Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow Day

How awesome is it that I finished my one knitted Christmas gift back in November, and it has already been delivered, opened, and worn with pride? This is the Strangling Vines Scarf, made from Malabrigo sock for my mother-in-law (I swear the name of the pattern does not reflect my feelings for my mother-in-law. She is a very nice lady. Hi Sharon!)

Two weeks ago it snowed about 4", and was impressed enough to take pictures, having spent the past several years in the desert.

This weekend it snowed 22". This is the most snow I remember seeing ever. I didn't enjoy the hours I spend digging my car out, but I did get a day off from work. Sweet!

Also in the news, my Christmas present should be arriving any day now:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Finished: DROPS Cardigan

Most knitwear designers come up with catchy names for their patterns so that when you say "I just finished my Jaywalkers" or "Look at that great February Lady Sweater" other knitters know what you're talking about. Not so with Garnstudio. They come up with impossible to remember things like "DROPS jacket in 'Eskimo' or 'Silke-Alpaca' with A-shape and ¾-long or long sleeves." (Ravelry link and pattern link) Way to cover all your bases there, guys.

I used Knitpicks Wool of the Andes Bulky, which is 100% wool and super warm, if a little scratchy, as wool can be. I used size 11 needles. This sweater turned out to be an excellent lesson in gauge. I made size L to compensate for my tighter gauge, and it worked out perfectly! I didn't knit the collar as written; it was a little too strangly for my taste. So, I picked up stitches all the way around the back and front pieces, and knit straight until I ran out of yarn (8 inches maybe?) I love the result!

I forgot to make buttonholes as I was knitting, so I crocheted loops for the buttons. One issue I haven't solved yet is how to keep the front piece that is behind the other from bunching up. (Does that make sense? The two sides overlap, so the side that is underneath doesn't have anything forcing it to stay flat.) I need to add a hidden button or snap, but I haven't figured out how to do that without it showing on the outside.

My hydrangea bush is also looking great this fall:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Two Socks

Recently I finished two socks - unfortunately they aren't a pair. I've never had a problem with "second sock syndrome" before, but man, has it hit like the plague. I'm not even feeling motivated to finish these two pairs, I just want to start a new pattern!

First is my Catherine sock. I'm using Knitpicks Essential, which is nice and soft despite its price. We'll see how it holds up to my diabolical machine washing and drying routine.

I also finished one super-sock, which probably has the stitch count of a pair because I'm using size 0 needles. The yarn is Schoeller+Stahl Fortissima Socka Cotton Color. I decided to do a basic toe-up pattern here so that I could use up all of the yarn - I divided the yarn in half and just knit until I ran out.

Also, I took these pictures of my own foot without using a self-timer. Let's just say I have very good balance.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

San Francisco

Even though I lived in the southwest for a few years, I never went to California. But I should have, because California is so far away from Maryland. Seriously, I could have gotten to England faster. (It probably didn't help that we stopped in Tampa - which is decidedly not on the way to California - and Austin first, courtesy of the bus that is Southwest airlines.)

So we went to California; more specifically, to San Francisco and Point Reyes National Seashore. We were there for a wedding, and also to sponge off my sister, who lives in the city and provides free car rentals. Alacatraz Island came highly recommended, so I bought tickets in advance. (The park is free-Alacatraz is a National Park site-but, you have to get yourself there. Well played my friends, well played.)

The Park Service really plays up the fact that Alacatraz was one of the most hard-core prisons for the most violent criminals. I thought this notion was rather undermined by the fact that the prison seemed to have a lot of natural light, a library, a great view of the city, and the prisoners got to live in San Francisco for free. Do you know how much rents are in that place? Ok, there might have been some murders, but the tour focused a lot on a prisoner uprising that occured becauase the spaghetti tasted bad. Not exactly hard core in my book.

And, they had views like this:

After Alcatraz, we walked around the Fisherman's Wharf area. Although it was a little too commercial for me, I have to admit that the aroma coming out of Boudin was heavenly. They also have bread that is shaped like stuff - which is pretty impressive, if you have ever tried to make bread yourself. Also, the sea lions were totally awesome:

Sometimes nature freaks me out. Like, there are crazy huge whales that swim around in the ocean, and there are blubbery, slippery sea lions who bark and climb all over each other. I'm not necessarily scared of the animal itself, just blown by the idea that such a creature exists in the world. Don't even get me started on outer space.

The next day we visited the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, which claims to be "the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States!" I love when things claim to be "The Best" or "The Oldest", but with lots of qualifiers. For example, "the oldest zoo in the northern part of Ohio that also includes giraffes" or "the biggest fish ever caught on a Tuesday by a man with one arm". Here, look at Buddha:

I also visited the Museum of Craft and Folk Art. I say "I" because my sister and husband decided to do the more exciting activities of going to Gap and sitting on a bench, respectively. It was all for the best really, because one small gallery does not a museum make. I saw the "Open Source Embroidery" exhibit, which mostly I didn't get. (And I went to grad school for art history - so that has to say something.) In fact, there were moreinteresting things in the gift shop.

