Wee Bit of Me

{one} what color is your kitchen? The walls are a cumin/mustard yellow sort of color that reminds me a lot of some of the old buildings we saw in Italy.  The cabinets are white and the counters are an awful, awful un-nameable shade of green.
{two} do you have a good luck charm? No, but I’m pretty sure its bad luck to leave the house without a bit of knitting in my bag.
{three} do you prefer to write with a pen or pencil? I dislike pencils immensely.  I write with pens whenever I can help it, and they must be at least as fat as the Pentel RSVP pens.
{four} can you use chopsticks? Yes, and I enjoy them!
{five} do you prefer baths or showers? For the purposes of just getting clean?  Showers.  Baths are awesome for relaxing and filling the tub with delicious smelling things, though.  I love our soaking tub.
{six} what is your favorite salad dressing? My favorite is honey mustard, but I rarely use it, as I’m sure it adds 7695456 million calories to my salad.  What I actually use most is balsamic vinaigrette.
{seven} can you sing the alphabet backwards? Z, Y, X……….Without stopping to think really hard about it?  No.
{eight} do you have any allergies? Nothing diagnosed, but I’m pretty sure that I’m allergic to pollen. And stupid people.
{nine} crunchy or creamy peanut butter? Creamy and natural.  Anymore, normal old Jif tastes like candy!
{ten} have you ever hitch hiked? No, and I can’t picture myself doing it unless there were a real emergency.  I did pick up a hitchhiker once, though, and lived to tell the tale.  (Don’t tell my mom.)

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Its the pictures that get me.

I spend a lot of time knitting, and then I compose blog posts about it in my head.  When it comes time to take pictures, though, I get hung up.  The light isn’t good.  The camera battery needs to be charged.  I can’t find the cable.  I’m not capturing the colors properly.  There is always an excuse, and a lack of pictures seems to be the reason that I can’t get fresh content onto the blog more than once a month.  So, with apologies for the bad photography, here are some things that have been keeping me busy:

This sweater (Green is the New Black) is nearly finished.  I need to do applied i-cord down the fronts and across the bottom (which means I first need to learn how to make applied i-cord), and seam the sleeves.  I might actually get to wear this a little before it gets to be too warm.

It seems counter-intuitive to call socks that are this brightly colored “plain vanilla,” but that’s really all they are.  The yarn is Scarlett O’Hara, a merino/bamboo blend from Yarn Love, and the colorway is Gala.  It was perfect for knitting during the dreary winter.

I’ve also finished knitting an Ishbel from Three Irish Girls Adorn sock yarn.  I could have easily made it larger with the single skein of yarn I was using, but I didn’t figure that out until it was too late.  I am always afraid I’ll run out of yarn.

The color here is much more accurate:

 

Elsewhere on the internet, I’ve been having lots of fun with the 30 Days of Lists project.  Making lists is much less intimidating than writing paragraphs, and lists seem like something that can be photographed with my cellphone.

If I blog about vegetable stock, does that make me the most boring person alive?

Because I haven’t updated this blog in a month, and vegetable stock is all I’ve got.

I decided sometime last year that I was tired of spending money of stock that was loaded with salt and full of things I couldn’t pronounce, and started making my own.  To make it manageable, any time I prepare vegetables–which is nearly every day–I toss the scraps in a ziplock that lives in the freezer.  Within a week or two, its full and I have enough veggie bits to make a huge pot of stock.

The benefits to this are, I think, huge.  For one, its free.  I’m using water and scraps from vegetables that I’ve bought for something else.  Being able to use scraps that would otherwise go in the trash makes me feel better about not finding a way to compost them.  It gives me something to do with the celery that’s gone limp in the drawer sooner than I believe it should have, a way to get rid of that last handful of spinach that isn’t enough to do anything with, and a way to use the brussels sprouts that I just had to have but never got around to cooking.  I haven’t done any real scientific comparison, but it has to be more nutritious than the stock I would buy in the store.  Also, its fun to see what color the stock turns out.  The latest batch was bright orange, a product of (I guess) the red pepper tops, carrot peelings, swiss chard stems and beet greens.  The last batch, thanks to a ton of spinach and kale, was a deep, murky green.

There are downsides, though.  The most tedious is that once I make two gallons of vegetable stock, I have to find two gallons worth of containers to store it in, and then find space for those in the freezer.  The real trouble, though, is that inevitably I decide that it is time to make soup right after I use the last bit of stock.  What this means is that every time I want to make soup (which happens rather a lot in the winter), I have to first make stock, and the soup-making process turns into a multiple step stock making/cooling/straining/storing/soup cooking extravaganza in the kitchen when what I really wanted to do was throw on a pot of soup to simmer and then sit down and knit on my shawl.

