Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dyeing Day

What do you do when you get yarn in the mail, like they yarn, but hate the color? You fix it with whatever means happen to be at hand. I like purple, but I detest pastel colors; this was some pastel purple Cascade 220 Quatro--Raspberry Cream. I love Cascade yarn... and since it was on sale... well, there you have it. This is what it looked like before:
And this is what it looks like now. It's not as electric as the picture makes it seem, but it's a big improvement on that awful pinkish-purple in my opinion. There's enough to make a pair of socks, or a pair of mittens and a hat. I'm in love with the Kittyville hat and may just use some of this to knit myself one. There are blue cats, after all. :P

Friday, February 22, 2008

Full of Surprises

So this morning I hied myself to the post office to see what masses of junk mail awaited me. At this time of year, there are a lot of gardening catalogs and catalogs and catalogs. Ahh, but what else was there among all the gardening catalogs and catalogs and catalogs? Three yellow slips indicating that there are three objects of a size that won't fit in the mailbox. Well, says I, that can mean only one thing: Rachael's parcel has arrived! And it was so sweet of her to write "Just consider this a "Happy Birthday" much-belated!".
I wasted no time in trundling home with said parcel, as well as a box from my father. No, I decided, I'll open them after lunch and after I have a cup of tea. By the time I finished my cup of tea and lunch, I was even more agog. I took scissors and cut through the tape... and what have we here?

Well, well, well.. and what else have we here?

I do know this is one of Rachael's favorite TV shows and that she's mentioned using her skills of Latinish to translate the Latinish bits of the rituals and whatnot. Hee! I's so excited. It being that this is Friday and the weather promises to be truly awful this weekend, I intend to make a giant bowl of popcorn and start watching this. :P

Rachael: Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou! I don't know what to say other than thankyouthankyouthankyou. What a wonderful surprise! :-D I'm looking forward to watching these, and I'll try to pace myself. No promises, though, 'cause I might just get so wrapped up in the story that I'll forget to pace myself and be all googly eyed. Thank you tons, dear! Squee! You's a peach.

The box from dad was a reminder that he just spent about a month in Guatemala working to help a coffee co-op get its financial stuff sorted out and see where they could cut costs. From what he told me, the co-op is run by the church and the villagers, some of whom have a couple of acres where they grow coffee, which they pick, sort, roast, and package before exporting it for sale. It being that dad is an economist, he volunteered to help out, and spent a month going over figures and whatnot. He called once to let me know he'd got an allergy to something in the air--possibly volcanic dust and ash--and that he was astonished at how the villagers carry the 60 lb bags of coffee up these steep, almost vertical stepped embankments using a sling-type affair over their foreheads. There are a lot of doctors volunteering in the area, some of whom were from Minnesota, and the chiropractors among them did a lot of tut-tutting over how this method of carrying heavy loads is bad for the spine and neck in the long term. Dad didn't say whether any of them came up with a solution for the problem, though, or what they proposed to do to help the villagers with their misaligned spines. The contents of the box, then, must be Guatemalteco! Dad has contributed another t-shirt for my already vast collection, and this one depicts a scene from the creation cycle "segun el Popol Vuh". I'm not up on Guatemalan cultures or mythology, so I'm not sure who or what this Popol Vuh is; I should probably trot on over to the library to do some research. :P

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fiber Fiends Ride Again

My last experience with a knitting group turned out to be an unhappy one. There's a shop not too far from here where the owner holds meetings a couple times a month; she's not a bad person, but she can be extremely unpleasant if she's not the center of attention and if anyone disagrees with her on certain subjects. This is precisely what happened the last time I took mom to a meeting there, and as a result, mom was disinvited and I was put in the middle. I stopped doing business there because I felt it was cowardly of the woman to put me in the middle instead of addressing mom directly, and because I felt uncomfortable going to her shop after she did put me in the middle.
After you go through an experience like that, it tends to make you wary of situations where something like that might happen again. To my great delight, the meeting last night at Pocket Meadow Farm was completely unlike the experience I had at the other place. On the drive to Pocket Meadow, mom and I talked about it and said, "Okay. After our other experience, these are topics we should refrain from bringing up." As it turned out, a couple of those topics ended up coming out toward the end of the meeting, to wit, town politics and whether zoning is a good idea or not. It seemed, though, that at least a couple of the ladies who were at the meeting agreed with us.
Anyway, the meeting turned out to be a really pleasant experience. Ellen was very gracious and welcoming, and the other ladies also seemed very nice. And everyone seems to have a thing for post-it stickies! I'm guessing it's easier than writing on the books or pattern leaflets they're using while they knit; mom had a different idea, though. She and I have been watching "Dead Like Me", in which post-its play an important part, so when we were on the way home, she said, "Do you think so-and-so is a reaper?"
I laughed and said, "Why do you say that?"
"She had a huge thing of post-its!"
"I guess she could be...."
Ah, the joys of being able to be silly! And it felt really nice to be in a group where everyone at least pretends to be compatible. :) I'd meant to take the camera and take some pictures but, as usual, I forgot.
Oh! And this weekend, Ellen is having a "fiber tasting" to coincide with the annual Water Tasting in Berkeley Springs. This is a big deal, so I encourage people who live near enough to attend both events. Click the button for PMF if you want more details.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Of Hats and Sweaters

