26 June 2007

road trip

Even if you have nothing planned, nothing in mind, just getting out of town (yeah, into another town, but still out of your own) lends itself to a freshness, a clearing of the cobwebs. W (my DH) had meetings on the UC Berkeley campus earlier this week. I went along for a chance to breathe sea air, take in sites, and meander through book stores as well as a couple yarn stores.

We had planned to be there only Monday so I had planned out my routes for the day, trying to maximize time. Time for some walking in a park along the shore, time for knitting, and time for shopping.

**Now, I'm not one for shopping. I don't like to go to the grocery store. Too many people. Usually too crowded (it doesn't help that I go when I'm tired and hungry). I don't like the mall. I have an idea, a fairly firm idea, of what I want, but have no patience to look for it.**

Armed with the technology of a GPS in the Prius, addresses in my notebook, and a cell phone, I found Article Pract, the yummy yarn store I have been dieing to go to for months. I parked, noticed that it was just after 10am (the store didn't open for an hour), fed the meter (which was good for one hour only--strictly enforced), and set my sights on a little coffee shop next door. I walked over to the yarn shop, confirmed on the sign that the open time was 11am (yup, 11am), and prepared to load up on caffeine.

This coffee shop only had fresh bread (for toast), fresh jams, and expresso drinks. Oh, but they decorate their drinks with pretty designs in the foam of the milk. So nifty (don't laugh at my word). I ordered two but didn't think to get the camera out until the second cup of double expresso.

Wired with caffeine and with purpose, at 11:10am I walked next door to the yarn shop. Huhh...no lights on, door locked. Looked at the watch. Double checked by looking at my cell phone time. Yup. Time correct. Ha, those of you who live in the Bay Area can chuckle all you want now...I looked again at the sign on the door with numbers and letters big enough to read from the busy street: CLOSED MONDAY. But this is Monday, I thought. Still not quite registering, I tried the door one more time, just in case someone might be there, knowing that there are knitters out there looking (needing) to touch and buy. Like a nerd, I even pressed my nose against the window with hands at each side of my face to peer into the window. Yup. There were many, many skeins of yummy yarn there.

That night we had reservations for Chez Panisse, a restaurant started by Alice Waters, who is mentioned in Ruth Reichl's books. Yummy fresh food. Happy birthday (June 25) to my husband of almost 29 years. He's been with me more than half his life.

The following morning we had breakfast at Guerilla Cafe. W decided to stay for another day of meetings, so I was left to sit by the San Francisco Bay and knit my little heart out. The result was two hats for the Charmed Knits KAL: one for Ravenclaw (with 7 stripes, one for each of the 7 books of Harry Potter), and one for Gryffindor (with checks that somewhat mirror the seal of the house of Gryffindor). My entry for these two hats can be seen here.

On my way meandering through town to the UC Berkeley campus, I came across a local restaurant celebrating their 5th anniversary. They had blocked off the street, filled it with tables covered in white cotton table cloths, and provided fresh food from the their kitchen of roasted pig, couscous with almonds and currants, and fresh bread free of charge. To complete the atmosphere, there were musicians playing French music. I found it wonderful and soul-filling to see couples dancing together amidst the crowd.

21 June 2007

glorious summer sun

The sun is at its zenith today, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Summer is officially here.

May your summer months be full of radiant sunshine, plenty of fresh foods, and time to contemplate.

15 June 2007

quality, not quantity

I apparently have too much time on my hands this morning: I am lurking and peeking in the "windows" of other bloggers. I will share...

Next fall I will need to start early in teaching students in my classroom to knit. In teaching them empathy for others and giving to others, I want them to contribute to the Red Scarf Project and/or the Dulaan Project. I found information on the Red Scarf Project 2008 that has changed my timing for this series of lesson plans from late fall/early winter to early fall. Yikes! There's also some fantastic advise on quality, not quantity that applies to not just these two projects but to all "community" projects.

13 June 2007

cables and fur

Knitting cables shouldn't be that difficult...they aren't...I know they aren't. Just simple mathematics consisting of two stitches: knit and purl, sometimes held in front, sometimes in back, and twisted. Yes, twisted. Cruel and twisted. Somewhere along the cables I was blissfully knitting in the twilight hours just as the sun was setting this weekend, enjoying the pink, purple, and blue hues in the sky, enjoying no mosquitoes, enjoying the simplicity of a quick hat in yummy alpaca, I lost one stitch. I counted again. I squinted in the failing light (like I was gifted with better vision if I looked real close and narrowed my vision to devote all my energies into finding that stitch, that error). I was careful. I had counted out-loud. I had ignored conversation with my DH. I'm a visual person so I got out the graph paper and pictorially drew out the last several rows of stitches to compare with the disaster I had on my lap. Nope. Nothing. I counted the number of purls then knits then purls on the graph paper, compared it to the directions again to confirm correctness. Then compared stitch by stitch with my hat. Zip. Nada. Still missing one stitch. At this point I had put in over an hour of work and frustration because I was avoiding the inevitable...I had to take out my last row. Why couldn't it have been a row that was only straight-forward knit purl, no cable? So, here it sits on Wednesday, three days later, the hat still sitting in my basket looking just as luscious as I know it to be except it has been meticulously tinked back, stitch by stitch for three rows. Three, you question? Well, even though only the last row was *foo-barred* I managed to mess up the other two in the process. Lessons: don't knit in the dark and it takes less time to just rip out a big section of knitting than try to save each stitch. Too much love can be a dangerous thing.

