A little bit of writing, a little bit of knitting...

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

We Have a Winner!

I was going to draw the winner of the De-Lurking/School Spirit Week contest yesterday, but my Internet connection went down, making for a pretty terrible afternoon (what the heck did I do *before* the Internet?). So I drew the winner today instead.

And the winner is...


In other news, I jinxed myself. Just the other day, I was thinking how great it was that I'd managed to make it this far through the winter without getting sick. Back in the day, I'd get sick in October, and I'd start feeling better around May. But this year...nothin'. That is, of course, until yesterday, when I woke up with that tell-tale scratchy throat. So I drank lots of water, hoping to drown whatever was down there.

In the afternoon, I headed out in my rental car to go and knit with the girlies. Miss E had an othodontist appointment, so I wasn't really expecting much of a crowd. I figured it would just be me and Miss H, who always shows up late anyway, so I stopped by Starbucks and bought myself some nice herbal tea.

Miss C was waiting for me when I got there. She was soon followed by Miss S, who's new this year, Miss A, a newbie, who just learned yesterday (and, incidentally, did an excellent job), and, of course, Miss H, who started a new felted bag yesterday. That's four girls, all knitting away (most of the time -- though Miss C has a tendency to knit a row and then stare off into nowhere for a few minutes before starting up again). It did my heart good.

By the time I got home, I was ready for a nap. I curled up on the couch and got to work on finishing up a knitted gift for Mom, who's coming to visit this weekend (yea!). She's bringing Dad, too. And the chainsaw. Should be an exciting weekend.

After a while, though, I decided I was too tired to knit (!!), so I watched TV until I fell asleep. I'm hoping that if I just sleep a lot and drink lots of water, it'll just give up and go away. I intend to fight this thing for all it's worth. After all, Mom's coming this weekend, and I have to be fit and healthy for our shopping marathon.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Drum Roll, Please...

Last night, I finished Birch! It took me right up until bedtime (and I was knitting so frantically that I may have broken a sweat), but I finished it.

Here's a picture of the finished product, though I haven't blocked it yet. I'm terrified of blocking it, so Julie's going to have to help me.

On Saturday, Julie and I spent the whole day dyeing. In the fall, we did Kool-Aid and Wilton dyes. This time, we did RIT and Dylon -- which meant we could dye wool as well as cottons and other fibers.

I was so excited that I was up and ready to go when Julie showed up. We started setting everything up, and then we decided that we really needed a few more materials, so we went to Meijer. And, while we were out, we stopped at Hobby Lobby, too. But then we got back and mixed our dye powders in canning jars. When it came to mixing our dyes, we didn't hold back. We mixed up base dyes for pretty much everything we could fit in jars. And then we stood back to admire our work:

Then we started swatching.

Despite all the mixing and swatching, we did actually get some dyeing done, too. We decided that the cottons turned out the best. I especially liked Julie's green and yellow hank:

In the end, we ended up dyeing four hanks of various cottons, one wool sock yarn, two worsted wools, and two mini hanks of wool, most of which you can see here, hanging to dry out on the deck:

It was definitely a long day -- we were busy from 9:30 until 5:30 -- but we had so much fun! I spent all day yesterday trying to decide what to make with all of my new yarn. Woohoo!

Friday, January 27, 2006

I Wish I Had This Much Time On My Hands...

Seriously. Some people just have way too much time on their hands -- so much time that they feel the need to do things like design baby hats that look like giant squid.

Julie just sent me >this link to the squid hat. Perhaps you've seen it already. But even if you have, go over there and check it out again -- just for the pictures of the giant squid eating the cat. I laughed so hard, I almost stopped breathing.

Tomorrow, Julie and I are finally having our very own Dyeing Day. It's been way too long since our last one, and I have tons of stuff to dye. If you'll look back at this picture of my knitting corner and take a look at the second cube down on the right, you'll see that I have all kinds of yarn that's just begging to be dyed. And I have four hanks of natural Wool of the Andes that should be arriving today -- for my hand-dyed Klaralund. I'm so excited to dye, in fact, that I've agreed to allow Julie to come over at NINE A.M.! ON A SATURDAY MORNING! I'm quite sure that, come tomorrow morning, I will curse her just the teeniest, tiniest of bits, but it'll be worth it. Woohoo!

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Finally! I have a car again! Unfortunately, it's not my car. Today is the one-month anniversary of The Accident. And, despite the fact that I was supposed to get my car back more than a week ago, it's still in the shop. But the people at the shop took pity on me (and I didn't even have to cry real tears), and they got me a rental. So it may not be my car, but it is a car, and that's what matters. I can actually leave the house if I want to.

So that, of course, is what I did today. I got in my shiny red Chevy Cobalt (which has power-nothing, but I'm not complaining -- I just kinda forgot how to actually lock the doors manually), and I drove. It was wonderful.

This afternoon, I met Julie at our usual hangout so we could knit while her little one was in school.

