Monday, March 31, 2008

Hey there San Francisco

Did you miss me? Bet you didn't even know I was gone. That's one of the perils of less frequent blogging I suppose. More good stuff per post, but less daily tracking.

Well I've been gone, and man oh man was it a good gone. S and I jumped on a plane ...

did a little of this along the way, and ended up here...

Yep... San Francisco! S had a conference there this weekend and we decided to make a vacation out of it. We stayed in the Union Square area in the most amazing little hotel, The Maxwell. They call this a personality hotel and it did have personality! It was a fun little art deco style, 1920s building and we loved it. Close to everything, right in the middle of downtown. If you like something a little different, we'd recommend it.

We started our trip with a stroll down into Chinatown.

Even on a Wednesday afternoon this place was bustling. And on this very first day, our very first meal, we had what I think was our very best meal.

Those are mushrooms (left) and shrimp with fresh spinach leaves (right) and they were DELICIOUS! We ate at the House of Nanking and following our guidebook (which was a winner in terms of recommendations), gave the waiter (you can see him in the pic at the restaurant review) a general sense of what we wanted and he ordered for us. De-lish ... I almost licked the plates!

After lunch we walked up to Coit Tower, got our exercise there, and got a great view of the city from Telegraph Hill. The weather was beautiful so we could see for miles. The top picture is actually taken from the hill.

After walking back down into Chinatown, we decided to go do a tea tasting at Vital Tea Leaf. We must have tried 15-20 teas while we were there and ended up bringing home more than our fair share ... Blue People (a green tea with ginsing... very zingy... an energy booster), a Pu-ehr (a black smokey tea supposedly good for digestion), Jasmine Pearl (a white tea), and Angel (a hand picked 3 to 4 days old green tea good for cleansing, diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure, antioxidant, daily prevention tea). In fact, we bought and tried so much tea that the guy made us a Fairy Plum.

3 flowers inside tea leaves... quite lovely and nice to drink too. All of this can be bought online in case any of you are inspired.

Now if we hadn't already eaten and drunk more than we should have, we had to have dinner. Another fabulous meal at the Millenium. A great restaurant serving sustainable, organic food. A great meal was had.

You won't be suprised to hear that by the end of the day we crashed into bed and slept hard. All of this in our first partial day!

Thursday we rented a car so we could drive out of town to the Muir Woods. Along the way we drove around the Presido and Marina areas and stumbled onto this amazing Palace of the Fine Arts. We didn't go in but did have to stop to gawk at the spectacle.

After this brief detour, back into the car and over the Golden Gate bridge, which is truely impressive.

And onto the forest we went. Now you know your trip is going to be a good one when, as you first arrive at the park, one of the park rangers has a banana slug for you to see up close and personal.

Yep, I know everyone thought that banana slugs were only a fictitious mascot for UC Santa Cruz, but no, they are real live slugs and as you can see above they are huge and yellow and look for the life of them like a banana. Crazy!

So after admiring the wildlife, off into the redwood forest we went. (Now I have to tell you that the entrance area and the first part of the walk -- where the paths are finished/wood was terrible ... hoards of people, yelling kids! Thank god we had planned to go for a bit of a hike because you had to get off into the real trails to escape the noise, but once you did... amazing nature to see. Moral of this story ... don't go on the tour bus...take a car and plan on walking out into the trails for a couple of hours).

When you get out and hike, you get to see this.

This is definitely a place to stop and listen to the quiet and appreciate the slowness of life.

After our hike, we climbed back in our car and took another short drive to visit Muir Beach and Stinson Beach. Along the way we stopped for lunch at the Mountain Home Inn. Food was acceptable, but the view from the deck, where we ate outside, was well worth the cost of the meal!

And then the beaches themselves... breathtaking.

This is my kind of beach. Rocky cliffs, blue water, green grass.... bright sun.

This is definitely a sight not to be missed!

