Melissa’s Bloofer Hike (Semi-Guest Blog)

[Here are a few pix from Melissa’s latest hike. She sent them to me via the draft feature of my blog program, and I thought I would share them with you. (Bloofer, for those of you who don’t know, is a dialect form of beautiful used in Bram Stoker’s Dracula—we do get literary in sometimes silly ways. On-line text available here. Who knew?)]

Featuring things that begin with “B”
I am indulging myself. You do not need to post this….

In order:
Bunny
A not-very-shy little bunny on the side of the trail.

Bloofer rolling hills:
Picturesque rolling hills.

Blue Butterfly:
A butterfly indulges me by sitting still for a few minutes.

Bay View:
Looking out over San Francisco Bay.

Hamster Wheel

Yep, that’s what life feels like at the start of spring quarter—I’m running and running and out of breath and not always tactful and composing to-do lists in my head and still mucking about with work chores too far into the evening when I should just be listening to the ballgame and knitting, yet I never seem to really make any forward progress. (Heck, I’m lucky I’m not making backwards progress.)

I teach required first-year writing, of which we never have enough sections, so at the start of the quarter I’m besieged by importuning students who can all elaborately explain why I should admit them to my already-full classes. (And the official maximum class size has increased by 25% in the time I’ve taught at UCSC, so “full” has been growing steadily more exhausting over the years.) They think of themselves as “just one more” and don’t see what the problem is. I see them as an extra 50 pages of careful paper-reading on my weekends and as one more source sucking all the oxygen out of our CO2-heavy classroom air supply and say “no.” Some of them go away peacefully. Others throw tantrums, either via email or just outside the classroom door. This quarter, key terms directed my way have included f*ck, b*tch, and lame. So I find myself taking many a deep breath and trying to focus on the students who are in my class and who I need to regard with respect and a certain fondness, if we’re to work together productively—but this is not always easy to do when I’m being interrupted regularly by folks who think of themselves as special cases and who treat me like the hired help.

Enrollment will settle soon—and the students I do have in my classes have approached the work willingly and thoughtfully so far.

Anway, at the moment I’m chugging along on my shawl (12.5 pattern reps done; I’m estimating another 5.5 to go) and waiting for more sock yarn, but I’m not cooking up any original patterns or being particularly “creative.” This is one of those times when I need my knitting to be a comfort, not a challenge.

Thank you for bearing with me. I’m off to knit now.

Carnival of Fun—and Knitting, Too!

Driving up to Melissa’s this afternoon, I passed a small, parking-lot style carnival at the local community college. It brought back all sorts of memories: going to the county fair with my family when I was a kid; my first time on various rides; the time I wanted to ride the ferris wheel and stood in line by myself only to be told I was too short when I got to the front, and the young couple on a date who invited me to sit between them so I could go; the evening at the high school carnival with a boy I had a crush on who offered to let me choose a ride, and I was too shy and too afraid of making the wrong choice and couldn’t pick anything, leaving him bewildered and with a handful of unused tickets.

I mentioned the carnival to Melissa, and she responded, “I saw it too the other night. The lights were on, and the freeway traffic was slowing down while people drove past it. Want to go?” Having long ago recovered from my high school shyness (the worst of it, at least), I was all for going.

We paid $3 each to get in the gate, then strolled the little bit of a midway and checked out the rides. I suggested we go on the Yo-Yo. Melissa countered with the Himalaya, noting that we’d be able to sit together. That convinced me.
Whee! The Himalaya, ride of champions!
(Note that this is not the Himalaya we rode on. We downloaded this picture from a web site that features used carnival rides for sale. Now that’s something interesting one could do with a few extra hundred grand.)

We had a lovely wild ride. We sat in a pink car and squealed and shouted “Himalaya!” over and over again, as if that explained everything. Melissa had been gallant and took the outside seat, so I was smashed up against her the whole while—I won’t be surprised if her hip is bruised in the morning.

After that, Melissa treated me to pink popcorn from the “Big Bopper” food trailer.
Pink Popcorn: the favorite radioactive food of children everywhere!
We did take it home with us to save for after dinner, but I confess I ended my Lenten no-desserts vow a day early in order to indulge.

Afterwards, we contented ourselve with walking another, slower lap, watching the little kids and families.

