Monday, December 31, 2007
Less knitting, more doing
Yesterday, we got up early and headed for the Getty Center in Los Angeles. The girls and I had gone up there last spring with a friend, but Rick had never been. He and I had both been to the Getty Villa in Malibu, back when it was just The Getty, because there wasn't anywhere else, but the Center is new since we lived in L.A. The architecture is absolutely amazing; it's all made of travertine marble, which is not only a very warm color, but also has the impressions of fossils in it, which greatly pleased my entire family (they joys of being married to a hydrogeologist). Currently, there is a beautiful exhibit of illuminated manuscripts, which I loved, and was glad to see again. And, of course, we had to go see the Impressionist collection, which includes one of Monet's paintings from Giverny, as well as Van Gogh's The Irises. I sat with the girls and looked at them for a while; it's always nice to be reminded that great art is considered great because it is truly something beautiful, rather than because of some passing fad. I asked Older Daughter what she though was going on with the lone white iris in the painting, and she said to me, "It's like Pandora's box." My "huh" must have showed on my face, because she went on, "It's like the hope that was put in the bottom of the box. The one good thing among all the dark and evil." I thought that was an interesting understanding of the work.
They also had an exhibit of medieval armor, and an armorer giving a demonstration. He's done armor for all kinds of movies (this was L.A., after all), including Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as the armor for one of the tasks on The Amazing Race, and had brought some of his pieces for folks to play with while he pounded away. Rick and the kids thought this was great fun. Rick asked Younger Daughter to take a picture of him wearing gauntlets. Here is a six-year-old's perspective on a very tall man in scary gloves.
Snort. Younger Daughter and Older Daughter both tried on helmets.
I am declining to show the picture of me in a gauntlet, which they all insisted on taking to prove that I do, indeed, rule the family with an iron fist. Rick amused himself by playing with the option to call in to a cell phone number to get information about the sculptures in the garden. He thought that was pretty nifty.
And we left around sunset.
We went to Little Ethiopia, which is nearby, and found a place to have dinner. The food was wonderful, and we left very full, and very happy. (We are huge fans of Ethiopian food, and the only place in San Diego is a solid 30-40 minutes away, so we take it where we can find it.)
I got some knitting time in on the drive up (Rick kindly did that leg of the trip). See? There is fiber content in this blog, truly. The problem is that I'm currently working on The Endless Blob. It won't be a blob forever, but at the moment, it's totally unphotogenic, and is boring me to tears. It's Cat Bordhi's Calla Lily Bag, from The Knitter's Book of Yarn. I'm knitting it in Malabrigo, worsted weight, on size 11 needles, and it will be felted. I'm sticking with it because I really love the way the finished bag looks, and I could use a new shoulder bag. But it's a slog. It's a slog for a lot of reasons. First, it's all stockinette, all the time. This is to be expected, but that's not too much fun. Second, it's on very big needles, which does means that you get more fabric per stitch, but since I knit much more slowly on big needles, it's a wash. Third, I must admit to being very cranky with the way the design starts off. There's this small part of me that feels that it was made unnecessarily complicated; there are simpler ways to create a double-layered rectangle than to knit six inches in the round, then do a three-needle bind-off of the live stitches to create a line down the middle which then becomes one of the side edges of the bottom; then one must pick up stitches from the middle of one of the rectangles, but not both. Seriously. I mean, do you ever get the feeling that some people become so enamored of doing things differently that they do so for the sake of being different? I'm not accusing her in particular of doing this, I know linguists who do the same thing in theorizing problems, but it does occasionally occur to me that doing things simply is not inherently bad.
Aside from that crankiness, though, I must say again that I love the way this finished bag looks, so I will not hold it against the pattern. But it's bad blog fodder, because of the aforementioned miles of stockinette (in dark blue, no less), so I also won't be posting a picture for a while. I will say, though, that I absolutely adore the Malabrigo -- this yarn is like knitting with a very soft and happy cloud. I have also just ordered some alpaca yarn from the store that I went to the other day (I'll tell that whole story later), and have a plan for its use, which is spurring me on to get this thing done before that yarn comes. A bribe for myself, as it were.
I hope that you all have a very happy New Year's eve, with much merriment of whatever sort makes you merriest!
Friday, December 28, 2007
The short of it is, though, that I have learned my lesson. If I choose to get by on less than I need, I can do that for a while, but I always end up having to pay the piper in the end, and this week, the piper and I have been settling up. If I run true to form, a couple more long nights should catch me up, and things will be back to normal.
On Wednesday, we went for a nice long hike together. Kia Ora (the dog) was very pleased, although she then slept for the rest of the day.
You can't see it from here, but we headed straight up one of the larger hills around here, and the view from the top was gorgeous -- ocean to the west, and mountains to the northeast. Very nice.
Yesterday, the girls and I spent a lovely couple of hours at a local bead store, and then at the bookstore (Older Daughter felt compelled to spend her gift card as soon after Christmas as possible; as I understand it, she has already read the two books she bought yesterday. Sigh). And last night, we all bundled up and headed out to the Wild Animal Park to see the winter lights. It was gorgeous, and veryvery cold (OK, I know that for those of you who don't live in SoCal, 37 degrees isn't really cold, but come on!).
It was (duh) dark (hence the name The Park at Dark), so the pictures are fairly blurry. But the girls got to go on the merry-go-round, and to do some of the crafty projects that were there.
We circumnavigated the whole park, even the parts that weren't lit up, which we all agreed was very spooky, but great fun. Of course, all the animals were asleep, but we caught the last keeper talk, and got to get up close and personal with a golden eagle. The lions were sleeping right up next to the glass; every single person who walked up to them put their hand up against the place where they were leaning, as if compelled by a need to get as close as possible to something so large and magnificent. I completely understand the urge -- knowing that they could kill a person in one pounce doesn't change at all that pull towards something so elemental. The evening was declared a success.
