Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Summer is for Road Trips

I'm off again...

This time I'm driving from home to Vancouver by myself, where I will be picking up my Mom (smart woman - she's flying there), my Aunt Carla, and Carla's husband Adrian. We will then be crossing to the Island, where we will spend 4 nights enjoying coastal activities and moisture. Once we're good and mildew coated, I'm driving us all back here, to my place, dropping off Carla and Adrian, then driving Mom back to Edmonton.

My role in all of this is chauffeur. There will be two days with a minimum of 10 hours of driving, one day with 5 hours, and assorted days in between lots of car time between driving and ferry-ing. However, I get a free holiday out of it - Mom is paying for my hotel room (of course I'm bunking with her).

I've packed version 3.0 of the leaf lace shawl (frogged one of the two I had going - just not happy with the way it was knitting up), the PBJ scarf (one ball left to finish), and my Denise Interchangeable Knitting Needles (just in case).

This should be a fun, but tiring (all that driving) trip. I'll miss DH and the critters, and blogdom. And the Summer of Lace Yahoo Group.

See you all September 10th (thereabouts)!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A PBJ Scarf

Every weekday morning, I get up at 5:30am with my husband. While he's in the shower, the cats get their morning feed, and I fumble around the kitchen half asleep, putting on the coffee and finding fixings for a lunch to go.

At his office (a trailer adjacent to an open pit coal mine, on the side of a mountain), he has access to a microwave, but not to a fridge. So, lunches must be room temperature safe, or on hot summer days, hot summer day safe.

DH's solution to lunch my making dismay? PB&J. Yup, that's right - peanut butter and jam sandwiches. His mother keeps us in homemade jams and jellies (his favorite and most requested right now is the '04 blackberry), so all I need to do is keep us in peanut butter (crunchy) and bread (whole grain).

Yet whenever I prepare another PBJ sandwich, I cringe. PBJ was what the poor, neglected kids got at school. PBJ is like the crappiest of crappy lunches. I feel like I'm sending him off to work with a big giant "screw you, I couldn't be bothered" kind of bag lunch.

However, PBJ is his absolute favorite, so every time I send him yet another PBJ sandwich, he is all happy and thankful when he gets home. Some mornings, he actually asks for PBJ, and it goes something like this:
DH: How about PBJ?
Me: Don't you want something nice, though?
DH: PBJ is nice.
Me: But I have some nice pastrami...
DH: But I want PBJ.
Me: But all the other kids, I mean guys, they'll think I don't love you enough to make you a nice lunch!
DH: All the other guys think you make the best PBJ in the world. In fact, you'd better make extra, so I can share.
Me: grumble futz

So I've been staring at this yummy skein of 100% Merino Superwash goodness now for over a month. I wanted to make something spectacular with it. Something brilliant. Something awe-inspiring. You know the drill.

Instead, it kept whispering to me quietly "PBJ. I'm peanut butter and jam. Really, I am." I ignored it, and swatched for brilliance. Trinity stitch and a lace panel for fingerless gloves. Cables and double moss stitch for fancy socks. Traveling stitches on a reverse garter background for a hat. Nothing worked. Nothing satisfied. They all left me with a hollow feeling that maybe, just maybe, the yarn was right.

It was right. It is a simple, easy, predictable scarf. It combines garter stitch predictability (equate to whole grain bread) with the world's simplest lace patterned 4 stitch repeat (k1, yo, sl1, k2tog, psso, yo, purl back). Even the back side looks great.

This stunning hand painted 100% Merino is now the peanut butter and jam sandwich of scarves. But boy oh boy, does this most simple of scarves feature the colours well. PBJ. Noting satisfies like it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Expounding 001 - News Media

Note: The following post is OPINION, and thus should not be confused with FACT. The Writer reserves the right to rant at will, and will.

Oh, for the days of old. You know the ones I'm talking about - when the media was about reporting FACTS, and OPINIONS were reserved for the "Editorials" section. Now, if you ask the average young person on the street (I'm bluffing - I haven't, and I won't - I tend not to want anything to do with the average young person on the street), they will likely be hard pressed to tell the difference between fact and opinion.

Opinion, and its evil cousin, emotion, have bit by bit crept in and obliterated the media as it was. Media now seems (to me - this being an OPINION, of course) so full of emotional response and fluffy "And just how did that make you feel?" crap that reporting the facts has gone the way of the Dodo bird (or, if the Dodo doesn't do it for you, insert name of extinct species of your choice, here). Yes, I'm quite adept at the twisted sentence. Fun.

