Saturday, July 28, 2007

Hell Hounds

It's Birthday Time in Hell! Karen is 35, and we celebrated in Hell, Michigan. After spending a night with some of her very kind (and very dog-tolerant) friends, we headed for home, via Hell.

Hell isn't even really a wide spot in the road. There are just a couple of buildings, with lots of room for the bikers to park. There are no public toilets in Hell.

But there is an ice-cream store, Screams. The entrance to this delicious underworld and its accompanying gift shop is well-guarded, even if we're one head short.

While the dogs made Hell their own territory in the traditional doggie way, the sock posed for a picture with the self-proclaimed mayor of Hell. He's building a miniature golf course, although right now he's fighting the objections of the demon-filled town council. They say there's no zoning for family entertainment in Hell. Apparently there's a bureaucracy, but who's surprised by that?

Since it was Karen's birthday, we got an official tour of the golf course in progress. It's going to be really neat when it's finished. The mayor is doing the work himself, using recycled materials - including coal slag (which will be significant later), and old cemetery fences.

So we all had ice cream, posed for goofy pictures, and visited the general store (where they sell liquor and t-shirts). Then Karen suggested we check out one of the nearby small lakes, so as to see the pretty parts of Hell. The dogs helpfully ran through the brimstone-scented coal slag to get there.

And then they dove in. Max has never really liked the water much. But maybe the local water isn't green and slimy enough, because here they went swimming. And scampering around in the weeds and algae. And rolling around in the grass.

So the rest of Karen's birthday was spent in a car with two wet dogs. Remember that $42 I spent on Tuesday to have them groomed? It's forgotten now. It's a good thing she's dog-tolerant too.

We made it home about 10:00 at night, all of us dog-tired. No yarn, no coins, but here's my haul from the Johnson Estates. Impressive, eh? Karen's already planning next year's trip. I wonder if there are yarn stores on Route 66?

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Friday, July 27, 2007

London Calling

It may have been easier to visit the UK's London. On the way in, we got lost and wound up in Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto that seems to have collected leftover apartment buildings from East Berlin. This would not have been so bad if we hadn't seen the Mississauga sign just as Karen said "y'know, last time I was here I took a wrong turn and wound up in Mississauga."

But once we settled into London, and our previously mentioned lovely hotel, everyone was very happy. We found out that we were sharing a hotel with participants in a rock festival, so the dogs were petted by a bunch of old guys with long hair, and we think our leftover pizza found a place on Deep Purple's bus. Unfortunately, I couldn't tell the difference between aging long-haired rockers and aging long-haired fans, so I didn't get any celebrity pictures with the dogs.

We didn't find time to see much of London, but it seems to be a lovely city, and the dogs were very popular. They even put up some dog-friendly public art - metal trees all over town.

I'm not sure Oscar was convinced. This one is neatly labeled to let the viewer know it's some sort of elm, but that doesn't help much for dogs who can't read. Karen, on the other hand, was thrilled to see such educational art, but as a forestry major her relationship to trees is rather different from the dogs'.

Our chosen lunch destination was one Oscar Taylor's, which seemed appropriate. But they wouldn't let dogs on the patio - the embarrassed hostess said the cowardly wimp of a manager feared the dogs might "scare other patrons." (I offer the link to their webpage only for information - not a recommendation!) Since we were having lunch at 3:00, and the only person on the patio was a woman more interested in smoking than ordering, this seemed a bit of a stretch. So they're definitely not on our "nice places to eat" list! But we made our way to the very dog-friendly (and patron-friendly) Tenenbaum's hamburger restaurant, where we were assured that the dogs were welcome at the outdoor tables as long as they didn't smoke. Not only did they refrain from smoking; they didn't get into any trouble at all. I was stunned.

So we left London, and headed out of Canada. I never found a yarn store. In spite of having addresses for three coin shops, I never got my poppy quarters (one was gone, one we never found, and one was closed). But, glory hallelujah, I had my first taste of Tim Horton's donuts and coffee. And my second. Wow.

The dogs wanted to find a way to stay.

