Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Too small

The pre-swatch swatch

A conversation:

Andrew: [Picks up swatches on table] What's this?
Me: Your sweater.
Andrew: [Holds up to his chest] It's a little small.
Me: ...
Me: Hm. Guess I'll have to rip it out and re-knit it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Measure in wool

How do you measure ten years? RENT would have us believe that it's 5,256,000 minutes. While I love RENT, in our house, ten years looks like this:

That's what 2 lbs of singles looks like.
Seasons of love woooo-ooooo-ooooo-oool. Early in the year, I told Andrew that I would spin and knit him a sweater to commemorate ten years of being together. First, he picked which sweater he wanted me to knit for him:

Baseball jersey, from "Knits Men Want". Which, incredibly, they do!

It was a hard choice, since he has requested 90% of the sweaters in Knits Men Want, but I made him pick ONE. Step 2 was to select which fleeces would make the cut, so he chose a Romney/Rambouillet cross that I bought at Rhinebeck in 2009:

Meghan has the "twin" of this fleece. (The shot is a little dark, apologies.)

Gorgeous, right? I love how silvery it is. The fleece had AMAZING crimp, and was a joy to spin. My qualms are with how Zeilinger's processed it, leaving enough grease on it to make it smell rancid until I washed it again, myself. They also charged me extra weight (ahem, thumb on the scale, much?) on all three of the fleeces that they processed for me, and didn't bother to label which fleece was which, or how much finished weight I ended up with. I can't recommend them, sorry, Zeilinger's.

The "up" side of re-washing it is that I can enthusiastically recommend the unscented SOAK for getting nasty, stinky, rancid lanolin out of wool without stripping it completely dry. Way to go, SOAK!

(BONUS! According to their website, SOAK is biodegradable and non-toxic, so I take my grey water and pour it in my compost. The earthworms say it's like a spa treatment, but to be fair, they're earthworms, so take their recommendation with a grain of salt. Or a spoonful of compost.)

Andrew wanted a darker color for the sleeves/collar, and I may have guided him toward this beauty:

This fleece was streak-y like an Alpha Phi Omega pledge

This is a Merino/Border Leicester cross that I picked up from Black Sheep Gathering in 2010, and the incomparable Shari from Morro Fleece Works worked her magic on it:

Makes you want to reach out and touch, I know.

I wish I had gotten a picture of the fleece pre-processing, it had the most INCREDIBLE stark white skunk streak running through it. (I have an auntie who went grey the same way, and every time I see a streak that defined, I think of her hair.) You can see it in the picture above, with the locks I pulled from the fleece.

Blended and pindrafted, I love how it creates a heathered effect in the singles. I would love this fleece in a box with a fox, in a house with a mouse, or in this case, in a sweater for cooler weather.

The swatches have actually been done for almost a month, and Andrew asked what the hold-up was. The singles have been sitting on the coffee table for *approximately* the same length of time, being gorgeous and single. You know how they are, smug little things.

I told him that I couldn't ply the sweater until I took pictures of the singles for Ravelry. (Along with being gorgeous, single, and smug, they are also vain.) With the clock ticking down (with 127 days left in the year, about 1/3 for you lovers of fractions), I figured I should stop making excuses and actually see if I can finish in time.

Let the countdown begin.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Family stories

Last month, Andrew's Uncle Andy passed away. We did our grieving then, and waited for the family to schedule the funeral/memorial.

This last weekend was the memorial. It was up at Uncle Andy's house in Grass Valley, which is a 3 1/2 hour drive from where we live. Longer, if you happen to have a SharkBean pressing on your bladder. We loaded up my little car, and with Andrew at the helm, we fired up my iPod and made the trek up to Grass Valley.

(Side note: the bag of snacks he packed without my knowledge has me convinced he's ready to be someone's dad. Props!)

When we FINALLY got there, it was great. They had a slideshow of family photos featuring Uncle Andy, and nearly everyone managed to fly or drive in for the memorial. The family was all together for the first time in quite a few years, and the memorial was more jovial than I expected.

