Thursday, September 30, 2010


So, last night as I was headed to karate practice, I had a call from my husband. "I can't find Cookie," he said. "I'm afraid he's gotten out."

Well, that was a matter for considerable concern- he's an indoor cat and inclined to be nervous about new things. If he'd managed to go rushing through an open door before he registered it was new and strange, he'd probably panic. So I turned around and headed home. But before I started an outdoor search, I wanted to do a thorough check inside first, even though my husband had already turned the place upside down a couple of times. Because Cookie is good at hiding. He has been getting into places you'd swear were impossible. And he has this tendency to wander around staring penetratingly at places he finds interesting until he figures out how to get there.

For example, yesterday morning, he found his way to the top of one of the tall bookcases in the living room:
The big bookcase, now with cat

Doesn't he look pleased with himself?
Happy with our accomplishment

So, after an exhaustive search, we finally located him in one of these places...atop the other tall bookcase in the living room. The one we would have sworn he couldn't get into, because there is a rim that goes around the edge with only a few inches gap between it and the ceiling. The rim which, it turns out, conceals the top of the bookcase from the ground, making it a perfect hiding place for a cat.

I know how he did it- he launched himself from the top of the other bookcase above, and threaded the gap at the side, which is a bit wider than the one in front. Of course, once he'd done that, he had no idea how to get himself down. Straight down to the floor is nearly seven feet- that's enough to make even a cat as athletic as Cookie think twice, or three times or four. We stood there and watched him get one paw over the edge, look down and then retreat, several times.

It finally took a chair, a step stool, one human pushing and the other pulling to extricate him from his predicament. Once he was down, though, he didn't seem at all discommoded. Just rather dusty and in need of a thorough wash.

In other news, I wrote out a plan for the decreases on the colorwork mittens yesterday. I'd actually stopped knitting on them for a day because I was starting to have the sinking feeling I was going to run out of yarn. Fortunately, I remembered that my mother had some of the same gray, and I've asked her to hang onto it for a few days, in case I need it to finish these. So these are moving again.
mitten front
mitten back

And last but not least, having found myself home early last night, I turned to thinking about various projects in process, and decided to knock one off the list. Last year, I started to build a kayak cart. After trying it out, I found that it needed cross-bracing (which I'd known, but hadn't taken the time to do), and also that it needed to be reduced in height, as the center of gravity was too high, and it wasn't very stable. So last night I went down into the wood shop, took it apart, lowered the height and added cross-bracing.

So here it is, that rare creature- a carpentry FO!
kayak cart

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Where the Time Goes

It is frequently unclear to me where time goes (last weekend is mostly a blur) but it's clear that things have been happening. Last- but most important- we have a new member of the family!

Meet Cookie! He's two, and very affectionate, though quite unnerved by the whole moving to a new place experience. He's decided that Jonathan and I are welcome allies in the exploration of new territory, which has led to him getting us up in the middle of the night so he'll have company to explore the living room, or go out on the sun porch. Our strategy this afternoon has involved the liberal application of cat toys, in the hope of wearing him out so we can get some sleep for work in the morning.

Let's just say that providing cat moral support has completely derailed any intentions we may have had to get useful things done this weekend. Or provided us with a good excuse, anyway, take your pick!

So, in other news, I finally caught up with my sister for purposes of wrapping her in fluffy yellow sweater-ness. She seems pleased with it:

I'm actually pretty pleased with it myself. The fit is excellent, and it really did come out just the way I wanted when I originally conceived the design. (Ordinarily the design mutates in the course of execution, but not this time!)

But, I haven't been resting on my laurels:

Rather, I've been doggedly working my way through the last of the gray yarn. In fact this was actually what I originally intended to try when I saw it...I thought that it might work well in a Norwegian-inspired design, and so it does. I was also pleased with my improvised decrease pattern.

It could be smoother, but considering the lack of advance planning, I was pretty happy.

There are also various other projects-in-process that I haven't photographed yet--some gray and white mittens (since there's more gray left), a pair of socks (which need to be photographed in daylight to do the yarn justice). The green Aran, which is progressing but not complete (it's too big to carry around). And the advent of cool fall weather is filling my brain with knitty ideas...and filling my pool with acorns and leaves (closing the pool was the major project derailed by cat reassurance this weekend).

So. I'm off to flutter a cat toy. It's too soon yet to tell if Cookie is going to be enthusiastic about knitting, but it's for sure he needs lots of healthful exercise before bedtime!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Visiting, and Eating, and Visiting, and Eating, and...

Friday we left San Francisco for the suburbs, and went to meet my sister-in-law. Apparently under the delusion we had somehow been underfed on the trip so far, she had determined to take us to all her favorite restaurants (her phrase was 'we're going to eat our way across Palo Alto'), with a break to see the Stanford campus.

Stanford campus was very pretty-with a classic quad:

...a famous collection of Rodin sculptures, including the Burghers of Calais.
The Burghers of Calais
(Okay, confession- I'd never heard of it, but my husband recognized it on sight, impressing me no end. It's his expensive liberal arts eduction showing.)

