The Amazing Adventures of Tom and Bel

Monday, May 30, 2005

Monogamy Bites

Dear Purple Cardigan,

I tried. Hard. I really, really did. I’ve been turning all sorts of tricks to make this whole “monogamous relationship thing” work out. I have such fond memories of my last sweater, that darling little lavender tank top – bus rides and long walks together – Lav & I will always be friends.

So when you came into my life, with your luscious merino softness and wonderful hand, I thought for sure that you were The One. The One I could spend weeks with, as I got to know your silken texture and wonderful ability to hold a ribbing.

And for a while, it was great. You and I seemed to want the same things, like the same stitches. And the weather was so bleak and cold for the last month, and I eagerly looked forward to wearing you, all snuggled up and basking in your warmth.

But – you know, things change. The sun came out. Everyone but everyone in the blogiverse is making fabulous summery things – what was I to do? I’m not made of stone, you know. And that red Cotton Classic – you’d have to be a heartless beast not to see that it was just starving for affection. How could I say no to such excellent stitch definition and coolness with this stifling heat we’ve been having? it’s like flying after all the, um, warmth and… closeness you and I have been sharing lately. I think we’re overdoing it. That time you clung to my sweaty leg? Kinda uncool.

Hey – you knew I had a wandering eye when you met me. I can’t understand how you’re surprised. It’s not like I’m unraveling you or something. I just … you know, I need to explore my options a little. Play around with a larger gauge; see what that feels like. I’ll be back. Really.

Keep the desk warm for me, ‘k?


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

PS(K)A: Let's Twist Again

Something that's come up lately in a class I'm teaching is the difference between twisted and untwisted stockinette. One of my students knits Continental style (I've seen this happen with several folks who knit this way, including myself when I first learned) and has been having a bit of trouble with this.
So, as a PSA for folks who might not be aware of what's happening here, I present the Three Faces of Stockinette:

Plain old stockinette. This is what you're striving for most of the time.

Twisted stockinette st. This means you are knitting into the back of every stitch.
It is a lovely effect, and looks especially nice in ribbing or fancy Bavarian patterns.

Easy to tell the difference, you say? Well how about this one, then:

Half twisted stockinette. Only one row is being knit into the back. This is harder to distinguish from regular stockinette. If you look closely, you can see that this swatch has more texture than the plain one.

I actually like the effect of half-twisted stockinette a lot. The added texture makes a big difference to a plain garment. Rox (The Fearless Knitter) has made a gorgeous Cable Eight tank with half twisted stitches that I think looks better than the original. I'd never have made that sweater from seeing the pattern in the magazine, but her beautiful green one has put lust in my heart made me take a second look at a design I would have otherwise have passed over.

As I mentioned, I've noticed this happening most with Continental knitters and folks who learned to knit from a book rather than a person (like myself). Check out Knitting Help for some excellent video tutorials.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Listen - do you want to know a secret (pal)?

Yup, that's right. Yours truly is participating in the knitter's summer of love:

I'm really looking forward to this, since I haven't done it before.
Without further ado, here's my answers to the quiz:
1. Are you a yarn snob (do you prefer higher quality and/or natural fibers)? Do you avoid Red Heart and Lion Brand? Or is it all the same to you?

Total snobbery. If it’s for me, it’s natural fibers all the way (though really good blends or arty fibers are a happy exception).

2. Do you spin? Crochet?
Tried spinning a couple of times – hated it so much I gave away the spindle, the roving, and all associated materials. Rarely will I break out the crochet hook, though I’d love to find another cool (read: non-frilly) project.

3. Do you have any allergies? (smoke, pets, fibers, perfume, etc.)
I am a chronic, year-round sufferer of allergies (I swear my photo’s in the dictionary next to the definition of hay fever!). I am especially allergic to cats. Smoke makes me nauseous.

4. How long have you been knitting?
Twenty years. (Ack!)

5. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?

