31 December 2009

knitting resolutions

I've never been terribly good with New Year's resolutions. I resolve to exercise more, be tidier, read more classics, etc, and this rarely happens. I did end up getting more exercise than planned this year, but that was partly because the car died and I had to switch to walking or taking the bus (which often involves walking, too). And I'm not tidier or more organized than I used to be. I still wish I was, but the closest I've come is getting rid of old school papers from my undergrad that I have no use for (goodbye, chapter summaries from IDIS 400!) and organizing my yarn stash a bit. And I did read Wuthering Heights. And Emma, and I've never made it through that one before. Middlemarch and The Brothers Karamazov are still on the list.

However, I do plan to make some resolutions for knitting/other fibre arts this year. Since I already do a lot of knitting anyway, it doesn't seem like such a bad idea to plan some of it. In between school, work, and trying to remember to take out the recycling, I plan to:

1. Finish Sedum (as I'm almost 1/4 of the way through the pattern already, this shouldn't be difficult).

2. Get to the point with fair isle where I can do it competently (I'm working on a pair of mittens right now: slow going but it doesn't look bad).

3. Finish the Leaf in a Leaf shawl and knit at least one more lace shawl this year (probably Percy, since I have the yarn for it already).

4. Make something larger than mitts with my handspun yarn (how about a hat? or can I spin enough to make something lacy?). Also, get better at spinning.

5. Knit a rug for the Knitting Olympics using wool rags (rags need to be wound up into balls and I need to choose a pattern).

6. Knit something out of Knitted Lace of Estonia (the Raha Scarf is the one in my ravelry queue right now).

7. Knit another sweater (maybe Spoke?).

8. Learn to crochet enough to make Chanson En Crochet (crochet has been my Waterloo--my spinning is fairly decent for a beginner, and when I learned to knit, everything clicked and it worked, but crochet drives me batty. And I still want to beat it, and actually be a little competent with it).

9. Learn to do intarsia and double-knitting (I promised my dad argyle socks sometime, and double-knitting looks like fun, too).

10. Knit the Maple Swirl Socks by Debbie New (you should see the chart for these: it's insane! there's arrows and swirly sections and she even includes fair-isle).

11. Finish my wedding ring quilt (it's been a goal for a while, and I just need to take some time, sit down, and sew for a couple days, and then I will be at the fun part. I like the quilting better than the piecing).

12. AND finish those Christmas knitting projects. I've knit something fast for those people for this Christmas, but I'd like to get the projects I started this year done for next Christmas.

And I think that's about it. I'd like to work my way through more of the items in my queue, but some of those will take longer than others. And working my way through some of the stash would be good, too (no, it's not a huge stash, but if I don't buy yarn unless it's for a specific project, and knit mostly from stash, I can get through lots of it this year).

29 December 2009

odds and ends

This was an interesting Christmas, and it's not exactly over yet. We've done Christmas with my family, but we don't get to do Christmas with my husband's family until next weekend (I may finally meet his elusive, furniture-making grandfather who refuses to leave the island).

I did do some baking this year. I made my very first fruitcake, and it was delicious. I've discovered, in recent years, that I actually like fruitcake, and now that I know how easy it is to make one (I didn't do one that has to sit for weeks wrapped in paper and brandy), I plan to make more. I made my first batch of divinity that was not crunchy (although I need to fine-tune some of the process since it was more like a giant marshmallow in consistency), and the fudge turned out okay. I can get it to taste exactly right, but I'm still having problems with it being too soft. It takes practice. I made pumpkin butter a couple days ago. A friend made some a while back and it sounded really good, so I hunted down a recipe. It smells good and the leftovers that I put straight into the fridge taste pretty good. I canned most of it. The batch made more than I expected.

My parents and brothers came for a visit. The hats I knit my brothers were popular and the camera cozy for my dad was put to immediate use (it fits his underwater camera pretty well). They brought me some bamboo yarn from Yarnia in Portland. I have a plan for it at the moment, but I am open to changing it if I run across a pattern I like better.

We spent Boxing Day evening at the hotel my family was staying at. We cooked dinner on the minuscule stove, played a few games, and set a Christmas pudding on fire (so much fun!). I had forgotten how incredibly loud my brothers are. J. can be loud but if you put him and my three brothers in the same room, the noise is deafening. And my dad already has hearing loss, so having a conversation with him with the rest of the family in the same room is difficult. I guess he and I should both learn ASL and then he and my mom and I can all talk in spite of the noise.

