Sunday, January 28, 2007

Urban gardening

This weekend (Thursday actually) the LA Times had a reallllly interesting article on a family, the Devaes, doing urban gardening in Pasadena. They have a yard about the same size as ours and are growing a tremendous amount of food both for themselves and to sell. Check out the article, it's inspiring!

[this is the state of our garden currently]

Scott and I are very interested in sustainable living. When we moved out to California we explored the option of putting solar panels on the house we bought. Unfortunately, the person who came out to give us an estimate and draw up a plan told us the only way it would work was if we chopped down several mature trees in our yard. This was something we didn't want to do (shade does cool the house and lowers energy use on its own you know, not to mention the beauty factor) and couldn't do (we live in a historical district and can't just cut down trees willy nilly). We are trying to do other small things to help in lieu of that. We live in a small house, my car runs on biodiesel, our second car is a prius hybrid, we have a programmable thermostat in the house, we use flourescent bulbs, we try not to buy too many things we "want" and more things that we "need," we recycle, we compost, we green waste (yeah to LA for providing curbside recycling and green waste pickup!), we reuse what we can (e.g., our patio is recycled concrete "flagstones") we try to buy from our local farmers market, and to buy organically when we can. Actually, one of the reasons that I'm drawn to knitting is that it seems like it could truly be a sustainable hobby. We need clothes and if I knit with fibers with conscious then it can be a sustainable and needed activity.

One of the things we started here to be more sustainable is a small garden in our back yard. We had a garden in Oklahoma that did fairly well, but we had to water it with the hose and let's just say I was often too lazy to go out in the 90-100 degree heat to water and so often things got a bit fried. Moving here we committed to a water-conserving automatic watering system for the yard and decided to try to grow some veggies for real.

We had a few delicious heirloom tomatos this summer, some lettuce, and a few herbs. Reading about this family makes me really want to commit this year though. I think the planet is sending me a message. Remember it was only a couple of weeks ago that we toured the organic garden at the 29 Palms Inn and I felt energized to garden. S's mom also has committed to an organic urban garden this year.

If you want to get excited too, check out the family's web pages. They have a number of great video clips linked so you can see the garden and hear about the other sustainable practices they use. I've also added their journal to my bloglist.

We've got a long way to go to get to the level they are at, but it's great to have the inspiration.
I think when I finish posting I'm going to go out and talk to my brussels and see if I can coax them into growing faster [grin].

After the garden, I need to start thinking even bigger. No car day... now there's an idea to aspire to.

Friday, January 26, 2007

It hits the fan

The past week has been crazzzzzzzy. As the saying goes, the *it hit the fan at work. This has been the shortest and the longest week ever I think.

Anyway, I feel like I'm starting to climb out of the pit that was created when the giant meteor hit (a good feeling!). Of course, the recovery will take some time, but we're putting things back together.

Given the chaos, the knitting activities have been a bit scarce. Monday night was the local SnB and between that and some quality distraction time since, I've been making some progress on S's scarf.

After our experimenting, S picked out the Harlot's one row scarf. I'm pretty pleased with how it's turning out too. As of today it's grown to about a foot and a half (still a long way to go to get to 8 foot!).

I also want to reassure everyone that my first sock won't be an only child forever. I immediately cast on for the second sock.

She's pretty small still, but she's started... yeah!

Here's to the weekend!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

My first sock! (or is it?)

Taaaa daaaa....

My first finished object for 2007 and my first sock!

One of my goals for this year was to start knitting more clothing. Not just accessories, but actual utilitarian clothing (sweaters, socks, that sort of thing). I've also so wanted to be part of the sock-knitters club. All this talk of STR and Lorna's Laces and the Monkey Sock and Jaywalker Socks... well you get the idea. I wanted to knit socks.

This is the first thing for me to knit where gauge has actually been a legitimate issue. After all, no one wants to wear a sock that's too small or too large right? I was a good girl, swatched up, and even tried on once during the process just to see how things were progressing.

I have to say though that throughout the process, my utter joy at knitting my first sock was somehow shadowed, followed by a dark cloud, tempered by a sense of deja vu...

I decided that for my first sock, I'd follow the accolades of Franklin and use the broken rib pattern from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks. I found the introductory materials in this book very helpful. It's great to know the difference between a heel flap, heel turn, and gusset before you start, ya know?

