Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Continues Its Weirdness to the Last

Last night was rough. I hardly got any sleep. I did get to sleep in a little bit, until about 8:30. When I woke up, the wind was howling. It was gusting over 40 mph. The electricity was flickering. I took a quick shower and did some morning time wasting -- checking email and Ravelry, you know, the important things :) Then our contractor called, saying that he'd be over in five minutes to fix the hole he cut in the wall of our basement bathroom.

I ran downstairs to get the paper out of the yard. My next door neighbor, C, and her daughter were leaving their house at the same time. We stared in disbelief as we discovered that two very large branches of the tree in our front yard had fallen thisclose to C's new car:

These pictures were taken after I had disentangled the branches from her wheel wells and undercarriage. Miraculously, there was no damage to her car, not even a scratch, considering how many little twigs and branches were attached to those larger branches. Her first response was, "They missed your light!"

The tree is a huge Silver Maple. I think it's one of the oldest trees in the neighborhood. I love that tree -- it's one of the reasons I wanted to buy the house. It withstood Hurricane Isabel, even though two other maples on our block were torn, roots up, by that storm. However, there have been two pretty strong droughts since then that weakened the tree considerably. I've been trying to save it, having the dead stuff trimmed, watering, etc., but I think it's time to cut it down. Silver Maples have very shallow root systems. I don't want this tree falling on the house.

About 10 minutes after the tree branch discovery, a freak blizzardy snowstorm blew in. No weather report I'd seen said anything about snow, and it wasn't even cold. Here's what it looked like out my front door:

Two minutes after this, the sun came out, lighting up all the moisture in the trees:


Winter Break has been relaxing (mostly). There's been a lot of little stuff going on, so very little knitting. Yesterday, Mr. T thought it might be fun if the boys and I met him downtown for lunch. "I see lots of empty parking spaces," he said. So we hopped in the car and drove downtown only to discover that there are lots of empty parking spaces because all of the meters have been removed in preparation for the Inauguration. So everyone had to cram into the few parking spots that were left. After driving around or 20 minutes fruitlessly searching for an open spot, we parked in a garage. Normally, if I'm going to go to the trouble of driving downtown, and if I'm shelling out $13 for parking, I do NOT want Subway or Baja Fresh for lunch. Or a deli. But that's what we had. It was a nice day, and it killed some time.

Otherwise, there's a lot of Guitar Hero being played. Here's Jr. Jr., doing his best rocker/ladykiller thing:

Yes, the room is messy. There's no point in cleaning it up while they're home 24 hours a day.

And just so you don't get wool withdrawals, here are some shots of Madli's Shawl, first, being modeled by Soft Little Bear:

And finally, lounging alluringly on the bench:

Good luck to Sharon and family, who are competing in Old Town Alexandria's New Year's Eve miler!

And to everyone else, I wish you all a very Happy New Year, hoping that 2009 ushers in better times for all of us.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Post-Christmas Catch-Up

We're still picking pieces of wrapping paper out of our hair, sitting here, gorged on cookies and banana bread, wondering how this time flew past so quickly. The boys are happy with their Nerf guns, books, and Guitar Hero. My FIL's wife really seemed to like the Plum Lotus scarf, which was nice.

I've knit a little bit, not a lot, but it's the same lace shawl, only with more repeats. It'd be a bit pointless to take a picture of it, just scroll down and imagine it with another repeat or two :) I've got the toe on the second Twisted Tweed sock done, but I haven't started the patterned part yet. Dull. I know.

Kippi asked if I'm starting to think about what to knit once the shawl is done. Well, yes, but I'm trying not to! I'm a little over halfway done with the shawl, so it's at that boring, trudging along point where I can easily be distracted away from finishing it. Thus, I am trying to stay away from any additional sources of inspiration. (I admit, however, that I am thinking of revisiting a pattern that was an epic fail for me pre-blog. If I decide to re-knit it, you'll hear all about my idiocy in wrecking the sweater. Experience is no hedge against stupidity. [See, e.g., Wall Street.] The pattern is somewhere in the house, but I refuse to go look for it. No siree, no how.)

