Thursday, February 28, 2013

To Pittsburgh and Morgantown and Back

I did a bit of traveling last week.

On Wednesday, I rented a car and headed for Pittsburgh. It's about a 6-hour trip, and generally an easy drive (esp when armed with a full iPod). I left later than I had planned (it was 2 pm by the time I was on the road), and it snowed half of the trip (but not much), and the wind shield washer reservoir turned out to be empty (which, because of the wet snow, really wasn't much of a problem). Notwithstanding all that, the drive was uneventful, and I was in my hotel room by 8:30 pm.

I had brought knitting, but was too antsy to knit (which is so sad). So I watched PBS and read a magazine and tried to unwind from the drive.

Thursday, I spent the day with co-workers, in Pittsburgh. These are all the folks I work with but never see, from Pittsburgh (Keith, Paul, Marty, Ron, Jack, Fred, Larry, Dave, Michele, Steve, Serban, Mike), from Cleveland (Deb, Janice, Scott), and from Columbus (Ruth, Nilesh, Sanjay). (Bob was AWOL.) We talked and went over designs and flows and pondered logic puzzles and ate pizza (and cake and caramels and donuts and cookies) and dissected those silly marvelous Gallup poll results, and listened to an astonishing soliloquy. All in all, it was a fine day. A group of us took the 'T' over to the North Side, and had dinner at Jerome Bettis' Grill 36. It was pleasant, the waiter did a fine job, and my meal was delicious (a Caesar salad, with grilled chicken - just the right amount of dressing, and the chicken was full of flavor).

After dinner, I headed back to the hotel, got my car (and directions to the tunnel), and headed for Morgantown. One stop (to pick up fluid for the windshield washer; see above), and an hour-and-a-half later, I landed at Lori's doorstep.

On a side note - I just googled the Fort Pitt Tunnel, and found this story about Emma Watson's filming a Fort Pitt Tunnel scene, for the movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I'm not sure I ever heard of this movie (it came out last fall) - was it any good? (I'm sure the scene coming out of the tunnel was lovely!)

Anyway, Lori and I had a nice, albeit brief, visit. Friday morning, she taught her poetry workshop, at the West Virginia Folklife Center, in Fairmont. They had a library there, full of books by WV authors. While Lori was teaching, I browsed some, and relaxed in a wooden rocking chair, and knit a bit. (The chair was near a shelf of books for youth, so I also read a bit from Clair Bee's Chip Hilton: Freshman Quarterback. Maybe I should recommend it for our book group! Maybe not!)

The weather was a bit dodgy, so we skipped our walk by the river, and had a relaxing lunch instead at the Terra Cafe. I had a tuna salad sandwich, on the Most.Delicious.Bread ever - perfect texture, toasty, tasty - along with a pear salad. We took a piece of cheesecake home with us - thankfully we opted for just one piece, because it was Huge.

We spent some time sorting out Lori's basement (I'm hoping she'll come here & reciprocate), and then rewarded ourselves with the cheesecake (it rated a solid Okay), and a rousing game of Scrabble (which Lori won, of course). There was a bit of internet surfing, and sharing of favorite videos, and of course we cheered when reading Facebook updates regarding the arrival of our newest grand-niece.

Saturday: more road time. I was home by 5:30, after a day of good weather, mild traffic, and enjoyable podcasts.

Can you believe, I only took one picture on that entire trip? I saw this license plate outside the cafe where Lori and I ate, and it made me smile:

I'll throw in a knitting photo (which I just took tonight, with a flash and bad lighting). I wasn't sure I was liking this baby blanket - that happens sometimes with knitting. Now it's growing on me again, which means the blanket itself is finally growing as well, since I'm putting more time into knitting it:

About 8" - still a ways to go

 Better lighting would mean that picture would actually reflect the true color of the yarn - which it Does Not. I'm hoping to make progress this weekend, and maybe I'll get a daylight photo then...

Monday, February 18, 2013

That Scarf You Could Win? It's Finished!

I finished my GOTR Kal-Haven Trail Scarf last night, and washed & blocked it this morning. I am delighted with how it turned out.

Stellar photography, of the hold-the-camera-at-arms-
length-and-hope-for-the-best variety.

I think it will always have a tendency to curl, but the blocking is keeping that in check.

The fabric is so light and soft, and the color - unlike in these photos - is deep and rich.

The beads don't show up well in these photos - but in real life, they add a splendid touch, running along the edges, and between the 'rail road ties.'

