Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

2009 has been a very good one for me.

I had many adventures...
  • in Maine where I camped in Arcadia National Park and was rewarded with a night of swank accommodations in Portland.
  • in Vermont, where I hiked a full 2.5 mi of the Appalachian Trail.
  • in Michigan, where I spent a day climbing on trains of all sizes, shapes and provenance.
  • in Ohio, where I bike-camped our own Cuyahoga Valley National Park and watched far off fireworks from a secluded campsite among tall grasses.
  • on Kelley's Island, where we chartered a boat ride around the island and watched the sun set with friends and family.
  • in Washington D.C., to see all the houses in the Solar Decathlon.
  • back to Michigan, where I rode a steam engine with my parents and caught up with college friends.
I learned many things...
  • how to rewire a boat trailer.
  • how to install a trailer hitch.
  • how to make an origami crane.
  • how to use a GPS without throwing it out the window.
  • how to install a new stereo in a Prius.
  • how to trust the process.

I knit a fair number of things, too... (seriously, a 10k of yarn!)
  • 6 adult sweaters
  • 1 baby sweater
  • 2 kiddo hats
  • 1 sleeping tank top-ey thing
  • 3 pairs of socks (including one lost forever to the east side... *sniff*)
  • 3 cowls
  • 1 pair of convertible mitts
  • 1 pair of perfect mittens
  • 1 original design hat
  • 1 shawl
  • 1 pair of ballet flats (my first ever felted project!)
  • 1 set of christmas stripe elf hat/mittens for the sweetest baby in the world

I tried my hand at sewing again...
  • 1 half-finished dress
  • 1 pair of half-finished pajama bottoms
  • 1 half-finished skirt of quilt pieces (are you seeing a pattern here?)
  • 1 iPod case
  • 1 knitting bag
  • 1 knitting needle case
  • 1 nightgown (recently ripped apart to adjust... not happy with it, so I guess 'half-finished' as well)

Then there was all that other great stuff...

Having my best friend around for the first time in almost a decade and getting to spend oodles of time with her and her family (although it still feels that I don't get enough time with them).

Meeting the Physicist.
There's almost too much in that to go into - and frankly, it's so good, I want to keep most of it to myself (sorry...)
But good.
Lots and lots of good.

Biking around more.
Getting pretty far with the boat restoration.
Seriously considering the Tiny House concept.
The quality of what we're producing at work and the new projects I've gotten to help create and launch.

So, it's been a good year.
I'm sad to see it go, but hoping 2010 will at least as good.

Monday, December 28, 2009

My total damage (yarn-wise) for 2009

I input my knitting projects from the past year by meterage and learned that I knit up 9834 meters of yarn in the past year... that's >6 mi. of yarn.

I almost knit a 10K... actually, I may have since I have not yet input a pair of socks... (or 2).

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My Grand Plan (Addendum)

I keep forgetting my rebellious streak.
As in, I often rebel against myself.
Not long after I set my grand plan, I started dreaming of projects well outside the land of the Knitter's Almanac.

A lovely dress...
A sweet summer skirt...
A big squooshy cardi...

I restarted a pair of socks for the third time sometime a week (or so) ago and they are going very well.

And then there is the matter of the squooshy cardi - just translated from French (I'm very proud of that feat - now I just need to learn how to say "boast" en francais) - and a perfect cranberry yarn just purchased on a whim at JoAnn's.

I'm done for...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Grand Plan for 2010

Ok, so I knit.

We've established that.

And I knit alot. It's become the thing I do when I want to do nothing.

Or what I used to call "Doing Nothing."

I'm relatively new to it - having learned in fall 2007 - and I can honestly say it's the one thing in my life where the Expectation of The Thing and the Experience of The Thing have met neatly at the same place.

A rarity in life, I'm sure you will agree.

In the past 2 years of acquainting myself with knitting and it's associated techniques, materials and community, one name comes up again and again: Elizabeth Zimmermann.