And I got my first buttertart. Canada is a very cool country.

But we can't live on buttertarts alone, so we headed west, then south for home. The traffic was slow enough that for awhile, we were in the U.S. and the dogs were in Canada. That's the sign marking the border behind Max. But we kept them in the car with us - even after they barked at the customs inspector. They settled down to lick his hand and make friends, so I think they're happy to be home.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Niagara Falls

Slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch....

As it turns out, "Niagara Falls" is a good thing. The dogs have really settled into the travel routine.

Our first stop was the Johnson Estate Winery. Karen and I had both had their White Ipocras wine years ago, and had always hoped to get more. Karen was especially frustrated in her quest - when she was finally old enough to buy wine, she went to a wine store to ask for the Ipocras, and the clerk was convinced she wanted Boone's. We were really excited when she realized we'd be driving right past the winery - and it turns out the Ipocras is almost as cheap as Boone's! We bought 13 bottles of assorted wine.

And the best part? Johnson Estate Winery is dog friendly! This made it much easier for me to choose my 7 bottles, so it's probably a good business decision.

Well-stocked, we continued on to the Niagara Falls State Park. The dogs headed down to Terrapin Point to view the falls - the Horseshoe Falls, specifically.

Here's a more scenic look at the falls....

And my Fascine Braid Sock was brave enough to take a closer look.

Unfortunately, the dogs couldn't go on the boat ride or the Cave of the Winds tour. But they were an attraction in their own right, and got lots of attention. We walked around to take in a few more attractions - the walking trails, the footbridges, the Hard Rock Cafe, and this statue of Nikola Tesla. He needs a blue sock, don't you think?

Now we're checked into the Delta Armouries hotel in London. It's a lovely place, with an incredibly friendly staff. Max seems to be happy here.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Highway Hounds

We're on the road! Two freshly bathed dogs, Karen, and me. I have one small bag (and a second bag of knitting, of course!) while the dogs have a suitcase, a bag of treats and food, two pillows, a crate, AND all the doggie comforts Karen provided. It's a good thing she has an SUV. She vacuumed out the entire vehicle, folded down the back seats, and laid out blankets to make a comfortable place where the dogs could lay down and look out all the windows. That's why they're hovering our shoulders, trying to get into the front seat.

So far, we've progressed without incident. Today's trip - five hours to Cleveland - was the longest single leg. So now we've checked into our hotel. It's the dogs' first night ever in a hotel, and see how well behaved they are.

OK, this picture is staged. While they stayed alone during dinner without incident, they've spent a lot of time jumping from bed to bed. My mother used to complain when my brother and I did this, but on the whole I think she had it easier. We never growled or bit each other while jumping.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

It's a Sock

I know it looks more like an itchy thong, but it's a sock. Not a knit sock, though.

This is my first successful attempt at naalbinding, a way of creating looped fabric with a single needle. Naalbinding is much older than knitting - it's also much slower, which is probably why it hasn't stayed popular. This, specifically, is the Oslo stitch, which has directions available here. (There are lots of naalbinding stitches, usually named for the location they were discovered. Some resemble knitting or crochet, which explains why these crafts are often said to be much older than they are.)

Why Naalbinding? I put down my Harry Potter book long enough to attend Simple Day, the Indianapolis SCA group's big summer event. There wasn't much going on, and I was thinking about leaving, until I heard there was someone who could teach me Naalbinding. This is something I've wanted to learn for years, but since the best directions I had were in Swedish, I never got very far. Now, however, I'm well on the way to making a Viking sock. The loop around the top goes around the ankle, and the stirrup underneath goes under the foot. Then it's just a matter of going in rounds to make the toe and heel, and there's a sock!

Naalbinding doesn't stretch as well as knitting, but since it's made one stitch at a time, it won't unravel. Aaron once found a quote that said a man with a good wife will never be stuck with knitted socks - she'll naalbind them for something more sturdy. But now I can teach him - so he won't need a good wife to take care of his socks.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Black Expo

The dogs, the socks, and I are in Indianapolis for the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration. My official reason for going is to volunteer at the Indiana Historical Society's booth, but I'm really there because it's lots of fun. You don't have to be Jewish to do Jewish Studies, and you don't have to be Black to go to Black Expo!

