Monthly Archives: June 2008

Biker Monday and Weekend (Knitting) Update

Inspired by all the bikers around this weekend, as well as the perfect June day today, I got on MY bike (the non-motorized kind, however), and set forth on an adventure.

Weather permitting, I often ride my bike to work (or walk, when time permits, which allows bonus knitting), as I live just under two miles from where I work.

Except one half day a week, I work at an office in an adjoining small city. I rode my bike there only once before, which required travel along a highway; much of it has sidewalks, but part of it doesn’t. Also, there is a stretch in the (rather suburban) adjacent city with no sidewalks, around a shopping mall, which got a little crazy.

But they have constructed sidewalks since then. And today was gorgeous. 64 degrees F (18 C) in the morning, very little wind, high temperature supposed to be low 80s (28 C) in the afternoon. If I didn’t ride my bike now, when would I?

So 16 miles round trip, with a few significant hills; I have this sinking feeling I’m going to feel this tomorrow, and even more the day after. But it was beautiful. There was only a short stretch without sidewalks, and I cut behind the businesses there to stay off the highway, to find this:

with Great Egrets flapping back and forth. Wow. On the way back, I took an alternate route through the marsh (yes, the area where I apparently found a deer tick, or rather, it found me; but I promise you, I didn’t go in the bushes this time, and if I do in the future, I’ll ask for a tick check. I’m sure my husband will help!).

The marsh is doing its job of soaking up the excess water like a sponge, and releasing it slowly, so it looks less like a lake now:

though the water is still a bit high in places.

The trail, however,

was dry and smooth other than one low area that was shallowly water-covered.

The ride was such a refreshing mental interlude in the middle of the day (though it took almost an hour). I’m not sure my thighs would endorse the word “refreshing”, but hey, it’s good for them!

After all that, though, I felt totally justified (rightly or wrongly), in relaxing with my knitting tonight. (I cleaned a lot yesterday, not as much knitting time as I would have liked. But I have a couple vacation days coming up, so there will be knitting!) First in the backyard, with some buddies:

but the gnats were obnoxious in the shade, so I relocated to the front porch, in the relative sun.

That’s Wendy‘s Kay’s Diamonds & Purls shawl on my lap, though my knitting of it kept being interrupted by daughterly inquiries, needs and phone calls (the other adult member of the household was working). My wrist having recovered, I also cast on for Tonks Hypnosis sock #2; here’s a better picture of #1.

Blocking seems to have tamed the bulgy bits some, but if I were to knit these all over again, I would do an extra half repeat of the charts, so as to bring the ‘convergence’ parts in front & back of the ankle, rather than at the sides. The ‘divergent’ parts bulge outward due to the topology of knitting, and that creates a bulge right where the ankle flexes, which is not very attractive. Again, blocking helped, I think; I don’t usually block socks necessarily, especially my own, but I would definitely recommend it with these. Or one might modify the pattern to decrease the bulginess, but the pattern would be less cool and hypnotic.

In other knitting news, here’s the results of curling up with my pet orange yarn this weekend while the girls cuddled with their orange pets:

Baby hat for the coworker, for whose baby shower I made the modified Saartje’s booties

in the same yarn (Twisted Fiber Art’s Kabam! Bamboo/merino/nylon blend in the Scorched colorway).

The hat is my “Grow-with-Me” Baby Hat, on my free pattern page.

I was thinking about making the baby an Elizabeth Zimmermann Tomten jacket, but it was turning out rather big and taking too long, so I pulled from the other end of the ball and quick knit up the hat.

We’ll see when the Tomten gets done. (Now that’s good meeting knitting; loads of garter stitch.) Of course, one loses the full effect of the gorgeous striping in the Tomten, which I expected, but it’s interesting to me that I perceive the jacket as brown, but the hat as orange if I had to pick one color to describe each.

I also made progress on Forest Canopy, which is visible progress to me, in that I’m on the second skein of yarn! Woo-hoo! Now back to no visible progress!

And, lastly, the former meeting socks are coming along well, to the point that I have *almost* reknit all the frogged yarn. (Sigh.)

Natural (evening) light.

Flash.

(The truth, as usual, being somewhere in between.)

Wow, I guess I have been accomplishing something! It feels as though I’m knitting and knitting and nothing’s getting done. (The baby hat was satisfying to finish today.) There are so many things I want to cast on — like the next (few pairs of) socks for the Summer of Socks, and I’m designing a lace project or three in my head. And, and, and….

You know, if I WALKED to work at the other office, that would be a LOT of sock knitting!