The finished scarf is 46" long

I love this representation of the old rail trail, now a favorite trail for runners (and walkers and bikers...). I love how running on the trail connects with the Girls on the Run program, which itself culminates in a 5K run. I love that my friend and her daughter ran their half marathons with the goal of raising money to support the Kalamazoo Girls on the Run program. (You can read more about that here.)

I'm supporting them in this effort, by giving this scarf to one of the donors to their fundraiser. Every $5 contribution gives you another entry in the drawing for the scarf.

To donate online, you can use these links:
Jessica's donation page
Jessica's daughter's donation page

If you want to donate via check, send me a message at RobinVanderRoest @ gmail dot com, and we'll sort out the details.

Thanks for your support - and good luck in the drawing! (It is a lovely scarf, even if I do say so myself.) 

Daisy Says We Should Read

Isn't this a great poster? It was on the cover of the latest ALA catalog (Jim, as a member of the library board, gets all sorts of library mail). The scruffy pup is Daisy, from Chris Raschka's 2012 Caldecott winning picture book, A Ball for Daisy.

I think I'm in love with Daisy

 I do love to read, and I've tried to share books through this blog. Based on the virtual stack of books waiting for their own blog post, I've not kept up very well!

Let me try to remedy that, with some quick and dirty overviews (figuring that is better than nothing, which seems to be the alternative). I've decided to stop at two, so I can actually post this, instead of waiting til I have time to write up the rest...

Our book group gave Sylvia Boorstein's book mixed reviews. I think some were put off by the Buddhist teachings, and perhaps uncomfortable trying to mesh that with our Mormon doctrine.

But I give it four stars. I found it easy to read, and very interesting, and I found much that I could relate to. I particularly enjoyed the section that outlined basic teachings, which often were in harmony with my own beliefs.

In the first section, Boorstein wrote
Practicing mindfulness and metta (lovingkindness) is not religiously challenging. This makes them accessible tools for meditators in all traditions. Awareness, clarity, compassion, generosity, understanding -- these are in the middle of everyone's spiritual road.
I felt that theme throughout the book -- that the principles shared can be appreciated by all beliefs. Here's another thought that seems appropriate for all of us.
... every single act we do has the potential of causing pain, and every single thing we do has consequences that echo way beyond what we can imagine. It doesn't mean we shouldn't act. It means we should act carefully. Everything matters.
Or how about this, about our livelihood choices?
Right livelihood is organizing one's financial support so that it is nonabusive, nonexploitive, nonharming. ... these days, what is abusive and exploitive is not necessarily self-evident.
Boorstein's book offers much food for thought, and I commend it. I also listened to an interview wtih Sylvia Boorstein, on Krista Tippett's show On Being. She (Boorstein) is delightful; you can listen here.

I'd give Eleanor Brown's The Weird Sisters three stars. That usually means "I'm not sorry I read it, but I probably won't read it again." (I just picked up the book and happily reread parts of it, so maybe that's no longer an accurate description of a three-star book.)

I did enjoy this book. The title refers to the three witches of Shakespeare's Macbeth. These particular sisters are the daughters of a professor of Shakespeare, were named after Shakespeare heroines, and grew up quoting Shakespeare. One stayed in their college hometown; one fled to New York; one wandered across the country. Now, their mother has been diagnosed with cancer, and they're all back home, both to offer a variety of help, and to sort out their own lives. They are three very different characters, but I found I liked each one, and was happy to follow their various crises to satisfactory resolutions.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Baby, It's Cold Outside

What's a good thing to do on a snowy Saturday? How about this:

Bonnie was snoozing when I left this morning.
She hadn't stirred when I returned two hours later.
Lots of action rest!

Today we've seen typical Michigan weather - big beautiful floating snowflakes, then sunshine, then fast and furious pellets of snow, then blue sky - weather along the lines of "wait 5 minutes, it'll change."

When Bonnie & I headed out for a walk, the sun was shining, so I was optimistic - even after checking the weather and noting the 19 degree temperature (6 degrees, with the wind chill).

Silly me. Sunshine or no, 19 degrees is Just Plain Cold. Brrr. I was so glad to have a new pair of BaaBaaZuZu mittens (I still plan to repair my old pair, but meanwhile....). (I bought my new pair here, after Jess alerted me to their $18 sale - such a deal!)

No new photos, but here are some from a week ago, that could just as easily have been taken today:

Maybe this time I'll find it...

