Friday, October 31, 2008

"Take it easy, but take it"

Studs Terkel died today. :-(

A true legend in his own time. The master of the oral history - pretty much created the genre. A pioneer in what became known as the "Chicago school" of television back in the early 1950's. A "character" if there ever was one.
If you don't know who Studs Terkel was, you owe it to yourself to go and pick up a copy of Division Street: America, or The Good War, for which he won a Pulitzer. If I'm not mistaken, a lot of his work and recordings are at the Chicago History Museum (formerly the Chicago Historical Society). In fact, if you have any interest at all in the history of Chicago in all its facets, a day or two at the History Museum would be a great thing for you :-) It's one of my favorite places, although I haven't visited it for awhile. I used to live very close to it and visited a lot more then . . .

Studs Terkel was the commencement speaker at my college graduation ceremony . . . and one of those people, like my late mother, who you'd think would always be around - ageless somehow. He was 96. Roger Ebert wrote about him in the Sun Times today - it's worth reading. So are Studs Terkel's books - there's a new one coming out next month - a memoir. It's on my "to read" list.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Seasons Change

Yesterday I was at the Morton Arboretum. I went to judge the Fox Valley African Violet show. It was a small show, but very nice, and nicely set up. They have some great growers and innovative designers in their club. This was the first time I was invited to judge for them, and I really enjoyed it. Got to see some friends and enjoy some lovely plants. I was sorely tempted to come home with a leaf or two, but violets are like yarn - if you don't watch yourself, all of sudden you have far more than you can handle at any given time :-D

One of the great things about the show location in the Arboretum is that as a judge, I got in for free! So, once everything was done, I took a drive around both loops of the grounds. The Arboretum is situated on the site of the old Morton mansion (think Morton Salt :-) ) in Lisle, Illinois. You can hike, or bike or drive, and since it was chilly yesterday, and I didn't have walking gear, I drove. It took close to an hour to drive both loops. Not because they are so long, but because I drove so slowly - I didn't want to miss anything, so gliding through the forest at about 1o or 15 mph is just about perfect.

I pulled over more than once to let cars pass me - they were in a hurry and I was not :-) There are 1,700 acres of land, planted with every tree and shrub imaginable. It's really an amazing place - and I think it's at its most beautiful at this time of year. I love how the leaves change - their last hurrah before winter. The colors of the summer just past in the yellows and greens, the rusts and flame oranges of the season that is, and the reds and greens of Christmas to come.


It's about 40 miles from my house, and I was wishing I had brought my hiking gear, because you can walk for a very long time there and not see another living being. It's this amazing oasis in the middle of Chicagoland. I would like to go there more often.

Yesterday I laid a fire in the fireplace and lit the first blaze of the cooler weather. Today, I finished the red socks (the Spring Fling socks from yesterday's post) - and I watched a Bollywood movie. I can knit even with subtitles, so that was three hours right there :-D I watched Dil Se, a movie starring Shahruhk Kahn. It was very good but it is an older film - about 10 years old - and none of the songs had subtitles (most do in newer Bollywood films). I was sorry about that because I think I lost a few things, but it was a good film and very different from most others I've seen - much more serious.

Well, time to get ready for the week - the last week of October . . . oh how I hate to see October go . . .

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Just Checking In . . .

Just to prove that yes, there is SOME knitting going on here, here are the socks I just did for one of my cousins, S. When her mom, K, got another pair of socks from me, she wailed, "Why does she get everything? I want some pretty socks, too!" Since no one except K has ever expressed any interest in anything I make, I was pleasantly surprised, and told S I would make her a pair. These are made from my tried and true standby, Opal. I love it - it wears like iron and to me it's always beautiful :-)

Here's some of my handspun - these are made of the Colonial I spun up awhile ago. The color is a little washed out - they are darker than they appear here. These armwarmers are based on the Highwayman pattern, but without the cables. The cables sucked all the stretch from the ribbing, so I went with just the ribbing and I love them. I've been wearing them all week long!

I'm still in the cast on a million projects mode, and I'm still blaming it on Knitterary ;-D

In the midst of the St. Patrick sweater (A Fine Fleece), I needed to just do something quick - thus, here's one Saxony sock. Also from A Fine Fleece, I thought this would be a nice, quick knit. It's going to K's other daughter, B, who, when she realized her sister was getting socks (and would have gotten this pair had they fit her) piped up with, "these fit me!" and so she's the next in line. Unfortunately I'm not too happy with this sock. You can probably see why - the biasing in the calf is quite bothersome, but B insisted that it didn't bother her - I think she was enamored of the Celtic knot :-) I've had some trouble recently with biasing and I'm wondering if it has anything to do with the direction in which I wind the yarn off the swift, or if it was just this seed stitch calf . . . anyway, this is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the Iris colorway. This yarn has an almost cottony feel to it - really doesn't feel like wool to me at all. It's pretty, I just wish it wasn't pulling so hard. We'll see how it goes with the other sock.

