Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thar she blows!

Late this afternoon, we were sitting on Ala Moana beach, doing nothing in particular, when we saw a whale spout on the horizon, out beyond a couple ships and far beyond the people paddling around while standing on surfboards.
We pointed the whale out to a guy sitting near us who had some binoculars and he reported that there were two whales - a big whale just swimming along, and a little whale, who was the one doing all the breaching and leaping and showing off of tail fins that we were watching.
The Fool looked at me and said, "What do you want to bet the mother whale is out there saying, 'Will you just calm down and go to sleep? Why are you acting so crazy right now?!'"

Monday, January 26, 2009


It's official. The Fool, Jamie and I are in Hawaii, staying at the family Hilton - i.e. the basement apartment at Uncle Mo's house. (We didn't want to gloat too much; not seemly.) My Aunt Grace is here from Oregon, her two sisters and their husbands still live in town, and a couple cousins are kicking around as well - even a second cousin.

It's the closest thing my family has ever had to a reunion, and I like it very much. So does Jamie. So does the Fool, and we're not just saying this because we left sub-zero temperatures to come here to a land where everyone is shivering because - get this - it was 68 degrees one night. We've been walking around a lot with Jamie in his sling, greased well with sunblock and shaded by a ridiculous hat and marveling at what living in tropical climes makes people do.

Did you know there are windows here with no glass in them? Only screens, and a louver. There are also garages with no front doors. And because there is no winter to kill off the bugs, the cockroaches are flippin' enormous. People call them B-52s because - ick - they fly. We haven't been doing too many touristy things, as we were both here before, the year after we got married, and Jamie is a little too young to demand we do things like take him to the zoo and the aquarium. As long as he gets a chance to practice crawling every day, chew on new and interesting things and show off his two front teeth (two!), he's happy.

Instead, we have been eating very well, which is easy in Hawaii if you like sushi and fish and rice and Asian food, which we do.

Kalua pork manapua, and andagi (an Okinawan doughnut)

We have been exploring neighborhoods on foot, which is great if you're easily entertained like us. Our best day so far started with breakfast in a funky coffeeshop, featured a stop in a Thai imports store, a fabric store, a hula supply store (we just wanted to see what they sold), a Japanese language bookstore and a yarn store.

The owner is renovating right now, so some of her inventory is hard to get to. She keeps the sock yarn in drawers in her back room, for example, but was happy to let us in to look. The Fool found this - discontinued German yarn - and bought four skeins.

Jamie thinks we bought it for him.

We have also been visiting with my elderly Aunt Clara (the oldest of the six siblings) and Uncle Merle, who moved into a senior living building a couple years ago with their Russian Blue cat, Lukia (who goes by Kittycat and is obviously the one running the household, as smart cats do.) Aunt Clara was completely taken with Jamie. She said, "It's been so long since I've seen a baby, I've forgotten how small they are." She counts his toes and sits him on her lap and strokes his feet and hair and generally adores him. He soaks it up like a sponge.

Uncle Merle is still inquisitive - he and my father were both the kinds of people who would try to build something just to see how it worked. Uncle Merle built an airplane in his back yard once to see if he could make something that would fly, even though he was not a pilot and had never built a plane before. He restored antique cars, he ran his own jewelry business for years, and as he got older, took up stonecarving for a little while, making friendly rounded animals with just enough detailing to define features - ears, tails, paws. At first glance, they look like smooth rocks, but with study, the creature emerges. He made pottery that the Fool and I eat off of. Anyway, while we were all eating dinner together, I commented on a notice I saw from the building management, warning people to be careful of giant falling seedpods if they were using the pool. Merle said, "I know! I haven't had a chance to examine one yet -- but I'd like to!" Next time we go over there, I may see if I can find him one and bring it upstairs.
(Side note: Last time we were here, the Fool and I went to a botanic garden because he was interested in learning more about island flora. We were standing under a palm tree; I heard a rustle of leaves, and covered my head and ducked. He laughed. I pointed out the big seed pods that clonk onto the sidewalks. He stopped laughing.)

