Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The People Were the Best

This is the last post about our cruise, I promise, and it's a long one. There's no knitting content, so if you're sick to death of hearing about our Caribbean experience, just move along. There should be some knitting content tomorrow.

Everyone we met was interesting, and we really lucked out with our table assignment for dinner. There was a a couple from England (Trevor and Sarah) and a family from Australia (Peter, Marion, and their sons Martin, 19, and Nick, 16).

I was delighted when Marion sat next to me the first night because my favorite TV show, bar none, is an Australian series called McCleod's Daughters. (It's no longer available in the States. We order each new season when it's released on DVD.) I was a tad disappointed to learn that Marion doesn't watch MD, but I soon got over it.

It turns out Marion and Peter are environmental scientists. They’ve lived in some exotic places (i.e. Jakarta) and have taken some adventurous vacations. Next year Peter plans to take a motorcycle tour of northern India with his mates, and then meet up with Marion in Nepal for a 3 week backpacking trip to Base Camp on Everest, complete with guide and Sherpas.

Trevor and Sarah have traveled extensively (Marion had great fun challenging Trevor about his carbon footprint because he prefers to fly first class), and they own homes in several countries. They bought Sarah’s engagement ring in Singapore. Before the cruise, they arrived in Florida early to take advantage of the weak US dollar. Sarah was happy because she loaded up on “trainers” (athletic shoes) at JC Penney.

Top row: Peter, Trevor, Nick, and Marion
Bottom: Dave, me, and Sarah
Missing that evening: Martin

Everything you’ve heard about the level of service on cruise ships is true on the Radiance of the Sea. One evening I left my knitting on the bed (it was made) and came back to find that Francis, our cabin attendant, had gently moved it to the love seat – not a stitch had been dropped. In its place was an animal made from twisted towels. We found a different animal every night.

On occasion, Francis helped himself to Dave’s sun glasses to enhance his work.

Our waiter at dinner was Malakey (pronounced Male-a-key), and he’s from India. I’m lactose intolerant and have other dietary restrictions, but Malakey made it his personal mission to see that I ate well every night. By the end of the cruise, Peter was asking to have whatever I was having sight-unseen, and Trevor suggested I work on perfecting my Queen of England waive because I was so spoiled. If I could have taken one person home with me after the cruise, it would have been Malakey, no question.

Among the musicians onboard was an amazing duo from the Phillipines called Rosario Strings. The electric violinist explained that missionaries introduced him to the violin when he was 11 and gave him lessons for 2 years. When the missionaries moved on, his family couldn’t afford lessons or an instrument, so he didn’t get to play again until he borrowed a violin from a friend when he was 23. Now he earns his living as a professional musician (he’s incredibly talented) and his two sons study violin in NYC – one of them at Julliard.

On St. Martin we met a cabdriver who was born on Curacao and had been a cop on Aruba before coming to St. Martin for a 2 week vacation 18 years ago. He never left. He speaks 5 languages and is especially proud of a younger brother who works for a shipbuilder and speaks 10 languages. The cabdriver shared some surprising insights about the Natalee Holloway disappearance. He said it’s not uncommon for people to “disappear” in the Caribbean only to reappear later, and he believes Natalee will turn up alive eventually. That attitude probably explains why the Aruban authorities did such a half-assed investigation. I believe Natalee Holloway is dead, but for her parents’ sake I hope the cabdriver is right.

To my surprise I didn’t meet a single self-identified knitter. In fact, over the 8 day cruise, only one person even commented on my knitting. It felt like the Twilight Zone. When people asked, we told them we were from Ohio. When they asked what we do for fun in Ohio, we were hard-pressed to come up with an interesting answer. I confess that I wimped out and did not say “I knit.” When compared to motor cycle tours across northern India, backpacking on Everest, and shopping in Singapore, knitting sounded lame somehow – even to me.

Monday, December 24, 2007

If You're Celebrating...

Have a merry Christmas! If you're not, enjoy the break. Happy knitting.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Series of Unfortunate Events

To recap, I returned from a weeklong Caribbean cruise on Sunday. I came back more relaxed than I can ever remember being as an adult. It was heaven. I went back to work on Tuesday determined to stay relaxed as long as possible, but I've been tested.

On Monday I discovered my car wouldn't start. The battery was dead. I used Dave's SUV to run errands. When I stopped for gas I tried to run my credit card through the reader at the gas pump, but it cracked and almost split into 2 pieces. I believe the card cracked from the cold. Nancy suggested it might be due to fatigue from over use.

