Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Finally, Some Edging

I've finally gotten around to applying the edging to Miss Lambert's shawl. It's a very easy edging to memorize, so once you get the fiddly starting bit done with, you can sail along. Of course, the shawl is supposed to block out to 60 inches, so that's quite a bit of sailing, in the end. But it is going pretty quickly, and it's enjoyable to do. I think the edging really does make the piece. The central pattern is nice, but kind of boring. The edging adds just that little bit extra to make the shawl pretty.

I have my eye on another shawl from that book, too, but I'll keep it a surprise until I cast on (if I cast on, that is.)

I'm an ADD knitter, if you haven't been able to tell yet. I'm so full of things I want to knit and design, that I could have 20 projects going at once if I didn't discipline myself. Every yarn I see inspires me. Cables, fair isle, lace... the more the merrier. Lately, I've been in a lace frame of mind, but that doesn't mean that I'm not going to give in to the lure of the cable needle soon, too.

Right now, I only have the shawl and two pairs of socks on the needles. Both the sock patterns are pretty simple, so they're my backup knitting. I still want to knit one of those gorgeous doilies, and a shawl, but it's been a while since I had a sweater on the needles. The knitting on Autumn Rose was finished back in December. Seems like ages ago.


So Edwards and Giuliani are out. I'm a bit surprised by Edwards. I thought he'd stick it out until after Super Tuesday. I had to laugh at HRC's claim of "victory" in Florida, a state in which no Democrats campaigned, and in which no delegates were awarded, due to some internecine Party warfare over primary dates. Seems she wanted to reclaim some momentum and glory after losing in South Carolina, but I think no one is fooled. If she wants to regain her footing in the campaign, she should talk substance, forget the spin, and forget the wargames. Make us see WHY we should vote for you.

Now that Giuliani is out and Huckabee seems limited to a few evangelicals, the race has narrowed down to McCain and Romney. McCain vs Clinton seems an easy race to handicap. A McCain vs Obama race would be very interesting, indeed.

Monday, January 28, 2008


You didn't think I'd forgotten about my poor Autumn Rose, did you? A brief recap, for those who are late to the party: I did several gauge swatches for AR, until I finally got gauge. Knit happily along, steeked, did the neckband, tried it on, and... big. Way big. The sweater that was supposed to be 39" around was 42" around, which, given that the sweater is supposed to be snugly fitted, was a big deal. I've been slowly but surely weaving in the ends so that I could see what, if anything, I could do to salvage the sweater.

The first thing I attempted was a gentle hand-fulling. Remember, this sweater is knit out of shetland wool, which fulls up if you if you so much as sneeze on it, so I didn't want to try anything too risky and end up with a pretty placemat. So I dunked the sweater in hot water with a little Soak, kneaded it about for a while, then rinsed it in cold water. Pinned it out and discovered that it was now 41" around. Still way too big.

At this point I figured, what have I got to lose? So I threw it in the washing machine (front loader) on delicate (warm water wash, cold rinse) with some more Soak and one washcloth to provide some friction. This time, the sweater came out measuring a little more than 39" around, and the stitches were nicely fuzzed up:

Unfortunately, still too big, especially around the shoulders and the hips. So, throwing all caution to the wind, I threw it in the wash again, same cycle, but with a pair of sweatpants and a tee shirt for some more friction. This time it came out measuring about 38 inches, and sort of fits. It's still a little bit loose in the shoulders, but I think it's doable:

(The picture looks a bit funky because it was taken without a flash and then enhanced.) See how the shoulders kind of stand up on me? Like I said, it's wearable, but not perfect.

I also got my first Rockin' Sock Club shipment this weekend. I joined this year for the first time, almost against my better judgment. I'm not a rabid fan of Socks that Rock, but thought it might be fun to try something new, move out of my comfort zone. I'm not exactly sure how much I can reveal under the super secret rules of the club, so no pictures. The yarn is a color I would probably never have chosen for myself on my own, but there's something nice about doing something different. It's not hideous, at least. And I have to admit that the yarn is much softer than other STR that I've used in the past, so knitting with it isn't painful. I've cast on and worked about halfway down the leg of the first sock. The pattern is easy, but tends to get lost in the overwhelming COLOR of the yarn. I've also started a plain toe-up sock in the Smooshy pictured in my last post. I still love the color. In fact, I love it so much that I went back to Loopy Ewe (love them!) and ordered a bunch of the worsted weight Dream in Color in that colorway to make a sweater. Now, design ideas are aswirlin'. That yarn should arrive today.

