Marsha Knits

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Name: Marsha Brofka-Berends
Location: US

Marsha knits . . . and reads and cooks and edits and gardens and hikes and thinks and eats and photographs and sings and writes and travels and plans and hopes and . . .

11 June 2007

The great migration

After nearly two years at Blogger, I've decided to move my blog to Wordpress. Why? Lots of reasons. But the big ones are these:
  • I'm excited about the amazing functionality of Wordpress.
  • Blogger has pissed me off too many times, especially with uploading and managing pictures. (I'm a huge fan of Google but very disappointed with their [lack of] support for this product. Grrrr.)
  • I originally started this blog as a place to keep track of my knitting projects. But it's grown to encompass much more than that.
Please update your bookmarks and RSS feeds and join me here.

04 June 2007

Pinwheel sweater

Last Sunday afternoon I decided I really wanted to knit a child-sized pinwheel sweater using the free pattern from Elann. I'd never made one of these before (though I'd seen a similar one, based on a Vogue Knitting pattern, worn by an adult friend), but I'd come across the pattern the day before and found myself possessed by an insane desire to knit one of these things immediately. The pattern calls for Elann's own worsted-weight 100% wool yarn. I've never used it before, but I did have several balls of KnitPicks Wool of the Andes worsted on hand. So I planned what I hoped would be an eye-pleasing combination of colors and cast on. A few hours later, I was already in the middle of the third "donut," right at the spot where the first armhole is created. For some reason, the pattern tells you to start a new ball of yarn here. I couldn't quite understand why, but I did it...and then once I had cast on stitches for the other side of the armhole, I realized that starting a new ball of yarn was completely unnecessary. So when I got to the second armhole, I just kept plugging along with the ball of yarn I was already using, and everything worked out just fine. I did have some trouble with the crochet provisional cast-on, though. This was the first time I'd ever done one, and when I went to pick up the stiches for the sleeves later I found that I hadn't cast on to the correct loops of the crochet chain. So instead of unzipping like the top stitching on a big bag of rice (anyone out there know what I'm talking about?), the yarn refused to budge. I had to remove each loop from the crochet chain separately. Fortunately, there were only eighteen loops, so this didn't take very long. This is a very interesting sweater. The child-sized version is supposed to fit someone as small as six months old to someone as large as four years old. My daughter, who's modeling the sweater here (with some coaching from her dad, who helpfully shouted, "Now point to the stove and the refrigerator at the same time!" as I took the first photo), is two years old. You can see that the sleeves are rolled up a bit, so she's got plenty of room. (And because the bottom two-thirds of each sleeve is done in k1p1 ribbing, it stays put when it's rolled up--very helpful if you want to put it on a short-armed baby.) The sweater has eight sections, and the sleeves are separated by two sections one way and by four sections another. (This layout is very visible in the third photo here.) So, depending on how the sweater is put on, you get either a long sweater with a short collar (the first photo) or a short sweater with a long collar (the second photo) that could even be used as a hood for a small baby. In both orientations, the sweater kept sliding off of Sylvia's shoulders--especially in the long-collar-short-sweater direction. (Note that this sweater has not been blocked. I guess it's possible that blocking might help with this problem.) So I'm thinking about putting some I-cord ties or maybe even some sort of button in the front. If I stick a closure right in the middle, across from the armholes, it should line up properly when the sweater is worn in either direction. This sweater was a pretty fast knit in #9 needles (#8 for the ribbing on the sleeves). I started it on a Sunday afternoon and was finished (including weaving in the ends!) the following Saturday evening. It also didn't use much yarn: I used less than one skein each of the red, blue, and white and just under two skeins of the gray. Wool of the Andes is $1.99 per skein, so this sweater cost under ten bucks to make (and there's still plenty of red, blue, and white to knit a donut of each in another sweater!). (I should point out, though, that I decided to omit the funky I-cord loop edging that the pattern calls for. I seems like the sort of thing a toddler would get caught on everything and end up pulling on the sweater.) At the end of the photo shoot, once Sylvia had finished identifying all the major appliances in my kitchen, I spread out the sweater on the floor for one last photo. Sylvia rushed to get her own camera and lent me a hand!

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01 June 2007

Going in circles with your circulars?

Thanks to my SP10, I finally have a super-cool case for my circular needles. Those of you who aren't so fortunate to count her among your pals might want to take a look at this tutorial for making a circular-needle case out of an old hardcover book. Very, very cool!

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31 May 2007


I came across this website a while back but completely forgot about it until reading Arianna's post about it. There's a list of countries in the world, and you tick the boxes next to the ones you've visited. My tally is fifteen countries--about six percent of the world. Note that there's nothing in the Southern Hemisphere yet. I ought to do something about that one day. It looks a little more impressive if I narrow it down to the European countries I've visited:
Hmmm. Ten states--only nineteen percent of Europe. To be fair, I should point out that among the many countries I haven't visited are Turkey and Ukraine, which are both ginormous, as well as the Scandinavian countries, which aren't exactly puny. Now let's take a look at my travels in the U.S.A.:
Whew! That feels better. Until last fall, I thought I had visited all the states except South Carolina and was seriously thinking about taking a trip down there just to be able to check it off my list. And then my dad told me that I had actually been there as a toddler. I guess that was before the whole "remember stuff from here on out" part of my brain had been activated.