Julie never ceases to amaze me. She actually brought lace to work on, whereas I had a hard enough time trying to converse while counting stitches for my scarf. But here she is (in her standard project-in-front-of-the-face shot):

Julie has become somewhat like the Wilson (from Home Improvement) of my blog. She often makes appearances, but you never get to see her face. She does have one -- a very nice one. And she's got a great new 'do. But you'll just have to take my word for it.

After sippin' and knittin' with Julie, I took my Cobalt to Target, where I wandered around and bought myself yoga pants. And then, on my way home, I made a quick trip to JoAnn's. I hadn't been there in over a month (!!) -- and while I didn't actually buy anything, it was just good to be back.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

SNB Makes the Local News

Last night was Movie Night for the Kramer Household (we saw Just Friends, incidentally, which was way funnier than I expected), so I didn't get a ton of knitting time. I did, however, get to work on the scarf for a while after Paul went to bed (early meeting this morning).

I finished the N, which also means that I finished the second page of charts.

I was just about to turn off the TV and pull out a book when I saw the opening to the local news -- and there, on the screen, was a pair of needles and the newscaster's voice talking about a company that's trying to shut down local knitting groups. I hurried to get a tape in the VCR (once again thinking about how nice it would be to get a TiVo) and sat back down with my scarf to watch the news.

The story finally ran at about 11:20 -- for what seemed like about a minute. And I'll admit I was a little disappointed. Instead of showing one of the many groups that meet in the Columbus area, they showed just one girl -- and a few computer screen shots. They barely even explained the situation. But hey -- coverage is coverage.

I told Julie that she needs to give one of the competing stations a call and have them send a camera to tonight's SNB group.

Elsewhere in the news, I finally jumped on the bandwagon and signed up for my very own Bloglines account -- and I'm kicking myself for not doing it sooner. Now, instead of clicking through the whole list of every last blog that I like to read (the list of which seems to grow every day) on a daily (and sometimes semi-daily) basis, I can just pull of my Bloglines page and know exactly what's new. And with all the time I save, I can knit a few extra rows every day. I tell ya -- it's pure genius.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Little of Everything...

Knitting-wise, I accomplished a little bit of everything yesterday -- but not a lot of anything.

I ended up skipping knitting with the girls at the LYS yesterday. Alas, my car is still in the shop -- and I might not get it until Friday. To add insult to injury, Paul has now parked the lawn mower in my spot in the garage. I suppose it could be worse. He could have clipped my garage door opener to the mower's handle...

So instead of knitting with the girls, I decided to finish proofing my manuscript, which is due back to the publisher on the 1st. And instead of spending $20 on cab fare to the store, I spent the $20 at KnitPicks. I got some Wool of the Andes to finish off a gift, and I got some undyed Wool of the Andes to make a hand-dyed Klaralund. Julie talked me into it. I'm hoping, since I live so close to the KnitPicks Distribution Center, that I'll get it in time for the weekend. Julie and I are finally having another Dyeing Day (woohoo!). But if it doesn't get here in time, Julie assures me that she has plenty WOTA that I can borrow. And, really, I've got plenty of other stuff to dye, too. I should be just fine.

After finishing the read-through of my manuscript proofs yesterday afternoon (two days ahead of schedule, thank you very much), I did a little more stash-organizing. I took more of the yarn that had hidden itself in random corners around the house and found room for it in my new knitting corner downstairs. Then I started rearranging my pattern collection. Before, it was in one ginormous binder, which was getting close to overflowing. Last week, Paul brought three big binders (with the logo for a company conference that was held two years ago) home from work for me -- so I'm transferring patterns from my one ginormous book to three large books (and one ginormous book). I think that should hold everything for a while (and it means that I can start printing patterns again).

When Paul came home, he found me sitting on the floor, binders open and patterns scattered in front of me.

"You've got a lifetime of patterns there," he told me.

"Oh, more than that," I responded cheerily (me being at my cheeriest, of course, when I'm surrounded by all that knitterly goodness). I know I've got way more patterns in that binder than I will ever be able to knit (and let's not even glance over to the ledge that holds my collection of knitting books), but I'll just keep filing more away, just in case one of them happens to be just the pattern I need someday. Better safe than sorry, you know.

Last night, Paul had a phone meeting with one of his colleagues on the other side of the world, so I sat down in front of the TV to do a little knitting. But now I'm facing a dilemma: which project do I work on? I love my Birch, and I can't wait to finish it. But I'm also totally fascinated by my new shadow-knit scarf. Usually, I have a few projects going at a time so I can work on whichever one I feel like working on at a given time. But now I want to work on both. It's wonderful to have two projects that I love so unconditionally, but it also makes it hard to choose which one to work on. So I sat there for a while, looking from one to the other, trying to decide which to work on, and I finally came to a conclusion: both. I started on the scarf for a while, until I finished up the space between the two words. Then I picked up Birch and worked until I came to the end of the repeat. I once again moved my markers, and then I went back to the scarf and started up the K. So again, I got a little of everything done -- but not a lot of anything. But I'm okay with that.

Monday, January 23, 2006

It's School Spirit Week!