What I found very touching - but a little odd - was how incredibly excited the whole family was about SharkBean. I will also point out that I got the distinct impression that they were a little disappointed that I didn't appear *more* pregnant. I assured them that at Christmas I would be much more impressive. (Be proud I didn't say, "It's a lot more impressive when I'm naked." Because that, folks, is a fact.)

Over the last ten years, I have noticed that Andrew's family don't tell stories. There are three stories that they tell, and that's it. Sure, they talk about the weather, philosophy, and pop culture, but no stories. It's strange to me, because if *my* family didn't tell stories, we'd be practically mute at the dinner table. As it is, it's hard to get a word in edgewise, the meal takes three hours, and that's how we like it.

Last year, BigJ asked me about being a writer. He asked if I thought it was genetic or learned behavior, and I told him I thought it was more environmental. I explained that telling stories makes my family feels connected to each other, to our family history, and it's really how we communicate what is important to us. Especially if it's a story about something awkward; we cope with disappointment, discomfort, and a number of other things by being able to laugh at ourselves.

In short, you learn how to tell stories from hearing stories. That's my opinion, and I showed him that same night at the dinner table that his family just doesn't tell stories.

This weekend, I was corrected. There is a storyteller in the family, and that's Uncle Ted. Ted is the only person in the entire extended family who towers over Andrew, and he tells the stories. I was lucky enough to sit and chat with Ted, and it turns out that Andrew is a descendant of Meriwether Lewis. Truly, I wish they lived closer.

Ted was also *not pleased* that Saturday was the first time he was hearing about SharkBean- making him the last person in the whole world to find out (literally). I felt about six inches tall while I gracefully threw Andrew under the bus on that one. (I made sure all of *my* extended family had been informed.) I also may have cited a story from Andrew's childhood involving Ted and not relaying other Vital Information. (I'm pretty sure Andrew was surprised I remembered that one.)

Andrew's family history is really rich- his grandfather was an admiral in the Navy, and there was a ship (not a boat, as I have been corrected approximately one million times about) commissioned (and de-commissioned) named after him- the U.S.S. Lockwood. There are all sorts of tangible parts of their history; just a few include the flag from his grandfather's funeral, a sword (used to cut wedding cakes now), and a bell from one of the ships that The Admiral (how everyone refers to Andrew's grandfather) commanded.


Andrew's brother, Ed, suggested that we ring the bell at Andy's memorial - the way they had done for their mom. It was a great idea.

It was incredibly touching; nobody spoke, but the whole family took their turn ringing the bell, three times each, in memory of Andy. It was quiet and dignified; the sound of the bell echoed off of the trees into the distance as his loved ones wordlessly rang it for him.

What I learned is that family history doesn't always look like a carefully-tracked geneaology chart, or need funny stories. Just like how our families look different, family history and tradition defines how our families differ.

Thank goodness they've got new people adding to the family all the time. While the quiet symbols are important, somebody has to tell self-deprecating stories at the table.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Direction and management

Lest you think (from my Math post) that we live in squalor, surrounded by disorderly piles of yarn and fiber, let me assure you, we do not. It's all organized and shelved, there is just a *lot* of it. (I once had a guest who remarked, "LOOK! It's all labeled so you know what you're stealing!")

I can still pull stuff out of the closet (and off of the shelves), but lifting has become a bit of an issue, so a lot of things get pulled out until I can get help putting them back away. Lucky for me, I married up. By "up" I mean "tall and does my heavy lifting".

We spent a lot of this last weekend with me directing Andrew on where to move things that I had intended to take care of, but really couldn't manage on my own. While I prize my "Lady Hulk" title, I am learning to ask for help when I need it. And ask I did.

