Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tip of the Day

Today's helpful garden tip:

Never turn your back on the Zucchini plants.




Those buggers are summa cum laude graduates of the Give-em-an-inch-they'll-take-a-mile school.




First class overachievers.




Workaholics with a breath-taking inability to perceive that size isn't everything.

 I think it's time for some good zucchini recipes.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Hurrier I Go . . .

You know the rest.  Spring is a madhouse in my world and I have, as you may have noticed, begun to neglect certain things.  Which is about all I'm going to say to explain the three month gap in blog posts around here.

Also, tonight is one of the first nights I've had without something on the schedule, and you can bet your buttons that I'm not about to spend it futzing around with a long and newsy blog post. No Sir, not me.  Instead, I will spend it working, which I failed entirely to do during normal work hours, hence the unfortunate schedule.

Before I go, though, I have to let you know that I am now a world famous knitter of hats.

Hat,  really, not hats.

And I suppose that, strictly speaking, I'm not actually world famous.  Or any kind of famous, if you insist on using the word in it's traditional, dictionary-definition sense.

But I did get to knit a hat for a book that is about to take the knitting world by storm, which is just about the same and totally counts as a way cool experience, right?

Here is my hat:



I got the gig two years ago through the lovely people at my local yarn shop, which sponsored a weekend  get-together for members of the Ravelry group associated with its on-line persona, Dizzy Sheep (check out my bumper-crop of links-- I am so tech-savvy!).  Master knitter Anne Berk joined us at the weekend and gave an introductory seminar on her technique for knitting intarsia motifs in the round.  This blew our minds.  Those of us who managed to recover from the shock of what she was teaching us (I almost didn't make it--I'm pretty sure I spent a while unable to do anything other than shake my head and blibber "that is sooooo cool") got to choose a pattern and some yarn and knit a project that would -- get this -- BE INCLUDED IN THE BOOK.  An actual real printed book with pages and everything. This doesn't happen to me very often, so I hopped on the yarnwagon and now my little hat, along with a number of other items knit by real live regular knitters, is going to make an appearance in  Annetarsia Knits (that's the Amazon link; if you really want to have fun, try this one, which goes to Ravelry and lets you take a peek at the different patterns).

Years ago I had an unfortunate experience with intarsia in the form of an afghan featuring little scottie dogs. I thought it had ruined intarsia for me, but it turns out there is a lot to be done with the technique that doesn't involve excessively cute animals and a bajillion bobbins of yarn tangling up your needles.  Such as a multi-color lace hat that does not need to be seamed and involves no gauge-restricting stranding.  In addition to the hat and the instructions for the techniques, the book contains patterns for socks, shawls, and a host of other goodies. Not all the patterns in the book are worked in the round and they range in size from coaster-sized things to --no lie-- an entire skirt/top affair.

And now I had better get back to work.  To tide you over until the next post, I'll leave you with a picture of my almost-but-not-quite finished Color Affection.



When people tell you that the end of this shawl takes forever, you should believe them and possibly choose a different project and save yourself years of garter stitch.  Saturday morning I owed 2.5 repeats (30 rows) and two inches of border on this shawl.  15 hours of knitting later, I still owe 3 rows and a bind-off.  I can only hope to have this finished by the end of the week, in which case I might just celebrate by writing a second blog post for this month.  Wahoo.

fyi:  these are not my pictures.  You can tell from the clarity and beauty of them-- and also from the fact that they are labeled with the book name and feature a person I have never before seen in my life, but who is clearly a real live model--that they were professionally taken for the purpose of the book. The photographer is Bill Berk, and I'm pretty sure that he didn't just pop a hat on one of his kids and fire away with his iPhone, as some of us are wont to do.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Spring Chickens

It's been quite a week for the chickens.

It started off with a lovely thaw.  The daytime temperatures -- all 40 degrees of them -- were positively beach-like compared to what we've seen since Thanksgiving and the birds took full advantage.
   

Unfortunately, the warm temperatures melted the snow and brought on the mud, which is always worst in the coop with its slower drainage and ground that is constantly being churned up by chicken feet.

Poor Mike here looks like she could use a pair of chicken boots.




And now she and Shirley (or is it LaVerne?  I can't tell them apart) look like they were pretending to be Lucy and Ethel stomping grapes.



Except that it's mud, of course, not grapes.

The birds spent a lot of time standing on top of their play house, like a little chicken convention.



This pair doesn't know from mud.  They and their three confederates continue to be indoor chickens.



That changed, for a grand total of 3.5 minutes, when I freshened up the shavings in their apartment, which, due to their complete failure to step outside and their indiscriminate bathroom habits, were in a disgraceful state.

When I toss clean shavings into the coop, the new birds panic like I'm lobbing grenades at them. Last time, they all backed into the same corner and hopped up and down and trampled each other until I went away.  This time, they headed for the opposite corner, which lets onto the exit ramp.    At this point, I may or may not have pushed the lot of them out the hatch--defenestrated them, as it were-- and followed it up by throwing more shavings at them.

