Thursday, June 29, 2006

Movie Review: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou


This is probably one of those movies that you either love or you hate. An independent movie that won't suit everyones' tastes, it hit me just right tonight, and I loved it. Wonderfully delightful, quietly funny with a few tear-jerking scenes as well. Definitely not your run-of-the-mill mainstream Hollywood blockbuster, and thank God for that.

It stars Bill Murray as a Cousteau-esque deep-sea adventurer with ragamuffin crew. I won't say much more about the plot, as it's more fun to let it develop in front of you.

It has an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, slightly off-kilter feel to it, but just enough to make it fun without being bizarre.

Out of 5 stars, I gave it: 5 stars.

Surprising all-star cast: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Anjelica Huston, and Jeff Goldblum.

Directed by Wes Anderson, who also directed The Royal Tenenbaums, which I didn't like as much.

Enjoyable music by Seu Jorge, who covers David Bowie songs in Portugese throughout the film.

I recorded this from a Starz movie channel; I only wish I had the Bonus Material DVD with me right now to see the extra stuff, which would no doubt be fun.

It's best to go into this film not expecting much, because you'll be delightfully and serendipitously surprised.

I hope I didn't just kill that with my good review.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

This about sums it up

Yesterday I talked about how my workday was a lot like herding cats. Today, as I expected, has been more like wrestling mountain lions. I've been working for 12 hours and probably have another couple more ahead of me. But right now I'm waiting on a phone call, so I'll post a little something fun here:

Thanks to Peggy for the link to this fun video:

Click ^ to watch
This really did make my (otherwise wretched) day!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Herding Cats

When the house is cool like it is today from our torrential rains, and I'm working from home with countless deliverables and documents due, I spend many hours at my desk.

Speaker phone with mute button - quite handy for conference calls

Today was busier than most, and tomorrow perhaps even more so. This is my first RFP and system selection project, having spent the majority of my consulting life doing system implementations, and although I'm enjoying the change and the challenge, I'm not sure I'd want to do it again. Much of it is like herding cats. Today we received back all the vendors' responses to the RFP and are working to blind them before distributing to the folks who will do the actual scoring. In the meantime we're also trying to schedule on-site vendor demos for July/August and reference hospital site visits in the fall. All while making sure that each hospital in this multi-facility organization has adequate representation during the RFP design and decision-making process so that none can cry foul when the vendor is finally chosen.

Herding cats, I tell ya.

Speaking of cats, if you're wondering why there's a fuzzy blanket next to the phone in the picture up there, well, at any given time when I'm at my desk and the house is cool, this is what is usually within 3 inches of my left elbow:

Ali - my white shadow, always at my side


My baby could be the next Chessie

*** ***

But don't be fooled by that sweet face. As soon as I get up to get a drink, she steals the warm spot in my chair, especially if her (my) favorite sweatshirt is also in it:

Find another spot to sit, human!


Wednesday is supposed to be hotter, so perhaps she'll be sleeping on top of the fuzzy blanket tomorrow. But make no mistake, she'll be there. Unless she's hiding in the closet behind the dryer while it thunders.

Tomorrow's agenda: more of the same cat-herding.

I can hardly wait!


Monday, June 26, 2006

Don't Hate Me Because My Yarn is Beautiful

My SoXperience travel buddy Liz is currently de-stashing, and was gracious enough to give me first crack at some of her Socks-That-Rock yarn. I decided on this one, which arrived today:

Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock in "Hot Flash"

An extreme close-up for your Yarn Pr0n viewing pleasure

Yippee! I'm usually not a pink person, but who can resist those bright colors! I know my SIL Jenny, who is a pink person, will be jealous. I'm guessing that any socks that come from this yarn may have to go to her.

Liz even threw in a couple of surprises - a cute notecard and a mini-sock-blocker keyring! (Click picture to make bigger):

I can't wait to knit a sock for that keyring!

I'd just recently seen one of those keyrings, thanks to new TNK member Robin pointing it out on Jeanie's blog. (Go ahead, surf around Jeanie's blog and look at all the little socks she's already knit or received for it -- so cute! My favorite is the sock and the shoe together). I'd even thought about getting one, but decided against it for whatever reason (trying to be restrained, I guess, after all my recent purchases at SoXperience.)

Anyway, I am so thrilled to have it, and I love that little pattern that comes with it -- can't wait to try it out!

Thanks so much, Liz!


UPDATE: I was just Googling around some other blogs to see how "Hot Flash" looks knitted up, and come to find out that the "Hot Flash" colorway was designed by BMFA to support "Knit For The Cure". How cool is that? And now the name and the color all makes sense!


Saturday, June 24, 2006

DVD Review: The Art of Knitting

Soon after I published yesterday's post complaining about how hot it was, we received a fantastic thunderstorm with a lengthy torrential downpour and cooler temperatures, which have stretched into today. What a blessing!

Another blessing -- no hard-and-fast plans this weekend, so this afternoon I decided to pop in the "The Art of Knitting" DVD I'd rented from Netflix weeks ago but had yet to watch.

