Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On the Move

I was back on the road again this weekend. Care to guess where? Here's a clue (don't look at the photo tags, that would be cheating!):
Central Park

No? How about this one?
James A Farley Building

Or maybe this one?
Alwyn Court Building

Deceptive aren't they? It's a city of cities, with something for everyone. How about one more:
High Line Park

If you guessed New York City, you were right on the money. We had been looking for an opportunity, and found a great last-minute hotel deal, so we drove down to Connecticutt and caught a commuter train into the city. There was knitting- mittens (actually finished last week when I was between hats)- and another pink hat. (I don't have photos of them yet, so that's for another post.)

The weather Saturday was gorgeous, so we spent nearly the whole day walking. Central Park was full of people, biking, jogging, playing music or just playing.
Central Park

The Kwanzan cherry trees were in bloom. Wouldn't this photo make a really evil jigsaw puzzle?
Kwanzan cherry trees in Central Park

We walked from around 10th Street all the way up to 115th before taking the subway the rest of the way to the north end of Manhattan and walking through the park there. We probably covered around 15 miles, more than meeting our ten-mile-walk-once-a-week goal. I kept finding cool pictures- more than is sensible for a blog post. You can check out the whole set if you're interested.

We finished the day by seeing the live Prairie Home Companion show, which was taping just off Times Square. Excellent show- Sara Watkins and Garrison Keillor did an outstanding duet- and it was extremely amusing to watch the radio sound effects being made in front of us.

Sunday morning, it was pouring, so we slept in a bit, and I finished reading The Lost City of Z, a true story about obsessed explorers of the Amazon. (Suburbancorrespondent, you must not read this book. If bugs bother you now, this book will fill your dreams with creepy-crawlies for weeks. Though it's a fascinating and well-written book.)

We then stopped for amazing hot chocolate, visited our favorite New York bookstore, the Strand (someday I want to collect the trifecta- I've been to the Strand in NYC and The Tattered Cover in Denver, but I need to visit Powell's in Oregon to complete the set.) We then took ourselves off to Chelsea Market where our lunch was created (cooked is too mundane a word) for us by a crepe artiste. And then we spent the afternoon at the Museum of Natural History. A delightful weekend all around.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Honk if You'd Rather Be Knitting

There comes a time in a person's life, when the natural desire to neglect the un-fun things (housework) is subsumed by the distaste, nay, even disgust for the current state of affairs (chaos).

Which is to say, after contemplating my running list of 'chores that really ought to be done Real Soon Now', I reluctantly prodded my sleep-dazed self off to work at an earlier-than-usual hour yesterday so I could return home early and tackle some of them. Surprisingly, this worked largely as planned, despite the late-day sudden urgent need for a report no one had thought to mention. So:

I mowed. Granted I could probably have neglected it until next week, but for once I thought it might be fun, or at least novel, to not be in the running for 'neighborhood yard most likely to be mistaken for a pasture'.

Then I weeded. We're not talking dandelions here- nope, I was after bigger game- those immense woody and thorny vines that had been taking over the yard. This proved unexpectedly easy- a bunch of them had extended their rapturous roots into the compost pile. So instead of engaging in tug-of-war, I could just pull them out out of the leaves and coil them up- yards and yards of roots, and then dump them in the yard waste bag. (I have discovered to my chagrin that some things cannot and should not be composted- it just encourages them.) Some of the vines were bittersweet and I cut more of them out of the fence without mercy, to be discarded with the rest.

Then I turned my attention to the inside. I washed dishes. I paid bills. I tidied. I did laundry. And for the pièce de résistance, I cleaned the bathroom.

It was this point that my husband arrived home from work. Observing my activity with a mildly furrowed brow, he asked, "Are you feeling unusually ambitious today?"

Okay, so I don't have these kinds of attacks very often. After dinner, I ignored the rest of the list and cast on a new hat. I wouldn't want to go overboard with this cleaning thing.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

About Time

With Toni zipping through her 30th FO and me stuck back at #23, I've been feeling a little pressured to get something done.

However, despite temptation- and my mother's gift of a giant bag of mitten-and-hat acrylic, I've been standing fast, and trying to finish a couple of things before casting on something new. And it took knitting in snatches all of last week, plus a couple of lengthy drives and a full day of socializing Saturday, but I finally have FOs to show you:
stretchy basket weave socks
FO#24 Stretchy Basket Weave Socks

These were stretchy all right. I suspect that I could fit a second foot in each one if I really wanted to. Yet they do fit me, barely stretched. Definitely it would be a good yarn to use if you were trying to make socks for someone whose foot size you didn't know exactly. I haven't worn them yet (the weekend was definitely wool-sock weather- cold and rainy), so time will tell if these stretch during wearing the way Toni's did.

