Sunday, December 31, 2006
And it was okay. We survived. We laughed. We marveled at our ability to do something that we didn't think we could do, or we observed with satisfaction, as others attempted the pose.
I had very little voice, due to the end round of the flu. And that was okay, too, for the most part. I wanted to chant "om" at the end of class, but didn't think I would have much projection left after an hour or so of talking. So my students carried the load, and that was good, too. The best part of being a teacher is seeing your students grow and flourish.
Toward the beginning of class, as I was explaining my raspy voice, I told the class that if they couldn't hear me, to just continue. "You can peek at your colleagues if you're not sure what to do," I suggested. "Better yet, don't worry, just go ahead and do something. It will be fine."
And then and there, I realized that that was my resolution for the coming year.
Here's wishing you, and me, lots of laughter, good food and drink, and something that you've always wanted to do, but haven't yet tried, in the year to come.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Originally destined for someone much closer to home. But I have been meaning to make something for the amazing woman who hosted my daughter last year during a semester abroad in Cyprus, and this seemed just right. So, on its way it goes.
Unfortunately, I could not manage to take a picture before its departure that does this shawl justice. Outdoors, at this time of year, not the best background for a brown shawl. And in this arty shot, you can see, I admit, our garbage can.
It's a new one. But yet, still a garbage can.
Here's an effort to pose it over the railing in the upstairs hallway. Brown against brown, again.
One more try, on my older daughter's bed, with the intention here to exhibit the beautiful transitions between the sections of lace, the airiness in contrast with the more dense areas of the fabric, and the wonderfully-peaked edging that scallops and echoes the design of the lace pattern.
I give. It is a shy shawl. My theory: it's waiting to be donned, posed in front of a very blue sea, sun shining on the water, great Cypriot food and wine nearby. Or maybe that's just not a shawl's fantasy?
Here are my notes:
Project: Swallowtail Shawl
Source: Interweave Knits, Fall 2006
Designer: Evelyn Clark
Yarn: Rovings, Canada Polwarth Wool and Silk, 2 ply fingering weight, 823 yd. per skein, color (or Colour): Brown (used about 650 yd. for the shawl)
Source: Stitches Midwest, 2006
Needles: Size 8 Bryspun 24" circular, Size 8 Addi Turbo 40" circular
If I Had it to Do Over Again: I wouldn't change anything. Beautiful yarn, wonderful to work with on a Bryspun (which gave just enough traction), beautiful pattern.
Friday, December 29, 2006
On the ATT home page, front and center: a strangely Hollywood-style glam-shot photo of Hussein, beside headlines trumpeting his imminent demise. Wearing a bright white shirt, he looks over his shoulder, somewhat the businessman, somehow a bit reminiscent of Pierce Brosnan. The confluence of image and headline is odd, a bit too eager, tasteless, and above all, reductive of what is a poor solution to a horrific situation.
Note: in the time that it took me to write these few sentences, the image has been changed to a more polemical shot of Hussein, fist raised, shouting, set in a courtroom. Just in case we weren't sure how we're supposed to feel about the ensuing execution.
Start here, and look at Meg Swansen's Schoolhouse Press site. Yes, it's knitting, but it's more than that. And if you're already a knitter, time yourself to see how long you can read before wanting to order all the books and yarn, and to sign up for every session of Knitting Camp. And I don't even like camp.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Project: Hand/Wrist Warmers
Designer: Joelle Hoverson
Source: Last-Minute Knitted Gifts (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2004)
Yarn: Classic Elite Inca Marl (100% alpaca), color 1194, 1 skein
Needles: size 7 Addi Turbo 24" circular
Variations: knitted back and forth and seamed mitt after binding off, instead of working on double-points; dropped down to size 6 needles for last four rows to create tighter ribbing at finger edge; row gauge, as usual, coming out at less rows per inch than called for in pattern, so I measured against my hand instead of following specs in pattern; great yarn, easy to work with, project knits up fast - but is warm and a bit itchy when worn
If I Had It to Do Over Again: do body of mitt on a size 6 needle and ribbing on a size 5 (mitt really stretches when worn); be more vigilant about measuring, as one mitt came out longer than the other
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
It wants to be on a larger needle, but in order to get gauge for the Bianca's Jacket, I'm subjecting it to a size 7 needle. Every row feels like a huge effort. No pleasure at all, especially as it's plain old stockinette stitch for miles.
The yarn is a worsted weight. The suggested gauge: 16 and a half stitches to 4 inches. And that's what I get on a size 7 bamboo circular. However, knitting with the size 8 felt all together better: easier, smoother, more of a flow.
