Monday, September 27, 2010

Ray's b-day

We recently celebrated Rachel's birthday.  Rachel loves knitted gifts, and I love to knit.  Obviously, we will be BFF.

I knit her this scarf.  I also knit her a pair of knucks in a thick-and-thin cotton yarn.

Knucks in Ironstone Flake Cotton 

She knew about both those items, so I also made her a surprise: 
Leyburn socks in KnitPicks Stroll Multi, cupcake colorway

I have ideas brewing for Christmas as well.  I keep reminding Rachel that she will need to tell me when she's tired of receiving yarn-based gifts!  Until then, I plan to knit on.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

First Master Gardening Class

Monday night was my first master gardening class.  There were forty-four of us, and apparently there are about the same number in the afternoon class.  We have a wide range of interests, some of which are:

  • I moved from the NE, and I'm used to loamy soil, not clay.
  • I keep learning by trial and error, and I want to have more knowledge so I can avoid killing things and replanting them the next year.
  • I want to grow vegetables organically.
  • I want to keep wildlife from eating my vegetables in the gentlest way I can.
  • I am interested in community gardening.
  • I'd like to grow roses.
  • I grew up on a farm and am passionate about agriculture and want to learn more about horticulture.
  • I recently moved, and my old yard had a lot of sun and my new yard has a lot of shade.
  • I'd like to grow fruit trees.
  • My goal is to have as little grass in my yard as possible.
  • I know nothing and want to know more.

And my favorite:

  • I work in a cemetery and want to learn how to spruce it up--make it look less dead, no pun intended.
We received a giant binder with reference materials and another binder with PowerPoint slides that are used for each lecture.  There is a quiz and answers on the website for each session as well as a "web assignment" to help you explore reputable horticultural websites.  We took a pre-test, and it's the same test we'll take at the end of the class.

The class itself was pretty intense.  It moved very quickly, and I was glad I had a science background.  We spent a lot of time talking about parts of plants, down to the parts of a stem; plant processes such as photosynthesis, transpiration, and respiration; and ways to identify plants based on leaf structure and placement.

I picked up a couple interesting facts:

It is not true that watering in the middle of the day is hard on plants.*

Sweet potatoes are root tissue, whereas white potatoes are stem tissue.  That's why you can sprout a new potato plant from a sweet potato, but you'll only get spindly ick from the buds on white potatoes.

Fruit are ripened ovaries.** 

I think the next few will also be intense because I know so little about each subject.  Tonight we talk about soil and soil diseases, and next week we cover insects and plant pathology.

*Is anyone else's world rocked by that?  I mean, when he explained it, it made sense, but....
** Because I'm a 12-year-old girl, that grosses me out.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Snidely Incognito

Brandy's birthday was last month, but I never posted a picture of a surprise I knit for her:
Incognito Pattern from Knitty, knit in Lion Brand Vanna's Choice so as to be machine washable

It's a neckwarmer with a 'stache a la Snidely Whiplash stitched on.  Because sometimes you need a disguise in the winter.

Let me tell you the backstory of this project:

I find this project.  It makes me think of Brandy.  I am worried, however, that she won't like how close it fits on the face.  I wouldn't like it.  Granted, I don't wear turtlenecks.  I send the link to Rachel.  Does she think Brandy will like this?

Rachel finds a different, less kitschy neckwarmer on etsy and sends Bran an e-mail saying she is thinking of having me knit her one and what does Brandy think?  Brandy thinks it's delightful and especially likes that you can pull it up over your mouth.

Hooray!  I can surprise her with this fabulous knitwear!  I knit and lie in wait.

Her birthday finally arrives.  I am nervous and excited as she opens the box.  Tissue paper is removed, Brandy smiles and says,

"Oh!  You did knit it for me."


"I asked you to knit this for me.  Don't you remember?"


Apparently Brandy and I already had a conversation about this in which she told me she loved it and asked me if I would make it for her.

I don't remember a bit of it, rope friends into doing undercover reconnaissance for me, and knit it for her thinking I'm creating a wonderful surprise.

In related news, I'm probably a good person from whom to borrow money if you don't want to pay it back.

[Note: I survived my first Master Gardening class.  I'll write more about that once I have a bit more time to process.]

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Version of Liquid Courage

Tonight is the first class for the Master Gardening program.

I am anxious.

Don't bother saying, "Why are you anxious?  That's silly!  You want to do this!"  I know that.  I love to learn new things, but being in unknown situations is something I have to force myself to do.  All you extroverts out there should take a moment to be grateful for your situation.  I honestly prefer hanging out with introverts--I understand them, after all--but at times like these a little more extroversion would be appreciated.

