March 31, 2004

Dublin' Our Fun!

No Gratuitous Story of the Day today since I spent so much time farting around with the Dublin Bay sock pattern that I ran out of time to think up anything even mildly interesting. But, yes, the sock pattern is done and is posted in the left-hand column. Any and all feedback, good, bad, indifferent (but not just kneejerk mean because you're actually pissed at your boss or significant other but can't very well take it out on them), will be much appreciated since this is only the second sock pattern I've documented from beginning to end, although many others have died on the vine. My apologies for the lame-o pictures but when you have to illustrate a pattern before you’ve even finished the first frickin' sock...

The pattern is three pages long (due to lots of white space; I'm a technical writer, what can I say?) and is in Adobe Acrobat format. If you don’t have Acrobat, you can go here to download it for free.

I also made one more small change to the blog but I'll leave that up to you to find, wink, wink.

Knitting Knews
See "farting around" above.

Dye Garden Dyegest
Not all of the refugees from the Germination Station fared well in the greenhouse but some others did quite well. In fact, here is a photo of the "Bright Lights" cosmos looking quite green and perky, instead of, as before, badly in need of a fainting couch.


And here is a picture of the the second round of indigo. These are doing much better than the first round which climbed firmly onto the fainting couch, clutched defiantly to it, and refused to get off. I have much greater hopes for this set since, as of last night, they were looking petite but buff and were proudly showing off their first sets of complete, fully formed double leaves. However, it occurs to me that a little prayer never hurts. Please, God, please—just one fully grown indigo plant? Pleeeeze, pleeeeeze, pleeeeeeeeeeeeze? Prayer, abject begging—what's the diff.


Posted by Ryan at 11:11 AM | Comments (13)

March 29, 2004

Do I Get Extra Points from the Blog Gods for Using the Phrase "Urinal Cakes?"

Don’t you hate it when you open the cabinet under the sink and throw something particularly gross, greasy and smelly into the garbage can and then you remember you hadn’t put the garbage can back after Garbage Day? Ick.


On a completely different note, I can't tell you how much The Mysterious K and I enjoyed the smorgasbord-y cornucopia of comments we received in response to the last blog entry. The fact that TMK herself posted three times should tell you all you need to know, since normally I have to coax her out of her hidey-hole with a piece of cheese. Truly, the comments are three-quarters of the fun of having a blog, since we never have a clue what our readers are going to say. Take this last set for, example: It included discussions about squid snacks, plastic models of food, “food mishaps,” octopus-wieners, chocolate, overseas living, cross-cultural communication, baseball teams, (Mariners, Yankees, Astros, so far), Opening Day, watching baseball on TV vs. actually going to the game, the ethics of divulging what was discussed at a quilting get-together, “edible knits,” tinking, frogging in general, frogging swatches, Fair Isle, lace knitting, and steeks! Wonderful! We have the best Dear Readers ever!

Knitting Knews
Thank you, everyone, for your interest in the new socks. Due to the “vine” motif, they are now officially named the “Dublin Bay Socks” after a beautiful climbing rose at TMK’s house. I could have named them after the climbing rose at my house but since I don’t know the name of the rose and, since the roses smell like rose-scented urinal cakes, we just call the vine the “urinal cake rose” and since I didn’t think “Urinal Cake Socks” would be a very nice name for my latest design, whot say we stick with Dublin Bay?

Here are a couple of pictures of the sock in its current state. As you can see, I opted for the eye of partridge heel because I thought it would best echo the “diamonds” in the lace pattern.



Debra (and others who want the pattern): I'd been hoping to get the pattern done this weekend, but it needed a little more work than I thought so it’s still only about 50% done. The sock (and, by association, the pattern) are also teetering on the edge of the tinking pond because I really want to continue the lace motif down the foot but hadn’t quite figured how to do it by the time I was ready to do the heel and gusset, but I knit the heel and gusset anyway. And the farther I get on the heel and the gusset, the more I wish I had continued the lace motif, so the more I knit, the closer I get to tinking. Definitely a vicious circle, literally and figuratively.

Woodworking World
Here a picture of TMK’s latest project, a wall cupboard. When done, it will have beadboard panelling in the back to make it extra purty. (Do ignore the thoroughly unlovely background in the photo; that is the door to TMK’s workshop and, as such, receives very little, if any, TLC.)


Poor TMK. Since all she ever built before she got serious about woodworking was compost bins, I keep telling her that the shadow boxes, the little table, and the wall cupboard are the worst compost bins I’ve ever seen, and have threatened to turn the table upside down and wrap it in chickenwire so we can start filling it with leaves and grass and sticks. But she puts up with my teasing with good humor, although I suspect she will soon start stalking me with her nailgun, if I don’t learn to behave myself.

Posted by Ryan at 10:44 AM | Comments (10)

March 26, 2004

Konichiwa, Y'all!*

When my brain is fried, and nothing exciting is going on in the world of TMK and Ryan (which I suspect is a consequence of its being Tax Time, which leaves me either catatonic with anxiety, or flapping my hands in the air in desperation, and with no room in my head for knitting or writing ideas), I thank God for Kooky Krafts. Here is a new web page I found recently which shows knitted (maybe crocheted?) food. It’s a Japanese site but, trust me, no explanations are necessary.

