Monday, September 29, 2014

Six of Nine

Earlier this year I made the fateful decision to knit my family in California socks for Christmas. That's seven pairs of socks.

I know this about myself - I'm not a fast knitter, and am easily distracted, so I started early. Mom and Lauren sent me everyone's shoe sizes and preferred colours. All the adults chose blue. Fortunately Lauren and Dad gave me alternatives so I didn't have to knit four pairs of blue socks in a row - that way madness lies.

I knit the first two pairs (for Mom & Dad) while we were in Australia this summer. Socks are the best travel knitting. I didn't have a pattern for either of them, just a basic sock recipe, to which I added cables to Dad's and lace to Mom's.

A couple of weeks later we went to California for campmeeting and I actually remembered my plan to trace the kids' feet so I had a visual for their socks, rather than just a shoe size.

I had given myself the goal of getting everything knit by the end of October, which would give me plenty of wiggle room in case I knit even more slowly than usual, or something catastrophic happened, and I wouldn't be frantically wrapping and posting seven pairs of socks on Christmas eve.

I'm pleased to say that I've finished Lauren's, Fin's, Ally's (adult size 4) and Madie's (adult size 6!) and only have Cedric's (who, mercifully, has the smallest feet) to go.

This means that I have knit four pairs of socks (and most of a shawl) in about seven weeks - I am basking in the awesome. And simultaneously worrying like heck about whether any of them will fit. Remote knitting is a bit of a crapshoot.

Also, in a moment of weakness, I recently asked Evie and David if they'd like socks for Christmas and they both said yes. Honestly I wasn't expecting Evie to because she's not a big sock fan but I'd just (again in a moment of weakness) sent her a link to a Spirited Away chart
and she couldn't resist the soot sprites. She also wants them to be tabi socks because her big toe likes its personal space.

This means I have three more pairs of socks to go. Six more socks - fine yarn, tiny needles, thousands of stitches. I love knitting socks, but when I've finished my Christmas knitting I'm casting on something involving bulky yarn and size 15 needles.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Sneak Peeks

Although I can't show you pictures of my current knitting, I can put up a few pictures of some of the yarn, and the awesomeness that is the swift I got for Christmas last year.
Totally beats hand-winding yarn off my knees.

Behold the beauty of tangle free yarn -
And perfectly wound yarn cakes -
These are Knit Picks' Stroll Tonal in Blue Yonder and Thunderhead. I love tonal yarn. Love. It.

OK, here's a little peek of how it's knitting up

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

All the Knitting, All the Time

Actually, there wasn't a lot of knitting early in the year. I had that crisis in Portland that resulted in these socks:

In February, a girl I work with had twins and it took me a while to decide what to make for them, so I didn't get really going until our trip to Kelowna, when I started knitting the first blanket. I (foolishly?) promised a blanket/sweater/hat set for each of them and I've only just finished it over the holiday weekend. Here are the blankets blocking on the guest bed (my first attempt at steam blocking)-

They are the Honeycomb Stroller Blanket, and I love how they look much more complicated than they actually are to knit. I may have had to block them somewhat severely to keep them from being knitted strips, rather than blankets. When you've got that many stitches on the needles it's really hard to tell when you've got a square. I crocheted a border around to help disguise the rather messy edges and I'm OK with the way they turned out.

 I love this little sweater pattern so much. It's Beyond Pueperium and I liked enough to pay for it - usually I'm all about the free stuff.
 The buttons on the green cardi are little white roses
Unfortunately I couldn't get a good picture of the buttons on the blue cardigan. They are the cutest navy blue airplanes.

The hats are just striped baby hats, with little i-cord knots on the top.

The photos were taken on a table at work as I'm hoping to get them to the babies tonight or tomorrow, and see if any of it still fits. They were born at the end of February and were a couple of months early so I made size 6 months - fingers crossed.

What I'm knitting now is for Christmas so I can't put pictures up or it will spoil the surprise.

Monday, September 01, 2014


This post is going to mean nothing to a non-knitter so if you want to just scroll back to previous posts about travel, furniture or news updates, I won't be offended.

