Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Making Do

Life is slowly getting back to normal. The snow is slowly disappearing. Roads are clearing. The basement is dry. The laundry is done. The kids are back in school semi-regularly. So there's been a little more knitting, finally.

During Blizzardmania I started Virve's Stockings because I needed something fairly mindless to do. I was at a point in Pas de Valse that required time and concentration, neither of which were much available. So I picked some colors and cast on. I'm almost done with one of them. They're knee socks, so they do take a bit of knitting:

You can see from the long view that there's quite a bit of knitting there. I'm about halfway through the foot:

This is a nice pattern for mindless knitting -- a little lace at the top, a lot of stockinette, a little fair isle, then the heel, then more stockinette until you're done.

This last weekend I finally got the concentrated quiet time I needed to pick up the armhole stitches on Pas de Valse. Here's where the appeal of knitting with thinner yarn on larger needles wears thin. I picked up stitches very carefully. I had the exact number called for, but because of the loosy-goosy gauge and the short rows, I got holes. There's really no remedying this. It's not a question of my technique, or where I was picking up the stitches, it's just the nature of the knitting. I can sew over the holes to camouflage them, but that's a pain. I will do it, however, because I will not be satisfied otherwise.

Here's what it looks like in long view:

Here's the armhole with the holes:


In news of my other activities, I've read some good books lately. 36 Arguments for the Existence of God was first. This book combines philosophy, mathematics, and academic satire, all in one. Some books are straight out satires that you laugh your way through. Others manage to combine satire with deeper and more emotional layers. This book is definitely the latter type. Parts of it were laugh-out-loud funny (particularly the portrayal of a Harold Bloom-like figure), and some were desperately sad. In some ways, it's an extended meditation on the old Jewish saying "If I do not live for myself, who will? But if I only live for myself, who am I?" and the choices that are thrust upon us. As and English major, I loved the academic satire. The portrayal of the inter-generational and sectarian differences among Jews also resonated with me, mirroring in many ways the dynamics I grew up with. And there was some fascinating stuff that wowed the secret math geek in me.

When I finished that book, I read Hot Springs, by Geoffrey Becker. This is a melancholy book about a young woman who kidnaps the daughter she gave up for adoption five years earlier. It's harder to describe, but it's about love, fear, forgiveness, and the desire to be loved. It's a good book as well.

Somewhere in there I re-read Jane Eyre, as well. I don't think I've read this one since high school. It was nice to dive back in and remember how much I liked it the first time around. It aged well in the sense that my older self still liked it very much, much as I do with Austen (and much as I didn't do with Catcher in the Rye, which is definitely a book for rebellious adolescents).

I'm currently reading Beyond Black, by Hilary Mantel. Mantel wrote Wolf Hall, which I read and enjoyed recently. (As an aside, Wolf Hall, while very good, felt unfinished, incomplete. It turns out that there's another book to come, to complete the story.) This book is very different than Wolf Hall. I'm still early enough in the book that I can't really come to any conclusions about it. It's about a psychic/spiritualist who travels England's "psychic fayre" circuit. So far, I'm enjoying the reading. I'll report back on my conclusions when I have some.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Big Dig

Wow. Those were some amazing storms we had. I grew up in a snowier place than the DC area, and I had never experienced anything like this before. We never lost power, nor did we have any tree limbs fall on the house or the cars. The worst we had was the ice dam (or "ice damn" as Mr. T referred to it elsewhere) that sent some water into the basement.

Yesterday was devoted to digging out and dealing with the ice dam. The boys and I also walked up to the supermarket to replenish some of our supplies. We stopped at the bagel store on the way home. Sr. Jr. was incredibly helpful. I'm so proud of him. He shoveled and shoveled and cleared out most of the snow, almost single-handedly. Jr. Jr. played mostly. I helped with boiling water for the ice dam, dealing with the water in the basement, and shoveling as well.

