Sunday, September 28, 2008

Back to School Vest - done

(scroll down for Ed Sander photos)

The Back to School vest is done. It's blocked and all the last bits are sewn up and woven in. Here's a peek:

I like it. Everything worked out very well with this vest. I knit extensions to the cables framing the neck to sew onto the back, to serve as the back neckline. I had to guesstimate how long they'd be, because I knew that the width of the back would grow once I blocked it. By chance, I got it almost exactly right. I say almost because, while the piece went together perfectly when I was sewing it, it does look a little wonky on. I think it just might need another block. In the meantime, I'm very happy how nicely and quickly this turned out.

Pattern specs: Yarn --'s Peruvian Highland Wool, in Chocolate Truffle. I think I used 5 balls, total, including swatching and sewing up (yarn cost < $12.00. Not bad.) Pattern: cobbled together myself, using cables from different sources. I think this will be a great transitional piece. Now that I'm done with this, I need to figure out what to do next. Another sweater? Shawl? Scarf? In the meantime, I'm making progress on the little socklets for my mother-in-law. I tried a couple of different approaches that didn't work, but I think my current one will. Will post pictures when I have more to show.

This weekend was the Ed Sanders Memorial Cyclocross race up at Lilypons in Maryland. Both Mr. T and Sr. Jr. competed. All the rain (including some that came during the race) made for a very muddy, slippery ride. Mr. T wasn't thrilled with how he performed, but Sr. Jr. came in 5th in his race. Here are some pictures of the race:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

It is a dark and dreary day today. There's a tropical something moving up the coast that's supposed to bring us a lot of rain and wind, starting this afternoon. The afternoon tennis lesson is in jeopardy, as is Mr. T's flight home from Boston. On the other hand, it would be nice to have a day without running around, a day when we can stay home, do homework, and relax. We don't get many of those.

I have finished the primary knitting on the Back to School Vest. The shoulders have been joined; all I have to do now is keep knitting the cable that will go across the back neck, and do the ribbing around the armholes. Here are some photos of the back of the vest, where you can see how the main cable looks on a larger panel:

I love the sinuous lines of this cable. I tried to pick a cable for the outer bands that would echo the sinuousness (sinuousity? sinuetude?) without copying it exactly.

Last night was Back to School Night at the middle school, so it was my first chance to see Sr. Jr.'s teachers and see what his day is like. I was very impressed. All of his teachers seem engaged, enthusiastic, and energetic. I'm also very impressed with their focus on teaching the kids organizational skills and study skills. We were never taught that as kids. We were just expected to make it up as we went along. Some kids are naturals at it, others are not. Some kids were bright enough that they could overcome a lack of organizational skills, and again, others were not. Teaching and emphasizing organization now means the kids will be so much better off in high school and college. While I remember having some very good teachers in middle school, I don't remember school being as varied and fun as it seems now. The projects seem more creative, and more geared towards active, rather than passive, learning.

The current economic situation scares me. I'll freely admit that I'm not an economic expert, but I know I was afraid of the ramifications of that housing bubble for a long time. I didn't realize just how deep its implications were for the overall economy, however. I'm also scared of this rush to "fix" things. I get that our situation is precarious, but I'd really prefer that some serious thought go into whatever action comes out of it. It seems like we're throwing a lot of money at the problem without addressing what the root causes are. Panic breeds panic. We're already NOT paying for the war that we're stuck with. How are we going to pay for this, too? Where's the money going to go? Who will benefit? Will the CEOs of the companies who took ever-more daring and risky investments still get their millions? What will happen to the people who lost their homes? Will people not only lose the bulk of their investments and retirement savings, but also have to pay for this bailout mess?