I haven't forgotten Miss Lambert's shawl. I haven't had enough concentrated time to sit down and start the edging. 20 minutes here and there is great for socks, but not for lace edgings. Today is a "teacher work day," so the kids are home, Thursday I have plans with friends, tomorrow I need to take S's car in to be inspected, but I should be able to sneak in a bunch of knitting tomorrow while I wait.

That just leaves politics, I guess. I read a great article in the New Yorker last week comparing and contrasting Obama and Clinton in terms of their visions of the Presidency. It's not anything terribly new, but it provided some nice analysis. The general idea -- referred to elsewhere as "inspiration vs perspiration" -- is that Obama's vision of the Presidency is one in which the leader sets the agenda and inspires others to fulfill it, while Clinton's view of the Presidency has the leader working with Congress, international leaders, etc. on the nitty-gritty details and knowing how to maneuver agencies to get things done. Obviously I think a good President has to do both -- inspire and be able to get down in the trenches to get things done. But I think this is a valuable debate, and probably explains why I've been unable to decide whom to support. I can see the value of the inspirational leader in motivating people to step up and participate in government and in making the country a better place. When I worked in the government myself, a lot of my supervisors were people who had come to government because they were inspired to by JFK. They were passionate about their jobs and making the world a better place. Those are the kind of people we really want in government! I can also see the value of having Obama as President in terms of (hopefully) finishing up a lot of the work of the civil rights movement and in terms of bringing the relationship between black and white in this country to a newer, better level.

On the other hand, I also know from my time in government that a lot of government action comes about because of the maneuvering, prodding, pushing, and hand-holding of a lot of people up and down the line. Experience -- especially international experience -- cannot be underestimated, especially because of the complexities of the situation in the middle east. The next President will have a big job on his or her hands (how cool that I can type that!) undoing the mess that our current inexperienced President has created. Critics say that Clinton's time as First Lady doesn't count as the type of international experience that is needed right now, but I don't necessarily agree with them. It's not the best type of experience, but I don't doubt that Clinton studied well during her time as First Lady and has a lot of nuanced knowledge and personal experience that she can bring to the table. I'm not sure that Obama has that kind of experience, frankly.

So there's the dilemma -- inspiration or perspiration? It's not quite that simple, because you have to factor in personality and history as well. Can Clinton work effectively as President or will people who disagree with her turn into enemies, as they did during her husband's terms? She seems to have earned a reputation as a Senator who is able to work with anyone, even the impeachment managers who targeted her husband. But her campaign...

... there's the ugh factor. Can I get over the campaign missteps, Bill's strident and overzealous defenses? I have until February 12th to figure this out.

* Meanwhile... is a great kid's book, by the way.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Birthday Interlude

That's my little cutie :) He turns 7 today. He is a bundle of energy, and has been from the start. I'm glad he was number 2, because, as great and sweet as he is, I probably wouldn't have had another one after him. Sr. Jr. was a relatively easy baby, who took regular naps and would eat whatever was put in front of him. Not this one. I finally gave up on trying to get him to take naps when he was a year old. Not that he took naps before then, just that I tried hard to get him to take them. It was a very painful process and always ended in failure. Finally I gave up and decided that if he wanted to stay up all afternoon and be cranky and miserable in the evening, he could. Only it didn't work out that way (thank goodness!). He stayed awake all afternoon without getting cranky in the least. It was some small measure of consolation that if my baby/toddler wasn't going to take naps, at least he'd be sweet and funny while doing it. In fact, I used to have to take him and Sr. Jr. out into the backyard to have running races in order to tire him out to go to bed at night! So, while *I* needed him to take naps for my sanity and for any hope of getting anything done, he felt differently.

He also doesn't really eat anything. Sometimes I think he subsists via photosynthesis.

He is whip-smart, not in the "look at me! look how smart I am!" way of his older brother, but in his own quiet way. When he was 3 1/2, and his friends were learning how to say the alphabet, he was reciting it to me backwards. In kindergarten last year, his mind would wander during circle time, so he ended up memorizing all the state capitals. We discovered this while at lunch with some friends one afternoon. Sr. Jr. and his friend quizzed him over and over, amazed that this little wisp of a kid knew so much. (We won't discuss the time Jr. Jr. showed up Sr. Jr. when learning how to count to 10 in Spanish.)

Jr. Jr. is a sweetheart, too. Maybe it's a younger sibling thing, but he always thinks of other people. When I asked him what kind of cupcakes he wanted me to make for his birthday celebration at school today, he said, "I want chocolate, but Will doesn't like chocolate, so make sure you have at least one vanilla one for him." (I bought the vanilla ones. I'm not that much of a domestic diva.)