I'm used to making lists, and systematically accomplishing things on the list. It's incredibly satisfying. However. If you make a list for someone else, someone who (perhaps) works full time and is your Lovable Beast of Burden, it can make you feel like a bit of a jerk. Especially when by the time your Lovable Beast of Burden comes home, you are SO TIRED and can not be on your feet for ONE MORE SECOND.

... Especially if you *might* be giving directions from the couch, where you might be knitting and watching TV, or laying down with the TV on. There has been a lot of TV involved, along with obsessively reading about how to not be a terrible parent. Or vampires. You know, to mix it up a little. (I know, I know. For true literary balance, I should be reading about the zombie apocalypse, too. My shortcomings are many. Thank goodness I'm cute.)

Instead of feeling guilty (because that's not my forte), I'm using my project management skills to work out what needs to get done in order of priority with Andrew. I don't actually make the lists, and I'm learning to be okay with it when things don't get done RIGHT AWAY. I see it as practice for when the SharkBean joins us.

I'm not letting everything slip- I've been working with the dogs on some training that has needed to get done, since that's all about being consistent and not about muscle. On top of that, I'm trying to teach Elphie how to fold laundry, since she is Very Interested in clean laundry. Unfortunately, she lacks some dexterity, so this hasn't worked all that well. Proof that not all ideas are good ones.

She sticks to doing what I fondly refer to as "furmanent press"- which is rolling all over warm, clean, flattened laundry. Considering what I've heard about what *other* dogs like rolling in, I'm 100% okay with her rolling on clean laundry. What's a little dog fur between friends?

SIDE NOTE: I was reading one of the parenting books y'all suggested (I've checked them ALL out, and I'm currently powering through them), and the one I'm reading now seems to have followed my mother around and modeled their "ideal" solutions around how she raised us. When I asked her, she claims to have neither read nor written the book. Further proof of my mother's innate awesomeness.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Henry IV, Part I - A Review

Event: Henry IV- Part I, Shakespeare Santa Cruz

Cost: Our tickets were comp'ed, but you can buy yours here (Tickets range from $14-$50)

Prince Hal (Erik Heger, center) brings together forces, including Falstaff (Richard Ziman, far right) to vanquish Hotspur and defend his father, the king, in Shakespeare Santa Cruz's 2011 production of "Henry IV, Part One".

The Review: 

I read Henry IV (pt I) in college, and I HATED it. I  thought Falstaff was a cartoon, and that Hal was an over-privileged, spoiled douchebag. I blame the teacher, who systematically took all of the humor and bawdiness out of every bit of Shakespeare's work that we read that semester. He also declared that the histories were "boring". 

To be fair, if that had been my one-and-only experience reading Shakespeare, I don't think I would have ever considered attending a live performance. After all, Shakespeare is soooooo dry and boooooooring. Thank goodness I had fantastic teachers before and after the disaster that was English 102.

Given how amazing all of the other productions at Shakespeare Santa Cruz have been, I decided to go in with an open mind, and I was surprised to find that I really, really enjoyed Henry IV, pt 1. It was not a "boring history" that dragged on and on and on. It was funny and spoke to me on a number of levels.

As with all of Shakespeare's work, the characters are incredibly multidimensional, and the acting took it to depths that I hadn't even considered when I read it all those years ago. 

V Craig Heidenreich plays King Henry IV with command of the stage which I can only really compare to Martin Sheen's opening scene on the pilot episode of The West Wing. (Side note: If you haven't seen The West Wing, do yourself a favor and watch it ALL. From the beginning.) Heidenreich plays a father who hopes for the best for his son, but young Prince Hal is at that age where he could grow up to be a great young man, or a total loser.

Now that I think about it, I have the experience of a few extra years, and watching Sam grow up since I read this play, I remember a few years where I wasn't quite sure which path he'd choose. And he didn't have the fate of a kingdom resting on his adolescing shoulders.

