Sunday, June 29, 2008

There are three cures for ennui: sleep, drink and travel. (D.H. Lawrence)

The kids and I ended up in Tampa this weekend (was there any real doubt that I'd go to Convergence?), and we had a wonderful time even though we didn't do anything terribly exciting. We've made the weekend trip just enough times that we have a "regular" routine, including a hotel where the clerk remembers us. (Or he pretended to, which is almost as good.)

While I was learning how to handle a spinning wheel, the kids spent the day at MOSI. I think it's really great that I have kids who, even though they're teenagers, still enjoy spending time at a science museum. Although MOSI is a really great hands-on museum. (This picture, by the way, is actually from our trip last August. Since I was at the Tampa Convention Center, I didn't get to take any pictures this time around.)

Saturday evening, the kids and I went to a movie together. They were a little leary of the idea, since I prefer Disney films and they like the action and gore stuff. But we compromised on Ironman, and it turned out to be a good choice for all of us. I still want to see Get Smart, but I guess I can wait until it comes out on DVD.

Sunday we stopped at Grand Prix Race Track for a couple of rounds of go-carts before driving home. We still have the aquarium that we want to visit, as well as a trip to Busch Garden's newest rides. Tampa's only a couple of hours away, so maybe we can spend another weekend over there before school starts in the fall.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

May your bobbin always be full! (Author Unknown)

I did it. I bought a spinning wheel. A Lendrum DT, to be exact. And I even got to meet Gary Lendrum, who made my wheel.

Words cannot express how excited I am. So I'm just going to go spin for a while.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A pleasure is not full grown until it is remembered. (C.S. Lewis)

I'm trying to find a pattern for my blogging, in an effort to make it a bit more consistent, interesting, and maybe even a little fun and informative. But mostly to make it more consistent. If I know that on Sundays I blog about Family Fun and Wednesdays is for WIPs, then it's easier for me to write something on those days because the topic is already there. At least, that's my current theory.

I've been trying to come up with themes for the other days, and for a while I was leaning toward "Five on Fridays," a revival of the lists I used to do. But I've recently started to listen to a new podcast, StitchIt!, and I really like one of the features that Meghan includes in each of her episodes.

Each week Meghan talks about one of her favorite things; what it is and why it's her favorite thing. I like that. Some of her episodes have taught me about something I wouldn't have known or thought about otherwise (like using vinegar to clean the house -- when I was younger I used to use "natural" cleansers, but I fell out of the green habit in recent years). Or her favorite thing has brought back memories of my own childhood (I loved the grilled cheese and tomato soup!).

So, for a while anyway, I'm going to borrow Meghan's idea and have a "Friday Favorites" feature of my own.

This week, my Favorite Thing would have to be my ipod. For a long time, I thought that ipods were just a fad and that there really wasn't enough of a difference between the ipod and an MP3 player to justify the cost. Now I just wonder how I could have existed so long without my ipod.

And I don't even have many songs loaded into it. (Just two, actually, and both for the memories rather than the music.) What I enjoy is podcasts and audio books. I love the ability to hear someone blog out loud to me, as I drive or knit or clean the house. I always start with the earliest episode I can find from each podcast, and I listen to every show until I catch up. Then I start a new series.

There's been a couple of podcasts that I've tried that I haven't liked for various reasons. But luckily there are plenty of podcasts that I think are very good. And the free books are wonderful. My current favorite is the Heaven series.

I think I have 5.3 days worth of programs loaded in my ipod right now. So if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go listen to a podcast.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Don't accept rides from strange men, and remember that all men are strange. (Robin Morgan)

A friend was telling me about her experience substitute teaching yesterday. She was working with a program that encourages girls to do something with their life, in an area where dropping out, drugs, and pregnancy are very common among young teenagers.

The girls in her class ranged in age from 11 to 14. Since she came from a rather rough background herself, she decided to talk straight to the girls before starting the lesson. My friend told the girls that they should have respect for themselves. And they should show that respect in the way they presented themselves. They needed to dress nice, not sexy. "Don't sell your bodies, sell your mind. It's worth more." was basically her message.

As my friend finished up her impromptu lecture, one little raised her hand and asked, "But doesn't my mind go along with my body?" My friend thought this was adorable.

Having an oddball sense of humor is a curse. Because as my friend finished up her story, all I could think of was someone hanging out on a seedy street corner, leaning into a car and saying: "For five bucks, I'll recite Poe. If you want Shakespeare's sonnets, it'll will cost you ten."

