Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Yarn Update

My love for RYC Soft Tweed will not have to be from afar. Webs, sweet Webs has some on clearance, at a price I can afford. So I ordered enough of the "Sprig" (which I believe is the same as the green I have) for a sweater, then bought three balls of the mauve (which I think is called "Bark") at Flying Sheep (my LYS), to use as an accent.

In other knitting news, it seems the famous The Princess Shawl has been re-released. Anyone want to place bets on how long I will hold out?

I wouldn't want to leave you without a picture, so how about one of my sweet (yet wackily neurotic) Gwennie:
She doesn't look nuts. But she is.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Using Knitting as an Excuse

I didn't do any weaving this weekend. I know, as soon as I set the goal, I failed at it. But I have a very good reason!

Big Wool Scarf & Hat

Every year some friends organize a Euchre Tournament in honor of a friend who died of ALS a few years ago. Since Len refuses to learn to play Euchre, and I am too much of a weenie to play in public (it's a long story, for both of us), I have contributed some hand knitted scarves and hats for door prizes. Normally, I don't give myself enough time and I don't get as many done as I would like. But this year I found on Wednesday the tournament is going to be this Friday. Gack! The stupid thing is that I know that it is held every year around this time, and I know I need to take responsibility for finding out when it will be, but I don't know. Time got away (seriously. How is it that it's October 30???).

So. No weaving. Really big yarn.

Fat Stitches

I have one hat and scarf set done using Rowan Big Wool and size 15 and 17 needles. It is a whole different world knitting with yarn and needles this size, rather than my usual size 0's! I had to knit the hat flat since I don't have either a short circular needle or double points that big.

Rowan Tweed Scarf

This is RYC Soft Tweed, size 11 needles. I LOVE this yarn. I don't usually fall for a bulky yarn, but my god this stuff is fabulous. Wool, viscose, polymide and silk, it is so soft, the color is so pretty. A basic cardigan would cost about $130. Gack!* At that price, my love may need to remain chaste.


But it's so, so pretty! Anyway, I am more than half done with this scarf (I finished the mauve ball last night) so I'm going to work on a matching hat tonight and use what remains to finish the scarf.

*I might have a fur ball stuck in my throat.

Song About the Moon

How to Write a Song

"If you want to write a song about the moon
Walk along the craters of the afternoon
When the shadows are deep
And the light is alien
And gravity leaps like a knife off the pavement
And you want to write a song about the moon
You want to write a spiritual tune
Then nah nah nah
Song about the moon"
--Paul Simon, "Song About the Moon" (From "Hearts & Bones")

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Why I Bought a Super Zoom Camera

Making Use of the Superzoom!

Judy won't let us get this close!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Weaving Goals

But first, my sister reminds me that our niece, Lauren, is turning 10, not 11 (which is true of Len's niece as well). I decided to get her 3 Ramona books and Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great (I loved all of these when I was her age, and older).

Weaving. I've had a warp sitting on my loom waiting to be threaded for close to a year. I'm kind of surprised the cats haven't taken care of it (by "taken care of", I mean "ruined"). I don't know what the issue is, it isn't that I dislike weaving, I just don't seem to make time for it. Part of the issue is that I'm not that good at it, which is a dumb excuse, because I didn't used to be good at knitting but I kept at it until I got good at it, or at least not afraid to screw up.

So. Now that the garden and canning are pretty much done, I've decided to make the time. Not everyday mind you, just on weekend mornings while listening to the radio, which bores Len to tears. This will serve two completely different purposes (or it should): give me much needed regular practice on the loom and give me some much needed time to myself. I love Len dearly, but we do spend a little too much time together. Plus my job (which I also love) involves being with people most of the day. I need time alone*.

My other weaving goal. You know those Indian bedspreads/wall coverings every hippy-dippy college student since 1967 has? That's my summer bedspread (magenta with elephants), which I've had since I was, you guessed it, a college student. We need something a little more...grown up. I considered knitting one, but I don't even like knitting baby blankets, so a queen size bedspread would probably put me in the loony bin. I also considered crocheting one. But then I remembered something. I have a loom and a boatload of 20/2 unmercerized cotton, just waiting to be dyed and made into something pretty and useful. If I'm smart, I will stick with a simple Summer and Winter, if I am less so, Lee's Surrender (I am kind of an idiot, so I wouldn't put it past me).

