27 December 2008

Thinking about the end of the year...

I spend a good deal of time wishing things wouldn't be over. In summer, I wish that autumn wouldn't come, or in the months leading up to my next birthday, I wish my birthday wouldn't arrive too quickly, or during holidays away from home, I dread getting back on the plane or train. But, by the time the time for change arrives, I'm almost always ready to move on. Good thing too, as I really don't have much choice about time's onward march!

Christmas-time is no exception. December has raced by, and though it has been a lovely, festive end of the year and I have loved every minute of it - including the six Christmas parties, the two yarn sales, all the sweets (though I won't be sad to see the sweets-induced spots go!), and the many walks - I am definitely at peace with it all being over for this year.

On Christmas Day, Rog and I took a brisk three-hour walk. We walked down Old Street, to Clerkenwell Road, where I took him to see St. John's Gate, which Travelknitter had originally pointed out to me, back when we went to the craft fair in Clerkenwell. It dates back to 1504.

Importantly, there is a LAMB on the ceiling!

From there, we continued our wander, turning onto Lamb's Conduit Street.

We eventually we eventually ended up at Bloomsbury Square.

A few more blocks and we were in Soho, and then we turned around and walked all the way home. I don't think life has much meaning (besides what we subjectively ascribe to it), yet I find that there's some sort of purpose to be found in walking.

We went to Chiswick on Boxing Day for the last of the holiday lunches. Geoff made a fantastic meal, with some lovely turkey, as well as being vegetable-laden - peas, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and parsnips sautéed in goose fat.

Walking in Chiswick, we saw:

And today, I went into town to the yarn sales. 50% off! I met travelknitter at Liberty, and then we made our way to John Lewis. These lovely, lovely skeins came home with me - they're my Christmas present from my mother - thank you! I love them!

24 December 2008

Christmas presents

I can finally post these!!!

Rog's cobblestone jumper:

Marieke's Central Park Hoodie (modeled on me, til I get some pics from her!):

Ysolda's garter mittens for Paul:

Flora for my mother:

23 December 2008

knit night

I just want to direct you here, to hoxton handmade's blog, for a hilarious recap of our evening...

22 December 2008

Weekend in Sussex

I was originally just going to leave this as a photo essay as it's been a while since I last wrote, and I'm feeling a bit rusty.

The cobblestone pull is coming along nicely, and I finished Rog's red scarf:

We spent the weekend in Sussex with Rog's sister and family, and it was lovely. We went to a pantomime on Saturday evening - I'd never been to one, and had been led to believe that I would hate it. And, it's entirely possible that i would have been unimpressed if I hadn't had an ecstatic 6-year old sitting on my lap. Maybe her enthusiasm spread to me through osmosis, or maybe the kid in me is still alive and kicking, but I had a great time. It was Cinderella but interactive. If nothing else, I now can understand the references to pantomime that used to mean nothing to me, ranging from "behind you!" to "yes you can!" These jokes will no longer go straight over my head, my blank look giving away my ignorance. I am among the initiated.

Yesterday, Simon got lots of veg from the garden, including two giant parsnips and a great many carrots, which Caroline, Lily and I chopped up, while Rog documented the whole thing, and sang us funny songs to entertain us:

Then, while all the veg and chicken were roasting, we went for a long walk. As we passed some sheep, Simon told me that the people at the local farm would be happy to give me a goat or sheep pelt, and I had to explain to him that so far as I can ascertain, it takes about 7 to 10 years of knitting for the yen to spin to arise and from there the desire to have the pelts and eventually you just need a goat / sheep farm. I think I've only been knitting for five or six years? I can't exactly remember. So in another few years, I may be taking him up on that pelt offer...

I even wore hiking boots as it was muddy and slippy, though also lovely and mild. Luckily, Caroline has the same size feet as me. The pictures of the landscape don't even begin to do it justice.

When we got back, everything was ready, and we had a delicious christmas lunch. I ate so much that I haven't had to eat anything but a yogurt since! Just the way a christmas lunch should be, don't you think?