This morning I discovered my hair dryer was dead. I tried multiple outlets to no avail. I briefly considered calling in sick because this was going to be a bad hair day, but I carried on.


This afternoon Fran assured me that bad things come in threes, and my streak was over.

Then my son called to tell me he'd spilled hot chocolate on my library book.

He said it was drying, and assured me I'd definitely be able to finish reading it, but the library was going to want to replace it.

I'm still determined to maintain a state of calm and relaxation for as long as possible. It's time to go to my happy place and focus on the positive.

1. None of these events were catastrophies. Every one of them were merely minor annoyances. While it sucks to spend money on car repairs instead of fun stuff - especially at this time of year - I'm grateful that this doesn't create a financial hardship.

2. My sons are home for part of their winter breaks. Brian studied abroad this semester, and I haven't seen him since the end of August. It is such a joy to spend time with both of them.

3. I just got home from a fabulous cruise.

Vacation memories are a pleasant distraction, so let me tell you about St. Martin. Half the island is a French colony. The other half is part of the Netherland Antillies. The French spell the name of the island: St. Martin. The Dutch spell it: St. Martaan. There are other differences, including the languages children are required to learn in school. Each side of the island has it's own cell phone system, and they are not compatible. I'm not kidding. Cabbies have to carry 2 cell phones - 1 for each side. On one side of the island the electrical current is 220, on the other side it's 110. Seriously. People who live on the French side pay signicantly higher taxes, but residents can't just pick up and move to the other country. Thankfully, the Dutch and the French signed a treaty several centuries ago whereby residents and guests can travel freely across the border. The only way you know you've passed from one country to the other is the quality of the roads. The roads are much better on the French side of the island.

In spite of all of that complexity, St. Martin was the most beautiful of the islands we visited. In the morning we took an art tour and visited 5 artists in their homes/studios. In the afternoon, we took a taxi from the Dutch harbor to Marigot, the French capital. Somehow we did not take photos of many of the sweeping views. Sorry about that. You'll just have to take my word for it that St. Martin has beautiful beaches and sensational views.

However, since we are sailors, we did get the obligatory harbor shot...

and another harbor shot, closer up.

This is a shot of downtown Marigot near the flea market next to the ocean. Note the fort on top of the hill. Every island we visited had a fort. Wars have been fought over these islands.

Here is another street shot of Marigot. The streets are really narrow, and four wheel all terrain vehicles are a common means of transportation there.

By now you must be getting sick of vacation pictures. Don't worry. St. Martin was the last island we visited. However, I'm saving the best part of the trip for last. In my next post I'll tell you about the people we met.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Without Further Ado

I'm really tired tonight, so you get Antigua without much commentary.

Of all of the places we visited, Antigua felt the most like a third world country. There were small cars and what looked like miniature minivans everywhere. Everyone drove like maniacs - including our tour driver. He even gave himself a scare at one point.

Tourism is just about the only industry. The shopping district is right off the piers.

Until the mid 1900s there was some sugarcane production. The structure at the end of this lane is a remnant of the last sugar mill on the island.

There were mountains and cliffs with wonderful vistas. This is one of the harbors.

A view from the cliffs.

A sailboat underway. I don't think I could ever tire of the views in the Caribbean.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pleasant Distractions at Sea

Teresa wants to know what knitting I did during the cruise. My knitting A.D.D. continues. I brought 2 skeins of Socks That Rock and started a Chevron Scarf (top left), 2 skeins of Cherry Tree Hill Super Sock - in turquois and red and started a Japanese Vines scarf (middle), and a skein of Dream in Color in the yummy Lagoon colorway (top right) - a birthday gift from T (Thanks T!) - and started a pair of socks. You can see how far I got with each project. Pitiful, huh?

I also brought the almost finished tank top knit with Callista in the Desert Rose colorway. We flew down to Ft. Lauderdale the day before we sailed and spent the night in a hotel. That evening I crocheted the edging, wove in the ends, and pressed the edging. I felt really virtuous when I finished the tank in time for the cruise.

Then I got distracted.

This is a harbor on St. Thomas.

Some impressive yachts were docked right next to the Radiance. Check out the helicopters on the boat at the bottom of the photo and the boat at the top. On the bottom boat there's also a sailboat on the side deck, a small power boat on the top deck and another small power boat on the bow. Wow.

We had signed up to go for a sail on a catamaran to another island and do some snorkeling, but the excursion was canceled because the seas were too rough. So we did a little shopping and then took a tour of the island.

