Who Am I?

April 23, 2011

I have started and finished two sweaters since the beginning of 2011.  This is not like me.  Also, neither of these sweaters is pictured here.  Instead, I am offering a distracting close-up shot of a colorwork fingerless mitt that I am currently working on.  The pattern is Vagabond Fingerless Mitts (that’s a Rav link) by Misa Erder.  It’s well written and has many nice little features, such as the braided cuff, double thumb gussets, and corrugated rib.  I’m really enjoying it!

And this is a blurry picture of an Eared Grebe!  I saw this bird hanging out on Lake Erie a few weeks ago.  While Eared Grebes are quite common out West, here in the Great Lakes region, visits from this species are rare indeed.  I was very excited to get to see it.  In other birdy news, did you see this post on Vegansaurus about an 11-year-old raising $150K to help Gulf Coast birds?  So awesome!  And another bird-related thing!  I totally want to take John to see Rio, but I bet a $100 my parents do it first.  They’re grandparents, and that’s how they roll.  Feed the kid donuts and white bread* and take him to see all the fun movies before Mommy gets a chance.

I’m sorry.  What sweaters?

Yeah, so I’m not 100-percent happy with them, particularly the most recent one.  In spite of the fact that I seem to have a less than stellar success rate with sweaters, I have purchased many more sweater patterns, including White Russian, Irish Coffee, and Narragansett by Thea Colman, a.k.a. Baby Cocktails.  Maybe I should just stick to the small projects, like the mitts.

Except that the other projects I’m obsessed with right now are … blankets.

* Fact.  Actual transcription of John’s writing assignment for school about his Grandma: “My Grandma really loves me. My Grandma gets me all small, medium, and big LEGO sets. My Grandma does not make me eat wheat bread. My Grandma lets me eat white bread. My Grandma plays with me all the time.  I love my Grandma!”  I probably don’t need to spell this out, but (1) I do not buy white bread and (2) neither did my mom when I was growing up.


Back to the Blog

February 19, 2011

It’s been  months, but I can’t bring myself to say goodbye to blogging.  If anything, I really want to get back to it.  There are a number of things that prevent me from doing so.  The first, of course, is time.  I have a job doing electronic document review, which means that I spend my day reading emails on a monitor.  So, naturally, coming home and getting online isn’t the most appealing idea in the world.  But I really miss the community and the writing.

Another (self-created) obstacle are the related ideas that (1) all blog posts need pretty pictures and (2) I am completely incapable of taking the pretty pictures.  I have what can charitably be described as a craptastic camera, no tripod, and highly limited skill.  I love the blogs with beautiful photography (some examples: Brooklyn Tweedjust marysePosie Gets Cozy, Hello Yarn, and Smitten Kitchen), and I want to create the type of blog I like to read!

But I’m going to try to overcome these obstacles, because I so enjoy blogging as a personal journalling exercise.  And I have so many things I’d like to write about.

Like knitting, of course!  I’ve been working on a number of things, and recently finished this Breckenridge Cowl with Malabrigo Rasta.  What a yummy yarn!  I also have two sweater-type projects on the needles (three, if you count a long-hibernating bottom-up seamless yoke sweater).  Just when I think I’ve embraced the fact that I am really a Small Project Knitter, I go and start a sweater.

Other topics to come: local food, Health Month, potholder mania, my love affair with leafy greens, other people’s UFOs, and more.


Green Knitting

August 1, 2010

Serpentine Socks

Don’t you hate it when you’re finishing up a project, and you make a little mistake?  One where the fix is not terribly hard, and perhaps the fix isn’t totally necessary, but you know you’ll never be happy with the finished project unless you do it?  And isn’t it sometimes hard to do the fix, and cross that project off your list?  That’s the story of these socks.

A nice friend from the yarn store gifted me the Yarn Harlot’s page-a-day calendar, and one day the entry was a stretchy bind-off method.  I saved that page, and when I bound off the first of these toe-up socks, I used her method.  It was perfectly, beautifully stretchy.

