Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Arizona, Take Off Your Rainbow Shades . . .

It was quite a weekend in Sedona, Arizona. The energy there is almost startling. It's not a soothing place. It has that wild river-rock / red rock thing going on - vaguely disturbing somehow . . . As beautiful as it is, I have to say that I'm happy to be home.

The trekking poles were SO worth every penny I spent on them - I hiked the Eagle's Nest trail in Red Rock State Park. That's the highest point in the park. It was a great hike and I did really well, for a city girl from an exceptionally flat city.

The retreat itself was great and I can't wait for Joan Anderson's new book to come out! So wonderful to see my Iona sisters, Tori and Cheryl again :-) Trip photos are still in the camera, but soon enough I'll have a few to share.

Last summer, when I knew that I was going to be going on this retreat, and that a number of my Iona sisters would be there, too, I started on a mission to make socks for them. I spent a lot of quality time last March, sitting by the fire in the dining room of the Argyll Hotel, quietly knitting my first pair of socks (there they are - Lana Grossa yarn, a basic sock pattern and two circular needles - I love them!). I enjoyed it so much that I spent a large part of the 2007 from late summer on, knitting socks for my Iona sisters who would be joining me in Sedona.

More soon :-)

p.s. points to anyone who gets the obscure song reference at the beginning of this point ;-D

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Just Wait a Minute, It Will Change

Alrighty then. It's raining. It's about 50 degrees and the gunky, hard, crusty February snow is melting. We're talking my little street looks like a small river as water gushes out of sump pumps, across lawns and sidewalks, and into the street where it heads to the nearest storm sewer. If the temps drop tonight we can all go skating.

I treated myself today. I got some new trekking poles (that link isn't the exact ones I got, but they are almost identical). I got some Black Diamonds last year in preparation for my trip to Iona, and to my dismay, they didn't fit in my suitcase. :-( I used them once here at home, and discovered why they were in the sale bin at REI to begin with - one of the poles' snap locks was not secure, but you couldn't tell until you were actually walking with it. I'm going to Sedona, Arizona on Friday, and there will be hiking, so today, I decided to find out if REI was serious about their "bringitbackwheneverforeverevenifyouusedit" guarantee. I actually still had my original receipt (which I didn't even need because I'm a member)!

I'm suitably impressed. No questions, no fussing, completely easy credit back to the credit card of my choice. Kewl Deal! Thank you REI :-) And I bought myself the new poles in the hope that they would fit in my suitcase and I could take them with me to hike in the red rocks of Sedona. OK - I spent WAY more than I anticipated, but I like them, they are very lightweight yet sturdy, and I got some rubber tips so that I can also use them to Nordic walk around the neighborhood once the weather finally calms down. So the price was the bad news, but the good news is that they FIT in my suitcase. I will have to check my bag, but that's alright because I will be able to take them with me all the time now when I travel! Woo Hoo! Instant exercise :-D

I'm going to retreat again with author, Joan Anderson, this time in Sedona. My life was changed so dramatically by my time in retreat on Iona last year that I have realized that this type of time away is not a luxury. It's something I need to do for my sanity on a regular basis. I think this will be a substantially larger group of women than when I went to Iona, but this time will be what I make of it, and at least two of my Iona sisters are also going, so I will get to see them!

I've been waiting to show you a few more finished objects. Michelle, at Boulderneigh, signed up on my blog for the Pay it Forward exchange, and I sent off her present this week. I had been wanting to make an Irish Hiking Scarf for some time, and when I found the Irish Hiking Wrist Warmers that go with it, I was sold. The yarn is Fiesta Boomerang, in the Alaska colorway, purchased from The Loopy Ewe. I think it's the only worsted weight that Sheri carries!

I liked the wrist warmers so much that I made Michelle a second pair. She lives on, what to me, is a farm. She calls it "property," or "a few acres." She has sheep and horses - and a barn. The only place you see those in Chicagoland (other than horses - we have mounted police) is in the Farm-in-the-Zoo in Lincoln Park - so I figure she lives on a farm ;-) The second pair I called "Barn Warmers." It doesn't get so cold where she lives as it does here in Chicagoland, but I thought it might be good to have a sturdy pair for handling farm implements and working with animals. These are made of my first handspun yarn (that brown Lincoln that seemed to take me forever to spin). I doubled it to make gauge - they are very sturdy. Rachael tried them on last week and pronounced them good, and Michelle likes them and they fit her! Perfect! I enjoyed this PIF exchange very much :-) Michelle actually has better photos on her blog.