Next up:
ruffled scarf
FO#25 Pink and White Ruffled Scarf
This was sort of experimental. I had these two odd skeins of funky cotton/acrylic. I thought they might make a good light 'accessory' kind of scarf. However the patterns I found for the 'potato-chip scarf' and the like were for bulky weight yarn. Which this certainly was not- sport weight would be closer. Still, I figured I'd see how it went adapting the pattern for a lighter yarn. Answer- not totally satisfactorily. The way the pattern works is by doubling the number of stitches every few rows and this quickly got to an excruciating number of stitches. I had originally considered whether to try adding the last two skeins of this yarn (which are sort of country blue), but quickly decided that casting off over a thousand stitches on a silly little scarf would drive me right round the bend. So I quit while I was ahead.

Still, having cast off *two* projects that were on the needles, I decided that I deserved a chance to play with the new yarn. Hence, the All-Day Beret in Random Pink Acrylic:
all day beret- small

Cute, eh? The pattern claims it 'fits most women'. Not so much. It may fit most women who take a small in hats. It has 104 stitches on #5 needles for the cast on (the main part of the hat is on #8s), which in most worsted weights is going to make a small hat. But no matter- since it's destined for the donation bin, I can easily make more in different sizes and colors! Or possibly the same colors...my new bag of yarn had approximately 8 skeins of pink, all different shades. It will be interesting to see just how many different hats or other things I can make with them!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Reasons Why Multitasking Is a Bad Idea

So, we all know better than to talk on the phone or text while driving. But I think it's time some lesser-known hazards got some publicity, since I seem to have committed most of them this week.

On the home front, thinking about what to pack in your lunch while making breakfast can cause you to pour hot water over your breakfast cereal instead of your teabag. I'm not sure whether to blame that one on multi-tasking or lack of caffeine, however.

Then there are the drinking problems. The first one is actually a pretty well known hazard- reading the blogs of funny people can cause you to spray liquids on your computer. This is bad for the computer. It's also sometimes related to the issue of breathing when you should be swallowing or vice versa.

Also, trying to unravel a knotty work problem while drinking coffee can cause you (or at least me) to pour it down the front of my shirt. For some reason this is especially likely if one is wearing light-colored clothes. What do you mean, 'what was in the coffee?'-- cream and sugar. What did you think was in the coffee? I was working, okay?

Then we move onto crafting...last night I spent ten minutes trying to undo a knot in my working yarn before I realized that I was only three inches from the end of the skein, and could just cut it off. (Okay, I'm also thrifty.) And then dropping back several rows to fix a stitch that 'looked funny' before I realized that that was the stitch where I'd started the new skein. (Reading email and knitting just don't seem to go together at all for me.)

We've already established that drinking is a problem while pondering tricky work issues. Eating isn't good either. No, not due to spills. Today, I ate the stem of my apple. My thought processes at the time went something like, "...that tolerance isn't going to work, what was the customer thinking...why is this apple so tough and woody-tasting?" (Fortunately I figured it out before I swallowed.)

So, am I going to stop multitasking? Um, no, not completely. There's always so much to do, and not enough time to do it. But I may start de-stemming the apples when I pack my lunch...

What are your best multi-tasking stories?

No, I don't have any new FOs yet. What was your first clue?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bad Blogger, No Biscuit

So, it was another weekend for being out and about- Saturday, I spent the morning (the part I didn't sleep through) getting some yard work done. Last fall, I didn't make it through all the raking before it started snowing. (Accursed short days, that time of year. And I hate raking in the dark.) So I started by picking up all dead wood thoughtfully shed by the trees and put it on the kindling pile. The spring flowers have been struggling to get their little fronds above the thick coating of oak leaves blanketing the flowerbeds, so I released them from bondage, and raked up a bunch of other debris for good measure. I was greatly assisted by strong winds that whipped half of each pile of leaves down the street and saved me having to cart it back to the compost pile. (I'm just hoping my neighbors to windward aren't too upset.)

My husband was assigned to bittersweet eradication duty (the bittersweet vines climb our fences, attempt to strangle the trees and grow at a rate that would make them contenders in the Boston Marathon, if plants were allowed to enter). Good progress was made. Though my husband's attitude to the whole yard work thing is that it's some curious activity I've dreamed up just to baffle him. His opinion is pretty well summed up by the quote, "Let me get this straight, we're out here killing everything that grows naturally, so we can plant things that don't?" (For the record, this is a gross exaggeration...pretty much all of the things I plant are chosen for their ability to thrive on neglect. And I only try to contain the growth of things that will swallow the house if I don't.)