Then, when I was ready to bind off the second sock, I didn’t have that little piece of paper with me.  I couldn’t remember how to do it, so I improvised.  Bad call.  Top of second sock  … not so stretchy.  In fact, nearly totally inelastic.

For some reason, I found it very difficult to rip back that bind off, find the little piece of paper, and re-do it all.  After weeks of having these socks stare at me balefully from the top of the WIP’s pile, I finally finished them.  And, hooray!  I have a wonderful new pair of socks just waiting for fall weather.

Pattern:  Serpentine Socks by Wendy D. Johnson

Yarn:  Cider Moon Glacier in Congo

Needles: 2.5mm Knit Picks Options fixed circulars

Modifications:  Completely unintentionally, I swapped out the columns of purl stitches between the lace panels for alternating knits and purls.   Somehow, I read “on even rounds, knit the knits and purl the purls” as “knit all stitches on even rounds.”  Only me.  Anyhow, I think they look nice — a case of a mistake being a design feature.

And I never want to forget that fantastically perfect bind off, so I’m going to post it here for posterity.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s Awesome Stretchy Bind Off: *Knit 2 tog, K1. Place sts back on left needle, rep from *.

That’s it!  It’s so simple, it’s a wonder that I couldn’t remember it.  I highly recommend you try it the next time you make toe-up socks, or need to bind off a crewneck.

This pattern came from Wendy Johnson’s book Socks from the Toe Up, which I just love.  Equally awesome is the follow-up, Toe-Up Socks for Everybody.  For a long time, I avoided the toe-up sock, because I didn’t know any other method of making the heel besides the short-row heel, which I don’t love.  But these books give basic instructions for gusset  heels (with and without a slip-stitch heel flap), so I’m back on the toe-up sock bandwagon!

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In other knitty goodness, have you seen the Fall 2010 Twist Collective?  It is really lovely, especially the “Roxham Farm” and “WWMHW?” stories.  It was hard not to go absolutely crazy buying patterns, but I couldn’t resist the patterns by two of my favorite designers-knitbloggers-internet friends: the Community Garden beret by Melissa LaBarre and Hallett’s Ledge cardigan by Elinor Brown.  One thing that really stood out to me in all the patterns was that the cardigans are fully buttoned-up.  It seemed for a while that all the cardi patterns involved no closure at all, one big button, or at most two or three near the top a la February Lady Sweater.  But these cardigans incorporate traditional button bands with closures from top to bottom, and are worn all closed up.  They look great, and very fresh, I think.

I could so easily spend this day curled up in a chair, knitting away and listening to music.  But the yard and garden outside my window are looking pretty neglected, so relaxation will have to wait.  Here’s hoping you’re having an excellent Sunday and first day of August.


The Biggest Victory at Richfield Coliseum

July 25, 2010

Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

– Joni Mitchell, “Big Yellow Taxi”

The Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio

Twenty years ago, this arena sat at the intersection of two highways between Akron and Cleveland.   It was home to the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team, and the site of musical events too numerous to recount.  In 1987, probably bedecked in ruffles and paste pearls, I saw Madonna perform there.

Cuyahoga River, photo by Kevin Payravi, Wikimedia Commons

As you can see, the arena was surrounded by acres and acres of parking lot.  It sat atop a rise over the Cuyahoga River valley and was visible for miles around.  Beyond the sea of asphalt, the Coliseum was bordered by the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  Created in 1974 as the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, the CVNP encompasses waterfalls and forests, as well as preserving sections of the Ohio & Erie Canal towpath and historic farms.  The CVNP exists due to the tireless efforts of the citizens of northeastern Ohio, lead by Congressmen Ralph Regula and John Seiberling.  President Ford was reluctant to approve the legislation creating the park, but upon being shown a list of local supporters, reportedly said, “If I don’t sign this bill, my name will be mud in Ohio.”

