Saturday, September 29, 2007

Quitting Time

Dear Tomato Plants,
You have done your jobs well. For that I commend you. You have earned your keep by producing hundreds of pear tomatoes. Now, I beg you, please stop. Enough already!

Check and Check

To make the Minimalist Cardigan there are steps.
Step 1: Back panel - CHECK!
Step 2: Right front - CHECK!
Step 3: Left front - in progress
Step 4: Sleeve 1
Step 5: Sleeve 2
Step 6: Block
Step 7: Seam

All of those steps just to make one garment! It is truly a labor of love to make your own clothing especially when I could go and buy a sweater for less than the yarn costs. I find pleasure in creating this sweater and hopefully I'll get to wear a well fitting, handmade sweater at the end of all this labor. Unless it doesn't fit. In which case I have a tantrum.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

It's a trade.

Sally recently approached me with an offer of a commission. She found a necklace that she liked on the internet but it was too expensive and not exactly what she wanted. She asked if I would be willing to make a necklace for her and she would pay me for it. I was flattered that she asked me but I am always a little uncomfortable when money is exchanged between friends. Sally had also mentioned that she would be willing to barter if I was interested. I thought about her offer and we were able to settle on a trade.

We collaborated on the choice of beads and here is the result:

The necklace is made of sterling silver chain, wire and findings with labradorite and red glass beads.

I had enough extra labradorite beads that I was able to make a bracelet as a surprise for Sally.

In exchange for the necklace I received two skeins of Dream in Color's Smooshy sock yarn. I chose this yarn because I bought a skein when I was in Minneapolis and haven't seen any for sale around the Boston area. I left the color choice up to Sally. She said there were slim pickings left for colors which gave here a choice between purple, brown and pink. I am happy with these. They are going to make excellent socks. I think that semi-solid yarns make for really fancy looking handknit socks.

"From the Summit to the Square" Walking Tour

I am a bit behind on my posting. Last weekend was so fun-filled it seems to be taking me a week to get it all on the blog. So, tonight I've vowed to heat up some cider and and get caught up on my posting...while also avoiding the ripping back that must occur on my cardigan. It seems I was a bit overzealous when decreasing for the armholes.

On Sunday afternoon, after my morning of baking apple goods, I met up with Sam to take a walking tour called "From the Summit to the Square". The tour was focused on residences in the Prospect Hill and Union Square area of Somerville. It was over 2 hours long but barely seemed to scratch the surface of all the amazing architecture and history of the area.

The tour was organized by the Somerville Historic Preservation Committee and led by Edward W. Gordon. A filming crew from Somerville Community Access Television took the tour with us so you just may see us on TV!

In this photo you see Edward Gordon gesturing towards a house with "appropriate paint colors". He was big on the paint color thing. He likes it when people have chosen colors for their houses that would have been used in the time period in which the house was built.

We had a fairly big crowd and nearly everyone on the tour was a Somerville resident (Sam was the only non-Somervillian on the sign-up sheet, but since she came with me we can count her as an honorary member of the Somerville gang). I thought it was cool that so many people were interested in coming out on a Sunday afternoon to walk around and learn about their own neighborhood. One gentlemen who observed our group walking down his street asked me, "Where are you guys from?" and was totally befuddled by my answer of "Somerville!".

This house has a thingie on the side that used to shelter people as they arrived in their carriages. The covering allowed them to get out of their carriage and go inside without getting rained or snowed on. Apparently not many of these still exist in this neighborhood.

The houses we looked at on this tour had such great details. My photos don't really do these homes justice. Sam got some nice shots.

At the top of the hill there is a park called Prospect Hill Park. The park and this castle-like monument mark the site where General George Washington's Continental Army watched the British evacuate from Boston in 1776. The Grand Union Flag was first raised here to show defiance towards the British and each January 1st they have a little reenactment of the flag raising. There is quite a view from the top of the tower.

I very much enjoyed the tour but it left me feeling a little bummed that I am unlikely to be able to ever own a house here. The real estate is just too darned expensive. I have been having major home ownership urges but that will definitely have to wait. For now I will just have to remain a looky loo.

Veggie Dinner Club

As if baking and walking touring wasn't enough, I also got to have a veggie dinner night on Sunday! Ann and Lee (and their cat Sid) were our hosts. As always, the company and the food was good stuff.