Capping the evening off, the Fool, Jamie and I went for a walk through Waikiki, enjoying the touristy spectacle.

As Jamie was still adjusting to the time change, we ate at Roy's, sitting on the deck and giggling about how we were eating at a fancy adult restaurant with a sleeping baby on my lap, nestled happily underneath the purple dinner napkin, which we, er, stole when we left, because the Fool was putting Jamie back in the sling and he woke up and started crying and we thought it was best to make a quick exit, so we did ... with the napkin. It will go well with the spoon from the Thai restaurant that Jamie dropped in the diaper bag tonight. Gotta tell the kid we will buy him a souvenir if he wants.

Last night, we stopped in to visit the Honolulu stitch 'n' bitch, and a friendlier group of knitters we have not met. They were so chatty and fun that I completely forgot to take a picture, but as they all asked if we were coming back next week, I'll fix that.

Adventures continue - contra dancing tomorrow night, the Chinese New Year parade, another visit with Clara and Merle, and who knows what else? Probably more sushi.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tooting My Own Horn

If you've been dying to hear what my voice sounds like, tune in to the latest Cast On podcast where I talk about the latest with the KnitML project.

The Hawaiian breeze coming through our windows at night is extremely pleasant. My heart goes out to all of the Chicagoans who are currently experiencing the coldest weekend of the winter.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Food poisoning? Bah!

Meg here, borrowing the Fool's login for reasons too complicated to be worth explaining, but mostly laziness-based.
Despite the case of food poisoning we got on Sunday afternoon, and the gig we had to play that night, despite getting about no sleep Sunday night (what with the food poisoning and Jamie's thoroughly unreasonable demands for care and attention), despite a cab driver who got his cab stuck in the snow in our driveway (which never happens to us, so we think it was all him), despite the discovery an hour into the flight that Jamie really didn't feel like flying from Los Angeles to Honolulu and didn't want to nurse and didn't want to sleep because being on an airplane was much, much too interesting ... we made it here, and it is beautiful and sunny and warm and breezy and I've already eaten sushi and stood in the ocean and visited my family.

(The airplane thing was kinda funny, although at the time, I said to the Fool that taking this trip was the dumbest thing I'd ever done. In an effort to calm Jamie down, as soon as the 'fasten seatbelts' light went off, the Fool leapt up and began pacing the aisles with the baby while I sat in my seat and tried to figure out how bad it would be if I stowed my crying son in an overhead bin, shifting contents be damned. Anyway, it turned out that what Jamie wanted to do was get walked around the airplane so he could meet some new people. He made friends with a nice Russian lady as well as a surfer dude sitting behind us and was all smiles until his horribly boring and still slightly sick parents sat down with him and tried to make him go to sleep.)

More later; thanks to Ravelry, I got a line on some yarn stores on the island, and something about souvenir yarn from Hawaii makes me giggle. We also found out when the local knitters' group meets, so maybe we'll go meet some folks.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Samsonite gets it

We bought a new suitcase for this trip, as before, the Fool and I were used to packing in one of those small wheeled suitcases you see business travelers and flight attendants towing around. With Jamie, we have more stuff and seemingly fewer hands, so consolidation was called for.
Here's the suitcase we got.

Look what came with it! A bag perfectly sized for a sock in progress! Or, less interestingly, toiletries.

Here's Angus, wondering why I'm so upset and going on about cat hair. All the cats helped us pack a little bit, but only this one stayed around to be photographed.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Well, heck

In my excitement to finish a pair of socks, I found a great trick! You make one sock noticeably shorter than the other. The knitting goes much faster that way. I should have known something was wrong when the Fool, who tried these on (and who gets to wear them if he can stand the size differences. If not, I'm going to have to find, well, not a guy with one leg shorter than the other ... probably a guy who can't see so well. Or two guys with one leg each?) said, "Wow, this one is nice and long! And this one is ... ha ha ha!"

