September 19, 2007

Wednesday Morning Grab Bag

(No postings Friday or next week, Dear Readers. Will be taking a short weekend trip to Eastern Washington (remember Monitor? ) to…well, for no reason, and will then be taking a week off to do such things as getting the driveway pressure-washed, getting new progressive-lens glasses for my old-fart eyes, and having a mammogram (and hoping to God I don’t break the mammogram machine this time). Oo-la-la! Don’t you just wish you were living my Hollywood glamour life? Just call me Paris, dahling.)

After I packed up the pink Steam Scarf and shipped it off to the wilds of Arizona, I discovered in a basket a small, leftover ball of the pink Cascade 220 I had used to knit the scarf. What the…? Why was there leftover yarn? If the scarf could be any old length—the longer the better, actually—why hadn’t I just knitted up those last measly 30 yards? Perhaps this picture will provide a clue. Here, the red Steam Scarf. The part resting on the hearth? Where I started. The part up at the mantel? Where I am now. The yellow arrow? Where I got bored. Ah.

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Good guesses, everyone, on the giftie I received while attending Stephanie’s presentation but, no, it’s not real sheep’s knuckles (euw) and, no, it was not another Shrinky Dink and, yes, it fits in my back pants pocket and is, as we speak, still there, if perhaps slightly rounded now by my gloots. Have I taken a photo yet? No. Will you all have moved on to more interesting things—like watching paint dry or cement set—when I do finally get around to taking a photo? Most likely. C'est la blog vie.

By the way, I must explain Naomi’s comment about “squirrel poop,” lest people start crossing to the other side of the street when they see her or, by association, me. The background story: In the Olympic Squirrel pattern, between the squirrel’s derriere and the beginning of the tail, is, inexplicably, one gray stitch, making every squirrel look as if it has had a tiny, er, squirrely accident and needs tiny squirrely Depends. See?

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While at Stephanie's event, I showed this to Naomi (who then proceeded to laugh until I thought she was going to fall over, which would've started a spectacular 300-person domino effect, the chairs were so close together), hence the enigmatic comment on the blog about squirrel excreta.

Still on the subject of knitting events and the like, if anyone is on the fence about going to Guild tonight, just so’s you know, the speaker will be Terri Shea, the author of Selbuvotter. TMK and I have only just recently gotten to know Terri, so I’m hoping to make it, although right now I’m so tired I’m leaving greezy nose prints on my keyboard.

Lastly in today’s strange grab-bag of topics, tomatoes, the gift that keeps on giving. More of the beefsteak tomatoes (little though they are), roma tomatoes, and orange cherry tomatoes from our yard...

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...before TMK washed them, sliced them, layered them with garlic, dressed them with herbs and olive oil, put the whole shebang in the oven and made:

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She then pureed the whole mess, simmered it with wine, and made perhaps the sweetest, richest tomato sauce on God’s green earth. Actually, too rich, too sweet, we both agreed, but with a whole whack of potential. Next year, growin’ more tomatoes. Definitely.

Posted by Ryan at 12:27 PM | Comments (12)

September 17, 2007

Can You Guess?

Oh, I’m so P.O.’d at myself! As my sister has had a funny habit of doing to herself since I can remember, I'm waving my own pointer finger at my own face in an emphatically vexed manner. Someone at Stephanie’s book signing gave me a small, surprise gift that I plan on keeping f-o-r-e-v-e-r, perhaps even framing its small self in a small shadowbox. But I had a complete brain fart about photographing it, even though it hasn’t been farther away than my left back pants pocket since it was given to me. Ne’mind. A week from now, two weeks from now, a year from now, it’ll be just as valuable, just as validating, just as much of a kick in the pants, just as much of a hoot and a holler then as it was on Friday. Will take a snapshot soon and share. In the meantime feel free to guess. It had something to do with this day. Those of you who saw it on Friday and know what it is, hesh up, now.

That aside, howdy to all the Dear Readers and lurkers that introduced themselves to us at Stephanie's presentation. Smooches, and thank you for reading the blog!! A special hello to Dawn and her husband, the Jayne-hat aficionados (you can see a picture of Dawn and her hat on Stephanie’s blog) who kept us greatly entertained during the last half-hour of our wait in line; Carol Buchmiller, a big Dulaan supporter that I was so happy to meet, however briefly; Stacy P. and her husband whom we also met while waiting in line; Libby with whom we don't get to spend much time, although as luck would have it we ran into each other again at Village Yarn & Tea the very next day; Cary, whom I’ve been trying to meet for years and then made a total goober out of myself by spacing on her name; and KarenJo with whom I was only able to exchange a little wave and a smile, it was so crowded. Happy Monday to all of you and to all of the other “usual suspects” who make these things so much fun. You know who you are.