To an outsider, seeing the whole of a community rise up in adoration of an individual strikes chord of intimidation in the heart.
"Who is she?"
"Can she really *be* that good?"
And the inevitable urge to rebel.

But a good friend lent me a book, The Opinionated Knitter - I took my time getting to it, but what I found inside was a world of welcome.

I can't really explain it, but everything about EZ is warm. She's witty yet pragmatic and full of mirth. You know she would offer you a cup of tea (or home-brewed beer), something sweet, and let you paw through her stash with abandon. Of course, she'd ask to see what was on your needles, offer supportive suggestions and tease out some concern that would be allayed with appropriate words of comfort.

And I got all of this from a knitting book.

This same friend also gave me a copy of The Knitter's Almanac, which is at the core of this post.

Two things happened in the past 24 hours to direct me to this course...

Thing 1: I got to reading the almanac last night and, upon waking up, saw that a new friend on Ravelry had noted the hat that begins the year of knitting.

Thing 2: Mrs. Zimmermann was born in 1910, and we are on the cusp of a centennial (very exciting, truly).

Putting two and two together, I am going to embark on the realization of the Knitter's Almanac in celebration of EZ's 100th year. I am very excited to try her techniques and get to know her through her books and - if I can find them - her videos from PBS. I do plan to veer off course, as there are a number of projects not in the almanac that interest me, and I think EZ would approve of going off the path when called into the wilderness.

It will serve as a Primer Year for me - I dove into knitting with the zeal of a convert and am afraid of my sophomoric urges. I look to EZ to set me straight and start me at the beginning, where I rightly belong.

We begin, of course, in January.

Knit on.

Monday, December 7, 2009

2009 Christmas

I have just not been in a blogging mood lately. Mostly, I've been knitting gifts and watching NetFlix on the laptop.

But tonight, I came back from Lorain with my boxes of Christmas cheer and decorated for the holiday season.

As usual, my feather tree takes center stage. After years of trying live trees, pink trees, and no trees - the sparse, quirky feather tree has simply won my heart (plus no sap or spiders to fight off).

A sampling of some of my favorite ornaments - most from late 70s or early 80s craft fairs.

I updated the knitting basket with my own yarn leftovers... (and how much do I love the calico sailing Santa in the background).

I remember the year I begged my parents for this ornament from Mrs. Claus' Closet - they used pantyhose to make the cookies - which is kind of gross, but endearing. Check it out, the peanut butter has embroidery criss-crosses - brilliant.

Ah yes, cardinal - with blue-painted beans for eggs.

I love love love this ornament. It's German and had a thin piece of balsa that went over the Claus' with a minute mistletoe hanging down. Years in the attic - and an over-zealous me - left it cracked and in the "Broken Ornament" box - so I had to save it.

My newest accessions - made at a party last year and inspired by Victorian ornaments we made years ago when I was working at the Historical Society.

A proper French Bulldog Angel. I feel her name must be Manon.

...and the two angel geese who helped me decorate. Just surreal enough to help me get through the sugar-shock of the season.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My first knit design!

In honor of his birthday, I decided to knit something for the Physicist.

A scary proposition since there is a bit of lore warning against knitting for your sweetie. I rarely give creed to such bits of irrationality (ok, I pick and choose - highly irrational, isn't it).

Anyway, the Sweater Curse.

But I did the math: our time together + his birthday = it's ok to make a hat.

But it had to be the perfect hat.

A nod to science whilst being abstract enough for aesthetics.
Electromagnetism? Wind energy?
Eventually, I landed on radio astronomy - the subject of his PhD.

It couldn't be itchy at all - and the colors had to be perfect.

I designed and knit on the fly... starting with a mini VLA.

The dome was divided into quarters - I looked long for a good image that would be translatable in knitting - I found and used this image as a foundation (adding some larger shapes to represent galaxies, nebulae, etc...). I think it worked out very well.