After careful inspection of the page, I noticed that almost everything is designed to perform a dual purpose, be fiber “art” and something else. For example, the bonbons are also pincushions, the cup of hot chocolate/coffee is a pincushion and a trinket box, and some of the pieces of the hamburger can be used as coasters—which leads me to a pop quiz: What is the secondary purpose of the “cookie?” I’ve figured it out; can you?

Since I don’t speak a word of Japanese but was utterly compelled to explore this site further, I just clicked around like a madwoman until I stumbled across another series of pages with more knitted items. When you have the time, these (picture-heavy) pages are very much worth exploring, whether ye be a knitter or no.

On this page, take a gander at the knitted shrimp tempura, i-cord noodles, the fried-egg-on-toast coin purse and the just-plain-ol’-fried-egg coin purse.

On this page, don’t miss what looks like a “snack plate” that has some lettuce, a fried egg, one strawberry, a slice of lemon, a piece of dry toast and, inexplicably, a small but whole bright red squid. Yummmmm.

I understand that the first picture on this page is of knitted sushi, but can anyone shed some light on the amorphous “pile o’ pink” in the lower right-hand corner of the picture? (Then again, as a confirmed sushiphobic, perhaps I don’t want to know…)

The chocolate chip cookie that looks like dog poop in the next picture on the same page is a wee bit unfortunate, but don’t miss the knitted pot stickers (complete with crispy, “browned” surfaces), yarn noodles, satsuma (complete with white stringy bits; my fave objet of all) and knitted ice cream!

On this page, we have a sweater with an intarsia window motif, including three-dimensional knitted lace curtains, and a Fair Isle sweater run amok.

Some pretty lacework and unique colorwork on this page and this page.

About half-way down this page, see the scarf with mittens attached. And on this page see the scarf with socks attached!

On this page, can anyone 'splain to me the little blue dog (cat? mouse?) that is sporting a hatching egg on its head?

And lastly, some interesting felted bags and flowers on this page.

*"Hello, Y'all!"

Knitting Knews
Dear Reader Janine has been very patiently helping me dip my toe into the world of two-color, two-handed knitting (not Fair Isle, mind, just two colors, red and cream to be exact). This week I tackled a two-handed, two-color, steeked swatch of a Norwegian snowflake motif on a 16" circular needle. And where is the picture of it?'s been frogged, thanks to my hyper-perfectionist tendencies which made me frog a frickin' swatch when I found a mistake. See, I started tinking it, and then the tinking got away from me and stitches started flying everywhere, so I started to frog it Just To Row X, and then the frogging got away from me, and stitches started flying everywhere, and three rows past Row X, I finally said (expletive deleted) and just ripped the whole thing off the needles. (Yup, TMK. That thing I was working on on Tuesday? Gone.)

So instead, I've been plinking along on a new sock, my knitting equivalent of comfort food, the "macaroni and cheese" of knitting. When I started this sock I had to ask, what do you when the yarn you're using is (a) insanely bright, (b) variegated, and (c) possibly self-striping so any complicated patterning is out of the question, yet the thought of doing the entire thing in stockinette makes your eyes roll back in your head? You add a little lace insert, is what.

(The Details: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn, "Child's Play" colorway, 72 stitches on size 1 dpns, lace pattern from "365 Knitting Stitches a Year Perpetual Calendar.")


Posted by Ryan at 10:43 AM | Comments (29)

March 24, 2004

How Time Flies...

Since I am a technical editor and web editor by profession and an internet surfer and information junkie by hobby, for me, it’s pretty much All Computers, All the Time. I’ve noticed lately, however, that the hi-tech concept of “time-slicing”—where minuscule segments of time are divided into even more minuscule segments and apportioned among a variety of tasks—seems to have leaked from the computer world into my “flesh and blood” life. For example:

Last night around 6:45pm, I realized a had three tasks I had to accomplish prontissimo: (1) Send four files to work over a, fortunately, slow connection; (2) prepare a broccoli-chicken stir-fry for dinner and (3) take a shower. So this is how the next few minutes went:

Plug phone line into laptop and launch AOL.
Take chicken out of the refrigerator.
Log in to AOL.
Cut up chicken, put chicken in marinade, cover and put in refrigerator.
Transmit first file.
Start rice.
Transmit second file
Take broccoli out of the refrigerator and slice it up.
Transmit third file.
Remove jewelry, shoes, socks and shirt.
Transmit fourth file.
Remove jeans, undergarments and glasses.
Log out of AOL.

Ta-da! By 6:51pm, the chicken was cut up and marinating, the broccoli was cut up into bite-size pieces, the rice was cooking, and I was standing in front of my laptop without a stitch on. (Wait—do you think this is what the inventors of time-slicing had in mind?)

Knitting Knews
While I labor away at my next Ryan Learns Two-Handed Knitting Swatch Complete With Steek, I thought I’d post a picture of the first finished (but unfelted) FiberTrends clog.


