Friday, December 29, 2006


I just read What's Wrong with Cinderella? from the NY Times magazine. I highly recommend you go read it, while it's still available and not archived (yes, you need an account but it's free as long as it hasn't been archived. Even NY Times journalists need to get paid).

The premises discussed in this article make me so angry I can't even spit straight. And perhaps I might be a wee bit drunken, which just makes me even angrier, but maybe that means if i offend you, I can claim it was the booze? But no, not really.

I am not, never have, nor will I ever be a princess. You think that blog name is something cute? I'm big, people, and I always have been. I've got size 11 feet. I really and truly am big-boned. I hope you enjoyed your prom 'cuz I never went to one, and I can count on one hand the number of "dates" I've experienced. If I were walking down the street, you wouldn't say that I'm fat, but I'm large. The word "petite" would not ever apply to me, even if I were starving. I'm not delicate, graceful, nor do I have a waspy waist and size-A non-existant breasts. I'm BIG. And I look like I have consumption when I wear pink.

There shouldnt' be ANYTHING WRONG with being a waspy waist and having size-A non-existant breasts. Or any variation on this. My problem with this is that there IS something wrong. And there's something very wrong when there's no other choice than to be Pink pink pink princess all the time and if you're not, you're not truly a girl.

From the department of too much information:
I have long hair. I've got the big, thick, to-die-for gorgeous hair, but you know why I keep it that way? Okay, one, I'm lazy and unwilling to spend time with either "product" (gah, when did THAT become a descriptive noun?) or hairspray in my hair, but also: to prove I'm female. No one disputes that you're a girl when you've got long hair.

I've got bad skin, big feet, I look ill in pink and I haven't got that "natural femininity" or whatever that all these other women have. I went into a very "masculine" career. It makes me unbearably sad when I see that even fewer woman are going into this particular field and the sciences in general. Why? because it's not "feminine". As if feminine is supposed to mean more hugs and less brains. I like hugging. This should not be a separate thing than brains.

And it makes me furious that marketers are setting up these kind of role models all for the almighty dollar. "We're just giving them what they want," they say, but the point of parents is not to feed your children candy all the time. And not perpetuate the myth that either you are delicate and fragile and must be catered to and good and kind and sweet and perfect and dance impeccably and look great in ball gowns but oh, we couldn't have you doing anything that gets your hands dirty, not in that lovely gown. Or you are a big MANLY MAN and you take care of your little princess so she doesn't worry her little (dumb) head. Don't lie to yourself that this isn't about brains and capability. There is no adjective for 'capable' in the whole Princess mythos. It's about being coddled. Why else would you be wearing a corset and gown. Why else would you need Prince Charming to COME AND SAVE YOU. Fuck that.

At the same time I always so desperately wished Mr. Charming would show up with 2 dozen roses and tell me I was beautiful and lovely and everything he ever wanted in a woman. Oh sure, grow your own garden and I did so, thanks very much, but that doesn't make you not stop and wonder just what the hell's wrong with yourself that you seemed to be so at odds with The Perfect Girl.

Now, I go shopping for clothes for my little 6-month-old neice and it makes me ill to see the choices. Pink, pink, more pink, maybe some purple for the girls and flowers and teddy bears and cute sayings and "born to shop". The boy's clothes? Navy, grey, bright red, army green. With lots of machinery and camo mixed in. All of the boy's clothes say "capable" and all the girl's clothes say "delicate". At 6 months?

Please realize what this all might be doing to little girls. I was never, ever good enough. NEVER good enough, despite the grades and top schools and the hairspray (oh yes, for a bit) and the goodness and kindness and tight shoes and frilly dresses. Years and years and I'm still fucked up in the head about all this crap and just what is "feminine" anyway? Is it really Sleeping Beauty in her gorgeous gown, waiting for El Charmino to slash through the thorns, defeat the evil witch, and wake her up? Thanks, I'd rather be Maleficent. At least she's handy with a wand.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Ho ho ho

We're off visiting my parents and family in Albuquerque for Christmas, so I'm not posting nor checking my email much.
I am also the lame-o for having forgot the camera cable, so no pretty xmess pictures until next week. I'm having a good time, playing a lot of DDR, enjoying my utterly adorable 6-month-old neice, and just generally being lazy. Mmm, lazy.

In any case, have yourself a merry little Christmas; or I hope you had a great Hanukkah, or happy Solstice, or at least I hope you're having a nice day, if you celebrate something else or nothing at all.

Monday, December 18, 2006

You've lost that Christmas feelin'

Over dinner on Saturday, K the Love Monkey mentioned that he wasn't feeling very Christmas-ey this year, despite it being a week away. And I realized I wasn't either.

I don't know if this is because there has been so much going on this year that it feels as if it's suddenly December and HEY YEAH WHERE DID ALL THE REST OF THAT YEAR GO? I haven't been paying that much attention to the passage of time.

We discussed how maybe it was because there's been decorations in stores since October that you just get immune to the influence. K remarked that you now get Xmess for 1/6 of the year, and even longer for stupid stores who start in September. I'd just like to let all you retailers know: you're not doing yourselves any favors with me, starting that early. One of the reasons decorations evoke a nice feeling is IF THEY ARE KEPT FOR A SPECIAL TIME.

K thinks it's because we HAVEN'T been in a mall, in a feels-so-good-when-you-stop-doing-that-annoying-thing way. That you appreciate the good bits of Christmas so much more when you can finally quit shoving through crowds. Crowd shoving has been at an all-time low this year at Chez Love Monkey & Big Alice.

Me, I don't know. I don't decorate much, seeing as we ALWAYS travel and so why put up decorations we aren't going to be around to enjoy. I love having a tree but I hate having to kill something just to enjoy it. Also IANAID (I am not an interior decorator). But I usually get excited about the season.

I like to give gifts to people. I like the ambience of Christmas. I like the reds and the greens and the golds and the air of anticipation. But this year it feels just the same as any other winter month (except I am about frothing at the mouth to get the week and a half vacation that's going to arrive IN ONE DAY. oh thank FSM.)

Perhaps it's because this year, more than any other, I feel acutely just how much I have in relation to so much of the rest of the world. Just how screwed so many people are. It makes me feel sad and guilty a lot of the time.

And there's still no Christmas feel today despite filling out 52 billion holiday cards on Sunday. Yes, Virginia, that is a plethora of cards! Well, maybe not quite that many. Maybe more like 60. But hello! I've never written that many cards at one time, in my life. I think I need some kind of freaking medal. Or maybe just pass the rum. (For inexplicable reasons, my associations are: rum is for Christmasmas, vodka's for New Year's. And whiskey/whisky's for whenever you just feel like you need to feel ADULT).


By the way, we are just fine after the Big Killer Storm of the PNW. It really didn't hit Oregon that hard east of the coast range. We didn't lose any power (we live in Portland metro) and despite the blowing-ness, there weren't that many big branches or trees down. I was in a LYS Friday night (I KNOW, too much yarn. Yes, but this is a sweater for K. The very first sweater I am ever making him) and they have big plate glass windows that shook and rattled every time the wind gusted up. I told the person at the front she could always duck quickly under the desk if a tree came through. It did not make for calm yarn shopping, though.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Striped Scarf

I made this for me, more than a month ago. This fall I realized that all I had was a ratty old acrylic pink scarf from when I was 14, and I decided I was a knitter and I needed a scarf.

Yarn: Teseo Divé in color 2822. A self-striping orange/red/brown in 55% wool, 45% microfiber. I used all of 3 balls, including unraveling my swatch. Bought at Mabel's Cafe and Knittery.

Pattern: Mistake Rib stitch from Barbara Walker #1. Cast on a multiple of 4 +3 and K2P2 until the scarf is long enough. Or you run out of yarn (sigh).
I cast on with a long-tail cast-on and cast-off with Elizabeth Zimmerman's sewn bind-off. I think it looks much like the cast-on.

Needles: US 8/5 mm Addi Turbos. I started with 5.5 mm but I thought the ribbing was too loose. The microfiber content of this yarn made it squeak! Squeaky Yarn, what tool of the devil is that? I absolutely could not stand knitting this with anything but shiny metal. Metal needles were fine, no squeak and no discomfort.

Notes: Yeah, it's part microfiber. I don't care. I fell in love with the color, and the feel is really nice, springy and soft too (I'm sensitive to wool, especially at the neck). It's a single ply so I'm sure it'll be pill-o-riffic by next year, but I love it anyway.

A closeup of the mistake rib, which is a very easy pattern and I like the results. It's not quite so assertive as full ribbing.

The yarn self-stripes in random-ish intervals (I used an entire ball until I got to where it was repeating itself). I used Russian joins (water and agitation) to join each new ball of yarn and they blended in nicely, probably because this is a single ply yarn. Also, the colors change often enough that I did not feel the need to match the colors ending and starting a ball.

The scarf's a little short -- I should have bought another ball of the stuff, but the yarn has been marinating in the stash for several months and they didn't even have the color still in stock, let alone the dyelot.

It's a thick scarf yet the ribbing and the springiness and loft of the yarn keeps it from overwhelming me. Soft, warm, fuzzy, and ORANGE! woo!

