Another Hobby Blog

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Updates 8-31

I'm a bit behind on my updates. I have one good reason for this: Ripe Blackberries.
I got home from the wedding in San Diego, unpacked, caught up on laundry, and was looking forward to posting again when I realized that it was well into blackberry season and if I wanted any ripe berries this year, I'd better put some time and attention into getting them.
So, Gipsieee and I and a friend spent an afternoon amidst the thorn bushes and came home with a lovely yield:

Not only were the berries ripe (so ripe that the eating berries (without the brambles) didn't last long enough to be photographed), but there was a whole field of blooming Queen Anne's Lace too!

Direct results of that afternoon include:
Purple fingernails,
Another backlog of laundry and household chores,
Dyepots invading my kitchen,

Skeins invading my bathroom again,
and very little time to sit down and write about it all.

I'm very excited about this batch of skeins, and am particularly looking forward to seeing how some of the multi-dipped skeins work up.

I've quite nearly depleted my stash of undyed yarn, so it seems that this week's dyeing adventure is finished (after I clean up all the pots, that is...)

...which brings us to the updates, in order of occurrence:

Gipsieee's RF hat:

This is the project I started on the airplane down to San Diego. It is no further along than that weekend's progress. It is worked from Heirloom's 8-ply in a color and dyelot that are no longer available (719, 01). I purchased the only ball they had, and I had hoped it would be sufficient. It's not. Now I get to figure out how to make a charcoal contrast work nicely.
The good things about this project: It kept me occupied at the airport and in dead space for most of the weekend we travelled. It was a good conversation piece at the rehearsal dinner. I like the shaping (which was invented as it was needed.) The color is actually pretty decent on me. (I hope it looks as good on Gipsieee!)

Sophie bag:

This is the project I started when I ran out of yarn for Gipsieee's RF hat. I've made it from Noro's Silk Garden and have made a minor adjustment to the handle shaping. I have one more end to finish and then it will be ready for felting. The Silk Garden won't felt as much as yarn the pattern calls for, so I hope that I like the finished bag.


The stealth approach worked!
As soon as I got home I snuck up on Smooch2 and wrestled it into submission. It didn't give much of a fight this time and I got it completed surprisingly quickly! I love the drape of the finished garment. It is so very much nicer to wear than the previous Smooch! This one is light and airy. The previous one is somewhat stiff and bulky. I need to make sure I don't lose my pattern notes, in case I ever wish to make this top again. ...also, I need to tone up my arms a bit. Ah well.

RF socks:

And most recently, because I have been absolutely dying to make socks despite the wrist pain, I've begun a pair of worsted-weight knee socks to wear at the Renaissance Faire. I need to get these finished by early October. The yarn is one of my natural-dyed Fisherman's Wool (Lion brand). The cuff yarn is dyed with cherry leaves from an October pruning. The main sock yarn is dyed from blackberry brambles after the berry season was over.

Friday, August 26, 2005

August: Blackberries

I love living in the Pacific Northwest. In late April or early May we get ripe cherries. Ripe Rainier cherries, sometimes as low as three dollars a pound. Every year, as soon as the first roadside stand blooms, I buy five pounds of cherries. It takes me less than a week to eat them all. I have cherries with breakfast, cherries with lunch, cherries after dinner, and cherries as a mid-day snack. It's one of the simple joys of life, and I look forward to it every spring.

August's simple joy is blackberries. The blackberry bush is very invasive here. Any space, left untended long enough, will sprout blackberries. Once they're established, they're almost impossible to get rid of: they're a gardener's nightmare. They require very little care to flourish, hence they're free for the taking at most area parks.

First off, blackberries are delicious. For the first hour, one out of every four berries goes directly into the mouth. A full bucket of ripe blackberries might turn into jam or pie or cobbler. This year the berries were so perfect that we ate them straight with a side of ice cream. The reward is well worth the thorny scratches obtained while picking them.

Second, blackberries make a splendid dyestuff. Nontoxic! Pleasantly aromatic! Lovely color. Like most natural dyes, the color will change, fade, and turn brownish with time and exposure to light. I've found that I don't really mind.

So this week I have been tending dyepots every day. Blackberries (berry only), Blackberry brambles (stems and leaves, berries that are under-ripe), Queen Anne's Lace (also non-toxic), and Red Cabbage.

Not sure what I will do with the yarn yet.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Impulse Glitz

I have such a tendency to purchase on impulse! Especially things that are flashy or glittery.

Imagine my helplessness when I saw this:

Retroreflective thread! It looks grey until it's hit by a light source and then it bounces the light back. Shiny!!

Weaving Works had it available for yardage off the cone, so I didn't even need to commit to a huge financial outlay to play with the stuff!
Did I have any idea whatsoever what I wanted to do with it? Nope, none at all. Did I really need it? of course not. Am I happy I got the stuff? You bet! Even though it loves to tangle up into huge knotted problems now that it's off it's cone? yep, even so.

It came home with me about a month or two ago, and it's alternately made me smile or curse every time I've seen it. Smile, because it shimmers and glows from the corners of the room, reminding me of its cheery presence. Curse, because half the time it has tangled itself into another Gordian knot while I wasn't looking.

I do admit, I was starting to feel a little bit foolish for bringing it home last time I tried to straighten it back out, but then I wondered whether I could use it on my inkle loom. I was a bit worried that it wouldn't hold the tension right, or perhaps that it would end up breaking. As it happens, I had more trouble with the turquoise thread that I strung into the same warp. The retroreflective thread is surprisingly tolerant. It has absolutely no elasticity, though, so it definitely defines the tension of the warp. It must be tight enough to weave smoothly, but not so tight as to stretch or snap.

