Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bees Have Nothing on Me

I've been as busy as the proverbial honeymaker this week, and it shows no sign of letting up. For one thing, there are these socks:
Autumn rainbow socks

Really quite delightful and the only thing that persuaded me to give them up to my husband is that I have yarn for two more pairs in colors I like even better.

Our weekend hike was another steamy experience, wherein we collected more data to support our theory that trails with names containing the words Bog, Marsh, Swamp, Creek or Stream will be inhabited by swarms of vicious bloodsucking insects. Despite the forecast for thundershowers, we didn't see any rain, but having umbrellas with us was useful anyway, as we could use them to beat off the clouds of mosquitos. (We were wearing repellent...it may be the only reason we got out alive.)

This week, I thought I'd get a start on using up some of the two giant skeins of gray yarn in the hat and mitten bag, so I cast on a hat. I had planned to do some colorwork to liven it up some. But I couldn't find the book with the Norwegian stitch patterns I was looking for, so I cracked open Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting, which I treated myself to at Christmas and have barely begun to read. I thought I was going to just adapt some of the patterns to two colors, but 5 colors later, I haven't used that much of the gray, but I sure am having a good time!

In house news, I'm halfway through the patch job on the wall that used to have oil pipes coming out of it. That would be the outside half. First I nailed flashing over the holes. (Which were exactly at deck level, and the access is quite small making it fiendishly difficult to get a good solid whack at the nails. I may have set a new record for hitting my thumb.) And then I cut a new piece of siding to go over the space. Of course the siding comes in 16 foot lengths, so what I'm going to do with the 14 feet 10 inches of remaining siding is kind of a conundrum.

What remains is the inside bit- re-insulating the ceiling and putting new drywall over the hole. Which is to say, standing on a ladder holding drywall up to the ceiling while screwing it in place. Such fun! I think I may have to go and learn some new curse words before I start. I have a premonition I may need them.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Weekend Meanderings, Part the Second

After getting in late Saturday night, we still crawled out of bed determinedly at an early-ish hour on Sunday morning, because we had a Plan. Back in the car (and grateful our shoes had dried out overnight), we headed from western Massachusetts down to Connecticut, to the Essex Valley Steam Train. Where we took photos designed to make our two small nephews beg for a visit:
Essex Steam Train

My husband has been a rail fan practically from birth (his first word was reportedly "choo-choo!"), and he particularly loves Essex because they run steam all the time, as opposed to many tourist railroads, who are forced by finances to run diesels a lot of time and only bring out the steam locomotives occasionally. The expressions on the faces of the kids are always a blast, too. One small boy's father explained to me that it was his son's birthday, and although they had offered to bring him to one of the Thomas-themed weekends at the railroad, he had insisted that he wanted to ride on a 'big black train with chuggers!' (the long camshafts that are visible driving the wheels of steam trains).

We had a lovely train ride up the river. (We opted for the train-only ride, instead of the train and steamboat combination. Steamboats are not as cool as trains, you see.) And I took some notes for my train-themed thriller (which has been shamefully neglected in recent months, but which I don't intend to languish forever). And I knitted more sock.

From there, we went up to Gillette Castle, built by William Gillette, a 19th and early 20th century stage actor, playwright and director famous for (among other things) playing Sherlock Holmes.
Gillette Castle

He built the place as a retirement home, and we immediately identified with him as another person who may have gotten older but never grew up. He loved trains too, and built his own miniature steam railroad (alas no longer in service, though the restored locomotive is on display in the visitor center). The house looks more like a stage set than anything else, but a lavish one- native field-stone on the outside (bought from local farmers at a few dollars a load), and the interior done on a combination castle and nautical theme, with a great deal of faux-rustic woodwork, elaborate wooden latches on doors and windows (the door latches are all different and very cool looking), and clever details everywhere. Gillette also loved cats, and had a table with dangling wooden ornaments around the edges, designed for the cats' entertainment. We decided that castle was perhaps a little grandiose- (as one of our friends would put it, it's more of a 'bijou castle-ette'). But worth an hour if you happen to be in the area.

