Monday, April 28, 2008
1,000 Knitters, give or take, shopping:Literally shoulder to shoulder for most of the morning from what I saw. I was hiding in a classroom with my students and peeked out occasionally. It was unreal.
A pair of yarn and bead store owners prepare the 1,000 Knitters for What Comes Next:I missed most of the pre-show part of the program. I grabbed a quick salad and was walking up from the store after my class with Girl who came down for the event.
1 Knitter (and a Harlot to boot) taking pictures of 1,000 Knitters taking pictures of her, while another Knitter takes a picture of her taking pictures of the 1,000 Knitters (got that?):Not only is this woman witty, she's intelligent. I loved her talk this time, probably more than the first. She inspired my kid to change her final project for Sociology - she's going to do it on knitters now. Funny and smart, smart cookie, AND knits? What's not to love?
Someone besides me has excellent taste in cars:I swear, Fits find each other. I cannot tell you the number of times this has happened in malls and parking garages. I park, I go in, I come out and my car has a new friend.
Someone (Jess and Casey!) has excellent taste in family pets and logos:(Someone Wonderful is going to eventually ask me why there's a picture of a dog not my own on my bumper. But it's BOB for crying out loud, and Bob on my bumper is essential. I just love his squashy face.)
Someone is going to end up with an entrelac tam. I think I will keep it for myself. I was amazed to discover that this hat does not make my head look weird. It's not done quite yet, but soon.
I forgot to bring knitting to the Harlot event. I had just finished class and was starving to death, and forgot knitting. The sheer number of knitters was amazing. Literally they were shoulder to shoulder in the store. When my class needed a potty break, we went through the warehouse. I could not risk losing them all in the chaos.
Someone named John just called very, very concerned (but unresponsive) about the interest rates on my credit card. I was warmly assured that there is not a problem with my credit card account (Mr. Wonderful will be SO relieved), but he was SO concerned that he insisted I call him back IMMEDIATELY to discuss my rates, and how he can lower them. I am on the Do Not Call registry. I don't think it works. John got through.
Time for some Theta!
Saturday, April 26, 2008
There was an afternoon of raking and planting, and Jules arrived with her camera (that's why all the pictures in today's post look so blessed good. Nikon something or other SLR v. Canon Powershot? No real contest.) Everyone worked (I knitted.)
Chickens did not work, but supervised. Actually they can be said to work if you consider de-bugging the grounds to be labor. As an organic gardener, I find it so. They are saving me from labor and insecticidal soap.
A few people have asked me over the years why I keep a rooster around. There is always one, sometimes more than one. First, it's how they come. My first chicks were from the feed store, but subsequent batches have been from small farms that focus on rare breeds where chicks come as God intended them to - "straight-run", meaning a mixture of both boys and girls. Second, roosters make more chickens. And last, well, I have a sick love for the crowing. I think it's genetic. Keeping a couple of roosters has rarely been a problem. My old man, Napoleon did his job right and well for a long time. A while back I got new chicks and kept two of the boys - Plush and Bedhead - anticipating that Napoleon would eventually move on to the Happy Pecking Grounds. Plush and Bedhead were raised in a group of 25 the way all my birds are. The chicks live in huge stock tank with a heating lamp until they are big enough to move to the garage, and then ultimately to the chicken house. They are all handled daily so they're not as likely to see humans as the enemy. Until now. Plush, in his second year of life, has developed "issues". The "issues" all revolve around me, apparently. This is a problem. I feed. I water. I gather eggs. I sometimes like to WALK THROUGH MY OWN YARD. Plushie does not share my opinion, and for a few weeks now has in varying degrees been coming after me. I will spare you the pictures of the 4" long bruise down my calf, or the myriad scratches and cuts. One might even have been called a gash. Under different circumstances, Plush would be stew. But Nap's gone, and Plush is it. He's The Man. The all-seeing chicken eye. The boy who protects my girls. The rooster who will make new babies next spring. For now, I need him.
Roosters, for their own protection and the defense of the flock have what are called spurs. Spurs begin to grow when a rooster is still a young cockerel. They get longer, curved, and sharpen as the guy ages. These spurs can do a lot of damage and are what's been causing my discomfort when doing chores. I face the bird, I am fine. I turn my back and he runs up behind me and attacks, jumping off the ground, both feet coming in my direction, spurs delivering a relatively painful blow to the back of my leg. He's ripped through jeans. There's been blood. It has not been pretty.
