Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Morning Edition

I don't usually post in the morning, but I have a feeling we'll be at the pool all afternoon, and then by the time I get Sr. Jr. from camp, make dinner, and get everyone and everything cleaned up, it'll be bedtime :)

This week Sr. Jr. is doing his Adventure Links camp. He loves this camp! Every day they do something different at different parks in the area. Monday was rock climbing day. Yesterday they went caving (messy!). Tomorrow they go sailing on the Chesapeake, then camp out and spend the next day mountain biking. How cool does that sound? Next year he'll be old enough to spend a week away at their overnight camp, as he reminds me almost daily.

Jr. Jr. and I are home together. Mostly, we've been quite lazy, but today it's supposed to be near 100 degrees F, so we'll head to the pool.

I finally managed to get the Gathered Pullover started without twisting. I made a knitted-in hem for the bottoms, and then I'm slowly decreasing up to the bust, to make a more swingy, A-line shape.

Here's a slightly more close up (but somewhat washed out) picture of the hem:

I love the rich, tweedy goodness of this yarn. It's Jo Sharp Silkroad DK, a blend of wool, silk, and cashmere. It softens up a lot after washing.

This is perfect for me right now -- a lot of mindless stockinette in the round, with some added cabley interest, leading to a nice looking sweater at the end. (In fact, I think I knit something very similar last summer at this time, but that didn't quite work out. I might need to revisit that pattern, too...)

Last week I got the latest Socks that Rock sock club shipment. I admit to not really liking the last installment. I started the toe and decided I didn't like knitting the pattern and I wasn't thrilled with the colorway, so it's been sitting ever since. But this latest installment is really nice. The yarn is called "Goody Goody," and it's Sweet Tart colors. Tina even included some Sweet Tarts with the yarn :) The pattern is a really pretty leaf pattern. So far, this is my favorite of all the shipments so far.

I'm almost to the heel on the Thelonious sock. As soon as I finish it, I'll start the STR sock.

I'm also thinking ahead to that part of Fall where it's crisp and cool, but not cold. I've never been a sweater vest kinda girl, but right now I'm craving one. I'm envisioning how it can fit in my wardrobe. (I have plans next week for a day of shopping and lunch with a friend while both boys are at camp, so I'm doing a lot of wardrobe envisioning right now.)

I have some vintage Annabel Fox yarn down in the stash closet (remember her? whatever happened to her? I loved her designs). It's a nice dark brown tweed that would make a fantastic cabled vest. Designing a cabled vest would take a lot less energy than designing a whole sweater... Knitting would probably be pretty quick, too... Must. Maintain. Control. Will. Not. Start. This. Now.

Next week my peripatetic brother drops in. He produces documentary films, and will be in town to interview an expert from Canada who will himself be in town for a conference. They've decided to use my living room to film, rather than a hotel, so I need to get it straightened up. I guess I also need to straighten up the guest/stash/blocking room, too.

Hybrid Question

Mr. T and I are mulling over what kind of car to get next. I'm quite interested in getting a hybrid, but a Prius is too small for us. I routinely haul around a lot of kids, bikes, sports equipment, etc. There are some larger hybrids, like the Highlander, which get significantly better mileage than their non-hybrid counterparts. But Mr. T has some concerns and questions that we can't seem to get a clear answer on, so I thought I'd see if any of you have input or experience you could share.

Mr. T is concerned that there are corresponding downsides to hybrids, like battery life/disposal/ and replacement; resale value because of that; and repair costs. If anyone can provide us with some good information, we'd really appreciate it. Thanks!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Evening Star - Finished!

Evening Star is finished and blocked. Here are some photos. I didn't dress up for the occasion:

Stats: Pattern: Star of Evening Triangle, by Anne Hanson. Yarn: Lanas Puras Melosa Laceweight in Midnight, one skein. This was a remarkably easy lace pattern. I'm not sure that I love the top edging, because the points aren't as spread out as the points on the bottom diagonals, but I think it's not something people will notice when it's being worn.

