Sunday, May 28, 2006

It's been a week

Ever have one of those weeks that saps every ounce of energy and intellect out of you? This has been one of those weeks. Suffice it to say that work is kickin' my butt. Hence the lack of blogging. And I have another couple of weeks like that, starting Tuesday. So there may be sparse updates in the near future. Ah well. Such is life.

I did manage to bring my camera along with me throughout the week on various outings.

Let's see....

Sunday, I watched my nephew, aka "Lil' Slugger", play T-ball. Sooo cute.

Yes, that's him "pitching". Don't you love his stance?

Ready to run home.

My five-year-old digital camera has a broken zoom, so is stuck in what seems to be the widest possible setting, which is why my little buddy is a mere blip on the image. My family laughs at me because my "zooming" now consists of me straightening my elbows and holding the camera as far from me as possible. I do plan on replacing the darn thing, I've even got the model all picked out. Just haven't gotten around to it, yet. Soon, I keep saying. My family is tired of hearing me complain about my crappy camera. And I'm tired of using it.

In more complaints, I'm now required to go to the D.C./Baltimore area every week for a 1-hour meeting. That's a ~$125 roundtrip train ride, $50-$150 roundtrip shuttle/taxi fair; $150 hotel room; ~$50 in miscellaneous expenses for meals, tolls and parking, and two days of my life wasted traveling for the effort of attending a one-hour meeting which I could easily attend via teleconference. The expenses are reimbursed by the client, but I still don't think it's right to spend their money this way. And I really don't like inefficiently wasting time like this. Gripe, gripe, grumble, grumble. I'm not a good swallower of bad decisions made by project management. So I really have to make a concerted effort to choke down my bad attitude and put on a professional face. Bleh.

I did manage to take a few more pictures of my travels up and back. Here are a few scenes from my train window:

Ashland train station

A couple of administration buildings on the Randolph-Macon campus


Fredericksburg - doesn't it seem quaint?


One of the many bodies of water we cross on the way north


My knitting pattern hanging from the tray table hook thingy


See - I actually did a little knitting


My feet are resting comfortably on the footrest. I wish airplanes had these.


Jarhead running in Quantico


George Washington Masonic National Memorial. What would Robert Langdon say about this place?


Several views of our nation's capitol


There's a precious split-second where the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument are both in plain view from the train window, but I've yet to be fast enough to catch that shot. Maybe my next camera can do that. But if you look really close in the first picture, you can see the top of the dome of the Capitol Building.

My hotel room. This is one thing I do NOT complain about. Very nice.


From my hotel room window Monday evening. I don't always get a lake view.


Tuesday evening I made it home just in time to turn around and go knit with our knitting group, aka "TNK". I was completely wiped out from two days of travel and little sleep, so was barely worthwhile company as I propped my head on my hand and tried to keep up with the wild group that evening. Jane blogged it beautifully here, but I also managed to take a few pictures, despite my malaise:

We were blessed with a surprise visit from Kathy, owner of Holly Spring Homespun. What do you suppose she's staring at?


None other than wild Jane, dancing on the tables. No one seems fazed.


The rest of this week went by with nothing but drudgery and work to mark the days, and I was looking forward to a quiet, uneventful holiday weekend in which to recuperate. Just laying on the couch, watching movies and knitting, not going anywhere, not seeing anyone. Ahhhh. Peace.

Plans change!

Jane invited me to go with some of the TNK knitters to Powhatan on Saturday and visit Kathy's shop. I almost passed on the outing, as visions of my tempting couch were calling me, but, who can turn down a yarn outing? Not me! I met Jane at a halfway point, and she drove Laura and I the rest of the way to Powhatan. We met Issy and Robin there. Here is Issy holding up her finished and blocked shawl:

Mmmm shawl. Mmmm yarn.


Since we were on the subject of shawls, Jane brought out her Creatures of the Reef, and within seconds, Kathy's expert eye saw two dropped stitches, which Jane is safely capturing here to fix later at home:

That's stitch savior and shop owner Kathy behind Jane. Jane's wearing her pretty clap again -- love it.