Bonnie doesn't seem to care about all that snow on her snout, but just looking at it makes me cold.

On another note, here's my Sky Scarf after the first week.

I've now incorporated all five colors (dark grey, light grey, white, blue, and blue). Yes, the blue balls are pretty small - they are from my swatches, rewound for knitting the scarf proper. (Plus, of course, I had to divide the blue, whereas the other yarns are entire skeins.) Today I wove in the ends, so it won't be quite as confusing to work with. I promise I'll try to keep future updates to a minimum (maybe monthly).  A year of this, taken to excess, could drive away my handful of readers, and I don't want that!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Don't Over-Think This

I'm working on two scarves now. First, of course, is the GOTR Kal-Haven Trail scarf. I'm making steady process, and the scarf is soft and lovely. It's almost half finished, although this photo shows just a snippet:

And yes, you still have a chance to win this scarf for yourself. Donate to Jess or her daughter's Girls on the Run site; you'll get an entry for each $5 you donate. See this blog entry for more details; here are the links for donating online:

Jessica's donation page
Jessica's daughter's donation page

I've also started a Sky Scarf, which I'm calling the Mostly Michigan Mostly 2013 Sky Scarf. This is based on Lea Redmond's Sky Scarf, an experiment in conceptual knitting. It's a pretty basic pattern: every day, you look at the sky, and then knit two rows on the scarf to reflect what you see.

Since I'm knitting the Michigan sky (mostly), I decided to use Michigan yarn. Shepherd's Wool (Fingering Weight) is spun by Stonehedge Fiber Mill, in East Jordan, Michigan. I'll be using these colors, held together in different combinations:

Since Redmond's pattern is fairly generic, I started with one skein of the Shepherd's Wool, and knitted a couple of swatches, figuring out how to proceed. For this first swatch, I  used several different needle sizes and tried several different stitch patterns. Based on how this turned out, I'm going to knit a seed stitch pattern, with two strands of yarn, using a size 7 needle:

Once I settled on these details, I did another swatch in seed stitch, to get a feel for how much yarn I would need, and to see how I would manage carrying the unused strands along the edge.

This swatch convinced me that I should carry no more than 3 strands, which means I'll work with just 5 strands (i.e., knit with 2 and carry 3). Tentatively, these are:
  • blue + blue = blue sky
  • blue + white, or blue + light grey = blue sky with clouds
  • white + light grey = sky with no real color (e.g. on hazy summer days)
  • dark grey + white = cloudy / foggy / light rain / snow
  • dark grey + light grey = dark clouds / rain / thunderstorms
 If you read yesterday's blog post, you'll know that the sky can change dramatically within thirty or forty minutes - so describing the sky each day won't be an exact science. My plan is to start with the sky around noon, and then work from that to choose something representative for the day. If I'm not home, I'll make note of the sky, and knit it when I return (hence the "mostly Michigan" in the project name).

Today was Day 1 (of 365). The sky when I came home from church was grey. No clouds, no blue, just plain old grey. I opted for the dark grey / white combination, although that didn't seem quite right. Jim cautioned me, "Don't over-think this. Just go with the plan you've laid out."

I told him that his job, for the next year, is to remind me, as often as is necessary, "Don't over-think this!"

Friday, February 8, 2013

After the Aqilokoq

I'd heard that the Eskimo languages have more words for "snow" than the English language. A quick Google search found some articles indicating that this was merely a literary hoax; however, this recent Washington Post article suggests that there is truth to the legend. They report on a study of Inuit and Yupik dialects, which found
Central Siberian Yupik has 40 such terms [words for snow], while the Inuit dialect spoken in Canada’s Nunavik region has at least 53, including “matsaaruti,” for wet snow that can be used to ice a sleigh’s runners, and “pukak,” for the crystalline powder snow that looks like salt.
According to the Post article, "aqilokoq" is the word for "softly falling snow," which is what we enjoyed last night. This is the kind of snow that hugs the tree branches, and today we enjoyed a beautiful, sunny, snow-covered world.

In the park, midday

Our house, dwarfed by snow-laden trees

On our walk, wild-looking trees and sky - suggesting
that Michigan weather really does change every 5 minutes

Branches and blue sky

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Beagle, Snow, and Beagle in Snow

On Saturday, when Jess and I left Kalamazoo, snow was coming down. It was quiet, the roads were snow covered, and the trees along the highway were really quite lovely. I kept wishing I could take a picture of the trees and the snow, but I did not (taking pictures while driving didn't seem very responsible) (besides, the camera was in the back seat) (besides, it'd be hard to get a decent shot from a moving car).