Our last stop was at Sapphire Beach - far and away the most beautiful beach I've ever seen.

We left our swimsuits on the ship, but I just had to wade in.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Week at Sea

Sorry about the long silence. Dave and I were away on a cruise of the eastern Caribbean. We got home late last night. (Dave asked me not to mention much about the trip before we left for security reasons.)

There's much to show and tell, so I'll have to share our adventure over several posts. This was my first cruise, and it was quite an experience.

We sailed with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines on Radiance of the Seas. The boat was spectacular. There were 2,000 guests and about 800 staff onboard.

That's me clowning around in Deck 12. (Notice I'm wearing the teal tank top made with Callista.) Behind me is the outside pool on Deck 11. It was windy, rainy, and cool that day so no one was in the pool, but it was crowded most of the time. A band played island music every day, and some people danced at poolside when the spirit moved them. There was also an indoor pool in a windowed area on Deck 11 called the Solarium. I spent a fair amount of time in there knitting and watching the ocean go by.

We had a day at sea, and then our first stop was San Juan, Puerto Rico.

That's Dave on Deck 12 with San Juan harbor behind him.

Dave disembarked and used the opportunity to photograph me standing on our balcony. (I'm just above the "R" in Radiance.)

Dave was standing on the pier when he took that shot. Our cabin was on Deck 7. From our balcony we could see the bridge where the captain steers the ship. We could also follow the ship's progress on the TV in our cabin - which provided live video from a camera on the bridge overlooking the bow alternating with a map of our progress through the Caribbean and GPS readings. Since Dave is a pilot he loves maps, readings, and instrumentation. When he was happy with the ship's progress he could stand on the balcony and give Captain Mal a thumbs up. I'm sure that made Captain Mal's day.

The weather was gray and rainy for the first few days.

In San Juan we did a little sightseeing then got rained on, so we came back to the ship and warmed up in the Schooner Bar with some Irish coffees.

That night there was a big storm. The ship was tossed about in the waves. It crashed loudly and shuddered all night. I was really thankful that we were on a big cruise ship. There's no way our little 23 foot sailboat could have withstood a storm like that. The next morning Captain Mal announced that we'd ridden through tropical depression Olga. He'd tried to avoid her, but she'd taken an unexpected turn and we were caught. Later we learned that over 20 people in Puerto Rico were killed by the storm. Although it was a rough ride, the captain assured us that we were never in any danger.

To my surprise I found I really liked the ship's motion. When we take the Odyssey out on the lake the motion of the boat on the waves relaxes me, and this was no different. We were lucky, though. Dave and I had a touch of queasiness the first day but no other sea sickness after that. A number of passengers wore sea sickness patches, and some people got pretty sick. At dinner we learned that one man was so sea sick after the first 3 days that he begged the captain to have him airlifted home. (The Radiance has a small helipad on the bow.) The spa staff gave him an accupuncture treatment to see if that would help. I never heard whether it worked or not, but no one was airlifted off the boat during the cruise.

The weather and the scenery improved after that. We had a lot of fun, but I'll tell you more about that tomorrow.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Sick Day

Yesterday I stayed home from work with a headache that made my eyeballs hurt. It turned out to be a good day to stay home because it was REALLY COLD, and we got several inches of snow.

I hate it when I take a sick day, and I'm too sick to do anything. No laundry got done. No errands were run. No bills got paid. Late in the afternoon there was a little knitting - just enough to finish the back of another tank. It's on the blocking board now. I still don't have time or energy for photos, so you're going to have to use your imagination.

Last night I was able to summon the energy to haul out the swift and ball winder. The new Dream In Color Smooshie (Blue Lagoon colorway) and the Socks That Rock (Lapis and Fire on the Mountain colorways) are now in cakes. My energy was depleted after that. You'll have to use your imagination again. Pics someday. I promise. There wasn't even energy for knitting after that.

Today is a new day. I'm off to work. Dave's been out of town on business, and he's coming home today. The sun is out. Things are looking up.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

From the Ridiculous to the Sublime (I Hope)

Today is Tuesday, right? Just checkin'. This is another crunch week, and I've been forced to make some hard choices.

Workouts? Not this week. And I was doing so well, too. Up until yesterday, I'd stuck to my vow of 45 minutes a day on the LifeCycle. That's just not going to happen this week. It's not going to happen next week, either.

As you can see blogging's taken a major hit, too. Photos? Forget about them. For now anyway. I might as well apologize right up front because there's going to be little if any blogging for the next 2 weeks.

