Monday, March 27, 2006

Listen To This....

If you haven't discovered podcasts yet, you should. If there is ever a time when you just can't knit (and yes there are those times) and you MUST have your knitting fix, a knitting podcast can do the trick. There are several out there and more starting up. The two I download are in the sidebar listed under Ear Candy. Go to the sites, click on the episode link, then save it to your hard drive. Be warned; Brenda's podcasts are usually over half an hour long making for a long download. So if you have dial-up, don't have anything else running on your computer, make a pot of tea, and settle down with your knitting for a couple of hours as the megabytes slooooooooowly wend their way from Wales to your home.

Today was one of those days when I was so glad to have a podcast or two already downloaded. I had a nasty cold a couple of weeks ago that required antibiotics. Foolish me didn't start up my yogurt to replenish my gut flora right away so I've had to cope with the consequences these last few days. I was doing all right for a while today at work, but the strain of it caught up with me this afternoon and I had to go home. So after making a quick stop at the store for necessary supplies, I went home and to bed. I was tired but not sleepy. Too tired to read or knit but not tired enough to conk out. So I dug out my iPod and my headphones and listened to the latest Cast-On, this week hosted by Franklin Habit.

Now, I will try to keep my gushing admiration for Franklin restrained, but it's really hard to. The guy is erudite and eloquent and really really nice. A part of me wants to find the abusive ex that made his life hell because no one should have to put up with that. I learned about him through QueerJoe (who admits he's green with envy with Franklin's success) and saw his name on other blog lists and thought "Who is this Franklin guy?" Then I read his blog. I started with entry one and worked my way through the months to get a good idea of who he is. Do you do that? I feel like when I start reading a blog I'm starting a book in the middle, so I go back as far as I can to start. It's only then that I feel I have a right to comment on something without feeling like a dork. When I got up to his current entry, I was very impressed. I can see why people read his blog regularly. He's a writer, not just a blogger. And a very good one.

Franklin had done some wonderful essays on Cast-On, so I was interested to hear what his guest hosting on this week's installment was like. Today I had my opportunity and it was very pleasant. There are calls for him to do his own podcast, but I can imagine that he has a full enough schedule and podcasting on a regular basis would be tough. But I can see him guest hosting more than once.

Franklin, if you're reading this, you can be assured of this from me. I would never say to you "Are you learning to knit?" while you're working on a jacquard on a commuter train. I would kneel at your feet, not worthy of being in your godlike presence, and fetch you anything you desire: cowboys, wool, needles......

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Busy Week

This morning's walk was a joy. One block was full of birds all in song. A woodpecker was busy in one of the big trees. The air was brisk and fresh. My knees were protesting in the beginning but once I got going they settled down. On the way back, I passed a venerable old tree with one branch creaking in the low wind. I took a moment to listen to this tree speak before making my way back home to breakfast and tea.

Norma's Not-So-Sekrit Sox are done! They are warm and snug and will keep her tootsies nice and comfy on chilly mornings. They're knitted out of Rauma Babygarn doubled, one skein each of turquoise, bright pink, lime green, and white.

The Mystery project is slowly coming along. Part of it involved doing some lace samples. I worked some on some fingering weight merino first to get a feel for the pattern, then pulled out some crochet cotton and am working on the final product here. The coin is a US nickel. I'm working the cotton on #1's. I've found that I can't talk and knit this at the same time. It's a work I have to do alone with little distraction.

As I was struggling turning the heel on the second Norma Sekrit Sox and working the lace, I decided to take a break from it and work on a project I had set aside prior to the Knitting Olympics in February. The Tasha Tudor shawl is being done in Sirdar Denim Tweed DK and I had finished the top edging when I ran short of yarn. Finding more of it was out of the question, so I substituted for the last two edges Sirdar Denim Chunky in blue. So far it's coming out fine and when it is done will be a nice wrap to have on hand at the office.