Today, the girls and I headed up to Temecula to check out a fiber store up there (the Temecula Valley Yarn Company) that has not only yarn, but spinning wheels and roving. It is a very nice shop, and the lovely lady who was working there was not only kind to me, but also to the girls, which always wins giant brownie points in my book. While my friend the lovely Rabbitch has publicly dyed a gorgeous roving for me (I am patiently waiting for it to dry, and am hoping that the border guards don't recognize its beauty and confiscate it), I figured it would be a good idea to scope out the local options for spinning for future reference, especially since I could take lessons on a wheel there should I ever decide to up the ante on this whole spinning thing. (I am all about planning ahead...)
In spinning news, I have been playing with the high-whorl spindle that I also got for Christmas. It is heavier than the turkish spindle, and so spins thicker yarn. I think I'm getting a teensy bit more even, but the fact remains that I find it easier to spin, then stop the spindle and draft a bit, then spin again. My drafting is much more even that way, and I don't end up with quite so many lumps. I am not saying that it's not lumpy, just that it's less lumpy than when I try to do everything at once. I am encouraged by Stell's reminder that she started spinning two months ago; her yarn is absolutely gorgeous, and dead even. Mine, well, not so much.
Meanwhile, I shall drink my glogg, and knit on my new project (more about that next time), and read the issues of Wild Fibers that I picked up at the store today (I'm considering subscribing -- does anyone get it already and have some input on that one?). The girls want to watch the new DVD of Hairspray they got for Christmas, which seems like an excellent opportunity to play with fiber while keeping them company. Happy Friday, all!
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Well, it ain't yarn
(It's a photo booth photo, so not the best, but the camera isn't available at this moment.) The ball right there in the front is from the roving that Wanda sent, spun and plied on the turkish spindle. About the only things that can be said for it are a) it is a beautiful color, and b) once it had been plied, it didn't twist back on itself. However, I would not call it "yarn", so much as "a twisted fiber object".
(BTW, does anyone else learning to spin have the Thomson Twins' song running through their head: "You spin me right round, baby, right round, like a record, baby..."? Anne? Or am I dating myself?)
Did you all see the beautiful container that the spinning is sitting in? Here's a better shot (where "better" is a relative term, meaning something more like "you can see more of the basket", since I'm still using photo booth), with some gratuitous dogness thrown in.
Kivrin got me this lovely wooden basket, with some help from her father, from our local farmer's market. I got all excited and promptly put my spinning gear in there, whereupon Rick said, somewhat sadly, "I'd thought maybe you could put some of your stash in there?" Turns out that he's been longing to repatriate the copper bowl that I've liberated from the kitchen for fibrous purposes. It holds an ever-changing arrangement of yarns whose colors feel seasonal to me (just before Christmas, it went from oranges and purples and browns to blues and whites and greys and blacks). Turns out Rick wanted to beat some egg whites in it the other day. I suggested that, since egg-white beating a) is not a regular activity in our home, and b) no longer requires a copper bowl since we invested in a handmixer a few years ago), but that c) I do knit every single day, and d) enjoy looking at my yarn even when I'm not knitting, he'd probably do better to give up his nefarious plans and allow the new borders between cooking and fiber to stay where they have been drawn. I think the long list of lettered items confused him enough that he's given up for the moment.
And, last photo booth shot of the day, since Atticus is feeling very left out.
Now, once he's decided that my lap is no longer fun, I can go back to trying to spin. Alas, he's gone all limp and is purring, so that may be a while...
Monday, December 24, 2007
First, the spinning, so that those of you who actually read this for fiber content can leave before we get to fish and vinegar. The two shall not, following the sage advice of Ms. P, be mixed (voice of experience here? inquiring minds want to know...). I'd hinted around to Rick (read: sent him urls which had everything I wanted) that the time had come for me to make an attempt at this spinning thing. A week or so ago, it occurred to me to check in with him and to suggest that, should he have chosen an alternate present route, it would be good to know, since all of my visions of Christmas day involved playing with roving and spindles while the girls played with their new toys, and we would all hate for me to be disappointed (OK, well, I would hate for me to be disappointed). He admitted that he had taken a different path in his gift selection, and I hastened to rectify the situation (in the end, these are presents from my parents who, having long ago given up on figuring out what I might want, kindly send me a little check each year so I can choose my own thing. This year, it's spinning. Thanks, guys!).
First, I ordered books. I had scoped out Amazon a few weeks ago, and come across these (offered together in one of those nifty deals that Amazon has that sucks you into buying more than you'd intended; in this case, though, I'm glad). They were Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts' book Spinning in the Old Way, and A Handspindle Treasury from Spin-Off. Then I got in touch with Wanda and emailed with her about getting a Turkish spindle. Then I waited. I think that the postman started to think that I was "lonely", the way I was always waiting in the driveway for him. The books came, and I read them cover to cover in a matter of days. And I kept waiting. Finally, on Friday, my package from Wanda came. I would show you how she wrapped it in lovely holiday paper, except that I was too excited to take pictures before I unwrapped it (no, I am not ten years old).
The spindle is gorgeous. It is such a treat to have a tool that is made by a craftsman whose care in his work shows through so clearly. I have always loved William Morris' quote, "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." It has occurred to me, though, that even better might be, "Own nothing that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful." I think that this spindle falls into that category. And, making it even better, it came with instructions (for which thank goodness), and wrapped in some pencil roving. How did Wanda know that I'd want to try to spin right away and not have been wise enough to ensure that I had roving on hand? (I have rectified that problem since.)
While I haven't had as much time as I'd like to play with this (most of the little fiber time I've had has been devoted to working on Rick's socks, which, I am pleased to report, are almost done), I had to at least try.
Isn't the roving a gorgeous color? Isn't the spindle pretty?
Can you tell I'm trying to distract you from the first attempts there? Can't fool you. Here's a closer shot, just in the interests in exposing myself to the world.