Then, we went to a wedding, during a "wind event". It only served to make the whole affair much more impressive - these people planned their own wedding. And when I say planned, I mean they bought the food and transported it, rented the tables, bought the alchohol, made their own table decorations, and the bride even had time to make some pumpkin bread for the buffet. Any of you readers who have gotten married, you understand how impressive this is. Also, they are tall, and I am not, which is why I'm not showing you any pictures of me, for I look like a garden gnome in them all.

On our last day we drove back to my sister's house, and spent the remainder of our time just enjoying the view from her balcony. I also might have bought some yarn.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Home Improvement: Kitchen

Welcome to my kitchen! Once again I cannot take credit for the colors, or the checked border in the eating area, but I can take credit for picking out an awesome house! The previous owners had a retro kitchen, so the black-and-white checks don't necessarily go with our southwestern furniture, but replacing the tile is pretty far off my radar at this point.

I really like having an eat-in kitchen. I find I'm watching far less TV than I did in our old house, and doing more reading and listening to music while I cook.

Pretty much my favorite things are the license plates on the wall. (The blank spot is for Jason's New Mexico plate, once he gets his car registered in Maryland.) I'm also working on some paintings for the red wall, but I kind of suck at painting, so we'll see how that works out.

We're also shopping for a new flat-top stove and something to put the microwave on. Ideally, it would be nice to have something that would provide more counter space, but finding the perfect piece of furniture is ridiculously hard.

Oh, and new countertops, too. These ones are white laminate, and I don't know who picked those out, but they're pretty much the worst color possible. They're covered in stains and cuts. I don't know what's up with that black dishwasher either. I'm kind of hoping it breaks so I can buy a white one. And finally, we need to devise some sort of shelving system for the pantry. Now, the shelves only extend halfway into the available space, and there is a trash can and recycling bin shoved in there as well. The cut-out in the wall is great for puppet shows and drive-through orders, though.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Trail Journal: Maryland Heights

Trail: Maryland Heights (Overlook Cliff Trail), Harper's Ferry National Historic Park
Date: August 15, 2009
Distance: 2.8 miles
Time: 2.5 hours
Elevation gain: about 1000', plus a 300' decent that you have to hike back up
Weather: 90 degrees, 60% humidity, sunny

Take a moment to assemble the above facts, and what you have resembles some sort of death march rather than a leisurely Saturday hike. (Except for the guy who was running the trail; clearly he was an android.) I'm not being dramatic when I say this was one of the most brutal hikes of my life. The terrain was so steep that I was leaning forward as I walked uphill. Apparently these people have never heard of switchbacks.

The upside was that I was not dragging a 9,000lb cannon nor wearing a wool uniform, which is what the Union Civil War soldiers did when building the naval battery on this mountain. Kudos, guys. How unfortunate that air conditioning was not invented in your lifetimes.

To get to the trailhead, you hike part of the Appalachian Trail, which isn't as cool as it seems when you realize that the trail is just a railroad bridge across a river filled with hundreds of drunken college students in inner tubes.

The whole point of this hike to reach the overlook, where you see:

At this point, I wasn't even all that impressed. I had drank a liter of water and didn't ever have to use the bathroom because of the intense sweat situation. The sun was beating down, and my view was being blocked by more college students (although thankfully these ones were not intoxicated.)

After making it back to the town of Harper's Ferry, we went into the John Brown museum. I didn't look at anything though, just sat in the lobby where the air was the coolest. I was obviously beat and cranky by this point, so we didn't look at any more of the the exhibits. History and extreme physical exertion do not mix.

I thought I was tough, but I can't handle August. All hiking is hereby postponed until October.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Finished: Ishbel

Despite knitting becoming much more popular among younger people over the past 10 years, the majority of the population probably still thinks of little old grandmas sitting in rocking chairs knitting shawls. Well, I am under 30, do not own a rocking chair, and just knit my first shawl! And yes, my friends, it was awesome.

I have been scared of knitting lace pretty much since I started knitting, but after finishing my February Lady Sweater earlier this yarn, I was prepared to try something more complicated. Enter my knitting group, who rightly has formed aRavely group called "Enablers Anonymous", where, unlike other 12-step programs that focus on preventing you from doing something, enabling is downright encouraged. (Witness my recent spinning activity.) All I had to do was mention I was interested in knitting lace, and I inexplicably found myself holding a very long, pointy needle and a triangular diagram.

I chose Ishbel for my first shawl because the stockinette portion was super-easy, and decreased the opportunity for me to royally screw up. (Which I only did once - go me!) The yarn was a silk and wool blend I got at Maryland Sheep and Wool from a random booth - I can't remember the name, and it wasn't on the label. I used size 6 knitpicks options needles.