We spent the afternoon walking around Boston, as a reward for our virtuous labor of the morning, and visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It's best known for having been the site of one of the most lucrative art thefts in history, and the art is indeed fabulous- but the house itself is worth the price of admission. Constructed by an eccentric* Bostonian lady in the late 19th century and opened as a museum in 1903, it has the exterior of an ordinary Bostonian building, but the interior of an Italian palazzo. Because the Bostonian climate is so noticebly not like the climate of Italy, the central courtyard is enclosed, creating a conservatory where a garden can bloom year round. And of course, there is an immense collection of art. Not a large museum, but well worth a visit, particularly if you like the Italian Renaissance, tapestries, furniture and art.
*Because rich people are eccentric, not crazily obssessed.

Speaking of crazily obsessed, Sunday was our designated 'walk at least ten miles to toughen our feet' day, so I dragged my protesting middle-aged out-of-shape carcass partway up the side of a mountain. Considering that we've been walking fairly aggressively the last few weeks, it was rather dispiriting to find that six miles and a mere 1200 feet or so of vertical was enough to totally kick my behind. It's just as well that plan A was a dud. I had wanted to hike up Mt. Chocorua, a lovely peak in east central NH, which I've been up a couple of times before, though not recently-- which is to say, I was a lot younger when I last climbed it. However, when we checked in at the ranger station, they told us that the last person up the mountain (last week) had reported there was still two feet of snow at the summit. Uh. We had been prepared for it to be cold, but not for two feet of snow. Now, snow in the New Hampshire mountains this time of year isn't exactly a shocker--I recall one memorable hike in May that involved floundering through hip deep snow for several hours and led to me getting a decent pair of snowshoes for subsequent spring hikes. But given the unseasonably warm weather we've had this spring, I had been optimistic that the trail would be passable. Not so much.

Still, we opted to hike the lower part of the trail, up to Champney Falls, which are very pretty this time of year (with the spring meltwaters flowing down them). It was there I discovered that while my walking-on-flat-level-ground muscles may be coming along nicely, my hiking-up-big-hills muscles are sorely out of shape. Literally. We blew off the ten mile goal, and sensibly turned back at the point where the trail got icy. Since we hadn't hiked very far, we took another short hike around the Boulder Loop, which the hiking guide described as having rewarding views 'for relatively moderate effort'. Of course, that would be moderate effort for someone who hikes regularly up and down 4000-foot mountains and disdains a mere 1000 feet of vertical. (The views were just as lovely as advertised, though!)

So. Yard work. Boston. Museum. Hiking in the mountains. Almost no knitting. And I failed to take a single picture, thanks to managing to forget the camera completely every time I left the house. Kind of a humbling weekend all around.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


For the last couple of weeks I've hardly been home long enough to read blog posts, let alone write them. This does not mean a pause in the rate of crafting, however. Has yarn, will travel, that's me. The itinerary, with yarn highlights:

1. After the stress of the whole car/fuel tank/furnace drama, I snapped. I was getting close to the end of my red sock yarn, and realized that I had only three skeins of sock yarn left. One of which I was going to need a contrast color in order to use (since there's not quite enough to do a pair of socks for feet my size). I did try to convince myself that at two weeks per pair of socks minimum I was very unlikely to actually run out without enough warning to get more. But, there was no quelling the irrational anxiety. So, I went by the craft store, intending only to look for another 50g skein I could use with the skein that was too small, and found they had a whole bunch of new colors in Paton's Kroy that I hadn't seen before. I wound up restocking my sock supply. Rather a lot.

And then another shopper handed me a coupon they weren't going to be able to use, and I found myself standing beside the discount bin. I was charmed by the honesty and utter uselessness of the label:
100% Unknown Fiber
100% unknown fiber.
It feels like cotton/acrylic blend to me. I'll wash a swatch to be sure it's machine washable, but I suspect it is. This may wind up as a sweater, but it's more likely destined to be another small afghan.