I'll get better, I promise. I'm having fun, though!
Of course, I'll be having more fun when tonight's party is done. I've been cooking, almost straight through, since yesterday morning. I made granola to give people as gifts:
Most of what I've been cooking is part of the traditional (read: set in stone) menu that Rick's family has been cooking for Christmas eve lo these many years. The only thing I've changed is to axe the head cheese. I really dislike aspic a lot. Other than that, though, it's pickled herring, which Rick makes.
Isn't it pretty? While I'm not necessarily fond of the fish, the veggies are quite yummy (although we have to warn people every year not to eat the horseradish root he puts in there; it'll take the top of your head off). I made pickled red cabbage (note the emphasis on vinegar here; I can only imagine what things had to come out of storage for this meal in traditional Scandinavia). And rod grod (imagine umlauts over those vowels, if you please), which is a berry pudding. Also cucumbers in vinegar. And meatballs. Five pounds of meat's worth of meatballs. My lovely stove is my workhorse at times like these. Give her a hand.
(The rod grod is cooking there.) And I made the braided cardamom bread that we have for Christmas morning.
The rest of tonight's dinner is boiled red potatoes (to serve with the herring; a man on NPR observed the other day that, the way you serve these traditional foods with other things to cover them up, as well as with liquor and beer, it's as if they're ashamed of the way they taste -- I laughed all the way home) ham, and rye bread, and cheese, and then butter cookies and whipped cream with the rod grod. There's aqvavit (to be drunk in shots with the pickled herring; I wonder why?), and Rick makes glogg, which I have to admit I adore. He makes extra every year, and we spend the next week microwaving a mug now and then in the evening. (It's red wine and port, mulled with oranges, almonds, raisins, cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom pods, for those who are not so lucky as to have married a man of Danish extraction.)
I'll probably be offline tomorrow. If, indeed, I finish the last inch of Rick's socks and weave the ends in, then my plan for tomorrow is to spend the day playing with my new spindle (I swung by The Black Sheep on my way home from errands and got a bit of extra roving; it's not exciting, but it'll do to practice until I get the good stuff -- more on that in another post). Glade jul; a toast to you all!
Saturday, December 22, 2007
One part of the ritual every year is to pick a word out of a bowl. The joke among people who have been doing this for a while is that, while you may not like the word you pull out of the bowl, it's always the word that you need. I have found this to be true in the past, and this year, my word was Abundance. Talk about having to really think about the many many ways that grace has been in abundance for me this year. It's so easy to focus on the difficult things that I've faced, and sometimes it does help to just acknowledge that there have been hard times, and that I've made it through. But of course, a large part of the reason that I've made it through is precisely because of that abundance of grace. Because it's hasn't been "I" making it through, it's been "we", whatever "we" may consist of at a particular moment. In a culture that fetishizes independence and the ability to go it alone, acknowledging that we don't, and that we don't have to, is in itself a form of grace. We are stronger for being "we".
Being open to grace, to me, also means paying attention to those small gifts that come our way that would be so easy to miss. It's a special form of concentration. Buddhists whom I know would say that it's that state of ongoing awareness that is cultivated through quieter meditative practices. It's noticing the Random Acts of Kindness that Sheri has been encouraging through her blog; we can offer them, but it takes an equal amount of awareness to see when they're happening to us. For me, and maybe for many people brought up in a culture which tells us to go out there and get 'em, it's easier to do those acts than it is to accept them gracefully. Maybe that's my practice for this year: the grateful acceptance of those moments of grace.
Tomorrow: pickled herring and spindles. Do I have you on the edges of your seats?
Thursday, December 20, 2007
The long of it is that I've just finished the foot on the second of Rick's socks; I might have been farther along if I hadn't tempted the Knitting Fates by declaring that these socks were well in hand, and I that I was pretty sure I'd be able to finish them by Christmas without breaking a sweat. So said I.
Then I merrily knitted along on the first sock until I thought I was through about half my skein, put it on a piece of scrap yarn, and for kicks, asked Rick to try it on. Turns out that, large as Rick's feet are, they are not quite so large in the real world as they are in my imagination. (I should say here that, in spite of all of the griping about the size of Rick's feet, I think that it is better that they are large than not. After all, without relatively sizable feet, a man who is 6'6" might find himself blowing over in high winds, and we wouldn't want that.) In fact, the socks were about an inch longer than his actual feet. Which is enough longer that there is no fudging or getting around it: these socks were too darned long. Simultaneously cursing my imagination and praising myself for not have cast the sock off, I ripped back to just before the heel, picked up the instep stitches and the heel stitches, and started turning the heel again. I was thinking so hard about whether to use the same heel pattern I'd been using (from IK Summer 2007, generic toe-up), or whether to try something that I was thinking should work and which made more sense to me (more on that later), that I was several rows into the short row section before it occurred to me that the whole point of ripping back had been to make the foot shorter, and by stopping just before the heel, I hadn't actually removed any length from the foot.
I ripped again. And I made darned sure that I took an inch out of the foot while I was at it. Then I started the heel again. Now, the IK pattern involved backwards yarn-overs, and the knitting and purling of three stitches together in the second half of the heel. As I was knitting it the first time, I kept thinking, "Surely I've seen a simpler way out there. This seems like more work than I want to do. Haven't I read about wrapping stitches, and knitting the wraps with the stitches or something like that?" Of course, I was far too lazy to go and search for such a reference, so I decided to wing it. As I wung it, I thought, "Someone on the blog is going to have a really good reason for me why I shouldn't be doing this, and by the time I ask, it'll be too late. Ah, well. Tra la la." (Clearly, the end of the semester has affected me in interesting and unexpected ways, not the least of which is the manifestation of a new carefree knitting attitude.)