Mostly, though, its worth it in the end.  Exhibit A:

Isn’t that just the happiest pot of soup ever?  Its spinach and white beans and tomatoes (based on this recipe) and looks like Christmas in a bowl.

And that’s what I have to say about that.  Its possible that before another month is up, I’ll find time to drag out the camera and take some pictures of knitting and blog about something topical.  Possible, but not probable.

Yes, Virginia….

A week ago, I finished all of the Christmas knitting I had planned for the year.  I was done.  Finis. But then, there was a whole week left, and a half a skein of handspun yarn left over from a cowl, and apparently I couldn’t stand the thought of not knitting right up until the bitter end.  The next thing I knew, I found myself saying to a friend, “I bet I still have time to knit a hat,” and they were saying, “I bet you can!” and so I cast on.  I’m knitting top down because I didn’t want to have to worry about gauge, and it was a much better plan before I realized that I wasn’t sure when I was supposed to stop increasing and just start knitting straight down.  It seems like it should be obvious if you just try it on, but the details of hats and ease escape me.  (If you don’t knit, ignore those last two sentences.)  I think I have it sorted, and despite having almost no time at all to work on it this week, I’ve found myself at the bottom ribbing, which means I only have two more inches to go and probably I won’t have to wrap up a hat that’s still on the needles.

Given that, I should probably not be typing.  Here.  You read.  I’ll knit.  Happy Christmas!

WIP: Christmas

We have a Christmas tree:

And last night, there were 30 people in our house for a Yule party.  (I know.  We’re a few days early.)  You might think that means that I have a big house, but no.  One bedroom condo.  I think its wonderful.  I’ve been hosting a party for Yule every year (except one, and that year felt all wrong) of my adult life, in some form or fashion, and its one of my favorite nights of the year.  I love cooking for friends, I love the energy that having so many people eating and drinking and laughing brings to a home, and I love having a chance to see most of my favorite people all in the same place at the same time.  This year, Jason and I fixed a ham (we’ve done that a few times, and it makes me really happy to make the ham that never seems to turn up at Christmas anymore) and wassail (which dates back to my very firs Yule party and is absolutely a mandatory thing to have) and the dining room table was full of noshy food. There was, as has become Yule party tradition, limited edition Jones Soda for tasting.  This year’s flavor was….bacon.  Yup.  Bacon soda.  All that I can say is that it tasted like carbonated bacon and also a little like anger and despair.  It wasn’t as vile as the brussels sprout flavored soda we had several years ago, but as far as I’m concerned, it was at least as bad as the roast turkey.

There were babies this year, which confirms the fact that I am getting a little bit old, and Reindeer Roulette with some really great gifts for stealing. I think that the Reindeer Roulette gifts this year go a long way towards proving that my friends are really awesome people.  There were games, including Zombie Dice and Pocket Mr. Jack, both of which were stolen the maximum of three times (and now live respectively with Fil and I), there were Star Wars t-shirts, there was wine and coffee and y’all?  There was a Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.  It lives with Andrew and Meghan now, after a seriously cunning and maybe a little underhanded tactical two-part steal.

And, there are no real pictures because two friends with badass cameras and rockstar photography skills seemed to be on safari in the house all night, and I’m trusting them to Flickr some pictures when they’re ready.

There has been Christmas knitting, most of which I can’t show because….well, spoilers.  But I can tell you that I spun yarn to make a hat for my nephew.

And I can promise to post a parade of Christmas FOs after the 25th.  For now, there is more baking to be done.  Next up, vegan banana bread……..

Things I Didn’t Knit.

In the past week, I have returned from an amazing birthday trip to New Orleans, hosted Thanksgiving dinner for 13 people, and shopped for, wrapped gifts for, and put together 65 Christmas stockings for Marines at the Naval Hospital in Bethesda.  I think the stockings may have been harder than the dinner, even with help from Jason, Neale and Erin, who saved me from having to wrap everything by myself for the second year in a row.  (Thanks, guys!!!)

One of the guys mentioned, when I was asking what they might like in the stockings, that they always loved handknit hats, as long as they weren’t like something their grandmother would give them.  He didn’t realize he was talking to a knitter.  When all was said and done, we had nearly 50 hats to go in the stockings.

Cheryl and Michelle sent hats from West Virginia and New Mexico.

