Thursday, August 31, 2006

On wool and being cool

I've joined the challenge of knitting a sweater by Rhinebeck, though I am cheating just a bit: I'm making a sweater vest. BUT, I should still get props for designing my own pattern:

What started out as a sketch on a small piece of paper has now been drawn up and out and knit several times. I finally got the right gauge, the right yarn mix, and the right opportunity to make real progress on this sweater earlier this week. This is what two days of knitting looks like (note the essentials to a good knitting marathon):

The final yarn? Brooks Farm Duet in Carnival and Cascade Pastaza in 043. The llama in the Pastaza beautifully compliments the kid mohair in the Brooks Farm. This sweater vest, if nothing else, will literally be warm and fuzzy. I'm already thinking that this will be the project I finish in Hershey this year, because what good is attending a cross-stitch festival if one doesn't bring one's knitting? Exactly!

Now, perhaps you ask, "Why did Sparksy have two days of nothing but the knit?" I'll tell you: we had central air installed in our 1920s row house. And while I didn't need to necessarily sit there and hold the hands of the contractors, it sure was a good thing I was home. Here are some of the highlights of the installation of our high velocity air conditioning system below.

This is my back yard. In addition to Killer Cherry Tomatos from Outer Space and Sideshow Bob, I temporarily had some odd number feet of duct, a condenser, and contractor stuff crammed in between the table and chimenea.

One quarter of my dining room was devoted entirely to central air installation stuff. It was really only fun for the cat, and actually, he probably found it kind of stressful...

The air handler was to be installed in the crawl space that is our attic. While we'd argued, originally, for it to be towards the rear of the house, we are actually kind of happy that the unit's in the front of the house. However, to get to the unit and its installation, an access hole had to be cut. This is looking down from that freshly cut hole and at my (covered) bed.

To get into the living room ceiling, the contractors first cut holes in the bedroom ceiling and then chased the ducts down through the closet and the floor. Unfortunately for us, we had to empty out not only our bedroom closets, but also our linen closet.

And, so, this is what our closets would look like if we used a bed for a closet. Not nearly as convenient, and amusing for only 47 minutes. What you can't see on the other side of the bed is the collection of sheets that were removed from the linen cloest. Also of note: shoes. One third of the shoes are Mike's!

Here's the air handler unit. You know, the one that pretty much sits over my head? It's actually pretty cool (har har)--the air handler is constructed and manufactured just so and when it's running, you hear nary a squeak from this miniature cooling power house. We also have a condenser outside, but that's just your typical Lennox dealie.

Finally, the fruits of their labors (and our dollars... Oh, our dollars...): the diffusers.

The high velocity system is designed to be easily retrofitted into homes that use radiator heat, or, that were not designed with the space for traditional ductwork. Where we would have had to deal with ugly soffits and huge registers, we now instead have these 2-inch diameter diffusers that deliver cool air throughout the house. You can read more about the system itself here and here (the second being the link for the company that did our installation).

Overall, I'm happy with both my knitting progress and the central air installation. Of course, I learned that knitting for more than two hours straight (say, 8 hours with only bathroom and lunch breaks) is not for the weak-knuckled. And that it is certain to bust any heat wave if you fork over the money and install central air. Ah, life.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Walking in the park

After a couple of sputtering fits, Jody and I finally managed to meet up for some much-needed knitting and kibitzing this past Sunday. The plan was to meet at LaVa Cafe, at 21st and South, then head to Loop for some unabashed yarn therapy. After that, we'd go to Rosie's for more yarn therapy, and then we'd head back to my 'hood for some eating before we parted ways. And while that's pretty much exactly what happened, it was so much more!

At Loop, I kind of hung low; I'd just been in there the week before and I was still feeling fairly high from my purchases. But, I did buy *something*: big ass needles, US 35s, and some teeny tiny DPNs, US 0s, which also came in a little collectible tin. Allow me a brief rant: these things weren't priced!!!! So, I had them in my grubby paw and when I was rung out and totaled, the cashier kindly asked for more than $40. For what amounted to two sets of needles. Now, since I will use the teeny tiny needles far more often than the big ass needles, my teeny tiny investment turned out to be the better purchase. STILL! I am hoping to wind my Woolbearer's sock yarn tonight so that I can take it with me this weekend, and if I take this yarn, I'll be using the super tiny yet packs a price-tag needles. I'm kind of excited to knit with US 0s.

