October 2006 Archives

Aloha from Kaua'i


Well, after a few weather related issues that I will blog about at some other time, John and I are happily in Kauai. We are staying in a lovely rental home across the street from Kekaha Beach Park. Where in the world is that? Perhaps a little map image would help...

Kaua'i, Hawaii with our Current Location Marked

(Yes, I did just figure out how to include a Google Map on my blog just for this occasion. Why do you ask?

Our first day on the island was fairly uneventful. It included the usual shopping for things we forgot, grocery shopping and trying to find a place to have dinner. Not so many pictures yet, but I did get a gallery started. You can find my Kauai photo gallery here. I'm not as happy as I would like to be with the photo quality -- I think it's because I saved them at 72 dpi. I'll leave them at higher resolution tomorrow and see if that comes out better. I thought the gallery might make it easier for those of you who want to avoid large page loads to do so, at the same time as it makes it easier for me to upload and display a larger number of pictures from our trip. Please feel free to comment or otherwise entertain yourselves with the gallery. It will get much more entertaining soon. Unfortunately, my blogging time is being cut into by the need to finish up a work project. And the sooner I finish that project up, the sooner I can be to the business of some hard core vacationing!

You might think, when visiting an island, that your first adventures would involve surf and sand. Instead, we headed inland (or mauka which is toward the mountain in Hawaiian) and took a look at the Waimea Canyon. Waimea Canyon is a specatular canyon north of Kekaha were we are staying that Mark Twain once dubbed "the Grand Canyon of the Pacific" and it really is just that stunning.

Waimea Canyon from the Waimea Canyon Overlook

This picture that I took in widescreen is one of my favorites from the day. Shrunk down to blog-acceptable size, it hardly does the scenery justice. But I hope it does convey some of the majesty of this work of nature. From what I understand, that canyon was formed by a combination of repeated volcanic eruptions and lava flows, several rivers and general water run off. At its tallest point, it's about 3-4000 feet.

What makes Kauai so truly stunning to me so far is how it is like stepping forward into geological time.

The first Hawaiian island that we visited was Hawai'i -- "the Big Island". This island is still incredibly volcanically active and still growing in size. You can see lava flows and erupting volcanos. Mauna Kea, considered dormant, is over 14,000 feet tall. The western side of the island looks almost like a lunar landscape, where the most recent flows have occured, while the eastern side of the island, which gets much more rain, is more green and lush, but still rocky and jagged.

Last year we visited Maui. Maui is just north and west of the Big Island. None of its volcanoes are considered active any more, but you can drive to the top of Haleakala and once again, you are 13-14,000 feet above sea level looking down onto a barren rocky landscape. The north side of the island is lush and green, and you see occasional places where the jagged lava rocks peek out, but mostly the north side of the island doesn't give the impression of being volcanic. The south side of the island is dry, and as you drive around the southern base of Haleakala you can see evidence of old lava flows, but you are also struck by the small plants and trees that are taking hold. Even without too much rain, biology is taking over from geology. Maui gives the impression of being more careworn than the Big Island. And this is most clearly in evidence when you drive around the mountain that is the main structure of the north western half of the island. The volcanic activity is long gone, and what you find is water and plants breaking down the rock and smoothing out and flattening the surfaces.

Looking at Kaua'i is like fast-forwarding into time again (John and I haven't been to O'ahu, but I suspect if we did go, we would see another intermediate phase in geological evolution). Kaua'i has long since been separated from the hot spot in the floor of the Pacific Ocean that resulted in this incredible island chain. There are no 14,000 foot peaks on Kaua'i. While it is warmer on the south and western portions of the island, the entire place is surprisingly green and rich, hard volcanic edges softened by time. Kaua'i is firmly in the process of being reclaimed by the ocean that it arose from.

After going up Waimea Canyon Road to the Waimea Canyon Lookout, we drove back down the road to the Kukui Trail. The Kukui Trail descends down into the canyon and allows you to see the changes that occur, both geologically and botanically as you go lower into the canyon. It's something of a challenging hike because the elevation changes pretty dramatically in only a mile or so, but we loved the changing views of the canyon and the vegetation. We only went about a mile along the trail because it was late afternoon when we started, and we didn't want to do the return trip in the dark.

I've loaded the day's best pictures into my Kaua'i Gallery. If you've already looked at the first couple of pictures, then you can go here to get to the start of the pictures for today.

I'll be back as soon as time permits. I have more pictures from our trip up the northern part of Waimea Canyon Road, as well as some video. I do so very much love my little camera!

Our second day of exploring Kaua'i was spent on the north end of Waimea Canyon Road in the Koke'e State Park. Koke'e has a whole collection of wonderful trails and some beautiful views of the Kalalau Valley looking out to the Pacfic Ocean.

To see some of our images from the day, here's the link to the starting point in my Kauai photo gallery.

In addition to photos, there are also a few short videos from the day, taken after I remembered that my little camera also takes very nice movies and that I could upload them all to YouTube and not take up my own disk storage space with them.

The first movie is a short movie showing the moving clouds over the western edge of the Kalalau Valley, taken from Pu'u O Kila Overlook.

The second movie is our encounter with a Nene, a native Hawaiian goose, taken at the entrane to Koke'e State Park on our way back down from the overlook.

