Monday, July 30, 2007

Something new

Well, I've cast on for a slinky shawl done in Eros Glitz color 115. I've had a few balls of this sitting around in my "well intentioned" part of the stash. Well intentioned = quick & easy gift for loved one I seldom get to see (which is pretty much all of them, really, since I live all the way across the country!). This one is actually intended for my great-aunt who will be 95 in late August. Dearest Nita moved from her home in SE Oklahoma to central Florida to be with her youngest daughter a few years ago. I've found it difficult coming up with a knitted item for central Florida, you know? I'm pretty sure she doesn't need wool socks (or even a sock!), or gloves or hats or scarves. This slinky shawl (pattern name from a LYS) seems like a nice compromise: hand made with lots of love, not impossible to wear in the muggy hot climate of Florida. I understand the evenings can be cool, but more importantly, I can't imagine that these types of shawls generate a huge amount of warmth. But she'll look snazzy! The many shades of blue in this will go beautifully with her eyes.

This whole Florida thing has actually kept me from knitting anything for my in-laws either. My family in Texas actually get a day or two of cold-to-cool weather each year. I really don't think the greater Orlando area experiences much in the way of "gosh! I could really use a scarf!" weather. I wonder if my brother-in-law would like one of these shawls... LOL

I spent the weekend spinning a bit and attempting to ply. I have a huge tangeled mess at the moment from plying from a center-pull ball. I wound some other skeins of yarn into balls, with my little helpers turning the crank. I did not pick up the blue sweater this weekend at all, other than to move it around. I need to finish up the sleeves & neck and then get to researching fixes for whatever ails this sweater. More on that as I get to it.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Belated Happy Blogaversary to Me!

Jinkies! How lame is that? I skated right past the date, 7/25. Oh well, I logged on, but got too busy to actually post anything. This week has just been weird that way.

Hmm. Well, I must say I'm pleased to find that I've not only stuck with the blog thing, but I've really been enjoying it. I'd enjoy it more if I were better about pictures, but if I stress about that, it won't be fun. So, we're definitely blogging for year two. LOL I was having some thoughts about knitting and where I am in that whole journey this morning, so this is probably an appropriate topic for a blogaversary post.

I have completed the first sleeve (well, all but the binding off bit) and I tried on the blue sweater. It no longer fits right. No, I did not suddenly gain 500+ pounds overnight (though the Ben & Jerry's probably didn't help), but I'm just woman-shaped and the sweater that fits so well down to the waist does not fit properly over the hips. I'm having some debates with myself about what to do here. I am not okay just leaving it "until I lose some weight and it fits better". I'm not putting my yarn in that basket, it needs to fit now or else it will never be worn. This is where all the knitterly pondering came in.

"I can't fix this", I said to myself, "I'm just a beginner knitter. I don't have the skills."

What the...? At what magical point do I move from being a beginner knitter to intermediate or even experienced? Notice I am not using the word "master" although I might be willing to use the word "novice". By my reckoning, I have been knitting for about five years sometime in August. That's five years spent learning and polishing my knitting skills. And I think I'm still a beginner? Why is that? I've knit three sweaters - even if the last one doesn't fit right and including one with cables, dozens of scarves, half a dozen or more hats - including one that I made up the pattern for, a couple of fingerless gloves, a sock (heh, heh) and washrags - including one in Intarsia. I have also helped two people learn to knit, cheered on a few other newbies and (I very modestly add) inspired a number of retired knitters to pick up their sticks again. I am able to converse comfortably on any topic involving knittng, yarn, tools of the trade and spinning without frothing (too much) at the mouth and to the satisfaction (they don't run away screaming) of the person who asked the oh-so-innocent question.

Is there a secret item or action that moves me into the next level? POOF!

