Friday, April 30, 2010

I always knit the feet of men's socks plain, since they live inside shoes. This gives me time to think of a pattern while I'm knitting the feet, so I can get a head start on my knitting. I think I'll do the current project, a pair of socks for Tom in the colorway "Mendocino Man," in beaded rib, also from Sensational Knitted Socks.

I've just spent the last 2 1/2 hours straightening my desk. I got one pile cleared on one side. This decluttering stuff is arduous.

I had dinner guests last night. You know, making a cake isn't hard. Making soup isn't hard. Making pasta and a roast isn't hard. Try to do them all at once, and it gets more challenging.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

After knitting a few more hours on the Sea Lettuce ( another inch!), I did cast on the blue-and-grey handdyed: another pair of socks for Tom. The yarn was so fine that I finally got to use the size 0s I bought at Sock Summit. I tried to use them before, but the yarn was too big, the fabric too tight, and the process made my hand hurt. This time, since the yarn is so fine that a size 0 is appropriate, I'm getting a nice fabric, and no hand pain. Who knew.

Today is cold, clear, and windy. The Grapevine is closed by snow and ice. It's late April, guys, almost May. Weird.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

After I finished the socks yesterday, my first impulse was to immediately cast on another pair of socks. I was fingering some lovely blue and grey handdyed I bought at the Ren Faire for Tom, when I remembered some gorgeous worsted weight I bought at the Sock Summit last year. I didn't want to go upstairs at that moment to fetch it, so I worked on the Sea Lettuce Scarf for the rest of the day.

This morning, I forgot to get the worsted weight before coming downstairs, so I worked on the Sea Lettuce again for a few hours, in between chores. Having worked on it for, say, eight hours between yesterday and today, I can confidently state that I measured it, and it's three inches longer than it was before yesterday.

It's going to be a very long slog. Maybe I'll cast on something else.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I spent much of yesterday doing battle with ivy (Ivy is evil!), moonflower (Moonflower is evil!), and jasmine (Jasmine is not evil, just misunderstood), so I didn't finish the socks. I'll finish them today, right after going to the grocery store. Yeah, right.

There's discussion on Not So Humble Pie's blog about bloggers who present their lives as being perfect. I'm not part of that, as I don't read those "perfect" blogs, nor do any of the folks commenting read mine, but here's my own disclaimer:

My life's not perfect. My house is a mess. My back hurts much of the time. One of my dogs is only marginally well-behaved. I dislike crowds, I'm afraid of police officers, and I have no family besides my husband.

I just prefer to write about the good stuff-- knitting, gardening, traveling.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tom and I tried to go to Disneyland yesterday, but it took so long to go the two blocks from the freeway to the parking lot (an hour!) that we changed our minds and went home. When I noticed at first that the traffic had been diverted past the parking structure to a more distant lot, I thought the structure was closed for maintenance. Imagine my horror when I realized it was already full! When it was built, not so long ago, it was the largest parking garage in the world (it has since been eclipsed, in turn, by every other new parking garage Disney has built for its theme parks), and it was full by 10 am, before school let out for the summer. I advised Tom to take a vacation day in the middle of the week, so we can go in peace.

Instead of walking around D-land, we spent the rest of the day catching up on British TV-- Dr. Who, Top Gear, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, and Graham Norton. Doing so gave me lots of knitting time, so I was able to finish the foot on the second sock, turn the heel, and get enough of the way up the leg that I could hit the ground running this morning. If I knit all day, I could finish the sock today. That I would do so is unlikely, as the weather is perfect for working in the garden-- 60 degrees F, and overcast. In cosmic terms, it's just the same if I finish the sock tomorrow.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I finished the first sock and started the second, yesterday. I'm about halfway to the heel, toe up. I didn't knit much, today.