2. On evening trip to Cambridge for dinner later that week, I arranged found myself with enough slack in the schedule to visit Mind's Eye Yarns (in Porter Square), which I'd never been to before, as well as stopping at the very fine bookstore across from them. A small shop, but extremely friendly and well-stocked. They also had some wonderful hand-dyed yarns and I took home this delightful skein of merino/Tencel sock yarn. Because I didn't have enough, clearly!
Merino/Tencel Hand Dyed

3. The weekend before last my husband and I went down to Washington DC. We wanted to see the Terracotta Warriors exhibition at the National Geographic Museum before it closed (on March 31st). Amazing! The artistry of the figures, their expressions, the level of detail in the sculpture, were all incredible. The rest of the stay was pleasant as well--we visited the National Building Museum and the new Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian. And we walked (about 17 miles during the weekend), enjoyed looking at architecture, gardens full of flowers and cherry trees blooming like crazy. Gorgeous! However I left my camera at home, so the only part of it I can share is this little sprig:

It was given to me by a man on the street, and for lack of anything better to do with it, I tucked it into my hair. I wondered for the rest of the weekend if I'd get stopped by a police officer to be reminded that picking the cherry blossoms is strictly forbidden. (Though I'm not altogether sure it's cherry- could be any one of a number of flowering trees.) Fortunately, I wasn't. It was pretty badly wilted by the time I got home but it perked right up when I put it in water, and it was cheerful to see it for the several days of pouring rain that greeted us on our return

I started a new pair of socks on the trip- not because the red ones were done, but because I didn't have a pair of wooden needles in their size (which the airlines prefer). So these are the new socks...basket weave pattern in Patons Kroy Stretch Sock:
basketweave sock

I like the look of them fine, but I can't really say the same for the yarn. These are cotton, wool and elastic and I'm finding the yarn way too stretchy to be enjoyable to work with. At the start my tension was all over the place. I think I've gotten to the point of handling the yarn lightly enough not to have weird puckers in the fabric, and I think the finished socks will be fine to wear, but unless I change my mind as I get more used to it, I'm probably not getting any more of this. A pity, as I want to knit more summer weight socks, and was hoping this would be a good reasonably-priced option. (I've liked the other summer weight yarns I've tried, but they've been more expensive.)

And what about the red socks, you ask? Perhaps you're picturing them languishing in the knitting basket, cruelly abandoned for something newer and shinier? Not so:
a sextet of socks

A sextet of socks, all ready to be tied up in bows and slipped under the Christmas tree. (Don't worry...getting an early start on the Christmas knitting only makes me overconfident and leads to ridiculously ambitious knitting plans for the fall. You can laugh at me then.)

4. Last weekend we headed out to New York and visited friends in Troy who were throwing a musical party. We stayed up way too late playing music and singing. Our friends have five cats, so in addition to their commodious guest room, we were provided a guest cat. Or the cat provided herself. Her name was Cyrene, and after ascertaining that we were indeed people who knew how to pat a cat and scratch her on the neck, she joined us for the duration. Periodically we were awoken by a large cat head-butting us and purring to let us know it was time to pat her some more, but it was still very nice.

5. Saturday we went for a walk in Albany. It's a city that I've visited many times, and never seen. Which is to say, we quite frequently visited friends of the family who lived there when I was younger, but I'd never been to the downtown. Like a lot of places, the downtown had empty streets and a lot of empty storefronts, but the generally good state of repair of the place did lead me to think that it would probably be livelier on a weekday. We went down to the riverfront and walked on the Mohawk-Hudson bike path, and enjoyed the unusually warm and sunny weather.
Hudson-Mohawk Bike Trail, Albany NY

We walked a total of about ten miles (part of our mildly ambitious plan to be in better shape by the summer) and on our return, found it remarkably difficult to locate even a single open business that could sell us a cold drink. We eventually resorted to throwing ourselves on the mercy of the clerk at the Hampton Inn and Suites, a very nice man who sold us some water and sodas out of the hotel's snack bar.

6. Sunday being Easter, we drove up to Maine to have dinner with my parents. We took a detour along the coast and stopped for a stroll at Odiorne Point, one of my favorite state parks on the short NH coastline.
Odiorne Point, Rye NH

Another beautifully warm and sunny day, followed by a delicious meal with family. And my mother gave me a large bag of yarn...mitten yarn. (And it isn't beige! 100 projects list, watch out!)

Easter weekend travel knitting mostly alternated between the basketweave sock and the long fluffy yellow sweater for my sister, which is progressing slowly. I had a chance to check the fit on my sister Sunday, and gratifyingly, it seems to be coming along more or less the way I intended. I'm on the second half of the front, and I think once I'm done, I'm going to sew the back and fronts together and pick up stitches around the arm to knit the sleeves. Given that I am totally winging this, it will make fitting a lot easier. And I've got an idea to incorporate short rows into a bit of sleeve cap that I'd like to try...we'll see how that goes. At the very least, it should make for more interesting pictures!