Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's been how long?

I just looked at the last date I posted, and it's been nearly two weeks! I was asking myself where the time went, but then I realized that I know exactly where that time went: to the conference in New Orleans, and then family and Thanksgiving. I suppose that's enough right there to take up all of that time, not to mention work, and the usual other things that come with two kids and life in general.

New Orleans was absolutely wonderful. We got in late Thursday night (the week before Thanksgiving), and I was at an 8:00 am panel the next morning. But it was a fascinating panel, on languages in Louisiana, so that was worth the early morning; it certainly gave me some interesting ideas for changing one of my classes next semester. I actually ended up at 8 am panels all three mornings of the conference, but as they were all interesting, I decided that it was worth the pain of that alarm (remember, NO is two hours later than California, so it felt a lot earlier than it was). I survived my talk on Saturday evening; no-one laughed, people seemed interested, and there was a knitter in the audience, waving her knitting at me when I talked about knitting during meetings. This is the second year in a row that someone has come to a talk on knitting to knit in the audience, and I can't tell you how much it means. Both times, the person was gone before the Q&A period, so I didn't get to say thanks, but it's a friendly thing that makes the room feel warmer. I could tell when I started my talk that people were doing that thing that people do when knitting comes up, sort of crossing their arms and preparing to weather the next fifteen minutes until someone talks about a more interesting/important topic, but when I mentioned the 2700 respondents to my survey (thank you all!), there was a stirring in the room as people sat up, and when I talked about what happened with Tina at BMFA a few years back, there were gasps. I got some interested questions at the end, too, so all in all, I'm declaring it a success.

The conference also gave me some knitting time, and I finished my New Orleans socks; they're Gothic enough for the part, don't you think?
I even wore them on Sunday, at the second half of my panel. I think I'll wear these a lot; they fit beautifully, and they look nice.
These are really fun socks to knit; the lace at the top provides a bit of interest, but the rest is really simple to remember, so they're perfect for knitting at meetings, or other places that require some attention. I knitted the lace bit of the second sock on the flight out, so I was perfectly set up to finish them on Friday and Saturday.

On Sunday, I cast on for a pair of socks for Rick that I am working my way through right now.

But conference attending and knitting was not all I did in New Orleans, oh no! We listened to live music every single night we were there, even though it made those early-morning alarms harder to take - and it was absolutely wonderful. I adore live music, and I love jazz, and New Orleans has plenty of both and to spare. We also ate and ate, and I got to try every single thing I'd wanted to eat. On Friday, Rick met me outside the conference to grab some lunch, and we headed off to a place that came up on Yelp when he looked for lunch spots in New Orleans. We got there, and there was a group of conference attendees waiting, but I took one look at the menu and saw things like lovely little spring salads with blue cheese and took Rick aside and told him that I had one word for him: gumbo. Or po' boys. Jambalaya. We were in New Orleans, and there was no way I was eating food I can get in any big city! He is a good man, and promptly found K Paul's where I ate a shrimp remoulade and fried green tomato po' boy, with a cup of gumbo on the side. Now that's what I'm talking about!

And it only got better from there. We ate gumbo and jambalaya, po' boys and beignets (a word to the wise: do not eat beignets outside in the wind while wearing black jeans; ask me how I know), crawfish etouffee and grits with mustard greens, all washed down with good local beer and topped off with bread pudding and pecan pie. Man alive, it is impossible to eat badly in a city like that. We met a guy on the flight home who said he didn't like New Orleans because the food was no good and he didn't like the jazz. I about cried.

We also went on a post-Katrina tour, where I also about cried. We saw the places where the levees broke, and went into the Lower Ninth Ward. I am still coming to grips with the fact that, five years later, there are still houses standing empty and destroyed, with the spray-painted marks of rescue crews on the walls, cheek by jowl with the empty lots that were once the homes of New Orleanians. I wonder why it is that we have funds for reconstruction in other countries, but we have not yet finished the reconstruction of one of our own great cities and ports? I wonder if there's any reason anyone could give me that I would find compelling enough. I wish I had the right words to convey the sense of outrage and sorrow I feel, but I don't know that I do. I do know that I want to know more about what happened, and what's happening, and that I will find out.