We see Prince Hal (played by Erik Heger), carousing with Falstaff (played by Richard Ziman) who drinks too much, tells tall tales, and doesn't necessarily pay all his debts. Despite Falstaff's flaws, he's clearly a good friend to Hal. Their relationship, while on the surface looks like it should be more of a father/son relationship, it's more of a bromance. It reminded me a lot of the Alan Shore/Denny Crane relationship from Boston Legal

Hal gets the call to arms from his father, and in the blink of an eye, we watch as Hal makes the decision to man up and defend his father's kingdom. It gave me chills. Heger plays the role where it just seems to scream, "I'm not a loser, I can make you proud!" And he does.

Another notable performance was given by J. Todd Adams, who played Henry Percy/Hotspur. Or, as I like to refer to him "the *good* Henry", who is the young Henry that seems a more appropriate choice for the throne than Hal. You can see both sides, yes, Hal needs to grow up, but young men need *time* to do that. Yes, Hotspur has had his eyes on the prize, seemingly since day 1. We all know who *that* kid is in our lives.

(Is it just me, or does it seem like the British throne has always had issues with monarchs and succession?)

If you're in the area, RUN-don't-walk to get tickets to see this production. I couldn't recommend it more.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Impulse control and interpretation

I am not mature enough to be a parent. Apologies in advance, SharkBean.

Evidence A:

When I go to the pet store to restock on dog food, I always check for new and enriching toys for the dogs. Chances are good that a couple of toys usually make their way into my cart, and since the dogs have gotten a little less destructive in the last couple of years, let's just say they have a good selection of toys.

Nylabone has recently come out with DINOSAUR SHAPED DENTAL TOYS. Part of me imagines that the creative minds over at Nylabone sit around plotting about how to get *me* to buy more dog toys, and boy, did they get my number. I am powerless against cool dog toys.

These are especially fun if you growl while you chew on them. Or so I'm told.

There were three different dino-chew toys at Pet Food Express, and with AMAZING restraint, I managed to only buy two: a T-Rex and a stegosaurus. I have tried to use the chew toys as a learning tool, telling the dogs about the dinosaurs, but they remain unimpressed.

Niki has been monopolizing the (now headless) T-rex, and as I write, Elphie is grunting and gnawing away on the stegosaurus. It's really, really funny to watch. (I would record it, but she would notice and stop as soon as the camera/phone comes out.)

"Cute" has a lot of value in our house, evidently.

Evidence B:

Andrew and I went for an appointment for SharkBean (a regular checkup) a couple of weeks ago. On the wall of the room, there is a "helpful" poster with weekly developmental milestones, and some of them had pictures of what the developing baby looks like.

15 weeks (where I am right now) looks like Golum. I am a terrible person for saying it, but that is exactly what the depiction looks like. The eyes on the poster, though closed, also seemed to follow me around the room. It was pretty creepy.

"Hello, Mother."

(That's the closest I could find online that wasn't icky.)

I pointed it out to Andrew, who responded that at 15 weeks, we'll just have to call SharkBean "My preciousssssss".

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I have a very, very special houseguest visiting next week. A guest SO nice, I said "very" twice. My guest room looks like a Jasminian Devil has been let loose in it. Which is actually *exactly* what happened.

It's a very nice guest room/office/stash den; there is an EXTREMELY comfortable bed (ask Mom or Dr. Gemma), a flat monitor hooked up to a DVD player and an Apple TV, a nightstand with speakers for your iPod and a little lamp to read by. Sounds idyllic, right?

There is also A LOT of wool in there, in its various forms. Like, enough wool to realize that the outside walls of the house aren't insulated. (This is exactly why we all need a million fleeces, by the way.) Enough to get me on "My Strange Addiction", or "Hoarders Lite". (Is there a "Hoarders Lite"?) It's all special and I NEED ALL OF IT.


I stashed with a purpose. I planned for my time home as an artist. And then I promptly lost my mojo.

So, here's a little math that has become increasingly apparent to me, in the form of a word problem:

If you buy ANY yarn/wool, and don't knit (or spin), the amount of stash GROWS.

Many of you, being intelligent people are saying, "Duh. You can do math, Jasmin."