Now that this is done, I have time to work on some other things. I picked up the Thelonious sock that I had put down a while back to concentrate on the shawl. I got quite a way into the calf pattern, as you can see here:

Today, I cast on for the Gathered Pullover, tried very carefully NOT to twist the stitches when joining them into a round, then proceeded to do just that, TWICE. Then, when I unwound all that I had done, I created a huge knotted mess. Yay me. I've figured out a way to avoid the twist -- use two circulars instead of one, then switch back to one -- so I'll do that tonight. I've decided to use the Jo Sharp yarn, and I'm making the sweater a bit A-liney, I think. It will be snugger around the bust, then flare out a little toward the hips. I may, however, change my mind about that, probably once I've knit 12 inches or so.

Cranky Monkey Mountain Bike Races

Mr. T and Sr. Jr. competed in this week's segment of the Cranky Monkey mountain bike racing series. Sr. Jr. came in second in his age group! Mr. T, however, crashed about 5 minutes from the end, knocking his head and coming up with a few nasty scrapes and bruises. Luckily, there was no concussion, no bones were broken, but the bike was damaged a bit.

Political Nonsense

For the first time in a long time, the state of Virginia has become a battleground state in a Presidential election. For many years, Virginia could be counted on to vote for Republican candidates, so neither party spent much money here during the races. Over the past few years, however, the political climate in Virginia has begun to change, with more and more Democratic candidates winning office, both in formerly Republican districts and statewide. During the primaries, Obama brought in more votes that McCain by a large margin. Overall, almost twice as many votes were cast in the Democratic primary in Virginia than in the Republican primary, and this was before McCain had wrapped up the nomination.

I'm glad to see candidates focussing on us for once. I think Virginia is definitely in play. The plus side here is that we get a lot more attention from the candidates, which is also, amusingly, the down side.

McCain is running an ad here in Virginia (don't know where else it is playing) blaming the rise in gas prices on.... yep, you got it... Barack Obama. The ad conveniently glosses over Iraq, Katrina, tensions with Iran, the falling dollar, et al., and focusses solely on offshore drilling. It's really quite funny. Yup, Mr. McCain, gas prices have been rising steadily for years, long before the 2008 Presidential elections began (and THAT was a long time ago), long before Obama started campaigning.

And because I haven't posted a cute cat picture lately:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What Fun!

That was my car, after being dusted for fingerprints this morning.

That was Mr. T's. I got into my car to go to the market this morning and the glove compartment was open and things were strewn all over the front seat. Mr. T's was in similar condition. We make a point of not keeping anything valuable in our cars, so we don't worry about locking them. I'd rather have people open the doors and rifle through things than break any glass and cost me a lot of money. For a while now, thieves have been going through Arlington a couple of blocks at a time, breaking into cars, mostly for GPS units. Several cars on the block behind us were also hit; one had a radio stolen. The policemen were very nice and efficient, promising that they were going to send out plainclothes officers with decoy cars. They're quite sick of having to deal with this.

Swatch Stories

I worked up swatches of the Telemark and Jo Sharp yarns for the Gathered Pullover I hope to start soon. The Telemark knit up nicely, but was a little scratchy, as expected of that type of yarn. The Jo Sharp feels more substantial and softer. Both knit up approximately to gauge (19 st and 24 row = 4 inches). Stitch gauge for the Telemark was spot on, but 24 rows was only 3 7/8 inches. Easily blockable. With the Jo Sharp, 19 stitches was 3 7/8 inches long, and 24 rows came out to be 3 5/8 inches long.

I washed them both and patted them out to dry -- no pulling or stretching. What a radical change! Now 19 stitches of the Telemark was 4 1/4 inches long and 24 rows was 3 3/4 inches, and much softer. It was even more dramatic for the Jo Sharp, for which 19 stitches was now 4 3/8 inches and 24 rows were 3 3/8 inches.

I took the spritzer and wet them again, this time pulling them into shape, and got gauge for both. Here they are after drying:

For the life of me, I do not know why Blogger keeps rotating these pictures! Well, here's a shot of the two swatches lounging about after their blocking, showing their drapiness:

I'm not sure how I feel about these swatches. The designer of the Gathered Pullover specifically used a lighter weight yarn at a larger gauge to get more drape, but the versions of the sweater that I've liked on Ravelry seem a bit more structured. I'll have to mull on this some more.

Meanwhile, I've been working on the Star of Evening edging while watching bikers fly down mountains in Europe (sometimes literally, unfortunately). As you can see from today's photo, progress is slow. Each edging point consists of 8 rows, but eats up only 4 shawl body stitches. By my rough estimate, I'm close to 2/3 of the way across.

I'm very ready for this to be finished, so I can move on to the next project.

