Thursday, December 30, 2004

Though I didn’t get much knitting done over the past few days, it was a fabulous Christmas long weekend. My sister and her boyfriend were able to come out to visit for five days, and we had a great time. Lots of good food, opening presents, playing with Emma, Christmas-partying, a trip to Mt. Baker for skiing, sightseeing around the island, hiking Mt. Finlayson, and general fun.

Our first Christmas in our new house was wonderful. Emma got a ton of presents- some great toys. Her particular favorite is a dog pull toy with a xylophone on its back. I was a little surprised that she got so into the presents. I would have thought she was still in the paper/bows/boxes stage of gift appreciation, but she really did get excited about the presents too. I guess that it helped that she got some really cool toys. She was pretty indifferent to the clothes, but was very interested in the toys.

I did finish the first Christmas sock, and started the second on the ferry when we went to Mt. Baker. I didn’t do any knitting on it during the day at Mt. Baker, since Emma was awake and wanted to play. She and I went on a big long walk in the afternoon while the others skied. She fell asleep during the walk (I rigged a sling out of my coat so she could sleep), so she missed most of the gorgeous scenery. Of course, being one and a half, she was far more interested in the sticks on the path than vistas of snow-covered mountains. We probably only went a mile all told, but carrying a 24 pound toddler in a makeshift sling for ¾ of a mile is still tiring. I was wiped out when we got back to the lodge.

We really do live in a beautiful area. We need to make more of an effort to get out and see more of it while we’re here. The whole area around Mt. Baker is gorgeous, especially the North Fork Nooksack River. The Pacific Northwest rainforesty/moss-dripping-off-the-trees environment fascinates me. In my former life as an environmental biologist for the state of North Carolina, back when I had a real job where I actually got to use my degree, I got to explore rivers and streams and do freshwater mussel surveys, wetland delineations, and endangered species surveys. I can hardly stand to pass by woods or a body of water without getting out and poking around to see what I can see. I really like to know what it is I’m looking at, and keep “life lists” of much, much more than just birds.

I collect field guides. I am a geek.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Not too much to report today. I finished the heel of the first Christmas sock and am almost ready to change yarn for the toe. I won't tell what color the heel and toe are- I'll let it be a surprise, since I'm sure everyone is waiting with bated breath.

We hung pictures and my bird clock on our bare walls last night. It really makes the place look nice. I also put a garland of lights over the kitchen sink, which is pretty. Shaun and I are both SOOO enjoying having white walls. The last two places we've lived (the past 10 years, in fact) have had dark wood on the inside, and it's so nice to be in a place that doesn't suck the light right out of the lamps when you turn them on.

I need get cracking tonight and block some snowflakes. I want to put some on my Christmas tree, and I want to give a bunch as little giftoids to people I work with. Nothing like waiting until the last minute, right? I do so dislike blocking snowflakes though, what with the glue and the stickiness and the mess.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Yesterday while riding the ferry and following Emma as she did laps around the passenger deck, I knit most of the leg of a cotton sock. This is Cascade Fixation yarn, 98% cotton 1% elastic. I made Shaun a pair of socks out of this yarn a couple years ago, and was really pleased with the results. This yarn makes great socks. The elastic in it means that the yarn itself is super stretchy, with memory. The socks hug your leg and really stay up, especially if you use a rib pattern. I used the provisional cast on method I described in a previous post, with a K1P1 rib on the inside and K4P2 on the outside. While it is more bulky than using a plain cast-on edge, I still like it for this yarn. The Fixation is a thicker yarn than the Fortissima- I'm knitting on US 2 needles and could have used 3's- and I was worried that the double layer at the top would be too thick. Once it's on a leg, though, it's just fine.

These socks will get (peasant) heels and toes in contrasting colors. I have red and green in the Fixation yarn, so these will be my Christmas socks!

In other news, I still love my house. I think I'm in that honeymoon stage, since I actually enjoyed unloading the dishwasher last night. Wonder how long that will last......

Sunday, December 19, 2004

What do I love about my new house? Oh so many things.
  • The dishwasher
  • The full-size washer and dryer (I can wash blankets!)
  • Showers that actually have water pressure
  • The full-size fridge with cubbies on the door that fit gallon milk jugs
  • So much kitchen storage that two drawers are empty
  • The pantry
  • Cream-colored walls
  • The linen closet with a compartment for the vacuum cleaner
  • A closet for my yarn and fiber
  • An oven with a glass door and a light
  • The light fixtures in the dining room
  • A dining room so we can eat at a table
  • Crushed ice, ice cubes, and filtered water from the door of the fridge
  • Carpet that isn't red shag from the 70's
  • Big windows
  • Close to town
  • Two towel bars in the bathroom

I could go on and on. I was sitting in the living room watching Fellowship of the Ring last night, knitting, with the baby asleep in the back room, and all of a sudden I felt like I was back in high school, babysitting at someone else's house. It's so strange to be in a nice, comfortable house and know it's mine. After 10 years of renting whatever we could afford during our grad school and Shaun's PhD, I feel like we're all of a sudden.... I don't know. Grown-ups? Real people? It's a very strange feeling.

