Friday, August 28, 2009

I’m officially OLD.

At the risk of annoying the vast legions of knitters who are young at heart – last week I officially landed in the “old” category.

Old = you no longer have children.

The two people I’ve birthed are officially adult
s. Therefore: I’m old.

Granted, Matthew will probably be forever somewhere between 3 – 10 years old, mentally, and in spite of the difficulties involved it still brings joy to my heart to see how excited he gets over things that most adults will simply sniff at. We’ll never lack for excitement on Christmas Eve in this household! Nor will we get much sleep that night...

Since Matthew and Rachel were born on consecutive days the third week of August tends to become Birthday Week, a no holds-barred extravaganza of parental indulgence. Sort of.

We went to the County Fair. Matthew will ride anything and everything and I went on most of them with him, but I completely refused to go on the ferris wheel
and that horrible carousel swing ride (I’m terrified of heights) and after eating “fair food” we also nixed the ride that is really nothing more than a giant barf factory centrifuge.

Of course I had to check out the hand-craft exhibition – loved the quilts, but was a wee bit disappointed with the number of knitted/crocheted items displayed – a tiny fraction of the quilts. The winners were beautiful but it was a mere handful compared to previous years I’d seen. Every time I go to the fair I vow to submit something the following year… perhaps next year?

Over the weekend we went to Discovery Kingdom (locals will remember this as Marine World) and went on some seriously extreme rides.

I do love me those roller coasters, even the hundred feet high upside down twisty things, but still nixed that darned carousel swing. {{Shudder}}.

I also refused to go on any of the coasters that went backwards
– if I can’t see where I’m gonna die, I’m Not Going!

I took my current sock in progress but upon pulling out my WIP on the ride to Vallejo I found my KnitPicks circular needle cable broken right at the join. DH (what a love!) even stopped at the Michaels on the way so I could look for a replacement needle – alas, Michaels doesn’t acknowledge needle sizes below a US size 4.

On the upside, with a nothing-ventured-nothing-gained hope, I asked at Discovery Kingdom’s guest services and was really happy to find out they had passes for disabled guests so we were able to bypass the few long lines and use the elevators to get to and from the rides. No waiting = no knitting. We still get (unfortunately) the glares for skipping lines – no one sees Matt going up and down stairs and has no idea how difficult it is on him and us – and that is always an unhappy situation. Matt looks just fine on level ground, but put a even a simple curb in the way and it become a whole 'nother story. Make it a dozen steps - yikes - lets just say one missed bleacher step got me a broken nose when Matt was fifteen years old and thirty pounds lighter...!

Sadly I discovered after our visit to to Discovery Kingdom that my cursed ginormous insteps wouldn’t fit the size I'd chosen for Queen Of Beads.... Splat – frogged!

While I wait for my KnitPicks replacement needle(s) and recover from my tragic visit to the frog pond, I’ve returned to my Hey Teach! Cardigan.

So silly – with the back and sleeves done, I had maybe ten rows to finish the front pieces before I abandoned this last year to the cold weather. The fronts are now done and with luck I’ll complete the button bands in the next day or three and have an Actual Finished Object – YAY!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

So. Sock Summit.

Sock Summit was pretty much everything that I might have hoped for. Amazing people. Fabulous yarns. Outstanding classes. Voodoo doughnuts. I have to say I hated the lighting in the convention center – a migraine inducing set of yellowish fluorescents that had me on a steady dose of Imitrex, leaving me pretty loopy a lot of the time. Yech.

It was almost too much to believe at times. Barbara Walker is likely one of the most amazing people I've had the privilege to listen to. Tina Newton and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee cemented their statuses as goddesses in my book.

Parts of the trip were lonely and sad though. All of my stupid insecurities came screaming to the forefront, leading me to babbling like an idiot trying desperately to fit in and be liked. And failing miserably. I'm such a dork! In spite of myself I managed to make a few new friends and I hope to see some of them again. I wish I'd taken better pictures of them, but every last one is blurry.

The Ravelry party was big fun and I was glad I made myself go when what I really wanted to do was to hide in my hotel room. They handed out a really nice swag bag full of goodies!