With pattern selected and gauge calculated, I cast on and off we went, my sock and I.

The leg sailed along... I've done knitting in the round lots of times, finished Fetching last year, and of course the leg of my christmas stocking mechanically was the same... see:

Everything felt understandably familiar here. Nothing new... done before right. So then it was the time for the true skill, the part that truely must fit the foot. This is where it would all be different. This is where the true sock experience would exist!

The heel flap was fun and of course the heel turn was joyous! But my joy, she was tempered by that dark cloud of doubt. This feels so familiar. Why isn't this new?

Well yes, I did have that joy at turning the heel once before, but that was a stocking right... something not meant to fit the foot... just a big sack for gifts, right?

Undeterred, off I went to pick up stitches and begin the gusset. Now this was a bit more challenging. I am now working on what still feels a bit like toothpicks and the stitches, correspondingly small.

Last time, it was super chunky yarn and size 13 needles.

Shouldn't this be really different though? I shook off those self-doubting thoughts and knit, and knit, and knit.

Ah the glee when I reached the toe decreases and tried the sock on for size. The snug fit, the contours that cling to the foot. Ah the beauty!

Wrapped things up with the kitchener stich at the end (hmm... haven't I done this before too?)... and she was done!

Ahhh the satisfaction.
But... is it really my first sock?

Well I guess you can't really wear a christmas stocking.

Garter Rib Sock
from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks
(pattern as recommended except K2P2 used over foot, garter stitch border of heel flap doubled in width)
Moda Dea Sassy Stripes, color 6946, lot 3232 (100% acrylic; less than one ball)
US size 1 (2.25 mm) metal dpn needles
started January 1, 2007
finished January 20, 2007

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Spontaneous fun

Yesterday morning S suggested we go to a concert. Why not, we said, it'll be fun and we need to practice spontaneity!

So last night we went and had tapas at one of our favorite local restaurant, Viva Madrid, in Claremont. Then we walked across the street to the Folk Music Center.

This is a great music store. They sell a wide variety of string instruments including not just your normal guitars, but harps, violins, violas, mandolins, banjos, ukelalis, and I couldn't tell you what else (they do have a wide selection of didgeridoos though).

The place was opened by Ben Harper's grandparents many years ago, and Ben owns it now. S has met Ben's mom and thinks she's great and that the store has great service and inventory. They regularly host concerts in the space and we've been to a show there once before, the Diddy Bops (whom I'd strongly recommend for some fun bluegrass style music!). It's a fun place to go for a concert. They basically just bring folding chairs into the shop and set the stage up in the back. I'd guess that the crowd capacity is about 75 people and our experience is that the people who come love music.

So anyway... we went over to the show, Piers Faccini and Ritmo y Canto.

Now I've shared with you that this was a spontaneous decision... musical performance, close by, let's go, type of decision. The show was fantastic!

Ritmo y Canto plays traditional cuban music. You should take a listen. Very upbeat... very fun. I was just astonished at the skills of these musicians. It was a group of 11 very talented musicians playing a range of instruments. Much of it seemed very free form to me, but the orchestration was just dazzling... they clearly were in tune with each other and had some system, unclear to me, that allowed them to switch, turn, and dazzle. Very impressive.

Piers on the other hand plays a whole different type of music. Again, take a listen.

One website I saw describes him as having "a love for West African rhythms and mournfully elegant ballads." I think that, in retrospect, this is a good description. Great voice, very talented musician, and a great performance. He did his first few songs solo with acoustic guitar and then was joined by members of Ritmo y Canto for back up for the rest of the show. Wow... I was amazed at this group of musicians.

The great news... you can catch a show too. Piers is playing in Newport Beach tonight and then in Long Beach. After that he moves onto Utah, Colorado and then states further east. I don't know if Ritmo y Canto is traveling with him or not, but either way, it would be worth the watch, I assure you. Ritmo y Canto is also touring and you can see their dates on their pages too.

You want to know one other amazing thing, there was a couple in their late twenties/early thirties who sat next to us with a baby who must have been only a few months old. That baby was amazing. Just sat, and slept, and gurgled through the whole concert. Mom and Dad must be doing something right with that child!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Feline anniversary

It's hard to believe, but these two little sweeties have been living with us for a year now.