Taking pictures of the ribbon itself was a bit of a challenge. I keep thinking that it doesn't look very reflective at all in most of the images, but it is pretty successful when you see it in person.

I'll be weaving another ribbon length starring the retroreflective thread on black. When it's done, it'll get stitched onto my husband's black duster (which he wears everywhere, all year round. He sometimes calls it his "man-purse" because everything he needs is in one of the many pockets.) I am hoping it will help make him more visible to cars before he gets hit by one!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Box 10 Happy Dance!

I have house-gremlins. They hide behind the dust-bunnies and the dog-fur-tigers in the corners of the room and they never never never let anyone see them. But nonetheless, I know that they exist. "How?" I hear you ask, incredulously. "Well, it's simple," say I, "sit for a spell and I'll tell you..."

I can tell that I have house-gremlins, you see, by the manner of things that go missing and by the ways in which they return. The things that go missing, first off, are not the things one might expect to go missing. When my husband asks me, "Where would I find the book Zen and the Art of Cursing at Your Computer?" I don't bat an eye. "Third bookshelf to the left," say I, "and straight on til morning." And that's exactly where it will be, sandwiched between "Aikido and the Art of the First Move" and "Alphabetizing Your Cupboards For Dummies."

When he asks me if I've seen the power cords for the celphones we used to have three calling plans ago because his friend from high school has the very same type of phone and could really use one during the two month vacation he's on because he somehow forgot to pack his own and now they don't make that model any more and he needs it by day after tomorrow because that's when he'll be driving through town, I say: "Hmmm... I haven't seen those in five years, not since we moved to this house, so that means that they never got unpacked, which means they'll be in Box 15LR." (box 15, living room. Speaking of which, we should talk about packing and moving some day. There is definitely One Right Way to do it, and I am quite sure that if there is ANY other living human being who knows this One Right Way, I will not be fortunate enough to meet her in my lifetime, as she is probably living in the wilds of Siberia with no access to the internet, armed only with a stack of U-Haul boxes, three Sharpies, several rolls of packing tape, bubble wrap, tissue paper, and a generous supply of index cards.) "You should be able to find the box at the bottom of the stack of boxes in the garage beside the workbench along the far wall, behind the gardening screens, the empty gerbil tanks, and the canning jars."

It might take a few hours, but once we've cleared away the spiders webs and the thick layer of dust and have found a new place to stack the boxes that had been atop the bottommost one, I'll pull out my box knife and Zip! there will be the power cords he wanted, nested in amongst the leftover CAT-5 cable, a heavy mass of keys that don't fit any current locks, an old set of windchimes, and the toggle thingie for the ceiling fan that just needs a spot of glue if only I could find a glue that will bond to it.

When he asks me where the CD with the song "Day and Nitrous" is, I simply smile and remind him that he loaned the CD to a friend last New Years and we'll probably be able to get it back when we visit again next January, or he could ask the friend to put the CD in the mail if he needs it sooner than that.

Obscure things simply do not go missing at my house. Neither do things that I don't care about. Empty plastic bags, for example, never conveniently disappear. Instead, they colonize my cupboards and breed until the doors burst open from the strain.

No, the things that go missing are the Important things. Things like the set of keys that I JUST USED to get in the front door of my house. Less than two hours ago. (This happened once. Not lying.) It was late. I'd been up all night. I was tired. I stumbled through the front door, shed my coat and emptied my pockets, unloaded the car, locked up for the night, and took a one-hour nap before getting up again because I had a very important project due very early in the morning. My keys were gone. GONE! I searched everywhere. I searched my purse. I searched my jacket pockets (even the ones I hadn't been wearing). I searched every countertop I might have laid them down on. I searched the bathrooms. I searched by my computer, I searched the bedstand, I searched the kitchen. I searched my jeans pockets, I searched my jacket pockets (again), I searched my purse (again). I searched the car, thinking maybe I'd still had them in my hand when I unloaded, but no luck. I searched the garage. I checked the front door to see if they were dangling in the lock. I searched the refrigerator (I'd been tired. I'd put away groceries.) I searched every horizontal surface in the house. Multiple times. Eventually I resigned myself to the realization that the House Gremlins were active again, and I put together a backup set of keys for myself.

For several weeks I wondered whether the keys had somehow been lost outside and picked up by one of my neighbors, but no one broke in, and I do distinctly remember using my keys to enter the house that night, so they simply MUST be here somewhere. I kept looking, and looking, and looking. SIX MONTHS LATER they were sitting in plain sight on the edge of the pool table. In Plain Sight, on a surface I'd checked no less than once a week for six months. House Gremlins, I tell you. There's one now--did you see the dust-bunny move?

Most often, the Gremlins don't wait six months to return things. Most often, they wait only a week or so; just long enough for me to have cancelled all my credit cards and had new ones issued Just In Case. But sometimes they get playful: the red sock, for example. My roommate, Gipsieee, loves patterned socks. She has a whole collection of them, some of them handknit. Among the many patterned socks (they're easier to pair together after washing, you see) she has a pair of red socks with kittens cavorting across them. They're distinctive. And they're red. They're not easy to lose. Yet one day only one red kitten sock came out of the laundry, and with a shake of my head I sighed and tossed it into the Mismatched Sock Bin. (If you're getting the feeling that I never throw anything away, you'd be closer to accurate than I care to admit.)

