Friday, February 29, 2008

An Extra Day

Happy Leap Day! The solar year doesn’t coincide with the Gregorian calendar which we use so we have to add an extra day every once in awhile to compensate. Since February is already shorter than other months, that’s where they stuck it. This leap year day is also the 5th Friday in the same month. Unfortunately none of this actually gives me any more time than I already had. Sigh.

After knitting the back of the Hepburn Cardi an inch longer than the pattern’s 14”, I managed to get the decreases for the underarms done on it. I’m hoping that’s long enough to bring it to a more flattering length on me. I was afraid to go too far in case I run out of yarn. Now I’m ploughing up toward the shoulder decreases which I plan to shortrow rather than bind of in stair steps as the pattern states. I like that straight line and may just put the shoulders on holders to do a 3-needle bind-off instead of trying to graft it. Further news as it happens.

I’m feeling the lack of a sock to work on but I need to do some dyeing before I begin knitting the next pair of bespoke socks. I may just have to start a random pair in between — just to take the edge off, as Yarn Harlot would put it. The Hepburn Cardi is not quite simple enough or portable enough for when I need that mindless traveling project. Of course I could just do the dyeing deed and get right on that pair but The White Lady is bringing the grandkids over today so she can shop at Dressew (my fave fabrics & notions supplier) without their little helping hands. She has started a little home-based business making suspenders (aka braces) in child and adult sizes. She got frustrated with the lack of good quality suspenders for her kids who, like all little ones, have no hips to hold up their pants and skirts. Belts just don’t work either. So she experimented making her own and they are very nice, in lots of colours and with really functional clips. I remember getting suspenders for her DH, The Ninja, when he had the same problems holding up his drawers as a kid. They weren’t nearly as well-made or as sturdy as hers. Even though I made lots of things myself, it never occurred to me to make suspenders and I think it’s a great idea. Best of luck with your enterprise, hon’!

Better get this posted before the Thundering Hordes arrive! Though it does take them awhile to get here on public transit.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Another Nice Day

Today I decided that it was time to get my hair chopped again. I hates it when it’s more than an inch long! I was questioning myself on why I don’t like longer hair and I figured that it’s just because I can’t be bothered fussing with it. My hair is thick but fine, oily and flyaway. It’s nearly straight and won’t take a curl at all, yet it won’t lie flat either. There’s always something that wants to stick out somewhere. I just don’t want to spend the time or the money for blow-drying, gelling, spraying or colouring. Besides I don’t think all that stuff is particularly good for you or the environment. I just use a wee dab of a simple shampoo while I’m in the shower and that’s it. I don’t even brush my hair, just comb with my fingertips. So now it’s short enough for me and I’m happy again.

Since my hairdresser is only a block and a half from our current favourite lunch restaurant, I invited Milady Daughter out for sushi after my appointment. It was the perfect time to gift her with her new socks that I just finished. Only half a year late for her birthday!

Tulip Two Socks

Begun: February 19, 2008

Completed: February 27, 2008

Yarn: Meilenweit Mega Boots Stretch Softcolor, 70% wool/23% polyamide/7% Elité, colour 504 (muted reds), 1/100g ball.

Needles: Clover Takumi 5” dpns, 2.25mm and Addi Natura 6” dpns, 2mm.

Pattern: Modified from Red Leaf Lace Socks by Judy Sumner (Knoxsox Designs) from INKnitters Winter 2003. Tulpen (tulip) lace pattern originally from “Omas Strickgeheimmisse” (Grandma’s Knitting Secrets).

Comments: My version of this pattern is called “Tulip Socks”. I needed to adjust it quite a lot for Milady Daughter’s larger feet. I increased the rev st st areas between motifs to 3 sts wide, making the sock 72sts around. I also knit the patterned legs on 2.25mm needles instead of my usual 2mm. I switched to the smaller needles for the foot. Another few things that I did differently from mine are the legs are 2.5 repeats of the pattern (shorter than the 3 repeats of my first pair) and I stopped the patterning completely at the heel rather than continuing the second half of the pattern repeat on the instep like I did for mine. I thought the lace stitches felt a smidgen too tight at that point and that it would be better in stockinette instead. She loved them!

After yummy lunch she went back to work and I waddled…er, walked briskly up hill home, stopping on the way to buy a few groceries. The sun was playing peek-a-boo with the clouds but the temperature was quite warm. I even saw some little daffodils out already. When I got home I sat for awhile on my deck and perused my new copy of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine that I picked up. While I was there I took this pic of my new and yet unplanted heuchera, Snow Angel:

Isn’t that a pretty colour pattern on the leaves? Sometimes I think I like plants with interesting and colourful leaves even better than flowers. Some of the ones I collect in my garden besides heucheras are hostas and coleus, none of which have particularly exciting flowers but many different varieties of leaves. The heucheras have the advantage of being mostly evergreen as well though they do die back somewhat in winter. The hostas completely disappear until spring and the coleus are only annuals unless I can bring clippings into the house and keep them alive over winter. I’m going to have to get Snow Angel planted soon. Currently she’s decorating my table on the upper deck.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

All Mixed Up

Is it just me or is a lot of “mixed media art” kind of similar? Especially paper arts like those in Somerset Studio magazine but there are other examples. I’ve stopped getting that one ages ago and now I’ve added Belle Armoire to the “do not buy” list. I looked at the new publication Artful Blogging thinking that it might be interesting (you know, to get more ART in this here blog) but it’s more of the same style. The only one by this same publisher that still interests me is Art Doll Quarterly but it’s the most expensive magazine ever! Luckily it’s as fat as 2 magazines since that’s about what it costs.

I’m not saying that the art in these publications is bad or anything. Maybe I’ve just seen too much of it and it’s all blending in my head. It’s mostly not my style. Too much of a muchness or something. What IS my style is Quilting Arts and I don’t even quilt. Much anyway. And its sister publication Cloth Paper Scissors which kind of overlaps fabric and paper arts. I realized what I like better about these magazines is that they are more generic in their materials yet more detailed in their how-to’s. I hate being told that I need a certain commercial product without being given a substitution list or a reason why that product and no other will do. I have no interest in making a piece exactly like the example anyway but I want to learn the techniques used. This publisher seems to get that fact much more emphatically than the previous one. Maybe they aren’t beholden to the manufacturers in quite the same way. Or maybe they have less of a “paint by numbers” mindset.

While I’m on the subject, I’ve been recording a couple of TV shows that for some dumb reason (well it’s dumb to me!) come on in the wee hours of Saturday morning on a US PBS station. Canadian broadcasters don’t carry them and there are several I can’t get at all unless I went to satellite TV. But I think cable is pricey enough for the amount we actually watch it. Having more channels doesn’t mean you get better programs. Mostly the reverse. But I digress. As I was saying, Beads Baubles and Jewels, Needle Arts Studio with Shay Pendray and Knit & Crochet Today are the ones that are available. Sewing with Nancy was on also, but you can actually watch some of her segments free online which is easier for me. I can’t get Quilting Arts TV or Knitty Gritty, among other shows that I might watch. But you know, I’m not sure I even like the TV format. Segments are too short, the camera isn’t always in the right place, and sometimes the host is more of a hindrance than a help. (Hint: she usually acts on a soap opera which hopefully better suits her talents.) I do like the interviews with familiar names and it’s nice to see folks in person and hear how they talk. On Knit & Crochet Today I even got to see Interweave Crochet’s editor Kim Werker, who lives locally and who took a crochet class from me once upon a time. Anyhow, I’d rather read instructions than watch demos but I’m the kind of person who can learn from the written word and good diagrams or illustrations. I know that’s not always the case for others.