And here's another sock I started. This is the first of Wendy Johnson's Spring Fling Socks. This pattern was written by Wendy for The Loopy Ewe's 2008 Spring Fling. It's written both toe-up (a Wendy specialty) and top-down. I went for top-down. The yarn is Yarn Nerd 900 MHz, in the Raspberry Sherbet colorway, from The Loopy Ewe. I am leaning more and more toward the semi-solids for socks with stitch interest. So much gets lost using variegated yarns for many patterned socks. Here's a closeup of the leg. I did not carry the diamonds down onto the foot, just put one in the middle there. I like how it looks :-) I'm on the heel flap of the second sock, so these will be done soon - and they are for me! A nice change :-)

So, not much is finished, but a lot is getting done, and my stash is getting smaller! And not just from knitting - one of my Iona sisters, Cheryl, was here last weekend. She had mentioned wanting to go to a yarn store, but I knew we weren't going to get the chance to do that, so I shopped my stash for her :-D And did you notice? It's two months today - I've been on the stash-busting wagon for two whole months! I've discovered that the longer I go without, the easier it is to say no to more yarn/fiber. For now, anyway ;-)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I'm so Jazzed!

So, I walked away from my desk yesterday morning for a moment, and when I returned, the guy who sits next to me said, "I think your phone was ringing - Charlie Brown" which means that my cell phone rang. Where I work they prefer that you not use your cell phone, which is why if mine is out on my desk charging, I always have it on silent. But it was in my bag, in a desk drawer (OK - it's a loud ringer so I can hear it, and yes, I have my beloved "Linus and Lucy" theme back as my ringer because it's my really old phone). I looked at the phone, and the missed call was a number I didn't recognize.

I looked up where area code 319 is . . . Iowa . . . and there was a message . . . . "hello, this is Officer xxx, calling from the Waterloo Police Department. We have your wallet." She proceeded to rattle off everything that was in it - everything is still there except, of course, for the cash and postage stamps. It was dumped at the library, it's not icked up at all, and by tonight it should be winging its way home to me!!! I overnighted a UPS shipping bag for her to overnight it back to me.

I'm so jazzed!!!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Questions on the Floor

Fall is here in Chicagoland. The trees are turning and I finally had to cut the furnace on. I actually had to turn it on on Sunday, October 5th for about 6 hours because It was 56 degrees in here and even with a sweater on (the pink sweater that no one but me likes) over my microfleece, my nose was running from the cold. But I was able to shut it back off until this weekend.

I trimmed the shrubs today - which is way late, but I never got the chance to do it earlier. So, they won't bloom next year, but least the one viburnum at the corner of the house doesn't look like Don King anymore. I would have gotten more done, but I stepped on a nest (hive?) of yellow jackets. They burrow into the ground! My cousin and I thought we killed them, but we didn't. So, I had to stop or risk getting stung. I went to the store and got some foam stuff that will be spread tonight. Apparently they all sleep once it's dark and you don't get stung. I'll have to move away the mulch to find where the nest really is, and then I'm spraying it. Wish me luck!

It was a day of errands - a haircut and multiple trips to an apartment I have on the market to make sure everything's in order as the weather gets cooler :-) I even got to spin for an hour or so!

Anyway -there are two questions on the floor.

First: Yarnsnob wants to know how I grow my plants and if they would grow in a place that doesn't have a lot of light.

Well, African violets like the same conditions humans like. Not too cold, not too hot, not in a draft. A lot of bright indirect light, and they don't like to have their feet wet for any great length of time (the most prevalent cause of "violet death" is over-watering). So, if you have a bright Northeast window, that's usually a good bet. A South or Southwest window, not so much. In the winter it would probably be OK, but it would be too direct for most of the rest of the year.

And how do I get my plants to look like that? Well, I grow for show, which means I forced the plants to bloom on my schedule in hopes that they would have great heads of bloom for the show. This usually works pretty well - I use a 12-week pre-show schedule that gradually increased light and uses a couple different types of fertilizer, usually including a bloom-booster for a number of the weeks. Also, I grow my plants on light carts (they cost a lot more now than they used to) so that I can control their environment better and regulate how much light they get. My plants were good, but they've been better. I didn't take as good care of them this summer - mainly because I had too many! I currently grow about 47 varieties.