So here's my question:
is it better to stick to gauge, or better to let the yarn feel right (and then try to ballpark the size that you think that the sweater will end up as)?
And because I still remember the paper that I wrote for a class toward my master's degree, in which my intro paragraph noted that I would address three issues, and then I addressed four, here's another question:
I looked at WrapStyle for help and noticed a huge variation in the size needles used for worsted weight yarns (anywhere from 6 to 9's), though, in each case, the suggested gauge was 16 stitches. How come?
But the glass is half full. Homemade challah french toast is ready to eat! (And I cooked it this time.)
Monday, December 25, 2006
Taking a nap between breakfast and lunch.
Going to see "Dreamgirls." Jennifer Hudson: perfection.
Taking a nap between lunch and dinner.
Admiring the knitted hat that your daughter made on her new Denise interchangeable needle set.
Also admiring her use of color: blending a lusciously-soft angora in a variegated pink and orange with some left-over Cascade 220 in dark brown and charcoal.
Side benefit: possibly retrieving all the size 8 needles that you suspect you may have loaned to her in the last two years. I know that I had an Addi Turbo size 8 somewhere, sometime.
Having risotto, salad, green beans for dinner. The very end of the pear crisp for desert.
Sitting on a fleecy dog bed in front of the fire while watching "Pirates of the Caribbean." Fleecy dog bed obtained while person originally sitting on it left the room to get drinks for dinner.
Tranferring to the other dog bed to read a Nero Wolfe mystery when the one person not sitting on a dog bed in front of the fire chooses to return fleecy dog bed to the dog.
Doing a variation of viparita karani, with legs propped up on the wing chair, lying back on a big, circular dog bed while reading in front of the fire.
Friday, December 22, 2006
And swatching a swatch for Bianca's Jacket from the Fall 2006 Interweave Knits. First up was Classic Elite Wool Bamboo, but a bit too flabby. Now on deck, elsebeth lavold angora, at rest in this picture in a pool of water pre-blocking.
I was trying to break out of my blue and red rut. One shawl, two sweaters in blue. One sweater, now a second, in red. No browns or blacks or anything else. But faced with the other choices of tan, khaki green, rust, and blue, I gave in to fate and went with the cherry red, sort of a red crossed with the depth of maroon.
The yarn has that halo of fuzziness that I love, but may be too fat for this project. Stitch gauge: dead on, almost. Row gauge: wow, could not be more off. I'm getting 16 stitches and 10 rows to 4 inches, with the pattern calling for 16.5 stitches and 26 rows. Does this mean that the sweater will fit sideways but not up and down?
Thursday, December 21, 2006
When the weather improves, or more importantly, when the sun comes out again (sometime in April, most probably), I have a promise from the person I gave it to that she'll model the shawl so that I can take one of those really good, shot from the back, arms spread like wings, you can see the lace detailing pictures. We have a sort of stream behind the store, where it sounds like a nature CD when you take out the trash. Red-winged blackbirds chirping, ducks a-swimming, water babbling. Come April, if not sooner, I'll take another picture so that you can see the beauty of this shawl.
In the meantime, here are my notes:
Project: More than Circular from Best of Knitter's Magazine Shawls and Scarves
Designer: Joanne Besold
Yarn: 20/12 bamboo from Habu Textiles, hand-dyed by me
Needles: size 4 bamboo double points; size 4, 5 , 7, 8 and 10.5 metal circulars
Variation: includes 3 relief rounds to increase size
If I made this again: I would leave out the relief rounds, which made the shawl quite large after blocking
Size: 48 by 48" before blocking, 60" by 60" after blocking
Started: June '06
Finished: November '06
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
The problem: how to get from the hit Google offers to the exact page in the blog that you're searching for.
What usually happens: the first link takes you to the most recent post in a blog, not to the post that you want to find.
Example: Google this term: "the world's most perfect brownies".
What you see next is a list of hits, with the first hit quoting a post on my blog about baking the world's most perfect brownies.
But if you click on that link, you are taken to my most recent post (in today's case, a post on shortbread, not at all brownie-like).
Solution: click on the term "Cached," which appears beside the web address for the link. This will take you to a page that highlights the keywords and gives the web address for the post with the info you were googling. Make sense?
Example: Google "the world's most perfect brownies" again. This time, click on "cached" instead. This time you are directed to the post on brownies instead of whatever is the most recent post on my blog.
It's small. And you may already know this. But I've been searching for this info for the last five months in other blogs, Google help groups, and slightly stalkerish emails to a person on the Google help groups who seem to know the ins and outs of blogging much better than me (I regret that effort and will not repeat it ever).