One of the best things about my little guy is how funny he is. The funniest things come out of his mouth almost effortlessly. I don't mean the same, tired old jokes that every mom for generations has had to find completely hysterical, but things that are unique to him. One time he came out with "that's sillier than a ball of earwax!" It's become a family saying. The picture above was taken over the summer during our vacation in Yosemite National Park (the Mist Trail, to be really specific). On one of our other hikes, we were talking about how beautiful it was to be out there, but we really didn't want to run into any bears, because bears were dangerous. "It's just Nature's way of saying 'I hate you!'" he explained.

He can shake his booty better than anyone I've ever seen. He'll throw in "I'm sexy. Uh, huh. Oh yeah, I'm sexy" just to make it even more funny.

He's cute, he knows it, and he knows how to work it. He can bat his eyelashes with the best of them. Sometimes it's very hard to be stern with him when he's done something wrong, because he's so darn cute. Other times, it's quite frustrating when you want him to take something seriously and he's trying to be cute.

Happy birthday kid!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


The Dove socks are finished.

The birthday cupcakes are finished. (Have you ever thought about how disgusting supermarket icing is? It's really just Crisco, three different kinds of sugar, artificial flavorings, and preservatives. Yuck! No wonder I scrape it all off my cupcakes.)

On the left is what was left of the skein of Alpaca Cloud after I finished the body part of Miss Lambert's shawl. The whole body section took less than one skein of yarn. I did wind up a new skein for the edging, because I don't want to run out of yarn in the middle of the edging. I still really want to start that, but still really haven't had the time. On the right is a skein of Dream in Color's Smooshy in the In Vino Veritas colorway. Here's a closeup of the color:

Alas, my picture taking skillz aren't up to capturing the beauty of this yarn, which is like Prozac to me. It looks like a swirl of raspberry sauce, or the coloration on a beautiful rose. Just looking at this yarn, I can feel the synapses in my brain soothe themselves. I may just sit in a corner and look at it all night, smiling dopily. I'm trying to decide what to do with it. The lazy part of me just wants to do a plain, toe-up sock with no adornment or decoration whatsoever. Pure process knitting. But the yarn is so beautiful, doesn't it deserve a beautiful design? Any thoughts?

I just joined the Knitting Blogs webring, so welcome to all the new people who are stopping by! I'm glad to see you, and hear what you have to say in the comments. I may rant sometimes, but I'm really quite nice :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Viral Weekend

I hate getting sick. As much as I would like to be, I am not one of those strong women who laugh in the face of illness. I immediately become convinced that I'm dying of some horrible disease, some wandering tumor. This weekend it was just a minor thing, but I was whiny and depressed. Well, I was too sick to knit for a while there, so who wouldn't be? I shudder to think what would happen if I ever were diagnosed with something truly threatening.

So some knitting got done, but not much. It was also a three day weekend for the kids, which eliminated much of Monday. I had a doctor's appointment today, tomorrow is early release for the kids, Thursday is Jr. Jr.'s birthday (7! must bake cupcakes to bring to school!), Friday is the fifth grade ice cream social (afternoon) and the school-wide 70's revival dance (evening), so it's going to be a slow week overall. And this coming Monday is once of those wonderful and well-timed "teacher work days," so I look forward to another short week next week.

I did finish the main body of Miss Lambert's shawl:

Still not much to look at, in it's unblocked state. I haven't started the edging yet, because I'd like to have some concentrated time to get a few inches in, but... see above. So I got back to work on the Dove socks, and am not far from completing the second sock.

I'll be happy to finish these. I don't love knitting with Socks that Rock yarn because it feels so harsh and twiny. I can't wait to see how these soften up in the wash. Hopefully they'll turn out soft enough that I won't dread knitting with this stuff again, because I have more of it. Here's a close up of the Raven colors, as best they can show up on this grey and pre-snowy day:

Now I'm looking forward to starting a new sock, in a nice, soft yarn, probably some Dream in Color Smooshy. Love that yarn!

The other disadvantage of being sick was that I was too woozy to follow closely what was going on in politics. My general impression is that the Democratic race is getting nasty, which isn't good for the party, and the Republican race is still fairly fractured. On the Democratic side, I can't help but think that the nastiness being attributed to the Clintons is only going to work, ultimately, in Obama's favor. The Clintons seem to be alienating one of their prior core constituencies -- African Americans. Not a good strategy. All Obama has to do is avoid playing along with them and he comes across as more statesmanlike. I still think that the differences and similarities between them are quite worth parsing out in a non-acrimonious atmosphere. Perhaps I say that just because I'm still undecided and feel like I want a lot more clarification on some of the issues and where they really stand.