You'll find changes on the side bar. I've pulled out my favorite podcasts from the listing of favorite blogs. There are a few familiar faces; take a look at the unfamiliar.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Comment replies


I want to thank everyone who has offered suggestions on how I could enhance my exercise regime. I want to add that I have sensitive skin (I've been prone to eczema and contact dermatitis since birth) and have found that prolonged participation in water exercise such as swimming or aquatic aerobics really tears up my skin. Prior to my surgery I did participate in a water aerobics program and really enjoyed it, but since the surgery I've found that my knees can't handle it. The side to side motion of some of the exercises cause my knees to go slightly out of joint then back into joint, aggravating the arthritis already there.

I'm starting out with walking as it's the exercise I can do. When I get in better shape, I'll visit Curves and see if circuit exercise will help. I took a course a few years ago and noted a great improvement, but the place where I went to work out was always busy and the equipment I could use always had a line

Trip to Hawaii

Anonymous asked me where I would spend the days I'm in Hawaii. I know I'll go visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I'll be bringing my Canon AE-1 camera, an old workhorse of a camera that takes fabulous pictures, to use while I'm sightseeing. I'll want to visit the coffee plantations by Kona and see the surf and beaches. I also want to spend time with Alicia and Norma learning how to spin with a handspindle as well as with a wheel.

Who let all these sheep in the house?

Linda at the office got a big kick out of my knitting. I found a little sheep and a Beanie Baby sheep at Finnegan's Toys while I was shopping for her birthday. A few weeks later, I was gifted with five more sheep and a big sheep for my birthday. Over time I've acquired quite a few, who have dressed up in Halloween costumes, gotten festive for Christmas, and can't wait for my birthday.

If they smoke and drink, they'd be partying with Dolores. Occasionally I find confetti on my desk, so I know these guys like to party.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Spring vapors

It must be due to the changing of the season. It could be due to the sunshine that has graced us for the past few days, including this morning. Whatever it was it motivated me to try to break a bad habit.

I'm a large woman, as you have seen in past posts. I've never been really active on a regular basis. Give me the choice and I'd rather curl up in a chair with a good book. But this lackadaisical attitude is working against me. I'm 90 pounds overweight. Not a good thing at all. Not that it's easy for me to lose it. I've been heavy all my life. But age is against me and if I don't start changing some of my habits I'm going to pay for it big time down the road.

The majority of city dwellers rely on some sort of transportation to get to work simply because they live too far from their employment. This has been true for the last half-century or so. If I belonged to the majority, it would make sense for me to drive to work every day. But I don't need to. I live 6 blocks from work.

The habit started when my knees got so bad from ill-placed kneecaps that I had to drive. I also developed plantar fasciitis. After knee surgery and orthotics, the reason for walking to work went away. Then I got my dream car.

Ever since I got my Beetle, I've driven to work. I just love it so much! I stroke it when I go by it. I'm smitten, I tell you!

My dream car is killing me.

This morning, I woke up and realized that if I didn't break the habit of driving to work, I would ruin my health and my car. There is no reason for me not to walk. So this morning I walked to work. It was a beautiful morning full of song and the rush of morning traffic. By the time I got to work, my butt was saying to me, "What the hell are you doing?"

I walked home and got the same reaction. Instead of plopping into a chair, I stretched my muscles to make them shut up. They've been inactive too long.

I have further motivation. If I'm to walk about Hawaii in three months, I need to get in better shape. Walking around New York City was a wake up call. I thought I could make those blocks without any trouble but my body told me otherwise. I'm not going to be an old lady yet. I have years yet to go if I work it right.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

She knit an itsy bitsy teeny weeny.....

.....piece of lace. As part of the Mystery project, I thought I'd try some fine gauge knitting. I found some needles size .5 mm that caught my eye if nothing for their lovely beads. They're German steel with nice points. Knitting with them was interesting. I thought that the beads would be too heavy but they proved to be a good counterweight that kept my stitches from being too tight.

