Thursday, January 31, 2013

january bookstand

Yay! Back to books! It was actually a very productive month, especially if you add in last month as well. My reading material has been pared down to two shelves, with the third being given over to the reading backlog of my LSH.

The God of All Animals, by Aryn Kyle
Recommend, and one actually from the bookshelf! This book, about a failing family farm and a failing family in Montana, was at times hard to read because the feeling of impending doom and disaster was so pervasive. The protaganist is a twelve year old girl and her struggles to develop a sense of self, in the absence of anyone paying attention to her, were treated very sympathetically. By the time the denouement (actually, several of them) finally came, the characters were so established and well-drawn that it was impossible to look away, even though very few of them were likeable people.

About a Boy, by Nick Hornby
Recommend, and another one from the shelf! (I have not seen the movie.) Again, a lost teenage protagonist to whom very few people, including his parents, pay the slightest bit of attention. The dynamic is different because Marcus manages to find someone to fulfill that role. Unfortunately, the person he finds is Will, a person who is so shallow that he invents a son to meet single mothers. Will's ruminations on the nature of lies and growing up, as well as Marcus's thoughts about the nature of family and friendship, provide a substantial basis for this story of making connections.

The Dressmaker, by Kate Alcott
Recommend. A library book, probably published to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of the Titanic's sinking. The novel focuses on the story of (unknown to me) real-life fashion designer, Lady Lucile Duff-Gordon, who was saved on the life raft with only 12 people aboard. Rumors abounded that she and her husband forbade the others in the boat from going back to rescue others, and even bribed them not to do so. The author uses the congressional testimony as the basis of her book, though it is told from the perspective of Lucile's maid, Tess. The book dragged in parts and the characters were too thinly drawn to allow for much sympathy, but it was an interesting historical read.

Bonus this month! A few movie recommendations for you, because I am more enthusiastic about some of the movies I watched than the books I read.

"Bernie" (2011): A wonderful look at small-town life, in the context of a true crime tale. Bernie Tiede was the well-loved assistant funeral director in Carthage Texas. Everyone had a good word to say about Bernie, even after he was accused of the murder of wealthy, mean Marjorie Nugent. Jack Black turns in an excellent performance as Bernie, in a departure from his usual characters. The use of actual townspeople and their words to flesh out the people and the story makes it a unique gem of a crime movie.

"Queen of Versailles" (2012): A documentary about the Siegal family. He's a time-share tycoon, she's a former model trophy wife, and together they are trying to build the largest single family home in America, measuring an astonishing 90,000 square feet. The moviemaker started out to document the building of that obscenity of a house, but ended up with an up-front story of the financial collapse of the banks and real estate markets in America, and the consequences of the fallout for the Siegals, his business, and its employees. It's insanely watchable, like a slow-motion train wreck.

"Strictly Ballroom" (1992): A lot like "Dirty Dancing", but better hair, better outfits, better accent (Australian) and less creepy story-line (Patrick Swayze was just too old for Jennifer Grey!). I don't know how I missed this one for so many years, but it is a lot of campy fun. Did I mention the hair-styles?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

the ghosts of sheepies present

Woke up this morning to a fairly thick fog, but by the time the sun was up enough to take a picture, much of it had burned away.

It was still thick enough that the sheep in the back pasture were hidden from view, but they were well aware I was out there on the back porch. They are Pavlov's sheep in the morning with the sound of that door opening. They immediately start baa-ing their displeasure at our tardiness, no matter what time it is.

Our neighbors are no doubt thrilled that we have such smart sheep.

It was actually a very easy chore morning, because my LSH and I took advantage of the still-frozen ground, before it turned back into soup, to use the truck to haul 40 bales of hay to the tack room in the back pasture yesterday. That should hold us for a while, and it makes feeding approximately 1,052 times easier.

I was toasty warm throughout the task with my new fleece boot liners. Unfortunately, however, I didn't think about the beautiful cable knit boot toppers that are attached to the liners. They looked super lovely....


Monday, January 28, 2013

magic ice

We were talking at the dinner table last night about the ice on the pond this weekend and we all agreed: it was magic ice.

