I can innoculate myself

I fell asleep last night listening to the BBC, which meant that I was awakened this morning by the broadcasted cheers of McCain's veep announcement at the GOP convention. It's still August and I'm sick of the presidential race. McCain's choice came as a surprise to me, mostly because I haven't followed his side of the race much, but it immediately struck me as pandering. What a great way to capture all of those Hillary Democrats who just don't love Obama, picking a woman as his veep. Naively, I'd hoped that Clinton would end up on the the flip side of the Obama ticket, but I can see how that could have been awkward. All of this rah-rah campaigning (the point of the conventions these days, I guess) is just too much for me. When are they going to talk about the issues, have serious debates like the Lieberman/Cheney debates in 2000?

So, after listening to Sarah Palin gush for a while, I got out of bed and watched an hour long documentary on Nazi-era German state television. Very interesting viewing, and a good way to recharge the bullshit meter in the middle of election season. I highly recommend the website behind that link, Smashing Telly. It's a great way to pass an afternoon. After a bit of poking around, I also found a clip Disney made of Werner Von Braun explaining rockets and manned space travel (somehow managing to call him the head of the V2 program without going into who had the V2) and a composition that Philip Glass wrote for Sesame Street, complete with '70s animation. Did kids really sit through that kind of self-deferential crap? I like to think of myself as fairly open minded (I did enjoy John Adams' Dr. Atomic, which was more of a spectacle than an opera), but this clip just about did me in with its earnestness. Oh, public television!

A deluge of reading material came my way today. I bought (and forgot) the September Vogue earlier this week. It really takes an afternoon to take in all 700+ pages, but I look forward to it every year. The fashion issue of the New Yorker arrived today, as well as two books that I ordered from Amazon. Sweet! The books don't have a plot, but I still pored over them, lying diagonally across the bed. I finally broke down and bought Knitting Vintage Socks by Nancy Bush. My mother would tell you that I have loads of sock books already (and tons of pdfs of sock patterns from Ravelry), but I have heaps of sock yarn. In addition to fabulous patterns, the book offers very good information about variations in sock construction. I don't know how much I will put all of this to use, but it's always good to have the theory. The second book is Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard. I've really looked forward to its release, since I read Wendy's blog almost daily and have made a couple of her patterns. I like the book, though it struck me as a bit strange that so many of her sweaters are styled with panties. That doesn't really have anything to do with Wendy. There are a couple of sweaters that I look forward to making (I mentally checked the stash while perusing the patterns), and I really appreciate her choose-your-own-adventure approach. She explains the variations on top down patterning and its math in a non-scary manner, which is an accomplishment.


You know it's bad when I'm in bed before 8

I should explain. I found a new mechanic, new to me at least, and foolishly agreed to a nine am appointment on the north side. I live on the south side and rarely am up and moving at nine. For a good mechanic, I will make an exception. It would have been wise to go to bed early the night before as to be fully rested the next morning. I did not do that. The Chicago Dancing Festival held its free concert in the park on the evening in question, and I was not about to miss that to sleep. Nor would I miss going out for drinks afterwards with a charming European gentleman. Miraculously, I managed to get up the next morning and even made it to the garage early. I had an intelligent text conversation with one of my friends at 6 am. He seemed unsurprised that I was awake so early in the morning, which surprised me. When in doubt, don't call before eleven. I digress... So, I managed to get the car to the shop, run a couple of errands, knit with a friends for a couple hours, and drive home before lying down on the bed to read the New Yorker. Ha. I didn't make it through Talk of the Town before falling asleep.

It's not even nine now and I'm ready to plotz. I awoke to the sound of the mail falling down the chute into the mailbox and hit the ground running. I went to Stitches after all. I wasn't going to go, then I was going to go on Saturday, then my friends had other things come up. I don't need a whole day at Stitches, so I decided to go this afternoon and meet up with my mom after her class. Honestly, I don't know how people can spend all day there, because I was pooped after a couple hours of taking everything in at the market. Where there were buttons, so was I, but none came home with me. The list that I'd carefully prepared of the buttons needed for various projects stayed home on the bedside table. None of the buttons I liked matched up to the projects in mind, and I'm not crazy enough to knit a sweater to match buttons.

