August 2010 Archives

Busy Summer

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There is a limit to what I can do with my current photographic skills to make neutral colored sweater pieces in K1P1 ribbing interesting. I am gradually making my way through this little sweater.  Two fronts and a back and the start of a sleeve (off camera).  It's a relaxing project to work on while the rest of the summer blows by.

It always seems to me like when I have the most going on, I say less.  Not a strange phenomenon.  Sometimes I just have to stop and be in the moment and not reach for the documentation tools.  This summer, more than almost any before in the history of this blog, has been about doing other things.  Visiting with family, chasing after a crazy active three year old, taking ownership of a full time job that tests what I know and pushes me out to learn what I don't.  It's been a summer where having my Kindle reader on my iPad has drawn me back into reading as much as I can, and time when I rediscovered my elliptical machine (assisted by that same iPad/Kindle combination) and now don't feel good if a day goes by without some time exercising.  I'm working on warping up a big blanket project in my weaving class, playing the occasional video game and just generally dipping my fingers into whatever feels good at the time, without a whole lot of consideration for what I'm going to put onto the blog.  I'm still knitting, but the pace is slow... and while I want to spin, the heat and concern about curious little fingers have left my wheel mostly silent.

We just celebrated Ms. Z's third birthday (complete with iPhone shaped birthday cake) and since then she's been coming into her own on many things.  That whole potty-training thing is moving forward... she can wear real, live under-drawers most of the day. She discovered that she could climb over the bars on her crib and wake us up in the morning.  She moved into her big girl toddler bed and has discovered that there are no boundaries to hold her in bed at all.  What to do with that new found freedom?  She is a wizard of iPhones, iPods and iPads.  She is beginning to spell out every word she sees, can identify a few written words and her language skills routinely surprise adults who haven't met her before.  At the same time, she has the activity level of a hummingbird drinking espresso-infused nectar and no fear of anything at all. She seems to have mellowed on the tantrum front, but the better her language skills get, the more definitive she is about telling us what she wants to do and how she wants to do it. To listen to my parents talk, she is like my brother and I combined into one child -- and either one of us alone was enough to keep multiple adults busy.

At the end of many days, I look back and wonder where did the time go?  It's not like I haven't had a full time job before.  It would be easy to say it's all the kid, but she has gotten to the point where she can watch a movie or play peacefully for reasonable stretches of time.  When I started my new job, with all the new stuff that came with it, it's like I also opened up a door to letting myself indulge in some of the hobbies that had been dormant for a while.  I also think I really used my fiber hobbies as a stress reliever... and while my current job is not stress-free, the previous job came packed full of it.  The needles helped me unwind, focus on my hands and colorful thread.  I don't need that as much right now... so my hands and mind turn to other things.

But I do still definitely have fibery goals.  Ms. Z has been clamoring for a new sweater (every time she sees me knitting she asks if it's for her) and some socks.  I want to have High Line done as August recedes and chillier air floats in.  I can't wait to start weaving the two blankets I have planned (the warping is almost done)  and John's sweater still looks forlornly at me wondering when it's going to get a zipper.  

I'm going to do something crafty tonight.... but maybe not until I find a good recipe for oatmeal cookies...

It's always something this summer.  


Summer Reading

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One of the accomplishments I'm most proud of myself for this summer is my daily elliptical habit.  I've had an elliptical machine for a long time, courtesy of a good deal at Costco.  But for most of that long time, it was pretty lonely and on its own in the basement.  This summer, I decided that I needed to get into the habit of exercising more regularly.  While I enjoy running and walking, I'm never good at keeping up with those activities in the winter. So I decided to see if I could get in a regular habit of using my elliptical machine, which is easily available all year round.  At first, I was using it a couple times a week, then a majority of the week, and then every day.  And the duration of my rides has gotten longer.  Early on, it was 20 minutes, now it's pretty much 30 every day.   

The rewards have been obvious.  On my last trip to my doctor, my blood pressure was good and my resting pulse rate was way lower than it's ever been before.  I've gone down a size in pants.  And I just generally feel better after my rides.  

I'm crediting the success of this program, in part, to my iPad and the Kindle reader. Because of my new toy, I get to work out and enjoy some reading time.  I stay strictly away from anything too serious or mind taxing.  So this summer has been the summer of urban fantasy -- magic and butt kicking in the modern age.  I'm always intrigued by authors who manage to knit magic into their technological worlds, and I love to see how different people take old stand by magic and mythological creatures and define them in a modern space.

I'm already a big fan of Jim Butcher, and this summer I've added three new authors and three new characters to my "must read" list:

Tim Pratt and the Marla Mason series kicked off the summer.  This series features Marla Mason, a mage and martial artist who lives in a world that looks rather like the United States, only with magic.  The use of magic isn't one of those things that all that many people know about (making it similar to the Jim Butcher, Harry Dresden series), so Marla, magic kingpin of Felport (the magic community has some mafia-like behaviors), gets to save the world several times over as she takes on a whole variety of magic users, ancient deities and spirits.  Marla is tough, somewhat abrasive, and generally unlucky in love, but also dedicated to her city and her friends.  Most of the books have a mystery element in them, but are pretty much straight out action adventure.  The writing in the books starts out a little rough, but gets better as it goes on. Unfortunately, the series is on hiatus as the publishing company decided not to pick up any more entries after book 4...  a real shame because that book ends with something of a cliff hanger.