In the meantime, we're trying to enjoy our brief spurt of warmer weather before it disappears again. Mr. T and Sr. Jr. rode up the C & O Canal Towpath this morning, up to Great Falls, which looked pretty ferocious from all the recent wet weather. Here are some shots they took via cell phone:

I hope everyone is having a nice, relaxing post-holiday break.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Correspondence with Santa

A Heartwarming Tale of Bitterness and Disillusionment

For some strange reason, Jr. Jr. seems to have decided this year that he believes in Santa Claus. I say "seems to" because I know for a fact that he's told some neighborhood kids that Santa isn't real. Yet he really seems to believe this year. He wrote Santa the standard request letter (even if he claims it was to "test him to see if he's real"), he wants me to leave out milk and cookies tonight, etc. Now, the kids are being raised Jewish. They go to Sunday School and Hebrew School at temple. They light the candles on the Menorah and open presents for Chanukah. Mr. T likes Christmas, so we do have a pretty Christmas tree with presents temptingly placed underneath it. So one would think the child, at almost 8 years of age, would be clued into the whole Santa deal.

In his request letter to Santa, he asked for the Mushroom Men game for the Wii, a Nintendo DS, and the board game Operation. He's already gotten Mushroom men as a Chanukah present and Operation is wrapped up under the tree. He's NOT getting a DS.

Mr. T thought it might be a cute idea to have Santa write back to Jr. Jr., saying that while he's been a good boy, not everyone can get everything they want. But in his response, Mr. T made a little boo boo. He told Jr. Jr. that this year he would not be able to give him a PSP.

Oh, the indignance! Clearly, Santa's an addled old man, easily confused. It was a DS, dammit, not a PSP, that Jr. Jr. wanted! He got out a piece of paper to write back to Santa in hopes of clearing up the confusion in time for Christmas.

"Dear Santa," he wrote. "I asked for a DS, not a PSP. You got mixed up. [Jr. Jr.]" (Not even a businesslike "sincerely"!) I told him that it was probably not a good idea to be mean to Santa, or to seem ungrateful, lest Santa's hurt feelings be reflected next year at this time.

Meanwhile, today Sr. Jr. went off to work with Mr. T, and I stayed home and baked cookies:

These are some of the best cookies ever, and my seasonal gift to you is the recipe, originally published years ago in the Washington Post Food section:

Ginger Cookies

(Preheat oven to 375 and line some baking sheets with parchment paper)

2 cups plus 2 tbs all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice

3/4 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup plus 2 tbs sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cup of sugar mixed with 1/2 tsp ground ginger and 1/4 tsp allspice

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.

In a large bowl with electric mixer on medium, cream shortening for about two minutes. Add the sugar in 2 additions, beating for 1 minute after each. Beat in egg. Blend in molasses and vanilla.

Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour mixture in three additions, beating just until the flour is incorporated each time. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until firm, about 3 or 4 hours.

Form dough into balls of about 1 tbs. Roll each ball into ginger/sugar/allspice mixture and place three inches apart on baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire rack.

(You can also add up to 2/3 cup of chopped crystallized ginger to the dough for an even stronger cookie.)

On that note, we are off to celebrate.

I wish all of you the most merry and happy of holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Catching Up

It's been a very busy week, with a couple of days spent running to and from the vet with one of the cats (she's fine), one day lost to emergency plumbing repairs (fixed, thanks to a contractor who will come back five years after a renovation!), a couple of holiday parties, including one at the Corcoran Gallery (not as nice as one would expect), holiday shopping that got squished into a half a day, and the usual stuff of life, like school parties, laundry, shopping, etc. As you can guess, not much knitting got done.

