Tuesday, December 18, 2007

No Excuses

So, the ice storm did come through our area, but luckily we did hit the warmer temperatures, so most of it came down as rain. Thankfully, we did not lose power. Which means I have no excuse about why I have not posted for a week.

Christmas knitting is almost done! I just have the foot of one sock left to knit, and finishing to do on three projects. I am hoping to get all of that done tonight, so I will have plenty of time for blocking and, most importantly, drying, before we leave for my Mom's on Friday.

Because the gift knitting is almost finished, I have actually started my next projects, so I can have knitting to work on with all the traveling we will be doing for the holidays. Hopefully, I can get some pictures today of those small beginnings to share.

Have a great day!

Monday, December 10, 2007

The magic numbers

28, 32

Here in KC, we will be getting precipitation tomorrow - but whether we get rain or freezing rain depends upon the temperature. And we are not talking about just a small amount of precipitation, but somewhere between 1.5 and 2 inches. If the temperature today gets up above 28 degrees F, then it is more likely that tomorrow our temperatures will get at or above 32 degrees. Great, this means rain. If not, and the temperature tomorrow stays below freezing - we could get up to two inches of ice. *

So tomorrow, Tuesday, is potentially going to be a really messy day. Or, it might not be. As a result, I have decided to work from home tomorrow instead of driving over the large bridge across the Missouri River** . I don't want to get stuck at work. . . I used to think I was a complete wimp for not going into work on bad weather days. After all, lots of people have to go to work and risk driving in the dangerous conditions. But upon reflection, I am really thankful that, as an academic, I have a job that allows me to honor the limitations imposed upon me by winter weather. I can stay home tomorrow; no one will die or be sick if I am not there tomorrow. But it is more than that - I don't have to worry that my boss will fire me if I don't show up. I don't have to risk life and limb to go to work because I don't have any vacation days left.

Hopefully we will get plain, boring rain instead of ice tomorrow. If we get ice, I hope that people in the area will be safe.

*This is according to my favorite news Channel in KC - 41. Both the of the main meteorologists are terrific. They tell you like it is without predicting gloom and doom.

** Incidentally, I also drive past a landfill everyday to work. Lovely, no. Often the song "Over the river and past the landfill to biology class I go" runs through my head.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Busy, Satisfying Days

The last few weeks have been busy - both in terms of work and getting ready for Christmas. Thankfully, the busy days have also been productive. My biggest accomplishment this week has been finishing preparations for a seed germination experiment. In preparation, I needed to till my plots (there are 35 of them, each about 3 meters long). There have been a few roadblocks in getting this tilling done (mostly my fault), but Wednesday my field went from . . .




to . . .


with the help of . . .
I have never used a tiller before. At first, it was difficult because I was fighting the machine. Once I got the hang of it - the work went quickly. It was a cold day - about 20 degrees F, with a stiff wind. Luckily, the area I was working in was protected from the wind, and the work was physical enough that I actually shed some of my layers.

I finished the tilling just in time, as the following day looked like this . . .
Since last Thursday, we have had light snow, sleet, or freezing rain. Thus, I still don't have the actual experiment in the ground - but I am hoping that we will have a day that is warm enough before Christmas to get my seeds planted. Though, it does not look hopeful for the next week - we are supposed to have "ice pellets" all week.


I have also made good progress on the Christmas knitting. Since they are secret projects, I am only sharing sneak peaks - I plan to share full project details after Christmas.






We have also been doing holiday decorating - fir the first time in about 7 years we have a real tree. It is small, only about 4 ft, but it smells wonderful and I am so happy to have a real tree. We have a lot of our shopping done and most of those presents wrapped (I have to wrap in stages or else I get so sick of it). The other large project for this week is to get the Christmas cards out. Another task I can only do in small doses.

Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season - and staying warm.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Shhhh - It's a secret

or -lots of secrets.

I have relatively ambitious Christmas Knitting plans this year; so far all plans are for family. So, while I have, and will be doing lots of knitting in the coming weeks, I won't necessarily have a lot to show until after the gifts are given. I am not exactly sure which of my family reads this blog - I don't think many of them do, but you never know.