**********Drum roll**************

I give you, the VLA Hat!

In progress... (look at all those happy radio telescopes gathering emissions...)


View from the top...

And to personalize it, I added his initials and year...

I gave it to him last night and it was truly well-received.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Not so bad...

In the weeks leading up to the departure of the Physicist, I was nervous about how our interactions would withstand the addition of 400 miles between.

Happily, it's been better than I normally would have let myself imagine.

It's been a good year for me and optimism, or at least me and my ability to manage uncertainty.

A year ago, uncertainty was the norm and many things were perceived as having a high probability of ending badly. Admittedly, I had surrounded myself with an environment that did not always support things that could result in calm and comfort. But I learned my lessons well.

I learned to expect more from people.
I learned that if I ask for something, I may actually get it.
I learned that if you don't allow yourself to be worthy of time and energy from others, you likely won't receive it.
And I learned that some people are just plain broken and awful - and it's best to acknowledge that and move on.

Having done that, I now have irrefutable proof that there can be a cup of tea at the end of the day followed by the secure feeling that even a drastic change is really no change at all.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

To be continued...

Today the Physicist and I walked the almost-new-owner (final papers to be signed) through the charmed house - showing off the good, the needs-to-be-fixed and the quirks.
Where to hang the hammock, how to refill the steam heat and when to stop the garage door so it doesn't make an awful racket.

I was a frequent visitor in the past year, but it wasn't until the house was ready for movers that my emotional connection to the house (and its inhabitant) became almost too much to bear. I was honored to be included in that final walk through.

We took our final pictures in front of the house and said our final good-byes to the brick and mortar that was so much more than the sum of its parts. It was late Saturday mornings, picnics in the grass, tinkering in the garage - the place I went when I needed to be alone with company and a hot cup of tea.

Following this, I drove him to the airport to catch his flight to IL, where he begins a new position on Monday. He was, unsurprisingly and lacking the anxiety I would have felt, late for his flight. But he transferred the ticket and settled in with a book on the iPod. I hope to learn how to be so legitimately at ease with change.

It will be January before I see him again, as the new role has him traveling and he purchased tickets to return to India for a month prior to accepting the appointment.

I do not know what will come in the future, but for the first time - I think ever - I have entered into entirely uncharted territory, and I want only to see what the next leg holds - without needing to predict the whole of the journey.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fall knitting 2009

Yep - its that time again.
With crisp winter winds knocking on my door, I start to feel the need to envelope my entirety in yummy woolly goodness.

Here are some things I got to working on in the past few weeks...

I frogged the short puff sleeves that I put on this sweater and exchanged them for 3/4 length with cabling at the ends... with all due respect to Anne Shirley, puff sleeves aren't always the best choice.

I dig my cable "suspenders."

I made a hat from some leftovers - the Icing Swirl hat from Whimsical Little Knits.
I like it, but it seems more suited for deep winter days - so in the closet it goes (or to a friend).

I visited my grandmother and saw (read: stroked fondly) the Shalom sweater I knit her of alpaca and cashmere and immediately got jealous/covetous. When I got home, I dug through the stash to see what I had on hand to start my own. I love the variegation of the purples and played a bit with the yarn to engineer the stripes in a way I found more pleasing.

The sleeves are underway now in the undyed Cascade Eco-Wool you see as the torso of the piece.

And finally, my first felting project - Cafe Press Knits Ballet Flats.
I LOVE these and finally got around to the felting process today!
(now I have to wait 2+ days for them to dry - but THEN I get to choose the buttons!)

Of course, no knitting post can be without dreams of the future. I purchased some Malabrigo worsted - enough for a sweater - in lilac and a deep blue called Paris Nights.

I have no idea what will come to pass from this, but I'm sure I'll adore it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

What I did this weekend

I was a passenger on this excursion through Michigan...

Many thanks to the good people at the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso, MI for an amazing experience.