And, in case you were concerned, John is not feeding the goose, nor did we ever attempt to touch the animal or be aggressive towards it in any way. He simply is gesturing with some grass to get it's attention.

If you want to see these videos in the context of the rest of the day's photos, I have also linked to them, where appropriate, in my photo gallery.

And if you just want to keep track of what I am uploading at YouTube, here is a direct link to my YouTube Channel

The Hawaiian Islands are a remarkable place to grow all sorts of plants. In fact, because of the climate, it essentially is a greenhouse without the glass windows. Orchids can grow "in the wild" on trees with no additional maintenance. Flowering plants from all over the world are in great abundance. In fact, this raises something of a problem, because it is very easy to introduce non-native species whose vigorous behavior can overwhelm the native plants. The same is true of animals as well. Many of Kaua'i's animals (and this is also true of the other Hawaiian Islands) did not develop in a predator-filled environment, and thus, don't have the ability to protect themselves from introduced species.

It's one of the cool things that happens from having a blog, but my trip from Kauai inspired an email from Pauline, who is part of the Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project where she is specifically working on helping to preserve the Puaiohi -- a bird with only 200-600 individuals left in the wild.

She wrote the following in her email to me, and I thought I would share it:

if you ever give any money towards conservation of biodiversity in the U.S., please consider supporting Hawaii (the nature conservancy does great stuff, and they're not my employer). Hawaii has something like 2/3 of the endangered species in the U.S., but gets very little money and has low visibility. The bird which I mostly focus on, the Puaiohi, has only 200-600 individuals left, but gets less than $200k in funding per year - compare that to gray wolves or whooping cranes or anything on the mainland U.S.

Even if you never contribute any money to this kind of cause (and I am not soliciting donations here) I think it's important to know about the ecological problems that face the US and other countries. While I knew Hawaii was a fragile place, I never realized how fragile some species are. It's a good reminder to treat every place you go with as much respect as possible and to do your part to take good care of the wild places that might be home to some animal that desperately needs that place to stay wild to survive.

It's probably the ultimate irony that I would talk about native species conservation in the same post as when I talk about our trip to the Allerton Gardens, which are part of the the National Tropical Botanical Gardens. It is a truly spectacular garden, but almost all of the plants are imports from other tropical locations. It was a space the transformation of which started with Queen Emma and progressed with the Allerton family (the Allertons founded the First National Bank of Chicago). So today's new gallery entries are from our guided tour of the Allerton Garden. Flowers a plenty ahead! (Apologies in advance for not remembering most of their common or scientific names... I didn't have a notepad with me to write things down with). And if you want to start at the beginning, you can enter the gallery here.

Overlooking Allerton Garden

Kaua'i, Day Four: Spouting Horn


Our fourth day on Kaua'i was given mostly to water sports that weren't camera friendly -- i.e. snorkeling. I don't have a waterproof camera, and even if I did, I don't have one of those cool filters that allows you to filter out the blue wavelengths. You'll just have to trust me when I say we saw some lovely fish around the Po'ipu Beach tombolo.

We did make a short excursion out to Spouting Horn -- a lava shelf over the south shore where there are blow holes. These blow holes act almost like geysers, sending fountains of water up in the air. Because these things are more impressive in moving than in still pictures, I took another video to help us capture the memory:

I also did get a few pictures of the shore line around Spouting Horn and of the Po'ipo Beach tombolo. You can find them starting at this point in my gallery.

Kaua'i, Day Five: Waimea Canyon Trail


I had to pause a little while we travelled from the south side to the north side of the island and get settled in. There were lots of pictures from our 5th day, so I got a bit lazy about sorting through them and preparing them for the gallery. The great thing about digital cameras is that you can never really run out of film. The bad thing is that you need to spend more time selecting and processing the best images for viewing. There's something about the north side of Kauai that downshifts everything a few gears and just makes you want to take everything a little more slowly.

Our fifth day in Kauai took us back into the Waimea Canyon for some dayhiking. For this trip, we started at Hale Manu Road, just inside Koke'e State Park, walked on to the Black Pipe Trail, Canyon Trail and Cliff Trail before returning to Hale Manu Rd and our car. (You can click here if you would like to see a PDF containing a trail map for the park.) This was a nice loop, and it gave us some lovely views of the canyon, it's foliage and the Waipo'a Falls.

The day was very overcast, which will become clear in the pictures. For hiking, however, this was not necessarily a bad thing, as it kept us cooler and made the hiking more comfortable, and didn't really change the inherent beauty of the canyon.

There are so many trails and hikes that could be done in Waimea Canyon. If we had been staying on the south side of the island for our entire trip, it would have been tempting to spend most of our time there, taking in the views and watching the clouds roll in and out. It really is a remarkable and special place, I could have sat on the Canyon Trail ridge for hours just watching the view change.

There will be a few videos that I upload later, but for now, you can see the pictures we took by going to this point in my gallery.

Finally, a short video of Waimea Canyon from the Canyon Trail overlook:

It's all about the beaches today. This was the day that John and I drove from our south side beach house at Kekaha Beach to our north side, upcountry house.