Thus they experienced the glories of nature for a second time.
 


I don't think they cared for it all that much.
 

They flapped and ran for a bit and were completely stupefied to find themselves on the opposite side of the fence. They could see the mini-coop, but they couldn't figure out how to get back to it.

Eventually they found the cutout in the fence and, barely pausing to snatch up a few grains of the cracked corn I had put out to teach them to love the great outdoors, made their way back inside.
 

The next day it snowed. A lot.
 

So much that we got two snow days from school.

My birds don't do snow, but today's temperatures, which were back at a very vernal 42 degrees, were too much to resist.  So they pushed a bunch of shavings out and stood on that.  All of them in one little spot.



I guarantee that they will go no further until the ground is back to its muddy glory.



Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Little Encouragement




This was our sunrise some time last week.  As the temperatures plummet (again) and the snow falls fast and furious here today (we're expected to get 12-20 inches and the rumor is that even the nice folks at The Weather Channel have made their way into town to spotlight the anticipated blizzard) and Spring becomes an exercise in memory, it is good to see photographic proof that the sun is still out there.  Somewhere.

My second favorite thing about this picture (that big yellow thing in the middle is my favorite, you know) is the little pink flare that has landed smack in our fire pit and is doing its best to pretend it's an actual bonfire. Nicely done, Nature.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Double, Double Toil and Trouble

Fire burn and cauldron bubble



One mis-colored sweater take, and
 In the cauldron boil and bake

  I was, as you can see, extremely bold yesterday. I used the rest of the original jar of dye and followed the instructions as carefully as ever a person could.

  Isabel supervised and provided literary references and occasional assistance with the stirring while I dealt with laundry and squabbling boys. She thought the entire brew looked suspicious, which is what brought us to Macbeth.

 Nate was hoping it might be soup.

 We encountered a temporary setback in the form of free-range enamel, which peeled off the repaired pot, floated around the dye bath, and had to be fished out.
 

I was sure I would end up with black paint specks gummed to my sweater, but the paint bits (mercifully) turned out to be brittle rather than sticky once they dried. I am still shaking them out of the sweater, but at least they are coming out.

Here is the new and improved sweater.  I promise that the brownish tinge is less obvious in real life.
 


And here's the original, just for comparison you know.



I can see, especially in the glare of the Ott Light (or is it Ott Lite? Marketing language boggles me) that, as much as we have succeeded in removing the sweater from the jaundice category, all color issues have not been resolved. They have, however, been sufficiently masked that I can wear the sweater, possibly even outside the house.

Ah, but by the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes!  Have we noticed anything else about the sweater? Let's compare the amount of chair that shows behind the "before" sweater with the amount that doesn't show behind the "after" sweater.

 Uh oh!

 This, my doves, is why we wash our swatches. The sweater is now relaxed and much softer, but also several sizes larger than anticipated. It is possible that the change is payback for the insults -and the half hour of boiling in a stinking green witch's brew-- endured by my poor sweater. Or, it could be the natural result of wetting a very sproingy yarn that has been knit into a pattern of well-documented stretchiness. All of which would have been known by me in time to adjust the pattern accordingly had I washed my swatch. Although I suppose that means I would have had to knit a swatch in the first place. But who has time for such fussiness when there are Garments of Unusual Dimensions to be fashioned?

With this winter's extended cold snap, the urge to knit sweaters is still strong and it won't be long before I cave in (again) and cast on (also again, since that's where I thought I was originally going with the handspun used above) for another Central Park Hoodie.

In the mean time, I am working on some mittens for The Games That Shall Not Be Named (also known--heaven help us--as the Ravellenic Games).  The mittens will be a lovely and warm replacement for the pair I lost in December, although they are entirely unsuited to the Olympics since I can't follow the chart and watch the competitions at the same time. But, they are moving right along and I might just pull out the emergency backup knitting to keep me company while we watch the recap at night.
   


And now it's time for me to make good on last week's claim that I would conquer Florida law today.  And time to make coffee, because this Florida thing is not going to happen without a little outside help.

p.s: Anyone know what this might be???  Can we say "swatch"?  Can we say "swatch that has been washed and dried and labeled with purl bumps indicating the needle sizes"?  Maybe-- just maybe-- this is proof that I am not entirely incapable of learning from experience.  I hope my knitting teacher is proud of me!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Um . . . Ew.

Sometimes, the best thing is knowing when to give up, even if temporarily.  I'm very good at that when it comes to work, for example, which is why I'm sitting here tapping away at a blog post rather than trying to make sense of sovereign immunity in the state of Florida.  Basically, my head is just not in that game and I figure my discourse on Florida law will probably go a whole lot faster, and maybe even be a whole lot better, with a fresh start on Monday morning.   Not that I haven't been known to slug it out with a stubborn statute well past quitting time, but Friday afternoon  rarely brings out my work ethic.