Below is my review:


Overall rating: 2½ stars out of 5

Highlights, (or, why this DVD got 2½ stars instead of just 1):

* Hey, it's a DVD about knitting - those are few and far between!
* I enjoyed the segments about Alpaca farming and processing their fibers
* Semi-decent, (if brief), overview of continental knitting
* Interesting stitch library
* Semi-decent glossary of terms and abbreviations
* Semi-decent lists of knitting books, magazines, websites, charities and events

Low points, (or, why this DVD received no higher than 2½ stars):

* Bad sound quality
* Bad lighting
* Bad editing
* Way too many talking heads
* Idiotic segments including:
* Couture knitted swimwear designs, (appropriate for 0.001% of the population)
* Too-long, too new-agey segment on the "Zen" of knitting
* Color Theory, where the girl, obviously not a knitter, kept referring to "weaving", "sewing" and "threads", instead of knitting and yarn
* Ridiculous segment on the new-agey "Knitting as Soul Food" knitting circle based in La-La land; (leader actually said, "let us now call our ancestors into the room")
* A silly "Fit-to-Knit" workout

* Not enough time devoted to intermediate knitting techniques
* Outdated Yarn & Craft Store list

I have to admit that I did not have the patience to watch the entire "Getting Started: The Basics of Knitting" segment, as I find it painfully boring to watch someone teaching someone else how to knit. So I cannot honestly review that section of the DVD, although it, too, was plagued by especially bad sound quality and bad lighting -- another reason I skipped watching most of that part. That segment might actually be helpful for a brand new knitter to watch, but I cannot judge that fairly, since I can now say I'm beyond that level. (whoo hoo!)

The DVD also showed "sneak peaks" of their next releases, (Volumes 2 thru 4), and I'm hoping that they've learned something from the first one and the technical quality will have improved. A better presentation might make me more patient with the topics that are less "appealing" to my personal taste.


If I end up staying in town next weekend for the holiday, I think I'll finally pop in the Elizabeth Zimmerman DVD's I purchased a few months ago and give them a whirl.

People tell me they're great.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Fun Stuff

It's been hot, hot, hot here in Rivah City. Got to 100ºF here yesterday, but slightly cooler today. Me hates the heat and the associated humidity. The only upside is that the cats love it and therefore just loll around or sleep all day in a heat-induced stupor and stay out of my hair while I'm working. So, as long as the AC keeps working, I won't complain. I find that if I keep my AC set at 78ºF, it doesn't kick in all that much, but still keeps the house comfortable enough for sitting at a desk all day. Night-time is another story altogether, however -- the colder, the better, so the thermostat gets set to 65ºF or lower before I got to bed, and then back up to 78 when I wake up.

Despite the non-wool-friendly temperatures, I've been knitting on my pink heart scarf for the last few nights. I'd finished the first half weeks ago and had set it aside, but have now picked up the other half and should finish it in a few days. I can get three or four repeats done while watching tv at night. It's a quick knit, but goes slower when one makes a mistake every other row and has to un-knit and re-knit. I tell ya, I think I have adult ADD. Or am just easily distracted by whatever is on television at the time. Or am just a remedial knitter. Whatever. It'll get done. Then I think I'll block both halves before grafting them together -- easier to block two short rectangles than one long one.

For those who aren't so interested in handling wool when it's sweltering, here's a few fun websites to go visit:

Once again, Go. Have fun. Stay cool.

That is all.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


This is totally off-topic, but I couldn't resist, since it seems like it applies to half the knit-bloggers I read these days.

So, here's a quick note for all you librarians, former librarians, wannabe librarians, library employees and just plain book lovers out there. Have you stumbled upon this website yet?

Go. Have fun.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Ze prototype... she is ready...

(...did you say that in your head with a German accent? Because that's how I hear it in my head!)

So, what do you think?

Christmas in June

I'm fairly pleased with it myself, although still not convinced about the yarn. I like how the cuff edge curled up, (I had a feeling it would). At first I thought I might have to tack that down, but now I'm thinking of it as a design feature.

Do I want to knit 11 or 12 more of these? I'm still debating that. If I do, I'd really like it to be with some nicer (softer, stretchier) yarn. Anyone know where I can get some inexpensive, worsted weight merino?

And does this officially make me a designer now? ... ;-)

Monday, June 19, 2006

A few little things...

I've been knitting on a few little things this past week. First of all, remember these?

My food coloring (L) and Kool-Aid (R) dyed mini-skeins of yarn from SoXperience 2006.


Well, there's not enough yarn there to really make anything, but I was curious as to how yarn dyed in stripes like that actually knits up. So I decided to knit a swatch from each:

Left: food coloring dyed; Right: Kool-Aid dyed

(Swatching: good conference call knitting!) Isn't it funny how a yarn that's dyed with stripes ends up being variegated? Pretty cool, I think. I'm sure there's a crazy mathematical or visual-spatial reason for that, but that's beyond my feeble brain, so I'll just marvel at the mystery. I also think the subtle difference in the colors is cool. Care for an extreme close-up?