From top to bottom: Lee, Ann and Miriam

From left to right: Paul, Beth and Sylvie

This is Sid. He is pretty dang pretty.

Lee is showing off his chocolate drizzling skills.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pick a Peck

It has started to feel like fall in New England. The temperatures have dropped and we are finally getting some rain. Yesterday was one of those slightly chilly, slightly rainy days and Liz, Bonnie, Becky and I had planned to pick apples. The rain wasn't going to stop us. We headed north to Ipswich to pick our apples.

Apple pickers must ride on a hayride out to the orchard. There was no walking allowed even if it meant you had to sit on soggy hay bales all the way out. We must have really wanted to pick our own apples because we all tolerated getting soggy bums.

Liz noticed that there was a scent in the air on the farm. We later found out why:

The tractors were running on fuel that was scented with apple cider. Quite yummy.

After we picked our pecks of apples, we made good use of the dry barn/store before leaving the farm. There were tons of locally made goods to chose from and a live blue grass band to make shopping all that much more enjoyable . I came away with cider donuts, apple cider, honey, cinnamon bread and orange marmalade in addition to my 10 pounds of apples.

I was hoping to also find a good bottle of wine/hard cider from their winery. After Becky and I tasted at least 10 kinds of wine, we decided that we weren't going to find something we liked. I did taste some crazy stuff like dandelion wine, rhubarb wine, and many other fruity concoctions.

Liz, Bonnie, Becky and Me

Today was the day that I attempted to make use of my peck of apples. A peck is a dang lot of apples. This morning I made applesauce, apple bars and apple crisp and I still have over half of my apples left. I'm definitely going to have to make more applesauce later and eat nothing but apple based foods for the next few weeks.

I never paid attention before to what variety of apples are best for what uses but after hearing of Liz's botched applesauce, I needed to put the varieties to their proper use. My apples were all jumbled in one big bag so, using the chart I got, I sorted them by variety. Gala was the winner from this farm, but the Gingergold and Honeycrisp were close runners up.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Knitter's Block has ended.

Photos from Interweave Knits website.

The Knitter's Block finally came to an end when I decided on the Minimalist Cardigan from the Fall 2007 issue of Interweave Knits. I have worked about 8 inches of the back panel so far and it seems like the measurements are going to work out well. I am using the yarn that I was going to make Salina out of so all is well in my knitting world.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Knitting Evangelist Shrug

I mentioned this before, but I got a new job. I'm getting settled in and slowly getting to know my co-workers. Today we had a breakthrough...a knitting breakthrough.

I wore the shrug to work today and one of my co-workers complimented me on it. I retorted with the reply that I sometimes just can't hold back, "Thanks! I made it!" She was impressed and before I knew it most of the women in my office were asking questions about my knitting and..... the most exciting part..... two of them want to learn how to knit! I agreed to teach them on our lunch break! Yay! I love having people to knit and each lunch with at work.

Thanks to the shrug, I'm going to be creating some new knitting converts.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tis Tomato Time

This is the time of year when the farmer's markets are overflowing with tomatoes and this year so are the branches of my tomato plants! I am enjoying the bounty in various ways. Here are two of my recent dinners.

Pear tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and fresh basil sauce with pasta and parmesan cheese.

Heirloom tomatoes with fresh basil, olive oil, salt and pepper, and fresh mozzarella (made in Somerville)!

On a totally different note, check out our dogs. They have this pitiful/cute habit of resting their chins on the bed in hopes that they will be allowed to come up and cuddle. It is rare that they are actually allowed up on the bed, but they're eternal optimists.

Mark and Jerri - Back in Boston

This past Sunday we snagged some time with Mark and Jerri while they were passing through town on their way back from Tara and Hal's wedding in Newport, RI.

It is always nice to see them but it was especially nice to see them this time since Mark had just returned from a summer in Africa. You can read about why he was there and what he did on his blog. Jerri was sporting a few of the gifts Mark had brought her from his trip.

Check out the skirt and the flattened bottle cap earrings!
What isn't visible in the picture of Jerri is her incredibly swollen ankle. She and Mark had a little too much fun on the dance floor on Saturday and Jerri twisted her ankle. She was in some serious need of some ice and elevation. Christi and Mark M (not Jerri's husband Mark, the other Mark) were nice enough to host our crazy group on Sunday and Christi offered up a few options for icing.
The mask option never made it to Jerri's ankle since Mark and Paul needed to see who could wear the frozen mask the longest.