This year's highlight was the display of the Colts' Vince Lombardi Trophy from this year's Super Bowl. A nice volunteer took my picture with the trophy while two burly guys in dark suits hovered in the background. Notice there's a hole in top of the display case. That's so you can reach inside and touch it. I did, and it felt pretty good.

Indiana's other professional team wasn't left out - Boomer, the Indiana Pacers' mascot, came by to shake hands and hold the sock. It's a little hard to see, since he and the sock are the same color, but it's there. He even mimed a little knitting, although his paws were probably much to big for any actual stitches.

Here was another cool part - the food court was on the floor of the Hoosier Dome. The food wasn't good, but the location was great - I've never seen the dome like this before. It's going to be sad to see it go.

And I didn't leave out the Historical Society. Our own exhibit was on Martin Luther King and civil rights protests in Indiana. There were several nice letters between King and local activists, and some more general information. I spent three hours giving away posters and encouraging people to see the exhibit.

There's all sorts of other cool stuff at Black Expo. There was a really interesting exhibit of prints by Nelson Mandela. The Indianapolis Museum of Art had a lovely collection, and the Indiana State Museum showed off Civil War soldiers and a black aviatrix. The Eiteljorg Museum was previewing an exhibit about black singing cowboys.

Then there's the free stuff. I'm not posting a picture, because there's really too much to show. But the free stuff is great. The Black and Minority Health Fair offers free health screenings, and lots of goodies from drug companies. The Consumer Fair features everything from schools to sports to businesses, many of them offering nifty stuff. I have a handful of stress balls, more pens than you can shake a stick at, several nice bags, and enough temporary tattoos to join the circus. I love the free stuff.

They shut down at 10:00, and as I walked back to my car they were shooting of fireworks at Victory Field to celebrate the Indians' win. Then it's off to pick up the new Harry Potter book. How's that for a perfect ending to a day?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I'm Getting My Dogs Together and Taking Them On The Road

So my friend Karen sent me an e-mail, asking, "wanna take the dogs on a road trip?" Bear in mind that Karen isn't a knitter, but when I asked her "want to help me take a sock for a night out and take its picture?" she said yes. Not "yes, why?" Just "yes."

So of course I said yes. If she's crazy enough to want to spend time locked up in a car with the VeryBadDogs, who am I to deny her that pleasure?

She's even planned the itinerary - we're going to Niagara Falls, then to London, Ontario, then over to Ann Arbor - a giant Lake Erie Loop - stopping at dog-friendly attractions and lodgings. And it seems the dogs are developing a social calendar, as some of her friends along the route want to meet the dogs of VeryBad fame. We'll go in a couple of weeks, so I'm making plans.

I'm excited because I'll be able to visit Canada, and see all the wonderful things the Yarn Harlot's always writing about. I'll have my first Tim Horton's donut. I'll try to buy one of the infamous spy quarters, and see if anyone gets worried about it being "full of nanotechnology" when I bring it home. And I hope I'll be able to find a yarn shop in London (maybe a dog-friendly yarn shop? Is Canada that civilized?) so I can bring home some swell Canadian yarn - maybe my first skeins of Fleece Artist.

But even if the trip is a total fibery bust, I'll have had my yarn satisfaction for the month, thanks to my wonderful boyfriend. I've fallen in love with the Harlot's Kauni Cardigan, and he's going to bring the yarn back for me. Maybe along with some of the Opal Hundertwasser I've been coveting (isn't "Seeschlange" the coolest yarn name ever?). And perhaps some other goodies. I will be so glad to have Aaron home, but I'll miss my yarn supply line!

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Friday Night Knitting Club

I've just finished reading The Friday Night Knitting Club, by Kate Jacobs, and wow, I'm impressed. I started it last night, read as much as I could this morning, and wound up carrying it to work with me so I wouldn't have to wait until tonight to finish. Not bad for a book that I thought I wouldn't like, and just picked up for the subject.

