Thursday, August 25, 2005

Sad Mac

Paul came through with yet another cool fiber link for me: Happy Mac/Sad Mac. Isn't that great?? Technology and crocheting collide. I love it!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Going to the Extreme

My own version of Extreme Knitting

I'm not naming names, but let's just say that some undisclosed number among my five male co-workers seem to be a little bit obsessed with Hooters. Now, I've got no problem with hooters in general. Hey, if you've got em, go right ahead and flaunt em, I say. It's the bad fashion at Hooters that I really take exception to. These uniforms are like some sort of nightmare version of my junior high gym uniform. The shorts too short and an unbecomingly bright color... The big ol' white shoes with big ol' white socks over nylons, which can't help but conjure up the 80s in a bad way... (Not that I wore nylons in junior high gym class, but you get the idea.) What's wrong with being tastefully half-naked, I ask you?

Based on the co-worker obsession, I was not in the slightest bit surprised when, at the kick-off of our week-long business trip last week, very shortly after our flight landed in Atlanta and before our two-hour drive to our final destination, we pulled off the freeway and into the Hooters parking lot for my first Hooters visit ever! (But not my last...yes, there was another visit to a different Hooters on this trip, in which a quantity of alcohol was consumed by yours truly, and which heretofore shall not be further discussed thanks to said quantity of alcohol and its thoroughly unenjoyable after-effects.)

Our waitress was a cute airhead, though whether it was reality or an act, I know not. My co-workers seemed to derive a certain amount of male superiority from cracking a few minor jokes about her airheaded-ness, causing me to feel somewhat indignant on behalf of women and Hooters girls everywhere. (You guys read this? Well, your jokes about our waitresses "genius" behavior were annoying, so there. And get back to work!) The food wasn't very good, which I found inexcusable. And the biggest surprise (I am NOT making this up) was my discovery of an enormous vending machine in the bathroom, maybe five feet wide and three feet tall. What could they be selling in this machine, you may wonder? Feminine products in bulk? Extra large boxes of the birth control method of your choice? Cans of mace and blank restraining order legal forms? Copies of Jane Austen and Kierkegaard so that the Hooters girls can secretly work on their dissertations on their breaks? No, gentle reader, this machine contained "hosiery". Special Hooters girl nylons, $4 a pop, all in "suntan" of course, in various sizes, and, most oddly, I thought...footless. Guess they're more comfortable with the big ol' white shoes and big ol' white socks that way. So, not only do the Hooters girls "get to" hula hoop and turn cartwheels in gym shorts left over from 1982, but they get to spend their tip money buying extra nylons from a vending machine in the john because Hooters Inc. is too damn cheap to buy them for them as an employee benefit? Sheesh.


At any rate, my travel day was a good day for knitting, as you can see from the pic above. I knitted throughout the plane trip, while listening to a book on my iPod, and I knitted through the entire car ride. And, yes, I knitted at Hooters when I wasn't eating my mediocre food. The Hooters girls were kind enough to pose for a picture with me, and I think I'll submit it as an entry for Teri's Extreme Knitting Challenge. True, it's not knitting while rock climbing or snorkeling or flying a plane (I was most impressed by this entry into the Challenge), but people, I had knee surgery just three months ago, after my own extreme sports career had come to a very sudden, flailing, crumpled, snowy, ski-torn halt (albeit a temporary one). I won't be cleared for extreme sports by my doc for a few months, and so in the meantime, Hooters is all the thrill I've got. I wonder if it's one of those things where it will take increasingly great challenges to bring the same thrill? Pretty soon I'll be knitting in strip clubs, tucking stitch markers into g-strings. I'll try to sneak onto the sets of porn films to see if I can get away with knitting in the background of scenes without anyone noticing. Where will it end, I ask??

Erm. Maybe not.

Anyway, back to reality. I did notice in that picture above that, uh, how shall I put it? I am out-hooting the very Hooter girls. Unfortunately for me, I am also out-assing them, but that is as it should be, I suppose, because "God is fair." (I will send a small prize to the first person who can identify the movie reference there, title and actress. Hey, look, an accidental contest!)

