Monday, July 28, 2008

Award Time!

Linda at You're History and Dances With Wool has kindly bestowed upon me this award. Thank you Linda - I'm quite flattered!

Here are the rules:
1. Put the logo on your blog;
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you;
3. Nominate at least seven other blogs;
4. Add links to those blogs on your blog; and
5. Leave a message for your nominee on their blog.

I believe I've mentioned in the past that I think these awards are a fun way to share new blogs with readers and highlight some of the many talented knitters that write blogs from all over the world. And, if I haven't, then I'm mentioning it now!

Here are some bloggers I have not mentioned in the past, but are part of my regular reads:

1. Kelly at Celtic Cast On. Kelly is an Irish girl who lives in Canada. She has been knitting since age 6 and is a very talented knitter. She lives in a rustic area with two dogs (one of whom is a German Shepherd who strongly reminds me of our Alex who passed away in 2001) and the pictures of her knitting and country side are always gorgeous!

2. Theresa at T Does Wool. Theresa lives in Chicago and is very much the city girl. Her taste in patterns and photos reflect her city lifestyle. Her writing can also be very humorous at times - a feature that I'm told my blog is missing. Things that make you go hum. I like to think my humor is subtle although I will conceed I'm not always on form.

3. Amanda at Joli House. Amanda lives in England. My mother is English and I have an affinity for all the English knitters out there. Amanda also happens to be a very talented knitter (who shares my taste in patterns - imagine that) with two gorgeous children and her blogging is a delight to follow.

4. Ally at Born to Read and Knit. When I popped over to Ally's blog I saw that she had already been nominated for this award - which confirms my good taste! Ally lives in Auckland, New Zealand has 4 children, pets, knits, reads, sews, and as a result has lots of interesting fodder for her blog!

5. Channon at Chan Knits. Channon lives in Virginia and is one of the few southern bloggers that have crossed my path. She writes about her family life, dogs, and knitting adventures - of which there are many! Channon is a delight and always has something new to share and is a great daily destination.

6. Sue at Knitter Sue. Sue lives in Australia with 2 children and lots and lots of pets! Sue is one of the more prolific knitters that I read and is currently on FO 32 for 2008 - wow. Many of the things that Sue knits are for babies and children, something that I don't do a lot of myself, so I find that she is a great resource for children's patterns.

7. Willow at Willow's Cottage. Williow lives practically in my backyard! She lives in Camarillo, California which is only about an hour from where I live. Willow has recently designed an aran sweater. Nuff said about her knitting skills. She is also very well traveled and her blog will take you to all sorts of interesting places!

When I told Mr Puffy about the award - he didn't say anything - but his smile said it all!

Mr Puffy and I have actually been away for a few days and have only just returned from a lovely visit in Santa Barbara with my parents.

When visiting my parents, a typical day begins with my mother and I walking downtown to enjoy cakes and coffee and browsing through the shops. When we are ready to come home, my father kindly drives down to pick us up so we can enjoy a nap before afternoon tea! My Dad always brings Mr Puffy along in the car and seeing his little face in the window peering out looking for us is so cute to see.

In the evening we enjoy a glass of wine before we watch the evening news and a movie before bed.

As you can imagine, after a couple of days spent like this, I feel much the better for it.

Briefly, as Linda (Dances With Wool ) mentioned that she likes hearing about books that I'm reading, I'll share what I'm currently reading. Yesterday I picked up In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, the sixth book in a series of stories featuring Precious Ramotswe, a female detective living in Botswana, Africa. The author is Alexander McCall Smith who is well known for this enormously popular series that all began with The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. The stories are filled with the local color and flavor of Africa and the insights of Precious Ramotswe a charming and very down to earth woman. If you are looking for a good read this Summer, you might consider this series!

I hope everyone is enjoying their Summer. I, for one, look forward to the Fall with its cooler days and beautiful change in color!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Fly Away My Swallowtail

I'm such a child. I have a cookie recipe I want to share, but couldn't resist showing pictures of my Swallowtail Shawl first!

