Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kalajoki Socks

I have knit Andrew several hats and scarves.  He is terribly well accessorized with knitwear in the winter.  I have not made him a sweater because he doesn't particularly like sweaters.  I have not knit him socks because he's shown no interest in them.

That's always been fine with me.  I know lots of people who want handknit socks, so it's not like I'm unable to knit them because Andrew doesn't want them.

Or, I should say, Andrew didn't want them.

Recently he's bought a few pair of socks that are thick and warm instead of plain cotton ones.  One evening he tells me that he thinks he would like a pair of knit socks.

I don't have to tell you I had him on Ravelry surfing patterns faster than you can say, "men's unisex sock top down fingering weight."

He found a few he liked, and out of those I chose the Kalajoki socks.  Visually interesting, but not feminine.  The pattern is mirrored, so each sock will be a little different to knit.  The pattern is made by purl stitches, so there are no holes to detract from the sock's warmth.  Perfect.

Andrew found yarn he liked (Socks that Rock lightweight in The Skein with No Name colorway, which isn't available for sale yet because it's part of the 2010 sock club), and I cast on.

The first sock went like lightning, even with forcing Andrew to try it on in various stages (and usually with needles intact) and making up the decreases on the leg as I went.  The first sock on his foot, Andrew deemed it a success.  I smugly cast on for the second sock.

We all know this story isn't going to have a happy ending, right?  Everybody prepared?

I've knit the entire leg and the heel flap before I think to compare the first sock to the second sock.*

Huh.  The second sock is significantly longer than the first.  Turns out, I knit through the end of the chart instead of stopping at row 23 as I did on the first sock.  To make matters worse, I had a row counter from the first sock that still clearly displayed 23.  I knit past the row anyway.


I knit the heel flap again and the neverending gusset and soldier down the foot until I'm ready to start the toe.  Suddenly, I realize that these socks should have mirrored patterns on them.  The wavy line is on the right side of the top of the right foot and should be at the left side of the top of the left foot.

Clearly, that was not the case.  I had been knitting so blissfully that I didn't bother to read the pattern, which very clearly said how to arrange the stitches at the heel flap to get the pattern in the correct spot.**

I ripped the entire foot, the gussett, the heel, and that &*$)% heel flap.

After a tense moment with the sock and the ballwinder, I was back at it, knitting the heel flap for the third time.

After knitting for a bit and not trusting myself to see the obvious, I stop and say to Andrew, "Okay, left wavy on the left side.  Right wavy on the right side.  This is correct, right?"  Andrew looks at the socks and says, "Doesn't the picture show the pattern going all the way to the end of the toe?"

I said, --well, what I said isn't important.  Never mind.  Let's just say that the pattern does not indicate that the pattern continues onto the toe.  I'm confident of this.  I am also confident that 688 other people have knit this sock and posted on Ravelry, and they all seemed to intuitively know that the pattern continues onto the toe.***

Over the next few days, I plan on finishing the second sock and redoing the toe on the first.

I've always thought the Sweater Curse**** was a ridiculous superstition that only served to highlight the already-existing flaws in a relationship, but these socks...  There seems to be something malevolent about knitting for your favorite person.  It's a mystery to me, but one for which I have newfound respect.

*Yes, I know.  Rookie mistake.

**I agree.  It seems strange that I would think that doing the same thing twice would somehow magically produce different results.  Still, I did.

***Okay, maybe it's not intuition.  Maybe it's looking at the picture on the pattern.  No matter.

****Some knitters/crocheters say that the gift of a handmade sweater will inevitably doom a relationship.  You'll be left regretting the hours and money you spent on said labor of love.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Baking

Our office closed at noon.  It was unexpected but very, very much appreciated.

Before we left, Emily brought me some of the delicious things she's been baking.... including peppermint bark.

Before I knew what I was doing, I had a recipe.  On the way home, the car drove me to the grocery.

By 4:00, I had sweet potatoes in the fridge to be baked tomorrow, a cheeseball and a peppermint pie chilling, a coffeecake baked, and a container full of peppermint bark.

It wasn't my fault.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

(Nearly) Instant Gratification

With the completion of the mittens for my mother-in-law, my Christmas knitting is finished.  To celebrate, I'm knitting for myself.

I knit a coffee cup sleeve to use at work.  I sometimes drink cocoa here, and the paper cups they have for hot drinks are so thin that I have to use two to keep from burning my fingers.

Now I don't!  This was knit from scrap yarn I had leftover from another project.  It was ridiculously fast to knit, and I think I'll use it a lot.