The lovely ladies: Jerri, Beth and Christa

Our hosts Mark and Christi who have a fabulous new apartment with a great porch and a grumpy looking Mark.

Part of what was discussed while we were all gathered was the M6 CD club. The club was created by Mark M and is approaching it's second year of existence. Paul and I have been invited to be a part of the next go 'round. I am excited about the premise: each month one member of the club creates a mixed CD and mails it to each of the members. There are no rules about what type of music can be on the CD, which means that Paul will likely create an extremely absurd mix for his turn.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Cause to Celebrate

Finally! After a lot of job applications, interviews, pros and cons lists and many conversations about what the future could hold for me, I have finally accepted a new job. If that isn't cause to celebrate, I don't know what is!

To mark the occasion, Paul took me out to a sushi dinner. We went to Ma Soba in Beacon Hill. It was really fun to get a little dressed up and make a date night out of it.

The food was good and we each tried some new things. Both of us had sushi that included gobo root. It had a really earthy flavor.

Our plan was to have a drink at Top of the Hub and take in the night view from on top of the Prudential Center. We have been meaning to go there for a few years, but have yet to follow through with the plan. Apparently, we were not unique in having that plan. There was a wait for tables and they were imposing a $24 minimum per person to sit at a table. Not really worth it even for a celebratory night so we decided to take in some of the night scenes of Boston from the ground level.

It was a beautiful night and we got to walk around an area that I have driven past but never walked around: the Mary Baker Eddy Library and Church of Christ Scientist property. It was amazing to look at but made me wonder how the church has enough funds to maintain such magnificent buildings and such a massive amount of prime Boston real estate.

Knitter's Block

I have knitter's block. I have spent hours this weekend pouring over patterns, yarn and the internet trying to figure out what to knit next. My normal between project knitting is not cutting it for me anymore. I've knit a little on my colorwork mittens, made 2 ball band washcloths and a mitered square all as a way to satisfy my knitting itch until the next big project has been declared. I need to decide on what to knit but it has to be the right thing or else it isn't worth knitting. The problem is that I am no closer to deciding what to knit than I was when I started.

The lack of a project snuck up on me because I thought I was settled in to making the Salina sweater from Rowan's Vintage Knits book. I've knit almost the entire back of the sweater only to realize that it is so far off gauge that it would be 9 inches too big around my waist. I am not sure what went wrong. I made a full size gauge swatch, washed it and compared measurements pre and post washing. It matched the pattern gauge in theory but not, apparently, in practice.

I think I am a bit cursed when it comes to gauge. Even when I do everything I should do before starting the project, something generally goes awry. So, Salina is sitting in the figurative corner while I consider what else I can knit with the yarn. I guess I can consider it to be one gigantic gauge swatch.

RIP Salina

While I have been contemplating my next knitting project, I've had time to work with beads.

This necklace is special to me because of the story behind the components. The larger "beads" are actually the buttons from my mom's wedding dress that was sewn for her by my grandma and aunt (right Mom?). The pearls were from a pearl necklace my mom had that broke. She gave the pearls to me a long time ago, thinking that I would figure out what to do with them. I finally figured it out:

I have been drawn to wooden beads lately. I made a three stranded bracelet for myself using the dark round beads and I wear it a lot. I had more of the beads so I wanted to make a necklace using them.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Ribbed Shrug

I have been meaning to post this finished project for quite a while but I needed Paul to take some photos for me. This isn't a project that can be photographed laying flat as the construction really requires a body in it to make any sense. It is basically a long rectangle that is folded and seamed up the sides.

I knitted this in about a week before going to New Mexico. It was one of those mindless and instantly rewarding projects. The design concept was based on a pattern from Plymouth Yarns and I got a sense for the numbers based on the Lacy Shrug pattern from Knit 2 Together.

I have already worn it quite a bit and am thinking about making another one in a different color.

Yarn: Artful Yarns - Fable

Color: #92 - The Gingerbread Man

Where it's at.

I can't say it enough...three day weekends are where it's at and you don't even need two turntables and a microphone. That extra day allows for so much more fun.