So, in the first half of the heel, I knitted to the last stitch, wrapped that stitch, put it back on the left needle, turned and purled back to the last stitch, wrapped and turned, and kept on like that until I had about 10 stitches left. Then I knitted to the first wrapped stitch, knitted it together with its wrap and turned, purled back to the first wrapped stitch, purled it together with its wrap, and turned. It certainly seems to have created a heel, although the bits where stitches were worked with their wraps is not as neat as I'd like. On the other hand, they're no worse than the k3tog/p3togs from the other pattern. So. Here's your chance to collectively gasp and tell me why no knitter with half a brain would do this to an unsuspecting, defenseless heel whut never done nothin' to no-one. (Seriously, though, opinions and input are welcome.)
I've got the first sock back to where it was (and even a bit higher with the same amount of yarn, due to the shorter foot), and I've gotten through the foot of the second sock. Here's the top, with the k2p1 ribbing, and the little random cables on the side.
Here's the whole thing (forgive the post-daylight kitchen photos).
Not too bad. The heel's a bit pokey in the back, but that doesn't show on Rick's foot (tried it on again before starting the second, to be sure). Once these are done, I can do some knitting for me!
Meanwhile, I have an iPod question for those of you who use them. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how to make it mark my place when I go from an audiobook to a podcast and back again. So, if I'm listening to World Without End and decide that I need a break from medieval England and listen to Cast On, and then try to go back to World Without End, it starts all over again at the beginning. And let me tell you, with a 45-hour audiobook, it is inadvisable to start at the beginning every single time I listen. Is this inherent to iPods, or is this just me? Advice would be much appreciated!
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I'm too sexy for my grades
This was not particularly nice, since no-one else in that meeting had filed yet, but since it's the first thing that I've gotten done in any semblance of good time this semester, I figured I deserved a moment of glee. Don't you think?
Especially since yesterday was awful. Worse yet, I knew it would be awful, as I'd scheduled all of the meetings that needed to happen to deal, at least marginally, with all of the junk from the week before. I'd fretted about the meetings all weekend. I'd fretted so hard that I broke out like a high school student on the morning of the prom. I lost quite a lot of sleep. I did, however, manage to take a break from all of that for a short space on Sunday afternoon. The girls had a piano recital, at which Younger Daughter flat-out refused to play (more on that in another post), we had a lovely dinner at a local Indian restaurant with good friends, and then we picked up some wood for the fireplace and came home to bring the tree in and decorate it. The girls put on pjs, Rick got out his trombone (!!), and we lit a fire and relaxed. It was lovely.
I think the girls were a bit shocked by the trombone (they've never heard him play).
Trombones are loud. But they went back to tree decorating merrily, and had a lot of fun finding the ornaments they've made in the past and hanging them on the tree (I remember doing the same thing at their age).
I know, it's not a pine tree. Years ago, it started to really bother me to put our tree out on the curb, dead and denuded, after Christmas was over (I readily acknowledge that this is a weird attitude in a woman who will eat meat, but there it is). So Rick and I bought a pine tree in a big huge pot, which lived outside except for a few weeks during the holidays, which struck me as a perfect solution. Until we moved from the Bay Area (which is cold enough in the winter to make pines happy) to North County (which most definitely is not). And our pine tree stopped being so happy during the off-season. And, as much as I don't mind sacrificing a bit for the sake of a good tree, a brown Christmas tree which is losing all of its needles is just not festive.
At about the same time, our leanings towards some of the philosophical tenets of Buddhism became stronger, and a bodhi tree seemed appropriate, so we acquired a lovely ficus with very dark green leaves. It lives happily on the back patio all year long, and usually comes in on Bodhi Day (in early December), but we missed the date this year. However, it is now inside and decorated.
So there it is, glowing merrily by the fireplace. I really needed that evening of peace to face yesterday's meetings, which were awkward and painful. Rick did an amazing job of caretaking during the day. I came back from the two meetings to find an email from him which offered to come right away to take me off-campus for lunch. I said YES. Later in the afternoon, we all met at the dentist's office for a cleaning, and when he and the girls were all done, and I was still sitting in my chair waiting for someone to come see me (they'd trapped me in the back wearing one of those lovely paper bibs before deserting me for other patients), Rick went to the front desk and got me rescheduled for weeks away from now and took me home and fed me dinner and let me grade. It just doesn't get better than that.
And now that's all done, and there's a plan for moving forward which can't go drastically awry for at least a month, and my grades are filed, and I have not a single thing scheduled for tomorrow. That's not to say that there's nothing to be done. I need to get pjs for the girls for their traditional Christmas Eve present, and pick up some stocking things (Santa fills stockings in our house), and mail one box. But it's on my time, and if I want to go for the whole day without talking to anyone but Rick and the girls, I can do that. I'm so excited, I can't stand it (here's where my essential introverted nature comes out). A whole day ALONE.
I know that this has been a knitting-shy post. It's not for lack of knitting. I've turned the heel on the first of Rick's socks and am several inches up the leg. I'll post pictures tomorrow. I think that, very soon, I will put the sock on a piece of scrap yarn and start the other sock, so that I can try to make them as long as possible with the yarn that I have. This is another time when a very accurate kitchen scale would be nice. I could just knit until only half of the yarn is left and then start the next one. But my scale isn't so hot (something to pick up at after-Christmas sales?), so I must create a workaround with what I've got, and I think this'll do the trick. I'm pretty happy with them; I'm doing a k2 p1 rib, with a small cable at each side, and it's coming out quite nicely in the Trekking. You all will have to tell me what you think when I post pictures tomorrow.
How are you all doing with holiday prep? Am I the only one who's feeling a bit behind? Also, tomorrow, I will have an iPod question for those of you who use them, so be prepared to weigh in and help a newby!
Saturday, December 15, 2007
A few things have gotten me through all of this. One is, of course, my friends. I have been so lucky since picking up stakes and moving my whole family down here on a whim (read: because there was an actual academic job in my actual field actually available, and I actually got it) to make a small group of incredibly close friends. One way and another, mostly by listening and telling me that I am not nuts, and at least in one case by going through all of this with me, they've been a huge part of making this week survivable.