This clearly has huge implications for us as a country. We can't continue the way we've been going. What do the candidates think about this? How will they deal with it? What will they do to attempt to get our debt under control? John McCain wants to suspend campaigning, postpone the debate, and go back to Washington to help work on a bailout plan. Gee, sounds good, but no thanks. I'd like to see a debate now, more than ever. Now is when I want to hear from the candidates. Perhaps because this is not McCain's strong point (and, in fact, recent polls showed Obama leading him by a 2 to 1 margin on economic issues), he wants to avoid being put on the spot and look like he's doing something. Moreover, I'm not sure that having the candidates there will be effective. It may just make the situation even more difficult to solve, as partisan politics gets injected into the situation. Besides, they both have advisors and allies who are presenting their views. Right now, I'd rather leave the hard work to Congress and the experts.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Vest Progress and Crochet Envy

Continuing in my quest to be named "Worst Digital Photographer Ever," I present some updated photos of the Back to School Vest. I've finished the front:

Here's a close-up view of how I managed to transition the main cable to a V-framing simple 4-stitch, 4-row cable:

I know it's not easy to see, but this was the best photo I took, believe it or not. I'm going to keep knitting on one of those cables, then sew it down across the back neck. The cable looks pretty finished as it is, so no ribbing will go there. I think I will add ribbing around the armholes to provide a more finished look there. I increased the number of decreases on the armholes to accommodate the ribbing. So far, so good. It's not the best thing I've ever designed, but it's not the worst, either.

Crochet Envy

Ravelry has exposed me to a lot more crochet than I had seen before. When I was growing up, my mother crocheted a bunch of granny square afghans (out of acrylic, natch), which left me with a lingering distaste for the craft. She tried to teach me, but I got bored. I think if I had loved the product more, I'd have been more into learning the process. More and more crochet began to seep into my consciousness over the years -- a pretty sweater edging here, a nice scarf there. A few years ago, I took a crochet edging class at the late, lamented Woolly Knits, which left me with the ability to do a few basic crochet stitches -- nothing more complicated than a single, double, or half-treble stitch. A few years after that, Interweave Knits' Nantucket Jacket had a pretty shell-like crochet edging on it. So I gathered up my confidence and knit the sweater. When the knitting was done, I took out my swatch and practiced the edging. It worked! Brilliant! And it was fun, too.

But it really was the advent of Ravelry that made me sit up and take notice. I won't link you to individual favorites of mine, but I encourage you to go browse some of the crochet projects Ravelers have posted. There are beautiful lace pieces, adorable amigurumi, and pretty scarves and sweaters. Yesterday, I got the new Interweave Crochet magazine. This has only fueled my crochet envy. There are some really beautiful projects in the magazine (each word is a separate link there). Alas, when I look at the directions, I suddenly feel completely lost. One day, I'll sit down and puzzle it all out. I guess that will be the day that I also have time to work out, knit, spin, AND clean my house :)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Boring and Boringer

Sorry. It's true. Not much exciting to talk about here.

I've only managed to knit about ten whole rows this week. I've just gotten to the point where I divide for the back and front and do the armhole shaping. Now I'm knitting back and forth, instead of in the round, and I definitely prefer doing this in the round. Here are two pictures, one taken with the flash, and one without:

It's been very cool and lovely here. I hope to have this vest finished in time for it to be useful!

Tea with my friends yesterday was nice. There were only two brief outbreaks of politics, and they were minor. One friend complained about how horrible it was that Sarah Palin's Yahoo account was hacked (yes, it was a terrible breach of privacy. But WTH was she thinking, using a YAHOO account for official business? And including her husband on the emails? Yikes. Makes my former government employee self cringe in horror). There was also a brief mention of two friends attending a local rally for McCain last week. Otherwise, I requested no politics and that was no problem. It was nice to catch up with them.

You know things have gotten bad out there when my father, a man who campaigned for Nixon and Ford, and ran for office as a Republican, is threatening to leave the country if Sarah Palin is ever sworn in as President. Granted, he did become disaffected with the Republican party during the Reagan years, but he's never shown himself to be passionately opposed to a Republican ticket before. I'd bet he felt disgust at the Bush/Cheney ticket, but now the man forwards me every email, every tidbit of information, every picture of anti-Palin rallies that he can find. His wife is out in Ohio, working for Obama, and he swears they will emigrate if things turn out badly. I bet he would, too. He's got the means. He's done a lot of work internationally, developing a huge network of friends in Europe.