Last weekend's big alumni event, at which I watched my alma mater's basketball team get flogged by their arch rivals, got me back in the school spirit. It's been an age since I graduated from college (we'll not think about how long...), but I really felt like a loser at the event, since I didn't have a single item in my school's colors. So upon leaving, I vowed to have two knitted items in school colors finished in time for next year's game.

I started on the first one this weekend, while I was waiting for the gang to show up on Saturday morning:

(Have I ever mentioned how much I love shadow knitting?)

It's a pattern that Paul helped me create -- and though I'm also dying to get started on the fish-pattern scarf that Paul also designed, I jumped on this one first. When it's done, it'll say "GO KNIGHTS!" It's going really quickly -- I'm already finished with the first page of the chart.

The second project is a felted clutch, which will also be in maroon and gold (ugh...there's a reason why I don't have much in school colors).

Since I missed out on National De-Lurking Week, I'm going to make this week Pens and Needles De-Lurking Week -- and I'm going to combine it with School Spirit Week. From everyone who comments on the blog this week (all you have to do is say hi -- or tell us your school's colors), I'll choose one commenter to get a free copy of the felted clutch pattern.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Post-Weekend Recap

We had an absolute blast this weekend. My brother and SIL and the kids weren't here long, but we definitely took advantage of the time we had.

They made it into town at around 7:15 on Friday night. While they got settled in, we drove to their hotel so we could all head out to dinner at Quaker Steak and Lube. My brother and nephew loved it because there were cars hanging from the walls. My SIL loved it because they serve deep-fried pickles (and amen to that). After dinner (which was already past the kids' bedtimes), we took them for a quick tour around our part of town (Kaari reportedly stated, upon coming into town, that "Columbus has all the happenin' stuff") and then brought them back to the house for the "quick tour" that Nathan asked for (which is really all you get in a house the size of ours). The kids also got to open the presents that we got them. Kaari (she's 4) got girly stuff. Nathan (he's almost 8) got games and books. And they both got their tooth fairy pouches, which Kaari found way more fascinating than Nathan did.

Though we didn't really end up doing a Christmas-type-thing with my bro and sis-in-law, I did give my sis her tote bag. I didn't get a picture of her with it (since it was immediately filled with toys and things), but here's a picture of it drying:

The pattern is the Sentimental Stripes Felted Tote pattern. I used various yarn, including 3 balls of KnitPicks Wool of the Andes (the grey), along with a ball of Paton's Classic Wool in grey to reinforce the handles. The black is Cascade 220 (which I was supposed to use for a bag for my aunt...oops). And the two blues are hand-dyed Wool of the Andes. In case you're wondering, here's the main stripe pattern:

12 rounds Black
10 rounds Blue 1
5 rounds Black
15 rounds Blue 2
4 rounds Black
13 rounds Blue 1
10 rounds Black
16 rounds Blue 2
4 rounds Black
12 rounds Blue 1
4 rounds Black

Currently, Nathan is obsessed with shipwrecks and fish. And with my nephew, this isn't just a normal little kid obsession. This means that he takes every book out of the library about, for instance, the Edmund Fitzgerald. He can answer obscure Jeopardy! questions (we're going to make a ton of money off that kid someday). And he can rattle off facts as though he were reading it straight out of a book. It makes for fascinating (yet really, really strange) conversation. Meanwhile, Kaari just giggles (and sometimes kicks him).

On Saturday, we went to the zoo. It was pretty chilly, but it was half-price, and there's an aquarium, which meant that Nathan HAD TO GO. And we had a blast. I know the kids enjoyed it, but I definitely did. I totally love the zoo. We got to see the penguins (one of which expelled waste matter right in front of us, which was a highlight of the trip for the kids). We saw the flamingos and the elephants and the kangaroos and the sleepy koala. We also got to spend tons of time in the aquarium. We got to watch the 1:00 feeding, and we waved at the diver in the tank (okay...maybe just I did that). And the kids got their picture taken with a shark.

We also saw the manatees and the sting rays, which, honestly, I could sit and watch all day. So could Kaari. She's just as fascinated by rays as I am.

After the zoo, we had lunch at City Barbeque (when asked what Nathan wanted for lunch, he said, "Meat."). Then we did a tour of downtown (including the arena and the World's First Wendy's), and then we went to Easton. While the boys played video games, the girls went to Build-A-Bear (which, I'll admit, I've been dying to do forever, so I'm glad I got to go along). Kaari picked a koala that was like the one we saw at the zoo. She named it Kandi, and she bought her some pajamas (which, Paul pointed out, was quite funny, since the koala at the zoo does nothing but sleep).

And that was about all we had time for. They dropped us back off at our house and got ready to hit the road again. Meanwhile, Kaari and I went back to the basement. On Friday night, I had let her pick out yarn from my big tote full of yarn balls for scarves for her dollies at home, and now we needed to pick out yarn for a scarf for Kandi.

Here's Kaari's pile of yarn:

There's some purple for her baby that cries real tears, some red to match her Bitty Baby's dress, and orange for Kandi. The rest is for scarves and bags for Kaari.

While we were sitting there looking at the yarn, Kaari looked at me and quietly said, "I think I should learn how to knit."

