Saturday, May 31, 2008

If This is Thursday, it Must Be Venice

Venice, May 2008

My trip to Venice was short (essentially one day) but very sweet. My friends M___ and J___ had been living in Venice since February on an academic mission, and graciously entertained me for the duration of my stay. M___ is a travel writer, so she knows the lay of the land wherever she goes--vaporetti, bacari, and of course dogs selling newspapers. While J___ toiled away during the day, she took me all over Venice via alleys, squares, bridges, and boats. We walked through the big tourist sites, but chose shopping in favor of museums. It was hotter in Europe than I expected, and after wearing the shoes I brought for the wedding for an evening in Paris, it was clear that they would not be comfortable, and the only alternative (10 year old clogs) was in no way stylish enough. But shoes crafted in Venice? A perfect souvenir, and a lifesaver at a wedding that went very, very late. The rest of the shopping included the previously mentioned yarn, and a lot of window shopping for sharp Italian hats. I wish that I lived a lifestyle that would make a Borsalino a practical accessory, but I'm not sure if I can pull off that look here in the Pacific Northwest.

Ah, you want to know about the wine and the food? While we enjoyed a pre-dinner Sicilian Orange (seriously--from Sicily!), there was a short downpour that more or less cleared the streets of tourists and locals alike. We enjoyed a spritz at a bacari alongside the canal, and then went to M___ & J____'s favorite late-night Osteria for an incredibly delicious meal. Beef carpaccio--unbelievable. Lasagna--unbelievable. Stove-top espresso and fresh baked goods for breakfast the next day--unbelievable. Thanks, M___ and J___!

p.s. In case anyone is tired of hearing about my vacation, I think that I only have about two more posts left. Fingers crossed, anyway--I'm feeling less and less like I ever even went on vacation.

Friday, May 30, 2008

I can't knit and watch a live baseball game

but when the score looks like this:


I think that I'm well within my rights to pull out this:


After all, we were sitting in the pricey Terrace Club seats--I might as well get some knitting value out of them! I've temporarily misplaced the toe yarn for the M's Socks that I started on opening day, so I've been working on the Smooshy Socks.

It should be noted that on Wednesday's pitching duel against the Red Sox, I knit only during the pre-game, because that was a game worth watching. Here's the photo (note that we were in our regular seats, which are awesome but much more reasonably priced):


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Honey, Because the World's Gone Wrong


This weekend I had a strong urge to start a new knitting project, one that I’ve had my eye on for awhile. A couple of friends have had baby girls in the last couple of months, and the Little Sister’s Dress is a simple but very cute garment. This is one of the projects I thought about taking on my trip, but I opted for the (now ripped out) lace project instead. I fished around in my stash on Friday (or maybe Thursday or Saturday—I’m still a little messed up from the vacation and holiday days) and came up with a skein of Jitterbug in the Copper Beach colorway that I’ve had for awhile. Most importantly, it was already wound into a ball, so I could start immediately. I thought it was perfect—shades of brown with a little blue and red. Brown is a great fall color for a Pacific Northwest baby, and think how cute it would look with red leggings & turtleneck?

In the dim light of the living room (supplemented by the glow of a ton of Tivo’d shows that I had to catch up on), I made really good progress after a couple of minor counting/pattern following issues. I took it outside into the real, natural-light world last night, and it is ugly. Really, really ugly, with its ugliness confirmed by three other knitters. I don’t think that the photo above captures the ugliness adequately—some might even think that it looks fine. The problem is that there’s a lot of yellow in the yarn, which looks at first like it’s just a lighter brown. Blech.

This was definitely a can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees situation—I was so focused on the pattern and shaping (which I screwed up early on) that I didn’t pull back and see the whole garment. Usually, choosing color is one of my stronger qualities, because my former roommate E____ is a graphic designer and it was easy to just lift her favorite palette and apply it to my own projects. I bet that E____ would have noticed the yellow, though.

I really don’t even want to finish this now, because I certainly can’t give a poor, innocent baby such an ugly thing, and I can’t think of any 6 month olds against whom I am holding a grudge. I’m not interested in over dying it, if that’s even possible, because that’s a slippery slope towards dying more yarn/garments, and I would really rather focus on the hobbies I already have. If anyone would like to take this yarn (ripped out or in its current form), please leave a comment and I will send it to you, no questions asked. Maybe it would look better as socks, or maybe YOU want to over-dye it. Seriously, take it--you’d be doing me a favor. If more than one person want it (which would surprise me), I’ll randomly generate a number.

