Monday, November 30, 2009

No knitting yet

Which isn't to say that I haven't been knitting; I have. But one of the projects that I started after finally finishing Elektra is unbloggable, and the other is Rick's socks, which are seriously not all that interesting. I've turned the heel on the second one, though, and will be knitting that at my conference this week. With luck, I'll also make solid headway on the unbloggable project on the plane, and this knit blog will start including knitting again.

Meanwhile, though, look over here! Nature photos!
On Friday, Rick and I headed up into the foothills for a night away, leaving the girls with their Memere and Grandpa (not to mention my aunt and cousin); everyone seemed happy with the arrangement, and Rick and I were tremendously excited to get a little bit of time to ourselves, which is a rare treat. We decided to stay in Nevada City, which meant that we could go for a hike on the Yuba River in the afternoon. We got lucky, and missed the rain in the foothills, as well as the huge hailstorm that pounded Sacramento after we left.
When we arrived, the cold front still hadn't quite blown through, so we parked and ate our lunch in the car before heading out. Rick noticed this little owl parked in a tree next to us. Do you see in that second photo that she's got eyes in the back of her head? (Obviously a mother bird.) She sat there the whole time we were eating and watched us go.

We headed upriver, along a trail that climbed and climbed, until we were well above the river itself. I don't know if you can see it down there, through the trees?
(Do you know how hard it is to capture "vertical" on a camera? I tried, truly I did. We're probably 150 feet above the water there.)

We also went down to the river at one point, slipping and sliding, when I saw something that looked like a bit of Engineering. I was right.
Rick was pleased.

It was a dam that someone had cleverly built at a narrow place in the river, taking advantage of the natural outcropping of rocks by piling up logs, pouring concrete around them, and running huge bolts through the whole thing to hold it together, probably in a pyramidal form, to judge by the bolt placement. We're pretty sure that it was put there for hydraulic mining, maybe at some point during the Gold Rush, maybe later.
You can see where the concrete fit around the logs; some of the wood is still there, low-down.

The view upriver was pretty spectacular, too.
And the rocks have worn away into lovely smooth shapes. Have I mentioned that I like rocks?
We scrambled back up the hill and kept hiking for a while, until we came to this lovely wonderland of trees.
It was like a fairy forest, and the colors!

But we couldn't keep hiking forever (tempting though it was), so we turned around and headed back. And at the very end, we came across more Engineering (it was a good day for Rick).
We'd driven across it to park without quite realizing what it was.
So Rick was happy.

And me? I got to wear wool. And it just doesn't get much better than that.

I'm going to get to wear more wool this week, since I'm heading to Philadelphia at yeurgh o'clock on Wednesday morning to go to a conference. I won't be posting until I'm back, so send presentation-success thoughts my way, if you can spare them. (Also, this is your last chance to tell me if I absolutely should not wear Elektra in public; my fate is in your hands.) Have a great week!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Giving thanks

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. In fact, the only thing that keeps it from being unequivocally my favorite holiday is the whole remnant pilgrim/Indian thing; it continues to strike me as insulting (at best) to insist on that particular national myth, as if the founding of this particular nation did not take place on the bodies of those who lived here before. I find the happy pilgrim/Indian iconography deeply disturbing, given the genocide that it hides. It is entirely reasonable (and in fact, so much more reasonable) to have a holiday whose main goal is to focus on giving thanks for what we have, without adding that layer of denial.

If all of that extra layer of myth-making were wiped away, then what would be left is, really, a harvest festival, something of which I heartily approve. Quite simply, this is the time to turn inward, the time when everything moves towards its winter rest, the time of quiet growth in the dark. At its heart, Thanksgiving seems to me to be a chance to stop a moment in order to be quietly grateful that I have food to eat, a safe, warm place to cook it, and people I love to share it with. The core things. The things that really matter.

One of the best bits about celebrating up here is that my parents' home has amazing access to walking paths and to the American River bike trail. So we've taken several long walks each day (to Tilly's great joy; on the topic of giving thanks, one of the best ways to remember to be grateful for the small things is to watch the joy of a dog running after squirrels).
The weather has, until this morning (the rain clouds finally arrived), been perfect, which makes for beautiful views of the river.
The whole trail along the American is lined with piles of rounded river rocks. I don't know whether they were carried there by the river in past centuries of flood, or whether they were piled there by intrepid panners for gold during the Gold Rush (Rick's theory; I subscribe to the former). I also don't know that it matters; I love looking at them either way.
Right now, the salmon are running, so the upriver side of the bars are filled with seagulls and vultures and herons, eating their fill of the river's bounty. These turkey vultures are taking a break from all the feasting in the sun.