29 May 2007

My stash

My SP10 hostess, Kerry, has asked everyone in her group to post a stash photo. Here's mine, arrayed on the futon in our guest room. It's not huge (certainly not compared to some people's stashes...ahem!), but there's more yarn here than I remember owning. Well, that's no entirely accurate: as I unpacked the giant plastic box where I store this stuff, I remembered each ball of yarn as I encountered it, but I couldn't remember all of it without seeing it. Does that make sense? Everything is kept in ziploc bags, mostly so the balls of yarn don't agitate each other and start to unravel and get tangled (yes, the use of ziploc bags here was the result of a Bad Yarn Experience). I thought about it organizing the yarn by type, but then I realized that if I did that I'd have one pile with three sets of sock yarn (I have thus far managed to avoid the Sock Yarn Lust that usually afflicts sock knitters) and a big jumble of Everything Else.

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28 May 2007

Sock update

I did it! Earlier this month, I finished my first pair of socks! I used Simple Stripes from KnitPicks--a yarn that they've discontinued, which is unfortunate because I think it has a beautiful pattern. These were done in the toe-up pattern that my friend Pat taught me. (She is blogless but really ought to get blogging, because she knows a lot about knitting and is a a great photographer. She's knitting a pair of socks each month this year--among other projects--and you can see her progress here.) Aside from a little wonkiness on one heel flap (I somehow picked up ten extra stitches on the first sock, but everything came out perfectly on the second), I think these turned out nicely. Well, except for one thing. Look closely. See the complete and utter lack of ribbing on the top of the sock? Yup. Once I got past the heel, I was so relieved that I just kept knitting merrily along. I should, in my defense, point out that most of this ribless knitting took place among fellow knitters who didn't say a word to me about it. Not that I'm trying to blame them. I just think it's funny that about ten of us failed to notice or realize what I was doing until I had bound off both socks. The socks are a little "slouchier" than ideal. And, as it turns out, they are also a little big for my feet. So, as much as I'd like to keep them for myself (I love this colorway...and they are my first socks), I'll be giving them to someone else. In the meantime, I've started my second pair of socks. And you'll see that no only did I remember the ribbing, but I started it (on the instep only) right after the toe increases. Gotta make up for all that ribbing I left out of the last socks...

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26 May 2007


The mid-spring flowers are all gone now, with just a few azalea blooms holding on. The dogwoods are fully leafed out, and the last of the lily-of-the-valley--a charming, fragrant flower that appears for only a week or so--said farewell a few days ago. Now we're surrounded by rhododendrons, for which I have a soft spot after living in coastal Oregon, where the "rhodies" grow wild in the mountains and the arrival of spring with is celebrated with a rhododendron festival. The early-summer flowers are showing up, too: lilies, roses, dianthus. I love them all, but I'm especially fond of the blooms that bravely show up when there's still a chill in the air, reminding us that, yes, spring is indeed just around the corner.

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25 May 2007

Market bag madness

Last year, my friend Gina knit a market bag from a free pattern she found online. (She even used the yarn called for in the pattern!) It turned out great, and she has since knit a few more. At the beginning of this month, I got the market-bag itch myself and proceeded to crank out three of these suckers in quick succession, making some slight modifications to the original pattern. The first one, knit in four different colors of leftover dishcloth cotton, ended up with handles that were far too long for my liking. The original pattern called for 20-stitch-long handles. Gina did this on her first bag, and I thought the handles were a bit short. So I decided to extend them...a lot. In a burst of overzealous handle-making I cast on one hundred stitches for each handle. The result doesn't work for me...but turned out to be just right for Katie, to whom I gave the bag (though I left the ends for her to weave in). The second bag I made, the green one on the right here, was knit in Shine Worsted; the third bag, knit from dishcloth cotton, is slightly shorter because I was experimenting with length in an effort to find the right balance between "big enough to be useful at the farmers' market" and "not so big that it bounces off my butt when I walk." Both of these are planned as gifts for swap partners. This is a great pattern and one that's extremely easy to remember. Somewhere between one and a half and two balls of dishcloth cotton is what you'll need for this, so it's by no means an expensive project. And the best part is there's no seaming, grafting, Kitchener stitching, or whatever (though you do have to pick up some stitches around the flat base...).

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24 May 2007

"The Last Guy in the World to See Star Wars"

Here's a fun commentary piece just published on the Wired website: nearly thirty years to the day after Star Wars was first released, this guy finally saw it. He points out up front that he didn't go into the viewing totally clueless. It's impossible to have lived in our society for the past three decades without being exposed (heavily!) to what he calls "the fallout from this pop-culture phenomenon." In the end, he's unimpressed--and rightly so. This is an entertaining film but by no means great art. George Lucas's ability to write decent dialogue is nonexistent and, amazingly, somehow manages to get even worse over the course of the rest of the series, culminating in the gut-wrenching (for anyone who saw the film) palaver of the courtship scene in episode 2. His final verdict? "I should have waited for the 50th anniversary." Heh.