I didn't have any particular shopping list and so I bought the things that really called to me. I blame the combination of Imitrex and wool fumes. But I'm not saying sorry ;-) It was really hard – there were so many beautiful hand dyes there and I have a long list of vendors I want to purchase from in the future.

All of these pretties make me happy! It is really hard to pick out a favorite from these… I was tickled to find a vendor who was selling items from her stash and purchased a skein of Kauni yarn that is bigger than my head and a skein of a beautiful lavender lace weight – each for $10.00.

At every fiber event I've gone to there is always one particular yarn that captures my heart and I find myself going back to that booth in a vain attempt to talk myself out of buying it. This time it was the gorgeous skein of pink/ grey/lavender colorway called Sakura from Wool Candy, shown in the left photo above, second from the left. Next to it are two skeins of Bugga! which was crazy popular and sold out in minutes. Of course I couldn't leave without my Blue Moon fix either!

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I hearby commit to not try not to bitch about all of my petty and mundane problems.

Wednesday morning started out sort of badly. Tuesday afternoon DH braved the mob at the local Comcast office to procure a snazzy new cable modem to replace the relic I've been using for years. The pretty new box initially refused to connect properly and after a few beatings remote resets grudgingly began working. And promptly failed sometime later that evening.

That same Wednesday morning in the hours between declaring the modem dead, trying to resurrect my original modem, and having prolonged hissy-fits about said modems, the bookkeeping goddess from my upgrade-in-progress client called me with Very Bad News (had I seen it on the news?) – our mutual client's warehouse had been pretty much destroyed in a fire in the wee small hours of Wednesday morning. The adjacent offices were more or less okay, but the warehouse (where all of the real work happens) and major portions of the electrical and network wiring were gone. This pretty much put an end to my fussing over a stupid modem issue.

Fortunately the main server room wasn't damaged and the equipment is now in the process of being set up in a small branch office in the Modesto area. The network guy told me the servers stank of smoke when they were started back up, and my fingers are crossed that there isn't any permanent damage done. Fortune again smiled when all of the hard copy reports were found undamaged – a huge stroke of luck for an old funky system that purged all of the detail data after posting. No electronic audit trails here, folks. Move along now…

There are regular warnings in the vast internet content about disaster preparedness but it is altogether another thing when disaster actually pulls up a chair and sits down for a spell. My stomach just turns when I think about what it must have been like for the company principals to face the smoking reality of a fire.

I'm going to be researching offline secure backups as soon as I get a bit of a break. While my work stuff is usually replicated on client sites, all of my financial stuff is sitting here in my little office and even though I have regular backups I'd lose it all if my house were destroyed.

Food for thought. What if the worst did indeed happen?

It is one thing to decide what valuables to grab as you fly out the door, but an entirely different thing when it comes to the electronic detritus and miscellany that we take for granted.

Speaking for myself, I'd be… well, not devastated, but definitely peeved if I were to lose all of the knitting patterns I've collected over the years. Lots of those patterns only exist in electronic form. Assuming the worst, I'd lose thousands of stitch patterns alone in my collection of books!

I'm not saying I'm going to chain myself to my scanner for the next month or so – but still… all of the "stuff" in my "knitting' directory will go along for the ride when I set up an offline backup, along with all of the treasured family photos, videos, and recordings of Rachel's music. They're irreplaceable.

PS - evidently my linking skills are pretty sad - I've (hopefully) fixed the link to Ray's Baccalaurate performance.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Knitting Free Content

Well, almost knitting free. I really wanted to have my Aeolean Shawl done for Rachel's Baccalaureate, but fell short by three rows. Three very very loooonnnng rows, each one seeming to take an hour longer than the previous one. There just was no way to finish and block the danged thing in time.

Perhaps by tomorrow - Graduation Day! Unfortunately there is a strong possibility of rain and/or thundershowers so my fingers are definitely crossed in hopes of dry weather. Who'da thunk the weather would be wet and cool at this time of year?