I’m starting another one any day now, because it’s the cutest pattern, but in a better color. Maybe the Sundara sock yarn that didn’t make it as the Bayerische Socks? That yarn is beautiful-no yellow in sight.

ETA: Note that Jennifer used the same Jitterbug colorway to knit these Monkeys, and they look awesome--no weird yellow splotches at all. But I still want this yarn out of my stash--I don't have the heart to try and reknit it.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Knitting Break!

Knitting in Europe

So instead of moving on to the Venice recap, this is a cross-city (but still trip related) post about knitting, and shopping related to knitting. I was a little concerned before I left about the differing rules from country to country about bringing knitting needles through security, so I tried to bring tools and projects that wouldn't raise any red flags. Wood backup dpns, plastic stitch holders and darning needles, and no scissors. I did bring some metal Knitpicks Options to use on a lace project, so that if there was an objection I could just discard the tips without removing the yarn from the cable. I went through security in Seattle, Amsterdam, Prague, Paris-CDG, Venice-Treviso, Vienna, and again in Amsterdam, and had no problems, other than that my clogs kept setting off the metal detector, and I was yelled at for using too many bins in Paris instead of just piling my computer, toiletries, and coat into one tiny bin. Seriously--there was no shortage of bins, nobody else in line, and isn't the point of pulling the computer out of the case that it needs to be looked at by itself?

I brought along a barely-started Froot Loop sock, from the latest Knitty surprise, which I am knitting on wooden needles. Size 0, very sharp Knitpicks Harmony needles, but wood. The photo in the bottom right was on the train to Terezin (note: visiting a concentration camp isn't a great way to get in a happy mood for a wedding), and the top right is the view of the Stephansdom in Vienna outside our hotel window. By the time I arrived back in Seattle, the heel was turned and I was well into the foot--I'm still a little surprised that I didn't manage to snap those needles, but they've held up well. Normally, I find that bamboo needles get a little rough after use, but these are still totally smooth. The yarn that I'm using is Yarntini semi-solid (from the Loopy Ewe) that was in my stash, the colorway is (I think!) Designated Driver. I like the way that this pattern looks in the semi-solid yarn MUCH better than my discarded first attempt. Here's a closeup of the gusset:


I shortened the cuff by a couple of repeats, and I may end up making these for my mom because they seem a little on the small side. They stretch enough to get on my foot without a struggle, though, so maybe they WILL be for me!!!

I started a Myrtle Leaf Lace Shawl (Rav link) while in Prague, because I wanted to have a more challenging project going that I couldn't possibly finish on this trip. No danger there--there was not a lot of non-airplane knitting time. The yarn for this one is very fine 100% cashmere that I bought at Madrona earlier this year. It was a struggle to get this started, I ripped back a few times and I'm not thrilled with the pattern. Also, the colors of this yarn are so rich that I think a more solid pattern would show it off better, or maybe smaller needles would be best. I ripped it out yesterday. I'll probably return to an already started lace project before starting something new with this yarn.

What's that? You want to know about the yarns of Europe? Well, I hate to disappoint, but the yarn haul from the trip is very small. I didn't visit any yarn shops in Prague or Paris, except for a department store in Prague that had a lot of yarn that I can get in the US. In Venice, M___ and I went first to a store that appeared to be a yarn store, but was not--they had twisted beautiful silk and chenielle scarves into what looked like hanks. INCREDIBLE store, gorgeous scarves & textiles, but no yarn. Maybe 10 minutes later we stumbled across a yarn store, and I purchased two skeins of bright orange sock yarn, made in Italy--Principessa (Rav link). The color looks much more intense here in the grey Pacific Northwest than it did in the palette of Venice, and I can't wait to start knitting with it.

In Vienna, I carved out time to visit the only knitting store that I went to when I lived there--it's where I bought the supplies for this long-dormant project. The store is still a tiny little place, with pattern books and magazines piled high on the counter and yarn in every little crevice. I wanted some Austrian yarn, and although there was no sock yarn they did have local linen and shetland wool. I purchased two hanks of shetland wool, you can see the blue pretty clearly above, the dark heathery green is s-l-i-g-h-t-l-y overshadowed by the orange sock yarn. In June, I'm taking a design your own fair isle sweater class, and I'm hoping that I can incorporate at least one of these yarns into my sweater.