Issac and Dylan were adopted on the 13th (a Friday the 13th... I thought the pair of black kitties were just meant to be with us) from our local humane society and came home with me on the 17th.

They've been faithful companions just full of love. I'm glad we have their company.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The wilderness in LA

Monday afternoon, S and I took a little drive up into the residential areas (the new developments) in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. We mostly stayed in the Claremont area. We've seen these homes from a distance and snubbed the McMansions. Monday we thought it would be fun to point-and-laugh from up close. So off we went in our little Prius to see the sights.

You know what the best thing we saw was? This little guy...

Yep.. a coyote hanging out in a parking lot right in the middle of a residential development. He looks quite plump... I wonder if some neighborhood pets have given up their lives here.
(By the way, we did point-and-laugh quite a bit, both at the ridiculous house sizes but also at the fact that these homes are right in the fire belt -- I'm sure you've heard a bit about California wildfires?).

I'll also share a beautiful visual from yesterday morning.

Moonrise from my kitchen window. There was more color from the sun rise than this photo captures (just over the rooftops) and I was hoping to capture both. I've settled for the bright moon though.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Life in the slow lane

This week has been pleasantly quiet. I, unfortunately, have no knitting content to share with you though. Haven't done any knitting or swatching for days now.

I have been accumulating miles for the Runagogo (18.8 so far this year). This should come as no suprise to anyone who knows my motivation.

This is his picture in the morning before we go for a walk.

The pout gets larger and larger the later the morning gets. Usually at some point, he throws himself in front of the door as if to say "you're not getting out of the house without me!"

I think the fact that we walked 4 miles in the last 2 days is particularly noteworthy given the cold weather outside. Yes, here in Southern California we have had freezes two nights in a row. (Take a gander at Crazy Aunt Pearl's take on this). We actually lost a number of plants last night. Chillllly!

Hope everyone is bundled up where ever they are!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Whole lotta shaking goin' on

Coincidence must mean something. I'm pretty convinced of it.

This past weekend in Joshua Tree, we learned quite a bit about plate movements, earthquakes, and teutonic plates in general. S and I talked about how few earthquakes we've felt since we moved to California a year and a half ago (until last night, 1 felt earthquake in 18 month).

I thought that California had earthquakes all the time. Not big, super duper, shake everything apart earthquakes. But I thought that I'd feel little tiny quakes at least once every couple of months. I was apparently very misinformed (or just a bit crazy).

Then last night, while reading blogs...

See that little blue square just to the right of the center of that image... that was it. A little old 2.9 quake centered about 15 miles from here. It was clear we felt it, just one sudden jolt and then it was done. Felt like God just smaked her hand down on the world and we thumped for a split second.

It's silly how excited I get about a little quake... if I were smart I'd have more fear I think. On the other hand, I figure small quakes are good. It's really the worst when all that stress builds up and releases at once right? Well that's my rationale at least.

In knitting news, my socks are just sitting around collecting dust, but I have been searching for patterns and swatching for S's scarf. We have it narrowed down to 2 or 3 choices.

I think S is leaning toward a cabled scarf and I was considering MimKnits cabled version. Last night I saw the cabled scarf that Beth has been knitting and am now considering the Persephone scarf too. My only concern is that the cable pattern may just get lost in the inky black Manos del Urguay yarn. I'll have to do a bit and take a look.

Our second option is the newish scarf pattern the Yarn Harlot posted, the one row handspun scarf. I've swatched this and it's fine, but fairly plain with the solid black yarn.

Third choice, the most simple, a 2x2 ribbing scarf. This would obviously be easy and we know what it will look like.

I'll do a bit of each and let the S decide his preference. At least we are ruling things out (no garter stich, no stockinette stich).

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Last night Thomasina and Thomas sat down to look at the stockinette stich scarf. We had to live up to our namesake. I quickly became the croaking frog.. ribbit, ribbit. I now have a nice pile of unknitted yarn for a new scarf.

I've pulled together a set of links for S to look at and will begin the swatching party again soon! Keep you posted (and thanks for the suggestion Beth!).

The other nice knitting thing that happened yesterday was that the book, Loop-d-Loop by Teva Durham, that I ordered before the new year arrived.