We have lived in this house for over 10 years and the pond has never frozen so perfectly. Because of the sustained low temperatures without any precipitation, a smooth-as-glass ice surface was produced. Even though we had a light snow on Friday night, its powder-like consistency allowed it to be easily moved off to the side.

Best of all, the pond finished freezing right before a weekend of sunny, beautiful weather—albeit cold, but as that was a requirement, no one minded. Maximum time for enjoyment.

I took a walk out on it this morning, one last time, because the weather forecast (up to 60 degrees F on Wednesday) means that we won't have it for long. I tried to take a picture of the bubbles trapped in the ice as it froze, but it's hard to capture such things.

Just like this weekend. One father commented to my LSH: "Don't you have a lot of other things to do, instead of watching kids skate all weekend?"

My LSH wisely replied, "I do. But ice like this doesn't happen too often. You have to put everything aside and enjoy it when it does."

If only we always had the ability to recognize those moments—and act accordingly—when they come along.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

scenes from a snowy winter's day

A beautifully colored sky this morning to light the little snow we got last night...

The boys tried out their Christmas snowshoes—not quite enough to put the shoes through their paces, but they were determined to use them at least once this winter!

This sustained cold snap was good for one thing: freezing our little pond solid. My LSH and Secondo fashioned a homemade Zamboni (I called it the Plyzoni) to clear off the snow...

And then they skated and skated and skated. Friends came and went, a bonfire was built to keep the watchers warm, and they didn't quit until we made them.

Now for the perfect end to a cold winter's day: knitting, naturally!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

brain's a poppin'

No, not some kind of weird new dish... Just the way my mind is feeling these days. I was in creative mode before attending Vogue Knitting Live but that experience just ramped it up. I feel as if my brain has been turned up to 11 (and if you don't know that reference, you must watch "This is Spinal Tap" at your earliest opportunity).

My brain is in a creative swirl: colors and textures and ideas and inspirations all twisting and flowing around each other in a crazy psychedelic array. Each thread of thought must be captured individually and pulled apart from the other ideas, so it can be given proper attention before it's gone forever, but any attempt to concentrate on details has been like trying to get a teenage girl to study calculus during prom season.

I needed to get something finished up and off my brain waves. Even though I cast this on right after coming back from NYC, my Magdalin Hat is done—and none too soon, given this brutally cold weather.

It may have moved to the top of the list because the yarn is from a yarn shop in NYC (Stitch Therapy), purchased by my brother and sister-in-law for my birthday last April. It has been said before but it bears repeating: I have an awesome family. It is Madelinetosh DK, and every wonderful thing that has ever been said about this yarn is true.

The pattern was also from Stitch Therapy, actually its lovely owner, Maxcine Degouttes. The photos are by my wonderful Secondo, who tends to have more patience with such things. The background was courtesy of my class with Louisa Harding. An improvement upon my usual, I think!

The hat even matches my new fingerless gloves! Next up: I must have some sort of neck covering to match. Scarf? Cowl? My mind is awhirl with possibilities. I am casting on tonight.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

lots of little bits

A bit of a disorganized post. It has been that sort of day and my brain is a bit scattered.

First off, the submissions I was working on two weeks ago? Two projects were accepted. Hurray! Still top secret but will hint that they have something to do with my trip to Beads World in NYC. The new deadline is March 15 so I will get working soon, probably tomorrow!

Second, people have asked what classes I took at VLK. If you have no interest, skip the second part of this post! In chronological order:

Louisa Harding, Tell a Story with your Photography (Friday morning)
I am embarrassed to admit that I had no idea who Louisa Harding was when I signed up for this, but I was hoping (for this blog's sake) to pep up the pictures a little. It was more geared to designers, and perhaps someday I will join those ranks, so I did gather quite a bit of helpful information. Plus I have already started to look at photos I like, and photos of my work, in a whole new light, so there's hope. Now if I can just figure out my camera.

(insert quick lunch at a deli and trip to Beads World here)

Regga Ericksdottir, Steeking in the Round (Friday afternoon)
Steeking is the process where you knit something in the round, then you cut up the middle, to make a cardigan or otherwise flatten out the piece (for example a complicated colorwork blanket). Yes, I said cut your knitting. I did not have the guts to do this on my own so needed some hand-holding my first time through! Regga's specialty is Icelandic sweaters, so the technique I learned is specific to that form, but it was quite exciting.