Left: Kool-Aid colors; Right: McCormick Food Coloring


And in the shame-on-me-for-forgetting-to-share-this-last-week category:

Look what I won!

The very generous Jane gave me this sheepy plate as a runner-up prize for a contest we had two weeks ago at TNK. Isn't it adorable? I feel, however, that I should share custody of the plate with all of my fellow worthy contestants who worked so hard on their entries. Should we rotate it on a monthly basis? Who should get it next? Tammy is going away for the summer, so maybe Sheddy? Or Issy? Or Stacy? How about Deb? There were so many worthy entries in that contest, I am humbled to have won the runner-up prize by a mere drawing from a hat. It was an honor just to be nominated.... ;-)

Anyway, thanks a million, Jane, for the great plate! I think I owe you some pretty yarn for as generous as you've been to me lately!

And finally, I've started my prototype mini-Christmas-stocking-ornament, and will probably finish the red part tonight, and perhaps the white cuff, too.

You'll notice that I didn't do any ribbing at the cuff, because once the toe is finished, I'm going to turn it inside-out and pick up stitches from the cuff using white yarn, and then knit a couple of inches in white. Then, when I turn it right-side-out, the elongated white cuff (still in stockinette) will have purl bumps on the outside. I can then fold the cuff down and the knitted "V's" will face outward. Probably a lot of trouble to go to when I could just purl all those rounds, but I hate purling with this yarn. I picked up some Lion Brand "Wool Ease" worsted weight to knit this prototype, but am not yet convinced that I'll do all twelve little socks in that yarn, 'cause I'm not loving the acrylic. The only other red worsted weight yarn they had at the craft store yesterday was Lion Brand's "cashmere/merino" blend, which, although quite nice, was $9 for an 85-yard ball, and if I'm spending that much on nice yarn, it's not going to be Lion Brand -- I'll get some Debbie Bliss or Rowan or Aurora, thankyouverymuch. Okay, they did have some Cascade 220, but it's just a little too scratchy for me for anything but a felting project. I've been spoiled by merino, I guess.


In a completely off-topic category, I watched a couple of Netflix movies this weekend.

First was "Walk the Line", which was very nicely done and really showcased the acting skills of the two leads. Do I think Reese should have won Best Actress? Not sure. She did a fine job, but I haven't yet watched all her competitors' movies yet. I still have "Crash" sitting on my coffee table - waiting for the right day to watch a heavy movie like that.

Second, I watched "Mr. & Mrs. Smith". One word: BORING. Very little plot, mostly shoot-em-up action, which appeals to their marketed demographic, but alas, that's not me. I also didn't care for either lead character in the movie, so I really didn't care if they lived or died or stayed together. I admit that part of my attitude is prejudice due to Brangelina's home-wrecking shananigans. Biggest surprise for me about this movie? That Vince Vaughn was in it. I had no idea. And he really served no point in the so-called story except as quasi-comic-relief, which really didn't help the movie, since he wasn't that funny. But he got to witness the Brangelina canoodling first-hand and then swoop in and be the hero for the wronged wife. Hmmm.... Interesting.... And how convenient.... (That's my uninformed, outsider take on the whole fiasco.)

Ahhh, Hollywood. So shallow.

Okay, enough of my blather. Good night y'all!


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Old Friends

Yesterday morning I got a call from an old friend from high school and college, telling me she was in town for the weekend, and asking if I wanted to meet her at last night's R-Braves game.

Would I???

When my family first moved to Richmond in the early '70's, we found ourselves living next-door to the then R-Braves general manager. From that proximity a friendship was born between our two families, and one of the perks of that friendship was the opportunity to go to a lot of R-Braves games. This was back when they played at the rickety, wooden Parker Field, the site where The Diamond now stands, (but perhaps for not much longer. Other proposals mentioned here.) I remember at least one time, as a little kid, the thrill of getting to watch a game from the press box, which was way, way up at the top of the stadium and required walking on a steep, rickety catwalk of sorts to get there, (at least according to my fuzzy childhood memories).

Old friend: Parker Field -- fans'-eye view


Old friend: The Diamond -- opening day, 1985

When my friend Ann and I were seniors in high school we discovered we both had a mutual love for our local AAA International League baseball team, and since that time have tried to get to at least one game any summer she's in town. We always have fun at those games, although these days the players look like children and we don't ogle them through binoculars anymore, but spend more time catching up with each other and missing most of what's happening on the field. Last night was no different.

Ann was in town for various family events including a couple of nephews' graduations, her dad's 85th birthday and Father's Day, so she was at the game with various and sundry siblings, in-laws and kids. It's always that way when Ann visits -- I'm often invited to a big family gathering of some sort, with a "the more, the merrier" attitude. One Christmas they invited me along on one of those limo rides to see all the "tacky Christmas lights" around town. The kids were more interested in watching the limo's television set. Five years ago Ann's family had a big to-do for her dad's 80th birthday and asked me to attend and be the photographer, of sorts. As usual, that was a lot of fun.