This project had been brought to a complete halt by the fact that I had run out of the green Cascade 220. I picked up a (perfectly matching!) skein from my LYS on Tuesday, started a new heel, and discovered that what had made perfect sense to me two weeks ago all of a sudden didn’t make sense anymore, and I kept making stoopid boo-boos. Clog #2 has now been frogged a couple of times, but I fully intend to jump back on the bandwagon and beat this project into submission. No freakishly weird combination of k1, m1 and short-rowing is going to get the best of me, no, sirree!

Posted by Ryan at 09:48 AM | Comments (4)

March 22, 2004

A "Terrible" Party

When co-workers asked me what I was going to do this weekend, I said I was going to a knitting party, which was true—I was going to a Knitting Soiree at the house of the Terrible Knitter of Kent. What I didn’t tell them was The Real Truth, that Knitting Soirees usually end up being about everything but knitting. I was at the Terrible Knitter’s house for, lessee, seven hours, and I knit ľ” of sock cuff—and even I’m not that slow of a knitter. So, wot happen'd? Well, in short, I:

  • played with the smoochywoochy-snookumwookums-cuddlebunny Border Collie

  • scrootched three of the four cats in Just the Right Places until they went cross-eyed and started to drool

  • talked a lot (no comments from Dear Readers who are familiar with my motormouth)

  • watched the daughters groom their horses and inhaled big snootfuls (snootsful?) of that rich, sweet, salty, leather-and-hay barn smell which someone should package and sell as a perfume

  • watched the daughters ride their horses and giggle, uh-lot

  • poked my nose into what everyone else was knitting (Kit's self-designed tam; Janine's celtic-inspired Fair Isle pillow; the Terrible Knitter's alien illusion-knitting scarf; and Sheila's Elizabeth of York) or spinning (Sheila's variations-on-bright-pink silk)

  • poked around in knitting books

  • noshed on snacks

  • snarfed down the lovely dinner of salmon (barbecued by the Terrible Knitter’s husband, henceforth referred to as “God;” don’t ask why), salad, scrumptious two-flavored homemade bread made with pesto dough and sun-dried tomato dough braided together, and a really sweet and spicy carrot cake

  • and capped the evening off being mesmerized by a symphony of frog chirps, which one never gets to hear in the city.

Thank you, Terrible Knitter, for opening up your home to us and hosting such a fun, relaxing get-together!

And what did The Mysterious K do while I was off Not Knitting? She finished her sidetable! Here, a picture of the table in progress, as she finished putting (three? four?) coats of polyurethane finish on it:


And, here, a couple of pictures of the finished objet. Note the tapered legs, the result of the TMK's Satanic Dance With the Table Saw.



Now that the table is finished, we did start down that path that all knitters are familiar with, the path of "why, I could have just gone to the store and bought one for ___ dollars," but, in the best interest of TMK's mental and emotional health, decided it was best not to pursue that line of thinking...

Knitting Knews
At recent Guild and Feral Knitters meetings, I have been carefully scrutinizing the various ways knitters do two-handed knitting and by this weekend I felt I had done enough “research” to give it a go myself. Here are the results:



In the interest of complete disclosure, not knowing any better, I did purl across the back, dropping one color and picking up the next but, now, after some looks from other knitters that said, "oh, you poor befuddled twit" and the accompanying helpful suggestions, I now know to knit in a circle, make a steek, and just cut the fabric. Look out, world!!

Posted by Ryan at 10:17 AM | Comments (14)

March 19, 2004

Shear Fun!

On Wednesday I toyed ever so slightly with the idea of not going to Guild—a first for me—but I’m so glad that I overcame that fleeting moment of utter insanity. What a lovely night it was with interesting speakers, a passel of Dear Readers (plus one) to tease and be teased by, and an above-average show and tell.

Our speaker was Karen Olson of Alpacas of Cloud Ranch in Oroville, Washington. Using a slideshow, she showed us images of the different colors of alpaca fleece (apparently there are 20-something natural colors recognized here in the United States, and 100-something recognized in South America!), her ranch, her 83-year-old mother toiling along with the best of ‘em on said ranch, and her “babies.”

The post-shearing pictures of Karen’s alpacas had us all rolling in the aisles. Apparently one does not shear the head area on an alpaca so, after shearing, they look lean, mean and quasi-anorexic everywhere except their heads which, in stark contrast, remain hugely fluffy, puffy, wooly and clownish. One could almost imagine the weight of the “head fleece” causing the poor alpaca to tip forward onto its nose, eyes wide with astonishment, hind legs flailing, and Karen and Mum rushing out to the paddock to right the poor thing. Along these same lines, Karen also showed a priceless picture of one alpaca that was sheared just when their last blade became dull and unusable so the poor dear had to walk around with his entire mid-section closely shaved but his hindquarters and front end as fat and fluffy as ever. You know he got pantsed and wedgied at school.

The surprise of the evening was that accompanying Karen was Betty Roberts, “The Spinning Wheel Lady,” who builds her own spinning wheels and spinning chairs. The spinning wheels she brought were remarkable: small, compact, dark, sturdy, made of hardwood, and every inch a work of art. Some had special carved embellishments and one was inlaid with dried, pressed wildflowers. I am not a spinner but even I was in awe of this lady’s artistry! (Late Friday Morning Update! Thanks to Dear Reader Melinda, we have access to pictures of a Betty Roberts spinning wheel, Melinda's own wheel, in fact, and an example of the kind with inlaid dried flowers. Thank you, Melinda!)