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22 May 2007

My once and future knitting

My friend Gina (a.k.a. "she of the jaw-dropping stash") just posted to her blog a meme about knitting projects. She's got a pretty impressive list of accomplishments--my own pales in comparison. The list of possibilities is interesting, though I object to "Teaching a man to knit" because it seems to assume that all the knitters who participate in this meme are women. So I've balanced this out by adding "Teaching a woman to knit" to the list. I had to look up a few things. (All bow before the Great Google Search!) "Thrummed knitting"? That produces those super-thick mittens that are one color with flecks of another color on them. There's a lovely picture and description of them here. And from what I can gather, "domino knitting" is a type of modular knitting that looks an awful lot like mitred squares (but isn't). Interweave Press has a whole book on the subject and claims that it "has been the rage among European knitters for several years." Hmmmm. Any European knitters out there who can tell me if this is true or not? Knitty has an article on "two-end knitting," a Scandinavian technique that looks a bit complicated but produces very warm garments (which they need up there in Scandinavia, I'm sure!). I'm surprised by just how many knitting techniques and projects I've tried. And it looks like there's a lot more for me to do out there--and not many things I'm not interested in trying! So how does your own list look? If you post this on your blog, put a note in the comments here letting me know to take a look! THE RULES
  • Bold for stuff you’ve done
  • Italics for stuff you plan to do one day
  • Normal for stuff you’re not planning on doing
THE LIST Afghan/blanket (baby) I-cord Garter stitch Shawl Stockinette stitch Socks: top-down Socks: toe-up Hat Moebius band knitting Sweater Knitting with recycled/secondhand yarn Slip-stitch patterns Charity knitting Knitting with soy yarn Knitting with circular needles Cable-stitch patterns Lace patterns Scarf American/English knitting Buttonholes Knitting with alpaca Household items (dishcloths, washcloths, tea cozies…) Knitting with DPNs Holiday-related knitting Knitting with cotton Fulling/felting Knitting with wool Textured knitting Kitchener BO Purses/bags Swatching Long-tail CO Knitting with self-patterning/self-striping/variegated yarn Baby items Knitting with cashmere Jewelry Knitting with synthetic yarn Intarsia Cuffs/fingerless mitts/arm warmers Knitting a pattern from an online knitting magazine Knitting a gift Knitting in public Teaching a woman to knit Knitting with metal wire Knitting with camel yarn Mittens: Cuff-up Mittens: Tip-down Knitting with silk Participating in a KAL Drop-stitch patterns Knitting with banana fiber yarn Domino knitting (modular knitting) Twisted-stitch patterns Knitting with bamboo yarn Two-end knitting Toy/doll clothing Knitting with your own handspun yarn Continental knitting Designing knitted garments Publishing a knitting book Teaching a child to knit Knitting to make money Fair Isle knitting Norwegian knitting Dying with plant colors Knitting items for a wedding Knitting socks (or other small tubular items) on two circulars Knitting with someone else’s handspun yarn Teaching a man to knit Bobbles Knitting for a living Dying yarn Steeks Knitting with beads Entrelac Knitting and purling backwards Stuffed toys Darning Writing a pattern Gloves Knitting with linen Knitting for preemies Tubular CO Freeform knitting Short rows Pillows Rug Thrummed knitting Knitting for pets Shrug/bolero/poncho Knitting with dog/cat hair Slippers Graffiti knitting (knitting items on or to be left on the street) Olympic knitting Knitting smocking Knitting art Machine knitting Knitting on a loom Hair accessories

19 May 2007

Summer Knitting

The "official" start of summer, Memorial Day weekend, is just a week away. So it's only fitting that I just came across a contest about summer knitting. Ali at Skeins Her Way has asked people to post a list of their summer knitting projects by the end of this month. The winner gets a copy of her new pattern (for an awfully cute-looking tank) and the yarn for it. My own list is fairly modest:
  • Another (my second!) pair of toe-up socks.
  • A Wonderful Wallaby for my daughter.
  • The Artisan Vest in the Green Mountain Spinnery book. (I can't start this one until my friend and knitting guru, Pat, helps me size the pattern down to fit me.)
I'm sure I'll get interested in some other projects along the way and maybe even start some of them. But right now, as the advent of summer nears, this is what's on my plate.

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15 May 2007


This is a real trip down memory lane. Jan sent this link to me recently, and as soon as I heard "Ed Gruberman" I was back in high school, listening to the Dr. Demento Show on the radio. "Boot to the head!" indeed. He also sent me a link to a short film called Balance that won the 1989 Academy Award for Best Animated Short and was shown in art-house theaters in the early 90s (that's where I first saw it). Then and now it's a striking commentary on the absurdity of greed.