Since that's not likely to happen, I did the next best thing.

I bought school supplies.

That frog is covered in glitter.  I figure that I'm going to be one of the youngest people in this class, and someone will undoubtedly make a dumbass comment about my age.  If this is the case, I might as well carry a folder I love.  I can always tell them that I had to wrestle it away from a 10-year-old girl.

The notebook is made of recycled goodness to make me feel a bit better about buying a glittery, nonenvironmentally-friendly folder.

The pens have an ultra fine point of .38mm.*  I write small normally, and my writing gets smaller when I am tense.

I am ready.

Master Gardening class, bring it.

*I am confident there is someone out there who loves office supplies as much as I do, someone who read that and gasped, "There's a .38 mm pen?!  But a normal micro pen is only .5mm!  That's amazing!"  No?  Okay, just me then.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Saturday Morning Walk

This morning, I read the camera manual in an attempt to figure out how to make our camera focus on small, intricate objects better.  There's a "flower" button; I am skeptical about its efficacy.  Nevertheless, thus prepared Dexter and I set out on a long walk with the camera.
Dexter, the best dog ever

We live near an office park, and they've built a pond surrounded by wildflowers and a nice walking track with a couple of bridges.  It's a fantastic place to walk, especially on the weekends when there's no one working. 

I'm very enamored by water lilies and lotus flowers.*   They're gorgeous, but more than that, I love that they grow in mucky water, pushing up and up through the ick until they reach the surface.  I love that something this beautiful can grow in the midst of something so dirty.  It's a fantastic metaphor, and one about which I've thought a lot.

If you look closely, you can see a bud underwater, beginning to open even before it reaches the surface.

This picture is the primary reason I wanted to take this walk:

Besides the lilies, we saw other beautiful things.

I tried to get a great shot of a duck bum, but no luck.  Tricky ducks.

There were bees everywhere.  They were too busy with the flowers to pay any attention to us.

These berries were growing beside one of the bridges.

I think the purple of this grass is beautiful.  When we went to the garden center to buy some ornamental grass for our yard, they said that perennial grasses will fade quickly, so don't get your hopes up that purple will stay purple through the years.  These seem to do fine though.

I would like to thank Zyrtec for making it possible for me to see the beauty of goldenrod.

There were clusters of small pink, orange, and purple flowers.

There's something unabashedly happy about wildflowers.  They are flamboyantly beautiful in the midst of a crush of other plants.

On the way back from the pond, we pass this rock.**  I love the colors on it.

It was a lovely way to start the weekend.  I hope you all are having a delightful day as well.

*Apparently, there's a difference.

**You can tell how dry it is here by how brown the grass is.  That's how our whole yard looks, except for the occasional green weed, of course.

Friday, September 17, 2010


I read something yesterday that brought to mind an incident that happened while I was at seminary.

September, 2002.  A group of Tibetan Buddhist monks were visiting the city, and part of their visit included the construction of a sand mandala of peace.  The sand mandala is an intricate design made of colored sand, painstakingly placed into patterns.  They were scheduled to finish it in the afternoon.

Image from [Accessed 17 September 2010]  

At that point in my life, I didn't know much about Buddhism.  I was a religious studies major in college and went to seminary to get my master's in theological studies.  I interned at the Islamic Society of North America during the January term of my junior year and at a conservative-reconstructionist synagogue the summer between my junior and senior years.  I was fairly well-versed with Western religions, but, like most of us, knew very little about Eastern ones.  

I remember sitting on the floor, wearing a skirt because I'd been at work.  I remember the discomfort of trying to find a way to sit without either flashing the world or sitting on my clunky heeled dress shoes.  I ended up sitting with the heels stabbing me in the bum, trying not to squirm in the midst of all that calm.  I remember watching a few people meditating in their comfortable flowing pants and shirts--smart clothing choices for that environment.  I tried not to feel out of place and failed, even though it was an event in my seminary, a place in which I felt very much at home.  I realize now that nobody cared how I sat or what I knew about Buddhism.  All of us were welcome to experience the blessing of that time and space.  It's something I often forget.

The completion of the mandala was scheduled for 4:00, but the monks weren't ready.  There was a mistake, a tiny portion where the sand wasn't perfectly laid out, and they carefully repaired it until it was perfect.

Some chanting, some praying, some admiring of the beauty of the mandala.

Then the monks took paintbrushes and ran it through the mandala, destroying it.  I knew it was going to happen, but it made my breath catch and part of me wanted to look away.

