Tuesday, January 30, 2007
We start our day at 7 am with a practice, then break for an hour for breakfast. Then, sitting still in a meeting room of a generic hotel from 9 am until 1230 pm, with a bit of a break twice. Lunch. Escape the confines of the meeting room, seek fresh air, some sunshine. Try to blow the cobwebs out of your brain and see something of the world around here. My best lunch so far: eating some cheese and a bagel in my room, then driving over to Madisonville to walk along the river. Discovered a maritime museum where they hold traditional boat building classes, watched some neighborhood kids playing soccer, looked at the houses and the sidewalks and the trees with moss hanging from the branches.
Then, back to sitting and learning. Already have used up one of my favorite rolling-ball marker-type pens and an entire notebook. That's in three days. In class until 5 pm, with breaks a bit. Then a practice from 5 or so until 6 pm. Except for yesterday, when we ran late and finished at 630. Most evenings, we've then been going out to eat. Very continental, but perhaps not the healthiest option after sitting all day. Last night, I ordered take-out from the Thai restaurant (thank you) in Covington, took time to read through my notes, and do my homework, which I only remembered when I went wandering down to the kitchen later in the evening to look for a tea bag, and ran into one of the women in the group.
Sat at my desk, listened to classical music, worked on devising a sequence of poses leading up to Navasana, an intense forward fold executed by leaning back on your tailbone and drawing both legs up in front of you. Also, counterposes to follow, which was the main subject of yesterday's studies. Did a rough draft, then went to borrow the book of poses from my teacher for more inspirastion. Another draft, then three efforts at recopying with correct spellings of Sanskrit names.
Awakened at 130 am. Thought it was 430 am. Then, turned the light on to rewrite my sequence. Executed it in neat little stick figures which I can illustrate when I get home. Scratched out a counterpose, and then called it a day and went back to sleep.
It's wonderful to be learning, to be reading (which I hardly have time for and have already lost and then found one of my textbooks), to be observing some truly gifted teachers, to be meeting my mentor for the next four years, or for life. It's challenging to sit still, to be confronted with so much that is new, to have so many personalities in one space. I'd tried yesterday to soften the intensity by working on my Swallowtail Shawl in the afternoon. But taking notes, discussion, and so much that is new is not a good mix with knitting of lace.
Yesterday I received a box with my bolero in it. Now that my husband has faxed the directions to me (thank you, Lakesha at the front desk, who yesterday provided me with a real mug for tea instead of a styrofoam cup, a listing of television stations, the area code for Covington, my wake-up calls at 545 am, and my fax), I might see if I can swing knitting and learning.
Monday, January 29, 2007
I'd left the Cabled Bolero at home when I set off on my trip. Too bulky, too unwieldy to fit neatly into my backpack. As much as I love working on it, and admire its ease and quickness, I'm trying to force myself to avoid the impulse to overpack.
So, instead, this yarn.
Lorna's Laces. Off with me to New Orleans. Never treated myself to it before. But, again resisting those deep-seated patterns that we all fall before, I admitted that there was neither time nor more time to start a dyeing project. And it is beautiful.
The colorway ranges from purples to blues to greens to a soft brown. But the movement of the shades does remind me of the bamboo that I dyed for More than Circular. The challenge is in finding a source for a silk-wool blend, either laceweight or DK, that I could buy at a not-too-outrageous price and then dye myself. Any ideas?
Postscript: I gave in and asked my husband to send the bolero to me, along with my tennish shoes for walking. It's not a lace-concentrating week, but I just might be able to work on the bolero during class.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Marveling at Southern women. Full of the gift of gab, generous, hospitable, and very business savvy. And they know things. Yesterday, the owner of a bed and breakfast who was generously showing us to a property owned by a friend was the only person in the car who knew how to release the emergency brake on my rental car. Otherwise, we'd still be sitting in the gravel in front of her house.
Visiting the pool house of a local resident, as a potential place to move to instead of the very sterile, stuck-by-the-expressway motel that we're lodged in. Taking in the exquisite pool, the over-the-top four poster beds, the fireplace in the living room, the French doors.
Drinking great coffee. Community Coffee is the brand in the motel and at the coffee shop that is close enough to walk to, if we stay on the berm and keep our eyes on the traffic. Dark, rich, without the burnt quality of the big-chain coffee places (referred to as the S Place at the tea shop I frequent).