Barry's comin' to Portland!

I was walking over to buy Size 15 needles a couple weeks ago (Yes! 15! 10 mm! Don't ask why) and saw this poster:

An evening of music and passion, baby. Barry, you're still lookin' fine!

Aww, some part of the proceeds go for Cystic Fibrosis research, so we can't mock the Manilow too much. However, someone has GOT to get Copacabana out of my head now.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Keep Big Alice Weird*

Rabbitch tagged me for a meme! I don't usually do memes but I feel all squishy inside 'cuz no ones ever tagged me specifically before. Squishy. Maybe I should have the doctor check that out.

“THE RULES:Each player of this game starts with the ‘6 weird things about you.’ People who get tagged need to write a blog of their own 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave a comment that says ‘you are tagged’ in their comments and tell them to read your blog.”

My Weird List
  1. I use handkerchiefs. I got tired of the wads of wet tissue in my pockets.

  2. Using the wrong word for the subjunctive tense bugs me. It's WERE, people. IF SHE WERE. Normally I'm not such a grammar avenger.

  3. I avoid caffeine. I have absolutely no tolerance and it makes me shake, babble on and on, and type badly. I stick with water, fruit juice, and booze. Also, I NEED another addiction? I don't think so.

  4. I have a great memory for obscure facts, especially media, but I cannot recall facts on request most of the time. I also can't remember useful things such as names and phone numbers. I could tell you the full detailed plot of a book I read when I was 7, but I won't remember your name.

  5. I don't watch TV. We own a TV for games and movies, but have yet to connect the tuner and don't have cable. I don't miss it, except socially (when everyone's talking about blah blah blah show and I have no clue). That's why God invented DVDs.

  6. I know all the words to Lewis Caroll's poem, Jabberwocky (see #4).

And one bonus, not really weird, just LAME:

7. I am really, really bad about keeping up with my email. I used to check it twenty times a day, but now I've gone the other way. Really, I'm not snubbing or ignoring you. Just really bad at the email, ok?

I'm not gonna tag anyone because I'm bashful and because certain people might hunt me down and rip out my still-beating heart and feed it to their cat. I'll just encourage you to share your weirdness, people.


* which is a reference to a popular bumper sticker here in Portland:

Keep Portland Weird

K and I agree that it's like being cool: if you have to say it, then you're only quirky. And not in a good way. The stickers are a little too establishment, you know? Too "movement"?
Ha, but the best one I ever saw was just:

Keep Portland

Monday, December 11, 2006

I like snow

Yes, feel free to kill me now. I like snow and I like snow falling and I love the silence during a really intense snow storm.

This is not to say that I enjoy driving in slippery conditions. In fact, I find snow and ice a great excuse NOT to go anywhere at all. Except by foot. I figure, if it's going to be cold, we should at least get the consolation prize of snow to make everything pretty. Because nothing covers up ugly suburbia like snow.

One of the drawbacks of my current climate is that snow is pretty unlikely. And yes it did snow here a couple weeks ago, overnight, and in the morning it looked like this:

But you'll notice it's just a bare dusting and it's hardly sticking to anything, and by the time I'd walked to work it'd all melted. DAMMIT. I'd like a REAL SNOWSTORM please. And I lived in the mountains in Montana for a winter, so I KNOW what a Real Snowstorm is supposed to look like.

So while we're all singing "I'm Dreaming of a Wet Christmas" here in the southern bit of the Pacific NW, enjoy your lovely snow, if you live where you get such a thing (apologies to Rabbitch, but hello, that's why they call your climate the Great White FROZEN North. Actually, it's only slightly less rare in Vancouver B.C. to get a good snowfall. I still have snow envy).

Meanwhile, I guess we've got compensation, as the camellia buds look about fit to bust. Last year they started blooming January 1st and finally petered out sometime in late February. I was pruning them (yes, I know, not a good idea to prune in October, but our camellias threaten to take over the house otherwise so I have do pruning semi-annually. They don't care, they've already got hundreds of buds, a few less doesn't matter) and saw this:

I had no idea camellias fruited. or nutted, or whatever. My special friend the Internet and its spokesmodel Google informed me that yes, that was indeed a camellia fruit, and it contained seeds. Awww, my trees have babies.


Thanks everyone for the well wishes. I'm feeling better after a weekend of Not Moving Around Much and Much Snot. And now I can freely blame Jen as she has admitted to infecting me VIA HER BLOG. BEWARE! Hope your virus protection is up to date (snicker. Can you tell I'm still a little sick? Making these awful puns).

And your dinner suggestions are fabulous, thank you. I love me some chicken soup when I'm all sniffly. And spicy food, yum. And takeout, mmm yes. There's a new Thai place that K just discovered, and it is THE BOMB. No seriously, it's amazingly good. It's street Thai, so they don't have phad thai and the usual, but Oh. Goodness. Coconut rice, papaya salad, game hens roasted stuffed with lemongrass. And all from a cute takeout booth, though they just opened a sitdown restaurant next door. If you're in Portland and you like SE Asian, you MUST try Pok Pok.

Oh, and one more thing; congratulations to Wen for a successful Harlot stalking! Wooo!

Friday, December 08, 2006


I stayed home sick with a cold today. I probably could have managed work but:
a) there wasn't anything that needed doing TODAY
b) I'm pretty sure I'm ragingly contagious

In the too much information deparment, I hate it when I have yellow snot. Yuck.
Benadryl is my very good friend.

Pictures, my last resort when I have nothing to say:

This is for all you voyeurs out there who like to see other people's domicile interiors. This is the place I most like to knit, on a sunny fall day. Also known as the gaming and media futon.

Yeah, I'm no neat freak. That carpet needs vacuuming badly. I'm facing so you can't see the cat's litter box. Fortunately there's not enough detail for you see an almost entire cat's worth of cat hair on the futon. Frances the kitty, she loves a nice sunny spot as much as I do.

Any ideas for what to make for dinner? K is in "I dunno" mode and I'm not getting any inspiration either. Yesterday I made lentil soup & bread, and I think that exhausted my poor sick cooking muscles. It's one of those colds where everything but orange juice tastes funny. The zinc candies I'm sucking down every few hours don't help, I'm sure.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Greenman Hat

Pattern: Meathead, by Larissa, to be published in her upcoming book. I got a test copy of the pattern as part of the Meathead Knitalong. I did the Adult Small version (for 21-22" head)
Yarn: Lamb's Pride Bulky, color M-184 Pistachio. Yarn was used doubled. I used 1 skein, and had about 11 yards leftover
Needles: US 13/9 mm plastic straights for the ribbing, US 15/10 mm Crystal Palace bamboo straights for the rest of the hat.
Time to complete: about 2.5 hours, but I'm a slow finisher.
Gauge: ~2.3 stitches/inch
I've never knit with needles this large and I found them quite awkward. The straight needles I used were the longest Crystal Palace needles I could find. I did the ribbing on a size smaller because my ribbing looks like crap unless I do it more tightly than stockinette.

I had trouble getting the stated pattern gauge (2 st/inch) even with the big 10 mm needles. Usually I'm a loose knitter and I need to go down a couple needle sizes, but I'll chalk this up to the awkwardness of the big needles. The hat still fits me now that I'm done, so I'm not all that worried about missing the gauge. It's about 19" around, unstretched. It fits my ~21" head snuggly and warmly.

I used the Twisted German Cast-on because I don't like the like the look of the wrong side of a long-tail cast-on, and I didn't want to change the pattern at all (e.g. do an additional row of ribbing). Twisted German is nice and stetchy as well.

The yarn is used doubled. For the cast on, my "tail" length was uneven-I made one of the yarn lengths about 5 feet longer than the other, so that I'd have an extra long length of single thickness of yarn to seam up the side when I was done. This worked very well and meant less ends to weave in at the finish. 5 feet was overkill; I really only needed 3 or so.

I call mine the Greenman hat, it seemed to be calling out for a sprig of something. It's a thick, quick, warm, and fun knit - check out the pattern when Larissa's book comes out. You can see a bunch of other people's meathead hats at the Flikr group.

It's cute, but I've already got a warm hat and so do all my family, so this one is going to someone who could use the warmth this winter. Spread the Meathead love, y'all.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Happy December

Here's another thing I've been seeing on a regular basis lately:

Socks for Audrey!

The first one is done, the second I got to the end of the short rows on the train this morning. My firm rule is No Trying To Pick Up Stitches on the Train. That way lies much gnashing of teeth and ripping of hair and dropping of stitches. Fortunately I was near the end of my train part of the commute.

The yarn is Rowan RYC Cashsoft DK in Rose, and they've each needed about a ball and a little extra, which I'm going to call 3 balls because:

There's been a knot or a bit of this near the start of each ball so far, and I'm trying to minimize the number of joins, so I just cut off the first length of yarn.

Welcome to the first day of December!

I love December and the entire Holiday Season (tm)! I think this is because:
a) I do not let myself stress out. NO STRESS. No such thing as a perfect holiday.
b) I don't have a tv. No annoying commercials, woo! I don't drive to work so not much radio either.
c) I avoid malls like the plague
d) My birthday's at the end of the month, so it's one big party from Christmas through New Years. WOO!

