Friday, November 28, 2008


This Thanksgiving I covered myself in glory – I am now officially the crazy out-of-it relative, because I thought the Beethoven giant balloon in the Macy's parade would be a scowling bust rather than a St. Bernard. Alas, the balloon dog suffered a puncture, partially deflated, and did not complete the parade. Maybe the maestro would have fared better. Hrumph.

I also made all and sundry admire my Up-Down Spiral Sox by Sandy Cushman (in Favorite Socks), which turned the rebel Ballooney colorway into a special effect.

Spiral Sox in progress

Notice the stripes on the ribbing dip to the right = S-twist. The slip stitch pattern also is S-twist. But the resulting fabric is not striped and is adorned with small spirals that dip to the left = Z-twist. Whoa.

Flush with success or too much turkey, I signed up for NaKniSweMoDo, the brainchild of Susan, Margene, and Cheryl.NaKnitSweMoDo button The year-long knit-along has a simple, yet ambitious goal: to finish 12 adult-sized garments in 2009. Vests and shells are OK, WIPs and UFOs are OK, multiple FOs in a month and projects spanning more than one month are OK.

I see the dodecathon as an inspiration, rather than an objective. It seems to me that having high aspirations, knitting earnestly, producing some sweaters but possibly falling short is far better than moping, aiming low, and succeeding. Of course, if I actually manage to produce 12 garments in 2009, I’ll be insufferable.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wild Things

Wild thing!: It's Thanksgiving eveBarack-o-lantern eaten in the U.S. and the wild things have started the feast early. Sometime in the night they devoured the pumpkins on my front step. They did a thorough job as usual – all that was left was the stem and a few chips of orange shell. Well, there goes my holiday decoration – at least there are some happy critters (of multiple sizes and species, judging from the chips) out there.

You make my heart sing: Last year I had a club subscription and got this skein of Scout's Swag 100% Superwash Merino, colorway Ballooney. Its inspiration was a balloon fiesta, and it does make me think of roasted poblano chilies, limes, and Coronas.

Ballooney yarn

Taming this wild thing is going to be a challenge. When knit up into socks, the intense red forms two-row stripes that contrast so strongly with the gold and lime that they both read lime. The effect is not to my liking. I want something that breaks up the stripes and makes the gold more distinct. Hm....

You make everything: The barrage of hint-dropping at casa Jersey Knitter reached a crescendo the other day with an earnest compare and contrast of the hazards and delights of cholesterol versus hydrogenated oils. Eyeroll. Messages received and decoded – this year the holiday pies will have "tasty" crust.


Groovy: The short skeins from the knotty Andean Alpaca came in handy as subjects for more adventures in overdyeing with Kool-Aid. From left-to-right, that's Cherry, Mango with a dash of Cherry, Lemonade, Original, Berry Blue, and Grape (click on photo to embiggen).

In terms of product, the colors turned out pretty much as expected – the mint green cooled down the Kool-Aid colors. In terms of process, Lemonade was the most pleasant to work with (I used eucalyptus-scent Eucalan as the surfactant and rather liked the smell of Lemonade eucalyptus); Grape the worst (the color broke up and the fragrance was cloying). Mango, formulated in Mexico, includes something that makes the drink turbid – when the dye exhausts, the dye bath turns milky white rather than clear, an interesting effect. Cherry, which contains more dye than other flavors (it's the third ingredient!), strikes fast but also runs, as reds tend to do.

Instrumental interlude: I haven't decided what I'll make with the overdyed yarn, but as I'm ABT (all but turkey) at the moment, I need to stop pondering that pleasant matter and scoot to the market. Last night I saw a fresh 10-pound (4.5 kg) wild bird at Kings, with the telltale slim body, high breastbone, mottled skin, and dark pin feathers... for USD $84. I've always wanted to try cooking and eating a wild turkey, but balked. It's curious that when the wildest thing around is the economy and frozen battery-raised birds are loss leaders, a sustainably harvested, fairly priced wild turkey seems like a reprehensible luxury rather than Franklin's noble bird. More proof the world is messed up – and yet I'm both hopeful and thankful this holiday weekend.