But there is a solution, or at least a point of compromise betwixt stew and bleeding knitters. I try to avoid altering the birds from their natural state as much as I can. I do not de-beak. I don't have them "sexed". I don't put a light on for them in winter, preferring to let them take the break nature intended. But. I draw the line at bleeding through my jeans while trying to walk backwards into my own house, balancing a dozen eggs, the mail, and a freaked out Bernese Mountain Dog who thought the big chicken wanted to play.
So last week we had a little confab in the poultry house at dusk. My Wonderful Mr. Wonderful, who hates bloody jobs, but loves me more agreed to help me de-spur the roosters. It's really not any worse than cutting the dog's nails, but it's more difficult to see where the quick is, and there's always a chance that you'll cut too close. Although the roos appear to not feel this (and I have seen them respond to pain, so I know they'd let me know if this hurt) there can be blood. One person holds the bird, one the large nippers, and in a second it's over, for better or worse.
But there wasn't a worse this time. Everyone lived. Both Bedhead and Plush got their little trim, and I am free to walk about if not unmolested at least not bleeding from various slice and dice gashes on my calves.
Plush had a bit more trying recovery than Bedhead. He'd been first, and as a result upside down a bit longer than I'd like. His red, red comb is a combination of pure wrath and head-rush. He still hates me, although he's a little less aggressive about it. And that's fine, as long as he does his job, and next spring makes me some more chickens. Then we'll see. He may age gracefully and accept that biting the hand that feeds you is nothing short of stupid.
Knitting? OK. Preview of coming atractions:
Acero Sock, pattern will be available soon. Yarn: Brooks Farm Acero. This was my first ever Brooks Farm, given to me by Kathy after a TNNA or something. She came home with it and I fell madly in love.
Assateague Sock, ditto. Yarn: Seacoast Panda. This has been the longest two socks ever to reach pattern stage, I swear. I got the Panda at NENA last year, and it's nearly NENA time now. Still no final pattern. I dawdled...you know how it is. I do adore this yarn though.
Castaway Socks, also ditto. Yarn: Regia Kaffe Fassett 4-ply.
Taconic Hat, which will be available from Knitting for Noggins, I don't know just when, as part of an online collection of patterns. Yarn: Valley Yarns Williamstown, which I love. It felts, too. But that's another day.
For now I return to knocking out a couple of samples for tomorrow's class, and planning for my evening of fun in Northampton, and contemplating my garden. At last, spring is here!
Friday, April 18, 2008
In the search box, type "knitting". Then click on "Knitting Craze". then feel sorry for my double chin genetics, but be a little impressed that I neither drooled on myself nor spat in Juli's face, but managed to speak clearly and 'projected' enough to get by. I am amazed, myself.
If someone else knows a better way to link to it, let me know. My download limit won't let me play around too much here. But...oh my...I am....on TV. AKKKK!!
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Knitters Knitting Giddily in New Hampshire.Persnickety and me in class at TKGA's Summer Show in Manchester, NH, now emblazoned on page 3 of your TKGA registration packet. Note that my feet are on the rungs of her chair. This is because there is not a chair made for grownups that is comfortable for my stubby lower extremities. I must be supported. She looks better than I do. This is not the most flattering photo ever taken of me, so Mr. Wonderful says.
Liberals Knitting Liberally for Charity."Stuffed toys made by Knitting Liberally, a group from Northampton, were donated to New England Learnign Center for Women in Transition's Children's Counselling Program in Greenfield. From left are Donna Riley, Gina-Louise Sciarra, Tina McElmoyl and Katy Wight, who helped create the whimsical creatures." Greenfield Recorder, April 17,2008. Yarn donated by Webs.
Hats From a Moderate for Kids Who Need Them.
This yarn is donated by Webs too, but sideways - it's the leftovers from the Ginormous bag knitted into hats for Warm Woolies. I like this group. They're seeking knits, mostly natural fibers (acrylic is reserved for baby blankets) and you can direct where your donation goes - like I can say "Please send my hats to kids at the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations in South Dakota."
Randomly Chosen, or Not, Yarn To Be New Sock Designs.I've got three designs that need samples knit. I have to choose yarn first. This is backwards for me and I don't like it. I prefer to let the yarn dictate the pattern not the other way around. The yarn speaks, I listen and we make stuff. This is all turned 'round!
Are they related items? Hmmm....I wonder. Must run now, there's sand in my eyes and it needs to come out before I go to the bank and the PO and Webs. Thursday Drop-In!
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
by Frank Herbert
You have control over a great wealth of resources, but no one wants to
let you have them. You've decided to try to defend yourself, but it may take eons before
you really get back what you feel you deserve. Meanwhile you have a cult-like following
of minions waiting for your life to progress. This would all be even more exciting if you
could just get the sand out of your eyes.
Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
This is too fun.
Edited to add - not only was he proud, he said "That's why I like you. That's my favorite book of all time." (I told you he'd be proud). Oh...but what's he you ask??
You're I, Robot!
by Isaac Asimov
While you have established a code of conduct for many generations to
follow, your demeanor is rather cold and calculating. Brought up to serve humans, you
have promised never to harm them, to follow orders, and to protect yourself. Living up
to this code has proved challenging and sometimes even drives you mad. If you were a
type of paper, you would be pulp.
Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
Monday, April 14, 2008
The knitter and Kathy decided on a color scheme for the project. Purples. And chose a yarn. Berkshire Bulky. 3 balls of Red Purple and 2 balls each of Pale Lilac, Periwinkle and Amethyst, along with some US 15 needles. Little Knitter returned to her home and began to knit on Thursday. She knit and she knit and she knit. Relentlessly, endlessly, just like during the 36 hour cashmere sweater. By Friday she looked like this:
For a little while the bag looked like this:
And by Sunday it looked like this:
It is Ginormous and I love it. I'd knit another one for me if I had time. Perfect for sheep and wool season, which is upon us. MUCH room for the buying of yarn and fleece and roving and such. Here's what you do - buy The Vermont Felted Bag pattern from Webs/Valley Yarns. Cast on twice as many stitches as the bag calls for. Work in garter stitch for 8 rows instead of 4. Then begin working color blocks, each 34 stitches wide, for 50 rows. Change to the other two colors and work another 50 rows. Make the bag bottom the same size as the Vermont bag, then complete the other side of the bag just like above. Handles should be 5" longer than the originals before felting, and should be 8 stitches wide. Then you felt the whole shooting match by running it through your washer in hot water. After it's felted fully, brush vigorously with a dog brush which gives the bag a great halo. Find huge buttons and use them to attach the handles. Then carry it everywhere. I'd love to see it done in other colors, too...and embellished...I wanted to embellish it in the worst way, and line it as well.
Last week I met up with Kristin Nicholas at a cafe nearby to discuss my book and technique, as she'll present it on Knit and Crochet Today. While I was waiting for her, sipping my latte and watching my laptop download updates and podcasts, I let my mind wander over our meeting place. When I was a teenager it was my favorite hang-out. My friend Kim and I would go in with our limited cash flow and order ice cream, or a grilled cheese and fries, or just Coke from the fountain. Real Coke, syrup and water with bubbles. It was a bustling hub of a place, with booths and counter service seats with spinning stools and lots of activity; local color you'd call it in a vigorous New England small town. I miss the original. The reinvention, Cafe Koko, is coffee and sandwiches, little tables, and free wifi, always a benefit. Very hip and funky looking place, and I found it relatively comfortable. Time and big box discount retail and recessions of varying degrees have done a number on the community and what was once thriving is now worn and dying. Businesses don't last long when they manage to open. Industry doesn't live here any more. I yearn for the good old days, when it was the Corner Cupboard and the waitresses got mad as hell at me and Kim for splitting without tipping; when every shop on Main Street was bustling with activity, and it was a safe and comfortable little world, or so we thought. I found a piece of the old there, nestled in among the bright colors of the hand-decorated ceiling tiles and the buzz of the espresso machine. Green spinning chrome stools. Diner stools which comfort me and make me feel at home.
My best friend manages a store in town, and works closely with the business association to revitalize the area. I hope she is successful. The county seat should be more than what it is today, more like what it was then. And I need to talk to Cafe Koko about a gluten free menu.
I started reading your blog because of your mention of Shelburne Falls and surrounding area. My in-laws are from that area. I am in Arkansas so it is always interesting to read your blog not only for the knitting but also for the references to the surrounding area.
I enjoy posting about the area. I have lived here for all of my life, grew up in Northfield and Greenfield. As I said above, I miss what the county once was, but I have hope that the area can thrive again. Places I remember from my childhood had no choice but to close up when business dried up. The demographic has shifted dramatically and unhealthily. It's sad to think about the bad changes, and it's not the way I'd want things to continue. I'd like to see an influx of business and industry, enough to reconnect the town with vital financial resources. The two largest employers in town are gone and with them went the life's blood of the whole county. It's very sad. Even our local newspaper has given up on Greenfield - The Recorder cut at least 16 local jobs and moved it's printing operation to Northampton. The Recorder is now printed in the same facility as the Gazette. I am so disappointed by this decision that I do not intend to renew my subscription. Something has to change to keep jobs IN Greenfield, and bring new business in. OK. Hopping off soap box now.
For a city girl, why are those sheep wearing coats? And why doesn't the tan one have a coat too?
