Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Trip Down Memory Lane

I was hoping to post more about my culinary retreat, but today my dad sent me an old photo of my mother from 1964 - knitting no less! So today you get family instead of vacation. May I present my beautiful mother in 1964, and in 2007.

My mother was the one who taught me how to knit, and I only wish I had some photos of the beautiful sweaters she made for me and my sister when we were little. Or all of the elaborate Barbie doll clothes she made, including a little mink stole. We even had matching outfits that my mother made from the scraps of dresses she made for me.

As for the butterfly chair, I remember it well. I had it in my bedroom for a long time.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Back From Vacation

Whew! I got back last night from a lovely week's vacation with my sister. My bedroom looks like my suitcase exploded everywhere, which isn't far from the truth. It was pretty full when I started, and was bulging when I returned.

We went to a cooking retreat in the Catskills (near Woodstock), but there weren't any flights that would work to get me to the resort by 5pm on Friday, since no matter what airport I chose, there'd still be a long drive. Since my sister lives in Chelmsford (a town outside of the Boston area), and would be driving to the resort anyway, we figured it would be better for me to fly to Boston a couple of days early, and then drive there together.

The retreat was wonderful. We had lots of delicious and healthy food (it was held by the Conscious Gourmet), and I went to my first-ever yoga sessions.

Since we were driving from Boston to New York, Susan said that if we were going by Webs, we shouldn't miss going there. Since it was only 10 miles off the Interstate, we took a detour and did exactly that. WOW! She was right, it was not to be missed. (Thanks, Susan!) And as luck would have it, it was the last day of their anniversary sale. It was totally overwhelming, and I had to keep telling myself that I couldn't buy anything that wasn't on sale. Otherwise, there was just too much to choose from. And I certainly didn't have the time to browse through all of the books and patterns.

Hampered by the fact that we were on a tight time schedule, I had very little room in my suitcase, and that I wasn't prepared with a yarn "want list", I couldn't get too crazy. And some of the sale yarns didn't have enough of a particular color and dye lot left to be too useful. But I did bring home a small addition to my stash: A couple of skeins of Cascade 220 in a lovely heathered dark red for a purse, some Debbie Bliss Cathay (I have a specific pattern in mind for that), and a bag of Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed. I have nothing specific in mind for that, but I couldn't pass it up.

I had lots of time for knitting, but not a lot to show for it. I spent most of the time working on Icarus, and only have a few rows left of the last chart, plus the four edging rows left. Now I'm just worried about running out of yarn. I found a few errors in the lace while I was on the plane back, but I just couldn't make myself rip out several hours of work to fix them properly (and probably just make more mistakes while re-knitting), so I just fixed them the best I could. It won't be perfect, but I don't need perfection. I'm sure it will be beautiful anyway.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Another Reason to Hate TV

If you're an American Idol fan, you may want to step away from your computer now. Or at least stop now and point your browser elsewhere. My apologies in advance.

My sister made me watch American Idol last night. Live - no ff'ing. Just a lot of WTF'ing. Sorry, but I just don't get it at all. I don't have a problem with the general concept of the show - having singing contestants perform, and having the audience vote for a favorite. And yes, there've been some good performers who've come out of it, and Jordin was a pleasure to watch and listen to. But the execution of the show is something else. The one time I watched an episode before (well, part of one) was in it's early days, and I couldn't stand the cruelty of the comments by the 'judges'. Sorry, but I don't find that funny at all. Obviously it hasn't gotten any better, given that whole 'bush baby' crap and the rest of the Golden Idol garbage. I'm not sure what's more sad - that people do such pathetically ridiculous things to get on TV, or that the public finds it so funny to watch people being rude and cruel to each other.

Yes, there were some good performances. And some really bad ones. And not just from the contestants - I was totally embarassed for Bette Midler. I can only hope that something was wrong and that she hasn't really lost her voice. If I'd had control of the remote, I'd have muted the TV. It was totally painful.

And what's with all the old performers? Yes, I know, they're mentors. But who is the audience for this show? What are the demographics? I kept wondering if most of the viewers even had any idea who Tony Bennett is. Maybe the target audience is a lot older than I'd think, but what a weird mixture. Not that I didn't like seeing Smokey Robinson or Gladys Knight, of course - they're still in fine singing form (and evidently keeping their plastic surgeons wealthy). It just seemed like it was geared for target audience in their 50's and 60's, which I'd think would be way older than the average age of the audience, but hey, what the fuck do I know - maybe that's right on target.