It even makes diet cocoa look cozy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Importance of Blocking

I have a delightful mother-in-law.  She loves snow, snowpeople, Christmas, and winter merriment in general.  Since she is lovely and also birthed the most wonderful human I know, I made her fancypants mittens for Christmas.

Before admiring, let's take a moment to note how important blocking is.*

Here is a picture of the mittens straight off the needles.

You'll note that they look kind of wadded up.  That's because they had spent their entire existence up to this point either wadded up in my knitting bag or wadded up in my hands. 

I soaked them for awhile in cold water and Soak to give the wool time to relax.  Then I used my extremely expensive mitten blockers* to stretch them to the shape I wanted.

After they dried, they looked like this:

and the backs looked like this:

I love them and am really pleased with the way they turned out.  Here's hoping my mother-in-law loves them as well.

*If you don't know what I'm talking about, click here.

**Also known as "bits of an amazon box cut up and wrapped with plastic grocery bags."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Very Tiny Bit of the Bug

If you were around last year, you may remember that I had a bit of a falling down with regard to knitted Christmas ornaments.  This year I decided to make only one ornament, which would be given to my in-laws.  Last Christmas, they gave me a kit with yarn and patterns for ornaments, so they deserved to get the first ornament I made from that kit.

It's so adorable that they only reason I've been able to abstain from knitting more is that I'm currently obsessed by these.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

And Then I Remembered...

It's cold and snowy here.

Nobody should be shocked by that.  It's December in the Midwest.

However, there was a news crew on my street this morning broadcasting live about (gasp!) THE WEATHER BEING COLD!!  A tiny blond woman wearing a lot of makeup, a snowsuit, and a stocking cap was flitting around our street chatting about the weather.

I was just trying to walk the dog.

She accosted me with her microphone, brightly saying, "Here comes a woman all bundled up.  You're on Fox Live!  Is it true that the only reason you're out in this weather is because your dog needs go to out?"

Are you kidding me?

"True.  We're going to keep walking now."

"Ha ha!  She's like, 'I'm not going to stop and talk to you.  It's too cold!'"


No, tiny woman, I am not going to stand and talk to you because:

a)  Of course it's cold.  Nobody watching the news needs to hear you dithering on about it.  We know.  We live here.

b) I just rolled out of bed, threw on layers, and am walking the dog.  I do not have the energy to chat with you about the obvious.

c) I have no desire to appear on television.

d)  Even if I did, which I don't, I wouldn't choose to do it directly after rolling off my air mattress.*

e)  My dog has to go to the bathroom.

I thought about being really irritated by this encounter, but then I remembered,

Nobody I love watches Fox News anyway.

*Yeah, that's another story.  We have an old school waterbed.  It sprung a leak on Sunday.  We've ordered a new mattress and are now sleeping on an air mattress on the floor.  It's doing wonders for my temperment.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What I See

I started wrapping presents tonight, and it made me think about the fact that we give lots of Christmas ornaments as gifts. 

This is a new tree we bought from Ikea on a whim.  I have fallen madly, passionately in love with it.  The slightest touch will make the tree wobble and ornaments slide off their precarious perches and crash into one another.  Naturally, we put it outside the cat door because we're smart like that.

Despite its dubious location, it's a great illustration of why we seem to give ornaments that are only used for a few weeks a year.  When I look at this

I see New Orleans. 

When I look at this

 I see Guatemala.

And when I look at this

I see something I made myself when I was hanging out with friends, and I think about all those people who have similar ornaments they made that same night.

Happy decorating to everyone celebrating Christmas in this way! 
I hope everyone celebrating Hanukkah had a great final night.
Whatever you choose to do to celebrate light in the midst of darkness, I hope it's meaningful and gives you joy like this metal, tree-shaped coil gives me.

Happy December, everyone.

Monday, December 6, 2010

I May Not Know Much About Horticulture...

...but when playing Jeopardy tonight at our last Master Gardening class, my team won through a combination of horticultural knowledge (my partner) and an odd fascination with our teacher's ties (me).

Our teacher wore a different tie each class, and he always indicated how the tie tied* into the topic for the evening.  Apparently, I retained that important information and knew three of the five ties pictured for our Jeopardy answers.  I think I also knew a question about evergreens and maybe one about pruning, but it was mostly his ties.

The only reasons why I agreed to play on one of the three Jeopardy teams was that a) team 3 needed one more person and no one was stepping up, and b) I had my eye on one of the prizes.

