Friday, April 29, 2011

Every Day Should Be This Good

The review of the Noro book will have to wait. I brought the book to work this morning to show a co-worker who knits. I just thought she might enjoy leafing through it at lunch. "Oh," she said brightly, "may I borrow this over the weekend?" Well, there's really no reason she shouldn't (other than the fact that I am a nervous book lender -- feeling like someone is asking to borrow my baby)'s not like I was planning to whip up something out of it I said "Sure!" Therefore, I do not have the book in my possession to write up the details...perhaps Monday will work out.

Yesterday was a fairly stellar day. Mr. Pointy Sticks and I knew that the appliance guy would be coming to measure the spots for the stove and dishwasher between 1 and 5, so we got up at the regular time and headed into work. Left there about lunch-time and headed home. I got some laundry done and some game-playing and some knitting and attempted to do yesterday's blog post but was foiled by the fact that Blogger refused to upload my pictures. Then, after Appliance Guy had shown up and checked us out, Mr. Pointy Sticks and I headed down to the Baltimore Daedalus. Alas and alack, this store is closing as of May 15th, something which makes me very sad. Yes, the Columbia store will still be there, but it is more of a deal to get there than it is to just jaunt down York Road. Though there is the wonderful Vietnamese restaurant nearby.

Meanwhile, though, the Baltimore store is having a 30 percent off sale. I got some nice stuff...a pop-up book of Modern Architecture (to go with my Pop-up Architecture book), Margaret Drabble's The Pattern in the Carpet which I thought sounded interesting, and a few other books, some wrapping paper and a bunch of cards and bookmarks and probably stuff I'm forgetting.

We went downstairs to Atwater's for an early dinner (yum!). I had a salad of greens with golden beets, asparagus, goat cheese, hard-boiled egg and pistachio in a lemon-dill dressing. Then home. Did my exercise, got the photos to load and the blog post done and hit the hay. It felt like a very full, very busy, fun day.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book Review -- 60 Quick Baby Knits

I have two great books to tell y'all about. Today I'll do the cutie-patootie one. This book is a companion (or child) of the 60 Quick Knits that Cascade put out last year...or was it earlier this year?

This book focuses on Cascade 220 Superwash and is full of adorable patterns for babies and toddlers. Look at these:

There are cardigans...

There are pullovers...boyish ones...

And girlier ones...

There are with a sheep that I want to size up for myself...

and ones with little skulls...

And adorable blankets...

They call this the Porcupine Blanket, but you and I and the lamp-post know that they are hedgehogs.

An adorable pillow...

So what's the break-down of patterns?

There are 5 different bootie/sock patterns, two unisex and three pretty girlie.
There are 13 different hats, 8 that are unisex, 1 that seems particularly boyish (the skulls hat), and 4 for girls.
There are 15 cardigans, 8 unisex, 1 that's boyish (but really could be used for a girl) and 6 cute ones for girls.
There are 3 little jumpers or dresses.
There are 14 blankets.
There are 2 legwarmer sets...I think these are pretty girlie.
There are 6 pullovers, 4 unisex ones and 2 that are really boyish (though I could see a girl wearing them).
There is the 1 pillow shown above.
There is 1 set of mittens, one pair of overalls (unisex), 1 little pants and top set for a girl, and 1 vest.

There are so many things in here to knit up for the babies in your life....or potential babies...or babies you don't know! Hand them out on the street!

There aren't pages wasted on knitting instructions. The abbreviations used are printed out inside the back cover, along with a little ruler, an explanation of the skill levels, and some embroidery instructions.

I can't wait to see what Cascade is working on for their next book.

Tomorrow -- The drop-dead gorgeous Knit Noro book.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'm Weak

I have been working on a pair of socks for Rachel forever...well, it would be fairer to say that I have been carrying them around forever. I did the first one relatively quickly, considering that it is covered in little teeny tiny winchy little cables.

Like so:

And then I, somewhat more slowly, did the second one up to the heel turn. And there it sat. It had been so long since I did the first that I needed to check the pattern and see how to do it. But I kept forgetting to do that. I'd get home in the evening and go on to other things...and then, in the morning, as I grabbed all my bags to head off to work I'd think, "Dang! I need to check that pattern!"