After our yarn adventures, we had a lovely lunch at a diner in Powhatan called The Four Seasons which made us all fantastic sandwiches. But it was their desserts that were to die for. I still have leftover chocolate cake in my fridge. I'll be eating that within thirty seconds of clicking the "publish post" button!

On my way home, I drove by this little family:



I turned my car around and pulled over to get a little closer to them. This is the shot I got before I left the hissing parents and their babies alone:

On their way back to the water


That's not the only wildlife I've seen this week. Last Sunday after putting in my mom's flower bed at my parents' house, there was a little bunny sitting like a statue very close to my car. He never moved, even after I got in my car and drove away. Alas, I didn't bring my camera with me that day. But I'm guessing it may have been the same bunny I documented here. And then, on Saturday, not a mile from where I saw the Canadian geese family, I also saw vultures in the road, doing what vultures do - cleaning up roadkill. It was just unusual to see vultures in the city. I did not take a picture of that -- a little too gruesome, in my opinion.

Before I forget, I must share my recent stash acquisitions:

While we were at MS&W, my travel buddy Suzanne had her Ann Budd "Yarn Requirements" card with her at all times as she calculated how much yarn to purchase for various projects. Inspired by its usefulness, I picked up one on Saturday at HSH, along with the green and blue hanks of Tahki Cotton Classic on sale. They are slated for future dishcloth projects. But what is that lovely yarn on the right, you ask?

For being the 600th commenter on her blog, Jane generously gave me two hanks of hand-dyed 100% alpaca, from Alpacas of Rivanna River Farm in Advance Mills, VA. Jane thinks I don't like the color, but I actually, honestly do. I admit that I am in a color rut and typically go for the teals, blue-greens, aquas, and turquoises, but I love that this is outside my normal comfort zone of colors. The yarn label calls it "peach", but this yarn is as bright orange as the picture shows, and I like that! I believe orange is actually a complimentary color to green (or is it blue?), so perhaps that's why I like it. Anyway, click here for a picture of Jane wearing a poncho she knitted from the same yarn, and read more about that here.

And thanks to Amber's comment on my last post, I now know what I'll knit with this yarn -- Knitty's Branching Out. I think it will be a cool pattern in orange -- an autumn leaves version, perhaps. And I see that there's a Branching Out Knit-along. Rockin'! Since I've got about eleven other things on the needles, I'm going to wait to finish one or two before starting this pattern, though. Probably later this summer, I think.

Whew, my week is over and another is about to begin. I have tomorrow "off", so-to-speak, but all that means is that I get to catch up on a boat-load of chores and desk work. Bleh.

I'll probably be quiet again for awhile, what with work and travel and what-not. And no knitting group for me this Tuesday (*sob*) since I'll be out of town. Y'all have fun without me!

Next weekend I'm going to SoXperience with Liz. Should be fun! Wendy will be there briefly to sign books, so I may just pick one of those up while there.

Have a great Memorial Day, everyone!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Why I'll never be a great knitter

In a word: math.

Reading lace charts and calculating measurements and gauge and yarn substitutions are all things that involve math and that seriously scare me.

Lest you think I jest, I was over at my parents' house last Sunday for Mother's Day and my dad handed me one of my old report cards he'd recently found. My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Richardson, (who, by the way, was an awesome teacher and actually won city-wide Teacher of the Year for 1976), apparently knew me all too well:

Click above image for larger, slightly more legible version.

If you still can't read her "Teacher Comments", this is what she wrote:

"Mary is an excellent student. However, at times she becomes a little anxious about new ideas in math; but with effort and concentration she usually can master it."

What an eye-opener! I have no recollection of her writing that, but, boy, did she hit the nail right on the head. I never realized this until recently, but math anxiety has haunted me most of my life, to this very day.