I have cast on, and been working on the first round of knitted gifts. So I am offering a sneak peak of the projects that are part of the first round. Some have been featured here before, others have not. This rather colorful pile of yarn represents four pairs of socks, one hat, and one scarf.


Will there be a round two? Only time will tell. Though - it will be likely if I quit making stupid mistakes in my knitting and don't have to redo my work.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gingerbread House Mid-Century Style

For the last few years, a friend of mine in Lawrence has hosted a gingerbread decorating day at her house. Her mom, who is really into gingerbread houses, drives in from Colorado with her candy stash, construction knowledge, and expertise in frosting making. We are to bake our gingerbread house pieces ahead of time and bring them baked, cooled, and ready for construction and decorating.

My idea was to make a mid-century style gingerbread house. I had a good plan, but
as usual, I baked my pieces at the last minute (it is best to make the pieces a few days in advance so they get stale and hard, and of course the dough has to chill for several hours). So the pieces were burnt and uneven. I am so jealous of the others who had nice, pretty, even pieces.
Anyway - the house turned out fine and it was great fun to decorate.


Notice the pink flamingos (thanks to my friend D) and the War of the Worlds Style Alien (thanks to E) attacking the house. We blame the alien for the hole between the roof and the side of the house you cannot see.

It was a sticky, sugary mess - but a lot of fun to create.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Denmarks Finished


Yesterday afternoon, while watching the KU/Iowa State Game, I finished the Denmark Socks. Now they are on the line drying with leaves floating down around them.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Quick Update

A few posts back, I mentioned some spinning. It is a blue, but not quite as pale as in the picture. The roving is mostly blue, but with subtle vertical stripes of yellow, red, and deeper blue. I feel in love with the roving and I am really enjoying spinning it. I bought the roving at Yarn Barn in Lawrence, but it did not indicate what type of wool. Originally, this was going to be part of the stalled skyline project (which is still in the planning stages), but now I don't know what I will make of it. I am spinning the singles now, with a 3-ply yarn in mind.



I have also been knitting a Denmark Socks from Nancy Bush's Knitting on the road. Just have to finish the last toe and weave in ends.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A tale of two socks

Way back in July, I started two pairs of socks. The swimming pool socks and the Blazing Sky Hiking Socks. Since then, I have not really provided much of an update.
So what has happened to these projects? Both have, for different reasons, been sent to the frog pond.

Let's start with the Blazing Sky Socks
I was not happy with the combination of pattern and yarn. I think the yarn (handspun by me) needs a simpler pattern and the pattern needs a solid color yarn. I have some new ideas, and I may cast on later today.

Now for Swimming Pool - I finished the first sock. I am very happy with the results. I did not cast on right away for the second sock. Actually, it was a couple of months before I started the second sock. I made great progress on the second sock. I finished it on Friday night. I put the two socks side by side and . . . the second sock was HUGE. I was wondering why I ran out of yarn before finishing the second sock, but not the first. Then I realized, I must have grabbed the wrong sized needles when I started the second sock. I checked the pattern - it calls for size 1 needles. I was using size 2. ARGGGHHHHH. I had even sewn in all the ends.

You think I might have noticed the difference a few weeks ago when I took this picture - but no.

So I have restarted the second swimming pool sock, on the correct sized needles. I am so sick of knitting this pattern. It's for a Christmas gift though, so I must carry on.

Sigh.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Multi-Tasking?

This morning on the "news" they had a piece about multi-tasking (this was one of the national morning news shows). And it got me thinking. Do I multi-task? Should I multi-task?

To me multi-tasking means doing two things (or more) at the same time. In thinking through my day, I realize . . I don't really multi-task. There are lots of times when I am doing one thing (writing my lecture) and I get interrupted by something else (a student needing help or an e-mail I remembered I need to send). But rarely do I ever actually do two things simultaneously. I cant write a blog post while I am waiting for something to print (as I am doing now . . . I had better check on my printing). But now that my paper's are done printing (it's an exam for tomorrow), I can't proof the exam while I am writing.