I promised her that I'd definitely teach her, just as soon as she got a little bigger. Then she could make scarves for all of her babies.

"So you won't have to?" she asked.

"No, sweetie, so you'll have twice as many," I told her.

Man, I love those kids. Nathan is brilliant and fascinating, and sometimes I don't get him at all, but I'm totally amazed by him. And Kaari may throw the occasional tantrum, like 4-year-olds tend to do, but she's just the sweetest, cuddliest thing in the world. I was so glad that they (and their absolutely wonderful parents, whom I also love to death) were able to come to visit. I wish they could have stayed longer, but I'm glad they were here. We had so much fun.

After they left, we crashed. I started a new project, which I'll show off tomorrow, and we watched The Two Towers until we couldn't stay awake anymore. And as we were falling asleep, Paul told me, "I miss the little buggers already." I'm assuming he meant the kids.

And, if that's the case, I do, too.

Friday, January 20, 2006


Do you ever have one of those ADD days -- when you just can't seem to focus on anything for more than about 30 seconds at a time? That's today. This always seems to happen when (a) I'm getting ready to leave on a trip, or (b) when someone's coming to visit. This time, it's (b). My brother and sister-in-law and the kids are on their way. They've never actually visited us since we left Michigan almost four years ago, so I'm too excited to sit.

So here's a sample list of the things I did today:

- Finished up the Barbie vest for Kaari (I was going to do a matching skirt, but I ran out of time)
- Ordered new contacts
- Printed off the rest of my manuscript
- Paced through the house
- Proofed my daily quota of 32 pages of my manuscript (which is due back at the publisher on Feb. 1)
- Cleaned random things that I forgot to dust before (like various edges of floor molding, though I didn't dust *all* of it, which is fine, since who the heck looks at people's floor molding, anyway?)
- Made coffee
- Went for a walk and got the mail
- Read a book I'm supposed to review
- Changed all the towels in the house
- Ran a load of whites
- Tried writing something for about a minute and a half before giving up
- Flipped through a couple of pages of Vogue Knitting
- Charged the batteries for the digital camera
- Made cup-a-soup for lunch
- Flipped through the new WEBS catalog
- And the latest Joann ad
- Put together my list of things to order from KnitPicks (Julie talked me into using my very own hand-dyes to make Klaralund)
- Scrubbed the kitchen sink
- Visited Elann and a few other good yarn sites
- Talked to Julie on the phone -- twice
- Started reading a book on yoga, which just arrived today (even though I still haven't finished the horrible book that I'm still trudging through
- Snapped some pictures

The last time I saw my sister-in-law, she said that the kids could use tooth fairy pouches. So I came up with these:

I finished knitting them a while ago, but I just needle-felted the teeth (do they look like teeth) the other night. I didn't sew closures on them yet, but I haven't been able to decide what to use, so I'm going to let my SIL take them back to Mom for the finishing touches.

And here's my Birch update:

When I look at the picture, I think Geez, is that it? but I really have gotten quite a bit done. Just ask Paul -- I'm well past half-way. I'm getting the hang of it, and the rows are getting shorter. The only things holding me back are the markers, which I have to move every 8 rows (and I know I'd jinx it if I went without them), and the lifeline, which I reposition every 16 rows (I could probably go without the lifeline, since the pattern's pretty easy, but again, I don't want to jinx it).

The countdown for our guests' arrival is at about 2 hours and 20 minutes now. Maybe I'll try a new yoga pose. Or maybe I'll actually fold the laundry. Or maybe I'll try reading. Or proofing a few more pages. Or maybe I'll bake some cookies. Or maybe I'll finish dusting all of the floor molding...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Free to Stitch

In the last week or so, the Stitch Happens group to which I belong (and which I attend not nearly as often as I'd like) has come under attack by Sew Fast/Sew Easy, Inc. As it turns out, tons of groups around the country have been under attack -- just because they use the phrase "Stitch 'n' Bitch" somewhere in their name and/or group information. SF/SE owns the rights to "Stitch and Bitch Cafe," and they've decided to make a big deal about anyone, even the smallest of non-profit knitting groups, who even mentions their name. Our group, as you can see, doesn't even use the words in its name, but since it's affiliated with the SNBs across the country -- and since it mentions it on the group's home page -- SF/SE filed a complaint with Yahoo, ordering the group to change its name.

Recently, SF/SE has even gone after Debbie Stoller, author of the wildly popular Stitch 'n Bitch books (both of which I got for Christmas).

So a group of stitchers have gotten together to create this CafePress store to fight back. With the proceeds, the group plans to hire a lawyer to fight against SF/SE. By ordering yourself a cool hat or shirt or mug or something, you can help out.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Jackets Time!

This morning, I took a little break from work to hang out downtown with my favorite girlies. Emily had the day off from school for some random reason, so Julie and I took the girls to watch the Blue Jackets practice. Usually, they practice at the Ice Haus, which is attached to Nationwide Arena. Today, however, we got there and found out that they were practicing on the ice at the arena. So We made our way over and took our seats right next to the ice -- the seats that I will never, ever, in a million years be able to sit in during a game.