Last but not least, I should mention that this year I'm feeling grateful to have finished Elektra Redux. It fits, I wore it last night, and I'm so much happier with it. Ripping and reknitting was the right choice.
The yarn survived the ripping fairly well, I think, and everything blocked out quite neatly. I'm much happier with the color distribution in this version, as well.
To recap. This is Elektra Redux (Rav link), knitted from Twisted Sisters Petite Voodoo (a silk/merino blend), on size five needles, size extra small. So I went down a size, both in pattern and needles, and it's definitely not too small. It fits much better than the first version, and I think I'll be wearing this a lot.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Travels with knitting

We made it up to Northern California with no troubles at all. In fact, as Rick was kind enough to do the driving from the north side of the Grapevine up to Sacramento, I got a ton of knitting done. The good thing about garter stitch is that it makes great car knitting, even in the pitch black (although I did have to make use of oncoming headlights to see if I was managing the "knit two together through the back loop" maneuver correctly).

On Sunday, we had breakfast and walked the dog, and then headed out to the Bay Area, with a day full of plans. We started off by having a wonderful visit and lunch with Grandmom; I always wish we could stay longer, although I think we all know that by the end of those three hours, she's pretty tired, and the kids have hit their sit-still limit (even though they do love to look at Grandmom's travel photo albums with her; this time we went through the one from the time she lived in Europe for 18 months from 1935-37)(!!). I miss living closer to her, when we could visit more frequently. When we lived in the East Bay, I used to go visit with her a lot, with Rick and by myself, or with the kids once they were born. We'd go for coffee at the Warming Hut at Chrissy Field, and take walks on the Marina Green, and for a long time, Rick and I had a regular habit of taking her out to dim sum every few months (at this great place whose name neither of us can remember, but that everyone always knew as the pink place near the Russian Orthodox Church in the Richmond District). I manage to forget how much I miss it most of the time, but when we go up there, I am reminded.

But we had a nice lunch with her, and a good visit.

After that, we headed into the city to go to the De Young Museum (another place I associate with Grandmom; she docented there for years and used to get us in to see exhibits) to see the Tutankhamun exhibit. No pictures, of course, but we all enjoyed it very much. (Although I do often find it curious how often exhibits like that make no mention of textiles. In one of Howard Carter's original pictures of the tomb, there is something sitting on a stool that I am absolutely convinced is a spindle, but of course it's not identified, sigh.) I saw the exhibit at the De Young when it was last here, well over twenty years ago (I think I was about the age that Tess is now). Rick saw it in New York on that same tour. Both of us missed some of the pieces that we remember seeing, but I thought that this exhibit did a nicer job of placing Tutankhamun within the history of Egypt, which I appreciated. I'm glad we went, and both of the girls enjoyed it tremendously, which was a large part of the point.

On the way out, we stopped in at the Amish quilt exhibition that's also there right now. They had some stunning quilts on display; I admit that I was most impressed with the quilting itself (am I using the right terminology, quilters? I mean the stitching that holds the layers together), which was a huge design element in all of the quilts and so intricate. And of course, I assume (because the exhibit didn't say) that it is all done completely by hand, which makes the complex, even, stitches that much more impressive. It was serendipity to happen upon them while we were looking for a way up into the observation tower to see the view of the city.

I will say, though, as a last note, that I'm still unconvinced about the chicken wire on the outside of the tower. I keep wanting someone to come by with a stucco gun to finish the darned thing off. But that might just be me.

And then we got to have a lovely dinner with Rick's cousin Jasmine, and her husband Justin and my lovely baby cousin Tyler, who is growing like a weed. He thought his big cousins were pretty nifty.
And he's acquired some new skills since I saw him last. (Heh.)
I miss seeing them more often, too, but it was lovely to get a chance to sit down and have dinner together and visit for a while.