The Mismatched Sock Bin is where lonely single socks go to hit on other lonely single socks until enough time passes that their wayward spouse sock finally shows up again. About once a month or so I sort out the Mismatched Socks. Any socks that remain mismatched for too long get pulled out of the Mismatched Socks bin and tossed into the Rags For All Purposes bin. Hey, I've got a system. So the mismatched red kitten sock really didn't bother me much, I just took it in stride and waited for the partner to return.

Months passed. I started to get very puzzled, but was determined not to toss the kitten sock out because the pair was brand new as of the previous December. Everytime I sorted the Mismatched Socks, that one lone kitten sock frustrated me. And then one day I did an intensive cleaning of the laundry room. I pulled the washer and dryer away from the walls so that I could sweep and mop behind them. I took an inventory of my cleaning supplies. I dusted the spiders webs. I climbed up on top of my washing machine to dust the tops of the laundry room cabinets, and THERE, lurking amidst the mutant dust bunnies, was the missing red kitten sock.

In case you're thinking there's an easy explanation, let me add: I have no cats, no ferrets, and no children. My dog does not climb, and both my husband's and my roommate's senses of humor run much more distinctly toward the intellectual. House-Gremlins, I tell you. The dust bunnies are proof.

"So, what about Box 10?" I hear you ask. "Ah, yes," I murmur, "Box 10."

Box 10 is not a set of keys, nor is it a sock. Box 10 is not even a digital camera (Hey, House Gremlins!! I'm still waiting for the digital camera, you know... I haven't forgotten, and I'm not going to, and don't think I don't know who's behind the disappearance!! (ensuing sounds of grumbling followed by a flurry of galloping dust bunnies stampeding from underneath the bed)). In short, Box 10 is not pocket-sized. Box 10 is 12 inches by 16 inches by 24 inches. Box 10 is not easy to lose. Box 10 contains some Important Stuff. Box 10 has been missing since last October.

We went on a road trip, you see. It was half vacation, half "Come get your furniture and stuff so I can have a sewing room." The road trip lasted a fortnight. The road trip involved a bed-and-breakfast, four yarn shops, a stop at Powells City of Books in Portland, half a day at Lacis, several meanderings along the beach, a weekend at the Renaissance Faire, time with friends, a birthday party, time with family, two dog shows, several appointments with Pomeranian breeders, a new trailer hitch, a rented U-Haul trailer, and a couple of days of packing (This is in addition to the packing that takes place before and after.) In short, October was BUSY! Very busy. We had a blast. We picked up souvenirs at all of the aformentioned locations, and probably would have needed the U-Haul trailer even if we hadn't needed to transport the furniture.

At the tail end of the excursion, we spent two full days packing and loading. There was furniture that Gipsieee was bringing home from her parents' house, there were boxes from Grandma's that had been packed up the previous July and now awaited pick-up, there were the suitcases and duffels of clothing for travel and of clothing for Renaissance Faire, and there were boxes of souvenirs from the road trip, and of childhood and high-school keepsakes. We mailed 3 sizeable but lightweight boxes home by US Postal. The remainder we loaded into the car and trailer until we simply could not fit any more in, and the weight maxed out. (To the very pound! We pulled it onto a truck scale just to be sure we weren't overweight.) We ended up with 63 boxes of varying sizes. Among them, Box 10: 12"x16"x24".

From a selection of sixty-some boxes filled with a wide variety of trinkets, knick-knacks, souvenirs, and what-nots, one might surmise that Box 10 couldn't matter at all, really. One might arrive at the conclusion that the contents of one meager box out of sixty could simply be forgotten, that the abundance of other Stuff in that vehicle would drown out the loss of just a few non-essential items. That each and every item within those 63 boxes could surely not all be remembered, dwelled upon, herded like wayward lambs home to a safe and cozy garage. One might expect that one box missing out of sixty would simply be shrugged off, ignored, forgotten.

But let me tell you that I have looked for the contents of that box repeatedly over the past 9 1/2 months.

Less than a week after we arrived back home I was looking for my new bronze barrettes.

By late November, I was frustrated that I could not work on the needle-lace projects that I'd begun on the trip.

In December I realized I hadn't yet found my acrylic box art project. The effect of that was disastrous! I abruptly lost all momentum on a three-year-running project and have several times since realized that if I don't find those boxes, the project is ended.

I tore the garage apart searching for it, but had no luck.
I grumbled furiously under my breath each time I needed a crochet hook, because nearly my entire collection had been with me on the trip and hadn't returned yet.

Gipsieee wondered where her set of train lanterns had disappeared to.
And earlier this month, I realized that my glass bead necklaces were not, in fact, tucked away with the Renaissance Faire costumes. It dawned on me that they, too, were among the missing.

When I re-located my inventory cards from the packing, I felt confident that absolutely everything that was missing was contained by Box 10.

In the past 9 1/2 months, I have thoroughly cleaned the garage 9 times. It looks worse now than it did before I started. Almost daily I wander through the garage, opening boxes at random in the desperate hope that I may have overlooked one. I have searched every corner of the house. Many times.

And yesterday, during The Thorough Garage Cleaning of August, I FOUND IT!!! BOX 10!!!! (happy dance, happy dance!) It was sitting in the very position that last month was occupied by a similar-sized box filled with old computer magazines. And sure enough, it contained every single missing item that we'd been fussing over. Every single one. Plus a box of origami paper.

House Gremlins, I tell you. House Gremlins.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Back home again

The wedding reception we attended in Santa Barbara this past weekend was fabulous. Good food, good company. Many interesting family and friends of the bride and the groom, and the conversation was fun.

Fearing that I would eat too much from the buffet table, I brought some spinning to keep my hands busy. It didn't help. Somehow I came back from the weekend 2.5 pounds heavier despite the evening's dancing. I shudder to imagine what might have been my fate had I not brought along something to do!