Yarn followed me home. It's sock yarn, though, and I've heard that doesn't count. I made a beeline for The Fold, where I chatted with Liz from Mackintosh Yarns and bought a great blue and brown striping sock yarn. She has a really nice base yarn. I also snapped up a skein of Socks That Rock in Storeytime. I'm weak where STR is involved. Also, where Jitterbug is concerned. It is merino crack. The lovely folks at Yarniverse had the new colors that I'd drooled over on the Colinette website. I bought two semi-solids, Apricot Smoothy (which is kind of peach colored) and Pastures (a lovely, pale green. Green gets my number every time!), as well as Sweet Dreams. A trip to Jennie the Potter's booth did not yield any buttons, as I'd expected, but she was selling really lovely hand-dyed sock yarn alongside her mugs and bowls. A red skein caught my eye. I've been looking for the perfect red semi-solid and this was exactly it.

Mr. Malabrigo, Tobias, was there. They sponsor Stitches, but don't vend there. Still, their booth is a treat. Tobias is as nice as his yarn. He also had several garments from upcoming patterns displayed and the Ravelry Bob amigurumi finger puppet. I wish I'd taken a picture, but I wasn't feeling that bold.

By chance, I found my mother patiently knitting on one of the couches outside of the market. I'd left her a couple messages, but she hadn't checked them when we ran into each other. We admired each other's purchases and even managed to talk world politics before she headed off to the fashion show. Ask me sometime about 1968 if you'd like to know the topic of our discussion.

I'm running on fumes now, but will try to post some pics of the new yarn soon.


The Accidental Hermit

I had a family filled week. Two trips to visit each of my grandmothers, a chill afternoon with my godmother, a concert with mom, and a family brunch. Putting it all in one sentence, let alone one week, seems a bit much. Really, it wasn't. My grandfather called to ask me to help thread a needle, which was charming. Thankfully, it was just the needle and not the machine that needed to be threaded. That's given me trouble ever since I learned to thread a reel to reel deck (very similar, yet different. Cissy Spacek in Coal Miner's Daughter threads her tape deck like a sewing machine. That's why she can't get it to work.). After performing that vital task on the first try, I was fed lunch and given a non-tonic drink.

The concert was interesting. My mother, of her own volition, bought tickets to go to Ravinia. Amazing considering that she's reacted as though I'd suggested a picnic at Chernobyl when I'd suggested it previous summers. The concert was a performance of Abduction from the Seraglio. I like Mozart, but I've only enjoyed one of the four operas of his that I've attended. Well, I wouldn't say that I didn't enjoy this one, exactly: I had to struggle to stay awake. It was all very lovely, with an excellent bass and Michael York narrating. We ended up leaving at intermission. Maybe I've become more cynical, but I never used to do that until two years ago. I would tough it out through the most dreadful, self-indulgent plays, pure shit really, because I optimistically believed they could somehow redeem themselves in the second act. No more. I'll get another stab at Seraglio this spring at the Lyric. I expect the bracing cold of the auditorium will keep me awake.

After borrowing my mother's swift (under her supervision), I came home to find a package with the yarn that I'd hoped to wind waiting on my front step. Sigh. That $200 ball winder at the old job really spoiled me. Now, if I want to wind something and can't wait until the next trip to Mom's, I have to lay the skein out around my knees and wind it into a ball by hand. Depending upon the size of the skein, this can take the better part of an hour. Well, should take the better part of an hour. Often, when I am in the home stretch, I mess it up and it tangles into a horrible knot, as if I'd thought, "I'd really like to spend the next hour untangling this. I enjoy knots, especially friction knots in wool". The yarn in question was four skeins (at two hundred meters each) of Araucania Nature Wool, in all its knotty glory. I ordered it for a February Lady Sweater, which is going through Ravelry like wildfire. I know that I said that I didn't need any more yarn. I don't. It was a moment of weakness, but it was on sale. Sale.

I went to the local craft store this Sunday, armed with a 25% off coupon and ready to snap up some guilty pleasure cheap yarn. I'd scouted it out on Ravelry and found a striped cardigan that I liked made up in that yarn. I've been burned with colors over the internet before, but I'm really glad that I went to see this in person. It looked like a nice berry and brown combination in the photos, but in person it was taupe and that godawful Victorian coal dye mauve. Mauve and I don't mix. So, I went on a stash enhancing expedition and came home empty handed. Because I don't need more yarn.

Just the other day, I was feeling lonely and a little sorry for myself. Forgotten, even. Well, it's easy to forget the person who rarely leaves the house, calls, or emails, isn't it? Then today, I got a slew of emails and several phone calls. Except I turned the ringer off on my phone so that I could have a long, peaceful soak in the tub and forgot to turn it back on. So, Lisa, Binks, and friends, I'm sorry I missed your calls. I'm not holed up in my cave in a misanthropic funk. Please don't take it personally. Or impersonally.