The newspapers are the ones that offend me most. So many people place way too much value in what is written, taking anything published in a newspaper as undeniable truth. Sadly, much of what makes it into newspapers today is unfounded pseudo-fact, poorly written, improperly researched, and decorated with the liberal application of emotional misdirection and sneakily placed opinions. Sigh.

Radio media I pretty much discount entirely. Trying to report the news, including squeezing in the facts with the much more popular and therefore required for ratings opinions, in a three minute spot on the hour, including sports and weather, is darn near impossible. When the radio news comes on, I put in a cd.

Television news is the worst of all. It is virtually impossible to have a simple, non-biased, fact-based reporting of world events these days. Why do I say that? Well, as the majority of television news reports are filled with graphic video footage of carnage and pain, the pictures generate an emotional response even if you turn the sound off. That said, it becomes impossible to have an impartial reporting of facts, when in the background is heart-renching footage expected to generate emotional outrage.

So I've ranted enough. Time for a two minute quick fix. My solution? Preface every single article in the newspaper with one of two words: either FACT or OPINION. As soon as any opinion slips into an article, whether it be a response to the ever so stupid question "And how did that make you feel?", or the writer expressing outrage or indignity, the label has to be OPINION. In addition, a requirement for fact checking must be designed and required. At first, very few articles would be labeled FACT, but I believe that would change, as both readers and writers became aware that the drivel soaked OPINION articles might make fun reading, but aren't actually very informative at all.

It almost goes without saying (but only almost, because I am saying it here) that every single television news report would have the word OPINION floating over the anchorperson's right shoulder, while video footage played over their left shoulder. To shift television news reporting into an unbiased reporting of the facts would require the dropping of photographic footage. Because photographic footage rips at the heartstrings. And generates emotional response. Which is OPINION. Duh.

But that's just my OPINION. Feel free to leave yours.

Warning: Rants Ahead (Background)

I just had a very long and interesting telephone discussion with my father, who is a holder of very strong, and often unpopular, opinions. He's also smart, well read, and logical. Best of all, he thrives on heated debate about the state of the world today, or at least our little corner of it. I admire the man, and he inspires me, even if we don't always agree.

Anyway, the point is this: our discussion brought up many topics that both of us have strong opinions about, and I want to spend some time writing about them. I will limit my posting to my opinions, as I don't have the right (or the desire) to post for him, too (he could start his own blog though ... hint, hint). And, I will only post on one topic at a time, as expounding is hard work.

So, for the next little while, my blog posts will include a segment of fibre arts content, plus a mini-editorial. Feel free to be offended, and to offer opinions in response via the comments. Now, off I go to vacuum, clean the litter box, and prepare my post about the state of the media today (start small, shall I???).

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Flogging Molly

Ah, Flogging Molly. Introduced to them by DH, I'm absolutely enamoured of this band (yes, Flogging Molly is the name of an Irish folk-punk band, not just a naughty thing teenage boys do behind closed doors).

So far, we've picked up only two of their cds, but they don't get much of a break. If you go to their website to check them out, use the play button on the lower right, and skip to song 3 (although song 1 and 2 are great, too). That's a crank it loud and play it over and over one for me.
The cds themselves are properly produced, so don't have the scratchy poor sound quality of the website (although maybe that's our crappy computer speakers).

We listened to Flogging Molly while driving through the Rocky Mountains (both Jasper Park and Mount Robson Park), and now they are tied in my mind with incredible scenery and sunny days, driving with my favorite husband. Some of the lyrics are great, including my favorite lines, from Devil's Dance Floor on the cd Swagger "Her breath began to speak, as she stood right in front of me. The colour of her eyes, were the colour of insanity. Crushed beneath her wave, like a ship, I could not reach the shore." I don't know what colour insanity is, but it sure sounds poetic!

My favorite song title is "The Worst Day Since Yesterday" - pessimistic, but fun. Gotta love it.

Nope, no quilting or knitting content today. Strictly music for me. And tea. Lots and lots of really strong tea.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

4 Days 14 Hours, 2 Provinces, and 1 Sock

So we're back from our mini-vacation. It was short, but sweet. Sweaty, actually, but fun too. We left Tuesday morning and did the 10 hour drive from Alberta through BC. Many kilometres of highway were driven, under sunny skies and with air conditioning blasting. The company was good - DH and a sock, what more could a Logan Chick possibly want? Sorry about the smeary windshield - we were the great Canadian bug killers across two Provinces.

