Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm cooking on Thanksgiving for the first time (just for Josh and me). On the menu is Alton Brown's city ham, creamy mashed potatoes, whiskey-glazed carrots, and the ubiquitous green bean casserole. For dessert I'm making key lime bars and a Tollhouse pie. (Yes, I realize that two desserts for two people is kind of ridiculous, but we've gotta have choices, people.)

Today is my final furlough day of the year for work (and I hope it's my final furlough day ever). I'm going to spend it doing some cooking prep and knitting, of course. I'm on my final pair of Christmas socks (my brother's). And a few days ago, in a fit of temptation, I cast on for a Mara shawl in Noro Silk Garden Lite:

WIP: Mara Shawl

It's quite lovely but I'm trying to resist the temptation of working on it again until I finish my brother's socks.

The past two Thanksgivings have not been especially happy for me (thanks to various things happening in my life right around Turkey Day), but I'm so relieved to say that in spite of losing my granddad two months ago, and not being with my family in Ohio, this will be a happy holiday for me. I'm feeling very, very fortunate this year.

So happy Thanksgiving, everyone! May it be a lovely day for you all.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My yarn-cation

Really, my vacation could be called a yarn-cation. When I packed my very full suitcase for our trip, I thought "how am I going to fit yarn in here, too?" But it all worked out somehow.

First LYS I visited was Tricoter in Seattle. I wanted to visit Tricoter because it's the only store in Seattle to carry Blue Moon Fiber Arts. We had to drive there from downtown but found it easily with the GPS. It was a very busy place - there must've been half a dozen knitters sitting around tables in the front, knitting and chatting away. But ... no one greeted me. I wandered around, looking for the Socks that Rock, which wasn't easy to spot because everything is arranged by color in the perimeter of the store - lovely to look at, but it makes finding a specific brand or weight of yarn a bit difficult. I made several loops of the perimeter, still didn't spot it, and was about to give up when I noticed some bins near the register that had sock yarn in it. Success! The prices were a bit higher than I expected but eventually a clerk came up to me and told me that everything in the store was 15% off because of the recession. Well, that's cool. Here's what I ended up with:

STR lightweight in Seal Rock:
Socks that Rock Lightweight, Seal Rock

STR lightweight in Tricoter:
Socks that Rock Lightweight, Tricoter

STR lightweight in The Claw:
Socks that Rock Lightweight, The Claw

As I was browsing the sock yarn, I deduced from the conversation that one of the women sitting at the front and knitting actually worked there. But she didn't offer to help as I wandered around with a quizzical look on my face. And the knitters at tables made it hard to get to some of the yarn for sale. It takes a lot for me to be disappointed in a shopping experience (I always give the benefit of the doubt), but I have to say that the Yelp reviews for this store seem to be accurate. Normally, if I feel I've had poor customer service, I won't spend money at the business. But on vacation -- and at one of the few stores that carry my favorite brand of yarn -- I am not about to do that.

On the upside, I met a really nice Raveler and we talked about her Cotty socks in progress and pooling. I wish I had caught her name! I think she was in the Socks that Rock group, too ...

Later that day, I passed up the chance to go to So Much Yarn in Seattle **as we walked by the building.** That takes major restraint, doesn't it??

A few days later, I hit up Coastal Yarns in Cannon Beach, Oregon. They had a great selection of BMFA (including non-sock yarn) and I chatted with the shop owner, who has a sister in Virginia Beach. Small world!

Coastal Yarn

I ended up getting these goodies:

STR lightweight in ST-1 (perhaps my favorite Socks that Rock purchase of the trip):
Socks that Rock Lightweight, ST-1

STR mediumweight in Plankton Ooze:
STR Mediumweight, Plankton Ooze

BMFA Icelandic (really chunky yarn) in Bejewelled:
BMFA Icelandic in Bejewelled

This will become a Christmas gift hat for my brother's girlfriend. I'm hoping I can get two hats out of the skein, actually!

This brings me to my first yarny stop in Portland: Twisted. I walked in and couldn't believe my ears - my beloved Tom Waits was playing ever so quietly over the speakers! Between that, the copious amounts of sock yarn for sale and the general happy vacation mood I was in, I could've cried of happiness. They have couches and tea available, too. (If I lived in Portland, I think I'd never leave this store.)

The shop owner (I think her name was Shannon?) was really friendly as I browsed. They got a delivery as I browsed and were oohing and aahing, and they insisted I come take a look. It was two enormous boxes of Hazel Knits Artisan Sock.