I went from this little tube with some basic colorwork in the middle:

All prepared with its crochet border, ready for the chop:

To open and flat!

I may just knit myself an Icelandic sweater someday! Probably this one out of pencil roving made from wool from our flock. Wouldn't that be an amazing sweater?

(Insert quick walk-through of Marketplace vendors and my conversation with Franklin Habit here; you can see Pam's picture of my mom and me on her blog. I forgot to include information about Franklin Habit for non-groupie knitters on my last post, so let me provide this link to one of my all-time favorite of his blog posts, though really, they're all good.)

Star Athena, Walk on the Wild Side (Friday evening)
As I mentioned in my last post: my mom and I had overly-ambitious schedules. This class was more of a lecture on how to deal with handpaints, those wild and crazy dyed yarns that sometimes produce a good result, but often can be quite frustrating to work with (witness my struggles before I came up with the Confetti Shawl). I learned a great deal, but we were all tired by this point: the teacher, the students, me especially. I could have put my head down on the table and fallen asleep.

My mother and I staggered upstairs to the revolving restaurant at the top of the hotel, then promptly collapsed into bed.

Barry Klein, Knit to Fit (Saturday all day)
This class was phenomenal. I have a much better grasp of how knitting fits our bodies, and more specifically, mine. It was a revelation. He has a clear, concise way of explaining the math involved in figuring such things out, and how to adapt patterns to fit each particular circumstance. After the class, I was looking at a pattern I wanted to make, and realized I needed to add more room in one place, but take it away from another, and now I knew exactly how to do it.

The poorly-done lecture was during the break between the first and second halves of Barry Klein's class. I have to give VKL props: they have already contacted me about my experience so that is impressive customer service.

We visited the marketplace one last time, as we each had a purchase to make, and then schlepped down 8th Avenue to the train and home. I'll leave you with one last shot, unfortunately overexposed because my camera settings were off. The congestion and tackiness of Times Square had completely unnerved me by this point and I couldn't figure out how to fix it on the fly. Hey, I live in the country!

But for a day I felt a tiny bit urban.

Monday, January 21, 2013

vogue knitting live '13

It was quite a weekend. I am still recovering.

My mom and I left at 6 am Friday. On the way up, my mom revealed her surprise: for my birthday present, she had booked us into the Marriott Marquis (where the conference was being held) so we didn't have to trek up and down mid-town Manhattan when we were exhausted. This turned out to be a wonderful gift. We were able to check into our room at 8 am, and use it as a home base all day as we cycled in and out of our classes. It made life so much easier, so THANKS, Mom!

This was the view outside our window:

My mom and I both packed maximum classes into our two days. We had three different classes on Friday, and one all-day class and one lecture on Saturday. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake. There was a LOT to see and do (fashion shows, free talks, demonstrations, marketplace, etc.) but we were unable to make most of it due to our overly-ambitious class schedule.

As for the classes I took—and mind you, this is only my experience—my reviews are only tepidly positive for most. Perhaps because the classes were so very expensive, that heightened the expectations? But for the classes I took, there didn't seem to be enough material prepared or presented to fill the time allotted.

However, I must stress: I did learn something in every class, so I definitely do not consider them a waste of time. Even when what I learned was not what I expected!

If we go next year, I will plan to spend more time at the free events, which were quite tempting, and only splurge on one or perhaps two classes. The lecture I paid for was such a disaster that I would have to think long and hard about taking that plunge again.

But that is not to say that the weekend was bad! It was actually really great. We got to visit this place at lunchtime on Friday, which my parents had scoped out for me during their trip to NYC last week (yes, I have awesome parents):

It is a bead-a-holic's nirvana.

I got to talk to Franklin Habit about upcoming projects, which (for me) was like talking to a rock star. I am usually too shy to approach more well-known people, but he and I had a small e-mail correspondence last year so I felt justified shoving myself into his personal space. He is an incredibly gracious person, and it took me about three hours to come down off that particular high.