On the Republican side, Thompson is out. Will Huckabee be next? I hope so. But then again, I value the Constitution as it stands and don't want it to be "brought more in line with God's laws" or whatever it is that Huckabee's been claiming out there in (certain) speeches to (certain) audiences. It will be interesting to see if Giuliani can, as he claims, win in Florida. That would really throw a monkey wrench into this primary season for the Republicans, who are already contending with a big Romney/McCain fight.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Snowy Day

This is what it looks like out my front door this afternoon. It's pretty, but it's heavy and wet. Just after I took this picture, the snow started changing over to the Washington area's typical "wintry mix." Yuck. I hope that school isn't delayed tomorrow morning.

I'm now about 2/3 of the way through Miss Lambert's shawl:

Still looks like unblocked crap. I'm bored with this section now; I'd like to get onto the edging. I'm trying very hard not to cast on for anything else right now, because I'd also like to finish my Dove socks soon. But I might slip up and accidentally cast on for one of those doilies I've been dying to knit ;)

Virginia's primary is on February 12th. In recent years, Virginia has been considered enough of a stronghold for Republicans that we don't see much campaigning here. Luckily, we are close enough to DC that we have amply opportunity to stay informed on the issues and the campaigns. Having neighbors who work on the various campaigns also helps. This year we may see some campaigning, for two reasons. First, it's entirely possible that the nominations for both parties will still be in play by February 12th, even though a whole honkin' bumload of states hold their primaries on the 5th. Second, Virginia has been trending more and more Democratic over the past few years, so we may turn into a battleground state. While I look forward to the chance that candidates might actually pay attention to us, what this really means is that we'll be inundated with horrible negative ads, push polls, and autodialing come general election time. That I can live without.

Sorry I don't have much more to add, but I'm sure I will soon.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tricks and Treats

(I forgot one of my biggest knitting True Confessions the other day. Wait for it. OK: I can't stand feather and fan stitch. I know it's one of the basics of the knitted lace world, and, as such, is virtually sacrosanct, but I just don't like it. There. I feel better. Confession is good for my soul, if there's one in there somewhere.)I

It's gotten cold here again, so I got out my Fir Cone Wrap to wash and block. Recently here at Chez SLWY we had a bit of a m*th problem. S & I got this great wool rug for the bedroom which had apparently not been reliably m*thproofed. Hijinks ensued. We did lose some woolens (and the rug), but most of my hand-knits survived, because they're always kept out of sight. None of the stash was affected, either. However, I did have to wash/dry clean every item of clothing I own, bag it up, and wait for the exterminator's voodoo to work before I could unpack everything. I washed up the Fir Cone, but was too busy with all the rest to block it, so I just folded it up and put it away. Here it is, duly blocked:

It's not done drying yet, so I can't give you an artsy fashion pose. I knit this about 3 years ago, from a cone of alpaca/wool fingering weight yarn I bought on eBay. I think the name of the company I dealt with was Alapaca Amore. The yarn is wonderful and the price was great. I bought several large chunks of yarn from them and they were mostly easy to deal with. In one shipment, they even included an adorable little alpaca teddy bear, which Jr. Jr. immediately scooped up, named (aptly) Soft Little Bear, bless his literal little heart, and hasn't let go of since. The wrap is just your basic fir cone pattern from one of the Barbara Walkers, knit on forever.

I'm still working on Miss Lambert's shetland shawl, too. I'm almost halfway done with the main body section. Here's an unexciting picture:

I took a little jaunt to my LYS today, too. I love the Alpaca with a Twist fino yarn so much that I decided to invest in some more for future projects, many of which are swimming around in my head. Look at these colors!

I think the white and off white will be for a doily pattern or two to frame. The purple and the black will be for shawls and scarves. Yum.

Kippi asked in the comments on my last post what I thought of the most recent kerfuffle between Clinton and Obama. To briefly recap, Clinton said something dumb about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Obama's camp is crying foul. Accusations of racism are being aimed at the Clintons, and accusations of unfairness are being thrown back at the Obama campaign. It's an interesting study in the art of campaigning, that's for sure. Hillary originally said something about how MLK Jr. was great and all, "but it took a President, Lyndon Johnson, to get it done," meaning that Johnson was the one who signed the Civil Rights Act into law. Do I think this was stupid? Yes. Hillary, as a longtime activist, knows full well that the Civil Rights Act wouldn't even have been a glimmer in anyone's eye without all the activists who did the dirty work -- sometimes at the cost of their own lives -- of bringing the issue to the political forefront. As a senator, she should also know that there were hundreds of congressmen and senators who did the dirty work of hammering out the bill and getting it passed before it could get to the President's desk to sign. So, no, it did not take a President to get civil rights enacted into law. It took a nation.