I've been knitting for just over four years now. I've been knitting socks for just over four years. Oh, the joy of socks. The hypnotic rhythm of 2x2 ribbing, the soothing stocking stitch of the leg, the fun of a heel flap, the cleverness of turning the heel, the intrigue of picking up stitches for the gusset without leaving little holes at the corners and then...screeching halt as we come to decreasing the gusset. The first decrease, the k2tog goes fine, nice tight little right leaning stitch. We knit across the instep and then, then it all goes pear-shaped. For four years I've idly wondered why, when k2tog makes a tidy, even, pretty little column of stitches, the ssk makes this loose, sloppy, ugly column of stitches. Being an intrinsically lazy laid back person I just accepted that the left leaning decrease was going to look like that, and knit on.

Bearing in mind that I taught myself to knit using library books and the odd youtube video, I thought that you always slip a stitch purlwise - that's just the way you do it. Imagine my surprise when I recently discovered that with a ssk you slip the stitches, one at a time, KNITWISE! This tightens up the stitch and you end up with a tidy, even, pretty little column of left leaning stitches.

This may not seem like an epiphany to anyone else but as a committed (dare I say slightly obsessed) sock knitter, this is like discovering you aren't supposed to drive with the handbrake on.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Gingerbread and "What I Bought on my Vacation"

The last of the travel posts, just because I love the Victoriana so very much.

Ferndale, CA
There is a vintage car convention in the area every year around this time, so there were a number of these little cuties spotted.
This was my favourite building - I'm totally in love with those colours and all the detailing.
Even the public restrooms are cute.
This is the yarn I picked up at Foggy Bottom Yarns when we were in Ferndale.
They didn't have any local yarn, but they did have a new shipment of Sweet Georgia Cashsilk Lace, which is 55% silk, 45% cashmere laceweight, in the colourway, botanical. I was havering between this and a purple and I came down on the side of the green since it reminded me of the redwoods we were camping amongst.

When I travel I do try to look out for local yarns when I can. Art of Yarn in Kelowna in May didn't have anything in  that was truly local but they did have Hand Maiden, which is hand dyed in Canada, and which I'd been wanting to try for a while. I bought a skein of Maiden Hair, 67% silk, 23% kid mohair, 10% nylon sport weight, in the Blomidon colourway. It's lovely and sqwooshy.
In March, when we went to Portland, I realised (after it was much too late to turn back) that I'd left my knitting bag by the front door, so the day after we arrived, while David attended some meetings, I googled the nearest yarn store, Wool 'n Wares, and went in for some emergency stash. Turns out that Portland was having a yarn crawl that weekend so they had some really gorgeous local yarn, which I petted and sighed over, but when I asked the price I had to sit down - from $120 to $400 a skein! I quickly bought a ball of Zwergers Garn's Opal Flower Power self-striping sock yarn, a set of 2.5mm dpns and cast on a pair of socks to calm my nerves. 

The next day, our coffee tour with Lora ended near Knit Purl in downtown Portland, so I dragged David in for a quick look. He's so good about going shopping with me.

I bought two really nice skeins of wool in Portland (apart from the Opal) but I can't remember now which one I bought at Wool 'n Wares and which at Knit Purl.

This is Madeline Tosh, Prairie - a 100% merino laceweight in the Cathedral colourway, which I think I got at Knit Purl -
The other is an Oregonian yarn, which I think I got at Wool 'n Wares, after I picked my jaw up off the floor. It's Alexandra's Craft, Baby Silver Falls, a 60% superwash, 30% bamboo, 10% nylon, fingerweight in the Kaleidoscope colourway. I forgot to take a picture of it skeined up but here it is being knitted up. Although I like the way variegated yarn looks in the skein, I usually don't like the way it knits up, but the colours in this were just irresistible. They remind me of an early evening sky. And it really suits the garter stitch.
It seemed appropriate that I use it to finally make the Multnomah shawl (which I'm calling my Keeping Portland Weird shawl).
Unfortunately, I still have a four-row pattern repeat, plus the bind-off to knit, and I only have this much yarn left,
So it's on hold until I can rummage through my stash and see if I can come up with a complementary yarn I can use to finish it off with. I can totally pretend that it's a intentional border. Yeah.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ruthlessly Pillaged

I've snagged some of the photos taken by iPhone this year from my David's Facebook page. What's his is mine, right?