Several people asked about the spinning, and a few (mostly children) even tried their hand at it. I was working from a batt I'd carded up recently and was eager to experiment with. The fiber in question has been decreed to be (by popular opinion) from either a Troll doll or a My Little Pony.

I really did try to behave myself, keeping my spinning discreet while the vows were being exchanged, for example, but alas there is photographic evidence nonetheless.

Coastal Query

The scenery along the coast was lovely, although I do find myself needing to ask:
What is on this island that is so important that it makes it finacially feasible to build this bridge to get to it?

The bridge is five times as long as the island!

On the way back from the wedding we veered off the highway to take a peek, but were thwarted.

Whatever is on that island must be pretty important to somebody.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

On Los Angeles

The alarm roused me at 7. I hit the snooze bar until 7:20. We were out the door at 7:30. I hope I’ve remembered everything important.

At the airport at 8. Bag checked at 8:20. Only 5 sets of people in line ahead of us, but one was trying to check five bags through to two different locations on four different connecting flights with three different airlines. The second was herding three small children, each carrying (and dropping) its own official little identification card. How cute! Have you ever seen a set of five suitcases and a three-year-old, diminishing in size, tumble like dominos? I nearly laughed aloud. Had to pretend it was a cough. No one was hurt. The third spoke very little English and may have been partially deaf. The fourth couldn’t find the necessary identification and kept searching through his bags multiple times before finally discovering it in his pocket. The fifth was just impatient, directly in front of us, and huffing with every delay.

Through security by 8:30. Didn’t have to surrender my kindergarten scissors. It’s always a risk. I’ve lost 5 pair to airport security since 9/11. Boggles the mind. Also made it through: my knitting needles (bamboo doublepoint size 8), my clover cutters (the round brass discs with the notches for cutting yarn), nail clippers, and a CD drop spindle. I suspect that they don’t care if it’s potentially dangerous as long as they can’t identify its purpose. In December 2001, for example, I was allowed to carry in my pocket a Swarovski Crystal hedgehog—weighs about a pound, fist-sized, covered with sharp pyramids of glass—definitely weapon-worthy. But the same security crew took my pair of kindergarten scissors even though the tips were blunt.

Breakfast at the airport. There’s a new addition that is a little shopping area and food court. The service was amazing. It’s great when a place is new and all the best servers are stationed there to get the business up and running. Makes one feel pampered.

I recieved many compliments and questions on my knitting. Wasn’t working on the Noro felted bag after all. Was starting a hat from the top on double-points. Doing the shaping as I go. Experimental. Hope it turns out well enough at the end. Apparently, knitting in three dimensions is pretty special. Knitting with five needles is even more astounding.

Bought Harry Potter 6 at the news stand along with my word puzzle book. Still in shock over the cost.

Boarded the plane at 9:45. Word puzzles to help the plane stay aloft. Didn’t knit in-flight. Decided to read a book instead. Read Mary Thomas’ Book of Knitting Patterns. (Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU Secret Pal!!!) Good read. Nice to have the time to really focus on the book instead of just trying to read a couple pages at a time between other activities. Am now feeling inspired to try many of the patterns described and to run some swatches to see for myself how the structure of the stitches affects the elasticity and density of the resultant fabric.

Touched down a bit after 12. Six hours remain before dinner. Should be plenty to get to our destination, check into our room, and freshen up a bit.

Disembarked at 12:30. Since bags were checked, there’s no rush to get off first, so we wait til last instead.

1:00 reclaim our bag.

1:10 Hertz rental car transport.

1:30 the car reserved for us smells like cigarette smoke. That's not acceptable, especially when we're expecting to be driving for long periods of time. As Shonnon jogs off to check on different options, I stay with the stinky car and our luggage.

The sun is beating down. It’s definitely hotter than the “72 degrees and clear” that the pilot reported during the descent. At least 92. Probably higher. I’m realizing that a black, long-sleeved shirt wasn’t the best option to choose this morning, and am wondering whether I can successfully dig down to the white shirt in my luggage, and whether I'm sun-baked enough to not care about changing shirts in a public parking lot. There's hardly anyone around, after all. Except that we're on the descent path for the jets. Just my luck 350 passengers will all be looking out the windows, all with their digital cameras in hand just at the moment they fly past as I'm standing for that fraction of a second in just my bra, and that's the picture that'll be on the internet the next morning. I decide I can endure a few more minutes of a black shirt.

I wonder if the car is too hot for me to lean against the bumper. As I step forward to find out, I step directly onto a spot of hot chewing gum on the pavement. It's a distinctive feeling, one I remember well from childhood. Back then I thought it was one of the niftiest feelings in existence. Right up there with the squishy-squeaky-swampy feeling of walking around in wet sneakers. I used to actively try to step on chewing gum, just to see how many chewing-gum polka-dots I could make as I walked away from it. I'm not that young anymore. The paper napkin I dig out of the bottom of a bag is not successful at removing the chewing gum from my shoe. Chewing gum is embedded in the tread of my shoe. Chewing gum is plastered across the top of my shoe like silly string. Chewing gum has trailed across my sock. My shoe is not as hot as the pavement (thank goodness!) and the chewing gum has re-solidified. The chewing gum abrades my napkin into linty shreds. My shoe is now covered with linty paper shreds which are adhered to the shoe by chewing gum. Clearly, I am losing the battle. I give up on the chewing gum and read more knitting patterns. Ah, bliss: would be paradise if it weren’t for the heat. I am still standing in the full sun because heat exhaustion is more tolerable than the smell of the car.