So, no photos. But I kept thinking of a scene from Chris Van Allsburg's book, The Polar Express. When I got home that night, I found my book and the picture I'd been remembering. Indeed, it looked sort of like the scenes along our drive -  except, of course, that we didn't see any no wolves. And there was more falling snow on our drive. And there was no train.

Scene from The Polar Express

Okay, so there's very little resemblance, except that there were trees. So here are a handful of snow scenes I did take pictures of.

Last Friday, in the park

On our walk Sunday

What's under that snow???

Those were typical Michigan grey days. Yesterday was a day of Michigan sun and blue sky (okay, not as typical, but it does happen.)

Our House

On Our Walk

I know - nearly identical to Sunday's photo.
This is what Bonnie does on walks in the snow.

Tonight it's snowing again. I let Bonnie outside just before settling down for the night, and was surprised at how bright it is, with our street light reflected in the falling snow.

While it doesn't capture the falling flakes, or the light they reflect, this does suggest the peace and quiet of the snowy night:

Here (in a bonus photo, totally unrelated to snow, but full of beagleness) is a shot of Bonnie sleeping. Her head is resting on a stack of knitting patterns and notes. Perhaps she is hoping to learn to knit herself a sweater - though this will be hard, having no opposable thumbs.

Sleep on, sweet girl!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Progress on the Scarf That You Could Win, and Resisting Giraffes

Jess and I drove to her mom (Denise's) place yesterday. Jess, Denise, Rose & I spent the day knitting (lots) and eating (lots) and watching cooking shows (lots) and talking (lots). It was Good!

I made some progress on my GOTR Kal-Haven Trail scarf. Here's a picture I took when I got home last night. (I took this with our scanner, and the color is a bit weird, but you can get the idea):

It's now 25% complete

You still have a chance at winning this scarf for yourself. To win, donate to Jess or her daughter's Girls on the Run site; you'll get an entry for each $5 you donate. See this blog entry for more details; here are the links for donating online:

Jessica's donation page
Jessica's daughter's donation page

I finally finished my mittens; I worked on these for almost a year. Of course, there were long stretches of time when they were just sitting on the sidelines (not much need, or motivation, for mittens in July).

These are unusual - the pattern called for two different colors of yarn, and I managed to get my two colors from the same dye lot. My two skeins were dyed together, yet came out as two quite different colors - very odd, but worked well for these mittens! (And yes, I deliberately reversed the colors on the two mittens.)

This is a hat that I will donate to Ministry with Community. I used the Christian's Hat pattern, which is a terrific knit - it's easy to memorize, and the finished hat is stretchy and comfy. There is a matching scarf, which I'll start at some point - but I have a few WIPs to wrap up first.

So what's left on the needles? Plenty, it turns out. Of course, there's the GOTR Kal-Haven Trail scarf. (See above, if you already forgotten about this one; you still have a chance to win it!)

I'm also working on a very cool hat, with a stockinette stitch band that is two layers thick, and that has a picot edge. The top is also stockinette, but kind of slouchy. I don't have a current picture, but it's working up very nicely. Here's the yarn, Yarn Hollow Twisted, squishy soft, lovely to knit with.

I've started a baby blanket, using the Garter Rib Baby Blanket pattern and Lamb's Pride Superwash Sport yarn. I've done some swatching, and think this will work out well, but I'm not far enough into it to know for sure if I'm going to be happy with it (working with the sport weight yarn is a bit different...). For now, all you get is another yarn picture; imagine it as a sweet little blanket:

I'm working on another Lilly blanket. This one is an entrelac blanket, with different colors. This isn't a recent photo, so there are actually several more tiers of colors, but you get the idea:

Yesterday Rose was working on a baby blanket, using the Jack's Giraffe pattern. Here's a picture from a finished project, on Ravelry.

Ravelry's dudeybave knit this blanket

Is this not the cutest thing you've ever seen? Rose was knitting hers with Plymouth Select Worsted Merino Superwash Solids, and it was squeezably soft (like Charmin?). I took a look at the colors available and think that yellow would be perfect. I think if we'd gone to a yarn store on Saturday, I would have bought yarn for this blanket, and started knitting it immediately. Now that I'm safe at home, I'm focusing on the garter rib blanket, and doing my best to Resist the Giraffes.