Amazon Kindle Question

I've been considering investing in the Amazon Kindle as a way of reducing the book clutter in the house. There will always be books that I will get to own forever, but there are many books that I read and never look at again, only to give them away at Temple charity drives or school book swaps. In the meantime, they take up a lot of room in the house. Kindle seems like a nice way of reducing that clutter. Commenter Kippi has one and has given me some great feedback. Is there anyone else out there who has one and would like to give me an honest appraisal? I think the biggest drawback for me at this point is that the books I tend to read are a little more obscure and don't appear to be Kindle-ready at this point. I think I'll make a list of books that I'd like to read out of the next few weeks' Book Reviews and see how many of them are available on Kindle. But I'd also like more input from people with real-world experience with it. (PS, I understand you can now browse Ravelry using it!) Thanks in advance for any help...

Monday, July 21, 2008

In Which Reality Finally Occurs to Me

What was I thinking? There's no way I can design my own aran right now. Even if I could get the design worked up, the knitting itself would be way too complicated for my already busy life right now.

But it's 97 degrees outside and I'm jonesing to get back to sweater knitting. Fall's around the corner, allegedly. I've been knitting a lot of lace and summery stuff, and now's the time to get on the sweater knitting if I want some to wear when (if) the weather turns.

So I trolled around Ravelry for a while and found the Gathered Pullover, from Interweave Knits' Winter 2007 issue. It fits the bill nicely -- mostly easy to knit (stockinette in the round) with a little bit of interesting stuff to keep me (and the sweater) from boredom. It also looks like a nice, classic sweater that will stand the test of time. A lot of knitters on Ravelry have successfully made modifications that I would make to the sweater, as well. So, off to the stash closet to try to find an appropriate yarn. The designer used a sportweight yarn, but used larger than normal needles to add drapeyness to the sweater. That gives me several options. I can use a sport or dk weight and larger needles, or I can use a worsted weight for a more solid sweater. I would like this to be a little fitted around the bust, with waist shaping, so perhaps the heavier yarn would make me look a little bulkier.

Sticking with the sport/dk weights, I pulled several options:

Top left is Sierra in a dark green, top right is Pure Alpaca in a richer green, with a lot of lighter green and burgundy running through it. Bottom right (with swatch) is KnitPicks' Telemark in charcoal grey. Bottom left is Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed, in Cedar. I'm afraid that the pure alpaca would be too drapey, especially on a larger needle. I'm not sure I want a sweater in the dark green Sierra. I'm craving a bit of tweed. It's between the Telemark and the Jo Sharp, but I suspect that the Jo Sharp will win if I like the swatch. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I'm continuing to work on the edging for the Star of Evening Shawl. I had a bit of knitting time yesterday and more today while Sr. Jr. had a dentist appointment. The following picture is from yesterday afternoon, so it doesn't accurately represent where I am now. I'm not quite halfway across the top.

Since my knitting time is so unpredictable these days, I have no idea when I'll finish this. Under normal circumstances, it would be finished tomorrow and blocking on Wednesday. At this point, I'm shooting for next week.

This Week in Camp

This week the boys are both doing a touch-football camp in the evenings. On the one hand, it's a pain to have evening camp, because it messes up our mealtimes and doesn't give me any free time during the day to get things done. On the other hand, it's so freaking hot right now that I'm glad the kids don't have to be out at the hottest point of the day.

The boys and I (and yesterday, Mr. T) went out and played tennis this weekend, since Sr. Jr. loves it so much now. He's pretty good for someone who'd never picked up a racket a week ago. I'm glad we have something new we can do together!

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Heat is On

Ah, our first Code Red day of the year! The swamp that is Washington never fails to assault the senses.

It's been a pretty busy week. Jr. Jr. has baseball camp, and Sr. Jr. has tennis camp. He'd never played tennis before, but wanted to learn. The first afternoon I went to pick him up, he came toward me with a huge smile on his face. "I really like tennis!" he said. He's picked it up pretty quickly. Even today, at the end of the session, he's still in love with his new sport. Both Jrs. are signed up for another tennis camp in August, too. Between now and then, I'll take them out to play, and maybe I'll sign Sr. Jr. up for some lessons in the Fall, too. It's been very nice to see him so happy. (He won his tournament, too!) Next week is football camp for both boys.