The highlight of the evening, however, was that I met yet another Dear Reader, Rebecca of Supergirl. I’ve always been fascinated by Rebecca because she is (a) a knitter and (b) a triathlete. How do you suppose she combines such a restful, mind- and soul-quieting hobby as knitting with the need to gogogo until you drop? Of course, this is being asked by someone who, two years ago, planted one, one!, frickin’ tulip bulb and threw her back out. I am so not triathlon material. (Oh, my God—just the thought is bringing tears of laughter to my eyes.) But I won't hold the fact that she is a Renaissance woman against her, especially since, like all of my Dear Readers, she was lovely, easygoing and friendly, and I sincerely hope she returns to Guild next month!

Knitting Knews
Below, a picture of the finished Catalina socks. Taking this picture was quite the adventure. I took about three or four pictures initially but every one turned out dark and smudgy. I complained bitterly to the long suffering TMK that her camera wasn’t working. She was skeptical, and rightly so, since after a couple of moments of looking at the images on the camera she handed the camera back to me and informed that, yet again, I had managed to take photos of my own boobs. Sigh.


Special Note: A big heartfelt thank you goes out to Dear Readers Greta and Bren whose sweet and uplifting emails made yesterday a great day to be alive! (Bren, do you have a blog? If so, lemme know and I'll link your name to it.)

Posted by Ryan at 09:17 AM | Comments (9)

March 17, 2004

Meditations on Things Green

Happy Saint Patrick's Day, Dear Readers! shamrocks.gif

greenhousecomplete.jpgSpeaking of things green, despite the mental and emotional torture it inflicted on us, the piece a’ crap greenhouse we assembled and installed in The Mysterious K’s back yard last year may, just may, be redeeming itself this spring. No thanks to some gusty winds that roared through, the greenhouse was pushed off its base in the fall, despite the fact that it was fiercely anchored here and there with bungee cords and whatever other creative anchoring devices we could find. A few days ago, TMK decided it was time to reintroduce the greenhouse and its base to one another. To do so, she had to enter the greenhouse—which is semi-opaque so you can’t really see into it from the outside—and discovered the most monstrous, luscious, bright green crop of weeds imaginable, much bigger than the weeds outside the greenhouse—empirical evidence that the greenhouse was, indeed, doing its magic, greenhouse-y, warmer-inside-than-outside thing.

The piece a’ crap greenhouse truly was thisclose to being sent to the pound but now we are, instead, contemplating transferring our sad, prostrate Germination Station seedlings out there to see if they can be helped along with a little greenhouse voodoo. We still glare at the greenhouse when we go near so it knows it is still a greenhouse non grata but secretly we are feeling a softening of our hearts towards it. Shhh; don't tell!

Knitting Knews
Here we have a picture of my latest project, what I call the Metaphor for Life Sweater. I am using this free Internet pattern.


The name comes from the fact that I've had the pattern for many, many moons but have been afraid to start it because of—and I'm embarrassed to admit this now—the area between the stripes where two colors overlap. I knew how to do everything else: k1p1 rib, stockinette, the decreases, knit the sleeves, knit the neck, seam the finished pieces, and so on, but the fear of knitting two rows using two colors simultaneously was enough to hold me back. Of course, once I started knitting the sweater, the two-color rows turned out to be insanely, even laughably, easy, and even gave me a chance to practice (successfully!!) my two-handed knitting, and the sweater is turning out to be one of the most enjoyable things I've ever knit, thanks in large part to the bright colors. Hence "Metaphor For Life"— allowing something that is scary, but which ultimately proves to be small and inconsequential, to keep us from trying something new and rewarding.

The vital statistics: I'm knitting the 2-year size. I'm substituting purple, red and yellow Plymouth Encore for the purple, red and mint green Berella (yes, the part that looks blue in the photo is actually a bright purple). I had to go up one needle size (from sizes 5 and 7 to 6 and 8).

Guild tonight! Who's going to be there?

Posted by Ryan at 10:07 AM | Comments (11)

March 15, 2004

Double Trouble

Some photos dedicated to my Corgi-owned readers and to anyone who enjoyed the March 3 entry about our private “dog walker.”

Below, a picture of Frankie’s playmate Rico, looking like a junkyard dog but, in fact, he’s just surrounded by toys: a blue rubber dumbbell, a Frisbee, a pink hedgehog, a tennis ball, a basketball, a purple pacifier, and a “hamburger.” All of the toys are supposed to be in the black container. Ahem.


A classic example of the difference between Rico and Frankie is the way they exit TMK’s house on their way to the backyard and all these toys for more playtime after their morning constitutional. Rico, ever the mischievous boy, just blasts right through the back screen door, leaving it swinging and banging in his wake. Frankie screeches to a halt in front of the screen door and waits, nose quivering 1/64” from the screen, for someone to open it for her. On days when their timing is off, it can be a bit of a train wreck. But not to fret; we massage Frankie's nose thoroughly to get rid of the mesh-shaped indentations.