6. What's your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products etc.)
I love citrus & tropical scents. My favorite candles are by Trapp or Pacifica. For bath stuff, I like Carol’s Daughter, ShiKai, Avalon Organics, and Aveda.

7. Do you have a sweet tooth?
(Ahem. Excuse the shouting. I’m better now.)
My all-time, bar none, absolute favorite treat is Toffee Pops. (Ahh, the glorious chocolates of New Zealand…). Cocoa Camino bars are FABulous (and fair trade! Whoo!).

8. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do?
Cooking, sewing (rarely, but I’m not bad at it).

9. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)
Alana Davis, Rob Thomas, Julia Fordham, John Mayer – soothing, reflective not-quite-pop. And old school jazz – Coltrane, Miles. I think The gypsy version of “Caravan” on the Chocolat soundtrack is possibly the sexiest thing I’ve ever heard.

10. What's your favorite color? Or--do you have a color family/season/palette you prefer? Any colors you just can't stand?
This is so hard. I am a color *fiend*. According to the seasonal theory, I’m a Winter, though I’ve gravitated to somewhat more complex colors. Deep, dark RED makes me weak at the knees. As does the color that’s not quite red and not quite purple – Merlot, I guess I’d call it. And deep green. And orange that’s not Hunter Blaze, but more of what I call “Claudia orange” – deep, but not loud.
I loathe ‘quiet’ colors & pastels – it’s why I often avoid Rowan yarns – their palette isn’t usually flattering to me.

11. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
I’m a newlywed (almost two months, and we haven’t killed each other! Yay!), no kids, two pups.

12. What are your life dreams? (really stretching it here, I know)
To “Go west, young woman!” with my adorable husband and our future offspring (yet to be determined exactly when/if that's happening) and have enough yard room for the evil sidekickspets to run loose in.

13. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with?
Merino. Love it. (Jaeger, you temptress.)
Anyway, anyhow, any time of year, there is merino love. (Maratona, oh, how I [heart] thee. )
Did I mention I love it?(Koigu, mi amor: I would walk a thousand miles and suffer through as many Michelle Branch songs for the chance to pet you.)
Cotton Classic. It’s not the softest cotton I know, but the color range is to die for; Dale’s Svale has that honor. It is 'mmm mmm good'.)

14. What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?
Superwash? Not so much. I like to work in the round and I love to spit splice. Most acrylics leave me less than satisfied (ie, I sometimes love the results but hate the knitting of the object).In the just don’t wanna play category, angora and straight cashmere aren’t fun for me – makes me itchy.(Don’t worry, SP, I’m not expecting that level of commitment!)

15. What is/are your current knitting obsession/s?
Designing tops that I can wear to work -- and after.

16. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
My former BF used to call me the tank top queen – I thought (and pretty much still do) that with a little ingenuity any random quantity of yarn can become a tank top. ;-D
Mostly, I adore making anything with cables.

17. What are you knitting right now?
The second piece of a twin set, a cabled strapless top for the Delphine-along, and swatches in some of the Southwest Trading Company yarns.

18. What do you think about ponchos?

19. Do you prefer straight or circular needles?
Circs all the way, baby!

20. Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?
Skacel Addi Turbo, with rare ventures into Inox territory. Occasionally I’ll step off the Holy Path of Slick Needledom, but it has to be something special (ebony, rosewood, etc.).

21. Are you a sock knitter?
Once in a blue moon. I’ve got way more sock yarn than patience.

22. How did you learn to knit?
My mom bought me a Coats & Clark book one summer. I’ve been obsessed ever since.

23. How old is your oldest UFO?
Older than my sister (she’s not-quite-legal drinking age).

24. What is your favorite animated character or a favorite animal/bird?
Edward from Cowboy Bebop always makes me laugh, though Faye Valentine’s crazy costumes are inspiring. Favorite animals, of course, are the doglets who run the house.

25. What is your favorite holiday?
I love Halloween – the possibility of becoming something else, even for a night, is always a thrill.