It comes with a story. A lesson really, I suppose. You see, I very nearly had a disaster on my hands. While I'm as careful as anyone could possibly be with their handknit items, I tend to be careless with projects that I'm working on. I toss them down with nary a care and little thought to keeping them clean and tidy. After all it's going to be washed and blocked when I'm done, right?

Imagine how sick I felt when I looked at this shawl one day and noticed that virtually the entire surface area was covered with a dark stain. My attempt to remove it by spot washing was unsuccessful and I thought that the shawl was ruined. I mentioned this in passing to my mother. Her response was to tell me that she would like it for her birthday present and that she wouldn't mind if it had a stain. Now that's love. Even with a stain, a shawl made by me would be special to her.

I made a few enquires of my blogging buddies "most likely to know" how to remove a stain from alpaca and Monika (Smoking Hot Needles) reported that glycerin is sometimes helpful and Marie (Knitted Gems) raised the option of an over dye if it couldn't be removed.

I am pleased to report that the stain is gone. It required copious use of Kookaburra Wool Wash, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap, and Philosophy's One-Minute Daily Facial (glycerin based). Not a cocktail I would recommend under normal circumstance.

Now that I know the stain is gone, I'm going to give the shawl one last quick bath with a splash of vinegar and dash of hair conditioner to restore some of the natural oils that the cleansing process surely must have stripped. After that, I think this will be an incident I can forget.

But for the lesson. Where we find truth and beauty in this world we need to honor that. The truth and beauty here is that of parent's love. When you have a child ~ their joy is your joy ~ their pain is your pain.

I'll also remember the lesson that I need to be more careful where I lay down my knitting!

Specs: Swallowtail Shawl, Evelyn Clark design (free pdf pattern link here); US 5 needles; Blue Sky Alpaca Royal (3 skeins ~colorway 709 ~ most of the 3rd skein was left over); modified by increasing the rosebud pattern from 14 to 19 repeats using the method explained (excellently) by Pepperknits here.

I hope this shawl will bring my mother much pleasure.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Eni Mini Minie Moe

Is it ever hot in Topanga, California! You may not know this, but I'm convinced that all of Southern California is actually a desert. They have managed to disguise this fact by copious use of irrigation and propaganda shots of the seemingly lush foliage and ocean views. But I'm no longer fooled. I just have to walk outside and I know I'm living in the desert.

Luckily I have air conditioning and therefore my knitting continues unimpeded right through the peak of the summer heat! My current project is Haven, a Kim Hargreaves design from her Heartfelt - The Dark House Collection. But I've changed it's name to "My Totally Opulent Scarf" because the yarn is so very rich and scrummy.

As I was savoring the pleasure of knitting with my Crystal Palace needles, I thought about how using the right needles makes such a difference to the knitting experience.

I'm not even going to attempt to describe all the various needle choices out there. I'll just say there are a great many choices, and I've tried most of them. What it boils down to for me is what causes the least friction (i.e. wear and tear on my hands) when I knit. My favorite needles are as follows:

Socks: Lantern Moon, rosewood needles;
Heavy Wool Garments: Crystal Palace, Bamboo; and
Lace: Susan Bates, Silverado (I believe this is the style I use - I no longer have the package)

Every project has it's unique issues, though, and it's nice to have an assortment of needles so that you can pick and chose what characteristics of needle are best suited to your project.

Here's a picture of Haven from the Heartfelt Book. I'm modifying it to create more a traditional scarf. You will have a chance to see it both ways, though, because my neighbor and I are having our own mini Knit Along (aka: "KAL") and she is making the scarf exactly as designed. I think we will have to have a little tea party to celebrate when we finish!

Mr Puffy has offered to model it for me if it's too hot for me. Bless his little furry heart.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Socks and Celebrations!

