Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ladies of Letters and More

I've been listening to a hilarious book on my iPod recently. It is a BBC radio production called Ladies of Letters and More by Lou Wakefield and Carole Hayman and performed by Patricia Routledge and Prunella Scales. If you are a fan of the BBC comedy series Keeping Up Appearances, then you are familiar with the talented Patricia Routledge who plays Hyacinth Bucket ("Bouquet").

I purchased it from Audible books when I saw that Patricia Routledge was one of the actresses. In fact, I enjoyed it so much when we traveled to New Mexico that I am listening to it again. There are so many hysterical little nuances in it that I get something new each time. I must look a bit odd walking through my neighborhood giggling. What is really exciting is that it is one of a series.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tip for a Neat Edge

I am going to share a knitting tip that I learned years ago by a fellow camper at one of EZ and Meg's Knitting Camps. I wish I could remember who taught this so I could give credit where it is due. The technique makes a very neat edge when knitting back and forth.
At the end of a row:

  • Before working the last stitch, bring the yarn forward. Slip last stitch (purlwise) onto right needle. The yarn will lie between the next to the last stitch and the last stitch.

  • Turn work.

  • Knit into the back of the first stitch.

This method gives a neater edge than slipping the first stitch of each row and after you do it for a while it is automatic.
I finished my Autumn Socks during the Democratic Convention. Now I'm moving forward on the Guernsey. I never know when to write "Gansey" or "Guernsey".

For the sock pattern I used Lucy Neatby's Marietta's Ribbed Socks from Cool Socks Warm Feet. Now I know that some knitters do not need a sock pattern but I am not one of them. If pressed, I think I could manage without a pattern but I'd just rather not. I knit one sock with Knit Picks Harmony dpn's and the other using the Magic Loop method. When I came to the heel flap I switched back over to dpn's. I feel I have given the Magic Loop and 2 circular needles methods a fair chance in that I have made two pair of socks totally with 2 circulars and have used the Magic Loop a few times. They are great options for travel knitting because you are not going to lose a needle on an airplane or anywhere else. (One of my Harmony dpn's is in my son's apartment in New Mexico.) For my comfort level I still prefer dpn's but I'm glad I learned the other methods and will still use them on occasion. The Knit Picks Harmony dpn's have just the right amount of friction for me and yet I can zip right along. It takes me less time to change needles when on dpn's. If choosing between 2 circulars and Magic Loop I would choose 2 circulars

Monday, August 25, 2008

Is it just me or did you laugh too?

The Summer Olympics are over. I did enjoy watching some of the events. I'm glad I was watching when the US men's swimming relay team pulled off that unexpected victory over the arrogant French team. It was also fun to see Michael Phelps breaking world records right and left. Did you notice that his events were followed by commercials that congratulated him on his wins and promoted the DVD on his life? I guess they had two sets of commercials ready for the occasions. Good thing he pulled it off. He seems like a genuinely nice kid and hopefully all this fame won't ruin him.

Olympics are great for knitting and I accomplished a lot on Torben's Fisherman's Guernsey. Last night we got hooked on the closing ceremonies and after several hours began to wonder if they really were going to close. I may be the only one on the planet who feels this way but it got to the point that I started giggling as it seemed somewhat absurd to keep going on and on with one extravaganza after the next. I believe the tipping point was when 400 people were swaying backwards, sideways, and otherwise flailing on the steel tower to imitate the flame that had been extinguished. Isn't there something absurd or just a teeny bit comical about that? First extinguish the flame and then try to imitate it. Why not just keep it going? I don't know. It just seemed funny to me. I also got a kick out of the commercials to plug the two set DVD of the Olympics. If my life ever gets so boring that we have to watch them over again, then please start digging a plot.

On Saturday the band had a competition in the Quad Cities. The day was hot but at least there was a light breeze. Wearing a 3.5 lb wool kilt and wool hose in hot humid weather isn't the most fun, but we pipers grin and bear it. Also, piping gets the blood going and creates body heat, similar to running a few miles. Our band is in a rebuilding year, having lost some of our band members for various reasons. So this was our first competition of this year and the first ever competition for 3 new pipers and one new drummer. We didn't place in the standings, but we learned what we need to work on. After finishing our competition at 1:45 p.m. we had over 3 hours until Massed Bands (a Highland Games Closing Ceremony). As we sit around in our uniforms trying to stay as cool as possible, knitting is a great companion and antidote to boredom. Torben's Guernsey is too big to carry along to the Games so I took the socks I have been dawdling on. Once I started working on them Saturdy I've just decided to finish the pair before continuing on the gansey. I don't like unfinished projects languishing for long periods of time. The weather yesterday was simply beautiful. I entertained my mother-in-law on our deck, enjoying the fresh air, while continuing on the socks. The first sock is now finished and I started the heel flap for the second one. By the time the Olympics actually closed (yes, I stuck it out until the end) I was half-way down the foot of the second one. There is another inch or so to knit before finishing the toe. These socks will be ready for fall wearing. I love the colors and the feel of them!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I am a Monogamous Knitter