Yes. Yes I can. The problem is that in my mind, I can knit a sweater in three days and spin a sweater's worth of wool in a week."

In theory. The problem is the application. Hopefully my Very Very special houseguest will find it in her heart to forgive me. And not take photographs of the room for blackmailing purposes.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Frankly, Scarlet

Last year, I cast on the Oat Couture Prairie Blanket and got 12% into it before something more interesting grabbed my interest.

Cascade 220 Superwash, because I'm a realist.

I had wanted to knit one of these when I was 15 years old, but the first time I tried it, I wasn't as capable of reading the wrong side of my knitting or following a moving texture pattern, never mind doing both simultaneously. I've done a little more knitting since then.

It's not for SharkBean. The red isn't speaking to me for SharkBean, beautiful as it is. Also, after watching Shark Week, it is vaguely reminiscent of chum. Not a bad thing, just an observation.

(Side note: Beth had a great name for the color, "Blood and Romance". It had nothing to do with chum. Unless she meant "Fish blood and guts" in the "blood" bit.)

I have someone in mind, but really, until she tells me that she's expecting, I'm not handing over this beauty. It's not the next "hardest thing I've ever knit", but I like it for lots of reasons.

It's a brilliant variation of the classic dishcloth blanket, which I knit 7 million of in high school (for the NICU at the local county hospital, the same folks who get all of our Head to Toe hats). The dishcloth blanket, according to my Aunt Constance, is the ultimate in blankets-that-stay-on-babies. But dishcloth blankets are SO BORING TO KNIT.

Miles and miles and miles of garter stitch, which is either (a) what hell is like or (b) penance for doing something horrible. It's the knitting equivalent of having to write lines. ("I will not say nasty things about acrylic yarn.") Over and over and over again until your hands fall off.

Somehow, the traveling rib on the second border (because there is a small garter border on the outside, THEN an eyelet, THEN the traveling garter rib!) makes knitting this a particularly potato-chippy knit. Also, it's a really sophisticated design, especially for something as utilitarian as a baby blanket.

A really cool baby is going to do all sorts of unmentionable things to this beauty. Probably in a leather jacket and sunglasses, like in "Look Who's Talking?". (Wow, dated movie reference, much?) Or in a suit, like a mini Tim Gunn. (Phew! I hope that gives me some cool cred back.)

Why a baby blanket if it's not for SharkBean? Everything else in my UFO bin is either (a) a fitted sweater or (b) a boring vanilla sock. This is literally the first thing I was excited about working on. Not because it's a baby blanket, but because everything else feels a little pointless right now. (Also, it was the first thing that I grabbed that I could just grab and knit on. I might be a fickle knitter.) I see a lace binge in my future. (See? Told you.)

I tried starting a baby sweater, but it didn't work out. I'm going to wait for a pattern to physically attack me before I try knitting for SharkBean. The question is, do I knit a vent for the dorsal fin, or an incorporated cover? (Just in case.)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Research is power

A month ago, while we were out running errands, Mom and I stopped at a bookstore in search of parenting books. Specific types of parenting books.

Who am I kidding? My life is an open book. I was looking for books on attachment parenting and co-sleeping. (Suggestions greatly appreciated, for the record.) I was raised by hippies, I married a hippie, and despite my (former) denial, ladies and gentlemen, I AM A HIPPIE. A hippie who likes to do her research. 

When we were talking about adopting a dog, I read about dogs. Dog training, dog breeds, dog health. I even watched the Dog Whisperer, until I realized that it was the owners that needed retraining.

Anyway, we get to a Big and Noisy chain bookstore (which I NEVER shop at, for the record), and while standing in the "parenting" aisle, we were approached by a teenage employee.

Before I continue, please note that I love teenagers, especially employed ones. The ones that are engaged enough to ask "Is there anything I can help you with?" cheerfully are in danger of being attack-hugged. They are unicorns.