First up is the coffee cart stop of our Third Wave Coffee Tour in Portland. I discovered on this trip that Portland is my spiritual home.
That's Lora there in the middle checking her phone. I can't remember the name of the cart (memory like a sieve, me) but they were the ones who provided us coffee with that lemon/rosemary/Douglas Fir syrup, the latter of which was sourced from their own yard. They also had a great pay-it-forward system - you can "sponsor" a free cup of coffee for someone in the future. You pay for it, it's marked  up on a blackboard, and anyone who comes along, feels the need for a cuppa, but is short of cash, can take it up. Very cool.

In Kelowna, David was there to speak at their "campmeeting" held in the local school, and we were tickled to find this when we arrived.
The Okanagan is beautiful, as I said before. This is a view of the lake from the local lavender farm Lori-Anne took us to while we were there.
Unfortunately the farm itself didn't open for another week but the shop/tearoom was open and we spent a ridiculous amount of money on lavender-related goodness, and had hand-blended tea on the back verandah.
The elegant and charming Lori-Anne is on the right, in an Audrey Hepburn-esque turtleneck, and the adorable cheeky monkey Amelie is making eyes at us at the front. Oliver was off doing whatever small boys do when the grown ups are being boring.

David and I drove along the lake and a short visit to the beach, where a few of those crazy Okanagans were sunbathing and swimming. David took the first picture of me in a very long time that I actually really like.
While in Canada we also discovered the awesomeness that is...deep fried pickles. How did I not know about this? Why has no one told me?!!!
We had them twice. It's just as well we weren't there for longer, really.

On the food-related theme, we were in Australia on my birthday and David's brother Geoffrey took us on a drive to Byron Bay, where we had lunch at what he said had been rated the 2nd best place to eat in town. Imagine our surprise when it turned out to be a cafe attached to the local Adventist church.
Manna Haven is a vegan restaurant with really, really good food (sadly, often not the case at vegan places) and a hot mint-carob drink that David could have and, despite my long-standing bias against carob, would have fooled me into thinking it was chocolate if I hadn't known otherwise.

Geoff oldest son, William, wasn't feeling well and didn't come along, but his wife Anne and Ben, the youngest, in all his curly-headed-Trim glory, were there to help me celebrate heading into the back stretch of my 40s.
Although still suffering from the colds we came down with the moment we arrived, we had a really good day. And despite being winter, the weather while we were in Australia was perfect - hovering around 70F most of the time.

I'm including the photo below because it's funny, and because I think I look surprisingly cute with a hard-hat. We went on a tour of the new section of the Sydney Adventist Hospital, which is a building site, so everyone had to wear hard-hats and day-glo vests. (David has several pictures of senior church officials looking silly in hard-hats and safety vests, but I will not be posting them here, to preserve their dignity.)

I rocked the hat, not so much the vest.

Next time I'll show pictures of the Victorian extravaganza that is Ferndale, CA, and my souvenir yarn.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I've done it again...

...and gone MONTHS between posts.

Here's an update of what's been happening in our lives during the (NINE!) months since I last blogged.

My parents came out on Amtrak for a month-long visit last November. It took them four days to get here and the only two complaints they had were that their cabin was too close to the restrooms and Mom had to climb the stairs to the second level for every meal (she doesn't do stairs). On the way back they changed their cabin to be away from the toilets and on the same level as the restaurant, and it was much better. Someday when I have the time (like after we've retired) I'd love to do that trip in reverse to visit them. It's a great way to see the countryside, and think of all that knitting time!