I’ve finished sock number two, and I’m working on a shawl now, while I wait for the additiomal sock yarn I’ve ordered to arrive. (The Trampoline Stretch is so nice to work with, given its bounce, that I want to do another pair or two in it before I try anything else.) The shawl pattern is from Lion Brand Yarns and was recommended by CatBookMom as a pattern she’s used multiple times.
The shawl in progress.
I’m knitting mine in my favorite acrylic—Soft Delight Extremes. I’m using size 9 needles, so will have to work more repeats than called for in the pattern, but that’s no problem, since my wonderful sister sent me (at my request) a whole box of that yarn this past winter. (I know, I know… it’s cheap acrylic, but I love the colors, and it is wonderfully soft. This is going to be a very cozy shawl.) This is a great pattern for self-striping yarns with long runs of colors, the pattern is simple to follow, and working it is giving me a solid, practical understanding of how shawls knit out from the top-center work. Once this shawl is done, I’ll be able to go to my stitch dictionaries and develop my own, more elaborate patterns.

Yarn in a Box!

Up until a month or two ago, I hadn’t given cotton dishrag yarn a thought. But then Joann had a sale right about the same time that I picked up my copy of Mason-Dixon Knitting again, and suddenly the universe seemed to want me to start thinking about just this fiber. The Joann sale was Sugar ‘n Cream; Mason-Dixon touts Peaches & Creme. The debate over the relative merits of these two yarns had a file folder in full flame at Knitter’s Review. I had questions! I don’t know if it’s a west-coast thing, but suddenly I was seeing Sugar ‘n Cream everywhere—and realizing that no-one seemed to carry Peaches & Creme.

I bought a few balls of the Sugar ‘n Cream while it was on sale, and you’ve seen my work with that yarn. Well, I gave in to temptation a little while ago and ordered five one-pound cones of Peaches & Creme from the manufacturer. (Even with the shipping, the price is unbeatable when you order by the cone.) So, last week I came home to this on my doorstep—
Peaches and Cream on the doorstep.
Moving clockwise from the far left, these colors are Sunrise (137), Pink Lemonade (171), Sea Mist (201), Mexicali (185), and Daisy Ombre (165).

In between my little bursts of sock knitting (yesterday I took care of the heel flap, heel turn, and gusset shaping on sock number two), I’ve been working up a simple washcloth in each of the yarns, just to see what the colors do as they’re knit. I’m on the last one now, and will post a photo this weekend.

If I had to weigh in on the great Sugar ‘n Cream v. Peaches & Creme debate, I would probably go with Peaches & Creme. I think it’s the softer of the two yarns, so a bit more comfortable to work with. However, I actually don’t think the difference is big enough to be significant—I’ll be choosing whichever one a) is on sale and/or b) has the color I’m looking for. (And, given that I have to mail-order Peaches & Creme by the pound, I may buy it less often, even though I like it a bit better.)

Here’s my big question that I’m hoping one of you can answer: What does the Sunflower (196) colorway of Peaches & Creme really look like? In the on-line color samples it’s a hideous peach and blue-green blend that looks like third-rate, faux-southwestern architecture. But in the print catalogue that came with my order, it’s a lovely orange-yellow-bright green mix that really does remind me of a field of sunflowers. Do you see my dilemma? If it’s the former, I don’t want any of it—certainly not a full pound, and not a full pound plus shipping. On the other hand, if it’s the latter, my life could be unbearably tragic without a full, one-pound cone smiling at me from my stash. If you live where Peaches & Creme can be found on store shelves, will you please give it a good look for me when you have a chance and let me know what you think of the Sunflower colorway? I’ve posted this question on Knitter’s Review, but no-one’s answered—and being the obsessive knitter I am, I actually find myself wondering about this in the middle of the night.

First Sock

Thanks to all of you for your kind words about Woody. It still doesn’t quite feel real, and it certainly doesn’t make sense. Sparky has been sticking close by, and we are comforting each other. I think he’s a little uncertain what to do without his sidekick.

Here’s a photo of my first sock.
My first sock! A thing of beauty and a joy forever.
Number two is on the sticks. I’ve finished the leg and need to get going on the heel. I love the amount of texture in this pattern (Retro Rib Socks from Favorite Knitted Socks)—and, wow!, is that rib ever elastic. I could fit Sparky in that sock with room to spare, if he were willing to sit still through the indignity of it all.

