Thursday, February 26, 2009

My dogs are barking

But I had a good day and don't really mind.

First I visited the Winchester Mystery House. I have wanted to go there for years and just couldn't miss this chance.  I took a tour of the Mansion, and the tour guide did a decent job, but I've known better. 'Course living in a tourism environment and a past history of working for a company that does sightseeing tours might make me a bit pickier than others, I admit that.  One thing I do know happens to every tour guide is that periodically someone will ask you a question you flat out don't have an answer for.  No matter how good your spiel or how many facts you've memorized, it happens.  And the guides that I have known, that are really in it because they want to be doing it, will then later go seek out the answers to those questions, and add them to the store of knowledge for the next time someone comes up that question. So, if you ever visit the Winchester Mystery House, your mission - whether or not you choose to accept it - is to ask if the antique carriage in the carriage house has ever been appraised and how many of the plain glass windows in the house still have the original glass. Not that I am madly curious to know the answers, but more to see if they care enough to find out! Yesterday the first question came to mind because several years ago I was involved in finding and obtaining an appraisal for some vintage carriages that were owned by my employer. The second was because I noticed that some, but not all, of the windows had that thick, wavy looking glass that you can tell is older, and I see a fair amount of that where I live and like the way it looks.

After a quick snack I drove over to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. I'd never even heard  of the place until this week, which is surprising since I worked in the field (museums) and generally visit museums of all kinds wherever I go. It's a very nice facility with a fairly impressive collection, laid out in a series of galleries that flow well.  My favorite section is the reproduction of a tomb section that actually starts in one gallery, travels under the lobby, and ends in a different gallery on the other side of the building. I do regret that I didn't have as much time to spend there as I'd like, there's also a planetarium and the show is free with museum admission.  So if you are planning a visit, make sure to include it, that's what I'll do next time!

The other bummer is that my camera battery quit on me, so while I have eleventy-jillion shots of the Winchester House, there's only a few of the exterior of the Egyptian Museum exterior. But here they are:

I stopped at my hotel for about an hour and then went on to the convention center for the market preview.  I was curious to see how much of a difference it would be without the Ravelry folks there because it seemed like such a large part of things last year, with the crowd around their booth, passport game and other hijinks.  Maybe it's just me but it does seem a little quieter this year.  And I have to wonder how the event organizers feel about Ravelry's absence? I mean, we all love Ravelry, and it adds so much to the our fiber crafty lives, but for the company that puts on this whole convention - how different was last year from the previous years? Does Ravelry's attendance sort of swamp and redirect the attention of convention goers away from XRX's desired focus of the event? Just wondering....

Anyway, I was a good kid during the market preview. I didn't buy anything, I just walked up & down the aisles, checking out booths and making notes on various yarns of interest along with the vendor and price.  And before I go back to the market I'm hopping online to look at some of the vendors sites and prices, then going through and re-writing those notes. I might not even buy anything til Saturday, and just look some more on Friday.  With the size of my budget, I'm not buying much and I want to make absolutely sure that I get the best possible deal and that it is something I truly want and will use.

Okay, you can stop now

I asked y'all to keep your finger crossed for good weather, and wow - did you ever come through for me!  I almost feel embarrassed wasting that kind of serious mojo for something so trivial as weather, shouldn't it go towards more important issues like curing cancer or improving the economy?

Other than a teeny tiny sprinkle the weather is holding just fine. So like I said, you can ease up now and uncross those fingers. You might need them for other tasks, such as I don't know...knitting?  And I will most likely need to call on you again for my drive home, so please rest for a few days.

Obviously with clear skies I made the last 150 miles of my trip in no time flat. I skipped breakfast and hit the road early too so I arrived even too early to check into my hotel.  With the help of Verizon's Navigator feature (more on that another time) I found a Coco's and then a Borders bookstore, which nicely took care of my late breakfast & time killing needs.  I don't know about you, but I can easily spend a couple hours inside either that store or a Barnes & Noble.  Considering where I live most of the books I've bought in the past ten years were through Amazon, and that's fine, their prices are excellent and I always take advantage of the free shipping offers. But just the sheer joy of being able to open and flip through a book, lots of books!