We came home on Tuesday, met my aunt at the airport, and headed home, where my parents and the girls were waiting for us. They'd all had a wonderful time together; I'm surprised the girls were excited to see us at all, given how much my parents spoil them (their perogative, I think). We had 15 people here for Thanksgiving, all delightful company - it was a wonderful evening.

My parents and aunt left on Friday, and we've been slowly getting ourselves ready to face the week ahead. I avoided (as I always avoid) Black Friday shopping, except for one thing: my LYS was having a sale, so while the turkey stock was simmering, I headed over and got a few skeins of yarn and my coupon book for the year. I ended up with two skeins of Noro (I can't remember which kind), enough to make a hat and mitts for each of the girls, one skein of Noro Silk Garden for socks for me, and a skein of sock yarn to make socks for my dad. I started on a hat for younger daughter right away, and finished that and the first mitt this morning.
She could not keep her eyes open when the flash went, so it's either pictures with closed eyes, or bad color. I'm going for the good color, as you can see. It's completely unblocked, but I'm not sure I'm going to get it back to block it.
With luck, I'll finish the second mitt today, and she can wear them to school this week; it's been more than chilly enough for it around here!

And now I think I'm caught up, and with luck I'll be able to stay caught up as I make it through these last weeks of the semester; if only I could say the same about my grading...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

One foot in front of the other

I'm still moving forward, and still knitting. And I'm actually finishing some projects - successfully, even - which is a good feeling. The rest of life continues to be overwhelming, and every time I think I'm seeing an end in sight, something else gets added to the back of the queue. My date now for feeling like I can actually take a breather without something hanging over my head is December 12. One more month. (Although I suppose I should acknowledge that grades aren't due until the 22nd, so I probably won't feel really done until then, but it should be an indication of how overwhelmed I am that stacks and stacks of grading feels like the least of my worries!)

Meanwhile, though, knitting successes are happening. First, I present: Bel Air.
I finished it Thursday night and blocked it yesterday morning. I am wearing it right now.
This is a good one! The pattern was perfectly clear, as Anne's patterns tend to be, and each bit went off without a hitch. I love the colors, which will look good with jeans (my ubiquitous uniform), and I think this will also look good with dark brown - still need to check, but that would be nice. The simplicity of most of the sweater is offset by the gorgeous lace of the front, which worked really well with the variegation in the yarn, I think.
It fits perfectly (yay!), and I can already tell this is going to be one of those sweaters I wear a LOT. It's a perfect weight for life here in SoCal, as it's knitted out of sock yarn - very fine, with a lovely drape.

Project details: Bel Air, by Anne Hanson. Knitted out of Malabrigo sock, colorway Persia. I used somewhat less than the three skeins I'd bought, and ended up with 1 1/8 oz left; that's about 140 yards, so maybe enough for a pair of clog socks? We'll see. Knitted using a size two needle for the ribbed hems, and size three for the body. My Rav project page has all the details.

Now I need to decide whether this is dressy enough to wear for my presentation a week from today (!!). I think it may be, even with these black jeans if I can't find something else; the AAA is a fairly casual conference in many ways, but I don't like to push it.

I also finished a second hat; I'm thinking of calling it the Cloisters Cap (that's how the Rav pages are labelled right now). It turned out exactly as it should have, and the chart I'd put together from examining the first one worked like a charm.
There was one cable that I sent the wrong way on the chart, but that's fixed now. The girls seem very happy with them, and I'm thinking I might need to get one more ball each of those yarn colors to add to the leftovers from the hats to make mitts. We'll see.
The pattern is all together in one place now. Alas, that place is my notebook, rather than my computer.
I am trying very hard to download one of the free knitting fonts that's out there so I can chart this thing in either Excel or Word, but I am having no luck. I realize that this must be an artifact of my feeling overwhelmed; how hard could it be to get a font to load? It will happen, and then I'll get this thing charted and pdf'd and posted to Ravelry.