Rick has also been amazing. We have had a houseguest all week, who is a wonderful person; I'm very glad to have met him and to know that he and his family will soon be living near us. But it has meant that I haven't been able to just walk in the door, fall over into a chair and rant unreservedly for a half and hour while drinking heavily. It would have made a bad impression. Rick has listened to me pre-rant on the phone on the drive home every afternoon this week, has done most of the dinner-table talking so I could breathe a bit, has done a large part of the Christmas shopping, and has generally been a pillar of support.
And, of course, there's been knitting. I finished the Marie Antoinettes, and gave them to my dear friend Jill (who's turning 40 today -- happy birthday!) on Thursday (I couldn't wait any more). She loved them. She stripped off her socks and shoes and put them right on (I love people who appreciate my work). She even modelled them for me (although since she doesn't know I have a blog, she doesn't know I'm posting this picture; since it's just of her feet and you don't know her last name or her academic department, I'm going to assume this is within the bounds of acceptability).
Didn't they turn out well? Doesn't she have long, elegant feet? Doesn't my office rug need vacuuming? I do love that honeycomb pattern. I will definitely be making these for myself.
Just as soon as I finish these.
They're for Rick. Who has, as I believe I have had cause to mention in the past, size 13 feet. I'm using Trekking, on size three sox stix needles (which freak me out a bit because they're feeling a bit short for the 72 stitches I have going on here), in a basic toe up pattern. He has made it clear that, while he loves the other pair of socks I have knit for him, he really really wants ribbing on his socks. Not just an inch or so at the top, but ribbed socks. I keep asking him a) do you know how much @#$*@! longer it takes to knit ribbing than stockinette and have I mentioned that you have size 13 feet?!, and b) do you know how much more yarn it takes to knit ribbing than stockinette and have I mentioned that you have size 13 feet?! He put on his pitiful face and made sad whimpery noises while saying again that he really really does like ribbing. I growled, and then began ribbing the dang socks after the toe (with a nifty little cable on each side, even). Note the lack of ribbing in the photo above. Apparently, he doesn't want ribs just any old where. He wants them on the leg. And only on the leg. Ripping was involved, which, while it may sound similar, is not the same as ribbing. I am behind, and the plan is to finish these for Christmas (there is to be no laughing from the peanut gallery). I must knit like the wind. The only good news about the ribbing fiasco is that I at least do not have to rib the feet on these babies. This might be my saving grace. If only I could grade and knit at the same time, but I'm just not that good.
The girls had their school play last night. It was a Human Values play (I love this about their school. They teach a part of the curriculum that is called Human Values, which looks in many ways like some of the moral tenets of Buddhism: non-violence, peace, love of others, etc. They also do what they call silent sitting every morning, which some of us might call meditation. In conservative North County you can't tell parents that you're inculcating their children with Buddhist values and teaching them meditation, but everyone's happy with Human Values and silent sitting. Whatever gets the job done, is what I say). They were brilliant. Younger Daughter's room sang, and she remembered every word and hand gesture.
Older Daughter was a narrator. She had a microphone and no notes, and remembered everything she was supposed to say.
It was short and sweet and I got a mojito afterwards. Is that the perfect ending to a hard week, or what?
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Potential for coherence
I have been buried the last three days, which is why I haven't posted or written back to anyone or anything. I came home Saturday, as you know, completely exhausted, to my family plus one addition. We have a distant relative staying with us this whole week, as he is moving his family out here and has had to start work before their house is ready. This is a fine thing, as he is nice and personable and an easy house guest, and we're glad to connect more with this branch of the family. But it does mean that what little time on the computer that I might have had has pretty much been gone in the evenings, as I have not wanted to rudely bury myself in knitting blogs. He's at a holiday party for work tonight, though, and Rick isn't home yet and the girls are practicing piano, so I'm grabbing this moment while I can. I've missed you all!
I've also had to get through 55 candidate files for a hire that we're doing this year. That has been an absolutely insane job, complicated by departmental politics. I got it done before our meeting today, but it's involved not eating much or sleeping when I'd like. And it's meant very little knitting, blogging, or anything else that I like to do. Alas.
In spite of all of this, though, I have made significant progress on the Marie Antoinette socks -- even though I'm now knitting them for bigger feet than mine (not hard). Here's the first one, which I actually wet blocked (I'm halfway down the foot of the second one).
Check out the top of the cuff, which leaves me utterly charmed every time I look at it:
And the foot:
How does Anne do it? And how can she possibly be brave enough to let me test knit these lovely things of hers? Either way, I'm grateful.
And, to top it off, I came home the other day to find a package from Anne containing this beauty; talk about making it easy to give away socks, when you immediately receive the perfect yarn to knit them again for yourself.
This is Kim's sock yarn in the Tupelo Honey colorway -- this picture hardly does it justice, it's so lovely. The only question I have here is, do I knit bees (the Marie Antoinette socks again), or acorns (the socks Anne designed just a bit ago that I've had a hankering for)? I love it when it's just impossible to go wrong in a decision.
I also got my box from the Ravelry Holiday Swap (thanks, other Anne, for getting me into this one!), and my swap partner just spoiled me rotten. First, tell me this yarn isn't just me all over.
Do you see those hints of brown in there with the blue? Love it. It's Lorna's Laces, too. Mmm.... And then there were all the tempting personal spa-type goodies.
How lucky was I? I only hope her buddy was as good to her as she was to me!
Now, all of those were present-type objects, and did not come due to my penchant for impetuous purchases. These, however, are all my own fault.