After such a momentous pronouncement by Mrs. Richardson, you'd think I'd get the help I needed, but in 6th grade I changed schools and was put in a class where the teacher used "math contracts", or what I now call, "The lazy teacher's way to avoid actual teaching". How it worked was, at the beginning of the term, the teacher handed out a syllabus-type sheet with a list of an entire semester's worth of chapters to read and homework to perform and turn in, all to be done at the student's own speed, on their own time, and with absolutely no classroom instruction. All of the work was due at the end of the term, with very little regular accountability from week to week. To a kid with math anxiety who requires a lot of hand-holding in that particular subject area, this is a NIGHTMARE. I remember lying awake many many nights during that school year, agonizing about that !#$%^&* math contract. I think I may have even given myself an ulcer over it. I hated sixth grade.

To this day, anything involving numbers and math makes my thoughts turn fuzzy, my eyes glaze over and my stomach flip-flop. I can eventually do it with adequate results, but just like Mrs. Richardson wrote thirty years ago, I really have to make a concerted effort.

Several years ago, while I was still working in a clinical laboratory, my co-worker Sidney told me about the Teen Talk Barbie, who among other things in her vocabulary, said, "Math is hard; let's go shopping!" This created such a public outcry that Mattel pulled her off the shelves. After hearing that story, Sid & I used to laugh and say "Math is HARD!" in a high-pitched, nasally Barbie voice whenever we had to perform complicated calculations to prepare reagents or report out certain results. And I still say that in my head all the time, to this day, whenever I'm confronted with scary math.

I envy anyone for whom math is a breeze. And I now have more empathy for those who struggle with subjects that I always loved, like reading and science.

Reading/writing/spelling have always come as easily to me as the air I breathe, (that same 5th grade year I won the school spelling bee), but how I feel about math is probably very similar to how other folks feel about reading or science. I tutored a man from the Read Center for four years for just that reason - to try and share with him my love for the written word and to give him the help he may not have received as a kid in school. As he was struggling with a very real learning disability as well as the anxiety associated with it, I don't know if our sessions helped in the long run, but at least it got him reading a little bit every week, instead of avoiding it the way I avoid math.

Too bad they don't have a Math Center for adults with math anxiety! Or perhaps it requires help of a more "professional" nature, involving weekly sessions with someone with a couch and a PhD.

So you see, since knitting is my hobby and therefore something I do for enjoyment, I may not ever tackle the scary chart knitting. At least until I overcome my issues with math.

Math anxiety -- I wonder if they make a pill for that?


Friday, May 19, 2006

Are you LOST?

I admit it. I'm a TV junkie. I'm single, I live alone - hey, it's my one vice. (HA! Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! I can't even type that with a straight face!) Okay, so I have lots of vices. But right now we're talking about TV, my square friend and roommate who keeps me company, entertains me and lulls me to sleep every night.

So I've been enjoying all the series and season finales this past week -- West Wing, (*sniff* -- bye Jed!), Will & Grace, (*sniff, sniff*, bye gang!), Grey's Anatomy, (who will she pick?) and E.R. (will they live?)... All quite good.

And now I'm chomping at the bit for next Wednesday's LOST season finale. I was hooked on that show from the very first episode, and if you've never seen the show -- run, don't walk to Blockbuster and rent Season 1. And then tell me about all the extra goodies on DVD that they don't show us in primetime.

The plot of Lost is quite mysterious, leaving lots of questions unanswered for many episodes, revealing answers just a tiny bit at a time, in the midst of yet more mystery. To add to the fun, ABC just recently started airing during each episode a spoof commercial for The Hanso Foundation, a faux organization tied to the Lost plot. Every week the commercial is slightly different, giving a toll-free phone number and a different website URL to visit, which reveals secret hidden clues to unlock more mysteries on the Hanso Foundation website. Apparently this is all part of an alternate-reality game, and there are tons of fan sites and forums and blogs all trading clues and speculating about various plot points. The best blog I've found so far is Lost Experience, and especially their "The Game So Far" page, which gives a blow-by-blow of all the clues revealed thus far. [Update: another great blog is The Lost Experience Clues.] (I find these quite helpful as I'm not that bright patient enough to find the clues all on my own). After next week, it's going to be long, hot summer waiting for the new episodes to air.