I've learned a few more hard lessons this week. Under the heading of "Ridiculous Expectations" I can now add the following:

1. It's ridiculous to prepare for the holidays and prepare for a vacation at the same time. Right now I'm so busy I haven't even had time to make lists. I need to make lists of gifts to buy, lists of toiletries needed, lists of what to pack, lists of arrangements to make for while we're away, lists of lists...

2. I know I mentioned this in my last post, but it's ridiculous to plan to knit a tank top, block it, seam it, and finish it the week before a vacation.

3. It's ridiculous to have to wear a bathing suit between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Talk about poor planning.

All I can say is the Carribean better be sublime.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

In a Muddle

Is it possible to have ADD only when it comes to knitting?

On Sunday I cast on a hat to match the scarf I knit for John, while the Callista tank was blocking. I thought hats were supposed to fly off the needles, but for some reason that's not happening.

The book is Hip Knit Hats. The pattern is called "Skip." The yarn is Malabrigo worsted weight merino in the Azul Buscando colorway. Needles: Size 9 dpns.

By last night I was in a dither over the tank top I want to make for our vacation. So last night I put John's hat aside and cast on the tank.

The pattern is mine. (I'll provide the specs upon completion.) The yarn is Callista in the Desert Rose colorway.

To satisfy another obsession, I'd ordered some Socks that Rock for a Chevron Scarf. The STR arrived on Monday. Right away I wanted to drop everything and wind those suckers into cakes, but I haven't done it. I've been good.

That's lightweight STR in the Lapis and Fire on the Mountain colorways.

Then, to complicate things, I had a birthday. Teresa is an enabler of the first order, so she arranged with Susan at the Ball and Skein to have me pick out a skein of Dream In Color Smooshie as a gift. It's taking every ounce of self discipline I've got not to jump in the car and drive over there to fondle the DIC and pick out a colorway IMMEDIATELY. (Thanks, T! Seriously. What a great gift!)

I've got to get a grip.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I'm a Slow Learner

Two years ago, Dave and I planned a trip to Israel. At the time I took stock of my wardrobe and decided I needed a few tank tops. Since I am me, I bought yarn to make the tops instead of the tops themselves. About 6 weeks before our departure I realized I wouldn't have time to make all of the tops I'd planned on, so I ended up buying a bunch of tank tops anyway. At the time I told myself:
Susan, let this be a lesson to you. If you need clothes by a certain deadline buy the clothes. DO. NOT. BUY. YARN. INSTEAD.
Here we are 2 years later, and Dave and I are planning another vacation in a hot, sunny climate. When we first starting talking about this, I reminded myself of my vow to just buy what I was going to need for the trip instead of planning to knit like a fiend. I've been shopping ever since.

However, since I am me, I've been knitting, too.

So last week, while all of you were knitting wool scarves, hats, and cardis, I whipped up another tank top with Callista in the Peacock colorway and my improvised pattern. This time I made the tank a little smaller width-wise and widened the shoulder straps a mite.

I have yarn for 2 more tanks.
That's more Callista - in the Cafe Creme and Desert Rose colorways. Will I ever tire of knitting the same tank over and over again in the different Callista colorways? Who knows? I sure love wearing them.
I also have some winter-weather knitting to get on with. It's REALLY HARD to decide what to knit next.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

What I Did Over Thanksgiving Break

This past week definitely had it's highs and lows - what with the visitation and funeral for Kim. Thank you all for your kind words of support. Your thoughts helped a lot.

On the fun side of things, John came home and Dave's family came down for Thanksgiving dinner. This is becoming a tradition, and Dave and I are still getting it down. We aimed to have dinner hot on the table by 6:00 p.m., and everyone sat down at 6:06 p.m. Not bad. The food wasn't bad either.

I took time to count my blessings - and there are many.

I gave John his scarf. He was pleased with the length (86 inches), and he agreed to pose for a pic.

As you can see from his expression, he finds it amusing that his mother has a blog.

On Wednesday I went to see Mama Mia.

I've seen it once before, but I loved it every bit as much the second time around. If you get the chance to see it, I highly recommend it. I went with a friend who was skeptical because she's not an ABBA fan, and she loved it, too. Don't worry, I don't really qualify an ABBA fan. But I will admit to owning their greatest hits CD, which I tend to play right before and after I see the musical.

This afternoon Dave went for a workout, and I was listening to ABBA and knitting when he got home. He quickly disappeared into the computer room. Later I stuck my head in to say I was finished listening to the CD and he could open the door if he liked, but he insisted on keeping it closed - "in case I relapsed."