Other than that, it's just busy time here at the ranch. Hopefully I'll get some time to knit this weekend, but I'm not counting on it!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Redemption and Rationalization

As you may remember, my kids play baseball. Sr. Jr. had grown into a very good pitcher, and a decent enough hitter and fielder, good enough to have made the Little League All-Star team this summer. As you may also remember, All-Stars was a nightmare for him. The coaches seemed to favor other kids they were more familiar with (in some cases, related to), and Sr. Jr. didn't get to pitch once. From what we understand, he was picked for the All-Star team primarily on the strength of his pitching. I sat through his games, thinking that Sr. Jr. could pitch better than most of the pitchers the coaches used. In many cases, he could pitch much better. By the end of All-Stars, the poor kid had lost most of his confidence and a lot of his love of the game. (He was not the only kid who felt this way.)

Now Fall Ball has started. Sr. Jr. was a little reluctant to play, but decided to do it. His coach sent around an email before the start of the season asking which positions the kids did or did not like to play, so I mentioned that SJ pitched, played infield, and occasionally outfield. I was not encouraged when I saw one of his All-Star coaches was assisting on his Fall team, but the other coaches seemed very nice. The first game was ok; he played outfield and third, got a nice hit and popped out.

Yesterday was game two. I was nervous when I found out SJ was going to start at pitcher. It had been a long time since he'd pitched, and he looked a bit rusty warming up. The other team was in the field first, with some familiar faces from past teams and the All-Star team. Their pitcher was one of the All-Star pitchers to whom I'd compared SJ favorably. He's got good velocity, but not such good accuracy, so a lot of our kids (including SJ) walked in the first inning. I know we scored a couple of runs, but I don't think anyone really keeps score during Fall Ball.

Then it was SJ's turn on the mound. Struck out the first batter. Struck out the second batter. Third batter hit an easy shot to the shortstop, who made the easy throw to first. Inning over. I could see how triumphant SJ felt. He pitched well in the second inning too. In fact, during the second inning, one of the parents from the other team, whose child had also had a bad experience during All-Stars, came over to me and said (with a sardonic smile), "Tell me again why your son didn't pitch during All-Stars?"

His coaches have now nicknamed him "Hawkeye," because of the sport glasses he wears. I think he likes it.

After the game, I asked how it felt to be back on the mound. "It felt really good, Mom," he said. "I felt like I knew exactly where I was." I'm so happy for him (and relieved). It's nice to see him get back the confidence that he had at the end of the season. I know he has a bit of a "Ha! Showed you!" feeling about it, too.

I finished the STR Gumdrop socks:

And a closer-up view:

These were fun and quick to knit. There's only one more shipment of the STR club due, and it's supposed to be shipped out next week. So far, even though I've made 3 out of 4 of the club socks, I've not been overly thrilled with being in this club. To be honest, Socks That Rock has never been a favorite sock yarn. I know they have an ardent fan base, but I just don't love the colors or the base yarn enough to continue being in the club. I've liked some patterns from years past, but this year's didn't really knock my socks off (har har). Therefore, I've decided I will not renew my membership.

That leaves me short one sock club membership. By chance, yesterday I wandered over to Sundara's website, where serendipitously, sock club memberships were open :) (I got there just in time -- the clubs are full now.) I love Sundara's sock yarns, both the colors and the base yarn. I love how Sundara creates tonal, monochromatic colorways with lots of depth and rich color. I also like her overdyeing concepts, where she'll take a base color and overdye it with another, creating interesting tonal changes. It was tough to choose which collection to sign up for -- the lights are very pretty, the darks are typical of my style -- but it was the cool collection that really appealed to me, with its wines and purples and blues. So that's what I signed up for. The yarns don't come with patterns, but that's fine with me, plus, you get more of them. I have any number of amazing sock patterns waiting to be knit (Cookie A, anyone?), and am more than capable of designing my own.