Last night we were also joined by another high school friend, Kathy, and her husband and two of their four boys. Kathy lives in very rural Powhatan, almost in Cumberland, and is currently a stay-at-home-mom, so I rarely get to see her, so it was great to catch up. She's living my fantasy country life, raising chickens, next to neighbors on all sides who raise cows, sheep, goats, etc. That idyllic lifestyle always makes this city girl think about a making a move. One of these days, perhaps....

Old friends: Kathy and Ann

As an extra treat, the three of us were able to go out together after the game and spend some more time catching up, gossiping on the latest about fellow high school alums, and fretting about our aging parents. Wow, we're getting old. But damn if neither Kathy nor Ann look a day older than high school. I can't say the same for myself, unfortunately, but, it's funny -- the older and uglier I get, the more comfortable I am in my skin. My looks don't matter much to me anymore, (thank goodness, or I'd be sorely disappointed).

After the game was over, it took us close to thirty minutes to coordinate getting to our cars and figuring out where to go afterwards. When we were finally on our way, caravanning towards the Ruby Tuesday's on Broad, we drove past a seedy-looking Tattoo parlor.

Since Ann was and is one of the laugh-out-loud, fast-on-her-feet funniest people I've ever met, and since we both see the ridiculous humor in things, I decided to call her as we drove past the Tattoo parlor and say , "hey, let's get tattoos!" When I called her, I hit the redial button on my phone, but forgot that the last person I had called was my brother, so, when my sister-in-law Jenny answered, I thought she was Ann, and started saying, "hey, let's get tattoos!". Jenny was a little confused as to why the heck I was calling her about tattoos, and must have thought I was crazy, so she hung up on me, and at that point, I realized what happened and called Ann immediately afterwards, and we got an even bigger laugh over that snafu. Doesn't read so funny today, but we were highly amused last night. And no, there were no actual tattoos involved in the evening's events.

But what a wonderful couple of hours we had, sitting and chatting and talking about the things that are important in our lives. Neither Ann or Kathy are knitters, but I confessed that I had learned to knit in the past year and was really loving it, and they did not greet that information with the scorn I usually expect, but rather with congenial support and admiration. Kathy is learning the violin and spoke of how much that new interest means to her. Ann shared interesting stories about her mother who died when we were in high school. We all reminisced about shared experiences from our youth -- the crazy times we had at the beach together; the time Ann ran up and hugged Senator Warner, (back when he was married to Elizabeth Taylor), when he visited JMU and I took a picture of it for our photojournalism class. The guy we knew in high school who after a stint in the Marines, literally ran away and joined the circus. Old friends, old boyfriends, previous husbands, dead classmates and acquaintances. Time marches on.

We left that evening, well after midnight, glowing from a wonderful time shared and with exchanged email addresses and phone numbers and promises to keep in better touch. I sure hope we're able to do so, because I've truly missed these old friends!


Thursday, June 15, 2006

And there was much ogling and fondling...

Jane documented this past Tuesday's Knit Night fairly well on her blog, but I thought I'd share a few extra pictures that I captured.

Jane's sister Lawre, (pronounced "Laurie"), of the illustrious Lawre's Laine fame, graced us with a visit, since she was in town for the day for a bead show. She even brought in her bead haul for all of us to ogle and fondle:

Lawre & beads -- she adds these as tassle embellishments on her bags


A closer look at the beads


Extreme close-up -- check out the ones that look like eyeballs! Oooo! Ahhh!


Lawre sews and sells beautiful knitting bags, needle rolls and needle books, and so she brought in some of her fabric swatches, again for us to ogle and fondle:

Swatchy goodness

This is one way-cool fabric - Issy said it reminded her of the Bayeux Tapestry


This is a fun fabric, with mermaids and cows and whatnot - love the colors!


We had so many people Tuesday night, including three new attendees, that it felt like there were fifty people swarming around us at the height of the evening. I always feel sorry for the serious people trying to read or work on their computers near us. We eventually scare them all away, which works out well for us - we can then take over their tables and chairs! ;-)

Anyway, amidst all the socializing, ogling and fondling, there is actual knitting going on, including yet another sock by Sheddy, aka the "One Sock Wonder", a woman who never knits more than one sock from any yarn, and therefore has a drawer full of single socks which get paired with other mismatched socks. I think the world would be a happier place if more people were so carefree about sock pairing. Anyway, Sheddy is test-knitting with a new cotton/elastic yarn from GypsyKnits. I love the cool see-through drawstring bag that the yarn comes in - an instant project bag! Apparently this yarn is slightly lighter-weight than Cascade Fixation, and therefore makes less bulky socks, and it's also hand-dyed, so there's probably lots of cool color options available.

Will this sock get a mate?

And welcome to two of our new visitors, Amy and Robin. Our third visitor, Renny, left before I was able to capture her on film. Maybe next time!

Amy and Robin

Here's hoping you come again!

Finally, for any lurkers out there who live in the Richmond area and want to visit us at knit night, stop by our Yahoo Group and click the "Join This Group" button, and you'll start receiving weekly meeting reminders and other group communications. We'd love to have you!


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Knitting Friends

These pictures are about a week old, but, I'm nothing if not a procrastinator.