2:00 We have custody of a different car. It does not smell of cigarette smoke, it smells of stuffy used car baked in a hot sun. That’ll have to do. Four hours remain before dinner. The drive is only an hour and a half. We should have time for a refreshing shower.

2:30 Still on the 405. Still haven't escaped LA. Traffic is speeding along at the terrifying rate of 5 mph. “How long to the interchange with 101?” I ask. “5 miles.” He answers.

2:45 “How long to the interchange?” I ask. “3 miles.” He answers.

Eventually, I quit asking.

It took us fifteen minutes to drive past the New Getty Museum.

It’s a fabulous museum if you’re into that kind of thing (Art) or if you're into Architecture, or Culture or views overlooking the city. So if you’re in Los Angeles for any reason, I strongly recommend making the time to go visit. Call ahead if you're interested as parking is sometimes reserved more than a month in advance.

The New Getty Museum sits atop a hill, so it is visible from half a mile away.

By "drive past" I do not mean from the time we started the car, I mean from the time the gap in the skyscrapers allowed a view of the crest of the hill overlooking the 405 atop which the distinctive New Getty Museum perches to the time the back side of the hill obscured our view of the building. It took us fifteen minutes to drive that half a mile. We were passed by seven motorcycles. (The motorcycles get to drive between the flanks of cars when the traffic is at a standstill. This fact bothers many people, but my sympathies are with the motorcyclists.)

I must have been in a fugue state from the heat and the mesmerizing boredom as I don’t remember what time it was when we transitioned to the 101 less than three miles later. I do remember noticing that the transition brought a change in traffic patterns. Please explain this if you can: with each city that we entered, there was no traffic whatsoever. We shared the five-lane freeway with five or six other vehicles going in the same direction, and we traveled at full speed. Yet, as soon as we passed the center of each city, we were dead stopped in rush-hour traffic again. (I didn’t know Thousand Oaks had a rush-hour.)The traffic vanished completely as soon as we began to enter the next city, and then gridlocked again as soon as we began to leave it. Once the traffic vanished while we were ON A BRIDGE. Where did it go?

We did eventually make it to our lodgings, barely in time for check-in. We were late for dinner.

On Flying

I hate to travel.

Actually, that statement is a bit misleading. Traveling can be enjoyable enough—a chance to meet new people, see new places, try new food and entertainment. I find driving quite pleasant if the weather isn’t miserable, the traffic isn’t miserable, and the companionship isn’t miserable. Pleasant enough, that is, right up until about the sixth consecutive driving hour. After the sixth hour my muscles tighten and start to cramp. It diminishes the enjoyment factor measurably.

Traveling by rail is quite fun. It takes a while, but it leaves me with plenty of time to relax, think about where I’ve been and where I’m going, and to knit. I enjoy knitting, and I enjoy traveling by train.

I should clarify, then. I hate flying.

Well, no, that’s not true either. The flying part is just fine. I love looking out the window at the cloud formations and down at the patterns of river and road and property demarcations far below. Flying is fine until about the sixth hour when my muscles begin to tighten and cramp, or when the child in the next seat is crying boisterously because his ears hurt or the person in the seat behind mine is pushing or kicking against the back of my seat. Those things all diminish my enjoyment somewhat. As does the fact that I can’t cross my knees without knocking over my complimentary soda. Overall, though, flying is a pretty decent way to travel. How else can one get so far in such a short time?

What I really hate are the take-offs and the landings.

I didn’t always feel that way. I’ve been flying for vacations since I was a babe in arms. By age 7, I had my very own Travel Kit: a bunch of fantastic stuff all packaged neatly into a plastic tackle-box. I had paper, crayons, a pair of scissors, ball of string, a crochet hook, glue, pens, pencils, eraser, a granola bar, a package of Juicy Fruit chewing gum, and a very small deck of cards. I could keep myself entertained for hours. Longer if I got my brother to play with me.

The best part of traveling back then was the take-offs and the landings. We’d watch, fascinated, as the cars faded to the size of ants, and then the buildings were the size of ants, and then the city blocks were the size of ants, and then the entire city was lost in smog. Well, more often than not the city was lost in smog before the buildings were the size of ants. (We did a lot of flying out of Los Angeles International Airport in the Seventies. Does anyone remember Stage Four Smog Alerts?) And we’d watch, enraptured, as the destination city emerged from beneath the clouds, started to form, getting larger and larger until the houses looked like doll houses and the trucks looked like Hot Wheels and then the airplane would touch down on the runway and we’d squeal with delight because we’d finally be able to go run around the airport lobby and get the stiffness out of our legs.

I don’t know what happened. I can still appreciate that there’s joy to be found in the changes of scale and the tricks of perspective that occur during take-off or landing, but now I’m too busy hoping that the runway is clear and we’re not going to hit anything. That no one has left a sharp and dangerous object that might puncture the tire as we land. That the air traffic controllers had a good night’s sleep and are paying attention to which airplane is on which stretch of runway. That the pilot is having a good day and hasn’t had too much to drink.

Actually, maybe I do know what happened. I think it’s that I learned to drive.

I learned to drive just before I turned sixteen. The anxiety about takeoffs and landings may not have set in right away, but I wasn’t flying a lot at the time, so I can’t be certain. For a dozen years or more most of my travel was done by driving or by taking the train. I had the freedom to arrange my schedule for leisurely travel, so I did. I didn’t knit at the time, but I did crochet and draw and write and read books and think about life a lot, so the train was my first choice. I also liked to pack for any contingency, so I liked the roominess of traveling by auto. Flying cost more, particularly if trying to fly during the holiday breaks from school, so I didn’t fly.

