Sunday, February 20, 2011

It Ain't Easy Being Green: Variations on a Theme

My January finish-fest left me with very little on the needles, so I've slowly been building up my WIP stash.

I started out by casting on for a new version of Paper Crane, this one converted to a pullover:

Looks like my hands could use some moisturizer. More lace, more tiny needles. This one IS going faster than the last because I'm knitting it in the round. The knitting is going smoothly and happily, but I thought I ought to have something else to knit, something that's not laceweight on size 2 needles.

So what do I do? I cast on for another sweater:

This is Wollmeise sock, on size 3 needles. Vastly different that Wollmeise lace on 2s. Not. It's even green. (The colorway is Silberdistel, which I love.) The pattern, by the way, is called Slipped Hours. I'm a little afraid of this one, because I generally don't like my sweaters too fitted. But I like how this looks on the people who've knit it. I should try to lose weight before this is done.

Sooooo, two sweaters, both green, both on small needles. Variation! I need variation! As luck would have it, I joined Cookie A's sock club, and the first installment arrived last week. This is a fantastic club. Cookie is an amazing sock designer, one of my favorites. The club consists of 2 patterns and 2 recipes, plus a skein of yarn in each installment. I think I read originally that one of the sock patterns would be easier than the other, Cookie's socks normally being fairly complicated. I don't think this is the case with this installment. Both patterns are gorgeous.

So, hey! Complicated sock versus lots of stockinette... yeah, that's the ticket. I cast on.

Yup. Green. Size 1 needles.

After this, I'll probably go on a worsted and bulky weight tear.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Personal History + a Recipe

This weekend I attended a friend's bat mitzvah. I knew that C had converted years ago, and she's a very active member of our temple. So I was thrilled to be able to share the day with her and her family. What I didn't know, as I walked into the temple this weekend, was that she was one of a group of 16 adult congregation members who were being bar/bat mitzvahed this weekend.

Now I am not a religious person at all. But I was really moved by this group of men and women and the histories that led them to the bimah this weekend. Some, like C, had converted, either when they got married or just on their own. A couple of people had been raised Jewish, but decided not to have a bar or bat mitzvah at the traditional age of 13. Now, as adults, they were returning to that part of their life. One woman talked about how World War II prevented her from having her bat mitzvah, and dedicated her accomplishment to all the Jewish boys and girls who perished in the Holocaust. One woman was raised in a Conservative tradition, which at the time didn't allow girls to be bat mitzvahed.

Some of the group were learning Hebrew and studying Torah along with their children. Others were doing it as an example to their children. But all of them were there because they chose to be there. They pursued this goal, studying and learning while raising children, working full-time, and doing all the rest of the things that we do in our busy lives.

Most bar and bat mitzvahs are fun. But it was so much different when the person on the bimah is there because they chose to be there, as opposed to because mom and dad are making them.


A little bit of knitting :) Paper Crane II moves along, slowly but steadily:

Hopefully this one won't take me 6 months. Because I'm making this one a pullover, I am knitting the bottom portion in the round. So far I think this makes it go faster.

My waiting room sock progresses as well:

(Yarntini MCN sock, "Don Stripe" from the Mad Men collection)

I need to cast on for another sweater, just for a change of pace from all the tiny yarns on tiny needles. I have not identified what that will be yet. I honestly haven't had that much time to focus lately.

So Happy Monday, Happy Valentine's Day, and Congratulations to Jess, Kippi's lovely daughter, who is getting married today! May she and her love have a long and happy life together, filled with love and laughter.

A little Valentine's treat for you all -- a recipe I cooked up this weekend when I was drafted into making scones for Jr. Jr.'s class Valentine's Tea.

Kid-friendly Chocolate Chip Scones

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

4 cups of all-purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
8 tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup of chocolate chips

Whisk the dry ingredients together. With your fingers, crumble the brown sugar into the flour mixture to distribute it evenly.

Cut in the flour until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add chocolate chips and mix. Pour in milk and vanilla, mix until the dough just comes together. My dough was wetter than my normal scone dough, but this is fine.

Drop roughly 1/4 cup of dough per scone onto parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake for about 8 minutes. Cool on cookie sheets for about 2 minutes, then move to a rack.

Not a single scone was left after the kids got at them, seconds and all.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Watching History

I've been glued to television coverage of the revolution in Egypt this week. It's amazing watching people come together, rise up, and, with nothing more than their voices and their will, topple a dictator. Who knows what will come next. I hope that it's some form of self-determination, rather than another oppressor. I will watch, and hope for the best.

Life is good here:

How can it not be?

I finished my second Annis. This one's for me:

You get good bang for your buck with this pattern -- it's fast, it's enjoyable, it looks great. I've shied away from using multi-color yarns in lace before, because often the colors obscure the lace. I picked this color (Agatha dark, Wollmeise) because I thought it would be tonal enough to provide some color interest without looking like barf. I think it worked. I hope so, anyway.