This is Sherry, a member of our knitting group who is teaching me sock knitting via the Magic Loop method:

Thanks, Sherry!

For her wonderful efforts, I felt she deserved nothing less than some fabulous sock yarn acquired at a recent fiber festival:

Socks That Rock in "Rose Quartz"

A week ago I met fellow Virginia knit-blogger Robin at Unraveled. Look at this fantastic sweater she's knitting:

The fair isle pattern is done with her own hand-spun. Just lovely.

She was wearing the cutest spinning wheel earrings which I meant to take a picture of but never did. She'll just have to put them on her blog, instead!

Maybe if I get my act together I'll get last night's knit-night pictures posted tomorrow -- in the same week -- imagine that?!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Amazing Three-Legged Baby

...could wear all of these at the same time:

Sing along with me: "One of these things is not like the other...".

* Sock on the left: (aka Baby Sock #1) -- my very first ever completed sock. (I have an adult-sized Lorna's Laces sock still on the needles - it is my very first attempted sock, but as of this writing is still a UFO).

* Sock on the right: (aka Baby Sock #2) -- where I realized that I had effed up the heel on baby sock #1 and knew I'd be knitting a third.

* Middle sock: (aka Baby Sock #3) -- my "match" for sock #2. I still don't think it's an exact match. Methinks I've got an extra row in there for the cuff, and perhaps an extra row in the foot. Oh well - I still had fun knitting it.


Of course, I'm not the first to come up with the mistake idea of a "pair" of three socks:

The amazing three-legged woman

One more ingenious use for a third sock is illustrated here. (Warning: a little risque' - click if you dare....

I knew you would.)


I could always just knit a fourth and find a needy bunny:

Monday, June 12, 2006

Productive Weekend (sorta)

(I was on the fence as to whether to post this to my knitting or my gardening blog, but since there is knitting content, sorta, the knitting blog won out). ;-)


This past weekend was the first one in a long time where I wasn’t out of town, I didn’t travel at all, and I had no one to see and no place to be. Ah, bliss! Perhaps I might finally get to do some of those things on my list!

First off, I finally was able to plant all the plants, seeds and bulbs I bought over a month ago. Shame on me for waiting so long, but as I get older, I’m finding that everything in the universe must align perfectly for me to be able to do any gardening:
  • The weather can't be too hot, or I'll give up quickly.
  • There must be rain in the forecast, either before or after planting day, or even better, before AND after planting day.
  • I must not have anything else to do on said planting day.
So, because I waited so long, two of the plants bit the dust when they didn’t get watered (ahem) as often as they needed. (That’s why I hate container plants – too demanding of water.)

Gardening for me is like house-cleaning; (ha! – when does that ever happen around here?! But, bear with me and you’ll understand the metaphor.) You know how when you’re cleaning your house and you take something from one room to another and then you start cleaning that other room and never get back to the first room? Gardening is like that for me. I start by trying to find spots to put in the new plants, and decide that there’s a heck of a lot of weeds in there that need to come out first.

So all weekend I did a lot of:
  • dig a hole
  • water the hole
  • plant the plant
  • fill the hole
  • water the plant
  • look for a new spot for next plant
  • see a ton of weeds
  • pull or clip weeds
  • this shrub needs pruning
  • I meant to get rid of that
  • this plant might do better over here
  • where was I? oh, right - find spot for next plant
  • dig a hole
  • etc.
Planting twelve plants, a handful of bulbs and some seeds shouldn’t take two days, but when you throw in basic grooming of a long-neglected garden, it actually does take me that long.

And so, Sunday early afternoon, I was feeling pleased and proud (and a little sore) after I got everything planted, including some tall red cannas rhizomes, some Sporaxis and Freesia bulbs, some poppy, zinnia, cornflower, alyssum and other wildflower seeds, and was doing a final watering of everything when a couple of neighborhood kids showed up and asked if they could wash my car. Lord knows my car needed it, as it was covered with it’s annual black honeydew goo from the trees that overhang my driveway, so I told them, “go ahead”. They actually did a decent job, so after they left I was even more pleased that another chore was off my mental list. It was only 1:30 in the afternoon and hey, I hadn’t done laundry in over a week – let’s do that, too. First load went fine. Second load…. Hey, the washer has been awful quiet – what’s up? Hmmm. Just sitting there. No spin or drain. Wonder if I blew the breaker. This house has horrible wiring. So I troop out to the shed and flip the breaker. Back inside, still nothing. The machine will agitate, but will not drain or spin. Great, just great. I had just been thinking that it was old and could die any day. I guess today is the day. Get on the computer, Google “washing machine won’t drain”, and get a diagnostic website that says either the drain tube is kinked or clogged or the pump is broken. “Call a professional” it says. I emailed my brothers to see if they had any experience with this problem. In the meantime, I start calling appliance repair places – one of the guys answers the phone on a Sunday afternoon! We set up an appointment for Monday morning.