But recently I’ve been flying a lot. Okay, maybe not a LOT, since I’m not flying for business or anything, but I’ve been flying at least once or twice a year, and for a while I was flying as often as once a month. And I started realizing that I just don’t deal well with take-offs and landings. You see, I’ve had my share of parallel parking. I’ve backed my car into my garage*. I’ve taken a right turn onto a one-way street that I didn’t realize was going in the opposite direction. I’ve tried to stay in my own lane in fog so thick that I couldn’t count five dashed lines on the freeway. I know how quickly one tiny little thing can go wrong and how little reaction time there is when it does. It’s frightening.

(*As I read this I realize it could be construed as if I've actually damaged the car or garage by doing so. I haven't. But I've always worried about it.)

As for flying, I hate most of all that moment when the wheels touch the tarmac. The jolt and shudder as friction takes hold and the whine as the jet slows in a limited span of runway. Maybe I’d like it better if I could watch out the cockpit window just once, see what the pilot sees. Maybe not.

Instead, I do word puzzles. It’s a ritual. It began as a way to focus my thoughts on something (anything) other than impending doom and the thousand and one ways in which an airplane might not successfully take off or land. By now, it has become a tradition with rules and quirks all its own.

The puzzle book must be new for the first leg of the flight. I purchase it at the airport news stand. I leave the remainder of the book in the airport lobby after my last leg of the journey so that someone else can enjoy the rest of it. I didn’t used to. I used to take them home with me, thinking that I would do the rest of the puzzles in them. I never did. Apparently I only do word puzzles on airplanes. Only during take-offs and landings. I counted the leftover puzzlebooks that I’d collected over the past five years of travel and I was astounded. It took up about three feet of shelf space. I took them to a local hospital’s waiting room and abandoned them there, hoping that no one had noticed me. I can just imagine someone seeing me later at the grocery store and telling the person they’re with, “That’s the lady I was telling you about. The one that brought in the bags full of puzzle books with only three pages finished in any given one.”

I start with the Crypto-lists, if there are any. Otherwise, or if I’ve run out, I’ll do logic puzzles or crossword puzzles. Wordsearches are no good. Wordsearches leave too much of my brain free to wander. Plus, with a wordsearch I find scary words like “crash” or “fiery death” that aren’t even listed in the puzzle clues.

I work in pen. Sometimes I make mistakes. That’s okay. Many people have commented that I must be really smart or really confident because I work crossword puzzles and cryptography in pen. I’m not. Well, maybe I am, but I’m not trying to prove it. I just strongly dislike the feeling of graphite pencil lead on newsprint. Yuck! So I use pen. Doesn’t matter what kind, really, but it’s better if the ink doesn’t soak right through to the other side of the page (and the other pages behind) so I prefer ballpoint. Plus, ballpoint isn’t as prone to leakage after the compression changes of flying. Uniballs hate to fly.

I get help from my traveling companions whenever I can. My husband enjoys helping (or at the least manages to seem tolerant of it. He also manages not to yelp while pulling my fingernails back out of his flesh after a particularly heart-stopping jolt as the wheels touch.) Random strangers in the seat next to me often do not (on both counts.)

I like to joke that working the puzzles is part of what keeps the plane in the air. I work with a fervor and concentration that could well lend an air of credibility to the claim. But really, it’s what keeps me in the air. The plane would probably be fine on its own.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Santa Barbara-Addendum

Smooch is definitely NOT coming with.
Smooch will be spending the weekend in the penalty box.
Smooch has been behaving in a most unsportsmanlike manner for quite some while now, and the referee is fed up.

This weekend, I will be knitting some lovely Noro Silk Garden (purchased on sale--how could I resist?) into a handbag instead.

In theory, I shouldn't have three days left of knitting on Smooch anyhow, so the transport of that bulk of yarn for the final shaping and bindoff and seaming just seems a little wasteful. Besides, the shaping that does remain, and the seaming that follows will command more of my attention than I want to deliver since I'd really rather be socializing! Not to mention that if Smooch continues to act the way that it has, I have no idea how long the battle could last, and the resultant cursing beneath my breath would probably drive away any otherwise friendly conversationalists.

So Smooch is staying home, and I'm going to Santa Barbara without it. I hope it learns how to behave while I'm gone.

In the meantime, I'll be planning my coup. I'm thinking to sneak up on it with lightning-fast fingers as soon as I'm back and whipping it into shape before it can counter-attack. The underdog will yet prevail....

Current Score: Smooch 10, Peacock 2.
Rows ripped today: 3

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Santa Barbara

Heading to Santa Barbara for a friend's wedding reception this weekend.
I'm not packed yet.
I *hate* packing at the last possible minute. Given my preferences, I'd rather be packed for a weekend trip three weeks in advance. It gives me time to figure out that I've missed something obvious (like underwear, maybe?). But here I am at ten pm, not yet getting things ready for packing when my plane leaves the airport at... (um... I haven't actually read my itinerary yet, but Shonnon assures me that we leave the airport some time tomorrow, and I think Gipsieee says I have to be out of bed and moving by 7:30 am.)
We still haven't picked up a wedding gift yet, now that I think about it... In fact, I don't think I've checked their wish lists yet.
I really do love these people! It's not that I'm stalling to avoid anything unpleasant. I'm looking forward to the trip. I have my knitting picked out, and I have my spare batteries charged for my camera. .. as for what to wear, well, I have no clue whatsoever.
I hope I can find the invitation with the addresses of the places we're supposed to be.. I think I saw it two weeks ago under the stack of notes and papers by my computer... (digdigdig..) OhGood! here it is... mapquest... what else am I forgetting? probably underwear. (sigh)

Feeling: Woefully underprepared.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Fun With Hair:

Gig Harbor Renaissance Faire

Didn't stay long, but had fun while we were there. The morning was overcast and drizzly, but it burned off by noon and became rather hot and sunny. Traffic was miserable (Blue Angels weekend might have had something to do with it). Could have brought the dog but didn't know that until after we got there, so doggie stayed home.