When I asked where the attachment parenting and co-sleeping books were (because I could find *zero*), RaisedByYuppies asked what attachment parenting *was*.

Mom, being the cheerful educator, attachment parent, and former lactation counselor, briefly explained the precepts of attachment parenting to RaisedByYuppies. (You would brag, too, if she was your mom.)

RaisedByYuppies then informed us that it's more fashionable to raise babies using the "cry it out" method, and that babies need boundaries. Given that I haven't been my sharpest the last month (or so) I ignored her ignorance, and Mom and I left, me in a huff. I'm still annoyed that I didn't say something smart and caustic to her. I did not ever claim to be a nice person.

Though, I suppose if I had punched her in the face while screaming about how important nurturing is, she may have missed my message. Maybe it's a good thing I restrained myself.

It was then, in the car when I was ranting about uninformed opinions and that as a matter of form, I don't take any advice from a teen working retail, that I realized: Librarians are smart, and libraries are full of books. Books they will cheerfully let me read FOR FREE. Without offering opinions.

This might be obvious to you, but I keep forgetting about the amazing resource that IS the local library system. Also? The Sunnyvale library has a KILLER selection of cookbooks. It's a great way of deciding whether or not you HAVE TO HAVE a specific cookbook in your collection.

We zoomed over to our local library, where I picked over the parenting shelves, hunting for books that appealed to my hippified self. For the cost of ZERO dollars, I checked out a dozen parenting books, which I have slowly been picking my way through. Some have been "eh", one was awful, and one has been GREAT. So great, I think I'm going to write the author a fan letter and give the book its own blog post.

Given that all experiences are opportunities for learning, here are mine:

- Never go to a chain bookstore. Buy locally from Recycle Books, on Amazon, or not at all.
- Libraries are amazing, but I'm so sad that they have DVDs there now. They might as well say "Watch a movie, literacy is doomed anyway."
- My hippiness has its limits. And that limit is Elimination Communication.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A reconciliation

Once upon a time, a knitter named Jasmin knit her [then] magnum opus, and it was called "Mariah". She knitted the body in a flash, and not even the sleeves managed to slow her down:

Mariah sleeve-1
I understand your sleeve envy.

She installed the zipper all-by-herself (using the tutorial from Splityarn), and even though it was hot and humid out that day, she put it on proudly so that she could take a picture of herself in it.

I look like Mom when I make that face.

If you recall, she hated it. She sulked for a while about it, and in a fit of holy-crap-it's-early-and-yoga-starts-soon induced urgency, she grabbed Mariah to wear to class. Because that's what you do with ugly/ill-fitting clothes. You wear them to yoga.

(Can we go back to first person? This third person business is exhausting and frankly, confusing my poor, addled brain.)

So I did. I got *SO* many compliments on Mariah, it was unreal. All from non-knitters. One woman from class liked my Mariah so much that she is LEARNING TO KNIT. I'm totally serious.

I'm not normally someone who is swayed by public opinion, but when they're saying really nice things about a sweater that you created, stitch by stitch, it counts more. It just does. You could say that Mariah and I have found a place where we can cheerfully coexist. And that place is yoga.

I do need to order a better zipper, and "let" Mom help me apply it (no reflection on Caro's tutorials, more on my lack of mad zipper-installing skills). For now, this story finally found its happy ending.

Oh, also? I cut off (almost) all of my hair:

I call this "pink steel".

The whole not-bleaching-your-roots business was driving me crazy, and I've always wanted a mohawk. Suzy (my amazing stylist, since I was 6 years old) refused to give me a mohawk, because (a) I would never blow my hair out to have it be mohawk-y and spiky and (b) even if I did, the sheer WEIGHT of my hair wouldn't stand up.

This is our compromise- the curly ladyhawk. Depending on my product mojo, some days it's more hawked than others. Sometimes when you have an extreme change in your life (like perhaps, a SharkBean in progress (thanks, LizzLizzLizz), and extreme 'do usually follows suit.

Because that's how I roll.