This second photo is Frankie and Rico on their morning constitutional. Again, notice the difference: Frankie is trotting steadily along; mischievous and enthusiastic Rico, on the other hand, in his manic desire to reach TMK (who is taking the photo and who, mind, he sees every morning), is scrambling and pulling and lunging and not paying the leash no nevermind. (Can't you just sense him gacking on his collar?) And, yes, those are the legs our of our hero, the dog walker.



Lastly, a photo of Frankie's furry butt as she lies in her “den,” under the blanket, under TMK’s legs.


Knitting Knews
No photos today but I'm pleased to report that the Catalina socks are finished! I never realized until this project that knitters are so powerful that we can toy with the laws of the space-time continuum. To whit: While I was knitting these socks, I saw the time that I had already spent on them stretching endlessly behind me and the time that I still needed to spend on them stretching endlessly in front of me, and I felt like a True Martyr for continuing to plow along on The Project That Would Never Get Done. But as soon as I was done, I thought, Wow, that didn't take long, and felt like an Efficient and Fast Knitter for having knitted them up so quickly. See? Continuum, shmontinuum!

If I may say so myself, I'm thrilled with this pattern. The first time I used Fixation, I loathed it. It felt as if I was knitting with extruded rubber and the finished socks felt gummy. But this time, the Fixation felt cottony and perfect for the airy, summery feeling I was aiming for. On the down side, I think one sock is slightly longer than the other, despite my measuring, measuring again, and measuring yet again, but perhaps my sister, for whom these socks are intended, has one foot slightly bigger than the other and it will look as if I did it on purpose. (Wait; did I say that out loud?)

I also finished the first clog and, boy howdy, was that a strange trip to some outlandish universe. This pattern requires you to do some Truly Odd Things, inlcuding knitting exactly the same thing twice for the same clog. In the long run it's worth it though, since I understand that anyone who knits these clogs comes out the other end a licensed architect.

Posted by Ryan at 09:46 AM | Comments (13)

March 12, 2004


I think I've reached a certain pinnacle in my blogging, because today, in my comments, I received my first “Rock On!” For a middle-aged old fart like me to get a “rock on” is kinda special. Thank you, Carine!

A quick report on my morning which, so far, has been very productive. By 8am, I had gotten a lot of knitting and a lot of reading done. The catch is, it was in my car. During my commute. And I’m the driver. Need I say more?

Knitting Knews
The second Catalina sock continues to look much like the first one although, for some reason, smaller. Poo. And the clog looks much the same as it did before, although it now has its cuff, which had to be constructed in a truly odd way: Knit the cuff twice as wide as the finished height; from the inside, pick up the loops from the first row of the cuff; fold the cuff over; hold the two left-hand needles together; and do what amounts to a three-needle bind off. Truly freaky. (I was concerned about the fact that the cuff was leaning to the outside until I saw Yarn Harlot's picture which showed the same thing—and this girl Knows Her Clogs, being, by her own admission, addicted to knitting them.)

In the absence of any progress on my current projects, I wanted to give a nod to Robbyn of The Yarn Path who, in my opinion, is creating some marvelous “knitting how-to” pages with precise instructions and clear, step-by-step photos. Hop on over to her page and check out her entries on edge selvedges, cabling without a cable needle, decreasing, knitting backwards, and making bobbles.

Posted by Ryan at 10:40 AM | Comments (6)

March 10, 2004

Reality, Shmeality

Perhaps it’s time for The Mysterious K and me to stop playing (or, in my case, watching the playing of) so many video games. In “Maximo,” TMK's current virtual adventure, she has to collect gold coins and diamonds to buy armor, various and sundry weapons, and “life power.” To make things interesting, our hero Maximo is occasionally attacked by a crow that steals the treasure he has so industriously collected. The attacks are preceded by long moments of overly dramatic cawing so no one is really surprised when the crow swoops in and steals the treasure. Which explains why, when I walked to my car yesterday and heard the cawing of the crows that haunt my neighborhood, I clutched all my belongings tighter to me and hurried to the car in order not to lose any gold or diamonds. And then I realized that (a) I don’t have any gold or diamonds, (b) I was being an idiot, (c) I was losing my grasp of reality, and (d) we had played just a wee bit too much Maximo this weekend.

Knitting Knews
Here is the chemo cap which I finished last week, sitting on the plastic container which I used to block it—if one can wash and block acrylic anymore than one can wash and block a plastic bag. Indeed, the hat looked just the same after vashing und blocking it as it did before, although perhaps the brim curled itself into a slightly tighter, slightly more punctiliously perfect roll.



This was my first hat, and was a real pleasure to knit, physically and emotionally, since it’s for a Very Good Cause. This is also the first pattern I’ve used that didn’t have a picture, so knitting it was a complete and utter adventure. I was particularly surprised and enthralled by watching the swirl on the top develop. Who knew?