On our drive back, we stopped at Green Apple Books... a very nice book store with a fun supply of used books (including knitting books). Finally, as though we weren't done yet, at the end of another lovely day, we had to eat once more and this time visited the Greens in the Presidio. Again, great food in a super location with beautiful views of the marina. How can one city have so much great stuff?

Friday S did start to do conference things but played a little hookey so we could go to the Castro district that afternoon. We had more yummy tea at the Samovar Tea Lounge which I would highly recommend for a leisurely sit down (try the honeycomb platter...yummmmmm). And then we did a little shopping. We stumbled onto two different Tibetian/Buddist type stores on/just off Castro street and picked up some souveniers for ourselves (my favorite was Dolma, Inc., 530 Castro St.). We wrapped up our evening with a lecture at City Lights bookstore.

Saturday S did more conferencing and I had a nice quiet day all to myself. All and all, a great little vacation.

And you want to see the picture that was most inspirational for me?

This little handmade sign was posted on a fence guarding an empty lot for sale on our walk up to Coit Tower. Here are words to live by... "if you can do no good, at least do no harm." Words for all of us to live by.

Can't wait to see even more? Our full set of 77 photos is on flikr.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The doctor... she is in!

Yes, just in time for the close of the first segment of Project Spectrum (the Fires), my Doctor's Bag is seamed off, lined up, and done today!

It is a nice deep and wide bag... definitely too big for an everyday bag but perfect to hold some large future project.

I think the leather button and wooden handles turned out just right for the proportions of the bag.

And I still love, just love, the lining fabric. The color! It is the perfect compliment for today... the first day of spring!

OK... maybe it's really more of a summer fabric rather than a spring fabric, but I'm so already ready for summer.

I think that photo above gives you a sense of the size. The angles in some of the other photos make it seem a bit diminutive in my eyes.

All together a very satisfying knit. It fits perfectly (laugh!), and the knitting was a great project for my new skill of knitting continental. There is lots of moving the yarn front to back or back to frong to knit or purl or to slip so using continental was definitely a time saver. I think this project is my first officially worked entirely in continental.

The picking up stitches and doing the three needle bind off at the end was what seemed to take the most time, but that was probably just in my head rather than reality. And the lining... well let's just say that I'm not going to win any seamstress prizes anytime soon, but I'm pleased that I got it all put together without completely butchering anything.

Looking for a big, nonfelted bag ... this one might be right for you too!

Doctor's Bag from Knit 2 Together
5 balls of Paton's Classic Wool Merino (100% wool)
Color: Bright Red (00230) Lot 179620
US size 11 (8 mm) circulars and straights (3 needles needed to bind off for seams)

5.25" x 5" wood handles from JoAnn's (Purse n-alize-it! Handbag Handles)
Leather button (1 1/8 ", 22mm) from JoAnn's
Lining fabric "Kleo" in black (and red and yellow), the Alexander Henry Fabric Collection, from JoAnn's (fabric was about 44" wide off the bold and I used about the amount called for in the pattern, 1 1/2 yards)

One wooden dowel and one sheet of acrylic from the local OSH hardware store

Final size: 21" long x 9" wide x 9" tall
cast on Febrary 9, 2008
finished March 20, 2008

On Ravelry here

Modifications: none ... it was great just the way it was.

Edited to add: By the way, I finished week 5 of my couch to 5k plan today. Yes, I ran 20 minutes in a row... and I didn't die! Yeah me!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Seaming and running

With all my discussions of gardening and not, not shopping, I bet you wonder whether I'm still knitting.

Well a bit.

I finally finished those last 30 rows for my Doctor's Bag. As you can tell from the pic above, I've cut out all the lining and now I'm working on seaming all the bag pieces together. So far I have the front and back attached to the bottom and just have the sides left to go. Seems like nothing, but the front and back took me a ridiculously long time. You pick up stitches along both edge pieces and then three needle bind them off. Simple, but time consuming.

My plan is to work on this a bit more tonight. Perhaps I can get the seaming done and then just have the lining to sew up. We'll see how things progress.