I love the scarf/shawl hybrid because they're lacy enough to provide interest without being so lacy that I feel conspicuous wearing them. I'd go ahead and knit another Annis, but I'm sick of nupps for the moment. I have other patterns like this to try out, so look for one coming up.

Now that the Annis is done, I've picked up the second Paper Crane. Because I'm making this one a pullover, I can just go ahead and knit that bottom section in the round. I think it will go much faster... as fast as a laceweight sweater on size 2 needles can go, anyway. I've got three-quarters of an inch so far. I'm rocking and rolling, aren't I?


One of the things that has been brewing here in our little corner of the world for a few years has to do with crowding in the schools. Back when Sr. Jr. was in 1st grade, there was a big fight over re-drawing the boundaries in the schools. Our elementary school was overcrowded, and it seemed like rejiggering the boundaries might solve that. No one wanted that, there was a big stink, and ultimately nothing much was done.

A couple of blocks away from us was a building that used to be an elementary school. Now it's being used to house the teacher day-care facilities, the teen pregnancy program, and a couple of other things. The plan was to rebuild and renovate that building, and some of us suggested turning it back into an elementary school. We argued that it was clear that the school-age population was growing and the county would need to deal with it. The county didn't agree. "It's just a blip," they said. "A momentary bulge in the school-age population." We looked around us, at all the young families moving in and having babies, twins, even, and wondered what county officials were smoking. The county seemed to have no clue, no matter what people tried to tell them.

Now, all these years and several additional overcrowding fights later, the county has come to realize that it has a wee problem. Now, almost ALL the schools in the county are at or above capacity, with, again, almost ALL of them projected to be significantly overcrowded in another year or two. Our elementary school will be at nearly 150% of capacity soon, even after cramming classrooms in wherever they could, creating a mobile computer lab, adding trailers (oh, excuse me, relocatables), and more. *

The PTA has announced that the only thing we can do for our school at this point is add another trailer, but because of space constraints, the trailer that will be added for the 2011-12 school year will have to be on the blacktop. Yes -- on the playground. Sooooo, where will the kids play? How will the poor kids in the blacktop trailer be able to concentrate with the noise of kids playing right outside? This is ridiculous.

The problem is that it's now almost too late to do anything about this. Changing school boundaries won't make a difference, because there's nowhere to move the kids to -- all the schools are overfull. It's a bit late to think about new construction. Many of the county buildings that used to be schools are really too old, small, and out-of-date to be repurposed.

And what about the middle and high schools? All of the high schools were just renovated (some are still under construction!), and they're already over capacity.

Long-range planning and thinking -- Arlington does not have it.

* Most distressing were the comments on a local online article about this situation. Many people were blaming the crowding situation on illegal immigration. Arlington has traditionally been immigrant-friendly, but lately they've sold off some low-income properties to developers, reducing the availability of low-income housing. In fact, census figures show that in all of Northern Virginia, Arlington is the only county that saw a decrease in its non-caucasian population.

Friday, February 4, 2011


The downside of my January finishing spree is that I was left with no projects to work on. Yeah, I cast on for a pair of plain old socks, but plain old socks just don't really satisfy that knitting urge. I had several different sweaters on my to-do list, so I broke out the needles and the yarns and started swatching. Failed to get gauge, or even close to it. Broke out some different yarns and swatched some more. Failed again. The sweaters that I want to knit are similar to Paper Crane in that they are knit in two different directions, which means that both row and stitch gauge are pretty important. No fudging allowed, at least not without some actual math taking place. I'm not averse to doing the math. I like math. I'm teaching my older son math (intensified algebra even), since his teacher isn't quite doing it. But I really wanted to be able to dive into a new project without having to do too much mental gymnastics first.

So I decided to play around with my the laceweight yarn that I had left over from Paper Crane. I knit some swatches with it doubled, to see what kind of gauge and fabric I got. I like. When my swatches are dry, I'll post the results.

This made me remember that I wanted to knit another Paper Crane, but in a pullover version. Yes, I know this just confirms my crazy. But I like the laceweight sweater. It's perfect for those transitional times in Fall and Spring when a full-on sweater is too heavy, but a long-sleeved t-shirt isn't nice enough. So I broke out another skein of laceweight (color: Spinaci) and cast on:

Then I took some pictures of the Annis shawl I made for my friend, now that it's dry and the sun is out:

It's so pretty! And it was a pretty fast and easy project. My grab-it-and-go scarf tore, and I need a new scarf. So...

I cast on one for myself. It's a crappy picture, I know. The yarn is Wollmeise, again, and the colorway is Agatha, the dark version, which is a mix of black, dark blue, and dark red.

Between the shawl and the sweater, I spent the day casting on 667 stitches.

I am crazy.