Last night’s Feral Knitters was another hit, with a good 15 knitters in attendance, many of whom brought beautiful Fair Isle tam o'shanters for show and tell. For a detailed description of the event, hop on over to FiberRavenSoiree. To Sheila's description, however, I would like to add a personal note. About halfway through the evening, I looked around at the table where I was sitting, which was occupied primarily by me and Dear Readers, and it struck me that I was surrounded by people who know me, who know about my lifestyle, who know about TMK—and didn’t care one whit, in a veryvery good way. When you have had good friends refuse to speak to you when they find out you’re gay, when you live every day with the tell/don’t tell question hanging over your head, when you have to worry about losing your job if anyone finds out about your orientation, when people have yelled ugly things at you in the street, those special moments when you are surrounded by warm and accepting and unquestioning people—who yet refuse to allow you to take yourself too seriously—are very precious indeed. Thank you to my Dear Reader Feral Knitters. You know who you are!

Posted by Ryan at 11:05 AM | Comments (17)

March 08, 2004

I'm Supposed To Do WHAT?

This weekend I watched “Pleasantville,” one of my favorite movies, and the theme of being in a place that is 100% familiar yet 100% unfamiliar reminded me of my first experience at a fast-food restaurant. Understand now, because I grew up overseas and only permanently moved to the States at college-age, I didn’t go to a fast-food restaurant until I was, oh, 18, a fact which usually brings gasps of disbelief from my friends.

Knowing how bizarre the experience would be, having been a fast-food virgin himself a few years previously, my brother took me to my first fast-food restaurant more as part of a sightseeing and educational expedition than as an effort to get any lunch. And thank goodness for him and his explanations, or I would have starved to death right there, on the floor, in the middle of McDonald's.

Imagine what I saw or, better yet, didn't see: No maitre-d’ or hostess, no utensils or napkins carefully set out on tables, no waiters, no bus boys, no menus, no twee little baskets of bread, no glasses of refreshing ice water, no overstuffed booths, no strategically placed walls shielding the patrons from the kitchen noise—nothing, in fact, that even remotely resembled a restaurant. Imagine how wide-eyed I must have gotten as my brother explained how it all worked, how you stand in any one of multiple haphazard lines, you pick something to eat from a huge word- and picture-board that towers over your head, every item on which starts with "Mc," you tell the person behind the counter what you want to eat, he shouts the order into a microphone, you leave the line and mingle in a lost fashion with the other people who have already put in their orders, and two minutes later someone slaps on the counter your meal—a small orange tray with an amorphous lumpy something wrapped in wax-y, tinfoil-y paper, greasy French fries in a cardboard container, and a drink in a wax cup. Then you go to a haphazard little station, you procure some ketchup in tiny plastic packets, a napkin, and a straw, and you eat at a mustard-color table that is barely large enough for two average-sized adults. Then you take your little orange tray, tip it into the maw of a large garbage receptacle, slap the tray on top of the receptacle and head back to your car. Elapsed time? 7 minutes, 42 seconds.

In my defense, I wasn’t the only who suffered from culture shock. Ask my sister about the time the order-taker wouldn’t take her order because my sister refused to say “McChicken,” because it was just too stupid of a word. Either too stupid, or so funny that she laughed so hard she was left breathless, wheezy and unable to talk—I forget which.

Next entry, I learn to make long-distance phone calls instead of using a bush radio.

Knitting Knews
Despite my kvetching about using blue and green yarn uh-gain, I started the FiberTrend clogs, and spent a considerable part of Friday night cobbling together this strange object.



For people who aren’t familiar with this pattern, you first knit the sole (the green part in the picture) flat and back and forth but on circular needles. Then you join the two ends and start circular knitting. You knit a couple of rounds and then start working from the toe, short row-ing your way up to the cuff, which is where this project stands now. Truly the most bizarre pattern I have ever knit but fast and loads of fun.

I have a sneaking suspicion I won’t have enough green yarn for both sets of soles and cuffs, despite following the “recipe” posted by Churchmouse next to their knitted samples, but—feh—I’ll deal with that when I come to it.

Lisa, this knits up really fast so I encourage you to give it a try. Betcha you'd knit the second one!

Perclexed, I hope you've recovered from snorting Fresca out your nose, and thank you for the booga j bag suggestion. I suspect I'll succumb to knitting one of those one of these days!

My second get-together with the Feral Knitters tonight! I can't decide if I'm more excited about the knitting, the great company, or the thought of another strawberry scone and a glass of milk (now that I've got this ordering-from-someone-behind-a-counter thing all worked out).

Posted by Ryan at 10:47 AM | Comments (7)

March 05, 2004

Eau de Methane

One of the great free and fun adventures in life is trying new perfumes. Very occasionally, you hit the jackpot and find something that is "you," a perfume that mellows to a light cloud of scent that subtly accents every movement you make (or so we would like to think, eh, girls?). Or there are times like yesterday, when I tried a perfume on one wrist and an intriguing men's cologne on the other and spent the rest of the day smelling like a pimp that had spilled a strawberry milkshake on his pants. In fact, the perfume and cologne were so strong I smelled like a small army of pimps, all of whom inexplicably and en masse had spilled strawberry milkshakes on their pants. It was not pretty.