Simon Green's Nightside Series will, at first, feel familiar in location, to anyone who has read Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere.  This series features film noir styled private eye, John Taylor, a man who isn't a magic user per se, but has a special gift for finding things.  In the Nightside, a sort of alternate reality to London, it  is always 3 AM and all that is dark, dirty, dangerous and magical dwells there.  Most of the books follow John Taylor on "a case", but the story arc that resonates through the whole series is Taylor finding out who his parents really are, what that means, and how that affects the long term survival of the Nightside.  Along the way we meet a host of characters, including Tommy Oblivion the Existential Detective, Razor Eddie the Punk God of the Straight Razor, Dead Boy, and Shotgun Suzie, bounty hunter and the Nightside's closes thing to a biker chick.  These books contain a mix of straight on magic and futuristic technology with a healthy dose of time travel thrown in for good measure.  Overall, the stories are good, if a little short, and the main characters are fairly well developed.  They draw heavily on "old world" mythology.  My biggest complaint is that Green has a tendency to re-use certain descriptive phrases throughout (perhaps to help make sure the audience has a consistent tone no matter where they join in -- there are now 11 books in the series), however, he makes up for that but the relatively constant patter of funny lines. 

Probably my favorite find of the summer has been Illona Andrews' Kate Daniels Series.  Set in an alternate present day Atlanta where magic and technology shift back and forth, Kate Daniels is another hard fighting heroine who relies on her wit, sword and unique heritage to get her through the day.  Kate's world is filled with knights, vampires, witches and were-folks, but if you're expecting the vampires from Twilight or Anne Rice's books, you'll be disappointed. In this series it's the lycanthropes that generally shine.  I actually really enjoyed watching Kate's world get fleshed out, understanding the dynamics and politics of her world.  As the books roll along, we're also treated to a gradual unfolding of who Kate really is and what her destiny will be, along with a satisfying romantic arc.  The books are fast paced, there's more than a little bit of humor between the covers and I'm looking forward to seeing how Kate's world continues to get fleshed out as the series progresses.

Interestingly, all three series are told from a first person perspective  -- something that I have to admit I love, because it helps me create a connection with the characters.  

I'm changing focus a bit now and shifting back to Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks series -- modern day mystery.  I seem to be a sucker for mystery series set in England...no matter what the era.  Next time I talk about books, I'll put together a list of my favorite series in this genre.

And Then There Were 12....

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... years, that is.

Today, we celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary.  In 12 years, like most couples, we've been through many things together.  I think one of the many things that keeps us strong is the laughter that we share together.  Whether it's making a silly Simpson's portrait of our selves or hamming it up in front of the camera at our wedding, or just giggling when our 3 year old tells us that "Zombies ate my brains! Zombies ate my brains*" (yes, I know, sounds strange, but just imagine it in 3 year old voice... it's hilarious), we enjoy seeing the silly side of life.  It seems like the older we get, the more serious things start to manifest, and the more important that ability to find the humor and joy in the world becomes.  There's nothing quite like having a best friend who always does his best to make me smile when things are tough.  

Happy 12th Anniversary, Jasiu.  I look forward to much more laughter in the days, months and years ahead of us.  I don't think a single day has gone by since our wedding when I haven't been amazed at how I got so lucky as to find a partner in life like you.  

I love you, and want to laugh with you always.

T

*its from Plants vs. Zombies if you lose... she loves the game but hasn't figured out what's going on yet.

Nicole Buttoned Up

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Yarn: Rowan PureLife Organic Cotton DK in Quebracho and Cuba


Nicole, she is finished.  We will not speak of how long she has been complete, with the exception of the purchase and attachment of buttons.  And the losing of 5 lbs.  

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I love the design, but after finishing it, it was clear that if the closure was not done well, I would not achieve the lacy, classy top layer look that I was shooting for.  Especially since I probably should have been a little more thoughtful about measuring my bust line, instead of assuming old measurements would work.

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I think it was that concern that found me putting off the purchase of buttons.    Now that the buttons are in place and I've been able to try it on, I'm pleased with the result.  It makes all the time I've spent on my elliptical this summer also feel worth it.    

Taking a look at the garment from all angles helped me come to appreciate Bonne Marie's shaping skills.  The sides lay well and there isn't that extra flare at the hip that sometimes appears in knitwear that's been nipped in at the waist.

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I know many have opted to lengthen this vest before the waistline, but for short-waisted me, I think that would have put too much knit fabric flare over the hips.  

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I made very few modifications to Bonne Marie's original design.  I did center the outer lace motifs over the shoulder straps, which involved juggling the locations of the decreases just a bit. I also opted for 8 1/2" inch buttons instead of 7 3/8" buttons, but that's about it.  I found the pattern to be easy to follow, and thought it would be a nice introduction to simple lace motifs.  I'm looking forward to being able to wear Nicole for both more casual and more dressed up events, depending on what garments are worn underneath her, and I think she'll work well for at least three seasons of the year.

The Rowan PureLife Organic Cotton was a lovely yarn to knit with.  The stitch definition is beautiful after blocking and, contrary to what you might expect from cotton, it didn't put any strain on my hands, nor was it overly splitty.  

I'm pleased with this project and happy to be adding another neutral garment to my collection.  The only real question now is what ChicKnits project will I tackle for my next layering piece.  Both Aleita and the Mondo Cable would make great wardrobe additions, I think! 

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