 

Tesia sent hats from Seattle, and I just can’t figure out when she had time to knit them.

 

Covers & Soles donated more than 30 hats, complete with swanky tags.

 

And, I was able to include some locally made soap along with cloths knit by Abi that I have been saving for exactly this purpose.

 

 

Somehow I forgot how, when you tell knitters that you need warm woolies, they will come through in spades.

And, just in case you ever wondered what 65 stockings looks like….well, it looks like this, times about three, and when you carry it to the hospital, it fills two huge shopping bags and two big blue Ikea tarp bags.

Lest You Think I Know What I Am Doing

Three sweaters.  Something wrong with each of them.

Abalone, the sweater at the bottom, has been bound off no less than three times.  I must have done something wrong when I was picking up stitches to put a border around the edges because all of my bind-offs were too inelastic to allow it to drape properly.  Even when I used the bind off called for in the pattern.  (It was an i-cord bind off.  It took two hours to do.  Ripping it out was painful.)  Even when I bound off with a needle two sizes larger than the one I had knit with.  In the end, I used Elizabeth Zimmerman’s sewn bind off, and it seems to be light and elastic enough that it if I block the sweater, it might lay properly.  Then again, I might have to rip out the bind off and all 16 rows of edging and do it all over again.

Goodale, the crazy colored sweater at the top right, came together swimmingly.  Then I got to the end and decided to do the finishing My Way instead of following the pattern instructions.  Bad move.  My Way totally misunderstood the way the sweater was going to lay when it was on a body versus on a blocking board.  Seams were pulled out, the iron was involved, and after a few hours, it seems to be back in order.  Now, its just needs a button, but it was pretty touch-and-go last night.

And the orange sweater.  That’s Coraline, and I’ve been working on it for nearly a year, and it is going to be my undoing.  I have fought with that sweater every. single. step. of the way, from swatching and getting gauge to finding the right needle to basic counting to figuring out how to smock to the bloody frelling short rows that are tripping me up now.  Something has Gone Wrong with the stitch count and I don’t know if its a product of the smocking or the short rows or of incorporating the two together, but its a mess.  Its starting to get cool again, and I really would like to wear the sweater, though, so sooner than later, I am going to have to suck it up and figure out what’s happening and what to do about it.  The sweater has been sitting for most of the summer, long enough that I’ve forgotten how tedious the yoke was to knit, so if I need to, I might be able to find it in myself to rip that whole bit out and start over.

For now, though, I have three sweaters (three!) that have managed to go awry, and I thought you should know…..Just in case you were under the impression that I had a handle on this whole knitting thing.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

I’m more than a little disturbed to find myself suddenly on this side of Labor Day, but the weather in DC is at least being a good sport, and allowing us a taste of fall weather.  The summer was crammed with a lot of work, three trips, and a lot of knitting.  I’m not quite ready to give it up, so the cool weather feels like a little bit of a consolation prize.

Since I blogged last–months ago!–I’ve been to Chicago and met Sue, the largest, most complete T-Rex.

I love the Smithsonian and feel really blessed to live someplace where there are so many free museums, but I enjoyed The Field Museum more than I’ve ever enjoyed our Museum of Natural History.

Later in the summer, Jason and I went to Seattle.  We spent a few days together visiting friends and exploring the city.  I really, really loved Seattle, but as soon as we got home, it rained for about a week to remind me that I couldn’t handle the Pacific Northwest’s weather.

After a few days, I left Jason with Liz and Nate to continue romping around the city, and I headed out with a group of Ravelry friends for a knitting retreat in the mountains.  We spent the weekend in a cabin at St. John’s Pass, knitting and spinning and talking and laughing.  Its always great when online friends are just as amazing in person as they are on the internet.

I test knit a sock for Allison, which has since been published on Ravelry.  It uses some crazy New Pathways type construction that was a lot of fun to work with, even if it did require math.  A month later, it is still just a single sock.

I taught myself to Navajo ply (this is Targhee, dyed by A Verb for Keeping Warm):

And then tried again, and did a much better job:

(That one is BFL from Teresa Levite Studios.)

And, I made a few sweaters, which still need to be properly photographed and, in the case of the one at the top, properly finished.

Why I Never Get Anything Done

The first thing on my list of things to do this morning was to write up this marketing outline thing that I’ve been trying to put together for three days.  I was pretty sure it would take about 15 minutes once I actually started to work on it.  It was going to be the fastest thing in the world.  This is what happened:

Put coffee in French press.  Forget to set time.  Sit down at computer.  Open document.  Open Firefox.  Read a few blog posts.  Open email.  Reply to an email from a student.  Start to reply to another email.  Remember coffee.