But I can show you some progress pics of Madli's Shawl, including the arty shot:

And the full-view progress shot:

Today was laundry day, which means the hanging garden of socks is on full display, if you happen to be in my bathroom:

This morning is was 16 degrees F at bus stop time, with a wind chill of 8. Outdoor activities are out of the question, so we've been doing the whole indoor family fun bit. We played Scrabble the other night, which is interesting when several of your competitors can't spell. We also started and finished a puzzle of a funky looking castle in Germany. We had a lot of fun doing this, so we immediately broke out the even more difficult 3000 piece puzzle to work on during winter break. Here's the completed castle:

Last, but certainly not least, was the first night of Chanukah. (It's getting close to sundown now, and the natives are getting restless. I'm streeeeeetttchhinnnngggg this out to torture them.) We gave Jr. Jr. a new Razor Scooter:

He insisted on riding it to the bus stop this morning, even though it was so cold. Grandma T gave Sr. Jr. a Florida Gators sweatshirt that he'll be able to grow into:

The kids are getting to be real experts at examining wrapped presents and guessing at what they might contain.

Tomorrow is their last day of school before break, so I hope to cram as much knitting time in as I can. It will be a while before I can do much more than work on a sock!

I picked up the new English? American? version of Anna magazine. Each magazine will contain a Herbert Niebling pattern, so out went my subscription request card :)

Also, there's a beautiful crocheted lace scarf in the most recent edition of Interweave Crochet that I'd like to do. I guess that will be my New Year's goal -- become a decent enough crocheter to make the Alpine Frost scarf.

I'm off to warm up the latkes for dinner before the kids explode with Chanukah anticipation....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Brief Question, More Tomorrow

So what up with the renewed interest in Susan Reishus and her Mystery Lace KAL? Many people have stopped by today as a result of searching for that, and I'm curious about why, all of a sudden, so many people are interested in that debacle? Did anything vaguely pattern-like every come out of that? Is she trying to start a new KAL? Please feel free to comment and let me know. Thx.

Will try to put up a real post sometime tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In Case You Missed Your Daily Dose of Cute

(Photo by Kevin Dillard at Demoncats.)

This is Jr. Jr. with Mr. T at the bike race last weekend.

Here he is, as "Santa Claus, the Christmas Pirate." I know I'm his mom, but isn't he just adorable?

Madli's Shawl looks like it looked last time, only one repeat longer. In an earlier post, I talked about not liking the cast on. At one point, I set aside the edging that I'd already done and cast on for the second edging, figuring that I could either use it if the cast on looked nicer, or save it to use with the shawl if it looked the same. This time, I cast on tighter, hoping that I could do away with the little loopy parts of the knitted-on cast on edge. No luck. I still had the extra loops, but now the cast-on edge was too tight, so I scrapped it. I'll just live with it. Next time, I'll use the tried and true cast on. I don't usually have any trouble with it.

I ran out this morning to do a little holiday shopping. I got a couple of things the kids will like. Toys 'R Us didn't have one of the games I was looking for, so I stopped off at Target on the way home. They didn't have it either, but that was ok, because I needed to get the boys some new socks anyway.

Target was nearly cleaned out of boys' socks! I hope that kids aren't just getting socks for the holidays this year :(

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I Haven't Forgotten

...that I owe you a picture of the Plum Lotus Scarf being worn. None of the shots is great, but here's the best of the lot:

This scarf is going to my father-in-law's wife for Christmas. I think she'll like it better than the boring sweater we usually get her :)

In the meantime, I'm still plugging away at Madli's Shawl in my spare few minutes. It's a pretty easy knit, but it looks great. The yarn is spectacular. I can't quite get the color to show up in the pictures. Hopefully I can get a good shot in sunlight when the shawl is done. Here are some shots.

First, the full view:

Looking at this, I'm not sure I like that half repeat on the left hand side. It's not symmetrical, and it may bug me. I guess that it's designed this way to accommodate the edging, but it's very noticeable to me. Grrr. Next, the arty angular look:

And finally, the squared-up close-up:

I doubt it's going to get done too quickly, even though it should. This week is going to be very busy, what with holiday parties, school parties, etc.

I am not at all in the holiday spirit this year. I don't know why, and I can't seem to get myself motivated to do anything about it. I've done a little shopping, but not nearly enough.

Today was our block's annual pre-holiday get-together. It's always nice to catch up with people at this time of year. A lot of talking and keeping up goes on at the bus stop, but I miss some of the moms whose kids have aged out of elementary school.