Yes, I have finished the TulipTwo Socks but they aren’t ready for their close-up yet. And yes, I’ve finally gotten back to the Hepburn Cardi. There’s hope for it yet.

Question to Ponder:

Do you know how you learn best? Try this test and find out more about yourself. Bet you’re not surprised that I’m a visual/spatial and linguistic type, huh? With a surprisingly high level of naturalistic. Though now that I think about it, it makes total sense.

Or try this test for a different perspective. You’ll need to go here to see what the results mean. On this one I’m strongly reflective and sequential, more sensing rather than intuitive and almost in the middle of visual/verbal. Yep. That’s me. Fun, huh?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

House Redux

I was thinking after discussing my rather strong negative feelings about the house next door, that I might have been somewhat over-critical. It wouldn’t suit me and T-Man at all, but I forget that other people don’t have all the obsessions…er, hobbies that we do. Hobbies that take up a lot of space, both to do them and to store the materials and equipment. Most people spend their time in their home sleeping, watching TV, cooking and eating. (Maybe not so much on the last one. There’s a lot of eating out goes on in this city!) I, on the other hand, don’t just live but also work in my house. I spin, dye, knit, weave (there’s a big space needed right there!) and a bunch of other things plus I spend a lot of time at the computer. T needs room for all his woodworking equipment and his glass torch and kiln. On top of that we need space for gardening stuff including potting and seed starting, space for the wine-making supplies and the elliptical trainer. Our house may be small but there’s room for all that — as well as the sleeping, watching TV, cooking and eating. We even made room for a goodly amount of that stuff back in the olden days when the kids lived at home and included all their stuff too. The bottom line is that what our house does have is lots of storage space! Which leads to my biggest complaint about the house next door because it lacks what I would consider even rudimentary amounts of storage. On the downside, our house has Only One Dinky Little Bathroom. Yeah, I’d like a good-sized bathroom with a separate shower. Oh and maybe a bidet. That would be cool. (So “euro”.) But we’ve managed for 29 years and counting without it because what we do have works just fine for us. I guess that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

On the other hand, when you’ve lived somewhere for a very long time things start to get shabby and wear out. T-Man has already replaced 99% of our water pipes plus some of the wiring himself (with the electrical box left to an electrician). We’ve replaced the hot water heater twice and the furnace and roof once and the latter desperately needs it again this year. We’ve also replaced the kitchen flooring, the bathroom sink, the fridge (twice!) and the stove (the old one is my dye stove because the top elements still work). The couch and chairs have been reupholstered several times each. Unfortunately we haven’t replaced some things that could definitely use it. But sometimes new isn’t necessarily better or we just can’t get the right type/shape/colour or it’s too much work to bother. As T likes to say, the longer you wait to replace something the longer the next one will last. At least that’s his excuse and he’s sticking to it. I like to think of it as the first 2 R’s: reduce and reuse. Just who am I trying to impress anyway? I don’t need my house to look like it’s being photographed for Better Homes and Gardens.

On the other-other hand, I would like things to look better than they do at the moment. I think this year we’ll repaint at least the bathroom, though the living/dining room could also use freshening up. I can do most of the bathroom all by myself though there’s a part of the ceiling above the bathtub that I can’t reach and I’m not comfortable on a step stool up there. T is more concerned about the outside of the house. He’s already started scraping paint off the garage. It needs to be done before the grapevine and other plants get too big.

OK, I’ve been yapping on about houses and gardens way too much. There is a reason I’ve been neglecting the crafty stuff though — there’s nothing to report. I’m cruising down the second foot to the toe on the TulipTwo Socks. And that’s about it.

Question to Ponder:

How much room do you really need to live in? In my city a sleeping bag in a doorway is a common sight. The pressure to upgrade current SRO (Single Room Occupancy) facilities beyond what the very-low or welfare income folks can pay is strong. We’re hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics after all and there’s money to be made! Meanwhile there’s very little rental accommodation because most of it has become strata-title purchase instead. The cost of housing is going through the roof and is shifting those with lower incomes and/or larger families out into the ‘burbs. A tiny room with shared bathroom and no cooking facilities is the best some folks can hope for. And we won’t mention their unwanted roomies: cockroaches and bedbugs. The Powers That Be are supposed to be cleaning up the older facilities and building new ones but no one is holding their breath. A shopping cart, a blanket and a piece of plastic becomes a mobile home for too many. Makes me eternally grateful for my little old house. Shabby as it might be.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Signs Of Spring

We’ve had days and days of lovely warm sunshine here and it totally feels like spring already. It’s not even March yet! Buds have been popping out all over and I’ve even seen some cherry blossoms (an extra-early variety) though the forsythia isn’t out yet. There’s crocuses blooming and hazel catkins and my euphorbias are putting out new colourful leaves. The flicker is constantly at the feeder chomping down on the suet. It’s hard to keep my feeders filled right now so you can be sure the birds are thinking about nesting.

T-Man took advantage of the sunshine corresponding to a weekend (which is rare) and pruned like mad. He finally got rid of the last of the evil hawthorn hedge and now there is more room in the front garden for other things that look nicer and don’t hurt you. We’re trying to assess what needs dividing and/or moving to make a better display. Neither of us is very good at garden design unfortunately. He keeps wanting to make a “plan” and I just laugh. How do you plan when so much is already established? You either have to rip stuff out that might be perfectly good or transplant it somewhere else where it might not do as well. In reality all we can do is work around what’s already there or is more easily shifted. We tend to have single specimens of a lot of things which ends up looking like a jumble instead of planned. But there are places where only certain things will grow such as under the arborvitae and hazelnut trees and directly in front of the house which faces north. It’s tricky! The sunniest part of our yard is in back where the veggie/herb garden is or farther out in front by the street. We’ve steadily been shrinking the lawn area and taking over some of the grassy public boulevard at the side but the trees just keep getting bigger.

Speaking of bigger, I just found out that hazel shrubs can grow as large as 15m! Ours is about 8m high now and has multiple trunks so it’s just about as wide as it is tall. Too bad the squirrels get all the nuts but I guess they figure it’s all theirs since they planted it! Luckily it’s a very pretty addition to the front garden even though the squirrels aren’t. (Nasty things.)

I’m cruising down to the toes of the TulipTwo Socks but that’s about all the knitting or other craft stuff I’ve done recently. I did get the first of my seeds planted in flats under the lights in the basement. And the coleus cuttings — or at least what’s left of them — are transplanted into pots and will spend their days out in the greenhouse while it’s warm enough. I’ll bring them in at night though because they don’t like cold weather at all and the greenhouse isn’t heated except by the sun. I don’t want their bugs to affect any of my new seedlings when they come up.

