Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Meet My New...

Or not.

That's sort of the point, really. My actual car is a Ford Expedition. It's ten years old, long since paid off, and the annual registration fees, not to mention the liability-only insurance, are both satisfyingly low. Back when we bought the Expedition, it was a logical choice. We had just had our last baby and we needed a vehicle that could carry a hulking teenager, a toddler seat, a baby seat, two adults, two large dogs, a double stroller, a diaper bag, and all the assorted paraphernalia that goes with having multi-age kids. And waaaaaay back then, gas was well under $2 per gallon, so even the miserable mpg of 12 (twelve!) wasn't much of a deterrent.

Times change.

The hulking teenager is now almost 23, with his own car and apartment. The toddler is starting middle school and the baby plays tackle football. We don't use car seats or strollers anymore, and with the kids in school all day, there's not much call for a vehicle that seats eight. And with gas at $4.50 a gallon here, we have to take out a home equity loan every time we want to fill the tank. Most of the time, the behemoth is parked in the garage, and my husband and I share a 14 year old Maxima that, despite its crows' feet and age spots, runs beautifully and gets better than twice the gas mileage of the Expedition (and offers the added benefits of no car payment, low registration fees, and liability-only insurance).

But there is the little matter of one car and two people with different schedules and responsibilities. Although it may be hard to imagine for those of you who live in the land of public transportation, there are no buses, streetcars, or subways here. Nada. A car is not just a convenience; it is a necessity. Oh, I suppose I could ride my bike to the grocery store and the library and the bank...if it weren't for the fact that I am lazy and hate riding up hills--and we live in an area with names like "Carmel Mountain" and "Black Mountain" and "Penasquitos Canyon" that are not just for show. And we could probably walk to school and the bus stop, but if I'm honest with myself, that's an extra half hour four times a day that I probably wouldn't make time for, especially before 7:00 am.

And so I am now the tickled-pink owner of the--yes, I'm going to say it--adorable little scooter above! (I considered the powder pink one, just for the novelty value, but deferred to my boys' dignity and went with the red--complete with an extra helmet for a passenger to wear to school.) There are a couple of details to take care of. I was surprised to learn that one needs a motorcycle license to ride a scooter in California. A license I don't technically, um, have. And apparently, my auto liability insurance will not cover me on a scooter (Who knew? I can't see doing more damage on a 250-pound scooter than in a 3000 pound car, but what do I know?) I also have to make space in the garage to park it, which could pose a greater risk to my physical well-being than riding the thing, considering the state of the garage.

But at 70+ miles to the gallon, I have high hopes that I'll be able to make the adjustment to riding instead of driving, at least for most trips. It seems I'm not the only one; motorcycle driving test appointments at the DMV are backed up by four months.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ready For Winter

I'm not a summer person. Oh, don't get me wrong: I like the sun. A lovely, clear, breezy day, about 72 degrees, is a thing of beauty. But summer--at least around here--is just too much of a good thing. Weeks of 80 degree plus temperatures and blistering sun keep me hiding my lily-white skin indoors and longing for the cool, damp skies of November.

So you can imagine my reaction to Las Vegas in July. Holy mother of dog, whose idea was it to build a city right smack in the middle of hell?! (The question is rhetorical.) And more importantly, why?! (Again, rhetorical.) It was 108 degrees every day we were there, with chilly night temperatures in the 90's. But, as they say, it's a DRY heat. They're not kidding. It's the sort of dry that sucks every drop of moisture out of your body the moment you step outside. The sort that causes your eyes to shrivel and your eyelids to stick. The sort that wakes you up in the middle of the night, choking because your tongue is stuck to the roof of your mouth and you can't swallow. To compensate for the heat, the hotels, casinos, and restaurants keep their thermostats set at a steady Ice Age. Woolly Mammoths would be comfortable in a Vegas casino in the summer. I spent the week alternately broiling and freezing, without clothing to accommodate either extreme. (Although I'm not sure what would have been appropriate. Little black dress with a parka? Bikini with snow boots? Whatever it was, I didn't have it in my suitcase.)