Naturally I spent the rest of the day offering to recite the multiplication tables if they'd give me some Coke.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Art washes away from the soul, the dust of everyday living. (Pablo Picasso)

I haven't gotten very much accomplished with my knitting this week. (For some reason, that sounds awfully familiar...) It's pretty much the same problem; too many projects and not enough dedication to any one item.

Actually, I have become very obsessed with the spinning. I managed to spin enough to 2-ply about 70 yards of the "practice fiber" I had gotten with my first spindle. Naturally, I think it is absolute gorgeous, and I've been carrying it around with me. Let me tell you, it's difficult to work "hey, look at my beautiful yarn that I spun myself" into casual conversations -- but I've managed to do it with several people, including a slightly bewildered postal worker ("does that mean you want some stamps or no?")

This weekend is Convergence over in Tampa. For non-fiber folk (yeah, I was one only a few weeks ago), that's the big biennial conference for the Handweavers Guild of America. I'm trying to decide whether or not to go. I tried to justify it as a mini-vacation for the family, but the kids are on to me. ("you must want some yarn somewhere...")

For the rest of my knitting projects, I've got to get with it and finish something. I'm thinking of frogging Becci's bag, and starting over with two strands. I've gotten to the handles, so that's a lot of frogging. But I just don't like the looseness of the fabric. I've been telling myself that it's just going to be felted anyway, but I think that it will be a flimsy felt if I don't change it. It's an awful lot of work to just rip out, though, so I don't know.

My socks are coming along great. I'm almost finished. At least, I think I'm almost finished. But some little imp must keep frogging it for me -- every time I pull them out of my bag, they're not nearly as far along as I remember.

At least I knit because I enjoy the process of knitting.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Those who speak most of progress measure it by quantity and not by quality. (George Santayana)

I admit it. I have too many knitting projects going at one time. I'm not making any real progress because I'm trying to divide my time up between them. But I don't know what I should stop working on! Each project is either a "favorite" or a "need to do this" item. And it's really not so bad; I have socks to carry around in my purse to work on at odd moments, my daughter's bag for a bigger but easier project when I'm watching TV or reading blogs online, a charity knitting project, the sock blanket for a long-term project, and the spinning obsession.

We won't talk about the four projects lined up on my table, waiting to be cast on. Or the long queue of projects that I've already bought the yarn/fiber for. Or even the sweater and other miscellaneous patterns that I'm planning on starting as soon as I can afford the yarn.

Maybe I should just go knit now...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hobby, obsession...aren't they really just the same thing?

For the past few days, I've really become obsessed with spinning. I think it's because it's finally clicked for me.

So far I've done three tiny mini-skeins, even managing to ply them, and the yarn is actually starting to look like yarn. The white yarn pictured is my first "real" skein -- my third actual attempt. I was aiming for fingering weight, but this is more of a sport weight yarn. I think I'm going to dye this skein, and use it in my sampler sock blanket. I don't think the little added sizing will make that big of a difference to the blanket. And this will mean that I'm actually using my yarn, instead of hiding or hoarding it away.

One of the things that's made a difference for me is that I now have a Rakestraw spindle. The drop spindle was nice, but this is much nicer for me. (It's also much slower, but I'll use that fact as a reason later on to justify getting the spinning wheel I want.)

While you're admiring the Rakestraw spindle and my newest yarn, check out my wrist distaff. I came across a post explaining what a wrist distaff is and how to make one -- naturally I can't find the post right now to link to it. (I'll look later on and edit this so that credit will go out to the wonderful person who took the time to write out the directions.) But as soon as I read the post, I had to stop and make myself one. Let me tell you, the wrist distaff is so much easier and convenient than wrapping the sliver of fiber around your wrist. Not only is it easier to put the spinning down (at least in theory -- this assumes that you actually want to put the spinning down for whatever reason), but I think it also lets the fiber draft smoother.

I'm working on a pre-dyed roving now, and I'm hoping to coax this into being a 2-ply fingering weight. I thought I was doing really well with it, but when I check it against my first yarn it looks like it will be pretty close to the same sport weight. But the colors are going to be so pretty!

It's a shame that I have to work for living! I'd much rather stay up all night and spin. (Again.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sand Hill Crane Park

This summer my son has a job as a councilor at a sports camp. The location and sport will change from week to week. This is kind of cool, not only because I'm really happy that he's actually got a job and will be getting out of the house each day (remember, he's my hermit and would cheerfully live his entire life in his bedroom if I allowed it), but also because it gives me an excuse to explore some new places.

This past week he worked at a fishing camp at Sand Hill Crane Park. This is a TINY access park on PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens. Coming from 95, if you exit west onto PGA you'll eventually come to it. It's on the north side of the road, a few miles west of the turnpike. The park provides a couple of boat ramps into the C-18 canal, a nature observation platform, a nature trail, and that's about it. According to my son, the fishing is pretty good, if you like to pull in lots of small fish.