I pretended to work on proofing my manuscript for a couple of minutes, but there was just no way that was going to happen. Julie was working on her Tribble Scarf (see the blue fuzzy yarn?), and I pulled out the vest I'm making for my niece's Barbie.

Sure, we may have claimed that we were doing this as an outing for the girls (especially for Em, who really wanted Rick Nash's autograph). And sure, they had a blast. But I'm pretty sure Julie and I were way more excited than the girls. Seriously, I almost swooned a couple of times. I was way closer to Sergei Fedorov than my little heart could handle. And, to make it even better, we had cute little kids with us. What can be better than cute little kids? The players absolutely adored Elise, who I believe may have struck up a relationship with Jody Shelley. And Julie and I did nothing but giggle nervously the entire time. I felt like I was 13. But really...how often are you THISCLOSE to that many hockey players (and I'm not talking about the guys in Paul's Wednesday night league)?

I let Em go nuts with my camera, so I have tons of pictures. And though she missed her Nash autograph, Emily did get Marc Denis's autograph:

And Elise got her hand signed by Trevor Letowski, which was her excuse for being late to preschool.

Julie's husband, Roger, was upset that Julie didn't get Nash to sign his jersey, and we assured him that we'd be all too happy to go back again tomorrow.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Corner of One's Own

Ever since we moved into our house a year ago, I've been struggling with the question of what to do with all of my knitting stuff. I originally had it in a corner of my office (including the closet -- which used to look like this). But then I realized that I needed my office closet for, um, shoe overflow (it's not that I have a lot of shoes -- we just have very little closet space in this house). So it was decided that the knitting stuff would go downstairs. I wasn't thrilled with the idea at first, but now that it's becoming a reality, I'm diggin' it.

On Saturday, before heading off to watch my college basketball team get trounced by their arch rivals via satellite at Buffalo Wild Wings (at least I got some wings out of the deal), we continued with Project Basement Organization. I made trip after trip, dragging my yarn out of my office and tossing it all over the basement floor. I was going to take a picture, but I was a little embarrassed.

After the basketball trouncing, I returned home to continue organizing. And here's how it ended up:

Everything is somewhat organized in containers and cubbies (which will eventually have canvas basket-things in them to keep my yarn from falling all over the floor). In the cupboard below, I have my tools, random accessories, and a ginormous collection of various acrylics (yep, I'll freely admit it). Somewhere along the line I've acquired almost an entire shelf of acrylics in various shades of white. I'm assuming that this has something to do with my mom and her love of garage sales. So if you ever need ecru acrylic, I'm your gal.

My books and magazines are on the ledge, and, in the cupboard on the right, I've got most of my dyeing equipment (as well as a few random non-knitting items, like an extra blanket for guests). And in case you're wondering, the milk jugs are for dyeing, thank you. I'm currently looking for a nice hiding place for them, so I don't start to look like my grandma, who used to horde everything. But the milk jugs have an actual use. I swear.

At the far right is Paul's old desk chair, covered in a warm, cozy blanket. And, of course, there's my candle. Really -- does it get much better than this? Actually, I think this may become my creativity corner. In fact, I intend to make myself a cup of coffee right now and sit down there and get some writing done.

Today I get to see my girls again. It's been four whole weeks! We spent the whole weekend trying to figure out exactly how I'm going to get to the store, though, since my poor car won't be back from the shop until Friday at the earliest (though it might be there until next Wednesday -- they're not sure yet). Our solution: I'm going to have to call a cab to drive me to the store. This totally cracks me up, since I grew up here in the suburban Midwest, where taxi cabs are as foreign and mysterious (and scary) as UFOs. But hey -- beggars can't be choosers. I have no car. I need to get somewhere. It's either call a cab or take the bus -- and I went with the least frightening option. I'll let you know how it goes...

Coming soon:
Pictures of my sis-in-law's felted tote (gorgeous!) and Birch (after I work on it all night tonight while watching the Golden Globes).

Friday, January 13, 2006


After almost three straight days of being trapped in the house with no vehicle, I was set free this morning by Julie, who decided that we were seriously in need of some yarn shopping. We started in Dublin. We perused quickly before running off to Starbucks to get some coffee to go with the package of stroopwafels that I'd brought along. I could tell that Julie was pretty skeptical about stroopwafels. She wasn't sure that they'd live up to my incessant raves. But now she knows that I wasn't kidding. They're just that good. Just ask her. She held the remaining stroopwafels from the package hostage. It would have taken a small army to wrestle them away from her. I'm telling you. They're that good.

Our next stop was the Merc, where we stayed much too long. But how can you not? Miss Carol was there briefly, and Miss Kay, the Sock Princess, was working (as always) on a gorgeous pair of socks. Aunt Gerry was there wearing an absolutely gorgeous lace scarf that she'd knit out of self-striping sock yarn, and now I need one, too (don't forget to send me the link, Gerry!).

As always, I got all kinds of inspiration and all kinds of ideas -- and I picked up a copy of the new Vogue Knitting while I was at it. All in all, it was a fabulous morning. It was wonderful to see all the crazy Merc girls again. And it was wonderful to get out of the house. Thanks Jules. :)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Few Pictures

I'm working on organizing some of the pictures from our trip (which, I'll admit, I've already looked through about 15 times since we got back -- I'm a little bit homesick, I guess), and I thought I'd share a few.