I can't answer specifically for Barb's sheep, but generally sheep wear coats to keep the stuff we kindly refer to as vegetable matter out of their fleece, and sometimes for added warmth after shearing. These ewes are mostly all about to lamb (actually, as I write this, some of them have given birth - look!), so a clean, short wool coat is a good thing to have. The big ewe in the back who's not in a coat is also not bred, nor has she been shorn recently.
Your reddish colored smooshy looks like mine. Is that Chinatown Apple?
Yes, Chinatown Apple and Beach Fog. Love it. It's not going to work for the project I had in mind, however, so I bought some Mountain Colors Bearfoot instead. More about that next time!
Exciting news - Ravelry has added pattern purchase options! I currently have one pattern for sale via download, my Sojourner Socks, and a free download of the Happy Butterfly Headwrap pattern. We'll be adding more patterns for sale soon, and an additional free pattern. I've got five sock pattern just waiting to be formatted and tidied up. I'll post pictures of them here as well.
Deep and abiding trauma - I am nowhere near the Nerd I wish I were. Sigh.
Friday, April 11, 2008
sheep. Slightly smug, because I had just said "I don't like white sheep. I love colors." I have a fondness for Jacobs, and Black Welsh in particular. Then this group of white ewes got so amusing that I now love white sheep. I think she knows. And there is...Crackerjack - guard llama extraordinaire, who I am told allows lambs to jump up on his back when he's resting. File that under "things I'd love to see"! And, best of all...YARN!! Yummy yarn for me to swatch and design with - but more on that later, right now I am trapped beneath a project of gigantic proportion. You'll see tomorrow or Sunday...patience. On the way back down the hill I stopped at...Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters on the Mohawk Trail. Like Starbucks only...NOT EVEN CLOSE. WAY COOLER!! I bought a latte and some Toasted Coconut Creme Decaf (fave) and a children's book, signed by the illustrator. I love SFCR. Love love love. Then the mail came and I got...SMOOSHY!! This is my first Smooshy and I love it. It's not going to work for the planned project, so I ordered some Bearfoot...but I will find something for this, I am sure. Normally I seek patterns from the yarn - I swatch and it speaks. This time the yarn needs to suit the pattern. Then I finished...socks I can only call Wavy Gravy. The yarn is Red Heart Heart and Sole and the pattern will be available from the Knit and Crochet Daily website. I will post a link when it's available. because there is just so so much going on in the yarn, I went with a simple wave pattern that allows the stripes to do their job. Washed and blocked this is a great every-day sock yarn. Machine washable and dryable, always a good thing, and in vibrant colors and stripes. Then we had a visit from...
JACK! Jack is a French Bulldog owned by a friend - the same friend who grows our beef. I did farm chores for them last weekend while they went to see the Red Sox play in Toronto. Jack is not like the Beagles and the Akitas. He gets to come and stay in my house, not at the boring old kennel. He was very happy to leave the kennel and come home with us, and more happy when he found Girl was here. Even Boo liked Jack. I think he's adorable, and funny and a lovable, wonderful character with great temperament, and he spent lots of time staring at Mr. Wonderful - "You're a guy. I am a guy too. We're guys together, right??" - which was just hysterical. Problem: snorffling. Loud, endless snorffling that gets worse with excitement. Even when resting in his crate? Snorffle. Melissa did not love the snorffle. He also about gave me a nervous breakdown when he went after the cat. I went after the cat too, yelling "MEL!! Do not blind the show dog!! DO NOT SCRATCH HIS EYEBALLS!!!"
More soon, promise. Right now I need to crawl back under the big pile of Berkshire Bulky I am working on, before Kathy catches me blogging and not knitting furiously on her eventual felted bag - which right now is just HUGE!
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
I made a decision a long time ago, when confronted by the myriad unappetizing pre-packaged gluten free alternatives to not bother so much about substitution. We don't eat a lot of pasta or bread anyway. I just changed the way I ate to reflect my "can't haves". Not a big deal, really. In most situations I can eat around the wheat. Salad with vinagrette, never creamy dressings. Meats without sauces. Requests to cooks at restaurants to please just steam me a piece of fish with some lemon. Substitute steamed vegetables for pasta. Try to ignore the steaming crusty bread. They think I am dieting, I know I am living, and everyone is happy. We sometimes eat at chains with gf menus just because we know it's safer, and I ask a lot of annoying questions for the poor wait staff and usually I life fairly safely.
Some things I miss. We'll all remember my discovery of the gluten free pizza in South Deerfield? Huge, huge thing, just knowing that once in a while I CAN HAS PIZZA.