My company's party is tonight. Wish me luck and avoidance of dessert and one glass of wine too many.


I don't get to use that in the mathematical sense any more, such a shame.

My commute consists of:
1) walk through neighborhood to train station
2) ride light rail train downtown
3) walk through downtown to work
(reverse, rinse, repeat for going home)

For Carole:

Stuff seen on the commute to work

  1. people talking about their parole officer (often. about twice a week)
  2. horde of elementary/day care kids on field trip on public transit (once a month)
  3. Teenagers spray-painting their shoes blue while riding the train (only once, but it was memorable)
  4. Mallard duck couple (used to see them most days, but I haven't seen them since early last spring; they would hang out in the small grassy area between the on and off ramps to the bridge)
  5. Mariachi band (rehearsing/warming up in the big open area under the trade center. It was mid-summer, and they were grand. Sadly seen only once. One thing I miss about New Mexico is good mariachi.)

And because there's been a dearth of pictures on this here blog, 3 more things:

My favorite downtown tree. This is where the ducks would hang out. I hope my encouragements for them to move to a less urban location were successful. This is from months ago, back when there were still leafy things on the trees.

View out my office windows near sunset, a few days ago. This is the best office I've ever had (only office, actually) and I would have fight someone to the death if they tried take away my natural light and the view.

The same view, at night, tonight. You even get a shot of the bridge up! Um, outside is darker than that picure shows. And less reddish and more orangey.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Knit Unto Others

Some thoughts about knitting for charity been flipflopping around my brain for a few weeks now. This is my personal take on it, which frankly, will probably sound heartless. I'm not heartless, it rips me apart to see so many people needy and suffering, in all sorts of ways. But I also want to donate the most effective use of my time and money possible - because it helps more people that way.

I find that most organizations could care less if I hand knit something for them. There are exceptions, but truly, if you're freezing, it doesn't much matter if it's lovingly made by hand or churned out by a factory. Pragmatically, it's better for me to just give them money or spend my time with a charity doing something that really requires me to be there, such as handing out food at a soup kitchen. The Oregon Food Bank can buy $8 worth of food for every $1 I donate to them because of bulk purchasing. I give them stuff out my pantry but also a cash donation, because the money is more effective and fewer people go hungry.

So, while I am currently knitting a hat for Dulaan, it's because I have some big thick wool that I'd like to swatch. A hat makes a nice swatch. And I'd like the hat to go to someone who needs a big thick wool hat, because I've already got one. What I'll probably do is hit the after-Christmas sales at REI and buy 10 hats for the cost of yarn to make 3 or 4, and send those to Dulaan or Rabbitch or just donate them locally. This is also why I'll do charity quilting but not knit afghans, because I can quilt a blanket in a much smaller fraction of the time it would take to knit it, and the blanket will probably hold up both better and longer. Donating the money that I would have spent for another new project usually makes the money go farther than me buying the yarn and making the project, because machines make these things faster, better, and less expensively than I do.

That isn't to say that there aren't times when a personal gift of time and love and string is very meaningful. That's why I'm making socks for Audrey. I need to fit in a red scarf somewhere, and I'm doing a square for a little girl.

I'm participating in Knit Unto Others for an entirely personal reason, and that's because it's so easy for me to push the guilt and suffering aside and forget about it during this time of year. Especially when I become overwhelmed with all of the requests for help.

Knit unto Others is more of a personal meditation on my part than a significant contribution to any group. It gives me two weeks of constant reminders of just how much I have to be grateful for. It's such a lovely break from all the accumulation of STUFF that I seem to do and the stress of holiday preparation. I don't mean it in a spirit of self-flagellation or guilt, but as a constant reminder of thankfulness.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


So, this guy is going for his 15 minutes o' fame. Help him out, will you?

He wants to see how fast a meme (i.e. an idea/chain letter/All your base are belong to us) propagates through the blogs. Now I kinda disagree with his experiment, because it's got the added fact that you KNOW it's sort of a contest to see how fast it'll travel, where as a real life meme is picked up solely based on its, ahem, merits. But hopefully he'll account for that in his paper.

To pass on the letter so you don't have 7 years of bad luck and stub your big toe today, you just need to link to the post in question, then tell Technorati about it so his little program can register your link. All hail the knitbloggers!

I got it from JenLa and Imbrium and Carole (yar, it sounds like some kind of communicable disease).

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I need more potatoes in my life

Thanksgiving is over and pretty much all the leftovers are gone (hooray for coworkers and their pie-consuming abililities). We spend Thursday and Friday with K's aunt and uncle at their beachhaus in Washington (state). Of course, this time of year the beach means 40-mph wind gusts, driving rain and hail, and frigid water. But it sure makes you appreciate that you've got somewhere warm and dry to stay, and a fabulous meal to eat.

Now that I've abused myself with food for days I can really appreciate the gym again. mm, yeah.

Dinner was wonderful, we made my Everything-Tastes-Better-With-More-Fat rolls (with the nutritional content of eating a stick of butter with a side of flour) and an apple pie (I discovered the perfect pie apples a couple years ago: Mutsus. A friend claims Cortlands are also very good but they're not readily available here, which is kind of a shock as there are about 5 billion varieties of apples you can get here. Seriously, we go to an apple tasting in October at the local nursery and they usually have 40 different kinds. Not including the pears and asian pears. Anyway, Mutsu apples, they make amazing pies. They don't get mushy when cooked and they have a lovely flavor between tart and sweet).

Everyone else made the turkey, stuffing, some broccoli (our one concession to non-brown food), and smashed potatoes. That's not a typo, smashed potatoes are like mashed potatoes for Type B personalities - with lots of lovely potato lumps in them. It was all good stuff and I didn't even send myself into a food coma.

We used the secret smashed potato recipe this year which is not so secret any more now that Cook's Illustrated published it a couple years ago.

One of my college roommates made fantastic mashed potatoes. They were so good you'd sneak to the refrigerator in the middle of the night, stick a spoon into the bowl, and EAT THEM COLD. They were that good. Do you want to know the secret?

Cream cheese. Yeah.

But added in moderation: said roommate always maintained that you could never add too much butter but you could overdo the cream cheese.

She never worked off a recipe, just adding approximate amounts. I'd say start with a softened 1/4 pack (2 oz? I forget) per pound of potatoes, and proceed from there. Shell out for the name brand stuff too, it's worth the money. And of course massive amounts of butter. Come on, I only do this once a year. More butter!

In a rare disappointment, the Cooks Illustrated recipe used not nearly enough of all ingredients but potatoes. I'd say, double the cream cheese, butter, and salt amounts, at LEAST, unless mashed potatoes are merely a convenient gravy delivery mechanism for you. However, the fact that you
a) use non-russett potatoes, and
b) don't chop up the potatoes before boiling so you don't lose all the good stuff to the boiling water,
is brilliant. I recommend Caribe potatoes (they're a lovely red) for the most fabulous mashed potatoes you've ever had. Awwww, yeah.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Today's Sense of Humor: Sick

Although today it's pissing down rain and everything is soggy and grey, it was actually sunny a little bit this week.

This is the start to some Conwy socks (Nancy Bush, Knitting on the Road), that I'm doing for Audrey. This was the 2nd cast-on, and I've already ripped this out.

She's got somewhat larger feet like me (though not my enormous size 11s), so I can kind of use my foot as a model... sort of. I want them to fit but I also want them to have enough room to stretch if her ankles and feet start swelling from the chemo.

  1. I tried casting on and working Conwy as writting, and got down into the cabling before getting obsessed with worry that they would not be stretchy enough. They fit just about right NOW based on her measurements.

  2. I ripped them out and cast on again, this time adding 8 more stitches for an additional K2P2 rib on each side (there's already 1 on each side, running down to the heel). Now they feel way too loose. They're just about right.. on me and my ginormo feet (my ankles are 9" around and my legs get bigger quickly. Hey, I love my calves. They are the most defined muscles on my body. But they are substantial).

  3. So I am ripping AGAIN to go back to the original. I'd rather have them fit now. And make a bigger pair later if necessary.

I'm using RYC Cashsoft DK in pink, her favorite color. It's lovely soft, which probably means these socks are going to hold up like tissue paper, but the point is not practicality. It's Soft and Pink.

I also decided to splurge (this was actually selfish, as I've never worked with cashmere before) and cast on a pair of bed socks in cashmere yarn. Woo boy is that stuff soft. And totally inelastic. Those socks have now gone through about 3 cast-ons and needle changes as well (can you tell i had an oh-so-productive weekend?), and I finally threw it down in a pique. We'll try going down another needle size I suppose. Grump. Anyone ever made cashmere socks before? How to deal with the inelasticity?

I'm a horrible person for laughing at this cartoon. And I adore the muppets. (Warning, NOT CHILD SAFE. But not for the usual reasons)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Rabbitch's meme

Aww, look, my very first meme.