(We’ll overlook the fact that it would take me two and a half hours to get from one office to the other, possibly longer if knitting, it does slow me down from my usual brisk pace . . . no, just let me live in my fantasy world a little longer. . . .)

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M Coulda Been for Motorcycles

My M for the ABC-Along could have been for Motorcycles — if I were at all into Motorcycles.

Because under this rather dramatic Saturday Sky today

(which was happening between thunderstorms and sunshine), thousands of motorcyclists have been convening on my home town for the gala 50th anniversary celebration of S & S Cycle, a premier motorcycle engine manufacturing company, who are a local company and also recently opened a larger facility in La Crosse itself. There’s a huge motorcycle build-off happening, I hear.

We are talking tens of thousands of motorcycles here today, everywhere you go, but centered around downtown, the river and the Oktoberfest grounds. Downtown streets are closed to cars. It’s quite impressive.

About the time I was taking this picture, my husband was playing for a crowd of about 4000 (at least, that’s how many the space held, and the police were not letting more people in). Three encores & being invited to the VIP tent (talking to Jesse James) sounds like they were well received. I didn’t feel a need to be there, but I’m glad it went well. Apparently they’ve been asked to play at several more biker events now. . . . I’m not sure that’s the musical direction he’s pursuing (this is a tribute band that was put together for fun, more or less), but again, very flattering.

Me, after working this morning — I’m staying home & knitting. A little quieter, though fewer celebrities are involved.

The girls, too, had a quiet day hanging out with orange pets and iPods.

Each to her own! (I had some orange yarn, that worked for me as a pet.)

I hope your Saturday was spent doing something fun as well — whatever your definition of fun is!

Friday Eye Candy from the Tropics

A catalpa flower, fallen among the clover.

It amazes me that such tropical-seeming plants can flourish in Wisconsin.  Not only the catalpa,

but the hardy hibiscus

which always seems completely incongruous here (this one is waiting to be planted outdoors, it’s not a patio plant).

Of course, right now, we are heading into the tropical season in Wisconsin in truth.

I’ve never understood how fluctuating between -20 degrees F in winter and 90 degrees F in summer with high humidity (-30 to +30 ° C), could be considered a “temperate” climate.

Perhaps there’s another definition of “temperate” in the dictionary that I’m overlooking?

M is for Mississippi

The Mississippi River, the raison d’être of most of the river towns on its banks, from St. Paul to New Orleans.

This picture was taken last night on a paddlewheel cruise down the Mississippi on the Julia Belle Swain, a beautiful steam-powered riverboat.  Listening to the steam engine chuffing, and the whistle blow, and going past the sandbanks and riverbanks, I could imagine myself in Mark Twain’s time of Life on the Mississippi.

The Mississippi’s headwaters are said to be in Itasca, a name which is a contraction for veritas caput, “true head”, up in the Northern part of Minnesota.  The Preteen and I have (separately) stepped across the Mississippi in a single step!  (Along with many many thousands of Midwesterners.)  From this gorgeous beginning in the North Woods, the Mississippi flows south then passes through and partially divides the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, where I was born (in Minneapolis) and lived for years (both cities). 

The lovely Highway 61 follows the curves of the river as it broadens, and is my preferred travel route.  (My husband refuses to go that way because part of it is two-lane, and almost invariably, for some period of time, you’re stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle.  But I don’t mind so much, when it’s so pretty. )  In the winter, you will see eagles on the way, though I have proved that it is nigh impossible to Kinnear them.  (I keep trying, though.) They especially like the locks and dams where the water doesn’t freeze. 

Part of the Mississippi goes by the name of Lake Pepin, but is just a widening in the river (obviously the French explorers thought it was a lake when they came upon it); famous as the birthplace of waterskiing, and familiar to readers of the Little House books as the vicinity of the first of Laura Ingalls Wilders’ books, Little House in the Big Woods.

Continuing down the Mississippi brings you to La Crosse, the small city I live in, originally a fur trading post.  It grew dramatically during the lumber boom at the turn of the last century, as did so many other river towns, kept in business by the lumber cut upriver and floated downstream.  My house was built in 1891 by a middle-class businessman who owned a laundry downtown, near the banks of the Mississippi, to cater to the needs of the lumbermen who were in town.  (La Crosse was known for beer even then, also, speaking of catering to needs.) 

The Mississippi, giver and means of life in the past, right now is still cresting way downstream, and certainly has caused or contributed to its share of destruction, as all natural forces and features have.   The last big flood of the Mississippi was in 1993 here; there was a smaller one a few years ago.  It happens.  Just like living near the sea or on the beach, that is the down side of living on the river.  (Also the warmer temperatures from being in the river valley, great in the winter, right now? Not so great!)