If you’ve visited Stephanie’s site since yesterday, you know TMK and I had the pleasure of escorting her to dinner at Gordon Biersch after the presentation. I mean, we’re no Chippendales dancers, but we'd still like to think we know how to show a girl a good time. Still, TMK and I were gobsmacked to find La Harlot and ourselves closing the restaurant down—the cleaning people were slapping chairs onto tables in increasingly smaller circles around us and shooting hopeful looks in our direction long before we were ready to leave—by which time our waiter, CJ, had pulled a chair up to our table and had spent a good 45 minutes trading bad jokes and waitering and bar-tending war stories with Stephanie, one of which had something to do with a bar, a drunk man, a tiny piano, a piano-playing mouse and a canary. Don't ask. And all this was before La Harlot asked him to hold her sock. (I could’ve done, at the end of the evening, without the parking-lot attendant who was picking his nose when we walked up to his booth, and who stared lecherously at my boobies as we walked away, but even he couldn’t spoil our fun.) At any rate, for those of you who missed Stephanie, rumor has it she will be back for Madrona in February.

There are a couple of photos of the finished Olympic Squirrel on Stephanie’s site, but here are a couple more, one sloppy, gloppy one of it on a hanger, and another of it spread out on a carpet which is, trust me, nowhere near that pukie of a green:

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For Kelsey, who asked where the pattern was from, it’s the Squirrel Pullover pattern from the book Small Sweaters . Kelsey, don't let the fact that it took me 580 days to finish it intimidate you. That was all me. That, and the fact that this was my first Fair Isle sweater, and it had a sleeve steek that was one-stitch wide, and my Fair-Isle mentors had ideas about how to change the pattern in ways that made it so much better than the original that I just had to do them, even though I hadn't a clue how. Oh, and the fact that, at the time, 95% of my knitting time was dedicated to Dulaan. It's a fun, rewarding project to knit. If you're into stranded knitting and into squirrels, this is the project for you!

Mary, I'm always so happy when I hear about someone knitting the Dublin Bay sock pattern which seems somehow to've become the most popular out of the few free ones I've posted. You get a whole plethora of gold stars for actually knowing the rose vine the sock is named after! TMK's Dublin Bay has grown 10 feet long in either direction and graces her front picket fence. It's an awesome beaut of a rose, if you can get past the fact that the buds are so black they look dead.

Wren: The female spider looked identical to the Araneus diadematus in the second set of pictures on this page . (Arachnophobes, don't click unless you want to spend the whole night on tip-toe on your bed. Trust me.)

Posted by Ryan at 12:24 PM | Comments (12)

September 14, 2007

I Say This Entry's Not Really Off-Topic if One of the Characters in the Story Spins

Warning: Today’s entry is not for the spider-phobic!

For the last two or three weeks, TMK has been unable to use her garden table—and the girl dearly loves her an afternoon brewsky and a read in her sunny yard—thanks to a monster of a spider that’d taken up residence in her garden umbrella. How much of a monster? It even made me, the Sir Galahad of Saving Insects, The White Knight of the Six, Eight or No-Legged, The High Priestess of the Church of Ugly, shudder and say something that sounded like, “Blechity blech blech blech.” What’s weirder, this was just a regular garden spider, just like the small kind ubiquitous to Seattle gardens, the kind that spins a web that you're always walking into so you break out in the spider dance, prancing around on your toes, slapping your face and you hair, and saying, “Ptooie, ptooie, ptooie!” But, eventually, TMK had had enough of our “pet” and of being denied her afternoon reads so last weekend I escorted the spider over to a mound of coreopsis in what’s left of the natural dye garden.

So here we go, and here is where the squeamish should just run off and read someone else’s blog. Move along; nothing to see here.