The Baccalaureate itself was actually really nice - not a lot of speeches and some wonderful dance and music performances. Seventy one graduating seniors (71!) received a beautiful medal for having a 4.0 or better GPA.

I got an almost-decent recording of Ray's performance. It'll never win any awards (and there is a bit too much of me rustling around/dropping the program noise) but it will do for now.

This is Rachel & Kelsey playing "Duet in G Major" by W.A. Mozart - Rachel is usually the higher voice of the two flutes.

Friday, May 29, 2009

I’ll take a slice of that woecake.

Sock Summit 2009.

I've been anticipating this so much and made the $$ decision to skip Sock Camp in favor of SS09. Though I knew there was a lot of interest in this event it never crossed my miniscule mind that I wouldn't get any of the classes I wanted. Initially that is what happened, and an unfortunate combination of conference calls and appointments made me miss the second go-round of available classes. !%!#!@#$.

Later in the afternoon I lucked into getting one of the classes on my list – a six hour class on Thursday - and I was hesitating about going at all for one class until Terry rightfully pointed out that this will likely be a singular event. Given the difficulties the organizers have had I'd be gobsmacked if they decided to try for another. I can only imagine the amount of work that has gone into setting up Sock Summit and to see the registration process totally implode because the the response was epic... ugh!! The server meltdown was probably Tina and Stephanie's worst nightmare come true, and my heart goes out to them.

Anyhoo. Focusing on the positive: the hotel room is booked and I'm going! I haven't booked a flight because I've got fingers crossed that the stars will align and I'll be able to snag another class or two. I'm mulling over trying a few burnt offerings… perhaps a skein of Wollmeise in exchange for a Colorful Stitches class?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Muddling on.

I'm still kicking, and still knitting. My resolution to blog on a regular basis was pretty much hosed by work demands and (in spite of my moniker) the need to sleep now and then. Apologies to Grace and Marie for not seeing your comments earlier!

Shortly after Stitches, my bread-and-butter client had a specific do or die deadline for the software that I'd been a team member on for what seems like forever. Many, many late nights and all-nighters followed. I may claim to being a night owl, but going on short rations for sleep leaves me deeply cranky and paying for it with migraines. Happily the worst is over – the software build has gone to QA and I'm going with the No News Is Good News scenario. I haven't heard that my specific portion of the project is tanking so it must be okay!

On the other good news front, a long-time client is upgrading their old-as-dirt software. It is truly scary to see comment lines in the existing stuff that dates back to the late '70s. Seriously! The bad news is that there is absolutely no documentation on this system. Nada, zilch, zippity-do-dah. Painful is the definition of having to reverse-engineer everything. The most excellent part of this has been to discover that the bookkeeping goddess that stepped in to help out is a knitter! It is so much fun to show someone websites like Ravelry and Knitty – I tend to take for granted how much is available in the vast online content and that not everyone is as hooked-in addicted as I am.

Warning: The following content contains Parental Bragging and should only be read by those with extreme tolerance.

Additional good news: Ms. Ray was invited to be a participant in her high school Baccalaureate. She told me this on Mother's Day as a sort of gift, and I have to admit that I got a bit misty-eyed. I also have to own up to the fact that I was a bit baffled when I had a moment to think on it – to me, a baccalaureate is either a degree or a priest/pastor's blessing on a graduating class. I certainly didn't hear of one in my high-school's graduating class. But then again that was (ahem!) several decades ago.

Now it seems that a baccalaureate is more of a celebration by and for the graduating class with various students performing for faculty, family, and friends and it is an honor of sorts to be a participant. Usually this is by audition but Rachel and Kelsey, her duet-partner last year, were asked by the music department teacher to take part – no audition – and they'll be performing the Mozart piece that they took to last year's State Ensemble competition where they were awarded a Gold/Command Performance. It is a fun piece that works well with both of their strengths – Kelsey is a gifted musician with an amazing range, particularly with the lower octaves, and Rachel is strong on the playful lilting quality that makes Mozart a joy to listen to. I hope I can get a decent recording, and perhaps with luck, figure out how to post it.