Tom had some work to do on a friend's computer. I owed this same friend a good Cuban meal-- I talked him into going to a Cuban restaurant yesterday, at which the service was so bad that the waiter was just getting around to asking him what he wanted while the rest of our party was finishing our meals. Luckily for me, roast pork and fried bananas is both one of my favorite meals, and one of the easiest to make. I brought the roast, already seasoned and in the pan, to his house, and slipped it in the oven. Tom and Craig (he to whom I owed a Cuban dinner) retired to the office to work on Craig's computer, while Genny and I gossiped in the living room. Half an hour before the roast was done, Genny started some rice, while I started to fry the bananas. The guys demonstrated that they got the computer working in time to set the table, and we all had a nice meal together.

Tom and I tried to catch up on some TV when we got home, but we were both so wiped it was useless. We didn't delete the shows we slept through.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Yesterday I did the heel and a couple of inches of leg; today I've already done another few inches of leg. If I knit tonight, I should finish the first sock today.

My front yard looks absolutely glorious. My roses usually peak about Easter. This year, they're peaking late, but beautifully. Along my front fence, I have Berries and Cream, Dreamweaver, Climbing Fourth of July, Altissimo, and Souvenir du Malmaison. In an island, I have a cherry tree and an apple tree, both in bloom, surrounded by roses Linda Campbell, Caribea, Greensleeves, Opening Night, and a dozen others whose names escape me right now. In another corner, I have several David Austen roses, including Othello, and some pink varieties. (I need to spend more time with my rose books! I used to know all those names.) Add in some irises, two tangerine trees loaded with fruit, some neatly trimmed hedge-type shrubs, a blue cypress, and an unknown shade tree or two, and you have the idea.

I've lost almost 30 pounds, and felt a need for some new clothes. I ordered a swimsuit online, but wasn't pleased with the selection of dresses I found, so I went shopping in my closet. Lucky me-- I found a few things, some of them really cute, that fit me now, and didn't before. New clothes accomplished.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

After finishing the toe increases of the new pink/orange sock, I tried a stitch of my own devising for an inch or so. I didn't like the result, so I hit my bookshelf. I hit on the ridged feather stitch in Charlene Schurch's "Sensational Knitted Socks" as the answer to my needs. It's easy enough to be a relaxing knit, while breaking up the stripes in the yarn. At this point, I'm almost ready to turn the heel. After the last few pair of socks, it would be a welcome change to finish one in the same month I started.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

After four days of not touching my knitting, I had to admit to myself that project monogamy to the Sea Lettuce Scarf was not working. I cast on a sock of the extra-bright flowery colors I bought the other day, and I'm almost done with the toe increases. I haven't decided, yet, on what pattern to add to the foot and leg.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Our original plan was to go to Death Valley first, then back on the 395. We had a late night Friday, though, and weren't up to leaving home at 7 am, as was necessary to make Plan A work. I suggested that we instead go north on the 395 on the first day, and home through Death Valley on the second. We had motel reservations in Bishop, and Bishop is an easy drive from LA.

This revised plan made for a leisurely first day. We left home, dogs in tow, at 9am, and looped past the Poppy Reserve for a great view. Then, since we had plenty of time, I indulged Tom with a loop through Ridgecrest, where he used to work, so he could see how much the town had changed in the intervening years. It had changed plenty.

I was surprised and pleased to find that Fossil Falls was open; it had been closed the previous two or three times I had driven by. I had assumed that it was closed for budgetary reasons, but apparently not. New pavers had been installed around the parking lot, making for better wheelchair access. It's a short, easy hike from the parking lot to Fossil Falls, a volcanic ledge over which the Owens River used to flow, in the last ice age. It was the first hike I had taken in a year or more, and the first in several years that I didn't use a cane.

We reached our motel by mid-afternoon. Tom and I split up at that point. I took the dogs for a walk, while he went in search of a bookstore. He found a bookstore, but not a book he wanted to read. We both found a Chinese restaurant for take-out, the same one, almost across the street from our motel. We enjoyed the meal while watching "Ghostbusters" on cable: one of the classics.