Friday, December 17, 2004

We're in! We're in!! We moved into the new house yesterday, and I'm so happy! We rented a truck, and two very very good and helpful friends came over and helped us load up. I had packed about 3/4 of the house over the past week, so it was mostly a lot of lifting. (Sore muscles today...) We did have to scrounge more boxes from the grocery stores and liquor store so we could do the last of the packing, but really, it wasn't bad.

Emma was at the babysitter's house most of the day, which was great. Not great that we sent her away for the day, great that we could carry things without worrying that she'd get stepped on. Stop it. You knew what I meant. She was so excited when we picked her up and brought her back to the house and she saw her crib and all her toys.

Cobalt and Naia (dog and cat), on the other hand, had a very stressful and confusing day. Cobalt kept looking at us carrying things out of the house, with these big worried eyes that seemed to say "Are you going somewhere? What's happening? Are you going to take me with you? Where are you going with my bed?!!!" She was so relieved when I took her out to get into the car.

The cat spent the day in the bathroom at the old house so he wouldn't dash outside while we carried boxes, so he was super confused when we finally let him out and the house was empty. Then he had to endure a car ride in his carrier ("I don't want to go to the vet!"), then he was let out into a big new house that just didn't smell right. He spent the next six hours skittering around, jumping at small noises and sniffing everything. The master bedroom was the most terrifying, because the closet doors are large mirrors. Evidently there is another cat living in the house, who looks exactly like Naia. This cat must be driven away at all costs, no matter how much hissing and growling it takes.

We finished unloading the truck, returned it, and picked up Emma, and were back at the house by about 5:30. Shaun and I spent the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening unpacking. The kitchen is done. Emma's room is done. The dining room is done. Our room is done. Most of the living room is done. The bathrooms are not done, but the towels, shampoo, and toothbrushes are unpacked. The office is still a disaster area.

About 9:00 the two friends who helped us move, plus one more, came over and we decorated our Christmas tree! Our first party! It was pretty low-key because four of us were exhausted. Shaun and I haven't had a Christmas tree for about five years, due to very small living spaces. It's so pretty. There's a corner of the dining room where it just fits.

It feels so great to be in our own space. As I was unpacking last night, I was almost in tears at one point, I was so happy. We have enough room to spread out a little, and the house is just so pretty. I feel so lucky to be here. It feels like home.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Well, even though I haven't posted for a while, I've been getting lots done. I finished washing the Rambouillet x Cormo fleece over the weekend. What a job that was! I wanted to get it done before we move, so that the whole fleece was processed the same way- same water, same drying method. I can't wait to get this carded up and start spinning it. Need to borrow the Guild's carder first.

Here it is in all it's poufy whiteness. It is so soft and yummy. I haven't weighed it yet to see how much grease and dirt it lost during the wash (it started at 6.7 pounds), but it couldn't have been too much. I only picked out three burrs and five 1/2" pieces of straw while I was washing it, and that was all I saw. I am now a great believer of buying fleeces from sheep who have been coated. It makes a huge difference. There was some sandy debris that washed out as soon as it hit the water, and a fair bit of grease, enough that it required two soapy washes and two rinses, but it wasn't really caked.

Is that a future spinner in that picture? She's certainly fascinated by wool and the whole spinning process. When I was at spinning group last time, she held on to the back bar of my wheel and put her foot on the treadle next to mine while I was spinning. What a great helper!

I also finished most of a pair of socks over the weekend. This is a Fortissima self-striping yarn, not sure which color number. I tried a new (to me) beginning, and I really like it. Instead of casting on and knitting merrily away, I used a provisional cast on and worked 1x1 rib for an inch, worked a round of k2tog yo, worked stockinette for an inch, then folded over the rib and worked the provisional cast-on stitches together with the leg stitches and continued down the leg. The k2tog yo row made a nice little picot edge at the fold, the ribbing on the inside keeps the sock up, and the stockinette on the outside shows off the yarn. And no cast-on edge! I'd like to (modestly) point out how well the stripes match up.

I really like the way these turned out, and wish I had made all the socks I've ever made with this method. I'm sure that someone else has come up with this before, but I worked it out on my own. It's a very spiffy way to start top-down socks. I've always been vaguely unhappy with a cast-on edge at the top of a sock, just where it needs to be stretchiest.