The river is part and parcel of what this city is, inescapably defined and confined by the Mississippi and by the bluffs of the primordial vast river of the glacial era.   Our downtown is built on the Mississippi; the great riverboats like the Mississippi Queen come up river and stop here in the summers still, just like in the 19th century.  Our biggest park is Riverside Park.  Our Fourth of July celebration coming up next week is Riverfest, and the fireworks are set off over the river (spectacular to watch from a boat).  I can’t see the river from my house for all the trees, though I am just a mile and a half away, except that when the trees are leafless, the sunset light sparkles in the west off the water. But it’s so easy to bike or walk down, especially on these long Northern latitude summer evenings.  And we do.

M is for Mississippi.

I’m Not Dead Yet

Sorry to alarm you all; though I do have Lyme Disease (this part of Wisconsin is swimming in it), it was diagnosed very early! I said ‘probable’ because Saturday it wasn’t for sure while awaiting results; now it’s basically confirmed. But I’m fine, just had the rash & fever and still am really wiped out.

I was dubious at first because I haven’t been out in the country. But I did walk into the marsh, as you know, a couple weeks ago, and brushed through some undergrowth to take pictures. I never knew I had a tick bite (it’s impossible to see your own collarbone, which is where the rash is), but since all the grass was underwater, I bet the ticks were in the shrubs. There certainly was some sort of bite there.  Now if my husband hadn’t been working every night around then, maybe he would have seen the presumed tick; or if I were more vain/took more time with my appearance (by the time I look in the mirror, I have clothes on, and I’m not looking at my collarbone!). But I don’t dare say that, because if I weren’t taking blog pictures, I probably wouldn’t have gotten a tick bite…. Or it’s possible that when the girls came home from camping, that as I did their laundry, I was exposed. They certainly were camping in tick central earlier this spring.

Anyway, I should be fine. Thanks for being concerned!

Some overdue knitting progress shots:

The current state of Forest Canopy:

with clear proof that I’m less than half done (hard to tell on a triangle shawl) as I have now resolved to knit up the two skeins of STR yarn that I have, and the one I’m working from is on the top in the top picture, the skein I just wound into a yarn cake on the bottom. But I’ve started taking it around with me, so progress is happening.

And meeting sock rebooted (ar, ar)

I tried so hard to make myself do plain stockinette again, but ended up doing a barred rib. I think it will look cool, show the lovely dyeing, and still be easy to do while walking. Maybe not at a meeting, but I don’t have one of those for a while.

Off to the “M” thing tonight with my husband–

You’ll hear more later!

Of Sunsets, Strawberries, and Such

Well, it’s Monday, so the Preteen is released from durance vile (not noticeably chastened). Which is good, I suppose, because there’s a band practice, though practices are usually on Sundays.

Hence The (Band) Name.

Despite working this weekend (and being diagnosed with probable Lyme Disease), bits of knitting and a fair amount of fun happened!

After I got home from work and chastised the Preteen (no, that wasn’t fun), then took a picture of the Saturday Sky,

The Gothlet and I went to see Kung Fu Panda (at Gothlet’s request; the Preteen, of course, declined), which was cute: Jack Black with fur.

Then down to Riverside Park, to the Mississippi River to watch the Solstice Sunset.

Church was great the next day — hey, Beth, we had horns with guitars (my husband played the electric guitar) & piano in church; they played “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is”! as well as a couple other ‘popular’ songs. Our music director made the point that Martin Luther adapted popular secular music of the time to spread the word. Interesting — and enjoyable!

Then to the farm to pick strawberries!

My parents belong to a CSA, Harmony Valley Farm, and they let us share their share. Last year’s August flooding hit the farm hard, after a drought earlier in the summer. This year was not as severe, though they lost a few crops; the fields we were near were mostly in good shape. (Read this .pdf newsletter if you’re interested to find out how their organic farming practices helped soften the impact of the severe weather; column on the left.)

And (fortunately for yesterday) the strawberries were little affected. In fact, although the crop is apparently late, these were wonderful strawberries, large and juicy and flavorful, wow!

Unblemished, unbruised, organic, awesome.

After a quick stop to see the poultry & animals,

we said good-bye to the farm

and made our way back home through scattered showers, with predictable but delightful results.

Sometime this weekend, maybe in the car, a little here, a little there, a bit of knitting got done.

