Thursday, December 24, 2009

Pre-Christmas blather

As predicted, the blizzard canceled the few days of school we had left before Winter Break. While I'm sad to have missed a couple of last days to shop and knit, I'm enjoying sleeping in and relaxing. I'm a much happier person when I get to sleep more than I normally do.

I continue to work (slowly) on Pas de Valse. Well, I haven't worked on it in over a week. Here's what I've got:

But I also started the Wollmeise lace knit along. The KAL goes from solstice to solstice and the requirement is only that you use Wollmeise lace yarn. So I wound up my skein of Sabrina (that's a teal-y) green and cast on 371 stitches to start Miralda's Triangular Shawl from Knitted Lace of Estonia. The shawl is worked from the bottom up, having you cast on all the stitches around the bottom of the triangle. You decrease as you knit, so that by the time you're done, there are only a few stitches left.

Here's the cast on:

I have actually knit a few rows on this, but that was after I put the camera away.

Poor overworked Mr. T has just arrived home to take the kids off to do something, so I'm going to get off the computer and go work on it some more :)

I'm hoping to start a Christmas Eve tradition of watching "Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail."

To all of you who celebrate, have a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snowpocalypse Now

It kept snowing until late last night. When I went upstairs around 11, it was still snowing, but definitely tapering off. But we are most definitely socked in with over 20 inches of snow. No plow has been anywhere near our street, of course. All activities for today and tonight are cancelled, but still no word on school tomorrow. I'm not hopeful, clearly.

Here's the view from the basement patio. The retaining wall is about 3 feet tall:

And a last picture of the table on the deck before it got dark. It got even more snow during the night, but by the time I got dressed to go take pictures, the kids had been out there, messing up the pristine tableau:

This is our backyard. If you look closely, you can see that there's a fence back there. Those are boxwoods in front of the fence:

Here's the view down to the basement patio. There are stairs under there.

Pretty tree shot:

Our neighbor's car is completely buried:

You can see here that people have driven down the street, leaving deep furrows.

Here's our house. There is shrubbery in front of the house, not that you can see it:

I need to bake and knit. Probably won't get around to doing either. Mr. T and the boys are doing a great job of digging us out so we can move when necessary.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow! Blizzard! Apocalypse Nigh!

Ah, the Blizzard of '09. Not kidding - we're under a blizzard warning until 6 pm tonight. DC does not deal with snow very well. The city grinds to a halt; people panic. They (local government and people alike) just do not act sensibly. Luckily, the snow started on a Friday night after rush hour. Saturday snow means that all the panic about school closings and work closings don't apply. We are supposed to get up to 2 feet of snow, which will definitely impact Monday activities.

Here's what we had as of this morning before the bulk of the storm even arrived:

Here's the blowing snow:

Mr. T was away all week, so he was determined to get a bike ride in while he could.

He made it around the block before giving up.

Yesterday morning I went for my usual Friday morning shopping run. We're pretty well set on food, between the freezer and the pantry stock. I made chili Thursday night, so we have a bunch of that in the fridge. I bought a bunch of chicken to use for Jr. Jr.'s recipe project for school (he inexplicably decided that we should make chicken pot pie. We've never eaten chicken pot pie before. He doesn't like the majority of the ingredients in chicken pot pie. Oh, well.) All I needed, really, was lunch meats and yogurt.

I decided to wait until after 9 to go, figuring that those who were freaking out about the snow would try to go before they left for work. Nuh uh. I've never seen the market that busy. The parking lot was full. The register lines extended down the aisles. I was the odd person out with my little basket of yogurt, bread, lunch meat and chips. People had piled the big carts with provisions for weeks. Cracks me up.

After so long with no knitting time, I finally had a bit of time on Thursday to knit, so I whipped myself up a much-needed hat:

The pattern is Star-Crossed Slouchy. I used less than one skein of Malabrigo Worsted. Size 11 needles. It only took a few hours of off and on knitting to finish it up. It's nice and warm, but most importantly for me, it doesn't ruin my curly hair and give me hat head. This is a critical component of any hat design for me. I do NOT have the kind of hair that deals well with hats.

I've been working on Pas de Valse occasionally, too. I have about 8 inches of it done, but since Mr. T has taken the camera with him at the moment, I can't show you a picture.

