Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve eye candy

First, here is a camel. Just for perspective on those gloves. (We went to the zoo with our house guests yesterday.)

A little more garden flowering. These yellow mini-roses change to speckled pink as they age, rather dramatically.

Have a great 2007 everyone!! I can't wait for the evil 2006 to end, personally.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Oh the baby camel.

I have discovered that there is nothing quite like baby camel yarn. Bouton d'or's Ksar is 50% merino, 50% camel. I don't think even cashmere is softer. And thick... cushy...

A pair of Fetching (from Knitty). US #5 DPNs. Started Saturday before Christmas, completed on Boxing Day. I may possibly never take them off.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Baby, you're a star!

A starry little tutorial:
I'm swatching some Rowan All Seasons Cotton (60% cotton, 40% acrylic, machine wash) for a baby cardigan. I'm planning to do a border of Star Stitch, and have two i-cord ties in front. I'm making notes as I go so that hopefully I can post a pattern when I'm done.

In case you like the look of Star Stitch and would like to try it, here are instructions. I got the stitch originally from 365 Knitting Stitches a Year perpetual calendar, which claims copyright, but then I found it in several other web sites and stitch dictionaries, some of which claim copyright and some of which don't. I don't think you can successfully enforce copyright on such an old, well-used stitch, so I am going to tell you how to do it, in my own words, here.

Multiple of 4+1 (back and forth)
Row 1: Knit (right side)
Row 2: P1, *star, P1* to end.
Row 3: Knit
Row 4: P3, star, *P1, star* to three stitches from end, P3.

Here is how to make a star, which is worked on the wrong side of the fabric:

First, purl three stitches together, but leave them on the left-hand needle. (In this picture, it looks like I have more than one loop in the right-hand needle, but that's just because the yarn split a little. It's really one loop.)

Next, wrap your yarn around the right-hand needle, in the manner of a yarnover. You can see how I did it here. You bring the yarn back to the front, because you'll need it there.

Now, purl the same three stitches together again,

and this time, drop them from the left-hand needle.
This is how it looks when you're finished with a star stitch:

I'm dead! Yay!

Yesterday I got this in the mail (along with a bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk, which Rob quickly erased):

Modest, unassuming, even friendly. But make no mistake. At last I have been killed in Sock Wars (which is, admittedly, long over)!

The socks were very long, as were the socks I made for my victim; I think this is the result of using a foot-size table to compute sock length, because socks are, after all, meant to stretch. In this case the completer had to buy more yarn, which is a shame because the socks could have been ended at the green part. I popped them in the wash a couple of times but I think the yarn is superwash (and it's true that my front-loader is gentle), because they haven't really shrunk much. I'm wearing them over another pair of socks here. They're good for slippers if I'm careful not to trip.

I told you there was a lot of knitting last weekend. One thing I did was start a pair of Rib-and-Cable mitts (from the Spring 2006 Interweave Knits). I've made these before for myself, shortening and widening the thumb and shortening the hand for my smaller fingers. This one I made as a gift and made it 'regular-sized', which I hope will be right for the giftee. You can see they're a little long on me. They look odd when they're not on a hand, but they feel great on.

These were made with Sundara sport-weight left over from the Kimono sweater, and trimmed with the same alpaca I used on the, uh, bunny hat. US #3 Boye dpns. Two things:

• Sundara's sport-weight is so pleasant to knit with. (Of course you knew it was pretty.)
• This is a way fun pattern to knit.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Finished, but...

I finished the Totoro hat, sans embroidery, on Friday evening. But I think the ears are coming off. I learned about alpaca yarn with this knit, and what I learned is that it's crazy soft, crazy hairy, and crazy floppy.

Not so good for stand-up ears on a Totoro.

What I'm thinking: I'll reknit the Totoro bonnet in superwash wool (I have some nice blue that will work) and take the ears off this one, then stick a flower or maybe some smaller (bear?) ears on it instead. Another option is to call these bunny ears, and embroider the cap to match.. what do you guys think?

Monday, December 25, 2006

Some holiday excitement.

It's been hard to post about the trivial ups and downs of the weekend, because one of my best friends lost his mother this weekend, which sucks beyond bigtime. Everything below this seems somehow unimportant in the light of that. But it did remind me that I should appreciate people while they are here, so please read the following in the light of that.

(There is a bunch of knitting to talk about, but I'll save it for tomorrow.)

