Monday, February 28, 2011

The Madrona Treasures

Sounds like a Nicholas Cage adventure movie, doesn't it? It certainly was an adventure, but more on that later. I'm waiting for the statute of limitations to expire.

The first Madrona posts will be all about the goodies. Here's one of my favorite non-yarn purchases:

This is a blocking wire kit from Handworks Northwest. According to Franklin Habit, it was put together specifically for Churchmouse Yarns and Teas, a lovely shop in Bainbridge Island, Washington. I don't see it on the Churchmouse website, but if you'd rather have this one instead of the one featured on the Handworks site, you might give Churchmouse a call. From what I can tell, this one doesn't contain the 18 fine wires and the T pins that are in the "deluxe" kit. That's O.K. with me, since I already had some.

What I really love about this kit is the storage sleeve. My old set came in a cardboard tube that was already dented by the time it got delivered. Thanks USPS! This one is some sort of really tough plastic--made it through the baggage hold of Frontier Airlines just fine, in only a cardboard box. I also love the heavy wires in this kit. You can block lace until it begs for mercy and these wires don't bend out of shape. I've already used them and I had no trouble with snagging--the ends are hand polished and it comes with a small piece of polishing cloth so you can smooth out any rough spots that might have been missed. It also comes with instructions, something my old kit didn't have. They give you some great tips on wet blocking and how to use the wires.

My next goody is pretty cool. Even DH thought it was awesome. Stay tuned... and have a great week!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Travel tips, or why mace should be allowed in your carry on

Remember when traveling to your destination was almost as much fun as when you actually got there? Yeah, me neither. But seriously, I do remember a time when airports were interesting and flying somewhere was exciting. It's still exciting now, but mostly in a 'I wonder how many people on this plane have the swine flu' kind of way. Makes those three day car rides from hell look a lot more appealing.

But never fear, I'm here to help. Check out these tips I've put together from my last trip:

  • Always allow yourself plenty of time for checking your bags, getting through security, and people watching at your gate. Tip: If you're pressed for time and in danger of missing your flight, you're more likely to be selected to be zapped with DNA-changing x-rays or felt up by a TSA employee with hemorrhoids and a bad attitude. I don't have the hard data to back this up, but Murphy's Law is real and TSA knows it.
  • Always carry plenty of hand sanitizer. Some people believe that the self-flushing toilets in airport restrooms are magical, so they don't need to wash their hands after. Tip: Staring at these people as they blithely stroll past the soap and water does no good--they just ignore you. This is where mace would be handy.
  • Flights are more likely to be full these days, practically insuring that there will be no overhead bin space by the time you get on the plane. Tip: Telling the gate agent she is a f*cking bitch because she won't let you carry on a bag that is only slightly smaller than most of the bags in the cargo hold doesn't help you. Neither does screaming that you and your companion are a lesbian couple. No one cares. We, your fellow passengers, only care that you tried to hog OUR share of the overhead bin space.
  • If someone is going to bring their own meal on board, it will always be something with extra garlic and/or onions, and they'll always be sitting next to you. Tip: If you stare longingly at their food they'll eat it faster. You can always offer them a mint when they've finished their General Tso Chicken with Forty Garlic Cloves.
  • Before you board, check out the gate area to see who's knitting. Tip: If one of your dpns accidentally becomes lodged in the thigh of the personal space-stealing person seated next to you, it's good to know where the nearest knitter is seated. He/she probably has a spare. 

And speaking of crammed:

Next post will be about Madrona. Have a great week!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

And lo, there was stash enhancement!

Here's a peek at my stash enhancement from Madrona. I'm so excited about the Shelter and can't wait to get it on the needles. The colors are glorious! It's a strong yarn, but not itchy. Can't remember what the red is--I'm at the airport waiting to board the plane and all the yarn is safely (I hope) tucked into my checked luggage. The yarn on the right is from Toots LeBlanc. Somebody in one of my classes was wearing a scarf made from this yummy stuff and the second I touched it, I knew I would own some. Gorgeous!

I have more stuff to show you after I get home, but it's not yarn. Don't you think I showed an enormous amount of self restraint?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Now I can no longer say I never win door prizes. Check out what I just won at Madrona. Man, I hope I don't already own this!