Brandywine Falls, photo by Analogue Kid at Wikimedia Commons

In the early 1990s, the Gund family, who owned the basketball team, decided to build a new arena and placed it in downtown Cleveland.  This contributed significantly to the revitalization of the city, and was one of the first instances of a growing trend among professional sports organizations to relocate or improve their facilities in inner cities.  In 1994, the Cleveland Cavaliers played their last game at Richfield Coliseum, and that sounded the death knell for the arena.  Many were concerned about what would become of the site, with developers clamoring to acquire it for shopping centers, office buildings, and the like.  By 1998, sixty developers had approached the Gunds with offers to buy the property.  While the developers offered them more money, the Gunds chose to sell the site to the Trust for Public Land, and it was transferred to the National Park Service.
This week, I visited the former site of the Coliseum in Richfield, and took a picture.

Coliseum Grasslands, Richfield, Ohio

A visitor to the area would never guess that the concrete and glass behemoth pictured above stood here.  The meadow has never been mowed, and it’s filled with hundreds of grasses and other plants.  I went there to watch birds.  In particular, I was looking for this bird.  This is a Henslow’s Sparrow.

Henslow's Sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii)

The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America describes the bird as “uncommon, local, and declining.  Restricted to damp grassy meadows with old matted vegetation and a variety of weeds and other groundcover.  Solitary and very secretive; difficult to see except when singing … Song a dry, insect-like, feeble hiccup.”  Because it prefers this particular type of habitat, and such meadows are harder and harder to find, the population of Henslow’s Sparrows has been steadily dropping.

My friend and I arrived at the Coliseum grasslands around 7:00 PM, right after a sudden drenching rain.  We waded through waist-high grasses and wildflowers, listening intently for the sparrow’s song.  It didn’t take long to hear what Sibley called an insect-like hiccup, and persistent following the song led us to see a little juvenile, perched atop a stalk of grass.  We did find several other Henslow’s Sparrows that night, along with Bobolinks, the famously shy Sedge Wren, and many other birds.

I was filled with amazement that what is now home to an uncommon bird so finicky about its habitat, not two decades ago was a monument to Americans’ love for commercial spectacle on a grand scale and their ability to get there by automobile.  While I watch and worry about what will become of the Gulf, all covered in sludge, it was balm for the soul to see the tangible results of human intervention in our environment come to something so very, very, very good.  If you worry about our planet, if you fear for the loss of wild places, if you despair at human exploitation of our Mother Earth … think of the efforts of concerned citizens, the generosity of a wealthy family, and the dedication of a few public servants.  Think of an asphalt parking lot that is now a meadow in Ohio.  Think of the Henslow’s Sparrow, and reflect that sometimes the good guys win.


Baby Steps

July 19, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the State of the Planet, and the environmental impact of my actions.  Maybe it’s all the terrible news coming from the Gulf of Mexico.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve taken up a hobby — birdwatching, to be precise — that involves watching wildlife and being in nature.  Whatever the reason(s), it’s been on my mind, and I’ve been trying to be a little more conscious of what I am doing and eating and buying, among other things.

Sometimes it has seemed to me that environmentalists have urged concerned people to make changes in their lives that seem at best drastic and at worst, impossible.  Sell your car!  Live a carbon-neutral lifestyle!  Turn your whole family (including the dog) to veganism!  Get off the grid!

Well, gosh, I’d LOVE to, but where do I start?  And, if I do something short of that, am I still making a difference?

One day last summer, I picked up a flyer at my local coffee shop exhorting people to adopt a vegetarian diet.  It provided amazing statistics about the environmental impact of eating meat.  And it suggested that even modest changes in one’s diet would help.  Meatless Monday is an international campaign that educates individuals about the beneficial impact of eating meatless just one day a week on both personal health and the well-being of the planet.

That got me thinking.  Maybe little changes would make a difference.   The idea of permanently swearing off bacon made me nervous, but if I could help by just reducing my meat consumption, I could definitely get behind that.

So I did, and as a result, I’ve become a most-of-the-time vegetarian.  I eat meat now and again, but I try to save it for special occasions or something really worthwhile.  From there, I started thinking about other little changes that I could make.  Instead of “living carbon-neutral” or “saving the planet,” I made this my motto and my goal:

While I am here, I want to tread more lightly upon the Earth.