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10 May 2007

Another swap

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across the Knitting Gnome Swap. It's a one-time swap: someone sends you a box in the mail that contains, well, a gnome and some knitting-related goodies. You keep the goodies, give the gnome a tour of your town, write about your adventures (with pictures, ideally!) in your blog, then send the gnome (with knitting-related goodies) to the next person on the list. This sounded like way too much fun, so I signed up right away. The matches have been sent out. I've written to the person "downstream" of me (i.e., the person I'll be sending stuff to), and today I got an e-card from the person who will have the gnome before me. I have no idea when the gnome will be headed my way--the waiting is part of fun!

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09 May 2007

My SP10 strikes again

First, she sent me (and Sylvia) a beautiful birthday card by snail-mail. And then today I received another terrific package from her. Until now, I've been using plastic rings and bits of leftover yarn tied into circles to mark the beginning of a round. But now my knitting is going to be even more glamorous, with these beautiful stitch markers. (This means, of course, that I need to start a big lace project some time soon. These markers just scream to be used for something elegant like lace!) She also sent a candle and a lotion stick--no dripping! no mess!--designed just for knitters. What a great thing to stow in my knitting bag! My SP10 also included a skein of recycled silk yarn--something I have been dying to try ever since I first heard of it. According to Katie, who used to work in a yarn shop, this stuff isn't ideal for garments because of its drape. But I bet it would be just perfect for a dressy scarf or perhaps (as Katie suggested) as trim or edging on a garment. Anyone else have any other ideas? And what's that right next to the yarn? Why it's chocolate, of course--with raspberries and rose hips. (And I can't believe it made it to this photo shoot without getting eaten by any of the chocoholics here...) And look: it's in its very own little candy-bar holster, which I'm guessing was made by my SP10. (Am I right?) Too cute! The box also contained a fabulous circular-needle holder, which I have sorely needed. I've been keeping my circulars in a gallon-sized ziploc bag, which is functional but not very pretty (and a bit of a pain to root around in when I'm looking for something in particular). So now all of my needles--straights, double-pointed, and circular--have proper homes. Hooray! Last but not least, there were some goodies that I'll be sharing with Sylvia: Play-Doh and Silly Putty. We'll be having lots of fun with that stuff, I'm sure. Thanks so much, SP10! This package really made my day!

08 May 2007

Happy birthday to me

Yupper, today is my birthday--just two days after Sylvia's. Two years ago, when we were anxiously waiting for her to hurry up and get born already, Jan and I were worried that she'd end up sharing my birthday, which also happened to land on Mother's Day that year. Talk about a triple whammy. Fortunately, she arrived two days earlier (one week after her due date), thus ensuring that she gets her very own birthday--which I think is important, since it's awfully nice to have a birthday that's your own special day, don't you think? In addition to the niceness of having family around to celebrate my birthday, I was also fortunate enough to receive several wonderful gifts, many of which were knitting/craft related. Simple Sewing: Patterns and How-To for 24 Fresh and Easy Projects by Lotta Jansdotter and Knitted Flowers by Nicky Epstein now grace my bookshelves, and a tote with seventeen (yes, that's right--seventeen) pockets on the outside alone will insure that I don't lose my crafting supplies. My friends Gina and Todd gave me a Louet kit for handpainting sock yarn. It contains some incredibly soft wool sock yarn (enough for a pair), three different color-coordinated dyes, and--thank goodness--instructions. I am very much looking forward to trying this! Last but not least, my Dutch father-in-law gave me a terrific set of knitting supplies. He doesn't know anything about knitting, so he went to his local yarn store, a place called Charmant that's in the next town over from his, and said, "I want to get something for someone who knits." Fortunately, he was helped by someone who knew what they were doing (though I'm not surprised--I've been to this shop and was very impressed by how knowledgeable the staff were). She guided him toward the spring/summer 2007 issue of Babymode (Phildar No. 465), a set of 3.5mm needles (which is what most of the patterns call for), and twelve balls of a very soft cotton-acrylic blend Dutch yarn that's pretty indistinguishable from Rowan All-Season Cotton. There are lots of great patterns in here. I'm especially looking forward to making the two-toned cardigan with the tomten hood. Unfortunately, all of the written instructions are in Dutch--which I don't read or speak. But I'm hoping that with the help of the pictures and schematics (not to mention Babelfish) I can figure them out!