Get up.  Go fix coffee.  Sit back down at computer.  Open Ravelry.  Read some forum posts.  Read more blogs.  Remember email-in-progress.  Finish writing email.  Read the three emails that came in while I was writing that email.  Reply to two of them.  Finish coffee.  Decide that I should get dressed and move to my desk and do Serious Work.

Go into the bedroom to get dressed.   Decide that it makes sense to shower first.  Go into the bathroom.  Get distracted by the mess on the counter.  Clear the counter.  Notice mildew on shower curtain.  Get distracted by cleaning the bathtub and shower.  Shower and get dressed.

Realize that I am hungry.  Pour a bowl of cereal.  Sit down at desk.  Reply to third email, and notice two more.  Start to reply to one.  Decide that I am really, SERIOUSLY going to work.  Open the document.  Type a few lines.  Decide it would look better with bullet points instead of numbers.  Play with formatting for ten minutes.  Forget what I had wanted to say.  Notice sock-in-progress on desk.  Knit a few rows while staring at the screen.

Remember that I need to check a client out from yesterday.  Check out client, look over schedule.  Click back over to email.  Notice a bill is due.  Open sticky notes to find the password to pay bill online, and spot the name of a song I’d made a note of.  Pay bill, then YouTube the song.

Go back to the document and actually finish it…..nearly three hours after I started.  Its really kind of ridiculous.  (But I did manage to finish a pair of socks!  Pattern is Froot Loops, yarn is Three Irish Girls Adorn in the colorway Mimosa.  I totally did not mean to knit these, but the colorway just kind of leaped off the shelf at me and demanded to be worked with RIGHT NOW.  When yarn gets that lippy, its generally a bad idea to say no.)

Summer in Fast Forward

It feels, as usual, like we’re careening through the year, and its moving too fast to keep up with.

My nephew turned one at the end of June…….

And enjoyed his birthday cake in the way that only babies can.

Never ones to do things half way, his parents gave him an entire ear of the cake–not because there was any danger of him eating much of it, but because it was more fun to play with.  Black icing maybe wasn’t the most charming idea, but he sure did have a good time!  (Shockingly little of the cake wound up on the floor, and probably about as little went in to his mouth.)

Jason and I celebrated our fourth anniversary at a Bed & Breakfast in Oxford, so that we could be in the area for Jerry’s birthday party.  The building was a Victorian mansion that dates to 1875, and it was just spectacular.  I wish I had made time to talk to the folks who run it and learn more about its history.

We went kayaking on the Tred Avon river, and explored Oxford and found the house where I lived when I was very young and my father was the foreman at one of the shipyards there.  We tromped around St. Michaels and were surprised by how much it is starting to change.  And we sat on the lawn and the porches and marveled at how lovely and peaceful it was.  (The rest of the photos are here.)

There has been lots and lots of knitting and spinning, but not a lot of my taking pictures of it.  I finished spinning a braid of alcapa sometime back in June.  In a way, this was a big victory.  The fiber had been sitting in my stash for a year because the first time I tried to spin it, it just pulled apart and turned in to a whole lot of nothing.  It was great to realize that I have enough experience to work with it now.  On the other hand, it made me realize how spoiled working with a wheel has made me.  This was spin on a drop spindle and plied on a wheel, and it felt like it took forever to spin.

Its dyed by Sanguine Gryphon, and the color is Walden.  About 200 yards, maybe a little less, spun at something that averages out to worsted weight, although its pretty inconsistent.

I finally got around to blocking a baby sweater, and its just darling.

Its a short sleeved variation of Helena, knit in Three Irish Girls Kells sport merino, in the colorway Georgia Peach.

I finished a mini-Clapotis and I love it.  Everyone involved in the online knitting community has at least glimpsed Kate Gilbert’s pattern, and after knitting one, I understand why it went viral.  Its a great pattern–just enough variety to keep it interesting, but simple enough that you aren’t constantly referencing a pattern, and the finished product looks great.  There is a least one more, larger version in my future.  Maybe more.  I think the pattern is just perfect for handpainted yarns.

The yarn is Three Irish Girls Springvale Sport (which feels thinner than sport weight to me, but that’s probably just because the twist is so firm that it doesn’t squoosh down the way other sport weight yarns I’ve used have done), in the Cherry Blossom colorway.  It really does remind me of DC in the spring.

There is more–vests and sweaters and socks that I didn’t mean to be knitting, but I think I’ll save them for their own post.

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