In (old) knitting news, I'm late to blog this, but here are a couple of pictures from Tuesday's Knit Night:

The busy hands of Isobel, Jane and Patsy.

These ladies all have mad knitting skillz -- they're all lightning fast, and Patsy doesn't even have to look when she knits! And, hey - nice clap, Jane!


How fun to see Jane's "Creatures of the Reef" shawl progress. Check it out on her blog.

And here's a picture of my latest progress on the Heart scarf:

Decidedly less wonky-looking, now that I've completed more pattern repeats

That picture was taken at a local car dealership as I was waiting while my car was getting inspected (finally), the oil changed, and a few things replaced. I ended up having to rip back an entire pattern repeat after making a mistake and forgetting a yarn-over somewhere - probably on row 1, which has the most. I blame the mistake on the service guy who showed up from lunch a half-hour after I'd arrived. Why schedule service when you go to lunch, people????!!!! Grrrrrrrrrrrr. My time is unimportant, apparently. So, while I was fuming over that, I apparently overlooked an increase. Or maybe I made the mistake when one of the mechanics walked by and asked if I was knitting it for my grandchild. My GRANDCHILD???? For the love of God, how old do I look these days??? Do I really look like someone's grandmother??? Needless to say my reply to him was a tad chilly. However, I warmed up slightly after he told me how when he was a kid in Morocco his mother had to knit sweaters for food rations during the war. Reminded me of my Grandmére.

Anyway, I fixed my mistake, so all is well. Three or four more repeats left for this side, and then I start the other side and finish it by grafting the two sides together via kitchener's stitch. Over and over I've watched the episode of Knitty Gritty where Jenna Adorno demonstrates that technique, and I've really wanted to try it. I'm actually looking forward to it!

Today I had a lovely lunch with Suzanne, her daughter and her niece, and took a couple of pictures of Suzanne wearing her latest F.O. I'll let her post those pictures on her blog when she's ready. I really do dig that sweater. Suzanne definitely has some mad knitting skillz... ;-)

A full day tomorrow. Putting in my mom's flower bed in the morning, (a week late -- was going to do it on Mother's Day but the thunderstorms prevented that). Then a new friend Stephanie is having an Open Garden at her house in the early afternoon. Later it's my nephew's t-ball game, dinner at my brother's house and babysitting their kids tomorrow night while brother and SIL go see a movie. All in all, should be a really nice Saturday. Here's hoping I remember to bring the camera and take a few pictures.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Monday, May 15, 2006

Pink stuff

Because 6 UFOs are not enough, (apparently), I've started another one. This one has a very good chance of being finished in a timely manner, however, because it is a fast knit, I have a deadline, and it's for a worthy cause.

This weekend I bought the yarn and cast on for my friend Syd's "Think Pink" knit-along project. I'm knitting the "Heart" scarf from Knitty's Breast Cancer Awareness Fall 2004 surprise issue, which should look like this when finished:

I've finished two pattern repeats so far, and I'm hoping the wonky appearance will go away once blocked. We'll see how it looks after a few more repeats -- if it's still wonky, it may get frogged.

Can blocking de-wonkify this knitting? Is frogging the only other option? Stay tuned for the next exciting episode!

The pattern calls for an alpaca yarn, and if I had had my wits about me last weekend while ogling all the pretty colors in the Tess booth, I might have found some nice pink bulky alpaca with which to knit this. Since I was (and am) witless, I had to buy some bulky wool at my LYS, who is currently all about summer-weight yarns and has hardly any bulky yarns in sight. Here's hoping 200 yards is enough, because I don't know if they have any more of this colorway. I think this scarf knitted with alpaca would be softer and more drapey, but again, I'm hoping blocking will help that. It's a fun little pattern to knit, except for row 3 which has two knit-4-togethers -- yuck! That's probably not too terrible with laceweight yarn, but with fat yarn, (Crystal Palace "Iceland", 2.5 spi), and fat needles, (US size 15), it's a challenge! So for me, row 3 is always the row to dread and the hurdle to surpass.