Trying to learn to accept that I don't always have to know where I'm going, even though I'm doing the driving. There's something about holding the keys and being the only adult behind the wheel that puts you immediately into the role of Mom, even if your passengers aren't expecting you to be in charge.
Learning lots and lots about yoga, asanas, breathwork, the philosophy and texts of the practice. Today I learned that I've been breathing backwards, or at least, upside down. Breath comes in at the top and then moves down to the diaphragm. In contrast, I was taught to begin by letting the belly expand. "My belly breather," the teacher affectionately referred to me. Not the label I was hoping to come away with.
Buying a map of New Orleans and of St. Tammany Parish, even though I sincerely question whether the map accurately depicts the current condition of the area. It's very odd here. In some places, much evidence of the devastation. As we were wending our way for hours from the airport out to the town we're now in, roofs still missing, bridges with new supports standing along side, roads that dead end or turn into one-way streets unexpectedly. And apparently something called Katrina Brain: a condition in which people who've lived through the last 18 months have difficulty concentrating or remembering information. Meeting after support meeting in the local paper: two columns of meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous alone. Yet, in other areas, no sign that anything untoward took place. Very unsettling.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Otherwise, come back soon.
Still looks very large to me. But I studied the picture of Gaughan's Bolero on the cover of the issue of Vogue Knitting, and it looks, to this still-new knitter, as if it will work. I'm enjoying the process of. . . Wait, did I just say that? But I am. It's surprising how satisfying little things like remembering the pattern, easily finding your place when you lose it, undoing mistakes with a minimum of brain effort and ripping back (this yarn just holds the stitches until you take them apart or pick them up again), and seeing progress can be.
Even the little details are satisfying. Here's a photo of the wrong side of two pentagons, showing the join where I picked up stitches on one side to make the second pentagon.
And here's the right side of the garment.
The joins are almost indetectable, just a little dip in the fabric where the two pieces come together. And if you are as lucky as I've been, you'll just fall into picking up stitches along the side of the previous pentagon so that the cable and the purls and edge stitches line up. I didn't even notice that thus was happening until about the fifth pentagon, when I observed that some of the knits were bumping into the purls of the next-door pentagon. Easy and lucky can be satisfying, no matter what our moms told us.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Sending your address to the yarn-giver so that she can send the package.
Reading email a bit later, to discover that you'd neglected to include your last name when providing a mailing address. As she indicates, the post office is somewhat persnickety about that sort of information being included. Oops. Send another email, this time with your last name, but neglecting to note when you'll be leaving, as she hopes to get the yarn here before you get on the airplane out of town.
Going to yoga class for the first time in forever. Arriving late as the dog did want to go outside one more time, and then was extremely hesitant about coming back up the stairs from the backyard. If she can get herself to that second stair, it's all gravy. Otherwise, she circles, stares at the steps, and then circles again, until someone calls out encouraging words.
Writing three blog posts with lots and lots of pictures, in hopes that they can be posted while I'm out of town AND will post in something resembling the order of the calendar, instead of inserting themselves willy-nilly between today's posts. I'm remembering that WYSIWYG thing from some Blogger help page, but can't recall if postings work the same way. To wit, if I wrote the posts today and saved them as drafts, will they show up in a big bunch, tucked into today's archives, or present themselves proudly, one by one, at the top of the blog, as they should?
Resisting the temptation to test-post drafts to see how this works in practice. Sometimes you just have to say no.
Shopping in Ulta for tiny samples of shampoo and conditioner and facewash and moisturizer. Thirty minutes later, willing to admit that this type of errand should be much easier. And this is after I attempted to be efficient and hit both beauty-type places in my shopping center, where Aveda was out of shampoo and the other place could not seem to grasp that 4.3 oz. bottles do not meet the airline specs of 3 oz. This experience did come in handy as I was training a new sales associate later in the day, and was able to use this as an example of the importance of actually listening when you ask a customer a question. The glass is half full.
Buying, well, trading in, my old phone for a new one. Befuddling the young woman helping me because I asked for an explanation of BlueTooth. Further bemusing her by the fact that I could have updated my phone in 2004, but instead waited until 2007. Allowed myself to be tempted by a Katana, with a full-screen camera inside the phone, and a sleek, rectangular shape. Shamed to be informed that my old phone is so old that she was unable to transfer the numbers from old to new, and gave me both phones to take home so that I could manually transfer my phone book. Learned, upon arriving home, from my learned husband, that a katana is a Japanese samurai sword. Wondered what the samurai yell is for lost signal.