And what am I knitting in that pic, you may wonder?

Still Life, with Pillowcase Lace, Patriotic Phonebook, and Hideous Hotel Bedspread

That would be the lace for the Lace-Edged Pillowcase. It's nearly finished by now (well, the knitting is nearly finished).

And just to show you how close to the edge I like to live, and please brace yourself, as some may find this shocking, this is how close I almost came to running out of yarn and therefore knitting on my trip from Utah to our final destination in Georgia:

A close shave

I'd finished up all the knitting on my first snakeskin sock on the plane (couldn't kitchener and weave in tails for fear that my needle would be confiscated as a dangerous weapon).

A lousy picture of Snakey #1, with hotel towel covering bedspread to protect your eyes...

But never fear. There was more yarn in the trunk of the car. Which is a story for another day, I think.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Wait, that's not knitting!

Brandied Cherries

Lately, a few other activities have been taking up some of the time that I might ordinarily devote to knitting. Every year for the last three summers, around this general time, the madness kicks in, and I become convinced that canning is a good idea. I don't know what came over me two years ago, but I was suddenly compelled to learn to can food, and so I taught myself out of a book. The first year I made mango chutney, spicy tomato chutney, and strawberry jam. All in one day. One day in which I stayed up until 3 AM finishing, and ended up setting off the carbon monoxide detector because the gas stove had been going continuously for so long. I get kind of obsessive like that...

The mango chutney was the big hit of that round of canning, and I made another big batch last summer. (You can see pics here.) I also tried to invent my own peach/tomato salsa recipe, because I LOVE fresh peach/tomato salsa, but after reading many strict admonitions about how dangerous it was to invent your own recipe for canning, I grew paranoid and added a lot of extra lemon juice to ensure it was acidic enough, and it turned out rather boring and lemony. I did get a pressure cooker for my birthday last year, so now that I can preserve such things without having to worry about acidity levels, maybe I'll try again. Whenever I figure out how to use the pressure cooker, that is.

Anyway, this year I became utterly convinced that I needed to can stuff with cherries. Thus began a series of canning episodes, three so far. First off were brandied cherries, made from sweet Bing cherries -- and you don't know what a good time is until you've pitted six pounds of cherries by hand. That's the thing about canning. It's so labor intensive that you have to develop a bit of amnesia from the last time before you're willing to undertake it again. I can, at least, say that I am a lot faster about the whole business now. In the past, I've estimated how long it will take, and it inevitably took me three times longer than my estimation.

My second batch this year was a batch of spiced cherries -- a vinegar based concoction, kind of like chutney. And the third round resulted in cherry jam. Hooray for cherry jam! The last two batches were from a huge bucket of pitted sour cherries that I bought direct from the orchard where they were grown. The owners had a big pitting machine in their garage, and it was all on the honor system -- drive up, take your massive bucket of cherries from the freezer, deposit a check or cash in their lock box, and go along your merry way. The only thing I wasn't crazy about was that they had them in a sugar solution, but I suppose that was to maintain the color. However, despite being frozen and in a bucket, they really were pretty darn fresh, and the fact that they were already pitted was just brilliant -- I just washed the sugar off and threw the recipes together. Nice.

I will probably do some more canning this month, after I get back from my week long business trip, on which I leave tomorrow. I bought a couple more boxes of pectin, so I think I'll make a couple more batches of jam, at least. And I probably should do some more mango chutney -- that stuff is just the best. In fact, if you can, or want to take up canning, in addition to the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, which is an absolute must, I also recommend picking up a copy of Home Made, Best Made, which includes the mango chutney recipe and lots of other great stuff.

Oh, and don't take this blog entry, or any other informal, loosely-defined description of canning as direction or advice. Canning is serious business, and you should carefully read and follow all the USDA approved canning procedures, because a healthy dose of paranoia will keep you from, you know, killing yourself and all your friends with botulism or anything like that. But when you're careful and do it right, mmm,'s good stuff to open a jar of something you made in the summer in the dead of winter.