The only two classes I was able to get are awesome, fortunately, and they're also both taught by Franklin Habit aka The Panopticon. If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen a tweet about Franklin's cute butt. I swear, this is what happened--I was in the bar, minding my own business when that damned Dolores VH hijacked my phone. AND she owes me $50. Take my word for it--she's bad news and I will never again party with sheep. Live and learn. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

And the winner is... Lucky number 13! I'd post a photo of the random number generator page but the free wifi at Denver International Airport is so agonizingly slow I'd miss my flight. So, I'm using my trusty iPhone to post this. KathyB, send me an email and we'll work out the details. Congrats!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Why is Cupid naked, and would he like free yarn?

I am a hopeless non-romantic and probably the least sentimental person I know. Maybe it comes from being fairly low maintenance--I don't mind eating alone in a restaurant and I think it's rather silly to celebrate things like the anniversary of the day DH and I met or the first time DD went to a sleep-over. Not to imply that if YOU do these things you've been dipped in honey and rolled in sugar and make my teeth hurt, but that's just me.

I don't get all bent out of shape about getting a table at the perfect restaurant on Valentines Day, mostly because DH is usually working on that day and if we do go out to dinner, it's usually later in the evening. Are we going out tonight? Who knows. Will I get flowers and candy? Who knows. Do I care? Not really. I just want the damn cat to stop barfing today. Told you I'm low maintenance.

But I did promise a giveaway today, and it's mostly in celebration of my blog being a year old. Just leave a comment about how you feel about Valentines Day. Love it? Hate it? Didn't even realize today is Valentines Day? Whatever. Just leave it HERE in the next 24 hours (noon, MST). I'll let the random number generator pick a number and I'll post the winner tomorrow, on my way to Madrona. Here's what the lucky winner will receive:

It's a skein of lightweight Socks that Rock, in the colorway Garden Daze. It's killing me to part with this but if you knit something gorgeous with it and send me a photo I'll feel better.

I have also succumbed to that crazy thing that happens to people when they're about to leave for Rhinebeck or Stitches East/West, or any other fiber festival/workshop. I'm knitting a sweater that I hope to wear at Madrona. Seriously. Because I don't have enough to do right now, what with packing, deciding WHAT to pack, making sure the stuff I have to do for DH and DD before I leave gets done (think FAFSA and other alcohol-required chores). I am hopeless, but at least I'm wearing clothes.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

True confession--I really, really like split pea soup

Don't gag. I'm not talking about the thick green stuff that came out of Linda Blair's mouth. What I love is a velvety, smoky soup that's hearty enough to make me forget the way-below-freezing temperatures we've had to endure this endless winter. O.K., maybe not exactly forget but a good bowl of split pea soup makes it seem a little less brutal.

I turned this:

into this:

Here's the linky to the recipe, and here are my mods: I couldn't get one big meaty ham hock, so I bought a couple of smaller pork hocks, and I didn't bother with the dark bread croutons and mustard. I used half water and half chicken broth, and upped the quantity of onion, to reflect a more traditional mirepoix. (I was taught the amount of onion should be equal to the weight of carrot and celery combined.) I sauteed the mirepoix in olive oil instead of butter--the flavor didn't suffer and I cut out a little bit of saturated fat. Winner, winner, chicken dinner! Or soup dinner.

The recipe also calls for putting the soup into a blender or food processor and pureeing it until smooth. That's a pain in the butt--you always spill it or splatter it on the ceiling. I like using a stick blender instead. Yes, me and my gadgets, but it's one more thing I'd hate to cook without. They're perfect for making creamed soups, crepe batter, smoothies, and lots of other things. They've also gone way down in price since I bought mine. Stick blenders--they're a good thing! (Martha stole that line from me, by the way. Seriously. But she's got really good lawyers. Whatever, Martha.)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

TINK is a four-letter word, but so is WUSS

The last time I checked Ravelry, 3106 people had posted Saroyans. That is a lot of love for one free pattern, my friends, and there's a reason why. It's a lovely knit--simple, fast, and beautiful. Of course, when so many people knit the same pattern, somebody is going to come up with mods (modifications, for you non-knitters.)

This is the first side-to-side scarf I've knitted, and I love the construction technique. There's something about decreasing to the bind-off that I adore. The rows keep getting shorter and shorter (and faster and faster) and before you know it, you're binding off. Initially, you increase until the piece is the width you want. Then, you coast along, knitting evenly, until it's time to start the decreases. When I first started the decrease section of my Saroyan, I wasn't happy with the way it looked. The original pattern calls for a k2tog (knit two together) decrease. While I love this decrease for sweater armholes, I didn't like the way it looked for this scarf. To my eye, it really doesn't match the increase--m1l (make one left). But of course, I kept knitting. It's like a recipe, right? The first time you make it, you follow the recipe EXACTLY.