Rick very kindly did all of the driving so I could get knitting done. Between that and the time I spent knitting yesterday, I have finished a project. Which one, you ask? Well, I haven't taken any good pictures of it (tomorrow in daylight, I promise.) But meanwhile, here's a hint.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Boring blogger

I realize that at least part of the reason why posts have been sporadic lately is because photography has been sporadic as well. I keep thinking that I'll wait to post until I've taken some pictures to share, but I'm not taking any pictures at all. Mostly I'm running from the moment I leave the house at 7:15 until the moment I get home at oh-my-goodness o'clock, when it's dark (not that I have to get home that late in order to come home in the dark, but you get the idea). None of that is conducive to photography. And, quite frankly, I've been knitting and knitting and knitting on Elektra Redux (and am currently the better part of the way through sleeve two, in case you're keeping track), which isn't that interesting to blog about anyway, since you've already seen the whole process. I am looking forward to knitting something else, although I'm starting to wonder if I'll know how to knit anything but garter stitch when this is over.

I have a slate of projects lined up, including the socks for my niece that I mentioned last time. I also would like to finish Rick's socks. I think that those two pairs might be my conference and travel to Philadelphia knitting. (BTW, how do people from Philadelphia feel about other people calling their city "Philly"? I realized that I do it myself, but knowing how people from the city -- that would be San Francisco, of course, are there any other cities? heh -- feel about "Frisco" or "San Fran", it occurred to me that I probably ought to ask...) I have another small unbloggable project coming up, but I think I'll probably be working on that next week. That will be the Thanksgiving trip to Sacramento knitting (that is, it will be once I've finished Elektra). I also would really love to knit these up for the girls; we have a long tradition of giving them pjs on Christmas eve, and slippers seem like they'd be the perfect go-along. I don't know how realistic that is, but I did get the yarn for them while I was at Yarning For You yesterday, so I'll be knitting them at some point. (I also got myself some laceweight cashmere/silk, oops, but we're not talking about that right now...)

Older Daughter has an orchestra concert tonight (adding to the scheduling insanity of our days, but very exciting as the orchestra has progressed amazingly since her first concert last year!), and I think that I'll be able to knit Elektra during that (if I can keep track of colors and balls of yarn in the dark), so maybe that sleeve will get finished in time for me to get some seaming help before we hit the road on Saturday morning? It's a race to the finish, with mattress stitch on the line; exciting times...

So it's really not that I'm not knitting and thinking about knitting, it's just that I'm not blogging much about it. So I'll leave you with a teaching moment story instead. The other day in class the topic of Easter came up, and someone asked what was up with the bunnies and eggs and things, how do they fit in to the whole Easter story? And I pointed out that they are an overlay from other traditions, because they fit in with the theme of new life, but the bunnies and eggs come from traditions that more explicitly connected to the whole fertility side of new life (oversimplifying a little, but it was an off-topic question). You know, I said, rabbits being fertile animals and all. And, I said, if you think about eggs, there they are, this little white rock-like thing, and then poof! they crack open and you've got a chick.

As I uttered the word "chick", one student sitting in front of me got the most amazing look of dawning enlighenment on his face. I could practically see the lightbulb going off. So I gave him the quizzical teacher look (you know, the one that says, yes? would you like to share?). I don't know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't what he said.

"I always thought that it was the bunnies who laid the eggs!"

I went straight home and made absolutely sure that the girls knew that mammals (barring the platypus and echidna, I was careful to add) do not, I repeat do not, lay eggs.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Seriously? Where did *this* week go?

I have got to pull my blogging schedule together! Right now, my work schedule is pretty crazy; once I get to campus, I'm in either meetings or classes all day long. So the one day I work at home is the day that I need to get grading done. And by the end of each day, I'm ready to fall over, and I just don't seem to have any more words left in me. I keep thinking that if I can just get past the next deadline, things will open up a little bit, but something always gets tagged on to the end. At this point in my mental calculations, I figure if I can just make it until mid-February (when the last of my current deadlines will come along), then I can take a little break. (Laugh with me now, people, laugh with me now.)