Question to Ponder:

How do pests find my poor little plants when they are two stories up away from other plants, the windows are closed and I carefully washed the cuttings and the flats and re-sterilized the soil before I planted them? It’s not the kind of magic trick I want to see anyhow. I lost almost half of my cuttings due to soil flies, white fly and aphids. Phooey. Now I know why you can believe in spontaneous life.

Friday, February 22, 2008

On Photography

Sweet Georgia’s lecture yesterday evening at the weaver’s guild meeting was great! I’ve learned a lot about photography over the years but I wouldn’t say I’m an expert. Some of my photos are good and some craptacular. Though I have improved a zillion-fold since I got my precious digital camera. Felicia clarified a few things for me, especially about diffusing light and depth of field. Now I have to go read my camera’s manual yet again. I did disagree with her somewhat about film. I think it has limited uses in everyday photography. Maybe for artistic purposes but even print media no longer want anything but digital. Now that we have high-megapixel SLR cameras the quality is plenty good enough for most purposes. For myself, digital has contributed to my abilities. Look! I can take a whole bunch of pics and see the results right away! No wasted film or chemicals or money. Pixels are free with the equipment. (In case you were wondering, I have a mid-range two-year-old Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ3. I’m very happy with her.) And then I can mess with the photos later in Paint Shop Pro. I loves me my brightness-and-contrast and my crop tools. Just to tweak a bit in case my original photos aren’t perfect already, you understand.

However I was a little peeved at the meeting attendees’ attitude about set-up and take-down. First off, it’s in a community centre. They require us to set up our own chairs and tables and put them away again after. Entirely reasonable and no biggie really. The set-up part seems to happen pretty much OK — early-comers start putting up chairs if none are out already, but take-down is another story as everyone either stands around yakking or scurries away after the program. I don’t mind doing some of it but I don’t want to have to do it all by myself Without Any Help! I realize that we are almost all female and a large percentage are older and have health issues. Heck, I have health issues myself! (And I ain’t no spring chicken either but we won’t mention that.) But many hands make light work as they say. I was lucky and there was a spare husband available to help with the chairs (thanks, Jim!) but I also put 4 banquet-sized tables away, 2 of them completely by myself. Then I didn’t sleep well last night because my muscles (such as they are — don’t laugh) were feeling the strain. I remember catching myself at one point snapping to a group of chatterers in my way, “If you’re not going to help, then don’t hinder”! Which immediately got me a temporary assistant. But jeesh, people! Lend a hand, eh? I’m really lousy at asking.

I did get quite a bit of Milady Daughter’s TulipTwo socks done while at the back-to-back meetings (executive and general, oy!). I’m past the heel turns on both but I’m not much liking the light/dark demarcation line at the instep. This yarn shades subtly from lighter orangey red to darker burgundy red and although it began the heel at the lighter part, after the heel turn it was up to the darker area. So there’s a more definite line between. And to make it worse, the upper section has the tulips and the lower one is plain knitting. I’m not going to do anything about it though. My first pair of these socks are similar and I don’t think there’s any way around it without doing a short-row heel which I hate. (They don’t fit my foot as well and they don’t last as long as heel-flap-and-gusset, so there. YMMV) Of course in the other sock it’s more gradual and not so obvious of a line. You didn’t think they’d match, did you? Photos later.

Question to Ponder:

Does anyone else see the irony in driving to the gym? Yeah, I’m back on my elliptical trainer, to which I have to walk since it’s in my basement. If I had to go to a gym I just wouldn’t. I’d clean my house instead — which actually is exercise. But apparently not the right kind.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Moon & Tulips

So did you catch the total eclipse of the moon last night? Too wonderful! We missed the first part but managed to catch it just as the moon was sliding out from under the earth’s shadow. It was hard to photograph and I had to use a tripod. It took 14 seconds for the shutter to close! Here’s sorta what it looked like:

And a closer view with it zoomed out as far as the camera will go:

There was intermittent cloud cover which made it difficult to catch the whole thing but it sure makes you appreciate the infinitely complex workings of our universe!

Next I thought you might like to have a look at the Tulip Socks for Milady Daughter. I enlarged the original chart, which used to look like this (scroll down) and now looks like this:

From the original stitch count of 64 (the tulip motif times 4) which fits me, the extra stitches increase it to 72 which hopefully fits her. So far they look good:

To be on the safe side I’m also using 2.25mm needles for the leg part just to make sure it’s stretchy enough. I’ll reduce to my usual 2mm needles for the foot so it’s not too loose there. The tulips look quite nice set off with a bit more reverse stockinette. It doesn’t change things much however which is good because I liked the pattern the way it was. This is exactly the same yarn as I used for my socks too. She said she liked the yarn as much as the tulips so now we’ll have mother and daughter versions. Heh.

Changing the subject entirely, I’m a big Dr. Who fan. Not so much the original series but the more recent version. We discovered a spin-off from it called Torchwood (which btw is an anagram of “doctorwho”) and I have to say it’s even better than the show it sprung from. We missed all but the last two episodes on TV so we bought the DVD collection of Season One. Totally worth the money. My kids are going to love it when we finish watching and lend it to them! If you haven’t seen it, it’s darker and sexier than the series it sprang from. It takes place in Cardiff, Wales, at another Torchwood facility (the main one blew up in an episode of Dr. Who) and the five-person crew’s job is to save mankind from alien incursions. Apart from the fact that I want to knock some sense into their angsty little heads occasionally, I love enigmatic boss Captain Jack Harkness and the storylines are really different from what you might expect. If you like British murder mysteries with sci-fi icing on top, this might be right up your dark and stormy (with eyes and teeth) alley. Can’t wait for Season Two.

There’s a weavers’ guild meeting this evening with our speaker Felicia (Sweet Georgia) talking about photographing your work. This should be interesting but first I have to get through the executive meeting beforehand. Good thing for my knitting. At least I have a thing or three to report on about our website in between stitches.

Question to Ponder:

Why is it called a “self-cleaning” oven if you still have to set it and turn it on? Yeah, I finally remembered to do that. It’s been awhile.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The House That William Built

I forgot to mention earlier that we went to the Open House next door just to see what the inside of the house looked like. This is the one we’ve been watching for nearly a year and a half, from being torn down to not much more than the foundation and four one-storey walls and then built up again to a two-and-a-half stories with basement suite.

Did I mention I was wrong on the price? They want $1.79 million. After our little tour we think it’s totally not worth that much even though houses around here — or should I say the land — has risen to ridiculous heights in the last year. Why do I think it’s not worth the asking price? There’s nothing particularly remarkable or special about this house. It’s on a regular-sized city lot (ours is much bigger but our house is old and much smaller) and the materials and design are totally ho-hum. The only thing that we really liked was the shower on the second floor. Now that was some shower! Double-sized with jets and rain and all the bells and whistles. To die for. Everything else, not so much.

The main floor has a large living room, a dinky coat closet and an alcove with a built in desk to serve as the “office” or computer corner. Totally inadequate. My computer desk is about twice that size and we’re a two-computer family. (His is in our bedroom. On another desk.) There’s a small powder room and a mid-sized kitchen/dining room also on this floor. Oh and a broom closet. Not much storage in this house. Odd actually.