The image of that moment has stayed with me.  To labor over something so minute, so intricate, so beautiful, and then to destroy it with a deliberate stroke of a paintbrush--it is at once beautiful and tragic.*

The destruction of the mandala was an illustration of the impermanence of everything.  Another way Buddhists teach impermanence is to encourage practitioners to meditate on the mental image of yourself dead, body rotting.  It sounds grotesque, but it's forces you to realize that all this importance you impart to your body is misdirected.  This body is going to become plant food, even though we try to fill it with chemicals and enclose it in vaults to keep that from happening.

The monks then gave a small amount of the colored sand to anyone who wanted some.  The sand was a blessing.  The remainder of the sand was then poured into a waterway (the canal, for us) to travel through the water and bring blessing to the city.

In my head, they had small baggies for us, but they ran out.  In any case, I was searching through my purse trying to find something to carry the sand.  The ceremony had impacted me, and I wanted something to remember it.

And then, I found it.  It was to become a metaphor for my life:

A plastic Tums container that had a partially-eaten roll of Tums inside.  I removed the antacids, cupped the container in my hands, covering the words, and took it up to the monks to have it filled.

For the last eight years, that Tums container has been a reminder to me.  We all live in the midst of paradox--stress and calm, confusion and wisdom, muddy and clear.  Antacids and sacred sand.

It's not a bad way to live.

*I've thought about knitting something beautiful and then ripping it out as a spiritual exercise.  Thus far, I've not found the umph to do it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wordless Wednesday Eve: New Knitting

Okay, since it's not really Wednesday, I don't feel the need to be wordless.  I wanted to share a picture of the sweater-in-progress.  I love the fabric!  It's very pretty, stretchy enough that I'm not all that worried about the fit, and  an easy enough pattern to work while watching telly.

#17 Cable/Lace Cardigan from Vogue Knitting Early Fall 2010, 
Patons Classic Wool in Royal Purple colorway

Vogue is rather unimaginative with their pattern naming.  The description refers to it as an feminine update to the smoking jacket.  I'm currently wavering between calling mine my Nonsmoking Jacket or my Nonsmoking Cardi.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Summer Socks

Although I didn't knit at the cabin, I did finish a pair of socks before I left.

Summer Lovin' pattern (Ravelry link),
KnitPicks Felici yarn in Rainbow colorway (discontinued colorway, I think)

I often have trouble finding patterns I like to go with self-striping yarn. I really like this pattern though.

The designer said she designed this as part of a Cookie A class.  It makes me think...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Holiday

Andrew and I had Thursday and Friday off.  Thursday we went to the Cabin, and I spent three and a half days on my bum.  I didn't knit a stitch.  I read three books and several magazines.  I sat on the deck in a pink plastic Adirondack chair and drank coffee and rubbed the dog's belly.  Occasionally I'd take a walk.  It was glorious.

On Thursday afternoon when we got there, Andrew and I cleaned like banshees.  The cabin belongs to my Grandfather, and it belonged to my Grandma's parents before that.  I never check with Grandfather to see who has been there last, and it's always a bit of a crapshoot in terms of cleanliness and supplies.  We're not clean freaks by any stretch of the imagination, but at home we know it's our dirt.  At the cabin, well, you're just not sure what you'll find.  For example, this trip we found one flip-flop, one little girl's Hannah Montana shoe, and this:

Yes, the couch is hideous.  I don't understand where they come from.  I don't remember anyone in my family having a couch this ugly, yet all the couches at the cabin are atrocious.  It's a mystery.

Another mystery is why, when I lifted the cushion to vacuum, I found a zoo of plastic organisms.  One plastic organism is understandable, but I can't believe that anyone accidentally lost a couple ecosystems down the couch cushion.  This leads me to believe someone put them there on purpose.  It would appear that someone in my family is part squirrel--hiding things and then forgetting where they are.  Part of the challenge of sharing a space like this is that we don't want to throw away other peoples' things, which is why there is now a Hannah Montana shoe and a bunch of plastic organisms on the mantle.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Liars AND Tormentors

Everybody knows that swatches are liars.

Much has been written on the subject in the knitting world.  You knit a swatch--a small sample of fabric--and measure it to see if your measurements are the same as those called for in the pattern.  If you don't pay attention, your knitting will screw you.  The truth is that even if you DO pay attention, your knitting will screw you.

Yet, I continue knitting them as an offering to the Universe.  It appeals to my sense of fair play: I make a swatch to show I'm serious.  The Universe then rewards that action by allowing me to knit a product that actually fits someone.  (I choose to ignore the fact that the Universe has a different perspective on fair play.)

Tonight I started swatching for this sweater (ravelry link).  I faithfully knit a swatch larger than the 4" square required in the cabled pattern.  I bound off.  I prepared to measure.  I checked the pattern for the number of stitches required for the 4" measurement.