This was my first coherent image of Delft this time around:

It was dark when we arrived on Wednesday, so this is the view from our hotel room on Thursday morning. Since we were staying in the city center (and right across the street from a department store and, um, one of Delft's two McDonald's restaurants), it was pretty busy around our hotel during the day. But just a short walk away is this:

This is the old gate to the city. During our summer visits to Delft, this is my favorite place. You can often find me sitting on the bench (the very same bench on which I froze my rear while I was taking this picture), reading or writing and watching the boats pass down the canal.

During the holidays, Delft freezes over the Beestenmarkt and turns it into a skating rink. Normally, during the summer, it's a nice place to sit on a bench, take advantage of the WiFi, and check your email -- or have a beer outside one of the many restaurants located around the square.

This here is Paul with the stroopwafel that I forced him to buy in the market on Saturday, on our way to the train station. Stroopwafels, you see, are the food of [Dutch] gods. They are heaven in a little paper sleeve. If you've never had one, you have no idea what you're missing, and I can't even begin to explain how wonderful they are, only to say that they're almost as wonderful as pannenkoeken, poffertjes, and boeterkoek -- all of which contribute to the weight I seem to gain every time I'm in Delft, no matter how much walking I do. Fortunately, this time around, the ice cream shops were closed, so perhaps I only gained 20 pounds on this particular trip...

This is a picture of Paul with Arjen, our friend and gracious host, who managed to spend almost the entire weekend with us without complaining even once. He even took us out to meet a bunch of his friends, as well as his brother, who told me a very funny story about his American colleagues and the toilets in Schipol airport.

And this is korfbal, a Dutch sport that, until last weekend, I had no idea existed. But it does. It's a bit like basketball, except there's no dribbling -- just passing. And each team is split into two parts -- and while one of them is playing on one side of the court, the other one is resting. The blur in the front is Arjen, who was quite upset that we'd been there to watch them play so horribly, but I don't really think he needed to worry about it. After all, it took us a great deal of the game to figure out that the teams switched sides (thereby switching from playing offence to playing defense or vice versa) every two points.

And there you have it -- our trip in a nutshell. Okay, so that doesn't even scratch the surface. We took 70 pictures in the few days we were there, but I'm pretty sure that Blogger would be seriously annoyed if I tried to share them all. And besides...if I shared too many pictures, I'd end up convincing more people that Delft is one of the most beautiful places in the world -- and then I'd have a hard time getting a hotel room. So I'll just keep it my little secret...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Back Home

Yesterday was yet another seriously long day of traveling. Our alarm went off in Delft at 6 am (which is midnight Columbus time). Our cab picked us up at 7, and we were at the airport by 8, which was way earlier than we needed to be -- but better safe than sorry, right? When we finally got on the plane, I just looked at Paul and said, "You've got to be kidding me." I've never seen such cramped seats. Ever. When I sat down, without slouching, my knees hit the seat ahead of me. If I were claustrophobic, I would have been in serious trouble. To make matters worse, my defective seat wouldn't recline, and the plane didn't have the personal screens in the seat ahead of us (as international flights typically have now), and the screen was so far away that I didn't even get to watch a movie. I couldn't even drink away my pain because they'd gotten rid of the free-beer-and-wine-on-international-flights policy. Arg! So I spent our 8-hour flight scrunched up in a near-fetal position, eating airline food, listening to the same airline music over and over and over, and working on Birch. Here's where I am now:

And shall we see the close-up?

I got 14 rows finished yesterday. I also cranked out a couple of dishcloths while sitting in airports (like waiting in Amsterdam or waiting out our 4-hour layover in New York) and/or in the puddle-jumper that took us from New York to Columbus.

I'll be sharing a few pictures of the trip soon, but before I get everything organized, I'll share one more Delft story.

On Monday, I decided to make another stop at Delft's LYS.

As I mentioned earlier, I stopped earlier in the trip, but I planned to go back for my serious shopping. So I did that on Monday afternoon. When I first walked in, I greeted the woman working there and asked about the pattern for that super-cool pink sweater from the window, and she handed me a copy of Filati 30. Of course, it was in Dutch. So I asked her if she knew if I could get English translations for the patterns, and she didn't know. But as I wandered through the store, contemplating purchases, I thought, What the heck -- it's only 5 Euros, and it'll inspire me to work on my Dutch. So I carefully planned my purchases, since I only had a little bit of cash left on me, and I went up to the counter and told her I'd take the book, too.

She just shook her head and said, "That's our last copy." So after all that, I didn't even get my book. So I walked out of there with just this:


It's gorgeous yarn, though, and the yardage is fabulous, so I intend to make myself a pretty fuzzy scarf out of it -- one that will make me look suave and stylish yet also a little bit Muppet-like.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Worst Day...