Meanwhile, I'm going to work on this sock, I think.
Socks are soothing.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Down time

Work is still a big ol' piece of crazy pie, and looks like it will be for a while. It is inspiring me to think quite a bit about fear, and the overcoming thereof, which I might post about at some point, if I can make all of my thoughts cohere on that topic.

In the meantime, I decided that the better part of valor, when all is nutty in multiple areas of my life, would be to simplify as much as possible in those places where I can, and to insist upon my right not to feel guilty, or like a failure, for doing so. (Note: I am the only one trying to deny me that right, so it's a rather internal sort of insistence.) Yesterday was one of those days with event piled upon event: two soccer games (the last in Older Daughter's season), a play to go to (a dear friend's daughter), and an evening fund-raiser for Younger Daughter and her classmates' trip to New York in the spring for the Montessori Model UN. They are going as delegates of Angola, and she had a little speech to give on the languages, festivals, and history of Angola (very little - a few sentences on each). I'm guessing that her teachers ended up regretting giving her the language bit as I took one look at it, gasped at the mistakes, and reworked it with her (without warning them, but come on! we all know I couldn't let that go). It was much better once it got fixed. (heh) In any case, everything went as smoothly as a day like that could go, and I cast on for another hat like the green one, this time in blue, for Younger Daughter.

In the wake of a few questions about it (for which, thanks!), I have decided to try my hand at writing out the pattern for it. I spent some time during the warm-ups for the first soccer game yesterday charting the cables, using the first hat as a model, then cast on to see if following my chart would get me a hat. I got through the set-up and into the first couple of cable rows before the games were over, and then wasn't able to pick it up again until last night, when Rick and I finally sat down to watch a movie. But somehow my third cable row didn't match the chart, and that's when I decided not to feel guilty, or like a failure, for putting it down and doing something easier for the moment. (She learns! It's a shallow learning curve, but there is progress.) I haven't picked it up yet today, but I think I know what happened, and it was just a matter of picking up too many stitches in one row.

Older Daughter wore hers last night, and I admit to being really rather disgustingly happy with the way it turned out.
It's a little askew there (she'd just been accosted by many small children wanting to buy raffle tickets).
It reminds me a little of the stonework in a cloisters,

or lacey carvings

or of old arches.

In any case, I'll keep working on it when my brain can handle it. I need to figure out how to chart it (outside of my notebook). Anyone know any good charting software that won't break the bank? I suppose Excel is an option, right?

Meanwhile, today was spent here at home, knitting Bel Air, and reading a book. Just what the doctor ordered.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Small successes

I did it! I completed a knitting project successfully!! Hooray!

OK. It's a hat. Probably not worth nearly the number of exclamation points that appear in that first line, but I'll take what I can get these days, you know?
There it is. It's a size that actually fits a human head (as opposed to, say, a hippo head). All of the little cables worked out the way I wanted them to, and they cross in nifty ways, and do you see how it made one triangle inside another triangle? How cool is that? I knitted it on 1/3 fewer stitches than last time (which should give you a sense of how much too big the last one was).
That's the patterning on one of the thirds. It's more hat-like than tam-like, really, and if Older Daughter doesn't end up wearing it, I will. (heh) I'm planning to head on over to my LYS to get some of the same yarn in blue to knit one of these for Younger Daughter, too.
The real color is somewhere between this picture and the last two.

To recap, this is a hat knitted out of Classic Elite Yarns Waterlily, on size eight needles, in my own pattern. Here's my project page on Ravelry.

It's also finally winter squash season at our farmer's market (even though temps today are going to be in the 90s, sigh), so I've been pulling out some of my favorite recipes. Butternut squash tart, anyone?