We got an early start the next morning, since I had chosen an insane route: north from Bishop into Nevada, and south through the high desert, to enter Death Valley near Scotty's Castle. The detour meant we could drive the length of Death Valley without doubling back, as well as seeing some ghost towns in Nevada.

Tom was suitably impressed by Death Valley. It was his first trip there, and my second. Being a guy, he liked the rocks the most. As much as I liked the rocks (the mountains on the east side of the Valley are banded like agates), I was blown away by the flowers, which had not been ready when I drove through a few weeks ago. It wasn't a hundred-year bloom, as it was in the retirement planning commercial with Dennis Hopper, but there were places where desert gold (that's the name of those yellow daisies; I looked it up) covered the ground as far as one could see, not like a blanket, but like a golden mist ten inches up. We took a few side roads, to see sand dunes and abandoned mines, a salt stream packed with pupfish in breeding frenzy, and, of course, Dante's View. I was surprised that the desert outside the national park was just as beautiful as that inside; the desert was in full bloom for hundreds and hundreds of miles.

We also saw a pack of coyotes (3) in ranchland north of Bishop. Wildlife sightings always thrill us.

The only downside was the traffic after we hit the 15. The backup at the agricultural station cost us a full hour. By the time we got home, we were exhausted. We had earned out exhaustion; we had put 1200 miles on the car over the space of two days.

Have I mentioned that I like long drives in the country?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Home from Death Valley. More tomorrow.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sharon and I drove up to the Poppy Reserve today. I hadn't been there in a few years, since I didn't expect many flowers in the drought. We had a nice, rainy winter this year, though, and I had seen some pictures a friend of Tom's emailed him, so I had to go.

It wasn't the best show I've ever seen at the Poppy Reserve, but I've been there for a hundred-year bloom. This was a good one, the poppies painting the hills in a way that is visible from several miles away, from passing airplanes, and maybe from the space station. Besides poppies, there are goldfields, lupines, fiddlenecks, and a bunch of flowers I didn't recognize.

We also found that a favorite taqueria from previous years is still in business, and still just as good. I believe the name was "Tacos Si Senor." Sorry about the lack of diacritical marks.

Back in the Valley, I took Sharon to the LYS, where I bought some sock yarn in a bright combination of colors that reminded me of the poppy reserve, and Sharon bought some nice laceweight. All in all, we had a very good day.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The top of my big mulberry tree is alive with little yellow birds.

I looked them up; they're goldfinches. I'm glad I haven't removed the mulberry. Tom is allergic to it, and frequently hints that he'd be happier if it were gone. I did start to remove the two smaller ones last year, but then I tasted the berries. While white mulberries are sweet, but otherwise tasteless, black mulberries are as delicious as raspberries.

Now, back to my Sea Lettuce Scarf. Since it's just one skein of sock yarn, my darn lack of concentration is the only excuse for it to take more than a week.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I'm baaa-aack!

The rain stopped for the duration of my shift Monday; Tuesday and Wednesday were sunny and cool, perfect days for hanging out on the bluff. They seals are fine and healthy, and I talked to about (quick mental arithmetic) 250 people over the three days. If you haven't caught the story previously, I'm a docent at the elephant seal rookery at Piedras Blancas, north of San Simeon.

I've done hardly any knitting since the weekend. I should remedy that.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Okay, so I'm packing to go to San Simeon, relieved that the heavy overnight rain means I don't have to water the yard before I go. I open the kitchen door, in order to put my duffel in the car, and I see that the brush cherry (a big tree) has flopped down. When you give a drought-tolerant plant too much water, it flops. In order to clear the sidewalk, I had to cut several limbs off the cherry, all the while hearing the branches above me go "crack, crack, crack." I had to work fast, to keep the tree from breaking uncontrollably. There's nowhere to put the debris I'm making, because I was diligent in my gardening all week, and the green barrels are all full.