No matter how hard those first couple of jet-lagged days can be, the worst day of the trip is always the last one. That's today. It's another gorgeous day here in Delft -- freezing cold, but gorgeous -- but there's a cloud hanging over the town today because it's my last day here. Didn't I just get here?

We had a wonderful weekend. Paul's been really busy with work, so I barely saw him during the week. I've been doing lunch in the room and dinners with friends. On Saturday, we went to visit our friend Arjen in Den Haag -- and we were introduced to an interesting sport called korfbal, which Arjen and his girlfriend play. They told us that it was a horrible game, but they won, and that's pretty much all that mattered to us, since we spent our time figuring out the rules. We didn't have the finer points figured out. Then we all drank more beer and ate some pizza, and everything was okay again. Yesterday, we traveled to Leiden to wander around and do some shopping. I got a tea box, which I've been wanting for ages. Now I truly feel Dutch because I own my own tea box. If you visit my house, ask for tea, and I'll present it your options in a very stylish box with Dutch words on it, which Paul is convinced read "Tea Sucks."

Today, things are quiet in Delft. The holiday vacations are over, so the kids are back in school and they're taking down the ice skating rink in the middle of the market. That just makes it more depressing.

I met Paul and one of his colleagues for lunch today, and I made him promise that he'd plan another meeting -- one that's longer than this one. These few days have been much too short.

Now it's time for me to head back to the room for a bit of a knitting break before doing a little more work this afternoon. I didn't have much time over the weekend to work on Birch, but I've got over three repeats finished. Perhaps my amazement with the whole process is a little silly, but I'm still relatively new to this whole lace thing, and it still amazes me that I can knit something so dainty. I've never really been one for anything dainty, but I have to tell you, I find this whole lace shawl thing positively delightful.

Tomorrow is the trip home. It's a daytime flight, so I'm hoping that I'll have plenty of time to work on Birch...

Friday, January 06, 2006

Another Day, Another Visit to the Library...

The first day here in Delft is always a little awkward. Since my Dutch is pretty pathetic, I always feel a bit timid about wandering through stores. It's always an uncomfortable feeling when someone rattles off a sentence in a language that you know you really should understand -- but you don't, really. Sure, I can get by when necessary. I can order a mean pizza, and I can make it through a basic sales transaction. But if someone asks me a question, I go all deer-in-headlights. It happened to me in the market yesterday when I was trying to buy myself some fresh stroopwafels (food of the gods, as far as I'm concerned). It happened just a few minutes ago, when a man stopped to ask me how to get a code for the computers here at the library. It happened yesterday when I came back to the hotel and ran into the maid, who didn't speak English -- so we ended up communicating in Spanish instead (taking the count up to four languages that I used to communicate within a 24-hour period -- not bad considering the jetlag, though I have found myself occasionally speaking in the wrong language since then, like when I answered the waitress in the restaurant last night with "Si").

I did, however, do a lot of wandering around yesterday. I'm in Delft, after all, and it was market day. There was no way I could sit in my room all day. I walked through the market a couple of times. I wandered through the streets. I stopped to watch the kids ice-skating. And I even stopped at the yarn shop for a few minutes. I saw that there were quite a few people in the store, so I knew there wasn't much of a chance that I'd be called on to admit ignorance when it comes to the Dutch language. So I got to wander for a few minutes and scope out the sale bins and other very reasonably-priced yarn that I may have to take home in the extra duffel bag that I packed inside my suitcase.

In the morning, I was a little worried about the weather. I looked out of my window to see that everyone was wearing big, bulky coats and heavy scarves, and I was worried that I'd freeze to death. I didn't even bring my heavy winter coat. But, as it turns out, it's gorgeous here. It's a bit chilly, but I have no problem wandering the streets for an hour or more. As it turns out, the scarves are pretty much a fashion thing. Everyone wears scarves here. Big, bright-colored fleece scarves. Long, flowing woven scarves. Dainty lacy knit scarves. Big, bulky-knit scarves. Walking the streets here is a knitter's dream. So many scarves to admire!

I also got some time yesterday afternoon to do a little more work on Birch. I've finished my second repeat now, and it's actually starting to look like something -- something that I'm really happy with. Despite that sneaky little decreasing-on-both-sides trick that throws off my markers, I must commend the designer. It really is a gorgeous piece that's deceptively easy to knit.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

I Made It!

I'm racing against the clock at the pay-computers at the Delft library, but I just wanted to post an update...

We finally made it here, but not without incident. Originally, the plan called for two easy flights -- one from Columbus to JFK and another from JFK to Amsterdam. We'd arrive at 8 am. Instead, an ice storm hit JFK, and after waiting an hour in line to check in, we were sent back to the ticket counter to wait two more hours while the computers crashed and the ticket agent tried to reroute us. The plan was to fly from Columbus to Atlanta, get upgraded to business class from Atlanta to Paris and fly from Paris to Amsterdam in the afternoon, getting us to Delft in time for Paul to catch the end of the first meetings.