We here in the T household have been talking about the possibility of sending Sr. Jr. to a private school. Middle school is even less challenging than elementary school, if that's possible. The poor boy is totally bored. He finishes all his homework at school. I've never seen him study for a test.

I've been hearing from people with older middle school kids that things don't really improve. I'm particularly disheartened to hear that the school doesn't step up its writing instruction. I believe that writing skills are of critical importance, not just for college, but for careers, as well. Sr. Jr., as bright as he is, is a reluctant writer. It's the one area where I think he could use some more work. At the block party, our next-door neighbor mentioned that they're looking into private schools for their son for next year, when he starts high school, for the same reason. It didn't inspire confidence in our schools.

Mr. T and I have always been strong advocates of public schools. We've always said how happy we are to live in an area with really good schools. We really don't want to spend a ton of money on schooling for a 12 year old :) We have options, like applying for the math/science magnet school in Fairfax, or the IB high school here in Arlington, but I'm not sure that either of those is a good fit for Sr. Jr. Not a fun situation.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dashing Through

It's that busy time of year, with shopping to do, parties to go to, dresses to shop for, ridiculous school projects to shop for, etc. We got a note home yesterday from Jr. Jr.'s teacher that they were going to work on a special holiday craft project, so could we please send in about a square yard of holiday-themed fabric, cut into strips? Great. So to add to all the other things I need to do at this time of year, I need to go find holiday-themed fabric??? Do they make Chanukah fabrics??? How dorky will it be if my kid makes a freaking wreath with Chanukah fabric? Cranky-making this is.

Call me Grinchy, I don't care. I can't wait for January.

There's only little bits of knitting, here and there, in between things, but I've gotten a couple of repeats done on Madli's Shawl. The pattern is really quite simple. In fact, it would be downright boring if it weren't for the two nupp rows per repeat. It looks really nice, even in its unblocked state. I can't wait to see the finished product. Here are some pictures:

This morning I'm off to our playgroup holiday gathering, so I apologize for not having more to say. Next time, I hope :)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Feeling Edgy

I will keep you in suspense no longer. I've chosen to knit Madli's Shawl from Knitted Lace of Estonia. I liked it, and it seemed like something I would actually wear. I'm using Yarn Chef's Creme Brulee wool/silk laceweight in a color called Malted, which is off-white, with tans and pinks, which gives the shawl an antiqued look. So I cast on. And I don't like the cast on. The pattern calls for a knitted-on cast-on using two strands of yarn. Mine doesn't look like the one in the book, perhaps because I kept the cast-on fairly loose to facilitate blocking. It'll just have to be a design feature. Oh, well.

I finished the lower border, so soon I'll move on to the main pattern section. I added a row of yarnovers in the middle of the garter stitch section at the top of the border, to provide a more prominent differentiation between the border and the main pattern.

The directions have you cast on and knit the lower border and the entire main body, then knit the top border separately and graft it to the rest of the shawl. My plan is to knit until I use up a whole skein. When I break out the second skein, I'll knit the upper border, so I know exactly how much yarn I have left to use to complete the shawl.

The nupps are going fine. Knitting Daily's TV show has a brief segment with Nancy Bush in which she demonstrates just how loosely to knit the stitches that form the nupp. That was extremely helpful. Here's a close-up view of the border, in which you can see the nupps more clearly:

In non-knitting news, I attended the Colonial Fair at Sr. Jr.'s school on Friday. It was the first in-school event of his middle school career. I was excited to see him out in the wild, interacting with the other creatures. I was assigned to a room that he wasn't in, but I did get to see him and visit his room. (All the colonies were assigned different rooms. The kids were given "passports" to go visit other colonies and learn about how they were founded, what their major crops were, etc.) It was a fun time. It was also nice to catch up with some parents that I rarely get to see anymore, since we don't meet up as frequently at school events.

Today was the last cyclocross race of the season, and while Sr. Jr. couldn't enter, Jr. Jr. did. It was his first official cyclocross race :) As luck would have it, there were two other boys there from his school and grade, one of whom is actually in his class. I suspect that the competition was a little fiercer because they all know each other. Jr. Jr. came in fourth, his classmate came in third, and the other boy came in fifth, so a good showing for the school.