The first night we spent with DH's folks and Toby the sock-friendly retriever, in the land of many bunnies. Why the land of many bunnies? Because their neighbours brought home two "male" bunnies for the kids, but they soon had many. And the many promptly escaped. Now, the fields around the houses are hopping with bunnies. Literally. And while we were there, we saw the first stages of the generation of at least two more litters. No photos of procreating bunnies, sorry. And now I know where the expression "quick like a bunny" comes from. Anyone want one though? Or two? Dozen?

The next three days and two nights were spent with DH's grandparents in sunny Tswassen, where the welcome was as warm as the weather. Between Grandma, Grandpa, and Uncle Dave, we were well taken care of, and had a great time. They have a beautiful garden with a central patio area great for sitting, knitting, and enjoying the antics of many birds. The sock enjoyed the bird bath, too.

Outings included a visit to a place where injured birds of prey are sheltered (saw some incredible owls, eagles, osprey, and falcons - all way closer than I ever expected to see), some shopping (the Hospice shop that Grandma volunteers at, one quilt shop, and one yarn shop), a number of nice restaurants, a tour of the Steveston area (including historic homes and a boat building yard), and Granville Island. My least favorite part? That's a toss-up between the cr@ppy service and attitudes of the staff at the bead shop on Granville Island, and the traffic in Vancouver. Oy.

The final night was spent back with DH's folks, where surprise early birthday cake (ice cream cake from the local DQ) was served, and the young folks were soundly beaten in a rousing game of Krokano (spelling unknown - if anyone knows the correct spelling of the game, please leave a comment).

The drive home was not nearly as much fun, as we got away late (almost mid-day), and the sun was really hot (thank goodness for the air conditioning!). We found two great restaurants en route, but then drove into a pretty heavy downpour that followed us from BC into Alberta, and all through the provincial parks (both Mount Robsin and Jasper). Our final few hours of driving were in the dusk to dark, and in heavy fog on a winding country highway with very narrow shoulders - some stress ensued. It was sure good to see the lights of home (at around 11:00).

The critters were thrilled to see us, especially as the person that had promised to take care of them hadn't bothered to clean their litter box!!! Yup, I was pissed. But, as DH said, she was a last minute cat feeding solution, and was not expecting to get paid, so we can't really be all that upset. Still, I am, and she sure as heck won't be getting a thank you gift - the poor cats had very little water, and nowhere to relieve themselves - we're lucky we got back when we did!

All in all, the holiday was great (though short), and it is always good to spend time with family. I missed blog-dom, though, so will be catching up for a while. Why didn't I write earlier today? Stress headache hangover from the bad weather driving. Sorry.

I leave you with the sock admiring a rose from Grandma's garden. Oh, and yes, I finished the sock. As it was a second sock, it now awaits a wool wash with its mate, and the first official wearing by DH. He was happy - a holiday and a pair of socks. Woo hoo!

Monday, August 08, 2005

A Short Intermission

No, I haven't gotten all depressed and un-blog-like again - I'm on vacation. Kind of. DH and I are driving (12 hours each way) to the coast to spend some time with his grandparents. Hopefully, much knitting will be done while he drives. I imagine much shopping will be done while we're there, too.

Back next week. Toodles!

This is just some blogAdmin, please ignore.

The FrankenStack and Mrs. Mel

Last month, when this monstrosity was created/born, I sent this commentary, with the attached photo, to Mrs. Mel. I figured she would get a giggle out of it, and maybe understand. To my shock, she liked it! Oy vey, she even encouraged me to someday share it. I guess that day has come...

It began life as a poncho (yes, I know – not the greatest way to start life), then somehow morphed into The FrankenStack. Why The FrankenStack? Because laid out on the floor, it has a somewhat chimney-ish-ness about it. Oh, and because if I put it on like a poncho, I can become a walking, talking, chimney. Until I trip over the furniture and fall down, because I didn’t make eyeholes in it.

Yes, I can drop it down to sit neatly about the shoulders – but then the alarming tightness of it traps my arms at my side, and I’m stuck in the Stack until my spouse stops laughing long enough to free me.

Yup, I can push it up, and wear is as a cowl-type-thingy, with the benefit of both being able to see and move my arms, but where’s the fun in that? In fact, when I do that (wear is as a cowl-type-thingy) it actually looks, dare I say it, not too bad.

Sadly, DH absolutely refused to be involved in any photo taking, as he is scared the pictures might pop up in public some day. Which they would, if I had them. What’s life about if not to poke fun at ourselves?