But this past weekend I did finally did dig the necessary book out. And I got the heel turned and the heel flap mostly done at lunch on Monday. And now I just have to work all those teeny tiny winchy little cables up the leg. I never want to see another cable. At least, not for a while. I can get one complete repeat of the pattern done during our commute. If I manage to make myself do that every day for a while, I should be finished the sock...oh, in 2013 or so. No, I could be done sometime next week.

(The white paperclip serves as my cable needle. I don't use the cabling-without-a-cable-needle trick on socks because those little stitches slither away like quicksilver.)

But they are coming along. Two repeats done today on the rides to and from work.

Which is good, because today during lunch I started these for myself.

Hey, I've got piles of gorgeous sock yarn staring at me accusingly. I'm weak. I succumbed.

And look! They look like jellybeans!

Since I like making bright stripy yarn like this into simple vanilla socks, they should go quickly.

Which is good because, as I said, I have bags full of sock yarn waiting for me.

These photos were taken on the Front Porch of Photography under this sky:

There are tornado warnings out for most of Maryland. The risks I take for my blog.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Successful Day

Since I had racked up a good number of credit hours during those Weeks from Hell, I took today off. Mr. Pointy Sticks did too and we got a few errands bird seed, paid the Target bill, went to Lowe's to look at stoves. No success there. (And I was tiny bit annoyed when the salesguy who was helping us got a cell phone call, answered it and walked away and left us looking at the Lowe's website while he chatted. He did sort of apologize when he came back about 5 minutes later but really? Rude!)

Later in the day Mr. Pointy Sticks and I remembered Bray and Scarff, an appliance store close by, and we drove up there to see what they had. First of all, they seemed to have a larger selection of makes than Sears or Lowe's. And the salesman was very helpful. We ended up getting a KitchenAid (same brand we have now -- pretty much the same with a couple other little bells and whistles that they've obviously added over the 10 years since we bought our old one) and guys will come to the house Thursday to make sure that the new stove and dishwasher fit in the old spots. Yes, I said dishwasher. It's not that we really neeeeeeeed a new dishwasher. But the one we have has had little irritating problems over the years. And Bray and Scarff had an Asko. Mom had an Asko in the house in Charlottesville and was very happy with it. They are quiet! Mom's was quiet enough that you hardly heard it unless you were in the kitchen. This one is rated at 46 decibels. Nice. (I hope.)

I got the second mitered square finished today and started the third. I got to visit The Black Sheep for a while this afternoon (Hi, Tracy! Hi, Joyce! Hi, Ann and Sue and Karen and Renee and anyone else I'm forgetting!) I mentioned that I was doing this blanket and Ann had a great idea...instead of backing the knit squares with flannel, use polar fleece. It'll stretch and give like the knitted front. Seems like a good idea to me. And you don't have to hem it. So I think I could just get a piece of polar fleece the right size and zip satin binding tape around it and perhaps tie it front-to-back in a couple of spots! Well, it sounds easy. I am so not the seamstress, though. We'll see. I asked Ann (jokingly) if she wouldn't want to do it and she declined.

And the major success of the day was this:

I have a pair of needles that I adore. In fact, they are the needles I am knitting the mitered squares on (well, I started on short bamboo needles but soon had to move to something longer). They are metal with an exceedingly smooth coating and a simple knob at the end with the size marked on it. No other identifying info. So I am sitting at The Black Sheep and we get to talking about needles and I start talking about these needles I love so much. I'm describing them and Ann is sitting beside me saying "Yes!" "Yes!"

I finally asked, "Do you know what I'm talking about?" And she says, "These?" And picks up from the off the table in front of her (hidden from me by some knitting, though I probably wouldn't have noticed them anyway) -- the same needles in size 4s.

"Yes!" I say, "what brand are they!?!?"

And she answered?

"I don't know, but I love them too!"

Turns out she had donated a lot of them, in various sizes to The Black Sheep's classroom. She disappeared into the back and soon came out with a pair in their sleeve! They are Leisure Arts needles! Huzzah! I immediately came home and checked on eBay and I now have two pairs coming my way in size 3s and 4s. There were also sets of 10.5s and 11s, but I generally don't like to knit with needles that large. Though if I had to, better to use needles you love.

So...that was, I must say, a very good day.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Finished Objects on a Saturday

I was thinking of going up to The Black Sheep's gray and dreary and a visit there would be cheery. But I have a stinky sinus headache. I'm thinking I might just take some aspirin and sit in my living room and knit. I know I'll regret not going tomorrow. But there is always Tuesday evening.