11 December 2008

Old fashioned correspondence

I have actually accomplished a lot this week - though I can't post photos of what I've accomplished until after Christmas! I sent off a box of goodies to NYC yesterday at the very last minute. Luckily the post office was completely empty for some reason. I also finally got the last draft of that article in. I felt wound up the whole day, but today I woke up feeling quite relaxed! I still have lots of Christmas knitting left for here, and less than two weeks to go: rog's pullover, and a scarf for his surrogate-ish father geoff.

And, those of you who know me know how I have knitted a scarf for Rog every year, until I finally got it right last year. But yesterday, we were at John Lewis, and he said, "I'd like a red scarf. Will you knit me one?" That's the second thing he's actually asked for! So, let's add that to the list. Following Hoxton Handmade's lead, I got him some Rowan big wool in red, to knit up into a garter stitch scarf.

I got an email from Amanda yesterday, with a link to a BBC piece about procrastinating. Did it ever ring true. The bit at the end about the reason we (as a species) no longer build cathedrals or pyramids anymore - because we've become water-filled blobby beanbag things who click on computers all the time - was particularly upsetting. Though it also made me laugh.

So, I've decided that I'm going to massively cut down on my computer time. I'm going to do it the old-fashioned way - I'll set aside an hour a day to do my correspondence, and check in for 10-20 minutes at midday and at the end of the day.

Otherwise, how will I ever build my cathedral?

03 December 2008

The Human Condition

Yesterday, we went to see the Francis Bacon show at the Tate. There were two major distractions; first, they had lit the paintings really badly, and the glare on the glass was so bad that it was a struggle to see the images and not just the reflections of what was going on in the rest of the gallery. The other distraction was this: you know how in a lot of Bacon's paintings there is a kind of stripey background of greys, blacks and browns? I kept looking at that and thinking, "oh, that's how my Noro silk garden skeins which have grey, black and brown in them are going to knit up!"

But the paintings that were well lit were very affective (and I mean "affective," not "effective") - the crucifixion images, for example. People go on and on about the violence in Bacon's images, but from what little I know of him and his work, my impression is that the violence (carcasses, cuts of meat, screaming people) is more a voicing of his helplessness in the face of human frailty.

I walked out feeling inordinately sad.

30 November 2008

Made in Clerkenwell

Today I went to Made in Clerkenwell, a lovely craft fair, with Hoxton Handmade and Travelknitter, and we briefly ran into Estieknits too. I brought my camera, and then I didn't take photos. It was a building full of great open studios, with lots of beautiful jewelry, sadly beyond my price range, some knitwear, and some housewares that were also quite tempting. There was a bookbinder, and I did get Rog a little notebook, but that was my only purchase.

I don't mind though, because it was inspiring to be there and see all the colours and textures and shapes. Also walking up five (six? there was a -1 floor) flights of stairs provided some much needed exercise.

Since it's that time of year where all knitting is Christmas-orientated, I'm afraid I can't show you any pictures. The CPH is coming along nicely, I'm 30% done with it. The other things I'm going to knit as gifts aren't even on the needles yet. Rog's sweater is on hold as US gifts have to be knit first. I'm thinking of making a xx for my mother and some xx for my brother-in-law, Paul. We keep buying xx to include in the package for my sister, and then we keep xxing them with xx. I bought some grey and green Cascade 220 (hard to tell the difference in this photo!) to make leg warmers for my yoga teacher. (I know who's reading this and who's not)

And finally, I leave you with a portrait of rog & I doing what we do...

22 November 2008

Still procrastinating...

But one Christmas present down...

Off to finish (yes, it's half written!) my article. And can I just add how amazing the internet is? I was vaguely remembering a quote I might want to use as an intro, from one of my favourite books, The Interpretation of Cultures, by Clifford Geertz, which I of course left in NYC along with the rest of my books. So I just googled his name and what I could remember, and there it was:

"The strange opacity of certain empirical events, the dumb senselessness of intense or inexorable pain, and the enigmatic unaccountability of gross iniquity all raise the uncomfortable suspicion that perhaps the world, and hence man's life in the world, has no genuine order at all--no empirical regularity, no emotional form, no moral coherence... The effort is not to deny the undeniable--that there are unexplained events, that life hurts, or that rain falls upon the just--but to deny that there are inexplicable events, that life is unendurable, and that justice is a mirage."

I don't think it'll work for my article though. Sigh.