But how could I have helped myself? (I should mention that there are two more, which will be waiting under the tree for the girls on Christmas morning, but the girls are home with me now, and therefore it is not possible to take pictures of those bags.) I mean, with all the great yarn I've been getting, I need project bags, don't I? And clearly, Bea (whose glorious creations these are) is a woman of great talent and I couldn't let those bags just sit there on her etsy site all alone and unpurchased, could I? It was a public service. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
The next couple of days should be very busy with grading and reading thesis proposals and going to meetings, but nothing like the last three. And if I can get the grading done, I might (fingers crossed) be able to file grades on Monday and start getting those last-minute, must-do-them-in-person-not-online holiday things done. Wouldn't that be nice?
Monday, December 10, 2007
If you still want to PIF
Further updates on the lovely Marie Antoinettes (with luck) this evening. I hope everyone is having a lovely Monday!
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Making a joyful noise
Friday night was Rick's company party. It was...well...hmm...well, interesting. Yup, that's my word and I'm sticking to it. I guess I'm just not all that good at that sort of thing. I did enjoy the people we sat with. The dj was...well...also interesting. Think Tom Jones meets Mickey Dolenz. His suit was shiny. And I think that it was meant to be that way. He did impressions of Sinatra and Tony Bennett, and pretty much every stereotypical holiday song there is. Every time Rick and I thought it couldn't get any worse, it did. At least it was funny. I wore my beautiful stole, which almost made up for it, even though I was among the unwashed, and no-one noticed it. I clearly needed some of my people around; knitters wouldn't have missed it for a second.
We got home at midnight, and I was up at 4:50 am to head to the airport. My friend and colleague Jill and I flew up to Sacramento and then drove to Clear Lake to start our new project, which is documenting the stories of the folks I work with, who are being disenrolled from their Tribe. We had thought that yesterday was just going to involve a couple of pilot interviews, to see whether there was a there there, you know? Whether people really wanted to tell their stories, what it would mean to document those stories, and what the implications might be of us doing the documentation as outsiders. When we got there, there was a house full of people who were dying to tell their stories, to whom it meant so much that someone would actually come from out of town to hear them talk about what they're going through. We interviewed for almost six hours straight. It was insane. By the end, neither of us could even think straight any more, and I'm not sure that we were very coherent. I think we'd both gone numb. There was so much pain and anger in that room, and we wanted so much for people to feel that they'd been heard. All thoughts of "proper" elicitation techniques (read: dispassionate, unemotional) were out the window. These people were hurting, and we were right there in it. It's not something I can talk about in much detail here, but I think that what we're hoping to do is important and I so hope that it will help someone somehow. But it's not going to be easy at all. Reading this over, I'm not sure how coherent I am, even yet; sorry.
We flew home that night (made it to the concourse as they were calling our names to board the plane -- everyone else had already gotten on), and I was back in the house by 9:30 pm, completely worn out and incoherent. I went to bed and slept until almost 9:00 this morning, when I got up and finished the first Marie Antoinette sock, pictures of which I'll post tomorrow, I promise; I even wet-blocked it, since it clearly deserved royal treatment. I think that Anne has the pattern up at her pattern shop now; I'll post the details tomorrow, too. I have decided that they are for my friend Jill (yup, the same one who went along on yesterday's wild ride with me), for her 40th birthday next weekend. Every woman needs Marie Antoinette socks to usher her into what I hear is an excellent decade of life.
Today Rick and I took the girls to hear the San Diego Symphony play Beethoven's 9th. I've never heard it played live before, although it is one of my very favorite symphonies. It was stunning. The opening movement of the symphony always gives me chills; I have no idea how Beethoven so perfectly captured the sense of order out of chaos that he did. Themes arise out of inchoate notes, fall away, and rise again. And the Ode to Joy just gives me chills. I cried. The woman next to me did, too. Younger Daughter, sitting on my lap, turned to me and whispered, "Mama, are you crying from happiness?" and I just nodded. I don't know if it's happiness, or awe, but that chorus is the ultimate instance of humans raising their voices in a joyful noise. It is glorious, and it is breathtaking. It makes me want to open my mouth and join in, and isn't that what music is all about? I needed that today, after yesterday. I needed to remember that there is joy, even as there is pain, and that either way, we need to make a noise about it.
Friday, December 7, 2007
Maybe kindness is a meme?
“It’s the Pay It Forward Exchange. It’s based on the concept of the movie “Pay it Forward” where acts or deeds of kindness are done without expecting something in return, just passing it on, with hope that the recipients of the acts of kindness are passed on. So here’s how it works. I will make and send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment to this post on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I do not know what that gift will be yet, and it won’t be sent this month, probably not next month, but it will be sent (within 6 months) and that’s a promise! What YOU have to do in return, then, is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.
I will now Pay It Forward to you THREE, I wonder who you will be?! Please, be a PIF! You will enjoy it just as much as we do!”
And, remember…you have 6 months to get your gifts done! Come on, you know you would love to be one of my angels. Then, one day, but you don’t know when….you will get a gift that I have made especially for YOU!Please remember, you don’t have to knit or crochet to participate, anyone who can make a nice handmade gift is welcome to join.
So, please join in the fun! I'd love to knit something just for you -- and then you get the pleasure of knitting something for three other people who join the circle. Maybe if we do this right hundreds of people world-wide will be walking around in handknit socks six months from now -- and don't you think that would be a good step towards greater harmony?
Because this is Friday, I'm putting everything in this post that I meant to do earlier in the week and didn't. For example, Rabbitch posted a link to this lovely quiz on her blog yesterday. My results?
You are Joshua Abraham Norton, first and only Emperor of the United States of America!
Born in England sometime in the second decade of the nineteenth century, you carved a notable business career, in South Africa and later San Francisco, until an entry into the rice market wiped out your fortune in 1854. After this, you became quite different. The first sign of this came on September 17, 1859, when you expressed your dissatisfaction with the political situation in America by declaring yourself Norton I, Emperor of the USA. You remained as such, unchallenged, for twenty-one years.