Because it isn't the 18th century, the shawl in action will most likely look more like this:

I know now why shawls are knitters' crack. The whole time you're knitting, you have an amorphous blob on your needles. Then, as if by magic (magic = blocking), the whole thing flattens out and becomes light and airy and beautiful and warm, even though it's full of holes. You suddenly want more and more, convieniently forgetting the three hours you spent ripping out an entire night's worth of work because you made one extra freakin' yarn over. And when you're done, you'll sit out in your yard wearing a winter coat and a wool shawl in 90-degree heat, trying not to let your neighbor see you, even though he smokes pot in his yard and drives a sketchy van.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Home Improvement: Office

This is probably my favorite room in my house, and one of the reasons why we bought the house. I think this room was originally the master bedroom (it has a full bathroom and skylights), but we are using it as our office. The stairs go up to a loft, which the previous owners converted from an attic.

It's great to finally have most of (notice I didn't say all) my books in one place. Yes, I organized them by color. I like the rainbow effect against the turquoise wall.
My future plans for this room include curtains, a rug in front of the big bookcase, and maybe a different chair and reading lamp. Unfortunately I can't take credit for the wall colors, but I am glad the previous owners did all my work for me!

Next up: the garden.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I'm pretty sure that you all have nothing better to do than monitor the status of my blog, so you've undoubtedly noticed that I've been gone for-ev-er. I have a good excuse: I am now the proud owner of a full-time job and a 1.5 hour (each way) commute.

I have to say, I find my twice daily train ride to be quite amusing. There is the rather large woman who takes up 4 seats and every day can be observed eating something that is no doubt contributing to the severity of her condition (most recently, a giant pixy stix.) On Fridays, the drinking starts early. (I have seen many people drinking single bottles of beer; did they plan ahead for that? At 6am did they put their beer in their lunchbox and then store it in the work fridge all day?)

Oh yeah, knitting. It has happened. I was racing along on my Drops jacket, until I realized that it will still be several months until I will be able to wear a bulky, 100%-wool sweater. So that sort of put a damper on things.

My Catherine socks have been seeing the most action. They are small and portable, and the design is interesting enough to keep me motivated. I'm almost finished with one sock... but again, wearing sandals everyday doesn't necessitate new socks.

I also started this plain 'ol sock, and I'm getting tired of typing this post, so just look at the picture. You'll get the idea.

Ishbel: I is making one.

(I am now spending inordinate amounts of time thinking about random grammar issues; this apparently has impacted my ability to construct coherent sentences outside of work.)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Settling in

Is it wrong to want a vacation from moving? Unpacking was the easy part; finding places for all the things we unpacked is not so easy. It's also hard to put things away when your living room looks like this:
I'm pretty sure the cat is around here somewhere...

I've been tackling my long list of projects one by one. First up was to get my vegetables in the ground (or rather, in the dirt in plastic bins) because I got a late start this year. Beans, zucchini, green onions, and peppers have all sprouted. I'm excited to see these plants actually grow instead of withering and dying in 110-degree heat, like last year.

I also planted some flowers. I can sort of see how gardening might become addicting. Aren't the black leaves on this one great?

Here's the one room I have finished: my craft storage room. I'm not calling this my craft room, because I doubt any actual crafting will happen there because of lack of a window. On the walls I installed some eye screws and ran hemp string through them to serve as my revolving art gallery. I think this would be a really great way to display kids' art, since they seem to be mass producers.

In knitting (spinning?) news, last week my knitting group held its monthly spinning off-shoot. Just look at all those wheels! Somewhere many sheep are enjoying their summer haircuts.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Summer unofficially starts on Memorial Day, which this year also happened to be mine and Jason's birthday. Whenever I tell someone that my husband and I have the same birthday, they usually say something like, "Really? That's cool/weird/neat/a coincidence!" What it really means is that every year I'm going to have to make my own birthday cake. The conversation usually goes something like this:
S: What kind of birthday cake do you want this year?
J: I don't know, what kind of birthday cake do you want?
S: Are you going to make me a cake this year?
J: What? I have to make my own birthday cake?
S: What? I have to make MY own birthday cake?
And then I bake a cake, because Jason says something like, "You are better at baking than I am. Your cake would turn out much better." (Apparently a statement he intends to use to get out of baking anything until death do us part)

That was a long way to say that I made an ice cream cake this year, and even though it turned out tasty, next time I'll remember to freeze the cake before layering in the ice cream. (Whoops.)

Yesterday I went strawberry picking, and came back with nearly 7lbs. Half have gone into the freezer, and half will go into my mouth. (But not all at the same time.)

There was also spinning! For years I have put off spinning for fear of acquiring yet another fiber hobby. But, many of the ladies in my knitting group are also spinners, and they made me do it. I believe there were threats of violence. So, I borrowed a spindle and mooched some fiber, and got to work.Above are my first and second attempts - not too bad! But, man, is this time consuming. I don't know if I will ever become addicted to spinning, but I am glad to be learning. When we run out of oil and the rest of you are cold, I will be wearing cozy hand-spun-and-knit sweaters.
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