21 November 2008

Stop me if you think you've heard this one before

I am so stressed out right now. Here's what I have to do over the weekend:

1) Write an article - the writing will be easy; the getting myself to sit down and actually do it will be hard. Actual work: 1 hour. Work including procrastination: roughly 10 hours.

2) Work on a case study. Same issue as above. Actual work: 1/2 hour. With procrastination: 2 hours.

3) Come up with two diagnostic tools. This will be a little more challenging, as I'm creating them more or less from scratch. Therefore, potentially more fun as well. Actual work: hard to say. With procrastination: well, as it's not due til Tuesday, I'd say I'll start working on it Monday evening. Possibly Tuesday very early in the morning.

4) Give some concrete shape to an idea I'm thinking about. I've been procrastinating on this one for over a year now, so...

The problem is that I can't combine all the procrastinating: each project needs its own procrastinating time.

Now if I only I had something that I could procrastinate with.

Enter the lovely Christmas card I got from the PO yesterday. They informed me that any shipping to the US that I need to do must be done by 5 December, if it's to get there on time. Is it a coincidence that I found out I must knit all weekend if I'm to make this deadline?

Speaking of which, here's what I've been up to since last I wrote:

Phildar pull for me:

Cobblestone pull for rog:

Noro scarf for lily:

Some lovely shadows on my wall:

11 November 2008

Busy, busy

I have a cold. Yuck.

We went for a walk along the thames a few days ago. The light was absolutely beautiful - because we're so far north, and the sun was setting (at around 4pm!), it was very lateral, and it gave the buildings across the thames these amazing golden highlights.

It was almost as if London were posing for a postcard:

I ran out of wool for my druid mittens, and it's knitpicks wool, and it's a colour I got years ago and they don't have it anymore. You'd think I'd have checked that before starting. So now, unless the one other person I found in Europe on ravelry who has some feels like parting with a skein, I guess I'll have to start all over again with different wool. Poor me, I will have to go and buy wool.

I had to frog the first (messed up) mitten to finish the above part of the second mitten, and I guess because I'm using such small needles, two skeins weren't enough.

Anyway, it's not like I'll have time to work on those mittens til, say, the 26th of December, because I have a lot of Christmas knitting to go. I just realised there's only 6 weeks left, and I haven't even begun!

I'm going to make the cobblestone sweater for Rog.

Any hints for how to avoid the boyfriend / sweater curse? Or does that no longer count once you get married? I still think of him as my boyfriend though.

05 November 2008

What a relief!

All I can say is: what a relief it is that Obama won. What a relief.

01 November 2008

Goose; golden eggs

So, it's around 9am, Saturday morning. Rog is lying in bed with a pretty bad cold, and he says, "you know, what I could really use is hint hint a really warm woolly sweater to make me feel better."

Just then, the doorbell rings, and there is a delivery. It's this:

That's right, a huge bag of wool. It's wool I ordered over a month ago from New Lanark, that seemed to have gotten lost. And I had ordered it to make Rog a sweater. Also some other christmas presents. I got quite a lot!

I'm hoping he can apply this newfound skill to other things. Like, "you know, what would really make me feel better right now is £1,000,000." I'm ready to answer the doorbell when it buzzes.

My autumn-y outfit today:

31 October 2008

To measure or not to measure

Ask me to create something in the kitchen that entails sticking precisely to a recipe, and I can’t help but improvise. I’m the kind of person who thinks a “pinch,” a “handful,” and “until it looks right” are actual measurements.

So when I decided to make some biscuits a few days ago, I thought I would try this measuring thing. And I was going merrily along, as best I could - I knew I needed half a bar of butter, so I eyeballed it, trying to take into account the invisible third that had been used for something else. Tablespoons are no problem. And for the bigger amounts, I pulled out my handy measuring cup, and measured away. I always put in less sugar and less butter, which is usually okay.

About half way through I noticed that the dry measurements had all been in grams, a measurement of weight, not in ounces, a measurement of volume - obviously, ounces are on my measuring cup. This might have been fine if the measurement had been grams for everything - the proportions would have been okay. But, no: remember, I'd gotten the butter more or less right, and the tablespoons. So I switched to measuring the remaining ingredients in grams. Not my best decision ever.

Into the cooker go the biscuits! The worst part of the story? They came out really well - and I have no idea what my measurements were.