The appliances are supposedly “gourmet” but all I saw was some mid-range stainless steel. A free-standing counter (granite I think) and not a lot of cupboard space. The dining room area has French doors that open onto the very plain wooden deck. That nobody had bothered to sweep or clear the building supplies off for the sales presentation. Tacky.

On the second floor there’s the aforementioned bathroom, a big room with the toilet in its own little space with a door. Pee in private! As well as the great big shower, there’s a claw-foot tub. The washer and dryer are stacked in a small niche opposite the toilet. The sink is a single one with a nice marble counter but there’s not much room for personal items. You’d want some free-standing furniture for towels and such. This bathroom serves 3 bedrooms, none of which struck me as a “master” bedroom and none with an ensuite. The closets are fairly small as these things go with some built-in shelves but with mostly unusable space above the top shelf. Only small items would fit up there and you can’t really get at them easily. See? Not much storage space.

The half floor above this one has two open spaces with sloping ceilings and a skylight, one of which could be a bedroom and one an office or another bedroom. There’s a closet in each. And some little doors to attic spaces that totally reminded me of the ones in my house but smaller. Still too small to be the master bedroom. A queen-sized bed would barely fit and I’d be so jealous of that shower downstairs! The small bathroom up there only has a regular shower. Definitely not as cool. I checked to see how much of my house you can see from this window because it faces our bedroom down below. Hard to tell really. I’d have to see it in the dark with the light on in our bedroom. I think the angle is too acute. Or I’m totally making a curtain for that window.

The best part of this top floor is the “sleeping porch.” (Yes, that’s what they called it in the brochure.) It’s the little balcony under the eves on the front of the house. The one where the persistent pigeons had to be discouraged from nesting by the builders. This is the only place you can see the “view” touted in the brochure of the mountains and some of the downtown highrises. It’s quite a nice sight right now with the dusting of snow on the North Shore but wait until the huge old white ash trees on the next street leaf out and there won’t be much left of it. Just saying.

The basement suite is even more disappointing. They substituted even cheaper materials and appliances and it’s so very ordinary. The small bathroom has no window and just a bathtub with no separate shower. But it does have a closet with the washer/dryer, hot water tank, and hot-water heating system for the whole house in it. There’s two bedrooms and the living room, dining area and kitchen are all one open L-shape. Most of the windows are small and dark and the best light comes in the south-facing door and larger window beside it that looks out into the sunken patio space. Needs some decorating there for sure. It’s just ugly bare concrete. From the east bedroom you can look straight into my basement where my elliptical trainer is. (Remind me — NO workouts without proper clothing!) This suite could be for the in-laws, the nanny or a mortgage helper. You’d surely need a mortgage helper unless you are have lots of money and/or a really good job. But even if I could afford it I wouldn’t buy this house. Good thing I already own the teeny little old one next to it. With the big yard and nice deck. No wonderful magic shower though. Can’t have everything I guess.

BTW, this is my 600th blog post today. And I thought I'd never be able to keep it going...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Déjà Gloves

Auntie92 Gloves

Begun: February 11, 2008

Completed: February 18, 2008

Yarn: Meilenweit Colortweed sock yarn, 80% wool/20% polyamide, 100g=420m, Colour 1001. I used the other half of the ball.

Needles: Rib – 2mm Clover Takumi Bamboo dpns. Rest of glove – 2.25mm Clover Takumi Bamboo dpns.

Pattern: Combined Marnie MacLean’s “Hooray For Me” fingerless gloves with the medium woman’s finger lengths from Ann Budd’s “The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns”.

Comments: Since the sisters were fighting over the birthday gloves I made these just like the first pair only with a slightly shorter wrist ribbing and the stripes lined up differently. There was a teeny bit less than half the ball left so I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough. I only had a few metres of yarn left over so it was a good thing I started with less rib. Now to get them to her before it’s too warm to need gloves at all.

Surprise! I also finally have this one for you:

Twilight Queen

Begun: January 28, 2008

Completed: February 18, 2008

Yarn: SeaWool handspun 2-ply laceweight, 70% merino superwash/30% SeaCell, dyed in logwood and cochineal extracts, 30 g = 240 yds.

Beads: Czech seed beads size 6º, transparent blue-violet with silver sheen. 1.5 strands out of a hank.

Needles: Denise sizes 7 (4.5mm) and 5 (3.75mm) with shortest cable

Hook: 1mm steel

Pattern: “Ice Queen” by Romi (Rosemary Hill) from Knitty, Winter ‘07.

Comments: My handspun yarn isn’t fuzzy like the Kidsilk Haze called for in the pattern but I think my version is quite nice as still very warm. It has a silky look and a bit of a scrunchy feeling from the SeaCell. The logwood colour is very changeable depending on the lighting and background. Sometimes it looks grey, sometimes purple and sometimes brown or taupe. Interesting! I ran out of yarn and had to redo the top part not once but twice and finally reduced the 4 rows of 3/3 ribbing to only 2. I also had to move the beads in the rib down one row to be able to complete it. I had just over a yard left! Did I miscount the yardage or did I somehow take more yarn to knit the pattern? Because I thought I had at least 10 yards more than one ball of Kidsilk Haze. Doesn’t seem to have made much difference in the final outcome though so I don’t mind it being 2 rows shorter. It would have been nice if I didn’t have to knit that end three times in total though. Otherwise I would have finished last week. The picot bind-off is cute but it’s slow to do and uses tonnes o’yarn!

Two FOs in one day is about my limit and caused some necessary counterbalancing startitis. So I cast on for Milady Daughter’s Tulip Socks. I’ve expanded the chart so there is more reverse stockinette between the tulip motifs. Hopefully this will fit her OK especially if I knit the pattern area with 2.25mm needles instead of my usual 2mm. There was no hope of her being able to wear the same size as mine are. They barely fit me and I have skinny ankles. Hers are definitely not-so-skinny and her feet are also considerably larger than mine. “Excellent underpinnings” as we always referred to them.

I also plan to go back to the Hepburn Cardi now that I’m done the Twilight Queen. If you remember I’m nearly up to the underarm decreases on the back and the sleeves are already done. I’d really like to finish this before it’s no longer cold enough to need a sweater. I started it last July so it’s taken much longer than I had planned. Of course I had to frog the original sleeves which were up to the cap shaping because they were considerably off-gauge and start all over again. And then birthday socks, gloves and other things got in the way. It’s not particularly portable either though I’ve gotten the pattern down to where I only need to glance at the chart once in awhile. Until I get to tricky increasing and decreasing anyway. So at least I can watch TV or videos at the same time. I should be trucking right along on it now.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Foggy Foggy Dew

I can hear the boats in the harbour with their foghorns going full-blast. There are quite deep pockets of fog everywhere this morning. I think it looks lovely but I hope everyone is driving carefully out there. It was sunny all weekend so thoughts of gardening were in our heads. I got all my seeds sorted out, the old ones pitched and a list of new ones needed. We went to GardenWorks and of course got a few other items besides just the seeds: a new heuchera (Snow Angel, green leaves with lovely white patterning) for my collection, 3 more primulas for the front door basket (the last ones I got ended up on my kitchen windowsill instead), some potting soil and seed starter mix. I haven’t actually started planting anything yet, but I’m ready now.