Once Thanksgiving was behind us, the week ended peacefully. I was able to finish 2 more of those mysteries I'm now addicted to, and I got some knitting done. I was hoping to have an FO to show you, but it's on the blocking board so I'll leave you in suspense until tomorrow or so.

For those of you who keep me honest, I also kept to my workout schedule. I've been working out 5 times a week - 45 minutes at Level 1 on the LifeCycle. My goal is to be able to ride 45 minutes at Level 2 routinely, but it'll be a while before I can do that.

Tomorrow it's back to work.

Monday, November 19, 2007


My co-worker and friend, Kim, passed away unexpectedly on Thursday morning. We weren't close friends, but I really liked her.

Kim had a wonderful and unique sense of humor. She could and often did make us laugh until we cried.

She was an advocate for victims of domestic violence for 13 years, and she was part of the fabric of our agency. There is no way to communicate the enormity of her loss.

I'm really going to miss her. We all are.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Socks Socks Socks

Knitting nothing but socks makes Susan a dull girl, indeed. But here you have it:

Yarn: Dream In Color
Colorway: Deep Seaflower
Needle Size: US 0
Pattern: Simple Socks from The Purl Stitch by Sally Melville

Comments: LOVE them!

I finished the Deep Seaflower socks on Saturday and cast on another pair with Fleece Artist. I've looked all over the yarn label but have not been able identify anything that indicates a colorway name or number. Sorry.

All was going well until I took the Fleece Artist with me in the car, when Dave and I ran errands. That was when I discovered I don't much like this colorway in natural light. Since I am all about self indulgence and instant gratification, this project was moved to the back burner posthaste. (FYI: per Webster's New World Dictionary 1988 ed. 'posthast' is one word. Who knew?)

So Saturday afternoon I cast on another pair of Dream In Color socks, this time in the Ruby Red colorway. OMG! You have to see this colorway for yourself to appreciate it. I just love the deep reds.

This is sock number 2. I'm just about ready to begin the heel.

I have to keep reminding myself that for me the whole point of sock knitting is to keep things mindless. There are so many cute sock patterns out there... like this and this.

In the meantime, I'm constantly reminded of one of life's basic lessons: There are only so many hours in a day. Over the past few months I've taken up blogging and gone back to reading for pleasure and working out. All of these activities cut into my knitting time - hence there is less to blog about than I originally thought there would be. Such is life.

In the workout department, I am sticking to my plan. My goal is to get back to where I can ride the LifeCycle at least 45 minutes a day at Level 2 resistance at least 5 days a week. Ambitious, no? To keep myself honest, I am tracking my workouts on the blog. If this bores you to tears, just skip over it. I promise not to quiz you on it later.

Workout Time: 33 minutes 45 seconds (75% of my goal, timewise)
Resistance: Level 1 most of the time, Level 2 just briefly
Calories Burned: 170

Workout Time: 35 minutes
Resistance: Level 1 the whole time
Calories burned: 170

We'll just see how well Ms. Instant Gratification Who Is All About Self Indulgence does in the workout department.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Something Old, Something New

This weekend Dave bought me a new seat for my LifeCycle.

I’ve had the LifeCycle for about 12 years. I used to ride it religiously, but over time the old seat became uncomfortable.

The new seat is contoured for greater comfort, so I’m out of excuses.
Riding Time: 30 minutes
Setting: Level 1 (Lowest)

Riding Time: 30 minutes 30 seconds
Setting: Level 1
Calories Burned: 150
Calories Consumed: About a Bazillion - We went to Outback last night.

This weekend I also discovered I can knit a sock and read at the same time.
As you know knitting, like working out, is an exercise in self discipline:

Socks Started: 2
Socks Abandoned Before Completion: 1 (I'm not crazy about the colorway of the first sock. It remains to be seen whether I'll finish the pair anyway.)

Stay tuned for pics...

Friday, November 9, 2007

Just Another Tribute to the Yarn Harlot

I was particularly amused by the Yarn Harlot's post yesterday. She was frustrated because life in her household was "boring" for the moment, and she couldn't think of anything interesting to blog about.

The stars of late night comedy - Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jon Stewart, et. al. have teams of writers. When the Writers Guild of America goes on strike these successful comedians at the pinnacles of their careers resort to reruns.

Meanwhile Stephanie cranks out post after post, full of good natured humor - the product of life with 3 teenage girls, Joe, a cat, Mr. Washie and a house full of wool. Shows you who's got the real talent, doesn't it?