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06 May 2007

Birthday baby

It's been a busy week here, with preparations for Sylvia's second birthday underway. Her Opa (Jan's father) arrived from the Netherlands a little over a week ago, and my parents arrived from Illinois two days ago, so we have a full house. The festivities began two days ago, on Friday, when Sylvia's playgroup gathered here. We meet weekly, rotation among our homes and local parks, and this week's meeting took place two days before her birthday. To celebrate the occasion--and provide some massively geeky entertainment for five toddlers--Jan and I built a castle in our backyard, using giant cardboard boxes and plastic rivets designed for this purpose. With two parents as geeky as Jan and me, Sylvia doesn't stand a chance: geekdom is definitely in her future. Her cardboard bridge even had a drawbridge, for crying out loud. Her actual birthday party was yesterday, since that worked out best for my brother, whose crazy work schedule gives him limited time off. We started the day by attending the annual spring festival at a local county park that's a 300-acre historic working farm. Here's the tenuous connection to knitting: the festival is called Sheep and Wool Day, and on this day the farm's eight sheep lose their winter coats. Pieces of freshly shorn wool are handed out to the kids. It's interesting to think about how this dirty, gray, ball of rough hair can be transformed into fine yarn. Back at home, we did the presents-and-cake thing, with three grandparents, one uncle, and two close (adult) friends in attendance. Sylvia was thrilled by all of the attention, and loved the "cheetah" cake that Jan made for her. (She is really into cheetahs and sleeps with a stuffed cheetah every night.) It was a chocolate butter cake with raspberry buttercream, covered with orange-tinted marzipan and black icing "cheetah spots." Delicious! Today, Sylvia's actual birthday, was fairly low-key, since we just had two days of celebration. But we did do something special today nonetheless: a trip to a local dairy farm and ice creamery, for some yummy scoops of freshly made ice cream. Ahhh!

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03 May 2007

"Earth laughs in flowers"

Every spring, when the forsythias, dogwoods, magnolias, lilacs, azaleas, daffodils, and tulips put on their annual show, I'm reminded of these words penned by Emerson. Of course, this phrase is part of a longer passage about humanity's inability to escape death, but I still like it in the context of thinking about spring and nature and renewal. My SP10 hostess, Kerry, has asked everyone in her group to post about their favorite flowers. That's a really difficult task, because I'd be hard pressed to name a flower I didn't like. I even find dandelions sort of appealing. Right now, though, I'd have to say that my favorite flowers are these giant red tulips growing in my front yard. Jan and I moved into this house in the fall a few years ago, and shortly afterward his father, who is Dutch and lives in the Netherlands, came to visit. While he was here, my father-in-law, a horticulturalist who knows pretty much everything about plants, planted about three hundred tulip, daffodil, and crocus bulbs around the house, mostly in the front. Squirrels dug up most of the crocuses, but every spring we get to enjoy a magnificent display of yellow and white daffodils, followed by tulips in almost every size and color imaginable.

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01 May 2007

Workers of the world, unite!

Happy May Day (Labour Day), everyone!

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27 April 2007

Ghost trees

Whenever I go for a walk in the woods in the spring after (or during) a rain, I'm always struck by the contrast between the water-dark wood of tree bark and the tiny new fresh-green leaves. The contrast is especially strong with dogwoods, whose just-opened new flowers are a pale green. It's easier to get a sense of this ethereal quality when in an actual forest and not in the suburbs, surrounded by neighbors' homes. But the half a dozen dogwoods on our property (a happy legacy of previous owners) are enough to take me a real forest in my own Proustian moment.

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26 April 2007

A very, very large FO

The living room is finished. The living room is finished. Whew! As promised, here is a photo of it. We got our paint from Sherwin-Williams. For other painting projects, we'd used Behr, but this time we decided to throw down for some really good stuff (this is, technically, the "showpiece" room of the house) and get some much-needed advice from People Who Do Know Squat About Paint. Yes, it cost a bit more than Behr, but wow, it was really worth it. This stuff went on the walls so easily and smoothly. Even our friend Gina, who has loads of experience with painting projects and helped us with this one, was impressed with it. On the walls is Restrained Gold (probably the only color in the universe that goes with our furnishings, which are all from different color groups), in the Cashmere paint line, in a flat finish. It's not completely flat--when you look at it from an angle, it has a slight sheen--but it's nowhere near an eggshell finish. Unlike most flat finish paints out there, this stuff can be touched. That feature was pretty essential to us, since we don't want to spend the next several years telling our child "Don't touch the walls." 'Cause you know what? The walls will be touched. For the trim we used Alabaster (a white with a slightly reddish-gold tint, if you can imagine that), and the ceiling has plain old ceiling white on it. The room isn't 100% finished: we haven't hung anything on the walls yet. We have a giant mirror (a five-dollar buy at a yard sale last spring) that will probably go above the piano after we sand and restain the wooded frame. We're going to wait a little while before hanging any art, though, to give ourselves time to live in the room a bit and see how it feels. So here's a curtain question for you: what should we do with the windows? In the past, we had dark red floor-length drapes that we hated. (But they were left by the previous owners, and free is a very good price to pay for drapes--especially in a room that you're planning to redo soon anyway.) We never closed them, though, preferring the natural light and airiness of open windows. Let me say this up front: venetian blinds (vertical or horizontal, metal or cloth) are not options. I think wooden blinds or shutters would be too "heavy" for this room. I'm sort of inclined to go with a short curtain, something like a little longer than the windows themselves. But isn't there some "rule" about how "formal" rooms are supposed to have floor-length curtains? I don't have anything against floor-length curtains per se, but I think they'd end up getting stuck behind the table-chair arrangement on one side of the window. And I have two cats, so the bottom three feet of long curtains would be covered in cat hair in no time at all. So...any suggestions, anyone? Finally, I want to point out one of the things in this room that gives me the most joy. This desk (a new IKEA purchase, as are the two glass-fronted bookcases flanking the piano) is what we've nicknamed "the dumping ground." You know how you come in the door and your stuff just ends up in places--cell phones (and chargers) all over the kitchen counters, briefcases and purses and diaper bags all over the hallway? We decided to have a space dedicated to corralling this stuff. We don't have a proper foyer, so we put this space just inside the living room, right around a short wall from the front door. The large compartment of the secretary desk is where we put briefcases, diaper bags, and purses. The shelves above it give us extra storage for stuff we don't need out all the time but still want accessible: camera bag, camcorder, external hard drive (back up your data regularly, people!). The bottom shelf is my favorite part: courtesy of an eight-slot surge protector, it's the charging station for cellphones, camera batteries, wireless computer mice (yes, we are geeks), and other such gadgets. Everything has a place to go now, and when the doors are closed it's all hidden. I love it.