The next morning, their car started having problems. It was hemorrhaging oil and came to a stop at a gas station. A friend at church generously let them borrow a car from him and recommended a mechanic a block from where J. and I live (we don't have a car, so we're not really up on the best mechanics in the area--now we know). So Sunday afternoon was spent arranging a rental car so my dad and brothers could get home on Monday. I couldn't do much, other than allow them the use of our phone and internet, so I baked pumpkin pie. Brother 2 immediately informed me that it was "not as good as Mom's." He got scolded by Mom for that. She thought the pie was great.

So my mom spent an extra day with us, getting the car fixed. It was nice to spend some more time with her, although I would have preferred it if their car hadn't had problems.

And now it's New Year's Eve. We're staying in. I'm not a party person and I've no interest in getting drunk. We have a couple seasons of Fry and Laurie out from the library and I'm working on my technique with fair isle. It's going pretty slowly right now, but if I get frustrated with it, there's always the sweater or a pair of fairly plain socks. I'm nearly finished with the increases for the sleeves on the sweater. I have hopes for this one, since I've already knit my disastrous first sweater. This can be the fairly decent second sweater.

23 December 2009

an outing

I went on a little adventure yesterday. One of the LYSes moved to another town a couple months ago, and I've been planning to go visit and see their new store. I finally went.

White Rock is a seaside town, and it has the requisite adorable little shops and interesting restaurants in addition to the beach and the pier. I still find it weird to stand on the beach, look out at the ocean, and see land on the other side (since it's in a bay, and you're not in a bay, along the coast here there's always Vancouver Island), since where I grew up, if you went to the beach, you looked out across the ocean, and there was just ocean, seemingly going on forever. However, White Rock is very nice, and there are some gorgeous houses in the area, too (I like looking at houses). Since it's a good hour on the bus to get there, I haven't been since sometime this summer.

I stopped at the used bookstore (which has shrunk, sadly, since the last time I was there), and next I headed for Knitopia, where I chatted for a bit. Bought a ball of wool. And then I went over to Penelope Fibre. Oh, man, it's amazing! It's a little like walking into a high class jewelry store but with spinning and weaving supplies instead. I was restrained and only bought some roving (really pretty roving reminiscent of the Northern Lights), but I spent a lot of time looking and drooling. They have swifts and niddy-noddys and some nice spindles (although I think the spindle selection at Knitopia is a bit better). I was tempted, a bit, but I just settled for the merino roving.

And back to everyday matters. I should check on the fruitcake in the oven. And then off to the grocery store. We're almost out of eggs.

20 December 2009

the world inside my head is a strange place (but there are croissants)

We ventured out into the world of retail this afternoon. I suddenly realized that I'd forgotten to get my mum a Christmas gift, and that I'd planned to get a couple other people some small gifts. So off we went. I wandered through the craft store and laughed at the 25 mm needles. They look so clunky. I want a set that can live on my coffee table in case of vampire attacks, but I don't want to pay twenty dollars for a set of straight needles that I'm rarely going to use.

Then we went to Chapters, which was a bit of a madhouse. And there was a display of romance novels right there, available for ridiculing. Part of me wants to work for one of those publishing companies and be the one who comes up with those titles, because they are hysterical. There is an entire series devoted to Nascar, and a number of others featuring billionaires. He's got to be rich, drop-dead gorgeous, and a man of the world. She's got to be drop-dead gorgeous, not rich, and innocent (i.e., not a woman of the world so she can be ravished by the billionaire). There are titles like, "One Cowboy, One Christmas" and "The Billionaire's Secret Love-Child" and dozens more that are even funnier. J. and I tend to read the titles out loud in dramatic voices and then laugh at each other.

Most of the people there probably thought we were very strange. I didn't notice anyone quietly backing away, but I tend to be in my own little world when I'm at a bookstore. I thought about counting the number of vampire-themed books in the teen section, but decided that would take too long. Is it just me, or do the new covers for New Moon look like the book now belongs with the Harlequin novels? It just needs a funnier title now.

While waiting in line, we discussed what to do on Christmas Day. Friday will have the novelty of being the first time we don't spend Christmas Day with family. We're at a bit of a loss as to what to do. We're keeping the croissant tradition of his family (homemade croissants are fabulous), and we've talked about watching a movie. Maybe a Christmas-themed one. But there are no fixed plans. Everyone we know is already doing something else, and we do have family coming on Boxing Day, so I guess it'll just be a nice, quiet day together. With croissants.

19 December 2009

just a few days to Christmas and...

Christmas knitting:

3 hats: finished.

One camera lense cozy: about 50%

One pair of socks: about 25% (needs to be finished by Jan 8)

One pair of mittens: about 15% (same as above)

I also couldn't take it any longer and started Sedum. The Serpentine Socks are done, and I am wearing them right now. The wool was a bit itchy until I washed it. I used shampoo and some conditioner. It's wool, and wool is hair, right?