The smell reminded me of one of the houses we grew up in in New Jersey that was located halfway between a perfume factory and a dairy farm. Depending on the vagaries of the wind, our choices were: air that smelled like nuclear-powered strawberry jam interlaced with strong hints of concentrated rose syrup; air that smelled like methane and yard-deep piles of rotting manure; or, on days when the wind couldn't decide which way it wanted to blow, air that smelled like fresh, gooey cow patties that had been heavily spritzed with eau de parfum by a fussy farmer. Again, not pretty.

Knitting Knews
Now that the Aran pillow, the Aran baby sweater, and the chemo cap are all done, except for the second Catalina Sock, which I'm chugging along on, and the Perfect Sweater (which is calling me so pitifully and loudly from its bag that I have to stick my fingers in my ears and sing "la-la-la" every time I walk past it), I currently have no UFOs, and find myself in an unfamiliar knitting limbo. I'm toying with the idea of doing the Fibertrends clogs but I picked blue and green yarns for the clogs and just finished using using blue and green yarns for the chemo cap. Yawn. Complete knitter's ennui. I think this calls for another trip to the LYS (if you're keeping count, that's three visits in the past seven days) for something new and inspiring. Any ideas, Dear Readers?

Posted by Ryan at 09:27 AM | Comments (13)

March 03, 2004

Pet Therapy

Today I want to tell you a special story that is near and dear to my heart and is, I think, as close as one can get to living an O. Henry story:

Two years ago December (December 8th to be exact; how can we forget?), TMK ruptured two discs in her spine. Was she skydiving? Was she riding a raging bull in the rodeo ring? Was she bungee-jumping from a towering cliff? Was she performing a death-defying trapeze maneuver? Was she dancing a pas de deux or executing a grand jete? Not even close—she bent over to pick up a Christmas ribbon from the floor. What a plebeian way to have your life change so instantly and completely for a year.

The pain TMK was in was the kind that makes you break out in drenching sweat and feel waves of nausea and despair at the most infinitesimal movement. It was heart-wrenching to watch what she went through, but there was nothing we could do but take care of the day-to-day basics of life as best we could.

One of the casualties of her injury was our precious Corgi, Frankie. TMK could barely get out of bed, let alone walk her, and I was too busy with my work and my life and taking care of TMK to walk her either. (Although she was not neglected by any stretch of the imagination. One glance at her filled-to-overflowing toy box (her two filled-to-overflowing toy boxes in fact; one at my house and one at TMK’s) and the pantry full of the best dog food and dog treats money can buy will tell you all you need to know.)FrankieProfile.JPG

In the meantime, a block away from TMK lived an elderly gentlemen who also had a Corgi. Despite his age, the man was very athletic and energetic, hiking and biking on a regular basis and walking his dog two or three times a day. A couple of months into TMK’s Year of Utter Agony, the man’s Corgi succumbed to old age. Word got around the neighborhood about this Curious Situation: A young woman who had a Corgi that desperately needed walking but had no one to walk her; and an elderly gentleman who desperately wanted to walk a Corgi but had no Corgi to walk. I don’t remember exactly what happened next but I believe the man’s wife contacted TMK about having her husband walk Frankie—and a wonderful relationship was started. Every morning at about 7:45 the man would arrive at TMK’s door and take a leaping, joyful, excited Frankie out for a 45-minute walk and bring her back wet, muddy, aerobically exercised and thoroughly contented with life. Never in my life have I seen a more win-win-win-win situation: TMK could feel less guilty about Frankie and could focus on the business of getting better; I could feel less guilty about Frankie and could focus on the business of helping TMK get better; the man-without-a-dog had a dog to walk; and the dog-without-a-walker had someone to walk her.

After about six months of extensive doctor’s visits, acupuncture, pain killers, muscle relaxants, massage, and discussions about surgery, TMK discovered the miraculously therapeutic effects of swimming. Since she was completely hunched over and could only move very slowly, she opted to join a “seniors” swimming group at our neighborhood pool, and every day, millimeter by millimeter, she started to improve. For the last year she has been fine, the occasional twinge and a phalanx of half-empty bottles of medication the only reminder of the time she spent wishing the earth would just open up and swallow her.

Not being the kind who likes to be beholden to anybody, once she got better, TMK started feeling guilty about the fact the man was still coming over every day to walk Miss F. One day, in casual conversation with the man’s wife, TMK said that she was eternally grateful to the two of them for their help but that now that she was fully recovered she could resume walking the dog. The wife looked a little alarmed and said, “I don’t think you really understand what happened. When our dog died, my athletic, energetic, bustling husband essentially lay down to die. He stopped eating, he stopped exercising, he stopped caring. He would be dead now if it weren’t for his daily walks with your dog. Don’t you understand? We weren’t doing a favor for you; you were doing a favor for us!”

So the daily walks have become permanent, much to everyone’s satisfaction. In fact, the man and his wife got a new dog, a tri-color Corgi, and now he shows up every morning with his "son" in tow and off the three of them go, the tall, elegant, gray haired man, and his two short, chubby, tail-less companions.

Knitting Knews

Here are pictures of my pride and joy, the Aran baby sweater.

When I was seaming the sweater together, I found a whopping big boo-boo two inches into the back but I’m not letting that spoil my enjoyment of this wonderful little project (I’m not, I’m not, I’m not!). TMK asked me if I would knit it again and, the fact that I want to move onto something else aside, the answer is a resounding, yes! I recommend this pattern to anyone!