On the other hand, do I think that Hillary is racist? Not at all. Both Clintons have worked in civil rights for so long, and have such solid reputations in the black community, that I can't for a minute believe that she's at all a racist. I think she meant that activism and government go hand in hand to get things done, and that she would, as President, continue that tradition. Unfortunately, she didn't say it quite like that.

I am bothered by the quickness of the Obama camp to cry racism. I feel like they're playing the race card here in order to shore up Obama's standing in the black community. Remember, up until recently, Clinton led in support among African Americans. Many prominent black leaders back her over Obama, because they know her and her husband, and what their positions and feelings are.

The Obama campaign is doing the same thing over whispers about his prior drug use. They turn any question about his admitted prior drug use into an attempt to portray him as nothing better than some street dealing thug. Does anyone remember the flap over "I didn't inhale?" Clinton's been there and done that. They've been under that same microscope. So, while it may be unfair of them to do to Obama what was done to them, I doubt it was meant to appeal to people's racist fears.

Bill Clinton has come under fire, too, for calling Obama's allegedly constant opposition to the Iraq war a "fairy tale." He raises some interesting points about things that Obama said early on that indicated he might support the war. Obama says that his remarks were made around the time of the last Democratic convention, when the candidates were supporting the war, and that he didn't want to say anything to contradict or undermine the candidates. That is a reasonable explanation, and I'd like to hear this play out a little more. But spinning the story as Bill Clinton calling the Obama campaign a "fairy tale," meaning that a black man couldn't win the presidency, is again playing the race card.

Until recently, I had been very impressed with the Obama campaign. He had been running with honesty and integrity. I'd hate to see the campaign degenerate to a point where every criticism becomes an accusation of racism. If that happens, they're playing right into the Republicans' hands.

Ultimately, this is a story of two candidates who are very close in the polls and in their positions. They will use anything they can to gain sympathy and voters. The pundits all said that the candidates who won in Iowa won because they didn't go negative. There's plenty of time for this campaign season to turn ugly. Let's wait a little while longer, ok?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

True Confessions

(... as opposed to the fake kind.)

First, I wore the Flower Basket scarf this weekend. I love the Alpaca with a Twist Fino laceweight. It's soft and crisp and the same time.

I got barely any knitting done this weekend, just a few rows on the second Dove sock. I wanted to, I just didn't get the time, so I thought I'd fill the void with some true confessions, knitting and non-knitting related:
  1. I hate entrelac. Never learned it, because I can't stand how it looks. The only entrelac I've ever seen that I've remotely liked was the Forest Path stole, and it wasn't enough to shake me out of my refusal to do it.
  2. Similarly, I can't stand most mitered knitting. Small, fiddly, lots of ends... no thanks. In a fit of post-partum knitting psychosis, I once knit most of a mitered sweater out of Koigu. I hated every minute of it. I didn't like the Koigu (I know, blasphemy), I didn't like the miters, and the sweater was butt-ugly. I hated it so much that I attempted to do it harm by throwing it in the washing machine on the hot water/high agitation setting. It fuzzed, but wasn't satisfyingly damaged.
  3. I'm personally of the opinion that there are too many people out there trying to get in on the "indie dyer" craze. There are some extremely talented dyers out there who do amazing work, but it's very easy to stray into clown barf territory. At this point, it seems that everyone with some dyes and a microwave is throwing some color on yarn and calling it "artisan" yarn. As a corollary to this, I'll add that yarns that are spectacularly beautiful in the skein often look like crap when knitted up, no matter what you do to them. I recognize that this is a matter of taste, and some people love the look of a wild hand-dyed yarn, but not me.
  4. Cashmerino yarn SUCKS. Pilled while I was knitting it and looked terribly sloppy before the piece was finished. Never again, no matter how soft it is.
  5. I've never seen a single episode of any version of CSI or Law & Order. It seems like they're on seven nights a week, too.
  6. My not-so-secret TV shame: "What Not To Wear." Shut up! Love it. Nick kinda freaks me out, but he has a way with a haircut.
  7. In a bit of tipsy whimsy, I downloaded some Monkees and Partridge Family songs to my iPod. Even "Daydream Believer." Oh, the shame.