There have only been a few hours this week where they were both at camp, so I did fun stuff like have a mammogram (no cancer!) and a dental check-up (no cavities!). In between, there was a little bit of knitting time. I finished the main body of the shawl and have just started the top edging:

Here's a slight close-up:

It wasn't easy trying to take these pictures. I had to use one hand to fend off the cat, who really wanted to jump up and sit on the shawl, and did, the moment I turned my back for a second.

There was an error in the part of the pattern that started off the top edging. It was clear from the pattern that she originally had another edging planned, but went back and changed it to continue using the same edging that was knitted on with the body of the shawl. In the course of cutting and pasting, not everything got cleared up. It was a pretty easy error to spot, and of course, this being a Knitspot pattern, the corrections were up on the website (but were easy enough to figure out on my own anyway). So if you buy this pattern, make sure to note the errata before you start the top edging.

Poor Mr. T has been working like a dog this week. He even worked a bit during our vacation (which really isn't that unusual), but this week has been tough. I suppose it's good that he's busy, because it means business is good and he's in demand, but it also means a lot of stress for him.

It doesn't help that my father is pulling his jerk routine, either. That's not new, but never appreciated.

Now I must go tend to the house, which is a wreck, before my friends from Texas arrive this evening :)

Fun Stuff

If you haven't checked out Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, go now! It's hysterical.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Home Again

It's good to be home again. Our trip was very enjoyable (except for the food), but there's nothing quite like the comforts of home. I admit to being a very particular person, one who likes her stuff her way.

For the last part of our trip, my SIL and her family came to stay at the beach with us. SIL has a son, M., the same age as Jr. Jr., and a step-daughter, J., who's a year older than Sr. Jr. The kids get along famously. The boys don't get to see their cousin M. too often, but when they do, it's like they were never apart. J. is a really neat girl, too, so it was fun to have her around. There was some definite flirty-flirty stuff going on between her and Sr. Jr. His chest puffed out and he got all macho. It was very cute.

Here are some pics of the kids at play:

And the grownups at rest:

While we were there, I stopped at the little yarn store on the island, the Courtyard. The Courtyard sells yarn and knitting supplies, as well as used books. It's a cute little place, and the owner (if that's who was working there that day) was very nice. It doesn't have a huge selection of yarns, but what it does have is lovely, including a selection of Aracaunia hand-dyed yarns that I hadn't seen before. So one of the rights that I retroactively reserved for myself as part of my birthday "year of stash" pledge was to be able to buy some souvenir yarn while on vacation. Thus, I came home with --

Five balls of Elsbeth Lavold's Hempathy, to make a nice lacy summer scarf/shawl.

I have only one repeat left (plus the top edging) to complete the Star of Evening shawl. It's the loooooong top rows, however, so it may take a while in these knit-free summer days. I'm beginning to feel the pull of the sweater yarn... it's been a while since I made myself a nice aran... hmmm... I think my next project will be an aran that I design. Don't look for it anytime soon, though, with the aforementioned knit-free-ness hanging over my head. I hope to have that done by the beginning of Fall, just in time for Nancy Bush's new book, Knitted Lace of Estonia, to arrive. If you haven't picked up the latest issue of Piecework to see the previews of this book, go NOW and look. I'm sure I will be itching to get one of those shawls on my needles when I get my grubby little hands on that book.

Beach Reading

One of the best things about traveling, especially to the beach, is the added reading time. I don't knit on planes, I read. I'm happy to be on a beach with the wind in my hair and a book in my hands. I finished three books this vacation, all of them varying degrees of good. First there was The Maytrees, by Annie Dillard. This was a very low-key book, but a marvelous look at love, compassion, and forgiveness. Next up was The Memory Keeper's Daughter, by Kim Edwards. I resisted this one for a while, perhaps because it seemed very Oprah's book club-like. Overall, I really liked it. Parts were a bit too obvious in pointing out the significance of social changes at the time the book was taking place, but the story was engrossing and the characters were fleshed out and real. The novel explored the consequences of secret-keeping and fear on a marriage. Finally, I read Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen. I first heard about this book at one of the kids' baseball games, when another spectator mentioned that she never read books, but couldn't put this one down. Again, I hesitated, because, really, how good a recommendation is that? But this was beach reading, so I gave it a shot. I ended up enjoying it a lot. The book deals with an old man's memories of his days as the veterinarian for a second-tier traveling circus during the Depression. The social aspects of the Depression were woven into the novel nicely, without the "look! social context!" that I felt while reading Memory Keeper's Daughter. It's not quite as powerful as Geek Love was, but an engrossing story nonetheless. I gave it to Mr. T when I was done.