Best of all, I got to spend time with my mother doing something we both love. Both of us came away with a lot of new ideas and inspiration and techniques, and we haven't stopped talking about them since. That's enough to rate the weekend as a success.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

going rogue

Primo was rattling along about his weekend plans the other night, but was brought up short when I told him that he needed to talk to his father about those issues, because I wouldn't be here. He started to laugh hysterically when I told him I would be at Vogue Knitting Live, because he thought I said "Rogue Knitting."

"What's that?" he chortled. "Knitters on the run? Knitters outside the bounds of knitting law?"

I do feel like a bit of an outlaw, as if I am sneaking out on my family. I have no idea why I have to do this guilt trip to myself every. dang. time. The laundry is done, my work is caught up, I even have a dinner ready to go in the fridge for them for tomorrow night. I doubt they will even notice I'm gone.

And yes, the sweater is done. You'll have to view it in pieces, because I didn't have anyone handy to help me out with the photo shoot. The sleeves (and probably my favorite self-portrait ever):

The body (as you can see, I ended up with bracelet length sleeves):

The neck (not laying at all like the pattern anticipated, but I think I like it better this way):

I will probably fool around a bit with the neck when I return, but I leave at crack-o-dawn tomorrow morning with my mom to catch a train to Manhattan at 6:30 am. In a spectacular feat of practical packing, I have managed to fit everything I need for four classes plus a change of clothes and toiletries into my camera backpack. It's almost the same as a handkerchief on a stick! I'll be back on Saturday night, and I have no doubt that everyone's little world will continue to turn in my absence.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

beading confetti

My quest to find the perfect beaded edge for this shawl drew its inspiration from this book:

I got it out of the library on inter-library loan, so I didn't realize the contents until after I had checked it out. What a treasure trove! The edgings are beyond belief. Delicate and lovely; real works of art based upon the Turkish craft of oyalari, a beaded crochet edging that is usually made separately and then attached to the larger piece. In addition to the patterns for the edgings themselves, the book also has some great inspiration for various uses of the edges.

These patterns are not for the crochet beginner. You need to know the various stitches, and you have to be comfortable working with a very small hook, very fine crochet thread and tiny beads. I experimented a bit with a couple of the patterns, and found that it was absolutely critical to have the proper proportional match between each of these three elements, or the results were less than impressive. Still, there is a lot of food for thought here and it is a book I will add to my bookshelf at some point.

Even though I ended up not using any of the patterns in the book, the idea of a simple crocheted edging took hold. I found a bamboo blend crochet thread that had more drape than a traditional cotton thread, plus the natural color was a closer match to the silk in the shawl.

The hardest part was prestringing the beads onto the thread in the correct order. Because the chevron pattern was a mutiple of 10 plus 2, I decided on a dark bead on each end and then every 10 beads along the scallops of the shorter edges.

Working on the wrong side of the shawl (because the beads will sit on the other side), I started by making a slip stitch into both "legs" of one stitch of the crocheted border, to attach the edging.

I then slid a bead down next to the slip stitch...

.. and then made a single crochet stitch on top of the bead to hold it in place, which causes the bead to sit sideways (i.e., a horizontal orientation).

The process was repeated across the whole edging.

The beads sat quite firmly on the far side of the edging but looking at the "right" side, they appeared to be attached to the very edge because the single crochet stitch holding them in place is hidden on the back.

My favorite result from adding beads is the light weight they give to the edge of the shawl. It hangs and drapes so nicely as result!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

confetti shawl

Since the intended recipient just received it, I can finally blog about the Confetti Shawl! It has been a long time in the making.

I decided to make a shawl for this person, who is of the artistic persuasion, waaaaay back in March. On the profiles page in Ravelry, under "favorite colors," this person answered "all of them." This yarn, a fingering weight handpaint by Misti Alpaca, fit the bill nicely!

The problems cropped up once I started knitting it. I was going to use the leaf pattern from the other shawl on the needles at the time, but the leaves were completely obscured by the busy-ness of the yarn. This is the same pattern as the orange/brown shawl I finished a month ago. Color has an unbelievable effect on the results! A great lesson to keep in mind when matching patterns and yarn.

