Wednesday, December 29, 2010

O Yarn Goddess, I Beseech Thee

Normally I am very paranoid when I estimate how much yarn to buy for a sweater. I hate the thought of running out and I like to account for the possibility of extensive swatching. I usually get at least one more skein of yarn than I think I will need, just in case.

This is Dark and Stormy, done except for the sleeves. I reduced the front button band to 2 inches from 3 inches.

This is all the yarn I have left. The two little balls in front were my swatches. So, to summarize: about one and a half skeins to do two full-length sleeves. Shit.

Erica (Ms. Squoosh) very kindly offered to dye up an additional skein for me, but I'd be concerned that one skein dyed at a different time than all the others would end up looking too different in the final sweater. So I'm just going to weigh my total yarn, divide it in two, and knit down as far as I can go. Short-sleeved and three-quarter sleeved sweaters are fashionable right now anyway. Sigh.

I really love this sweater, too, despite this:

strange pooching in the shoulder area. I'm hoping this comes out in the blocking. I can tug at the collar when I'm wearing it and it disappears, but nothing is final until the sweater is blocked, of course.

I have been doing little else this break, knitting or spinning-wise. The kids are home, Mr. T is at work. We're hanging out, playing, getting stuff done. Sr. Jr. and I both needed new glasses, so we went for our vision appointments yesterday. Both boys have projects to do for school that are due after break and require supervision, of course. You know, the stuff of everyday life.

I started mitten liner #2 for Susan, and I need to get back to it.

Jr. Jr. and her son are both in the school's big Geography Bee next week, which would be a perfect time to give them to her. So now I have a deadline.

I really, really want to start spinning this:

I'm sorry for the not so great pictures, but SOMEONE apparently didn't catch the SUBTLE HINTS that I wanted a light box for the holidays. This braid is so gorgeous in person that I wish I could accurately capture the colors for you.

Christmas was very nice and low-key here. I think Jr. Jr's favorite present was his now-traditional bottle of apple juice. We had "Jewish Sweet and Sour Brisket" for dinner and Jr. Jr. even asked for seconds! So much for the hour long, layer your flavors Cook's Illustrated Recipe; he likes the one I found on the Internet that uses ketchup and and has only 5 ingredients. But it was tasty, so who am I to complain? Less work for me.

I'll leave you with a picture of my boys, playing nicely together. We had to capture the moment, since it happens so rarely, LOL. They were playing with Jr. Jr.'s math dice:

Have a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Partied Out, with Reading Report

Oy. It's been a long string of holiday events and parties. Every day, sometimes more than one per day, for a bit now. I'm tired. I'm ready to stay home and cocoon. And knit and spin and read and bake and try new recipes, of course. I'm ready for Winter Break.

Hasn't been a whole lot of knitting going on. I did start the lining for the second Fiddlehead mitten for S. I will get those to her after break. I failed at finishing them by the Winter Concert. Oh well. Other than that, it's been a row here, a row there of nothing much.

But! I did finish plying that enormous bobbin of singles that I finished spinning before Thanksgiving. I lost a little of it in some plying mishaps, but I still managed to get a nice long skein. I first started plying it on my Ashford, which has a jumbo flyer unit on it that can handle a lot of fiber. But it was acting wonky and frustrating me, so after just a little bit, I broke the single and moved back to my wheel of choice. Shortly after I started plying on that wheel, the single broke and I couldn't fix it. After that, however, things went along swimmingly.

I ended up with about 417/8 yards, chain plied. It's a little bit overplied, but hopefully not enough to have an effect on the project I will knit from it.

I chose a simple shawl, the Lacy/LazyKaty shawl (Rav link), and I wound the yarn into a ball:

I really want to start knitting this right now. Now! But I can't. I'm trying very hard to be good and finish up the mittens before I start working on this. We'll see how that goes. I also want to start another spinning project, but that may have to wait until after Christmas.
I have been reading, some good, some okay, some eh. I tore through Tana French's three books, mysteries/psychological mysteries set in Ireland over the last 20 years or so, encompassing some bad economic times, better economic times, and back again. The first one, In the Woods, was my least favorite, but still good. The narrator/main character of the book is kind of dumb and self-deluded, which made it a little frustrating. The rest of the book was great, but not liking the main character detracted a little from the experience. I would still recommend it. Her other two books were much more enjoyable. I found myself searching Amazon to see if she'd written any more, but no. I'll just have to wait for the next one.

I also read Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen. I enjoyed this book, too, however, I didn't think it was the Great American Novel that all the reviewers seemed to think it was.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, by Charles Yu, was also well-reviewed. It definitely had a clever and interesting basic idea. Its focus on language and story reminded me a bit of some of Jasper Fforde's work in the Thursday Next books, but this book was more serious than those, dealing with a son's search for his father, literally and metaphorically. Unfortunately, there are long stretches of the book where I read it thinking "Is anything going to happen?" Then something would happen, leading to more long stretches wondering whether something else would happen. In the end, I'm glad I read it, but maybe a better editor could have tightened it up a bit.


We celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas, which can sometimes tax the imagination. This year's been particularly tough, between the early start of Chanukah (right after all the work I put into hosting Thanksgiving) and the kids getting to a point where the things they want cost more money and begin to bump up against our ideas of how much stuff kids their age should really get. If they had their way, they'd get multiple new video game systems and games, and Jr. Jr. would be getting an iPod Touch. Sorry, boys.