And now I get to console myself with laundry, mammogram appointments, dentist appointments, and running the kids around to camps and pools. This week is baseball for Jr. Jr. and tennis for Sr. Jr. I love tennis, so it will be nice to be able to play with the kids.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More Vacation, with Knitting Content

(Ah, the joys of traveling with laptop and blackberry. Mr. T is never out of touch and I can continue to blog.)

Yesterday afternoon, the boys went golfing.

This gave me the chance to do some knitting. I pulled out the Star of Evening shawl and got a little bit done. At this point, I've completed almost 6 out of 9 or 11 repeats. Here's the shawl lounging on the couch of the beach house:

Here it is taking a break and enjoying the pool:

Yesterday morning we took a bike ride out to a nearby lake, where a couple of alligators were cavorting.

There were two. One was chasing the other around, and when he caught up to her, there would be some thrashing around and then they'd separate. He'd wait a few minutes and then try again. He seemed to be trying to get amorous with her. She was having none of it. In my mind, the conversation went something like this:

Him: Hey, baby.
Her: Go away.
Him: Aw, c'mon babe, let's get it on.
Her: Beat it, creep. There are people here with cameras!
Him: So?
Her: I don't want to end up on YouTube.
Him: Mais, cherie, it's de rigeur to have a sex tape these days!
Her: Sorry. I'm not that kind of girl. I'm a bit prehistoric.

We've been spending a lot of time at the beach. It's quite lovely here. I grew up on Long Island, where the beaches were crowded, shelly, dirty, and the water was cold. The water here is so warm, the beaches are pure sand, and there's virtually no one around. (At least not at our part of the island; others are more crowded.) Jr. Jr. is gaining a lot of confidence in the water. We got the boys a boogie board, which they love:

And me? I'm but a shadow on the sand.

A very hippy looking one, apparently.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

Here we are in Hilton Head. No more baseball, little work, little (well, no) knitting.

Sr. Jr. had his final all star game on July 4th. They lost, but Sr. Jr. got a hit and scored, so he was happy. Overall, though, we were disappointed in this experience. The coach ended up putting Sr. Jr. in a position where he's weakest (outfield) and completely ignored his biggest strength, pitching. I don't think either of us would have minded that he wasn't pitching if we could see that he was not as good as the kids who were pitching. Unfortunately, this was not the case. The head coach let practically every other kid on the team pitch, except for Sr. Jr. We thought that this might have been because he was the only kid on the team who was not on the two winning-est (yes, I know it's not a real word) teams in the league (the Yankees and the Red Sox, natch). Another dissatisfied parent mentioned that a lot of the more favored kids were also on the head coach's basketball teams. Whatever the reason, it was a disapointment -- not because I'm some mom who has to see her pwecious widdle pookums pitch, but because it would have been in the team's best interest. I think some of the assistant coaches wondered what was going on as well.

It's been nice to leave that behind and just have fun. We stopped off in Savannah to see Mr. T's sister and her family before heading out to the island. They'll join us here for a day or two later in the week.

This morning, Mr. T took Jr. Jr. out to the beach early, while Sr. Jr. and I slept. While they were out there, there was a brief rainshower leading to another double rainbow.

Maybe he's part leprechaun.

I took the opportunity to go for a nice long walk on the beach. Four + miles, barefoot. It felt good, but the soles of my feet definitely felt a bit raw.

Here's a shot of the kids playing nicely together:

For a while, a porpoise gamboled about in the water near where they were playing. It went too fast for us to get a good picture of it. Finally, here's a shot of Sr. Jr., looking contemplative:

Tomorrow afternoon, the guys are supposed to go play some golf, so maybe I'll get a chance to pick up the knitting needles for the first time in over a week! I can't remember the last time I went this long without any significant knitting. I admit, it's been making me a bit crazy.

Before we left I did get the new Knitter's. While it wasn't quite as craptacular as the last issue, it certainly was full of suck. I think they need to retire the "Knitter's Design Team" and their obsession with strapless, two piece dreck.

What I really need to get my hands on is the latest issue of Piecework. Hopefully I can do that before my vacation is over.