OK, maybe the show would make a lot more sense if I knew the whole background and actually watched it on a regular basis. But it just ain't gonna happen. Not no way, not no how.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

One Down, One to Go

My first sock from Susan's "Create Your Own Sock" class is finished, and I'm very happy with it. I got done with it right at the end of tonight's SnB session. Perfect timing! I like how the lace pattern I chose broke up the stripes in the yarn, and the yarn I used was great to work with. Hopefully I took good enough notes that I won't have any problems making the second sock to match! Unfortunately, the second sock is going to have to wait a bit. I'm going on vacation tomorrow, and I'm not planning to take this project with me.

In other knitting news, I finished the front and back of Valpuri, but haven't yet started the sleeves. I had a terrible time figuring out what to do with the cable pattern when decreasing for the front. Now that I have the front done, I can think of a few ways it could have been better, but I'm not excited about the idea of frogging it and reknitting. So instead of worring about it now, I'm going to do the sleeves and see how it looks, then decide whether I want to redo the front pieces.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Get Your Daily Fiber

Yesterday was a great fiber day. First, I headed up to the Snake River Fiber Fair in Idaho Falls with Margene, Susan, and Eliza. After a nice day of talking, knitting and shopping, we returned to Salt Lake with a car load of goodies. And when I got home, I was pleased to find a package from Carrie containing the beautiful Austermann Step yarn I won in her dish cloth contest, and she even sent along a dishcloth too! It was a good yarn day.

At the Fiber Fair, I bought a skein of BFL Wool Sock Yarn from Wooly Wonka Fibers in "Red Rock", and about a pound of wool sport-weight yarn from Notlwonk Springs, from the Knowlton's farm in Cache Valley, which was processed by Spinderella's Creations - so it's truly a "Utah" product (only a few skeins of it are in the photo).

Beautiful day, good friends, good fiber, and fun. I think we all need more days like this.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I Finished My Homework

I just finished my homework for Susan's sock class. I have my sock knitted down to the heel, plus a few rows of a different yarn knitted up to use for whatever heel techniques Susan will be showing us. I really like the Spunky Eclectic Super Nova yarn - it feels so nice and is working up beautifully.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

007 Snap a Dozen Days - May

May is probably my favorite month of the year. Spring's in full swing, and at the end of May is Memorial Day, signaling the start of Summer. My birthday's in early May, which also helps make it a special month - and it was even better this year since my retirement was effective on May 1st. It's a glorious time to be working in the garden. The early veggie crops are starting - I've already been harvesting some spinach, lettuce, and herbs. And the flowers make a kaleidoscope of color in my front yard, as you can see by the photos below.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Sorrel and Tarragon

Yesterday Susan gave me some fresh sorrel and tarragon from her garden. I love cooking with fresh herbs, but had never used sorrel before. And although I have some tarragon in the garden, I planted it last year from a small pot, so the plant is still pretty small.

So last night I did a little 'net searching to figure out what to do with the sorrel. It looks somewhat like spinach, but has a strong lemony taste to it. I had been planning to cook broccoli anyway, and one of the recipes I came across was Sorrel Sauce for Steamed Broccoli. Well, there you go. The verdict? The sauce was good, but wasn't overly exciting on the broccoli. Not bad, just not great. But I think the leftover sauce will be lovely on the salmon I'm planning to make for dinner. Especially if I add a touch of tarragon to it.

I also saw a few recipes for sorrel omelettes. Hmmm, that sounded interesting. So this morning I made up my own version, using both sorrel and tarragon, and I thought it was quite tasty! I'd certainly make it again. Here's my recipe:

Sorrel and Tarragon Omelette
2 eggs
1/2 tablespoon cream
about 10 sorrel leaves, cleaned and trimmed
1 tablespoon butter, divided
1 sprig of fresh tarragon, leaves only
pinch of salt

Shred or finely chop the sorrel. In an 8" or 10" skillet, heat half the butter and add the sorrel and salt. Cook for a few minutes, stirring, until the leaves are cooked down and gray-green. Remove from heat. Combine the eggs and cream in a bowl, beating gently. Chop the tarragon leaves. Add the tarragon and the sorrel mixture to the eggs and combine. Add the remaining butter to the skillet and heat until the butter is slightly browned. Add the egg mixture and stir briskly until the eggs are evenly spread on the bottom of the skillet. Keep moving or lifting the egg mixture around until the eggs are just set - do not overcook. Fold the omelette over in thirds and serve.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Sock Class

