Friday, May 30, 2008

And a lovely time was had

I so wanted to blog yesterday about the wonderful evening that I had with Rachael, but had promised myself that I'd take the day to Get Things Done on my paper (as we are about to be descended upon by various relatives; but more on that later)(you will note that I also have not responded to anyone's very nice comments -- this is why). So here it is.

I had (for once) an easy and relatively stress-free drive up to Torrance. Only one accident, and it was to the side of the road by the time I got to it, so all was well. The major tragedy was when I realized, halfway across the Marine base (which always feels like a huge geographic boundary to me) that I'd forgotten my camera. But by then, it was far too late to turn around and go back. So I settled in to listen to my fun audiobook and anticipate finally getting to meet Rachael.

I arrived at her hotel (having not gotten lost) just as she called to check in with me, and picked her up. We headed for somewhere that was advertised online as "Old Town Torrance". Not so much with the Old Town, and the streets were rather rolled up, but we found a yummy Italian place and settled in (both being starving, me because I'm always starving, and she because it was actually 9:30 in her stomach's time zone). We so settled in (helped along, in my case, by an amazing glass of wine -- Ravenswood Zinfandel, must try to find some) that we completely forgot to take pictures of the shawls until long after the sun had set. Luckily, the restaurant was fairly empty, so we set up the shawls on a table and Rachael snapped away. We even got the hostess to take pictures of us wearing them (she clearly thought we were wacky; I wasn't sure I'd be able to explain the difference between "wacky" and "knitter" to her, so I didn't try). Rachael sent me the pictures (thank you!).
That's mine on the left and hers on the right.

It was great fun to see how differently the shawl turned out in two different BMFA yarns. She'd used (correct me if I'm wrong, Rachael) their merino lightweight yarn in one of the Raven colorways with lovely green undertones. I'd used Geisha in the Raven colorway that was all shades of black. Her yarn held the blocking so much better than mine, but, as she pointed out, the geisha had more spring to it (the silk, maybe?). It turned out, inadvertently, to be a nice exercise in the implications of yarn choice for the final product.
And here we are, wearing them.

But really, the best part of the evening wasn't getting the shawls together, it was getting to sit down and chat in person with someone I've been emailing with since we starting knitting these shawls at the same time. I was especially touched that she was sharing her second anniversary with me (but Hubby's out here now!). It's always so nice when someone you only know electronically turns out to be a great person in real life, too.

I also got two wonderful gifts. The first is some yarn that I haven't been able to take a picture of yet, both because I've been working on that paper (did I mention?), and because I keep petting it and rubbing it against my face when I do have time to do other things, which is not conducive to picture-taking. I'm trying to figure out whether it would be weird to knit a balaclava out of it so I can keep it on my cheeks at all times. (You know, reading that over in black and white pretty much answers my question.) The second was to cause me to remember, in the course of a lovely discussion about our various dogs and their personality quirks, that Tilly is, indeed, a puppy. And that a lot of her stuff is puppy stuff, and will be grown out of, handled correctly. She's not a roly-poly (why can't I make that look right?) puppy, and I tend to forget that. Thanks, Rachael!

Today Rick's parents arrive for the weekend. We're taking them camping in the Lagunas tomorrow night, and they leave on Monday. Then on Tuesday, my parents arrive so they can be here for Older Daughter's graduation from her school at the kids' spring concert, and they leave on Friday. So I'll be running about madly for the next little while. I'll be sure to remember the camera this weekend though, so keep an eye out for pictures of camping.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Going visiting

Well, I must say that "more of the same" does not make for good blog fodder. I'm over halfway through with the Hip in Hemp skirt now, and still going strong although the rows are now getting longer (we've all heard this song before, eh?). I'm getting a little less than one repeat an hour at this point, and have 16 repeats left to go. The length and width are still looking right, so I'm feeling on target. But the pictures look the same, so it's not like I have anything to show you, alas.

Look! Our jacaranda tree is in bloom, finally.
They're all over the neighborhood now -- I'll have to see if I can get a picture. From the hill where we were hiking the other day, we could look out over parts of Vista and see clumps of purple everywhere. I love how truly exuberant jacarandas are. You can't see it in this picture, but they don't leaf and flower at the same time. They carry their leaves all year round, right up until they're about ready to bloom, and then they dump all the extra baggage so they can put everything into flowering. I like the attitude.

Aside from that, I've been slowly plugging away at my paper for this conference in early July. I really need to have made some serious progress on it before going to a workshop in Berkeley in a few weeks (make that ten days, eek!), so that I'm not fretting too much. I want it nailed and put to bed before I get on the plane for the conference (no, I haven't said where I'm going yet; it's an exciting happy thing, so I'm saving it for its very own post at some point soon) so that I don't have to think about it until just before I need to present, when I can have a small panic attack and practice it again four or five times in a deserted hallway (yes, I've done this before, why do you ask?)(I'm just proud that I've gotten the panic attacks to within an hour of my presentation, instead of days and days in advance; it ruins far less time this way). I have a huge stack of articles to read, but I also have something resembling an outline, so that's good.

And, I have a lovely visit to look forward to tonight! Rachael is in Torrance for a conference, and I'm driving up there tonight so that we can go to dinner. Really, it's so that we can get our raven stoles (formally known as Simurgh) together for a playdate. When we both started knitting the pattern with Anne, we emailed back and forth about how fun it would be to see them side-by-side, and promised that if either of us could ever make it to the other coast, we'd see what we could do. Well, she's here, so with luck we'll get a couple of good pictures of the stoles together (and maybe us, too?). That should be some excellent blog fodder!

All right. Articles call, and I must get a few read before I take Tilly to get her stitches out. One thing after another...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Thank goodness for three-day weekends

Because the last two days have gone too quickly!

Friday's dinner turned out beautifully. The baguettes were yummy; I really have to get in the habit of baking bread again, as I like it so much better than anything I can get elsewhere, even at the farmer's market (of course, maybe that's a reason not to bake more often...). And the girls both asked if I'd please make the turnip/carrot soup again. (hello? children? turnips? hmmm...)