It is now Monday afternoon, a day I had earmarked to work on finances, and instead I’m sitting around waiting for the repair guy. What a shock. Most likely, he’s going to tell me that it’s costs a bazillion dollars to fix and I’ll say, see ya! -- I’ll be buying a new one from Lowe’s before the week is out! But, on the off chance he can fix it cheap and easy, I’m willing to spend a little for the diagnosis. After all, it’s still full up with clothes and water. Don’t want to try and wrestle with that, if I don’t have to.

[UPDATE: Repair guy showed up at 12:10 pm. Diagnosed problem at 12:11 pm. Had it fixed by 12:20 pm and was out of my house by 12:25. Talk about efficient! And it wasn’t that expensive a repair, either. And if it gets me another year with the machine, it's well worth it.]

Anyway, washer saga aside, I was still feeling productive later in the evening because while I was watching the Tony Awards I was also able to finally upload my long, picture-heavy post about last weekend, (see below). Phew! – that took HOURS! Blogger is still problematic and picture upload is iffy, so I had to do a lot more fiddling with HTML, which I don’t enjoy because it’s just inefficient and time-consuming. But I got the darn thing done, and am hoping that’s the last of the long picture-heavy posts for awhile! No fiber events in my future until this fall.

I saw on the news that we were slated for a thunderstorm overnight and was congratulating myself for getting everything planted to take full benefit of the wet weather, which has been quite rare this season. And sure enough, the rain, thunder and lightning came sometime in the middle of the night. Normally I’ll sleep right through that stuff – in fact, it usually helps me sleep better, but this time it woke me up and kept me awake for hours, for some reason. It didn’t help to have a spooked cat hopping on me every five seconds. She finally settled down, and I did too, with thoughts of sock knitting in my head.

(See, I told you there was knitting content in this post! Aren't you glad you stayed?) So anyway, who knew? Sock knitting thoughts work better than counting sheep! And since much of sock yarn has wool content, well, how appropriate! So, somewhere halfway between sleep and wakefulness, with thoughts of socks on my brain, I had a brilliant idea. Since I’m enjoying knitting these baby socks so much, I think I might knit some as stocking ornaments for each of my twelve nieces and nephews for Christmas this year. I'll call it "Mary's Twelve Stocking Ornaments of Christmas". And a partridge in a pear tree. Every year I give each kid an ornament, so it would be cool to knit them an ornament this year. I love the tiny sweaters that Alison knits for her family, but I know enough about myself and my skill level to know I'd not finish twelve of them in time for this Christmas, and there ain't no way I'm doin' intarsia on twelve tiny anythings this year!

I've found a couple of mini-stocking ornament patterns on the internet, but so far none match what's in my head, which is a red stocking with a white fold-over cuff. I think I could knit the cuff first in plain stockinette, and about twice the length of a normal cuff, and then turn it inside out, so that the purl bumps are on the outside. That way, when it's folded over, the knit stitches will be on the outside. Then I could pick up stitches from the wrong side and knit the rest of the little sock in red yarn. But here are some design details I haven't quite worked out yet:
  1. What type of yarn? Smooth for both the white and the red? Fuzzy for the white, smooth for the red? Fuzzy for both? And what fiber content?
  2. How can I personalize the stockings for each kid without having to do anything fancy like intarsia? Maybe I could try embroidering their initial on the cuff? I'd really need to practice that, having never done it. Or maybe I can find some fantastic crafty person to make me pins with each of their names on them that I can just pin directly on the cuff. Hmmmm.

Suggestions are welcomed!

(And if you've read down to the bottom of this entire rambling post, then you deserve a prize!)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

SoXcessful SoXperience 2006!

***WARNING: Lengthy post! (But look - text AND pictures! Wonders never cease!)***


Last weekend I attended a wonderful event called SoXperience 2006 up at Caroden Farm, in Stanardsville, VA, which I learned of by reading Liz's post on the subject. Having never met in person prior to the event, but since we both lived in the greater Richmond area, Liz & I decided to ride up together and share a hotel room, so we could each then earmark more spendin’ money for yarn, (priorities, people!). And since I have a bazillion hotel points, lodging was free. Gotta love that.

On the way to our Harrisonburg hotel Friday afternoon, we pulled off I-64 and stopped in Charlottesville to visit a LYS, It’s a Stitch. I did not buy any yarn, but did purchase a couple of cute knitting-related greeting cards, as well as a handy pattern booklet called “Classic Socks for the Family”, with basic patterns sized for men, women and children and for fingering, sport and worsted weight yarns.

I love the sign they had near their cash register:

After a Red Lobster dinner in C'ville we got back on 64W and found ourselves in a moment of serendipity! While driving over Afton Mountain, we saw a black bear sitting on the hillside – my first ever bear sighting! We were driving too fast and my reflexes too slow to get a picture, (especially with my broken camera), unfortunately, but he appeared to be young, maybe a teenager, and was just sitting there calmly, perhaps munching on blackberries. I'm guessing that bears in the area aren't all that unusual, because I did notice during our travels various signs for places with "bear" in the name. Pretty cool.