Here's the start of my sock for Susan's "Create Your Own Sock Class". I'm using Spunky Eclectic's Super Nova yarn, in the "Road Trip" colorway. It's superwash sportweight merino, with 10% nylon. What a nice yarn! It took me forever to pick out a knitting stitch to use for the sock, especially since it's a variegated yarn. But I finally made a decision, selected a cuff pattern to go with it, and got started. I only got to the end of the cuff before bedtime last night, so now I'm anxious to get going on the actual leg pattern and see if I picked a winner or a dud. I'm hoping the lace pattern won't compete too much with the yarn.

The first class was lots of fun - Susan showed us some great cast-ons. I love that kind of detail, but I tend to deal with knitting techniques the way I write computer programs: I write the most important parts first and get the process working and usable, with the most common functions. Then I add less important functions, and finally all the bells and whistles. Sometimes you never get to all the bells and whistles, but at least you have a program that works.

I'm basically the same with knitting techniques. I tend to focus on the "big picture" - learn the most common methods so that I can be productive. Then once I have that down, I can play around and learn alternate ways to do things. So for socks, my attack method if left on my own would be to first learn how to make socks that fit my foot properly, using fairly standard techniques. Once I was comfortable with that, then I'd look at different ways of making toes or heels. Then on to different ways to pick up the heel flap stitches, or different cast-ons.

So this class is great because now that I've done a few pairs of socks and am feeling a bit comfortable in knitting them, we'll be learning some of the 'bells and whistles'. I'm especially looking forward to learning how to do some different toes. Gotta go do my homework now.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Soylent Green Finished

And yes, I did finish my Soylent Green socks. Not that I have much need to wear worsted weight socks right now, but they were good practice. And tonight I'll be taking a "Create Your Own Sock Class" at my LYS, taught by none other than Susan Lawrence. Heather and Eliza will be there too, and I'm sure it will be fun.

Yarn: Cascade 220 superwash
Pattern: Garter Rib, from Sensational Knitted Socks
Needles: US 4

I Wanna Play

I saw this on both Lauren's and Heather's blog, and I'm jumping in, too. I'm surprised at how many of the items I've already done.

Put the things you've done in bold, and the things you haven't done but plan on doing some day in italics. Plain text for the things you haven't done and don't plan to do:

Afghan/Blanket (baby)
Garter stitch
Knitting with metal wire
Stockinette stitch
Socks: top-down
Socks: toe-up
Knitting with camel yarn
Mittens: Cuff-up
Mittens: Tip-down
Knitting with silk [I've knitted with silk blends, but not pure silk]
Moebius band knitting
Participating in a KAL
Drop stitch patterns
Knitting with recycled/secondhand yarn
Slip stitch patterns
Knitting with banana fiber yarn
Domino knitting (modular knitting)
Twisted stitch patterns
Knitting with bamboo yarn
Two end knitting
Charity knitting
Knitting with soy yarn
Toy/doll clothing
Knitting with circular needles
Knitting with your own handspun yarn
Graffiti knitting (knitting items on, or to be left on the street)
Continental knitting
Designing knitted garments
Cable stitch patterns (incl. Aran)
Lace patterns
Publishing a knitting book
Teaching a child to knit
American/English knitting (as opposed to continental)
Knitting to make money
Button holes
Knitting with alpaca
Fair Isle knitting
Norwegian knitting [Does knitting a Drops pattern count?]
Dying with plant colors
Knitting items for a wedding
Household items (dishcloths, washcloths, tea cozies…)
Knitting socks (or other small tubular items) on two circulars
Olympic knitting
Knitting with someone else’s handspun yarn
Knitting with DPNs
Holiday related knitting
Teaching a male how to knit
Knitting for a living
Knitting with cotton
Knitting smocking
Dying yarn
Knitting art
Knitting with wool
Textured knitting
Kitchener BO
Knitting with beads
Long Tail CO
Knitting and purling backwards
Machine knitting
Knitting with self-patterning/self-striping/variegating yarn
Stuffed toys
Baby items
Knitting with cashmere
Knitting with synthetic yarn
Writing a pattern
Knitting with linen
Knitting for preemies
Tubular CO
Freeform knitting
Short rows
Cuffs/fingerless mitts/arm warmers
Knitting a pattern from an online knitting magazine
Knitting on a loom
Thrummed knitting [I'd rather move someplace warm]
Knitting a gift
Knitting for pets
Shrug/bolero/poncho [I love JenLa's tagline]
Knitting with dog/cat hair [ick]
Hair accessories
Knitting in public