All of that Olympic progress made on Bliss was for naught. I missed a very important sentence in the pattern, resulting in an unfortunate math error that wasn't discovered until I reached the waist. Before the comforting sentence that read, "Knit front same as back", there was another sentence that involved casting on 30 more stitches for the front than for the back. Definitely not the same. So, I had to tear the front out entirely and cast on anew. Cotton so loves being torn out and reknit! My progress on the reknitting has been somewhat desultory, in that I don't really feel like doing it. I got a couple of hours in tonight while watching women's gymnastics and men's swimming relays. Lots of drama, and a few very long rows knit.

Quinine and I are no longer friends. I really hope that I never get malaria. I drank a gin and tonic this afternoon and had a serious headache afterwards. Not that "my hair hurts" hangover headache, but more of a head in a vise feeling. Like a good hypochondriac, I looked up quinine on the interweb and discovered that it can indeed cause headaches. So no more G&Ts for me. Guess that rules out my lifelong ambition of going east with the Raj.

Remember the accidental ocular exfoliation story from last week? I told the story to my mom and she reacted to the fact that I wash my face with vodka. That was the oddly important detail for her. You are undoubtedly picturing me standing over the sink, pouring a bottle of Stoli on my face. That would be a waste of good vodka. I do wonder if the vodka in my face scrub (which I do not use everyday, as I would like to still have skin) might help take the edge off a hangover. Maybe I'll write up a fake research proposal for further study. Topical application of vodka and particulate matter cleaning solution and its efficacy in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal symptoms.... It certainly wouldn't measure up to a mimosa, possibly the best excuse for drinking before the sun is over the yard arm.


Stockinette City

I am knitting a project full of monotonous stockinette. And it's knit flat, so half of that it is purling. Every twelfth row, I get to decrease. Sweet! Eventually, I will get to make eyelets and bird's eye stitch (the occasional purl really mixes it up). And despite the knitting boredom, I really like this project.

The project is swimming along in Sublime organic cotton dk. Several people on Ravelry have made the Bliss top in Rowan purelife cotton, so the Sublime in my stash seemed a reliable substitute. Good instinct. It has a really lovely drape, possibly due to all of its fine plies. It can be splitty, though, and does not bear frogging well. Still, I like it and am glad to be knitting something so lovely from stash.

I didn't join any of the Knitting Olympics teams this year. I can't be bothered to cast on a new project. Now, that is an obvious lie, but I am resisting fiercely the urge to do so. I can still appreciate the draw of the Knitting Olympics. Tonight, as I watched the opening ceremony, my knitting flew. I'm not really a sports person, but I love watching the parade of nations. Weird, I know.

I had planned to go to open knit night at the LYS, but I felt too crampy and a general blah. I had to force myself out of the house to run a couple of quick errands. I did something wildly out of character today. I bought mart yarn. Normally, I consider this stuff trayf. I still wouldn't touch most of it with a ten foot pole. After *some* research on Ravelry, I decided to make the Lelah top (with many mods) out of Cotton-ease. Made by the much mocked and dreaded Lion Brand. All of the versions I really liked on Ravelry were made with it, so I decided to go give it a poke. Four skeins followed me home. I don't plan to make a habit of this, but using Cotton-ease doesn't feel like slumming. It's not Red Heart, after all.

I accidentally exfoliated my eyes yesterday. By eyes, I do not mean my eyelids, but my actual eyeballs. Not my idea of a good time. I was exfoliating my face in the shower, when I got some of the scrub in my eyes. The scrub contains salt, coconut, and vodka, so it was kind of like taking a margarita to the eye. They're fine now, but I'm wearing my glasses just to be safe.

I do not need more yarn. I'm putting that out in the universe. So, it was disappointing to miss the Mamablue shop update on etsy, but not a tragedy. I just have to remember the depth of my stash when I go to Stitches in a couple weeks. I've only knit with one of the things that I bought there last year. So, no Webs booth for me. I'm looking for buttons for projects and maybe some semi-solid sock yarn. And I don't need the sock yarn.



After a long resting period, I decided to pick up my Clapotis again. Zoe and I made a bunch of them around Christmas and I really needed a break. Since I have tickets in the Pavilion at Ravinia in a couple weeks, I decided to finish the Clapotis. It gets so chilly there at night. Well,there are a couple of flaws in this plan. The concert is a matinee, for starters. August afternoons aren't known for their chill in the Northern Hemisphere. Second, my two skeins of Silk Rhapsody are visibly different, despite being from the same dye lot. This is one of the few things that I hate about hand dyes. Still, I thought, I can live with this. I can't live with being about twenty yards short of finishing the project and I'll be damned if I have to buy another skein to finish it. Frogging it to make it smaller is equally unappealing. I put out a call to a friend who might have matching scraps, so please keep your fingers crossed!