As I’ve noted before, I’m just wild about this particular yarn and this particular colorway. Skacel is discontinuing it, and Little Knits is selling it for half price. So, I went all knitter-looney and ordered a dozen skeins (but at least I’m paying directly for it and not charging).

Remembering Woody

On Saturday night, Woody was hit by a car and killed.
The brothers snuggle up cheek to cheek.
Sparky and Woody

Melissa took this picture of the boys napping together on Saturday afternoon. She and I spent the day at home, doing a bit of spring cleaning, listening to the ballgame, and just relaxing. When we took a quick nap, the boys were right there with us. We finished the cleaning late and went out around eight to get some dinner.

When we came back, there was a message on the phone. We picked up his (not so) little body and drove out to the emergency vet, where we had a chance to say goodbye in a quiet, private room. There was a lot of blood on him, but no obvious external injuries and his claws were intact, so I think death must have come very quickly. I’m having him cremated, which seems excessive and first-world in a way, but I want that little box of ashes to keep with me.

I’d known in the back of my mind that this was a possibility: he’d become such a wanderer and, while I live on a quiet street, some of the nearby streets are busier (and it’s on one of those streets that he died). But I still hadn’t really expected to lose him. He was just a year old, bursting with energy and life, switching back and forth between full-throttle play and rock-like sleep the way young cats do.

I’m deeply grateful that I was home this weekend and that Melissa was with me. I’m also grateful for that phone call, hard as it was to receive. I know what happened; I didn’t have to spend nights awake worrying about him; I didn’t have to wander the neighborhood calling for him and posting signs.

I miss him like crazy.

Cavalcade of Washcloths Redux

As I work on my first pair of socks and go back to playing with some children’s knits I started quite a while ago, I’m simultaneously nursing the washcloth addiction, squeezing in four rows here, eight rows there. The results…
Lovely lovely warshcloths.
These ones are mostly for Melissa, whose bathroom features a sparkley-blue-and-cement decor and is outfitted with the best water softener systems. (When you’re living in an artist’s loft, pretty much every room has a something-or-other-and-cement decor.) Pattern info, left to right: “Windowpane Stripes,” found on p. 58 of Barbara Walker, vol. 1; “Yvonne’s Double Flower” from page 3 of the Washcloth Botique (I worked the last two rounds in solid blue to give it a border); “Bramble Stitch 1” worked in two colors, from The Harmony Guide, vol. 2, p. 32; “Three-and-One Tweed,” found on p. 53 of Barbara Walker, vol. 1; and S. Turner’s “Diamond Edge Circular Facecloth” from page 1 of the Dishcloth Botique—although the cloth knit up doesn’t match the picture posted with the pattern (the cloth has rounded tips with a sort of “donut” motif inside each curve, not points).

And here’s one more washcloth that’s my favorite of the circular patterns I’ve tried.
Wedgewood blue on a vintage tablecloth.
This is the “Lacy Round Cloth” by Rhonda K. White, whose web site is KnittingKnonsense. She’s the author of Spa and Bath Sets to Knit.

I’m planning to cast on sock number two this afternoon, once I take care of taxes and a couple letters of recommendation. I’m quite pleased with number one. I wasn’t sure whether I had quite enough yarn, so I switched to a plain grey wool for the toe, which looks nice with the variegated yarn the rest of the sock is done in. I made the foot one-half inch shorter than the pattern calls for because I like snug-fitting socks, but the sock is still a bit loose. Once number two is done, I’ll carefully play with washing and blocking to see if I can tighten them up a bit. (If you have advice on this process, now would be an excellent time to offer it.) After that, I’m thinking I’ll try knitting up the same pattern on size 1 needles to see how that affects the fit. I’ve got a lovely ball of Trekking XXL in color 101 lined up for that.

This Sunday, I’ll be going to monthly yarn tasting number four at Article Pract. On the menu—Prism Hand-Dyes. Check out their coloways! I’m going to try to remember to take Melissa’s digital camera this time so I can share the fun with all of you.

On the non-knitting front, I’m trying to get an exercise routine established before spring quarter starts next week. Now that the weather’s warming up, my friend Ellen and I are going to a deep-water running class twice a week. If you’ve never tried this form of exercise, you should give it a go—it’s both a great workout and silly fun, sort of cardiovascular fitness designed by otters. You “stand” vertically in deep water with the help of a flotation belt, then jog/sprint around the pool using a variety of hand and leg motions. Since you keep your body upright, you work against significant water resistance, using your full body. You can also add underwater presses with foam “barbells” to increase the workout.