Friday night, we went to have dinner with some friends and as I was leaving their house, my ankle turned on their stone steps and I fell — right on my tailbone. (Almost as brilliant as April, but she had more style than I did!) I've been alternately icing my foot and butt, and limping around, since then.

We still managed to have drinks with my niece (oh yah, and her parents) at the fabulous Hotel del Coronado on Saturday afternoon and dinner with more friends on Saturday evening, but I was semi-miserable. Sunday we had dinner with yet more friends (definitely feeling blessed with friends here), and today was Christmas so we had lunch (well, Christmas dinner I guess) over at the house of the first friends. Though I managed not to trip on their steps this time.

Jen had sent me a Christmas gift, so I had something to open while Rob went through his loot! Very exciting. But even more so when I opened it up. The color in these photos is wrong — it has purples and blacks as well as blues — she selected the colors to match my Sundara kimono sweater! Can you beat this beautiful handmade bag?

No, you cannot. You cannot beat it with a stick. Check out the bottom:

This is beyond amazing. I'm totally touched.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Snow, silver and sweet silence

It's nearly empty at work today, so I can actually get some work done in the peace and quiet. If it were this quiet all the time maybe I'd be more successful at my job..!

Folks asked if it snows in California. Yes, definitely. Even in San Diego, I'm only one scant hour's drive from snow. I can visit it and have a snowball fight any time I want to! We go skiing every few years at a resort that's just a couple hours from home. This is possible because of the huge differences in altitude in the Southern California terrain.

I grew up with snow (on the outskirts of Ann Arbor, Michigan). It was beautiful and had a quieting effect that I do miss, and I miss the long icicles hanging from the edge of the porch roof, and the wonderful crunching sound of my feet on the snow. I don't miss being wet and then frozen. I don't miss the muddy slush in early spring. We left before I was old enough to hate shovelling :-)

By the way, I make my garden look good by only photographing the flowers, but most of our yard is a bunch of dead dirt. We need to get out there with the jackhammer and start planting things again.

I hadn't even heard that silver drage├ęs were illegal here now, poo poo!, but I see the articles now. I still have a half-bottle left from years past; I used to order them from King Arthur Flour or buy them at Williams Sonoma. I'll have to buy them out of state when I restock!! Or ask for them on my next Secret Pal swap ;-)

I don't have any photos today. We woke to the surprise of pouring rain. It was very dark. But we're thrilled to see rain, always, in this semi-arid desert city. So here's a picture from Sunday of my niece Carson. It's blurry, but is she cute or what?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Change o'pace

Totoro is still looking plain and fuzzy, so I thought I'd share some of Onion Patch Defect's recent practice. I can hear all the million things I did wrong in this (like a bad mix... skipping a verse... leaning in and out of the mic...), and I'm sure you will too, but what the heck. This proves I'm doing SOMETHING with my time! Wade on the guitar, Karen on the bass.

It's an old British folk-tune, influenced somewhat by the Cowboy Junkies version of the song, Captain Kidd. Takes a bit to download because my server has a narrow pipe.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Eye candy Friday?

Well, I ran out of battery taking photos this morning, so you get what I got. Use yer judgement. Knitting content will resume as soon as Totoro stops looking like the Vast Lavender Alpaca Expanse. (Bet you didn't know about the Vast Lavender Alpaca Expanse, didja? But you'll be planning your next vacation around it, I'm sure).

A little frost-burned but still lovely:

My hibiscus sneers at the slight frost and keeps on a-bloomin'.

This is African blue basil. It's a perennial in frost-free or low-frost climates. We've had frost here, but it's not dropping below about 30°F, and this is handling it (I've been covering the gardenias, frangipani etc with old sheets at night). I love perennial basil — fresh basil leaves any time of year! Though it's not the sweetest of basils, it sure beats dried hands down.

Monday, December 18, 2006

6 weird things about me.

I've been tagged by April. I've tried to avoid these memes...

But okay.

There are many things about me that others might consider weird, and I don't really feel like posting about my sexual history or habits — I did enough of that (posting) in the '80s — so here are some G-rated ones.

1. My electric meter runs backwards.

2. My job has nothing to do with my painfully-earned Ph.D.

3. I've been a 'best man', a bridesmaid to a lesbian, and a 'standby bridesmaid' (as well as being a 'regular' bridesmaid several times). (All this and I don't even care for weddings...)