The story is set in Manhattan, and revolves around an impromptu knitting get-together that developed in a yarn store owned by a single mother. The author weaves together the stories of the knitters, the shop owner's daughter, and a few outside characters together through multiple narrative viewpoints, making all the characters - even the bad guys - seem sympathetic, likeable, and real. (For the sack of accuracy, I'll mention that "bad" may be too strong a word for many of them, but I don't want to give much away.)

There are no grand adventures here - just a few life changes, some advice, and a bit of knitting. But Jacobs has created a club that anyone would want to join - and just as with the knitting club, you don't have to actually knit to enjoy her book!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Are dogs dumb enough... eat Sidewalk Chalk?
Yes. get distracted while peeing?
Yes. get so distracted while peeing that they start running around in circles sniffing a fascinating new pee trail as they're producing it?
Yes. get berries stuck on their claws, then have a hard time chasing the berry because it's running as fast as the dog?
Yes. eat Daddy Longlegs?
Yes. try to start fights while they're being petted?
Yes. get into fights with their own rear ends?

...and lose?
Only Oscar.

Not much knitting to report today.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Getting Ahead

I may have a lot of works-in-progress, but now I'm ahead of schedule for the July/August Sock Club! I'm going to miss the meeting, so I'm using that as justification to go ahead and get started - besides, I haven't started a new project for several days now.

The July/August sock comes from Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting Around. River Knits is featuring Elizabeth Zimmerman this summer, with several classes and discussion groups, so of course I had to buy the book! And I may fall in love with the projects, too.

I know I'm in love with the yarn. This is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted in Seaside. All to often, Lorna's Laces yarns look so promising in the skein, but then stripe in some horrible way when knit. This one is proving to be a pleasant surprise, with a very interesting pattern.

The sock is a Moccasin sock, which will have its sole knitted in a different color. I just started it today, and look how far along I am! Some people may be getting Moccasin Socks for Christmas - any excuse to buy more of this yarn is a good one!


Friday, July 13, 2007

Two Finished Things!

I suppose the first one isn't exactly a finished object, but after yesterday I can cross two things off the "knitting goals" list. I've taught three people how to needle felt, although I'm not sure if I made three new needle felters - one person didn't enjoy it nearly as much as she'd expected. But I did what I could for the needle felting cause, and I think everyone learned what they wanted to learn. One of the little rock pouches is well on its way to becoming a fish, part of the "how to attach things to other things" lesson. Maybe the finished fish will go to River Knits as an enticing example for others.

And I have a genuine finished object - the Tidal Wave socks from Tofutsies. This takes care of the May/June Sock Club sock, which means that I only have two outstanding - January/February's Fascine Braid socks, and the cotton socks from last summer. I have a huge amount of yarn left over, so I'll have to find something to do with it. And I'll have to work really hard to resist buying more Tofutsies.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Very Clean Rocks

I realized - just in time - that I'm going to need examples to felt on for my River Knits needle felting class. So I've stayed up much too late making some examples - just some wool wrapped around rocks to form small pouches.

Where are the rocks? Inside the felt, of course! They provide the center of the pouch, until it's cut open and they're released. And tonight's post isn't just about felting. I'll also provide the handy information that walking around outside after midnight using a flashlight to look for rocks is a lousy way to find good-sized smooth rocks, but is an excellent way to get all the neighborhood dogs to start barking. But it's OK if it's for the greater good of teaching needle felting, right?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Mr. Bento

I promise I won't do this for every meal, but I have to show off once. I bought a Mr. Bento as a birthday present to myself, and tonight was its (his?) debut.

Mr. Bento is a nifty little insulated lunchbox, with four containers for food. It's supposed to keep food hot or cold for six hours, and two of the containers seal nicely so you can pack messy things without a mess. Mr. Bento comes with a carrying case with backpack straps and pockets, and I added the can holder for my drink.