The dryer is buzzing and it's time to figure out dinner :-)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

In the Grip of Winter

Why is it so hard to take care of myself? How did I get to be the person who does what everyone else wants instead of doing what's best for me? How did I get to be the one who takes care of everyone else before I Take Care Of Myself? I'm struggling with this and I'm not even a mom - there's no one else to worry about except for myself right now.

That's what's on the radar today - listening to my body, listening to my heart and honoring what they are telling me. That's part of what Lent is about for me this year - taking better care of myself. Let's face it - if I do not take care of my body and heart and mind, I cannot be surprised if one or another of them betrays or fails me. And if they did, it wouldn't be their fault - you wouldn't expect a car to run like a top on sugar and junk, would you? And yet so often I expect my body to do just that! And so I have pulled out the Weight Watchers stuff and the journey is begun. A road that is not unfamiliar, I'm afraid . . . and yet the struggle with the size of my ass this time seems more important somehow than in the past.

And so, I'm listening, I'm learning, I'm making the choices I need to make to take care of myself, and it's not easy. This is not an easy path. I'm the strongest person I know, but I am weak here. Filtering all my choices about activities and food through the constant "is this best for me?" "will this help me accomplish my goals?" questions - this is new for me. Really thinking and making conscious choices for myself in this arena is - embarrassingly - virgin territory for me. And yet I have a feeling that others must do this all the time and think nothing of it.

And so, that's the head space today, in mid-February, in the grip of winter - perhaps this is the winter of my discontent . . . perhaps I am finally discontented enough to move forward.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside . . . Again!

I didn't actually mean to wait an entire week to blog - but the time this week just flew by. Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, and although I'm not Catholic, I have nearly always given something up or taken something on during this introspective time of the year. I think it builds character, and for me, often opens a door to something new and often important. I find that the time between Lent and the joyful celebration of Easter is one of most important times of the year to acquire self-knowledge and to often forge a new path forward.

In the Celtic calendar, we're at the season of Imbolc. The days are getting noticeably longer, and soon the first signs of spring will start occur - although you couldn't swear by it today when, here in Chicagoland we're in the grasp of another arctic blast.

February. Lent. I love how Celtic Specialist, Dolores Whelan, puts it in her book, Ever Ancient, Ever New: "The season of Imbolc marks the very first signs of spring-time and new life, the impulse towards spring. An older version of this name is Imbolg which means 'in the belly,' and gives rise to a beautiful metaphor which describes this time as 'winter pregnant with summer'."

Throughout this winter I have felt like I have been laying the groundwork for whatever is coming next in my life. I'm not sure what it will be, but I believe that exciting things are on the way :-)

Yesterday was a lovely day! Linda and Rachael ventured to the Southland for a day of good food, good conversation, substantial amounts of laughter, and lots and lots of knitting. This was Rachael's first visit Chez A, and of course was most interested in the yarn stash :-D Big fun! After a lunch of my favorite Shrimp, Broccoli and Pasta, we broke out the fiber (of the sheep kind :-D)
Here they are, in my sunroom, modeling their "sweater exchange."
Linda, in her quest for the perfect wrap sweater, made the green one that Rachael is wearing, and Rachael made the blue one that Linda is wearing, which after she finished didn't suit her as well as she thought it should. How interesting that each is perfect for the other - these two friends even knit in colors that are suited to the other! I think you can tell that we had a pretty fun afternoon :-)

Linda brought fresh eggs from her chickens, and also a coconut egg custard pie she made! And for dinner we had a salad of mixed greens, a few pine nuts and fresh strawberries (a rare treat in February here), tossed by Linda with some balsamic vinegar and some olive oil. Yum!

I did all the finish work on the Point Five Raglan (it's quite pink and very fuzzy, and Linda doesn't think it too flattering - but really, I like it for some unknown reason, and think of it more like an outdoor jacket than a fashion statement). All that is needed now are buttons . . . the search is on.

I cruised through the first Fawkes sock this week - I actually took it off the needles this morning.

As I have been knitting it, I kept thinking, "this is so familiar." In truth, it's essentially the same pattern as Yukon Leaves! How funny is that?! Fawkes is on the left, and Yukon Leaves on the right. If you click on it the photo will pop up larger and you can see the stitch definition (if you are so inclined ;-) ).