Chanukah went well (except that Mr. T was gone all week). Sr. Jr. loved his Dalek bank, Call of Duty Wii game, and new book. Jr. Jr. loved his Mario Wii game, 39 clues card packs, and his bottle of apple juice :)

(please ignore the mess)

The boys got me a faux shearling throw which the cat promptly adopted:

Sometimes I wish I were a cat - look how perfectly content and comfortable she looks! This morning I opened the front door to let her go outside and experience snow. She leapt out there, stopped, took a few awkward steps, looked back at me like "WTF?" and ran back inside. Now she's as above, warm and comfy.

Currently reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and really enjoying it. It reminds me of a less arrogant and didactic Quicksilver (Neal Stephenson).

Ah, well. I was hoping to get some knitting in this week on those last few school days before break, but it's looking like I'll lose some of that time to snow days/delays.

Stay tuned for more snow pics in coming days :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

That Time of Year

Chanukah starts Friday night. Chanukah starts Friday night? CHANUKAH STARTS FRIDAY NIGHT!!

Yeah, right... holy shit. Thanksgiving just ended and it dawned on me that I had no presents. I hadn't started shopping for anyone. I ran out and got some things to start. Tomorrow I will go looking for more. This morning I wrapped what I had:

and then hid it in a less secretive place than the one in which I keep the unwrapped presents. I was trying to play a little trick on Jr. Jr. and drag out the suspense. Usually the presents go up on the piano before Chanukah starts, leading to a daily ritual of counting, sorting, and comparing ("Mooooom, why does he have more presents that I do?). Jr. Jr. has been looking worried, asking me about whether I had started shopping yet. On Monday, he saw the wrapping paper I picked up at the Container Store and got very excited. I told him I was going to use it to make Chanukah decorations, not to wrap presents. Alas, my new choice of hiding place was not very smart, because as soon as he came home from school today, Jr. Jr. noticed that 1) the wrapping paper had been opened and used; and b) there were no wrapping paper Chanukah decorations hanging up (I was lazy). So he ran right upstairs and found the wrapped presents. Oh, well.

Yes, there IS a bottle of apple juice amongst those presents (evil grin). I haven't wrapped the toilet paper yet. Maybe I'll keep that one for Christmas.

My little fat helper tried to ruin every package I wrapped. Here she is, looking innocent and fat right afterward:

So, yes, everybody say it with me, but with all the shopping and wrapping and dentist's appointments and everything else...... there's been very little knitting time. Sigh. Maybe after the new year.

But I did start a new sweater, the Pas de Valse from the Fall issue of Twist Collective:

It's a pretty swingy sweater. This is Squoosh MCN sock yarn in Grey Powder. I know I usually go for darker, more saturated colors, but I like this. It's good to have variety. I'm just not sure if it looks like I got my pink sweater dirty or whether it looks interesting. It's mostly stockinette, knit in one piece up to the armholes, with a knit-at-the-same-time shawl extension. So it's easy enough for me to take on right now when I don't have time to concentrate.

Sr. Jr. just came home and told me he's taken out The Jungle from the library so I wonder if we'll be going vegetarian soon?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Family Room

The new couch for our family room arrived and it's wonderful! We can all lounge on it at the same time! I can have room to knit and snuggle at the same time. The kids love it. This was definitely the best purchase of the year.

Alas, there's still no knitting. And I don't know when there will be, either. Lots of busy and things to do here.

Right now it's snowing big, heavy wet flakes. Sr. Jr. is off at a friend's birthday sleepover that is supposed to morph into a football game after lunch. It will be a ton of fun for the boys with all that snow and mud! I sense that he will need new sneakers afterward.

Tomorrow is the last cyclocross race of the season, also in the snow and mud. Should be interesting. I'm hoping that no broken bones result.

I haven't done a reading report in a while, have I? I guess I should update here, since I never do update the sidebar.

