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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Portland Bound

On Sunday I finished the Spring Forward socks I was knitting for the Sock Summit Sock Museum. I'm not certain what the colorway is, however. (It was a STR lightweight mill end). I think the shaded solid serves the pattern well, and I hope the designer, Linda Welch, likes them. It's a great pattern that I have now knit twice, though neither pair has been for me. (That is going to be rectified at some point because I'd really like my own pair.)
They are on their way to Portland, and in two weeks, I will be, too. (Must. Start. Homework.)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cartoon Clubhouse 2 (Pitch's Revenge)

I promise this isn't about to become a blog where I post pics of my cats all of the time...just some of the time.

Inspired by Girlzilla, the husband presented me with one of his trademark Cartoon Clubhouse cappuccinos this morning:

Pitchzilla! I don't usually ascribe thought to my cats' expressions (at least not publicly), though I am fairly certain Pitch is thinking, "Does this latte make my butt look big?"

In case you are interested, here is another link about the Puppet Bike. It's a great little piece done for a show on WBEZ, the local public radio station.
The boys and I are about to head out to the balcony for some serious sock knitting.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Girlzilla and The Puppet Bike

I had my camera with me all day. Did I take any photos at the Midwest Fiber and Folk Fair? Nope. I forgot it was in my purse. It's kind of tricky anyway, since some of these types of events restrict photography, but most would-be photogs aren't up to any fiber-y espionage; they just want to spread the yarn-y goodness around.

The fair seemed smaller this year--about 1/3 smaller by my (non-scientific, could be completely wrong about this) estimate. Last year there were vendors lining the hallways (the event is in a community college classroom building), as well as in tents outside and in the gymnasium, but this year there were few hallway spots. I missed Miss Babs and Jennie the Potter, but I expect I'll see them both at Summit. Two of my favorites, Brooks Farm and Briar Rose, were there. I can't seem to resist either of them. I become weak in their presence, and usually end up double-dipping, going back for seconds (and sometimes thirds!) before I will myself to stop.

I have a couple of book recommendations for you. I've got an Audible.com subscription, and I finally finished listening to Son of a Witch, the follow-up to Wicked. It was good, but Wicked was such a great read, and I was not nearly as enamoured of the sequel. I might feel differently if I had read it as opposed to listening to it, and I started to think that maybe audiobooks were leaving me a little cold. Then I downloaded The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It's a Swedish book that has been translated into English, and I am loving it. It's got some great hooks: a 40-year-old unsolved crime, corporate wrongdoing, vengeance, and a bit of sex, though some of it is unsavory, to say the least. (It's not gratuitous, however. It works in the context of the storyline.) The Swedish names take some getting used to (and some sound somewhat similar, which wouldn't be an issue if I saw them written out), but I am enjoying the narration. It's making my Sock Museum socks go more quickly.

I also started reading The Help. Just this week I got a Kindle and it was the first book I downloaded to it. I have stacks of actual paper books to read, and instead I am reading an electronic one, but there is a good reason. I thought it would be easier to "turn" pages with the press of the button when I was on the treadmill. With a paper book, I'd have to take it out of the rack each time I wanted to flip pages, which makes keeping a steady pace kind of tricky. And, hey, if it means I use the treadmill more, that's good, right? Anyhoo...I've only read chapter one, but I love it already. The characters are well-crafted, and feels like it is going somewhere important.

I had my camera with me tonight when the husband and I walked up to Clark Street for some sushi. The little girls next door have been busy little sidewalk artists again this summer. This one looks like Girlzilla about to decimate a village:

On the way home, one of our favorite neighborhood oddities, the Puppet Bike, was open for business. (The Wikipedia entry about it is very interesting. There is also a YouTube video here (actually, there are lots of them if you do a search) but keep in mind that it isn't as charming on video as it is in person.)
It is what it sounds like, a puppet stage mounted on a trike. The first time I saw it was downtown, but it has since take up residence here in Andersonville, and we love it. The "show" consists of Steiff handpuppets bopping around to recorded music.
It's often older, fun stuff from the 40s and 50s (Louis Prima and the like), and the "staging" is quite simple. Whenever the curtain is up, you can count on a crowd of 15-20 people, young and old, watching it. There is a tip box, and hilarity ensues when cash is deposited, especially if it's a bill bigger than a dollar. (The puppets can reach into the tip box from the back and sometimes a tug-of-war breaks out.)