This weekend was designated a "get things done" weekend. To that end, Rick started, and finished, his big job, which was to build a wall unit of cubbyholes for the girls' playroom (this was once Younger Daughter's bedroom, until the girls decided years ago that they'd rather share a bedroom, at which time it became their playroom)(mostly, we just call it Chaos Central, hence the cubbies). He'd priced out pre-made units, and they were outrageously expensive, so he decided some time ago that he'd build one himself. And so he did.
That's only part of the unit, but isn't it great? He built it with special spaces for their tabourets, and for the dollhouse, and everything. I was impressed.

Of course, that took the better part of the past two days. We did manage to get a hike in this morning. The weather has stayed cool enough that I'm feeling compelled to spend as much time hiking as I can before it's too hot to be fun on the trails. The wildflowers are blooming, and the dogs came home smelling of sage.
I need to see if I can find some of these to grow on our back hill.
The girls and the dogs ran amok, which was precisely the point.
I did some more baking today. Blueberry squares with a crumble top to take to dinner with some friends, and a big batch of ginger/almond granola, which Rick had been requesting. I also got some bookshelves to put in the den for yarn storage. I figured maybe it was time to start getting organized for a summer of knitting.

And in all of this, I got some spinning done. I'm almost done plying the Linguistic roving from Rabbitch, and have about 300 yards so far. I overplied the first skein, but I think I've corrected fairly well in the second.
The blues aren't showing up very well under the flash; you can see the colors better in some of the pictures of the singles I've posted before. I'll be using this yarn to knit a pair of mitts for Older Daughter. I'm pleased with the way it's turned out; my yarn is starting to look more and more like yarn. This has come in between 16 and 18 wpi, and seems to be a slightly thick fingering weight yarn. It's not entirely even yet, but so much better than my earlier efforts! I don't think I'm going to be in the least embarrassed to have Older Daughter wearing this out in public (although I admit that there is a small selfish part of me that hopes that she doesn't like the mitts so I can have them; this colorway spun up beautifully).

Tomorrow, we'll be assembling bookshelves, and getting the guest room ready for our various parents to come visiting sequentially in the next week or so. I'm starting to feel like my summer is disappearing already, and it hasn't even started yet. I know that I won't feel quite so much like that once this conference paper is written and I've been to my workshop in June and come back, but until then, there's a lot that has to happen.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Schizophrenic weather

Well, after that lovely gripe about the sun, the weather has taken an abrupt about-face, and it's now raining. (I should mention that I'm pretty gleeful about the whole rain thing, and I intend to enjoy, quite literally, every last drop of it.)(I should also mention that everyone's comments has made it clear that many of us want whatever weather we're not having. Hmm...) This means that I can plan one last cold-weather meal, involving a root soup (turnips and carrots and onions, oh my!), and, at Rick's request (like my daughters, he knows that flattery about my cooking will get him everywhere) I am making baguettes. We'll finish up with a peach/mulberry crumble. Mmm...

This is the kind of weather, and the kind of menu, that allows me to fully utilize and appreciate my very favorite tool in the kitchen.
My stove. I think I've waxed poetic about this baby before, so I'll limit myself to mentioning that when it comes to baking bread in a chilly house, a stove with pilot lights is a godsend. That bowl there in the middle? Bread dough. Warm and toasty on a griddle, with pilot lights making the little yeasties grow like mad. Good times.

The weather has also provided me with a welcome excuse to wear the contents of the package that arrived the other day. The pictures here aren't so good -- this is a problem with the light I'm (not) getting, but you get the idea.
Recognize that? The blue's a bit off. How about here?
Yup, it's Anne's Star of Evening shawl. Isn't it stunning? When we met up here in San Diego, it transpired that each of us like the other's color even better than our own, so we decided to gift them to one another when we were done. I love the idea of my shawl being out there in Ohio with Anne, and of having her shawl here in San Diego. It feels like coming full circle, and like a wonderful way to celebrate a friendship. (It smells good, too -- what do you wash your wool with, Anne?)

Last night, after a quick dinner, we went out again to see a play that was being put on at a local playhouse by a children's theater group. Two of the actors were daughters of a dear friend of mine, and my honorary nieces, so we were pretty excited to see them strut their stuff. It was great fun. The script, a take-off (maybe send-off?) of the Robin Hood story, had been written by one of the folks who runs the workshop, and he did a great job. There were some wonderfully funny lines (I laughed out loud several times; clearly I have a sense of humor that is tickled by these kinds of things -- it doesn't get better than addressing Maid Marion's two attendants as Maid 1 and Maid 2; here's a nice dialogue from the script: RH: "Hello, Maid 1", M1, "Hello!", RH "Hello, Maid 2", M2 "Hello, hello!" I tell you, it about killed me). The girls both did wonderfully. The older of the two was a soothsayer, who, to quote, said sooths. As a linguist, you've got to love that kind of thing.

All righty, Bea tagged me with a meme, so here goes.

The rules of the game get posted at the beginning. Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

1. What was I doing 10 years ago?
I had just had Older Daughter, and was finishing up my dissertation.

2. What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):
Go to yoga (already did that, so I can cross it off); read articles for the paper I'm writing; track down more references for the paper I'm writing; finish my assigned time reporting for work; take the kids to piano lessons; take Tilly for a walk (I think that's six, sorry!)

3. Snacks I enjoy:
Bread and cheese, chocolate chip cookies, red bell peppers, pretty much any baked good

4. Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
Gosh, a billion, huh? That's a lot... I'd probably keep doing a lot of what I'm already doing, except that I'd travel a lot more with my family (India first, or Turkey. Or maybe Nepal...). Donate to foundations which support language maintenance and revitalization, among others. Buy a piece of property in Point Reyes. Find a way to support the development of alternative energy sources and the maintenance of local food sources. (Big money = big dreams...)

5. Places I have lived:
In California: Sacramento, Los Angeles, Oakland, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Vista. Also, Avignon, in France.

6. Jobs I have had:
Piano teacher, receptionist, person who ran the xerox machine for a high school (there just is no good title for that one), archivist, graduate student assistant, reading development teacher, professor.