I've rationalized this by saying that it's not really a *new* yarn purchase, but a kind of subscription renewal. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Tomorrow I'm hosting the playgroup moms for morning tea. So far I've got two types of scones put up in the freezer and sour cherry sauce in the fridge. Today I'm going to make my yummy almond cake (to go with the cherry sauce) and clean house. We're doing a bit of a potluck, so with my desserts and everyone else's contributions, we'll be well-fed.

As much as I love my friends, we're on opposite ends of the political spectrum. I remember feeling really uncomfortable at some of our get togethers during the last Presidential election season, so I'm going to institute a "No politics in Loren's house" rule to maintain the peace.

Between that and Back to School night tonight, not much knitting will get done before Friday afternoon, I'm afraid. Hopefully I won't get too wiggy before then.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Monday Afternoon Pick Me Up

Many moons ago, before I made my "no new yarns/knit from stash this year" pledge, I ordered some custom-dyed yarns from Katy over at Yarn Chef. I'd been eyeing her gorgeous laceweight for a long time, but kept missing out on getting enough for planned projects. So I contacted her about a custom order, based on some colorways she'd dyed up in the past, and found her to be very nice to work with. The yarns arrived today, and they are even more spectacular in person than their pictures online can suggest (and I'm sure her pictures are better than mine). Here's a picture of a few of the skeins, including lichens (the green), calm (the bluey/lavendary), and malted (on the right):

Below are Dew and Golden Afternoon:

Here are some close-ups:

(This picture gives a more true representation of Malted than the picture above.)

I had been in a pretty unhappy mood after the weekend, and this yarn definitely cheered me up.

Even though school has started, I don't feel like I'm accomplishing very much. I AM accomplishing some -- laundry, shopping, cleaning, getting ready for a get-together on Thursday, lunch with friends -- but not enough of other things, like knitting and exercise. The Fall schedule is in full swing now, with baseball three times a week, tennis two times, two piano lessons, stuff at temple two days a week... I'm probably forgetting something, too. I think there's only one day a week when there's nothing going on after school. Hopefully the boys will be able to keep up without getting worn out.

I have been working on the Back to School vest a little. I'm about 10 or so rows away from the underarm shaping and splitting the back and the front:

Here's a closer picture of the main cable:

I'm pleased that with all the cutting and pasting I did to create the pattern chart, nothing seems to have gone wrong. I need to decide what to do with the neckline. Should I add ribbing to it or make it self-finishing? I'm pretty sure at this point that the armholes will have ribbing. Designing on the fly :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

In All Seriousness

I'll talk about the Back to School vest first, so those who don't want to read my political blather can skip over it :) Here's a picture of what I've got so far:

And a more close-up shot:

Jr. Jr. woke up vomiting Monday night, so he stayed home from school yesterday. Of course, he went right back to sleep, while Mr. T and I cleaned up and tossed and turned. Then, continuing the of courses, he was fine all day Tuesday, with no fever and no more vomiting. At least it was quick! So this is all I've managed to get done so far.

In All Seriousness

Today's Washington Post had an article describing an intelligence forecast being prepared for the next President by Thomas Fingar, "the U.S. intelligence community's top analyst." This forecast is being presented not just to the current President, but to both of the candidates, as well. The forecast states that the United States is entering a period of "reduced dominance" in world affairs, as the world is "reshaped by globalization, battered by climate change, and destabilized by regional upheavals over shortages of food, water, and energy." Our military might will become increasingly unimportant as attacks against us will not be undertaken with conventional forces. The U.S.'s dominance is decreasing in all areas -- political, cultural, and economic. While the Bush Adminstration spent years denying the existence of global warming, the intelligence community for once lived up to its name and accepted it as a given when conducting its analysis. I won't restate what's in the article because I've provided a link.

The article is fascinating and frightening, but not (to many of us) surprising. Our economy is tanking and the government keeps racking up the debt, which means that other countries have great control over what can happen in our economy (see, e.g., China). As we've lost our political moral high ground (Iraq, torture, Kyoto), we've lost the ability to be a force for change in the world. Other countries have recognized where we're wrong and either refused to follow along, or have gone ahead and acted without us.