I am now the proud owner of a Master Gardener bag AND a badge with my name and "Master Gardener Intern" on it.  I have fifty volunteer hours to do within the next year before I get my certification.

For now, I'm going to try to get those knitting projects done before Christmas!

*Sorry about the pun.  How about "related"?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Magic Mushrooms

I used to have headaches.

A lot.

After the gallbladder incident, I'd met my deductible, so I decided to see how deep the rabbit hole went and try to find a way to combat the headaches.*

I'd been to my general practitioner a couple times about it.  He and I both felt certain it was a sinus issue, but the stuff we'd been trying wasn't kicking the pain.  He sent me to an ENT.  After a CT scan and allergy testing, I found that I was allergic to a lot of things, super allergic to a couple things, and that my sinuses were fine.


I went back to my g.p., and he sent me to a neurologist.

My neurologist made me do a bunch of sobriety tests to make sure I didn't have a balance issue, ordered blood work and a MRI, and prescribed a tiny pill that was on the $4/month drug list at giant soul-sucking retail stores.  I dutifully had my blood drawn, explored the cave, and filled the prescription.

I didn't really believe any of it would make a bit of a difference.

But within a week, the pill worked.  IT WORKED.

I've been on the magic pill for three weeks, and my headaches have dropped in frequency from nearly every day to perhaps once a week.  I have one today, and it reminds me how fortunate I am that I have one today and not today, yesterday, the day before that, and probably tomorrow.

Today.  I can handle it since it's just today.

I am thankful.

*See also, "Reasons Why Our Healthcare System Is Broken"

Monday, November 29, 2010

I Feel the Earth (beat) Move (beat) Under My Feet

Today my whole world shifted.  Everything I knew to be true, everything I depended on to make sense, moved two giant steps to the left.

My colleagues and I huddle together around a computer monitor, striving to create stability in the mist of chaos.  We attempt to wrap our minds around the fact that nothing will ever be the same.  We steel ourselves to do the necessary work to take apart our old ways and calculate them within this new paradigm.  We search for tools to help us.

Dear Readers, Weight Watchers has changed their POINTS system, and a banana is now 0 points.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Where Shall We Go?

The luggage tags are finished, and I love them.  I am giving away four and keeping one for myself.

Luggage finders knit in scrap sock yarn, mostly Blue Moon STR

Monday, November 22, 2010

Inside a Cave

One day last week, I spent part of the morning inside a cave.  It's not a literal cave, but it was cavelike, so let's pretend it was a cave.

This cave exploring had been planned for a week or two.  I had spent that time getting very, very worked up about it.

I have a tiny bit of claustrophobia, you see.

This phobia presents itself in odd ways.  I have never, ever freaked out while in a small space.  However, I regularly feel nauseous when I imagine myself in a cave, underwater, or buried alive.*  I recently got a little queasy while watching my pixelated Nancy Drew character flit around in scuba gear on the computer screen.  What if she loses her air hose?  NANCY DREW IS GOING TO DIE.

The day of the adventure, I steeled myself, determined to act like a grown-up even if I felt like a scared three-year-old.

It was perfectly fine.  My instructors were professional, quick, and helpful.  They told me I could keep my eyes closed if I wanted, and it was nice to have permission to play the "if I can't see the cave, it's not really there" game.  I did open my eyes a couple times, just to see if I'd freak out, and I didn't.

Chalk this one up in the "What would I do if I knew I could not fail?" category.

*The buried alive one might not be so much about claustrophobia as it is about... well, being buried alive.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Does Anyone Else Hear That?

I have a problem:  The produce in my kitchen talks to me, and it's not nice.

Tell me again why you have a garden when I, a beautiful squash, sit on the counter for weeks, ignored and unused?

Oh, yeah, squash?!  (Now they've begun to talk to one another.  You know how it is.  This voice comes from the crisper drawer where things aren't all that crisp.)  You were a freak of nature.  She wrote blog posts about your weirdnessI, on the other hand, am beautiful apples that came in her fancy-schmancy produce bin.  The real tragedy here is that I am unused.

Now the spinach speaks up.  She never even wanted me.  I'm from that time she forgot to customize her bin.  It was so much better when she just deleted me from her bin and chose more &*)$_ pears.  Now I have to sit here and go brown and liquidy with you lot of whiners.

The less intelligent fruits and vegetables simply chant, "Why aren't you using me?  I'm beginning to go bad!  Lookatme lookatme lookatme."