The chemo cap is almost done. The size 7 circular needle has taken me as far as it can in the decreases so I need to make another trip to the LYS to get size 7 dpns. Most likely this, My First Hat Ever, will be done tonight, just in time for my co-worker's chemo which starts on Thursday.

Posted by Ryan at 11:30 AM | Comments (14)

March 01, 2004

An Old Saw

After I posted and The Mysterious K read my entry for Friday, we commiserated a little bit, knowing that although the Red Dwarf topic was near and dear to our hearts, the series’ esoteric nature would probably make that day's entry of little interest to Our Dear Readers. We couldn’t have been more wrong! Red Dwarfians came out of the woodwork, quoting lyrics, quoting songs, and professing undying love for certain characters and scenes. Mwah and a big hug to all of you! Now back to eating lunch with my Mimosian anti-matter chopsticks and on to the Gratuitous Story of the Day.


On Sunday, upon returning to The Mysterious K’s house after running an errand, I glanced out the kitchen window and saw TMK standing in the yard looking slightly pale, slightly wobbly on her legs, and taking in big gulps of air. No, she was not having a stroke or a heart attack; she was recovering from a bout with her arch nemesis, The Table Saw, specifically the old one she inherited from her father. Ever since, during her high school “shop” years, TMK personally saw someone divest himself of some fingers using a table saw, she has been justifiably terrified of them.* So, for her, using the table saw goes something like this:

(1) Spend a week trying to convince yourself that the piece of wood you're supposed to cut using the table saw looks fine just the way it is (in this case, table legs that were square that needed to be tapered).

(2) Realize that you’re just copping out and you know it. This is helped along by your ever-so-supportive partner saying, “You’re just copping out and you know it.”

(3) Spend another week girding your loins and, finally, getting up the nerve.

(2) Enter the woodshop and give the table saw the hairy eyeball.

(4) Decide that sanding some other project looks ever so much more interesting and important so you do that instead.

(5) Lured by the sunshine, you leave the woodshop and go check out the new plants in the dye garden.

(6) Decide you’re thirsty and need a Diet Coke so off you go to the kitchen.

(7) Grab a Coke and spend half-an-hour watching Router Workshop on TV.

(8) Decide you're hungry so you pop a bag of popcorn and eat same.

(9) Realize your pile of laundry has gotten monstrously big so you put in a load of laundry.

(10) Scan frantically around the house for some other excuse not to go out to the woodshop and realize there are no more excuses. It Is Time.

(11) Enter the woodshop and give the table saw the hairy eyeball.

(12) Set up the “pusher” system you designed that allows you to stand as faaaaaaaaar away from the blade as possible and yet still push the wood through, hoping the entire time a major natural disaster will strike—like, oh, I don’t know, the 6.8 earthquake we had a couple of years ago—so you don’t really have to go through with using the infernal machine.

(13) Saw the wood, wincing, squinting, gritting your teeth, and holding your breath the entire time.

(14) Finish cutting the wood and take in a big gasp of air—which turns out to be one part air and one part sawdust.

(15) Spend ten minutes coughing sawdust out of your lungs.

(16) Stand outside the woodshop looking pale and feeling faint and wobbly.

(17) When your partner comes outside and asks what’s wrong, act butchly nonchalant and say, “Why, nothing. Why do you ask?”

(18) Wait until your legs stop wobbling and your hands stop shaking. Realize that that was only one of 32 cuts you have to make. Feel faint and wobbly again.

(19) Recover; head back into the workshop. Give the table saw the hairy eyeball.

(20) Repeat steps 13-19.

Today, Monday, TMK is physically and mentally exhausted and is convinced she has used up her entire life-time supply of adrenalin but she is now the proud owner of four beautiful tapered table legs.

*The fingers were reattached. TMK reports she saw the fingers and the owner all together in one big happy package at her last class reunion.

Knitting Knews
The good news: The Aran baby sweater is finished, complete with four little gold buttons!

The bad news: The photos came out super crappy (bright sunlight, bright red yarn, bright gold buttons—not a good combination) so I’ll have to wait until tomorrow or this weekend to take more.

The good news: I got quite a bit done on the chemo cap this weekend so here be a couple of photos. The blue part is just plain stockinette; the green part has a simple lace motif scattered throughout it. Since the recipient said “no wool,” I just resorted to using some Red Heart TLC yarn. The colors are very rich and the hat is turning out quite soft!



The bad news: I have officially Knit Too Much. My right hand became stiff and cramped and uncooperative on Sunday, so I’ll have to lay off the knitting until it gets better. Drat, I say; drat!

Dye Garden Dyegest
The Germination Station is turning out to be a bit of a bust, despite our best efforts. About 80% of the seedlings have grown super-tall and spindly and have fallen over on the dirt in a melodramatic faint, despite all of our attempts at throwing light, light and more light at them. I don’t mind losing most of the seedlings but I really want to try to make the indigo work. I have plenty more seeds, so I'll just start uh-gain. Perclexed/Debra/Fran: How are things going with your seeds?

Posted by Ryan at 01:02 PM | Comments (7)