I decided that perhaps crochet was a better choice. The way the stitches are formed could isolate the colors into small blocks instead of interlocking (and dizzying) stripes. I scoured my stitch dictionaries and came up with a possible contender.

It did work. This is the same yarn, under the same lighting conditions. Huge difference! The crochet pattern complemented the short color repeats of the yarn, producing blocks instead of bands of color, and more of the effect I hoped for. Unfortunately, like many crochet patterns, it was a yarn hog and I didn't have enough to make the size I had planned. Plus the result was dense, a bit too much body for a drapey shawl.

Back to the drawing board.

Using a solid yarn along with a handpaint is often an effective way of breaking up the crazy colors. I pondered for a while before realizing that the perfect yarn was already in my stash. In fact, the intended recipient of the shawl had given me this yarn as a thank-you for a favor done a while back.

Ten skeins of a beautiful natural-colored silk single ply. I hadn't been able to use it by itself, because the single ply meant that it pulled apart rather easily. If I knit it tight enough to combat that tendency, I would lose the drape. But holding it together with the sock yarn: BINGO!

Now the colors of the handpaint were broken up enough by the silk so they weren't muddy, and the sock yarn gave enough strength to the silk that I could use a loose crochet stitch (the Peephole Chevron) that draped well. Gail, a mutual friend of both the recipient and me, thought the result resembled confetti. She loved it, which gave me hope that the recipient would like it too—their tastes are similar.

Of course I had to bead the short edges. Can't knit a shawl these days without some sort of bling. Part two tomorrow on the beading details.

Monday, January 14, 2013

time better spent

Last week, in the middle of deadline mayhem, I was scheduled to "hostess" a luncheon at church. This involves coming up with decorations and dessert for a monthly meeting. With work breathing down my neck, I found myself pulling out the mixer to make a cake, and I stopped cold in my tracks.

The women at the luncheon rarely eat dessert. And an apple pie from the store is $3. What if I used the time to work on one of the deadline projects, instead of baking a dessert that no one would eat? It was possible for me to bake a from-scratch cake, but was that the best use of my time?

It occured to me that too much of my life is held captive this way, victim of my own unreasonable expectations of my available time and the front I choose to present to the world of my abilities. It is only aggravated by my perception of my work situation. My jobs (all three of them), are home-based. Unfortunately my reasoning too often follows the path of least resistance. If I'm here, then why can't I just throw a cake in the oven? or write another e-mail for 4-H? or cast on another knitting project (preferably for charity)? or plan an entire 5K race?

The potential for mayhem, not to mention aggravation and stress, is obvious. Less obvious, at least to me, is that it is almost always self-created.

The past few months, I have found myself evaluating my time much more carefully. I have no idea what caused the switch, but I suspect it has something to do with a growing sense that there is simply no way for me to get around to all the things that I thought I would accomplish in my lifetime, back when I was young and foolish. I need to be more careful to make time for those things that I hold dear, and make the conscious decision to jettison the rest. Things are getting crossed off the list by necessity.

Doing something just because I can do it, or because I think it looks better if I do it, has no place on that list.

Watching movies with my sick youngest son? These days, nothing competes with that. I know that the days of one of my sons asking me to spend time with him are growing very short in number. I was open to almost any suggestion. We watched the first Star Wars, and How to Train Your Dragon, and Fellowship of the Ring, and quite a few episodes of The Muppet Show.

If I happened to finish knitting a sweater while doing so, well, that is just icing on the proverbial cake.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

update on all knitting fronts

The project proposal was mailed out yesterday. Hurrah! Actually, it was three separate but inter-related items, so we'll see what happens. I am just glad to have it off my plate, though hopefully only on a temporary basis. I would love if they were accepted.

That means it is back to the black sweater. My LSH commented that my previous picture of my sweater looked like I was knitting away on a pile of black paper, so I am not going to make another attempt to photograph it tonight. I am taking a "photographing your projects" class at Vogue Knitting Live next week so let's hope it makes a difference.