First up is American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld. This has been on my kindle for a while, but I resisted reading it. It's a portrait of a First Lady based on Laura Bush. I had had quite enough of the Bushes and wasn't sure I could stomach reading about them, even in a fictionalized account. The book is interesting, however, and held my attention. I'm not sure I feel any better after reading it than I did before. It would have been easy for Sittenfeld to either vilify or apologize, but she ends up doing both and neither. The novel postulates a pro-life Democratic First Lady, who keeps her opinions to herself. She never attempts to push her position on her husband or stand up for what she believes in because, she explains, the American people did not elect her. Is this a cop out? As far as I'm concerned, yes. I don't think I could hold my tongue if I were in the same position. I might not succeed in persuading, but at least I would have felt like I had my say. After reading the book, I still can't understand what binds her to her husband, other than physical attraction.

Next up was The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, by Katherine Howe. It was better than I expected, but it could have been even better. It was entertaining, and I wanted to keep reading it, but it was a little more woo-filled than I would have liked.

I'm currently reading My Life in France, by Julia Child. I've watched enough Julia Child on television that I hear this book in her voice. It's a joy to read. Julia was a woman in love with the world and learning about it, particularly (obviously) food. What fun it must have been to be in Paris and able to indulge in cooking classes, wine tastings, 3 star restaurants, and dinners with Alice B. Toklas! She had a great sense of humor and zest for life which comes shining through the page.

Chanukah starts in less than a week. Jr. Jr. gave us his wishlist, which was two pages long and included things like a television, an iPhone, a trampoline, treehouse building supplies, a Nintendo DS, a camera, a laptop computer, a mini-fridge, apple juice, and toilet paper. ??? We figured out that he has plans to build a snazzy tree house (never mind that we don't have any tree-house appropriate trees). His tree house will also apparently be wired for electricity AND have indoor plumbing. He will be able to watch television and surf the 'net. If he gets thirsty, he can go to his mini-fridge for some apple juice. And clearly, after the apple juice, he will need a bathroom break. A little-boy-cave in a tree :)

Yes, we will be wrapping up some apple juice and toilet paper for him.

I have about a million knitting projects I want to work on. Hopefully I'll have some time to do that soon.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bits and Bobs

I hope all of you who celebrate had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We had a very relaxed, low-key celebration at home, just the four of us. This is the first time in, um, ever that we have done that. I joked with the kids that we should have the meal in our PJs, but we didn't go that far. It was nice to read late, sleep in, and have no place we HAD to go.

Jr. Jr. played superhero with a blankie I knitted for him while I was pregnant:

On Sunday, the boys went to see the GW game, where they sat about 50 feet away from President Obama and his family, there to cheer on the First Lady's brother, who was coaching the opposing team. Mr. T swears the President waved at him :) There are pictures, but they're not very clear.

There hasn't been much knitting time (as usual), but I did manage to finish the Fiddlehead Mittens:

Just in time, too. It was 32 degrees this morning, so I got to wear them down to the bus stop. Between the stranded outer mitten and the liner, these mittens are essentially three layers of wool. They were nice and toasty. However, they aren't tight at the wrist, and they aren't too long, as you can see in this picture:

I may pick up stitches around the bottom and add a ribbed cuff. It won't look quite as pretty, but the cuff can hide under my jacket sleeve. The cuff will keep cold air and snow from coming in the bottom.

I also got to do a little bit of work on my Gothsocks. I got a lot done at a meet-up we had last week downtown. Tasha was coming in from Chicago, so a bunch of us who met through the various swap/Wollmeise boards on Ravelry met at a restaurant downtown and spent a very nice couple of hours snacking, knitting, and chatting. It made me wish I had a local knitting group that met weekly or bi-weekly. Interestingly, although all of us met because of our love of Wollmeise yarn, none of us was knitting with it last week.

I also got a little bit done on the second Dark Isle sock. Even though it's the second sock, it's still a lot of fun to knit.

I'm coming to the point where I can cast on for something new. I want to knit another sweater, and I also would like to do something lacy for the Wollmeise lace knit along. Makes me wish I had more time to knit!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Best Sock Ever

I'm in love with this sock. I just finished it today and I can't wait to finish the other one so I can wear them. The pattern (the Dark Isle sock, by Laris) is easy and fun to knit. The sock fits perfectly and is really cozy.

The original pattern called for Regia, but I was using a much thinner yarn. I used two shades of Wollmeise 100% sock wool, black and Dornroschen, which by itself is a retina-searing combination of hot pink and bright red. Combined with the black, however, the brightness is toned down and the colors turn merely intense.