The yarn in both Venice and Vienna was very comparable in price to the US. Certainly not a bargain, but I think that the Pricipessa was about $15 for the two balls and the Shetland wool was about $18 per skein, for 100 g / 450m. The Vienna store had smaller skeins of the shetland, I should probably have gotten smaller amounts of more colors!

And now that I'm home, and no longer worried about hauling a heavy bag all over, I wish that I'd bought some of the linen as well as a few more colors of the wool. Next time!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Have you been to Paris, France?

Paris Grid

Most of Paris was a whirlwind--500 paintings at the Musee d'Orsay in under 2 hours, whip through Notre Dame (and then climb to the top), race to the top of the Arc de Triomphe before it closes. Versailles? Just make sure that the hoards of schoolchildren on tours don't slow you down (and try to keep them our of your photos, while you're at it). Much of the time I felt like I was being swept along in a current of tourists, which does not bring out the best in me nor in the people around me. Along those lines, I'd like to say in public:

* To the French woman standing in the bathroom line at Versailles: Just because you're speaking in French doesn't mean that I can't pick out the words "American" and "Tennis Shoes", especially when I'm two inches away from you, wearing tennis shoes. You're in a tourist attraction--expect people to dress for comfort when they're walking 5 miles.

* To the American tourist who exclaimed "these people are SO PUSHY" when I tried to politely get around her in order to not lose my friend, just before she extended her elbows to keep me from getting around: Which people? The American tourists? Because while many of the European tourists crowded me in a way that is unacceptable in the American West, nobody but you actually tried to prevent me from getting somewhere, or pushed me. Way to take a stand! p.s. there are people in Europe who understand English.

Let the record show that I didn't say either of these things to these people at the moment--I don't think that it would have made the situation better.

Although the too-quick pace and lack of non-touristy exploration in Paris was very frustrating for me, one of the highlights of the whole trip was a meal at the home of one of S___'s friends. He met V______ in China when they were studying there maybe 10 years ago, and have kept in touch since then. She invited us to her home for a typical French dinner, and it was one of the most relaxing (and delicious) evenings of the trip. The main course was duck, prepared in a steak-like form and served rare. I've eaten duck before, but this is the first time I really enjoyed it. The conversation was great, and her husband and kids were a lot of fun to meet. The youngest child is the boy I knit the striped baby hat for, which unfortunately will probably be too small by the time winter comes around. The age buffer that I used for the sizing wasn't big enough, or maybe my gauge was too tight, or maybe the baby has a larger than average head. It's the risk you run with baby hats, and maybe it will fit in the end--in any case, I'm glad that I brought it along.

After two very short days in Paris, it was on to Venice for one day to visit M__ and J____. Although every bit at overrun by tourists as Paris, Venice was an oasis, I'll post about it later this weekend (I hope). I've had some questions about how the tiny computer worked out (pretty well), and I'm putting together a "travel gear roundup" / "knitting" post, also hopefully for later this weekend. Can I just say how happy I am that it's a three day weekend???

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Endless Stream of Post-Trip-Posts Begins

36 photos from Prague

I'm back! Try though I might, I couldn't post at all while in Europe--I had basically zero time to myself and dubious internet access. Lesson learned--four countries in 12 days is at least one country (France) too many. Plus, travelling with a person with very different ideas about how to spend time and what/how many sights to see is not a great idea. I saw a lot of things that I probably wouldn't have otherwise, but I didn't have a chance to really relax and enjoy what I was seeing--I spent more time fighting through crowds of tourists than drinking coffee in Grand Cafes, for example.

At the same time, the two main events of the trip, (the Prague (mini) Marathon and the Viennese Wedding) were both really great. I ran the 4.2K mini-marathon in less than 30 minutes, and I ran the whole way, so I definitely met my goal. My friend S__ ran the whole marathon in well under 4 hours, and since he was shooting for 4:15, it was a great time. Disappointing for me, since I arrived at the finish line at the 4 hour mark and completely missed him, but a significant improvement for him over his first marathon. More on the wedding in a later post!

The photos above are all from Prague, which was beautiful but seems to have become much more touristy and expensive than the last time I was there. Maybe it's because so many people were there for the Marathon, or because there were a lot of Starbucks (thank god), or because the exchange rate is so terrible? Maybe a combination of the three. We stayed at the super convenient Old Town Prague Hilton, which didn't seem to have air-conditioning (it was pretty hot in Prague) but was otherwise very comfortable. One of my favorite meals from the trip was at Maze in the hotel lobby, it's a celebrity-chef Gordon Ramsay venture. It was a little fancy-schmancy for my travel clothes, but the food was delicious. Otherwise, the food in Prague was unremarkable--traditional Czech food is not to my taste, and I foolishly went with pork and dumplings instead of sausage. The weather was unbeleivably good, sunny and much warmer than our spring has been in Seattle.

So that's the Prague wrap-up. I'm still a little travel-weary, and I know that this is all a little generic, so if anyone has any questions leave them in the comments!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Cutest. Bag. Evah.

Backpack Collage

Did I say that I was going to pack? I meant that I was going to finish sewing the Day in the Park Backpack Tote, which I will probably take with me even though it won't hold enough to be an effective carry-on bag. In the photos above, it's holding my tiny computer, a small knitting project, and a zippered pouch of knitting equipment. I don't want to cram a lot more into it, but I think that I'll need more room for the plane. It's probably a good walking-around-Prague bag, though--there's a zippered pouch inside that I can use for my passport & wallet, and the bag cinches up enough and is deep enough that it shouldn't be a pick-pocket target.

I'm very happy with the pattern, and I didn't have a lot of trouble, but I think that the rivets are probably not going to hold through all of the layers of cord. I sewed the ends of the long straps just in case the rivets fail. I won't be brokenhearted if they fail, because I think that I twisted one of the straps, and it can't be fixed without ripping out the rivets. Or it might not be twisted, I might just be twisting it when I put it on. Either way--I'm fine with it.

If I make another one (and I might, though not right away), I might make it an inch or so deeper, and I might make the straps an inch wider. The skinniness of the straps is fine if I don't overstuff the bag, but let's face it--I'm going to overstuff it. Another possible mod would be to add a zipper closure to the top--it would be relatively easy to put one in where the lining meets the patterned fabric, and then I'd omit the magnetic snap.

Poor Frieda wasn't happy with me trying to get her into the photos--she refused to look towards the camera at all. Gretel couldn't quite figure out what was going on at all, she wouldn't come all the way outside:


Note that the sliding glass door is open next to the dog door, but she chooses to stand halfway out the dog door instead of just walking outside.

Say I'm the Only Bee in Your Bonnet

I've got a few little things to share, so rather than a bunch of tiny posts I'm just dividing this post up into chapters. I'm a model of efficiency this morning!

Djevellue: Done


I-cord ties applied! I'm not really great with the i-cord, but these will do. Now the only question is whether or not it will fit the intended baby, although there are plenty of other baby candidates if it doesn't. The pattern is Norwegian Sweet Baby Cap / Djevellue and the yarn is Dale Baby Ull. This was a very quick knit, I really like the stripes and the colors.

Has this vaction started yet?

I'm still working on my other pre-trip prep. The backpack / tote is close to being finished, but it might not be big enough to work as a carry-on for this trip. That pattern is really great, though--the directions are super clear without being overly wordy. I've had zero issues so far that were not directly related to my half-assed sewing skills. I haven't decided about the Paris yarn, but I'm thinking Monkey or Jaywalker. I like my first Monkeys, but I hated the Jaywalkers I started last year. Hmmm . . . maybe Monkeys.

More Lunch Photos

In other housekeeping, here are last week's lunches--there are only three, due to a couple of work-related lunches:

Lunch, Week of April 28

My favorite thing this week was probably the tomato-cucumber-goat cheese salad in the second row. I threw some balsamic & a little oil, and marinated overnight. Delicious! Otherwise, you can see a pattern forming: tiny bagel for breakfast, salad of some sort, entree of some sort, fruit. Even though there's a lot of same-ness, there's enough variety to keep me from getting bored with lunch. It would be pretty easy to liven things up with bad foods (tub full of BBQ pork, anyone?), but it's not that hard to keep it reasonably healthy.