Why am I writing about this? Because this kind of analysis highlights the incredible importance of the upcoming election. We live in a changing world and we must adapt, find a new way to lead. We need a President who can think. We need a President who will act with forethought, with long-term interests at heart, with understanding of how what we do affects the entire world. We need a President who, goddammit, is an intellectual. Cowboy diplomacy isn't going to cut it in our emerging world. If we keep doing what we're doing, we will become wholly irrelevant and increasingly isolated.

We need to reclaim those values which made us a world leader in the first place -- and I don't mean military might. I mean the values of freedom: equality, justice, self-determination, and innovation. The challenges we face will not be solved with sound bites and partisan rhetoric.

This election is not about whether the candidate is black or white, male or female. It is not even really about change versus experience, because the world IS changing, and we don't have any experience with where it might be going. This election is about ushering us into the 21st century in a way that meets our needs and recognizes that the rest of the world has needs as well, and in a way that recognizes that we have a responsibility to each other and to our planet.

There are many people out there who look at elections based on one or two issues. Is this candidate going to support or oppose abortion rights? Will my taxes go up or down? What will become of Social Security? I understand that people feel strongly about those issues, and there's nothing wrong with that. But I think this election needs to be about something broader, not what the election will do for you, personally, but what the election will do for all of us, and our place in the world.

I strongly feel that John McCain, and especially Sarah Palin, are NOT the people who can best deal with these issues and circumstances. McCain has proven himself over the last 8 years to be as ideologically driven and rash as the man he seeks to replace. For him, as for Bush, the world is divided into simplistic dualities of "good" and "bad," "with us" and "against us." McCain falls clearly into that post-Cold War mentality which felt the U.S., as the victor in the "fight" against communism, should be the sole superpower. I've seen him compromise what he claimed were his principals in service to his political ambition too often over the last eight years to even imagine that he will suddenly reclaim those principals. I've watched him cling more and more to that old way of doing things, against all evidence.

But most importantly, his choice of Sarah Palin as his vice presidential candidate shows that McCain is either completely ignorant of this new reality we face, or he doesn't care at all, simply seeking political gain. Aside from having no relevant experience, Palin has no intellectual heft whatsoever. She would be in over her head completely if something were to happen to McCain (and let's face it, he's 72 with a history of cancer). She sticks to strict partisan sound bites and ideas, with no apparent intellectual curiousity, as far as we can tell, since she's under a press blackout. I suspect she knows next to nothing about foreign affairs which is, after all, a basic requirement for the job she's seeking. It's also indicative of a narrowmindedness that we've already seen her exhibit.

The Republicans are running their campaign on slander and innuendo, creating straw men and manufacturing "controversies" to distract voters from paying attention to what this election should really be about. Any attempts to question Palin's qualifications have them yelling "sexism!" when they would have been the first ones to have accused Hillary Clinton of whining if she or her campaign had complained about it. Suddenly it's sexist to call McCain's new campaign theme of "change" "lipstick on a pig," when McCain himself used that very same term to describe Clinton's health care plan. Was it sexist then, too? His campaign is very effective at staging these little controversies that eat up air time on the news channels, which OUGHT to have more important things to cover. It's really sad when the mainstream media is so cowed that it can't stand up and call bullshit when it sees it. This whole cycle reminds me of the old cartoons in which someone (McCain) shoots at his victim's (the press) feet, laughing and syaing, "Dance! Dance for me!" (See also, Olbermann, removal from political coverage of.) It's really sad that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are the only ones left who fulfill that role, even though they do it so beautifully. (Someone, somewhere, pointed out that a lot of the problem here is the concentration of ownership in the media, which means that basically three wealthy corporations control most of the news Americans receive. This is a very important issue, and I'm sure our resident communications expert, Mr. T, has opinions on this as well.)

I'm tired of this cynical little dance. I hope that our discourse matures significantly before Election Day.