We did work in the garden for some time yesterday. I’m still not up to much but I got some of the veggie and herb garden cleaned up and some leaves raked away from the rhubarb bed. T-Man did a lot more and got the tops of the last hawthorns chopped down (he’s been slowly removing a hedge of these nasty ugly prickly things over a number of years). He has to chop the branches up into smaller pieces so they can go in the yard waste bin for the city to pick up. They are too prickly to even run through our chipper/shredder. The larger branches will become firewood and the biggest ones maybe woodturning pieces. It’s very hard dense white wood. It would be nice to see it turned into something pretty instead of the evil tire-and-skin-puncturing PITA it’s been since we moved in here. We have enough prickly things with the pyracantha (pretty) and the blackberries (yummy) to deal with.

Almost finished the Auntie92 Gloves. Just the tips of thumbs left and I’m knitting on fumes. Good thing I shortened the wrist ribbing by half an inch from the first pair’s extra long cuffs or I would have run out of yarn. Still haven’t finished the Twilight Queen but I’m thinking today would be good. I want it off my list! I have other things to focus on.

I had a lovely visit with Felicia on Friday and I think we resolved a few issues with our guild website. The biggest one we discussed is the guild’s wish to have a photo gallery because right now there are no pictures at all. I need to do some more work on it myself — preferably before the guild meeting on Thursday. BTW Felicia is our Program speaker at the meeting. She’ll be talking about photographing textiles.

Life is just full of spirals, don’t you think? Things come around again and echo what came before. It’s not quite a circle because it’s not quite the same each time. I like that. If it was always the same it would be boring and you’d feel trapped in a rut. But because each round is a little different, it’s familiar but not identical. The seasons are like that. I must be feeling the Spring in the air. Along with the fog.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Carrying On Carrying On

No Callebaut chocolate turned up yet but that’s because it was too crazy busy in the chocolate factory this week. Wonder why? T-Man is waiting for the frenzy to die down before he stops in. Meanwhile he picked up a couple of bars of Green & Black’s organic dark chocolate with cherries. Mmmm…good substitute there. That oughta hold us for a little while.

Well, with all that chocolate and other good things I need to get more exercise than I have been while hosting The Bugs. I’m definitely feeling like some of my stray energy is returning to me. I did a whole 15 minutes on my elliptical trainer today and could have done a few more but I don’t want to push it on my first time back in the saddle…er, footrests. My throat is still sore (I think it’s permanent now) and I started coughing a little about 5 minutes in again but I kept going past that point and didn’t cough much more than that. I still have a coughing fit or two a day but it’s not like bronchitis or anything. Thank goodness. If I’m going to have The Mysterious Sore Throat Bug then at least I can still breathe just fine. I think I’m going to start gargling again with salt and soda, my mommy’s old remedy, and see if that helps. Better than just waiting for it to go away because it sure doesn’t seem to want to go by itself.

I’m past the thumb gussets on the Auntie92 Gloves and swiftly heading for the fingers whereupon I will slow to a snail’s pace while I do each of them one at a time on 3 needles. Can you say “porcupine”? I’d show them off but it’s dark and rainy again here today and not particularly conducive to good photography. Twilight Queen is back from her time-out and I’m in the process of frogging and tinking her back to where I can replace the beads in the second of the two rows of 3/3 ribbing that I’m left with and then work the picot edge for the THIRD TIME. Hope it’s third time’s a charm because this is getting really old really fast.

T-Man is on-call this weekend and he finally got his VPN working with the assistance of the Help Desk at work. It turned out to be Internet Explorer 7s fault. It wanted to default to dial-up connections instead of cable. Doh. What IE has to do with it when it wasn't even running at the time makes me wonder about Microsofts plans to subvert the world to it’s dominion. Scary. Makes me glad I converted to Mozilla Firefox anyway. More websites work properly with Firefox. Wonder why?

I’ve got Felicia, aka Sweet Georgia (doncha love my namedropping!) coming over later to help me learn a bit more about how to maintain our weavers’ guild website. She created it for us and I got roped into being the head of the Website Committee. I don’t want to learn how to program, but I need some information on how to keep the site up-to-date and functional for guild members. And at the same time not wreck anything! Right now I know just enough to be dangerous and not enough to fix it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

More Food

No, I’m not giving you another recipe. Sorry if you’re disappointed. This one changes too much every time I make it so an actual recipe is impossible. I spent a goodly part of today making curried chicken and lentil soup. What a great way to use up aging veggies and a well-picked-over roasted chicken carcass. I even included some leeks and parsley fresh from my garden. Slurp! Now I have enough for a number of meals in the fridge and three 2-serving containers in the freezer. Guess I’m finally getting some of my normal energy level back, huh?

More food, but this is food for your mind. There’s a new magazine online! Yay! Think Knitty but for weavers by the intelligent and talented Syne Mitchell of the Weavecast podcast. After two years of publishing her podcast she realized there were some things you couldn’t get across very easily by voice alone. There aren’t nearly as many weavers out there as knitters but I’m hoping she gets lots of traffic to her new site. It’s really good! Besides we need to get more folks hooked on weaving. (Says the person who has had her blanket sitting on her loom waiting for attention for how long?)

I didn’t have time today to get back to my naughty Twilight Queen so she’s still waiting too. I’ve finished the ribbing on the Auntie92 Gloves and am heading up the hand including the thumb gussets. Gloves may be fiddly but they go faster than socks. Good thing because Milady Daughter is going to be seriously annoyed with me if I put her Tulip Socks off much longer. After all, her birthday was in September and although I did knit her a pair of socks then it was with her own dyed yarn. These are the “real” birthday socks. Only half a year late by the time I’ve completed them. No biggie.

Oh yeah, before I forget — Happy Hallmark Moment…er, Valentine’s Day! I tell my sweetie how much I love him every day of the nearly 40 years we’ve known each other. We don’t need gifts of flowers and diamonds to prove it. We just live it. However he could stop by the chocolate factory on his way home from work and get another big chunk of Callebaut. We’re running out of my yummy homemade almond bark. Chocolate is an important ingredient in a happy life. Didn’t you know that? I just throw in lots of almonds (and sometimes dried cherries too) so I can pretend that I’m not eating quite so much of the aforementioned important ingredient.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Foodie Alert

Me and the grandkids had a great time yesterday. We played with Granny’s toys and I managed to get the dishes from the night before done. Later on it stopped raining and the sun came out for a bit so we went to the park by the community centre to play on the swings. They have a baby swing and a toddler one so I had them both going at the same time. I used to love swings so much when I was a little girl. We had our own metal set in the backyard and my dad had to cement in the legs and wire the top to the trees and the garage so we wouldn’t knock the whole thing over with our mad swinging! They could barely get me off long enough to come in for supper.

The slide was too wet to slip and I forgot a cloth to wipe it off so we played in the wet sand with our sand toys. It was pretty dirty but fun to make “cakes” with sticks for candles. I had to stop Stargazer from eating the gritty sand about a dozen times. You know you had fun when you go home all dirty. Heh! On the way home we ran into T-Man looking for us and it just started raining so my timing was good. When their parents got back we ended up chatting until dinner time (wonder how that happens?) so we made bison burgers and a salad for dinner instead of ordering pizza. T even managed to barbeque the burgers out on the deck in the dark. It was pretty chilly but at least it had stopped raining! A fun day but today I’m totally exhausted. Wonder why? It was only 9 hours with little ones. 30 years ago I could handle it 24/7. Oh yeah, I forgot — I was 30 years younger then!