(and thanks to the chap who posted this video in such a timely fashion!)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Jonah Day

Today (and this week in general) has been all around crap-tastic.

I have a terrible cold.
The Physicist is leaving town soon.
I'm still trapped in my debt cage (one more year to go!)
There was a terrible miscommunication this morning that left me feeling tremendously icky.
And I had the realization that I have been the willing victim of inertia for about 6 or 7 years.

So - where would I go?

The destination of the Physicist has potential, but without a formal invitation to look into it, I won't. Simply because, like all other places I *could* live - there is nothing but a person who would be my reason for going. All the cities I haven't lived in but have considered are the standard issue cities that all lefty, well-educated people consider: Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, Chicago, San Francisco, blah blah blah... Which makes them expensive and highly competitive in this tight market.

Having been laid off and knowing my tendency to change gears, I am hesitant to move for a job or career reason - as I know that can be just as uncertain as moving to be near friends or family.

But by not making a decision, I have made a decision.

Do I throw cities in a hat and pick one at random?
Do I start applying for jobs I think I might like in cities that may interest me?
Do I feel confident enough to move to the Physicist's new destination and make a go of it, even if we fail?

It's not that I hate NEOhio, I just need a CHANGE.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

B to B

Or Blonde....

to Brunette...

Change is good.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Late summer knitting

Hurrah for late summer and early fall!

I have been a happily knitting girl in the past month - starting a new project called Traveling Woman Shawl or Kelleys Island Traveller (since I worked on the majority of it there while on vacation). I love the small shawls all over Ravelry and this one was free, simple and a great way to show off the yarn.

Ahhh, the yarn.
Let's contemplate the yarn for a moment, shall we...

I bought the yarn - Malabrigo sock yarn - without a project in mind (this was also before I fell prey to buying yarn for the sake of schmooshy and pretty.) And the colors remind me of Lake Erie right before a storm... but it also brings to mind those lovely faded hydrangeas you see in September.

The work in progress...

I also finished my albatross - a scarf I knitted up for a friend with his logo. It was wide, so it needed to be long - I began it in March and grew it over summer - finally harvesting in September for the cool days ahead.

And I finished a middy sweater for the wee man - he wore it on the sunset ride we chartered around Kelleys. He's become terribly charming in the past few months - which just makes me want to knit him more and more and more cozy things to snuggle up with.
I fear he will develop an aversion to wool! (There's always silk and cotton - heh.)

I am currently re-working the sleeves on the honeycomb sweater, and I just began some hats for my college roommate's children (very colorful and stripey - will share soon) and I realized my Noro should be a sweater, not a Clapotis, so I need to buy some navy worsted to bring out the pinks and greens and pale blues of that colorway... pics and updates to come!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

no one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick

This is what is flying around Facebook today.
I'm glad, because this is what the health care reform is all about.

I was without health insurance for 2 years.
I had a catastrophic plan, but I'm sure it was bunk - but it provided something at a time when, according to my Social Security statement, I was earning just over 125% of poverty.

I was free-lancing for a number of companies in the area - many requiring travel and all requiring a high level of physical ability: climbing 60' up scaffolding, using sand-blasters, that kind of thing.

I was thrilled when I was accepted for my masters program, because it meant I could go to the doctor again.

In those 2 years without insurance, I relied on Planned Parenthood for Ob/Gyn - they had a sliding scale - and the one time I had an ear infection, it cost $150 to go to urgent care. My health care was home-remedy websites, colloidal silver, hydrogen peroxide, a healthy dose of denial and generic neosporin - often pilfered from the first-aid kits of the places I worked.

But 2 months before I was to start school, I had a problem - on a job - in another state. My boss made me go to the hospital despite my stance that I had no insurance. It was something internal and they wanted me to have a scan. I argued with the doctor for 30 minutes about this, since I knew the cost would be debilitating, especially as I was preparing to make even less as a student.