26. Is there anything that you collect?
Other than yarn? Not so much.

27. What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?
VK. I usually pick up IK at the store where I teach.

28. Any books out there you are dying to get your hands on?
Loop-d-loop is looking pretty dang good. One of the few things I'd consider paying full retail for (and if you knew me, you'd understand how rare that is).

Friday, May 20, 2005

Things We Saw Today

1. Buff dude walking a Chihuahua. Alongside a giant Rottweiler.

2. Spandex. And spindly legs. And beer bellies. (Yes, all of these occured together, rather than on a series of bodies. No, it was not pretty.)

3. The #17 bus trying to drive away with the end of my ball of yarn caught in its doorway.

Fortunately, the yarn was rescued, the sweater continues apace (7"! Whoo! I'm 1/3 of the way to the interesting bits), and the Tired Girl is hitting the proverbial sack -- she's got to be @ an event in the wee hours of the morning.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

A Night in The Life

As the sweater making is in a dull-ish stage, in lieu of exciting knitting pics, I present to you Cher's Long Walk Home: An essay in photos with pithy captions.

One of the many-- and I do mean MANY -- rabbits populating West Calhoun. (BTW, does any one remember the dumb ass movie about killer rabbits? These guys seem pretty tame, but I'm just sayin'...

Splendor in the grass. Took forever to get this mediocre shot.

Gorgeous flowers on the way home. I *think* they are frittilaria, but I dunno...

Lake Numero Uno... (Lake of the Isles)...

...and Lago Due (AKA Lake Calhoun of the Crowded Paths and Pretty People)

This itty bitty body of water is named, romantically, "Pond."

Lovely light on the architecturally uninteresting buildings. Notice the tiny little moon in the upper right...

This park is actually quite lovely when not under construction.

My beloved and our dinner beverages. Ah, Corona. You wicked mistress, you.

Desperate House Dog.

Bel's thinking: "Grrr, matey. I'd like some of that beer meself."

Now we settle down to a quiet evening of old movies and cardi knitting. It's going quickly, all things considered; it's just not very photogenic.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

With a Hitch?

TODAY'S title references my very strange morning, in which I rose entirely too early, made lunch only to leave it on the kitchen counter, was attacked on my morning walk to work by a GIANT crow, and fell unceremoniusly on my rump all within the first two hours of the day.
I'm just waiting on the portly fellow with the lumpy profile and the accent to come walking upon the scene and explain how this is all some sort of karmic punishment for whatever foolishness I've recently committed.

The universe should accept my apology now. Whatever I said, whatever I did, I didn't mean it.
(Does anyone else remember that dopey song? It always made me so mad. Obviously, if he didn't know what the hell went wrong, he couldn't really be sorry, now could he? Now I'm not so sure.)

Thanks for the compliments on the tank top. It's a much-needed bit of color in my black-heavy wardrobe.
No excitement to report on the knitting front: The cardigan rows are so dang long that progress seems minimal. You'll just have to imagine about 1-1/2 inches of stockinette over the ribbing. This one won't be interesting till I get to the armholes.

Speaking of which, why is it that I love to knit really intricate stuff but I love to wear the most boring things I've made?

I'm off to lunch, a meeting and then a work-related event (Indian food. Yum). Should be fun, barring any more avian attacks...

Monday, May 16, 2005

Whine & Roses

Instead of teaching my class yesterday, I found myself stuck in bed with heinous sinus drama. Oy. On the advice of a friend, I made myself copious amounts of apple cider vinegar tea (don't freak -- I sweetened it w/honey, which also has healing properties). It is definiely helping to cut through the crud in my throat -- I feel soooo much better today.

Before the nasty sickness, I replaced Miss Rosewood (though the needle portions will live on as sweater "pins") with a shinsysexyfast 4.0mm Addi Turbo*. I love the new needle, though I'm glad I get to make use of the old one. Thankfully, my gauge didn't change with the needle switch and I am happy to report the Basic Tank is DONE!