Then we headed back north with a stop in Mystic (where we found they no longer make their awesome cream soda and ginger beer- wah!) and in Providence for dinner. By the time we got home, we'd covered four states in one day. And traveled by car, boat (there was a ferry ride across the river) and steam locomotive, not to mention shank's mare. Fun, but I'm actually looking forward to part of a weekend at home this week!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sympathy for Arkansas, or Why You Should Never Trust a Weather Forecaster

The reading is still going on fast and furiously, though I didn't read quite so many books this week. That's because the last one was one of Tom Clancy's books (Executive Orders), written after he became too important to edit. I really feel like I ought to get triple credit for it-- at over 900 pages, it was like reading three ordinary books. (Note I found it readable enough, if rather meandering. However it does contain a rather tiresome amount of 'how everything would be better if we would all listen to Tom's political theories', which you have to be willing to overlook.) Anyway, it would have been a much better book if it had been edited down to half the length. And lost the danged cement mixer. It had nothing to do with anything else.

In traveling news, I spent the weekend covering ground, one way or another. Saturday morning my husband and I set out on our 'probably ten mile hike'. It was overcast and sticky, but the weather forecast had said that it wouldn't rain until late afternoon. (Ha!) So, we set off on a mildly ambitious hike, up Long Mountain in the Holyoke Range. As we got out of the car, I looked at our umbrellas, and said, "Nah, not supposed to rain. And if we get a sprinkle or two, I won't melt." And after all, we'd carried umbrellas all day in Newport the week before and hardly seen a drop of rain. (Ha, again!)

So we set off from the trailhead, wisely opted to circumnavigate Mount Norwottuck (rather than adding going up and down a second peak to our route). We climbed over the shoulder of the mountain, though, and then down into the valley between Norwottuck and Long Mountain. We did not take the swamp trail (think mosquitos the size of hummingbirds). And then we started the ascent of Long Mountain. The air was incredibly wet, and the woods looked very lush and green around us. The clouds were even lower than they'd been when we started out. It started to sprinkle. "Guess we're going to get a little damp after all," I said, regretting the absent umbrella. But we were too determined to let a little water stop us, so we continued on. The sprinkle turned into light rain, pattering through the leaves and dripping on us. We slowed to a stop and looked around uneasily (about time!). "This doesn't look like it's slowing down," I said slowly.

"No," my husband agreed. "Maybe it would be sensible to turn back."

"That's what I was thinking."

The light rain continued, as we walked back down into the valley between the two peaks. "I'm starting to be pretty wet," I remarked.

"We've been wetter." Jonathan had to remind me of the occasion, we'd been walking around Washington some years back and had been caught in a sudden downpour.

"Okay," I admitted. "We aren't as wet as we were then." We hit the top of the shoulder, and started back down to the trailhead. The rain continued to get heavier and heavier. The rain dripped on our glasses and they fogged up. (You'd think they'd do one or the other, but no- both.) We kept walking. By now, the rain was running down the trail in little streamlets and the trail was turning into a morass of mud. I was soaked to the skin, my hair dripping down my back. I pulled out the tail of my T-shirt and wrung it, getting a stream of water. "Now, I'm as wet as I was in Washington!" I announced, and we both laughed.

In the fullness of time, we arrived back at the car, and the rain tapered off to a drizzle (of course!). We were utterly drenched and splashed with mud to the knees. We beat a hasty retreat back to my mother-in-law's place (our staging point for the hike) and cleaned up and changed.

Fortunately the rest of the plan for the day involved hanging out with friends indoors. I took a little break from the socks and cast on some mittens:

And that was Saturday...and it's past my bedtime, so I'll have to tell you about Sunday later!

Seven Reasons to Knit Wool Socks in June

Okay, I've had this post written for days and was just trying to find a few minutes to snap a picture of the socks. At least it isn't a time-sensitive thing...you don't know how many posts I've abandoned because they were superceded by events.

1. The enchantment of self-striping yarn. I'm getting bolder about grabbing colorways that have several colors plied together- I have no idea what they're going to look like until I knit them, but I've always loved the result. Aren't they pretty?

2. They're small. The raincoat that I wear as my top layer in cooler months has capacious pockets, suitable for carting around any number of smallish projects- mittens, hat, scarf- even a sweater sleeve. In summer.. um, not so much. I don't carry a purse, and while I do quite often grab a small bag for knitting, it's really hard to compete with socks for compactness.

3. Air-conditioning. Last year, my office was moved from one part of the factory to the other. The old office had perfectly adequate AC, the new office- not so much. Being a known troublemaker, I cornered our maintenance guy and said, 'okay, sport, what's the issue here?' Turned out the AC unit was so old that parts of it were falling off or disintegrating into rust flakes when they tried to work on it. After that, all it took was pointing out that 'barely functioning' could become 'non-functioning' without advance notice, and that we have a lot of expensive lab equipment that requires climate-control. (It's possible that I may have threatened to whine, too- I don't do well once the temperature starts approaching 90 °F / 32 °C.) It took a year to get it through the capital budget, but this spring, a crane came by and dropped a brand-new AC unit on our roof. Result- the office is now freezing. I love it. Today I'm wearing my heavy wool socks and a suit jacket over a long-sleeved shirt, happy as a clam (if clams wore wool socks). (Though I'm thinking I may have to finally get around to knitting myself that pair of fingerless mitts as well!)