Since relatives are coming to visit for Christmas, I'm using this as a good excuse to re-organize some things. Yesterday I cleaned the stove and got rid of some pots and pans that we don't use. Today I tidied out the corner where I had a stack of old class notes and binders and sorted out what I really wanted to keep and what wasn't worth saving. Then I put a plastic storage tub in that corner and put yarn in it. Now the baskets in that area in front of the small bookcase have yarn (some of the stash but not all) and spinning supplies. Most of the spinning fiber, except what's actually on the spindle, went into the plastic tub, too. The basket just has what I'm spinning up right now. That corner looks so much tidier than the rest of the living room now.

When it comes to Christmas decorating, I'm more of a minimalist. We have an Advent candle thing on the table (it should be a wreath, but it's actually just a holder for four candles that has no Christmas theme whatsoever, so I can use it during the rest of the year, too). And I got a little fake tree on sale the other day. It has one ornament hanging on it, because I need to finish organizing things in the living room before I'm willing to finish decorating it.

And I still want to do some more Christmas baking. I've done some cookies, but I want to make fudge, too. I'd like to get better at divinity, too. Last year, it didn't go so well. My husband was stirring the egg whites, and I was pouring the sugar syrup in, and, sadly, the syrup, although it wasn't meant for his hand, still ended up there. Boiling sugar syrup and skin don't go together. He still reminds me of this sometimes. This year, I think the mixer will be going while I pour the sugar syrup in. The bowl and the whisk don't mind if I pour hot syrup on them.

Well, back to the camera cozy.

13 December 2009


It's snowing today. And while my picture is not the best one I've ever taken of snow, it is fairly representative of the snow outside my building today. It's starting to build up in the grass, but it is far more visible on the sidewalks. The snow is coming down in teeny-tiny little flakes, so that should indicate that it won't stop for a while. I just hope I'll be able to get in to school tomorrow. The librarian will be sad if I don't return anything, and I was hoping to hand in hard copies of my papers (although I'll still send in digital ones, too, since my prof said he likes digital copies as he's less likely to misplace them).

And in the midst of the frantic paper-writing and not sleeping well because I can't stop dreaming about the Obligatory Contour Principle or what Trubetzkoy said about prosody (and on the nights I don't dream about linguistics, I dream about knitting itty-bitty mittens with toothpicks), I take occasional breaks to knit. I finished Brother 2's hat. Brother 3's hat will be started tomorrow evening. And, out of frustration with the black yarn and the language data I was working through, I started some socks. Here's the first one.

I'm using the Serpentine pattern from Socks From the Toe Up. It's intended to be knit with sport-weight yarn, but since I'm having problems with socks stretching so they're just a hair too big, I decided to knit this with fingering weight yarn. And it's come out very nicely. It fits snugly and I did some increases before starting the ribbing, which means that the ribbing is not too tight around my leg, so the socks shouldn't droop around my ankles. I'll be mirroring the squiggles on the second sock (just starting in a different place in the pattern) because I think it will look better. The yarn is Patons Kroy Socks FX in Cascade. Superwash wool and nylon. The icy blue seems appropriate at this time of the year, and the subtle colour changes pair well with the pattern.

I'm a little worried about Christmas, though. All the decorations make me want to get some red and green and white yarn and knit candy-cane socks. Hopefully I'll be able to restrain myself.

08 December 2009

sleep zombies

I actually slept last night and it was wonderful!

I've been having problems sleeping well. I go to bed, spend nearly an hour tossing and turning, and then manage to doze off, while not being able to stop thinking about the papers I have to finish. I've also been waking up at odd times, earlier than usual. And yesterday, when I tried to have a nap, I just dozed off a bit, but didn't stop thinking about work. So while I technically have been sleeping (and more than some of my classmates have), it still feels like I've been pulling all-nighters. And when I don't sleep, or I don't sleep well, I have a difficult time concentrating.

And last night I actually managed to get some real sleep. I'm a little tired today, but not exhausted like I was yesterday. My eyes don't look like burned holes today (I like that simile--it's so expressive). And it's a good thing. I was about to turn into a zombie who shuffles around saying, "Reeessst," while carrying a pillow.

Today I have a couple hours work to put in on a paper, and some more work to put in on a different paper. But tomorrow morning I can check one class off my list!

06 December 2009

new pie-uter (computer, in my family)

So, my beloved computer started doing fritzy things last week. My old computer had rarely done strange things, so the fact that it did something that required the recovery disc indicated that it was time to say goodbye. I'd been planning to get a new one a couple weeks from now, but I didn't want it to die in the middle of this week. That would be bad, since I have 3 papers due. Now I have a brand-new computer. It's very shiny (well, technically, no, but it's black and grown-up looking since I haven't had the chance to find any awesome stickers to put on the top). Winnifred1 (my old computer) is still waiting for me to finish taking stuff off of her hard drive. I have just about everything except for a bunch of pictures. It feels weird. I've had that computer since the end of high school. It was running on Windows XP and it had Microsoft Office 2000 on it. We may be able to reformat it and find someone who can use it, but if not, recycling is another option.

