Tuesday, January 30, 2007

There Was A Time...

... when I lived in Paris, France.

For one year, I said "oui, oui."
I kissed cheek-to-cheek.
I ate steak tartar.
I was only eighteen.

Pity that in all of that year, not once did I don a beret.
No chapeau graced my prairie-girl head.

Now, in Texas, I wear a beret,
and each morning, before I leave,
to walk through the streets of monster trucks,

I wrap a silk scarf around my neck--
a la mode francaise--

I put on my chapeau,
my beret,
spray my French perfume about my neck,
and stick earphones--Joni Mitchell's voice--into my ears.
Indeed, Joni shows me that a girl can be both of the praries,
and of la vie francaise.
There is no contradiction in that; only endless possibilties.

Needles: Size 7 US

Yarn: Ballybrae 100% Virgin Unscoured Wool by Yarns Brunswick
Thoughts on Yarn: I liked the yarn well enough, but now that I've begun using Cascade 220 for the first time (I cast-on for Forecast already), I will now always lean towards the Cascade when needing a 100% worsted-weight wool yarn. It's that good--the Cascade, I mean!
Modifications: Instead of finishing the beret's rim off with stockinette as the pattern directed, I continued on in the ribbing, reducing the number of stitches and trying it on with each reduction to ensure that it would fit. (All this just because I didn't like the curled rim on the original version for some reason).
However, unlike the intelligent, savy Grumperina, I did not sew elastic into the edge, and I really should. Because, though the beret fits, and I've worn it several times around about the town already (pretending to be a real flaneur of sorts), it is tight, and I do need to give it a bit of a tug to get it on.
But other than that tightness, when I put it on, wrap the silk scarf around my neck, spray the French perfume, and get the music going on my mp3 player, I turn back into that femme francaise et je suis heureuse dans ma coeur... just like Joni.

*PS: For those who care about such things, the mini oil painting pictured above was found in a thrift store the day after I cast off the beret. Serendipity? Pure chance? I think not.

Friday, January 26, 2007

When First You Don't Succeed...

....refuse everyone's good advice to rip it out and instead just start all over again, but in a different shade of pink.

So here's the completed EZ baby sweater with its matching cute chenille bunny all set to go off to live with the new girl who's come into the world.

The baby girl was born two weeks ago, but I'm hoping that everything will fit just fine still. Besides, how's one to know anything about baby sizes anyways? (Oh right, I guess I could have consulted this site...I actually completely forgot all about this site again...geesh!)

Pattern: The February Baby Sweater, by Elizabeth Zimmermann, found in _The Knitter's Almanac_
Yarn: Caron's Simply Soft, 1.5 skeins (acryllic! gasp! sorry EZ! next time it'll be wool!)
Needles: US 5 circulars
Modifications: No real modifications, except for the helpful advice of those many who have gone before who suggested casting on an extra stitch on each side of the sleeves (so cast on 8 instead of 7 stitches), and then you can slip this extra stitch each time. This slipped extra stitch will create an easy-to-seam-border for the under-arm seam.

Final Thoughts: I really loved working with this pattern, and found it simple and concise. More so, I loved the fact that there are only two small seams to mattress-stitch at the end (and those seams are under the arms so even if your seaming skills are less than par (as mine are) it's not that big of a deal given they won't show all that much.
My main concern with the instructions however (as mentioned above) is not knowing what measurements I was aiming for. Having no babies nearby, I felt uncertain about the arm lengths for one (again, I forgot about the yarn standard size charts but I'm pretty sure that these sleeves are going to be on the short side). I kept reassuring myself of the sweater's size ambiguity by noting that the baby this is meant for is new-born, and so, at some point, shouldn't this cardigan fit--whether it be when she's 3 mos or 1 year? Let's hope so.
As for the yarn: the Caron's Simply Soft wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be, and it cost only $1.50/skein which is a bonus (and which is the main reason I decided on it). That said, however, I don't think I'd use it again. It just wasn't as pleasurable to work with as merino/wool would have been, and it didn't block out in the way I wished it would (especially with respect to showing off the gull lace pattern.) But, the new parents (who both work full-time) will be able to throw it in the washer and dryer without a second thought so maybe, in the end, the acrylic isn't such a bad choice. I just hope it holds up, and doesn't look like crap after a wash or two. I'll ask the mother to give me an update on it, and pass the information on to you all.

Next up: the beret, the bedwarmer, and the BananaRepublic coat!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

CSI: Panhandle Plains

The photo that accompanied Ashley's cautionary tale this morning reminded me of my own cautionary tale: don't leave a ball of yarn sitting out on your beside table at night unless you are prepared to wake up to this shocking scene the next morning:

Hmmm....I wonder what could have possibly happened here during the night while I slept soundly by....

Uh-huh. Caught in the act--the bad-ass black cat that we continue to (put up with) love.

PS: Camera cord has been located; photos of FOs to come--

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Post Sans Photos (of My Own Taking...)