I don't think so. Is this an attitude that is inextricably tied to self-esteem? That would stink. I'll never let myself move on if I don't watch my every thought. (I'm sure I'm not alone there either.) I mean, sure, this sweater snafu has me bummed, but it is a learning opportunity. Right? So long as I act on it right away, that is. If it sits for too long it will be a nice dust rag or something. Mistakes are how we learn. The Intarsia washrag? Not as pretty as I would like, but it is a washrag AND now I know I want to take a class to learn to do it right.

So, whatever hesitation my brain has, and for whatever reason, I proudly declare myself to be an Intermediate Knitter. Sure there are lots of things I've never done, but I'm not afraid to try. I've learned the basics, though I do have something to learn about fitting a piece to the recipient. LOL That will be my starting place for this next knitting year, learning about fit and modifying patterns to make them work for me, and hopefully all of my giftees as well. I've certainly got the books to make it work.

Immediate plans are to finish the sleeves & do the neck & button placket. Then I'll sit with my books and figure out how to make this sweater fit nicely. So what if I miss the summer weather? I can wear it all year if I want to, and there really isn't a deadline for this. It's just for me. On the other hand, I did want to finish it before casting on my next big project. I may have to change that plan. As much as I love it and want to finish it, I'd like a break for something else. So, I'm probably going to finish it, start reading about ways to fix it and cast on the next big thing, whatever that turns out to be.

Sounds like a plan to me.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Can I please sit down?

Well, it has been another long week of rushing around for no good reason. Or it sure feels that way. I can honestly say that last night was the first time I've been home early enough to do anything before going to bed in about a week. And, of course, as a mom "do anything" means sit down for about 5 minutes just because I want to. As a result of the hectic week, I'm a bit out of sorts today. Sorry.

I spent my sitting time finishing a book with the girls, How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell. It was a fun little book, and the girls are looking forward to further adventures with Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III. I'm not sure what we'll read next and it may be a while before we get back to Hiccup. (I've got to figure out how I'm going to get Book 7 read this weekend!) I've started reading with them while they are in the bath/shower. That way, we always get some reading done each day.

I've got the first sleeve cast on and it is going well. This part should go pretty quickly, though I seem to be getting very impatient now that I'm almost finished with the blue sweater. There are fewer stitches in one round of a sleeve than in one round of the body, so it really should move right along. My brain, however, seems to think that it will take a bazillion years at a minimum. It would help if I could stop being so darned busy at work and actually get more knitting done at lunch.

I've been watching some movies with my knitting (on the days I actually get to work in a lunch). This past week I've seen Cold Comfort Farm, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle and Sin City. I'm thinking The Lion In Winter is next, unless I get distracted today.
Kind of all over the place, huh? Surprisingly, the one I liked the least, if I had to pick one, would be Mrs. Parker. Outstanding cast, and very interesting, but kind of depressing and her voice drove me nuts (though it probably was based on how she actually sounded). I tend to just wander into the video room and browse the shelves. Sometimes I watch a bunch of new educational videos, sometimes culinary, I just never know what I'll pick. It is nice having such a big collection to choose from. (Especially one I didn't have to pay for. - ha!)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dinosaurs ROCKED!

Saturday morning we drove to Tacoma to have lunch and walk around before the dinosaur show. We ate lunch at a great brew pub called Harmon Brewery and Restaurant . I had their Vanilla Porter at the brew festival last month and it was really good. Their other beer is also good and the food was very tasty as well. It was a nice spot for families and was a great start to the day.

I had also looked up yarn stores in Tacoma, and there was one about 7 blocks or so from where we had lunch, so we set off to find the yarn. I didn't really need anything, so I was mostly just browsing. I was trying to keep my eye out for interesting yarn in a certain range of reds, but I had my youngest in tow. The oldest and DH had not wanted to wander around the tiny, tiny yarn shop and went for coffee and juice instead. I was a bit, um, happy from the brew pub (I forgot that I hadn't eaten breakfast until I was well into my second pint) and so I really wasn't sure how shopping was going to go for me. Ha! My youngest found a pattern for Fiber Trends slippers and insisted that these would be most excellent princess slippers. Then she picked out a bunch of Cascade yarn in pink, lavender and baby blue for the slippers. I decided I'd probably spent too much on stuff I really didn't need (and more projects that I could have done without, really) so I headed over to pay.