But in a Scylla and Charybdis kind of way, probably no one who really needs to know this will ever find this post.
And wouldn't it be better if I could have used "world peace" or "compassion for those who most aggravate us" as the example, instead of brownies. Ah well. Let it be know that the recipe in the decadent cookbook, Chocolate Obsession (by chocolatier Michael Recchiuti and baker Fran Gage) for Fudge Brownies is almost the same as my Betty Crocker-redux.
Sent for Hanukah by my older daughter. Now the dog has two stuffed animals, referred to by us, for unclear reasons, as her babies. Perhaps because we know Rosie would have made a really good mom to pups. When my younger daughter left for Cyprus last year, Rosie placed her first stuffed animal with my daughter's luggage in the living room. We weren't sure if she was packing to go along or sending a friend along for comfort.
A sure sign of love: a foot chewed off within the first day.
Stacked up and ready to be boxed.
Honestly, my first-time ever making holiday cookies, and I'm a neophyte when it comes to the understanding of how many tins you will need, whether round or square works best, and the cost and sad aesthetics of store-bought tins. But no going down the road of making my own boxes and decorating them. I have a book from the library that gives recipes and directions for amazingly labor-intensive packaging. Who has the time to cut a template, make a box, and decorate it? I was regretting even the time I lost in reading the directions.
But what a sense of achievment to bake cookies. The smell of baking sugar, the unbaked dough, the warm crumbs, tea and fresh-baked shortbread.
The recipe? 3 cups of flour, 2 cups of cornstarch, a heaping cup of confectioners sugar, a pound of butter. Mix it with your hands until a dough forms. Press it into a jelly roll pan, prick all over with a fork, and bake for about 45 min. at 325 degrees. Remove from oven. Cut, while in pan, into rectangular cookies. Return to oven and bake for another 5-10 minutes. Cover with foil for last baking if the top has started to brown.
Friday, December 15, 2006
- A tap-dancing customer who was jilted five days before the wedding, and could not recall her address because her mail is still being delivered to the ex-fiancee's house.
- A customer who came in to pick up the coat we had ordered for his wife while we were doing Uttanasana, or standing forward fold, behind the counter during a brief lull in business. In fact, one of us, who will go unnamed, was demonstrating the use of props in the pose by placing each hand on a stack of gift certificate boxes, in place of a yoga block. He looked intrigued but pretended not to notice.
- Here's what the UPS truck brought at 4:30 pm: four cartons of enormous gift boxes, used only for robes or coats or to hold a small animal; three cartons of very large shopping bags, not quite large enough however for the robe boxes. No medium gift boxes. No large gift boxes. Delivery late enough in the day so that everyone from the packaging place had gone home for the weekend and didn't have to take irate phone calls from managers who know how obsessed customers become with wanting the exactly-correct size of box for their presents.
- A cup of green tea from Tea Gschwender. The stuff grows on you. The reason I had this: my manager walked into the tea place and asked "What's on tap?" We think that they should open an outpost of Tea Gschwender in our store. The same manager who picked up the tea thinks that they should let us run a tab.
- Lots and lots of potato latkes. No matter how many you make, they all get eaten. And I sent some over to my neighbor, who'd sent me a recipe for zucchini latkes and even offered to grate potatoes. Now that's love.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
I love that the cat feels that she is owed not one fleecy blanket. Not one fleecy blanket on top of a folded quilt. But the bed, with a flannel duvet over the comforter, a folded quilt, and then a fleecy blanket. What a life.
A small wall quilt that my friend Lori made for me during her quilting period. The dog in the center: a portrait of Rosie, our Lab.
Here is the outer edge of the shawl. Swirly lines, interrupted by yarnovers that create the lacey openings and the so-called nupps, basically a purl-5-stitches-together to create what looks a lot like an embroidered French knot that punctuate the baroque movement of the background pattern.
Compare that to the Shaker-like regularity of the upper part of the shawl, where the same small motif occurs at regular intervals, surrounded by white space. That emptiness is integral to the beauty of the lacey sections.
Now working on the Peaked Edging. Much faster to work. Yeah for getting to just purl across the even-numbered rows with no concern for nupp-ing or counting stitches!
Monday, December 11, 2006
Around my house or workplace, that would be any day, any excuse. Go to the stockroom for a size? Have a Hershey's Kiss. Face off with a grouchy customer? A slice of cake will make it all better.
In my kitchen, generic chocolate chips from the supermarket hold a medicinal value. I feel that it's good to dose oneself with a small handful of chips every four hours or so to ensure preservation of the highly influential endorphin level. I also think of it as a French response. Instead of eating a large bowl of ice cream, I satisfy the desire for something sweet with four or five Jewel-brand chocolate chips and feel virtuous in the process.