Winnifred2 is a brand-name computer, rather than the off-brand Winnifred1 was. She's a little bit smaller, much lighter, and has a couple keys on the keyboard swapped around, so I keep hitting 'function' rather than 'control.' The CD tray and USB ports are on the opposite side of what I'm used to. She has Windows 7 and Office 2007 and it's taking me a while to get used to it. For example "sleep mode" in 7 is the same thing as "stand-by mode" in XP. Everything's configured differently, and while Word still does all the same stuff, trying to figure out where all the right buttons are is taking me a while. There's a touchpad mouse, and one of those little eraser-shaped mouse buttons in the middle of the keyboard (I also have a USB mouse, which I prefer to use. It's less finicky and far less likely to make me accidentally copy things).

It looks nice, it responds well, and the only program on here that's annoyed me so far has been Norton Anti-Virus, which has been deleted and replaced with something else. Other than that, and getting used to the keyboard and the interface, I'm pretty happy with it. It's just...strange. I don't always do well with change (says the girl who packed up and moved to a different country to go to university). Some changes are easier to get used to than others, I suppose.

In the world of knitting, well, the brown striped socks are approaching the gusset increase (about 1 cm to go), the Jayne hat is finished and the black hat's nearly half-way done (apparently Brother 2 is giving me something amazing for Christmas, so he's going to get a really great black hat that will keep his ears and head nice and warm). In frustration yesterday, while working on a paper on my old computer while my husband started setting up my new one (although then he left to go ice-skating and I had to find the key for the internet and set up a network so I can print without having to put the file on a flash drive, and download Firefox and some other stuff all on my own. And it worked, which was nice. Went around in a circle for a little bit while I tried to get the IPA keyboard working, but in the end, I won), I started knitting a new pair of socks. These are an experiment to see if a 48 st sock (fingering weight, 2.5 mm needles) will fit my foot and not stretch out too big (the problem with normal sock circumferences seems to be that the stretch that happens with any sock is meant to accomodate someone with slightly wider feet than me. They also get droopy around the ankles really fast). I really need 2.0 mm needles for some socks, since some patterns don't allow much variation without looking way different, but this pattern was designed for sport-weight yarn. I'm happy with the results so far, but I'm not very far into them yet. Homework is the priority right now, after all. Knitting is mostly happening at knitting groups. And if my brain really, really needs a break.

02 December 2009

knitting with a digression into language theories

Jayne hat: finished. Brother 1 will be getting it a couple days after Christmas.

Brown Stripy Socks: Almost to the gusset increases (this is an accomplishment, since I've felt very little motivation to knit on these socks, despite them being a Christmas gift).

Dishcloth: Not quite half-way finished. It's the "ball-band" dishcloth. I rather like the pattern, despite its ubiquity.

Lace shawl: Haven't touched it.

Slipped-stitch hat: Need to dye more yarn before I can start it. Green and dark brown.

Brother 2's hat: Begun, ribbing about half-finished (at about 1 1/2 inches). Black wool.

In everything else, well, school is busy right now. Tonight I'm working on one paper, and tomorrow I'll have to switch to another because I have a presentation due on that paper on Monday. I think I may be spending some time at the coffee shop tomorrow morning. Last week, I'd planned to go to Starbucks (it's a block away and my laptop is heavy), but it was loud and busy. I went another block down the street and ended up at a local coffee shop, which is quiet and calm and has free internet and where they are very welcoming. So I'll go there with my books and my laptop and have a pot of tea (it's cheap) and work.

Last night, I couldn't stop dreaming about the Obligatory Contour Principle (tone stuff, theory paper). Tonight it'll probably be consonant inventories of the proto-language our class has been working on.

Needless to say, my brain is tired, which is why I'm writing this at the moment. I wish had something deep and insightful to say, but the closest I can get is that I think Construction Grammar has a lot of potential, being as it's holistic, and technically generative (although the generativists would probably disagree), and rather mind-bending (can't have a good theory about language without that aspect somewhere), and has a really great way to deal with idioms and the senses of words that normal generativists would put in the lexicon (which gets cumbersome after a while), and it actually seems to have practical applications (I may be wrong about some of these--I haven't read enough yet on it--if it does all these things well, it just may be my dream theory). Suffice to say, if I'd known about it at the beginning of theory class, I might have written my paper on syntax and idiomatic expressions. Yeah. That's what's on my mind right now.

So now I must go put my shoulder to the wheel (idiom!) and get to work on those consonants.