I'm supposed to tag the next round of people, but almost everyone I can think of has done it, except for some folks who are madly grading, and I won't burden them. Grab it if you want to, and let me know so I can come and see your answers.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why I prefer grey days: Reason #319

I think I may have mentioned that it was hot earlier this week. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. Hot. The kind of hot where our clothes were drying faster on the line than they would have in the dryer. And we all know how much I don't like the hot.

I have a new reason. Apparently when the day dawns clear, the birds around here get a little excited. Oh, heck. Let's be honest. They get really excited. Talking at the tops of their little peeping voices excited. At 5:00 in the morning. So, every morning this week (while Rick's been gone), the birds have gone apeshit at 5:00. An hour that no person should have to be awake for twice in a day. This has been immediately followed by the cats darting in and out of the pet door, aiming to see if any of the birds are so distracted by the sun rising (as if it didn't happen every day) that they might let themselves be caught. This in turn wakes Tilly up, and she has to see what all the fuss is about, which involves going in and out of the pet door, chasing the cats, and hopping on and off the bed.

On all of these mornings, the girls were up and dressed by 6:30, fixing themselves a breakfast to eat -- loudly -- on the back patio. At 6:30 in the morning.

Needless to say, not so much with the sleeping.

Yesterday, the marine layer was back. My beloved May Grey that everyone around here gripes about (also much griping about the June Gloom), but which I view as the perfect weather. The birds do not get excited at 5:00 on a grey morning. And the cats sleep peacefully next to my legs, and Tilly does not jump onto the bed. The girls, exhausted, I can only assume, because of too many short nights, slept until 7:30. The problem with this idyllic picture? Thursdays are the day we have to be out of the house at 7:45. "Why," the girls asked me, "do we always want to sleep in on the mornings when we can't?" I answered them as honestly as I knew how.

"Because you're perverse."

Yesterday, I had work-related reasons to be near the Temecula Valley Yarn Company (everyone can go ahead and make pitying noises now), and actually had enough time to pop in. I did, in fact, make it a true pop, as I had promised myself that all I would look at was spinning-related materials. I'd actually gone in hopes that they might have a nifty gadget for measuring wpi (I know, I know, I can use a ruler), but they didn't. They did, however, have this, which I had to bring home with me.
The colors are not coming through here at all -- they are much darker and deeper, almost a purpley-green, if you can imagine. It's a tussah/cashmere blend, in a colorway called "evergreen", which it definitely is, by the Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks. I bought it for the Tour de Fleece that I'm participating in this summer. As I'll be travelling for the first week of the Tour, I'll be bringing a spindle with me, and I thought something very light that I want to spin very fine might be perfect for some travel spinning, so this is it.

I got some other spinning done last night, and have finished the second bobbin of the Linguistic roving. Now I can ply!
This, assuming it turns out all right, is destined to be a pair of mitts for Older Daughter. I can't wait to knit it up! Meanwhile, work continues on the skirt.

(I have tried to post a picture of my progress here; however, I am being thwarted by Blogger, so you will have to use your imaginations. I'll update later if I can.)

For those who have been following the Skirt Saga, a few words of reassurance. I measured the skirt against one of my favorite skirts the other night. It's a bit wider, which I am happy with, as I want some leeway for it to shrink up a little when I machine-wash it. But it's definitely on the right track, and will not be too small, and, at about 1/3 of the way through the knitting, it is about 1/3 as long as that skirt. It would also appear, at this moment, that I will have enough yarn, so I'm feeling pretty good about this one.

Bea has tagged me for a meme, which I am contemplating, and will post the answers to sometime tomorrow. I also have a wonderful package to share. Meanwhile, it's sprinkling outside. I am going to gaze upon the little bitty droplets and think longingly of next winter...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I have heard that we knitters are supposed to, generally speaking, fall into one of two categories: process knitters and product knitters. (I feel like I should have a citation here, a sure sign that I've been reading too many academic articles lately.)(But just in case you want one, I could cite a couple of the Yarn Harlot's books to support my assertion, I'm sure.)

I am, however, an odd duck. Or schizophrenic, take your pick (I prefer the former, it sounds so much more friendly). My attitude towards my knitting varies, depending on the project, and I often find a way to incorporate both a process and a product bent into one project. Case in point: the Hip in Hemp skirt.

I am knitting this in a single color, and in an adult size (rather than the striped children's size shown in the picture, which, though cute, probably wouldn't flatter me at all). So here's the thing. I didn't really swatch. I knit the waistband and checked my gauge, more or less, and as it looked more or less right, I kept right on going. As I've been knitting, I have been keeping an eye on the skirt to see whether its proportions are turning out to look anything like something that might realistically fit someone like me. My general theory has been that, if it's too small, it'll go to Older Daughter. The chances of it being so oversized that it will be unwearable are slim, so I haven't worried too much about that. I like the look of the fabric on these needles, so all is well.

I find myself knitting exclusively on this skirt, as I'm dying to see how it turns out on so many levels. I'd like to know if it's going to fit. I'm wondering how the fabric will feel once I've washed it (this is my first time knitting with hemp -- I'm enjoying it quite a bit more than I'd expected -- and I've heard it washes up a dream). I'm wondering whether it'll be so see-through I'll need to put together some kind of light cotton lining underneath. I'm wondering whether a knitted skirt, even if it fits, will be at all flattering on someone who is, shall we say, a bit zaftig. Or, even if it looks good, how I will like the hang of it, as it will have some weight to it. In other words, I'm knitting this thing the way I read a fun mystery/thriller/plot-driven novel -- I'm dying to see how it turns out.

I'm not sure what to call this approach to knitting. I am aware that a number of people would call it insane. I mean, really. Swatching would answer so many of these questions. As would taking a really formal set of measurements of me, and comparing them to the measurements on the pattern (as opposed to a more loose slapping of the tape measure around the hip region -- my widest bit -- and calling it a day).

I feel about knitting this the way I've felt about knitting a few other projects that I've done. I just want to knit it. I want to have done it. I would like for it to be something I can and will wear, but frankly, I have no idea whether I'll wear a knit skirt until I have a knit skirt. And if I don't end up liking it, I'm not worried; I have an optional recipient should it be too small, so it's not like it's wasted knitting (is there such a thing?). I'm not sure even that explains my attitude towards this project. It's a forward momentum sort of thing; damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead. Or something. Is there a name for this? Kamikaze knitting? Insanity? On the one hand, it feels definitional of process knitting, except that I'm dying to see how it turns out, which is not very processual at all. It's good fun, either way.