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The thing on the left, a dried coreopsis blossom. The thing clinging to it on the right, the spider. Life size. With a round, fat abdomen about the size of a dime, or, coincidentally, a dried coreopsis blossom. Even more interestingly, a little to the right and down, an eensy-weensy male spider that arrived to court her—with much hesitant spinning of webbage, cautious tapping of her abdomen, and a little bit of "How YOU doin'?"—immediately upon my dumping her unceremoniously on the plant. And, although, he’s hard to see, slightly above and to the right of the most visible of her hind legs, another Don Juan who arrived, unfortunately for him, five seconds after the first suitor. The first male won. Or so I interpreted the fact that, when I went back out again half-an-hour later, she had suspended herself from the coreopsis blossom on his side of the flower, had wrapped her legs around herself, and was swaying coyly in the breeze. The whole thing had sort of a female-Russian-Olympic-bodybuilder-wearing-a-wispy-pink-negligee feel to it. If female Russian body-builders eat their husbands after a romp in the hay.

Speaking of the Olympics…

Olympic Squirrel is done! Er, give or take the inside sleeve hems that need to be tacked down, and a few errant yarn ends that need to be woven in. But, I say eff ‘em. It’s done. And the final tally is:

580 days, or 1 year, 7 months, 3 days to finish

Or...

564 days, or 1 year, 6 months, 18 days longer than it was supposed to.

And, continuing my uber-smooth subject transitions, speaking of Olympic Squirrel and, by extrapolation, Stephanie, TMK and I are going to be at Third Place Books early-ish, about 5 p.m/5:15 p.m., if anyone wants to join us for an impromptu knitting party.

Posted by Ryan at 11:08 AM | Comments (15)

September 12, 2007

Bring Hats!

walkinghat.jpgAs much as some of you locals are surprised at how I was able to just “deal” with the Dulaan kerfuffle, trust me, it’s still making me want to drown myself in never-ending pints of ice cream. Literally. I want to pour countless pints of ice cream in a large vat, climb in, and flounder my way slowly to the bottom, sucking in large mouthfuls of Cherry Garcia as I go. So I was happy when, this morning, I was unexpectedly given a chance to dip my toe in the charity-knitting pool again but in a teensy-weensy way, just my pinky toe and just up to the cuticle. As you know, Stephanie will be here on Friday and, at each location on her tour, she is collecting hand-knitted hats that are then donated to a local charity. I have the pleasure of being The Hat Lady this go-round, so I will bring a box where you can put the hats that you bring. So…bring hats. To quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

Per Stephanie’s “Harlot on Tour” page, her presentation will be at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park and starts at 6:30 p.m. Per the Third Place Books people, if you want to have your book signed, you’ll need to get a signing ticket (you can still get your book signed if you don’t have a ticket but you’ll need to wait until everyone else has gone up). I don’t know all the details but, as it was 'splained to me by the guy at the Information Counter, they’ll be calling people to come up by the letter on the signing ticket (A, then B, then C, etc.). Sounds a little Big Brother-ish to me, but that’s the deal, as I understand it (and, granted, the last time she was here, everyone stood in line at once and the line snaked in and around and up and down and through and across a store which, for those of you who’ve never been there, is quite large).

Stephanie, when I was at Third Place Books on Monday, as a staunch Harlotite, I tried to “represent," as you would say, and dropped the hint that there would be a lot of knitters there...and still got the inevitable, “Really?” So sorry.

Drenched in a panicked flop-sweat since I had so completely run out of time (I know; after 563 days, now I worry about a deadline?), I attacked the Olympic Squirrel collar with a vengeance last night and am surprised to be able to report that things are going well. The severely curling attached i-cord was removed and sent to bed with no dessert, and now I’m just going for a stockinette hemmed collar: A few rows on size 2s, one purled turn row, a few rows on size 1s, followed by hemming, most likely with masking tape, duct tape or double-sided tape at this late date. Think anyone will notice? Ironically, after all this, I have no baby to give it to. Oh, Frrrrraaaaankie...look what Mommy has for youuuuuuuuuu.

Re the comments:

Saralyn, KarenJoe and VisionSister...see you on Friday! As an added bonus, TMK will be there!

Valerie and Lee Ann: I was all over the knitted look of the Wii racing-cows game. I feel bad for the programmers. I mean, think about it: They put all that time and effort into creating cows, riders, jumps, scarecrows, silos, barns, fences, fields, trees, sky and clouds, never mind the actual racing, and all we knitters can say is, “Hey, did you see that it looked knitted?”

Rho: You can play all the Wii games against yourself/the computer as well as against other people. (Sounds like you've been sucked in!)