Well, I have so many things to show you: a newly knitted beret (inspired by Julia's and Anna's); a finished EZ baby sweater; a rice-bag footwarmer (a la Dogged Knits); amazing shots of snow in a city that never gets snow; funky, fun, charming Japanese china (6 cups and 6 snack trays) that I got for $5.99, and a beautiful Banana Republic tweed coat, $9.99, procured at thrift stores this past week!
I cannot, however, for the life of me, find the cord that plugs my camera into my computer so that la transfer can happen. So, instead, I offer today a photoless post full of links of things that I love or find amusing or find thoughtful in order to entertain y'all whilst I search for that darn camera cord--
As I said, I love Ashley's foot-warmer and she has graciously offered a tutorial for it so that we all can have warm feet tonight. I also want to make this "stop-the-draft" window-sleeve, as Little Birds has done so marvelously.
I love Olga's thrifty, homemade laptop protector sleeve that she made out of a felted turtleneck.
I also want to make some of Yarnmonster's drawstring bags to beautify my bag lunches and to carry my knitting projects around in.
I love this post, from La Vie En Rose, about starting to explore what sexy means and how one is or isn't, how one gets it or doesn't.
I love that I have found Dooce and am feeling sheepish that I didn't know about Dooce before now.
I was happy to see this exhibition mentioned in The New Yorker.
I love the breakthrough that Crazy Aunt Purl made with her relationship with food and wished that my mother could have made this breakthrough years ago. Or that she could make it now.
I love the new bedroom Twelve22 has created for herself: so pretty--!
I want, someday, to own my own UrbanChicks and, like Yarnstorm, have fresh eggs every day and some fine ladies to keep me company--
And I love the fact that 4 skeins of Cascade 220 are on their way (which I scored for $20 off of Ebay) so that I can hop onto the Forecast KAL bandwagon!
(Oh yeah, and how I wish this would become a reality, and would be, in fact, a true commitment made by our leaders, instead of being just another political ploy/desperate maneuver from an oh-so desperate man...)

** (The Anthropology of Turquoise, by Ellen Melloy, and Graeme Gibson's The Bedside Book of Birds are just two of the many books piled high beside my bed right now. The book I'm most into right now [halfway through] is this one.)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Looking Back. Looking Forward.

Thank you to all who left comments of condolesences for my partner and me over the loss of our dog. I am going to respond to each of your individually over the weekend, because I'll have some free time to do so soon. But for now please know that each comment meant so much--

So it's 2007, is it? Like so many of you, I have big plans and small plans for the year, in the hopes of making 2007 a year marked by change and calm, goodnesss and beauty, progress and rest, friendship and love, creativity and trust, and in all that, taking big, mindful, deep breaths. Most of all, for this year, I want to concentrate on the idea of truth, kindness and honesty--in everything I do and am. But before I get into detailing those things--how I want to put those ideas concretely into action--I want to share with you first where the end of 2006 took me:

Here's the road leading to my family's farm, and thus, the road back to my Canadian home for the holiday break. It was good to find myself back in a place of peace, of calm, surrounded by loved ones, and by a country of citizens who (mainly) believe in human rights such as health care--

And so, we found ourselves doing "typical" Canadian activities: icefishing, for one thing, in the valley.

(Here's what that same valley looked like just six months earlier)

Sleigh-riding, for another. It was a good, restful time, for the most part, and we managed to do many things that helped us, as a family, reconnect--including celebrating my parents' 50th wedding anniversary.

Also, I managed to finish (nearly) the EZ sweater, which is good considering the new young girl, Sophia, has now been born.

I just need to cast off, block it, and sew on the buttons. For those of you who recall the start of this sweater, you'll notice how I choose to handle the shortage-of-yarn issue. I simply began all over again, with new yarn altogether (ssshhhh! it's just Caron's Simply Soft acryllic yarn--@1.50/skein!!!)

Waiting in the wings (as pictured at the start of this post) is the start of the fabulous (and ubiquitous) My So Called Scarf, because heck! it's damn cold down here on the Panhandle Plains of the USA as well! So to ward off the unusual coldness of this Southern Panhandle climate, I've decided to take matters into my own hands, and create for my partner and myself our own fireplace in the fake fireplace of our rental home:

Making the best of the situation--creating beauty and warmth where before there was only a cold draft: this is just a minor start to my plans for the New Year. Onward, towards beauty, kindness, and honesty. Onward, to a life lived fully, hopefully, in creativity and warmth.
And I wish for all of you, the same. Happy New Year.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

"A Dog Has Died"

10 December 1994 -- 23 December 2006

"A Dog Has Died"
--Pablo Neruda
My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.
Some day I'll join him right there,
but now he's gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I'll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Ai, I'll not speak of sadness here on earth,
of having lost a companion who was never servile.
His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
withholding its authority,
was the friendship of a star, aloof,
with no more intimacy than was called for,
with no exaggerations:
he never climbed all over my clothes
filling me full of his hair or his mange,
he never rubbed up against my knee
like other dogs obsessed with sex.
No, my dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he'd keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.
Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
as we walked together
on the shores of the sea
in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
where the wintering birds filled the sky
and my hairy dog was jumping about
full of the voltage of the sea's movement:
my wandering dog, sniffing away with his golden tail held high,
face to face with the ocean's spray.
Joyful, joyful, joyful,
as only dogs know how to be happy
with only the autonomy of their shameless spirit.
There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
and we don't now and never did lie to each other.
So now he's gone and I buried him,
and that's all there is to it.

* *
Over the holiday break, we lost our lovely, loving, joyful, darling dog. We have been sad, sad, sad, and I've avoided posting because I knew this was the post that would have to come first. And I know that I'll have to update the profile on the side, and that I cannot bear to do yet. He was truly a legend, as evidenced by the many wonderful stories that everyone who met him has of him. Indeed, the thing he knew best to do--besides loving us and bringing us great joy--was how to leave an impression. It's so hard to comprehend: how a being that made your life so full and lively can suddenly be no more. Of course, he is with us always, but he isn't--the house is so still. I know that it will fill up again some day, with time, but for now, we softly say: "Rest in peace, dear M."

[My apologies on the terrible formatting of this post. I could not (despite much grappling with Blogger) get the line breaks in Neruda's poem to show up at the correct place because when I did, the photos then moved about crazily or were lost altogether.]