You can fit a lot of food in a Mr. Bento. This is chicken salad (half an order!) from The Buttery Shelf Eatery, regular salad (with dressing in the Tuppergadget), crackers from Trader Joe's, and Sutlac (Turkish rice pudding) and blueberries (from the MCL Farmers' Market!) for dessert. The spork and its cover come with the Mr. Bento, and appear to be a new innovation for the American market - the reviews on Amazon mention Japanese-only instructions and a chopstick holder.

Yes, I'm completely and impractically indulging my love of gadgets, but isn't Mr. Bento cute? And he will be a useful addition to my household, if it means I can stop eating burritos three days a week. This has been on my wishlist for a long time - so it's probably worth the money just so I can stop drooling over it. Much better to drool over chicken salad and Indiana-grown blueberries!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

43 Things

I have a new website to play with - It's a simple enough idea - you list 43 things you want to do - and then you can see other people who are doing or have done the same thing.

So I've started my to-do list, come up with a collection of places I want to visit, and discovered that I've only seen 2% of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There's a lot of work to do.

I'm VeryBadDogs at 43things and its related sites. This should tide me over until I get my invitation to Ravelry.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Back to School Class!

There's something new at River Knits!

Today I delivered the samples for my Needle Felting Class. The bag is easy to see, and then there's a little felt bracelet propped in front of the Denise needle set. You can't quite tell from the picture, but the middle daisy is 3-dimensional, with detached petals.

I'll be teaching how to embellish knitted objects with needle felting this Thursday, July 12. There's still plenty of room in the class, and Elizabeth has some ready-made felted items available, if you don't have a project that's just waiting to be finished.

Teaching this class, by the way, is on my "knitting goals" list for the summer. I hope I'll have lots of students come to help me cross off this one!

Finishing the felted samples meant I had to slow down a bit on the Mystery Stole, but I'm making progress. This shows Chart A - which is half of Clue 1 - completed. Clue 2 came out yesterday, so I have some catching up to do before Clue 3 appears next Friday. There are all sorts of guesses about the theme, but I don't have any ideas so far. There's a much better picture of a complete-so-far stole here, but that doesn't help me guess. Maybe something Viking?

By far the coolest thing about the Mystery Stole so far is that my comments about it brought me an e-mail from the Yarn Harlot. This is, I think, the first brush with fame I've ever had. (I could put in a long aside about living in Washington, D.C. for three months and not seeing anyone famous, while my friend who visited for the weekend had breakfast with Joe Lieberman, but I won't.) The Harlot says I'll thank her when it's over. I hope I can remember to do that when I finish the stole, sometime in the next five years.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Glorious Fourth

I celebrated Independence Day like every good American, with lots of fireworks, but made sure there was time for some knitting, too. The socks-in-progress and I headed down to Indianapolis for the activities there.

Our first stop was at the Eiteljorg Museum, for a concert by the Roundups. They play both kinds of music - Country and Western - mostly oldies. The Eiteljorg also boasts the best food on the Canal, so their buffet was a must-do for dinner.

On a more serious note, we walked down to the memorial for the USS Indianapolis. I was pleased to see that one suburb invited some of the survivors to participate in their parade.

The sock got to enjoy the canal walk. This was once part of the Broad Ripple Canal that the Broadripple sock visited, but now they're two separate bodies of water. The downtown canal area used to be really icky, but it's being developed into a very nice part of town.

Of course, the most important part of any 4th of July celebration is the Fireworks! There's always a nice display launched from the old Indiana National Bank building. Milele got to be the latest person dragged into the "hold up this sock so I can take its picture" project, and you can see that we all had a really good time.

I came back to find out that a space opened up for me in Emily's Dish Rag Tag, so I'm looking forward to playing along. AND I signed up for Mystery Stole 3. This may not have been such a good idea, but I was weak in the face of the Yarn Harlot's post. Knitters are a community, right? Let's all be weak together.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Something Fun, and Something Funny

There was a new project waiting for me in yesterday's mail! My ply-split braiding kit from Linda Hendrickson arrived, so of course I had to stay up all night playing with it.