The first square of the Mitred Square blanket is finished, though its ends are not yet woven in. That'll be a tedious job for a Saturday morning one morning.

I finished the Surprise Jacket, too...buttons on (and their color is truer here than it was before, though the photo is sort of dark) and ends woven in and all ready to go. Now all we need is the baby! Got a month or two to wait for that...but the shower is soon, so I'm ready! I may try to do a matching hat...I dunno. I do have two board books to accompany the sweater...Goodnight Gorilla and Dinosaur's Binkit.

Though Rachel found this book on Amazon (don't click if profanity offends you). Let's just say it's a somewhat coarse way of asking your child to go to bed. And some nights...well, I think every parent out there might agree with the sentiment, if not the way it's phrased here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

That Elizabeth Zimmermann....

...she was one clever cookie. I know I'm not the first to sing her praises and I certainly won't be the last but let me just reiterate....she was an amazing knitter. Case in point, the Baby Surprise jacket I've been working on.

Ta da! The jacket is off the needles!

What a clever design this is. You start off and knit and knit and decrease and increase and knit and knit and then...presto flippo! You fold and sew seams and you've got a baby sweater!

Incredible. So much fun that I sort of want to start another one right away.

I still need to seam up the shoulders (should get that done this evening) and, obviously, weave in the ends.

But I particularly enjoyed what I think of as the fun part. Choosing the right button. I bought three sets at Joanna's to think about and choose from but wasn't really sure about any of them.

There were puppies...

There were stars...

And there were haycorns...

I ruled out the puppies, cute as they were, pretty quickly, so it was between the acorns and the stars. I asked people at work their opinions about them. My boss said she liked the acorns but the star buttons let the sweater notice the sweater more. The acorn buttons stand out more. Others preferred the acorns. But still I wasn't sure. So this afternoon I stopped in at The Black Sheep. And wouldn't you know it?! They had the perfect buttons!

They are wood, stained blue (and are actually a little darker than they appear in this picture) with some rubbing and wear. Just perfect! I love 'em.

In other news, I got some nice stuff in the mail this week. Nestucca Yarns, a nice on-line shop, is going out of business and, though I feel rather vulture-like, I've gotten some nice things in the clearance sale. This week I got a skein of Pagewood Farms Denali yarn in the Rainbow colorway and a Noro pattern book with some really good stuff in it.

I'm going to be sorry to see Nestucca Yarns disappear, though, and I hope Cheryl has nothing but good fortune.

And wouldn't you know it? Jessalu had a hedgehog bag in stock last week. And now it's mine.

And look at the inside...

wee little hedgehogs!

And in still other news...

our backyard is full of goldfinks. There were eight or so at the feeders when we got home this afternoon. This picture was taken through a screen so not the best picture in the world. Maybe I'll try for another one later. And we've had a Rufous-sided Towhee scruffing around in the backyard this week. They are shy birds, so it's fun to see him.

Prompted by ML's comment, I hasten to add that this brilliant pattern is available from Schoolhouse Press and includes instructions for a baby version, child's version and yes, adult version. It also includes instructions for making it a pull-over, adding a collar or hood or even throwing in pockets.

Buttons are on. Pictures tomorrow.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Whew! It's Over!

Well, it’s been another hellish week here in Lake Woebegon, but it’s just about over. The second of the two hearings we were prepping for was this afternoon (and even got a mention last night on Marketplace, I understand). Huzzah.

Yesterday’s hearing went very, very well. The witness was great. It was her first time testifying but she came across as calm and competent. Authoritive and intelligent but also warm and charming. She answered her questions well and didn’t jump to volunteer any information. Just what you want.

And today's hearing was also successful. This wasn't the witness' first but I am sure that it's never easy to sit there in front of Congressmen and ask their (sometimes inane) questions.

So...two hearings in two days and no action items. Now, as long as we get few (or no!) questions for the record, we can call that a win!

Sure hope we don't have another hearing for quite some time.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Knitting Has Resumed

I paid a little visit to The Black Sheep yesterday afternoon, just for therapeutic purposes. It's just so nice being there. I even knit a repeat on my lacy kimono...something I haven't been able to do for the last couple weeks...exhaustion and lace do not mix well, as I mentioned below.

Last night though, I worked on something else.
This is the early start on a Baby Surprise Jacket for the baby my co-worker is expecting in June. The yarn is yummy...Miss Bab's Yowza What A Skein in the Black Watch colorway. It's a simple but fascinating knit. You end up knitting up an oddly-shaped piece of fabric which you then fold and sew into a tidy little jacket. I'll try to get more pictures as it progresses. And I'm already looking forward to the button search.