This is not dissimilar to how I do my calculations for knitting in my head - okay for one piece, but it becomes a little confusing when I've got a pair of mittens and a pair of sleeves to work on, all in the same time period. Why don't I write these things down?

So I'm writing it down now. The sleeves on my phildar pull: cast on 44. Remaining Druid mitten: cast on 42 for the cuff. Increase to full amount of stitches after cuff. Though actually, in the case of the mitten, I'm going to frog the first one and redo it.

17 October 2008

Week in Review

This past week, at knitting group, Paris came up and I realised I couldn't remember the name of the métro stop near my grandmother's flat. This was the stop I emerged from every Friday afternoon to go to lunch with my grandparents and my aunt and the occasional other friend or family member, as well as for every holiday and every birthday for a whole year, and I couldn't remember the name! Quelle honte, n'est-ce pas? As soon as I got home I had to look it up: Laumière! It was such a relief - of course, I can remember what it looked like, and the walk from the métro to her house. I remember arriving and that there would always be some lovely smell emanating from the kitchen. My grandfather was usually the one who cooked, and he was really good at it. After lunch, my aunt and my grandmother would smoke a cigarette each, and we'd each eat a small square of chocolate. Every once in a while, when I left, my grandmother would press a 100 franc note in my hand (yes, it was that long ago that I lived there), which made me feel like a child, but in a really good way. She used to knit all the time, and how I wish that I had been a knitter back then, so I could have knit with her.

Aside from my memory lapse, it was a lovely evening with the Hoxton knitting group - it was a big group, and one new knitter had just seen us in passing, barely even knew what ravelry was, and just decided to join us, which I thought was so nice. And, by coincidence, she had happened to go to school with one of the other women there. Anyway, I had a really good time.

This is what I was knitting that night:

The colour is most accurate in the first photo.

In non-knitting news, I sent in my absentee ballot this week - it won't make too much of a difference, as I'm in NY, which will go for Obama anyway, but it still felt good to do it. Now all I can do is keep my fingers crossed that he wins. Even Karl Rove thinks McCain is highly unlikely to win; he said if he does, he'll “have engineered the most impressive and improbable political comeback since Harry Truman in 1948." Though I wonder if he's doing this as a kind of reverse jinx - you know?

Another thing I've been able to tick off my to-do list is that I've finally bought some brown boots, which I've been wanting since I got here back in February: everyone here has such cute brown boots, all different shapes (within reason of course) and sizes, and I think after eight months, I can say my wanting them wasn't just a flash in the pan. I really love my new boots. So cute.

Also, it's been getting chilly in London, so I made some house socks. They did not turn out anywhere near as pretty as Ysolda's, but that's not the pattern's fault, I think my yarn choice, while good for warmth, was not so good for cuteness.

I've started some druid mittens from the latest vogue knitting.

Speaking of mittens, my niece called me yesterday to tell me that the mittens I made for her a few years ago are now too small. Hint hint. Her favourite color is constantly changing. A month and a half ago, it was dark blue and dark green, so I asked if she wanted dark green mittens, only to be told that she would prefer if they were brown. I hope I can knit them fast enough that she gets them while she still likes brown!

11 October 2008

First pair of socks ever

Here are my Bacchus socks:

And I started a scarf in this lovely Lobster Pot bulky yarn - I've had it for a few years, and I have had no idea what to make with it. I'm not entirely sold on this scarf.

I might like to make it into these slippers, but it seems too nice to just pad around the house in. I just don't know. I guess I'll keep knitting it into a scarf.

Well, except that I think it's time to take a wee break from knitting, and focus a little more on finding more work, especially with a recession coming on, it seems like it might be a good idea.

08 October 2008

Some free time

I just had a crazy week, but starting today, I get a little bit of breathing space.

And what good timing, because look what I got today!

It's the wool from the CSA I joined last year, Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm. It's very soft, and I love the warm white color. I also got 6 skeins of worsted weight. The one pictured here is sport weight. Now I have to figure out how (or possibly if) I should dye them. I'm thinking a nice dark red...

This week I went up to Sheffield for a meeting, and I didn't see that much of the town, only this part around the train station:

And the little sister dress, that I'm making for a friend of my sister's:

And a Bacchus sock: