Monday, August 31, 2009

Knitting so much that my hand actually hurt while typing today

I learned the hard way today that entering data after a weekend of some hard-core knitting is a good way to make my hands down-right sore! But, boy, was it a productive weekend. Sure, I did the necessary cleaning and other chores; other than that, I spent this weekend blissfully at home working on a number of projects. I escaped the house only a couple of times and one of my trips was with Chuck to the Okemos Farmer's Market. That place sure had changed since my last trip there a couple of years ago -- there was so many more vendors and a ton of people milling about. On the one hand, it was good to see so many folks there to support the farmer's market; on the other hand, I had new respsect for Chuck who usually made the trip solo. I hate crowds, so as my reward, Chuck bought me a wonderful bouquet of flowers. What you see here is only a third of the bunch, with the other thirds occupying vases on our sitting-room mantle and in my bathroom. These definitely cheer up our house.

Now, on to the knitting....

Nancy's Long-wrap Cardigan:

While it was a productive weekend, let me not give you the impression that it was a completely successful weekend. I finished the long-wrap cardigan that Nancy had designed, but learned a very valuable lesson about blocking and not checking in on how thing's're going. I hand-washed the sweater and marveled at how wonderfully soft it was as it was being placed onto my wooly board last Wednesday evening. Unfortunately for me, I treated this poor sweater like a Ronco Rotisserie and decided to "set it and forget it". When I returned to check on this sweater Friday, it had sagged in length to the point where when I put it on, it went clear to my knees. Now, I know that those types of sweaters are somewhat stylish for gals with the right physique, but trust me when I tell you that I am not one of those women. After showing it to Nancy on Friday (during which, she was far more kind than I deserved), we laid out two options: one--was to give it a go in the washer to see if it would shrink up some, or two--tear out several inches and re-do the bottom border. Nancy had given me three hanks of Kona to use for this sweater, but I only needed one and a half. I gave her back the unused hank, but she suggested that I try out the shrinking on a large swatch, so I still have the remaining half hank. Thinking about it some more, the yarn is a superwash, so I'm not entirely convinced that the washer approach will do much; besides, I'm happy with its circumference and don't see how I could prevent losing size in both directions without wet-felting it by hand. Needless to say, this sweater is now torn back to where I need it to be to restart the border.

Vilai socks:

I really need to give my friend Rachel from my8kidsmom a big hug the next time I see her because her suggestion of me doing a Cookie A sock pattern has really worked out for me. I finished and blocked sock #1 and am working on its mate, which is going so much faster than the first sock. And, I also put Sylvain to work making me a pair of wire sock blockers. Even though he wouldn't admit it, deep down, I think he enjoyed contributing something to this effort.

Trapeze-line jacket:

I also got a good start on the Trapeze-line jacket by Bergere de France. I hope that this is the sweater project that breaks my streak of making sweaters that don't fit me. I'm a little worried because this sweater is curling at the bottom already, but am trying not to judge it too early.

Last, but not least -- a finished Woven Market bag:

Yep, you read that right -- I finally finished my Woven Market bag. Sorry, Nancy, if you're reading this because I just plain couldn't get my act together to write-up the pattern and submit it to the "I made it on my Schacht" contest. Irene graciously gave me some fun fabric for the liner; and both Chuck and Sylvain had scattered by the time I was ready to sew in the lining, so I didn't have anyone to help by taking a photo of me working on this bag (which was one of the contest requirements). Besides, I'm sure they wanted photos of the project on the loom rather than during the very last of the finishing. Who knows, there's always next year, right? At any rate, I am the absolute worst seamstress, so if you happen to see this bag up close and personal, I'll admit here and now that I had cut the fabric wrong, ending up with the bag being too wide for the fabric, and ending up fudging the seam around the top. I don't expect that most people would ever notice if the bag is seen in passing, so that's one of the reasons I'm not letting it get to me so much.

At the movies and on the tube:
It seems like forever since I've given an update on my movie and t.v. while my memory still holds:

Finished watching Seasons 1 of Dead Like Me and True Blood. I really enjoyed them both, and am left wondering why Season 2 of Dead isn't yet available. I can't wait 'til Season 2 of True Blood is available, but that'll be quite a while since it hasn't even wrapped on HBO yet.

The Haunting in Connecticut: To be fair, I didn't finish watching this movie, so my opinion may be a little skewed. But, c'mon, I was getting downright bored, which is really sad because I usually knit while watching movies. I didn't find this scary at all.

I Love You, Man: I'm not really a Paul Rudd fan, and don't really care for the guy-humor types of movies, but rented this one from the Blockbuster store for Chuck and ended up liking it. I like Jason Segel and think that he contributed a lot to my enjoyment of this movie.

District 9: I loved this movie and enjoyed it start to finish. It really is too bad that more sci-fi movies like this aren't made. Yes, it's incredibly violent, and that was somewhat expected, but, really, anyone that wants a calm alien movie should go see Contact.

Inglorious Basterds: Brad Pitt and Quentin Tarantino, need I say more? Unlike District 9, Chuck and I saw this at the theater while Sylvain was at a sleep-over; we didn't see it opening weekend because I didn't want to take him to this movie since I knew that the violence would be over the top and the language unpredictable. I was very glad that we made that decision since some of the scenes were true to the preview where Pitt's Lt. Aldo Raine declares that every one of his men owes him 100 scalps and he definitely gets 'em. Also, I totally agree with every reviewer that says that co-star Christoph Waltz steals every scene he's in.

War: I'm not entirely sure what it is about Jason Statham movies that I find so entertaining, but I guess whenever I'm in the mood for a shoot 'em up/explosion/hand to hand combat movie, his seem to fulfill that void, then I'm good for a long while. I wouldn't call this a good movie, but it was something the three of us could agree on to watch Saturday night, and it was free since there's a Showtime on DirectTV promotion going on for the next two months....oh, and the jury is still out on Jet Li.

I also re-watched The Golden Compass, 21 Grams, and Conan the Destroyer. All three left me in wonderment -- for Compass, I wondered what was going on with The Subtle Knife, which was *supposed* to come out this year. I really hope they make all three movies. If you follow the link above, you'll head over to a page with a fan-made trailer for the second movie. The first minute of the trailer had me in awe as to where this fan could have possibly gotten a hold of such great footage to splice together into a trailer. The second minute made me feel for them in that they should have stopped after the first minute of their trailer. Regardless, I hope they don't wait too long because they'll have to recast the kids as they'll be too old for their parts. For 21 Grams, I was left pretty damned depressed and happy that my life isn't nearly as bad as anything those characters faced....Ever....And for Conan: seeing Wilt the Stilt standing next to Ahhh-nold made me realize just what a beast that man is and left me wondering why more basketball players aren't recruited to act in movies in which freakishly large men are needed, like alien or fantasy movies.

Well, I have to go. Sylvain's been nagging me off and on for the past hour that his crops are dying on Facebook....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Just briefly

Yep, it's been just over a year at blogging, so I decided that it should have a new look.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Decisions, decisions

Spurned by the discovery that weaving projects can now be entered onto Ravelry, I felt a tremendous need to finish my woven market bag that I had worked on way back in April. This bag was woven out of Louet Euroflax Geneva for the warp and some of Nancy's hand-dyed Kona superwash wool for the weft. The patterning included a band of plain weave with leno for the bag body (which, BTW, is pronounced "lee-no", not like that big-chinned late-night doofus who I can't believe now has his own prime-time show).

So, last night, while waiting for Sylvain to return home on the team bus from his scrimage, I pulled out the sewing machine and got to work. I had started seaming up the sides by hand, but that was just plain taking too long. Within a short period of time, I had both sides seamed and the strap sewn in place.

The decision I'm struggling with now is what fabric to line it with. I really don't want to purchase new fabric and have some satin on hand, but am unsure if that is the right fabric for this project. Given the open weave of leno, I'm wondering how well the satin will hold up. If it'll be fine, then decision comes down to using either the purple or salmon colored fabric that I already have. If its not the right fabric, then what? Anyone have any fabric or color suggestions? If I go with a different fabric, should I wash it first? In the past, I've melded the fabric to a piece of interfacing and didn't bother to wash it. I don't plan to use interfacing for this project, so am a little unsure on how the satil will hold up on its own...

Okay, enough weaving talk. It's been a while since I've commented on crazy people or situations that've gone on around me, and yesterday, I saw something that made me actually clap with joy. Chuck and I took a different route home from the football scrimage in St. Johns by staying on Business 27 into town. I must've missed the turn for Lake Lansing Road, so just took Saginaw St. to Grand River. While stopped at the intersection of Grand River and Abbott, there were 2 pairs of E.L.P.D. officers on bikes riding up and down the lanes of stopped cars. One officer rode up to the car next to us and asked the driver to pull over onto Abbott Road on campus. This was at 7 pm and the only thing I could think of is that maybe the driver wasn't wearing their seatbelt. Their car was just a little bit ahead of ours, so I couldn't see into the front seats to know whether my guess was correct. Thinking that I'm right-on made me quite happy. Getting caught without your seatbelt on is such a stupid way to earn a ticket. Sure, they had Pennsylvania plates, but are there any states where seatbelt use is optional? Wearing a seatbelt has long been a pet peeve of mine and I've been known to not start driving until everyone in the car is buckled up. Not to sound like a total kill-joy, but I can't think of anyone that's worth me getting ticketed over.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Something unexpected

I guess this makes it official. I must be the very last person to know when anything new a wonderful happens. Here, I thought I'd spend some time this afternoon on the computer updating the blog, FB, and Ravelry, and that all came crashing down as while on Ravelry, I saw that we can now enter weaving projects. Yes, that's right, weaving! Did you already know this? No? Well, then, please let me know so that I can feel some satisfaction that I've made someone else's little place on this planet a little more illuminated...

So, how did this ruin my easy afternoon? I now have to find my notes, which are scattered on various pieces of tattered scrap paper so that adequate details on my weaving projects can be entered in. Crap!

Oh, and in case you're not on Ravelry, here's what you're missing:

As mentioned in a recent post, we used my woven napkins for the first time at last week's knit-in. There are 6 napkins to each set; the green ones were started way back in May (and, yes, they literally took forever to weave) and the pink ones were started towards the end of July (but only took 2 weeks to work up, go figure). Both sets are plain weave and cotton, with the blue warp in the pink set being a mercerized cotton. Unfortunately for me, they both shrank a healthy amount. The green set was planned to be 13 x 13 and was woven to 15 x 15 on the loom. After washing, they were 10 x 13 1/2. The pink set was planned to be 13 x 13 also, so I shot for 16 x 16 on the loom and got 12 x 13 3/4. Please don't ask why I changed the width up also, because as I write this, I'm realizing just how stupid that was.

I also need to give a very big and very public "Thank you" to Irene for helping me out by giving some tips on finishing the hems on these napkins. I am the most inept person when it comes to sewing and was having horrible tension issues with the bottom thread on my machine. Irene found that the new pack of bobbins that were a recent addition to my sewing stash were too small for my machine. Never in a million years would it have crossed my mind that that would truly matter, but there you have it. She changed out a larger bobbin for the small one that was I had been using and presto-change-o, the stitches looked 100% better.

Last weekend, Sarah, Erin, and I travelled over to Allegan for the Michigan Fiber Festival. This is literally a dream for a fiber shopaholic (or a nightmare, depending on how you look at it) and I tried very hard to be a good girl. There plenty to see for inspiration, like this woven bag on display for a vendor selling handbag straps and accessories (of which Nancy tells me is an "easy log cabin pattern"; will definitely go into the project queue).

I walked away after purchasing only 4 skeins of yarn. Two were skeins of Comfort that were on sale for half-price. These will definitely come in handy when it's time to work up chemo caps for Knit Michigan 2010. Now, I just need to find cool patterns for them.

The other two skeins were sock yarn. One was a superwash merino/bamboo/nylon from Yarn Hollow and the other was a superwash merino/nylon from my8kidsmom, both of whom I know and love to support when I see them at these events.

As I was purchasing the sock yarn from Rachel (aka my8kidsmom), she pointed out that I've said time and again how much I hate knitting socks. After telling her how bored I tend to get while working them up, she suggested that I give patterns by Cookie A a try, which I've never done. So, the following day, I picked up a copy of Sock Innovation, and set out to knit up the Vilai sock using Rachel's yarn. I must say that it's going pretty well so far, given that I'm still working on Nancy's sweater and have all the other stuff in my life going on.

That's about it for projects. The only other Ravelry update that I made was to also add the Dale of Norway Vancouver 2010 pattern book to my collection. Suprisingly, the book is half adult and half child/baby sweaters, mittens, and hats. Maybe some of the new babies in Chuck's family will have some vintage Dale wear coming their way....

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chuck the Supertaster -- "Super bud powers, Activate!" (AKA the foodie entry)

[And, yes, the Wonder Twins reference was straight out of Chuck's mouth...]

I'm beginning to develop an aversion to foodies. I don't say that lightly since I'm in love with one. But, between the many TV shows, radio shows (sorry, Splendid Table), and now movies, I'm starting to get the heebies at having to listen to someone describe how they would cook something.

Chuck has long been under the delusion that he is a supertaster. These supposed skills are ones that plague my relationship with food; whether its me cooking at home or us dining out, nothing escapes his ever critical eye. Signs that he's ready to spring into a culinary tirade include wrinkling his nose, shaking of his head, and a strange hesitation before speaking, as though he's searching for just the right words to adequately describe just how awful whatever meal we happen to be having is.

This has all come to a head as it's been a busy two weeks for me and one that had been full of new, local dining experiences. Before I hop to it, I'd like to disclaim that if you happen to be employed or own any of the businesses I'm about to talk about, please do not take this as a bad remark. Chuck is too damn picky for his own good, and your best bet when you see us coming is to flip over the "Open" sign, turn off the lights, and duck behind your counters. If you happen to be in the Greater Lansing area and would like to try one of these business, please do and develop your own opinion. Remember, Chuck is the same guy that would stand at his own mother's shoulder and criticize how she's cooking, so he is bound to be disappointed at every turn.

We've eaten at three new restaurants and one previous favorite, but each had their own qualm of one form or another. A new wing-joint opened up near our house and we've eaten there twice. Both times, Chuck did not really enjoy his wings. Each time, he ordered two sets of 6, each with a different "flavor", thinking that it would be the sauce they were tossed in; yet, each time, the wings were not saucy at all and the flavoring was infused in the skin of the wings. So, the only reason he'd really want to go back would be for the strong drinks and cute waitresses (both of which he really shouldn't be worrying about).

Our next victim was the a new deli that had opened up within the past few months. Chuck had the corned beef sandwich (which should be "the cornerstone of any deli shop"). It's been over a week since that experience and he's still griping about that meal. If it wasn't the rye bread that wasn't rye bread (in his opinion), it was definitely the chipped condition of the corned beef that he received and the fact that it was microwaved before making it into the sandwich that totally turned him off to the place. Also not working in the deli's favor was an episode of No Reservations that we happened to watch that evening in which Bourdain revisited some of his favorite places in Lower Manhattan, one of which was a deli shop. In that shop, the corned beef was sliced by hand, not by machine (which will lead it to break apart easier). After watching that episode, Chuck was certain that he didn't see the staff cut the meat before making our sandwiches, so he was sure that either the corned beef was overcooked or cut by machine. My knock against this restaurant was that I had ordered a side of hummus, and received tortillas to eat with it (not pita bread). The Syrian in me died just a little that day.

Our next stop was an old fav in Williamston. The main reason I bring this restaurant up is because the food is good, Chuck's only complaint was that he thought his burger was overdone and not the "medium" he requested, and this was the setting in which we finally were able to talk it out about his constant food harping. I'm not sure how we got onto this subject, but I was very clearly laying out how his heavy critique of food is really a downer when going places with him. His only retort was that he couldn't help himself; he was a bona fide supertaster. Using the wiki reference as a guide, we talked through it and found that, indeed, all of the foods that he hates are ones that supertasters are supposedly sensitive to. Maybe there is some truth to what he's saying -- no normal person hates coffee and olives, right?

We managed to make it until this past weekend before eating out. Between going to the Great Lakes Folk Fest, the Jazz Fest in Old Town, and heading to the movies, we were too pressed for time to run home and cook. A new hot dog restaurant opened downtown and we decided to try it out for dinner. As we took our seats at the counter in the center of the restaurant, I should have paid better attention to our surroundings. The place had only a few other diners, so we easily could have had any number of places to sit. But, no, we made straight for the horse-shoe shaped counter, which proved to be a terrible place to be. Placed right in front of us on the other side of the counter was the food prep area and steam table. There were a ton of regionally-themed hot dogs to choose from -- each varying from the other based on the toppings and whether it consisted of a Chicago red hot or a Koegels dog. I had the Chicago dog and can say that I was very happy with it. Chuck, however, paid far too much attention and nearly went to a major bitchfest when he saw the cook place our dogs into their buns and put them into the microwave ("Gah! The microwave!") It was all over for him from there. He ordered two dogs and I'd like to say that they were the Kansas City dog and the Atlanta dog, but I really can't be sure if I'm remembering correctly. I tried to phase him out as best as I could after that.

But, I seem to be alone around here in my all-out attack on foodies. Saved on the DVR are many episodes of shows like Barbeque University, America's Test Kitchen, and Man vs. Food. Last week, I was weaving in the dining room and listening as Chuck watched an episode of Man vs. Food where Adam was in North Carolina trying to break a chili dog eating contest by trying to scarf down 15 dogs in an hour. I couldn't help but think about what a tremendous waste of food that was and what a better show it would be if he could find 3 or 4 hungry kids in the city he happened to be in who he could feed the 15 dogs to rather than eat them himself.

The true irony is that the very next day, I received an invitation from my sister-in-law to attend a "food fight party". I kid you not. Here's the party description:

"Everyone needs to bring a dish to THROW & a dish to PASS. Wear a bathing suit to swim in. Bring clothes that can be ruined & a dry change of clothing. You may want to bring a pair of swim goggles to protect your eyes.

Suggested foods to bring for throwing: Oatmeal, cream of wheat, grits, mashed potatoes, pudding, cool whip, jello, cream of corn, pasta, cake…
  • Please do not bring food that is spicy, high in acid or citrus.
  • Stick to foods that are soft without sharp edges."
What is it with being so wasteful? Needless to say, I am not going to be able to attend this party.

So there you have it folks. There isn't really an ending to the tirade for me. I just need to get somehow recharge my defenses, regain my calm, neutral nerves, and prepare to be the "good" partner to Chuck by just smiling and nodding the next time his food senses are offended.

Next time, I promise to talk more about the knitting, weaving, movies. Lisa's pattern for her "Kindly Sheep mittens" may be published soon, so I can finally show off pics of that. I'm nearly done with Nancy's "Long wrap cardigan" and she's hoping to have that pattern available this fall, so photos of that will go up soon. We had the inaugural usage of my two sets of hand-woven dinner napkins at last night's knit-in. And, I've seen quite a few movies to talk about: "(500) Days of Summer", "G.I. Joe", and "21 grams". Oddly enough, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was in both of the first two movies, playing very different roles. I didn't know he was in 'Joe going into it, so it was a little weird to see him there after seeing him play this love-struck guy.

I'm hoping to see this weekend: "Ponyo", "District 9", and "The Hurt Locker". And, unfortunately, I don't have the time to sit in on the John Hughes Festival that's going on at Celebration Cinema, where for $3 each, you can watch "Ferris Beuller", "Sixteen Candles", and "The Breakfast Club" back to back. I was too young to see these on the big screen the first time around and seeing them now would be great, but I just can't be in two places at once....if you happen to go, please let me know how it was. I'm curious to know if the screenings were full.

If you're a movie fan, like me, and are interested in watching movie trailers, I'll leave you with this link to the trailer for "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus". (And, yes, Sarah, you'll want to see this because it has Johnny OMG! Depp....)