Any other interesting confessions out there (keep the smut to a minumum, S.)?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Confound It

Well, I guess all the pundits got a big surprise in New Hampshire, huh? Obama had been polling several points above Clinton, but Clinton pulled out the victory. I loved Colbert's take on it -- "How dare the people go ahead and vote for who they want, instead of who we pundits tell them they'll be voting for?" (I am ecstatic that he and Stewart are back on the air, even if they aren't at full strength due to the writer's strike). I'm pleased about her victory, not because I'm supporting her (I'm still undecided), but because I think that the longer we go into the primary season without anointing a nominee, the longer we have to participate in the debate about how to fix the problems we're currently facing.

How does everyone feel about the media's treatment of Clinton? Does she face extra scrutiny because of who she is? I'm not sure that it's gender-related, as much as it is Hillary Clinton-related. For good or ill, she has a reputation that colors how people view her. The pundits thought her voice cracking in New Hampshire was a Howard Dean scream moment, but apparently the voters thought differently. Some people said that it made them see that she wasn't seeking the Presidency for power or revenge, but because she really wants to address the problems that we face. Others, of course, were convinced it was all an act designed to elicit sympathy. I thought it was very interesting, however, that 60% of people who responded to a FOX NEWS POLL thought her emotion was genuine. If ever there was a crowd that hates HRC, it's the Faux News crowd.

A neighbor of mine works on the Clinton campaign, and she's just back from weeks in Iowa and New Hampshire. I'll talk to her this weekend about her experiences, and if she has any interesting stories or insight, I'll share them here. She always has great stories, and I'm curious to get a first-hand look at the nitty-gritty of campaign life.

On the Raven front, I emailed Blue Moon a couple of pictures of the lace skein I got. They agreed that the skein did not look as it should, and have graciously agreed to exchange it for a new one, so I'm pleased.

Miss Lambert's shawl is a little longer, but a picture wouldn't be too interesting. There hasn't been that much knitting here lately. Yesterday was an early release day, so the kids were home all afternoon, and today was filled up with bill paying, food shopping, getting the Laci skein mailed off to Blue Moon, and a nice, long lunch with a friend. Not complaining, just explaining. Nothing's on tap for tomorrow, so I should get some good knitting done.

In other knitting news, the following have arrived from Lacis to tempt me:

When I said that I was in a lace mood, I wasn't kidding. I've been seeing some beautiful lace patterns on Ravelry and in blogs, and the idea of a little piece of art lace appeals to me. The doilies are small, so they won't consume as much time as a full-sized shawl. I can frame them and hang them up, since we're not really a doily-using household.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Change of Plan

It's been absolutely beautiful here for the past two days. Yesterday it was in the upper 60s, today it was over 70. We all took advantage of the great weather. Yesterday, Jr. Jr. and a bunch of his friends spent the afternoon riding their bikes up and down the street. Four bigger boys on bikes, one smaller one with training wheels, and one smaller one with a scooter, all riding gleefully down the hill. I love watching kids ride their bikes, as they revel in the speed, the wind, and the freedom. There's nothing else that makes me feel more like all's right with the world than watching the kids ride their bikes.

Today I took a nice 3 1/2 mile walk. It's been a long time since I've exercised outdoors and I've missed it. It's so much nicer to be outside, seeing the gardens, saying hi to the neighbors, and seeing who's doing what to their houses than to be in a dark basement.

I can't wait until later, to see what the New Hampshire returns look like. The initial reports have Obama and McCain leading. It's possible that this could be the beginning of an Obama run toward the nomination*, but the Republican side is a bit muddier. With Huckabee winning Iowa, Romney taking Wyoming, McCain taking New Hampshire, and Giuliani claiming he has a good shot at some upcoming primaries, there isn't going to be a clear front-runner for Republicans to start uniting behind. Will this mean that the eventual nominee will have a harder time? I think so, and here's why: I think that the old school/new school rift in the Republican party is getting harder and harder to ignore. None of the candidates is perfect for all of the party factions. Shrub managed to appeal to both factions in the last elections: the evangelicals because he spoke their language, and the old schoolers because of his father, the quintessential old-school Republican. This time around, Huckabee's overt religious fanaticism puts off the old school fiscal conservative/libertarian wing of the party; Giuliani doesn't satisfy the evangelicals; ditto for Romney, no matter how many religious speeches he makes; Fred Thompson hasn't lit any fuses like people were hoping. McCain's an interesting case -- he's more of an old school Republican, but his vaunted "independence" in the last election may have cost him some of those votes. He also may lose a lot of the independents who voted for him last time around, specifically because of his independent streak, because he's spent the last 7 years as Bush's little yapping lap dog. In my (admittedly somewhat hopeful) opinion, none of this bodes well for their chances in this election.