So if you're looking for a nice family-friendly, easy fishing spot, this is a great place to go. (But bring your own chairs, because there are no picnic benches and very little shade.)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Any day spent knitting, is a good day. (Unknown)

It was World Wide Knit In Public Day, today but I couldn't find any groups of knitters getting together in my area. So armed with a Starbucks mocha latte, a bag of chocolates, and a couple of podcasts, I sat at the Gardens Mall and knit by myself for a couple of hours.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Put duties aside for at least an hour before bed and perform soothing, quiet activities that will help you relax. (Dianne Hales)

My intentions were good. I meant it when I said that I was only going to cast on one project at a time. I was sincere in promising that I would finish what I had started before starting something new.

Yeah, and I also promised that I would never stash yarn but I now have enough sock yarn to stock an LYS (*local yarn store).

I've been carrying around the Something's Shady socks, and they're what I knit the most on. I've got three more chart repeats and then I do the toes. Of course, they'll still need to be dyed and then have an afterthought heel added, but I try not to think of all the work left. It boggles my mind that some members of Sock Madness managed to knit these in a day. Now that I've memorized the pattern, they are moving a lot quicker. And I really love the way they look and feel -- the Louet Gems yarn is wonderful.

I've got two other pairs of socks on the needles. Becky's Red and Black (sort of) socks are still waiting for another skein of charcoal Koigu. I went to the LYS yesterday, but they still haven't gotten it in and can't tell me when they will get some. Apparently they don't have any control with the colors sent to them. So I'm probably going to give up and just order the yarn online. And I've decided to finish the Something Shady socks before doing anything else with the Hippy Ripply Retro Socks from Sockmadness round 5.

As a non-sock project, I started my daughter's messenger bag. I ordered Knitpicks Wool of the Andes yarn in the Scott Hunter colorway. There's a lot less black, and a lot more red than what we had expected. Also, the fabric is very loose even though I'm getting gauge. I keep telling myself to trust the pattern, and that it will all felt out in the end. But I'm not really happy with it, which is probably why I haven't gotten that far with it yet.

Although I started the Sampler Sock Blanket with the intention of using up my leftover sock yarn, it didn't take long to realize that it would take me years and years to have enough for the queen-sized bedspread that I wanted. So I joined a scrap swap. As a result, I've been obsessively knitting the dozen-plus mini-skeins I received into squares for the blanket. It's still going to take me years and years to finish...

In a fit of discipline, I've been making myself knit one or two squares a night on the lap blanket. I'm definitely a yarn snob; working with the acrylic yarn is horrible. But it's so much more practical, so I'll keep going.

I've got one more WIP -- handspun yarn. I've got a length sitting on my spindle, waiting to be set. (I don't think I'm ready to attempt plying yet, so I'll set this as a single.) I've convinced myself that I want a spinning wheel, even though I've never tried one and I haven't mastered the drop spindle yet. I came close to ordering one, even. But sanity returned in the nick of time, and I settled on a Rakestraw Spinner.

The biggest problem with having so many projects is trying to decide which one to work on. Right now, I really want to get something (anything!) finished.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else. (Albert Einstein)

Today started out miserable. I took the day off, but only to spend it dealing with bureaucracy and orthodontists -- neither of which is something I would consider a "vacation" day. And naturally, since I was expecting the worse, I wasn't disappointed. Luckily, there's always a bright spot (although you really have to look for it).

The bad news is that my son is a boy without a school. It's a bit of a complicated story, but he is no longer eligible to attend his original high school. He needs to take some summer courses, so they very kindly (hear the sarcasm?) rushed his removal from their system so that I could register him at the new school for his senior year. The trouble is that the new school will not accept new enrollees until August. Which means that there is nobody to approve the summer courses. The only bright spot to this situation is that I was given a hint on how to possibly circumvent this problem, so it may still work out.

The bright spot to the orthodontist was easier. No, it wasn't that it was my daughter seeing them and not me -- my dentist phobia is so bad that just saying the word, much less having to sit in the waiting room is enough to make me physically sick. The bright spot is that the yarn store is just down the block from the orthodontist, so I was able to reward my bravery with some sock yarn. (My daughter was also rewarded, with a stop for ice cream on the way home -- and she was smart enough not to mention that this was really just an excuse for another reward for mom.)

The evening was much, much better. My kids decided that it would be nice if we all played a board game together. It's been a while since we've done that, and it was really nice that they wanted to spend an evening together. I really think that having my cousin come stay with us has been a really good thing for my family. (And in case you were wondering, I won the game...)