I'm doing this because she's posting every single day this month. It exhausts me even thinking about it. And I'm getting over a sickness nor do I have a 5 year old daughter. So I could at least play along.



1. Yourself: yo
2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend (spouse): funny
3. Your hair: long
4. Your mother: giving
5. Your Father: conservative
6. Your Favorite Item: love
7. Your dream last night: disturbing
8. Your Favorite drink: cider
9. Your Dream Car: wings
10. The room you are in: office
11. Your Ex: none
12. Your fear: inadequate
13. What you want to be in 10 years? defined
14. Who you hung out with last night? K
15. What You're Not? impulsive
16. Muffins: blueberry
17. One of Your Wish List Items: peace
18. Time: quickly
19. The Last Thing You Did: Windows
20. What You Are Wearing: polarfleece
21. Your Favorite Weather: sunny
22. Your Favorite Book: Hobbit
23. The Last Thing You Ate: cookie
24. Your Life: unknown
25. Your Mood: expectant
26. Your best friend: K
27. What are you thinking about right now? Friday!
28. Your car: runs
29. What are you doing at the moment? avoidance
30. Your summer: grand
31. Your relationship status: newlyweds!
32. What is on your TV? nothing
33. What is the weather like? transitive
34. When is the last time you laughed? today

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I'm all in a listy lusty mood right now. Make! Lots! of! (useless) Lists!

What I'd rather be:

  • eating

    • red vines! Not the stale ones, either.
    • fudge
    • or, a really good chocolate chip cookie. Not one of those crappy bakery ones either, but a REALLY GOOD COOKIE. With nuts and milk chocolate + semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • a good Cabernet
    • Scotch

  • doing

    • walking along the river in the current miracle of Sun!Shine!
    • knitting. duh.
    • just general yarn fondling
    • preparing dinner. So we don't have to play that "what're we having for dinner?" "I dunno" game again.
    • dyeing. watch the 'e', dahlink.
    • snuggled with the cat & K
    • playing Katamari Damacy or variants

  • reading

    • Anything but this technical documentation
    • The last 4 pages of my book-for-workouts, which is strictly to be Read At the Gym so now I'm dying to know the ending. (I need motivation wherever I can get it. Only reading page-turners at the gym is one way)

  • wish I were

    • creative
    • thin
    • graceful
    • clever
    • not so easily bored

Sigh. Better get back to work.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dark of Winter

I haven't posted in awhile; I haven't really had anything to say (and because I'm lazy). On November 1st Nature flipped a switch and it's suddenly Winter here. Days and days of grey raininess. There are some trees still with leaves but most of them are gone. Today, luckily, it is NOT RAINING and I am so grateful for not having to suit up in the full hazmat rain gear: pants, jacket with hood, all of it waterproof vinyl with taped seams (hooray for technology). I look like a dork and my legs go swish when I move, but at least I don't have wet pants all day. I walk about 3/4 mile each way to get to work.

And it's dark, all the time. ARGGH. I've been sleeping 10 hours a night, and I don't know why. It's been difficult getting up in the morning and so my gym routine has suffered. I do not need any more excuse to let the Winter Hibernation Fat take over.

Work has been a weeks-long nightmare of trying to figure out a solution to what appears to be an intractable problem. It's always a great sign when your software produces an error log containing "Windows Fault" and dumps the contents of the registers. NOT. (This would be equivalent to a Blue Screen o' Death in Windows 95/98, but XP is a little nicer about protecting its innards).

I finally admitted defeat to my shredding jeans the other day and gritted my teeth and Went Shopping. I DETEST clothes shopping. Hate hate hate hate. Normally that little voice in the back of the head, the one going "Nah nah, hey fatty! You're disgusting!" is mostly ignorable, but when I have to try things on, it shouts louder than the musak. Everything makes me look lumpy bumpy squishy FAT.

To pants manufacturers, all I can say, have you ever heard of the concept of a WAIST? Hello, if I wanted straight hip-to-waist pants, I'd buy men's. At least THOSE are labeled by waist size and length. For women, I guess you think we prefer spending hours trying things on because 14, 16, 18 are all meaningless sizes because they're ALL DIFFERENT ACTUAL SIZES FOR DIFFERENT MANUFACTURERS. And, hello, this waist thing? I kind of like having my pants FIT ME instead of sagging at the waist and being unbearably tight at the hips. And I'm not even trying on your "hiphugger" or "lowrise" versions. These are the "classic natural" version. Whatever that means. Would it really be SO HARD to just label pants by waist, hip, and length sizes for women? Really? Any clothier started doing that and I'd probably start shopping there exclusively. (Yeah yeah, or else I could get all my clothing tailored.)

Tops? Forget it. See, I have (biggish) breasts, so nothing fits. I poke out in all sorts of uncomfortable places. I don't wish all my clothing to proclaim "HI, I HAVE BOOBS!"

Clothes shopping is a long exercise in embarassment, frustration, time and money-wasting. I once had a shopgirl at a mall suggest I start going to the gym. Screw you too (as I have previously mentioned, I GO TO THE GYM. REGULARLY. PLUS WALKING A MILE AND HALF A DAY. Would you like fries with that coke, Ms. Super-Metabolism?)

I'm not even going into shoes (hi, I have big feet!). There's a reason I now shop almost entirely at Zappo's.

I just want some clothes that cover and fit and don't make me look like marshmallow peeps crammed into jeans. But I know that really the only thing that'll make me look and feel good is about 40 pounds less fat. And that's a lot of mornings waking in the dark and cold so that I can go spend an hour running in place.

Blah blah blah I see it's Channel-Your-Inner-Bitch-onto-your-blog day for me.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Can't sleep Spock will eat me

I don't know what to say about this.

Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, as performed by Leonard Nimoy and the Hobitettes.


Monday, November 06, 2006


Random story:
When I was at college, I volunteered to be the official vote tally person for student elections. I'd count up the paper ballot vote, (and recount, and recount again) and post the results publicly and inform the winner and losers.

One election, for senior class president, was very close. There were a couple on-ballot candidates and one popular write-in. It was not really very fun tabulating the results for that election, as the election was extremely close.

The day after the election I had a chemistry lab. A senior that happened to be in the same lab as I was talking offhandedly. She hadn't seen the results yet, and realized "oh, the election was yesterday. Whoops, I forgot to vote." And then she said "I don't really care about the results, except I really don't want Write-in-Candidate to win."

I told her, whoops, well, sorry you didn't bother to officially express your preference, because Write-in-Candidate had won by ONE vote. Yes, one single vote. If she'd bother to fill out a little slip of paper that was EASILY accessible to her living quarters, she could have at least caused a run-off between the leaders.

You think this is some one-off event? The latest governer's race in Washington state was decided by 129 votes, out of about 2.8 million ballots cast.

So look, go and vote. If your military can bother to go off and die for you, you can be bothered to participate in your own government at least once a year. Every single vote counts. Every one.

(ha, all votes count at least in a still-paper-balloted state such as Oregon. OK, not going there for now).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Lily of the Valley Stole

Hey, is that a Lily of the Valley stole or are you just happy to see me?
Lily's been done and blocked for a while now, but I just haven't got around to doing her photo shoot and posting pictures.

Pattern: Lily of the Valley Stole from Fiddlesticks Knitting

Yarn: Jaggerspun Zephyr Wool-Silk in Vanilla. I knit from a cone so I don't know the total amount of yarn used.

Time: started mid-June 2006, finished September 2006. This was meant to be a wedding shawl but I decided a) it was going to be too warm, b) the color wasn't quite right, and c) it was very much not worth killing myself just to have this done in time for the wedding. On average, one repeat of the pattern (14 rows) took me about 1.5 hours.

Needles: Crystal Palace bamboo circulars, 3.5 mm/US 4. I dislike the Crystal Palace cables but I like the pointy points for lace. This yarn (and the nupps) were too slippery for me to use metal needles. Be sure to have pointy needles for this design. You will need them for the nupps.

Modifications: I did work the edging with a double strand of yarn, as suggested, but I cast off using the knit 2 together castoff instead of the suggested: castoff. My castoff: K2tog, slip the stitch back onto the left needle, repeat - doing this very loosely. I started off with the suggested cast-off, but because of the way I knit, this method was causing the plies of yarn to separate and look untidy. K2tog castoff fixed this problem.

I did not block out the lengthwise sides in a wavy pattern (I didn't even remember that from the pattern until i just looked at the website again just now).

Comparing my blocking to the website pictures, I also see that I made the YO rows, separating the middle from the top and bottom borders, straight and not undulating. I'm anal like that.

I worked 4 extra repeats to make the stole longer.

Comments: Yes, the nupps are a pain in the ass.

Actually, they really aren't so bad. I though I had consigned myself to Nupp Hell when I did the swatch and the first edging, but it became routine after a pattern repeat or so. My key to the nupps was to loop the yarn loosely but not TOO loosely around the needle on the row before. You needed to be able to put the needle through all 7 stitches and purl them all together. At the same time, if it's too loose, the nupp looks awkward and messy.