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

They Must Put Angel Dust In The Ventilation System

That's the only explanation. I'm really not a "shoe person". I hate shoe shopping. I hate hate hate hate shoe shopping if there are any shoe salesmen involved. Which is why I rarely buy shoes, and why when I do, I usually go to places that have no shoe salesmen. So why is it that I absolutely cannot walk into a DSW without coming out with shoes? And not just one pair, but several? This wasn't a problem when there wasn't one in Utah. My trips were limited to out-of-state travel, and by how much space I had in my luggage. Since it opened here last year, I'd only been there once. But those f*ckers sent me a $5 coupon for my "birthday month". And since I was going to be out in that area anyway, I got sucked into another trip. I'm not telling you how many shoes I bought. But it was more than the number that I'm sending off to the thrift store.

P.S. Just as I was about to click the "publish" button for this post, I got an email from DSW. Sandals up to 50% off, starting tomorrow and running through the 14th. And an extra 250 bonus points on your rewards membership. Crap. I need an intervention.

Kaffe Fassett Experience

I went to the Kaffe Fassett slide lecture last night, and it was positively amazing! I'm not quite sure what I expected the lecture to be like - I suppose maybe tips on putting colors together or something. Instead, he talked about how he got started knitting and quilting, and showed how he gets his inspiration for his designs. For example, an image stacked whiskey barrels in Ireland might end up as a shawl, or broken pottery bits might end up as quilting fabric. And even more interesting was how he might translate the same design concept to different media - quilts, knitting, mosaics, paintings, needlepoint, fabrics - and how they evolve from one to another. It was even wonderful just to see the photographs of some of his quilts in fantastic locations in Portugal and Malta. His mind is amazing, and I'm glad I had the chance to get a small peek into it.

On another note, my email troubles continue, people aren't getting some of my email, and I'm not getting others (such as notifications of comments on my blog). So if you've emailed me about anything lately and I haven't replied... well, I probably didn't get it.

P.S. Carrie, I did get your email and will reply from a different account.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Lace Continues

I'm still making (very slow) progress on Icarus, but at least I'm finally to the last lace chart! Yes, I know, there are still many hours to go. But at least it feels like I'm making progress.

On another note, I won Carrie's dishcloth contest! I won, I won, I won! OK, so it only meant that I was the name drawn from the bowl, but still, it's the first blog contest I've won. Cool. And Carrie, if you didn't get my email, let me know, because my email service has been really flaky for the past few weeks and I keep getting 'undeliverable' or 'mail delayed' messages. Sigh. I love/hate computers.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Soylent Green

Remember my test sock? I'd made a couple of versions until I came up with something I liked. I had knitted one complete sock that wasn't quite right - I decided the heel flap just wasn't long enough. So now that I have the pattern the way I want it, I need to knit the second sock. I'm just cannibalizing the old one to knit the new one. Yes, I know I should properly reclaim the yarn, but I'm just not gonna. So there! It's hard to tell from the photo, but the socks are a dark Hunter green. As I watch the yarn from the old sock feeding the new one, it's hard not to think of Soylent Green, so that's what I'm naming the socks. Yeah, I know - some of you young'uns probably have no idea what the reference is. But face it, girls, I'm older and I have more insurance.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Cats and Dogs

It was "raining cats and dogs" last night, but that's not what this is about.

A couple of weeks ago at SnB, we were discussing cats and dogs. A couple of the grrls said that although they love their cats, they're much more 'bonded' to their dogs. I've had both cats and dogs, and although I prefer to own cats, I'd have to agree that I felt a greater affection for the dogs. I think my preference in owning cats is that I don't feel that I have time, energy, or desire to cater to a dog's greater need for attention. In fact, after the death of my last dog, I decided that I would never own a dog again unless I wasn't working - it just seems unfair to a dog to leave it alone all day. And even now that I'm retiring, I hope to do more traveling - so I still feel that a cat is a better fit for my personality and lifestyle.

But the discussion really got me to thinking about the whole dog/cat relationship thing. While there are always exceptions, it seems that in general a dog gives unconditional love. It doesn't care who you are or what kind of person you are - you're the leader of the pack. A dog is always happy to see you, and the longer you're away, the more excited he gets when you're home. Dogs even love owners who treat them poorly. On the other hand, a cat's love isn't unconditional. You have to earn (or at least not lose) a cat's affection and trust. In theory, shouldn't this make a cat's affection more valuable than a dog's? Wouldn't you rather get a trophy for winning a race, instead of for just participating in it? Doesn't that mean more? Shouldn't you feel more valued if a pet (or person) chooses to love you, instead of just loving you by default? Yet it seems that we don't, so why is that?

After thinking about it a bit, I've decided that it probably boils down to the demonstration of affection. Perhaps ultimately we don't really care whether or not we've earned someone's affection, and we may not even care if it's sincere. We just want it shown to us. Since dogs generally show us more affection than cats, we tend to feel more strongly about them. (Of course, I know there are many very affectionate cats, and many mean dogs, but I think most people would agree that overall, dogs are more affectionate than cats.)

My father was married to his second wife for only a few years. She had a son whom I only saw a few times, including for his wedding. His friends were taking him out to a topless bar for his bachelor's party, and he wasn't really very happy about it. He'd never been to one, and felt the whole idea of it was pretty trashy and beneath him. But he went, and afterward, he told me how surprised he was by his reaction to it. He loved it. He's not the kind of guy who would attract many women under normal circumstances. Yet there he was, with beautiful women giving him lap dances, kissing him, and paying enormous amounts of attention to him. He said that he knew it was only because they were paying the girls to do that, but that it just didn't matter. It felt great to have the women fawn over him, and he didn't care that it wasn't 'real', it was still a huge ego boost.

It should be a reminder to us that it isn't enough to just expect that someone knows we love them, or even that just telling them so is enough. We need to show it - not just in our words, but in our actions. 'Cause it's all about how someone makes us feel.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

It's a Wash (Cloth)

I wanted to join Carrie's Springy Washcloth contest, but have been so busy that I wasn't sure I'd be able to get one done. But this afternoon I sat down, cast on, and in about 3 hours, had a nice new wash cloth. It's the Doily Style Dish Cloth, made in Classic Elite Flash, color 6146. Or, instead of using it as a wash cloth, it could be used as a lightweight hot pad to help protect the table from hot dishes of food (not REALLY hot things right out of the oven, of course).

I Am So Lucky

To have found such a great group of grrls in my local SnB. Look at how they spoiled me last night! There's wonderful sock yarn - JitterBug from Eliza, Trekking from Heather, hand-dyed Balland Skein from Margene (plus Scharffen Berger chocolate and Cute mints!), and Plain & Fancy Sheep & Wool Co. from Mim (sportweight - hmmmm... socks? Forest Canopy?). Now that I'm feeling like I'm comfortable enough with sock knitting to start working with some really nice sock yarn, I've got lots of beautiful yarn to get me started. Susan gave me some lovely note cards (from Obsessive Compulsive Design, why do I find that amusing?) and a big bar of Valor chocolate. And from Katherine, a box of Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day household cleaners (and more awesome dark chocolate!). I hadn't heard of Mrs. Meyer's cleaners before, but how wonderful! Aromatherapeutic, cruelty-free, and biodegradable - what could be nicer? I used the countertop spray this morning - it works great, and the scent is very pleasant. I'm a big fan of using more natural products, so these are perfect. By the way, Target sells the Method product line, which is also very nice and environmentally friendly. But since I don't live near a Target, I don't get out there to buy it very often. The shower spray works really well, though, and you can buy it in big refill bottles.

We were also celebrating Eliza's birthday, and I gave her some Wee Ones kitty stitch markers (they're just too cute, I'm tellin' ya!), but since she's in Electrical Engineering, I wanted to give her a little something related to that. My husband and I went down to his workshop, and tried to figure out what we could make. We ended up making a tiny Shitty Kitty from some resistors, loosely inspired by her drawing of the Shitty Kitty on her blog. After we designed it, he soldered it together while I assisted.