Oh. my. gah. It was like yarn heaven. Each colorway was more vibrant than the next. I ended up buying three skeins:

Hazel Knits Artisan Sock, Jay Blue

Hazel Knits Artisan Sock, Pacific

Hazel Knits Artisan Sock, Purple Hazel

From top: Jay Blue, Pacific, Purple Hazel.

I also got some stunning red Indigo Moon sock yarn (which comes from British Columbia):
Indigo Moon in West Coast Sunset

I saw this emerald green yarn and immediately thought of socks for my green-loving mom:

Black Trillium Merilon Sock in Midnight Emerald

And I got this Socks that Rock colorway I had been coveting - Alf-a:

Socks that Rock Lightweight, Alf-a

Only after I picked up all that sock yarn did I even walk to the other side of the store. They had tons of Dream in Classy (including DiC Groovy, a chunkyweight version I had never seen before) but I just couldn't even think about buying more yarn considering my hands were already full with six skeins...

Oh, how I will wish forever that Twisted were my LYS. And that's all I have to say about that.

The next day, I ended up stopping at Knit/Purl, which was only a couple blocks from our hotel. I was only going to browse, and then I saw a wall of MadelineTosh sock yarn, and well, I went weak in the knees ...

Madeline Tosh Sock, Clematis

That's MadTosh sock in Clematis.

Hand Maiden Cashbah in Masala:
Hand Maiden Casbah in Masala

I am thinking this would be a scrumptious Simple Yet Effective shawl. (Yes, I realize I already own two of these ...) The yarn is so soft I just can't bear the idea of putting it on my feet instead of around my neck.

Knit/Purl was a perfectly lovely store. They carried a bunch of fancier yarns - Tilli Thomas, Habu and oh yes they have a wall of Koigu. My purchases were wrapped in tissue paper and sealed with a Knit/Purl sticker - so opening them when I got back to Virginia felt like Christmas!

And that is my yarn-cation, in a blog post. I must admit that I feel rather spoiled (and a little guilty) talking about my yarn purchases on vacation. It is very unlike me to spend that much money in one fell swoop - on yarn or anything more important! But I budgeted for it, and I stayed within my budget, so I'm happy. And I don't think I'll be buying yarn for quite some time!

Friday, November 6, 2009

vacation in pictures (and a few words)

My trip to the Pacific Northwest was really, really lovely. I can't stress that enough. It was just what I needed. We spent time in Seattle first ... (click to embiggen the photos)

Puget Sound

Space Needle

... before hitting up the Olympic Peninsula to visit Olympic National Park.

Lake Crescent

Josh + something really big

We did some hiking, saw animals (salmon and black-tail deer and starfish!) and spent lots of time reading and (in my case) knitting. Then we drove down the coast to a beachfront condo in Netarts, Oregon.


view from Cape Meares


The beaches in Oregon (and Washington) are just magnificent. They're so wide and rocky and (at least the ones I saw) mostly devoid of homes.

We rounded out our trip in Portland, where I didn't use my camera as much. (Then again, we were there for only 30 hours.) We had breakfast with a friend who used to work with us, and she snapped a nice shot of us.

If you'd like to see more pictures, check out my album at Flickr.

There was plenty of knitting time on the plane and in the car (Josh did all the driving). I knit a sock and a half out of Socks that Rock mediumweight in County Clare before we returned home. I also knit the foot and gusset of my first toe-up sock.

I finished the County Clare socks soon after we returned:

FO: County Clare traveling socks

This is the 10th pair of socks I've knit in 2009. I can't believe it! I plan on ending up with a minimum of 12 pairs knit in 2009: I'm making a pair of socks for my brother and dad for Christmas.

As for Christmas knitting this year? I'm making my mom, dad and brother each a pair of socks and my brother's girlfriend a hat. Mom's are done and I just finished the first sock in Dad's pair last night. I've cast on for its mate already. I'm knitting my Christmas socks out of Knit Picks Swish DK - it's a nice workhorse yarn. And that's it for Christmas knitting! I'm glad I don't have a ton of pressure to knit for many more people. I know my family will love whatever I make for them. I'm already plotting for next year to increase my sock production and knit each of them a pair of socks for their birthdays, too ...

I'll be back in a day or two with a post about my vacation yarn purchases. I got some really excellent yarn and I can't wait to tell you about it!