I realize now that I never showed you any pictures of the actual places we stayed. You can see Hale Moana here. Yes, it was a little decadent. Yes, we did love it. Yes, outdoor showers rock. Our north shore home away from home, 100 Shades of Green, is just as wonderful. I wish I could show you the stars from that hot tub on the deck or let you smell the ginger.

We started our drive up highway 50 to the main entry place for Kekaha Beach Park. (The link will take you to the images in my gallery). Kekaha Beach was the closest beach to us for the first week, and had beatiful golden sands and high surf. You definitely could go in, but you had to be careful with the waves and the currents.

After a brief stop at Kekaha Beach, we drove to the end of highway 50 (past the Pacific Missile Range Facility) and down several miles of bumpy dirt road to Polihale State Park (again, the link takes you to the beginning of these pictures in my gallery). Polihale Beach is on the true west side of the island and marks the start of the south end of the Na Pali coast (one of Kaua'i's most famous features). The surf here was absolutely amazing. It started out fairly sunny when we got there, but got increasingly overcast as the afternoon wore on (which seems to be the trend for Kaua'i in October). The beach was fairly empty and it definitely wasn't what I would have consdered swimmable, but it was beautiful and definitely worth the trip. And I did get a couple of videos from the beach:

Big Waves at Polihale:

Surfer at Polihale:

Kite Boarder at Polihale:

After that it was time to move our stuff from Kekaha to west of Hanalei on the north side of Kaua'i. The change in the scenery is amazing, as you move from somewhat dry and rather red to exceptionally lush and green. It's worth driving from one end of the highway to the other, just to observe the changes (and unlike the Road to Hana on Maui, the whole trip will probably take you less than 3 hours and is not that aggressive). While we waited for our new digs to become available, we headed down to Ke'e Beach (yes, the link takes you to my gallery, with a brief detour near Princeville) for the sunset. Ke'e Beach is literally as far as you can go on Highway 560, 10 miles past it's start point at Princeville. It's a beautiful beach, and you can take a swim as you watch the sun go down. And in case you wanted to know what watching the sun go down at Ke'e Beach is like, I have one last video from the day to share:

Sunset at Ke'e Beach:

(The "big bad boys" I am referring to at the end of the video are the waves... unfortunately there were no buff men on the beach besides my favorite guy...)

There's just something about the place we rented for the second week of our stay. 100 Shades of Green is a two level house in the upcountry between Hanalei and Ha'ena. When we first walked into it, I got that feeling about it that just made me feel like we had come home. It's decorated with all sorts of fun objets d'art and walking through the place, you just get the sense that many happy memories have been created here. It has a good aura, if you'll forgive a little bit of new agey-ness from me.

On the seventh day of the trip, we didn't do very much. We enjoyed the house, took a trip out to see Tunnels Beach (I didn't take any photos because we were planning to snorkel and I didn't want to leave my camera unattended on the beach). Then we came home, relaxed and got ready for a relaxing dinner at a restaurant at the Princeville Hotel. We had dinner while watching the sun go down over Hanalei Bay.

Sunset Over Hanalei Bay from the Princeville Hotel

A lovely way to end the day -- and dinner was quite good, too.

Princeville, however, struck us as very strange. It was as if someone had taken a gated community from an upscale Houston suburb (yes, I know what these look like, I've been to Houston a number of times) and dropped it down on a tropical cliff overlook. It just seems completely out of place in Kaua'i, an island with a very down-to-earth and natural feel. Not a place where you need to worry about feeling unsafe, or where you would want to trade the beautiful tropical landscape for golf-course manicured lawns and exactly placed palm trees. But to each their own, I guess. Clearly it is the comfort zone that a large number of people desire.

Kaua'i, Day Eight: Limahuli Gardens

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Our next adventure on Kaua'i was to head to the Limahuli Garden. This garden, like the Allerton Gardens, is a part of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens. It's located after mile marker 9 on Highway 560, the road that hugs the coast leading out from Princeville. The Limahuli Garden is located in the beautiful Limahuli Valley which used to be home to many native Hawaiians. The garden is now a focal point for preserving Kaua'i and Hawai'i's native plants.

As such, it is not really what you think of when you think of a traditional botanic garden. The focus here is not really about providing you with a stunning year round display of flowering plants, but instead to preserve and educate about the native plants of the islands. Most of these plants are not showy flowering plants, instead tending towards mostly being leafy green foliage. The garden also points out invasive species. Both of these kinds of displays are focused around educating people about the ecology and botanical diversity of the island and how to preserve it. While the garden displays are quite beautiful and the views are stunning, it has a diffierent kind of feeling than you might expect.

I did take a lot of pictures, but after taking a tour of the website for the garden, I discovered that they have a virtual version of the same self-guided tour that we took. That tour includes pictures -- good pictures. Instead of trying to repeat the excellent job that they have already done, I thought I would just provide the link to the virtual tour and encourage you all to take virtual trip through their gardens. It's not the same as physically walking the garden, but the text is exactly the same as what we received for the self-guided tour.

Of course, I do have a few pictures of my own -- these are mostly just the pictures that made me happy as we wandered through the garden and hopefully add to the flavor of the garden that you get by going through the virtual tour.. You can click here to go to the starting point in my Kaua'i gallery for the garden walk.