*One of the things I find funny, and kind of sweet, is that to Len, being "alone" means being with me. To me, being alone means no other humans. I am, maybe, not so sweet.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Demented Cakes and Other Random Stuff

The cakes for the baby shower came out well, if not exactly traditional. The expecting couple aren't particularly traditional (thus a couple's shower), so they took the cakes in the spirit in which they were intended -- Fun and Good Cheer. I am sorry to report that I wore a brown blouse with white polka dots. Completely unintentional.

Demented Cake Decorating

This is what came in their gift bag:

Baby Sweater

I tried, but I just didn't have enough time. The arm looks really skinny to me, but the measurement is correct (not that that means much), so I blocked it last night and I am much happier with it. It isn't much bigger, but it relaxed a lot.

Wee Little Cuff

Wee little cuff. So cute! It will get folded under and be a little picot edging.

In other news, both my and Len's nieces are turning 11. Len's niece is easy, she wants earrings. I can cope with earrings -- nothing dangley, pretty, but not so dear anyone will be very sad when they go missing. My niece, on the other hand, wants Playmobile (I'm pretty sure she has the world's largest collection). Her mother says books -- she likes fantasy of the Harry Potter variety. While I do like HP, I don't find that category very helpful, since I don't know the genre well, and I don't know what she already has. Do you suppose a kid who likes Harry would also like Ramona Quimby?

While wandering around the store I ran into How To Be The Best At Everything. Two random samples from the Girl's Book were How To Do Your Own Manicure and Friendship Bracelets. Samples from the Boy's Book were Water Bombs and How to Tie Three Kinds of Knots. The boy's book sounds way cooler. How depressing is that? Shouldn't we be moving beyond these sorts of stereotypes? I considered the Boy's book for my niece (since those are the sorts of things I think she enjoys), but I hate the idea that I'd be participating in the message that some things are for boys and some things are for girls. Why can't they put the two books together and call them "How To Be the Best At Everything: Kid's Edition" and let the kid decide if he wants to tie a knot or paint his nails?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Some Pretty Pictures

I got a new camera about a month ago. A Canon PowerShot S3 IS, it has a super zoom (12x) and much more manual capability than my PowerShot A530. I haven't had much time to explore it, and the learning curve is steep. Yesterday, I took it out in the yard so I could see how it would do.

Going to Seed

Queen Anne's Lace

I feel like the color is a little warmer, and I really like the depth of field in the top picture.


This is a small piece of a larger picture. The larger picture didn't work at all, but when I used Photoshop to zoom in (which I generally do to check focus issues), I got this piece which I quite like.


I love pokeberry. I picked the bunches with ripe berries and stuck them in the freezer so I can make dye when I have time and acetic acid*. If anyone has idea about where to find this stuff, please let me know.

*Which I still haven't found. My dad tells me acetic acid is used in photo processing as a stop bath. He has some, but it has pH indicator which would be problematic. He used to take and develop black & white photos and tried to teach me once when I was in high school, but I failed the first step -- winding the film onto a spool in complete darkness.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Princess Bride Correction

It was not, in fact, Buttercup's mother who said, "Life is pain. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something." It was Fezzik's mother.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Book MeMe

I was tagged for the first time ever with a meme by Valerie. And seeing as it's about books, how can I resist?

1. Hardcover or paperback, and why?

With some notable exceptions, paperback. I'm trying to collect all of the Jane Austens in hardcover, because they seem more like heirlooms (under the dustcover of the Everyman edition is a lovely green cover, and the pages are a nice cream). All of the Harry Potters are hardback, since I bought them as they were released. And sometimes, I just can't wait for a paperback.

But the cost of hardbacks is senselessly prohibitive. The cost of production isn't much more for a hardback, so the cost difference has to do with publishing houses trying to recoup their costs and reap as much profit as quickly as possible. Understandable, but I'm not a business person, I'm a reader, who likes to buy books (as a librarian, you'd think I would be passionate about using libraries, but no, I'm building my own). Don't even get me started on the cost of CDs.

2. If I were to own a book shop, I would call it…

I have no idea. I would probably be uncreative enough to name it after myself, a relative, or worse yet, one of my cats. I would, however, have shop cat. It seems so necessary.