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25 April 2007


A few days ago, I reached into a bookcase to pull out a cookbook and received a nasty paper cut right under the fingernail of my index finger. (Ouch ouch ouch...) The culprit? A small piece of paper sort-of-glued (it pulls off easily to reveal a wad of glue that looks like a booger) to the outside cover of the adjacent phone book. The piece of paper? An ad for a local personal-injury lawyer. Think I ought to sue 'em?


24 April 2007

The liberal conspiracy is at it again!

(I wonder how many Google hits on that title will bring people here...) In Making Light I came across this letter, written by a Little Rock lawyer and published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on 16 April:
You may have noticed that March of this year was particularly hot. As a matter of fact, I understand that it was the hottest March since the beginning of the last century. All of the trees were fully leafed out and legions of bugs and snakes were crawling around during a time in Arkansas when, on a normal year, we might see a snowflake or two. This should come as no surprise to any reasonable person. As you know, Daylight Saving Time started almost a month early this year. You would think that members of Congress would have considered the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight would have on our climate. Or did they ? Perhaps this is another plot by a liberal Congress to make us believe that global warming is a real threat. Perhaps next time there should be serious studies performed before Congress passes laws with such far-reaching effects. CONNIE M. MESKIMEN Hot Springs
My first thought was "Oh. My. Dog." Then I read through the comments and learned that the letter was apparently a satire--one that yielded lots of angry letters in the newspaper from readers unaware that it was a satire. Did the newspaper print the original letter in all sincerity, I wonder? Or were the editors also aware of the joke?

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22 April 2007

A knitalong for two

Ever since SP9 ended, my spoiler, Lynnette, and I have kept in touch. One thing we discovered is that we're both new to lace knitting--"new" as in "haven't done it before but would really like to." We also discovered that we both have a fondness for dragons. "Hey," we thought, "wouldn't it be fun to do a lace project together?" After a few e-mails back and forth to discuss several possible patterns (the "Heere Be Dragone" shawl was mentioned but quickly determined to be not-a-good-idea-for-a-first-lace-project), we finally settled on the Dragon-Scale Scarf from Heritage Yarns. By coincidence, we both started our scarves at the same time (around Easter weekend), but house-related concerns (and not having the scarf and my camera anywhere near each other whenever I thought to take a picture of the thing) have kept me from posting about it until now. As you can see, I'm nearly two feet into it (I started a new skein at about eighteen inches). I've opted for a heavier yarn than the pattern calls for: I'm using the fabulous Patons SWS that Lynnette gave me, and I love how the scarf is turning out. The pattern's twelve-row repeat isn't difficult but is interesting enough to keep me from getting bored! I doubt that I'll be ready for Heere Be Dragone after this, but maybe one day, after I get a lot more lace knitting under my belt!

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19 April 2007

Speaking of friends...

By happy coincidence, I have reason to write up another "wow, my friends are great" post. In this case, the friend didn't give me much-needed decorating advice but sent me yarn. About two weeks ago, Beth, my roommate from college, called to let me know that her local yarn store was having a mega-sale. Would I like anything? she asked. I was sorely tempted but opted to save my pennies this time. Apparently, she decided to take matters into her own hands: in the mail a few days ago I received a package full of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. Now, I love this yarn. I've raved about it here before, and Beth and I have had extensive discussions on the subject. And now I have a lot of it. In addition to the four skeins of peach, two skeins of sage green, and two skeins of chocolate brown that Beth sent, I have one skein of chocolate brown (leftover from the cardigan I made for Sylvia) and three skeins of red (from JD). That's twelve whole skeins of this stuff! So what should I do with it? I'd love to hear suggestions! I think it would be fun to use it all in one project (though I suspect the red may be a bit too bright to go with the others). A striped sweater? Some sort of intarsia thingamabob?