And the university chapel was also very striking:
Stanford chapel

After this, we split the party. My sister-in-law went off to retrieve her children from day care, my husband took a long walk around the Stanford Dish (with the camera):

..and I headed off for a visit with blog friend AlisonH- (of whom I have no picture since said husband had the camera). It was a lovely visit-I got to meet her potter friends Mel and Kris who were there dropping off some extremly lovely bowls. Delightful people- we had a nice chat over some of Alison's famous chocolate torte (truly amazing!). The time fairly flew, and then I had to rush off to meet family for Mexican food for dinner. (By this time, I could probably have skipped dinner, but hey, Mexican food!). The original plan had included a yarn store visit, but that wound up not happening...with the result I saw no yarn on the trip. Next time for sure.

And then we where whisked back to the family house, which for the last several weeks had been home to several large boxes for our nephews. My sister-in-law had planted them in the hall and then told the boys heartlessly, "We can't open these until Uncle Jonathan and Aunt Robin get here." By the time of our actual arrival, the excitement had reached a feverish pitch. Jack and Dash helped with the unpacking---of their first electric train set.
Jack helps.
Jack and Dash help unpack
Dash gets his hands on the train

Jack was hugely excited when he realized he could make the trains go himself.
Boys with toys
Ooh, the excitement of it all!

The boys took quite some time to settle down after that and go to bed, and the next morning they raced down and had to be persuaded to leave the trains alone while they had breakfast and we all went down to see the farmer's market and take a last walk in San Francisco. I thought the rocket ship was delightful, and even better was the 'travel poster' and 'departure schedule' posted next to it.
The rocket

Dash led the charge off to see the giant fountain:
A giant fountain!  Run and go see!

And I thought the expressions on these two faces were especially cute. (You'd look up dubiously too, if a bird was about to poop in your ear.)
I'd be suspicious too, if a bird was about to poop in my ear.

And then after that, there was more playing with trains (the train layout gained a tunnel, and coaling and water towers. Giant robot coaling and water towers, according to Jack) and a trip to a local mystery bookstore, and pizza, and we all sprawled around the living room and watched Wall-E. Well, we sprawled. Dash bounced, wiggled, and attempted to scale furniture. But then he'd seen it before. Then it was time to say goodbye, as the boys went to bed and Jonathan and I headed off to catch our redeye home.
Playing with trains
Trains in tunnels

And for anyone who'd like to see even more photos of the trip- click here to visit the trip album.

Alcatraz and Muir Woods

Wednesday we'd made plans to go out to Alcatraz. The ferry goes out to the Island and the audio tour is included in the ticket price. Which we would likely have taken anyway. We did linger at the dock to hear the spiel of a National Park interpreter costumed in an Army uniform of the Civil War era, talking about the history of the island first as a fort, and then as a military prison. But of course the really famous history of the island is the years when it was a federal prison reserved for the most prominent and intractable prisoners.
Cell Block

The audio tour proved to be very good, in part because it was narrated by several men, including both guards who had worked at the prison, and men who had been imprisoned there. They gave a real feel for what the place must have been like. One of the more poignant accounts came from a man who talked about the proximity to San Francisco- at only a little over a mile away, the prisoners could see the city and sometimes even hear snatches of traffic and music on the wind--everything that was being denied them.
City behind the walls

Riding away from the island, it was easy to see why it became such a legend.
Leaving Alcatraz

This was followed by more walking around the city, dinner and a stop in Ghiradelli Square, for ice cream. Or, more accurately, for ice cream toppings. The ice cream itself is really only a substrate. (My sister-in-law says this is her favorite picture of the lot.)
Fudge brownie sundae at Ghiradelli square
(And yes, it was delicious!)

The next day, we headed out to Muir Woods. Because, to me, California will always mean redwoods. They were quite magnificent.
Muir woods
Muir woods

We saw several deer, quite close, and climbed up through the trees until we got to the ridgeline, which had a fabulous view out to the coast.
View from Muir woods

We finished the day with yet another excellent meal. (Despite all the walking and hiking, San Francisco is not good for one's waistline.)

From Sutro to the Golden Gate and Beyond

Sorry, I really hadn't intended to go this long without posting, but life has been being one of those things that happened while I was making other plans. But before I get into that, I should finish talking about the week in San Francisco.

Tuesday dawned a bit foggy, and we got a latish start so our first stop was lunch at Louie's, a diner with a view of the coast. From there we walked around the Sutro Baths.
Site of Sutro Baths

It was amusing to note that these venerable ruins were actually the foundations of a building that burned down in my lifetime. We set out along the coast, taking a walking path that leads through the Sutro Heights State park. The trail was pleasant and quiet, and afforded many ocean views, as well as frequent glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Sutro Heights Park
Sutro Heights Park
Golden Gate Park View

The skies cleared as the day went on, becoming sunnier and more pleasant. We walked on, passing through a couple of parks and a brief area of city before returning the coast at the Presidio.
Golden Gate Park View
Golden Gate Park View

We were disappointed to find that the path that actually goes under the bridge was closed for construction, though there is a route slightly inland on sidewalk that lets you access the park area on the other side of the bridge.