As I'm working outside (just got the carpets cleaned -- finally!! -- and am trying to keep me and, more importantly, the dogs, off of them until they've had a chance to dry somewhat), I don't have any camera except the one in my computer, which, given the sunlight, isn't producing the best shots, but I did want to provide you with some evidence that I am achieving some kind of progress on the skirt. (That was all one sentence, are you impressed?)(It's grammatical, I promise; I'm pretty sure I could even diagram it.) So here's one.
I know. It looks more like one of those overexposed, it really is a flying saucer doncha see it?, shots than anything else. It doesn't convey the lovely navy blue character of this yarn, or the fact that I'm 41 rows into a 137-row project. Not too bad, eh? Of course, as happens with an a-line skirt knit from the top down, the rows get longer as I go on, but not too dramatically longer. They're also nicely spaced. One pattern row, and then three knitted rows. One pattern row, three knitted rows (I love knitting in the round). So it's easy to get myself to do one of those four-row repeats, and I only have to concentrate on the first row. Nice.

OK, while I feel like a bad Andi McDowell impersonator when I say this, don't hate me because I didn't swatch. It's apparently my nature as a knitter not to. (Hence the almost pathological preference for objects whose final size has some leeway to it.) I may pay large on this one. Of course, I may not.

Stay tuned for next time, when Our Heroine tries to decide whether the thirteen balls of yarn she bought will be enough to finish. Will she make it? Will she run out? Only time will tell.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

What day is it again?

Sunday? You have got to be kidding me. Where did the last three days go?!

Let's see. In the last three days I have:

Graded three sets of final papers for three classes.
Calculated grades for all three classes.
Put those grades up on my class web sites.
Dealt with hysterical inquiries from students who should have known what was coming, but were nevertheless shocked and horrified to discover that one does not receive a good grade when one does not do the work assigned in class.

Picked up one puppy from the vet, where she'd gone to be spayed.
Brought home with her two medications to be given to her twice a day.
She's recovering nicely, by the way, and was overjoyed to be brought home. I think she was worried I might forget about her, in spite of the fact that I have yet to do so.

Went to one graduation.
With two friends.
At 8:30 in the morning.
Saw hundreds of students graduate.
Saw the president of the university smile for a picture with each student. Ouch.
Drank one margarita afterwards (a traditional reward for sitting through a hot graduation in black regalia).

Packed one husband off to Colorado.
For four days.
To give one conference paper.
He also brought one mountain bike along.
And promised to leave one note on his windshield for each ride he goes on, and to call me at the beginning and end of each ride.

Got one daughter to one swim meet (non-competitive).
Drove a solid forty miles round trip to get there (unexpectedly; it wasn't where I thought it was going to be. Oops).
Where she swam in five events.
I took her out afterwards for one piece of quiche at her favorite little French bakery.

Rescued one blue jay chick from one cat.
Called the Humane society who said that they know a woman who rescues corbae and takes care of them until they're ready to be released again.
Drove another 20 miles round trip to deliver the chick to the Humane society for pickup.

During all of this, knitted between four and six inches on my skirt (depending on whether we're looking at the shorter or longer bit of the points). Pictures tomorrow, I promise. Right now, it's way too hot to spend any time in the sun. Summer has arrived, a month early.

So that's where the last three days have gone... I'm off to knit quietly in a cool corner somewhere.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Off the wires

I've been buried in grading, or I would have posted some pictures of the shawl off the blocking wires yesterday. But I've made it through the papers from one class, and am halfway through the papers from my other classes, so I'm making progress. It's entirely possible that I'll actually meet my goal of having grades calculated and posted by tomorrow night. Meanwhile, I have my shawl to admire and to remind me that I can actually finish something in this life, rather than standing in the middle of piles of unfinished grading, turning in circles, feeling overwhelmed and wondering what to do next. (Honestly, this is where knitting comes in handy; as the Yarn Harlot points out, knitting is fundamentally about doing one small action again and again, and having an actual product in the end -- grading is very much the same thing.)

Older Daughter kindly agreed to take a break from her homework to model for me:
See how the shawl is almost the same color as the grass? It's very springy.
Isn't it gorgeous? This could be something I knit again -- it's such a fun pattern, and the results are really lovely.

Meanwhile, I've made a (very small) start on a new project. I'm knitting myself the Hip in Hemp skirt, although I'm knitting it in a solid navy blue, rather than in stripes. That project sort of fell into my lap one day a few weeks ago; I was reading the musings of someone who was searching for a skirt to knit, and revisited that pattern. It had caught my attention when I saw it last summer, but it somehow didn't occur to me to knit it as a solid, and I knew I'd never wear the stripes (I am slow on the uptake sometimes). So I pottered on over to Webs to see if they sold the Lavold Hempathy yarn (my LYS didn't have any; I called first), and not only did they have it, but they had it in navy and (get this) on sale. Not only was it on sale, but my order came it at just over the amount that it takes to get a discount. Sweet. If that isn't Fate telling me that it's time to finally knit the skirt I've been dithering about for so long, I don't know what is. I'm just knitting together the live stitches with the cast-on row to form a tube for the elastic waist (although I'm thinking of either an i-cord or a ribbon instead; I've made the waist with a hole to insert one or the other, and could then tie a little bow in front), so I'm really not very far along. There will be pictures when I've made some progress.

In other news, poor Tilly has had quite a week of it. We boarded her at the vet this past weekend, knowing that we couldn't leave her with the cats and Kia to be fed by our neighbor. She was clearly very disconcerted by being left there (in spite of the fact that they keep poached chicken on hand for treats), and absolutely freaked out when I picked her up. She kept making these hoarse barking noises that sounded just like Anthony Michael Hall in Sixteen Candles when they let him out of the car trunk (anyone else out there remember that?).