It's a pain at first but becomes routine after your fingers figure out just the right amount of extra yarn to do in the loops. I developed a little method where I'd hold the yarn-overs made onto the right needle with my right index finger, to make sure they were loose enough. Yes, they slow you down. This was a long knit (I averaged about 1.5 hours per 14-row repeat.) There are 25 repeats written, although I did 29.

The #1 thing I'd suggest for success with this pattern is when purling the 7 loops into nupps, count the strands you are purling. For Every. Single. Nupp. All my mistakes were in missing loops or knitting an extra stitch into the nupp. It's really easy to do when they're followed by yarn overs and preceded by plain knit stitches. If you miss a nupp loop and it gets loose, you are screwed and you'll have to sew it together. If you knit in an extra stitch, the whole pattern will look wonky.

Fortunately the pattern is VERY repetitive and it's easy to tell if you've wonked up a nupp on the previous row by purling in an extra stitch by accident. This pattern is repetitve enough I didn't to look at the chart by the end of the 2nd repeat. The nupps are entirely the most complex part of the pattern.

The charts are very well written and accompanied with enough text so I could work out anything that was confusing me. Make the swatch, you'll really want to practice those nupps a bit. But don't give up too quickly on them - they do get faster. It's a great pattern.

Note that the pattern does NOT reverse in the middle (such as in Eunny Jang's Print o' the Wave stole) so if you have a problem with the lily sprays looking upside-down on one side, maybe this pattern is not for you.

I am unhappy about how the decreases (K2tog and SKP) kind of gap after blocking. I prefer the clean line of the middle spine. I tried keeping my tension quite tight after each decrease, but you can still see the gapping. I don't know how to solve this one.

The blocking on this stole was a bitch. I fed a crochet thread up the left edge, up the right edge, and through the YO rows at the bottom and top. It took hours to get it threaded and all straight. I had to be sure that the side didn't bunch up in any one place and that the center spine lay straight. Pinning was simple, but getting the sides straight was the hardest part.

I found that the pattern expanded quite a bit with wet blocking (immersed in water). I'm still happy with it but I'm almost regretting those extra 4 repeats. Almost.

All in all, a fun knit (although long) and a great pattern. The nupps were slow and awkward at first but I got over it. Easy enough for me to knit while traveling but not when talking. Your mileage may vary, of course. It's a gorgeous stole (although I am now solidifying my belief that I look hella dorky in lace shawls. Ah well.)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Socks and the people who love them

It's an absolutely gorgeous fall day outside, bright, crisp, leafy, clear and warm. I really don't want to be inside today.

I've been messing about with my new sock yarn, some Socks that Rock medium weight in a colorway "Rooster Rock". I really liked it in the skein. I do not like it so much knitted up:

The colors remind of an unfortunate 70s afghan in a color combination that I particularly dislike.

Guess I will have to overdye the sucker. Blue? Red? Turquoisey-green?
Sigh. I am not cool enough for 70s retro color combos.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

stupid stupid machines

I'm back to work reality this week. I'm currently trying to test something on Mac OS 9 (yeah, moldy oldie) so I've obtained a creaky old machine from the company pile o' useless hardware. And it boots up into German. German. Wonderful. Too bad I took French in high school. Useless new mad job skillz: "Abbrechen" means cancel.

As part of my job (and jobs past) I have to work with a lot of different flavors of computers and operating systems. I've pretty much lost all fear of computer hardware, software, and buzzwords. Most computer buzzwords sound impressive but are, almost entirely, just a new way for computer/software/camera A to talk to piece o' hardware/software B. Ethernet, USB, XML, wifi protocols, blah blah blah blah -- it's just A talking to B.

And really, nothing works. No, really. It's mostly all broken, and the fact that you might be able to push the "on" button and the computer actually starts and talks to the internet correctly is a little miracle. Too often it's like today where I'm clicking through German menus, hoping I'll find "English" in one of them. I attached another monitor to my machine the other day and the machine fuzzed out, went to sleep, then, quel miracle!, came back to life with the monitor working. I almost cried.

San Francisco was gorgeous. So was San Jose (weather-wise). I shouldn't have bothered bringing a coat. No fog, no rain, all sun, all the time. I was generally pretty busy seeing old friends in the evenings and going to class during the days, but I did make it to Commuknity one afternoon while doing laundry in the coin-op down the street (Tip: before you walk away from the washing machine, be sure that the cycle has ACTUALLY STARTED). It's a very nice shop, very airy and light-filled. It just felt comfortable. As well as having a big selection of kick-ass yarn, needles, and books. I wish I could have just sat there and knit all evening.

I took Caltrain to Bart to San Francisco on Friday afternoon and met K the Love Monkey downtown. The hotel room was fabulous - in this old Victorian, but right on the edge of the building, so we had light coming in from 2 sides. I love the old houses and buildings before everything was built at right angles. Each window bowed out over the street.

We went to the farmer's market, took the ferry over to Sausalito to get a whole-bay view, I made it to Artfibers to pet the fiber and gawk at the displays. We walked over Nob Hill to North Beach, climbed up Telegraph Hill to Coit tower to see the WPA murals and the view of the bay, and even got to see the parrots (hi, squawky parrots). It was a good weekend.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


My parents don't read my blog and don't know it exists, but there's always the possibility they might stumble on it. I don't want to hurt them, I'm sure I've already caused them more than enough pain over the years. So, edit.

Plus, how much of anything is just all in my head? Probably more than I think. It's easy enough to misunderstand people even without each of you looking through the lens of strong opinion. It's why I don't argue. I don't believe anyone ever changes their mind in an argument, at least anyone actively participating. In my experience, people only change their opinions as a result of direct personal experience. I try to listen to other ideas and not close myself off but I'm just as susceptable to my little theory above, I'm sure.

Anyway, back to class. Happy Wednesday

Sunday, October 15, 2006

But never ever on a Sunday, a fun day, a Sunday, 'cause that's my day of rest!

Enough of this crap. Now you know why I go on about knitting ribbing and socks. Introspection == scary and dull.

I'm in lovely suburban San Jose, California, listening to the cars rush by on the 101 freeway. The inner curtains don't close all the way but I've got free wifi, so enh.

I hate trips on my own. I miss K and the cat and my own bed and pillow and favorite cereal. Mostly just K and the cat, though. And San Jose? One messed-up airport. It's like a habitrail with big open areas and small low-ceilinged passageways connecting them. At least there were NO TVs. Because sorry, I'm firmly of the mind that if I have to fly somewhere, the absolute last thing I want to have blaring at me is CNN. There's enough bad vibes around airports already without watching the latest tragedy over and over and over (and over) again.

I just have never learned that Stuff Takes Up Space. I don't know why I don't understand this basic concept. Every trip I have the best intentions of "packing light" and yet I seem to end up with a huge bag full o' stuff. I really cut it thin this time; I'm going to have to find a laundry somewhere or wash stuff in the sink, but no way was I hauling more than one duffel bag and personal bag around.

I only took 3 skeins of yarn. 3 skeins, is it enough to last me through the week?

Rachel gave me a TON of great restaurant and yarn store information, so I am SAVED from crappy hotel food, hooRAY! (oh and is it crappy - "Microbrews and Megabites" is their tagline. Save me) There will hopefully be much fiber fondling in my near future. Thanks to Zardra too for fabulous San Francisco restaurant suggestions and good coffee joints (K will be much appreciative).

Friday, October 13, 2006


Lately I've been walking around in this miasma of anger. For the last few weeks; well, more like months. Recent events have pushed my cynisism to toxic levels. I'm having a difficult time believing any more in the general goodness of humanity. There is so much pain and suffering and so much of it can be traced back to other people's greed and desire for power and money. Not as if I am exempt. I do far too little and most times nothing at all to alleviate anyone's misery.

So in that last post, a little of that anger crept out from the dark place and displayed its ugly. I'm still trying to decide whether I meant it or not. I'm having a hard time self-evaluating.

I know that it's eating away at me and what's probably making me feel like shit most of the time, but I haven't found a way to make it go away. So I appreciate the small happinesses of everyday life and try not to think about it. Maybe that's why I haven't done much, because that reminds me.

There are a lot of good people out there in blogland. I read your stories and laugh and cry at them and marvel at how good you are. But I'm having trouble with reality, because after everything, they're just stories. Are you really flesh and blood and living? Are you really real?

I've been having a lot of trouble connecting with other people lately. It's as if I'm afraid of any interaction with anyone I don't know very well. I avoid checking my email. I look at someone passing on the street and immediately assume they're making fun of me or are disgusted with me. And then immediately kill that thought because it's stupidly narcissistic and probably wrong. I have a hard time not generalizing about people, which I can't stand when people do it about me, so it's doubly guilt-inducing.

I should get out more but it just hasn't been working and I avoid it because it drains my energy. I went to a knit night at local yarn shop. It went poorly, I don't think I was very good at the small talk and they were playing the "I am cooler/more educated/more experienced than you" game with one-upmanship stories. I don't play that game, I really dislike it. Anyway, haven't been back.