Stopped for wild-caught salmon, a baguette, green beans, salad, a pineapple, and bananas. This is food for home, not related to the food for trip that I stopped for earlier: couscous, a chunk of parmesean, a jar of grilled vegetables for bruschetta, some Indian entrees that are ready to be microwaved, and Laughing Cow cheese (refrigerate after opening). Still need to add crackers and peanut butter to my stash, some forks and spoons and a sharp knife, and of course, the jar of jam in my wallet.
Monday, January 22, 2007
So I was pleased to wander over to a blog called Vegan Lunch Box, and discover a fancy, environmentally-friendly, plastic version of the Bento box that Asian lunchers use to pack sushi, salad, and other small bites. (I found the blog through listening to an interview on Good Food with the blogger, Jennifer, about her invention of a vegan-friendly version of the Hostess Twinkie.) Pink or blue? Gender-appropriate or throw caution to the wind?
A more adult version here, and supportive of small industry in a needy country. But perhaps too organized for someone who stores jam in her wallet?
My other favorite: a battered rectangular metal lunchbox that is designed to emulate the picnic baskets that Hollywood starlets carried in 50s movies. I found it on my way out of the Kane County Flea Market, years ago, while wandering with a friend and her dad.
What I actually carry most days: lots of unwieldy Tupperware; a fork and a spoon so I do a tiny something to preserve the environment; perhaps a cloth napkin if I'm not too rushed as I pack up, in a knitting bag, with something that I am deluded enough to hope that I'll have time to work on during my lunch break; a book, a bottle of water'; a piece of fruit for lunch desert and a piece of fruit for the drive home; and other assorted necessities.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
This morning, I hunted through purse and jacket pockets. No jam. I felt a bit sad. And hoped that the cook wouldn't be offended that I'd left the jam behind.
Tonight, rooting around in the zippered case that I use for a wallet, in search of my employee ID and charge card to buy something at work, there it was. A little jar nestled in the corner of the leather case.
"I found my jam!" I exclaimed. My assistant manager looked at me. Then laughed. Then laughed some more.
The mind works in mysterious ways. I guess I put it there to keep it safe. Now, if I'd stopped at a gas station with pumps and a toaster, I'd be all set.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
So, with a trip just over the horizon, for ten days to a yoga training course, I'm searching for a bargain in yarn. Seems that it should be time for all that winter fiber to go on sale. And I'm convinced that, sometime last week, I found a site that was selling Elsebeth Lavold Angora for a mere $3 something a skein. Can't find it now, though. My hope is to find a beautiful, hand-painted DK weight wool-silk, at a fabulous price. I'm not asking much, am I? The project will probably be another Swallowtail Shawl, the most lovely of shawl patterns. And this time I'll have the rare experience of experience under my belt. First time I'll ever make a second version of a pattern. Should be interesting to see what it feels like to experience a learning curve in knitting.
Or I might dye over some Koolaid-dyed yarn from the summer. In theory, blueberry and lime Koolaid create a palette of pale, limey greens fading into a sky-ish blue, with intervals of ivory fading toward color. In reality, very neon. And after seeing the beauty of the Noro Kureyon, with variegated charcoals and deep greens and khaki and teals, it's a challenge to dive into a project with a yarn that strobes and glows in the dark.
Why must one love the yarn before committing to a project?
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Now, what can I make from only 175 yards of this stuff?
Noro Kureyon, which is a blend of silk, wool, and agora. Beautiful colorway. Other knitters are saying that it won't work for a shawl, which is what I want to use it for. My friend Christine and I scoured the Noro books at Knitche, searching for possibilities. We did find one, great ruffled shawl. But it called for two different Noro yarns, doubled, and a coupla skeins of each. Who can afford these projects? Even those of us with a yen for great yarn and good tools would have a hard time justifying the cost of these multiple-skein Noro projects.
So, back to my initial question: what can I do with just one skein? I'm resisting the scarf option. Any other ideas?
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Now, then, a picture of my progress so far. Still matching my earlier pace: a day, a pentagon. Amazing.