Rachel F: I haven’t had too much trouble with the Steam Scarf. My cables aren’t popping off but they are definitely tight at the transition point. I just really take my time with them and use some elbow grease and patience. I’m using Cascade 220 and size 7 needles. In retrospect, I would probably use size 8s just to make things easier and looser, so you might want to try using larger needles. Also, have you tried wood or bamboo needles and a wood or bamboo cable needle, instead of metal or plastic (if that’s what you’re using)? Sometimes the friction of the wood/bamboo can help keep the stitches under control.

Posted by Ryan at 01:05 PM | Comments (10)

September 10, 2007

Biff! Boom! Bash! Thwack!

You know how it is at a party when you’re the only one who’s sober so you get to sit around and watch everyone else act slightly demented? You don’t? Because you’ve never been sober at a…? Okay, then, work with me. Imagine what that would be like. Got it? Now you know what it was like for me Friday night when Elaine and Leslie introduced TMK and some of their/our friends to their Wii. There wasn’t much alcohol involved, just some genteel wine-sipping, but it might as well have been a kegger blow-out since the result was pretty much the same. I watched (and knit), they played, and, oh, the insanity! They played everything—golf, ping pong, boxing, baseball, tennis, shooting, cow racing (don’t ask)—and body movements ranged from almost motionless (ping pong) to rapid-fire button pushing (shooting) to long, arcing, room-covering, lamp-bashing arm swings (baseball, golf and tennis) to mad gyrations of torsos and hips and throwing of hands and Wii controller up in the air (cow racing) to manic, sweaty, two-fisted hooks, uppercuts and jabs (boxing). And these gals were serious. There were furrowed brows and intense faces and clenching of jaws and leaning in and lunging and standing on tip-toe and (a little) name-calling and some yelling and much fist-pumping in joy and grumbling in frustration and defeat. And the weirdest thing? None of it was real. They were just in a suburban living room, standing in front of a big, flat screen, holding small, white plastic boxes in their hands. Ah, the strangeness of virtual gaming.

Thank you, Elaine and Leslie, for a hysterical weekend! Both nights. (Yeah, about that. Did I forget to mention that the same group of madcap mamas was back in front of the Wii Saturday night? I believe that’s the night they discovered the cow racing and things got completely out of hand.)

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One ball of Cascade 220 has been zigged and zagged and twisted into the first half of the Steam Scarf. I am so much happier with this one than I was with the pink one which, you may remember, I called the “Scarf in Drag” because it was the oddest combination of a macho, meaty, 16-stitch cable pattern with a sissy, girly, bubblegum color. The cable pattern and the red, they fit.

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But for now, to hell with the Steam Scarf, the Blue Moon socks, the drooping Elm Leaf scarf and anything else I have on my needles. Stephanie will be here Friday and somehow, God willing, I have to get the collar on the Olympic Squirrel done between now and then. Sigh. I continue to excel at “Tardior, Demissior, Debilior.”

Anyone else going to be there?

P.S. Join me in welcoming The Blogging Twins back after a loooooong hiatus. All is explained, or at least hinted at, in today's entry, but to heck with that. We're just happy to see you back in blogland and to, hopefully, see you in real life, real soon.

Posted by Ryan at 11:36 AM | Comments (12)

September 07, 2007

Armed and, Apparently, Not Dangerous At All

The moss on my driveway that almost caused my early (ish) demise has won the battle, won the war.

knife.jpgA few days after I went arse over teakettle, with white-hot hate in my heart, I attacked the moss the only way I knew how: with bleach and a knife. (About the knife. TMK approaches gardening projects standing up, all big and butch, in a tank top, and with large, manly tools: shovels, rakes, tillers, lawnmowers, wheelbarrows, he-man shears. Me, I sit, most likely wearing a cutesy t-shirt with pastel flowers and butterflies on it, and…poke at things with a knife. And one knife in particular, a wood-handled, serrated jobby, the only remaining member of a long-ago set. If the project doesn’t fit the knife or the knife doesn’t fit the project, I’m in over my head, and it’s TMK to the rescue.) So, I squirted the moss with what supposedly was a lethal cocktail of water and bleach, let it dry for a day, sat down with my legs daintily tucked to the side, and attacked it with my trusty knife, only to discover that the bleach and the drying had caused the moss to adhere even more firmly to the driveway. And while I could peel up some of it, a thin but cement-like dusting of it had settled inaccessibly between all the lumpy, bumpy bits of aggregate, making, if nothing else, a roux for more moss, given the right conditions like, oh, I don’t know, a Seattle winter. Then it rained, and the moss is now as slimy and dangerous as ever, only deadish and adhered like SuperGlue, so now it can’t be removed at’all. So I've called in backups from ManLand and somebody with a Y chromosome and something called a pressure washer should be showing up sometime this month to torture the moss the way it deserves.