Have a safe and bountiful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Weekend

Part of my happy weekend was spent overdyeing some of the lovely yarn out of the big box I received last year from the lovely Kristen.

[I know not why there's a large blank space here. Scroll down!]

Center pull skeinsThe yarn, Plymouth Andean Alpaca, is wonderfully soft and fuzzy. Mint green is not my color, so overdyeing has been on my mind for some time.
HanksThe first task was to turn the center-pull balls into hanks using my niddy noddy. Some balls had a few knots.
Soaking yarnThe skeined yarn got a good soak in tepid water to eliminate air bubbles that could hinder dye absorption.
DyeingThe dye was nothing fancy, just Berry Blue Kool-Aid. It took two three-minute sessions in the microwave for the dye to exhaust.
Exhausted dye waterAnd exhaust it did. The dye water in the well of the saucer is hard to see – it's almost perfectly clear.
Before and afterBefore and after. I was hoping for robin's egg blue and that's pretty much what I got. I'm even more pleased the gentle process did not mar the fine hand of the yarn.

Emboldened by success, I'm ready to experiment further. Hm... it occurs to me that orange Kool-Aid on mint ought to yield a mellow pumpkin or saffron. Hm....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

First French Toast

Today is the first French Toast Alert of the season roundabout Exit 151! It's snowing – intermittent globular snow rather than flakes and unlikely to stick, but inarguably winter precipitation, and before Thanksgiving, no less. Better knit faster on the current sock – mustn't let this singleton grow lonely.

Blue Green Sock

I love this beauteous blue Green Merino Socks by Tuulia Salmela, worked in Fleece Artist Basic Merino, colorway Blue Lagoon. The cuff has an Estonian twisted edge and twisted rib, and the leg is slip stitch honeycomb. The original calls for yarn swags everywhere; because this yarn is pilly and (I fear) may not wear well, I worked the sole plain and discontinued the honeycombs on the top. The stitch count is increased to 64 sts to accommodate my Frankenfeet; the pattern is endlessly adjustable in increments of 4 sts.

Off to have the car brakes looked at. Lately the rear brakes have been screeching, which can't be a good thing. I'm thinking new brake pads, possibly new rotors, sigh.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


It occurs to me I joined Socktoberfest, then knit nary a stitch on a sock last month. There's a good chance for a threepeat this month with NaKniSweMo and Norovember, considering I have yet to select a pattern and yarn and restoring the fancy lemon computer is sucking up every scrap of spare time. Sigh.

Streaming .TV shows by Ustream
Ah well, at least there's the solace of the Shiba Inu live streaming Puppycam (view big here).

Monday, November 10, 2008

W is for Woe

W is for woe. Fair warning, some gentle readers may wish to avert their eyes from this sorry tale.

My entire weekend was spent in a highly irritable and caffeinated state, muttering imprecations to the heavens, staring morosely at the somewhat dusty insides of my fancy lemon computer...

Inside computer

...and (oh joy of joys) having inane telephone conversations with technical support. For example,
Tech Support: Open your computer case.
Me: OK.
Tech Support: Aren't you scared?
Me: No.

My hard drive, a Barracuda, failed catastrophically. Perhaps it crashed out of a misguided sense of solidarity with another member of the species. Anyway, after several less-than-scintillating conversations, I hung up on tech support, bought a new Barracuda, installed it, and ran System Restore, which takes a good while.

File transfer

It seems to have worked (yay me!). Now all I need is a recommendation for a data recovery service.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

General Election Day 2008

General Election Day roundabout Exit 151 dawned golden – bright overcast and mild. Perfect weather for a heavy turnout!