Yarn: Brown Sheep Country Cobbler (132 yds/skein; abt 5 skeins for 40")
Needles: US 5 & 6
My design

I love the way this turned out. It's exactly what I wanted. Simple and totally wearable.

Ribbed sides (you'll need to click for a better view)

and a dab of rib at the back neck. I hate back necks that roll, don't you? I thought this made an elegant solution.

Now on to part two of the twinset...

*And as predicted, it was not possible to leave the shop with only a needle. I picked up a few skeins of Cotton Classic in a sexy deep rose red (#3995) to make a shell that matches the Urban Cardi.

Friday, May 13, 2005


I was all set to post progress on the basic tank (after deliberately not posting yesterday's whine & cheese party) when the unthinkable occured.

Ma bete noire. Sigh.

Yes, friends, that is the broken join on my favorite (and for an Addi Turbo addict, that's saying something) 4.0mm needle, Suzanne's rosewood. She's served me pretty well over the years, Miss Rosewood, taking on many a DK weight yarn with abandon. I shall miss her terribly.

It just shows what a thoughtful needle she is that her last gasp occured on pay day. And I get to leave early today, too. So if any Mpls knit shop visitors find themselves near a roundish brown woman with unruly locs, a half-finished purple tank top and a desperate gleam in her eye, stay back. She'll need all her powers of concentration and self-control to leave the shop with just a needle.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Mamma Mia

(Yeah, I like that show. A lot. So what? A little cheese is good for you every now and then.)

But today, my friends, it is all about the Mama.
Not thinking so much about the recent holiday, but I've been pondering the fact that my mama deserves some love on these pages. I'll admit that I often wax rhapsodic about the Mom-O, both because she and I share an obsession with all things crafty and because I feel very lucky to have found a boy whose mother I genuinely like. (I've heard far too many horror stories of awful mothers-in-law not to be grateful for this fact.)

But today, it's about my mom, who is as charming as she is predictable. When I called to wish her a lovely Mother's Day, I said to my darling, "She's getting fabulous for church."
Sure enough, though it wasn't even eight o'clock, she was getting her gorgeous on.
That's one of the reasons I admire her so. The woman never looks less than stunning when there is an occasion. She's simply too cool for school.

There are of course far too many reasons to be grateful to Miss Pearlie, as the kids call her, but I will only list a few.
  • She taught me how to cook. I mean not just how to follow recipes, but to really cook. How to taste a recipe or a menu item as you read it, how to put flavors together; how to be adventurous ('cause I'd never have eaten rattlesnake or beef tongue tacos on my own, I tell you) and how to fix a dish that goes wrong. All of these skills have come in handy as I've pursued my career (and my sweetie - it was only when Mom made our wedding dinner that he really understood what I mean when I tell him that I can cook, but my mom is a culinary genius).
  • She is a girly-girl. If I heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times: "leaving the house without earrings is like being naked in public." My Mom is a lady. She can make leopard print look classy. That takes skill.
  • Mom is also a flirt. I don't know that anyone can understand the power of her womanliness without meeting her, but damn -- she's cute and she knows how to use it. Men leap over themselves (and sometimes over other women) to talk to her. She's got "it" -- whatever it is.
  • Mom is generous -- sometimes too much so, I think. She'll give you her time, her money and even let you wear her fabulous new suit in the school play (um, not that I would ever have done that. I'm just sayin').
  • Even if she doesn't always agree with me, she encourages me to pursue the things I want wholeheartedly. If my mom had a motto, I think it would be rather along the lines of Churchill: "Never, never settle -- except for your very best."
And getting back to a more typical subject for this blog, Mom's the one who helped me learn to knit -- even though she doesn't knit herself. Pretty sweet.

Thanks, Ma. Je t'aime.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Pho Real

So I decided to take Julia's advice, and make an especial post as one who is also left behind by the MDS&W crowd. [I may be the only one in the blogosphere who is genuinely glad not to have gone to this event, but there you have it. I like my bed (and my boy) far too much to want any more travel just now.]