While there are definitely some things in here I would never knit for myself, I find the book very inspirational. There are at least three projects I've put on my "for the future" list. A couple of them are even sweaters! If you haven't taken a look at this book yet, you should.

Before I leave for the day, I thought I'd share some garden photos for the Garden Genie.

This fine looking thing is our Trailing Indigo Bush (I don't see any indigo there, fushia, but who knows?)

Here's a close up of the blooms. It almost reminds me of Christmas Cactus, but this plant is not a succulent.

And then our camellias are blooming too (well, one of them is blooming, the other is coming along, and the third is unfortunately dead - a Sterling casualty.

What I'm sure will of most interest to Garden Genie is our veggies.

Maybe not toooooo impressive from a far. But look, what's this...

those would be baby brussels. We are so excited!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Last night was another SnB. We were a small but dedicated group (can you hear the theme music playing in the background?... it's very dramatic and inspirational.)

Erin, Jenean, and I knit our little fingers off and had some lovely snacks from our sponsor, Panera Bread.

Erin's been working on a fab ribbed sweater with some cabling on the sleeves. Definitely makes me want to work on that woozy goal of knitting a sweater this year!

S's stockinette scarf is coming along slowly. I'm still on the fence about it though. I know stockinette curls. The Harlott suggests that putting a garter stich border around the scaft will reduce this. That's what I've done, but I'm still suspicious. I blocked a small portion, and that does seem to help some, but... I'm the doubting Thomasina. I'll know when I know I guess!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Joshua Tree continued

Just to show you that I really did post from poolside yesterday, S took this photo while I was blogging. Can you tell it was a bit chilly? =]

Our trip to Joshua Tree National Park continued with another great day yesterday. After our lunch at the 29 Palms Inn we drove through the park over to the South side. The park changes dramatically from North to South side. You go from high desert to low desert, the geology changes, and the plants are totally different.

Near the South entrance to the park we stopped at Cottonwood Oasis for a short hike. Here's the oasis.

Here's the view back towards the entrance just over a half mile into the hike.

And here's the view looking away from the entrance. That's the Salton Sea. We got a great view by climbing up one particularly steep rock encropment (although we decided not to climb to the top of Mamouth Peak... just call us lazy but the steep incline wasn't what our post lunch bodies wanted to try).

All great views... very different from yesterday's hikes. And the weather... also quite different. I started the hike with all my layers and very quickly had to peel down. While the wind was still blowing, it was definitely much tamer and the temps were considerably warmer in the low desert.

One of the great benefits of this break, other than the relaxation, great company, and great views, was the progress made towards my 100 miles by April 1 goal. 2 miles on Friday, a 1.5-2 mile hike on Saturday, and then a 1.3 mile walk with the Sterling (who was quite glad to see us home) this morning.

100 miles here I come!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

29 Palms

S and I decided we would take a one night, two day vacation for the holidays. Since we've done several travels to the beach in recent months, we decided this time we would go to the desert. Thursday night in preparation, I got out the swift and ball winder and took out the Manos del Uruguay.

S has been getting antsy about getting this scaft started. I think he really likes the yarn he picked out. So Thursday night I swatched, selected gauge, and confirmed he really wants a stockinette stich scarf.

Then supplies in hand, Friday morning we were off... destination Joshua Tree National Park.

This is a pretty amazing park; we've been out here to hike several times. The geology of the place is fascinating. Lot's of these interesting rock formations that are a result of teutonic plate movement and erosion.

Here's S huddled in a little cave. I say huddled because it was bitterly cold yesterday. We had expected 60 degree (F) weather and got 40s with a regularly paced 20-40 mph gusts. The wind was constant and it just ripped right through ya'.

We did at least have beautiful blue skies and had a great little hike. After exploring by ourselves, we did a naturalist guided tour of Key's/The Desert Queen Ranch. This is a little rickety house (probably 800 square foot max) where a guy named Key's lived with his family from the 20s until the 60s. Curled my hair. Just a few wooden boards nailed together. No insulation, no running water until the 60s. I don't think I could be described as having the pioneer spirit (crazy stubborness if you ask me).