Later in the day I settled into my hotel room just fine, made a run out to a grocery store to load up on snacks & such, and then kicked back to relax for the evening. The view from here yesterday:

I actually like the sound of the traffic whooshing by, it's very restful.  If you've ever experienced the sounds of my neighborhood - golf cart engines grinding, people hollering out to each other, occasionally spanish music blasting or helicopters overhead or boat horns - you might understand why I feel that way.

I am in the same hotel as last year and I can't imagine being anywhere else.  I know there's a certain advantage to staying at the convention center hotel - proximity to activities and since it's one of the Big Name Hotels, you can reliably expect a certain level of comfort and amenities.  But I've come to learn that with many of these Big Name Hotels, even though you are already paying a high rate, they seem to nickel and dime you on many of the extras, charging for things like parking and WiFi.  Things that at my little slice of heaven a mile away from the convention center, I can have for free.

I don't just love my hotel for the free parking and WiFi. Or for the attractive, clean room with a little recliner chair and cable TV with HBO and the SciFi channel. Or for the mini-fridge and microwave. Or for the endless gallons of hot water and massaging shower head. Or for the balcony and corner of street view.

There is also this:

Yes, that is a hot, freshly-made waffle.  It is from the breakfast at my hotel. Available every morning.  And it is free. Can you beat that? I think not.

I realized at some point in planning this trip that although Stitches West actually starts this morning since I have no desire to attend the opening day speechmaking and luncheon, and I don't have a class til tomorrow, I don't actually have any reason to head over to the convention center until much later today, maybe 4:00pm or so.  That would give me plenty of time to pick up my registration packet and then attend the Market Preview starting at 5:00pm.

So I think I'm going to spend at least some of this day being...get this...a tourist. Yeah, me. For a change.  I've a few ideas, but nothing definite. I'm going to hop in the my little red ride and see what I find - I'll let you know how it turns out!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I just love it when a plan comes together

Don't you?

Unlike last year, the weather was clear and dry as I drove out of L.A. and headed north on the Interstate. I stopped for a quick lunch at an IHOP near Bakersfield where I learned that today was National Pancake Day.  I had never heard of this before but I wholeheartedly approve of the concept and will note it on my calender for next year.  (I expect you will do the same, yes?)

Also unlike last year I'm using a rental car. I love my little truck, it made the round-trip to Stitches West 2008 and back without complaint and performed like a trouper.  But I just didn't feel right about attempting that again without giving it a little TLC from a qualified mechanic. And the past few months have just too busy to squeeze in that task. So my beloved grey truck stays home and instead I am driving this:

Yep, it's OhPleaseTicketMe Red.  Not what I would have preferred but I'll make the best of it. At least it'll be easy to find in parking lots!

I arrived in Coalinga at about 3pm and was mightily tempted to continue driving and make the most of the clear sunny skies.  I know I have an unfortunate tendency to try and be Superwoman, pushing myself harder and further than necessary. But this time I caught myself, and stuck with the plan. I checked into a Motel 6 and for an insanely low price got a bright, clean room with WiFi. After a break I cleaned up and went over to the Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant.

Obviously the Inn is a bit out of my budget, but I'd heard their store was worth checking out and they have a great restaurant.  How great is the restaurant?  So great that they actually have two separate restaurants, one for "family" dining and one that is 21 and up only. I'm betting you can figure out where I had dinner!  I ordered the "Smokey Blue Flatbread", which is like a personal sized pizza made on crispy flatbread, with barbecue smoked tri-tip, roasted tomato sauce, caramelized onions and gorgonzola cheese.  It was deelishus! (I may be tasting it for a while longer this evening but trust me - SO worth it.)

Even though my motel seems to have filled up quite a bit more since I arrived this afternoon, it's very quiet so now that I've got a full stomach I expect to have no trouble falling asleep. And tomorrow, I'll be back out on the road again.

Keep your fingers crossed for more good weather!

Monday, February 23, 2009


Don't you just love it? NOT!  

The advantage of a driving trip is supposed to be the ability to take as much stuff as you want, you just fill the car up. Right?  Unfortunately I have to drag everything on and off the boat before I even get to the car. That complicates things.

My plan is to leave the island on the 8am boat and start driving north.  Weather permitting, I'd like to make it Coalinga before stopping for the night.  Then on Wednesday I'll head out again and arrive in Santa Clara at a reasonable hour. Yes, I could do the entire 371 mile drive in one day and that's exactly how I did it last year when I went to Stitches West.  But last year I also arrived completely wiped out and fell face first into a coma within seconds of arriving at my hotel. I'd like shoot for a better experience this year.