So there you go, personal introspection/masturbation post #1. It just all means that I'm a hoser who won't get off her ass long enough to sew Rabbitch some hats for people who really need them. Well, maybe this weekend. I've got an airport wait and a plane flight. That's long enough to do 1/3 of a big chunky yarn Crazy Aunt Purl Easy Roll-brim hat.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Lord love a crow

The small(and not so small) furry rodents & feathered friends are living high on the hog these days. The squirrels are digging holes in anything, including hard, pine-tree-rooted ground. Actually, they just give up after a few minutes and stick the nut into the half-hole. They're eating as much as they bury, though, I've never seen fatter, sleaker squirrels.

The crows like the walnut trees down the street, there's always a dozen or so of them over there, perched in the trees, on the ground, on wires. I finally figured out their scheme this morning: A couple of them fly up into the tree and peck at the hanging nuts until they drop 15-20 feet to the concrete and shatter. Then the crows go out and eat walnut until a car comes along. I had no idea crows were fond of walnuts.

My next-door neighbor's fig tree is host to roving hordes of starlings. They'll swoop down on the (not really very big) tree, making a huge racket, and peck the hell out of the figs. The cat is absolutely fascinated by them (small feathered things being her specialty). I wish she's attack the squirrels. I'm tired of the holes dug in all my pots.


I hate it when I sleep wrong somehow and wake up and can't move my neck without pain. Something up with the trapezius, I guess, since raising my arms up hurts too. Bah. I'm stuck with a (seemingly) intractable problem and a deadline at work and a week of gorgeous warm fall weather.

I'm turning the heel (already!) on the Toasty Toes sock. I could get used to this bigger needles/bigger yarn/faster project thing (if you define 3.25 mm needles as bigger; I do because I usually do socks on 2.75 mm because I'm loose, baby). A week of commute knitting and it's almost done.

A local yarn store, Abundant Yarn & Dyeworks, is having a Socktoberfest celebration by offering to display everyone's socks - completed before the end of the month - in their store, for all of November. I'm feeling all exhibitionist and I'm working on a sock pattern of my own. It'd be nice to show it off, uh, I mean proudly display my handiwork. Hmmm. So much other crap to do, though. Like make up a bunch of hats for Rabbitch's hat drive. I'm really a slow knitter so I think it'd be better for us all if I sewed up fleece hats. And also seeing as I rediscovered my fleece stash in the recent basement re-org. I made socks for just about everyone for Christmas one year when I had a lot of Jo-Ann 50%-off coupons and not a lot of money, so I've got leftovers. Stupid packrat tendencies.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Fall(ing off a log)

I was going to post a big expos&eague; of the silk garden beanie this weekend. Hot pictures! Sexy heads! But I was a big lame-o and didn't manage to find my way to the computer all weekend long. Instead of doing something fun (e.g. knitting), I was cleaning up the basement (a bit of fun since it involved Stash Organization woo!) and the attic. SO EXCITING. not.

I'm going to training in San Jose, CA for all of next week so I'm scrambling at work trying to get all the loose ends tucked up so they'll stay in place for a week, and instructing others in loose end cleanup in case they come, um, loose. (Training, ugh. I have never done Training and I'm afriad that I'm going to get there and know more than the instructor and the cost and loss of time is going to severely piss me off. I'm also worried that I'm going to fall asleep in these lectures because, computer training? BORING. And I've got a finely developed Pavlovian response to lectures and dark rooms which is: fall asleep in 15 minutes. Great for insomnia, really. I'm taking a sock. I figure it's less of a faux pas to knit in class when sleepy than to actually fall asleep).

So, yo, if anyone knows any fabulous fiber or restaurants I should hit while I'm in this Bay Area thingy, I'd appreciate it. I'd say South/East bay only, please (and still open past 6 pm), except:

K the Love Monkey is flying up to SFO on Friday. I'm ditching the rental and taking Caltrain up to meet him and we're going to do the Weekend of San Francisco (via public transit and cabs). So if there are any nifty SF places you love, we don't have plans except a lot of walking and the searching out of Good Food and ArtFibers. We'll be staying near Union Square, and proximity to mass transit or <2 miles walking distance is a big plus.

I've been only once, and that was with family to the tourista spots, and for a single day. So really I have never been. I have these vague memories of a cable car and sourdough bread and a really small hotel room.

Sorry there have been no pictures lately. That always seems to take me the longest time to do. I took some commute photos today. Just for you.

I love these purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), they're so dramatic.

The Toasty Toes sock says hello from the MAX station platform

View from the MAX, going over the Steel bridge. That's the Willamette, which connects up to the Columbia some miles to the north.

Happy (belated, sorry) Thanksgiving, Canada!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Met a knitter today!

What does it say about me when I get all excited to have another knitter come up to me, in a non-yarn-store setting?

I ride the light rail into downtown every day to work, and I'm knitting most days. I'm the only person I've ever seen do this. But this morning, I was working on a trusty sock (Interlacements Toasty Toes mid-calf socks. #2 of the pair, but has been languishing for 6 months or so) and someone came up to me!

Her: Are you knitting a sock?

Me: yes.

Her: Hey, I'm a knitter too! We're going on a trip so all my knitting is packed away right now. Your sock looks great! What is that yarn, is it Mountain Colors Bearfoot?

Excellent! She commented on how comfy and cute the sock looked and I told her the yarn was Interlacements toasty toes and she was so effusively nice I got all glowy inside. We didn't have much time (about 90 seconds) to talk as my train arrived, but, yay! I didn't feel so isolated and weird knitting on the commute today. Too bad she was traveling the other way.

Lately I've just had this obsessive need to knit. I wake up and knit, I knit on the train to work, I spend all day at work wishing I were knitting, then come home and knit. It's a little disturbing. I start resenting dinner and breakfast because it takes time out from knitting.

I was really excited to start work on new sock pattern I was messing around with and bust into the Socks that Rock I got at OFFF. That died quickly, after I realized the pattern I'd designed didn't look so hot and was a pain in the neck to knit. NO FUN. Kind of dampened the enthusiasm a bit.

I messed with the pattern a little and started another test sock, but it's not going so well either. So instead I abandoned it for a swatch. Fickle, I know.

Hey, at least it's Friday. Unfortunately the camellias REALLY need a trim this weekend or we won't be able to see out the front porch. I've got some other yard cleanup to do as well and the waste disposal has died on us. So this weekend will probably not be as knit-filled as I would like. Sulk.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers

Want want want. I have too much crap already. And too much yarn. And too many projects.

I did finish 2 large projects last weekend: Lily of the Valley is OFF the needles! She needs a block still but we had a guest last weekend so I couldn't use the guest bed for blocking. I ripped out the original bind off and redid it. Because, you know, I'm all about the pain.

I also finished the blue-green diamonds quilt top. Did that take forever. I've done several Lone Stars so I'm familiar with getting non-90 degree intersections to match at the seam so that the diamonds are nice and pointy, but those at least have some big background chunks of unbroken fabric. This was unremitting 60 degree seams and 10 foot long strips of fabric. Ugh.

Now the always-entertaining question: how'm I going to quilt it?

But before we even get there, I need to
1) baste the sucker
2) teach myself how to machine quilt
3) practice. probably a lot. Hand-eye coordination is not my strong suit.

And THEN I think I'll need to stabilize the puppy with some straight lines because the entire thing is on the bias except a few random fussy-cut diamonds, and because I'd like to freehand quilt it and not have it look like puckered ass when I'm finished. Freehand == not bothering to mark a pattern, but having some idea of the general design. Like drawing on a sketchpad, but with thread. Very good for stomping on your inner perfectionist, because you just have to chill out and let it go. Not recommended for control "enthusiasts." They have this awesome water-soluble thread I'm going to use for the stabilizing straight lines. Water-soluble! How cool is that?

I think I'll block Lily first so I can pathetically feel accomplished. All that quilting prep sounds like too much to deal with when I put it in a list.

Oh yeah, and there's the dyeing. And the marbling. And the beads. And the non-cotton fabric. And the sewing & patterns. And the fabric paints and stamps and stencils. The embossing supplies (not much of those). Did we mention the dyeing? We've got both plant and animal fibers covered here at Chez TooMuchCrap.

I had to clean out the basement so the plumbers could put in a new water main into our house. So now I am yet again acutely aware of the piles of stuff that I have acquired to divert myself. I'm not compulsive about buying, but.... Well maybe I am compulsive, with all those boxes piled up.

And yet I am still lusting after NEW THINGS. I bought Rogue last night. I've been wanting to make it for forever (no hyperbole here, no sir). After the unfortunate and disheartening experience with cabling and Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran Tweed, I was bummed enough to put it out of my head. I didn't think I'd ever find the right yarn; I'm sensitive to wool so it has to be soft, and I think I better enjoy knitting cables with it. But I found a possible substitute, so I ordered a couple of skeins for some test swatching and the color cards and...geez, what is wrong with me?

What is it about new things that makes them better? Truly, I love my stash. How come every time I get the urge to buy more yarn/fabric/stuff I don't just go stash-diving and re-appreciate what I already have? Why don't I knit up all the projects I've got lined up already with the yarn I ALREADY OWN. What is wrong with me, people?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Funky Mojo

Wendy just recently asked what causes one to lose their knitting mojo (a note to you grammarians: I'm using 'their' as a neutral 3rd person possessive since there isn't one in English. Yes it's bad classic grammar. No I am not apologetic). There are lots of fabulous answers in the comments to this post.