Turns out, all the stuff I bought was 40% off. I spent about $20, incl. tax. I was so flummoxed. I wanted to go buy more yarn & get stuff for me. But I really didn't need to go there. I've got some things in my head that I want to order, and I just didn't want to spend the money on "random purchases". Well, I also didn't want to spend more time shopping with the little princess. She loves yarn stores. She loves to pet yarn. She loves PINK yarn. And SPARKELY yarn. In fact, there is no yarn too PINK or too SPARKELY for her. I was afraid to spend more time there because I might not make it out without some of the PINK SPARKLEY stuff. I really don't want any. Besides, it was getting close to Dino Time.

The yarn store does not have a website, so I didn't link to the directory. It was very small and very, very crowded with yarn. Piles and piles of lovely yarn, lots of luxury, higher end stuff. Very nice, and the woman working there was very friendly. If I were claustrophobic, I would not have survived that store. Lots of dead ends, but they were full of yarn, so not too bad as dead ends go. I had trouble finding an order to the madness, but that might have been due to my youngest's inexorable pull towards PINK SPARKLEY yarn, where ever it was stashed.

Anyway, off to the show!

Okay, the Walking With Dinosaurs Live show was the most awesome thing I've been to in I don't know how long! I had all of the excitement and fun of being a kid with all of the joy of a mom watching her own kids' wonder and joy. I don't know how you beat that, if you can. During the show, the youngest, who sat in my lap for a better view, kept telling me she wanted to see it every day forever and ever. After the show, I asked my oldest if she liked it and she said, "Liked it? That was the most awesome thing I've ever seen!"

People, if you or your children, grandchildren, whoever like dinosaurs, this is an amazing show. It is a bit pricey, or maybe that is related more to each venue, but it is totally worth every penny. The show is about 2 hours and has an intermission. Merchandise is a bit spendy, but is always optional. These dinos are LIFE-SIZED, not scale & that is pretty amazing to see. There is a narrator on the floor with them, so you get a very real sense of how immense these things were. If you have access to a museum with real bones, maybe not such a big deal, but I've only ever seen dinos at 1/3 scale. I did not hear/see any small children freaking out (or grown-ups either), it is loud. If you've seen the TV series (BBC), you have an idea of what might go on. It is a quick journey through several periods with LIFE-SIZED dinos from the various periods. The narrator tells you what is going on with the planet and how the animals are evolving, etc. There is video and humor and it is just incredibly well done.

The dinos look amazingly real, the flesh jiggles a bit as them move, just like you'd expect it to on a massive creature in motion. While you know they are robots, and for a couple of smaller ones you can see the people moving them, it is well done and while you could focus on that and really hate the show, I think you'd have to work at it. They've done a great job blending the people and mechanics into the dino and the set/stage really helps create the illusion they are not people powered.

I believe Seattle was the first spot on the North American tour, so check the listings and see if it is coming to a place near you. The next spot is Spokane, WA. I really can't express how fun and awesome this event was. I'd see it again in a heartbeat, and so would my kids.

My DH took the pictures. Some of them turned out, most didn't. I think this was his first experience with low-light photography. Many of them are blurred. Too bad. But that's why I bought a program full of pictures at the show. I'm pretty bummed that so many good shots were not so good. Oh well, more incentive for you to go see the show.

Did I mention that I liked this show? :)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Fan geek

Sorry for the terrible photo, I totally forgot about the flash and my spotted mirror. LOL I'll take new pictures once I finish the back edge, but the front edge is done. I still have the back edge, sleeves, collar edge & button placket to go, but I'm on the home stretch. I'm happy with the length, not sure about the fit yet. It is hard to tell with needles still in the back and my arms up in the air. :)

Other news, I went out to visit our local Kwik-E-Mart yesterday and got a Squishee and some Buzz cola & several pictures. I got a bit self-conscious about the picture taking and stopped before I got everything in the store. I guess there aren't many tourists out at 6:30 am and the construction workers seemed to think I was a bit odd. Normally I wouldn't care, but there was a really long line to check out (hungry construction workers) and I needed to get to work.