Stephanie routinely sets the bar so high, she can give the rest of us knit bloggers an inferiority complex. Blogging has forced me to face a sad reality - I'm not that funny. :) Dave is the funny one in our household. Now if I could just get him to knit, he'd write a heck of a blog. ;-)

I'm making progress on the second Dream In Color Deep Seaflower sock. It should be done by tomorrow.

In anticipation, I had a little party with the ball winder and swift last night.

I'm considering my options, but so far I haven't decided what to make next.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Door Prize

Last night was Knit Night at the Ball and Skein, so Teresa and I hung out for awhile. Most of the usual suspects showed up. Jackie was there working on a darling baby sweater. Dana made an appearance and worked on a scarf knit with some yummy Mountain Colors Mountain Goat. She was wearing her fabulous Clapotis made with Mountain Colors Bearfoot in the Indian Corn colorway. Carol was working on a fan and feather shawl or throw. Sally was new. She was working on a really pretty Log Cabin Baby Blanket in grown-up fall colors. There were other knitters with neat projects. I wish I could remember everyone’s name.

Theresa (#1? There are 3, so they’ve numbered them) introduced me to Socks that Rock. I’m going to assume she was just being kind. She probably doesn’t know me well enough yet to know about my obsessive personality, right? I’ve seen and read about STR on the blogs, but this was my first opportunity to see/fondle it in person. Yum. I. MUST. GET. ME. SOME.OF. THAT. S.T.R.

Susan, the proprietor, had a surprise for me. It seems that after I visited her shop on Saturday there was a drawing for door prizes, and I won a skein of Dream In Color Smooshy. Lucky me! Once again I had to pull out all of the hanks in the bin to see all of the colorways. A skein of Chinatown Apple followed me home.

I’m still knitting my second pair of socks ever, but I’ve already learned that a girl can never have enough sock yarn. Susan had some Interlacements sock yarn in amazing colorways in a big bowl on the coffee table. I might have to get me some of that too one of these days.

Monday, November 5, 2007

I Am Weak

Last week I dutifully worked on the Albatross Shawl. Every night. By Friday I had to admit that the Albatross was sucking all of the joy out of knitting. My diligence had not made a dent. The shawl had not noticeably grown in length, nor had the cake of yarn shrunk.

Knitting is supposed to be fun, right? I finally gave up. For awhile at least. I resovled to work on projects that give me pleasure and have a prayer of becoming FOs. To wit: John's Scarf and the Dream In Color socks.

The weather was sunny and mild on Saturday, so Dave and I took a drive in the country to visit the Ball and Skein. After we parked in charming Germantown, Dave wandered down the street to check out an auction. I popped into the B&S and explained to Susan, the proprietor, that I had to be quick before Dave came back. She was amused.

Susan is one of the most gracious yarn shop owners I've ever met. Seriously. She pulled out of all different colorways of the Dream In Color Smooshy so I could contrast and compare. It was heaven - sort of. It was tough to make a decision. It got tougher when I saw the Fleece Artist sock yarn.

In the end I bought a hank of DIC in the Ruby River colorway,

a second hank of the DIC in the Nightwatch colorway,

and a hank of Fleece Artist. I can't identify the colorway. Sorry. It's gorgeous, though.

No matter the temptation, I resolved to finish John's Scarf before working on anything else. I cast off last night, and after a good soak, pinned it to the blocking board.

John asked for a long scarf. I decided to go the distance and aim for 84 inches. From previous experience, I know that Malabrigo knit up in the woven stitch stretches quite a bit, so I cast off at 79 inches. Turns out I overshot a little. Once it was pinned out, it measured 86 inches.

This week is all about instant gratification. The minute John's Scarf was on the blocking board I picked up the second DIC sock in the Deep Seaflower colorway. This week it's all about socks and scarves. I wasn't kidding when I said I need a break from the dreaded Albatross.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Headline: Bush defends AG candidate Mukasey on Torture Stance

Given Bush's credibility, isn't he just the guy you'd want to defend you?

Then again, leave it to Bush to defend the indefensible.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Off the Back Burner

This weekend was a really nice blend of some of my favorite things. There was lots of sunshine. I drove down to the University of Cincinnati and had lunch with my son John yesterday. I finished one of Nancy’s mysteries and started another, and I did a whole lot of knitting.