For me (because it's ALL ABOUT ME HERE), a bunch of stuff can throw off my mojo, bt I guess I've learned to deal with them since I have not ever suffered a serious Loss o' Mojo. We (the royal we) have definitely descended down into knitting funk at some times but never all that far. Mostly my Mojo-droppin' can be attributed to all the things everyone else mentions:

  • Yarn that is not fun to knit with. (Conversely, yarn I love to knit will keep me entertained for hours, if it fits the project. I will get COMPULSIONS to knit. Compulsions, people).

    This has happened a couple times. Most lately, I picked up a cute little hank of Manos Cotton Stria at my LYS, dyed in different shades of violet - very subtle, very nice. It's a super-soft yarn - just a single ply wrapped with a binder thread, so it's naturally kind of kinked up. I'd been meaning to try it (I lurrve the Manos de Uruguay wool), and this single skein was sitting forlornly at the bottom of the 50%-off bucket. I thought, this'll make a cute swatch-cum-baby-hat.

    I got partway into the hat and decided I hate this yarn. It's cotton so I have to knit it tightly, but it's still gapping between stitches, even when I'm using 3.25 mm/US 3 needles (K the Love Monkey says it looks fine but I'm still not sure). I like the variegation but knitting with it turns me into a clench-fisted monkey. I only survived to the end of this hat by doing it as commuter knitting. And I was so glad when I bound it off. Love the yarn, hate to knit with it.

    Same thing happened with doing a cable swatch with Jo Sharp Silkroad Tweed Aran. Really, the yarn is gorgeous, but I got through 3 cable turns on my swatch and decided I would rather pick lint and cat hair off the floor than continue. Yay that it was only a swatch and I'd just bought a single ball for swatching.

  • I suspect that the project isn't working out (see also the Gapping Baby Hat O' Manos Doom above). I've got a pair of socks that depress me every time I see them. Love the pattern (one of the Nancy Bush sock patterns), like the yarn (Rowan wool-cotton), but I got 5 inches into the sock before admitting that perhaps I should try the sucker on and sadly confirm that yes, it is too small for my leg and ankle. Damn. Now I've got to rip it all out and adjust the pattern, or work it again with larger needles,... or find someone with petite legs who likes them.

    I vacillate on the current test-slip-stitch-baby sweater on whether it looks cute or nauseating. The current opinion swung to butt-ugly several weeks ago and I haven't made any progress since then. And because I have to figure out the sleeve increases (see next).

  • When I have to sit down and modify a pattern or design. Not only does this take significant time that can't really be interrupted, but I'm always afraid that I'm doing it wrong. Shut up, inner perfectionist. See slip-stitch-baby-sweater (I'm currently trying to get the sleeves to look right with both increases and the slip-stitch pattern.)

My coping mechanisms:

  • Approximately a billion different projects going at once. I have:
    • a commuter project (mindless/memorized pattern, easily portable)

    • lace (gauge does not have to be spot-on)

    • travel project (easily portable, long enough to last the trip, no metal needles (I know, they're fine on planes. I still have no wish at all to be detained for any reason at security and all it takes is one guy who hasn't read the rules lately))

    • Agressive Monumental Project (might need design time, thought, perhaps lots of note taking, a Long-Term Goal)

    • TV knitting (stockinette ONLY)

    • Quickie (not-instant-but-close-to-it gratification project), so that it appears that YES, I AM MAKING KNITTING PROGRESS.

    I'm all about the appropriate project for particular conditions. Also, lots of projects means that if something is bugging me, I ditch it temporarily for the more compelling project (See next one if it keeps bugging me for more than a week).

  • If it's not fun, either finish it fast (see Manos baby hat above) or rip it out now. Don't let it sit and glare at you. You can finish it faster if you have something to distract you.

  • Use yarn I like to knit. I know, duh. But you'd be surprised at how long it took me to figure that out.

  • Swatches! I love me some swatching. See, it doesn't count as something new, because you're just SWATCHING, which you're SUPPOSED to do, right? You're not actually embarking on a new project, just laying the future groundwork. This lets you get to play with new yarn and stitch patterns without feeling guilty about all the unfinished projects you have. Almost a guaranteed pick-me-up (see also the Quickie, above)

  • My first college roommate gave me some of the most useful advice I ever got about college classes. She said, "If you're not passing by drop day, you're not going to be passing by finals." (drop day = last day you're allowed to stop taking the class with no report card reprisals).

    Same goes for me a project. If I don't like it now, I'm not going to like it later.

    And the corollary: Fix the thing that's been bugging you NOW if it's still bugging you several rows after the mistake. It will continue to bug you.

    Ripping is cathartic.

  • Work on what I want to do. Dammit, it's my hobby and I'll do what I enjoy. I spend much of my time already doing Work that I frequently don't like, why torture myself in my off-hours as well? No one expects stamp collectors to have something useful at the end of all that collecting. Or windsurfers or mountain climbers. If you detest finishing, knit only in the round or pay/bribe/cajole/force someone else to finish it.

  • I never work to a deadline. No, not ever. I just don't like to do that. They're done when they're done. Corrollary: I also have learned to never, ever, promise anything.

  • Finishing goes faster with loud music

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I went to OFFF and all I got was this lousy... oh, wait.

We're the unfortunately owners of a leak in the water main coming into the house. The plumber's outside right now digging a big hole in the grass (I wonder what's more expensive: the increased cost in the water bills or how much it'll actually take to fix the leak. My short term vote is with the water bills) so it seems like a great time for a...

Post About Llamas!

I went to the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival last Saturday. My very first fiber show. I'm not a spinner and the show was definitely geared to the raw fiber crowd, but there was still lots of animals and yarn to appreciate.

(First as a preliminary: am I the only person bothered by the juxtaposition of "oh, cute lamb fleeces" and "mmm, tasty lamb kebabs"? I swear, the line for the lamb-sausage/kebab/rib booth was 3 dozen long.)

Back to the llamas: the Llama Barn was an enormous roofed enclosure with a big fenced area and some bleachers so you could watch. All the llamas were at the back. In the middle: the Llama Obstacle course. I wish I could have gotten a picture of the llamas to show you: they were all dolled with beauty queen hairdos. Some of them had ruffs like poodles, some had hair long on the back and shaved on the belly and flanks, with cute little puff rings around the bottom of their legs. That must a fun task, figuring out a 'do for your llama for the big competition.

Bad picture of a llama, but you can see his (her?) careful coif.

Anyway, the Llama Obstacle Course: A bunch of teenagers, one by one, would lead their llamas through various Llama Activities: walk over a bridge; step all the way into a circle and stay there; carry a pack of lead weights on their back; jump over 12-inch-high fences. My favorite: Climb through the side door of a mini-van, then out the back door. Yes, there was a mini van parked in the middle. With llamas ducking and walking through it.

Other obstacles for llamas:
  • walk by a blowing fan

  • stand by a person who then Opened An Umbrella (do llamas not like umbrellas?)

  • lead the llama over a plastic tarp (the llama I saw really DID NOT like doing this)

  • stand by a person who ran her hand slowly over the llamas back

Contrary to popular report, I did not see any llama spit at all.

The alpacas: unbelievably cute. Surpassing bunny-cuteness, even. There were LOTS of alpacas: huacayas mostly, as those are the bulk of the herd that were allowed into the US. Some alpaca facts at this site. They sit like my cat does, with their legs folded demurely underneath.

Rabbits, alpacas, llamas, goats, and a bazillion different types of sheep. I had no idea sheep could get so big. The goats made all these worried-sounding naaaaaas most of the time.


More sheep! Nice horns, buddy.

I wandered up to the fiber judging area and felt different kinds of fleeces. I really didn't realize there were so many different breeds of sheep.

a Navajo Churro fleece. Look at those locks! (scratchy though)

Found the Blue Moon Fiber Arts booth. Oooh, the love. The color. The sock yarn! I bought a skein in the lightweight and a skein in the medium weight. I should have gotten 2 in the lightweight. I have ENORMOUS feet. No, truly. Size 11s, darling. I need a minimum of 400 yards of fingering weight for socks, but I was dazzled by the display and only bought 1 skein: 360 yards. Grrrr. Now I either need to get creative with the toes and heel or call them up and see if they have any more of that color and dyelot.

Blue Moon Socks that Rock in Puck's Mischief (lightweight) and Rooster Rock (medium weight)

Interlacements was also there! Fabulous! Really, I love their colors. I probably shouldn't of, but I fell in love with a skein of toasty toes. It was all that scarlet and eggplant and vermillion and deep sapphire blues and emerald greens. So much for self-control, bah. I would have tried tiny toes but did I mention the ginormous feet? There's only 340 (350?) yards in a skein I was a bit annoyed at having to buy 2 skeins and use only 50 yards of the second.