I don't feel like there are any real "wow" gifts for them, but at least they're getting some fun stuff. And in the meantime, we'll have our traditional Christmas morning Belgian waffles, and Sr. Jr. and I will try a bunch of new recipes. The guys are planning a Star Wars marathon, too. So it will all be good :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Rush

Ah, yes. The days of half hour lines at the post office, the mad rush to the mall to buy outfits to wear to holiday parties, not to mention gifts, etc., the seemingly never-ending round of school concerts and parties...

Tonight is the elementary school Winter concert. I can predict, with my psychic powers, the entire evening: the orchestra playing Hot Cross Buns and Jingle Bell Rock. The chorus singing a selection of different holiday songs from different traditions. My husband ridiculing the school's chorus teacher. Sweating away in the multipurpose room. The mad rush to the sweets table when the concert is over. Jr. Jr. is playing trombone and gets to play the glockenspiel as everyone enters and takes their seats. Good times.

Tomorrow is Mr. T's firm party, and also the neighbor's annual Christmas party. We rush from one to the other. This year the firm party is at the firm, so I can dress a little more casually and not be overdressed for the neighbor's party. One of my least pleasant chores every year is trying to find a dress for the stinking holiday party.

I sound a lot more Scroogey than I am. These things are all fun and I have wonderful memories of past concerts and parties.

But wow is it cold here right now! It was 20 degrees at bus stop time this morning. I was decked out in handknits, which helped immensely. Handknit knee highs rock. I highly recommend them. The only part of my body that was cold was my face. Poor Mr. T is getting extremely cranky because he hasn't ridden in a while. It needs to warm up a bit or he's going to go all Redrum on us.

Knitting still goes in bits and pieces, and there's no spinning at all at the moment. I finished the second mitten for my friend, but I haven't started the liner yet:

I was half hoping to have this done by tonight to give to her, but it'll wait a few more days.

I finished up one of my String Theory stripey socks at my FILs this weekend. (That went really nicely. I think they appreciated the help, and appreciated spending the afternoon with us. We'll go back again right after New Year's to help take things down and get the tree out of the house.) I started the second, but didn't get too far:

Then I decided I needed to have another stripey sock on the needles as well, so I cast on another pair of Twisted Fiber Arts socks, this time in the Ember colorway:

But the most fun I'm having right now is with Dark and Stormy. I'm still loving the sweater, the yarn, and the knitting. I'm almost to the point where I can stop knitting downward and do the ribbing:

Sorry for the flash picture, but the others came out too dark. I tried it on and I think it's going to be perfect when it's done. It's nice and warm, too.

I keep planning to get that big bobbin of singles plied up, but then I end up not having the time. Errands pop up, Jr. Jr. gets sick, and the day goes by. I really want to have a good chunk of time to do that, and chunks of time are rare these days.

One week until winter break! I'm looking forward to sleeping in, working out, cooking with Sr. Jr., and relaxing with the whole family.

Monday, December 6, 2010

In the Valley

Here we are in the brief and perhaps non-existent valley in between the holidays. Technically it's not really "between the holidays" for us, since we're in the middle of Chanukah right now. But so far it's been very laid back after all the frantic preparations for Thanksgiving and before all the holiday parties and end-of-the year activities.

We went to two very lovely Chanukah parties this weekend, where we hung out with friends, drank amazing vodka from Siberia, and discovered that Jr. Jr. likes brisket, as long as it's not mine. The bicycle menorah is a big hit. The present-giving has been a bit haphazard, since I didn't have too much time to shop, but that's ok.

This weekend we will go to my father-in-law's house to put up his Christmas tree. His lung cancer has advanced far enough that he's in too much pain and is too fatigued to be able to do it himself. We want them to be able to celebrate the holiday and have all their familiar and loved ornaments to see and reminisce about. We'll go back on January 1st or 2nd to clean it all up, which works out well, since his birthday is January 3rd.

No! I haven't finished Paper Crane yet. Stop nagging me. Anyway, it's a very light sweater, which wouldn't be too useful now that we're in the Winter chill. That's right. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

And, no, I haven't cast on the second Fiddlehead mitten for my friend S. It's cold out, and I know she could use the mittens. Stop making me feel guilty! I'll do it this week, I promise. I will! Maybe.

None of this has nothing to do with Dark and Stormy. Really. I swear. Just because I can't stop knitting on that, doesn't mean that I don't still love Paper Crane. I mean it.

I've gotten past the part where I separated the sleeves from the body and I'm down at the waist shaping. The pattern only calls for one round of decreases for a very subtle bit of shaping at the waist, but I'm going to add another round, just to give it a little more shape.

I love how this is turning out so far. Simple, yet interesting. The knitting holds my interest, but I don't have to concentrate too hard. The yarn is such a pleasure to knit with.

In the midst of this Dark and Stormy love-fest, I did manage to finish up another pair of stripey socks. I can't haul Dark and Stormy with me to piano lessons and to hang out at Temple while I wait for Jr. Jr., so socks come along with me:

(You can get much better sock pictures if you have someone else to take the pictures!) The yarn is Gothsocks Laudanum, her MCN blend, in Faery Folk. Soft and warm.

I'm hoping to finish one more pair of socks before the end of the year. Should I go all out and say that I'll finish the second Fiddlehead and Dark and Stormy, too? What about spinning? I still have that bobbin of singles to ply up. I'm not going to make any promises to myself, because there's a lot going on in these next few weeks.