Here are some pictures from the day, both of our efforts at the house, and from my walks through the neighborhood:

Maybe someday I'll have knitting to show you again. Hahahaha! Silly me.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blizzard, Round 3 -- The Sucker Punch

This is the view from my front door right now. Whiteout conditions. The wind is howling and the snow is coming down fast. We're going nowhere for a long time. Go ahead, Arlington Public Schools, stop kidding yourselves that you might open this week. Cancel the rest of the week already. Your neighbors have.

We can't even get out and start shoveling. There would be no point. The wind would blow it all back. Moreover, the wind and the wind chills are too dangerous to go outside for any length of time now. So we sit and wait, hoping that the wind doesn't cause power outages.

That path was clear yesterday.

I cleared off the deck yesterday, fearing that the weight of the snow, plus all the new snow, would present a risk of collapse. Here's what it looks like now:

The other thing we've been dealing with is ice dams. The roofs of the house are in an M shape, with the dip in the middle where the original house and the addition meet. That dip is also right where the mudroom steps are. All the water on the roof gets shunted to that dip. We did a lot of landscaping and drainage work this summer to draw the rainwater away from the house (to keep our basement dry), but now, with the ice dams, we're in deep shit. The water is seeping down the outside of the house by the mudroom, freezing the steps into a solid block of ice. And then the water is going right into the basement, right into the cedar closets that house my stash. Luckily, all the yarn is up off the floor on shelving or in waterproof plastic, but it's still a giant pain in the ass. I pulled a lot of yarn out, we turned on fans, and then Mr. T and Sr. Jr. hacked away at the ice on the steps to try to alleviate the situation:

And you can see here, after we started chipping, that there was 2 inches of solid ice on the steps:

I threw birdseed out in the front and the back yards yesterday for the birds and squirrels, but it's all covered now.

The local states have pulled their plows and service vehicles off the street because conditions are too dangerous.

All the snow has not meant cozy days sitting in front of the fire, knitting. This is a lot of work. I did get a start on my Virve's Stockings, but I haven't gotten very far:

And tomorrow I get to try to walk to the supermarket to get more cat food!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Snowpocalypse II - Electric Boogaloo

It's very rare for the DC area to get huge amounts of snow. Every 5 years or so we get dumped on. We had some big snows in 2003, then in 1996 before that, and so on. So when we got the pre-Christmas storm it was kind of fun. The storm happened on a weekend right before Winter Break. It just felt like vacation started early.

But this? This is overkill. We have over 2 feet of snow here. (The "official" totals taken at National airport are always significantly lower than the rest of the region.) The snow is so deep that poor Jr. Jr. can't really walk in it. The snow is up over my knees to my thighs. And it's heavy snow. The December snow was nice and light, easy to shovel. This is the backbreaking stuff. Since the bulk of it fell in the overnight hours, we couldn't keep up with the shoveling. Shoveling two feet of heavy snow? Not fun. I'm glad the boys are old enough to help out.

No plow has been anywhere near my neighborhood yet.

Here are some pics from the Blizzard of '10, the redundant blizzard. (Pics of knitting after the snow pics...)

I haven't been able to keep working on my Pas de Valse, which is at a point that requires time and concentration to continue. I have time, but too many distractions, so it's been put aside until who knows when. In between shoveling, making hot chocolate, taking pictures, and supervising the proper removal and storage of wet snow clothes, I did manage to finish my Dark Isle socks:

I love these socks! The pattern is, as I've mentioned before, Dark Isle socks by Laris Designs. I used Wollmeise 100% sock yarn in Schwarz (black) and Dornroschen. I made some mods to the pattern to account for the different gauge in the yarn I used, which basically meant that I cast on 72 stitches instead of 64 and added a row to each of the smaller patterns to get the right length. The original pattern called for three rows of black, three rows of contrast color, three rows of pattern, etc., and I simply did four instead. The mods worked perfectly. I added length to the motif at the top of the leg, too. I can't wait to wash these and wear them.

I then cast on for Virve's Stockings, a pattern from Nancy Bush's Folk Knitting In Estonia. Here is the color combination I'm going to use:

The bulk of the sock will be in the dark blue. The white will be the background for the colorwork band, with the green and the gold making up the colorwork motifs.

Stay warm, stay dry. I have no idea when we'll be able to get out of the neighborhood!