Interlacements Toasty Toes in colorway 213

I stayed away from the Mountain Colors but I probably would have been sucked into some Bearfoot if they'd actually had a booth and not just re-sellers.

I wasn't able to get close enough to the llamas to really take a good look; they were all at the back of the barn. But the alpacas.... Well, let me introduce you to Raspberry Truffles.

Or more correctly, her last year's fleece, transformed into laceweight yarn.

Raspberry Truffles is a "red" huacaya and I got to see a picture of her as a 2-hour-old cria. This laceweight I could not put down. I tried. I put it down, walked all the rest of the festival and still couldn't get it out of my head.

Yes, I like brown. This is an unbelievably rich chocolate brown. And soft, soft like air and goose down and the little fluff hair under my cat's chin.

I bought enough for a shawl (hopefully. 1000 yards should be enough, right?). Now my perfectionist side is Completely Obsessed with finding/creating the PERFECT shawl pattern for this yarn. I think we're leaning toward creating, as I want more of a geometric and less of a lacey effect, while still being Lace. Hard to describe - I guess I'm looking for something with a definitely structure - not so airy. Yet still lace. Hmmm. I've got the Barbara Walkers 1 & 2 cracked and I'll probably not be able to stop myself swatching soon, despite the unfinished state of Lily. (Actually, Lily of the Valley is on the final border! I added 4 more repeats to give it some more length. Wooo, home stretch!)

I'm glad I went (regardless of the schwag), I've always been concentrated on the end product - the yarn and fabric - and it was interesting to plunge my hands into the raw fleece it starts out as. Woulda been more fun with someone along, but on the other hand, I got to wander and gawk at whatever I liked, for as long as I liked. Now of course, I want a pet goat. Look at it this way, I'd never have to mow the stupid lawn again.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Easily amused

I saw this license plate the other day:



(it's an obscure reference to a made-up language in a novel; I like the book a lot but I also have a talent for remembering random facts and details from books, movies, and music I've enjoyed. That ability was extremely useful for did-you-read-it English exams; isn't very useful now, unless I were a reference librarian or something)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Screw Rhinebeck, I'm going to Oregon Flock & Fiber!

I don't spin, but I can still feel the fiber festival love. You all seem like you have such a good time, hanging out with people who actually know what a cast-on is. Around this time of year all I ever seem to read on the blogs is Rhinebeck blah blah blah meetup blah blah Rhinebeck blah fleece blah blah Rhinebeck. Darlins, it's too far to fly to New York for sheepy goodness. I need some West Coast happenings.

I know, there was Estes Park, but that's also an expensive plane ticket away, it was back in June, and, um, none of them knew me from a shawl-stealing axe murderer?

Hey, so I am going to Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival in the grand metropolis of Canby, Oregon, THIS WEEKEND! WOOOO!

In honor of my west coast homies, I present:

The OFFF drinking game
Fun for the whole over-21 family!


Take a drink when you see:

  • The Blue Moon Fiber Arts booth! sock yarn

  • Another if you escape with only enough yarn for one pair of socks

  • The Llama Barn! LLAMA! LLAMA! (duck) Llama

  • Pygora goats. (you must NOT expire from the cuteness) Pygora goat

  • Raining? Better get a coffee (-1, too tipsy = slippery)

  • Raining hard? Better make it a double. Espresso. (-2, really too tipsy = stuck in the mud/eaten by slugs)

  • Fleece to shawl competition! Drink an extra shot for those hard workers.

  • A Huacaya alpaca. +1 more if you know/have learnt the difference between them and the Suris. alpaca

  • Yarn that you cannot live without

  • Roving that you cannot live without.

  • Family members/friends dragging you away from all that you can't live without (-1, more caffeine needed for fiber-lifting strength)

  • Myrna Stahman (teaching multiple classes!) Stahman's Scarves and Shawls book

  • Carolina Homespun of San Fran-cisco! Rachael recommends their alpaca as being LUSH.

  • A vendor or exhibitor from Boring, OR. Most honest rural town name ever.

  • A Woolee Winder at work (why does that name always sound vagulely naughty to me?) woolee winder

Winning conditions: Whomever is still staggering around with their yarn/fleece/take-home-sheep after all that deserves another drink! Or, go back to to Blue Moon Fiber Arts and make your buddies buy you some MORE! SOCK! YARN!

Wooo! See you Saturday!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Moon made of honey

I did go see the Yarn Harlot and it was definitely worth going despite having to stand for 3 hour -- she's hysterically funny. Go if you have the chance.

Finally posting the Honeymoon pics! Lots! of! pictures! Click for big.

This is the view from our hotel, the Tu Tu'Tun Lodge (rhymes with "you're darn tootin!") in southern Oregon. That's the Rogue River in the background.

The Oregon Jam Council wants to know -- are you in possession of jam?

Had to get in some knitting by the river (do I really hunch over that much?). Actually, first day there: didn't do much except sit around the hotel and veg. Both of us were just too tired of Doing Stuff. This lodge: very nice, very friendly, good food. But be warned: if you're not white, moneyed, and retired you're not the core demographic at this place. We ate WAY too much food - neither of us are used to more than 1 course dinners and breakfasts, and never dessert.

We did go hiking later on. We did a short 1-mile loop through an old growth forest.

And later headed for the coast. This is the view of the Oregon coast from the top of Cape Sebastian - north.

The hike was 2 miles down to a sheltered cove then 2 miles back up again to the top of the cape.

Yes, there are actually sandy beaches. Here's the cove.

Most of the pacific coast is precipitous cliffs and small sandy beaches. Rugged, check. Dramatic, check. Hospitable to usual beach activities, no.

Islands and ocean. Lots of seabirds roost on these rocks and sections of immediate offshore coastline are wildlife preserves.

Did I mention cold and windy? I grew up in the west, so the Pacific's the only ocean I've known. A friend of mine in college was from New Jersey and we took a beach trip one Saturday. He ran right in the water... and ran right out again, affronted that the water was COLD. We mocked his ignorance mercilessly and he refused to get his feet wet again.

That water just taken an extended vacation around northern Siberia, the Arctic, and Alaska, and is just now moving south again. Playing in the ocean consists of waiting until your feet get numb so you can't feel the cold any more. I visited the east coast for the first time when I was 11? 12? and my brothers and I were completely shocked to find that the water was warm. Lukewarm-bath warm! In Massachusetts!

I'll reiterate the windy part. Too windy that particular day to fly the kites we'd brought.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Um, yeah.

Yay! Friday! Hooray!

Did that distract you? Yeah, me neither. Although that is a happy thought.

Wish I were going to Venice and Brussels with Rachael and Lala, but 1) I haven't ever actually met either of them nor do I know them well through the Internets, and 2) foreign travel isn't in the cards right now. Sitting here looking out at all the green trees and the clouds (it's been raining on and off) I wish I were in Dublin, though.

I don't really have an exciting career, and it usually requires little to no travel, but 2 years ago I got a phone call out of the blue from my boss asking me if I could go to Dublin. Ireland, yes. The next day. I told him I had a doctor's appointment the next day but I could swing it after that, and 2 days later I was on a flight to Ireland.

It's a convoluted and, more essential to why I won't go into details, work-related story why I got sent there, but Dublin sure was fun. Despite there being... problems with the business-related aspects of why I went, the people I worked with there were exceedingly friendly, as was just about everyone. Dublin's a cool town. Plus you get the most fabulous accents (drunker you got, the less comprehensible. Fabulous.) I spent a week and a half there, then another week later on, and despite having to work part of the weekend and putting in late hours the rest of the time, I got some time to myself.

I'm not really a good tourist, because most of the thing I really like to do in unfamiliar places is to feel familiar and not like a tourist. I do that by walking around a lot and looking at stuff. So I got to walk all over Dublin and took random tour bus things and ate very well (oh, the food. Irish food is wonderful). Luckily I was staying in a very posh hotel right off St. Stephen's Green and about 100 steps from the end of Grafton Street, the big wander-through-the-shops area of Dublin. So, easy to get to just about everything.

The weather was similar to Oregon's, except more variable. So it already felt like home. It's a lovely walkable town with lots of interesting things and people and I wish I could move there and drink at the pub on Fridays and be one of the Dubliners. I'm trying to push K into a Real Honeymoon (tm) there but it really is a long flight and honestly? Kinda looks and feels like Portland. Yeah. Or Seattle. But older. (I like the sense of history about everything.) So it's not really an exotic location.

But it's a comfortable place. And to be honest, I don't like touristing for adventure. I like vacations to be laid-back and low-key. I could take him through St. Stephen's Green to see the ducks, past the Oscar Wilde statue, then over to the canal and the swans. Up and down Grafton street and then over to Guinness to play tourist and make fun of the ridiculous Like-Disnleyland-Only-Its-Beer tour they have. Through Trinity college to see all the old buildings (my favorite: the Dean who declared women would be let in "over my dead body." He's buried beneath one of the bigger promenades and women were admitted the year after his death. Bwhahahaha) and the child singers and the woman playing harp on the street corner. Oh, and a fabulous dinner or 3 or 7. And then a long slow evening at the pub.

I think a long slow evening at the pub is just the thing for tonight.