Yes, our corner of the urban jungle is populated with stuffed tigers, alligators, and bunnies.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More of the same, only different

Since last post, I've been inspired to do more gardening. We have two small plots directly in front of the house, one which has a yew that I despise and a sad, unshapely Japanese Red Maple. All of the bulbs I planted a few years back have been pilfered by squirrels, so it's really quite barren. The other plot had nothing. Getting rid of the yew and the maple will be more work than I'm personally up to, so for now, they are staying. On the other side, I added some hydrangeas at the side of the house, some of the same plants that went into the parkway garden (hosta, huechera, astilbe), and the specimen plant at the center of it all is a Contorted Filbert. It's a little sparse at the moment, and I think I need to add a few things with chartreuse leaves to spice it up before I call it done.

In knitting news, the Sock Summiteers are compiling a Sock Museum that will be on display at the Summit and will hopefully have a life beyond. They were taking suggestions for more patterns (in addition to the ones they had chosen), and I wrote in requesting that they include Spring Forward, written by Sock Camp friend, Linda Welch. When I didn't hear back, it slipped my mind. Turns out that they had some kind of glitch in their response system, and they were writing to me and thinking I was being unresponsive, and I wasn't getting their emails, so I thought they weren't interested. It's all straightened out, but now I have less time to complete them. It's not a hard pattern, but a false start delayed my progress. My first attempt resulted in some pooling that was decidedly not "museum quality", so I ripped and restarted with a different colorway. The second try is going much better, and I should have them completed by the weekend, figuring in other things I have scheduled over the next few days.
After a long, cold, wet spring, in late June, we launched into summer with a vengeance. Fortunately, we had just one week of high temps, and the last few weeks have been in the 70s to mid 80s. It has made for a magnificent season so far. I've been inspired to be out and about more, enjoying the balcony with the cats as much as possible, and taking in the neighborhood offerings more frequently.
(That's Pitch enjoying the balcony. He never really looks like he's enjoying anything (he has a stern countenance), but--trust me--he is having a great time.)
Here are a few shots from the small-but-lovely farmers' market which is a new addition to our little bit of Chicago.


ETA: Sorry about the weird paragraph spacing. I seem to have chronic spacing issues here on Blogger. Ugh.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Rundown

It's been a fun-filled week, and it's only Thursday.

I finished the Green Gable. She is washed, blocked and ready for action. I started and am about 70% finished with a fourth Chickami. I used some variegated Elann Sonata Print from Ye Olde Stashe that had been partially knit and frogged. It's doing much better as a Chickami than it was in its previous incarnation. I've started Samro's A Little Something. I'm not far along at all, however, because this week has been jam-packed with other activities.

I am Tour de Fleece-ing. I'm not on a team or anything, but I have committed to spinning every day, even if I don't get home until 11:40 and only have 20 minutes. That was last night after seeing a show at The Goodman Theater, and the Journey Wheel and I were not getting along at all. I just could not get the tension adjusted properly. Things were better today. I'm currently spinning some Romeldale with silk noil and tussah silk mixed in. It may actually turn into real yarn that I can use.

Tuesday and Wednesday were largely taken up by the joint gardening project my next-door neighbor, Diane, and I took on. There is a 10' swath of parkway that runs between the street and the sidewalks in front of our houses, and it was in sad, sad shape. She had straggly grass on her part, and I had nothin' but dirt on mine. (I had a landscaper put in vinca a few years ago and it all died. All of it. Since then, nothing grew, not even weeds.) We have a few challenges that make it tough to grow things. It is mostly shady (big trees and shadows from the buildings block a lot of the sun, and big trees have big roots), and our neighborhood is chock full of dogs that just gotta go. Still, we were determined. After studying the sun's movement throughout the day and having a landscaper turn and amened the soil, Diane and I went to work. We purchased a variety of plants that featured interesting leaf shapes and colors, made two trips to a stone supplier for limestone and granite rocks, stopped at Home Depot, Lowe's, and a local garden center more times than I can remember, and we got dirty. We went for an informal, woodland vibe, and I think we did pretty well.
Many of the plants will eventually have blooms or the leaves will change colors with the seasons, so we're excited to see how it goes. Hard to believe, but there is a half-ton (seriously...1000 pounds) of stone in there that we hand-picked, loaded onto wagons, pulled to the scale, loaded into her car, unloaded from the car, and placed and replaced in the garden. And now we are tired. And sore. And happy that we did it.
Ooooh, and look at the "skull" rock that I found. I'm sending this pic to Skull-a-Day.