Next, Michelle wants to know where I carry my "stuff" if I don't carry it in my wallet. I haven't carried my driver's license in my wallet in years. I have a separate case for it and a select number of cards. I actually read an article recently that said you should never carry everything in your wallet. I also generally don't bring everything with me when I travel - put that stuff in the vault and take only what you need. I mean, really, if you're going to Mexico, you don't need your JP Penney card, or your local sandwich shop punch card (you get the picture!). That way, should the worst happen, you don't lose everything. I'm quite thankful that I didn't lose my driver's license nor my main credit card because only my wallet was taken. Been interesting this week operating with an old wallet - it's empty :-D

There's knitting happening - finished a pair of socks, and am more than half way through another. I also found what I hope is going to be a great Christmas sock pattern! Cross your fingers :-) Oh, and I'm SO tempted to fall off the stash-busting wagon, because look at what's coming to The Loopy Ewe: Polar Fleece Yarn!!! How kewl is that???!!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Waterloo . . . not Abba ;-D

This weekend I traveled to Waterloo, Iowa for the Missouri Valley African Violet Council's fall convention and show. I'm an Advanced Judge of African violets, and my credentials were going to expire in 2009. I'm not eligible to test for Senior Judge until 2010, which left me a year gap. So, off to judging school I went with my friend, Judi D, and since we were going, I decided to take some plants to enter in the show. As a judge I'm required to show plants and get at least three blue ribbons during the time between each required re-test.

It was really a fun weekend - as well as an enjoyable ride over with Judi, I got to see some of my dearest friends, J and K (you might remember I went to Wisconsin Dells with them this summer :-) ), and entered my plants, took my test, and, last but not least: got robbed.

Yes, you read that right. Someone stole my wallet. It sucked to be me on Saturday around noon . . .the culprit lifted my wallet (not my purse - just the wallet) from the classroom where we were attending school. Although the center where we were is a public building, I didn't realize that it was open to the public at the time we were there (early in the day). We broke for a couple of minutes and since I thought we were in a secure location, I left my purse in the room while I went to suss out a bottle of water.

I cannot imagine that anyone in our group took it, which means it was someone at the building or someone off the street. I filed a police report, and one of the maintenance guys there helped me look in all the dumpsters and around the grounds in case someone had dumped it. No luck :-( I'm sorry to have lost the wallet - it was a nice one. I'm also sorry to have lost the laminated card from my mother's wake and funeral. I used to carry it with me all the time. Thankfully I found that I had another copy here at home - not laminated, but at least I didn't lose it totally.

I did lose about 250 bucks - I can only hope that whoever took it really needed it. Maybe they didn't have enough to eat, or had a sick child. . . I realize that's not too likely, but I hope so anyway. It could have been much worse - I read not too long ago that you shouldn't carry everything in your wallet. I never have carried my driver's license in my wallet - which was good, but having read that article, I recently starting carrying health care info and certain credit cards, etc. in other locations. So they pretty much only got cash - what cards there were I cancelled within the hour and no charges had been attempted. So let that be a lesson to you, don't carry all your stuff in one spot :-)

How wierd that they didn't grab my entire bag - there was a lot of stuff in there. It's funny - I've traveled all over the world, and I had to go to IOWA to get robbed. Geez :-S

In happier news, I'm pretty proud of my plants. I took nine to show and all got blue ribbons. I received two Best-in-Class. My species plant, which I showed back in July 2007, got one of those Best-in-Class ribbons, and was also Best Species and Third Best Violet in the Show! You can see how it has grown in the past year :-)

I also received the Purple Rosette for Second Best AVSA Standard Collection, which is a collection of three registered standard violets. Mine are, L to R, Silverglade Streams, Sansoucy' Julie Marie and Benediction. Truth be told, there were only two collections :-D but I was happy to have all these plants be scored as blue ribbon plants, which made them eligible for the collection award - Benediction's symmetry wasn't great, and Silverglade Streams could have used a bit more blossom - but I thought Julie Marie was a stunner, if I do say so myself ;-)

This is a streptocarpus - a cousin of the African violet. This one is Texas Hot Chili. I only grow a few streps (although I came home with a couple new ones!), and this one is notoriously slow-growing. Since I managed to get it to a 4" pot, and it was in bloom, I figured I would take it. I was pleased with the blue ribbon because this plant had at least 4 or 5 more bloomstalks when it left the house - they had to be removed because they didn't survive the trip. Still, I thought it acquitted itself pretty well :-)