Despite the freakishly hot and over-air conditioned conditions, we had a marvelous time. We saw Cirque du Soleil's "O" and "Mamma Mia", and we had several outstanding meals at top-notch restaurants. We wandered the hotels and casinos and shops, and even braved the outdoors to cross the Strip. Briefly. There is a concrete bridge over Las Vegas Boulevard from the Bellagio (where we stayed) to Caesar's Palace. It is an open bridge, and although it looks quite short, appearances are deceiving. The white concrete absorbs the heat from the Death Star and concentrates it, reflecting it back up to pedestrians on the bridge. About halfway across, the temperature is roughly 10,000 degrees and you realize suddenly that you just might not be able to make it. You look behind you, trying to determine whether it might be closer to return to the starting point. You look ahead, trying to see how much further it is to shelter. Then you notice that the hair on your legs is starting to smoke, and the soles of your shoes are melting to the concrete and you just make a run for it. I'm pretty sure I saw bleached skulls around the midpoint of the bridge. He who hesitates is lost.

So it's probably not surprising that I was overcome by the urge to cast on a winter sweater as soon as I arrived home. (I had nothing on the needles except a little lace scarf. I really need to post some FO shots soon.)

I have some Noro Transitions that I picked up during a Ram Wools sale a few months ago. I bought it to make a winter jacket, and I've been just itching to try it (no pun intended--truly). So I dug it out of the stash.

This is some gorgeous yarn. I have a love-hate relationship with Noro yarns generally. I love the colors, hate the textures. Some Noro yarns, particularly those with angora, like Kochoran, are next-to-the skin soft. But, let's face it: no matter how beautiful the colors, you could scrub your oven with Kureyon. And the fiber content isn't always a reliable indicator of the texture. One would think that a yarn called "Silk Garden" would pretty much have to be soft, right? Not so much.

But Transitions is a real treat. It has a reasonable amount of both silk and angora, which I was counting on to soften the wool. (I order almost all my yarn online, since the only yarn store near me considers Cascade 220 to be an "exotic" yarn.) And I'm not disappointed. In the skein, it feels a lot like Kochoran--nubby and not terribly soft, with a sort of dry hand. But, also like Kochoran, it softens as it's worked and the little angora fibers come to the surface. I am anticipating that it will also respond well to washing. The texture of Kochoran changes dramatically when it's washed, from a stiff, slightly rough fabric to one that is drapey and buttery soft. Transitions is bulkier than Kochoran, and unique in that both the colors and the fibers change as you progress along the yarn. But I'm hoping it will also soften up more with washing.

And who can argue with these gorgeous colors?

This will be a jacket modeled on this design, but significantly modified to allow for greater length. I've been struggling a bit with just how to lengthen this design, since the fronts are knitted on the diagonal, while the back is done straight, and it's all worked in one piece. I can't just continue working until it's the right length, or I'll end up with fronts that are much too wide. I think I have it worked out, but there is going to be some trial and error with this one. So far, though, I'm really having fun with it. I've frogged the whole thing once already, but at a gauge of 3 stitches to the inch, frogging isn't all that bothersome. And I am endlessly entertained by the color and texture transitions.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Vegas, Baby!

Knitting? Check. Trashy novels? Check. Chocolate? Check. Camera? Check. iPod? Check. SPF 50? Check.

It must be that time of year again! See you all in a few days...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things

1. Suzannes kitchen window, 2. oatmeal with caramelized bananas and drizzling of maple syrup, 3. Comfortable on the Fourth, 4. National Geographic behind the scene, 5. Mike Rowe - Surfer Boy, 6. Ice Tea Splash, 7. Paris City Hall by a Cloudy Night HDR*, 8. day 58: creme brulee, 9. bless from above, 10. "The family is one of nature's masterpieces.", 11. Cliffhanger, 12. Sunday Favorites on a Tuesday

I know you all have seen this meme on other people's blogs. I put off doing it myself because it looked too complicated, but it wasn't really that hard, even for a techophobe like myself! From upper left to right, in rows from the top down, these are the answers:

1. First name: Suzanne
2. Favorite food: oatmeal (yes, really!)
3. High school: Lincoln
4. Favorite color: red
5. Celebrity crush: self-explanatory!
6. Favorite drink: iced tea
7. Dream vacation: Paris
8. Favorite dessert: creme brulee
9. What I want to be when I grow up: happy
10. What I love most in life: my family
11. One word to describe me: fortunate
12. Your Flickr name: vetaflame (Note the teeny, tiny picture of me wearing my Dickinson pullover in someone else's favorites mosaic!)