On the other hand, I got many compliments on two costume details: 1- the hand-dyed, hand-knit socks that Gipsieee and my husband were wearing, 2- the hand-knit little bags full of random useful things (like dice, tapestry needles, aspirin, celphone...). Many of the hand-knit little bags were also hand-dyed or hand-spun. I had a lot of fun making them--they let me try out lots of different patterns and techniques.

Peacock and Shonnon


Managed to keep myself from buying too much, but I did get a felt hat for my costume and also a pair of carved stone dice.

Yarn Harlot

Went to see Yarn Harlot (Stephanie Pearl McPhee) at Weaving Works (Thursday, August 4) for her book signing tour! What fun!! She's every bit as amusing in person as on her blog. Met some other knitters (hi, Rabbitch! It was great to meet you!), and had a lot of fun. Even managed to avoid buying anything new! .. oh, and got an extra copy of the book signed for my Secret Pal!

Aren't cameras lovely inventions? My favorite feature is the 3-second delay between the time you press the button and the time the camera's shutter opens. This absolutely ensures a sense of mystery and wonder in every picture taken. My other favorite feature is the auto-focus. Isn't the blond lady's hair just stunning?!

(still chuckling over the "bacon powder")

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Smooch 10-Peacock 2

Rows ripped today: 7 1/2.

Monday, August 08, 2005

I Am Not An Idiot!

...but there is something about Smooch that is making me feel like one.

Rows ripped today: 19

Friday, August 05, 2005


This was my tank top this morning:

This is my tank top this evening:

The astute among you might recognize the pattern as "Smooch" --the top I posted about just a week and a half ago.

I had my share of difficulties a year and a half ago when I first tackled this pattern, but in the end it came out all right and it didn't even take all that long. I've enjoyed wearing it, but have wished it had been a better color. And a little longer. And the armholes a little deeper. Little things.

I thought I'd make another one some day. I bought yarn for it. I made notes. The season turned. I tucked the pattern and yarn away for safekeeping.

Time passed.

This month, Summer hit. With it came a seasonal light-headedness that consists of an unreasonable and unwavering conviction that I can start, finish, and embellish all the projects I can possibly imagine. And that they will each turn out fabulous. And that October is "months away." And that it will stay unbearably hot forever. And that tank tops don't really make my arms look flabby. And that I'll get to the gym more often....

In a fit of what I'm certain must have been a case of heat-exhaustion, I started organizing and cataloging my stash resources. In the process, I unearthed one of the yarns I'd set aside for a Smooch-remake.

This is what Smooch2 looked like on Wednesday, July 20:

According to prior experience, I could therefore expect to have a finished top to wear by the following week.

On Thursday, July 21, Friday, July 22, Saturday, July 23, and Sunday, July 24, I searched for the page of notes I had written last time I knitted this pattern.

On Monday, July 25, I gave up on the notes and decided to work the pattern anew.

On Tuesday, July 26, I rediscovered how intensely I dislike working from this pattern as written. I cursed my inability to find the notes I'd scribbled last time, certain that those notes contained all the answers I needed. I labored through the transliteration (deciphering the pattern-author's intent into a set of instructions I could comprehend and follow). I did the math and made notes for the changes I was hoping to make. I checked the math twice. I cast on, and forged ahead.

On Saturday, July 30, Smooch2 looked like this:

I was making progress. Slower than I'd like, as my wrists are still aching a bit and I'm doing my best to not over-stress them, but progress nonetheless.

On Sunday, July 31, I found the notes I'd been searching for. They did, in fact, hold the clarifications that I had needed.

On Monday, August 1, I ran into several problems, and spent almost as much time ripping as I did knitting. Despite this, I somehow finished the front and bound off at the shoulders. The shaping adjustments I'd made even looked good.

On Tuesday, August 2, I cast on for the back. I counted wrong. I knitted when I should have purled. I was missing a stitch. I purled when I should have knitted. I had too many stitches... Five times I ripped back to fix problems, and that was in the first ten rows.

That same evening, friends were admiring the work I'd completed on the front, and Gipsieee pointed out this lovely detail:


I took a deep breath and decided to live with imperfection. It's already off the needles. It's all the way back in the 22nd row from the cast on. No one will notice. The presence of a minor error signifies the work was done by human hands... It's all in the way you look at it, really.

Heady with my decision to embrace the humility of imperfection, I sailed through the next two problems (absent yarnovers) with hardly a second thought. I simply snugged up the yarn a bit to make the extra stitches, and forged ahead. I'm hoping it won't show after washing and blocking. seems okay for now.

Today, August 4, I got to the armhole shaping for the back. I'm not sure exactly why I decided today to match the side seams of front and back. I'm not sure exactly why I didn't realize this should have been done several times before now. I'm sure you can guess what happened.

8 rows difference. 8 rows that I had intended to put in to lengthen the torso. My own alteration, and somehow I neglected to include them. They were missing from the front--the piece I'd already finished and cast off.


After much agony and distress, I concluded that this wasn't a little imperfection I could ignore. It also wasn't the type of mistake that I could just alter a few stitches now and hope for the best. This was a Real problem that required a Real solution.