No surprise, then, that my signature recipe is what I like to call The World's Most Perfect Brownies. Cribbed from the middle-brow, always efficient, Betty Crocker Cookbook, then halved again to fit perfectly into The World's Most Perfect Brownie Pan.
Rectangular, metal, used regularly for over 20 years. I'm convinced that there is a feng shui thing going on with this pan. Somehow it's perfectly attuned to making just-thick-enough, very chocolatey, moist-crumbed, almost-underbaked brownies. I was horrifed to observe, in the accompanying portrait, that it appears that the pan is rusted. No, not true. I am not a great housekeeper, but even I wouldn't cook with a rusty pan. I'm sure, instead, that it's batches and batches of brownies endowing the pan with a patina of chocolate.
Here's the recipe:
3 squares baking chocolate
1 stick of margerine (if you have to, butter will do in a pinch)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
a small glug of vanilla
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking powder
a scant cup of flour (don't sift it, don't measure it too carefully, err on the side of less than a cup)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt margerine and chocolate in a large saucepan over very low heat. When melted, stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla. Just crack the eggs into the pan; don't get too fancy here and pre-beat the eggs.
Place the pan in the sink. This is a key step not to be skipped. Add flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir with a wooden spoon (one that preferably has the same feng shui value as your baking pna) just until flour is mixed in. Feel pleased that you put the pan into the sink so that you have no qualms when the flour puffs up and lands outside the pan. This will also ensure that you don't add too much flour; the escaping clouds are an integral part of keeping the brownies moist.
Spray your pan with Pam. I know, but it works and it's easy. Pour the batter into the pan. Smooth it with a spatula. Then give the pan a few horizontal shakes to even the batter out. Place in oven and bake for about 15 minutes.
Start testing the brownies with a toothpick. You want the toothpick to still have some moist crumbs on it when the brownies are done. I often turn the oven off and leave the brownies just a minute or so more after they seem almost done. Remove brownies from oven. Err on the underbaked side. You'll be glad: they keep cooking after you take them out because the pan and batter are still hot.
Try to let them cool a bit before you carve a corner out for quality control. Drink a glass of really cold milk on the side.
One last comment: these are so well-known that I have been asked to send the recipe to at least two offspring, one of whom doesn't recall but actually translated the recipe for an assignment in a college-level Spanish class. It's good to be appreciated.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Today, at the end of class, I read the second sutra. It's hard to get away from the beginning of this book, because the opening lines are so strong. And this sutra is the one that's quoted in almost every yoga book you'll read. In Sanskrit: yogas citta vritti nirodah. In English, usually understood, as here in Barbara Stoler Miller's translation: "Yoga is the cessation of the turnings of thought."
But in a translation I recently bought, this is the way in which the second sutra is translated: "Yoga happens when there is stilling. . . of the movement of thought . . ."
I like this version much better. Have you ever tried to stop thinking? Well nigh impossible. Take that great American Express commercial with Ellen Degeneres. She's sitting in a Zen meditation room, in lotus position, hands carefully held in a mudra, or seal. Against this emptiness is the constant internal dialogue she's holding with herself. And while it's a dialogue about shoes, I believe which I'm all in favor of, the commercial points up the unlikelihood of us being able to stop thinking.
In yoga, we call this constant internal conversation citta, or chatter. It's what makes the final pose in a yoga practice the most difficult. Savasana, or corpse pose, requires the body to be still. And once the body stills, the mind thinks it's its job to be active.
What I appreciate about the translation I read from today: no hint of yoga leading the mind to stop its turning. Instead, what is offered is a possibility of pausing, resting. I compared it, in class, to a car that's idling. The engine is still running, but the car has paused, momentarily, so that the driver might notice the view of a mountain range or a beautiful sunset before moving on.
Correction courtesy of assistance from the Source of All Knowledge. Apparently Degeneres is
thinking about socks, not shoes, which make no sense at all to me. Being that I contend that shoes are the Best Thing to make yourself feel pretty: you can look down at your feet, admire your shoes, and not see the rest of your body. No matter what your shape or size, that foot looks good in a great shoe, preferably red in color. And looking down, turning your toes in and out, like Dorothy checking out her ruby slippers in "The Wizard of Oz," how can you not say to yourself, "am I cute or what?"
Addendum: this, clearly, is the reason that shoe departments make the mirrors so tiny that you can see nothing in them above your ankle.