You might have taken note of the fact that many of my pictures have grey and overcast skies. From this, you might get the impression that Kauai is always grey and overcast. This really isn't the case. While we have been here, it has almost uniformly been beautiful and sunny in the morning moving towards cloudiness with patchy sunshine in the afternoon. John and I just don't tend to get out very early, so most of our pictures have that cloudy afternoon thing going. I think this is just part of how the Hawaiian winter shows itself on Kauai (yes, October is considered to be the start of winter here) and goes hand in hand with the beatiful heavy surf that brings the surf boards to the beaches in droves. It is still between 70 and 80 degrees and the sights are still lovely. And given the current weather in Chicago (snow, already!) it's hard to complain about a few grey skies. After all, waterfalls and lush plants both require a goodly amount of rain.

Most of there rest of our afternoon was spent at Ha'ena Beach and Ke'e Beach (the beach at the end of Highway 560 which I previously posted sunset shots from). While we had a late afternoon snack on Ha'ena Beach, I took this short movie of one of those waves that was drawing surfers out of the woodwork all around us.

No new pictures from Ke'e, unfortunately. Once again we went there to snorkel, and the camera stayed safely locked in the car.

Hawaiian Earthquake


Yes, we did feel the earthquake this morning. It woke us up right after 7 AM with some mild shaking, though nothing strong enough to cause anything to fall off tables or shelves. Everything was relatively gentle here in Kauai, and, to my knowledge, we also never lost power.

However, Hawai'i Island (the Big Island) -- the Island that made us first fall in love with Hawaii in the first place (we went there before I started blogging) -- has had a much worse time of it. Please keep the people on that island in your thoughts today. So far no casualties have been recorded, but much damage has been done, and the residents of that island will have much to deal with in the next coming days.

At the same time, residents of O'ahu and Maui have been without power most of today. And O'ahu is dealing with the heavy rain downpour that we had on Kaua'i yesterday. A tough day on the Hawaiian Islands. I think the governor of Hawaii has declared a statewide state of emergency.

Here on Kauai, we have nothing to complain about other than grey skies (we did get some sun in the morning) and some mild afternoon rain. We're about to head to the beach to see how all the earth motion has affected the surf.

Mellow weather and geological activity to you all.

Last Day on Kauai


Today is our last full day on the island... I was going to work on pictures (there are definitely a few more for the gallery) but instead I am just going to soak in the last of the lovely island weather and feelings before we have to pack up and head home. Unlike some vacations I've been on, I always find it difficult to leave Hawaii. There is something undefinably special about this place.

And it's been such a great trip... canyon hikes, beach strolls, dramatic sunsets, snorkeling that included several up-close interludes with some wonderful green sea turtles, some excellent Mai Tais in Po'ipu, out door showers, beautiful gardens and natural spaces, incredible surf, and a doors-off helicopter ride that put the whole island in perspective.

Would I come back to Kauai again?

In a heartbeat.

Would that I didn't have to have a job and that I could travel anywhere when I wanted to.

Even then, I am sure I would find myself spending much time on the Hawaiian Islands.

The next post will likely be in a couple of days when I am back in Chicago. Dealing with much less hospitable weather. Until then, Aloha!

P.S. I seem to be having some email problems right at the moment, so if you left me a comment or sent me some other email to one of my keyboardbiologist.net accounts, I probably won't be able to answer until I get back to Chicago. Not sure why I am having this problem, probably some strange quirk of the internet that will repair itself when I get back into my home territory.

Meme-ing Along with My Friends


Because I am still too behind in my pay-the-bills work, a bit jetlagged from Hawaii, haven't finished processing my Kauai pictures and still have no new knitting to talk about, I provide you with this meme, inspired by one of my favorite knitting folks, Ms. Bonne Marie if ChicKnits fame.

48 Things You Could Care Less About

1. FIRST NAME? Theresa

2. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Not that I know of. However, the story that goes along with my name is that my mother was initially going to name me "Katrina" but when they put Katrina with my last name (Walunas -- it's Lithuanian) they felt that it sounded a little too like I was just off the boat from the old country. So they picked Theresa. I'm not completely sure that they actually got past that "old country" feel.

3. WHEN DID YOU LAST CRY? I'm not sure.. probably sometime in June when John and I were dealing with a couple of different personal medical issues.

4. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? Yes, I do. But I change it up a lot. It has morphed with me as I have gotten older and entered different phases of my life. What you get on any given day is hard to predict.

5. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCHMEAT? It's a toss up between smoked turkey and good roast beef.

6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? I think so, it probably depends on the day. I periodically go through these quiet introspective times when I am not that outgoing and am quite introverted. So if I were to meet my doppelganger at the wrong time, and the both of us were feeling isolationist, we might pass each other by.

7. DO YOU HAVE A JOURNAL? Yes, many personal things do not reach it to the knitting blog, and there is nothing like actual contact of pen with paper to help me through some of the more challenging things in my life.

8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Yes. And being an immunologist, I can tell you all about their structure and potential purpose. But I'll spare you that.

9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? Probably not. But you never know. Every now and again I have these adventuresome days when I want to ride roller coasters and take doors off helicopter rides.