We had no trouble finding our hotel once in Harrisonburg, but it sure felt weird for me to be back in that town. I graduated from JMU in 1987 and have not really been back in town since my younger brother graduated from there in 1989. Lots of college memories flooded back as we drove by the campus, which has really expanded since I was a student. Our family likes to take credit for the success of that school -- five of the six of us graduated from there. And three of my siblings also married JMU alums. My oldest nephew is also considering going there, which would be what Oprah calls a "full-circle moment". Great state school on a great campus in a great town - can't say enough good things about attending there. But I digress.

Once settled into our hotel room Friday evening, Liz modeled her fabulous Pomatomus sock:

Does her leg look like a manakin's?... ;-)

and then I leaned on her sock expertise to fix the dropped stitches on my Lorna’s Laces Magic Loop sock while I attempted to untangle some of her yarn. (Sorry Liz – didn’t get very far on that!)

Saturday was a beautiful, breezy, partly-cloudy day and made for a beautiful drive from Harrisonburg over the Blue Ridge Mountains and through the Shenandoah National Forest to Caroden Farm. We arrived mid-morning, and since I didn't have a class until after lunch, I sat in the "loafing tent", enjoyed the weather and knit a little. But I was more fascinated in watching the woman sitting in front of me creating bobbin lace:

Isn't that amazing and beautiful? We got to talking, and I mentioned that my grandmother used to make tatted lace, and this woman then proceeded to bring out some of her tatting and gave me a demonstration. Way cool. And we then started talking about knitting lace, and her first words were, "but knitting lace is so HARD!" And I'm thinking to myself, I'd still prefer two sticks and one piece of working yarn to a hundred bobbins and threads ANY day!

A little before noon, we had a wonderful bonus to the weekend by the arrival of Wendy Johnson, venerable author of the famed blog and newly published book. Wendy and good friend L-B came to Caroden Farm for a signing of aforementioned book:

Heidi-ho, Knitter! Who is that mysterious stranger hiding behind Wendy's book?

None other than L-B! And look at that beautiful "Wendy Knits" banner L-B made for the book tour. Gorgeous! (ArtYarns SuperMerino, fyi).

If you thought L-B was Wendy's alter-ego or imaginary friend, well now you know she's actual flesh and blood! And also a sweet lady with mad knitting skillz. I got a chance to see her latest Socks That Rock club project. Pretty! And Wendy's purple & black sock was gorgeous, even if the yarn did stain her fingers! Anyway, I took advantage of Wendy's presence by buying her book and getting it signed:

I started to read it last Saturday night and have enjoyed what I've read thus far. I found out that I carry my working yarn in the same manner as Wendy, so I feel slightly less amateurish somehow.

After a yummy tuna salad on pita lunch Saturday, I took my first class of the weekend - "Beginner Baby Socks on Double-Pointed Needles", taught by shop-owner Caroline herself. The class was three hours, and I actually stayed a bit past that, just so I could get to a good stopping point before we left. I am so glad I took this class -- it was just the right amount of instruction for me to overcome my fear of both DPNs and sock knitting. Later that evening I finished my sock, and was so proud that I was able to graft the toe via kitchener's stitch ALL BY MYSELF, without once having to ask Liz a question. Yay me! I've posted this picture before, but for completeness sake, I'll post it here again:

Once completed, I immediately cast on for a second sock and got a few rounds of the cuff done before we went to sleep. This past week, as I was shaping the heel gusset on the second sock, I realized that on my first sock when shaping the gusset I forgot to knit a round of just plain knits between each of the decrease rounds, so my second sock has a much more "shapely" heel and is therefore not a match for the first. That's okay, because after I finished the second sock, I immediately cast on for a third, to match the second! That way, I can give the matching pair away and keep my first one as a souvenier of the weekend and a memento of my very first completed sock!

After leaving Caroden Farm Saturday afternoon, we enjoyed the beautiful drive back to Harrisonburg (approx. 40 minute away). Liz and I both decided that we'd love to live in the area, although for me, it would require a husband or a whole lotta money to lure me away from my hometown. (Slim chance of either happening, so looks like I'm staying put!) Once back in H'burg, we ate dinner at Appleby's and then stopped in the nearby Books-a-Million because I had a consuming urge to buy Debbie Stoller's latest Stitch 'n Bitch crochet book, aka The Happy Hooker. (I really want to learn how to crochet - Grandma's lessons when I was a kid just didn't stick.) While perusing their Needlecraft aisle, I also found a really cool embroidery kit, which I purchased because of recent inspiration from the WeeWonderfuls blog. (Grandma also embroidered, but never showed me how.)

Books I acquired last weekend.

Not in picture but also purchased at Caroden Farm is the Magic Loop booklet I've been meaning to buy for awhile, since I've been using that method on my Lorna's Laces sock.

Sunday was another pretty, cool and breezy day. Liz wasn't feeling well so we got a late start, but no matter -- our morning class was an easy and free one - learning the Turkish Cast-On for toe-up socks. They'd allotted two hours for this class, when in fact it really only required 5 minutes to learn that cast-on via DPNs and one long circular (Magic Loop). And so we had extra time to practice, chat with other knitters, eat lunch, shop, and play with the farm kittens, "Click" and "Clack". Also during lunch, shop-owner Caroline's husband Dan gave us all a treat by bringing a newborn lamb to our tent. As they explained, apparently one of their rams can fly, because they thought they were all done with lambing for the year and had separated the ewes and rams. One smart fella got through the fence somehow and knocked up a young ewe who wasn't slated for breeding this year. Caroline and Dan named the newborn "SoX", in honor of the weekend's events.