A couple of inches later I came to my senses, and did what I should have done before I started my Saroyan. I went on Ravelry and read about how others worked theirs. When I saw this one, I ripped back and started the decrease section over again, and I'm glad I did. I really like the mods sushikette came up with, and I'm going to keep them in mind when I make my next Saroyan. You can't have too many of a good thing.

My initial foray into Saroyan got me to thinking about how I approach knitting in general. I'm not a novice knitter. I need to be brave and follow my instincts, think outside the box. THINK before I start. I know enough about shaping and cast-ons and bind-offs to know that one method doesn't work for all patterns. I might not go where no knitter has gone before but I don't have to be a sheep either. I have skillz and I should trust myself to use them. While TINK is a four-letter word, it's not the worst thing in the world. To rip off a phrase--knit on!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

It's like that movie GroundHog Day, only with yarn

The weather keeps doing the same thing, over and over and over again--snow, freezing cold temperatures, and gray skies. I'm more than a little sick of it, especially when I think about not going any place warm for another five weeks. I am, however, going to Madrona, so don't feel too sorry for me. A few weeks after that, I finally get to (hopefully) spend some time in the sun. The BFF and I are going to the BNP Paribas Open. We have a free place to crash, we're flying on points, and half of our tickets for the tennis are free. Like I said, don't feel sorry for me. In fact, maybe you should be just a little jealous, because of this:

Kaleidoscope Yarns had this luscious yarn on sale and I couldn't resist. It's the new Tilli Tomas DK weight Symphony. Just in time for Valentines Day, this red is so damn gorgeous, I want to make out with it. The mohair/silk blend is pre-stung with little bitty glass beads that catch the light and make my heart beat faster. I still haven't decided what I'll do with it. If you have a pattern you think would really showcase this yarn, let me know. Each skein is only 117 yards, so I'm thinking something lacy, but I'm open to suggestions.

I have a huge list of things I need to finish before I leave town. The bobble hat pattern needs to be completed and sent back to the tech editor. I completely changed the layout and I'm tinkering with some added graphics, but I need to get my butt in gear. I also have some contract knitting to complete, and my BFF asked me to make a couple of dog sweaters. Here's my Sophie squeezed into the first one:

The dog it's meant for is about half Sophie's weight, but she was a good sport and modeled it for me anyway. I don't have a pattern for the sweater. I just sketched a design and did the math to get close to the size of a sweater that BFF already has. Hopefully, this one works. When you know how to do shaping, it really makes it enjoyable to simply knit away and see what happens. Just do it! Nike stole that line from me, by the way. Seriously. 

Sigh. I just glanced out of the window and it's pretty much a blizzard out there. I think maybe I can use some sympathy after all.

Last but not least, congratulations to Lea Ann, winner of the digital scale. Those of you who didn't win, stay tuned... I'm thinking Valentines Day would be a great day for another giveaway to continue the celebration of my first Blogoversary.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lucky Number Nine

Come out, come out, wherever you are! The 9th comment comes from Lea Ann. Congratulations! I've had a hard time getting in touch with her, but with our bitterly cold weather, I'm afraid she might be having problems. I'm going to give her more time to contact me, just in case. If anybody knows Lea Ann, or can get in touch with her, that would be great if you could let her know. If she's unable to get back to me, I'll give the random number generator another spin. I'm just hoping everything is O.K. with the winner.

Meanwhile, we continue to have really, really, REALLY cold weather here. I think it finally got above zero, but not by much. Somewhere, there's a beach with my butt on it. Why aren't I there?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I was saving #200 for something special...

My grand plan was to announce the winner of my digital scale giveaway in blog post #200, which is this post. I've emailed the winner and the person hasn't gotten back to me yet. Maybe it's fate or the way things were meant to be today. I don't know. But I do know that sometimes things get put in your path and you have to change directions. I'm sure I'll hear from the winner sooner or later, and I'll announce the name, but for now...

Today I want to dedicate blog post #200 to Kate. Please read her story. It's eloquent and courageous and thoughtful. Don't worry--it's not sappy and you won't be asked to donate anything. Just read it and be inspired. I promise, you will be.