On a whim, I decided to try it as a skirt. Why? Hey, I knit the hideous thing, so of course I’m going to try and get some mileage out of it. It can be worn (not sure why, but yes, it can) pulled up under the armpits as a really stinking ugly wooly sundress. But hey, then my knees show. Can’t have that.

It works as a high waisted (just below the boobs) skirt, too. But woof!

And, finally, just when I thought it couldn’t sink any lower, I put it on as a Plain Jane Regular Skirt. Holy crap! It doesn’t look half bad! The weirdest part? DH really-actually-for-real-not-just-kidding-me likes it that way! He went so far as to say that I could wear it in public, and he would actually be seen with me!

Of course, as he was still doing the “nope, I’m not touching the camera, it might break the lens if you put it back into poncho mode” thing, I had to take the photo myself, in the mirror, so excuse the really bad focus, angle, and flash explosion. Oh yeah, did I mention he has bad taste?

Here it is – The FrankenStack. Knitted almost entirely while reading blogs and surfing the web (thus the use of 10 balls of yarn and the forgetting to increase for silly things like, say, shoulders). Yup, that’s a crocheted chenille edging. Can the coolness of this creation be topped? Oh, wait, not cool at all.

The yarn is 60% wool, and has 15% mohair in there too, just for itchy scratchy factor. Worn with a slip to protect the bits from tickles. Strangest part of all? I spent about 7 hours wearing it, including sitting, lounging around, and curling up on the couch with DH, and it kept it’s shape! No saggy bum. No pooching at the belly. No massive gravitational lengthening. Oy. Damn near wearable.

Fun with yarn. When will it stop?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Yup, I did it.

I started a new Leaf Lace shawl - knit from the bottom point up. This one is charted to knit with the leaves in "hanging" orientation, which I prefer. And, because I can't leave well enough alone, I made the leaf lace area a border, and adapted the center for a more simple triangle of lace (columns of lace - very structured, very me).

So, I'm in the perfect position to evaluate circular needles (Addi Turbo vs. Aero), as I have a leaf lace shawl in the same yarn on each kind of needle, same size and everything. My favorite? The Aeros. My evaluation included the joins (with the Addis I had to help the yarn over - not so with the Aeros), the points (the Aeros are pointier and grabbier), the cord (Addis have the more flexible cord - the only negative for the Aeros), and the needles themselves (I find the shiny Addis too bright and way too reflective while I work - Aeros are more subtle, much easier on the eyes). The other bonus is cost and availability - I can get Aeros easily here in Canada, for substantially cheaper than the Addis. I guess from now on I'm an Aero girl.

Well, with two leaf lace shawls on the needles, I'll see which gets finished first. I may yet frog the Fiber Trends shawl in favour of my own design, but I've gotten so far on it, I may end up with two shawls, instead. With 8 skeins of the Alpaca Cloud in Autumn, it shouldn't really be a problem.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Leaf Lace Lament

I love knitting lace. I love lace weight yarn. I love well written patterns for lace, with good charts. I love my 4mm Addi Turbo circular knitting needles. All good things.

The Leaf Lace Shawl by Fiber Trends is one of those great patterns - well written, with a good series of charts. It also has the bonus (thank you Fiber Trends!) of being written so that you can make your Leaf Lace Shawl in two sizes, and with four different weights of yarn - definitely the most flexible shawl pattern I've seen yet.

The KnitPicks.com Alpaca Cloud lace weight, in the colour Autumn, is a truly lovely yarn. Granted, I'm knitting with two strands held together, but that's because I swatched with both one and two threads, and liked the look of the blocked double thread swatch better. I prefer moose lace, which makes sense, as I'm kind of a moose-ish person. Any way, I'm whipping along on this shawl - 12 pattern repeats in 3 days. Cruising! It's a fast, easy, pleasurable knit. Except for one teeny little thing...

The leaves are upside down. See the garter stitch edge at the top of the photo? That's the top edge of the shawl. So, when the completed shawl is worn, the stem end of each leaf is at the bottom, and the tip of each leaf is at the top. Should that bug me? Probably not. Does it bug me? You better believe it! So, after three incredibly pleasurable days of knitting, I now can't even start a new row. I cringe when I look at it. I'm that freakin' bugged.

How to deal? I've come way too far to quit now (halfway through 2nd skein of yarn, so about 600 yards knitted). But, I'm futzing around charting the pattern to knit it in a way with the leaves as if they were hanging, not growing straight up from the freakin' ground. As in start knitting at the bottom point of the shawl, and knit up, increasing as I go.