4. Christmas is coming. I know that this is true year-round, but in summer it's easier to squirrel away a few pairs of socks without getting covetous looks from members of my family. (Not easy, you understand, just easier.) As for why wool, rather than warmer-weather fibers...well, nine months of the year in NH, wool is perfectly wearable. And sometimes in the other three months as well (see reason #3).

5. The stash has a lot of sock yarn at the moment, due to a splurge earlier in the year, plus various sock yarn accidents in yarn stores. I only just barely avoided yet another one at the charming yarn store in Newport, when my husband adroitly reminded me that we needed to leave to make a tour time. I was hesitating because we were in the middle of walking around and I didn't want to carry the yarn around all day. But I'd have talked myself into it given a little more time...anyway, having a lot of yarn is a good reason to knit more socks...and knitting a lot of socks is a good excuse for buying more sock yarn. (I realize this is a circular argument.)

6. They are relatively quick, at least compared to a sweater or afghan. (What 100 projects challenge? I'm not listening. *sticks fingers in ears.* La-la-la. )

7. Because I wanna.

Monday, June 7, 2010

In Case It Escaped Your Notice

I've kind of fallen down on the blogging front lately. Partly it's that I haven't had FOs to show off. And the other reason is the same issue that's caused the lack of FOs- I've had a serious attack of books. I should have known this was coming- I almost stopped reading altogether for two months in February and March, between cat care and the aftermath. But I picked back up to something closer to a normal reading level in April, so I figured that was it. Um, not so much. I've read 23 books since the beginning of May. I'm not sure the obsession has passed yet, though I did read only one over the weekend, so I do seem to be slowing down. (I love to read, but 7-10 books a month is more normal for me.) Maybe that's why I dreamt the other morning that I had a whole pile of finished knitted projects that I had forgotten about and I was writing a blog entry about them when I woke up. Well, there *isn't* a whole pile, but I do have these socks, which got knit on the road the last couple of weeks:
Lush Green Socks

I really need to try and get a better photo of these in daylight- the colors are actually highly saturated greens and blues and turquoise, with hints of fluorescent green. The yarn was so pretty I kept finding myself knitting more slowly so they wouldn't be over so soon. I've misplaced the ball band, but it's a yarn I've looked at in the store a number of times and not bought because it comes in short skeins- with my large feet, I had to do the toes and heels in a contrast color to be sure of having enough yarn.

It hasn't helped my crafting output that the weather has been gorgeous. The pool is moving along (which is to say, it's leaking only about as much as usual), and the wildflower bed has put out a few blossoms. Mainly clover, but hey, it's wild and a flower, right? The less-than-ten-mile hike Memorial Day weekend was up in Hanover, NH. Hanover's a pretty town, made even more attractive by having the downtown inextricably entangled with the Dartmouth college campus.

We took a short hike up onto a section of the Appalachian trail, which goes right through Hanover. And then we walked out to lovely Pine Park, which runs along the back side of the golf course and out along the shore of the Connecticut River.

It was hot and sticky, and the whole area was overlain by thick haze. My husband swore it smelled smoky. I didn't believe him, but I should have- when I got home I found out the haze was smoke from the Quebec wildfires, which blanketed the region that Monday.

This past weekend we went down to Newport, RI to walk and tour some of the mansions for which the area is rightly famous. And forgot the camera. Not that they allow photos inside the mansions anyway. And outdoors it was hazy or downright foggy most of the day. Wherever we went, we could hear the foghorns calling on the coast. The overcast was actually kind of welcome- it was unbelievably sticky, if the sun had been out as well it would have been too hot to walk. As it was, I spend most of the day sodden with sweat. I indulged in a caramel sundae with chocolate brownie ice cream at the end of it. Oh, and I finished a hat.

Blue Diamond Hat

I really need to do a few more hats- I've got a lot of yarn that's well suited to them, and not so good for other projects. Or I could cast on a baby project- I'm going to be an aunt again in the fall, courtesy of my sister-in-law and her husband. So, what am I knitting now?

More socks.

No, I don't understand it either. If you figure it out, please, let me know.