I wasn’t so exhausted today that I couldn’t make a low-carb crustless quiche:

I don’t usually include food in my blog but this one is really yummy and changes with whatever I have in the fridge. For this quiche I used bacon, steamed cauliflower, sautéed onions and mushrooms to nearly fill the baking dish. Then I blended 3 large eggs, a cup of cottage cheese and two cups of grated cheddar. Sprinkled in a little flavoured pepper (figured there already was enough salt in the bacon) and poured it over the stuff in the dish. I always poke it a little with a spoon to make sure the egg mixture is getting down to the bottom but it probably doesn’t really matter. Then bake at 350º for 40 minutes or until set, cool as long as you can stand it and enjoy. Leftovers keep well in the fridge and you can eat it cold, room temperature or nuked for a short while to warm it up. Your choice.

I’ve made it with shrimp, barbecued salmon, fake crab, or sausage meat. The veggies could be asparagus, broccoli, green beans, red pepper or whatever else you can think of. Onions are always good and you could add some garlic to keep the vampires away. You can also substitute other cheeses or a mixture for the cheddar. Try some herbs too. There’s a lot of room for creativity here. It always tastes yummy. You don’t even notice it doesn’t have a crust.

After I got the quiche in the oven I made some more of my low-carb pancake mix because I’d run out. The recipe has a lot of ingredients but once it’s mixed the pancakes are easy to make. I keep it in a plastic container that stays in the fridge. With a 1/3 cup measuring scoop (the size doesn’t matter but the proportions do) I mix 4 scoops ground almond (flour) and 2 scoops each ground flax, whey protein powder, soy protein powder and buckwheat. The last ingredient raises the carb count a bit but tastes good. Then I mix in 2 tablespoons alum-free baking powder and 2 teaspoons sea salt. When I make pancakes I use 1/3 to 1/2 cup mix per person. Add 1 egg, 1 tablespoon olive or other oil (I like walnut) and enough cream or yogurt (or a combo) to make a spreadable batter. I usually add blueberries or sometimes blackberries (fresh or frozen and partially thawed) and maybe a teaspoon of cinnamon too. Cook like regular pancakes but watch because it burns quite easily. It should make 2 pancakes which are very filling. Serve alone or with a preferably low-carb topping. (Or else what’s the point of expensive low-carb pancakes?) My favourite is cream cheese. Fresh strawberries or other fruit and yogurt is good too. I know, it’s not syrup. But once you get used to less sweetness in your diet, you won’t notice the lack. Or go for savoury with smoked salmon cream cheese. Delish.

Did I mention that I also cleaned up the entire kitchen disaster after all that cooking? Including the mess from last evening. Whew. No, I don’t have a dishwasher. I AM the dishwasher.

Twilight Queen is still in time-out. I’m knitting on the Auntie92 gloves and reading until T gets home so we can go for a walk while it’s still sunny and relatively warm out. This is what it looked like from my back deck at 7 am — foggy:

Come to think of it, I’m still feeling a little like that.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


So I don’t keep you on tenterhooks any longer, I ran out of yarn only a few inches from the end. Arrrgghh…

That was AFTER I ripped back the picot edge on the top plus one of the rib rows, finished knitting the bottom picot edge with the beads and then carried on with the top picot again. I was hoping I’d have enough with the yarn from the row I frogged but no, those picots take up a giganticnormous amount of yarn. Now I have to frog that top picot back again plus two more rows because I have to move the beaded rib row down one or it will be eliminated entirely. Then I have to reknit the second rib row putting the beads back in and the entire picot edge yet again. (3rd time lucky?) Currently it’s in time-out awaiting my blood pressure to lower and my good feelings to return. This Twilight Queen had better be worth the PITA it’s been!

I’m due to babysit the grandkids in a couple of minutes. So just to leave you with a taste of spring, here’s the snowdrops almost out under my walnut tree and the lush mizuna and arugula in my greenhouse.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Why Is It?

When you start to run out of yarn, why do you start knitting even faster? As if you do it quickly you’ll somehow have enough. Or at least you’ll see sooner whether it works or not so you can either cry or heave a sigh of relief. I’m starting to peer at my ball of SeaWool for Twilight Queen with worried gaze because it’s getting critical now with about 8.5 rows to go. And I know I still need enough left after that to complete the picot bind-off on the provisionally cast-on edge. Eep!

Yesterday I went to our Ravelry group meet-up and there were 7 in total who made it this time. And a lovely little chubby baby boy who gave me big dimpled smiles. I’m a sucker for babies. We had a great time chatting and knitting and one girl was needle-felting. Lots of variety in projects. However I found an error several rows back in my Twilight Queen so I tinked back and reknit up to one row past where I had discovered the problem and that was it for the day. So much for knitting while chatting and playing with cute babies, huh?

Then it was off to Nana’s birthday party where I got to give away not only her socks but B-Bil’s socks and Auntie’s gloves. I shouldn’t have worried at all because they all were very happy with their handknits from me. I got lots of hugs and thanks and wishes from other family members for more socks for themselves. Not only did the gloves fit perfectly but Auntie’s older (92!) sister was coveting them too. They were acting like little girls in the back seat of our VW van — it was so funny. I hope I have enough yarn left to make her a matching pair. It’s really too close to call. She may end up with even more “interesting” fingers! But then Auntie92 is the type to enjoy that bit of serendipity. After all, she tends to wear things like leopard print glasses and white rubber cowboy boots! More knitting for family coming up. I’ve got my jobs set for the foreseeable future now.

Today is dark and rainy. Typical weather instead of the colder weather we’ve been having lately. My garlic is coming up and there’s a few greens (mizuna mostly) in the greenhouse to be picked. I’ll be babysitting the grandkids most of the day tomorrow so chances are I won’t be posting. More baby fun for me! And Princess K who informs all that she’s three-and-a-half and not a baby like her brother.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Another Day; Another *&%$

It turned out to be quite the adventure getting together with my Spectrum Study Group yesterday. For starters only 3 of us could make it to the 4th’s lovely West Van home. The weather was nice but the leftover bits of snow and ice made walking to the bus stop kinda treacherous. I had to bus it to the one with the car and her husband ended up picking up the third because she was afraid to drive over. We did make it safely to our destination because for some reason there was no snow there at all.

We played with making pop-up cards (pattern for flower card is here, scroll down to the bottom, and folded heart PDF is here) and had a lovely potluck lunch. I only made one card and it’s not even finished yet. I knitted on my wimple for awhile instead. Why is my brain just not engaged with paper arts these days? I have enough supplies to keep an entire kindergarten class happy for weeks. And I need several birthday cards by Sunday.