No Duff Beer, for those who are curious, but there are Krusty-Os and some other things. A number of Simpson character's liberally placed around the store on displays or with other signage. I think I'll try going back next week and get a few more pictures of the bits I missed.

Tomorrow the family and I are off to see the Walking with Dinosaurs show at the Tacoma Dome. I am so excited! Yes, I'm a dinosaur geek. I LOVE them! The girls are pretty excited too, I hope they like it. The tickets were pricey and I'm not leaving early if they don't. LOL I don't know if I'll be able to take pictures, but if I can I will post a few next week. We're driving to Tacoma early, so we don't have to mess with traffic worries. I think I'll try to work in a yarn store between lunch and the dinos.

Hmmm...I wonder if I could knit a dinosaur...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Am I caught up yet?

Nope. Not that it matters, really. The weather is beautiful, if a bit too warm for my tastes. It is supposed to start hitting the upper 90s (F) around here this week and the fire danger is up because we're pretty dry. I know, I'm from Texas, I should be able to handle the heat. Well, that doesn't mean I like it and the only place you find air conditioning in Seattle is in a mall or business. That means, the house can be pretty uncomfortable in the afternoon - overnight. (Especially since my neighbor cut off the shading branches on my tree. mutter, mutter, mutter)

No matter what, though, it is georgous outside.

I am finishing the length on the blue sweater & girding myself for the sleeves and other finishing bits. I don't think I'm going to get all bogged down with the end, but I am having trouble finding time to knit. That might slow me down a bit.

I went shopping this weekend. Yep. Bought yarn. It is lovely stuff and I did, of course, do a bad job of shopping. LOL I bought some Schaeffer Yarn Co. Nancy yarn in the Gertrude Ederle colorway. Gertrude Ederle was the first woman to swim the English Channel, if I remember correctly (I left the label at home). I LOVE this colorway! My initial inspiration was to make a summer tank top or short sleeved sweater, so I bought 2 hanks of yarn. A very brief pattern search at home left me with no suitable match so I checked out their website and found this a pattern there that I really liked. (look for the pattern link for the Nancy Feminine Tunic). Of course, I didn't buy enough yarn on my first visit, so, I obsessed over it and went back and bought another hank of the yarn so I could do this tunic. I'm super excited about it, I just love the colors. I also seem to be procrastinating finishing the sweater already on my needles. Just a little. LOL

I'm hoping now that classes are back in session, I'll have my fairly regular hour a day knitting time and I should get the blue sweater finished in "no time". Whatever that means. Ha!

Of course, the new Harry Potter movie is out tomorrow and I've got to make time for that too...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The rest of the story

Week 2 of vacation was all about painting the girls' room (they share a room). It has been a rather deep periwinkle, which is a pretty color, but the room is small and the color was dark and so the room got even smaller. Both of the girls easily decided they wanted a pink room, a Barbie (tm) pink room. I was pretty certain I would go mad with that sort of color in the room, so I said yes to pink, but no to a deep shade of pink. (This decision was contested until all the furniture was moved back into the room after painting. They now seem very content with the color.) My oldest DD decided that she wanted a wall with stripes in different colors. The youngest absolutely did not want a wall with stripes in the room. Compromise: stripes on the wall next to the oldest's bed, which happens to be the wall with a big window. I thought this would be a bonus, but it really didn't matter since I had to mask off the whole darned wall anyway. The youngest decided to get flower stamps and put that on the wall next to her bed.