Within a month you had decreed the dissolution of Congress. When this was largely ignored, you summoned all interested parties to discuss the matter in a music hall, and then summoned the army to quell the rebellious leaders in Washington. This did not work. Magnanimously, you decreed (eventually) that Congress could remain for the time being. However, you disbanded both major political parties in 1869, as well as instituting a fine of $25 for using the abominable nickname "Frisco" for your home city.
Your days consisted of parading around your domain - the San Francisco streets - in a uniform of royal blue with gold epaulettes. This was set off by a beaver hat and umbrella. You dispensed philosophy and inspected the state of sidewalks and the police with equal aplomb. You were a great ally of the maligned Chinese of the city, and once dispersed a riot by standing between the Chinese and their would-be assailants and reciting the Lord's Prayer quietly, head bowed.
Once arrested, you were swiftly pardoned by the Police Chief with all apologies, after which all policemen were ordered to salute you on the street. Your renown grew. Proprietors of respectable establishments fixed brass plaques to their walls proclaiming your patronage; musical and theatrical performances invariably reserved seats for you and your two dogs. (As an aside, you were a good friend of Mark Twain, who wrote an epitaph for one of your faithful hounds, Bummer.) The Census of 1870 listed your occupation as "Emperor".
The Board of Supervisors of San Francisco, upon noticing the slightly delapidated state of your attire, replaced it at their own expense. You responded graciously by granting a patent of nobility to each member. Your death, collapsing on the street on January 8, 1880, made front page news under the headline "Le Roi est Mort". Aside from what you had on your person, your possessions amounted to a single sovereign, a collection of walking sticks, an old sabre, your correspondence with Queen Victoria and 1,098,235 shares of stock in a worthless gold mine. Your funeral cortege was of 30,000 people and over two miles long.
The burial was marked by a total eclipse of the sun.What I find most frightening about this is that a) I love San Francisco and think it should never be called Frisco, and b) I'm not entirely adverse to the idea of walking about in a uniform with epaulettes, being saluted by the police. I also think that I would possibly do a better job than the current administration. Long live the Empress!
Well, I think that's all for this Friday. I am almost done with the first Marie Antoinette sock; in fact, I would have been done, but last night it occurred to me that one of my dear friends is turning 40 next week, and that she would very much like a pair of handknitted socks, so I will knit them for her instead (love live Random Acts of Kindness!). Alas for me, this means that instead of knitting the foot for my dainty size 6, I must make it long enough for her size 9 feet instead. So, this is the project of choice for this afternoon's three-hour meeting. I'm off to northern climes tomorrow, so I won't be posting at least until Sunday, and maybe Monday. I can't wait to see for whom I'll be knitting this spring, so come and join the fun!
P.S. If you're already signed up for PIF, leave a comment telling me you're in on the fun. I won't count you as one of the first three, unless no one else signs up at all, in which case you get extra knitted goods!
Thursday, December 6, 2007
I came home the other night to find a lovely little package in my mailbox from Bea. I love packages! (Have I mentioned this? But then again, who doesn't?) When I opened it, three small packages popped out. One was labelled for me, one for "older" and one for "younger". Older Daughter opened hers right away, and out fell Pigwidgeon (sound familiar, Anne?). She was delighted. Younger Daughter had fallen asleep in the car, and I must say that having a package to open upon awakening certainly shortened the notorious cranky period. She promptly named hers Hedwig. Mine is absolutely perfect. Somehow Bea remembered which fabric I adored from her bag making adventures (check out her etsy shop! how much do you want one of those?), and sent me an owl made from just those fabrics (I don't know how you do it, Bea, really I don't!). Doesn't she look professorial?
She sits on my desk, looking as wise as I wish I were. Her name? Athena, of course. I've been waiting to post about them until I could get pictures of the girls' owls, too. They haven't let go of them since they arrived. They sleep with them, so I can't take pictures then (ever tried to find a palm-sized owl in the bedclothes in the dark?), and they've been taking them to school, so no pictures then. I managed to grab them both for a minute on the way out the door this morning, so the whole owl clan was in one place for a brief and shining moment.
The Marie Antoinettes proceed apace.
See the bees?
The fun thing about lacework socks is how very fast they go. I knit away on one motif, and before I'm bored with it, it's time to turn the heel. Amazing. I'm done with the gusset, and with luck will have the foot done tonight or tomorrow (there's a three hour meeting to get through tomorrow, which should provide good knitting time).
I've been slowing down a bit on the late-evening knitting, as I've been feeling on the edge of crummy. You know, the sort of run-down, a cold is coming let's see if I can fight it kind of thing. And still no time to take a break. Meetings tomorrow, then Rick's company party. Saturday it's off to Clear Lake to do some research (I'm starting a new project with a friend and colleague, which will be fun, but it's always a very long day!), then Sunday we're going to San Diego to hear Beethoven's Ode to Joy. Monday and Tuesday I'll be reading files for our new hire, and then it's grading until the sheep come home. But today's my last day of classes for the semester! I'm promising myself the week between Christmas and New Year's entirely off. With maybe even a day in bed to shake this thing sometime during that week. I've just got to make it until then. Meanwhile, I've got the birds and the bees to keep me happy.
(People, keep your minds out of the gutter! Owls! Socks! That's what we're talking about here. This is a clean, family-oriented blog. And we're going to see that it stays that way.)
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Funny story. I told Rick that I was going to get to knit the bee socks, and he said to me, "That's OK, honey. I guess you have to prove yourself as a knitter to people first." It took me a second to realize that he thought I was going to get to knit the B socks (as opposed to the A socks). I about fell out of my chair, I was laughing so hard. Ah, husbands...
Anyway, so I'm taking on another one. But I figure, a) I'd just bought that new sock yarn that I showed you all recently (the Schaeffer Anne) and it was the perfect warm orangey honey color and I had to use it up, right? I mean, I wouldn't want to suffer a Stash Increase (snort with me now), and b) I love these socks so much that I'd knit them at some point anyway, so why not now?