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? I think my mom's homemade granola probably fits that bill. Don't get that too much any more (hint, hint). But when I can't get that, I like Kashi Vive and Kashi Organic Promise Cinnamon Harvest.

11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? No... but most of my shoes don't lace up, either.

12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? On some things yes. Certainly I am headstrong and stubborn. I feel I have a certain amount of emotional strength. But from a physical perspective, I suspect I'm on the mild side.

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR? I'm a big fan of ice creams that combine coconut, chocolate flakes and some nutty flavor.

14. SHOE SIZE? A pretty unremarkable 8. Seems to go well with the 66 inches in height.

5. RED OR PINK? Lately, pink. But maroons and burgandies usually.

16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? I get a little too round a little too easily, and I'm sometimes very unmotivated to exercise.

17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? My good friends from college and grad school. It generally takes me a long time to make friends. And it always seems that once I've been able to do it, life takes us all in different directions.

18. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO SEND THIS BACK TO YOU? Not really, I'm a good bloglines stalker. I'll see them.

19. WHAT COLOR PANTS, SHIRT AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? blue, maroon (with a pink cabled sweater hoodie on top), no shoes -- but some lovely blue/black/green handknit socks.

20. LAST THING YOU ATE? A cup of coffee -- Intelligentsia Oromo Blend (Julie is right, this stuff is fantastic).

21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? The cars passing by on the street outside m y window and my keystrokes.


23. FAVORITE SMELL? Thanksgiving dinner at my mother's house, must include an apple pie baking. A close second place would be Christmas cookie making in my house or with mom/friends.


25. THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE YOU ARE ATTRACTED TO? Eyes, hands, scent... I guess that's more than one thing, but I don't think I really notice one thing first.

26. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON you stole THIS from? Most definitely! There's no better neighborhood knit bud.

27. FAVORITE DRINK? Frontera Grill's Blue Agave Margarita. Without a doubt. It's the martini of margaritas.

28. FAVORITE SPORT? American Football -- but only if I get to watch with my Dad.

29. EYE COLOR? Emphatically blue.

30. HAT SIZE? No idea. Probably a medium. I'm almost always a medium.

31. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? Yup. But not too long ago I bought a killer pair of frames, and now I find myself wearing glasses more and more. What other item of apparel can change your image so drastically and quickly?

32. FAVORITE FOOD? A cheesy omelet with good hashbrowns. Almost anything that involves pasta and pesto.

33. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? I'd probably have had to go to a movie theatre in the last couple of years to answer this question...

35. SUMMER OR WINTER? Spring. or Autumn. I don't really love either extreme.

36. HUGS OR KISSES? That all depends on who's providing them.

37. FAVORITE DESSERT? No idea. But I like most things that involve chocolate, caramel or sour cherries.

38 & 39 Eliminated Due to Blog Context

40. WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING? The Eighth Day of Creation by Horace Freeland Judson (it's about the history of molecular biology), Quicksilver by Niel Stephenson (I've been reading this one for a couple of years now), The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (got stalled over the summer, should probably go bakc and pick it up).

41. WHAT'S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? Logitech MX 1000 Laser Mouse, baby. I don't need no stinkin' mouse pad. I love new mouse technology. I go through mice like some people go through the newest first person shooter.

42. WHAT DID YOU WATCH LAST NIGHT ON TV? The Project Runway finale; a CSI Las Vegas from 2 weeks ago, a couple of episodes of Close to Home that were on the DVR. Guess you can tell what kind of TV I tend towards...

43. FAVORITE SOUNDS? Wind in the trees on a summer day; waves crashing on the shore of a Hawaiian island.

44. ROLLING STONE OR BEATLES? Not fair. If I have to pick, the Beatles.


46. WHAT'S YOUR SPECIAL TALENT? I've been told that I can be very motivational. And that my writing is not too bad.

47. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Upstate New York

48. WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? Picked up from the divine Ms. Bonne Marie, but also seen roaming on many other blogs I enjoy... Cara, Julie, Carolyn...

Spinning Roving Swap


A while back I mentioned that I was participating in the Spinning Roving Swap. It's actually beginning to draw to a close (next week is the deadline for sending out goodies to your pal), and if you check out the swap blog, you can see the fun things that have been going between people.

My swap pal Celia is in Australia, and she sent me this lovely little package of goodies:

Spinning Roving Swap Package

Celia sent me two batches of fiber to try that will be completely new to me. The lovely caramel brown fiber is camel. It's very soft. Much softer than I expected given what I think about when I think about camels! The wheat colored fiber is baby alpaca. It's going to need a bit of flick carding before I can spin it, but it's easy to tell that it will make a delicate and lovely yarn if I spin it up correctly. Anyone out there have suggestions/tips for working with 100% baby alpaca? I don't want to turn this lovely soft fiber into high end twine!

Celia also included a pattern for several lacy scarves (one of which is very clever and reversible!) designed by Margaret Stove of Artisan Merino in New Zealand.

Definitely a very fun box that will give me a chance to try out some very special fibers. Thanks, Celia!