Then last night was her first obedience class. I'm extremely happy with the place we found, which is just down the road from us, and the three women who taught the class are wonderful. They confirmed my impression of Tilly, though, which is that we have quite a personality on our hands. She threw a temper fit at one point, and one of the trainers took her off to work with her while the other trainer was talking about how to work with dogs. It turns out that Tilly is hand-shy, probably due to some of her experiences living on the streets before she was rescued. This means that we're going to need to be really careful about disciplining her; neck scruff shakes, which work well for some puppies (like Kia) will not work with her because of her already-negative association with hands. And when she mouths, we won't be able to hold her muzzle shut for the same reason. So it's going to mean some more thought in our training work with her (especially by comparison to Kia, who is such a submissive dog that just glaring at her was usually enough to get her to pay attention).

And then this morning, I had to take her to the vet to be spayed; I would have held off, given the boarding experience of the weekend, but she's over five months now, and the window for an easier surgery is closing. So she'll be there overnight. They did call me after the surgery to say that she was doing well, which is good news. But poor baby. It's a lot in one week, and I'm glad that I'll be working at home most of next week, with only one day where I need to leave the house for any length of time.

Oh, I forgot to mention that the fried-egg poppies are blooming in the yard -- I love these flowers! (They're really called matilija poppies, but come on, don't they look like fried eggs?)

Righty-o! Back to grading; so close...

P.S. Tamar, I checked with Rick about the brand of the microphones, and he didn't remember right offhand, but will check with his uncle. I'll let you know. And the only reason I find the Vorkosigan books relaxing is because I've read them so many times before, so I know they turn out all right in the end. Silly, eh?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Race to the finish

No, it's not that I was speed-knitting. I was racing the yarn to the end. When I finished the last bit of the edging on the star shawl last night at 10:45 (there was no way I could have stopped when I was that close to being finished!), this is how much yarn I had left.
Once I can see through a ball of yarn, it starts to feel like a nail-biter to me. It wasn't really; there was plenty left to finish the edging, but no way could I have squeaked another repeat in the body of the shawl out of this one. Of course, I knew that I had another skein of this yarn tucked away in case of emergencies, but it really would have made me cranky to break into a whole new skein of yarn just for a couple of yards (I'm petty that way), so I'm glad it worked out the way it did.

The girls and I got home a little while ago, after taking Younger Daughter to her Irish dance lessons, and stopping at Target on the way home to pick up costumes for both girls for their spring concert. I put the shawl in to soak while I made pizzas for dinner (mmm....), and once I was done, I got the girls started on homework and headed into the guest room to block that baby. Forty (back-breaking, knee-bruising; am I the only one who finds blocking to be a painful physical process?) minutes later, it was done.
(That corner is looking wonky, now that I see the picture; must go fix it...)

It blocked as a rather attenuated triangle, rather than an even-sided one, which I very much prefer in my triangular shawls, as it turns out (who knew?). Of course, as always, the edging just has me all a-tingle.
Scrumdiddlyumptious, no?
Love it.

So, to recap. This is another one of Anne's amazing patterns, the Star of Evening Triangle. I knitted it with Lanas Puras Melosa lace weight (100% merino), in the Fern Green colorway, on size 3 Addi Turbos. The yarn came from One Planet Yarn and Fiber; they were wonderful about getting it to me quickly, and making sure I had plenty (that's also where I got the yarn for Boing). I love working with people that friendly! And of course, as always, it's a blast to work with Anne, totally aside from how much I love her patterns; it just doesn't seem like someone could be that nice, but she really is.

I do have a new project on the needles, but I'll save that for another day. I'm still at the beginning stage, where I'm not feeling the pull of the over-the-hump, more-than-halfway-there, it's-all-downhill-from-here stage of knitting. I know I will, but in the meantime, I'm thinking that tonight may be a spinning night, as I've been wanting very much to finish the second half of the Rabbitworks roving; I'm thinking that the yarn might make a nice hat or a pair of mitts for Older Daughter for our cold-weather trip this summer (and yes, that is a teaser). I've been listening to book that is an old favorite on my iPod while driving and knitting recently, and have found that I can listen while I spin, too, which is very restful and soothing (the book? one of Bujold's from the Vorkosigan saga, called Memory), so that is something to look forward to, after a day spent grading, and with stacks more to go.

But first, I must get the girls to bed. You may imagine the theme music from Psycho here; I certainly do.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Miles of knitting


It's about 1,000 miles round trip to the Bay Area, and as I drove only half of those, I got 500 miles of knitting done. This means that the body of the Star shawl is finished, and the edging (after a few false starts) is almost halfway done! It's funny how the 800 some-odd rows of edging feel so very much faster than the 200 some-odd rows of the body...
Looking good, eh?
That gives you a sense of how far I've come, I think. Maybe it's really about 1/3 of the edging completed, but that's not half bad, given that I started in the car on Sunday morning, and stopped somewhere just south of Coalinga.

Older Daughter also knitted on this trip. Her first FO:
We call it "Bag". It's her own design, up to and including the making-up (I don't know that I'd put any small valuables in there, but otherwise, she did quite nicely for a first-time seamer). How proud am I?

Our visits with Grandmom were wonderful. We'd gotten the news the day before we left that she'd had a couple of what appeared to be mini-strokes, and we were expecting that things would be pretty bad when we got there, but she appears to have made a good recovery, and we had some lovely conversations. Rick's dad had also sent her a nifty gadget that has earphones for her, and a microphone for us to talk into. It appears to direct and magnify speech better than her hearing aid does, and she was able to actually hear the girls telling her things and to respond to them for the first time in ages. Younger Daughter told Grandmom about the iguana on Virgin Gorda, and Grandmom understood almost all of it; I think that's honestly the first time that's happened, and Grandmom's hearing loss was already pretty advanced by the time Kivrin could talk, and high-pitched children's voices are the hardest for her to hear and process. It was a great moment (yes, I did get a bit teary-eyed).