Dave worked both days. I don’t know when I’m going to get another weekend with so much uninterrupted knitting time, so I knew I’d better make the most of it. That meant pulling out the dreaded Albatross (Alpine) Shawl. I haven’t touched it since the middle of September.

It took me a few rows to get back in the swing of things. Right away I remembered why this project seems to be taking forever – it’s patterned on both the right and wrong sides. Instead of just purling (or knitting) across the wrong side of the shawl, one has to follow two lace charts. The pattern calls for 37 pattern repeats of Chart B. By last night I’d completed 38. I was a little dismayed because the shawl is only 48 inches long. If I stop at this point and add the edging, it will be 56 inches before blocking. Now I know that blocking can work miracles, but somehow I don’t see it adding 6 inches to this shawl.

(Note: The end looks wider than the rest of the shawl because it hasn't been pinned out. The edging comes to points at each end of the shawl. I'm pretty sure that once it's shaped properly during the blocking process, the ends of the shawl will be the proper width.)
This kind of thing happens to me often. I knit loosely and usually have to go down a needle size to get gauge. Then I don’t get the row height I need and have to knit extra pattern repeats to get an acceptable length. Fortunately, I’ve still got a fair amount of yarn. Unfortunately that means I really don’t have a magic number of total pattern repeats to look forward to. I’m just going to have to keep going until either a) the shawl is long enough or b) it looks like I’m going to run out of yarn. Now you know why I call it the Albatross Shawl.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Taking Stock

I still have the Japanese Vines scarf on the brain. So when I received an email from Yarn Girls offering Cherry Tree Hill Super Solids sock yarn at $12.99, I jumped on it. In spades.

That's Teal, Turquois, Sapphire, and Cherry. It's taking every ounce of self discipline I possess (which granted, isn't much to begin with) not to cast on immediately.

However, I must stay focused. I've already got the following projects on the needles:

John's Scarf - worsted weight merino Malabrigo in the Azul Buscando colorway knitted in Woven Stitch is now 48 inches. At completion it should be a minimum of 72 inches and maybe as long as 84 inches. A challenge for anyone with the attention span of a gnat.

Dream In Color socks - in the Deep Seaflower colorway. I've got to tink back a few rows at the toe of the first sock, but I could probably finish it in an hour if I applied myself.

Alpine Shawl - otherwise known as the dreaded Albatross Shawl - from Victorian Lace Today made with Sundara silk lace weight in the Cobalt Over Mediterranean colorway. I'm past the halfway point on this one. I put it aside when life got so crazy that I was too tired in the evenings to knit anything that required concentration.

In addition to the Japanese Vines scarf, there are a few other projects in the que:

  1. A hat to go with John's Scarf
  2. Another pair of Dream In Color socks - this time in the November Muse colorway
  3. A Shetland Triangle Shawl - in Knitpicks Merino Style - the Frost colorway, I believe
  4. A Sunrise Circle Jacket - in Rowan Summer Tweed in the Brilliant Colorway

Given all of that, it will be hard to justify purchasing yarn for an Aran Pocket Shawl or a Wool Peddler's Shawl from Folk Shawls. (Sigh.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Good News!

My friend Joe's stepson is coming home from Iraq today. He was supposed to come home in August but his tour got extended. He's home now, safe and sound, and that's what counts.

Nancy asked to see a picture of the scarf I'm making for my son, John.

I photoshopped the photo a little to lighten it so you can see the pattern. The scarf is actually a darker blue. The yarn is worsted weight merino Malabrigo in the Azul Buscando colorway. Since the yarn is handpainted, I'm knitting from 2 skeins by alternating every 2 rows. I bought 4 skeins (215 yds each - a total of 860 yds) hoping to have enough for a long scarf and a matching hat. At this point I've knit 45 inches, and I may be able to get another 5 inches out of the first two skeins so there should be enough for a hat.

The pattern is called "Woven Stitch." I borrowed it from a pattern in the Design Source Collection 1 booklet. I really love it because it's easy to memorize, looks nice, lies flat, and really shows off handpainted yarns in "solid" colors nicely.

Woven Stitch:
Cast on a multiple of 4 stitches plus 1
Row 1: K to back loop, *p3, k1 * (repeat until there is 1 stitch left), slip last stitch with yarn in front
Row 2: K to back loop, p until there is 1 stitch left, slip last stitch with yarn in front
Row 3: K to back loop, p1, *k1, p3* (repeat until there is 1 stitch left), slip last stitch with yarn in front
Row 4: Repeat Row 2

I'm not sure if I can knit a hat that incorporates the woven stitch in any way and still looks masculine enough for John, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Log Cabin Afghan - Finished - FINALLY!