In terms of other progressions, I actually ran 8 whole minutes in a row today, twice! Yes, it's hard for even me to believe, but I'm in the middle of week 5 on my Couch to 5K plan using Ullreys podcasts. These podcasts have been just amazing in helping me to do this. Week 1 is running only 1 minute at a time and back then even that wasn't easy for me. Today, my 8 minutes was do-able! Next run comes the big challenge... I'm supposed to run 20 minutes in a row.... geez. I think I may surf around to see if I can find out how others handled that. Next week I get to drop back to shorter runs with more breaks even though the total running time is longer. I don't know, those breaks seem like a necessity. Can I skip a day,,, is it cheating,,, does having the longer run in there really help with the progression? Oh the questions!!

Regardless, I'm off and running and quite pleased as punch about it. Oh yeah, for S's fan club, he ran week 4 very successfully today. Yeah S!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Building a better tomorrow (giggle)

Yes, OK, that title is totally cornball, but I thought of it and it just stuck.

This weekend, S and I did do a little building, not to mention a bit of planting, moving ourselves down the sustainability road.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we decided to do square foot gardening this year. After two days of effort we are practically there! Behold the beauty.

Even Sterling approves!

Saturday morning we began our adventure by gathering a bunch of this ...

(don't let anyone ever fool you into thinking that a Prius is a small car ... you wouldn't believe how much we can fit into our little baby!)

And in no time, thanks to S's fabulous carpentry skills, we had this.

Then we had to do some "making." That is, we had to make some soil.

First you put it all in a bowl on a tarp ...

then you mix it all together. The square foot gardening book has some great suggestions for doing this. We did this several times, filled up the boxes with soil and then out of my mouth came the words "we should go ahead and wet these down now." I kid you not, within 5 seconds the sky opening and this happened.

Can you see that action ... do you see those white streaks coming down from the sky ... nope, not meteorites, HAIL. Hail in Southern California. It was quite unbelievable!

Here's a photo up close of some of the early pieces ... smaller than dimes, but there was A LOT of them. Hail did eventually turn to rain and our garden got a great little drink. I take this as a very positive sign from Mother Nature ... ask and you shall receive... nitrogen rich rain!

Sunday morning we were back out bright and early, finished filling up the third and final box, affixed the remainder of the square foot markers (the grid system) and then planted plants.

So far we have carrots, cilantro, red onion, green bunching onions, leaf lettuce, spinach, cauliflower (left bed), corn, tomatos, and marigold (middle bed), cucumbers, bok choi, red peppers, japanese eggplant, & butternut squash (right bed). I have okra and beet seeds I'll plant later tonight. We still need to shop around a bit more to find potatoes, broccoli, garlic, and bush beans. Very exciting stuff you guys.

And because we want to sit outside and enjoy every minute of this garden, we replaced our patio table that was murdered earlier this year.

Here's to dining al fresco on locally grown food all summer long!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

In the spirit or not?

Yesterday, totally not in the spirit of the "7 days" challenge, I went shopping.

But... yes you knew there would be one of these didn't you ... I'm going to claim that I didn't violate the spirit of my commitment. Part of the shopping was to increase my likelihood of sucess with the Victory Garden challenge. You give a little, you get a little (or maybe in this case "you get a little and you give (in) a little").

Yesterday, S and I wandered over to our regional nursery chain (not exactly a L(plant)S, but close) and checked out the veggies. We are so on our way to having that square foot garden. We found peppers and tomatoes and butternut squash and corn (and something else I can't remember right now). We also went by a national chain to look at lumber to build our raised beds. We didn't buy any lumber or plants there but they had onions and eggplant and cauliflower and all kinds of fun stuff (unfortunately their plants looked a little worse for wear so even though we might have been tempted to buy veggies there, we didn't).

Last night my square foot garden book arrived and I spent time before bed reading up on the idea and plotting my veggie harvest. This is very exciting. I think we plan to build the boxes (our plan is for 48 square feet of garden) on Saturday and to slowly start to fill them up. Next shopping trip, lumber and soil constituents (vermiculite, compost, and peat moss)!