Ply-split braiding is a traditional technique that's fairly new to Western textile geeks. A braid is made with several twisted cords, which are drawn through each other between their plies. It makes a firm, flexible fabric, and can be done in all sorts of shapes. The Star Ornament here is from Hendrickson's book, Great SCOT!, and she also sells a nifty little kit with all the cords you need to make an ornament. The little spiral design is from my kit leftovers, and its pattern is explained on Hendrickson's webpage.

At $5.30, the kit may seem a bit expensive for a handful of perle cotton cords. But I think it's well worth it for a first project. Good cords make the work so much easier. I want to make my own cords so I can work through some of my thread stash, but for the first time around I'm glad I only have one thing to screw up.

The book itself sells for $8.00, including shipping. She doesn't do phone or credit card orders, and doesn't do rush shipping - although she mailed mine fairly quickly, and e-mailed to let me know it was coming. I'm very happy with the book, although I'm not sure if everyone would be. If you prefer learning in person, it might be better to let the book supplement a class. There are a lot of "do this like you did before" instructions, which means you have some reading to do if you just want to pick a first project at random. But everything you need is in there, and if you're more inclined to work through the book everything would go more smoothly.

Here is what I learned about ply-split braiding:

1. When making cords, tension is important. You must be able to keep the cords under fairly firm tension while you're twisting them, or they'll twist where you don't want them to.

2. While it's possible to make cords with a hand drill, it takes a long time. In the future, I'm pulling out the power drill.

3. You don't need much counter-twist. The yarn takes care of that itself; you just have to control it.

4. A latch hook (for drawing cords through each other) isn't necessary, but it makes things go faster.

5. Very sticky tape for the ends of the cords is good, but you can get by with anything. Even knots are OK, although they slow down working.

6. Having your yarn licked by a dog at any step of the process makes it more difficult to use.

This ornament represents, at most, a couple hours' work. I suspect it was really much less, but I spent so much time making more cords that it's hard to be sure.

My only criticism of the book is that there's not enough of it. There are so many neat projects to be found on-line, and I want to know how to do all of them. Fortunately, Hendrickson offers a remedy, in the form of a nice collection of basket kits and patterns. I'll probably be ordering one of them soon.

In other news, I can finally let the truth out about my SP10 Secret Pal. I've been spoiling The Other Amanda, of Have Yarn, Will Travel. Out of the 700+ participants in Secret Pal 10, I got paired with one of the few knitters I know who's moved away from Lafayette. It's hard to be secret when you've been at the same sock club. I'm glad Amanda finally found me out, since it's been hard to keep quiet on something this funny.

I'm also amused to note that I had two Amanda-pals this summer, thanks to the Hurricane Sock Party and Clothesknit Amanda.

So now I don't have any exchanges going except for Sockday club, and the next sockday isn't until August. That leaves me more time to start new projects, right?

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Birthday Meme

This looks like a fun one! Nobody's tagged me, but I saw it on Robyn's blog. Go to Wikipeda, look up your birthday, then post 3 events, 2 births, and a holiday. Then tag 5 other people. I'm tagging Elizabeth, Amanda, the other Amanda, the new Amanda, Darlene, and Carolyn. Yeah, that's 6 - but Robyn tagged 6, so I'm OK, right?

June 15


763 BC - Assyrians record a solar eclipse that will be used to fix the chronology of Mesopotamian history.

1888 - Crown Prince Wilhelm becomes Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany (Oscar was almost named Wilhelm, either for the two Kaisers or for Wilhelm Klink).

1934 - The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is founded. I saw my first wild skunks ever at this park. Until then, I didn't realize that skunks lived in America - I thought they were some sort of exotic African amimal, like zebras. Perhaps I should mention that I was 10 at the time.


1914 - Yuri Andropov - this was the only one I knew of for a long time

1954 - James Belushi - Thanks, Wikipedia, for offering some more fun birthday sharers!


The ninth and last day of the Vestalia, in honor of Vesta, the Roman goddess of the hearth. Guess I should've baked bread or something. There aren't a lot of good holidays available for this day.