In order to accommodate for the gauge differences, I cast on 72 stitches on size 0 needles instead of the 64 stitches on 1s or 2s called for. I also changed some of the motifs to four rows instead of three to make the length work out correctly. These changes worked perfectly.

I also did a plain old short row heel instead of the afterthought heel called for in the pattern. I just wanted to. This way, I could try the socks on as I went and when I cast off at the top, I was done.

Other than that, there's nothing going on here. Bike races for the two older boys, school project supervising for me.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Flu Mist

Jr. Jr. came down with what looks to have been H1N1 flu last week. Luckily for us, it was extremely mild. A bit of a cough for the first few days, low grade fever for a few more days. In fact, most of the week he was perfectly fine during the day, only to pop a very low grade fever in the evening. I didn't even bother taking him to the doctor. In fact, I didn't even give him any medicine after the first day. One of his buddies, however, ended up with pneumonia, so I know we were lucky.

And then he went back to school in time to get the vaccine.

So, while there was a lot of Mommy time last week, there wasn't a whole lot of knitting time. I've done little bits here and there, however, so I do have things to show you.

I'm almost done with my Fiddlehead Mittens. I'm going to run out of yarn for the inner liners, but since no one will see the liners, it's not that big a deal. I'm knitting the smallest size of these mittens, on US 1 needles, so I imagine people who are knitting the larger sizes might find it more frustrating than I did.

I took this picture yesterday morning, so I'm a lot farther along now than this. Here's a nice arty shot, where you can hopefully see the inner lining:

I finally finished the second Aestlight shawl that I started way back in August. It was one of my background projects, but I picked it up when Jr. Jr. was sick because it's so easy and straightforward. Here it is blocking:

And here's a bad self-portrait:

The pictures can't begin to show the subtle complexities of the yarn. It looks charcoal in the pictures, but in reality it's got dark teal and dark purple, overwashed with black. Very pretty. The yarn is Eidos, from The Sanguine Gryphon, in a sadly discontinued colorway called Alcibiades. It felt very rough and pebbly while I was knitting it up, but it did soften up in the wash.

I love this pattern. It's not showy lace, but it's very versatile and wearable. I will throw this on for warmth and oomph before I'd throw on one of my more complicated lace patterns. In fact, I saw one on Rav that was done in a very variegated colorway, and it looked fantastic. I'm tempted to cast on another one, but that would be number 3...

Mammogram Lunacy

The new suggested mammogram guidelines came out on Monday, a day before I was scheduled for my yearly mammogram. What kind of arrant nonsense is this? I find it alarming, irresponsible, and downright dangerous to recommend that women wait until 50 for a first mammogram and do away with self-exams. Breast cancer may be more prevalent in women over 50, but when it appears in women younger than 50, it tends to be more aggressive. That is precisely WHY you want to have early diagnosis in those years. In fact, most of the women I've known over the years who were diagnosed with breast cancer were in their 40s. I would far rather endure some temporary discomfort (I don't find mammograms painful) and the chance of a false positive than risk missing something that could kill me, thank you very much.

I noted, however, that the panel that made these recommendations did not include any oncologists or gynecologists. Most reputable medical organizations don't agree with the recommendations.

The issue becomes one of (ugh, again?) insurance coverage. Will insurance companies refuse to cover regular screening mammograms, using these recommendations as their guide? If so, there are many women who will forego them, and perhaps miss something until it's too late.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Beer, Brats, and Lil Belgians - Tacchino CX weekend

This weekend was the Tacchino Cyclocross race organized and sponsored by Squadra Coppi, Mr. T's bike team. The race was a lot of fun for the whole family.

The weather was gorgeous, 75 and sunny. There was live music.

There was interesting food.

I had a brat, with mustard and sauerkraut, yum.

There was a turkey ("tacchino" means turkey).

Oh, yeah. There was some racing, too.

Mr. T did well in his race. He not only came in 4th overall, but he won a 6-pack of tasty Belgian beer made in Upstate New York for being in second place on one of the laps. Other prizes in races included sausages, bacon, and a Tofurkey. The first person who won the Tofurkey "donated" it back to the race to be given out to someone else. I don't know if they ever managed to give it away.