Now if that was my only shopping I might try to argue that I didn't fall out of my "7 day" compact (after all veggie plants are practically food... just in the baby stages right?), but that is not where I stretched the limits. You saw the photo up top didn't you? Yep, I found some fabric to line my doctor's bag with. Now to defend myself, I did call an exception for this when I signed up for the challenge and I did go to my local goodwill first to see if I could find something "used" to work first. Of course, despite all that, I did put something new "in my cart" -- well I didn't actually use a cart, does that mean it doesn't count either [snort].

Now about this fabric, this fabulous fabric, this is more boisterous than anything I own currently. Crazy hmm? Given that it will be the inside of the bag, I am very excited about it. It should provide quite a bit of cheer when in use. I'm still just 30 rows away from knitting the body ... all this reading and garden planning is really cutting into my knitting time (not to mention my blog reading... I think it's become an addiction). Soon it will be done though. Then I'll need to block, cut lining, sew lining, and do some finishing work.

I've never looked forward to finishing work so much. Get a thermometer ... I must be sick!

Oh... and guess what I picked up from the library today-- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle -- more fabulous reading on sustainability... maybe I won't be finishing that bag all that soon after all [laugh].

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Yesterday really was an inspiration for me. I spent a good part of the day (playing hookey from work) checking out webpages on living more sustainably.

Lola's post over at Two Black Sheep was the "I must need to pay attention to this because I'm seeing it everywhere moment" for me. As a follow up to Lolly's post, I knew I needed to re-commit.

Check out some of this goodness I found.

First, have you seen the video "The Story of Stuff"? You should definitely watch it ... a good simple presentation of what's wrong with our current system and some very practical suggestions for what we can do better. (It's designed for use with kids, but I think is great for even us grown up children).

Once you're into the idea, think about signing up for Freecycle. I found a group right here... just 2 minutes away and joined right up. (If you haven't seen this group before it's a way to give away, and receive, second hand things ... a fab idea if you are going to reduce your consumption-purchasing of new things). I'm thinking about all the things I can donate to someone else who can get good use out of them.

To have the best chance at success with my Victory Garden goal, I also need to plan carefully for my garden. S and I have decided to use the Square Foot Gardening method this year to see if we can get more bang for our buck. Seriously, anyone can have a garden with this method... even if all you can have is an old wine barrel somewhere. I had to spend time researching this and plotting (pun intended... =] ).

Want a little more video inspiration for a garden? Check out this video from the Urban Homestead.

Looking for a blog to give you weekly inspiration to be more sustainable? Check out The Green Life.

Here's what I am aspiring to ... Challenge 7: Nothing new in your shopping cart. Could you commit, for just 7 days, not to buy anything new (other than food, medicine, safety items)? I know I could do this ... I'm sure I've done it before. I wanted to start my first week yesterday, but I needed wanted to buy that gardening book on square foot gardening. I wanted to start today, but I want to buy fabric to line my doctor's bag (which is so close to done I should be knitting not blogging). I know we also want to purchase some lumber to create our raised beds for the garden -- then we'll need to purchase some soil products and some seeds and plants. And then I want to buy a laundry line so I can dry my clothes outside and use less electricity.

This is the problem, is it not?

My compromise, I think, will be to allow myself these purchases, and then my 7 days will start -- or maybe my 7 days starts tomorrow with the allowance that I can purchase these limited items as a compromise. After all, I guess reducing any consumption is better than consumption gone wild.

And last... boy did my reading list grow yesterday. I visited my library yesterday (yeah me... here's one book I didn't buy) and checked out In Defense of Food. I really liked The Omnivore's Dilemma and, so far, I'm liking this book even more. On interlibrary loan is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. After that I have a nice long list of things to read based on Lola's and Lolly's suggestions.

And now, really last, I joined several of the Ravelry groups Lolly mentioned and went through all the last forum posts. I love seeing how my knitting world coincides with my sustainability world. I love it when we all love the world together.