Then this morning I may have started this.

This is the Mitred Square Blanket that Mason-Dixon designed. They are selling the pattern and sending the proceeds to relief efforts in Japan. I ordered the pattern (which I love but's pretty easy to figure out) so that I could do a little more for Japan. And then, I'll be honest, I started it so that I could be eligible for the contest that Mason-Dixon is holding. I'm as self-interested as the next person, as long as the next person isn't either Donald Trump or Mother Teresa.

This will get put aside soon so that I can go back to the Baby Surprise. But I am liking the's Web's own Valley Yarns brand. Longmeadow, which is 60 percent cotton and 40 percent microfiber. It's nice and soft and drapy and I'm thinking four or six squares would make a nice baby blanket. Ideally, though, I'd love to make it in Noro, as the original is made. So pretty.

So there is definite knitting going on.

I got two little presents (well, in a manner of speaking) in the mail today. The larger of the two was a free lunch bag offered by Lean Cuisine, if only you manage to eat oodles of Lean Cuisines. Fortunately, that's what I generally have for lunch, so the secret codes added up fast.

The other, cuter, bag is by Jessalu. She makes lovely little project bags and I have been trying to get a bag made of hedgehog fabric for some time. But they sell out fast, alas. This last time I was checking for one I found this adorable sheep covered bag. I like the lining, too.

Other than knitting, there hasn't been a lot done here. We went up to Wegman's yesterday and got a little bit of grocery shopping done. And you know? Even with the nicest store in the world? It's still just grocery shopping.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Uncertainty And Books

So, here we sit, wondering if we'll be going into work on Monday or not. Things sound a little more hopeful than when I left work this least that there'll be some sort of continuing resolution.

But you know what? I'm happy to be furloughed if, ultimately, Planned Parenthood is funded.

I've added the last twenty books I've read to my book list there on the right. What were the stand-outs in this latest bunch, you ask?

I loved Kate Atkinson's latest Jackson Brodie mystery, Started Early, Took My Dog. You need to have read the earlier Jackson Brodie books, starting with Case Histories, to get the most out of this but that's no problem. They're all good books. In this latest one, Brodie is trying to track down the birth mother of an Australian woman...the book also follows an elderly actress who's having trouble remembering exacly when and where she is, and an ex-police-woman/current mall security chief whose decision to liberate a seemingly neglected child from her mother has quite the series of repercussions. All these threads come together quite satisfyingly by the end of the book.

I also really liked The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier. This is a book made up of a series of interconnected stories of a people dealing with pain and loss at a time when, for an unexplained and unknown reason, wounds -- bruises, illness, sores, cancers -- begin glowing, casting a heavenly light on the wounded. I liked some sections more than others but none of them were dull.

A Red Herring Without Mustard is another fun romp with Flavia de Luce detecting her way through England. Or at least the small town where she lives. Fun!

The Informationist is a gripping thriller...I think I gobbled it up in a day. The main character, a young woman whose specialty is gathering information on developing countries for corporations, accepts a different kind of job...tracking down the missing daughter of a company head. A daughter who has apparently been murdered in Western Africa. The book certainly doesn't make me want to visit Africa, but it's pretty exciting.

Finally, I like Graham Joyce's The Silent Land but I can't say I loved it. One of my friends on Book Balloon said she thought the best thing about it was the cover, which is cool. (Part of the image is printed on the hard cover of the book, the rest of the image is printed on the thin, vellum-like, see-through dust jacket.) I figured out exactly what was going on fairly early on...certainly earlier than the characters, but I thought there was some wonderful imagery...scenes that will stick with me for a while.

And I had a good time reading the two Cynthia Harrod-Eagles mysteries -- Fell Purpose and Body Line -- as I always like a Bill Slider mystery. But I will admit they weren't wonderful. Just satisfying English police procedurals with a bunch of likeable and amusing coppers.

Drowsiness May Occur. Do Not Operate Lace.

I am bushed. Knitting has ceased for the nonce, particularly knitting on the kimono. Things will not be improving until after the 14th.