With knitting projects, I'm not as good at quitting.

A while ago, I bought a fleece and spun it into yarn.  It was a pleasantly springy yarn, but also one that, in spots, had a yellow tinge reminiscent of bad teeth.  In a fit of wild and unjustified optimism, I decided I could fix the problem by dyeing the yarn, possibly unleashing in the process a hitherto unsuspected genius for color.  The results were certainly unexpected.

 Not wanting to get all judgmental on my new yarn color, I chose to believe--despite what might fairly be labelled abundant evidence to the contrary--that the true beauty of the yarn could only be appreciated in the final piece and so, rather than re-dyeing immediately, I thought I would knit the stuff up and see how things went.  Also, I am somewhat resistant to admitting defeat.

The results are now in:





and I'm truly sorry that you had to see that.  The only color that I like is the gila monster-like striping on the upper left sleeve (which is realistically enhanced by the --ahem-- rustic quality of the yarn), and that's really something I like only in comparison to the rest.



The cat has issued her firm opinion on the matter. I'm truly sorry that you had to see that, too.  Truth --and my cat -- can be a nasty little bugger.

The good news is that I'm almost done knitting.  I just have to bind off the second sleeve and work the i-cord around the v-neck.  After that, it's back to the dye bath.

It can only get better, right?

Right????

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Fat Cat Sat on The Mat

No lie.

See:




This new love of my cat's life is the  doormat we purchased to replace the filthy and disintegrating mat that I pitched when we cleaned out the mudroom.  Unlike its vastly inferior predecessor, this mat is apparently a glorious place for a cat to recline.  I found Tim rolling all over it not long after I installed it.  He rolled this way and stretched that way.  He's so happy he's even letting his udder hang out, though the rest of us are wondering if we should buy him a pair of pants to cover his bald spots.





The chickens, on the other hand, are too cold to have any attitude. Usually, we have one or two days per winter that are so cold that I don't let the birds out.  This year, though, they've spent close to two weeks confined to their quarters.

See?  Doors closed, chickens inside.





The older chickens waited out their imprisonment with reasonable stoicism (stiff upper beak, and all that), although they seem to have acquired a pet mouse, who might even be the same mouse we recently evicted from the mini-coop when we cleaned it out for the new birds. All the same, they get a little wiggy if they are confined for too long, so --regardless of the snow, which they usually don't like to get on their feet-- they plowed their way outside when it was finally warm enough (i.e., 15 or over) to let them out again.

The new chickens are another story.  When we moved them from their early home in the garage, we tried to learn from our last experience moving chickens to a coop.  That time, we opened the ramp immediately and the chickens eventually discovered the great outdoors and tried to convince us that they had no further use for indoor living.  We put a stop to their camping expedition after one of the chickens disappeared (pretty much immediately, poor thing) and this year we followed a recommendation to confine the birds to their new quarters for a few days so they would understand it was home.

HA!

It turns out that these chickens are even stupider than the last bunch.  We confined them for a few days and then held the grand opening.  They looked outside and then went back in.  We tempted them with some grain sprinkled on the ramp.  Two of them made their way out, fell off the ramp, and were totally unable to figure out where they were, where they came from, how they could get back, or whether they should even try.  I had to squeeze my way across the snow and into the little run and put them back in the coop by hand.

Since that time, they have steadfastly ignored the world outside.  Even on the nicest days, they pretend it is not there.  We have tried luring them out again, but all we get is a prolonged attempt to eat the grain off the ramp without actually stepping out the coop . . .

       

followed by a show of tail feathers as they return to the real world.




They are entirely citified and I think my only hope is to let the old chickens into the little run in case they can teach these bimbos a thing or two.

There has also been some knitting and some blocking, if you will pardon the lackluster photography.

First up:  an Oscilloscope Shawl.  I loved this when I first saw it published in Interweave Knits, but I tried to knit it with fingering weight yarn and, after getting mixed results anyway following the charts (my fault), I realized I wasn't going to have enough yarn to make more than a glorified handkerchief and set it aside.  This time, the project flew by with no problems and now it just needs a little blocking before I can enjoy all that graphic straight line-iness.






Next, I finally blocked my Bridgewater.



And, I finished and blocked Triinu, which is very soft and alpaca-y.



And last, the reject-o-hat.  The yarn was not springy and I should have sized the needles up, because this is the smallest hat ever.  No one can get it to stay on his or her head.  You put it on, pull it down to try and make it cover your ears, and seconds later, you feel it working its way upwards as it contracts to its original shape.  Ah well. Some day I will meet a very small person in need of a blue hat.



And now, if you will excuse me, I must go.  I was supposed to spend this morning working, but I didn't.  And that's all I have to say about that.