It turns out, that I can't do two things at once. If I attempt it (ie surf the web while talking to someone on the phone), neither task is done well. The only time I can multi-task is if one of the two things I am doing requires no thinking. I can talk on the phone while doing the dishes. I can knit while watching TV. I do very simple knitting while reading, but even then I find myself drifting towards one or the other task. And I cannot even imagine that it is physically possible to do more than two things at once. Even when I knit while watching TV, I find that my focus inevitably ends up either on my knitting or on the TV program.

So I wonder - do people really do more than two things simultaneously? If not, what is considered multi-tasking? And the bigger question - why is multi-tasking so valued in our culture?

I think we need to slow down. Focus on one thing at a time and do that thing well.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fall Break

Professors and teachers look forward to fall break more than the students. I have been in both roles, and I really do look forward to the extra days off more as a professor. Our fall break started Saturday and extended to Monday and Tuesday. So what did I do over my fall break?

1.) Laundry - Saturday was a beautiful, warm, sunny, windy day. Perfect for hanging laundry out on the line. The clothes line is one of the things I love most about our abode. And hanging the laundry our has become one of my favorite chores. It seems strange to me that something I enjoy so much is a symbol of domestic drudgery. I enjoy figuring out how to fit all the clothes on, I love seeing the colors grouped together (the red load, the blue load, etc.), I love watching the clothes flapping in the wind. I also like that hanging the clothes, in a very small way, offsets the extra fossil fuels I now have to spend driving to and from work 15 miles away.


2.) Mowed the lawn - Well, my husband did most of the work on this. But I wanted to mention it here, as this is another way I try to offset my addition greenhouse gas emissions. For the last 7 years, we had lived in apartments or duplexes where we were not responsible for the yard work. In our new abode, we do have to take care of the lawn. I really wanted a "Leave-it-to-Beaver" reel push mower. So we got one. And I love it. No keeping gas in the garage, no fumes while mowing, and no noise! I love how quite this mower is. I could mow the lawn at 6 am or 11 pm, if I so desired. Which, when summertime temps hit 95+ F, may not be such a bad idea.


3.) A personal fiber fest - I did use some of the extra time off to do some knitting and spinning. I mostly knit on the Clementine Shawlette. But I spent more time spinning. I guess I could take pictures of my spinning as well as my knitting. Something to consider. I am currently spinning a three-ply yarn out of a beautiful blue roving I bought at the Yarn Barn in Lawrence Kansas. Pictures will be forthcoming.


4.) Visited friends in Lawrence - Even though Monday was a gray and rainy day, we took the 1 hour trip back to Lawrence to visit friends there. I had a great time catching up with people. We had a lovely dinner with friends at a local Mexican Restaurant, even though the food was bland.

5.) Catching up on work stuff - No so much fun, but it is nice to get to have an extra day with no teaching to get caught up with work.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Tidepool Revisted Progress

I have finished the first of the Tidepool Revisited socks. I think these are turning out nicely.

It is interesting though, the striping on the cuff was different than the striping on the foot.

Cuff

Foot
Both the cuff and the foot have the same number of stitches, the only difference is that on the foot half of the stitches are in stockinette stitch, while on the cuff, all of the stitches are in the slip-stitch rib. At first I was unhappy with this difference in the stripping. So I had to let go and just let the yarn do what it wanted to do.

Sweater Vest No More

My attempts to design a funky-colored vest have failed. While I think I got the colors right, 2 things derailed this project. 1.) lack of orange yarn. 2) the way the ribbing did not flow into the color work. It mad a really ugly rolled ridge. Perhaps I decreased too much between the rib and the colorwork. This is as far as I got before deciding to frog it (Ha - I just noticed the little stuffed frog in the picture, which was not planned). But with the frogging of an unsuccessful project comes the potential to start something new. Something that might allow the yarn to be used successfully. So using the blue yarn (and the color in the first photos below is more accurate), I started the Clementine Shawlette from the Spring 2007 Interweave Knits. So far so good. The pattern is easy to remember and enjoyable to knit.


A close up picture with some of my rock collection.
A super close-up of the stitch work. I could see this pattern working well with some variegated yarns.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Swimming Pool Socks

I started on these socks in July. The last time I showed them, I had barely started the ribbing of the cuff. The pattern is from Nancy Bush's Knitting Vintage Socks - Child's French Sock in Citron Pattern and Diaper Knitting. I have yet to figure out which part of the sock is the Citron pattern and which the diaper knitting. The yarn is Claudia's Handpaint Sock Yarn.
The color has always reminded me of a cool, deep swimming pool full of water. I chose this pattern for the yarn as the central portion of the pattern reminds me of the ripples made from someone swimming through the water. The side portions of the pattern remind me of tiles that might be lining the pool.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Cardinal Socks

Since I did not post for a while, I have projects that were started and completed without a mention on the blog. The socks below are one such project. I bought the yarn because it contains bamboo and I love red. Our mascot here where I teach is the Cardinal. So these have become my "team spirit socks".



Yarn: Trekking pro natura (75% Wool, 25% Bamboo)
Pattern: Nancy Bush's Little Child's Sock from Knitting Vintage Socks

Monday, October 8, 2007

Tidepool Revisted

Remember this?

This was the first of the tide-pool socks I was working on over the summer. The yarn was Socks-That-Rock yarn, the pattern was Nancy Bush. While I love both the yarn and the stitch pattern, the two together were not pleasing to me. So, tidepool went to the frog-pond.

I am currently revisiting tidepool - using a slip-stitch rib pattern from Charlene Schurch's book.


I am much happier with the results. The slip-stitch pattern breaks up the pooling and looks really nice to me. Of course the color did not turn out well in the picture above, so I will have to try and get a daylight picture.

Friday, October 5, 2007

A New Project

I have wanted to make a funky colored, color-work sweater vest for awhile now. So I created a swatch. Of course the colors are not quite accurate in the photo, but pretty close. The bottom pattern is a slip-stitch pattern, the top is a stranded color-work pattern. I have had this swatch pinned to the bulletin board in my new office in order to make sure I really do like the colors. They sorta border on the obnoxious, but I have not grown tired of them yet (they have been hanging here about 2 weeks now).
I think I like the bottom pattern the best. I have started knitting the actual sweater vest, but have only gotten to the ribbing. I will start the color-work portion this evening, as we are driving down to visit the in-laws. I am a bit worried that I will not have enough yarn. But I am going for it anyway. I will post a picture after I have finished my weekend knitting.

Have a great one!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Anniversary in the Jurassic Gardens

Last Sunday was our wedding anniversary. To celebrate, we went to Powell Gardens on Saturday to take advantage of absolutely gorgeous weather. It also happened to be one of the last weekends of the Jurassic Park exhibit, which featured "life-like" statues of dinosaurs hidden around the park. I really could imagine what it might be like to have living dinosaurs wandering around in the woods. Here are some of favorites.





The Water Lilies were also in full bloom, looking absolutely stunning.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hello

I am still around and doing fine. I love my new job, but it has been keeping me busy. I haven't had the time or the will to finish the travel log, and this has, to some extent, been a roadblock for me posting at all. So to finish the travel log - we had a few more adventures, I saw lots of cool plants, and eventually made it home. Since then, I have moved to a new city (though still in the KC metro) and started a new job teaching at a small liberal arts college. So far so good. I have also joined a city softball team (we are not very good) and that has been fun.

I have been working slowly on my "Skyline" project and doing some sock knitting. I will try to post updates soon.

Cheers!

Friday, August 17, 2007

New Mexico Day 14 - The Gila Box

The morning following our camp-out was amazing. Gorgeous weather and a fantastic sunrise.

The morning sunlight on the hills surrounding our campsite was perfect.


As we were walking to our first site for the day, we saw a Gila Monster. He/she was just plodding along, mostly ignoring us. They have a really funny walk. I tried to get some video, but, a videographer I am not. But I did get some great photos.