Anyway, should anyone want to replicate this design, it's Lorna's Laces in Pioneer, in a pattern from Charlene Schurch's "The Little Box of Socks." It's a really easy slip stitch pattern that makes a cushy fabric that reminds me of waffle-weave long underwear, a pair of which I wish I had right now, as it's 20 below out there with the wind chill. I went to Target last week to see if they had any long johns, but they were out of the bottoms and only had the tops. Oh well. I could order some online, but I know if I do, I won't need them for the rest of the winter.
Dang. Those socks are really off-kilter. How did I even do that? I held the second one up to the first one and everything. Maybe the stitch pattern compresses? Maybe the Fool failed to pull one up completely?

Jamie in his snowsuit, bundled up inside the Fool's coat for the walk to the car.

Angus helped the Fool with the pictures by leaping on his feet and biting his toes. The Fool likes this one best -- "Look! You can see his fangs!"

Speaking of fangs, Jamie is growing teeth. I can feel one breaking through his gums, and a second one next to it looks like it's about to come through also. He drools a lot more, and seems a little crabbier, but otherwise is handling this fine.

In more crafty news, this is a gorgeous baby quilt my cousin Ann sent Jamie. If it looks somewhat like the quilt on the bed already, it's because I saw a bed-sized version of this quilt at my Aunt Grace's a few years back and came home to create my own interpretation. It's six-inch squares of Japanese indigo fabrics (which I adore), reproductions and antiques, sewn in a grid. When I spread the baby quilt out to photograph, Angus immediately assumed that the blog would be more interested in him and obligingly posed.
OK. Off to pack. The three of us are heading out off on a trip soon, somewhere long underwear is totally unheard of, which is weird, because we are not usually the kind of people who head for warmer climates in the winter, unless you consider Ireland in February to be a "warmer climate." Which it is, but it's not exactly tropical drinks on the beach, y'know?
Anyway, I dither.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Eternal Sock

So maybe this single-minded, knit one thing until it's done, is not my thing today.
I caught myself wondering if winding yarn counts as knitting something new. I think it does not, and I think I shall wind with abandon.

The eternal sock, or at least the first one. It's out of Lorna's Laces "Pioneer" and is in this slip stitch pattern I got out of "The Little Box of Socks," by Charlene Schurch, which, honestly I was going to pass over until I ran into an open copy at a yarn store and realized there are some cool sock patterns in there, including many that seem to work well with variegated yarns.
In the background, you will notice Angus, cattus non grata (my Latin is doubtlessly faulty.) During his pre-dawn "wake the humans! wake the humans!" routine, he took a short break from stomping around and nudging to nibble gently on Jamie's head in the manner of someone taking a bite from an apple. Not hard at all, but it made Jamie cry in surprise, woke me, woke the Fool and resulted in Angus' instant and violent eviction, especially because Jamie decided he was up for all day after that. Clearly I'm going to have to keep an eye on Angus from now on.

It's tough; the little squeaker obviously doesn't get why he's been displaced in our affections by this wiggly pink creature, and we're trying to play with him and pet him ... without inadvertently giving him attention when he's acting bad and we realize it's probably because he wants to interact with us. We actually talked about getting Angus a pet, someone who is rambunctious and will keep him entertained.
Geez. Longest. Caption. Evar.

Front yard in snow. The birch trees are to the left of the frame.

It's snowing today and hasn't stopped yet, so I can't go out and shovel. I got some new boots before Christmas and I'm excited about giving them a try. In the meantime, isn't that beautiful when it sticks to the tree branches like that? For all that it can be a pain in the neck, I love fresh snow.
In other news, our contra dance caller friend Adina messaged me via Facebook to inform us that her monstersocken had a hole. The Fool and I are debating whether to knit her one monstersock to replace the damaged one, two monstersocken, because the second one is probably worn out too, or whether she should get upgraded to a matching pair (fraternal, not identical.)
I'm leaning toward the latter. I have a ball of self-striping OnLine yarn that I've been trying to knit into socks for some time now, but it doesn't want to be anything I've asked it to be, (toe up, Mermaids, lace, weird triangle short row thing with bizarro heel) and perhaps it should just be made quickly into something fun and sent elsewhere before it spreads dissent in the stash.
Anyway. Back to trying to download iTunes.
ME: So, wait, do we have Windows XP on this machine?
FOOL: Yes.
ME: How about an IGH, oh, wait, 1 Gzh...what?
FOOL: Yes.
ME: Do I click on this thing?
FOOL: Yes, that's the installation file.
ME: Aren't you glad I won't be accidentally filling our hard drive with downloaded porn from the Internet? As I can't figure out how to install something I want.
FOOL: It's not the pornography I mind so much as the viruses and malware.
ME: Good to know.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Single-minded knitting