I have had plenty of time to knit because Terzo came down with the flu on Thursday night. Yes, he had the shot, but that has not been invicible this year. We started him on Tamiflu right away and it seems to have made a difference. No fever for the last 12 hours and I am hopeful that the worst is behind him. Meanwhile Primo, who has three indoor track meets this week (basically his entire season in one week), has maintained a strict quarantine from Terzo. I don't think he has even been on the same floor in the house all day today, let alone talked to the poor kid.

The time I have spent watching movies with Terzo has been perfect for me to puzzle out my final intentions for this sweater. Although long sleeves are a tempting modification for always-chilly me, the original sweater pattern has 3/4 length sleeves and I decided to stick with that in the interest of a dwindling yarn supply. I managed to source one more skein of yarn from a super-helpful person on Ravelry, and that generous soul even put it in the mail to me today in the hopes that I could get the sweater finished on time.

At this point, I have two more skeins in my possession. The other sleeve will take one of those skeins, and the lace cowl collar will use the last one. That just leaves the hem, which the extra skein of yarn should be more than enough to cover. Fingers crossed as I head into the home stretch. I figure it needs to be finished and blocked by Wednesday at the latest to be dry for my early-morning trip on Friday.

Movie Tip: If you have not yet seen "The Artist", the 2011 Best Picture winner, don't be put off by the black-and-white cinematography or the fact that it is a silent movie (though that does make it slightly harder to knit while watching). The gimmicks don't allow for many copy-cats, but it is a charming, ultimately uplifting tale that left me wondering why more movies can't be so simple and yet enjoyable for a broad audience.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

it's all what you're used to

Another day, much like yesterday, of feverish work on the top-secret project: two out of three swatches are done and cast off. I just need to weave in the ends. The last one is mostly done, but mid-afternoon my eyes refused to focus on the teeny-tiny needles and super-thin thread for one minute longer. I switched to slightly-thicker thread and needles for a break. Previously, I would have considered that quite fine work but my perspective has changed!

To give you an idea, the super-thin thread is on the bottom of the quarter, with the slightly-thicker thread in the middle (used on sample #3). The yarn for my black sweater (a worsted weight) is on the top.

And the needles I have been using, with a toothpick for perspective:

Size 4/0 (as in four zeros, or 0000—heading into the negatives!) needle on top is for the super-thin yarn. It was a relief to switch to the size 1 needles on the bottom for sample #3. They felt positively weighty in comparison, even though they are closer to the toothpick in dimension. I had previously considered them beyond small. If I switched to my size 15 knitting needles now my hands wouldn't know what to do with themselves.

My question is: how did those knitters 100+ years ago do it? Most of what they made was on needles similar in size, or even smaller, to the one on top. They are hard on your hands and even harder on your eyes. The mind boggles at the thought of knitting an entire pair of stockings on them—and this was when stockings went all the way up to your thighs!

Like anything else, it was probably just a matter of getting used to it. My eyes and hands will be grateful for a  short break starting tomorrow, when I mail off the samples for approval.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


I have been working away on the secret project today, which involves tiny needles (smaller in diameter than toothpicks), tiny thread and tiny beads... and my last act of the day was to rip out all the progress I had made, because it wasn't coming out correctly. The deadline is looming. I really need to make serious headway tomorrow or my goose is cooked.

Time for some stockinette knitting to take the edge off. I started a sweater about a week ago, hopefully to wear to Vogue Knitting Live in NYC next week. (Because I don't have enough pressing deadlines.) I am going with my mom ten days from today, and I'm super excited... Time with my mother, a night at a NY hotel, two days of knitting lectures and classes and conferences, what bliss!

The sweater is black. Perfect for my attempt at NYC style, perfect match to my two "new" thrift store skirts. I bought this yarn over three years ago, for a completely different project for which it was utterly unsuited. I found this pattern two years ago and was sure I had enough yarn, to make the sleeves full-length even. Until I reached what I thought was the halfway point, and realized that I had one skein less than I thought I did.


Now I am racing against time and stash. Do I have enough yarn to make it? Or I am doomed? Of course it would make more sense, time-investment wise, to cut my losses and rip the darn thing out in favor of a pattern that I am sure will work, but what's the fun in that? I am living life on the edge here!

While knitting away tonight, Terzo and I watched our favorite Wallace & Gromit episode on Netflix, titled "A Close Shave." Very fitting.