At Rosie's, I continued in the non-yarn purchasing vein (I am looking for Sari silk to use for a belt--losing all this weight means my pants are too big, and since I'm not exactly going to buy a new pair of pants every month, I need to have a way to keep my pants UP. Plus, I enjoy showing off my newly discovered, far from finished emerging, waistline.), purchasing two books: One Skein and Knitting Rules. Both books seemed like I'd get good mileage out of them, so I was pretty content with my purchase when I left the store.

Jody and I agreed the day was too nice to waste it, so we headed to Rittenhouse Square for some knitting in the shade. We people watched--oafish dad playing with kid, lots of dogs, running and screaming children, some fratties playing Frisbee, and this old man--MORE POWER TO HIM--that essentially stripped to his woolen bathing costume before settling in for sunbathing. I was kinda glad that my back was to him, even if I was showing a bit of skin. Jody worked on socks using some absolutely gorgeous yarn--go check out her blog for the details--and I browsed my books with a bit more focus.

It was a quiet afternoon until I let out a squee and a half: while looking through One Skein, one of the patterns is photographed in a Karmann Ghia! Now that I have one, it seems I'm finding them everywhere--movies, a couple of TV shows, the occasional highway spotting--but I never expected to see one in a knitting book. Jody said that I'd now have to knit that particular pattern, and I agree, though the end result may end up as a gift to my fellow Ghia enthusiast and partner in caravanning, Evelynne.

It was really nice hanging out with Jody--in my mind, she's close to a knitting genius. I'm glad that we've fallen back in touch!

This weekend, I'll be heading north for 3-4 days. Little Sis is moving far far away (6 hours by car, the way my Mom drives) and Mom and I are giving her a hand with settling in. Mom is insane--she's already mapped out a couple of cross-stitch stores and some yarn shops. Sis is pretty kind--she's already mapped out a couple of gluten-free friendly restaurants. If nothing else, I hope to have an excessively good time this weekend and at least 6 good photographs.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

All About MeMeme!

From LibraryGrrrl.

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain--does it count that it felt like a mountain? But seriously, yes.
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said ‘I love you’ and meant it--everyday!
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game--you can't live in Philadelphia and not go to a Flyers or Eagles game. I purposely leave the Phillies out because while they are major league, a Phillies game feels more like a relaxing event than a sporting event.
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables--every year for a while now...
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne--every single time I drink champagne...
24. Given more than you can afford to charity--what goes around comes around.
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment--funeral service a week or so ago. But come on, the guy was preaching about On Top of Spaghetti, no lie.
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse--at least, a placing horse.
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb--I did grow up in farm country and I regularly went to fairs and 4-H shows.
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking--Oh DEAR. I was out with an ex-friend and I'd had one too many Cosmos to care what I looked like...
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day, much to my own annoyance.
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states--no desire...
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends--more and more every day!
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign--I believe it was for church bingo and was an inside joke with Smyth, the super-cool junior at my first college.
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer then you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your cd’s
57. Pretended to be a superhero--complete with cape.
58. Sung karaoke--poorly, and sober.
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Posed nude in front of strangers
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain--yeah, I remember that...
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater--I want to say yes because I vaguely remember going to one. If I went, I was a pre-k'er.
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken--going strong since '94.
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days--Food, yes. Water, no. I was pretty harsh on myself as a kid.
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest--I was a kid and I think I went as a Hershey Kiss, back before non-traditional costumes were readily available at the Halloween SuperMart.
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage--I actually miss acting, but I don't have the time or stage-confidence to pursue it right now.
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music--as in, playing piano and having my cassette recorder on record, yes.
87. Eaten shark
88. Had a one-night stand
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror.
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
98. Created and named your own constellation of stars
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. WalkedBicycled the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an illness that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Petted a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart--on Valentine's Day, no less. I was such a cruel bitch.
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse--I took lessons! Now I can't go near a horse without my face swelling up.
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi--does veggie sushi count?
128. Had your picture in the newspaper--several times...
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school--I was sure I was done once I got my undergraduated degree. Now I'm considering another Master's of even a PhD.
131. Parasailed
132. Petted a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey--as an English major, I kinda had to.
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions--so far, so good.
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream--just recently, too.
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146: Dyed your hair
147: Been a DJ
148: Shaved your head--half of my head...
149: Caused a car accident
150: Saved someone’s life

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Against all that I could ever hope to stand for...