The yarn was a no-label laceweight merino (2/16 is written on the label for you number junkies--some day I'll know what that means. Probably sooner than later, knowing my friends) that I picked up from KnitPicks' company store in Vancouver WA. The sample is an easy eyelet that could be a scarf pattern. Use a needle size 3 or 4 sizes larger than what is called for on the yarn label (i.e. a size 7 weight yarn use a size 10 needle).

Cast on with a loose cast off an even number of stitches + 10.

Knit first 4 rows.
Row 1 - K5, *YO, k2tog* to last 5 stitches, K5
Row 2 - Purl
Row 3 - K6, *YO, k2tog* to last 6 stitches, K6
Row4 - Purl
Repeat Rows 1 through 4 until desired length. End by knitting Rows 1 and 2, then knit 4 rows, then cast off with a loose cast off. Block so that the eyelets are round and even.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

"And the funny thing is....."

".....I'm not Irish!"

Interview with the winner of the Wearin' of the Most Green Contest. A lovely lass she is. They say she knits a little on the side and has a lilting voice that could win over the devil. The winner received a pot of gold and a sheep.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tuesday Tidbits

What the.... As I was driving home today, I noticed stapled to telephone poles flyers with phone number fringe. They were advertisements for petitioner jobs. For what issue? Saving the environment! Now call me crazy but isn't the person posting paper that will end up flying around as litter on the street kind of mixing the message here?

Project progress. One of the mystery project foundation pieces is nearly done. I just have to utilize my talent in squeezing every millimeter of Koigu out of the skein before I run out. It's raised a few eyebrows as I've been working on it at the office. And no it's not obscene. I am proud at how well the shaping has come out, considering I'm doing this with no pattern.

I went to my doctor yesterday about getting some drugs for the crud I'm dealing with. I remarked at how people could take a pulse easily when I have a heck of a time doing it. Later, I showed him the Heart Wave sock. He was impressed and asked me, "How do you do it?" "How do you take a pulse?" I answered. He laughed.

Whispers.... I got a tip about another position at the office. Something more computer related and challenging without the daily dullness of same ole same ole. The pay scale minimum starts $9 per hour more than what I make now. What the hell. You don't move unless you seize opportunities. I may even get the job. If I do, I'll get my boss drunk so that he can get through the transition of training someone to take my place.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Visions of hula girls

If you let the spirit of the world carry you, things can happen that you least expect. You toss your wishes out to the spirit and have the faith that some day they will come true. It doesn't mean you just sit back and let the world revolve around you. There is interaction required, usually in the form of generosity and respect toward others. It happened with my Carnegie Hall trip. I stepped forward with the intention in my mind that it would be real.

A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling kind of lost. I had no real goal now that my trip was over. So I thought, what would happen if I decided I would go abroad? What if I made plans to go to Wales for example to visit Brenda and Tonia? It was a fun exercise and what seemed to be a daunting goal appeared more workable. And someday I'll go.

The spirit of the world decided I needed to go someplace else first.

In the back of my mind as I was knitting up the Heart Wave sock, I thought, wouldn't it be a hoot to hand deliver these to Norma? Then I thought, what if I made a very special gift for Alicia and deliver that too? And all the fiber I want to take with me? After all, it's just a hop across the ocean, right?

So I looked at flights. Hmm. Not as spendy as flying to Wales, but not cheap. But wait. I just finished my taxes and I have refunds coming my way, enough to pay for the flight. I passed on the suggestion to Alicia for fun and before we knew it we were planning our time together. All I needed to do was make new vacation arrangements at work and we'd be set. That turned out to be no problem.

So on Father's Day, I will be flying to Hilo to spend 5 nights in paradise. SQUEAL!!

I better bring my spindle.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Gawdess of the Rubbah Slippahs

When the Olympics were over, the one thing that struck me was I wanted to do something else besides the sweater. I wasn't happy with the zipper, so I ripped it out. I put in a button band but it's not put in right (it ripples, meaning I picked up too many stitches). The pockets aren't in. So in a way, I'm not done, which means I'm not an Olympian. Well I am an Olympian; it was technically complete when the torch went out. I was thrilled that I finished a sweater in 16 days. But the satisfaction was tempered by my dissatisfaction with how it came out. It happens all too often. I get in a hurry and don't pay attention. I want to get the damn thing done and over with!