I hope my gardener forgives me. He's the only one who's going to have to fight his way past all that debris, when he mows the lawn tomorrow, and I won't be around to explain. I'll apologize next week.

Now, I'm off to see the wizard.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

We had lovely English weather for the opening weekend of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, which is to say that it was cold and cloudy, threatening rain. I was delighted by this development; my RenFaire costume is black velvet. Any time I'm going to wear black velvet, I'm delighted that the weather turns out cool.

(Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of an old boyfriend, one who used to nag me to lose weight. He has gotten fat.)

We saw a couple of very good shows (I love belly dancing!), ate some tasty, if overpriced, food, and bought a few things we didn't need. I bought several skeins of hand-dyed yarn, a wrap that can be fashioned into a sundress, and a belt to hold up my jeans. Tom bought a couple of cappuccino bowls, and several forms of dehydrated garlic. We also witnessed some family drama among the Canadian geese that are raising their families on the lake; one pair of adults let some singles know that there presence in the neighborhood of their goslings was definitely unwelcome.

There has been no knitting today, so far, but those new skeins of yarn are calling to me.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

If there's a better-smelling chore than pulling down overgrown jasmine and honeysuckle vines, I don't know what it its.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Other than cooking and washing dishes, I took the day off today. I didn't even make a to-do list.

(If you make a really ambitious to-do list, and complete all the tasks on it, does it become a ta-da! list?)

I spent the day watching the first several episodes of "Life," which I recorded for viewing at a convenient time. Today was convenient. Who knew that Komodo dragons were venomous? I looked it up, since that factoid didn't comport with my already-assembled body of knowledge. Yep, it was just published last May. Komodo dragons are definitely venomous. I'll have to rearrange my knowledge of herpetology.

I also finished the Spot Check socks. Alas, since I didn't tension the yarn the same on both socks, even though I used the same stitch counts throughout, the colors of the handpainted yarn pooled differently. The socks look like cousins, rather than siblings. Sigh. While each is, individually, among the most lovely socks I've yet made, I'll have to wear them with long pants and high shoes. Such is life.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

I hit the ground running, this morning. By nine am, I had started the third load of laundry, finished watering the yard thoroughly, and washed half the dirty dishes created by last night's dinner party. I have now finished the dishes and the laundry, and am ready for a nap. My early-morning burst of energy didn't persist into the afternoon.

One of last night's dinner guests asked me to adopt her-- I think she likes my cooking. Another, who takes care of my cat when I'm out of town, and so sees the house without supervision, noticed that I had cleaned the kitchen. Maybe I'm doing something right.

I'm not going to finish the second colorwork sock today, because I didn't devote the whole day to knitting. I had a lot of chores to do this morning, and that threatened nap might prove to be more than a rhetorical device.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

I'm already on the heel of the second sock. Apparently, once you get the hang of it, colorwork doesn't have to take any longer than a plain sock. Lessee... I think I started around October, give or take a month. Six months for the first sock, and three days for the second? That's not totally fair. I did take time out to make another pair of socks for Tom, and a sweater, a blanket, several hats, and at least ten scarves. Most of the difference in time elapsed for the second sock, in comparison with the first, reflects focus.

While working in the garden this morning, I got a 2x4 in my eye. Well, when I got it out, it turned out to be a tiny speck of dust, but it sure felt like a 2x4 when it fell in. I had great fun, pulling down the past-their-prime jasmine vines that are threatening to overwhelm some of my backyard fruit trees. I like pruning and weeding more than planting. When I first took possession of this house, I was delighted that there was an overgrown elderberry bush, sorely in need of pruning, in the back of the yard. That thing kept me busy and entertained for weeks.