4. Nearly two dozen of my friends have died. You could say it's dangerous to be friends with me.

5. I once posed as tragic accident victim at the Cadillac Ranch. Tongue lolling out and all. Upside down.

6. I collect antique etiquette books.


I spent far too much of this weekend cleaning up from a nasty plumbing disaster (not our fault!), but I did find time to ice some cookies (mercifully, the kitchen was spared from the plumbing problem). The Anime (Totoro) Hat isn't looking too different, just bigger, so since there's nothing to show there I figured I would show you some cookies. Though I suppose that's mean because you can't eat them through the screen, as trek discovered last week.

As you can see, I'm not a perfectionist, but I still think these cookies look mighty pretty.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sundara, stitch definition and Hanukah.

What do these three things have in common?

Not much, I guess, though Sundara probably knits with great stitch definition. We already know she is a fabulous person. Look what she sent me as a thank-you note for test-knitting for her!

This is about 170g of her luscious aran silky merino in the 'Sari' colorway. Pictures can in no way do justice to this yarn. I fell in love with it at the beginning of the year, and she had put it aside for me "in case there was a future scarf to test-knit." This was a total surprise and so gorgeous. I just want to hug it, but really I should knit something small and special with it.

Now, I'm kind of all about the stitch definition at this point in my knitting. Last night I decided I wanted to make an Anime (Totoro) Hat for a friend's baby, and tried it with Jaeger Matchmaker 4-ply. My gauge tends to be loose with circs, but with dpns I tend to be closer to advertised, and in this case I was right on — 7 spi. Oops. The pattern called for 6. I knitted a few inches, realized my booboo, and swiched to some lovely pale lavendar alpaca I had in my stash (from someone's deStash). Now, I've not knit with alpaca before, and while it's super soft, it is also hairy and somewhat slippy. I am definitely NOT getting nice even stitch def.

On the other hand I am getting an angora-soft hat. So maybe I need to change my standards.

Finally, look what Rob got me for Hanukah!!!

Uh, I realize this doesn't look like much. But it's a Motu 8pre! Well, that doesn't tell you much either. What this does it let me have eight simultaneous, individual, digitized mic or line inputs into my Mac via Firewire. What this means is that I can do some serious 8-track recording of my band, or me at the piano, or whatevah I want, with far higher quality than I was getting out of my limping iMic with the teensy weensy single stereo mic. You never know, I may even post some of it.

If I can remember how to sing on key.

Experiments yesterday were not conclusive on that point.

Either that or it's hard to sing and read a manual at the same time.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Maybe not instant gratification, but darn fast.

My Star of the Day, in an appropriately seasonal setting.
Specs: King Cole Anti-Tickle Merino Blend DK (superwash, 100% wool), ~36g. US #4 Inox needles.

And, because it's eye candy Friday and I was loving the foggy yard this morning, for all yez in colder climes, here is a taste of San Diego in winter.

Miniature roses:

Full-sized roses:

Kitty (in appropriately seasonal setting):

Liquidambar in full color:

Mist-drops on pine needles:

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Knitting at last!

Yeah well. I did cast on again. Naughty, naughty.

Here's the deal: I'm nearly done with one of the few holiday gifts I am making this year, but I need to rip back about 10 rows. It's not a big deal, but my lifeline is kind of messed up and I need to fix it first. And you all know how I am when I have to sit down and focus on something, even if it'll only take five minutes.

The other possible holiday gift, Hedera, is proceeding so slowly I think I'm on ludes when I'm knitting it. Maybe it'll be a new year's gift. It's so pretty, but it's so slow.

I might cast on for a birthday gift for a friend. We'll see. But in the meantime, I've been baking cookies every night for a week*, and I needed a break. A treat. A fast, fun knit. And I was reading pjb's blog, and saw she was making Susan Pierce Lawrence's Star of the Day baby cap, and I was hooked. Er, ok, needled, since we're not talking crochet here. If you haven't knitted one of Susan's patterns, I highly recommend it. She writes beautiful, clear patterns with great results.

Cast on at 10:30 p.m.. Knit for an hour, then a bit more this morning. I have just a few rows to go before the attached-i-cord bindoff. And then, after a bit of blocking, my dear friend Matt will have a cap for his new baby boy Austin Kazuki. W00t!

* and I had two cookies for breakfast. For part of breakfast. Because I still had my usual two (!) bowls of cereal. I am definitely going to calorie hell.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

"lumpy thing underneath"

Loganoc asked about the "lumpy thing underneath" the gingerbread hearts, a couple of posts below. Sorry, Loganoc, it is finished, but that's how it's supposed to look. It's Amy Boogie's Irish Soda Bread and MAN oh monster, is it good. It's also basically gone at this point. Mmm.