On a lighter note, I leave you with a link to Palin-dromes.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Weekend Update

Soooo tempted to add, "Sarah, you ignorant slut." Hmmm, guess I just did ;)

Well, Hanna blew in and blew out. We didn't lose power and the basement stayed dry. No bailing. That's a great weekend here Chez T. Saturday was a complete washout, weather-wise, but it was actually kind of nice. Usually, Mr. T is out on training rides first thing weekend mornings, therefore, we don't get to have family breakfasts. I miss those. Because of the storm on Saturday, he was home, so I made some yummy Belgian waffles as a treat.

I didn't do much actual knitting, but I did work on the pattern for my new vest (thanks for the input, everyone). Here's a look at the work in progress:

That isn't the final draft. What you see is about one half of the pattern. Since it's symmetrical across the vertical axis, I don't need to chart out the whole thing. I'll just knit across until the end of the main pattern, then follow the chart in reverse (reversing cables where appropriate) until I get to the end of the side. I'm knitting it in the round until the armholes, to minimize finishing. I started it yesterday, but all I've done so far is the bottom ribbing. No pictures until I have something more interesting to show you. I think I'll call this my "Back to School" vest, partially because it's back to school time, but partially because cabled V-neck vests seem very academic to me.

I also used the rainy weekend as an excuse to catch up on some baking. After the Great Power Loss of '08, I lost a lot of baked goods that I had in the freezer. I love having things in the freezer that I can pull out if people come over, or if I get a craving for a scone. So I whipped up a batch of Loren T's regionally-famous cinnamon scones:


Sharon -- great tip about encyclopedias and atlases. We have some gorgeous atlases from Sr. Jr.'s geography bee phase that Jr. Jr. may like. After all, Jr. Jr. did manage to secretly memorize all the state capitals during circle time in kindergarten. Atlases might be right up his alley. The boys do have a lot of encylopedic books. I guess I need to move away from my own preconceptions that reading = fiction. Thanks for the prod on that. We did end up at Barnes & Noble Friday night, after a vain search for a small, not-too-expensive generator at Home Depot. Lots of books for all were purchased.

I also got a new Vogue Knitting Debbie Bliss magazine. I'm interested to see how this one is (haven't opened it yet). I generally like her designs, and it's put out by the folks at Vogue, so it's a high-quality magazine. It seems like a lot of work for one designer!

Now I must return to the laundry and the cleaning that occupy my Monday mornings...

Friday, September 5, 2008


Photographic skills still elude me. It's amazing what a difference light can make. I took about six pictures of this swatch -- with flash, without flash, blinds open, blinds closed -- and each one looked different. In one picture, the swatch looked green, like my Gathered Pullover. But here is a swatch for my next project. The center cable is a definite yes; I just need to figure out what kinds of cables should flank it. This isn't even an entire repeat of the cable pattern, but you can get an idea of what it looks like.

Here's a closer view, no flash.

I was wrong in my last post. This is not a Knitpicks yarn, it's's Peruvian Highland Wool, in Chocolate Truffle. I did a swatch of another stitch pattern in the Knitpicks yarn, but I prefer Elann's. The Knitpicks Wool of the Andes, which I used for my Nantucket Jacket, is nice enough, but feels like it will pill pretty quickly. It hasn't in the Nantucket Jacket, but I think that's because of the tight gauge and the cable-y stitch pattern. Nonetheless, for this project, it's going to be the Elann yarn.

Also yet to be decided is whether this will be a full-on sweater, or a vest. Please feel free to clog up my comments with opinions. I know there are people out there who check in, but don't comment -- please do!

So far the new school year seems to be going well. Sr. Jr. is excited and motivated, even though he had a bit of nerves last night, of all things. Interestingly, a neighbor told me that her daughter, also a 6th grader in the same school, was nervous last night too. Luckily, with a hot shower and some time spent on homework, the nerves went away. Jr. Jr.'s only in second grade, so he's just excited to see his friends again. We're having trouble finding books for him to read. He's got a very high reading level and picky taste. He'll read a few pages of a book and immediately decide it's not for him. He doesn't even give things a chance. If he likes a book, he reads voraciously. I'm having trouble finding books that interest him without being too mature for him. I did have similar issues with Sr. Jr., but he was less picky.