Flash of Color

Crown Mountain Farms Ruby Slippers

Thank goodness for the mail, or I'd be surrounded by nothing but grey skies and cold weather. These firey little red bundles arrived not too long after I got back from Hawaii and they are a definitely a ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy place. It's 16 ounces of hand dyed corriedale pencil roving from Crown Mountain Farms in the colorway "Ruby Slippers". I picked this colorway for it's almost solid dyeing -- it seemed like in a two ply, it would make a beautiful shawl, with lovely subtle color variagations. I'm definitely looking forward to playing with it on my wheel.

While I was in Hawaii I did almost nothing fiber related. Something about the sunshine and scenery just kept me away from my carry-on full of yarn. I managed to get a couple of rounds done on the start of a sock for John, but not very much else. It probably turned out to be a good thing that I decided not to bring my wheel along after all, since I probably wouldn't have found any time to use it.** Now that I'm home, I haven't gone too far without a set of knitting needles in my hands. So that grey cool weather, while not exciting, seems to be stimulating my interest in fibery pastimes. Definitely time to spin up some ruby red corriedale.

**At the last minute I decided that I just didn't think that the large soft-sided suitcase that I had for the wheel could protect it from the hard knocks that luggage inevitably takes on a trip across several thousand miles.

Shades of Grey

A Stripey Grey Sock Takes Shape

Ironically, on the first day since arriving back from my vacation that we have seen the sun, I am taking a picture of my latest sock project, and the only knitting I worked on at all in Hawaii. Yep, it's a grey striped sock. It is just slightly more interesting than your standard grey striped sock, as it is a Trekking XXL colorway (Colorway 102 for those of you in need of grey sock yarn options) that does not seem to be repeating itself in terms of the stripe pattern. But it is still a grey striped sock. It makes for particularly good TV knitting, being both stockinette in the round and having a color pattern almost too boring to even bother looking at.

I'll give you one guess as to who will be wearing this sock when the pair is complete.

If knitting up a man's 3rd pair of grey socks isn't true love, I don't know what is...

Thoughts on Pencil Rovings


I have to preface this post with "I am not an expert". I got a couple of questions about the Crown Mountain Farms pencil roving and how to spin it and I thought I would share my experiences. Like all things related to spinning, my experience could be different than yours. But I hope my answers help provide a framework for identifying whether this fiber could be for you or not.

Carole of Carole Knits asks:

Have you spun with pencil roving before? I've been wanting to try it and I'm anxious to hear about your experience.

I most certainly have! In fact, I spun a whole 8 ounce corriedale pencil roving from Crown Mountain Farms, which is why I decided to buy more for another project. I have no idea where Teyani gets her rovings from, but I think they are fabulous. And the way she does her dyeing is also exceptional. There are no felted areas, no strangely textured areas, and the stuff looks and feels exactly like what I expect corriedale to feel like. When I spun up the first batch, I just did a little pre-drafting to loosen things up, but I really didn't have to do anything else. This stuff is very easy to spin fine, but if you wanted a thicker yarn or ply, that would be easy to do, too.

This is the only pencil roving that I've ever spun, so I can't speak for other folks who sell it, but I wills say that I was happy enough about this stuff to buy more. And life is way to short to buy more of a fiber you don't like!

Elizabeth of Trailing Yarn asks:

I have a question for you. When you spin the pencil rovings, do you split them again, or just spin them as they are (after predrafting, if you do that)? If you were spinning it on a spindle rather than a wheel, would that effect whether or not you split the roving again?

When I spun the pencil roving I mentioned above, I spun it on a wheel and I did not split the fiber. Part of that had to do with wanting to get longer stretches of color in my singles. In general, most of the roving was about the thickness I would split thicker rovings down into, so I really didn't feel the need to split it down any further. I don't think I would change my strategy if I were using a drop spindle (or a wheel), unless I wanted to create a very fine single or I wanted to make the stretches of color shorter.

String of Stringthing's House of Knitting asked:

I have been considering getting that color roving in a while, but I was worried that it might be really pink instead of red, and I am not a pink fan. Does yours seem pretty saturated with red?

I can definitely vouch for the redness of this roving. It is 100% deep saturated red. Because I took the picture of the roving in the direct sun, it gets a more tomato-y red cast, but its more of a true red, that, if anything, has bluish undertones. The darker areas have a bit of a blood-red cast. Definitely no pink to be found. There are, however, short stretches of white and lighter red areas, which I love, because I think they will give the final yarn more depth without reading "I am screamingly variagated". I don't expect those areas to read pink. Given previous experience, I expect them to read faded red.

And Opal of Akamai Knitter (who I am extremely jealous of because she lives near Honolulu, Hawaii... I miss Hawaii already!) comments:

I'd be interested in learning more about the process of spinning with pencil roving. I can really see that roving as a gorgeous lace shawl as well.

I'll try to blog about it as much as I can, although I am not sure I do anything differently than when I spin regular rovings. But I'll try to give y'all some closeups of the roving, and a better idea of it's thickness pre- and post-drafting.