True to any project, be it knitting, painting, house repair, or you name it, I've already frogged the braided cable sock once. ENTIRELY. As in, pull out all four needles, have a mental hissy fit, and then ball the yarn while my icy coffee conconction melts and my comrade in knitting fondles her yarn... I managed to cast-on, again, and this time I'm paying attention to the pattern and not just saying, "Hmmmm, let's cable NOW." Knitting in the abstract, and at whim, never has the best results. Or, at least, the expected results.

Here's the re-cast-on, re-knitted cabled sock, about... over halfway down the leg:

I like the texture the cables have with this yarn, and I like that when I hold the sock in my hand and look at it, the colors are pleasing. What I don't like is taking a picture and seeing the purple is coming out as an almost spiral effect. Still, that's interesting. I'm calling the yarn Red Hat because the purple and the red makes me think of those ladies.

The honeymoon is over: my Ghia needs new floorboards STAT. I've got a call in to a garage over in Jersey (they come highly recommended). Now, I'm just waiting to hear from my mechanic about the extent of brake work that needs to be done.

I feel like I should rent and watch The Money Pit, but the last time that movie was rented by someone in my immediate household, there was a catastrophic loss of backpack and Ninja Head the First. I guess the clothes shopping spree I was looking forward to in September is going to have to wait... AND instead, I should start sewing all those pants and blouse patterns I have. Heck, I should finish the shirt that I started last year--all that remains is the neck finishing!

Back in sock-land--I think I can hit the heel flap tonight, if all goes well. Wish me luck.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Shameless stash-enhancing

I killed time yesterday afternoon with some shopping at Loop while Mike had a small procedure done. I had a $25 gift certificate (thanks to some fabulous neighbors), and an itching to finally treat myself to some Lorna's Laces. And, I did indeed treat myself to LL, but I also couldn't resist browsing the HUGE sale section that Craig and the girls have set up.

From the sale "bin", I got some Ultramerino 4 by Artyarns, color 111.

I'm tired of self-striping/patterning yarns right now, and while I know that I'll still get some pooling and patterning with the U4, I don't think (I hope) that the end result will be as predictable as, say, Sassy Stripes...

I picked up an interesting Celtic cabled sock--the cables appear to neatly end in the heel and carry over to the instep ribbing seamlessly--that I'll try out with the U4.

A month or so ago, I was propositioned by my eyebrowist while reclining under the shining, bright, magnifying light--she loved my bag, wanted to know where I bought it... When I told her I'd made it, she freaked. Then, immediately put in an order for a custom-designed bag. Now, I've never tried to be a designer for others. It's one thing to toy around with possible sweater and bag patterns for myself (or my mom... Because MOMS have to use what their kids give them, even if it is covered in macaroni.). But designing for others? At their request? I was hesitant to begin. So, I let the idea stew for a few weeks, until yesterday. I picked up the yarn (she requested carrot and daffodil), and then browsed some patterns before having THE bag pattern emerge fully-formed from my brow... I'm excited to start on this bag, now, but I must first finish the baby sweater. Pictures as progress allows.

Finally, the Lorna's Laces... For as much sock yarn as I have, I'd yet to add any LL to my stash. I know of a few people that thoroughly enjoy LL, and of a few people that less-than-like LL. But, I wanted to try it out for myself. When Mike and I got home last night and I unwound the first skein, even he couldn't stop himself from taking in a sharp, quick breath (ok, so that may have been more of a pain thing...), and saying, "Ooohhhh!!!" Good husband.

That's Shepherd Sock in Vera--lots of olives, browns, fuschias and dusty pink/beiges. YUM.

As is typical of almost every knitter I know, I could have spent so much more while at Loop. I consider myself (and my happy marriage) lucky that I managed to spend just over $40 (plus the gift certificate) yesterday.

Today's going to be a GORGEOUS day, and if Mike hadn't broken my side view mirrow off the Ghia, I'd be taking the girl out today. Instead, my mom's heading up to the city and she and I are hitting Doylestown. Henry Mercer ain't gonna know what hit him.