So...clothes & toiletries in the suitcase, laptop & accessories in the carry-on with knitting paraphernalia...somehow, this will all come together between now and tomorrow morning. I am Stitches bound and I have faith.  But faith is not going to be enough, in order to make this happen first I have to get off the couch and off this computer.

See ya further down the road!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

When the drama llama comes to town

Just shoot 'em, plant one right between the eyes.  Think that's too extreme? Okay, use a tranquilizer gun and aim for the fleshy bits. That's usually not hard to locate on that particular animal.

Again, you may think I'm being too harsh, but I've discovered in recent years that I have an extreme dislike of drama and those who manufacture it. I'm guessing that these are people who have never lived in a town that is less than 3 square miles, on an island of about 76 square miles. Set a year-round population of 3500 people into that space and you'll see some drama. Trust me on this.  

I don't really, fully, understand why some people feel the need to stir up issues, foment discord, and generally cause trouble. You've known someone like this haven't you? So what do you think? Entertainment? Insecurity? I dunno - maybe you can explain it to me.
With Stitches West right around the corner I've been thinking about last year and some of what occurred in the weeks prior, and how that might have affected my enjoyment of the event. Some might say that I opened a can of worms.  I don't mind letting a few worms out, even statistically significant amounts of worms, but there's a big difference between that and popping the top off a jar of a angry pit vipers, know what I mean? One could also point out that instead of fighting back, or asking for outside help/mediation, I chose to walk away.  I admit that might not have been the best choice, but it was the right one for me at the time.  Seriously, as I see it some things are worth fighting for and others are not.  Choose your battles.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

We've all got opinions

Don't we? And I'm not talking about life and the world in general, I just mean about knitting. Styles, tools, yarns, vendors, patterns - you name it - we've all got somethin' to say about it. So here's another chance to put in your two cents.

One very clever college student has found a way to accomplish what I dreamed of - get college credit for knitting! She designed and knitted up a jacket and while it achieved the objective of impressing her instructor, she's not exactly in love with it.

Now this daring lass has thrown caution to the wind and asked us, the knitters of the blogiverse, to contribute our opinions of this project.  Wise to the ways of the knitbloggers, she's even offering a contest to win, of course...yarn. 

So why not follow me over to Logan's blog and share your thoughts?  I know she'll appreciate it. Just tell her I sent you!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bet you thought I forgot

No way, Jose. If there is anything in this world I can depend on it is that immediately after a holiday any and all goods related to that holiday will go on sale.  I could give a rat's butt about discounted Christmas wrapping paper, and already cheap champagne isn't any more attractive when it's been marked down.  But this? This one is for me and for any other single folk who have to suffer through all that February 14th foolishness.

Yup! That's right - I scored bags of both Hershey's Cherry Cordial Kisses and Reese's Peanut Butter Hearts at less than half the price they were a few days ago.  You can keep those nasty chalky pastel hearts with their dippy sayings.  I've got what I want and it goes much better with red wine.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Me and George

Have the same birthday. You probably celebrated his birthday today and if you attend school, or work for a bank, post office, or government office you were probably grateful for the day off regardless of the reason. 

But today wasn't his real birthday or mine either, it's just the day that the Powers That Be decided was the best choice, and while they were at it they roped in another guy named Abe.  I don't know you feel about it but I got genuinely gypped in that little maneuver, because otherwise, depending on where I worked, I might have my birthday off every year. Pretty sweet, eh?

I remember last year right before my birthday getting a subscription offer from the folks at More Magazine and feeling terribly offended, that they were kind of jumping the gun there. But that was a year ago.  And now here we are.

I don't exactly mind this upcoming birthday - it just feels sort of unreal. Like as if I should mind, or it should be big deal.  If you'd asked me a few years ago I would have said of course it is! But it isn't, at least not so far.  Am I wrong? Am I missing something here? I do catch myself wondering how it is that I got to this age - didn't I just turn 37 yesterday? And 32 the day before that? Maybe I'll feel differently in a week, maybe I'll wake up Sunday morning and it'll all be clear.

Friday, February 13, 2009

State of the Sock Knitting Report

You might think with all the hat & scarf knitting going on over the past couple months, that perhaps I'm no longer interested in knitting socks? Not so.  I've been knitting 'em, I just haven't stopped to blog them or even update my Ravelry notebook.