Best of all: if you go to the link for Anna's own designs, you will see some very beautiful, very classy, very fun designs. Rowan-esque, with a hint of je ne sais quoi.
I've been feeling blog envy of late. And when I see a blog like this one, it seems to me that being a blogger makes much more sense when you are truly an artist of the craft.
I wish that I could offer original designs and patterns of my own making. But right now, I'm still on the learning curve. Good gravy (with apologies to my daughter, but this is one of my most favorite things that she actually once said on her blog): I was making major errors on the Swallowtail Shawl (which so many others have started and finished in a weekend) because I failed to notice that I hadn't copied the whole right side of the pattern, thus losing a crucial part of the directions.
To knit, to blog? To practice yoga, to knit? To bake brownies, to read the Sunday Times? So many choices, so little time.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Not a meme (which is one great way to fill a post when you're too tired to write), but an equally good solution: a follow the link, this time from Polly Outhwaite at All Tangled Up.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Plan is to use the Classic Elite Wool Bamboo from a few posts ago. I'm having slight Knitting Indecision and thought I'd throw this out for any other ideas.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
My theory is that I can slip these on, keep my hands outside the covers while I'm reading, but have my fingers free for turning pages or holding the book. That is until I invent the Bookholder I've been saying, for many winters, would be the perfect invention for winter-time, reading-in-bed reading.
Pattern: Hand and Wrist Warmers from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts.
Needle: size 7 circular
Yarn: Inca Marl from Classic Elite
Who needs to spin when you can buy yarn with plum and green and blue and maroon mixed together? And a beautiful, soft hand (meaning the feel of the yarn as you work it, not the actual anatomical part)? And no need for cabling: the pattern is a spiraling rib that resembles a tiny cable twisting on itself, but achieved just by shifting the K2P2 one stitch over every 4 rows? Tricky to see in my not-fancy digital camera photo. But if you enlarge the photo by double-clicking on it, you can follow the tiny, snaking trail of the faux cable as it winds around itself.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Thank goodness for my local yarn shop. They bailed me out yet again.
I was pushing along with the Swallowtail Shawl, onto the Lily of the Valley Border I. I'd carefully consulted the knitalong that I'm participating in, read the posts about the fearsome nupps (more on that in a moment), and posted a question that received three helpful suggestions. I counted carefully, tried my hardest to pay attention, and then counted again.
Still, something amiss. But I persevered. I came up with a handy solution to the fact that I was short a few stitches. Well, that my knitting was. I simply added in a stitch at the missing spots, taking careful note of the variation so that I could repeat it if needed.
More knitting. More strange deviations from the number of stitches specified in the pattern to occur between nupps (more on those later). Finally, the personal admission that Something isn't Working. I called my yarn shop and asked if there was someone in who could give me a half-hour private lesson, to help me determine what I was doing wrong. One of the teachers urged me, instead, to just come in. Someone, she assured me, and probably the expert on lace, could take a look.
So in I went, also taking More than Circular along to show off proudly. Found the lace expert available. Sat down with her while she puzzled over the problem.
And the mistake?
I missed the far right hand margin of the page when I made my copy. You know, the part where it says "k1, yo, k1, yo, k1"? My version said "k1, yo, k1". . .so I was making 3 stitches for the nupp (more on that later) instead of 5. Thus, throwing the next row and all else into disarray.
Nothing intellectual or creative gone wrong. Just a bad copy!
Now I'm a-ripping back, my least favorite part of knitting. And even more painful on the last day off before going back to work. But the lovely part was hanging out at the knitting store, sitting around the table gabbing with other knitters, drinking a latte (at one point, I had to have sustenance or could not go on with the ripping), and strolling about in quest of a pretty but not too demanding project for me. At the end of the afternoon, the knitter sitting next to me showed me the Rowan pattern she was working on. Perfect! The final choice: Nancy from the Wool Cotton pamphlet, a vintage-style cardigan with a seed-stitch collar and a ribbed detail on the sleeves. I bought some rosy-pink-peach colored wool-bamboo from Classic Elite, and have a date to go back next Sunday to see the version of Nancy that my knitting acquaintance made from Anny Blatt.
And those so-called Nupps? Seems that they are known as nubs by many knitters. Right. Much more polite to speak of in mixed company, as well.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
The colors show beautifully in this bamboo from Habu Textiles. I dyed the yarn in two lots, each time making several shifts in dilutions of the stock colors and then random mixing of colors from lot to lot. Turquoise to royal blue to a sea blue to a jewel-tone lapis to amethyst, and back again.
Here you can get a tiny sense of how the color shifts from a very vibrant turquoise at the center to a deeper violet with blues at the border.