Judi and I headed out early this morning - bless her heart, she's not really a morning person, so put up with my normal waking up at 5 or 5:30 a.m. (I was quiet :-) ), and she agreed to be on the road this a.m. by 7. We stopped for breakfast in Davenport, and then headed back to her place, where she gave me a couple leaves and a chimera plant, Emerald City! Woo Hoo! Chimeras are plants that have "pinwheel" blossoms. They don't bloom true from a leaf, so they are harder to come by and always cost more. I also came home with two new streptocarpus - one's a plantlet, Watermelon Wine, and the other is a leaf - a new hybrid from Dale Martens called Heartland's Bonfire. I can't wait for it to grow!

Some knitting got done, but between class, talking to the police, entering my plants, and seeing old friends, there wasn't much time for it.

OMG. I cannot get Abba's Waterloo out of my head now . . . :-D

Saturday, October 4, 2008

YarnCon!

Today the second annual YarnCon was held at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse (historic!). Knifty Red and I headed up there to meet up with Linda, Rachel and Jamie, and we really had a great time :-) Don't Linda and Red look happy? :-) YarnCon was larger this year and had two rooms, which was very nice - I had been wondering how they were going to fit more vendors into the main auditorium. They didn't! Just opened up the gymnasium and included some tables for seating, which was nice.

YarnCon rocks. I mean really, where can you go and find local indie artists all in one place for three bucks? Lot's of roving (I found the woman I got that great superwash merino from last year! Her name is Lisa Mendez, but she doesn't have a website), and LOTS of sock yarn. Here are our pals, Aleta and Becca from Froebe Fibers!!

There were new vendors this year - and some that did not come back this year. One new vender was Esther's Place, which is the outlet for the Illinois Fiber Co-op, Greenpastures. I always like to see what they have, whether or not I buy anything. I just think it's so great that this Illinois co-op exists. I encourage you to click that link and read about it. :-) Here's some of their roving. Most of it is Montadale with some Corriedale - definitely not next-to-the-skin wool, but lovely nonetheless.

We stopped and had a nice chat with Franklin Habit. His new book looks very lovely! He was kind enough to give us black tote bags!! They have one of his illustrations, and are that great recycled, light weight, grocery style bag. We like them!! Thank you, Franklin :-)

By 11:30 we were hungry. Well, I was hungry at 10, but that's nothing new - I always have a snack around 10. We hoofed it over to Milk & Honey for lunch, which is what we did last year, too, and caught up with Rachel and Jamie there. Jamie was on her bike, so we said we'd meet her back at Pulaski Park, and we headed back East on Damen where we were compelled to make a stop at Nina's. I had never been there - very trendy/boutique-y, and exactly what you would expect to find in Wicker Park. Linda picked up some Kidsilk Haze, and after a call from Jamie wondering where the hell we were, we headed back to YarnCon.

We made the tour around everything again, and while the others were chatting with the Mason-Dixon folks (Linda wanted the new book but they were out), I wandered around a bit more. Here's some Lorna's Laces. It's pretty, isn't it? There was also some yarn called Sophie's Toes and there were two colorways I liked very much, both with the most wonderful names: "He Saw her Across a Smoky Bar," and "Oh! Nice Suit!" I showed them to Linda and she got them both :-D

And with that we were done - so we piled in the car - except for Jamie who rode - over to a very nice clothing store, Viva la Femme. I didn't find anything that I thought would work for me, but Linda hit the jackpot, as did Rachel. I will definitely check this place out again! And just up the street - another yarn store :-D We walked over to the Knitting Workshop. It was, as Red said, kinda like rootling around in someone's stash - someone's organized stash :-D We checked out the new Harry Potter Opal sock yarns. I really wanted some of them - kinda bummed that there is not one for Hermione! :-( This store is very comfy somehow - and I think there might always be something there to inspire one.

We parted company with Jamie and went to an Italian coffee bar, the name of which is escaping me at the moment, and regrouped, and then Red and I took our leave of Linda and Rachel and headed home.

I know you're wondering what I actually came home with . . . Maybe some of that Sophie's Toes? . . . some Froebe watermelon? . . . perhaps some more of that awesome merino superwash top? Well, the truth is that I came home with the bag that Franklin gave me. That's RIGHT!!! I'm on the stash-busting wagon, baby. I went to YarnCon and TWO yarn stores today and I didn't buy anything. I am a paragon of perfection - no question ;-) And now that I've said that, something's sure to come along and my feet of clay will be exposed for all to see. But for now, I'm still rocking the stash.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My Favorite Time of Year . . .