First up, a pair of basic stockinette socks:

Made with a couple balls of Red Heart's Heart and Sole in the Rustica colorway that I purchased from a mainland big box store in November. The joy of knitting round and round in plain simple stockinette when my brain was already overloaded with formulas and other such nonsense.

A pair of Ribby Slipper Socks:

Pattern from the Interweave Knits Holiday issue. I made this pair using Lion Wool-Ease Thick & Quick for the feet and Red Heart worsted for the cuffs.  They knit up amazingly fast and I've already cast on another pair for someone else.

My Artichoke Socks have finally seen some progress:

But I'm only showing you one sock 'cause that's all I've done. I don't know what it is about this pattern, somehow I just have to be the right mood to work on it. And apparently that mood doesn't come along very often! But it is a gorgeous sock so I'm hoping having the first one completed will help motivate me to do knit up the second.

Lastly, I cast on another basic sock in 2x2 rib:

I'm using a skein of Spunky Eclectic yarn I've had in my stash for a long time but kept passing up because this stuff is just crazy thin. Like dental floss thin. The colorway is named "Goblin Eyes", but to me those colors - purple, gold, green - say "Mardi Gras" so that's what I'm calling these socks.  No rush to finish this pair, the work in progress will just live in my bag and travel around with me wherever I go. Think of it as insurance policy against being stuck somewhere, anywhere, without knitting.  Because we all know that would be bad. So let's just say I believe it's important to Be Prepared.  And although these days my interest is limited to the cookies, yes...I was a Girl Scout once.  How 'bout you?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

When the world dishes out weirdness

I mean really - I know why I'm hanging out in the kitchen. But unless my cat has suddenly developed a hankering for oatmeal cookies I can't imagine what Miss Thing is doing here or what she suddenly finds so fascinating about my oven.

Just a few minutes earlier my land line phone rang and get this - I actually answered it.  I've got almost everyone trained to either call me on my cell phone or email me at this point but there's still a few holdouts.  And how am I rewarded for getting my deadbeat tired tushie up off the couch and picking up the phone?  By a cough.  Seriously.  Whatever happened to good old fashioned breathing? Noooo...this one hacks up a lung into the phone and then just hangs up. Thanks, I needed that.

I've been neglecting the blog and many other things I'd much rather be doing because of one specific project that is sucking up far more of my time than I'd like. Between that, some course deadlines, the Hallmark Holiday, and an upcoming b-day (that we will discuss some other time) I'm feeling a little squeezed and not in the best of moods.  But there is a light at the end of the tunnel and its name is Stitches West.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pidge me!

All my running around last week put this knitting project on the back burner but now that I'm home and getting caught up, I completed my version of the My So-Called Pidge:

It is very warm and soft and I'm very pleased with it. Even though I don't have buttons on it I consider this to be "finished" and plan to take it Stitches West and shop for the buttons while I'm there.  In the meanwhile, it can be held together easily with one of my little hairsticks, like the one I used in the picture above.

Why I know not, but it took me three tries to get the hang of the stitch pattern but once I had it down, it was incredibly simple and I really like the fabric that results.

I think this is the kind of stitch pattern that works equally well for many types of yarn. In a solid, the stitches and texture really pop. In a variegated or multicolor, the slipped stitches and psso's do a marvelous job of mixing up the colors.  I'm sure I'll use it again in the future!

While I was on the mainland I stopped by one of those big box stores that like many, are drastically reducing the amount of yarn they stock.  So for the whopping price of $2.47 I picked up:

Very interesting stuff this.  You can read more about it here, but the basic concept is that 20% of the content consists of a fiber made from recycled plastic bottles. It is quite soft and at a washable worsted weight very practical.

In fact, I've already decided that I want to make a hat with it.  What I have in mind is sort of slouchy tam, one I can tuck all my hair up inside of, like the tam I made last September. But I don't wear that one as much as I'd like to because of the colors, so I think something similar in basic black will be more useful and hopefully will be something that looks equally good with my usual blue jeans lifestyle or on the rare occasions I dress up more. I'm thinking about maybe the Baroness Beret. Very pretty, but is it too lacy to look okay with jeans? I have a couple other patterns in mind, but that one's the frontrunner - so let me know what you think!