I have followed and not modified the Fawkes pattern in order to learn new stuff with it. It called for 4 repeats of the pattern, which has pretty much ensured that these socks will be anklets (I think my fears of running out of yarn were misplaced :-) ) and I'm very glad I did not shorten the pattern repeats on the leg. I'm happy that I did go up to the 2.75mm needles. This was a new heel for me, and I didn't care for it. It's easy to do, but I don't care for how it is seated on my heel. Were I to make this pattern again, I would stay at this size needle and add four stitches (an extra purl stitch between pattern repeats); I would also do at least two more full repeats of the pattern on the calf and switch back to a more standard heel turning with a deeper gusset.

Well, there are movies to watch, a dishwasher to load, a treadmill to walk on, and some knitting to do - but all the laundry's already done, and the sun's out, which has been scarce here lately.

Enjoy :-)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

How About Some Finished Objects? :-)

It's been a quiet weekend here, Chez A. In fact, I'm still in my jams . . . since Friday. :-D I snatch this kind of weekend when I can, and I have really made the best of it - I actually got a lot of stuff done in the past week or so. I can't show you everything I accomplished, but let's talk knitting for a bit :-)

Here are my February socks for the SAM5 KAL. I modified the usual basic sock pattern than I have been using, to do a 2x2 rib again. This time I did an eye of partridge heel because I think they look prettier than a regular heel. The yarn is Claudia Hand Painted, fingering weight, in the Purple Earth colorway. These socks are bound for the AVSA's annual auction at the national convention this year. I liked this yarn - it's not superwash which means a little more care, but it is very soft and knitting up beautifully. That being said, it's a bit stripey for my taste . . . the rib pattern helped cut that a little.


Next, is the first of two linen dish rags I made and finished awhile ago - I just needed to wash and dry them. This yarn, Louet's Euroflax, is very waxy/hard feeling when you knit it. It gets softer and softer with each wash and dry (yes, in the dryer!). the colrway is called Great Lakes. These patterns came from the Knitter's Stash book. Here is the Feather and Fan pattern, with a stitch closeup. I also made the Horseshoe Lace pattern.

I did a lot of knitting this weekend and as soon as I complete the finish work, I'll post the photos.
I finished up that Wensleydale and I like it very much. There's not so much of it as I would like. I had hoped to make mittens, but I don't think there is enough . . . not sure, but prolly not.

And I opened the first bag in my DIY Sock Club! It's the Fawkes socks with the Fleece Artist Sea Wool . . . I'm a little worried about having enough yarn. The info I had said that there were 358 yards in a skein, which should be enough, but my skein doesn't actually say how much yardage it has, and now that I check again on The Loopy Ewe site, it's saying 335 . . . I might have to do one less repeat on the calf. We'll see, I guess. :-)

Friday, February 1, 2008

A Wonderful Surprise

What a wonderful February 1st. In case you missed it, it snowed here today. A Really Lot. I actually called the work emergency line this morning, but it said, "the Chicago office is open." So, I got myself together, in wind gear and my hiking boots and set out for the train.

Thankfully it had to warm up to snow, so it wasn't really cold, but there was close to a foot of snow on the ground. Just getting down the driveway into the street so I could get to the train was challenging. And it was still snowing.

All day I was thinking about having to get the snowblower out tonight, and as much fun as it is (it really is), I was tired today. It's been a long week, and I just wanted to get home and get inside and put my jams on and watch last night's episode of Lost on the TiVo.

So, I'm walking down my street - in the street because hardly anyone shovels their walks (which is irritating), and I get to Old Mr. C's house, and his sidewalk was done! And my new neighbors' walk was done! So, I got out of the street and on to the sidewalk, and I was thinking, "Wow! I wonder if this goes all the way to my house?" And guess what!! It Did!! I was SO happy.

"Hot Dog! Someone did my sidewalk!! Now I only have to do my driveway!!"

I got about halfway across my sidewalk, and looked at the snow on the front lawn . . . "Hmmmm, some snow must have fallen off the tree for it to look like that," I thought . . .

You can only imagine my joy when I realized that whoever did my sidewalk did my ENTIRE DRIVEWAY!!!! Picture tall, roundy shaped woman doing the Happy Dance all the way up the driveway to the garage.

I have a really wide, really long driveway (which is why I sprang for the snowblower this year). For someone to do my driveway was such a beautiful thing. Whoever you are, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!!! You just got a TON of good karma.

One of my wonderful neighbors, is the likely samaritan, and eventually I will find out and hopefully be able to do something nice for them - but perhaps it was just a random act of kindness, done by someone I don't know. It makes me think of the Pay It Forward exchange (there is still room if you want to participate :-) ), and random acts of kindness.

Wherever you are - Whoever you are: thank you for your kindness and thoughtfulness. I am so very grateful.