I mean, it's not like it's the end of classes. And it's not like I have piles of papers to grade. Or hiring committees to sit on. Or meetings to attend. Or anything. Nope, not me. What are you looking at? Step away from the crazy lady.
So, the hem is done and I'm on to the cuff. It's not much to show, but here:
I love it. It's so very ornate and, well, exuberant. Sometimes it's important to celebrate exuberance in life, don't you think? Even if it's just on our feet.
Monday, December 3, 2007
I have long had a desire to learn how to use a drop spindle. It has mostly been a latent desire, one which raises its head from time to time, but which is easily squelched. It has been a bit more pushy lately, though, as all sorts of folks out there have been posting about spinning and lovely roving and so on. I spent some time online a few weeks ago looking for places in San Diego that sell drop spindles, but told myself very firmly that I do not have time right now to learn a new craft.
Last night, when winding a ball of yarn for me (kids and ball winders make a natural combination, much like peanut butter and jelly and just as messy), Older Daughter asked me if I knew how to spin. When I said no, she said, in a disappointed tone of voice, "Oh. 'Cause I wanted to learn how."
Well. I am nothing if not an accomodating mother. But I told myself that I haven't the faintest clue where I'd start to learn how to spin. I said to myself that I didn't know what books might be out there and which ones might be good and that therefore I couldn't take on a new craft. Of course, this offended the researcher in me, who promptly opened a browser window to Amazon, and in two second flat had found this and this. And if you buy them both together, they're a deal. Oops. Then I told myself that I haven't the least idea where to find a drop spindle. One email to the friendly Sheri, who has been blogging lately about her new-found addiction, fixed that problem, as did remembering that Wanda's husband makes spindles. Oops, and oops again. Of course, finding roving is as easy as going to etsy and searching. So, I bundled all the info in an email to Rick and told him that Christmas is coming. I feel very restrained and not virtuous, as I did not actually purchase anything (yet). And very much like I'm going to get myself in a whole mess of trouble. This was definitely a tactical error of epic proportions.
I meant to post yesterday, as I had finished Younger Daughter's sweater (the fact that she's been growing like a weed had me a bit nervous that she'd grow out of it before I finished, so I thought I'd better bust a move). But we had to go (imagine a Voice of Doom here) shopping. At a mall. Shudder. Rick's company party is Friday night, and tempting as it was to plan to go in jeans and my new stole, the invite did say "semi-formal", which, in spite of all Rick's insistence to the contrary, I did not think was intended to be read as: Anything But Jeans. Even here in SoCal, semi-formal probably calls for something a bit more dressy than that. So, off to the mall we went where (you should be impressed here) in the space of an hour, I bought: a) an outfit, b) nylons (shudder), c) a bra, and d) eye makeup. Then we ran away.
Here's YD's sweater, which I am fairly pleased with, especially given that it was made entirely without reference to anything resembling a pattern.
I knitted it from the bottom up, attaching the sleeves and then decreasing across the yoke in between feather and fan pattern repeats. The yarn is 2nd Time Cotton, which is a 75% cotton/ 25% acrylic blend, and which uses recycled cotton. I really like the way it turned out in the sweater, but it definitely reinforced my sense that knitting with cotton is not my favorite thing to do. Of course, I didn't get to block the sweater before it was snatched from my hands, and worn non-stop (this is typical of the things I knit for the girls). Here's a shot of the feather and fan pattern.
I just did a set of garter ridges around all the edges, and kitchenered (yay!) the armpits, and bob's your uncle. I need to get in touch with Stella to find out where she got the lovely clasps that she used on a sweater recently, as I think that something like those would be perfect on this sweater. And really, anything to avoid a button band.
And now I should go finish reviewing the readings for tomorrow's class. I so hope that I won't have to yell at them again as I did last week for not reading anything. But it's the last week of classes, so I'm not hoping too hard. The good news is that I got to knit through today's hour and a half meeting (the faculty from the college of business clearly did not have a clue what I was doing nor why I would do it, but that's not my problem), which was to train me as an Equal Opportunity Assistant for the hiring committees that I'm on this year. And I have two more very long meetings this week that I can definitely knit through. Now if I can just keep my needles away from the president's tush...
Saturday, December 1, 2007
I finished it at about 9:30 this morning, and set it to soak.
Atticus wanted to help. In order to be able to keep my hands off of it long enough for it to soak, I took the girls to the farmer's market, which took the perfect amount of time. I came home, and blocked it out to about 20 inches wide by 80 inches long, knowing that it would shrink some as it dried and that the target dimensions were 18x72.
I can't tell you how hard it was to keep my hands off of it. I kept chanting drydrydry at it, and wondering when the Santa Anas were going to come back (the weather gods must find me very confusing. I wish for cold, wet weather almost all the time, except when I need knitwear to dry, when I wish for the very winds I usually curse. Of course, as soon as they're dry, I'm back to wishing for cold and wet again so I can wear them; this is not evidence of a contrary nature, I swear).
Atticus guarded it to ensure that there would be no premature unpinning.
Do you see the look on his face? He's saying, "Back off, baby."
I was just about to die of impatience when Rachael (who is also test knitting this stole in a really gorgeous yarn; she's just posted photos -- go check them out) told me that she puts a fan on things to make them dry faster. So I turned the ceiling fan on, and finally decided that I could turn the heat on (the house was 65, which in my world is chilly). That got things moving. Just in time for the last little bit of light. We lost it before we were really done, but I just can't wait any longer.
Gwilim is helping me post:
He takes his job seriously. And with no further ado, Simurgh:
(as you can see, the light was going so fast, I didn't even take the time to change into lighter colored clothes)
It's long enough to go around with both tails in the back, which I love.
I'm still wearing it. I probably won't take it off ever. And you can't make me.