Anyhow, getting home was even more of an adventure. Even though we left around 3pm we still managed to hit the rush-hour traffic at the north end of the Lion’s Gate bridge. This is the famous spot where 4 lanes have to merge into 2 or often into only a single lane. It usually works with the most amazing politeness but it still takes awhile to get across the bridge and into downtown. Whereupon we saw an incidence of road rage when a large angry man stopped his truck, got out and harangued a guy in an adjacent car right in front of us. Obviously the driving politeness is just a temporary thing and wears off once you leave the vicinity. We had no idea what the hissy fit was about but we stayed well back. The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful and I was glad I was being driven all the way because I was quite tired by 4pm when I got home. It was kind of a long day.

Today I got a photo of the Nana Socks. Not great but it’ll have to do.

Nana Socks

Begun: January 29, 2008

Completed: February 7, 2008

Yarn: Confetti leftovers (unknown original dyelot number), 75% superwash wool/25% nylon, 75g, overdyed with acid dyes to burgundy

Needles: Clover Takumi 5” bamboo dpns. First socks with my new pairs.

Pattern: No Tears Socks from Posh Yarns: ribbed socks with a cable pattern in centre front (to toe) and back (to heel flap). I heavily reduced and modified the original pattern which was on 72 sts and larger needles. Draft for my miniaturized cable is in this post. These socks are on 64 sts, 6” before beginning the Eye of Partridge st heel flaps, foot is 6.25” before ending cable and rib pattern and beginning toe decreases, decreased to 24 sts total, dog-ear reduction.

Comments: The original pattern would have definitely been much too big for Nana’s teensy little feetsies. These turned out quite cute (I tried them on before I decreased the toe so that I can’t get my feet in them anymore) and there was only a small amount of yarn left over. Leftover left-overs. I had to make a couple of joins though due to a couple of knots in the yarn and running out of one ball just a few rows before the end of the toe. I made what I call a stitched-splice in the middle of the rib and cable area. It’s kind of like a cross between a spit-splice and a Russian join, using a sewing needle to stitch in and out of one of the ends with the other for about 2”. I didn’t do the turn-around-and-back-again like the Russian join but this half-version is strong enough for the purpose. (I learned how to do this join from my adopted mom back when I was a sprout.) When I ran out near the end of the toe I just left the ends dangling and ran them into the back of the knitting later after grafting the toe stitches. You can’t really feel either of these joins on your feet.

That’s the third pair finished since New Year’s. Now it seems weird not to have socks on my needles. Instead of immediately casting on another pair, I’m trying to finish my Twilight Queen wimple. I’m nearly halfway up at the moment, so I’m getting there. I was kinda cranky today because I felt kind of dizzy again this morning but it seems to be somewhat better this afternoon. I’ve got an organic chicken in the oven and veggies to shove in with it so supper is taken care of. Guess I’ve got nothing much to feel *&%$ about at the moment.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

That’s how they say Happy Chinese New Year around here. It’s a really bad transliteration of the Cantonese and doesn’t actually mean Happy New Year, but what do I know? I think it’s actually something about wishing you prosperity which is always a good thing. I’m hoping for better things this year anyway. It’s the Year of the Rat, the first of the Chinese zodiac animals. This one apparently is a Brown Earth Rat. Asian rats are not bad guys like in western culture, but are considered industrious and prosperous and good at organization. Also charming and sociable. We actually had a number of them as pets (the tame variety) and they were dear little things if somewhat short-lived. Milady Daughter was born in a Water Rat year. No wonder she used to live in a rat’s nest…Oops, did I say that? She’s a reformed woman now. Could be something to do with her Fire Snake husband. But what do I know? T and I are both Metal Tigers. Rrroww.

I’ve finished Nana’s Socks but I won’t post the final info with photo until tomorrow. I was thinking as I was knitting (and reading) that I don’t much like evenly dyed or super-even commercially-spun yarns and the combination of perfect spinning and dyeing in the same yarn is even less appealing to me. Since I overdyed a self-striping yarn for these socks I got automatic uneven colouring. It had a short 2-row stripe and a lot of dotted area between but now it’s dark burgundy red with subtle areas of even darker burgundy. I like it. For some reason I don’t mind an evenly spun yarn for socks. My handspun yarns are just not durable enough no matter what I try: stronger fleece type, blend with stronger fibre, ply with stronger fibre or spinning a multi-ply tight twist. Especially if I want it fine enough to fit into shoes. Maybe one of these days I’ll try again. But right now I’m very happy to use commercial yarns for socks — particularly if I dyed or overdyed it myself.

For some reason I don’t have the same problems with commercial weaving yarns. Of course I can (and have) woven with my handspun, but most of my weaving yarns are finer than I can spin myself. Some are in fancy yarn structures that I can’t easily reproduce myself, such as chenille or brushed mohair. Some are actual “thread” rather than yarn and some are also good for lace knitting or crochet as well as weaving. It’s true that I often buy only white or natural and black or perhaps navy blue. Then I dye other colours in whatever quantity I need for a project thereby introducing that bit of subtle (or sometimes not-so-subtle) variegation. I guess I’m still looking for a more handmade-looking product. I enjoy the little imperfections and irregularities. (For some reason my crappy tension looks better that way!) My esthetics are obviously influenced by the gazillion years that I’ve been spinning and dyeing and knitting, crocheting and weaving for myself. Perfect yarn is much too boring. And ordinary.

I’m heading out to a Spectrum Study Group meeting this morning. This time we’re going to make cards. I’m not feeling much like playing with paper but I need a couple of birthday cards and a valentine so I guess I need to get with the program. At least the food and company is good!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Technology: Can You Take It; Can You Leave It?

Ah yes, Damselfly has been pondering ponderously again. The other day my cable modem mysteriously lost its tiny little mind for awhile until T-Man came home and unplugged and replugged a few things and it got its little arse back in gear. It does this every once in awhile especially after T has been messing with his computer’s connections. He has lost his Virtual Private Network connection for work and he can’t work from home until it’s fixed. It doesn’t want to be fixed. It’s possible that the modem problem had nothing to do with that VPN problem — his computer wasn’t even turned on at the time. Our Modern Conveniences are occasionally rather Inconvenient. With an evil mind of their own.

Anyway while my modem was temporarily out of commission, I took the time to peruse some video podcasts that I don’t usually have a chance to watch. If my hands are busy enough to want podcasts, then I want to listen because my eyes are busy too. If my eyes aren’t busy, then I usually want to read blogs or email instead. Video podcasts are kind of intermediary fun. Easier to glance away from to work on a tricky bit of knitting because they keep going along. Unlike when I read, if my eyes glance away then of course I stop reading. And I have to find my place again when I glance back. Video podcasts are like mini TV shows in the same way that regular podcasts are like radio programs. There are two that I’ve been watching: Lets Knit2gether and Knitterati, both of which have some fairly professional production qualities. The former has been around longer but the latter is quite entertaining too. (Check out the animation!) I’m sure it takes more expertise and equipment to create a video than an audio podcast. Just for starters you need another person with a camera! And I bet they take more time to edit and prepare before uploading. They are also necessarily shorter than most audio podcasts because the video takes up much more space for the same number of minutes.