Tonight it got to me.  I threw away the spinach and a head of cauliflower.  I mashed the three brown bananas and made banana bread. 

For dinner, I whacked up two big spaghetti squash and three bell peppers.  Naturally, in my haste to try to rid myself of as much produce as possible, I cut way too much and had to cook it in shifts.  I added kosher salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and cumin and then sprinkled the top with a bit of sharp cheddar cheese.

It was... fine.

And now the leftovers are talking from the fridge.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Deco Lace Sweater Finished!

Last Saturday we had an early Thanksgiving with friends.  I asked Brandy to try on her sweater.

Blessed be the yarn, it fits!

No one would know the words I had with the lace pattern.

Brandy liked it well enough that I let her keep it.  
I plan on printing one of these photos and wrapping it for Christmas.

And the people said, "Amen."  

Friday, November 5, 2010

Alpaca with a Twist!

Alpaca with a Twist is a yarn company based in Indy, and I used some of their yarn in the weaving class I took with Mom.  Their yarn is delightful.  I've been keeping up with them on Ravelry and wondering when they were going to post that they were seeking to employ a knit-obsessed individual with a couple degrees in religious studies and some random knowledge about IT, accounting, HR, and grant-writing.*

Although they have yet to post this job opening, they did post a monthly contest on their forum.  Simply post a picture of a project you made (or are making) with their yarn, and they'll randomly pick someone at the end of the month to get something awesome.

Today I received a box of gloriousness from them as the October winner.

Happy knitting, indeed.  This is four beautiful skeins of soft alpaca goodness.

The pictures don't do it justice, but it's late and the light is crap.

I'm going to make something awesome with this. 

It was really nice to come home and find the box.  Andrew and I both worked late, then went to the grocery and didn't get home until nearly 10:00.  I was tired and cranky, and we all know that yarn is an excellent way to combat tired and cranky.

Go buy some Alpaca with a Twist yarn.  They need to sell yarn so they can hire me.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to sit on the couch and pet my new yarn.

*I'm still waiting, but am confident it is only a matter of time.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Conversation with a Colleague

Him:  Hey, B, I have a finance question for you.  (Stops short and stares at me)  You're wearing the Ubiquitous Sweater!

Me:  (quickly evaluates the likelihood of getting out of this conversation and realizes it is hopeless) Pardon?

Him:  The Ubiquitous Sweater!  When I was in Israel, someone was making fun of someone else for buying an argyle sweater.  They said it was horribly out of date.  Nobody wears argyle anymore.  I told them that lots of people were wearing argyle and I bet we would see it all over the place.  We all started looking for it, and it was everywhere!  Argyle sweaters, argyle hats, argyle socks.  We started calling an argyle sweater the Ubiquitous Sweater.

Me:  (blink, blink, and pause)   I have no idea where to go with this conversation.

I still maintain we should be able to say, "Insert appropriate response here" when stuck in these type of non sequitur conversations.  When I rule the world, things will be different.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Surprise Knitting

Tis the season of knitting gifts for the holidays, so while there are lots of things happening, I can't tell you about any of them.

For example, I knit this:

I can't even tell you what to picture because I don't want to give anything away.  You'll just have to think of green yarn and imagine some possibilities.

Then I knit this:

There's a charmingly amusing story that references Super Mario Brothers hooked to this project, but again, I can't tell you.*

If you're on Ravelry, you can see the projects here and here.

Now I'm contemplating what other projects I want to knit for the holidays.  I think these are next.

Image from Skacel, the nice people who made the pattern available for free

They use scrap sock yarn, which is handy since I have more scrap sock yarn than any one person should admit to possessing.

I'm feeling very optimistic about the holiday knitting this year.  I think that's because I'm doing a lot fewer projects than last year.  I have accepted that there is a limit for handknit gifts for most recipients.

Then again, maybe around mid-December I'll crack and start knitting roller skates.**

*Isn't this the best blog post ever?  You can't teach this sort of riveting writing.  You either have it or you don't.

**After you watch this, go to Franklin's store and buy everything.  He's brilliant and deserves to be wealthy.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Another afternoon at the IMA

I'm trying to soak it all in before winter comes.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Holly's Hederas

Over the weekend, we got together with friends to celebrate Holly's birthday.  Holly lives in Germany, so it was fantastic to have her in the States for her birthday.  Andrew and I gave her a CD she wanted, and I knit her a pair of socks.