Go out and be inspired my friends. I'm going to turn off my computer now, use less energy, and be happy.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spring has sprung (& the victory garden challenge)

Yes Jean, I hate to tell you, but here in Southern California we are sunny. We are 80 degree (F). Spring is now officially here.

And to celebrate this joyful occassion, this morning I started planting the garden. (A small start using the seeds we already have).

Not impressed yet? Well that's some pretty fine dirt. Hiding below that dirt are spinach, cilantro, and lettuce seeds.

These we can all do successfully from seed right in the garden. We tend to buy seedlings for other things (like broccoli) as I have a tendency to kill the little ones when we try to start them inside.

And the bonus, we still have some little lovelies left over from last year in the garden. Sage...

and chives (and some nasturtium for good measure ... nice flowers that can be eaten).

Our fruit trees are also doing fabulously well. You may remember that we planted these just a few short weeks ago.

The apples are covered with blooms, this one being the most proficient.

And the peaches are really on fire too.

Even one of our late producing apples has started setting leaves and blooms.

You have to love spring -- even if you don't enjoy the springing forward of DST (which my body does not honestly care for much)!

Have you thought about trying to plant veggies this year? You should. Part of my planting inspiration this morning came from visiting Lolly's blog. She reminds me that sustainability is one of my goals and I shouldn't forget that in the business of life. If you haven't read it, check out The Omnivore's Dillemma by Michael Pollan or check out this blog (the Urban Homestead) written by a family in Pasadena who live sustainably and grow a tremendous amount of food on the property around their city house. I've even joined the 100 foot diet (victory garden) challenge.

Here's the description for the challenge:
"If you want to fight against peak oil, climate change and our consumerist culture, then join us and start a living protest right in your own back (front) yards. Be the change, live the solution! Use your yard (or balcony or porch steps) not only to grow food but also to cultivate a healthier and more fulfilling life."

Sounds good to me!

Come on... join in on the fun!

Friday, March 07, 2008


Tejo. Tejo mucho.

A mi' me gusta tejer.

Can you tell that I'm still taking my spanish class? Can you tell I don't know how to make blogger put an accent mark over the i in mi?

This week I had my first exam in Spanish I ... there's nothing like preparing for an exam to help you realize how much you don't know! This class has definitely been challenging for me. I'd love to know how it compares to other Spanish I college classes. My teacher really expects us to comprehend and to be able to use the language already. This expectation means that I've learned alot in just 5 weeks. But... and there's always a but isn't there ... it also means I often feel totally incompetent.

Our focus has definitely been on *using* the language, whether spoken or written. This means that we have to use lots of vocabulary we haven't learned yet. Now this is what trips me up, how can you use parts of the language you don't know yet. My teacher says just go with it, don't get slowed down by the parts you don't know. Me... well I'm a detail person. Telling me not to worry about the details is like... well... like asking me to become a new person. Laugh. I'm doing my best to hang in there but I am being challenged.

But the good news is I have definitely learned more in the past 5 weeks that I'd learned in my adult classes. But boy oh boy do I still have A LOT left to learn. I think even if I kept up this pace it would take me at least 10 years to get confident in what I was doing. Laugh ... wonder if I can keep it up that long?!

So I leave you with my red doctor's bag photos to show that I do like to knit and that, at least sometimes, I do knit alot. Now that my exam is over, perhaps I'll even knit a bit more. Watching that herringbone pattern develop over the fabric sure is fun.

Hope everyone enjoys the weekend!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Knitting in Bethesda (part 2)

Ready for the rest of the excitement from Bethesda? Well I can't promise too many bells and whistles, but there was definitely some glee in my weekend trip.

First up, running glee.

See that view... that was the glorious view I got to watch while I ran week 3 of my couch to 5K plan using the Robert Ullrey podcasts. Actually that's not a very great pic ... most of the time the sky was bright blue and the sun was shining. It was very inspirational -- running in the sky. And boy was I excited about this... I never thought I'd get this far. Every time I've tried to start running before I've exhausted myself and just quit. This time I'm making great progress. I got to week 2 once before and then had that week and a half where I was sick. I started over at week 1 to insure success and am at week 3 now!