We had a wonderful trip visiting our youngest son in New Mexico. My current knitting project, the gansey for our son Torben, was too large to take as airplane knitting. I didn't feel like starting something else that would not be finished while on the trip. Many knitters have multiple projects in progress but I don't work well that way. (Kudos to those of you who have so many going on at the same time and you know who you are.) I do usually have a smaller project going and in this case, it was a pair of socks which it seems I have been working on forever. My dishcloth supply was getting low so at the last minute I stashed some colorful cotton in my carry on and made four during the flights. I did get quite a bit done on the socks once we got there but then I lost one of the dp's. I am knitting one sock on dp's and one with the Magic Loop. I think I am slower with ML but at least you can't lose one of the needles.

On our first night in Santa Fe we stayed at a B and B located 5 miles outside of town. The garden, complete with koi pond and loads of hummingbird feeders, was so beautiful that we didn't want to leave. It was so cool that I needed to wear my wool socks (Knit Picks Essential) that can be seen in the foreground of the photo as I stretched on a chaise lounge enjoying the view.

We have hummingbirds at the feeder on our deck, but none so aggressive as the rufous hummingbirds that clamoured at the feeders. The ruby throated hummers were constantly chased by the rufous.
I am absolutely certain that if I had held a feeder in my hand, the hummers here would have eaten from it. They flew right up to my face! One flew so close to me that the hair on my arms blew in the breeze from his wee wings.

Once home, I continued on the gansey project as we watched bits of the Olympics. The color does not photograph well. It is a deeper green than shows here. I know my son is going to LOVE it!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Knitting Books on my Doorstep

When Interweave Press had a scratch and dent sale a few weeks ago I ordered two books. Quite frankly, I had totally forgotten about them until they appeared in my mailbox today. What a wonderful surprise from Me to Me! Folk Knitting in Estonia by Nancy Bush is so full of beautiful mitten, glove, and sock patterns that I don't even know where to begin on the list of ones I would like to make. Most, if not all of them, are knit on a very fine gauge of 8 to 9 stitches to the inch on size 0, or smaller for us more relaxed knitters. Vivian Hoxbro's Shadow Knitting is a book I've admired for a while. The technique will be new to me. If you have tried the Shadow Knitting technique and have a project to recommend, I am open to suggestions.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mamma Mia!

The neighborhood Ladies Night Out to see the film Mamma Mia was a success. Sure, the movie is, like many musicals, a fairy tale with an flimsy story line. Total escape/enjoyment is the whole point. In fact, Mamma Mia was flimsier than most. Our local theatre isn't as fancy as some that have tiered seating and other amenities; however, the $7 adult admission is a draw and one of the benefits of living in a smaller town. Meryl Streep was excellent in the lead role, as she always is. (Meryl, if you are reading my blog, which I'm sure is quite likely, please know that you are a role model for us women over 50.) On the other hand, being witness to Pierce Brosnan singing in a musical was downright weird, if not a bit surreal. Don't get me wrong: I'm a big fan of Pierce but he is not a vocalist and should probably stick to roles like Remington Steele and James Bond. (Please don't say anything to him, Meryl.) The rest of the males weren't terrific either although I am fond of Colin Firth from seeing him in his role as Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. The women carried the film off. (Thank you again, Meryl and that darling, dimpled Amanda Seyfried.) The movie track is now on my iPod thanks to iTunes. Wheeee! New music for my walks. After the film the five ladies went to local sports bar and grill for food and drink. (When I go to a restaurant in Illinois I celebrate that our state has finally gone smoke-free. Cheers to Governor B for the one thing he has done right.)

A few weeks ago when we visited Son #2 in Kansas City we ate breakfast in a restaurant called First Watch. We've also eaten in a First Watch in the St. Louis area so I assumed they are a small chain. (Yes, web site confirms this...there are more than I thought.) Son #2's girlfriend recommended the Fresh Fruit Crepes which were delicious and healthful. My husband eyes light up when I lean over and whisper, "I can make these at home." Since then I've made them about 4 times, including today's Sunday lunch. They are so easy it's practically ridiculous. My blender crepe recipe is about 20 years old (the card is duly stained and bears badges of honor) and I have no idea where it came from originally.