Well, the sweater is wearable and I'm getting lots of oohs and ahhs from people who see it, so there is that satisfaction. With the chill weather we've been having lately, it's been handy to have on hand. But I'm not going to touch it for a while. It's going to sit with its ripply buttonband and lack of pockets for now. I must move on.

The first post-Olympic project was a pair of fingerless gauntlets done up in the Paint Box. The recipient, Linda, is a viola player with very willowy hands with long fingers. She and I share the same warped sense of humor and love to elaborately decorate my boss's cubicle (one year it was an Italian bistro; last year it was a tiki hut, which he didn't take down for two months). I gave her the gauntlets and she was thrilled to pieces. "I was able to play my solo!" she gushed to me today after a concert. "My hands could move!" From one fellow musician to another. I understand. Cold hands suck!

The projects that I'm currently working on are works of love. A few years ago, I joined the GLBT Knit list and gained the acquaintance of Alicia. Our email relationship developed into a fun friendship where she is the Gawdess of the Rubbah Slippah and I'm the SockMistress Duffilina, Denizen of the Dark Side. She just does not like to make socks! At the time, she and her partner Norma were living in a house in the mountains outside San Diego. Then a couple of years ago, fire swept through and completely destroyed their house and everything in it except what they could throw into their pickup in 15 minutes. They lost all their fiber (Norma is a weaver and spinner; Alicia a spinner and knitter), their equipment, everything. When I heard the news, I tried to imagine that happening to me. I stood in my house full of stuff and tried to imagine losing everything. It was horrible, emotionally wrenching. It's one thing to lose things like furniture, appliances, and clothes, but the things you have made with your hands hold a very special place in the spirit. They are an extension of yourself at the time of their creation and can never ever be replicated.

I wrote Alicia many letters of support, made a square with a sock on it for the afghan we made for her, and did what I could to try to ease the agony of loss. She sent me one of her hats made of yarn one of our fellow listers donated to her and many letters of love. When I spoke of my intention to go to Carnegie Hall, she secretly organized a fundraising within the group. She sent me skeins of handspun with the request to make Norma a pair of slipper socks. The yarn unfortunately was not appropriate for making the slipper socks. I would have to find a substitute.

Fortunately, there are many sockweight yarns out there. I wanted the slippers to reflect Alicia and Norma's transition from San Diego to Hawaii. I found a pattern in Anna Zilboorg's Fancy Feet called Heart Waves that really spoke to me what I wanted to convey. They are interlocking waves of water, love, spirit, and joy. I chose tropical colors and finished the first slipper sock last night.

But I wasn't going to just make a pair of slipper socks. I have another part of the project going on that is taking on a deeper meaning. I'm choosing yarns carefully and thinking about designs, symbols, and shapes. They will rise from the respect, love, and friendship I have with Alicia. When they're done, they will show their faces here.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Mindless Amusements

The Internet is loaded with information that could give you a college education if you put your mind to it. It also has mindless entertainment, such as:

What kind of pie are you?

You Are Mud Pie
You're the perfect combo of flavor and depth Those who like you give into their impulses

So, what kind of pie are YOU?

On the Fiber Front

I'm still working on the Olympic Sweater's button bands and pockets. I accidently did a short row on the buttonhole side and had to tink it out of there before I could finish the edging. Once I'm done I can start playing with the Paint Box yarn while the rain falls down outside my window.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

My Stash Made Me Do It

I could say I was a magpie in a previous life. How else would I be drawn to such beautiful colors? I don't know what the Noro Sakura will be but the Paint Box will be fingerless gloves for a friend and fellow musician.