It's Tom's birthday today, so I'm cooking. A chocolate layer cake just came out of the oven, to be replaced with a noodle kugel for lunch. I'm sure he knows there's going to be a cake; he tells people he married a shiksa so he could have a proper cake for his birthday, even when it falls during Passover. The kugel will be a surprise.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

It's a gorgeous day for working in the yard, but I feel soooo lazy... it's also a good day to watch TV and knit.

I cast off the first colorwork sock this morning, early, and immediately cast on the second. For the sake of completeness, I should note that my inspiration is the Spot Check Sock, by Beth Parrot, in Carol Sulcoski's "Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn." I'm even using similar colorways, although in different brands of yarn, which I picked up at the Sock Summit last year. I'm not following the pattern, though, as I prefer to do socks toe-up, with a short-row heel.

I seem to have finally gotten the technique for short-row heels down. In order to eliminate holes in the sides of the heel, one must not only wrap the stitch outside the short row on the way back, but also on the way out, and slip the first stitch after the wrapped one. That may be a hard instruction to understand or follow, which would explain why I haven't been able to understand the written instructions in the patterns I've seen. It's fiddly, but it's better than having holes in an otherwise substantial sock.

Monday, April 05, 2010

I'm on a new med for back pain that has weird side effects. I've had more hot flashes this afternoon than I had through the whole process of menopause (disclaimer: I had an unusually easy menopause). I think I'll do the grocery shopping tomorrow before I take my meds.

On the upside, I'm virtually done with the first of the colorwork socks. It's my first colorwork sock ever, and it's beautiful. All I have left to do is cast off. Well, and make another one just like it.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

I was ill late in the day yesterday, so I had to simplify the menu for Easter brunch. I just made ham, waffles, and scrambled eggs, with individual coconut custards to finish. There were no complaints.

We felt the earthquake, the one in Mexico, even though we are something like 200 miles away. That far away, of course, we had no damage.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

I forgot to mention, yesterday, that Tom and I had gone to see "How To Train Your Dragon." Terrific film, much better than I had expected. I had expected it to be merely cute. A friend, who happens to be an experienced TV/film writer, pointed out that the characters were one-dimensional, with which I cannot disagree. Still, I enjoyed the movie immensely. I'm a sucker for visual effects, and the visual effects in this movie were superb. The dragons were treated as real animals, and the flying scenes were even better than in "Avatar." I loved every second.

It may rain tomorrow. In my childhood, I remember that it usually rained on Easter, late in the day, after church and egg hunts were out of the way. I'd like it, if it were to rain late on Easter, again.

Friday, April 02, 2010

I did a lot of knitting yesterday, while catching up on the rest of the shows I recorded while I was away. Today, I pulled it all out. The sock, being of a very inelastic stitch, would barely pull over my heel, in spite of having been knit with more stitches than I usually use. I frogged the sock past the heel, added another 12 stitches over the course of several rows, made the foot part half an inch longer to compensate for its lack of stretch, and continued. Last time I tried it on, it fit fine.

On the way home from dinner tonight, I reminisced about the Easter dresses of my childhood, and confessed that it makes me a little sad to not get a new pastel dress each Easter. My friends insisted that there was still one more shopping day before Easter. I do have a few dresses in my closet that I've never worn, but I don't know whether Easter is the right day to debut them-- I'm cooking that day, possibly barbecuing. Manipulating mesquite lump charcoal is an activity utterly incompatible with wearing a pretty, new, pastel dress.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The rain we were promised over the last two days didn't materialize. I overslept, and it's illegal here to water after 9 am, so the yard got a very truncated version of irrigation. The rationale for restricting watering during the day is to avoid excessive evaporation, so I searched the DWP website to see whether there was a change in allowed hours during Daylight Saving Time-- nope. I guess evaporation happens according to the clock, not to conditions of sunlight and temperature. Since it's 49 degrees F currently, I wouldn't think evaporation would be a terrible problem.

LA may deny it, but I think half the water restrictions in place are there purely for purposes of revenue enhancement. The city can't raise taxes, but they can make things illegal, and impose fines.