Dan, SoX and grandson Nate. View more SoX pictures here.

One of the other classes being offered that weekend was on Mitered Socks. That was a little too advanced for my skill level, but I did get to see some examples knitted by instructor Melissa, Caroline's daughter:

Completed sock knit and modeled by Melissa

Sock-in-progress, knit with Koigu KPPM -- isn't it gorgeous? Reminds me of tapestry fabric.

After lunch Sunday, we took our last class of the weekend, entitled "Too Kool" - a Kool-Aid yarn dyeing class. That was a lot of fun but very messy! Caroline's poor microwave bit the dust so she had to carry our yarn back and forth from the tent to the house. They were very generous with supplies -- each of us received two mini skeins, a ball and a large skein to dye. I decided to dye one of my mini-skeins with stripes of blue and green Kool-Aid, and the other mini-skein with stripes of blue and green food coloring. See if you can tell the difference:

Drying in the sun on left - food coloring; right - Kool-Aid

Skeined, top - food coloring; bottom - Kool-Aid

As you can see, the colors were fairly similar, although I think the food coloring is more brilliantly saturated, and I'd probably use that again in the future.

I also dyed my ball of yarn by dipping one end in a blue cup (at that stage in the day it was a mixture of Kool-Aid and food coloring), and the other end in a green cup:

This should knit up as a cool striped something

After all the blue and green, I was ready to try other colors for the big skein, but was at a loss as to what colors to use. I finally decided to try for red and purple stripes, but somehow it turned into orange with just some purpley ends. I thought it was a total loss, but it came out of the microwave looking not half bad. Here it is skeined up:

Still a little tangled - this'll be fun to wind into a ball!

At some point I want to knit a swatch of all of these to see how they look knitted up. I have decided that, as fun as this class was, I think I would rather leave the yarn dyeing to the professionals. I would do it again as a fun event with kids or friends, but have no desire to do it on a regular basis at home, for myself. Too messy.

We left Caroden Farm shortly after the class finished, and headed back home by way of Charlottesville, where we met Krista, another new knit-blogger friend. Thanks to Krista's lead, we were able to squeeze in a visit to The Needle Lady, which is in a renovated courtyard-type area of downtown C'ville. Having bought much yarn at Caroden, I refrained from buying more, but was sorely tempted by the ArtYarns SuperMerino they had in a variegated turquoise colorway that you just know strikes right to my core. I've fallen in love with this yarn, after having seen Liz' clapotis and L-B's banner, both made with it. I've since found that yarn cheaper on kpixie, although it's sold out in my colorway, unfortunately. No hurry. I have enough yarn. More than enough. Case in point, my yarn purchases from the weekend:

Cotton sale yarns from Caroden's dollar bin. Score! All for dishcloths, probably.

My new sock yarn stash. Top: Cascade Fixation, Lorna's Laces, Trekking XXL; Bottom: Koigu KPPM

The turquoise Cascade Fixation will be for socks for me, eventually - being hot-natured, I'm not much into wool socks, (or wool anything), so am wanting to try cotton. The Lorna's Laces came from Krista -- she swapped me that yarn for the Socks That Rock that I picked up for her at Maryland Sheep & Wool. Liz found that particular colorway of Trekking XXL in the Caroden shop and led me right to it. Thanks, Liz! And that Koigu purchase was a direct result of seeing Melissa's mitered sock knit with it. I now understand why people swoon and fight over that yarn.

After we left the Needle Lady the three of us ate at a fabulous nearby restaurant called The Downtown Grille. Yum and yummer. After dinner Liz & I were back on the road to Richmond, where she dropped me home.

I got an email last week from Caroline at Caroden, asking for feedback from the weekend. My reply was quite lengthy and all positive. In it I summarized why I felt the weekend was a complete success for me:

1) The beautiful location
2) The lovely weather (out of their control, but it did help!)
3) The animals - especially getting to meet little Soxie, but also having Click and Clack around
4) The warmth and graciousness of Caroline, her family and her staff
5) Their lovely yarn shop, and especially all of the sock yarn, (Richmond has 5 yarn stores and none have as extensive a sock yarn selection)
6) The added bonus of having Wendy there signing books
7) The outrageously inexpensive tuition (don't change that!)
8) The great lunches provided
9) Meeting and chatting with the other knitters there
10) Learning to knit socks on DPNs!!!
11) Learning a great new cast-on
12) Getting a chance to try Kool-Aid yarn dyeing

For all of those reasons, I would highly recommend this weekend to anyone, and will surely try my best to attend it again next year. It was wonderful.

In her email, Caroline also gave an update on SoX the lamb: "Little Soxie is doing fine and racing around the fields now. He weighed in at 13 pounds the day after he was born. What fun!"