In case you have any interest, I did put together a little slide show of canning the brandied cherries, and you can find it here.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Meant for Each Other

Who could possibly resist the lure...nay, the veritible gravitational pull of a big sale at their LYS? Particularly when that LYS is the Needlepoint Joint, where they seldom have sales? Not I. The last NPJ sale was over three years ago, and aptly named the Once in a Blue Moon Sale. It did not disappoint, and neither did this current sale, the Price Slasher Sale. For those of you who are local, the sale runs through Saturday, and they have some great stuff, so you should check it out. For those of us who are among the weekly "regulars," we received a special sneak preview of the sale last night, and I saw many a happy knitter making many a massive yarn haul.

I wouldn't say my haul was massive, but it was respectable:


Here are four skeins of Madil Merino Extrafine 2/48, two in cream and two in black. Each skein was only $4, and each has 1200 m of yarn! That's two large shawls or four small shawls for $16. The mind reels.

Why are there dogs on the packaging for a yarn made from pure virgin wool? Beats me. Anybody out there know?

Mosaic Sock Kit

Here's a real score: a Blackberry Ridge Mystical Mosaic Socks "Saint Edward" kit for $10. This is a great find because I very nearly bought this kit at the regular price of $20 a number of times. This also has the distinction of being the only mosaic knitting I've seen so far about which I thought, "I really want to make that."

Pile o' Mohair

This photo isn't very true to the color, but this is a pile of ten skeins of pale pinky-lavendar Cleckheaton Flowerdale Mohair 8 Ply. easily enough for a sweater. The damage: $30. Can you believe it? Ten balls of mohair for $30? You couldn't even buy a commercially made mohair sweater for $30, at least not a half-way decent one. Woo Hoo!

Jaeger Handknits Knitting Magazine Eight

I just couldn't believe it when I picked up this magazine full of classic, stylish sweaters I actually liked, only to see this on it:

Do my eyes deceive me??

Yes, this was in the two for $1 bin. I could scarcely believe it, and, as it turns out, it was mismarked, but they gave it to me for the price shown anyway. I only learned that it was mismarked after my sale was complete, when I commented, "I can't believe you guys were selling that Jaeger magazine for so cheap!," and the owner's daughter replied, " was actually mismarked, but we gave it to you for that anyway, because we like you!" It's not like they lose money on me, anyway, considering the alarming number of frequent buyer cards I've filled up in the past year...

As a matter of fact, karma evened things out right away when I bought this, which was definitely not on sale, not by any stretch of the imagination:

Price Slasher Sale Splurging

When I saw this beautiful Della Q bag from across the room, I basically thought to myself, "Oh, there's where I left my bag." I don't know about soulmates and love at first sight, but I do know a soulbag when I see it, and this bag and I were clearly meant to be together. I mean:

Who could argue with this?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

On the Road Again

After a few months' respite thanks to both my knee surgery and something of a summer lull, it's time for another round of business trips. Last Thursday found me on a rather brutal one-day trip to Phoenix, AZ -- brutal, meaning that we went for the day only and didn't stay the night, so I had to wake up at 4:30 AM to be to the airport for my 7:15 flight, and I didn't walk in the door of my house until around 11:45 PM that night. Well, and brutal also meaning that it was something like 110 degrees Fahrenheit in Phoenix that day, and frankly, that's just not right. Walking outside felt the way it feels to stick your arm in the oven to pull out some food. Oh, sure, it's a "dry heat," but it's also a heat in which you probably could literally fry an egg on the sidewalk.