Friday, December 5, 2008

At Least I've Made a Decision

But that's about all. And believe me, I put almost as much thought into this decision as we did when buying the house. I pored over the pictures on Ravelry; I pondered color; I tried to imagine what I'd like knitting and what I'd like wearing.

I'll leave you in suspense for a little while longer about my choice. In the meantime, I can tell you that the yarn is from my custom order from Yarn Chef. The colorway is called "Malted," but I think it looks more parchment-y. It's a mixture of cream, light tan/brown, and some light pink as well.

It will look beautiful knit up. I have two skeins of this, and I hope it will be enough for the shawl.

I also finished up the first of the Twisted Tweed socks:

It fits beautifully and looks wonderful. However, instead of immediately casting on for the second sock, I finally managed to cast on for the second socklet for my MIL. It's a quick knit, so I can get it done quickly and go back to the TT socks. I figure it's about time for my MIL to get her second pair of socklets.

And yesterday the first of my Sundara sock yarn club shipments arrived:

Mmmm. Pretty. I like these colors a lot.

Now I have lots of inspiration and not a lot of time.

Today was the big "Colonial Fair" at Sr. Jr.'s school. It was the first in-school event that they've had, so it was my first opportunity to see him in action at school. Unfortunately, I was stationed in the library, while he was in the science room, but I saw him when he visited our station ("Maryland") and then he pulled me along to see his installation, "Georgia." Middle school has a very different energy than elementary school! I had a good time.

Sorry for the quick post, but I have to go iron the kids' "good" clothes for a thing at temple tonight.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Tale of Two Socks and Two Shawls

It was the best... No. Sorry.

I've been working on the Twisted Tweed socks in the absence of anything else that's managed to capture my attention. Back when I first started them, I wrote here that I was a bit concerned that the slipped stitches would make the sock a lot less stretchy, and therefore difficult to put on. Back in the day (last year or the year before, who knows, I've lost all track of time), I knit my Tilting Sunset socks using a similar (but not identical) technique. If I remember correctly, and it's entirely possible that I do not, the pattern for the TS socks involved slipping a stitch for a couple of rows and then moving it one or two stitches to the right or left, creating some tilted and elongated stitches running up and down and around the socks:

(The yarn is Dream in Color Smooshy, Cloud Jungle colorway. Amazing.) These stitches do, indeed, reduce the elasticity of the sock. Once they are on, they're fantastically comfortable, being Smooshy and all, but it does take a little finesse to get them on, particularly over that lumpy heel and ankle area.

Luckily, my fears about the simple slip stitches in the Tweed Socks were unnecessary. In this sock, you slip stitches with yarn in front on every other row, which compresses the row gauge a bit and reduces elasticity somewhat, but not enough to make it difficult to get the sock on.

As always, my meager photographic skills don't do the yarn justice (Sundara Sock Yarn, Sage over Pumpkin). The slip stitch pattern really works with this yarn, creating a lovely tweedy effect. I'm almost done with the first sock.

I'm still considering what to do for my next non-sock project. The smoke ring thing doesn't seem to be working out right now, or at least, the yarn I chose didn't seem to want to be a smoke ring. So I gathered up some magazines and some books to look for some inspiration and honed on in "Knitted Lace of Estonia," which some of you will remind me I had said would likely be the source of my next project while I was still working on the Simple Knitted Bodice.

I should pay more attention to myself.

Upon first glancing through the book, I thought that I would knit Madli's Shawl, a nice rectangular shawl with lots of lovely nupps. But then I found a lovely laceweight version of Miralda's Triangular Shawl, which just sent my plans into turmoil. The version of the shawl in the book is made with fingering weight yarn instead of laceweight. In my opinion, the delicacy and beauty of the pattern is completely lost in that yarn. If I had only seen the version of the shawl in the book, I wouldn't even be thinking about knitting it. Now, having seen what it can look like in a more delicate yarn, well...

This is what I love about Ravelry! (Or hate, depending.) There are so many variations on patterns that we can't all visualize, so it's wonderful to get to see those variations made real.

But now I don't know which one to do! From nothing, to too much, in one day.