I know I've been remarkably silent, for me, on the current political situation. I think it's simply because I don't want to scorch your eyeballs. Now that the school year is restarting, so is the playgroup tea circuit. I love these women dearly, but their politics are very different than mine. The first meet up will be here, and I think I'll make a firm rule that Politics Will Not Be Discussed In My House. Otherwise, they might soon be my ex-friends.

Hanna is supposed to drench us this weekend, so hopefully I'll be able to get started on this sweater/vest thingy, if I ever settle on which it's going to be.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

And They're Off!

Yesterday was the first day of school. With Sr. Jr. going to middle school this year, we have to adjust to a whole new morning routine. He must leave the house at 7:20 in order to get to school on time, whereas the elementary school bus picked him up at 8:20. He's definitely heading into those tween/teen years where he sleeps more, so I anticipate some rough mornings ahead. For now, however, the novelty of middle school is enough to wake him up quickly in the mornings. Here he is, walking away:

I walked with him up our street. Rather, I lagged behind, as he practically ran ahead of me, saying, "Mom, you're embarassing me!" When we were a little more than halfway to the main street that all the kids take to the middle school, we saw some friends of his walking by, so I hung back even more to allow him to catch up. This is a picture of him running to catch up with his friends.

And here's Jr. Jr. as his bus arrived to take him off to second grade. He was awake and bouncing off the walls almost before I was awake that morning. The first day of school is always a bit of a shock. It's so quiet around here during the summer, and then all these kids show up at the bus stop! There are between 20 and 25 kids, just at our stop, not counting younger siblings. Add in parents and dogs, and it's quite a scene.

One of our neighbors has a party every year after the kids go to school, with bloody marys and mimosas. It's another fun way to catch up after the summer. It's also a way for some of us adults to expend some of the nervous energy we have on the first day of school.

I was quite anxious for most of the day. Partly, it's just a big shock for me to go from all the noise, chaos, and action of having the kids around to a completely quiet house. But there was a bit more to it yesterday, because of Sr. Jr.'s first day of middle school. I couldn't wait for the end of the day, so I could hear how his day went. Was it hard finding his classes? Are his friends in any of his classes? How did he like his teachers? He's finally out of the nurturing embrace of elementary school. I know how scary it can be.

He put his new cell phone to good use by calling me on his way home from school to tell me about his day. It takes all of 15 minutes to walk home from school, but I guess he was excited and wanted to share with me (yay!).

He had a great day. He's excited about middle school. He was really happy with his science teacher, who made getting doused with dangerous chemicals sound fun. He's been placed in a 7th grade math class for now (in 6th grade), and will take a placement test to see if he should be moved into the 8th grade math class. I'm happy he's in the class he's in, even if he doesn't move up. I'd rather he be where he needs to be than move up before he's ready (if that's the case). If he tests up, that's good too. He's just excited about finally being able to move ahead in math.

His only complaint was that the cafeteria ran out of ice cream before he could get any.

Jr. Jr. had a nice day, too. His teacher is very nice and most of the kids get good marks in his opinion. After a summer of complaining about reading, he picked up Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and has been reading it every minute he can.

I didn't knit much. I went to the party and the supermarket, and baked some back to school cookies for the boys. I started swatching a stitch pattern I like, but I wasn't happy with it in the yarn I was using, a light grey/green Wool of the Andes from Knitpicks.

I think what I really want is a brown sweater. I haven't had a good dark brown sweater in a long time. I have several yarn options -- a bulky Annabel Fox tweed, an aran weight Sierra Aran from Elann, and a worsted weight Wool of the Andes. I think the Annabel Fox might be too chunky for what I have in mind. I used Sierra Aran for my Equestrian Blazer last year. I loved knitting with the yarn, but it is very warm, so I think I'll stick with the Wool of the Andes.

Sweater or vest? Cables, definitely. I don't have any vests, and one might be useful, but how much wear would I get out of it? Any opinions?