Wednesday night was her last performance in the school band. Rachel has had the wonderful fortune to have some truly gifted and dedicated music teachers and I left the concert knowing how much I'm going to miss all of it – seeing all of these kids from their first screeching violin performance, through the squeaking clarinets and off-key trumpets, past the youth symphony group performing in the sweltering heat in Austria's Schönbrunn Palace, to the full-on symphony group playing a standing ovation medley from The Barber of Seville… what an amazing journey.

And it is official:

Her prom date is now Boyfriend.

This is the funniest picture from the pre-prom dinner – the swim team girls! Those shoulders are why all but one ended up in a halter dress.

Okay I'm done. Actual knitting content follows.

I was plugging away on Something Blue (Wendy Bernard's Something Red pattern) when we went through a really warm spell and I completely lost the desire to knit a cozy soft merino sweater.

I do love the Malabrigo worsted and I'm happy that it is working in spite of two different dye lots (I've been alternating lots every other row).

I'll blame credit Thayer and her beautiful Ishbel for sending me down yet another rabbit hole and I wholeheartedly recommend Ishbel for a quick fun knit. I used The Plucky Knitter's MCN in the colorway "Brickhouse" - in real life it is a really pretty red that reminds me of raspberries and cream.

It would likely have been a whopping three days from start to finish had I not doggedly attempted to add beads to it, but the perfect beads were just a wee bit too small to cooperate and all I got for my efforts in trying to force them on was very sore fingers.

I'd been itching to cast on the Aeolian Shawl since its debut in Knitty and realized that I had what I thought was the perfect yarn for it, purchased from Ceallach Dyes last year's Maker Faire and I'm really pleased with how it is working here. Unfortunately the 100% merino is a bit prone to fuzziness if it is frogged repeatedly. You'd think after making the same mistake twice that I'd get it right on the third try. Or the fourth try. {Sigh}. You'd be wrong.

I've gotten to the last transition chart that leads to the final edging and, as with all triangular shawls, I think it is going to take as long to finish those last two charts as it took to knit up to this point.

I now know why knitters complain about nupps too. Mine are getting better but the first set or three look awfully wonky to me. I have my fingers crossed that the magic of blocking will cure them because right now my nupps look more like lumpy warts instead of the elegant pearls I've seen in other photos of the Aeolian shawls on Ravelry!

The Aeolian takes a lot of focus and I've been sorely lacking in this department for last week or so (hello, migraine!). I signed up a couple of weeks ago for the May Mystery Sock when I heard that Yarnissima was the designer – I've admired her work but had never knit one of her designs – so the Kiila Sock seemed like a good choice. My Knitting Attention Deficit Disorder is in full swing, it seems.

I've only gotten the to the first repeat of the pattern but have learned a lot getting there. Judy's Magic Cast On is easily the coolest method I've seen in my limited sock knitting experiece and I've also learned two new methods for right and left leaning increases.

This is a Sundara yarn, Rose over Charcoal, that I got in a Ravelry swap. A beautiful colorway and in general all of Sundara's color work makes me swoon but I am honestly sort of 'meh on the actual yarn. I still love Blue Moon deeply, but the base MCN yarn that The Plucky Knitter, Squoosh, etc., use has totally spoiled me rotten.

I'll be tattooing "Yarn Snob" on my body shortly.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Finally recovered from my post-Stitches hangover.

What is there to say? It was great as always – not as huge as some past years, but perhaps better because of it. My resolve to limit my spending was gleefully abandoned upon encountering the Blue Moon Mill Ends.

Pidgeonroof Studios had some pretty yummy stuff too. My first (and favorite purchase) was chosen in a swap for some of the recent Plucky Classic called "Container Garden" – I really needed to have at least two, and probably three skeins of this yarn, so I let the pretty blue Peliedes colorway go.