Ginkgo leaves

I'm going to blog this day in parts, because it seems the thing to do. The text flows readily enough, but the pix will have to catch up as they can.

Part 1, about 11 a.m.: DH needed to vote before work, so we went early to our polling place, a public school gymnasium. Outside, things looked pretty much the same as the midterm election two years ago, except now the signs are more inclusive.

Vote aqui hoy sign   Handicapped access sign

Inside, mostly everyone was cheerful except for one guy who kept sidling along until I told him (twice) there's a line, which went back and forth across the gym floor three times. Photography is not permitted inside NJ polling places, so a photo of my sock taken after the fact will have to do. It's well-known that knitters have the amazing superpower to make lines move quicker by working on a sock.

Post factum sock photo

While knitting and waiting, I had a cordial chat with the poll worker guarding the provisional ballots. She arrived at 5:15 a.m. and is staying until the last voter has voted (the doors are closed and locked at 8:00 p.m.; anyone inside may vote). Three cheers for the dedicated poll workers! She expressed surprised concern at the number of provisional ballots already used (three), which like the turnout, was more than usual.

The PTA bake sale was doing a brisk business. Not only did they have coffee, fresh-squeezed OJ, water, breakfast pastries, and desserts, they also were selling ready-made meals for later – quiche, pasta in sauce, mac n' cheese.

There was a steady stream of people arriving when we left the polling place and a knot of smiling people standing outside Starbucks. Alas, there's no Ben & Jerry's scoop shop roundabout Exit 151 – my parting lament for Part 1.

Part 2, about 7 p.m.: I returned home in time to let in the gas meter reader. He was sporting a big "Utility Workers for Obama" button and talked about taking both his grandmothers to vote. It's bittersweet that Barack Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, didn't live to see this day, although her absentee ballot is valid under Hawaii law and will be counted.

Now I'm eyeing the New York Times Election Wordtrain (fascinating stuff!) and the map of poll closing times, courtesy the Swing State Project.

Map of poll closing times

Off to cook supper and to light my remaining Barack-o-lantern for luck. Alas, the other one started sagging.

Part 3, next day: We were prepared for a long, anxious night, but when Pennsylvania was called for Obama within an hour of the polls closing, DH and I switched to decaf, turned down the TV volume, read a bit, and otherwise relaxed. We stayed up for Sen. McCain's concession speech and President-Elect Obama's victory speech (nudging each other over the many excellent references), then turned in for a sound, sweet sleep. No drama – unlike in 2000, this time we knew what the next day's headlines would say.

Post factum sock photo

I just love how dead-tree print versions of November 5 newspapers are the hot memento of the day. And I love the president-elect's new website, When my browser hangs, it says, "Waiting for"!

Monday, November 3, 2008

V is for Vote

V is for Tomorrow – Tuesday, November 4 – is General Election Day in the U.S. Remember the day well – it's not often that the choices are so clear and the consequences so historic.

Many observers have noted the exceptional role of high technology in this campaign with respect to fundraising – the same could be said about its role in organizing and the dissemination and the debunking of rumors. Tomorrow technology will play its part in documenting the election experience. Among the several organizations encouraging citizen journalism are PBS and YouTube with Video Your Vote, the New York Times Polling Place Photo Project, and Twitter Vote Report. If you want to participate, be sure to peruse this how-to resource.

November 2006

This is what my polling place, a public school, looked like two years ago – tomorrow I'll post pix from this year. The wait was modest then, but tomorrow I'm taking my knitting in anticipation of long lines. (It's a good thing the PTA always has a bake sale on Election Day.) NJ law prohibits electioneering inside a polling place or within 100 feet of its entrance, so I won't be taking any of my partisan finery or knitting projects – no pumpkins, buttons, T-shirts, mitts.

Mitts for Change

In New Jersey, polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Don't forget the two public questions – see analysis!) Find more NJ voter information here; for voter information for all of the U.S., see here.