We drove home (accidentally) across the Golden Gate bridge (Rick saw "south" and headed, much like a horse at the end of the day, for home, temporarily forgetting that crossing the bay on the Richmond/San Rafael bridge, as we usually do, involves a momentary northward detour from Corte Madera). We decided to make lemonade of it, and took the girls by Grandmom's old house in the Marina, and showed them the Marina green, where we used to take them (especially Older Daughter) for long walks with Grandmom before we moved. It was nice to give them a sense of just how integral a part of our lives Grandmom has been, and how much Rick and I miss the easy visits that living near her made possible. I know that Older Daughter remembers some of that, but we moved before Younger Daughter was old enough.

We also had some time to hike in the open space behind Rick's aunt and uncle's house. We saw wild turkeys; who knew they could fly so high into trees? (A good tail wind and a downhill slope seem to help.) Here's one of the few pictures from the weekend, of a turkey chick in a tree.
Can you see it there? They blend in quite nicely, but their coloration is astonishingly subtle and beautiful when viewed close to. The girls also got to play "princess of the world" (apparently I got the title of "queen of the world" as it was mother's day) on the rocks at the crest of the hill.
We also saw my parents, who kindly made the drive from Sacramento on Saturday so that they could see Grandmom, and so that I could take mom out for Mother's day (how nice was that? shouldn't I be doing the driving on mother's day?). The girls were happy to see them, and we had a nice visit, and even got to go to a bookstore together (always a favorite family activity)(more about my bookstore acquisitions another time). We also managed to get everyone (my parents, Rick's aunt and uncle and cousin and her husband) together for coffee, which was good fun. We used to all get together a lot when we lived up there, as we'd have birthday and holiday dinners at our house and both families came, but they all see less of each other now, so it was a nice mini-reunion.

Thanks so much to everyone for your kind words about Grandmom, and for all of the understanding things you all said about how important it is to take this time to visit her -- you are so right! I was away from email most of the weekend, so I'm woefully behind, but I appreciated everything each of you said.

I have one technical advice question from any Mac users out there who might be willing to help out. (I don't know very many here.) I load my pictures into iPhoto, and lately it's been doing a funny thing. I boot up the program, and all the pictures show momentarily, and then random and sporadic pictures disappear and are replaced by empty spots encircled by a dashed gray line, and I can't get the pictures to show again, nor can I upload them, say, on blogger or email. Has anyone had this happen? Any advice would be appreciated, because there are some good pictures missing (and this goes back through my whole archive, not just recent pictures). In this interests of giving all of the information, I used to (because I'm a luddite and a bit slow when it comes to technology) tell the program to import everything from my camera, but not to copy duplicates. Now I just tell it to import the latest photos; could that have anything to do with it?

Happy Monday, everyone!

Thursday, May 8, 2008


The jacarandas have begun to jacarandize. I wait for this all year. It begins with the faintest of purple hazes in the jacaranda trees, and ends with all of them in full purple glory. Can you see the little bit of purple there?
Soon the whole tree will be covered with it. Along with trees all over our neighborhood. I can't wait. It's one of my favorite moments of spring in the southland, to see exuberantly purpling trees on every street.

Alas, I will have to wait, as we are leaving for the Bay Area tonight. We've been planning to go up to see Grandmom for a couple of weeks now, ever since we heard that she'd begun receiving hospice care at her assisted living facility. At this point, the hospice person only comes to check in on her every so often, but it's a sign of things to come, and we want to spend as much time as we can with her this summer. This morning we heard that she's had what appear to be a couple of mini-strokes in the past 24 hours, so I think that we're going none too soon. We'll spend the weekend there, and start looking for an opportunity to spend as much as a week up there this summer so that we can see her for short stints each day, which is all that she has the energy for any more.

It's hard to believe, though. I realize that it's been almost exactly 19 years since I met her. Rick and I had been dating for a few months, and had realized that we were getting to a place where our families were going to have to be involved at some point, and we'd better just get it over with. He came up to see me over summer break in Sacramento, and after a few days with my parents, we drove into the City to stay with Grandmom for a while. I remember so clearly driving up to her house in the Marina, and walking up to the front door to ring the doorbell, wondering what this first meeting with someone from Rick's family would be like. She flung the door open, took one look at this imposing 6' 6" man at my side, threw her arms open, and joyfully said, "Ricky!" I about died laughing. Ricky? Snortgiggle.

For all kinds of reasons, many having to do with proximity at the right age, I think that we're closer to Grandmom than either of us was with any of our other grandparents. We lived across the Bay from her for 10 years, and spent a lot of time with her during that period. We had our engagement pictures taken at a beach near her house. She took us on a tour of the Legion (where she docented) when I was hugely pregnant with Older Daughter. We cooked at her house, shared meals with her, and took long walks on the Marina green. She and I (along with Rick's mom and and aunt and my mom) went to France together for 10 days soon after Rick and I were married. She has always been stubbornly independent, and fiercely interested in everything that happens around her. It's hard to see her frail, blinded by macular degeneration, nearly deaf. But it's better to see her than not.

So I've been spending much of today getting things done around the house so that we can leave. I did take a much-needed break with a dear friend; good conversation and Indian food and a little bit of yarn shopping never hurt anyone, right? I picked up a little bit of yarn (in spite of the fact that we were ostensibly shopping for yarn for my friend to knit her very first sweater ever for her daughter; I figured that some sympathetic purchasing was in order, just to be encouraging, don't you know)...
The pink one (shades of dusty rose colors) will, I think, become the lace scarf that Older Daughter has been asking for. It's her kind of colors. I'm not sure about the other one, which has blues and browns and greens in it, but I'm pretty sure that I can think of something to do with it.

All right, I'm off to pack. If I don't manage to post this weekend (which is starting to look very full, between visits with Grandmom and Rick's aunt and uncle and cousin, and my parents who are kindly coming from Sacramento so I can take Mom out for Mother's day), I will most definitely be back on Monday. And with luck, I will come back with a completed stars shawl in hand; after all, 1,000 miles of driving in three days has to be good for something, right?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


It's spring, and a young person's fancy turns to thoughts of (apparently)...


The neighborhood is crawling. Positively lousy with puppies. I think everyone has gotten one.

When I drive, when I walk the dogs, when I get the mail. Puppies. Everywhere. Who knew I was part of a trend?