Before we left the campsite, I did take a photo of the tree I sat on the night before.

The canyon where we camped had these really cool rock formations. After completing our work for the morning, and on our way to the next site, we stopped at the base of the cliffs in order to collect some ripe cactus fruits.



After leaving Nickel's Canyon, we headed deeper into the desert to what is known as the Gila Box (as in Box Canyon). Here is view of the canyon from atop a hill. It amazes me how green the desert is near the river.


We had to hike down into the canyon to reach our sample sites. The hike into the canyon was pleasant with nice trails. Again, there were fabulous rocks. My favorite was this rock that only looks like it is falling out. I wonder how long until it does fall.



Once in the canyon, however, getting to the actual sampling plots was pretty gross. We had to walk over huge piles of dead branches, many of which were covered in Prickly Russian Thistle (both dead and living plants). You are probably aware of Prickly Russian Thistle (Salsola tragus), even if you do not recognize the name. Salsola is a tumbleweed, and in fact is THE tumbleweed that Americans associate with the old west. So one of the symbols of the American West is from Russia. And it is prickly. And difficult to walk through. And it was hot. I was really glad to have those plots done.

After finishing the plots, and hiking back up out of the canyon, Q and K wanted to hike around to see scout out the rest of the canyon from up high. I decided not to go because I was pretty tired. No, I was really tired, tired almost to the point of tears (it was a hot day, I was dehydrated). So I decided to sit in the shade of juniper tree until they returned (I really learned to appreciate shade on this trip, it can be a lifesaver). As I was looking down the cliff face into the canyon, I noticed this small opening in the rocks. And surrounding the opening, what looked like man-made walls.


When Q and K returned, we got closer and saw that the opening was man-made. It was probably used as a granary by the Native Americans who lived in the area several hundred years ago. If you notice, the crossbeam has a hole in it, indicating that someone had taken a core of the wood in order to date it. I cannot imagine having to climb all that way in order to store and retrieve food. It was a really cool find, and I would never have seen it if I had not taken the time to sit still.

New Mexico Day 13 - The campout

5 of our research sites were south of Cliff, near the town of Redrock (link is a pdf of a map). Because it takes a couple of hours to drive down there we (Q, K, and myself) camped out on Tuesday night. To get to the sites we drove over the Burro Mountains. As someone who grew up in the midwest, I am always amazed at how quickly the habitat changes as you go up or down in elevation. This is true even if you travel just a few miles. Going up the mountains, we went from pinion-juniper grasslands to Chilopsis forest to Ponderosa Pine. On the other side, we found very desolate and dry conditions - mostly mesquite. After sampling the first two sites we headed over to our camp site in Nickel's Canyon.

After setting up camp, we set off to survey the third site of the day. One the way there we saw this really awesome plant called sand verbena.

It is in the Nyctaginaceae family (the same flowering tobacco family, or sometimes called the four o'clock family). The flowers are not really showy (but I like them).

What really stands out are the fruits. Here are developing fruits and "ripe" fruits.

Apparently, this species was really common last year in the plots, but I did not see many at all (in or out of our sampling plots). Last year it was a much drier year.

Another common plant species that we saw, both in an out of the plot was prickly poppy (Argemone sp.)


We had a visitor at the campsite - a lovely scarab beetle.


Photos of the campsite. For dinner we had tamales cooked over the campfire.



That evening, I had one of those perfect moments in life. The men (Q and K) had decided to hike up the cliffs behind our campsite. I was tired and knew that the next day would be hard. So I decided to stay behind and hang out at the campsite by myself. While they were gone, rain clouds moved in. I took a few pictures, but then it started raining (I have been to the desert twice in my life and it rained both times).

After packing up my camera in the truck, I went over to watch the sunset on a huge fallen cottonwood tree. Sitting on the trunk, with my back against a branch I was probably 5 feet off of the ground. Those moments were perfect - the sun was setting between two hills, the colors of the sky were changing, I could see the rain falling in the distance and feel it falling on my face, and the temperature was perfect. It was a moment of perfect peace, and my favorite experience of the whole trip.