Our hosts took us to see the Wave Organ, a curious art project that uses pipes in the surf to generate tones. Unfortunately the nearby dredging operations were so loud, we couldn't actually hear anything else, but just the look of the thing was pretty cool. It reminded me strongly of the computer game Myst.
The Wave Organ

We walked up into the city and found dinner, and then took a cable car back to the general vicinity of the car. En route, we stopped to admire the WPA murals at the Beach Chalet, one of a number of surviving WPA art projects in the Bay area. I was charmed to find a knitter there:
A knitter in the WPA mural at the Beach Chalet well as cool oceanic carvings:
Beach Chalet Stair carving

It was quite dark as we walked along the beach back to where we'd left the car, and we could smell smoke from a handful of bonfires out on the beach. It was a marvelous day--one of the joys of vacation is being able to spend a lot of time outdoors, and this was excellent- gorgeous views, and terrific company. And we'd still most of the week left to go.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Westward Ho

Golden Gate Park View
So, we hadn't exactly planned on doing another long trip this year. But we'd had a good time in England, and were a bit let down not to be planning another trip, and we've been trying to find a time to go to California for ages...we have both relatives and some good friends in the Bay area that we've been wanted to see, and we enjoy San Francisco. So when Jonathan found an airfare that was too good to pass up, we wasted no time but grabbed them and started making plans.

We'd thought that this would be a lower-key trip than the last one, but it's possible that 'lower-key' isn't something we do well. We started by booking a 5:30 AM flight out, the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend. This proved to be an excellent time to fly- we had lots of empty seats and room to sprawl on both flights. I dozed on the first flight and knitted on the second. Of course due to certain challenges inherent to doing math after getting up at 3:30 AM, I wound up frogging and reknitting everything I'd done, but I didn't know that at the time, of course.

We arrived in good time, and were met by our friends Victor and Lara, who whisked us away to their favorite taqueria for lunch. Then we took the BART down to the waterfront and walked and toured the Jeremiah O'Brien, one of the last surviving Liberty Ships from WWII. Fascinating to see- there are only a couple that are still around. It probably says something about us, that all four of us were fascinated by the triple-expansion steam engine that powered her. (Yes, it says, 'these are some total geeks!') Alas, no pictures. I blame the 3:30 AM start...I'd left the camera in my luggage.

We also visited an arcade museum filled with antique coin operated games of varying ages. I never frequented arcades as a young person, but I was amused to watch Victor play pinball, and Jonathan demonstrate his skill with an early Star Wars video game.

The next day we got an early start and met up with my sister-in-law and her family, who were joining us for a steam train excursion. Our two young nephews, Jack and Dash are pretty nearly as obsessed with trains as my husband was at their age. The Niles Canyon Railway was running one of their big steam locomotives (which they only do three times a year), and we had tickets for the trip. It is in fact an extremely handsome locomotive:
Niles Canyon Railway

We had a nice visit, a lovely excursion up the canyon by train, admired trains, and ate lunch together, then split up, with promises to meet again later in the week.

And here's where I remember that I tend to ramble and break this into smaller posts.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blast From the Past

I've been off gallivanting again, this time to San Francisco, and I have lots of photos, but I haven't anything written about the trip yet, so I'll start with the crafting content. Remember this?
green Aran sweater-in-progress

Yep, it's the longsuffering green Aran, and my primary project for the trip. To recap- I bought the yarn intending it for the colorwork sweater that I made for my husband last year, but the color just wasn't playing nicely in swatches. So I swapped it out for some off-white, for more contrast, and instead of returning the green wool, I picked up enough more skeins for a sweater for myself. I cast on the sleeves last fall when I was in need of a portable project, and loved it so much I'd managed to get quite a bit done despite this never having been the number one project on my list before now.

Then I hit the neckline- since I was adapting this from a pullover to a V-neck cardigan, I needed to do some calculations, and that was where the whole thing stalled out--for knitting math I needed functioning brain cells, which are apparently rarely on duty. After exploring several really bad ways to knit this, I finally appear to have stumbled onto one that works (at least so far--no promises). I've sewn the sleeves to the back, and pinned on the the first side of the front, and it all seems to bear some resemblance to a sweater. After that it's just the button band...and we'll see. I'm not uncrossing my fingers just yet--from the moment I departed from the pattern, this sweater's been kind of balky. But it's mid-September, and I'm eager to wear it, so, up needles, and away!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Things I Have Learned This Week

1. Refusing to get the plague is not always effective.

2. Sheer bloodymindedness has a certain therapeutic effect, however.

3. No day in which I got up at 3:30 AM is a good day for doing knitting math.

4. If one calculates a set of V-neck decreases from the lower chest, and a set of raglan decreases from the armpit, one should not assume that they are worked over the same number of rows (see note 3).

5. Cursing does nothing to alter the inflexible logic of knitting math.

6. Having people come up to comment on my knitting in public, and having my husband proudly point out his handknit socks? Just never gets old.

So, how's your week going?