First, our flight to Atlanta was threatening to get delays by an hour. But we made it on time, only to find that we were on stand-by in Atlanta. At the last minute, we ended up in a couple of seats in coach, and we had to sweet-talk a guy to trade seats so we could sit together. It was a long flight, but I managed to sleep a little bit. We got to Paris in the morning and discovered that our Amsterdam flight was canceled and our bags were still in Atlanta. For our troubles, we got a free lunch at the airport. We hung out in the airport in Paris all day (where, no, you can't see the Eiffel Tower), and we finally got to Amsterdam at around 7:30 at night. Not a fun day. I didn't even really have quality knitting time -- though I did manage to knit up a pair of dishcloths for my friend Annemiek, who's buying a new house in Den Haag this spring.

Last night, before I fell totally and completely asleep, I re-placed my markers and finished Row 9 on Birch. At this rate, maybe I'll finish it by next Christmas...

Now it's 11:00, and my time is running out -- so I'm off to the market to buy me some Dutch pastries...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Waiting for My Plane to Come...

Okay. Not really. I'm actually waiting for 12:30 to come so we can leave for the airport, where we'll park the car, get on the shuttle, check in, and then wait for another two hours for our plane to come. But you get the idea. I do this every time. I totally freak out for a few days before a trip, and then, in the last few hours before it's time to go, I sit here thinking, I'm ready to go. Now what? To make matters worse, yesterday Paul told me that our flight was leaving at 2. But really it's leaving at 3. That gives me an extra hour to pace through the house -- which, inevitably, is what I end up doing. I can't focus on anything of importance, and there's nothing else for me to do.

So now my bags (filled with more grey sweaters than any one person should have) are packed. Maybe I'll take out a grey sweater and throw in...an off-white sweater. Who knows. I'm crazy like that. The dishes are clean. The bed is made. I've packed my books and my knitting and everything else of importance -- except, of course, my computer. And here I sit, buzzing with anticipation and caffeine from the cup of coffee that Paul made me to lure me out of bed (if you've had too much caffeine, like I have, be sure to check out this sweater on You Knit What?? -- it'll blow your mind).

My Birch-in-progress is already packed, but if it weren't, I'd take a picture and show you that I've finished the first repeat of eight whole rows (which I did post-packing, during Two and a Half Men and a couple of episodes of The Gauntlet II). Of course I wasn't really paying attention when I read through the pattern the first time through, but when I got to row eight, I found a bit of a catch: decreases on both sides. In other words, after eight rows, my markers have been rendered absolutely useless because the whole pattern shifts over one stitch. What I once thought was just a simple little lace pattern has turned into...well, a normal lace pattern. So I took my markers out, but I'm thinking I may take advantage of my new locking stitch markers and put a few in -- just to be safe. The last thing I want to do is to end up sitting on the plane, screaming not-so-savory words while I rip out lace. I did, however, put in a lifeline, which makes me feel a little more confident in moving forward.

Anyway...I'm off to pace through the house until 12:30. Only three more hours... While I'm doing that, check out my review of The Yarn Girls' Guide to Beyond the Basics. And, while you're there, sign up for the newsletter for a chance to win a great game.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy New Year!

It's hard to believe that another year has begun. I've heard it said that you should spend the first day of the year in the way that you'd like to spend the whole year. And while I couldn't fit in *everything* I'd like to do this year, I think we did a pretty good job. I did some work. I got ready to travel. I hung out with friends. I relaxed and watched some TV. And I did some knitting.

I worked on this:

That, my friends, is four rows of Birch. The poll I put on the blog a while back showed that pretty much everyone thinks I should bring *both* lace shawls with me to Delft. So what the heck. I'll bring both. But the rest of you were leaning pretty heavily toward Birch. So when I ran out of yarn for Mom's felted clutch on Friday night while watching hockey with the Greens (incidentally, in a New Year's miracle, the Blue Jackets won that night -- their third win in a row!), I decided to cast on my Birch. I worked on it for a while on New Year's Eve while watching a movie. Then, after getting to the end of the third row and finding myself one measly stitch off, I ripped it all out. While I was casting on the second time, I put in a few markers here and there, so I'll be able to keep track of my stitches a little better. Eventually, once the pattern becomes more obvious, I'll be able to work without the markers. But for now, they're pretty critical, or so I discovered.

Today, we're trying to do all of our last-minute preparations for the trip. We're dropping the car off at the shop today, in hopes that they'll be able to start a little earlier than they said. I was going to get a haircut (actually, I've been meaning to do that for the last month), but once again, I have no time. Instead, I'll be doing laundry and trying to pack a week's worth of clothing, knitting, work, and reading into as tiny a space as possible.

The challenge, as always, is to plan my projects for the week. I want to work on a scarf for myself, but I don't have a pattern in mind (so if you've got a good -- and different -- scarf pattern that I might like, let me know!). I've got a vest to work on, two shawls, and maybe a bit of shadow knitting. I'd really like to have a small project to work on on the plane. Maybe I'll throw in some yarn for dishcloths, too.

At this time tomorrow, I'll be hanging out in the airport. Yea! I'm so excited to be heading back to Delft -- if only to wander the streets for a few days. I'll try to check in between now and next Wednesday, when we get home. But if I don't get a chance, I'll have plenty of stories and pictures to share next week...

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