First, OKC:

Tank top progress. Just about 20 rows shy of the armholes. I've got to finish this bit today so I can demonstrate some new techniques to my students in tomorrow's class.

So what did I do with my Saturday? The Boy-O & I went out and planted trees along the Midtown Greenway.*

All the volunteers at the Hiawatha Ave (end of Phase II) site. Hubbo's on the near left.

This is the 4th annual planting day, but the first to really focus on this part of the trail. It was pretty exciting to be a part of it -- and also a heck of a lot of work!
But just check out the results:

Our beautiful handiwork. I'm seriously proud of how much was accomplished in less than two hours!

After all of that exertion, of course, we went out for Vietnamese to celebrate.

Such a cutie pie. Even though he hates my snap-happy nature, he loves me. And I think that Pho (beef & rice noodle soup) easily qualifies for Best Meal Ever. not just because we were starving, but because it was so perfect. We'd never tried it before, but we'll definitely be going back to that restaurant. Although the hubster is still wondering about this:

The men's room mirror @ Pho Tau Bay. I have *no* idea what the hell that's about.

* The Greenway, for those unfamiliar with it, is a former railway corridor that has been transformed into a cycling/walking path through Midtown Minneapolis. It is 2/3 complete, and when finished, will stretch all the way across the Mississippi River to the edge of St. Paul. I am on the Board of Directors. It is our fervent hope that St Paul will help conect this trail to others in the area.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Oh! Canada.

There once was a girl (a Very Tired Girl) who flew too many times to too many places in too few weeks. Some flights were for pleasure, some flights were for sorrow, but it was generally agreed that there had indeed, been Too Many Flights.

Yet this Very Tired Girl soldiered on, taking one last trip on behalf of her job, because she really did want to go and see what was what in this mysterious place they called "Canada."

So she flew away, and was heartened to meet up with a team mate in the depths of O'Hare International. Together, the girl and her charming cohort bravely navigated the weirdness of Customs, and uncovered the intricacies of the Toronto subway system (hurrah for TTC!), and made their way to the designated meeting time and place, where they were greeted with loud huzzahs and many cheers for having made it.

As you can imagine, this was energizing to the Girl, and she began to feel Not Quite So Tired. The city was exotic (Ooh! Look at all the signs in French!) , stimulating (Ooh! Look at all of the lovely shops!) and challenging (Ooh! Look at the angry driver trying to run your touristy-self over!), and it thrillingly reminded her of her ancestral home. She was happy, and enchanted with all of the new experiences (though surprised that Canadian dollars are presently almost equivalent to US dollars. It had been a long time since she had known the exchange rate).

And there was work to do, and colleagues with whom she discussed and debated the issues surrounding their jobs and the working out of solutions, and big fat group dinners and the Opening of The Store (which was tremendous, and exciting, and believe it or not, brought tears to more than a few eyes) . It was excellent, and the Girl was well-pleased at playing a small part in the success of the event.

But underneath the excitement, The Girl was still tired, in spite of all the loveliness, and missed her Boy-O, and her quite needy pets, and longed to sleep in her own bed. So she boarded
another aeroplane, and another yet again, which she would fondly remember as The Last Plane Ride Ever (or at least for Six Months), and she made it back to her Boy-O and pets and her very own bed, and it was good, and she was Very, Very Happy.

(The Still Very Tired Girl would like to extend a special shout-out to the Mom-O, whose gift of a very cute and stretchy purse garnered many compliments and enabled the Girl to bring back Canadian Chocolate. Thank you.)

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Off and running.

Just got back from Chicago this morning. It was wonderful to see my sister again, though the circumstances were abysmal.
I admire her so; she's so young, and yet she's being so brave. I wish I had her courage.
Leaving for here Monday morning, but I 'll be thinking of you, Court.
(Paz y besos, mami.)

Regular knit blogging will resume when I return from what (I hope) is the last trip for a while.