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17 April 2007

I know these things are true

1. There is special circle of hell reserved for the people who put this god-awful sun-moon-stars wallpaper border in my house. Not only did they exhibit terrible taste in wallpaper, but they put this stuff directly under crown molding in the most formal room in the house. What in the world were they thinking? Fortunately, it all came off--though not without some elbow grease. 2. Home fix-it projects never take as little time or money as you think they will. A few months ago, Jan and I were talking about all the things we want to do with our house, and we realized that we were experiencing the sort of option paralysis that stops us dead in our tracks when we're standing at the counter in an ice-cream shop: with so many choices, it's hard to know where to begin. So we decided to choose something "simple" and do it, just to feel a sense of accomplishment. "The living room!" we declared. "The supplies won't cost much--just paint!--and painting doesn't take that long to do, so we'll be done in no time! And really, it's about time we got rid of that wallpaper border before its ugliness causes permanent blindness." It took about two whole months to settle on a paint color (tip: paint your sample paint on a big piece of foam board, so you can move it around the room and test it against your furnishings and in different lighting conditions), then nearly a full week of every-free-minute work to get the supplies we needed and to clear out, prep, and paint the room. Oh, and of course this cost about twice what we anticipated. 3. Shoving nearly two rooms of stuff into one heavily used room is no fun at all. We moved all of our living room crap, er, I mean possessions into our not-terrible-spacious dining room, which made for very crowded mealtimes and decreased enthusiasm for cooking. (In addition to being the Week of Living Room Painting, this was the Week of Take-Out Food.) Sylvia handled it pretty well. As an almost-two-year-old, she could have gone the way of "something has interrupted my routine, and I don't like it" or "hey, cool--I have a different view from my high chair now." Fortunately, for all of us, she took the latter path. Those people who live through kitchen remodels? Gah, I don't know how they do it... 4. Good friends are worth their weight in gold. In addition to serving as color consultants who surely saved us from some horrible mistakes, our friends Katie and Gina helped us out tremendously. Katie lent me her wallpaper steamer (which worked well enough that I didn't have to resort to any chemical goo--hooray!), and Sylvia spent Saturday morning at her place (with her husband and daughter), which gave us a few hours to paint the ceiling and get the stinky oil-based primer on the walls (tip: use this type of primer over places where you've removed wallpaper, or else the adhesive--which you can never fully remove--will bleed through your paint and cause you much sorrow) without subjecting a small child to the fumes. Gina, who has painted more rooms that she can probably remember and is a painter extraordinaire, spent pretty much her entire weekend with us. Jan and I, being the cowardly novice painters that we are, gave her all the tough jobs, like cutting in around the edges. (Going near white surfaces with brush full of colorful paint is, like using steeks, on the list of Things That Scare the Crap Out of Me.) And she was amazing--all the paint she applied went where it was supposed to go. Me...well, I had a few little spots to tidy up. On Saturday, Gina's husband, Todd, came with her and fulfilled the critical role of Baby Wrangler. He and Sylvia spent the entire afternoon in the den, reading books, drawing pictures, and building tunnels with pillows and blankets. ("Paint: $120. Brushes: $30. Having someone make sure your child doesn't try to eat Sherwin-Williams products: Priceless.) On Sunday, Gina returned to help paint the trim, which took about as much time as the rest of the room combined, thanks to the three, large, multipaned windows in this room. BUT IT'S ALL DONE! (Well, almost. Tonight we pick up a final pieces of furniture and finish putting everything away.) Pictures of the finished room will follow soon...when it's fully finished!

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13 April 2007

Just what I needed

My SP10 sent me a note the other telling me to watch the mail for a surprise. In an amazing display of perfect timing, it arrived yesterday--a delightful package of goodies to lift my spirits after a day of home fix-it tasks (including wallpaper removal--ugh). The contents included a woolly little sheep tape measure--just what I needed, 'cause Sylvia likes to "measure" things with my knitting tapes and hide them all over the house. Interestingly, everything she measure is declared to be either "two" or "five." I'm hoping this new tape measure will be a bit more accurate! :) Also included was a package of B'Loonies (you use the enclosed mini-straws to blow tubes of goo into funky balloons!), a package of thyme herbal bath powder (fabulous!), and a bar of verbena soap. This last item is incredibly fragrant--I really wish Blogger had a built-in smell-o-scope or something (scratch-and-sniff blog posts, anyone?) so you could smell it. A cheery note explained the last item in the package: a miniature hank of yarn spun by my SP10 herself! It's so darn cute, too. I love the mushroomy color, and I'm eager to know the story behind this yarn. Thanks, SP10! This really made my day!