However, knitting does continue. I finished the first sleeve of Elektra last night and attached it to the back. One more sleeve, and then it's just the two fronts, and if I remember correctly from last time, those go quickly. Still no pictures, but progress is being made. If I can get the second sleeve done before the end of the week, I may take it in to my beloved LYS and ask for some help with the whole mattress stitch thing. I know it's supposed to be easy but honestly, I just can't seem to make mine turn out the way I know it's supposed to. And I think I've decided that it's silly to keep banging my head against that particular wall when I can go and ask for advice from Carol, finisher of garments par excellance (no fears, Carol, I'm just asking for advice; I'll do the actual work myself, I promise!). I only wish I knew as many ways to put a garment together as Carol does (and herein lies the reason why I knit so many shawls, socks, and scarves: no seams!).

I'm also contemplating whether and how much holiday knitting I'm going to do this year. The list keeps getting smaller and smaller. I'm down to between one and three gifts, with a strong leaning towards the "one" side of things. It feels selfish, but given that I'm going to be out of town for the next five weekends, with somewhere close to 2,000 miles of driving and a trip across the country and a conference paper presentation included in all of that, I think I need to make some sanity-preserving decisions here (let's not mention all of the grading that's about to come my way; talk about chickens coming home to roost!)(and who assigned all of these papers, you may ask? I'll never tell). As for the one present I really want to knit, though, I've already bought the yarn.
It's a ball of the tweedy Zauerball (am I spelling that right)? I absolutely adore the colors, and I'll be using this to knit socks for someone else I absolutely adore: my niece. She's the only niece I've got, and it came to my attention that she has no handknit socks (she's not deprived of handknits, mind you; she has a gorgeous poncho that both of my girls developed quite the lustful relationship with while we were in Cincinnati). So it's my hope that I'll get a pair of socks knitted up out of this before the holidays, but if I don't get done in time, that's OK. There's always Martin Luther King Jr Day presents to be distributed in mid-January, right?

All right. That's the quick update. I'm off in twenty minutes to drive to Bakersfield and Tehachapi for work this weekend. I'd better go pack!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A good weekend

Thank you all for the winning wishes for the girls, and for the cheers. (I particularly liked the cheer: Run, feet, run! I used it all day on Saturday, so thank you.) We started our day on Saturday at 7:30 in the morning at Older Daughter's game, and ended it at 8:30 that night when Younger Daughter finally finished her last game and signed her teammates' jerseys. They both played hard, and we cheered hard, but neither of them made it to the semi-finals. It was a real disappointment to Older Daughter in particular, as she's worked hard this year, and gotten a lot better at her position.
I think that Sunday morning, though (when at 8:30, we were at home in our jammies, Rick and I drinking coffee from real mugs and the girls making pancakes, instead of sitting on a cold soccer field), took some of the sting out of it. I was proud of them; they played hard, and they both learned a lot this season (and neither of them would ever think of playing like this; you should check out that footage if you get a chance -- anyone who says that women don't get physical or rough hasn't watched women's soccer). I actually think that both of them did some of their best playing in these last games, which is how a season should end.
I knitted. A lot. It helps to keep me from turning into some kind of psycho mom, yelling at the ref (or the girls who get a bit free with the ol' elbows) from the sidelines. I have encountered a number of parents (and several coaches) who really ought to learn how to knit in order to work out some of their control issues in a more socially acceptable format. They yelled and hollered (and one parent almost got asked to leave the game), and one coach was so frustrated that he kicked a ball behind him in a fit of pique and nailed one of our team's players with it as she was sitting on the sideline (not our coach -- he was awesome); I finished the back of the new version of Elektra instead, which seems much more productive to me.
I reworked the colors (I don't have a picture for you right now, as it's night, and the colors just don't turn out well in the dark), and I am so much happier with them, I can't tell you. Now that the ripping is over, the reworking is making me very happy, which I suppose means that a) I did the right thing in ripping it out (as if we didn't all know that), b) that this yarn is absolutely fabulous, the colors and the way it feels are just about as happy as it gets, and c) that I am still feeling so overwhelmed with the rest of my life that knitting garter stitch continues to be a really good thing. I'm on my way with the first sleeve, I have a plan for the colors that I think will work with the amount of yarn I have left, and I have high hopes of finishing this reknit in a reasonable amount of time.