It seems like forever since I finished something. The Log Cabin Afghan turned out pretty well, I think. Initially, I had some trouble with the trim. I tried I-cord, but I just wasn't happy with the result. I was using black worsted weight Galway and started with size 7 needles, the same size I used for the rest of the blanket. However, the gauge of the I-cord was too tight and made the blanket pucker along the edge. When I tried size 9 needles the yarn was too thin, and the I-cord didn't look right. This second attempt was helpful, though, because it showed that a narrower rather than a wider border would look fine. In the end, I knitted the border in log cabin fashion. Once it was done, the border really made the afghan come together somehow.

Right now the afghan is draped over the loveseat in my living room. (I know. The pillow, and the loveseat for that matter, have got to go.)

There's already a lot of color in that room. The colors in the afghan may work better in my office, which is painted perwinkle. I may decide to take it to the office when (if?) the weather gets cold.

I'd like to make another log cabin afghan with browns and beiges for the living room sofa someday, but I'm not sure I have the attention span for that. Changing and mixing colors kept this project interesting. Even so it seemed to take forever. Right now I need me some instant gratification.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Putting Our Marriage to the Test

On Saturday, Dave and I pulled the boat out of the water to prepare her for winter storage. It's a nerve-wracking endeavor, because Dave loves that boat so much. There's always a risk that the boat will get damaged in the process. When we lower the mast, I always feel as if I'm watching my marriage flash before my eyes.

The day dawned sunny, cool, and very windy. When we got to the marina there were a fair number of boats still in the water.

The boat ramp is across the lake from the marina. Dave took the sails down and put them in storage a couple of weeks ago, so the first order of business was to motor across the lake. Dave always does that. It's my job to drive the truck with the trailer from the marina around the lake to meet him at the ramp.

Dave untied the bow line and attempted to start the motor, but the motor wouldn't catch. When the motor did catch, it kept dying out. After some tinkering Dave got the motor running and cast off. I was afraid the motor would quit and he'd get stranded on the lake, but Dave waived me away.
I drove over to the ramp, but when I got there I didn't see any sign of the Odyssey. I waited for a bit, but it still didn't appear. Then I began to worry. If the motor cut out while Dave was still in the marina, the wind could blow our boat into other boats and do some damage. I drove back to the marina and got there just in time to see Dave motor through the break in the jetty out onto the lake. (I never did ask him why he was delayed. There's an element of macho pride in all of this, and some questions are best left unasked.)

With the wind up Dave was really going to need my help when he got to the boat ramp, so I quickly turned back. On the other side of the lake, I parked the truck and walked down to the ramp. Dave was heading my way when he suddenly started to drift off course. The bow turned 90 degrees, and I knew the motor had cut out. I watched Dave repeatedly pull the cord (much like starting a lawn mower), but the motor wouldn't catch. When Dave dropped anchor, I knew he was "concerned" about being blown all over the lake.

Unbeknown to us, a fellow sailor had observed Dave's troubles. When he saw Dave drop anchor, he asked another boater to see if Dave needed help. After repeated attempts to start the motor and some discussion, the pontoon boat ended up towing the Odyssey to the ramp. This was a little humiliating, so Dave and I said little about it.
We tied the Odyssey to cleats on the dock, and Dave backed the trailer as far down the ramp into the water as he could. Winching the boat onto the trailer took some effort. A by-stander helped. Dave had to get in the water. When no one was looking he silently mouthed "The water is FREEZING." I tried not to laugh too much. I wasn't able to take pictures because I helped, too.
Once the boat and trailer were on dry land, we had to take the mast down. It only takes about 10 minutes, but we were both tense. The mast is heavy but it would be manageable if it weren't so unwieldy. Once again, I wasn't able to take pics because I had to help. We used pulleys and a winch, and the mast came down safely. Our relief was palpable.
The wind made everything harder. It blew the ladder over, but fortunately I was on the ground at the time.
Dave took the motor and the tiller off.
Everything was stowed with bungy cords, and we headed for home. Since we were towing the boat, it was a slow drive. We left the house at 8:45 a.m. and didn't return until after 3:00 p.m., relieved to have the task behind us. We'll have to do the whole thing in reverse when we put the boat back in the water in April. I have from now until then to talk Dave into buying a new motor.
On Sunday, Dave was sore. I was sure the muscles in my arms, neck and upper back would hurt, but they didn't. I was able to knit in comfort.