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12 April 2007

Not-stupid investments

Many many years ago, I started reusing my Ziploc bags. It's easy--just turn 'em inside out, wash them, then let them dry on the dish rack. The freezer bags are particularly durable; some of mine are three years old. The problem is that Ziploc bags aren't renowned for their ability to stand up on their own, so they usually fall over and take a long, long time to dry properly. When I first heard about a thingy (yes, that is the technical term for it) that holds your bags open while they dry, I thought, "That's stupid. No way am I spending twenty bucks on that thing." Well, I finally succumbed and threw down the bucks for it a couple of weeks ago. And let me just say this: wow, I should have bought one of these things sooner. Same goes for this compost bucket. I am a big believer in composting when you can. All through grad school, I lived in apartments with no yards or gardens. I yearned to have a compost pile of my own--and did, briefly, when I lived in Eugene, Oregon, for a summer while doing some predoctoral research. (I'll write more about that experience another time.) I remember one time my housemate and I had a potluck dinner that was attended by about a dozen people. As people were helping with the post-meal cleanup, they asked, "Where is your compost pile?" (It was in the middle of the huge garden, in the side yard.) Not "Do you have a compost pile?" but "I'm assuming you have one--'cause, you know, this is the Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene-so just let me know where it is." I loved that. When I moved to the Mid-Atlantic, I was delighted to have a garden--and a small compost pile. And when Jan and I bought our house three and a half years ago, one of the first home-improvement things we did was built a compost bin (a "3-bin yard waste composter"--the free plans are available here). During my entire composting life, though, I've been putting my kitchen scraps into an old yogurt container on the kitchen counter, then taking it outside when it filled up. (This is a practice I developed in Eugene. After all, grad students don't have extra money to throw around on fancy-schmancy compost buckets! Well, maybe the engineers and computer scientists, but not the impoverished cultural anthropologists!) This system has the great benefit of not costing anything. It has the great disadvantage of stinkiness--particularly in the winter months, when trips to the compost bin are less frequent (brrrrr!). So when I decided to get the plastic-bag-holding doodad, I figured, "Why not? I'm already going to hell anyway for buying this incredibly yuppified and overpriced thing--might as well add on a fifteen-dollar compost bucket." After using this green bin (which fits nicely under the sink) for a few weeks now, I have to admit that I really love this thing.

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11 April 2007

My VisualDNA

I found this via the Peaceable Imperatrix and decided to give it a try. There are some limitations with this "quiz" (as with all of these online quizzes and personality-test thingies). For example, the "gross" category was limited mostly to bodily functions and obesity. And on most pages I either didn't find an exact match to what I had in mind or wanted to choose more than one option. Still, it was a lot of fun to do this! (If you try it yourself, let me know what results you get!) Notice the chocolate references here? And the mountains? Although I now live not terribly far from some parts of the Appalachians, they aren't as accessible as I'd like. When I lived in southwestern Oregon, I was only half an hour away from a trailhead in the Coast Range. Ah...


09 April 2007


No, I'm not talking about some casino that was blown up in Las Vegas recently. That Stardust pales in comparison to the upcoming film Stardust, based on the fabulous novel by the fabulous Neil Gaiman. I saw the trailer a couple of weeks ago, and I've been drooling with anticipation ever since. Based on that, it looks like it will be fairly true to the book. Gaiman discussed it in his blog, and he says he likes it. He also says in another post that he isn't contractually restricted from saying anything bad about the film adaption of Stardust. So if he thinks the final result is lousy...well, I hope he tells us!

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08 April 2007

A birthday Moebius

Last November, I learned how to knit a Moebius using Cat Bordhi's cast-on. The result was a lot longer and thinner than what I expected--not really my style as far as scarves go, but Sylvia loves it, so it's hers now. I knit another Moebius in December as a Christmas gift for my mother-in-law. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of it before I gave it to her, so all I can do here is describe it. I used three balls of KnitPicks Suri Dream (in Atlantic), cast on 80 stitches (160 if you could the top and bottom stitches separately), and knit until I ran out of yarn. The result was a scarf that hung down to my waist, could be worn as a double loop, and was wide enough that one loop could be pulled over the top of the head as an impromptu hood. I was working on that scarf when I had my annual checkup at the satellite office (in my town) for the Birth Center. (The birth center itself is about forty-five minutes from my house.) The midwife who saw me on that day, Nancy, was the same one who'd been with Jan and me when Sylvia was born at the Birth Center in May 2005. She's not a knitter but is new to crocheting, and she was pretty interested in the scarf I was working on. I like her tremendously, and I decided then that I was going to make one for her as a surprise. I ordered the yarn for it now long after, but various other projects have kept me from starting it until this weekend, when Jan, Sylvia, and I visited his mom (who lives three hours away) for a couple of days. I started with 50 (100) stitches and knit for about two inches, but it was turning out much longer than I wanted. I was aiming for a short, fits-around-the-neck thing, so I started over with 35 (70) stitches, which turned out to be perfect. I cast on with #9 needles, knit one row and purled one row, then switched the right needle only to a #11 (keeping a smaller needle on the left, so the yarn would pass over it easier--this is a tip I just learned from my friend Beth, who read it in Bordhi's book). I used one entire skein of KnitPicks Suri Dream Hand-Dyed (in the Falling Leaves color), and the whole thing took only about three or four hours. The large stitches give the scarf an airiness, but the alpaca and wool--along with the width of the scarf--make it warm indeed. I love how this turned out, and I hope Nancy likes it, too! I'm going to put it in the mail to her this week. It will get to her too late for this winter...but just in time for Sylvia's second birthday!

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