My Stash made me buy it! If you think I'm crazy, listen to Franklin's essay on his Stash on Cast-On Episode 11.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Flights of Fiber Fancy

Despite the proliferation of a certain handheld tool that make its user think that the world is their living room therefore they can hold a phone conversation in full voice for all to hear, I have enjoyed the technological advances that have occurred in the last 10 years. When the personal computer first reared its head, I've been curious about it and excited when I finally was able to afford one. I knew I was destined to be a geek. I was already a geek so the acquisition of another facet of geekdom was a matter of course. I cannot claim to be a full-blown guru; my paltry skills at the keyboard pale in comparison to those who can decipher a computer's whimsies. At best I'm a translator for the less geeky, able to take the eldritch and incomprehensible instructions and translate them into conversational English. Or at least help a sweating and frightened user return their toolbar back to its expected location from the black hole it had been inadvertently sent into by an over-excited mouse click.

This geekdom has given me the confidence to surf the Web and build dreams without paying a penny beyond my usual ISP fee. Today it was a dream trip to visit Brenda Dayne, her partner Tonia, and the wilds of Wales. Brenda's the intrepid host of Cast-On: a podcast for knitters. She is also a fellow Portlander who confessed to me missing Oregon Chai. My dream trip would be to load up two suitcases: one for clothes and knitting, the other with Oregon Chai; and depart eastward for the wilds of Wales on a mission of mercy. So how would I get to Llanteg, Brenda's home and abode?

First off, I had to find out where the hell it was. My atlas has the entire British Isles on a page 14 by 18 inches in size, which pretty much eliminates any tiny villages from view. However, the Web was a great source of maps of the area and once I had located the village, I set about to find larger towns that could be possible rail stops.

My next stop after noting a few likely candidates was the website for British Rail. My most likely air connection was going to be London, so I looked at how long it would take for me to take the train from London to the towns I had chosen. I ended up choosing Whitland as my final train destination. The train from London to Whitland would take as little as 4 hours. Fine. Now while I was looking at the rail map, I noticed a ferry coming across the Irish Sea from Ireland. Hmm. A trip to Dublin, then the train and ferry to Wales? Pbbbt! was my reaction after I plugged them into British Rail's itinerary planner. It took me on a roundabout trip from Dublin, across the Irish Sea to northern Wales, then the train went through Shrewsbury south to Whitland. Other forays into other British cities (Birmingham, Manchester) also came up with disappointing results, though Birmingham's train ride would have been the same as London's.

On to the airlines. I figured that September would be ideal, so I went into several international airlines to see what they came up with. If I took KLM, I'd be flying to Amsterdam before coming into the UK. Aer Lingus required I fly to Los Angeles before flying east and then they only flew on certain days. Air Canada was the most promising costwise, but some of the flights had a 10 hour layover in Vancouver BC. I can drive there faster than that!

But if I do decide I want to do this, the cost of the flight would probably be around $750. The train ticket's $141 round trip. Then there's making the arrangements with Brenda and deciding what other excursions I'd like to make while over there. Hmm.

So what's your dream vacation?

Olympic Sweater Redux

I've taken out the zipper and put in one button band with these lovely pewter buttons with stylized horses on them. I know that a certain Witt wants to see the detail, but he's just gonna have to wait. I'm not done with the buttonhole side or the pockets, so there nyah.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Shades of Hitchcock

My desk is located next to a window that overlooks a small parklike space adjacent to a residential neighborhood. There are nice sized trees in the space and a lawn, and since my office is located on the north side of the building, the light is diffuse and pleasant. During cloudy dark days, the window doubles as a mirror. On sunny days, the greenery is bright and cheerful. People bring their dogs to run about and neighborhood cats proul the arborvitae that stand along the edge. A family of squirrels have the run of the trees and birds forage for insects, seeds, and worms.