One concern is the size of the pentagons produced. Yes, I'm matching the suggested gauge of 18 stitches to 4 inches. And yes, my pentagon is measuring about 5 or so inches on a side, as suggested for my size. But don't these shapes look huge?
A mid-shot of a pentagon.
A close-up. Not to scale.
I think I must have studied at the Brobdingnagian School of Knitting. Remember my flower attempts for the Noni bag?
Dinner-plate size. Here's the most recent attempt, not yet felted, knit while watching A Muppet Christmas Carol on New Year's Day. Still pretty sizeable. After felting, still too big. I'm going for attractive, somewhat life-sized felted flowers, not a gargantuan specimen.
It's all about the process, right? So here's Try Number One from Baking: the Chewy, Chunky Blondies.
My goal: something that emulates the Toffee Bar from Starbuck's. A blond brownie with chunks of chocolate and toffee, in a solid bar that is reminiscent of undercooked chocolate-chip cookies. Vanilla, brown sugar, and a chewy texture. The result: too sweet, too buttery, too much stuff and not enough bar taste in a bite. The cookies have 2 sticks of butter, a cup of chips, a cup of toffee bits, walnuts, and coconut in addition to the basics of flour, egg, sugar. I don't blame the author. When I reread her description, I discovered that she advertised the high percentage of what they call mix-ins, in the ice cream world, as a benefit of the cookie. I was ready to pitch the results. But my husband likes them, and perhaps folks at work will be willing to choke them down. For me, back to the drawing board.
Sometimes I wish that I was more like the Queen in Alice in Wonderland and less like Goldilocks.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Happy dishes. They remind me of Monet's china for Giverny. Yellow and cobalt blue. Tiffany's used to reproduce them. The version here: much less pricy, but a spot of sun in the doldrums.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Sorry, it's just a post about a sweater. But a glorious sweater.
One day, one pentagon finished. I'm not setting that as my goal, but how satisfying, all the same. (Full disclosure: almost finished, I still need to seam up the center to convert it from semicircle to pentagon). What's beautiful about this project: the simplicity of the technique against the intricacy, the texture, the lushness of the cables.
Yesterday, at work, I was wearing this sweater.
A guest admired it and asked where she could find it in the store. When I told her that I'd made it, she did the typical non-crafty thing of first, giving me a backhanded compliment, and then, regretting that she could never make a sweater. "Oh, you could do this," I insisted. "If you can count, you can knit." Still dubious. I then added the piece of information that seems to assuage any potential jealousy: "Would it make you feel any better to know that it took me a very long time to finish this?" Yup, that did the trick.
In my house, it's generally known that it will take me at least a year to weave four napkins. Right now, I have a project, one-third finished, from at least two years ago, on the loom. And yesterday I remembered that a very long time ago, at least a year and a half ago, my older daughter asked if I would weave her napkins when she moved into her own apartment. Perhaps they may arrive in circa 2010?
Here's an idea: if you want to try this sweater, you could buy just one skein of yarn. Try one pentagon. If you can knit, purl, and do a basic decrease of either knitting two stitches together or slipping two stitches knitwise and then knitting those together, you can make this. And those are very doable goals. Big names but very easy operations, I promise.
If you're not sure how to do that, you can buy the yarn at a good knitting shop and they will help you to learn how. And if you decide after one pentagon that you're not in for the whole project, you'll have a nifty knitted shape that you can use as a potholder or a dresser doily (does anyone still use those) or something to display to friends as evidence of your domestic artistry.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
This. Not the dress, but the lovely white shrug.
One observes the newness of this pattern: no other pictures available on the internet nor more than 2 hits on Google. But if you double click, you can maximize the picture, and perhaps see the detail at play.
Amazingly intricate appearance but so far, not too challenging to knit. Lots of knit two, purl two, then a long section of knits. Regularity in the arrangement of stitches, and then a cable every 8 rows or so. You make lots of triangles and keep picking up stitches on the previous pieces, until you end up with a sweater.
Intellectually satisfying and beautiful, to boot. And a goal to shoot for. Lest I seem too self-confident, let me note that I'm only five rows in.
Let me know if you want to join me in this quest.