If you have never seen Wallace & Gromit, look it up. Charming claymation, with clever British jokes (headline in paper: "Killer Sheep on Loose: Lord Baskerville Not Connected") and a knitting dog. This particular episode involved a wool shortage and thus yarn rationing (sign on shop wall: "2 balls per person"), with a great sheep washing scene and the "Knit-o-Matic" device, which sheared the sheep and produced a sweater in record time.

That's what I need! A Knit-o-Matic, so I know sooner rather than later just how much yarn I am short. Unfortunately, the Knit-o-Matic was not particularly good at producing a sweater that fit. I have to hope that it's not prophetic.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

eggs-cellent eggs

I just cannot resist an egg-y pun.

Today was the first Sunday of the month, which meant that today was our monthly 4-H meeting. I was really scrambling (ha!!) for an activity, because well, there was this CHRISTMAS thing between now and the last meeting, and organizationally, I seem to be stuck somewhere in late September.

The idea of focusing on eggs gelled sometime late yesterday, and as the majority of our members own chickens, it seemed to be a workable one. I had such fun putting it together, and they had such fun answering the questions, that I thought I would share the True/False quiz I came up with. Try answering before you check the answers at the bottom of the page!

1.         A hen requires 48 hours to produce an egg.

2.         Thirty minutes after laying an egg, a hen starts the process over again.

3.         Most eggs are laid between 7 pm and 11 pm.

4.         An eggshell has up to 17,000 tiny pores on its surface, through which odors and flavors can be absorbed.

5.         Eggs age more during 1 day at room temperature than 1 week in the refrigerator.

6.         Brown eggs can be produced by any hen, based upon the feed content.

7.         Brown eggs cost more than white eggs because they are more expensive to produce.

8.         Seeing if an egg floats in water will tell you if it is raw or hard cooked.

9.         If you drop an egg on the floor, sprinkling it heavily with salt will make clean-up easier.

10.       Egg yolks are one of the few foods that naturally contain Vitamin D.

11.       Yolk color depends on the hen’s breed.

12.       A young hen is called a pullet.

13.       The egg shell counts for about 50% of an egg’s total weight.

14.       Shell strength is influenced by the hen’s diet, especially in calcium.

15.       Shell strength is related to the hen’s age.

16.       The protein in 1 egg is equivalent to the protein in 1 ounce of lean meat or fish.

17.       Double-yolked eggs are usually produced by older hens.

18.       It is impossible for a hen to lay an egg with no yolk.

19.       The bacteria salmonella can only be on the outside of an egg.

20.       Legend has it that a chef’s white hat (called a toque) has a pleat for each way that an egg can be cooked, because eggs are so versatile.

Eggs are egg-mazing! (OK, I stretched it with that last one. But hopefully you learned something new, and not about my bottomless capacity for bad puns.)

1. F (24-26 hours); 2. T; 3. F (a.m.); 4. T; 5. T; 6. F (the color of an hen's ear lobes indicates the color of her eggs); 7. T (because brown egg laying breeds are usually larger, requiring more feed); 8. F (putting an egg in water demonstrates the freshness as a floating egg is a rotten one; spinning an egg on the counter tells you whether it is hard-boiled (spins freely) or raw (wobbles then stops)); 9. T (only if you don't have a dog, of course); 10. T; 11. F (yolk color depends on the diet of the hen); 12. T; 13. F (9-12%); 14. T; 15. T (as the hen ages, egg size increases but shell material does not, so the same amount of shell material must cover a larger surface, producing a thinner-shelled egg); 16. T; 17. F (double-yolked eggs are usually produced by younger hens, who have not fully synchronized their egg production cycle); 18. F (it's rare, but not impossible); 19. F (salmonella can be on the inside or outside of an egg that looks normal); 20. T.

Friday, January 4, 2013

love the library

Today was a wonderful break from the hustle-bustle of the season, with time in a quiet house to concentrate, finally, on an upcoming deadline. I can't say anything about the project, except I am hugely excited to be a part of it—if my work is accepted, that is, so please keep all fingers crossed.