The city is on one of the major bird migratory flyways, so transients are common. Today it seems word got out to the avian community because the place is ALIVE with birds. Mostly starlings, but there are chickadees, robins, house sparrows, and hummingbirds. The starlings burst like fireworks from their perches and the ground at the slightest disturbance. It's like there's a huge avian party going on and I'm the only one not invited. Oh, except a crow. He's standing at the side, watching and waiting, waiting and watching. I can imagine the conversation between a couple of the robins going on:

R1: Hey Mike.

R2: Bill! Hey, good to see ya! Glad you made it here!

R1: Yeah, man. The crossing over the river was killer. Wind blew me all over. Thought I'd buy it when that jet nearly sucked me in.

R2: Yeah. Damn airports. Why they need 'em just kills me. Gotta make a running start like a damn goony bird.

R1: Don't let one hear you say that, man.

R2: Trust me. I wouldn't.

R1: Look at those goofballs just spinnin' up there by the windows. You'd think they'd gotten wired on something like those hummers.

R2: Crystal in their crickets.

R1: What th'--S^(UT! Crow! Crow! Crow!

R2: He's got one of the flock!

R1: Can you tell who it is, Mike?

R2: I saw him on the way---yeah, it's that one guy who'd belch on earthworms. What was his name?

R1: Jim.

R2: Yeah. Jim. Dang. He was hilarious. I was hoping to hear him all the way through the redwoods.

R1: Dang crow.

R2: Man, listen to those starlings giving him hell. That'll teach ya, you bastard!

R1: Talk about a party crasher.

R2: Yeah. Hey Bill, I hear there's a park not far from here that's next to a school. Has some great leftover seed.

R1: Sounds good. Show me the way, Mikey.

It was just like that. One minute the birds were out there having a great time, then a crow came along, made a kill and essentially killed the party. All the birds were gone. All that was needed was a uniformed pigeon waving a baton and saying, "Move along, nothing to see here, move along, nothing to see here..."

On another surreal note from dreamland, I dreamed that Ronald McDonald was arrested for selling meth to kids. He had changed from the lovable cuddly clown to this cigar puffing, red-eyed maniac with mottled teeth and horrible skin. The cops were pulling him away as he screamed, "I didn't do it! I didn't do it!" The next thing I see is him in a cage smiling innocently as folks do a fundraiser to raise money for his bail. Very very weird. But I can see him doing meth. How else is he gonna work off those french fry thighs?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Broad thoughts on fashion

I'm not a fashion maven. I never was. My size was never in the fashion section of the department store. I was a Sears Chubbies girl (guys were Husky; how did they manage such a positive label?), destined to wear ribbed polyester pants and striped shirts in primary colors. I was able to convince my mother at last to let me wear jeans in the 8th grade after months of hearing "Highwater! Highwater!" from my taunting schoolmates. T-shirts and jeans were my clothing of choice in high school to the dismay of my mother who was particular about her appearance. The day I wore a dress to school she was overjoyed, but I made sure she knew that until they invented something to replace nylons I was not wearing dresses. Besides, the choices I had in the late '70's were pretty paltry. Anything close to my size was in the Grandma section. Lane Bryant came to town and their options were slim for a teenager wanting to fit in.

It was a gradual trip of discovery for me to find what worked for my body. I learned about lines, body types, color, and style. My mother taught me about opting for classic lines versus trendy when choosing clothes and making up my mind which neutrals I wanted as my building block in my wardrobe (they're black and pearl white). But each trip to the store to find exactly what I want has always been a chore. I would go to my sources to find a particular item (for example, a dressy black sleeveless shell to wear for the Carnegie Hall concert or a simple black dress) and come out empty handed.

So when I started knitting, one of the goals I had was to make items for myself that would look good and feel comfortable. I'm not afraid of taking a basic pattern and making it fit me. I'm an okay seamstress but not when it comes to tailored clothes. But I have a good idea of what would look good for my body type and want to make it real. The Olympic sweater is the first of these patterns. I want to do more. I know there are women out there who are like me sizewise who see what's out there and are disappointed. Your chance will come, honey. Fiberqat's got her pencil out!