This is the first line from Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth. Illustrations by the great cartoonist, Jules Feiffer. Page after page that I want to quote, for anyone out there who hasn't found this book yet. The best kind of children's book: a little strange, a bit disturbing, altogether hopeful, and a friendly dog to guide the way.
Much of it reminds me of the Tea Party section of Alice in Wonderland, and I'm also reminded of The Point (music by Nilsson, including the classic "Me and my Arrow," which I can still hear in my head just by thinking of the title). This was an animated movie that, like many childhood icons I hold dear (who here has read The Lonely Doll?), seems to have been seen by no one but my family.
I've been feeling, lately, like Milo stuck in the Doldrums. His car goes slower, and slower, until it comes to a stop in a gray, monotonous world where "even the air hung heavily." It's a land bound by many rules, none of which make sense, and all designed to deepen the lethargy at play. The Lethargians, as the inhabitants are called, have a very busy schedule, however, with each hour allotted to a specific task. For example, "From 1:00 to 2:00 we linger and loiter. From 2:00 to 2:30 we take our early afternoon nap. From 2:30 to 3:00 we put off for tomorrow what we could have done today."
I'm not sure if it's the weather in Chicago: completely overcast sky, cool but not crisp, a bit of nothing pervading everything. Or if it's the post-holiday crash: you push and push, and then, suddenly, it's over. Or if it's the way that my spring is shaping up: already way too many things to schedule, too many places that I need to fly to, too many things overlapping so that I am already anticipating having to make as graceful an exit as possible from one commitment in order to make it to the next. I feel like a Lethargian, with every moment scheduled, yet this is the result:
"As you can see," the creature tells Milo, "that leaves almost no time for brooding, lagging, plodding or procrastinating, and if we stopped to think or laiugh, we'd never get nothing done."
"You mean you'd never get anything done," corrected Milo.
"We don't want to get anything done," snapped another angrily; "we want to get nothing done, and we can do it without your help."
Milo escapes the Doldrums with the aid of the Watchdog: an oversized dog with a tail, four legs, and a midsection of a ticking alarm clock. But the dog, as in the tradition of best animals in children's books, doesn't save him: he advises Milo how to help himself: "'Well, . . . since you got here by not thinking, it seems reasonable to expect that, in order to get out, you must start thinking.' And with that, he hopped into the car.
'Do you mind if I get in? I love autmobile rides.' "
Since I have neither a toy car that goes on a fantastic trip nor a Watchdog, I'll have to muddle through.
Oh, and my favorite part of the book? When the Soundkeeper (who stores all the sounds ever made, including the tune George Washington whistled as he crossed the Delaware in 1777 and what you said to your mother this morning) strikes a big bass drum, and six large, wooly cotton balls come rolling out. Just the way that the sound of a drum would look, don't you think?
Saturday, January 06, 2007
I miss the sun and spending time outside. My commute was put into fair yet somewhat brutal terms by my younger daughter, who, when I was pondering why driving seems so onerous to me, pointed out that I spend an hour closed in a metal box, only to arrive home and go into another box. It's a colorful image, I'll grant her, but, oh, it's sticking too much in my imagination.
If someone came up to me on a street corner, handed me a ticket and reservations for Mexico, I'd be on my way, almost no questions asked. Just to hear the ocean would be good. Perhaps tomorrow I'll go to the bookstore and buy a few nature CD's: perhaps a thunderstorm, sounds of the rain forest, and waves washing onto the beach. I'll open a window, turn up the heat, and pretend that it's summer.
One of my favorite parties ever: the Summer is Coming party, held in February in Ohio by good friends who are smart and creative and eclectic. They turn the heat up high, ask everyone to come dressed in summer attire (Hawian shirts are de rigeur but the adventurous wear bathing suits), and serve food and drink for a hot July. The best part: a continuous audio loop of our friend, saying to his wife, " Marcia, it's so hot. . . ."
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Coincedence? On the same day that I brought the yarn home, someone else in the house went to the Frugal Muse and came home with two novels in the same colorway as the yarn.
If you love books, and you live anywhere near this store, stop in. Lots and lots of used books, lovingly catalogued by genre. Very amenable to browsing for hours, with long, long rows of books and armchairs to hang out and read for as long as you want. A huge selection of mysteries and histories and cookbooks, and a bargain wall of books for $1. New things as well as the old, videos, music, young adult section, too. The kind of bookstore that I could spend hours in when I was in college.