This morning, for the first time, I left Kia behind when I took Tilly out for a quick pre-prandial morning stroll. If I don't have to walk until about 8:00, Kia's good to go. But on the mornings that I need to get the puppy walked earlier, she's so stiff that the walk is agonizing for all of us. Tilly, because we're going so slowly; me, because I'm trying to control 22 lbs of anxiously straining puppy at the end of the leash (I'm also not getting much of a cardio workout); and (I can only assume) Kia, who looks so stiff it's hard for me to watch. So, as equally hard as it was to see her face when I left this morning without her, I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and headed out.

It's very funny to walk Tilly after all of these years with Kia, for so many reasons. Kia is a long-legged dog. Very long-legged (in fact, I remember when we'd first gotten her and Grandmom told me that I was going to start to look like that dog if I spent any more time with her, and all I could think was "lean and long-legged? let me at it"). And Tilly isn't. So, where Kia always pranced in her younger days, picking her legs up merrily with each step, head held high in the air, Tilly swarms along down low on the ground, snuffling at everything.

We will start puppy classes (assuming all goes well) next Monday night, now that I'm done teaching Monday classes. I'm looking forward to the day when Tilly's under voice control, and we can walk together without quite so much reliance on the leash, if for no other reason than that I won't have to stop whenever she wants to give something a quick sniff. I'm also looking forward to having her understand the importance of heeling to my left side; whenever she gets a scant bit of leash, she crosses to my right, which drives me batty. Since we walk facing traffic, if she's on my left, I'm on the road side, which makes me feel better about her safety relative to cars, which are more likely to see me than her (as short as I am, she's shorter).

Today's a pictureless post, as I haven't got my camera, and it hasn't any new pictures on it in any case. However, thanks to an extended Senate meeting today, I finished the eighth repeat of the stars shawl, and will be starting on the ninth (and final) repeat. Anne has decided on an edging for the top bit, and will be sending that to me soon. I'm completely charmed by it (but then, we all know that I have an unnatural relationship with edgings), and can't wait to get started. Soon, my precious, soon... But now, I must go face the last independent study of the semester, after which there are no more students to see; just miles and miles of grading.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Slowly and surely

Work on the shawl continues. I am making progress, and I can feel that I'm making progress, but it doesn't show very well in photos; more of the same, is more like it.
Does it look any bigger? It is, honestly. I'm now done with seven repeats, and into the eighth, so I'm getting there. I knitted at it a bit at a time today, in between loads of laundry (ah, the joy of Sundays at home). Here's the body and the edging closer up.
Patterns like this really suck me in. In 24 rows, the bigger motif repeats twice, and the smaller three times, and 24 rows feels like a really approachable number, especially as I've split them into four row sections on my chart with pencil lines. So I knit one RS row, and then of course, I have to knit the corresponding WS row, and then I notice that I'm only two more rows away from finishing a 4-row section, so I get those next two done, and then hey, look how far I've come, better do one more RS row and then... Well, you get the picture. Apparently I'm easily amused.

I've also been spinning this week, working on the Linguistic roving that Rabbitch dyed for me. Sitting down at the wheel for short periods of time is starting to feel easier, as it no longer takes quite so long for me to settle in.
What do you think? Aren't the colors amazing? They really are that vibrant, and there's an amazing royal blue in there, too, that you can't see so well in this shot. I'll be spinning another bobbin full with the second half of the roving, and then plying them together. I can't wait to see how it turns out.

In other news, it would appear that it's a good rattlesnake year here. In all the years I've lived and hiked in California (that would be my whole life, now I come to think of it), I have only ever seen two rattlesnakes, one in Simi Valley, and one in Big Sur. On Friday, I doubled that number. Rick and I took the dogs hiking while the girls had their piano lesson, and we saw two big fat rattlers on the trail. Neither of them could be bothered to even rattle at us, although their rattles were clearly visible, as were the diamonds on their backs, and their triangle-shaped heads. Tilly almost stepped on the first one, which was coiled up on the side of the trail (all 3 1/2 feet of him), and Rick saw the second across the trail before we got too close. Luckily, Kia has never been much of a dog for chasing wildlife, and Tilly didn't seem interested, but we're seriously thinking of enrolling in one of those rattlesnake-avoidance classes as part of her training. Laura pointed out yesterday that it's a big rabbit year, which usually means a rise in rattlesnakes and coyotes, and both of those snakes looked fat and well-fed, so I think we'll need to start being even more careful than we usually are.

Tonight, Rick and I get to go out for dinner -- a date! We're off very soon; an evening out the two of us is a rare and precious commodity, so I'm looking forward to it. And then on to the last week of classes before finals. Almost there...

Saturday, May 3, 2008


Today was a good day.

The morning was good for the usual Saturday morning reasons; the farmer's market was wonderful and busy (except that the fiber lady wasn't there, which was a disappointment), and Older Daughter made it to and from her placement exam at her new school with no incident. But that's not what made this day particularly fun. The really fun stuff came later.

I had a date. With knitters.

At 11:00, I checked the traffic heading down I-5 to Encinitas after hearing someone on NPR announce that Legoland was expecting 70,000 vehicles today. For the love of Pete, I mean really. Luckily, there's a back way to Encinitas which involves not a single freeway (I know, anathema to anyone from the southland, but that's the way it goes), so I set out at 11:20, and made it to Encinitas in time for my 12:00 date.

With whom, you may ask? Why, with these lovely ladies.
That's Laura, and Anne, and (sadly blogless) Kim. (I've always wanted to write that "sadly blogless" thing; does this mean that I've arrived?)

Laura and Kim are both wearing shawls designed and knitted by Laura (are they not stunning?), and Anne is wearing (in an amazing incidence of worlds colliding) the Simurgh that she designed and I knitted. How wonderful is that? (It looks much better on her than on me, alas; but I made sure to get it back anyway.)

We had a lovely afternoon. We ate lunch at a Peruvian place on Coast Highway called Q'ero that I'd never tried but will be going back to just as soon as I can justify the drive south. The appetizers were particularly wonderful (I'm a sucker for appetizers in any case, and fried yucca with yummy sauce is my idea of heaven on earth), as was the company. Alas, the one picture I got of us in the restaurant doesn't really convey the fun we were having (Kim is getting out pictures of her handsome sons and beautiful daughter here; they sound like an amazingly fun bunch of young people -- I hope I do so well with mine!).
Trust me, it was good.

