a faceful of water when she stuck her head under. I traded masks with her, and she stuck her head in and took a breath and just went ballistic. She came up shouting "fish!", and that was it. After that, she was all over the reef. She didn't have fins, so we towed her along, and she was as thrilled as could be. Honestly, I think I enjoyed watching her just light up like a Christmas tree, both at her achievement and at the fun of seeing all of those wonderful underwater creatures doing their thing, more than I enjoyed seeing the creatures myself. She glowed.

On the last day, we had a close encounter of the reptilian kind. Younger Daughter was bounding up the steps to get our bags, and almost stepped right on a huge iguana. It lashed her with its tail ("I felt it touch me, mama! It touched my leg!!") and then glared at us. I'm guessing YD would have freaked out if she hadn't been so excited to see a real live iguana (thank goodness she's easily distracted). It was about three feet long, and the girls were utterly convinced that it had appeared just to say goodbye to them (and a much better goodbye than the one that Rick and I got at 5:30 in the morning when the rooster brought his entire harem onto our porch to cluck at us whilst he crowed).

And now we're home. I think I'll stop there, as this is already a ridiculously long post. But I'll get more pictures up as they arrive. For now, I'll just say that I did get to do a little bit of knitting on Hanami, although not as much as I'd thought I might. Seawater and yarn do not mix.

Monday, April 7, 2008

And we're back

Whew! We made it back (barely) last night; a delayed flight out of San Juan meant a very tight connection in LAX (15 minutes -- we ran like the wind). Our luggage, alas, did not make the connection and got to stay another hour or two in Los Angeles. I promise a much longer post, with pictures, very soon. But I will say that a) I managed to stay away from email and the interweb, and therefore; b) I didn't think or fret about work at all (which means that nope, I didn't bring any grading along!); and c) I did do at least a little knitting, which translates to some progress on Hanami.

Now if only the world would stop swaying around me so I can stop feeling like I'm on a boat!