That's Mr. T next to the turkey (James).

Sr. Jr. did the 10-14 race, which went out just behind the women's races. The top junior racers, Sr. Jr. included, would have placed very well in the women's field. They overtook a good portion of the women's field, which I found interesting, because there are some VERY strong women racing. Sr. Jr. took second in his race. He and the first place finisher came in way ahead of the rest of the junior field.

Things are even more fun at the Jr. Jr. level. Two of his buddies from school (in his class, even) both race, too. One races because his dad is on Mr. T's team, but the other just likes to race and his parents are happy to cart him around to races. So we all hang and have fun, and the boys have a blast. D (from the non-racing family) usually comes in first in the group, then Jr. Jr., then C. (from the racing family). But they all have a great time and support each other.

Well, I can't remember the last time I got any serious knitting done. However, the one thing that cyclocross riders and knitters have in common?

A thing for funky socks :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cresting the Hill

I have a real love-hate relationship with this time of year. I love it because of the weather, the leaves, the back to school activities, and the sense that a whole new year is open to us. I hate it because every year it goes so quickly. Each year it seems to go faster, too. Halloween seems to me to be the crest of the hill. Everything's fun, everything's beautiful, everyone's excited for Halloween....

And then we wake up and it's November, and before we know it Thanksgiving is here and then Chanukah, Christmas, New Year's, and before I know it, I feel like half the school year has gone by in the blink of an eye.

It doesn't help that one of my favorite holidays, Thanksgiving, has morphed into my least-favorite holidays over the last few years. I don't look forward to it, and I miss how it used to be.

This year I will try not to place so much weight on the holidays and just enjoy each day. Maybe that will help.


The boys did not participate in any bike races this last weekend! Incredible, I know. So we took the time to cross some things off our house to-do list. We've been mulling over what we can do to the family room to make it more comfortable and welcoming. Do we get a bigger, L-shaped couch? Do we add more chairs? Do we rearrange everything?

We found a great big, leather L shaped couch, one that will hold me, my knitting stuff and every other member of the family. It's very comfy, not hideously ugly, and has serious snuggle potential. I can't wait for it to arrive.

Once we had done that, we decided to decide where to hang some of our artwork. We got some great stuff at one of the local art shows, but couldn't quite settle on where to hang it. Now they're up on the walls and looking good.

To top it all off, I finally decided on some window treatments for the living room and dining room and got those all ordered.

It's only been 5 years since the remodel. Do you think we moved too quickly?

And yes, all that decorating meant little time for knitting. I started the liner for the Fiddlehead Mittens. Here you can see how it's attached and being knit from the bottom of the mitten:

Here's a view of the whole thing:

Here's some pretty yarn:

This is the Plucky Knitter, merino/cashmere/nylon sport weight in Flannel Shimmy.

Plucky Knitter, again, in Honey Wilkes.

Wollmeise, in Jeton.


Today is the big gubernatorial election here in Virginia. Virginia is an odd state, with city centers that tend to be pretty liberal and rural areas that are very, very conservative. As the population of the city centers has grown and pushed outward, the electoral face of the state has changed. The last two governors were very well-regarded Democrats and Virginia's electoral delegates went to Obama in 2008.

It would have seemed that the Democrats had a fair chance of holding onto the governorship, but a hard-fought primary left us with a pretty unappealing candidate. Creigh Deeds isn't very dynamic or exciting. He's run a terrible campaign. I see three McDonnell ads for every once Creigh Deeds ad. The Republican opponent, Robert McDonnell, is a hard-line Christian conservative wearing sheep's clothing. I remember his past campaigns and his mailings, and they're very different than what he's trying to portray himself as this time around. So, while I voted for Deeds, it wasn't with any sense that I want him to be my governor. It was more that I really don't want McDonnell to be.

Pundits on the right are trying hard to paint this election as some kind of referendum or harbinger on the Obama presidency. Nonsense. If Creigh Deeds loses this election, it's not because people are upset or unhappy about the Obama presidency. It's because Creigh deeds was a terrible candidate who ran a terrible campaign.

It's times like these that I'm thankful for Virginia's odd law limited governors to a single term.