But tonight, I'm taking Older Daughter to her first real (e.g. not for kids) yoga class. She's been asking for ages, and now that soccer season is over, it seems like the right time both for her and for me. Given how much reworking of what my body knows about yoga I need to do to be able to practice again after the back surgery, she and I will both be perfectly placed in a yoga basics class.

Friday, November 6, 2009

How did it get to be Friday?

I swear we just got home from Cincinnati. How did Friday get here so quickly?

We had a wonderful weekend. It was so nice to get to spend time with our family, I just wish we could have stayed longer. We ate like royalty; my SIL is an amazing cook (pulled pork, mmm...) and made the kinds of things that I never make for myself (far too lazy), and I enjoyed every bite, plus a few I probably shouldn't have. She's a knitter, too, so we got to sit and knit and visit and watch our three girls play together, all of which was such a treat; they had a fabulous time, too, as you can see. Those three get along like a house on fire; it's pretty amazing to watch them when they get together. And my neice and Younger Daughter are two peas in a pod; both of them are active and incessent fantasists -- the ongoing story lines they have running in their heads are amazing, and when you put the two of them together, well! Let the good times roll.
(Note: These pictures are thieved from my lovely sister-in-law, who is far better with a camera than I'll ever be. Thanks, Geri!) We went for a couple of lovely walks, and I got to crunch my way through fallen leaves to my heart's content, as did the girls.
Pumpkins were carved.
The house was decorated.
And the girls got as much candy as any child could want, and more. It was a perfect weekend, and the only thing that would have made it better is if it could have lasted longer. But (as I reminded myself more than once as we worked our way home on Monday) something is much much better than nothing. Especially a something that was this much fun. We've just got to start saving up our miles at a faster rate somehow...

I did knit, as I said. And I finished one unbloggable project, which just needs to block. I also got Rick's socks further along, and am now nearly ready to turn the second heel. These poor socks are getting really short shrift, since they're my very plain meeting knitting and I don't pull them out for anything else. That would be fine and I'd normally make plenty of progress, especially given the number of meetings I've been attending lately (!), but Elektra is also plain and has taken up much of my meeting time, so the socks languish. I also wound up yarn and cast on for the Traveler Socks from Janel Laidman's new book, and then realized a) that I hadn't brought along a second set of dpns to knit the pocket and b) that the construction of the pocket necessitates three layers of knitted fabric on the side of the sock. I can see why (I spent a not-insignificant part of the quiet moments of my weekend attempting to think of alternate ways to knit the sock such that the pocket would only be two-layered, to no avail), but I'm not sure how I feel about those three layers of knitted fabric on the side of my leg, so I stalled out.

Taking a break from Elektra proved to be heartening, and on Tuesday night I commenced the frogging process. I completed it last night, and this is the current state of affairs.
Lots and lots of little balls. The whole frogging process took a little over six hours, and yes, the unpicking of all of the woven-in ends was just as bad as I'd thought it would be. The one silver lining to that particular cloud is my new-found appreciation for the durability of the woven-in end. Folks, those babies ain't going nowhere, no how, no way. (And no, four negatives do not make a positive.) I will never again fear that all of the ends of one of my sweaters are going to simultaneously spring forth at once, leaving me standing in a heap of unravelled yarn at some crucial and public moment.

I actually cast on for the back (again) before I finished frogging, just so I could see how badly trashed the yarn was going to be before I committed to ripping the whole thing. I think it's going to block out reasonably well.
If you embiggen, you can see that the stitches are much more uneven than they were before, but I think a good soak will take care of that. I have also rejiggered the row counts for each color to take care of those giant swathes of brown that were giving me fits, so all in all, I'm expecting much better things of Elektra Redux.

I'm also expecting to be able to make some serious progress this weekend, since it's going to be all soccer, all the time. It's playoffs, so we'll be at Older Daughter's three playoff games from before 8:00 tomorrow morning until about 11:30, and then at Younger Daughter's four playoff games from 1:45 until about 8:00 tomorrow night (!!). Depending on the results of those, there will be further eliminations and the final game on Sunday. This giant stretch of knitting time was one of the reasons why I wanted to get Elektra frogged sooner rather than later, since it's perfect knitting for watching something else. If you are of a mind, you could send some goal-oriented thoughts our way; the girls could use the extra energy for all of that playing, I'm sure!