Baking problem solved! and other nonsense

I figured out my missing-baking-mojo issue. It's all about the eggs.

I started buying only organic eggs a while back, when I read about the nasty conditions hens are subjected to in this interesting Humane Society page about egg carton labels. The truth is that even organic chickens can be abused pretty horribly, but at least it's less than others. Organic eggs are most frequently found in the 'large' size.

I noticed that most of my recipes that were failing were, interestingly, the more modern ones. My old recipes, from my 1950s Joy of Cooking, worked okay. And then I noticed that one of the modern recipes called for 'extra large' eggs. A light went on.

There's definitely been a trend towards 'extra large' being the norm in recent years. In a quadrupled recipe with lots of eggs, we are talking about a whole egg's difference if you change to using 'large'.

I tested the theory last night, adding an extra egg to my cocoa kisses. They came out absolutely smashingly perfect. Woohoo!

Now that you are bored with hearing about eggs, since I don't have any knitting to report, here are some gratuitous pictures of my cat, Laila, who spent yesterday evening sleeping off the work she did to catch two rats and a mouse in the 24 hours prior:

Curly toes!

I thought she was headless for a moment in this one:

Can I get an "awwwww" ?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I want you to understand ...

... when I say that I'm feeling slightly disorganized at the moment.

This is part of the floor of my study:

I'm working from home today, but that would be from downstairs on the couch, not from the study. There IS a nice little laptop desk in this picture, but I don't think I can get there.

I do love the big pink suggestion on the Container Store bag. That's pretty much what I need to do at the moment, in many ways.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Where have I been?

Not anywhere photogenic, basically. With no photos, why would you read my post? We all know it's all about the picture book effect :-) I'm convinced that blogs make us revert happily to memories of being three and reading I Can Fly or some such.

I've spent most of the last week or two trying to get my baking mojo back. I've produced a lot of this:

but most of them don't hold success stories. However, this weekend things got better:

Saturday was Rob's birthday and we had a surprise guest from New Mexico. We went out to brunch, went hiking in Torrey Pines State Reserve and then had a few friends over in the evening. Rob seemed to like his presents, which included Doctor Who Season Two, Spaced (another British comedy series), some CDs, Notting Hill, and an XM radio and subscription :-)

Last night we went out with my parents for Ethiopian food. Mmmmmmmmmm.

I have knit, a little. I really am making progress on Hedera — honest. I'm almost to the heel flap.

And I can't really show you this, as it's secret yarnination. I don't know if the likely recipient actually reads my blog but there's a chance they do, so this is all you get. Like I said, not doing much gift knitting this year and I don't know if I'll finish this. But I don't want y'all to think I'm a slacker!!

Monday, December 04, 2006

I think they liked 'em!

Thanks for all the nice comments on the Pea Pods! I can't figure out all of your e-mail addresses, so if you don't get a personal reply, that's why, but thanks for the back-pats. It helps because it's a bit of a letdown to be finally DONE with these and back to all my boring UFOs.

I think Crys and Ronise liked the sweaters!

They have since announced that they are having twin boys (I hadn't known the genders). They seem to think the colors are okay, though. Whew!

In other news, Hedera #2 is crawling along. I'm still on the leg, haven't even gotten to the endless gusset yet. Partly this is the pattern (lace is somewhat more time-consuming than other types of knitting), but I think I can lay some of the blame on the needles. These (pictured here with Hedera #1) are from a sock-knitting set (I think Boye?) that I picked up at Michael's ages ago. I started the first sock on them because my only other set of #1s were in use; now I have several sets, but I thought I'd better knit sock #2 on the same needles or risk a gauge mismatch. Not only do the stitches slide a little more slowly on these than on my fast Inox babies, the tips on these are a little on the blunt side. Often, it takes me a few tries to get the needle into the stitch. While this might only be a few seconds in actual time, it does add up. But I still think I can manage to get these done in time for Christmas — at least, I hope so.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Cute Overload's got nothin' on me.

Pea Pod sweaters, made in Cleckheaton Country 8-ply (superwash) with US #4s in the 3-month (hahahaha) size.

I'm not all that thrilled with the color of the green buttons. I suppose I could offer to replace all the buttons with (washable) wooden ones. We'll see.

I also made some cakes for the shower today. Crys & Ronise have been referring to the twins as "Beans & Rice," so:

All that's left is to put a few jelly beans on the 'Beans' one. Fortunately, I'm not a perfectionist. I'm into "sloppy cute."