I made little lacey bookmarks for two coworkers that moved to a different office:

And I made a square for a blanket being organized for a knitblogger whose mother just died.

Yes, I know, it’s quite — eye-catching, not entirely the idea I was going for, but it is what it is. This is the dyed-in-the-ball skein that has a gradient of dye; I wanted to use something one-of-a-kind, hand-dyed, and the change in dye intensity kind of mimics changes in our lives. The quadruple motif is an adaptation of Barbara Walker’s Candleflame Lace pattern from her Second Treasure of Stitch Patterns. Together, the four flames look like a flower. It’s very soft elann.com superwash merino.

And I knit a little on Forest Canopy, and during “Kung Fu Panda”, I frogged the meeting sock, and cast on again (later frogging that restart on more stitches as it was now too big; third time’s a charm!).

Pictures soon.

At the end of a busy but lovely weekend —

Mmmm strawberries and handmade local ice cream!

Tomorrow my husband and I have something fun planned, which will lead to my ‘M’ post for the ABC-along!

(No, it does not start with “Marital”! Who said that?!)


Waiting For Sunday

Waiting for Sunday: The (current) title of The Preteen’s band.

Yes, the 12-year-old is a rock star. She came back from camp directly (well, pausing only for a shower and proper hair preparation) to the band’s first public performance (after one at school). (Two of her bandmates’ fathers are in a weekend band that played at the Farmer’s Market, and Waiting for Sunday played their one song that’s ready for public consumption at their break. Then a thunderstorm hit, so that was the end of everyone’s playing in any case.

This is no bubblegum band, no. As I alluded to before, they chose for their first song an anti-war song by Green Day, “Holiday”. At school, they had to leave out the words to the bridge because it was a bit too strong for school district policies (and they did change one word even now, which I actually think was very appropriate given their age & audience).

But I totally applaud them.

Here they are, live on video: and you’ll be happy to know I’ve improved my camera videography skills since the last Preteen video I put before you (though it’s still a camera and not a camcorder, so the sound quality is not ideal; also, sorry about the false start, the guitarist had just broken and replaced a string, & there is a brief 15 sec delay at the beginning as he makes sure he’s ready; I don’t have editing software….). Lyrics are below since they’re hard to hear often, though clearer than in the Green Day live video of this song, in my opinion…


“HOLIDAY”

Say, hey!

Hear the sound of the falling rain
Coming down like an Armageddon flame (Hey!)
The shame
The ones who died without a name

Hear the dogs howling out of key
To a hymn called “Faith and Misery” (Hey!)
And bleed, the company lost the war today

I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies
This is the dawning of the rest of our lives
On holiday

Hear the drum pounding out of time
Another protester has crossed the line (Hey!)
To find, the money’s on the other side

Can I get another Amen? (Amen!)
There’s a flag wrapped around a score of men (Hey!)
A gag, a plastic bag on a monument

I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies
This is the dawning of the rest of our lives
On holiday

“The representative from California has the floor”

Sieg Heil to the president Gasman
Bombs away is your punishment
Pulverize the Eiffel towers
Who criticize your government
Bang bang goes the broken glass and
Kill all [those] that don’t agree
Trials by fire, setting fire
Is not a way that’s meant for me
Just ’cause, just ’cause, because we’re outlaws yeah!

I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies
This is the dawning of the rest of our lives
I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies
This is the dawning of the rest of our lives

This is our lives on holiday

So — I’m proud of her as all get-out; she and the other kids have worked hard and done a great job, especially considering they’re 12 to 14-year-olds, and they’ve done this all on their own.

And, in the glorious contradiction and dichotomy of adolescence — she is so grounded for the rest of the weekend.

Illicit opening and use of her mother’s sunless tanner that was brand new in a sealed container, unauthorized use of make-up (at 12, we have rules about when make-up can be worn; while singing with the band was OK, taking it to/wearing it at camp was not); eating Cheetos over the computer keyboard (and leaving them on the computer desk), not moving (her own, even) laundry from the washer to the dryer when asked, not cleaning her room when directed, then whining hard about not being allowed to stay longer at a friend’s house — all in 24 hours! (The punishment is not specifically for using up all the toilet paper and not replacing it, when there was no more toilet paper or even Kleenex in the bathroom, but that incident didn’t make me any happier yesterday morning when I, um, ‘discovered’ the lapse either.) I guess right now she’s “Waiting For Monday”, when the grounding is over (assuming no more incidents today and some cleaning actually happens).

Six more years. . . . Deity help me.

Mom, quit laughing. Don’t think I don’t hear you.