Anyway, he spent his life there mining ores (with mercury no less... probably contaminated the whole area... laugh), looking for gold, and basically taking advantage of all the city folks who came out west looking to strike it rich. We had a great time, got to poke around and look at lots of old equipment, and the views were spectacular.

Then we drove from the park out to 29 Palms, a city just on the North edge of the park and checked into the 29 Palms Inn. This is a great little folksy, artisan, hangout type place. Each room is either in a freestanding building or in a building with just a couple of rooms. We stayed in the Apache Plume room which was an adobe cottage with it's own little fireplace.

Given the temperature outside we started up a fire right away. Fabulous! While S took a little nap, out came the knitting.

What a fabulous locale to knit. Wonder how I could get some of this at home?
We basically had a very low key evening, dinner at the Inn, and lots of relaxation.

This morning we were up bright and early to see the sunrise and then went on a tour of the grounds of the inn.

They have phenomenal gardens which serve the restaurant but I was most impressed with the palm dates that we growing on the property. See these tall palms?

See these dates?

They were amazing. Little pods of molassey sweetness. yum!

I'm blogging poolside now as we get ready for lunch. It's been a great break so far (and we've even had a brush with greatness. Chris Robinson of the Black Crows was staying in the room next to us and we got to hear him playing his guitar and singing quite a bit last night).

Ahh, California. Why live anywhere else?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year!

I have many, many things for which to be grateful.

Aren't these three just the best? Sterling, Dylan, and Issac (from top to bottom) are definitely my anchors. Those of you who've read the blog before will also be happy to hear that Issac is making a wonderful recovery (you can see that his hair is even starting to grow back from his little surgery spots). After all the testing, the docs determined that he has an autoimmune disease. Fortunately he has responded extremely well to meds and is truly back to his old, normal self now.

S and I are looking forward to another year with all three of them.

So the beginning of the year is the time for resolutions. Resolutions, resolutions... S and I have made a couple and then I have a few other unformed ideas rolling around. Want a glimpse?

1. Start saving money again (this has been derailed a bit with our move to CA, purchase of a *somewhat* more expensive house than we had in OK, and recent med bills) ... we've sat down, developed a real budget with real limits, and are off to play the game of life.

2. Live healthier. This is a big old catch-all resolution. For both S and I it means eating healthier foods. S is also committed to increasing his exercise level (I'm committed to continuing to walk every day... one of those rolling around ideas is whether or not I want to commit to starting yoga again or to using the elliptical machine we bought for S last year).

3. Continue to study Spanish, and actually commit to learning more vocabulary. This resolution has been on my list for yearrrrs. Last January I actually buckled down and started an "adult education" class. The class has been a great starter... I feel like I have a very good understanding of the structure of the language and how the grammar works. What I haven't accomplished yet is the accumulation of vocabulary. This part will be the hard part and I think I need to just start practicing the rote memory skills (sigh... rote memory is not my strongest skill).

4. Continue to knit and blog. I think this will be the easy one and if fact it feels a bit like a cheat to put it on a list of resolutions. I think rather it's just one of my plans for the year. I think the resolution part is that I will finish my first pair of socks, which are now underway (yeah!).

This is the garter rib pattern from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks. Moda Dea Sassy Stripes yarn on size 1 needles (yes, I'm knitting with toothpicks, yeah me!)

My wishy-washy goal is to start my first sweater. Sweaters scare me in that you have to fit them to your body (socks are that way too but a much smaller knitting investment). Perhaps if I can find a sweater pattern that seems like a good beginner project, I'll make the leap. I'm also committed to finishing swallowtail this year.

5. Increase my research productivity at work. This has, shamefully, declined a bit over the past 6 months (strangely coinciding with my increased knitting and blogging). I am resolved to get back on track though! I have two projects that I like that I should be able to jump right back into. I just have to make the commitment and do it!

6. And on the person front, I commit to being more present and positive with people at work. One of my worst traits (maybe others would think I have worse, who knows), is that when I get annoyed, I show it. I am going to practice being more open, more patient, more caring this year.

That's my plan... I suppose if I'm committed I don't need luck, but wish me luck anyway!!

p.s. Rachel of Yarn-A-Go-Go is having a 100 miles by April 1st party. I've joined in... you should too! It's consistent with goal 2 above and may give me that extra boost I need.