I still have a skein of "Vitals" and "Lemongrass" to pet in the meanti

Other goodies from Stitches insisted on coming home with me – the Miss Babs booth sure had my number. I had to have this beautiful laceweight that was named “Pewter” in other weights. My photo does it absolutely no justice. I’m thinking that this’d be perfect for Shipwreck. Add some gunmetal silvery-grey beads… oooohh… my toes just cramped up from curling…

Chocolate Roses.
How could I not buy this stuff? I don’t know what this will be, but after returning to her booth time and time again just to pet this yarn, two big skeins of Yowza Worsted weight had no choice but to come home with me. I don't know what this will end up being - maybe another February Lady?

I also found the colorway of Malabrigo that DH requested for a hat. Call it buttercup, sunshine, whatever. I see urine yellow. He, however, loves it. It is now a Koolhaas Hat
, and I have still a decent sized gob of it left.There has to be something good to do with the leftover chunk but I’m so not a fan of yellow that I can’t summon up any ideas at all...

I took only two classes this year – Challenging Japanese Stitches, and Celtic Cables. The Challenging Japanese stitches class was indeed challenging – I’m a reasonably fast knitter and I found myself struggling to keep up and even skipped one of the test swatches. A great three hour class that probably should have been a six-hour class. The sample franken-swatch I produced is not remotely fit for publication; at some point I hope to go through the swatch samples again one at a time and post the results. A couple of them were really beautiful and had a lot of potential for future designs. One or two were… ahem… not my style (think bobbles on steroids). I’m not a fan of bobbles, being already somewhat round and bobble-shaped myself.

Celtic Cables was great fun. I’d already purchased the Continuous Cables book last year and tried one or two of the examples… and failed miserably. Melissa Leapman is a delightful teacher and has an absolute passion for the subject that shone through the entire class.

We started with a simple swatch:

Then did a more complicated one:

Then I did this one at home, just for fun.

It still has its issues with some gapping at the increase point, but with some practice I could totally do this.

Funny story: two years ago at Stitches I literally stalked a woman through the Market wearing the most amazing red hoodie/cardigan with a beautiful celtic knot on the back. Just about the time I was working up the nerve to ask her where the pattern came from someone else beat me to it – and it turned out to be Melissa, wearing the very sweater featured on the cover of Continuous Cables. Taking her class was a no-brainer for me after seeing that sweater. If you have the opportunity to take one of her classes do it.

I also started – and stopped – the most recent installment of the BMFA club shipments. The My Blue Heaven colorway left my fingers stained a vivid blue. I felt bad about complaining about the skein, given all the trouble they’ve had with poor quality yarn from their mill. But when my daughter saw my stained fingers and issued an “eeeewwww” comment I emailed Blue Moon about my possibly having a fluke skein with had a dye hadn’t quite set properly. Sometimes things happen – and Blue Moon is a class act, so my replacement skein is on its way. I
do so wish that they’d send along the elves who will string all those darned beads for the Queen of Beads pattern however.

Other random items -
a Branching Out scarf, destined to be a birthday present made for a dear friend of ours. This was a super fast knit, done using six skeins of Debbie Bliss Pure Cashmere. Yummy soft. Foolishly I forgot to get a final photo though, just the picture of the blocked scarf. I modified it slightly, knitting each half separately then grafting the two pieces together so the ends matched. Yes, that is such a Libra thing to do... I can't stand things that are mismatched or out of balance!

Other miscellaneous news: DD has been accepted to several more colleges, though not UCLA, which makes me both happy and sad. And she broke a bone in her foot in a silly/clumsy moment. Much grief has followed on that subject – she cannot participate in the Prom fashion show (that big ugly black boot and crutches not being much of a fashion statement). The boot and crutches put a huge damper on the upcoming music-cruise-to-Mexico trip as well as prom night itself.

She is off the swim team too - this is a huge blow, and she is more pissed off about this than anything else. She initially refused to accept a handicap placard and has to be forced to use the few elevators available at her school (which is built on a hill for cryin’ out loud!) Her teachers are being nice enough to let her out of each class a couple of minutes early and her friends are helping her by carrying her backpack, and are driving her to and from school. This weekend she will be performing in the adjudicated music festival that she participates in every year... and having to stand on one foot to perform a seven minute solo with sore hands and arms is going to be challenging, to say the least. Wish her luck!