S (who is also at week 3 ... yeah S!!) had listened ahead and warned me that week 3 has you run for 3 minutes at a time. Now I have to tell you all that I did NOT think I could do this. But Saturday morning I climbed up on that treadmill and I dove right in. And you know what? I did it, and did it with no pain!! That was a sense of satifaction!

Other glee --- yarn crawl.

Thursday, my first day in Bethesda, my friend Margaret and I got together for a visit and the two of us visited a couple of stores. First up, Stitch + Knit = Bliss, a lovely store right there in Bethesda.

What super friendly staff and, as you can see, quite a selection of yummy yarns.

Next up, Stitch DC. Macoco was kind enough to give me a heads up on this one. This group has several stores in the DC area including a small "branch" in Chevy Chase, which is right next door to Bethesda. Margaret and I also visited this cute little shop (but unfortunately I did not take photos). Again, wonderfully friendly staff and nice supplies. Definitely made me wish I had the time to go into DC proper to one of their other, larger locations. The store keep here also gave me the devilish idea that I should come back to visit Margaret during the Maryland Sheep Festival. Hmmm... wonder how I could plot that out.....

And finally, knitting glee.

Do you know that flying from west to east coast means alot of flying time? Time in fact to make good progress on Trekking sock number 2.

By the end of my second flight I was ready to turn the heel on this second sock. For a slow knitter like me, that's pretty great stuff. I haven't figured it out exactly, but it looks like I'm going about 3/4 of an inch per hour. I certainly won't be breaking any speed records around here, but I can say that knitting continental is definitely faster than throwing. My first sock was all thrown. I'm alternating a bit with this second one (my gauge still isn't perfectly even with continental so throwing in a row here and there seems to even things out). Good progress.

And if that wasn't enough, after getting home Saturday night, I decided to use the rest of my weekend working on my doctor's bag.

Front and back done, one side over half way completed. Still loving the herringbone pattern. This will be my first project finished all in continental style as well. This pattern is perfect for it with all the alternating "knit, slip with yarn in front" or "purl, slip with yarn in back" that you do.

If only I didn't have to work this week and could devote a few more hours to knitting. But no knitting time for me for the next few days, I have a spanish test wednesday! Eeeks.... anyone know how to cram a whole lotta grammar into one's brain in less than 48 hours? Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Knitting for winter

The trip to Bethesda went well this weekend. It was fun to go back to a bit of winter and, more importantly, to come back to warm weather.

I'll tell you about the trip another post, but wanted to show you what I was up to before I left. A veritable hat knitting party!

One of the students who has been working with me on her dissertation (hey Em!) just matched with an internship in Minneapolis. I don't think anyone should move to such a cold destination without an appropriate winter wardrobe.

And where best to start such a wardrobe but with handknit hats... and lots of them!

These are the One Hour Hat from Tangle and are actually that, a less than one hour project each.

They worked up very quickly but make for a cute little accessory. I loved being able to make quite a few of these... I think they made a good impact as a group. Hopefully they'll help keep her warm when the snow piles up later (and they even got used this weekend in Bethesda where it was a bit on the nippy side ... flurries even saturday morning!).

Looking for a quick, easy hat pattern? This is it. Knit flat with bulky yarn and then seamed up. Easy, but cute. Who could ask for more? Easy enough that I was able to actually knit one up for myself the same night. =]

One hour hat from Tangle

Lion Brand Thick and Quick (cream and black)
Lion Brand Jiffy (blue, green, grey)
US 35s
started February 26, 2008
finished February 26, 2008

You'll be able to get more than one hat from each ball of yarn (two from the Jiffy, more than 2 from the Thick and Quick). The Thick and Quick works well as is; I knit with two strands of the Jiffy held together to get gauge. To do this rewound the ball so I could knit with both the both ends at once.

Definitely a winner for a quick, less than one skein project.