I have had the necessary materials for some time and just needed a block of time to puzzle out how to start. Starting, of course, is always the most difficult part. Once five stitches are on the needle, or ten words are on the screen, or three moldy things are tossed from the fridge to the trashcan, it's all downhill from there.

I emerged into the sunlight (because my little workroom, while lovely and totally mine, has no windows) to find a message from our local library: my book had finally arrived. I had ordered this book over a month ago, and then promptly forgot about it. When I picked it up, the long wait was explained:

This book travelled all the way from California, just for my whim. Well, more than a whim, I needed it for research, which begs the reminder: libraries are amazing institutions. Among other powers, they can summon books from across the continent for you! Books are irreplaceable, I don't care how much you love the kindle or nook or whatever. You don't have to be a librarian to appreciate this fact, though you can get lots of love from your favorite librarian by supporting your local library.

TV Tip: I watched North & South while I worked, to take my mind off my impatient wait for the third season of Downton Abbey to start this coming Sunday night. If you are a fan of period drama, and you have not seen this BBC production from 2004, stop everything and find a copy right away. (Hint: it is in Netflix instant queue; of course, ask your local library if you don't have Netflix.) This is the third, or maybe even fourth, time that I have watched it, and it did not disappoint. Trust me, this one is worth every minute. "I have seen hell, and it is white, snow-white."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

my first fo of the year

(FO = finished object in knitter-speak)

And I am proud to say it is not a scarf! It is a pair of fingerless mitts. That mitt pattern that I learned in the Estonian stitch knitting class back in September was still nagging at me.

I loved the colors of the sample I knit during the class, but I had used smaller needles to suit the yarn I brought and it ended up painfully tight. I didn't have enough yarn in those colors to reknit it larger, plus I wanted to see what would happen if I used a graduated yarn for one of the yarns instead.

I cast on Christmas Day morning, when amazingly enough I was the only one up for a good amount of time before the boys roused themselves. Yet another sign of things to come...

I have gotten to a point with my knitting skills that if something doesn't work for me, I can usually come up with a way to alter it to make it more to my liking. What an awesome force! I ended up re-working the number of stitches and the way the thumb-hole was constructed to produce a pair of mitts that worked quite well for my hands. It was a bit of ripping out and redoing until I got exactly what I wanted, but I got there eventually! I wove in the ends last night and wore them all day today. I felt super-smart every time I looked down at them, especially the way the colors matched up almost exactly.

While I am on the subject of Estonian knitting: if you ever have the chance to take a class with Merike Saarnit, who taught that class and designed the mitt pattern, don't miss it! She will have you thinking about knitting stitches in a whole new way. She is teaching classes at Vogue Knitting Live in NYC later this month. Hopefully I will see her to show off my new mitts in person.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

it's tradition

Tradition to review my goals from last year this time, and set new ones for this year... 

So for the review portion: 

1. Knit four sweaters. Halfway. I finished two, and one was an (unblogged) vest. I did finish five shawls (three of which were prayer shawls, so quite meaningful and mindful projects) and seventy-million scarves, so there was knitting. Just not necessarily what I planned.

2. Continue with the stashdown. Well, sort of. I finished this year in the red, knitting 1,000 less yards than I purchased. More sweater knitting would have helped, but I am not beating myself up. I did a lot of knitting for others and it was very satisfying. There will be other years for the stash (hopefully this one, because the totes are getting full).

3. Blog more regularly. Unqualified success on this one: a record number of posts for the year. I fell into a rhythm of every other day, for the most part. I enjoyed letting everyday life be my guide, and not worrying too much about fitting posts into a specific slot. 

4. Improve the farm business. I will give this one a "pretty good." I never did manage to get my etsy shop up and running, but I did a few more shows and the numbers were testament to greater commitment.

5. Eat more healthily. Flat-out fail. Every time I reached for the unhealthy snack, I thought about this goal and how I was going to have to 'fess up at the end of the year. It didn't stop me.

Now for the new year: like the direction of the blog in the past months, I think I will strike out into slightly different territory. I already sense that 2013 will be an unsettling year of reflection and preparation for big changes in 2014, when Primo graduates high school. I have no idea where it will take us as a family and me individually, but my goal is to develop the wisdom and courage necessary to handling these changes with grace and aplomb.