It was so nice to have Mom & Dad around for so long and to finally show off the house. They were with us for a week and then drove down to North Carolina to spend a week with Mom's cousin Lil. They came back for two more weeks and we all went to my Uncle Jim's (Dad's brother's) place for Thanksgiving. Lala's youngest son Bill, who I haven't seen since I was nine, was there with his family. I'd completely forgotten that when I was growing up I thought he was her only son, since he was the only one I'd met. When you are little, people you've never met don't actually exist. Since he was a step-cousin I always thought of myself as having 5 1/2 cousins. Jim and Lala lived in McLean, Virginia in a very nice, but relatively modest house, compared to some of the McMansions in the area - we're looking at you, Dick Cheney. They were planning on downsizing and selling the house, which they'd lived in for about 35 years, so it was going to be their last Thanksgiving there and there was a certain poignancy in the atmosphere.

Lala is the most amazing woman I've ever known. She is 90 and has more energy than a teenager on a sugar high. She also collects the most beautiful antiques. The table we ate Thanksgiving dinner at had once been owned by Captain Cook.

Three weeks after my parents left, we flew out to California for Christmas. We decided not to bother with renting a car so we arranged to fly from San Francisco to Modesto airport, which was the first time I've ever done that. It's tiny. Really tiny. The only commercial route they still operate was the one to San Francisco, the plane was the smallest I've ever flown in and our baggage was handed to us in the terminal directly from the tarmac through a roller shutter.

The daughter-child came over from England and met us at Mom & Dad's house Christmas Eve and stayed till Boxing Day. It wasn't long enough, but we have to take what we can get these days.

Just before Christmas I had my first root canal. I tell you, the minute I turned 40 I started falling apart - arthritis, varifocals, root canals and now, when I recently had a hearing test, it turns out I have some pretty bad hearing loss and may have to get some hearing aids! I'm turning into my grandparents.

Our travels this year have been pretty fun. In February we went to Portland, OR where David held some meetings, and our friend Lora, who runs Third Wave Coffee Tours, took us on an abbreviated version of her Downtown Tour. If you are visiting Portland, and love coffee, check her out. She knows her stuff, loves coffee, and is really fun to hang out with. I love coffee but I'm really a bit of a Philistine about it. As long as it's hot, milky and caffeinated I'm good. I did really enjoy learning about the different roasting, brewing and serving methods, although by the end of it was vibrating slightly. My favourite stop was at one of Portland's famous food carts. The owners make their own syrups and treated us to a coffee flavoured with lemon, rosemary and Douglas Fir, which I was initially skeptical about but which was awesome.

In early May we got to visit another friend from college, Lori-Anne, a freelance writer/blogger, who lives in Kelowna, BC. This was actually my first ever visit to Canada and as an introduction I think it would be hard to beat the Okanagan. It's billed as the Canadian Napa Valley and it's certainly beautiful, fertile and, in the winter, milder than most of the rest of Canada. We finally got to meet Lori-Anne's charming husband Kyle and her completely adorable children, Oliver and Amelie. Kyle is an artist and graphic designer who works at the Kelowna Art Gallery. Lori-Anne spent a lovely day with us, showing us around Kelowna and we stopped at the gallery where Kyle gave us a tour round. I also took the chance to snag another one of his paintings. He's a very talented artist and for the past few years has been working on a project called "100 for 100" in which he is creating one hundred 10"x10" original paintings and selling them for $100 each. A couple of years ago I bought one he'd done of pomegranates (my favourite fruit).

Pomegranate Study

When we visited I asked Kyle if he still had the one he'd painted of Tintern Abbey and I was so pleased to find that he did! We visited Tintern Abbey on our first summer vacation in Wales, very early on a Saturday morning before anyone else was there, the sun was only just up, mist was rising from the river nearby and everything was so still and quiet. Just lovely.

Remembered Ruins
I borrowed these photos off his website, but I'll try and get some pictures of them up in the house as well.

In the middle of June we took our annual leave in Australia to coincide with a work trip, so we had five days with David's brother Geoffrey and his family on the Gold Coast, and then five days with his mum in North New South Wales (yes I'm aware of how funny that looks), and then another five days in Sydney where we attended meetings and got to see his sisters.