We decided on a whole range of what appeared to be pale pastel colors. "We decided" = they agreed to the pale pastel colors for everything but the pink, but I pulled "mom" rank and pale pastels won out for all colors. The first day of painting was also the last day of school. I moved out all of the furniture except the beds (I didn't want to take them apart to get them out of the room) and then I had to do a base coat of primer on the walls (the periwinkle was dark and it was a semi-gloss, I was going back to a flat finish). I ended up using two coats of primer to get it all covered (I think I was just stingy with how thick the coats of paint were). The girls came home, took one look and said "We wanted pink". This in spite of the multiple conversations preparing them for the process of white - pink - stripes/stamps.

Day two was pink everywhere. Both of the girls helped for a while, then moved on to more exciting things like playing outside or watching movies. The youngest was the most interested in painting and also the most efficient. Go figure.

Day three was masking off the one wall for the stripes (photo at top, sorry it is so dark). That job involved lots of measuring and climbing up and down a step stool and lasted for about 4-1/2 hours. I was wiped out! The girls said "we didn't want blue stripes, where are the other colors?"

Day four was painting the stripes and stamping the flower things on the other wall. The stripe colors are purple, yellow, blue and green (and the pink, of course). The girls were very eager to paint the stripes, and they did a great job on this bit. Here's the youngest having a go at some blue paint.

And the oldest taking a turn with the green. Do you see all of that tape?!

The actual painting part didn't take so long. Removing the tape from the wall was a bit of a nightmare. There were about 5 or 6 places where the tape stripped the paint completely off the wall down to the plaster board underneath. Fortunately, once I stopped muttering bad words under my breath, I did see that it was only the pink that had stripped off and not the other colors in the stripes. I spent about an hour and a half touching up all of those spots before we could move on the the stamps. Once the touch-ups were done, I then shifted the furniture to do the stamps on the opposite wall. There were various flowers, a butterfly and dragonfly stamps and we used the same colors as the stripes. The stamps did not turn out as well because our walls are very, very textured (which I hate!). However, my daughter is happy with the results and it doesn't look bad, just not as nice as it would on a smoother wall. I suppose you might call the effect "rustic". Ha!

Here is the final result of our 4 days of effort. I took the pictures before I hung up all of their art, just to get a better view of the stripes. I must say I'm pleased, but I won't be taking on anything like this for some time. All of these big house projects really wore out my knees and I'm just exhausted.

The pink turned out much darker than it appeared on the sample card, but it is lighter than the periwinkle, so the girls are happy with it. I painted the green dresser next to the bed for the previous color scheme in the room. I toyed with the idea of repainting it to match this one, but I was DONE painting, so that will have to wait. I did paint each part of the window sill to match one of the stripe colors. Himself says it looks like a circus tent. Dork. It looks brilliant! The oldest is delighted with the stripes and (a week later) is still talking about how cool her room is.

Mom scores one point.

One big negative: I noticed that I seem to have created another cyst in my wrist from all of the painting. I could absolutely scream in frustration and anger over that, but so far it doesn't hurt and is not interfering in any way with my activities. I'm hoping it will go away on its own, unlike the other one. I wouldn't go through that surgery again unless it was as bad as the other one, but I would be really, really, really unhappy to have to do so. I'm just trying to pretend it isn't there. Funny, my daughter caused the injury that led to the first one, and now painting her room has brought on the second one. Good thing she's so cute! I had no idea that my wrist was still so vulnerable or I would have postponed the painting job. It has been 7 months, afterall. Oh well, there are worse things, and like I said, so far it isn't causing me any trouble.

On the knitting front, I took the blue sweater to a 4th of July party at some friends from church, an annual event usually involving about 40+ people & some fireworks at the end. I have now reached the end of the length for my sweater. WOO-HOO! I need to do the garter edge (split the stitches so there is a split at the sides) and sleeves and finishing bits. Yippee! More on that as it progresses.