I'm really cycling through my Netflix queue now. I finally got around to seeing Good Night and Good Luck yesterday. Amazing. It was so well made. I suppose it had to be, since the market for black and white films these days is quite small. If you haven't seen it, I would highly recommend renting it. The writers and director did an exquisite job of commenting on the current atmosphere of fear by focusing on Senator McCarthy. I've got Bernstein's Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra coming up in the queue. My mom saw it the first time around, but I've only seen pieces here and there. I anticipate a Bernstein marathon with the phone turned off.

A trip to the newsstand kicked off an afternoon of visual feast today. I picked up the Fall issue of Vogue Knitting. There aren't really any projects that I anticipate making, but it's still a great issue. Excellent styling. The other magazine was the latest Vanity Fair. It's their best dressed issue, so it's full of great editorial and loads of ads. So, so glossy! There is an absolutely breathtaking Valentino two page ad about a third of the way through the magazine. I really couldn't tell you what the clothes look like (which you'd think would be a problem in advertising), but it is incredibly glamorous. I might go back and read the articles later.

In order to feel like I can accomplish something, I decided to clean out the text messages on my phone. Well, that and it kept telling me that the memory was full. Almost all of the messages were to or from a certain person. Sigh. I deleted a lot of them. They're just not important anymore. Rereading all of them was interesting. It reminded me of that great montage at the end of Annie Hall, when they run into one another in Central Park.


hermit no more, but still cranky

For months, I'd looked forward to seeing the Gipsy Kings at Ravinia with my pal Willie. Unfortunately, Willie was unable to make it. So, I asked around to find someone else to go with me. Ravinia is such a problem in my group of friends. It is always so hard to find anyone to go with me. I was contemplating just donating the tickets back yesterday morning when my mom called and asked if she could go with me. Since she enjoyed the Brubeck concert at the beginning of the season, I readily agreed. It was really sweet how she asked.

I might as well have just stayed home. All the concert did was make me cranky. We got in some very good people watching, and even info about an excellent roll up table from Crate and Barrel, but the concert itself-- meh. They only played one of the songs that I like. Also, I was eaten alive by mosquitoes, despite liberal sprayings of bug repellent and burning a large citronella candle. I might as well have used sugar water. I shouldn't say that I'm covered, but I am full of self-pity. I have a mosquito bite on my pointer finger that caused my finger to swell to the point of numbness. Now that I can feel it again, it itches like hell. That is how I realized that I could feel it again, leading to a frantic search through the house for some sort of itch relief. I found a number of things that are not anti-itch cream, despite first appearances: a tube of neosporin, a sample size toothpaste, some weird gel I'm supposed to put up my nose but never do, and eye cream. I don't even have any meat tenderizer in the house, but somehow have a full jar of fennel flakes. Goddamn mosquitoes.

Before the unfortunate mosquito incident, I was making great progress on a new knitting project. I haven't worked on any big ones lately, just socks. This seems to be fairly common during the summer. After much scrutiny of my stash and my queue on Ravelry, I decided to cast on for a cute summer top by Debbie Bliss from the Loop book. It has an empire waist and bird's eye stitch detail in the bodice. The pattern calls for one of her yarns, but I decided to use the Sublime organic cotton that I had tucked away. I'm really pleased with it, even though there is a lot of stockinette. A lot. I've recently started listening to a new knitting podcast, Knitters Uncensored, which inspired me to muscle my way through all that boring knitting and purling. If you haven't heard the podcast, I recommend checking it out. It's put out by three expats living in Munich and just feels like hanging out with friends. Also, you can fool yourself into thinking that you are learning German, since they introduce a few words in each episode.

I caught up with an old friend living in Scotland recently. Apparently, you can do other things besides buy yarn on the internet. She refuses to believe that I am a hermit, and I think that she's right. For starters, I do not live in a romantic, tumbling down abode designed by Capability Brown. Nor do I dress in tatters, press my nose against the window pane during stately dinner parties, or beg by the city gates. I like people, which probably disqualifies me as a hermit. Or maybe I should say that I like my friends, but I'm also way too into the internet, radio, television, etc to really be a hermit. So, thanks for the reality check, Ave.

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