3. My favorite quote from a book (mention the title) is…

I am so bad at remembering quotes (my pathetic memory is why I can read books over and over and always be surprised by the ending). So a couple I remember: "Life IS pain. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something" (Princess Bride, said by Buttercup's mother in the most excellent book); "I had a farm in Africa" (Out of Africa. It's such a musical opener); and of course "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." (Pride and Prejudice, obviously. It sets the tone so perfectly).

I also went and searched for a quote which gets to what drew me to Grapes of Wrath. I remember being completely taken by Jim Casey, the (ex-)preacher. That character had a huge effect on my budding, teenaged spirituality. This sums it up nicely: "Why do we got to hang it all on God or Jesus? Maybe,' I figgered, 'maybe it's all men an' all women we love: maybe that's the Holy Sperit- the human sperit- the whole shebang. Maybe all men got one big soul ever'body's a part of". Then he went out and lived it and died for it.

4. The author (alive or deceased) I would love to have lunch with would be…

I'm such a geek that I'd probably spend the whole time drooling and saying inanely stupid things, so lunch with someone I admire might not a good idea. The other problem is, what if an author I admire greatly turns out to be an asshole? I might never be able to read his or her books again! However, with sufficient drugs (for myself), I'd say Anna Quindlen would probably be a very interesting conversationalist. Molly Ivins would be a scream. Ooo! Jonathan Kozol, he's so passionate, pissed off and funny.

5. If I was going to a deserted island and could only bring one book, except for the SAS survival guide, it would be…

The collected works of Shakespeare. If people can devote entire careers to Shakespeare, he's probably good for a long stint on a deserted island.

And what is a SAS survival guide? In my wee corner of the world, SAS is a statistics software. I don't see that being very useful on a deserted island.

6. I would love someone to invent a bookish gadget that…

Isn't the book a perfect gadget?

7. The smell of an old book reminds me of…

The University of Michigan Graduate Library. I suppose I don't really need to be reminded, since I go there often enough, but it's more the experience of the place when I was an undergrad. I loved that place. Stuffed full of the most arcane stuff (it seemed to me), it seems so subterranean (it isn't). And it smells like knowledge.

8. If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title), it would be:

Oh geez. How cliched can I be? Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. Who else?

9. The most overestimated book of all times is…

John Irving.

10. I hate it when a book…

I hate it when an ending fails to live up to the rest of the book. I can't think of a specific example, but there are usually some convoluted coincidences and a sappy reunion. I also hate dialog which in attempt to be "real", rings false. The Time Traveler's Wife comes to mind. That book has such a great story and structure, but the dialog was tinny and it drove me crazy.

10a. I love it when a book..

So as not to end on a totally negative note. I love it when a book is headed toward a train wreck and the author is brave enough to let it happen. Amsterdam and Bel Canto spring to mind. I also love it when a book is so well written I can forgive any flaw, Rise and Shine sometimes had tinny dialog, it tended to cliche and a sappy ending. I'm still sad that I've finished it.

So. Who to tag? Stef, of course (you can punch me in the eye when you see me next). The gals over at Two Sharp Sticks. And my sister, Sarah. She doesn't have a blog but could do this in the comments or e-mail me and I could post it?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Minor Disaster Weekend

With pictures!

Len and I are going to a baby shower next weekend. I offered to bring the cake(s) because. Well. Because I'm stupid that way. I was, however, smart enough to think I should bake the cakes in advance, in case anything went wrong. And hoo-boy, did it ever!

Cake Mess

This is supposed to be the basic yellow cake from The Cake Bible. I've made the the cake before, with not spectacular, but not disastrous results. So what happened? I hear tell there may be some children at the shower and though it would be nice to make a few cupcakes to go along with the big cakes. So I made half again as much batter. I'm sure I did the math right. I'm equally sure I overfilled the pans.

Cake Mess Detail

Yum. Raw batter center! The pans overflowed, dripped into the cupcakes and the bottom of the oven. Obviously, my attempt at cupcakes didn't go very well, either.


Len peeled off the tops of the first two. Trust me, it improved their looks. I only have four (vaguely) presentable cakes because I had to dig the two others out of the pan. I also made a chocolate cake, I decided to forgo the cupcake idea and made three layers instead. They turned out so well they were too boring to pose for pictures.