I also got some very interesting conversation in with a fellow who has made himself a CD drop spindle and is carding his own fiber, or is prepared to card his own fiber. I can't really tell and the conversation kept twisting away before I could verify what he was up to. It is a good thing I only see him once a year. He was trying to talk me into getting a fleece and doing all the processing up to a sweater, just because it would be fun (he is not a knitter, btw). Cheeky man. I hope to do it someday, when the kids are older and I (hopefully!) have more time. If I spent more time with him I'd probably own my own sheep and add a loom to my life as well. Talk about an enabler! I wonder how his wife manages him... LOL

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Vacation is over!

Okay, you'd think I could manage to post more on a vacation at home, but seriously, I really wore myself out. My vacation started on a Thursday, so I did the movie shopping thing. The weekend was the Washington Brewers Festival . This event is held every year on Father's Day weekend. It has been a tradition for the past, um, 10 years or so to treat DH. (Yes. Even before we had kids.) He gets to drink as irresponsibly as he likes, I stay sober and drive. He never drinks too much, but he always has a great time. This year we took a friend and the girls took photos. Don't the menfolk look like they're having fun? They are perusing a map of brewers to go try out next. (Himself is on the right.)

The next week on Monday, I balanced the check book dating back to November (Himself installed MS Money and went back to Nov. , but entered a starting balance of zero, this took 6 hours to complete) and the next day I decided it would be great to shampoo the carpet in the house. Yep. Nothing like a day of hauling furniture around. I decided that I'd had enough after completing the two main family/guest rooms in the house (about 3 1/2 hours), and really, they were the worst ones for stains (from the girls). I can't believe what a difference that makes in the rooms! Wednesday I rested and knit up the Pirate washrag.

Isn't it cute? This was my first ever Intarsia. Now, let me say that in spite of what I'm about to tell you, I will try this again. In fact, I will knit this pattern again, just to see if I've fixed it (my youngest wants one in pink - of course!). This pattern had so many typos I don't even know where to begin. If I were experienced with Intarsia, this might not have mattered too much, but I was nervous to start with, having to guess what the heck the instructions were supposed to say DID NOT HELP. Then, in my opinion, things were left out. Example: you cast on 46 stitches, do some garter rows then knit the first and last 5 stitches of every row. The chart is for 24 stitches. So 24 + 5+5= 34. Where the heck are the other 12 stitches? I decided there were an additional 6 on each side of the pattern in stockinette, but it was never addressed in the pattern at all. For a newbie, I did not appreciate having to work this out on my own just 5 rows into the project. Then, the HUGE number of typos, just plain typos, on a very, very short pattern. Seriously, the written instructions are probably shorter than this paragraph and fully 1/4 of the words are/have typos. The chart is fine. Tackling a new thing was dodgy enough, I didn't appreciate having to deal with the typos too. Still, I like my Jolly Roger washrag, mistakes and all, and I will probably attempt another one in the near future. If for no other reason than to see if I can have an easier time of it now that I've worked out the written bit and had a go and the process. I'd love a class, but I don't see any listed anytime soon.

I also plan to contact the shop and let them know that they might want to tidy up those written instructions quite a bit before handing them out to anyone else. sheesh.

Thursday was yardwork, mowing, etc. Friday was another day of rest and of spinning! Yippee! I finally got my Northern Lights roving plied and got started on the ruby merino.

I'm not sure the colors worked out so good in the photo, even after adjusting them. The darker roving is the Northern Lights and has lots of turquoise sprinkles (amongst other colors) in it. The ruby yarn is actually a very deep blue-red color - it's georgous! I plied up three hanks of the Northern Lights and I have to say, I am really delighted at how balanced the yarn turned out. I was not expecting that, and I got good results on all three hanks of yarn. Go me! I only got one bobbin of the Ruby spun and plied. I decided I was too excited to see how the ruby was going to look, so I just spun up the one bobbin and plied it from a center pull ball. That worked really well and I was glad not to have to worry about two bobbins of different length singles and left-overs. Now I just want more time to spin the rest of the fiber. It was so nice to be spinning all day.

All in all, a very busy but satisfying week one of vacation. Tomorrow I'll tell you about week 2.