The gauge swatch was supposed to be knit in stockinette.  It was supposed to be flat, not in the cabled pattern in which the sweater is knit. 

It's okay.  I can take it.  I didn't read carefully, and this is what happens when I don't read a pattern carefully.  I just need to rip it out and reknit. 

So I did.

Ready to measure, I checked the pattern for the correct number of stitches.  I counted. 


Not the same.  Okay, well, that's certainly possible.  Just because I'm using the needle size the pattern recommends and the exact yarn the pattern recommends doesn't mean I'll get gauge. 


I take a more careful look at the pattern.

Stockinette, right.  4", right.  15 sts, right.  21 rows, right.  Pattern #18.


I had knit the first gauge swatch correctly.  When I went to check those measurements, I read the gauge instructions for the next pattern in the magazine, ripped out the correct work and reknit something that is completely wrong.

Even I underestimated the swatch's power and its inclination toward evil.

I'll start again tomorrow.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Karmic Balance

Friday after work I steeled myself and headed to Goodwill. 

I hate shopping in general, but I carry a special loathing for clothes shopping.  I'm not terribly good at getting dressed at all and feel like the whole thing would be much easier if we all wore comfortable uniforms to work.  But recently I have been convinced of the wisdom of shopping at Goodwill.  I summoned my inner Rachel, reminded myself that a) buying clothes from Goodwill feels more socially responsible than buying clothes from a big box retailer, b) it certainly would be cheaper, and c) I have had good luck there before.

One of the things I enjoy about Goodwill is that I can pretend to be someone I'm not.  Have you seen the Target commercial about the woman buying a hat?  That's me at Goodwill, except the hat costs me $3.  Yesterday I bought a fantastic beaded sleeveless shirt that someone much more stylish than me would wear to the symphony.  I go to the symphony.  There's no reason I couldn't be the sort of person who would wear a fancy beaded shirt, and I'll get the extra kick of knowing that I spent $4 on it.

That wasn't the real success of the trip, though. 

I do want to warn you that what I'm about to say is quite shocking.  You will assume I'm a liar.  I would do the same if I were to read this on your blog.  What I'm about to say is utter madness.  The Universe simply doesn't work this way.

The first and only two pairs of jeans I tried on fit.

I'm hoping this is karmic balance for work being so crappy the past few weeks.  Either that or I'm about to be hit by a bus.

You can cremate me in jeans and a beaded top.  I'll pretend to be the kind of person who can pull that look off.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Market Bag

I really like the idea of using reusable bags while shopping.  I always fail to remember to bring enough to handle a serious grocery trip, but I do find that I use the single one I keep in my purse quite a lot.

I've been looking at the various knitted bags for some time now.  I just finished a Knitpicks pattern with some very inexpensive Sugar 'n' Cream yarn.

Montavilla Market Tote in Lily Sugar 'n' Cream cotton, Summer Splash colorway 

The pattern itself is fine.  The color choice is not.  I have some washcloths I've knitted out of this colorway, and they're lovely.  However, this much color on this large bag is just no good.  I keep trying to think of someone who would adore yellow, lime green, and sky blue in a market bag.

Huh.  Reading the colors, I would like that bag.  But looking at it.... no.

Despite the color problem, which is obviously no fault of the pattern, I like the concept of this bag.  It has a five-row lace repeat for the sides, which makes it very stretchy.  The bottom is a square worked in a woven stitch I don't think I've ever used that creates a very sturdy fabric.  That same stitch is used again to work the band around the top and the handles.

The handles are pretty snazzy in that they're worked like giant buttonholes.  Everything is knit in this project.  Often patterns for bags have you knit the handles separately and then sew them in.  Not only is this a pain in the tukhus because you're knitting tiny rows and constantly shuffling the project, but it's not very sturdy.  I'll be interested to see how these handles hold up.  Conceptually, it seems to me that they have a better chance of survival.  They certainly were more enjoyable to make.

Without working hard at all, this bag held a jar of peanut butter, a bottle of olive oil, a canister of bread crumbs, a box of Clif bars, and a leek-- you know, everyone's weekly grocery list.  There was plenty of room for more even with all that loaded.

Now if I can just remember to carry it into the store....

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Still Here

I'm still here, in case you wondered.  This is an unpleasantly busy time of year at work, and my brain is mushy when I get home.  I've been walking, knitting, watching baseball, petting the dog, and eating frozen food.  That's about all I can handle.

It'll be over soonish, and then I've got a sweater to show you!  (And a bag, but I believe I don't like the color of the bag.  I'm nearly done with it and still trying to convince myself that I do like it.  Not a good sign.)

Reminder to me:  Buy buttons.  Sew them on.  Take pictures.