It was 58 degrees in my house this morning when I woke up. This required fleecy slippers, pj bottoms and my fuzzy Clapotis shawl. I am resisting turning on the furnace for as long as humanly possible. I mean, it's only October 2nd for cryin' out loud. I am NOT turning the furnace on yet. And let's face it - even when I do turn it on, I don't turn it on very high anyway. In the words of former President Jimmy Carter, the last time we had an energy crisis: "Put on a sweater."

Energy crisis. Financial crisis. Political crisis. It's all making me a little cranky. Besides which, my White Sox (go American League!!) lost today, and my cousin's beloved Cubs lost yesterday. For awhile, early in the day yesterday, it was quite a day for Chicago baseball. Not that I've given up hope. Oh no - not me. Those Sox have every chance in the world to pull this off again. The Cubs? OK - let's face it: not so much . . . and yet they are the team of choice for most Chicagoans. A subway series would be amazing - actually, it might be a little scary in this crazy sports town. Yes, I'm a Sox fan, but it would be great for the Cubs to at least get the National pennant - but if they meet the Sox in the Series, I know where my heart lies :-)

I'm knitting! Yay!! I have a pair of socks that I started last Saturday. I'm nearly done with the heel flap on the second sock, so things are moving along there. Haven't had the opportunity for any spinning this week. But here's what's on the wheel. It's Mountain Colors' Targhee in the Sandstone colorway. It's like melted caramel and pumpkin pie - it's really beautiful stuff. I noticed something about this top when Red was over spinning the last time: The Mountain Colors top looks better spun up than it does as top. I'm spinning this finer than the Merino I did recently in the hopes of getting sport weight. I don't think I've got the singles small enough for fingering. That's OK.

Here's something else I've been working on. I don't usually take photos of works in progress, but this is really a great sweater. This is the back of the St. Patrick sweater from Lisa Lloyd's book, A Fine Fleece. I love this sweater and I love this yarn (Queensland Kathmandu Aran). It was tough getting a good photo of it - it really needs to be shot in better light, but you can see how lovely her design is. The green tweedy color is much richer than it appears here. I've got the front band done, and will be picking it up again as soon as I finish off a couple of the million other things I seem to have on the needles. It's worked as for the back, so I already have a good handle on the cables.

I'm blaming Knitterary for all this stuff sitting around not finished ;-D - she stopped casting stuff on for two months. And me, the one who usually finishes one or two projects at a time - never more than three on the needles (one of which is a sweater that's been languishing for a year . . . ) - well, I got some weird bug that made me cast on stuff like a maniac.

In addition to St. Patrick, and the Opal self-striping socks I have nearly finished, I have some wrist warmers in progress with some handspun; Wendy's Spring Fling socks started with some Yarn Nerd (really nice color saturations); one sock completed of the Saxony Socks (also from A Fine Fleece) in Lorna's Laces Shepherd sock; Wendy's Feather and Fan scarf on the needles; AND finish work to do on two scarves. This is just not like me at ALL :-D The good news is that all were done with yarn from the stash. Yay!!

My hand is good, but I'm still awfully tired - and not walking enough, which I know will make me feel better in every area . . .

Anyone else see the CHRISTMAS ads yet on the telly? There's a Christmas tree place up in Barrington: Tree Classics - only does mail order and the trees rock (I know because I got one last year!) - and they're sponsoring some show because I saw their ad the other day - it was actually in September! And in the "Chicago" shop in the train station, again last week, a new card rack was up in the window and it's full of red and green Christmas cards. And I was at Michael's on Monday, and although all the fall and Halloween and Thanksgiving stuff is out, there is one entire store aisle already devoted to Christmas stuff.

Christmas - the biggest retail event of the year, and one where many retailers make their annual profits. Clearly worries about the economy are causing many to start really early this year, milking it for all it's worth, I suppose. It caught me off guard to see all that holiday stuff so early.

The big event of the weekend in these parts (other than baseball right now) is YarnCon. Big fun last year and I have plans to go! Mostly to hang with my friends, because you know, I'm on the stash-busting wagon and really NOT buying any yarn or fiber right now - and YarnCon was not one of my planned dispensations. . . We'll see how it goes :-)

And now - the debate? Or the game? Or bed?