Also being donated to the "Think Pink" project are two woven scarves currently in my possession:

The scarf on the left I won in a raffle at the Spring Fiber Festival -- it was made by Mill Creek Studio in Rural Retreat, VA, (no website - comment or email me if you want contact info). It's woven mohair with a little novelty something woven in as well. The scarf on the right is woven rayon and I bought that from a weaver I met in St. Louis when I was on a project there. She was friends with some girls on the client site and invited us to a Christmas party where she showed off her basement weaving studio, which was just a feast for the eyes, with all the colored fibers. I've had this scarf for several years but have rarely worn it, because being hot-natured, I just rarely wear scarves. Here's hoping that both of these scarves go to good homes.
Finally, here's another pink thing in my world:

To see more pink things like this, go here.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

399 years ago today...

...104 male settlers arrived at a site they named James Cittie and established the first permanent English settlement in the New World.

To celebrate, I share with you an old 1939 RTD Fred Seibel editorial cartoon I find particularly amusing, especially around Thanksgiving-time when the media focus tends to be on the Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock:

I love this: "... North Virginia, (now called Massachusetts)..."

Happy birthday, Jamestown, Virginia.

Next year's celebration should be a doozy!


Friday, May 12, 2006

Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival 2006 - Part 3

Third and final installment to the MS&WF report. We're now up to Sunday, and one of the first things we saw was the Sheep-to-Shawl competition, which was a lot of fun:

Last year's winning team finished first and won again!

Afterwards we watched these shawls being auctioned off and I believe the winning shawl also went for the highest price -- something over $500!


Later, we stepped inside to see the winners of the skein and garment competition, and saw these lovelies:



A few other random shots from Sunday:

An angora kid sleeps snugly


Suzanne scores hemp yarn for her husband's sweater


This little lady does her own kind of weaving


Finally, the obligatory showing of the loot and yarn pr0n:

Clockwise from top left:

(1) Obligatory MS&WF merchandise (I waited until Sunday when the line was small):

(2) BMFA "Socks That Rock" in Rose Quartz:

Click here for extreme close-up

(3) Claudia's Hand Painted Sport Weight merino in Caribbean Blue. I waffled back & forth over this purchase for an entire day before succumbing to the lust for this lovely yarn. (Hey, I just found out Claudia's located in Harrisonburg, VA - hometown of my alma mater, and where I'll be staying for SoXperience.)

Click here for extreme close-up

(4) "Thermohair" ankle socks for my mom, who is perpetually cold. Here's hoping these might convince her to turn the thermostat down from 80ºF.

(5) Glass buttons:

so purty!

(6) Earrings - the blue-green glass pair are for me, (what a shock); the American flag pair are for my niece whose birthday is in early July:

(7) Raw silk yarn and fish belt pattern from Tess' yarn:

(8) Four skeins of Merino/Baby Alpaca/Silk from The Fibre Company, who had it on sale -- 2 for $10. Who could pass that up, especially when it's my colors? Melanie suggested that since this yarn seems somewhat Noro-esque, (although quite a bit softer, in my opinion), it would make a good multi-directional scarf.


In summary, I had a fantastic time last weekend. I woke up Monday morning still glowing from the experience. As I told Suzanne at one point Sunday while we were sitting in the beautiful weather, finishing lunch, knitting and chatting and listening to the sheep show next to us, it felt like a little piece of heaven. After a long, warm, crowded, tiring day on Saturday I had boldly declared to my travel buddies that I thought one day was enough to see and do most everything. But after a sweet, lovely, leisurely day there on Sunday, I know now that I would have missed a lot if we hadn't stayed for both days. I do think that if there aren't urgently-necessary things to do on Saturday, (blogger meet-up, koigu & STR scrum), it might be nice to come up midday Saturday and leave Sunday afternoon. Sunday is definitely key, I think.

Is it next May yet?... ;-)