As far as the final project, because I want to turn it into a shawl, I'm going to plan for a two-ply yarn. Two-plies lay flatter than three plies and work better for showing off the two dimensional patterns that you find in lace. I haven't decided yet whether I am going to spin a single ply from each roving and then combine them into a two ply yarn, or whether I will split each roving in half and ply the two halves together. I'm leaning towards the first option, because that would definitely minimize any differences that might show up between the two bales (for instance, one might have a lot more white than the other) of roving and help create yarn with a more coherent look, which I think would be better for a shawl where I want the lace to be the as prominent as the yarn and I don't want people to focus on unintended dramatic differences in the colors of the skeins of yarn I was using and I really really don't want to knit from two skeins at once.

Having said all that, it will probably be a little while before I get to this stuff. I want to finish spinning the Hang on Sloopy superwash merino (also CMF fiber) and get enough of "My Boyfriend's Back" superwash merino (yes, still CMF) spun and plied so that I can start John's next pair of socks around Christmas. And then there's that 2 lbs of moorit CVM that I'm working my way through. I'll have more on that tomorrow.

And just in case you knitters think that there is no way you could possibly use a pencil roving... you just need to think of pencil rovings as really big, very untwisted yarn. The 8 ounce bundles are actually 175 yard long, all stretched out! If you were careful, you could easily knit with it and you can most certainly felt with it. I've been thinking about how cool it would be to make some felted bowls out of it (there was a Spin Off article a couple of years back that talks about how to do this) or perhaps even a throw pillow cover or two or a very loosely woven, felted scarf.

The weather and my spinning are somewhat in synch these days. One of my major milestones of the week was completing this:

436 Yards of 3 Ply Moorit CVM

It looks rather unimpressive hanked up and sitting on my desk, but that 7.5 ounce (212 g) bundle is 436 yards of three ply yarn which started out life as some fluffy moorit CVM roving. The creation of a three-ply yarn is not one of those instant gratification sort of experiences when you are trying to spin enough for a sweater's worth of yarn. Quite a few hours went into spinning up three bobbin's worth of singles and then plying off this first bobbin's worth of three-ply. I estimate that there is still a roughly equal amount left on the bobbins, so by the time I ply up the second batch I should have close to a pound of yarn and something over 800 yards in that pound. Yardage like that is rather encouraging. It begins to suggest that a sweater could actually be knit from one's own handspun.

But, clearly, I am getting ahead of myself at this point, since that second 400 yards remains to be plied and there's still a pound of unspun fiber wagging a finger at me from the closet it's waiting in.

I haven't done any scientific measurements of the fineness of this yarn, but I'm estimating that it's somewhere between a DK and a light worsted.

Estimating Diameter

The colored strand is a worsted weight yarn (it's Cascade 220 Quattro). There's a reasonable amount of variation in this yarn, but most of it looks to be somewhat smaller in diameter than the Quattro. Which is pretty much what I was going for. So I'm basically happy about that.

This yarn definitely made a significant transformation after it got a bath after I plied it up. It was actually a bit harsh and stringy feeling when I took it off my niddy noddy (to quote the husband: that is not very soft), but a good soak in some warm water and Eucalan restored it to it's happy springy CVMness. It also has the characteristic CVM elasticity and it almost approaches some coarser merinos in terms of softness. I'm very pleased, and I keep picking it up to squeeze it and breathe it in.

Because the roving itself is/was a little rustic (i.e. it has the occasional nepp and is not perfectly combed) I let my singles be a little rustic as well, which has a lot to do with the variation you can see in the diameter of the yarn after plying. Once again, I am not greatly disturbed, because my goal for this yarn is for it to be a comfy cardigan, probably with a bit of cable detailing. Something that I can zip up and snuggle into. Perfection is not required, nor absolutely desired. I think it will give the final sweater a special character all it's own.

Red Scarf Inspiration


You know, I just love my Dad. He's always willing to try new things. Both my parents are this way, actually, but today I'm going to focus on Dad, because he has gone and done something so darn cool, it just makes me smile every time I think of it.

My Dad decided to teach himself how to knit because he wanted to contribute a scarf to the Red Scarf Project.

Dad's Red Scarf Swatches and Scarves. And His Tractor.
Nothing Knits Like a Deere

The two bright red scarves (on the left and right ends) are made out of Lion Brand WoolEase, the red and white striped scarf is Cascade 220 (red stripes) and Ella Rae (white stripes). The variagated scarf on the tractor seat is James Brett "Marble". It's a little hard to see, but the red scarf on the right side has a lovely textured stitch pattern and the variagated scarf on the tractor seat has a chevron thing going on. And, in case you wonder where Dad is getting his yarn, apparently there is a nice new yarn store in Whitmore Lake (Michigan) that got his business..

One of the many things that makes my Dad a very cool person is that he was one of the first people in his family to go to college. He went to an Michigan Tech University in Houghton, Michigan -- the northernmost point in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Clearly, if anyone can appreciate taking a big risk on an education and needing a scarf in a care package, it's Dad.

To tell you a little more about Dad's start in knitting, I thought I would share an IM conversation that we had. (Gtalk is great because you can get your conversation transcripts via your Gmail account). It lets you see some of his personality better than I could ever do in my own words.

On Why He Started Knitting

me: So did mom teach you how to knit?

Dad: Well not really because she knits in a conventional manner and I wanted to learn continental. So I did. but mom helped me to understand the terminology and what the objectives of the stitches were. Like the bar expand and decreasing and such. Once I know the objective of the stitch I can usally figure out how to do it. Of course all I've done so far is knit and purl.

me: You taught yourself continental? That's how I knit. That's how Judy taught me. So you just decided you wanted to do it yourself?