Note that any change at all, however small, will advance this goal.  That allows you to feel good about every positive action you take.  And, of course, as I know from years of raising an autistic child, nothing effects positive change like creating opportunities for success.  Here are some of the small things that I am doing to tread more lightly upon the Earth

I am growing vegetables at home. There are many reasons I decided to do this. You can’t eat more locally than your own backyard.  I love the taste of real, homegrown tomatoes.  But mostly, I’d like to teach John and Sam that food does not come from grocery stores.

I quit buying paper towels. This may seem silly, but I realized that it was pretty crazy for me to be recycling junk mail and cardboard packaging, but to use and throw away so many paper towels.  I bought some microfiber cleaning cloths, and I also use handknitted dishcloths for many things.  If I’m cooking bacon or something else that needs to be drained (which doesn’t happen all that often), I use some of the million paper bags or napkins that I’m given at restaurants and stores.  At home and when packing lunches, we use cloth napkins, which adds a little graciousness to even a peanut butter sandwich!

I hang my clothes up to dry. For this change, I have Erika, my boss at the yarn store, to thank.  After the refrigerator, the clothes dryer is the second-most energy-consuming appliance in the home.  I have clothesline hung in the laundry room, and I’ve found that hanging wet clothes takes only a few extra minutes.  There is nothing like the smell of sheets that have dried in the sunshine!

I don’t buy bottled water. In fact, I’m trying to buy fewer things packaged in plastic in general, but bottled water was the very first thing to go.  Did you know that nearly eight out of ten plastic water bottles will end up in a landfill?  And most bottled water is not pristine liquid from an Alpine source or a tropical island, but rather plain old tap water?

These are just a few things I am doing — I generally don’t use air conditioning at home, and I am also trying to use public transportation when I can.  But the thing I like about these steps is that they are completely doable, practically painless ones.

Have you made any changes in your lifestyle as a result of your concern for the environment?  I want to know what they are!

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Books I’m reading now that are, more or less, on this topic: Diet for a Hot Planet by Anna Lappe (the daughter of Frances Moore Lappe, who wrote the groundbreaking Diet for a Small Planet) and The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone, which I picked up despite its being a celebrity diet book based on the enthusiastic endorsement of a very trusted friend.

And check out my friend Gretchen’s blog, (Sort of) Sustainable Summer, in which she documents her family’s efforts to eat locally in the Cleveland area this summer!


Sartorially Speaking

May 13, 2008

Speaking of lateness, once again Laura is very, very late to the party.  I am probably the last shoe-obsessed, Project Runway-loving, handbag-enthusiast, dress-wearing girly girl in the world to start reading The Sartorialist.  Shameful, I know.  If only I had some of his pictures, this Cafe would really be a classy joint.  But, naturally, that would be wrong, so click that link and take a gander.  We’ll wait.

Ok.  Let’s talk about today’s look, entitled “Cold Spring Layering, Manhattan.”  I most emphatically would never wear this outfit.  The only piece she’s wearing that I own are black tights.  I might be allergic to metallic clothing.  And that elastic would have no business clinging about my post-childbearing hips.  But I love this madly, and here’s why.  She thought about it.

For this woman, dressing is not just something to do in the morning between showering and standing in line at the coffee shop.  It is a creative endeavor.  It is an opportunity for personal expression.  I guarantee you, she thought about the combination of textures and colors.  She thought about the way the rivets on the bag echo the metallic skirt.  Possibly, she thought about changing her shoes when she arrived at her destination.  If she grabbed these things blindly while brushing her teeth and just threw them on, I would posit that she is a sartorial savant. 

There seem to be a few kinds of looks that the Sartorialist features.  There’s the look that is primarily a testament to the wearer’s good taste.  Some of them seem to be mostly about attitude and effortlessness.  Some evoke a mood.  And, of course, because he is a great photographer, some of them are a little story in an image.

But I like the looks that seem to reflect the wearer’s personality and creativity, like today’s.  And this one.  And this one.  And these.  I find them inspiring, if not in the details, then in the spirit.  I get dressed every morning.  Why not make it an event?


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