Blend until just mixed:

  • 1 cup flour

  • 4 eggs

  • 1 cup milk

  • 1/2 tsp salt

Melt 1 T butter in a crepe pan or skillet and pour butter into blender and give it another whirl. Let batter stand for 30 min if you have time. If not, just go ahead and start cooking!

Between crepes add a bit of butter to the pan. I use REAL butter but of course you can do what you like.

Slide crepe to a plate and fill with fruit (not too much or you can't close it). Today I filled with sliced banana, strawberries, and whole juicy blackberries. Fold in sides of crepe, turn over so seam is on the bottom, and top with stawberry-banana yogurt, or fruit yogurt of your choice.
A little tip for making crepes is note to overcook them. They should not be brown (like the one in the photo that I overcooked because I was fiddling with my camera.) Pour the batter to barely cover the bottom of the pan and cook over medium heat. When the crepe looks firm flip it over and cook on the second side for a very short time, about 15-30 seconds. If they are overcooked they will still taste fine but will crack when you fold them and may be a little tough. (I am not an expert, this is just my experience and the way we like them.)
My recipe easily makes enough to serve 4 crepe lovers.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Welcome to Sammy Jay and Mother West Wind

I mentioned in a recent post that I am adding to my collection of Thornton W. Burgess books. I bid on several on Ebay and won two of them. Sometimes the prices go higher than I am willing to pay but these were both under $10 (plus shipping). I am trying to limit myself to the ones that match the 3 that I have from my dad's childhood. This version of Mother West Wind's Children is considerably earlier (1913) but I couldn't resist because it was in excellent shape. The bookplate inside the dust jacket reads: "This Book belongs to Jean Nicholson." One can't help wonder what sort of a little girl she was, although I doubt she was much of a reader since this book is in pristine condition. Goodness, it's 95 years old! Perhaps she did love reading but just not this particular book.
The Adventures of Sammy Jay is in excellent condition (just the torn frontispiece) and matches the rest of my collection--total of 5 now.
A cold front came through yesterday blessing us with temps in the 50's last night and cool today. It's wonderful to have the windows open in the house and a nice breeze flowing through. On Monday when we traveled back to Illinois from North Carolina we stepped out of the car at a rest stop about 1.5 hours from home and our glasses fogged up. The heat and humidity were oppressive and estimated at 110 degree index. So we are thoroughly enjoying this lovely cool summer weather. It is just perfect for knitting and other activities, both inside and out.
Tonight the ladies on my street are going out for a movie (Mama Mia) and a bite to eat. Living in a neighborhood where people actually do things together is a novelty for me. In our previous neighborhood we were friendly with some of the neighbors but it was strictly limited to the neighborhood chit chat whenever we happened to see one another. I feel a little bit like I'm stepping over the threshold into Desperate Housewives but that's ok. It's kind of fun.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Finally Knitting!

Through the family visits this summer my needles have been purring along. Several weeks ago we picked up my mom and dad and drove to Kansas City to visit Son #2. My travel project was a prayer shawl for a dear friend who lost her son two years ago on July 27th when he was in his mid 20's. I wanted to give her a token of comfort at the difficult time of the anniversary of his tragic death. This prayer shawl was different than the others I have made. The notes will be on my Ravelry project page. I began with a lace border and then picked up along the edge. The body of the shawl was simple garter stitch and then I bound off in the lace border. The true color of the shawl is best shown in the photo of it on the chair. It is a beautiful dusty periwinkle.

I also finished this retro baby set to give away. Greenwoman gave me the idea to finish the ties with pompoms. It look me a while to figure out how to attach the pompoms. All the instructions just said, "Attach to string" or "Sew". What I finally did was thread the twisted cord into a blunt sewing needle and then I punched the needle through the pompom, tied a big knot, and then pulled the knot into the core of the pompom. It feels secure and looks very cute! The photo was actually taken before I took them off and started over. The finished product looked much tidier. I found excellent pompom instructions sans cardboard circles (pain in the neck) at Bella Dia.

The booties seem too big for the rest of the set. I used antique buttons, non-matching, for Saartje's booties. I also used a variation of the pattern by Fleegle but found it to be a bit more trouble than it was worth and would rather sew them up next time.

For the pink bonnet, in the delicious Cotsoy, I simply extended the garter border to form ties. It took several tries to get it right and I probably didn't take notes so if I make this bonnet again, I'll have to figure it all over again. Sigh. Why do I do that?

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