And… not only are my “boys” good at taking off their collars, they also have a real case of the wanderlust. This past week I’ve had two collars returned to me by not-so-near neighbors: one from across the street and around the corner, the other from around the block (I’m hoping Sparky and Woody got there via back yards).

Health care is dear, and sometimes patients cannot order the medicines they need. A review published by The National Institute of Mental Health states that impotency affects 140 million men worldwide. Cialis is an ideal preparation for helping men to sustain an erection. If you’re concerned about sexual dysfunction, you have to learn about “Propecia without prescription“. What is the most great information you perhaps keep in mind consider about this? What researchers talk about cheapest pharmacy for cialis? Several drugstores describe it as cialis price. Remember to diagnose a man’s sexual problem, the physician likely will begin with a thorough story of diagnostic. Not to mention, if you have any other questions about this physic ask your physician.

Non-Knitting Terror

No knitting news today (but something good tomorrow, I promise).

Is it just me or are these Marshmallow Pals really, really scary looking?
You can't brush these guys off!
I found them at Michael’s and had to buy a package for Melissa. They’re sort of “Peeps Plus,” with oddly detailed, non-lifelike, fear-inducing facial expressions. The blue-whatever-he-is is particularly unnerving. He looks like a former Bluebird of Happiness who’s been pushed over the edge by steroid abuse. And Miss Pinky? I’m guessing she’s slipped a mickey to many an unsuspecting victim. How else would she get the money for hair ribbons? On the other hand, I think there might be hope for Whitey and Ducks if we could just get them into a good rehab program. (Note that Marshmallow Pals also come in Halloween and Christmas versions for year-round terror.)

If you’re the sort who likes to take a scientific approach, you may want to check out the Peeps Research page, which answers questions most of us would never think to ask.

I couldn’t find an on-line photo of my favorite Easter treat from days gone by: the Popcorn Rabbit. There is a popcorn rabbit at this site. It’s not the popcorn rabbit I remember from my childhood, but it does have the nasty candy eye that I always picked off and refused to eat.

Another favorite—though not limited to Easter—is the Marshmallow Mini Ice Cream Cone. Occasionally I find these somewhere, and I snap them all up in a consumeristic frenzy, then carefully dole them out to myself one or two a day to make them last as long as possible. My mom and sister are also good about buying them for me when they spot this too-rare candy treat.

I also loved (and still do) Sen-sen. Sen-sen is not a typical childhood candy, but I always felt like the height of sophistication carrying around the little foil envelope of the originals.

So what are you jonesing for?

P.S. Despite all the lusting-in-my-heart I’m doing chasing these goodies around the internet, I have stuck to my lent pledge to eschew dessert-like items. I had one slip up, when I realized I had half an hour to get to a baby shower (where there might or might not be food) and was feeling peckish, so I copped out and left myself pick up a Payday bar, playing the oh-so-innocent “peanuts are protein” card.

Elvis Lives!

Melissa has a thing for Elvis. I don’t, but I do have a thing for Melissa, so I have Elvis-thing by extension. The Joann Fabrics up in Freemont is moving to a new location soon and is liquidating a lot of their merchandise to simplify the move. Look at the fabric I found on sale: $3 a yard at 50% off, so $5 for two and two-thirds yards of…
Elvis is in da house.
…Elvis flannel! In no time at all, this will become pillow cases.

At Chritsmas, I gave Melissa a hand-decorated Elvis table cloth.
I'm dreaming of an Elvis Christmas...
The photo doesn’t do my handiwork justce—each Elvis wreath has hand-stitched sequin berries in a variety of shapes (circles, snowflakes, stars). The trim around the center and the edge is a lovely red-gold-green metallic stripe. Our Christmases will never be blue.

Coming up:
• My first socks! (One down and one to go.)
• The Cavalcade of Washcloths Redux!
• Scary, scary Easter candy!
• The great big box on my doorstep!
Can life get any more fun?

P.S. Webs currently has lots of Regia sock yarn on sale, in case you’re interested and didn’t know. Also some great prices on Elesbeth Lavold (though the Silky Wool isn’t on sale, alas, the Silky Tweed, both Als, and Angora are) and Louisa Harding (check out Kimono Angora, Impression, and my love/nemesis Fauve).