I'm even thinking about packing a little bento for the trip, although I'm not hauling Mr. Bento on the plane. And I'm not sure how much liquid makes a food a liquid for TSA purposes--if I put the salad dressing on before I go through security, am I o.k.? Maybe I'm better off just buying food once I'm through security, but it would be nice to have a snack that I know is fresh, healthy, and of reasonable size.

6 Weird Things About Me

Liberty tagged me for the 6 Weird Things About Me meme, here are the rules:
1. Link to the person that tagged you.
2.Post the rules on your blog.
3. Share six weird things/habits/quirks about yourself.
4. Tag six others. And let them know they’ve been tagged!

Here are my six weird things--but are they really that weird?
1. I have only ever owned German cars, I love German dogs (dachshunds, of course), and I took German language courses for fun when I lived in Boston, but with the exception of the Frankfurt airport I've never been to Germany. I have been to seven other European countries, however.
2. I can't stop listening to the Vampire Weekend record. It's in my car, on my iPod at work, and on the iPod I take to the gym. I've probably listened to the whole thing maybe 50 times in the last six weeks. I suspect that within the next couple of months I'll put it away and never listen to it again, but I'm not there yet.
3. I have four iPods. And I want more.
4. I may have been the only person at Wellesley whose tuition was partially paid for with a bowling scholarship. I won $1000 in a tournament when I was in 9th grade.
5. My first job was at a Dairy Queen, where I selected a brown polyester uniform rather than a more comfortable / flattering cotton uniform. I think that this is why I only recently started wearing brown again (it's been 23 years since I worked there).
6. The day that I arrived in Vienna, I ate a chicken dish at a Chinese Restaurant. For the next seven months, I probably ate at that restaurant every one-two weeks, and I ate the same thing almost every time. Seriously, I can only remember ordering one other dish, and that's because the restaurant owner was telling my friend S__ that I should try other things and I was embarassed. When I get to Vienna in two weeks, I am going to eat that same dish--after seven years, I still remember that it was "Nummer 41". I can't wait!

I'm short on time (must really start packing today), so I'm opening up the tagging for volunteers--have at it!

Friday, May 02, 2008

I Think My Broken Heart Might Mend

Fruit Loop

Ah, the heartbreak of the wrong pattern / yarn combination. Why can't they just get along? The Spring Knitty Surprise pattern Froot Loop is great--as soon as I saw it (like two days ago), I knew that I wanted to knit it. I also knew that I wanted to start socks with the aptly named Paris Too to take on my trip. Perfect! I'll start right away, so that I can maybe get two on one needle, and knit knit knit on the plane.

No, not perfect. I mis-read the ribbing pattern (I did 7 repeats of 9 stitches, instead of 9 repeats of 7 stitches), so that's no good. Before I ripped back, though, I decided to try a few rows of the Froot Loops. I knit the first 14 stitches in pattern (above, right side), and then just knit around. Even after only three rows, it's clear that the pattern is totally obscured by the row to row contrast.

I'll definitely give this pattern another try, though--I like the Froot Loops a lot. They're like a combination of the circle pattern from the Poppy Socks (though the stitch is a little different) and a little twisted stitch, with a different result. The only question is what pattern should I use for the Paris yarn? And I guess whether I should take the Paris yarn to Paris, or take the Froot Loops? Maybe another good question is why haven't I already started packing? I guess that there isn't only one question.

p.s. Let the record show that I missed my April walking / running goal of 40 miles by 0.37 miles, for the sole reason that I am too vain to wear running shoes to a rock concert. I certainly covered that much ground (and briskly) without even counting any dancing, as I parked a few long blocks away from the venue. May's goal is only 25 miles, because I probably won't run regularly while I'm on vacation, and because I am also unlikely to wear running shoes while on the tourist trails.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

I've Seen You on the Beach and I've Seen You on TV

Duran Duran, 4/30/2008

Dancing at a Duran Duran concert takes a lot more effort than I imagined when I was 13, or than I remember from the last time I saw them. In 1988, I think it was. Anyway, the show was a lot of fun, and they played the hits, and I bought a shirt with a shiny Duran Duran logo. So who am I to complain, about sore muscles and a cramped up neck?