I made it through my day with lots of caffeine and lots of knitting. Completely ignoring all four items on my WIP list, I decided that I needed a project that was both easy and small, so I cast on for a new sock. I started the sock the night before in anticipation of the trip and knit about three rows. Then, as soon as I settled in to wait for my plane at the airport, the fun began:

Sock-in-progress on the flight from Salt Lake to Phoenix

The yarn is Cervinia Calzeterria in color #901 (named "Milan") purchased from Smiley's Yarn Sale for super-cheap. (Looks like right now they're selling it for $2.50 a ball. I calculated that I might need three balls of it to make one pair of socks, but I suspect you could easily get a pair from two skeins.) I'm using a pattern from Classic Beginnings Socks for the Family by Michele Wyman, which is a great basic sock book, and I'm working these on size 2 Clover bamboo needles.

It turned out to be a great day for knitting. I knit while waiting for and throughout the first flight, then in the rental car on the way to our meetings. I was able to sneak in some knitting time on breaks, and also after the meetings during a rather long wait for our flight home and throughout the second flight, though I was nearly dropping from exhaustion by that point. Hence the wisdom of an easy knitting project to carry along.

As a reward for enduring the blistering heat (which no sock made of wool should have to endure), the sock and I snagged the rental car at lunch and headed for IKEA.

Socks love IKEA too

The Phoenix IKEA is just a few blocks away from where our meetings were held, and I actually needed to hustle over there to pick up part two of a baby shower gift that I'd previously purchased from them. I'd purchased the frog part of a cute frog ottoman on our last business trip to Phoenix, but stupidly didn't notice that there was an accompanying air element sold separately. Lucky me, they were in stock, and I was able to pick it up just two days before the baby shower for which it was intended! (Guess occasionally a little bit of good luck comes along to make up for the bad luck of, say, major skiing accidents and such...) Naturally, I bought a few other items (hey, I have more than one baby shower coming up!). The sock and I also enjoyed a rather tasty lunch in the IKEA cafeteria.

With all this quality knitting time, I made great progress. Here's a view of the sock, enjoying the company of my lightly salted peanuts and Bloody Mary mix with lemon on the plane ride home:

Sock kicking back

Nah, nothing stronger than the mix in that drink. I would've had to sleep in my car otherwise! As you can see, the colors combined and behaved in a rather strange way, one which reminds me pretty distinctly of snake skin. Here's something even stranger:


One section of the yarn has much longer stretches of the dark brown and cream than the rest of the yarn, so it doesn't pattern in the same way. I know that this would drive a large percentage of the perfectionistic knitblog world to distraction, but me, I just let the yarn do what it wants and be the way it wants to be. And I'm just pleased that I'm getting the gauge I set out to achieve, 8 stitches per inch, since I've often had more like 9 or 10 spi on socks in the past (which, remarkably, fit anyway...go figure).

As a reward for its suffering, I took the sock with me for a day of pampering on the following day (because I had very wisely scheduled the day off work). The sock and I enjoyed a pedicure, fake spray-on tan, haircut, and eyebrow wax, and believe me, we felt like new people/footwear afterwards. So much so that I bought some new clothes (none of which match the sock...don't tell it). And as an even greater reward, the sock came along to the baby shower on Saturday and enjoyed the lovely afternoon tea at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City:

Knitting in Fine Style with Brooke

Yes, I know how to show a sock a good time. Even when the irony of knitting wool socks in 110 degree Fahrenheit heat renders the activity almost ludicrous.

I leave you with this, one of the strangest signs I've ever seen. This was at the Phoenix airport, and I saw several of them.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. And then make them wait in Terminal B for 3 hours.

My question is this: refuge from WHAT? Are there other areas in the airport in which people in wheelchairs are persecuted, and therefore they must seek refuge? I don't get it.

Monday, August 01, 2005

This site just made me late for work

Check out some truly distressing knitwear here.

Bonne Marie linked to a part of this for her post this morning, but then I browsed around and found even weirder stuff. It's pretty PG-13, but all the same, I think this must be some specialty stuff for knitwear fetishists or something. I especially direct your attention to the balaklavas, catsuits, Wollsaecke (that would be wool bags...), and "Bodys". Oh my. It is even more entertaining if you read German, and if you're really curious you might try to run it through the Google translation engine.