Hedera pattern, Gemstones sock yarn in Sapphire colorway

We ate at one of my favorite breakfast places--the sort of place where you get two giant pancakes as a side item to whatever else you're eating--and then went to a special showing of.... wait for it....

Back to the Future

Not only did we see the movie on the big screen in all its '80s glory, but they also gave away posters at the end of the show.  I had seen the movie, but not in a long time so I didn't remember much at all.  A couple of my friends dressed up in '80s gear in honor of the film, legwarmers and frosty lip gloss and so forth.  Andrew and I could compete in an International Introvert Contest (except that no one would come because introverts don't do that sort of thing), so all we were willing to do was wear appropriate t-shirts: Mr. Yuk for me and an Oregon Trail one for Andrew.

It was a really fun way to spend a Saturday.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Startling Things I've Learned

Wednesday night's Master Gardening class was on vegetable gardening.  It was the session I was looking forward to the most, and it did not disappoint.  Here are a few tidbits I learned:

1.  Soil temperature matters a lot.  Putting black plastic over your garden soil will help raise the soil temperature, which is good.  Using organic compost will lower it.  I'm certainly not willing to give up the organic compost, but next year I'll put down the plastic to help counteract its cooling properties.  You can cut holes in the plastic for the plants and leave the plastic in place the whole season.

2.  My squash couldn't have cross-pollinated.  I had no spacorn.  I still don't understand the spaghetti squash that the plant produced--it was nothing like spaghetti squash I've eaten before--but it couldn't have been a cross.  I'm deeply humiliated by this.  I took Genetics in college.  I spent an entire semester in the lab crossing fruitflies and counting the progeny.  (Fruitflies with vestigal wings tend to have a high mortality rate.  They drown in their own food.  It's a sad way to die, and it wreaks havoc on your results.)  I know that a cross would produce seeds that were a cross, but the parent wouldn't be affected.

I'm so embarrassed.

3.  Peppers should be planted two weeks after tomato plants.  Peppers are very sensitive to cool soil temperature.

4.  Tomatoes can be picked at the breaker stage, the stage at which there is a hint of color, and allowed to ripen indoors.  They will taste just as good as if they ripened fully on the vine.

5.  I don't fertilize nearly enough.  When the garden is planted, 1 c. of mixed water soluble fertilizer should be used for each plant.  Then it shouldn't be fertilized again until tomatoes are about golf-ball sized to avoid the plant producing tons of foliage at the expense of tomatoes.  Fertilize again two weeks after the first tomato is ripe, and again four weeks later.  If you're using granular fertilizer, you should "sidedress" plants by applying it a few inches away from the plants so the plants don't get burned by the fertilizer.

6.  For gardens and the lawn, water more deeply and less often.  Water so the garden gets very wet, then let it dry out completely.  Lawns, at least bluegrass lawns, can make it 4-6 weeks without significant moisture before there's damage.  In a drought like we're experiencing this year, you should water your yard very deeply once a month.  We, of course, didn't do that, so it will be interesting to see what happens next spring.

Hope springs eternal.  Even though the garden was a failure this year, at least in my opinion, I believe that armed with new knowledge I shall produce wonders next year.  This is why we garden.

And this is why gardening companies stay in business.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An Afternoon at the IMA

Yesterday afternoon I spent a couple hours with fellow students from my master gardening class at one of my most favorite places, the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  I scrawled down the names of some interesting trees and shrubs (like the Beautyberry with its improbably purple berries), but mostly I just enjoyed how lovely it is there.

It was this kind of afternoon

with some of this

and this

and this

and then this.
This is sacred space.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chart Defeated!

At Pumpkin Carving Night, I snagged Kyle to help me decipher the chart.  He is not as confounded by pictures as I am.*

There were pencil marks and measuring and careful counting and cut up pictures of the chart that were taped together and much puzzling.

Today at lunch I successfully knit 3 rows.

What else you got, Knitting Fates?

*What's wrong with WORDS, I ask you?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

5th Annual Pumpkin Carving Night

Tonight was Pumpkin Carving Night.  Here are seven of them:

And the middle one in this picture is the only one that didn't make the above lineup:

Here's a closeup of Andrew's:
The fuzziness makes it more ethereal and mysterious, don't you think?

Mine is this one:
You might think, "Hey, that's just a pumpkin with a bunch of circles cut out of it!  That's not in the spirit of the holiday!!"

To you, I say, "Remember this?"

Image found here.
My pumpkin dressed up like Charlie Brown.

I hope your pumpkin carving nights are as fun (and free of injury) as this one!