This has taken a while, but I'm pleased as could be. It's still not finished yet--sleeves, obviously, and the bit around the neckline--so I'm trying to pace myself and figure out what to do for the sleeves. I think I just want to do them without any cables, but on the other hand, where's the challenge in that? The pattern will be posted as soon as the sleeves are finished and it's been blocked. Yes, I'm actually going to block a sweater, though how I'll do that without a blocking board is still a bit of a mystery.
All the knitting has been due in part to the horrendous weather we've had lately. First there was snow. It was another case of the forecast claiming that flurries were on the way, and then we got two inches of snow. To me, two inches accumulation does not a flurry make, especially when the tail end of it includes little chips of ice among the snowflakes. The night of the flurry, there was a rainstorm even though the temperature was something like 21 degrees. This meant that the following morning everything was coated with ice and the whole county shut down for a day or two until the evil salt trucks could go out and pretzelize the roads. Ick. It was a shame because I was looking forward to driving up to Berkeley Springs for a knitting group being hosted by Ellen of Pocket Meadow Farm. She was nice enough--and certainly wise!--to push it back until next week, and we're all keeping out fingers crossed and hoping the weather stays calm.
Mom's progressed with her own knitting and now seems less inclined to throw things out the window in a fit of pique. She's made a handful of hats from "Knitting Little Luxuries" and now she's working on a kimono-style wrap from "Knitting Simple Jackets". This means that she's learning the art of maneuvering circular needles, of which she recently got her very own pair. She also made herself a nifty little knitting bag with her fearsom sewing machine--that thing hates me, I swear, though one of my friends swears it's just because I don't speak the right language when I'm addressing it.
The Lion got his hat the day before Valentine's--a Jayne Cobb hat a la "Firefly"--and apparently hasn't taken it off since then, which I find absolutely adorable. The Lion is just plain adorable anyway, with or without hats. :P Enough said.
A number of books suggest--nay, emphasize!--that knitters would be well advised to have more than one project going at once to help keep them from getting bored or losing interest in any of them. Since Evil Ambition has just the sleeves left, and since I'm doing a pair of socks on those tiny, horrible needles, I've gone ahead and cast on the yoke for the cabled tunic (pattern is from Lion Brand Yarn); that way I can switch between the three without being attacked by the ennui bug, especially because sleeves always make me feel like they go on forever and ever and ever without me actually making any headway. It's silly, because obviously I do get to the end of the sleeve and, at some point, attach it to the body of the sweater, but it just feels like it takes forever to get there.
Anyway, now that I've got the yoke started, it's requiring some serious head scratching and frowning at the pattern. For the cables, Row 2 is written wrong. It says "K1, k the knit stitches and p the purl stiches to last st, k1". If you do that--at least, this is what happened to ME--you end up with little caterpillars that look like a cross between a chenille bedspread and a bastardized basketweave texture, which is not what you're aiming for. What you're really supposed to do, and what I found out after ripping out the first three rows a couple of times, is that the reverse side of the yoke has to have reverse stockinette and stockinette in the opposite places that the front side does. My explanation is probably just as confusing as the original instructions; the bottom line is that the Row 2 instructions are badly worded and that if you follow them, things get screwed up. This, then, is what it's supposed to look like, and not what happens when you follow the instructions to the letter. Yay, me!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Sticky Wicket

Mother's theory about my knack for picking the most complicated things to try in the kitchen was further proven today when I decided to take a stab at making caramel. After looking on the web at recipes on Epicurious and Cook's Country, I decided to take advantage of the cookbooks hiding in the kitchen. The Joy of Cooking, according to mom, is among the more reliable cookbooks currently in publication. I won't post the recipe here since it's not difficult to find a copy of JoC, but I will say that I made one addition: Vietnamese cinnamon to dust the top, and just a tiny pinch added while the caramel was cooking. It hasn't completely cooled yet, but I'm really hoping it won't end up being of the "hard and brittle, and will likely require a trip to the oral surgeon if eaten" variety.
Happy almost Valentine's Day, lion.. you know who you are. ;)

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Ice Storm Cometh

We had an ice storm early this morning, but it's since turned to rain. The streets are clear and there are people wandering around in town, but the plants and trees are still covered with ice. The temp has been hovering around freezing--a whopping 35 degrees--for most of the day, which makes it perfect for big cups of tea and library books and knitting.