I did consider making a new back to match the too-short front and a new front to match the elongated back, but ultimately decided that there had been a reason that I'd wanted to elongate the torso, and I probably wouldn't be happy with the shorter one if the longer one turns out as I envision it.

So today I have a tangle of yarn instead of a new summer top.

As a final insult, I discovered this lovely detail just as I was getting ready to rip:

Eyelets are Evil.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Volunteer Plant

I have aspirations of tending a nice garden some day. When I'm dreaming big, I envision a hothouse with tomatoes and orchids, and a huge yard full of plants for the dyepot! A gazebo of stained wood with lots of gingerbread detail at the center where I can sit and knit and sip my tea. A little water garden or pond with a waterfall. Maybe some Koi. Definitely a frog or two. And a turtle. Must have a turtle. Maybe a hedge maze! maybe just a meditation path of painted tiles. An oriental garden section with nicely shaped trees and a well-groomed rock garden. A mossy path. A treehouse. Butterflies! and birds. Lots of birds. Hummingbirds! Swallows! Finches, Canada Geese. .. ducks of my very own, a chicken or two, and at least a pair of peacocks....

Most of the time I dream small. I'm not good with plants these days. I'm not sure I've ever been. I am the only person I know who has dehydrated a cactus and over-watered an asparagus fern.

My successes are hit-and-miss. I raised 13 lemon trees from seed to the age of three years before leaving them in the care of a friend while I went on vacation, only to come back home and find them all dead. I have successfully rooted African Violets from cut leaves. I have kept poinsettias alive through the following year's December. I have encouraged house orchids to bloom for multiple years.

I have also managed to lose through inattention and neglect: English Ivy, Diffenbachia, Spider Plants, and numerous other "easy care" plants.

I do have a theory: I was doing fine before my BFA degree overwhelmed me, and I lost all but the most stubborn of my plants during thesis quarter. I felt so bad and inadequate each time I lost one that I haven't really tried to replace any of them since.

(On a high note, the gerbils survived thesis quarter with health and vigor.)

The house plants caught scale and aphids. The house plants didn't recover well from being watered on the wrong schedules. The house plants suffered and perished. I'm a bad plant-mommy.

I do have a few stragglers still: one trailing vine, a few scraggly aloe (that I thought were dead for sure, but last time I watered them all but one revived nicely), a cactus, and a cute little flowering plant that I can't remember the name of but is my husband's plant--a gift from a friend, so I do my level best to keep it hanging on.

To tend my yard, I contract a gardener. He doesn't do much, but at least it's regular.

I really only try to keep up with one tiny corner of my yard: a planting strip maybe 5 feet by 12 feet between my sidewalk and my driveway. In this planting strip I have lots of bulbs: grape hyacinth, daffodils, tulips from Holland ( really, from the airport gift shop in Holland), irises, and some sort of weird orangy-red tropical plant (I bought one small pot with three teeny little plants in it. Now they're taking over! There are now at least fifteen of the little buggers, and they don't show any sign of ceasing to propagate!). I also have some sweet alyssum, some garlic, some oregano, and some thyme. And a Dusty Miller, and a few Heather bushes.

And a whole lot of weeds. I'm not very good at weeding... It's really difficult for me to pass judgement on who gets to stay and who has to leave. In part this is because I don't like passing judgement on life-or-death matters. In part it is because I can't tell for certain that "Yep, it's a weed, allright..." until the durn thing is rooted so deep that a mule team couldn't unearth it. (doesn't help that the bloody things break off at the soil line nine times out of ten!)

Anyway, at some point this year, in late winter or early spring, a volunteer plant showed up in my bulb bed. I have no idea what it is, only that it seems happy. It has huge fuzzy leaves that catch the dew and the raindrops. It seems impervious to slugs and other garden pests.

It is a mystery. As such, it makes me smile and wonder.

This week it has decided to grow buds. That probably means it will flower soon. Maybe then I will get to find out what it is.....

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Day

Dear Secret Pal,

Thank you so very much!!! A package arrived from today, and I'm absolutely certain that it must be from you! The books you chose are simply perfect, and the timing couldn't have been better.

I was having a miserable day quite beyond description. (No one is dead, no one is injured, the car is still in one piece. Feel free to imagine whatever horrible details you wish that meet those parameters, and I think you might begin to have a grasp of how I've been feeling today.)

And then I got home, and there was a package on my doorstep!! Imagine my delight!

I took my time opening it, savoring the moment of just having a package to hold never mind what is inside. But curiosity eventually got the better of me, and what a fabulous surprise it held! Two knitting books that I have been drooling over! Marianne Kinzel's Second Book of Modern Knitting, and Mary Thomas's Book of Knitting Patterns!

I can hardly wait to try some of the patterns! But first, I'll spend the next week or two reading absolutely every single word! Harry Potter can wait.

Nonetheless, The Day is still being mean to me otherwise. In addition to whatever you imagined previously, you can add that I've slipped on the staircase resulting in a huge bruise on the right shin and a scraped left knee. I managed not to swear or whimper, but only because the pain seemed so trivial compared to the morning I'd had. Also add the discovery that the refrigerator is completly out of Dr. Pepper, sour cream, and tortillas, but that it in fact does have a full loaf of bread (after I told everyone all weekend that we couldn't have french toast because there was no bread in the house) Add a score of other minor indignities and inconveniences, and you'll have a good idea of the rest of the day so far. It can't get too much worse: there are only 3 1/2 hours left.

...And then I catch sight of the books that arrived today, and I can manage a smile in the midst of it all. Thank you, thank you, thank you!