Want to play too?
a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd’s mosaic maker.

1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What do you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One word to describe you.
12. Your Flickr name.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Oh, yeah...Knitting.

Yeah. So. I didn't really mean to just drop you all like that. I had a small work-related crisis that sort of took my attention away for a little while there. Not to get into too many details, I decided to open a new area of practice, and while I thought I was mostly ready to go, my advertising came out before I was quite set up and...dude. Who'd have thought there were so many people who so desperately needed that particular service right this minute?

And there were a few little details I had sort of overlooked, like it helps to actually be licensed in the court where you intend to practice, and--oh, yes--you need to be certified to use that court's electronic filing system (which requires approximately one billion hours of mind-numbing online training--and didn't you know you needed to arrange to take in-person training as well?). Oh, and there is a whole set of new laws that apply to that field, including at least a thousand new regulations relating to client communications and disclosures and if you fail to comply with any one of them in the first three and a half seconds of conversation with a new client, you will go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

So I've been a little...distracted.

This is the sum total of my knitting for the past week:

That's about six inches of sleeve--the first sleeve--for the Gathered Pullover. It's a tube. A white tube. A plain, stockinette, white tube.

If anyone is still reading, please allow me to distract you with this.

This is a much better, nipple-free picture of mom and baby (who is now four weeks old). Any of you who have had kids will not hold that look of utter exhaustion against the mom, and will accept that she is really much, much prettier than this picture would indicate.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to curl up in a corner and suck my thumb for a little while.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Resistance is Futile... will be assimilated.

Thanks to California's new "Hands-Free" Law, I have officially joined the Borg Generation.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Fit Testing

Since I know you all are waiting with baited breath to see how my fit experiment is working with the Gathered Pullover, I took some in-progress shots in the mirror.

I have about a 35" bust (with a bra), and I am following the directions for the 32" size. With my gauge, the actual measurement is about 33.5".

I added waist shaping to draw in the waist about four inches. I also lengthened the body by about three inches. This may have been too much. I don't suffer from the same lack of curves on my lower body as I do on my upper body, and I'm afraid the rolled bottom hits in a place that makes my hips appear even wider--something I try to avoid. But the bust does fit, despite the mythical negative ease that I can never quite accept.

I am a little ambivalent about the shape. I usually prefer clothes that skim rather than cling. But it is not "too small," as I feared. I will have to continue with the sleeves and finishing to judge whether this is a top I can wear, but so far, my experiment appears to be a success.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Gotta Love Ice Cream

I haven't been feeling well, so I'm afraid this is all you get today!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Comfort Knitting

I haven't attempted the repairs on Sligo yet. It remains in a sad heap on my dining room table, right where I left it after taking pictures of its wounds last night. Thanks to Melissa, I now have a plan for how to proceed--a much better plan than sobbing hysterically and throwing it into the fire, but not quite so good as flying her out here to fix it. So far, though, I haven't been up to the task of facing my ugly mistake.

Fortunately, I have some comfort knitting on the needles.

I've been needing a lot of comfort. (It's a good thing I'm a knitter and not a drinker, ya know?)

I have the body of the Gathered Pullover finished up to the point where the fronts get divided to start the v-neck, which is shortly after the completion of the lovely center cable. See?

I really love this cable. I'm already making plans for how I can use it again. Heck, I might even knit this whole sweater again. I have some hand-dyed wool that would make for a nice winter version. (Although I've never actually knit the same project twice, not even my own designs, so it's not all that likely.)

I'm still loving the yarn, too. It's great for warmer weather and easy on the hands. The yardage is terrific, too. I've only used four balls to this point! I think it will end up taking about eight balls, at $1.99 a ball. And technically, this yarn came from stash, since I bought it without a specific plan for its use and had it for more than a week before I decided what to do with it--my two requirements for "stash" versus "non-stash" projects. Oh, hush. It works for me.