After a brief foray into gf baking I withdrew to my corner, humiliated and sad, mostly pouting. Years of baking expertise, stacks of blue and red ribbons, years of pride in my ability to bake, all useless because the game plan had changed so dramatically. Ten years ago I could tell you the relative percentage of gluten in each of King Arthur's flours, and why you needed which flour for which baking project. Favorites, recipes I'd memorized, ingredients I knew by heart and could mete out without a measuring cup were now lost to me. The replacements - things like tapioca flour, xantham gum, rice and garbanzo flour - were foreign, and didn't behave correctly, and seemed determined to make me look stupid. What were they all supposed to DO? After a few failed recipes culled from the internet I gave up baking entirely. On holidays I create old favorites for others - cookies and pies, and scalloped oysters for my father - from "normal" ingredients, purging my kitchen afterwards and rewarding myself with a batch of calico meringues.
But there is something missing from my life beyond the occasional pizza or dinner roll. Something I have not found a substitute for. In fact, I didn't even try, because really - if this isn't right, it isn't worth it. Nothing on earth can substitute for a buttery, rich, gooey, warm, tried and true, recipe-is-on-the-back-of-the-bag Nestle's Toll House cookie. Nothing. There's other desserts I indulge in on occasion. A gf cupcake from Woodstar, or meringues. Flourless chocolate cake in Florida at Wolfgang Puck Cafe. None of that is a chocolate chip cookie.
Back in the day, before gluten and I parted ways, back when we still had cable, I was obsessed with Alton Brown's wonderful show Good Eats. Charisma, food science, fun, and good recipes all in one place. Girl and I watched endlessly. "ALTON'S ON!!", and we'd come running. I brine my turkeys because of him. He changed the way we cook steak. My father and I still dream of building a smoker out of an old fridge. I could go on and on. I love him enough that when my cable was gone, I bought as many of his shows on DVD as I could get away with. He's the reason why I sometimes fantasize about letting the cable back into the house.
This is, then, an (unread) love song, a thank you note I'll never mail, to the master - Alton Brown - who has returned to me that which was lost with his amazing recipe, The Chewy Gluten Free. Barely a hair off from a true Nestle's Toll House Cookie, these delights are, 12 hours after baking, still chewy and delicious. They LOOK like a Toll House cookie. They almost taste like one. More importantly they taste GOOD. Really, really good. They dunk well in milk or coffee. They taste like comfort.
Now, mods, since I cannot leave anything alone (ever.). I substituted 2T whole milk yogurt for the whole milk. Also Florida Crystals for the white sugar, since we don't own any of that. And after the first tray I reduced the baking time to 10 minutes and the cookie size by about half. The result: PRECIOUS. Like gold. See -You can almost taste them, can't you?
In yarn-y news, I started working with some VERY new Red Heart Heart and Sole for my project submission for Candi Jensen's TV show - the pattern for the end product will be offered for free on the Knit and Crochet Today website after the show airs. I began with swatches, two at a time cuffs, just to see how the colors played. Those of you who've taken classes with me know that matching stripes is generally the farthest thing from my mind. For this project however I made an exception and pulled and matched and pulled some more from the center of two balls, same color way, until I thought I'd gotten a match. I cast on and started knitting and within about an inch realized I was very, very wrong. Yet, these are swatches, and continuing will give me a good idea of where the repeat falls, so I can rip out and start over. I kept going, waiting for matching stripes, but it just wasn't happening. In fact....it looks like...wait...
Why yes! They're balled in opposite directions. See, if I flip sock B over, and align it thus, a perfect match occurs! The good news: SWATCHES! and two more whole balls. My guess is that one of these balls is not like the others. They are samples, not final product, and I bet something got scrambled somewhere along the line. The yarn is a nice 70-30 wool-nylon blend, with aloe added (I never understood this. Won't it wash out?) that I bet will be an excellent meat-and-potato sock yarn to have on hand. The colors are vibrant and fun, and would fit the bill for "wild socks under my staid suit" wearing.
Remember yesterday when I was a snow wimp, and didn't go out? My next-door neighbor did. She left home in her SUV at around the same time I was going to head down - after it had stopped falling from the sky and the road was more or less clear, at around 3:00 or so. She made it about 2/10ths of a mile. They were still pulling her SUV out of the trees and the brook when Mr. Wonderful came through at 5:30. He stopped for a while. Apparently, although the rest of the locally known universe was free of snow and ice, once again our road was a disaster. I am glad that she was not harmed, and that her kids were not with her. Maybe now the town will have to deal with the road. Or maybe they are waiting for the school bus to end up in the brook?