I couldn't leave the hospital - the pain was too much - so I had the scan - luckily it was minor and I got out of there before they could even think of admitting me.

When I got home, the bills had already started - that 7 hour span of time was billed as $10,000.

That was a few thousand less than what I was making after taxes free-lancing during an economic slump.

Then I noticed that the hospital was Catholic, so I researched what it would take to get a reprieve.

Turns out, I qualified.

So I filled out the application, and explained my situation, including that I was about to start a degree in non-profit management.

The nuns... well they accepted it and my bills were forgiven.
Except for the cost of the scan - I would pay the $4,000 for the scan and its reading until a year after I finished my masters.

When I have a few extra dollars, I write a check to that hospital for the kindness they showed me - always hoping that one day we could see past our fears of change and find a new way to offer health care, because no one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick.

Monday, August 24, 2009


On Sat'y we installed a hitch on my car so I may tow the boat - it was supposed to take 30 minutes, but instead took 10 hours and 30 minutes, because they sent the wrong bolts with it.

But now I can install a hitch on a car!

We (rather, the Physicist) played with the trailer winch that had rusted - I hadn't realized the importance of this. Apparently, as it was, if I went up a hill, the boat could have slid off the trailer and the winch would not have stopped it.


But we're that much closer to launching the boat - the goal is Labor Day weekend...

On Sun'y, I had the unique experience of teaching my parents to use their new computer.
Neither have used one before.
It's amazing how vast and subtle the skills required to use a computer are - from manipulating the mouse to intuitively understanding how to navigate a web page to the vocabulary: email, Gmail, scroll down, click, cursor, etc...
Today's xkcd was terribly topical to this issue.
We went through the process of powering it on and off no less than 6 times - and I am proud to boast that I got an email this morning, which meant they remembered how to do it.

My little birds have learned to fly!!! *sniff*

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Issuing a challenge

If you create a roadblock, be prepared to provide a detour.

That means you Cleveland Department of Public Services, Street Engineering Division.

Each day I see a new sign decreasing the already meager street parking options in Tremont.

Should I be totally naive and assume you're about to unveil a new residents-only, parking by permit, well-lit lot in the neighborhood?

Friday, August 14, 2009

If I lived in a cartoon world

I think they both have their charms...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cotton and paper and (of course) yarn, too.

I've been having a gloriously fun summer: rowboats and gardens and swimming and meteor showers and lying idle in the grass.

I saw a good friend last weekend and she had a project: origami. I've not done much of that before (and neither had she) so we figured it out together and made a mobile of dotty cranes in lovely colors.

I discovered that it was a gateway to a new feverish obsession with polyhedra and other vaguely mathematical objects that are truly pleasing to behold.

I recalled this pattern in Last Minute Patchwork + Quilted Projects and got to work. True to it's place in the book, it took about 4 hours.

I used fabric scraps appropriate for a charming lad about to turn 1: a men's shirt, some butterfly fabric and the wee monkeys I wish I had more of.

I shan't bore you with the details of making it other than Hulu now has episodes of "My So-Called Life" and they make a very good background for pinning and stuffing...

Pin and stuff and stuff and pin...



I finished a hat I made for my father. I scored a 1/2 price ball of alpaca/merino/silk in blues and greys. Perfect for a maritime watchcap and easy-peasy.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

And now, for some yummy yarn...

A washable wool natty nautical sweater for the wee man.

A delicious (but slightly bank-breaking) silk merino blend from Cherry Tree Hill - it was a purely speculative and emotional purchase. Those colors are divine... I have no idea what this will become...

Some Noro Silk Garden bought on Etsy as DESTASH... highway robbery, I tell you. Queued to become the ubiquitous Clapotis.

Have you met my swift? (I forget).
I love my swift beyond measure.

Lastly, some Malibrigo sock yarn destined to become...??? (Suggestions appreciated)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Imposing structure

For most of my time as an adult, I've had a push-me/pull-you relationship with structure in my life.