Dad: Yes. I went on the internet and found a video of how to knit and purl then I practiced a lot.

me: You know, I think I've got just about the coolest dad ever. And really, knitting and purling is all you need to know. There aren't any other stitches. Everything else is just about combining them in different ways.

Dad: I got inspired by your scarf project for orphans and I have one scarf that might be acceptable for that project and I'm working on a third. I decided instead of sitting in front of the TV watching dead bodies being cut up on csi that I could benifit just as much by just listening and knitting.

me: I'm pretty much with you on that one. Although I'm pretty good at knitting stockinette in the round (knit stitch all the time) for socks without looking. I think the red scarf project is really a special project. I don't do much "charity knitting" at all, but this one really hits me in the right place.

Dad: Me too.

me: When I think how lucky I was to have a supportive family, and I realize how many people don't, it just seemed like something I could do to let someone know that there were people out there who want them to succeed, even if we don't know them.

On Swatching and Stashing

Dad: There are only 2 scarves completed and 1 that I'm currently working on. The first "scarf" is just a long piece that is narrow then wide then with may funny stitches and so forth.

me: Even if the first scarf is really just a swatch, that's okay. I have a lot of strange looking little and big swatches myself.

Dad: Swatch is a generous term for it.

me: Grin. Most knitters have a few unique pieces from when they learned. And most spinners have some odd looking yarn. I like looking back at my earlier stuff.

Dad: I did learn a lot on the first few like drop stitches and putting down my knitting forgetting which needle is the left and right which puts in a funny row. I'm sure there are still a few more mistakes I have yet to make.

me: Mistakes are how you learn. I make tons of mistakes. Great thing about knitting: you can always rip things out.

Dad: Tell me about it.

me: Oh, and when you forget that left and right thing and get the extra row, you're actually doing something called a "short row" -- it's a technique used for shaping. So some mistakes can even become "design elements" :-) I like to think knitting has lots of positive health benefits, too. You can't eat while you're knitting, for one. And I think it's very centering and peaceful.

Dad: I agree 100%. When I first started my knitting was real tight and I had all to do to get my needle in to make a new stitch. It is funny when I start doing it right I could tell because it looked right to me. I guess I have watched enough people knitting that when I started knitting right I could tell.

me: It does make me smile to think that now you can share a "stash" with mom.

Dad: She is pretty protective of her stash. I've had to buy my own yarn.

So there you have it -- the birth of a new knitter because of the Red Scarf Project. I'm just dying to teach him how to construct a sock. You gotta think that an engineer will be able to really appreciate sock engineering. Makes me a feel a bit guilty because while I have the yarn for my scarf, I still haven't found a pattern that makes me happy. I might have to come up with something on my own. Talk about some excellent motivation!

And for those of you who haven't checked out this very lovely opportunity to encourage someone on towards their educational goals, I do hope you'll take a look and think about it. You can also check out Norma's Red Scarf 2007 Blog to see what others are doing and find out even more about the project. And learn about opportunities to win some fibery prizes. The older I get, the more I realize how important my education was to helping me get to a good place in life. Every student deserves a cheering section to help them through the rough spots!

Whiskers & Pawprints


Sometimes it just takes me a little while to get things finished. I've been working on a new sock design. It's a sock design meant to honor my aunt, who has spent an awful lot of time loving cats and involved in rescue projects and working to help whatever Humane Society she is living near. She's also the person who helped make sure that my Beezle found his forever home with us (my brother and his wife have a brother and sister to the Beeze). We were skeptical at first, but he worked perfectly and doesn't have too many bad habits.

I spent some time looking through my books for feline themed stitch patterns. I wanted to create a sock that was evocative of cats without being too over the top. I love our fur people, but it's easy to go over the top into crazy cat lady with cat themed clothing, and I didn't want to do that. When I first posted about this pattern, I was pleased that a number of people saw butterflies. While the main working title for these socks is "Whiskers and Pawprints", I subtitled them "Butterflies and Flowers" since I think the patterning can make you think of either, depending on the yarn you choose.

In this case, the yarn is medium weight Socks That Rock in the colorway "Amber". I picked it because it made me think of big orange tabby cats and it was very close to a semi-solid. I wanted a semi-solid, because I figured it would be easy for both the textured stitch and the lace element to get lost in the color. As it turns out, it's also a very appropriate color for Halloween, I think. So today I present an amber-colored gallery of sock images.

Wiskers and Pawprint Sock at Rest
Whiskers and Pawprint Sock in Action
Looking Down on a Sock

This is one of those socks that looks like it takes more time to knit than it really does. It has a perky little picot edging (it made me think of pointy cat ears) the leg of the sock carries the main design down to a shortrow heel (with a little decoration because my aunt likes a sock she can wear with Birkenstock type shoes) and then carries on down the top of the instep (the bottom is straight stockinette). The toe design is my attempt to create the suggestion of a cat paw.

I'm going to cast on for the second sock soon, and start working on writing up the pattern. As always with these sorts of posts, I'm open to hearing any opinions and suggestions that you might be willing to share.