We both came down with bad colds on the flight over to Australia and had just about finally shaken them off when we flew back to the States via California and stayed a couple of days with my parents to celebrate Independence Day and Cedric's 5th birthday. I was starting to feel like I was coming down with something again on the Sunday when we flew home and sure enough, it was another cold, but this time I ended up with a bi-lateral ear infection with perforated eardrums and resulted in having tubes put in both ears - leading to the ear test which indicated that I have some long-term damage. Sigh. As my mother frequently says, "Getting older is no fun".

Two days after the tube insertion (which was NOT fun - about on a par with a root canal, but quicker) we flew back to California where David was speaking at the Northern California Conference camp meeting, which is the best camp meeting on the planet. This has nothing (well little) to do with the fact that it's the camp meeting I went to growing up - it's just an intrinsic fact. It is located in the Northern California redwoods, just south of Fortuna, California, and is actually located right in a redwood grove. My family reserves the same spot every year - my parents take their 5th-wheel (and when I go they put up a tent), my brother, his in-laws and his brother-in-law each take their trailer campers, and they set everything up around a large central area. We call it "circling the wagons". Tarps are strung around the perimeter for a bit of privacy and laid on the ground between the campers and then several tables are put end-to-end along the middle for everyone to sit and eat at. There are about six pretty good sized redwoods in their campsite so they've worked out the best position for each camper to take account of the trunks, and everything is shaded beautifully. That's especially good in summers like this one, when we had several days in which it was nearly 100 degrees in the sun.

As a speaker, David had a hotel room in Fortuna, which he returned to each night. He's not fond of camping so that worked out well for him. I like camping, and I wanted to spend as much time with my family as possible, but I also like hot showers and sleeping with my husband, so I spent alternate nights in the tent and in the hotel. It worked out well.

We were pretty busy but David and I did get one day to see the sights, such as they are. Fortuna's not much to write home about, but we did drive the Avenue of the Giants, which is beautiful, and also visited Ferndale, which is chock full of Victorian gingerbread-y goodness. Unfortunately, we didn't get there until after 4.00 and they appear to roll up the pavements in town at 5.00, so we didn't get to see as much as we would have liked. I did my research though and made sure that Foggy Bottom Yarns was the first place we went. I got a skein of forest green laceweight, to remind me of the redwoods.

The BIG news of the year is that my baby girl has moved to California. After a year of post-graduation, being a grown-up, supporting herself with coffee shop jobs, themed hen nights, and teaching Lindy Hop and Charleston at dance studios, she decided she was sick of living in Reading (since she was four) and wanted to try something new. She has a lot of friends in the Bay Area from our two years there in 2008/9 so while we were in Australia she packed up and flew to DC, where she house/cat sat for us while we were away. She stayed with us for three weeks, flew to California with us, and we dropped her off in Santa Rosa on our way up to camp meeting. She's staying with her friend Claire (who is a complete sweetie) while she settles in. Amazingly she found a coffee shop job, a free bike and the possibility of some dance teaching, all within the first couple of weeks she was there, so now she's house-hunting. Or, rather, room-hunting, because even a one-bedroom apartment in the Bay Area is too expensive for her at the moment.

Have I said how proud I am of her? She's an incredible combination of fantastic creativity and focused determination. She can be very goal oriented when she wants to be and once she decides to do something she is very good at figuring out how to achieve it. I like to think she gets a lot of her creativity from me, but she definitely gets her focus, determination and self-discipline from her father.

This is a much more text-heavy post than usual because sometime after Christmas I discovered that I'd lost my camera. I knew I'd had it at Christmas because I could remember taking photos of the kids with it, but at some point I must have "put it somewhere safe" and now couldn't remember where it was. (I can't tell you how many things I've "lost" that way.) All the photos taken so far this year have been with our iPhones. A week ago I opened a bag in which I'd brought Christmas presents back, that I was sure I'd emptied when we got home, and sure enough, there it was. There was much rejoicing.

Since this has gotten rather long I'll post later on the (lack of) knitting/crafting progress this year and put up a few pictures.



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