*Obviously, I could be very wrong about Obama's chances after New Hampshire. However, Clinton appears to be imploding; Edwards appears to be running for VP again by aligning himself with Obama in New Hampshire; and poor Bill Richardson is still being ignored.

(It'll be interesting to come back and reread these posts in November, won't it?)

On the knitting front, I've abandoned the Swallowtail shawl AND the Raven yarn. The yarn came and, frankly, it looks awful. I need to send them a picture and ask if this is the way the yarn is supposed to look, because as it stands, I'm not sure I would use it. The dye is uneven and spotty, not up to their usual standards.

Instead, I have started "Miss Lambert's Shetland" shawl pattern from Victorian Lace Today in KnitPick's alpaca lace yarn in the Autumn color:

Unblocked lace, crappy looking, huh? Here's a more arty shot:

It's a pretty simple rectangular shawl with a narrow, knitted-on border. It's not a lace masterpiece, but I think it will be very versatile. It's not so delicate and ornate that I'd feel overdressed throwing it on over jeans, you know?
One of the other things I love to do when I have the time is bake. Breads, cookies, cakes, scones, whatever. I don't do the sweet stuff too often because it's not healthy, but I love fresh baked bread. The boys love it, too, which is nice. Today I baked a rye bread, even though I'm the only one in the house who will eat it.

When it's cool, I'll slice it and wrap and freeze the slices individually so I can grab a piece or two out of the freezer when I want. Smell-o-vision would be a good thing right now :)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Bookkeeping Matters

Just as a general note, if you comment here but don't leave a reply email address, I reply to your comments in the comments section themselves. Otherwise, I respond by email. Don't want people to think I'm ignoring them :)

Next post: A Change of Plan...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

I Spoke Too Soon

"By the time I'm finished with the Flower Basket scarf, my lace Raven yarn should be here for me to start the Swallowtail shawl." Hmph. As you can see, the Flower Basket scarf is finished and blocking, but the Raven yarn isn't here yet. At least it's shipped. Now, of course, my hands feel all twitchy and empty without knitting. I could finish the Dove socks, but this scarf has whetted my appetite for lace. I have another skein of gorgeous alpaca laceweight in some soft lavendars and pinks that's tempting me. I could do a quick lace scarf... Here's another shot of the Flower Basket scarf:

On the non-knitting front, aren't the elections getting interesting? The compressed schedule is adding a bit of pressure on the non- or no longer- front runners, too. I was not surprised that Huckabee won in Iowa, but I was a bit surprised at Obama's strength. McCain seems to be doing well in New Hampshire, which could spell big trouble for Romney, despite his Wyoming haul. I watched some of CNN's coverage this weekend. They had more lengthy pieces in which they just filmed the candidates talking at some of their campaign rallies. I appreciated getting the chance to hear more than the usual soundbites and spin. They allowed poor Bill Richardson to get more coverage than he's probably gotten all year. I was very interested to see what he had to say; unfortunately, (or fortunately?) the crowd was cheering so loudly that I couldn't hear half of what he had to say. The Obama segment showed had him sitting down for breakfast with a bunch of people. He certainly has charisma. He bantered easily, seemed relaxed, and sounded genuine. I didn't get a chance to see the Clinton segment. Apparently, she had a two hour session (untelevised) in which she did nothing but answer direct questions from voters. I would have liked to see how she handled herself. Virginia's primaries aren't until Feb. 12th, after Super Tuesday, so I'm not sure how much my vote will affect who ends up being the nominee.

Something occurred to me while watching McCain stump in New Hampshire -- the man is 71 years old. He would be nearly 80 by the time his second term was over. He's already looking a bit shaky. Can we be confident that he would stay healthy throughout his term? I know there are many decrepit members of Congress who are basically awakened every now and then for a vote or a statement on the floor, but is the Presidency too important to entrust to someone of that age? Am I being ageist here, or is there a legitimate concern? It's not that I think there are no 80 year olds out there who are capable of being president -- Shrub's father would have been a perfectly hale and hearty 80 year old President -- but is the risk, the unknown, too great?