And in keeping with the shower-related disaster theme, the baby sweater took a turn for the worse. First, I have to say I love the pattern (aside from four 3-color rounds per repeat, which is just mean) and I love the colors. Everything was going swimmingly (in the fantasy world where I swim well, that is), then I got to neck shaping. Which involved switching to back and forth. For some reason, I thought I was going to be able to manage neck shaping and continuing to knit in the round. I swear I read in some blog somewhere that this trick exists, and that it involves Dale of Norway. Maybe that was in the same world where I swim well?

In any case, I did decide to go with short rows rather than casting off, since they are prettier. My first mistake was that I misread the instructions. They say to cast off at the beginning of the row 2 times, which I misread as 4 times (it made sense in my head). I caught that mistake in enough time to fudge my way around it. But then I actually looked at the knitting.

So, when you knit in the round, every line in a chart is read from right to left. When you knit back and forth, one row is read right to left, the next, left to right. That is a big distinction. All of the neck stitches had to come out. You know how I said 3-color rounds are mean? They are downright sadistic when purling. I didn't take pictures, I was too depressed. I'm almost done with the neck shaping, I don't know how far I have to go, but I can almost guarantee that it will not be done for the shower.

In other, non-disaster news. I did give up on the bad book. I borrowed two books of my mother, The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler and Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen. I'm finished with Rise and Shine. While this isn't her best book (I pick One True Thing*), and she certainly wanders a little far into clich
és, I find myself missing the book and wishing I had more of it to read. That is a rare enough experience. I've started the Tyler book and am sinking into it.

*I hated the movie. Hated it. I was horrified by how the mother was written, Streep did a fine enough job, but that was not the character Quindlen wrote.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I know, I know. It's been more than a week. But I have excuses! I took a four day weekend and went to South Haven to visit my mom (and, as it turned out, my youngest sister, Sarah, who was taking a break from the heat and humidity of Miami to visit hot and humid Michigan). I ended up taking a fifth day off because I didn't sleep Monday night (despite being exhausted and taking a sleeping pill); I often have trouble getting to sleep, but straight up insomnia is rare for me. I think it was a combination of hormones and the weather being unseasonably hot and humid. It has cooled off considerably, so that's one thing back to normal (my hormones never have been normal, so I just have to wait that part out).

Shoe Parade

I love me some shoes! Left to right, boots that Len got me for Christmas two years ago, a seriously cute pair of heels I bought with a gift certificate his mother gave me for my birthday, and the pair of Merrell's Len bought for my birthday. I find it hilarious that he finds the Merrells sexy and the heels horrifying.


Habenero Jelly 2

Habenero Jelly Detail

Hot Pepper Jelly

Habenero and Hot Pepper Jellies.

Cuter than Everyone

Simon wants you to know that he is cuter than everyone. His ego is a bit over-inflated.


And he is sad to see summer end. I'm not.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

40th Birthday

Birthday Cake3
Doyle Memorial* Birthday Cake

*Doyle was a character on Angel. Half human, half demon, when pissed off he'd sprout spikes all over his face. The character was killed off halfway through the first season, the actor died a few years later. The cake looks remarkably like Doyle in full demon mode.

Monday, October 01, 2007

What Would You Do?

My boss (actually, my boss' boss) lent me a book a few weeks ago. She thought I would enjoy it because it's central theme is knitting. She's asked me about it a few times, and the book finally floated to the top of my pile. I'm not going to say what the book is (suffice it to say it is a novel) because it is complete dreck. Stupid story, badly drawn characters, clichéd, and very poorly written. I hate it. And I'm only about 20 pages in.

The issue I am having doesn't have to do with office politics, she's leaving in a few months. I find it kind of sweet that she thought of me when she read the book. I don't mind lying a little, something along the lines of, "not for me, but the knitting was sweet" (the knitting is dumb). My question is, do I have to finish the book? What if she asks me a question? What would you do?


In the meantime, I'm drowning in hot peppers. The cayenne plants gave up completely, so the peppers didn't have enough energy to turn red. I picked them all on Sunday, they will all be strung up and dried. I've probably picked three pounds of habeñeros, I have put them in salsa, dried them, frozen them and will put some into habeñero jelly, but I am running out of ideas. My sister, Krista, will be getting most of them, but I don't think even she will be able to use all of this bounty. I could sell them to the pepper spray industry, I suppose.