Then we headed for Common Threads, where we spent a great deal of time wandering about and patting the yarn (we will not speak of the fact that I accidentally picked up yarn for a pair of socks for Rick and a sweater for Younger Daughter, as well as a knitting book for Older Daughter, and a copy of the Wallaby pattern for a friend whom I am attempting to enable), before settling down in the back room to visit and compare lace.

When we'd sat long enough, we wandered a few blocks south to The Black Sheep, where I may have acquired a Lantern Moon bag, but I'm not saying. A small post-shopping amount of chocolate was consumed before we all headed out for our various homes. I think I may have had the shortest distance to travel, as Laura was headed up to Orange County, and Anne and Kim had to drive back to Kim's house before getting Anne onto a plane tonight for Ohio (I hope the flight went well, Anne!).

It was wonderful. It was nice to spend some time with like-minded knitters, and especially wonderful to meet Anne in person, as her email friendship has become such a great part of my life; her kindness and sense of humor are just as apparent in person as they have been as we've corresponded since last fall. Isn't it great when people turn out to be just as wonderful as they seem? And I'm hoping that, as we're in the same region, Kim and I will be able, at least once in a while, to indulge our love of bags together (call me, baby, you know I'll go bag shopping with you any day).

Not much knitting got done, but that's OK. It was truly knitterly anyway. And I am still making good progress on the stars shawl; I'm almost six and a half repeats in, and Anne thinks that it may only need nine, instead of ten. I'll see how I'm feeling when I get there, and how it's looking; I still haven't decided whether I'm keeping this one for myself or giving it away, and that may make a difference, as I'm short, and the person who might get it isn't quite so short as I (there need be no comments here about how no-one is as short as I, really -- I'm quite aware). I've also started another project about which I will write tomorrow that I think will be good car knitting for our trip up north next weekend. I'm hoping to get those two things done before starting on anything else too big. (Read: I am attempting desperately to ignore the cries of "cast me on, cast me on!" coming from the skein of Noro in my yarn bowl.)

Tomorrow: pictures of the star shawl (which just looks like a bigger version of what I've shown you before, but it's what I've got to show you), and my latest spinning project. And a story about hiking and rattlesnakes.

Friday, May 2, 2008


I took these pictures yesterday, but didn't get around to posting them. I also didn't really make the list I'd promised myself I would (maybe this morning?), but I did begin to do some research for two of the projects that are hanging over my head, so I didn't completely fall down on the job.

Here it is, off the pins. I love this scarf!
I know I've said it before, but this stitch motif is so lively, and combined with the flow of the colors in this yarn, it's vibrant, without being overwhelming. It's not overly-long, which I like; it is the kind of thing that can be tucked into a collar to keep the chill off (I was hard put not to wear it yesterday, as it was bit breezy and cool, but I made do with Gust instead)(I know, my life is hard). Here it is, wrapped around my neck.
Not the world's best picture, but it gives you an idea of the length (it turns out it's hard to take pictures of yourself!).

On Monday, I'll be giving this scarf to my friend Patricia, for bravery and generosity above and beyond the call of friendship. I've been thinking a lot lately about the fact that I am not particularly good at accepting what I might call random acts of kindness directed at me. This has been borne home to me in a couple of ways this semester, and I think it's one of the long-lingering remnants of some very deeply-felt insecurities (of the "how could I possibly be worth this kind of effort on the part of other people" sort). One of the things that has brought this home to me is how worried I was at the beginning of the semester about asking my friend Patricia if she'd help me out in a class, and how much more worried I became when she said yes (what if she hates it? what if she has a miserable time? what if she never wants to talk to me again when this is over? -- that kind of thing).

The class I have been teaching is a course in linguistic field methods. The idea is to give students a taste of what it would be like to be a real, live field linguist, faced with gathering data about a language they don't know and then analyzing that data with an eye towards documentation. This, of course, requires a speaker of a language that none of us knows (the course tends to go even better if the professor also doesn't know the language; students then get the experience -- and the faculty member gets the stress -- of seeing the professor analyze data on the fly). And my friend, originally from Senegal, speaks not only English and French, but also Wolof. And when I asked whether she'd consider being our consultant, she said yes.

She said yes, in spite of the fact that she was nervous about it, not having used Wolof in regular conversation for some time. She said yes, in spite of the fact that this meant coming to campus right after working all day with preschool students (she's a Montessori teacher, and we know how much I admire people who have the patience to work with small humans all day) to spend two hours working with college students. For the first half of the semester, she also had to pick up her two children and bring them to the class with her, where they amused themselves like troopers in the back of the classroom.

And let me tell you, she made me look good in there! She's the kind of consultant that every linguist wants. Patient, willing to repeat herself endless numbers of times (maybe the Montessori training coming through?), engaged in the process, and charmed every time she figured out what it was the students were trying to learn about Wolof; having a speaker say, "I never knew my language did that! How neat!" is every field linguist's dream. And because she is that kind of person, because she was friendly, and patient when my students had trouble writing what she was saying on the board, or when their questions didn't make sense the first time, she made my students' jobs easier, which made me look like I'd planned this whole thing to the hilt, instead of just being along for the ride (which is what fieldwork is really all about).

And she did all of that, just because I asked. I tell you, that's a lot of pressure for a person who would just as soon not put people out on her behalf if at all possible (that would be me).

It's the kind of thing that reminds me that many people really are, at heart, kind. And that people really do commit selfless acts, just because it's the right thing to do, or because they care about the person they're helping. It's a nice thing to be reminded of. And so I'm going to give her Boing! (which fits her personality in so many ways -- she has to be one of the most vibrant people I know), which is a small thing, but what I've got right now. From the moment I finished the first pattern repeat, I knew this was her scarf, so on Monday, off it goes, with my thanks for both making my class fun enough that I wish it wouldn't end (!!), and for reminding me that acts of kindness offered with grace should be accepted with grace. I'm working on it.