I was going to finish these up last night, but I was too tired and had to go to bed shortly after Emma did. Maybe I'll get to them tonight, if I get some packing done first.

The house will be ours tomorrow! We went and signed all the escrow papers yesterday, which took almost an HOUR. There was a stack of forms and info sheets and contracts and stuff over an inch thick, and we had to go through every sheet with the escrow agent and sign or initial most of them. This morning we sent the down payment to them, and by midday tomorrow we can start moving in!!!!!!! We actually already have the key, and last night we went and looked around. Can't wait till it's ours!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Ta Da!! Here's the finished sailboat sweater! I'm really pleased with the way it turned out, despite the scarcity of blue yarn. I had originally planned to have the sleeves blue underneath, with a medium orange stripe and narrow white stripes, like the sunflower sweater. I think I like this way even better. It looks very nautical. Each sleeve took 5 1/5 hours to knit, and I sewed it up and knit the collar last night (2 hours). Sweaters for kids are fun- very fast!

Here's a shot of the two sweaters together. I think the twins will look very cute.

And here's how much blue yarn I had left over. 14 inches.

Monday, December 06, 2004

I finished the first sleeve on the sailboat sweater last night. I think I've resolved the issue with the blue yarn that I didn't have enough of. I decided to switch the colors and make the orange the main color on the sleeves instead of the blue.

I still wanted to have as much blue as possible, so I divided the remaining blue yarn in half (yes, I completely unrolled the remains of the skein, so it was exactly in half), so that each sleeve could have half the yarn. I then measured out how much yarn 10 stitches consumed, and took that measurement and calculated how many stitches each half of the yarn would produce. Divide that number in half and I got the max number of stitches in each stripe (I wanted two blue stripes per sleeve). Since I knew from making the sunflower sweater that the sleeve is 68 rows long, I knew that a 10-stitch stripe would require 680 stitches. Compare that to the maximum possible from the blue yarn, and Yay! There should be enough blue yarn to make two stripes 10 stitches wide on each sleeve.

It worked! When I finished the first sleeve, I had just enough blue yarn left over to do the cuff, and I do mean just. There is a little scrap of blue yarn that might possibly be long enough to sew the side seam of the body. It's not long enough for even one more row of the cuff.

Perhaps you think that all these calculations and worry are a little obsessive? Well, you might be right. But it's so gratifying to figure something out and have it work the way you plan. It also means that I won't have lots of mostly-full skeins left over. I can look at my tiny leftover length of blue yarn and feel like I am the queen of planning ahead, even though I know that I'm really not, and the only reason I had to go to these lengths is that I didn't plan ahead and buy enough yarn in the first place.

In other news, Emma and I had a really good weekend together. Shaun went to Seattle to do some work at the University, so Emma and I were stranded at home for two days without a car. We had fun reading books, going for little walks outside, brushing the dog, packing boxes to get ready to move next week (!!!!!!!), and baking cookies. Emma had such fun with the cookies. When I started mixing them up, she desperately wanted to see what I was doing, so I put a chair next to me. She climbed right up and stood there the whole time watching. I let her dump in the dried cranberries, though she wanted to eat them, and she really got a kick out of the electric mixer. When the first batch was out of the oven and had cooled a little, we each had one and boy were they yummy! The only problem came when she kept wanting "moooorrrrre!"

Thursday, December 02, 2004

A List to Think About

1) Chef salads are sometimes sold at the deli counters of grocery stores. This is a good thing, especially if it's 5:30 pm, you're hungry, and you won't be home for hours.

2) The mess that is created when a toddler grabs a chef salad from the deli counter and flings it on the floor is incredible.

3) Bleu cheese crumbles increase the messiness of the mess 10-fold.

4) Bleu cheese crumbles are very difficult to get out of a plastic lattice grocery basket.

5) Lettuce is very slippery.

6) The edge of the deli counter is very hard.

7) Toddlers are very fast.

8) It's hard to run when you're not sure if you've just cracked your head open and are having trouble focussing.

9) Grapes are good toddler bait.

10) Grapes are also slippery.

I dare you to ask me how I know these things.

I finished the sunflower sweater last night. Once I made my mind up to just get it done, it went pretty fast. I did the second sleeve in one day! Please excuse the washed out photo- It's cloudy and drizzly here today. The sunflower and sleeve stripes are really a bright yellow, with deeper gold flower center and side stripes.

I'm still not sure about the stripes on the sleeves, but I guess it's OK. It looks a little color-blocky when the sleeves are out like that, though the stripe I added in the collar helped some. Probably when the sweater is on a kid it'll look fine.

Whaddaya think?