Da Vinci gets brushed at least three times a day, more if he can beg his way into it. This is a good thing (that he likes to be brushed) since his long, dense fur is prone to felting on its own. In just a few short days, the brush fills up with his undercoat. Humm...I wonder if it can be spun into yarn? If I combine that with the dust-bunnies--well, more like dust-buffaloes--that seem to multiply and spread into all the corners of my house each week, I could have a nice side business. Too bad there are those poor people who are allergic to cats. I pondered this thought to my DH, the civil engineer nerd who is usually so practical and keeps me on track even though he doesn't really fit into the "engineer nerd" mold. He got this "I can't believe what I just heard" look on his face, those gorgeous hazel eyes that are normally a green hue turning a grey (from fear I think), like he knew I was really going to do this. Wow. I was just communicating. Although... What do the spinners out there in blogland think? Surely spinning long cat hair has been bantered around in small closed door meetings?

09 June 2007

saturday, saturday, dance to the music...

Sitting in the early morning sunlight on the back patio... knitting on the Greenery Hat (thank you Lilith) with my baby alpaca... keeping an eye on da Vinci (the escape artist cat who is survivor challenged)... Sirani keeping a watch on my knitting... drinking coffee from England out of my coffee-swap cup... life is good.

Getting on to brunch time, I cooked up some soup chock-full of vegetables from the garden with homemade chicken broth and chicken sausages with sun-dried tomatoes and basil, along with toasted rye and french bread. Ahh, summer is here.

What is a morning without a Sudoku puzzle? Or two or three?

08 June 2007

a felting we will go

Felting: the act or process of making felt. Well, that sounds a bit confusing...our language is rich, so I looked for a better definition. Felt Frenzy says 'felting...is an art...the process of deliberately tangling and shrinking wool...fibers.' 'If you already know how to knit and do laundry, you have the skills and supplies you need...' Humm. I like art. Check. I knit. Check. I do laundry. Check. Sweet--I have the skills! Let's do it.

But wait...I was not trying to felt. I just had an old wool blanket that the cat threw-up on and it needed to be washed. In the wash it went, on gentle, no big changes in temperature, no major agitation (to the blanket). It got washed twice (accident...there begins the problem). I don't remember putting it in the dryer. I am usually better at these things. But in the dryer it went as a double/queen size wool blanket, out it came as a throw blanket, too small for even a twin size. Notice the hole in the lower right? Da Vinci loves to chew, no... eat..., wool. Curiousity is always lurking with cats. Sirani was caught peeking up behind the blanket--one never knows what might be there.

06 June 2007

K V V S questions

Since we will be spending our time and money finishing up the front terrace this summer (which involves gravel, sweat, sand, sweat, stone, sweat, mortar, sweat, and a few bandaids) a long vacation doesn't appear to be on the horizon for us. In lieu of this, I am willing to trek on a tour with "Knitter's Virtual Vacation Swap" (or KVVS as I will now call it). Thank Anne, Jessi, and Sharon for guiding the tour/hosting this summer swap.

The pictures below are in China...no traffic lights, everyone just merges from many to few lanes (notice there are not merge lane markers on the road either).

  1. If you could visit any state in the United States, what would it be and why? This is a tough question because there are so many, each with a unique reason. I will say I would visit Minnesota because it is the home of A Prairie Home Companion. I have listened to this live radio program for over 15 years. I don't want to see a live performance. I think it would ruin the pictures that are created in my mind of the scenes of Garrison Keillor's characters. The oral tradition of telling stories is what truly draws me to the radio program. In our society we bombard our minds with pre-made images through television and video games. Becoming lost in a radio show with visions created by my own minds-eye instead of someone else's is...well, relaxing. Minnesota is also known as a state of many lakes. Lakes and streams means fishing. I love to fish. It's the simplicity of a pole, line, and hook, the walk to "the spot" early in the morning or in the evening, the patience needed--being in the moment. It's the same feeling I get when a knitting project is going through my needles and I see the fiber magically transform into an object as it glides between my fingers and through my needles. Just because I can, a second state would be Maine: the moose is the state animal (how cool is that?); 90% of the state is forested; lighthouses; northernmost state on the east coast.