Since the new year started, I've been boiling down my knitting projects to this: One project at a time, until it's done.
That means that even though I've got a sweater to finish, a couple scarves, a sweater to swatch for, three pairs of socks, ideas for something like 58 more pairs of socks, two pairs of ongoing mittens, a pair of fingerless gloves I promised somebody, an alpaca lace shawl, something to use up 50 grams of silk/wool wonderfulness I bought at Artyarns last year, a new sock book, a plan to make some flip-top mittens for myself out of leftover Malabrigo and finally, a super-cool hat kit I got from Joy in our knitting group's secret Santa exchange ... I am knitting a pair of socks in Lorna's Laces.
Why these? They were the furthest along when I imposed this arbitrary rule on myself.
Some days, I enjoy the simplicity of it. When I have time to knit, I knit this sock. When it's done, I'll knit something else.
Other days, I start making up exceptions to my rule. When I get on the second sock of a pair, wait, the foot of the second sock, or maybe the heel ... I can cast on another pair of socks.
Or, I can have as many socks in progress as I have sets of needles (which sort of explains why I have three pairs of socks going right now.)
It's a little silly. It's not like I'm taking two bites out of seven different sandwiches for lunch, or wearing six different outfits in a day.
But I'll confess: I'm the kind of person who keeps a to-do list, even though sometimes, such as before Christmas, the enormity of that list caused me some worry. The sheer number of things I thought needed to be done before the holidays (pack for Pittsburgh, make mother-in-law stew for present, knit Fool socks for present, send holiday letters, bake cookies, etc., etc. We all know what sorts of things go on these lists) was making me a little crazy, and the only way I could figure out to get through it was to keep tackling the items on the list, one at a time, until I finished or until Christmas arrived, whichever happened first.
(So, we're sending out Martin Luther King Day letters this year. What? It's a holiday letter.)
Now, though, I think the idea of doing one thing at a time until it's done and then moving on to the next is sort of my holiday list detox. I've got a list with one item on it: knit a sock.
I'm on the gusset of the second one, and I'll probably have them finished in a week, I hope. And then I'll pick something else to knit and we'll see how long this knitting monogamy lasts.
Although there's a cold snap coming next week, and I'm beginning to think I might break my own rule just so the Fool and Jamie and I have better mittens.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Snowy Tuesday