Do you listen to audio podcasts? I’m a big fan because as I said earlier you can free up both your hands and your eyes to get to work while your brain goes on a happy vacation. I like it better than the radio because you can choose what to listen to and if you miss something you can rewind and listen again. No commercials. Fast-forward through anything you don’t like. I like it better than TV or DVDs because you don’t have to watch anything except what you’re doing. There are lots of different kinds of podcasts — something for everybody. Most people think first of music programs. I have a couple of folk music ones I like, including one that is locally broadcast on a wimpy university’s FM station on Saturday mornings when I usually can’t listen to it. As a podcast I can hear it anytime I want and I can play it over again any time if I like the music.

I know I’ve mentioned before which ones are my favourite crafty podcasts so I won’t repeat the list. There’s a few that have disappeared in the last while or that I’ve gotten bored of and stopped downloading. Not tellin’ who though so feelings don’t get hurt. I can totally understand why it becomes too big of a job to keep up or interests or circumstances change and one can’t continue recording. It’s a lot of work to podcast and even more to do it well. That wouldn’t be me. As I’ve said before, putting a microphone in front of me is the only sure way to shut me up!

So of course I had to have those podcasts already downloaded onto my computer when my modem went on hiatus. I run iTunes at least once a week even though I’m very far behind on listening to many of the episodes. That was handy! But have you ever noticed how many times you look things up on Google or other search-engine-of-choice? How often you check a website for information? How often you send out an email or read and reply to posts on groups and forums? How annoying it can be when you can’t because your system is acting up and you can’t get online? I have come to realize that I am quite dependent on being wired to the world. I hate telephones (don’t even own a cell phone) but cut me off from my Internets and I’m feeling like I have one arm tied behind my back. If you had told me 15 years ago that this would happen, I’d have laughed at you.

P.S. Susan and TK, you’re quite welcome for the mention in yesterday’s post! And Susan darlin’, this is my 590th post since May 2005. Methinks that’s a pretty good record! Sometimes I don’t have anything babble-worthy, sometimes I don’t have time, and sometimes I just can’t. get. it. up.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

You ALL Make MY Day!

It’s taken me a couple of days to post this, but the delightful and talented Tammy (aka Beentsy) has given me a Make My Day award! That was so sweet! Thanks, hon’! Unfortunately, I can’t believe that I’m having such difficulty naming 10 blogs that make my day. I can’t reduce it to just 10 and most of the ones I read every day have already been mentioned more than once on other blogs. I kinda wanted a personal list of great blogs that maybe you hadn’t discovered yet. I mean, I’ve been checking out some of the ones that others have mentioned and making new connections. Like I need any more reading to do!

I read different blogs for different reasons. The famous ones like Yarn Harlot and Crazy Aunt Pearl and Knitnut and The Panopticon for humour and personal stories. There’s technical content like TechKnitter and Spinning Spider Jenny that teach me things I might not already have known. Some blogs make me ponder and think really hard (always a good thing) like Lainie’s Red Thread Studio and Abby’s Yarns. There’s blogs with lots of great photos such as Curious Weaver and ColorJoy and ones that amaze me with their artistry like Michael Cook and Fleegle. I can try to keep up with the escapades of my real-life friends Susan and Felicia and Lauren (and of course Tammy and many more) and my online-only friends like Ev. And there’s the blogs I read just because I enjoy them such as Fibermania and Kristen Nicholas and TwoLeftNeedles and Knitting Contessa. I could go on but my mouse hand is getting tired with the linking. That’s at least 20 so I’m twice over my limit! There’s about 100 more that I’m subscribed to. Isn’t it lucky that I can knit and read at the same time?

The weather has turned rather nasty here. It’s very windy and alternating rain and snow. Makes me very glad I don’t have to go out today. However it’s also not very conducive to good photography. It’s very dark. I was going to show you Nana’s socks where I’m heading down the feet towards the toes. I don’t often do many in-progress shots but these are terminally cute. I may be knitting another pair (somewhat larger in the foot) sometime. Oh well, I’ll be finished them soon and will have to take their picture before they get gifted away on Sunday at her birthday party.

Just after I typed the part about it being dark the sun peeked out for a moment. Just to prove me a liar! The wind is making for very changeable weather today. All I know is it’s cold enough even though it’s not below freezing that I put the thermostat up a little bit. The wind is coming in through any crack and it even feels colder next to the double-glazed windows, which are only about half the windows in the house.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Birds & Books

If there were any groundhogs around here (they aren’t native to west coast Canada) they would have seen their shadow yesterday. And it’s still mainly sunny today — must be some kind of record! Here’s the Hamamelis I mentioned yesterday.

That’s much more fun to say than “witch hazel” which has nothing to do with witches at all. It really means “dousing rod” and I don’t think we need to douse for water around here. There’s altogether too much of it available right now. It just falls out of the sky. Heh. But I digress. Isn’t this a pretty variety? I want one.

The snow isn’t melting very quickly even with the sun and my front yard is still completely covered. I got this cool photo of frozen crow prints:

Those crows have started making more noise earlier in the mornings now and many of the birds that are visiting my feeders are getting their spring colours on. The male house finches are an especially pretty orange-red. Yesterday we saw a northern flicker, a nuthatch and a downy woodpecker in the yard at the same time. This morning T said he saw a Cooper’s hawk and of course all the other birds had disappeared the instant it showed up. I love watching the birds. I could do without being woken up by the crow chorus though. It gets earlier and earlier along with the sunrise. And louder and louder to a really noisy crescendo when the young ones are fledging. I actually like crows. Most of the time. They’re interesting and smart and quite pretty when you notice the iridescence in their feathers. Yes, I also like spiders and snakes and hate the cute little squirrels so take my opinions any way you want.

Before I went off on a nature tangent, I thought I’d do another book review. This one is a Japanese book “Knitting Patterns Book 250” by Shida Hitomi.

You can get it directly from YesAsia or the Needle Arts Book Shop in Canada. Marsha at Needle Arts also has a PDF tutorial on following Japanese patterns and some links to more online help. The Japanese books are worth figuring out how to use because the patterns are exquisite! This one has stitch patterns consisting of mainly cable, rib and lace combinations of breathtaking beauty and complexity and all in charted form. Some of the symbols will be familiar to western knitters but some are totally new stitch manipulations, at least to me. There are several pages of illustrations explaining many of these stitches in the back of the book but it might be worthwhile getting another book “Clear & Simple Knitting Symbols” which has 60 stitches clearly illustrated — though it too is totally in Japanese except for the title. Since I only recently learned about this helpful book, I plan to order it next time. Meanwhile I do have the advantage of having a good friend who is both Japanese and a knitter, so hopefully if I get stuck she can help.

As someone reminded me recently, Japanese writing is already “pictorial” so it makes sense that they would be very innovative in charting knitting patterns. They must also have some pretty darned experienced knitters in Japan. The “Knitting Patterns Book 250” shows a few lovely and tantalizing garments made using the pattern stitches. Of course the instructions for them are not included. In the books that have garments, they are usually given in only one size which is really teensy compared to your average North American. If you are not that particular size and want to adjust the pattern for your own body, you have to do all the work of resizing it yourself. When the pattern includes really complex stitch patterns as well that’s a daunting task! Add not being able to read the text to the mix and the Japanese pattern books become a challenge only for the brave and intrepid among us. But what a challenge! The results if successful would sure be worth it.