This morning Becky and I met for breakfast, some catching up and some knitting. She recently got back from a trip to Ireland/Northern Ireland/Scotland so we had a lot to catch up on. We went to The Biscuit (formerly known as Toscanini's) and had some excellent savory scones and iced chai. We ate twin breakfasts.

Becky abides by her own gift giving rules, which she assures us is mostly due to her upbringing of get-around-to-it-when-the-time-and-circumstances-are-right gift giving. After Paul and I got married, she gave me the book No Sheep for You with the promise that when she found the right gift for Paul, she would give it to him. Well, months later that gift has been found. Becky brought Paul back a trio of fancy Scotch Whiskey's from her travels. She did us proud and we commend her for her individualized approach.

After Becky stopped procrastinating...I mean talking with us...(she needed to go home and finish unpacking her things and cleaning her new apartment), Paul and I headed over to Sam and Arturo's for a Labor Day BBQ.

The boys are chowing down.

Sam and I have recently been introduced to the drink Black and Blue, which is Guinness and Blueberry beer. It is like a Black and Tan, but a bit fruitier.

Sam has the Black and Blue pouring skills.

We are so glad that they picked Boston to make their home. We have already had so many great meals and fun experiences together and I am sure there will be many more to come.


As I was typing this, I saw a story on CNN which prompted me to look up the following video. Let me set it up a bit for you. It is a video of prisoners from a jail in the Philippines performing Thriller. The prisoners have all been convicted of serious crimes and are required to participate in dancing as part of their daily routines. Apparently, since they started dancing the incidences of violent crimes in the prison have stopped. I wish that everyone was required to dance as part of their daily requirements. Wouldn't it be awesome if people all over the world stopped what they were doing and performed a simultaneous dance routine?!?! It would be like a real life musical.

Click to play the video. Did I mention that it includes a transvestite with a receding hairline as the damsel in distress? Like you needed any more reasons to watch it.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Harold Parker State Forest

This morning Arturo, Sam, Paul and I loaded Tchazo, Jack and a picnic into the car. Our destination was Harold Parker State Forest and our purpose was to hike and enjoy the scenery.

On the way there, the dogs were in the back part of the car along with Arturo and Sam's cooler. In their over zealous state, the dogs managed to squash Sam's sandwich so badly that it looked like a sandwich smoothie in a Ziploc bag by the time we arrived at the park.

Despite the demise of the sandwich, we enjoyed ourselves. After a few solid hours of hiking in the forest with an occasional pond sighting, we wore the dogs and ourselves out enough that we ate our picnic and headed home.

All of that and we still have another day off! Gotta love the Labor Day.

P.S. For more pictures from the day, check out Sam and Arturo's brand spanking new blog.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

September 1st - Moving Day for Suckers

Today is September 1st in Boston, which if you are familiar with the rental market here, is when almost everyone's lease expires. The result is an annual frenzy of people trying to move into and/or out of their apartments and a fight-to-the-death competition to get a moving van. It is on this day three years ago that Paul and I moved into our current apartment. We definitely had our struggle in getting a van and finishing our move. I feel ever so lucky that I am not participating in that fiasco today. Instead of moving, I get to enjoy a beautiful day and hours of crafting time.

I started out the day by going to our local farmer's market. It is the time of year where $5 can get you a really nice looking bouquet, the produce is plentiful and perfect and the weather is comfortable. I love this time of year.

After finishing a few other errands, I have devoted the rest of the day to making stuff and reading Harry Potter. I wasn't someone who snagged a copy during Harry Potter release madness. I knew I would get around to reading it eventually. I was recently lucky enough to have gotten my hands on a copy of the book thanks to Miriam and Sylvie. Unfortunately, I am over halfway through the book and I feel like this one is a bit of a let-down. I am waiting to pass complete judgement until I have finished it, though.

As far as making stuff goes, I just finished making some felted soaps. It has been awhile since I made my last batch and I've given them all away. That means, I am without a felted bar for use at our house. As long as I was going to make one, I might as well make a dozen, right!?

Here are the soaps before felting.

Hard at work.

It is a wet, sudsy, shoulder fatiguing process.

The finished soaps.

Click here for a rough explanation of how to make felted soaps. I also use felting needles to secure embellishments and the wrapped layers before I felt them.
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