There was a great piece in the Washington Post's Outlook section today by George McGovern outlining the many arguments in favor of impeaching both the President and the Vice President, for actions arising out of the war in Iraq, violations of civil rights, and the handling of Katrina. While I agree with much of what was said, it's a bit late in the game to talk impeachment, isn't it? Their time in office is almost over, the damage, unfortunately, is done. Impeachment proceedings would certainly send a message to Bush and Cheney (and to future administrations) that their actions were unconstitutional and unacceptable, but would they just paralyze the country for the next 9 months or so? Wouldn't it take until the end of the term just to get through the proceedings?

Speaking of senior moments, I can't remember whether I posted about Jr. Jr.'s new triumph! He's been very resistant, up until now, to ride his bike. I don't know whether it's because his father and brother are such avid riders and racers, or whether he simply didn't have confidence, but he just wouldn't even try to ride his bike without training wheels. Over Winter Break, however, he gave it a shot and got it right away. Now he's a bike riding fool. The minute he walked into the house after school every day this week, he asked to ride. I'm so glad he got over that roadblock (no pun intended).

Last but not least, the hubster and I watched a great movie last night called "Stardust." It's based on a Neil Gaiman book that we both enjoyed. The movie version was nice, too. The guy who played Tristan was perfect. I also liked seeing some of my favorite -- but lesser-known on this side of the pond -- actors like Sarah Alexander from "Coupling," and Julian Rhind-Tutt, late of "Keen Eddie."

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Reading Report

...since there's not much new knitting to show you.

I love to read as much as, if not more than I love to knit. There's a mountain of books and magazines to attest not just to my love of reading, but to my reading ADD as well. Just as I usually have more than one knitting project underway at a time, so, too, am I usually reading more than one book. There's usually a magazine (New Yorker, knitting/spinning mag), a light read (short stories, Terry Pratchett, Sandman Chronicles, Jasper Fforde, what have you), and a Serious Book.

I've just finished up two great books that I strongly recommend. The first is The Secret Policeman's Union, by Michael Chabon, and the second is The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, by Maggie O'Farrell (links are in the sidebar). Chabon is a longtime favorite author, but O'Farrell was new to me. The books are very different, but both are worth reading.

Secret Policeman's Union takes place in an alternate present, one in which Jews, instead of having Israel as a homeland, have been given a (temporary) "homeland" in Sitka, Alaska. The land will soon to revert back to its prior owners, an Indian tribe, and the Jews will once again scatter. Over the years, all sorts of Jews have made homes and communities in Sitka, from the ultra-religious who inhabit an island, to the near-secular Jews who live on the mainland. Meyer Landsman is -- but for his ethnicity and his location -- a typical hard-boiled police detective. He's divorced, childless, often drunk, and extremely cynical. A murder occurs in his apartment complex which spurs the story on, leading to an ever-expanding conspiracy. I won't say too much about the plot details in order not to give anything away. The writing is vivid, if peppered with more Yiddish than is in my paltry vocabulary. All the characters are well rounded out, and their relationships ring with truth. By the end, I found myself staying up later and later to see what was going to happen next. Sitka was a fully-realized world that I could almost smell.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, by contrast, takes place in modern-day London. Iris is an independent woman who runs a vintage shop. One day she is contacted by an official with the local mental hospital, asking her to take custody of an unknown great-aunt who has been incarcerated in the hospital for sixty years. Iris had always been told that her grandmother was an only child, so she is understandably reluctant to take on a potential madwoman. As she delves into her Aunt Esme's case file and those of other patients at the hospital, she learns that many women in that time frame were committed for simply not conforming to society's idea of womanhood:

"A girl who kept wandering away from the house at night. A Lady somebody
who kept attacking a particular servant. A Cockenzie fishwife who showed
signs of libidinous and uncontrolled behavior. A youngest daughter who
eloped to Ireland with a legal clerk... a Jane who had had the temerity to take
long, solitary walks and refuse offers of marriage...."

And Esme, whose parents reported finding her dancing before a mirror, wearing her mother's clothes. In those days, a man used to be able to commit his wife or daughter with just a doctor's signature.

Esme's story -- about unconventional dreams, no desire for marriage, and a free spirit -- is contrasted nicely with Iris's current life as an unmarried free spirit. There's more to the story of course, and it's told beautifully. I couldn't stop thinking about it after I was done.

Anyone have any good book recommendations to share?

On the knitting front, there's not much to show. The Flower Basket scarf is bigger than it was, but still looks the same. The second Dove sock is started, but I'm still knitting the toe and haven't started the design yet. My Raven yarn will ship tomorrow, so my prediction that the scarf would last me until the yarn showed up should hold true.

I need to drag one of my shawls out of storage and wash and block it, and if I do, I'll post a picture...