I've also experimented with turning the pattern into a narrow scarf (knit twice already, once in sport weight Alpaca and once in Shetland weight wool,then frogged because I want the yarn for something else - apparently I'm completely insane) or a wide rectangular stole.

Home-made charts abound. (I'm playing with Excel.) Scribbled and crumpled notes litter the area formerly known as the living room, and now known as my knitting design studio. Small piles of frogged yarn wait patiently for the de-crimping bath.


Leaf lace lament, my arse. Leaf lace lunacy, my friends.

Any advice? Go ahead, get creative. I can take it.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Mmmmm, Cashmere

So my mother (aka The Evil Enabler Who Isn't Actually Evil, Really Just An Enabler) bought me two skeins of lace weight 100% cashmere for my birthday. 100% Freakin' Cashmere!!!! Hand Painted!! In Canada!!!!

See how nicely it goes with my really out of character for me (I'm a solids girl, no prints, thanks) girly blouse? Mmmmm. And, the other colours in the cashmere let me bring in blue, green, or gold. You know, for those "my eyes are bleeding with the horror of the colours" days. Mmmmm, wicked colour combinations and cashmere.

What to knit? Well, not lace (I don't like the combination of lace and hand painted yarns - neither shows well when knitted together - so sue me (please don't)). Cool, brackets within brackets. My inner blogologue has comments on its own comments. Something textural, but light. Garter stitch stole? B-o-r-i-n-g. Must swatch. Excessively. But not yet, no. Must first stroke and caress the cashmere-y goodness.

And, for my next post, expect to read my rant about the Leaf Lace shawl. It's upside freakin' down people! How has nobody else noticed this??? Oy.

Not just another Mrs. Mel Stalker

Nope, not me. I'm a Mrs. Mel copier! Okay, fine, I wasn't going to join the Bohemian Knit ring, but then I went to the creator's site. She does what I do! So, what the hell, I may as well.

And also - because I've done nothing but knit the past month - no quilting at all. Not that I'm quitting quilting (tee hee - quitting quilting) - nope. I love quilting. However, quilting is apparently my fall/winter/spring project, while knitting is a summer thing. Why? Because I can easily haul a knitting project out onto the balcony. I can pack a sock knitting project in my purse. I can throw a lace knitting project in the car for long trips. Etc. Quilting? Not so portable, my friends. And what's summer if not all about the traveling? I hate leaving my house, but all I've freakin' well done this summer is travel.

So, this blog will now include mucho about knitting, as well as quilting. Thus, expect more blabbiness from me - I've been avoiding the blog lately because all I have to show is knit, knit, knit. Oy.

Pictures to come. Soon. Probably in a couple of hours. Sheesh.

Oh, and one obscure reference. I like to use the term "freakin'" in my writing. Spellcheck wants to change it to "foreskin". Gotta admit I'm thinking about it.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Mel Kicked some serious Arse!

Well, our team didn't end up placing in the top 10, but they still did really well, because (a) they finished the race without disqualification, and (b) they finished in just over 12 hours! That's 125km in about twelve and a quarter hours - through water and mud, over three different mountains. Crazy!

Simon, who ran leg 4, look quite a bit longer than they all expected, but still did finish his leg (5 hours 45 minutes for 38km over Mount Hamel). Mel took off at 9:01pm, and came in at approximately 11:02 - two hours for 22km! Her leg included a river crossing at Hell's Gates, by raft. We were planning to be where the trail entered town to cheer her on, but she beat us there! We followed her in the car to close to the finish line, beeping the horn and cheering her on, but then she smoked us, getting to the finish line way before us. That girl can run!

After she filled up with cheeseburgers and juice and had a shower, she felt great, but tired. The next morning we sat around on the balcony in the sun, and she certainly looked like she was ready to run again. She's toying with the idea of running solo next year, now that she knows she has a place to recover, and extra people to help her at each assistance station. We'll see what she decides next summer. I think she's up for it though - she has a stronger will than anyone I've ever met.

Mel's team name is "Fourth Time Lucky". You can track their progress by searching it on the Death Race website.

Mel and her husband left after a morning on the balcony, planning to drive until they were bored and then camp for the night. They took the mountain route home, rather than going through Edmonton to Calgary. They should be home tonight, and back to work tomorrow. DH will be back at work tomorrow too, after enjoying a damn near unprecedented four days off in a row!