The office where I work has the responsibility for prepping our agency's witnesses for Congressional hearings. There are several staffs here in the office and each staff has certain areas of responsibility...when the hearing is in that staff's area of responsibility, that staff does the prep. There are two hearings coming up on March 13th and 14th. Both of them are in my staff's area....they are on two different, but closely related, subject areas, there are going to be two different witnesses. This means that the three-person staff that I am on has had to prepare two background books, hold twice the number of briefings to prep the witness, had been gathering information from the same people throughout the agency. We are all exhausted. There have been late nights and two to three hour briefings. There has been scrambling around gathering material asked for in one briefing in time for the next briefing. I am so tired I can hardly think straight. My neck hurts. My feet hurt. I'm getting too old for this. I can't wait for the weekend, but I know come Monday morning it'll all start up again. (We will be having an all-morning briefing for one witness and an all-afternoon briefing the for second witness.) Thank heavens, I love the women I work with...this would be hell if we didn't get along.

And all of this on top of the uncertainty of not knowing if we'll even be working next weekend or if we'll be furloughed. Don't get me started on how I feel about Congress at the moment.

I miss my knitting.

Thank you for letting me whine.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sometimes Boring Is Just The Thing

This has been a quiet weekend and that's just as well as last week was...well, a week from work and this coming week will probably be more of the same.

More about that later, perhaps. Or tomorrow.

There were some bright spots in the week...none of them involving work. (And hurrah, my friend and coworker will be back from vacation on Monday! We missed her...and not just because of what was going on at work.)

On Tuesday evening my dad and step-mom had us over for dinner. I was good and didn't eat any of the cheese and crackers and had no dessert. But my, dinner was tasty! Ham loaf and green beans and yummy potatoes. My brother was there too and we had a good time.

And we had a nice time Friday, too. I had to leave work early for a visit with my friendly dermatologist about a spot on my back that I wanted her to look at. She said it was nothing to worry about. So that was good.

Then Mr. Pointy Sticks and I went to Barnes and Noble because we had coupons. I bought him the last of his birthday presents (the latest Donna Leon) and two books for me, one being the new Graham Joyce, The Silent Land. It's an eerie book and a quick read. I picked it up when I got home...just to take a quick sucked into it and finished it up on Saturday. I did figure out what was going on before the characters did but still, it was well done and is the sort of book that I think will linger with me for some time.

Friday evening a friend of Mr. Pointy Sticks took us both out to dinner for Mr. Pointy Stick's birthday. We went to a Persian restaurant over on Joppa Road called the Orchard Market and Cafe. It's in a very unprepossessing strip mall, near a roller skating rink we used to have to take Rachel to for various birthday parties. Inside, though, it's very nice...and man, was the food good! I had a salad for starters...mixed greens with slices of ripe pear and mango, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, and feta cheese in a pomegranate vinaigrette. So good! The saltiness of the cheese and the acidity of the dressing against the sweetness of the fruit...yum! I continued the fruit theme with the Plum Lamb, a stew of lamb and plums and butternut squash, served with basmati rice. I could only eat about half of it and had the rest reheated for lunch on Saturday and you know what? I think it was even better the second day! The flavors had mellowed. The other two main dishes we ordered were beef tongue in stew (bleah) and the special of the evening...a Persian take on paella. And man, that looked wonderful! Huge servings and really good. The desserts were disappointing, though I actually was glad of that because I am trying not to eat too much.

Saturday morning Mr. Pointy Sticks and I left the house relatively early and went to the Smith College booksale. I came home with about four books, I think. There wasn't a lot of stuff of interest. There were lots of knitting patterns, for once, but they were mostly from the '80s...pretty awful. I did bring home two knitting magazines in German for a buck each and an old Oat Couture pattern for a still good-looking cardigan for 50 cents. Did some grocery shopping and headed home again.

Oh, we also did some preliminary stove shopping. That's something else that happened this week. I was broiling swordfish steaks one evening and I opened the oven door to turn them over and heard this odd popping/crackling sort of sound. Looked down and the inside pane of glass in the oven door had shattered. And you know what? Ovens are expensive! I'd like to get another smooth surface needs to be a slide in...white...I guess I'd like the option to do convection. And all that brings the price up (at least for the ones recommended by Consumer Reports) to $1,000 or more! Yikes!

And today we haven't done much. Some cleaning, some reading. (I read Erin Kelly's The Poison Tree, which I thought was pretty good. Not great literature, but a well-done thriller/suspense sort of book.)

I am hoping that if today is boring enough, I'll actually look forward to going into work tomorrow. Fat chance.