  2. If you could visit any country in the world, other than your own, which would it be and why? (I can only talk about one? Not possible. Here are my top ones, not necessarily in order.) South Africa: the third most bio-diverse country in the world; eleven national languages which tells me how incredibly culture-rich this country is; southern hemisphere (opposite seasons to me). Scotland: part of an island (the UK); bagpipes; Gaelic language; highlands; part of my own family history; fibers, knitting, and weaving; Edinburgh (love the sound of that name). Canada: close to the US; bilingualism is the law (English and French) which is awesome (two languages are accepted equally); forested woodlands to tundra environment; no national education department (as a teacher I see that as very interesting).

  3. Have you ever driven across several states/providences/countries? Yes. Several summers ago my husband and I packed the Jeep (yeah, the Wrangler...the small Jeep) with camping equipment, clothes, and food for a three+ week tour of many western US states (California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and back to home in California). I arranged the entire trip putting it in a binder, with dates, places to stay, contacts of friends and relatives along the way, specific places we wanted to see/visit.

  4. Have you ever visited someplace you consider exotic? Where was it? I used to think of China as exotic. Last summer we went there for three weeks, visiting what seemed like most of the country but in reality only small pieces of it (it is so much bigger than you think). There were many things that we saw that one could call exotic but it's just the way people live in that country. We saw that many parts had been westernized. I'm sure it was a very different experience had we been able to visit China 20 or even 10 years ago. In that respect we were disappointed in some ways.

  5. What was your favorite "travel" vacation? Why? There are three. Two I have already answered a bit about: our trip to China and our "tour" of many of the western states. China because my husband and I play a "game" where we say where we would like to go and give each other options about that place and times to be there. That's what I thought we were doing when he talked about China. I went along, just thinking we were just "talking and dreaming", when all of a sudden he gave me visa papers to sign and sent off our passports. Our trip through the western states included enjoying many national parks, visiting old friends, seeing grizzly bears, eating huckleberries, climbing sand dunes, and soaking in hot springs. Who wouldn't enjoy such a rich experience. The third travel vacation was when our daughter was five or so. We traveled from Colorado to Nevada on Amtrak for my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary party. We played card games, enjoyed views, and ate in the dining car. Because the train tracks don't follow next to the freeway, we were privileged to see parts of the states that we hadn't seen before. It was a good time to spend with our daughter.

  6. Have you ever played tourist in your home/city/state? Explain. No. I don't like to stand out like that. Even as a true tourist, I try to blend in as much as possible. That's not to say that I'm not goofy and dorky...I have my moments. However, I must say it's good to look at your home/city/state with a visitor's eye and remember how unique the area can be.

  7. Are you a museum visitor, beach comber, or an amusement seeker? NOT an amusement seeker. Thinking about it I can smell the greasy french fries, stale popcorn, and boiled hot dogs as well as the urine on the boardwalks courtesy of the homeless the night before (that's not a good thing, folks). Museums are a great insight to the culture of the state/country. They are also a wonderful escape to a cool environment in the summer months or a dry, warm one in the winter months. I am always drawn to the museum store for books or items I can use in the classroom to enrich my teaching. Beach combing has to be my favorite because it usually involves fewer people, less man-made noise, and fresh air. Anywhere there is nature and fresh air, I am there.

  8. What's your favorite type of yarn? Cashmere, silk, qiviut, angora, baby alpaca, wool...well, all the wonderful natural fibers.

  9. What's your least favorite type of yarn? Hate is such a strong word, but it quite fits here: acrylics, man-made-oil-synthetic-based products, novelty yarns, all-cotton yarns.

  10. What items do you like to knit? For purposes of this questionnaire, fingerless wrist warmers, mittens, socks, hats.

  11. What do you pack, knit-wise, when you go on vacation? Something small like the items in question number 10. I like to take a variety of things because I never know my mood or patience for a particular project. If I am flying, it needs to be needles that can be accepted by the "security" peoples.

  12. What other crafts do you do/would like to do other than knit? Basket weaving/making, quilting, sewing, calligraphy.

  13. Are you allergic to anything? Pollen in the air, but yarn-wise or treat-wise, no...no allergies.

  14. What is your favorite color? Greens, blues, browns--deep and rich in these colors. Dark purples, dark reds work also as accents. These colors as well as grey/black in heather colorways. Least favorite colors? No pastels, no pinks, no bright oranges, no neon.

  15. Sweet or savory treats? Good milk chocolate with walnuts or almonds. Hard sweet candies to suck on while I read or knit (I haven't been able to master doing both of these at the same time). No dried fruit. Almonds and pistachios are good.

  16. Anything else we are forgetting to ask that you think you partner desperately needs to know? I can't think of anything at this time but reserve the ability to add items as they come to me to my partner. OK, OK...here's a few things I will add that I found others have on their swap questions, and may be necessary to know in order to play "bingo": I have two cats; I live in California (United States); I have a daughter (you can read about her in my blog).