I grew up with external structures - school, lessons, band camp, summer play rehearsal schedules - but few internal structures were ever imposed.

The result was that I cultivated an aversion - or maybe just a bad attitude - towards internal controls. I had the cookie when I wanted it, took the day off if it felt right and did the dishes only when I found I couldn't stand not having the sink available to me.

I threw my clothes on the floor, rarely tidied up after projects and couldn't get rid of all things I was waiting to "get to." There was no one there to answer to, no reason to make the effort, so I lived a cluttered, messy life ruled by a lack of internal control (read: "spoiled").

I have spent the past 7 months or so in the company of someone who is 89% internal control, and it's been transformative for me. His home is sparse and clean, and I feel a marked change in my stress:calm ratio when I arrive there.

Realizing what a change the environment had on me, I brought what I've learned into my own home.

As you know, I started my own active de-accessioning in spring. The immediate result was a home with fewer things precariously stored. This means that the things I want to get to are less of a hassle, which means I get to those things more - which is its own reward. And there isn't a rumpled pile of whatnot taunting me from the precarious place I pulled whatever it was out into the light of day.

It's been like a reverse Diderot Effect, instead of upgrading my environs to match my dressing gown, I have begun - almost unconsciously - undertaking actions that build upon this new structure.

I now make my bed daily and hang up my nightclothes.
I transformed my living room into a knitting and sewing space - decorating with the tools and materials of textile play - banishing knick-knacks and replacing the souvenirs of the life I wanted to have lived with the artifacts of things I actually experienced.

The mental quiet coming from all this change is growing exponentially, and unlike other changes of habit and lifestyle, these seem to be more organic and easy to take root - like volunteer shoots that pop up in a garden: unexpected, appreciated, and eventually cultivated to thrive.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A short stay in Michigan

This weekend I went on short (but highly enjoyable) mini-break in Michigan.

The Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso was holding its first Steam Fest - which is one of those odd things that you find out about in 1 of 2 ways:
1: You are - or are related to - those who actively seek out steam engines (I fall into the category of the latter - although having been acclimated to the sound of a steam whistle by age 8, I was just as likely to yell "Steam engine!" knowing full well I'd be hastily tossed into the car to chase it as far as we could.)
2: You went to college with the person who coordinated the event and can't escape its presence on Facebook.

I fall into both categories, actually.

It was a bit of a last minute decision to attend, and because the event was in a smallish town with accommodations sold out in a 50 mile radius, Ann Arbor was the city of choice.

We stayed at a wonderful B&B called Vitosha - The bike at the door was indicator enough that I would enjoy my stay...

The room had a view of the courtyard from the charming veranda...

We reached the festival and were quickly swept up in the sights, sounds, & smells of steam...

After we got our bearings - we took a short excursion that was pulled first by a diesel - then back by a small steam engine.

Of course, we had tea...

I think I may be returning for a fall excursion with my parents - once lured by the siren song of a steam whistle, it's difficult to escape it's grasp.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Foster Yarn

Last fall (was it that long ago???), my dear friend Laura shared the sadness that is The Color of Disappointment.
That is to say - when good yarn clashes with your skin tone (how dreadful!)

As you can see in her post, she did not care to frog the yarn, but was happy to hand it over to me if I cared to make something of it.

A short 9 months later I present...
Summer Spring Forward Socks in progress!

Hello my pretties...

My mods include working them toe-up and two-at-a-time.
Together these these techniques make me a happy girl because
a) toe up means I can knit until the yarn runs out, instead of guessing at the length for the leg portion - it feels like I'm able to squeeze every bit of yarny goodness out of a good skein that way.
b) two-at-a-time avoids second sock syndrome, which I can see would be a dreadful handicap for me - I'd have to remove a foot, or take to wearing mismatched socks.

Won't you look good in a Mary Jane flat...