It's wonderful to go away but it's also wonderful to be home and together as a family again! Mr Puffy in particular is happy that the vacationing is over and we can get back to our regular daily lives.

As I breathed deeply of the salty air, felt the dry warmth of the sun on my skin, and watched Mr Puffy play in the sand, I realized that as much as I enjoy visiting other places there is no place I find more enjoyable than my own deck in San Clemente, California with a steaming pot of tea, a good book, and Mr Puffy to keep me company.

I didn't accomplish much knitting on my vacation, so I thought this would be a good time to share a pair of older socks. These are actually my favorite "go to" comfort socks and I wear them a lot in the Winter. Of course it's too warm to wear them at this time of year, but I've modeled them nonetheless perched upon a rock in front of our house - just for you - so you can see how they fit.

These socks have held up really well despite a slight tendency to pill. The yarn is Mountain Colors Bearfoot (60% superwash merino, 25% mohair, 15% nylon). Because it's a handpainted yarn it doesn't require a fancy stitch pattern so I chose a simple seed stitch motif on the leg to give them a bit of interest. The pattern is from The Joy of Knitting by Lisa R. Myers.

I "borrowed" my neighbor's fence and pretty hibiscus flowers for this shot. Hibiscus flowers are a quintessential California flower and they are particularly prevalent where I grew up in Santa Barbara, California. I love hibiscus flowers because the blooms are huge and colorful and they have a long season.

So What Was the Cruise Like?

Oh. My. Gosh. Going on a cruise is an incredibly relaxing and fun vacation. We were on the Carnival Cruise Line. The cruise was a week long and left from Long Beach, California and traveled along the Mexican Riviera (Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas). Besides relaxation and fun, there is also the food. What you hear about food on cruises is true - the food really is wonderful!

For those who have never been on a cruise, I would liken the experience, on this vessel, to something like being in a Las Vegas Hotel at sea. There is gambling, shows, food and drinks and impressive interior design (glass encased elevators, huge paintings, art work, etc.) In addition, you have the shore excursions which are a fun break on the journey. Here I am in Puerto Vallarta looking every inch the part of an American Tourist.

Here's Steve with my mom and dad, who are all looking quite the tourists as well. My dad in particular is looking pleased with himself as he has just found the perfect leather bag to hold his golf balls.

This particular cruise was family oriented and had fun shows in the evenings (comedy, musicals, a ventriloquist, etc.) and lots of activities that my nephews (ages 9 and 11) really enjoyed. Another nice feature of this ship is that the staterooms had private balconies. Here I am on our private deck modeling my newly completed Monkey sock!

I really enjoyed sitting on the deck being able to look out at the ocean. On several occasions we saw dolphins playing in the boat wake, and that was something to see. There were so many and sometimes they jumped so high they were completely out of the water!

Unfortunately we missed out on our day of snorkeling in Cabo San Lucas due to strong currents in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Douglas. But, I did manage to take this shot of the famed Cabo San Lucas "Los Arcos" rocks before we headed back out to sea.

You will recall from my last post that this cruise was a gift from my parents to the family in celebration of their 50th Wedding Anniversary. I love this photo, as it shows how happy they are together. This picture was taken on the last night of the cruise in the dinning room. I have to say the dinner waiters were just terrific and every night they either danced or sang for us and really made the dinners a fun experience.

Fifty years of marriage and they are happier now than they have ever been. If you ask my mother what is the secret to a happy marriage she will tell you "don't major in minors". What she means is - don't over react to small things. She would also tell you what her Aunt Joan told her (a woman who enjoyed an exceptionally happy marriage) and that is to bring a spirit of generosity to your marriage. If you plan on giving of yourself 75% and expect to receive 25% in return you will be setting a tone of "giving" that paradoxically is actually the most rewarding.

Here's a picture of them during their whirlwind courtship period (all of 3 months long *giggle*). The picture was taken on the beach in Santa Monica, California very close to where I live now.