The husband and I also got a surprise invite to a Cubs game this week. We're not big sports fans (that's an understatement), but it was great people watching which made for a fun evening.





Saturday, July 04, 2009

Wherein I Ask for Bad Picture Forgiveness

I thought I'd post while I'm sitting here waiting for my Starbucks delivery. (What?! Your Starbucks doesn't offer delivery? Mine doesn't either, actually, but the husband will be bringing my Venti Decaf Nonfat Extra Dry Cappuccino with Three Splendas shortly, I expect.)


In the fine tradition of poorly lit, badly focused mirror pics, I present Chickami #1 and Chickami #3. (You've already seen Chickami #2, the Chococami.)



I love this pattern because of its wearability. (It's a vest! It's a camisole! It's a dessert topping! The Chickam-o-matic!) The rows and rows of stockinette can drive one to distraction (especially when you have to knit entire sections over again), but the end product is worth it.

As mentioned in a previous post, there were a few stitches making me cranky.

They just were off, and no amount of fiddling was helping, so I ran lifelines with the intent of cutting out the offending section and grafting the halves together. It occurred to me that the grafted row might end up bugging me, too, and that's a lot of kitchenering for what could be a not-great result. I bit the bullet and ended up cutting and re knitting from the top lifeline down. Stitches look the same no matter what direction they're knit in, so it didn't matter that I was knitting down on a garment originally knit up. In the end, I think it was the better--though more time consuming--choice.

So, the inventory is:

#1 (Purple) Skinny strap, fitted version

#2 (Brown, aka Chococami) Wide strap, no shaping, pucker stitch from the Chocolate pattern on the cover of the current Verena

#3 (Sedona Red, aka CSI: Chickami (my last post explains the name)) Wide strap, no shaping, eyelet pattern from ChicKnits Sitcom Chic

I don't think I'm done yet, but I'm not sure what the variation will be for the next one. I've got loads and loads of Cotton Fleece, and I also have some Elann Sonata Print that would be nice for a variegated version. Plus, I am within an hour or so of finishing the Green Gable, and a few hours more to finish my Cardigan with Leaf Ties. (I come out of the gate fast, but I am not good in the home stretch.)

In other domestic news, this week I received an order of heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo.

Sorry about the pic being sideways. It is correctly oriented in my computer, but every time I upload it to Blogger, it rotates and I just can't fix it. Just tilt your head to the right and please forgive me. Aren't they pretty, though? Those Vaqueros look just like little cows! They are more expensive than grocery store beans, to be sure, but the varieties are so cool. Two days ago I made a crockpot of Flageolets with sauteed bacon, onion, green pepper, bay leaves, red pepper flakes and rosemary. YUM. Yesterday I did Yellow Eye Beans (they look just like Black-Eyed Peas, only gold) with sauteed bulk hot Italian Sausage from our local farmers' market, onions, bay leaves, red pepper, basil, thyme and parsley. Today I have Cranberry Beans in the crockpot with some onions, garlic, and bay leaves. When they are cooked to the right point, I intend to use them to make baked beans. I'm on a big legume kick right now. Earlier in the week I made red lentils with onion, garlic, rosemary, a cup or so of leftover Pinot Noir, and vegetable broth. I served them over brown rice. I loved them (the red wine and rosemary tasted so...French), but the husband didn't like the texture of the lentils. C'est dommage.

I'm a big fan of using the crockpot in summer. Even though many recipes have a distinctly fall/winter feel about them, the crockpot doesn't heat up the kitchen. (Of course, after sweltering last week, we are now in the low 70s, so heat in the kitchen isn't really an issue. I'm sure it will get hot again just and my neighbor and I are scheduling our joint gardening project in front of our two houses.)

Some of my weakling tomato plants are slowly coming around. About half bit the dust after transplanting. Worm castings from the worm bin would have helped, but my little flock (herd? gaggle? troupe? team?) of worms had just arrived, and they hadn't yet started producing. I filled in with some heirloom varieties from garden centers and the farmers' market, so I should still get some decent ones. I hope they don't all get ripe when I am in Portland for Sock Summit.