I wonder if I can get him to work around the baby ants?

In re Olympic Squirrel, good suggestions, all, but I’m leaning toward doing the i-cord “backwards,” as Laurie (and my friend LindaK) suggested or the hemmed collar that Ruth suggested since both the bottom of the sweater and the sleeves have hemmed edges. In the meantime, let’s look at some pretty yarn, shall we?

In December of 2006 (having a blog allows one to remember important dates this way), I discovered my BYF, sort of like BFF, Best Friend Forever, only Best Yarn Forever, Trekking sock yarn. I had been going hot and heavy with Lorna’s Laces for a while with an occasional bootie call with Regia, some passionate back-seat necking with Opal, and a little smooching in the janitorial closet with Fixation, but when Elaine introduced me to Trekking, I threw my little knitting black book out, or at least ripped out the sock-yarn pages. Which explains why last Saturday, when TMK and I were at Village Yarn & Tea, I had a retail accident (there was moss on the floor; what can I say?) and brought these two lovelies home with me, a denim-blue-and-medium-colors variegated and a navy variegated which especially makes me say "hubba hubba" but which TMK has already claimed for herself.

I will not kiss my monitor. I will not kiss my monitor. I will not kiss my monitor. I will not kiss my monitor. I will not kiss my monitor.

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Posted by Ryan at 12:01 PM | Comments (18)

September 05, 2007

What's the Opposite of "Citius, Altius, Fortius?"

11:31 a.m.: When I, chest all puffed out like a prize pigeon, took this photo of Olympic Squirrel finally sporting its sleeves:

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11:31 a.m. and two seconds: When I, thoroughly deflated, realized that I had sewn the right sleeve (on the left in the photo) on upside-down. Now, I can just feel you non-knitters thinking, Ryan, you uptight, self-involved, fussbudget of a perfectionist; the sleeves look fine. But they ain't. All the subtle waves you see in the sleeve, especially near the vertical blue band, and the fact that the cuff is sitting at a slight angle, and the fact that the top of the sleeve on the right goes purely, truly and cleanly straight across and the one on the left just...doesn’t, and the one thing you can’t see, the ugly and obvious decrease seam running along the top? All caused by the upside-down-ness. (Granted, this doesn’t mean that I’m not an uptight, self-involved, fussbudget of a perfectionist. Just, this one time, I have an excuse.)

And knitters and non-knitters alike are probably thinking, why are you fussing over the sleeves when, not to be rude, but have you seen that collar? Yeah, um, about that... At Ferals, a few hours after the photo was taken, I started my first-ever attached i-cord as the finishing for the neck. The technique itself is going well, thanks to much helpful yet fabulously low-key and freeing encouragement from Evelyn Clark, which went something like, “You could do this. Or you could do that. Or maybe this. You know, whatever.” Unfortunately, the back of the neck is curling horrendously, showing all the stranding inside, and the weight of the i-cord is making it worse, and I’m not sure what to do. There is a little bit of panicking going on.

So close, and yet so far away. But, no matter. I’m so proud of this sweater I could just plotz. I suppose, however, I can’t get away without doing at least a little math. Remember, this was my Olympic project, the one I choose in a moment of sheer lunacy for Stephanie’s “competition,” and which was supposed to be completed in...I can barely type this, it's so painful...16 days. Thanks to my trusty online date-duration calculator, I know that, so far, it has taken me instead 556 days, or 1 year, 6 months, and 10 days. Or 540 days, or 1 year 5 months and 20 days, longer than it should have. Meh; I can live with that.

Lastly, proof that TMK has survived the Attack of the Love Apples and continues to be an avid consumer of the fruit vegetable fruit vegetable fruit—a scrumptious tomato and marinated-artichoke salad she made from our garden tomatoes to take to a barbecue potluck. Sweet as sugar, this concoction.

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Posted by Ryan at 11:33 AM | Comments (21)