Flurries, at least. I'm glad. I was getting a little depressed looking at the leaves I did not rake last fall and wondering if I should put on warm clothes and try to clean up the yard a bit.
In response to an earlier question, a soaker is basically a pair of wool underpants that you put on over a baby's cloth diaper. It, uh, soaks up stuff and keeps it from getting to the kid's clothes, which go over the soaker. Back in the day before plastic or vinyl cloth diaper covers, this was what people made and used. I think there was a short article on them in the last issue of "Piecework."
We figured we'd give one a try.
So the Fool has been stirring things up in the designers group on Ravelry, talking about KnitML, his project to create a knitting markup language that could someday be used for all sorts of cool things.
One of the designers raised an interesting point that I've been thinking about in the context of knitting and in the context of other activities where people spend money on instructions, such as dropping $30 on a new cookbook.
Say I buy a knitting pattern (and this is only about patterns I buy; things I get for free, I figure I gets what I pays for). I generally expect it to be error-free. I actually get a little annoyed if I have to look up errata and can't just swatch and dive right in.
Now, suppose I start changing the pattern around. Say I add some stitches, or take some out, make parts wider or longer, maybe swap in a stitch pattern I like better, or do it at a different gauge altogether ... that kind of thing.
How much do I have to change the pattern before I decide the outcome is my problem - and not anything the original designer has anything to do with?
Basically, at what point do I start kicking myself for any mistakes and stop blaming the pattern and designer - grin.
It's a lot like cooking, which is something else I like doing. One time, I gave a recipe for linguini with clam sauce to my friend Janice. She and I were talking a couple days later and she said she'd tried it.
"How was it?" I asked.
"Great! Except I didn't have any canned clams, so I cut up a chicken breast. And I know you said it was good with sauteed mushrooms, but I only had frozen peas, so I put those in instead. And I didn't have any cream, so I just left that out, and then I realized I didn't have any pasta either, so I put it over rice instead."
"So it was good, but not linguini with clam sauce," I said.
"Sure it was! I just changed a couple things."
The thing is, if it had turned out to be a disaster and Janice had blamed me for giving her a bad recipe, I would have felt justified in saying that she changed it so much, the fact that it didn't taste good had nothing to do with the recipe and everything to do with her decisions.
Anyway, an interesting question to while away time with.
I'm slogging away on a sock. It's part of my new policy to knit one thing at a time until it's finished. We'll see how long this lasts.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Stuff for Jamie

Hey, did you ever wonder why this blog is called Two Sock Knitters? It's because I've been known to knit from time to time.

I've been working on a knitted soaker for Jamie.

Kind of looks like a big blurb, doesn't it? As long as it works, I'm happy. It's not quite done yet (I have to knit the legs).

I also want to start this from Dale of Norway:

Actually, I did start it, but haven't gotten past the cast on yet. I had a bit of trouble substituting discontinued colors, though the fine folks at Knitche (our local yarn store) helped me out quite a bit in matching close colors. One clerk even dipped into her personal stash when she recognized that I needed a discontinued Forest Green. She had a skein kicking around her house that she gave me!

Angus seems to have fallen in love with the little one. By all accounts he's tickled to death that we've produced a cat-sized human. We caught him napping next to Jamie this morning with his nose tucked under Jamie's arm.

Or maybe it's Jamie that's taken with Angus? Hard to say.

New Year's Day

For New Year's, our original plan was to have a couple of friends over for a nice pork dinner. On our way back home from Christmas vacation, I called them to make arrangements. After talking for a bit, we decided it would be nice to invite a couple of more friends over.

After hanging up the phone, I told Meg the plan. "Darling, we are now having four people over for dinner. We can get a pork tenderloin and roast that up nicely."

"Hmmm... we have to toss the pork idea, because they are Jewish." Crap, I forgot that part.

Possibly my dementia from being couped up in a car for 12 hours brought this response: "Ooo, I know! How about we cook that big turkey we bought a few weeks back?" I later found out that Meg was raising her eyebrows at me in disbelief.

See, we bought this 18-pound turkey from Meijer a few weeks back that they were trying to offload by the expiration date. It was a really good deal... so good, in fact, that we couldn't pass it up.

"Well," she replied after some thought, "we better invite some more people to help us eat that thing."

So we ended up accidentally throwing a New Year's dinner party for 12.

The preparations went off really well.

Meg wanted to make sure that the turkey skin was nice and dry so that it would crisp up in the oven.

Our friend Susan brought a plum pudding that her in-laws bought her as a Christmas present. Here she is making the special brandy sauce and lighting it on fire. (Sorry, this one really needed a video!)

Our friend Janice, knowing that we were now in the post-holiday season, decided to help us take down our Christmas tree by merely brushing against it. The only problem was that we were hoping to wait until we got all of the ornaments off of it. Fortunately for us, our friend Ed (pictured under the tree) is an expert with Christmas tree stands.

The table looked fabulous.

The turkey looked fabulous.

The babies looked fabulous, too!

It was like Thanksgiving all over again. This time, we ended up with a ton of leftovers. Thank goodness for potlucks!