Sunday, September 28, 2014

Bluebells and Crochet Hooks

Like a mad woman, I signed up for a year long crochet block class.  My crochet skills leave something to be desired.  I am trying to get better at crochet, trying I say.  The first block I am working on is called textured bluebells.  It has not been the easiest thing I have ever done, but I am soldiering on.

One of the hardest things has been figuring out what size crochet hook to use with the yarn.  I ended up making 3 blocks with 3 different size crochet hooks, G, H, and J.  The ball band said to use a J, but I didn't have enough yarn to make 8 blocks on the J hooks.  I tried the G hook, but it was too tight.  Finally, I tried the H hook.  On the H I will have enough yarn and the fabric had some give.  So yay for the H hook. 

3 Hooks, 3 Size Squares

I want this project to turn out well.  The end result will be an afghan called, Blue Horizons, utilizing 4 different squares.  I will also be able to crochet something more than a chain.  Hoping for a win.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My Summer Caking

This summer I spent much of my evenings and weekends looking for the St Louis 250 Birthday Cakes.  I traveled long and far to collect photographs of these crazy cakes.  It became this quest which required a list, google maps, instagram, and gas.  Good thing I drive a Prius. 
What started as just taking a few photographs of the cakes close to my house became an obsession which drove some of my friends on facebook crazy.  In the process I re-discovered my city, found parks I never knew existed, and drove to the ends of the St Louis metropolitan area and then some.  I found 252 cakes and even made a silly little video.  I enjoyed myself and regret nothing.

The Venice Café Cake is my favorite.

The Daniel Boone House Cake is one of the prettiest designs.
The Aerie's Winery Cake has the best view.
The Malcolm Martin Cake is the most surprising location with its geyser and pristine park.

One of my favorite details is the Elephant on the Eads Bridge Cake.

And my favorite photograph at the St Charles Heritage Site is the one with my dear friend, Kim, who inspired me to start cake hunting.
My summer was full of cakes, and in the end finding them made me happy and I regret nothing.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Building Block #9 or Twist to the Left

Being a left leaning person, you would think I would like a stitch called left twist, but I did not.  I followed the directions, I swear I did, and watched the youtube video over and over to be sure.  However, I think this stitch looks like I messed up my knitting.  I know that building block #9 might look better when I block it (blocking the block), but I am doubtful.  I will say it is a lovely shade of green. 

On second look, I think part of the problem is that we are looking at the back of the block, but trust me the front looks only slightly better.

Because this is block #9, I have started to think about how I am going to put the blocks together.  I am thinking about knitting everything together.  I even bought some grey yarn to do it.  I like the grey, I am just not quite sure how I will accomplish this task.  I do know I will obsess about this decision from now until January.  And with that, 3 more blocks to go.

A sample of my colors laid out with the grey.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Building Block #8

I have finished Building Block #8.  After last months mock cable block, which I loved, I found this month's block to be kind of boring.  It was a slip stitch pattern, and I like a slip stitch pattern in a ball band dishcloth, but not so much this pattern.  However it knitted up quick and I only have 4 more blocks to go.  Color me excited to think this project is 2/3 finish.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tied Up In Crochet

Over a decade ago I purchased a tie dyed tee shirt.  It was a rainbow of colors and I just loved it.  Many weekends and vacation days were spent in that shirt.  Natalie liked it when I wore the shirt because she could spot me in a crowd.  I was disappointed that after a decade of hard wear my beloved tee shirt gave up on me ripping out under both arms.  I was thinking about tossing the shirt, but remembered my friend Suzanne was teaching a class on how to make tee shirt yarn and crochet it into a basket.  I knew in theory how to make the yarn so with my fancy scissors Lenora gave me and a ruler I cut my shirt up.  I ended up making a ball of very colorful yarn and a need to learn to crochet a basket.

First I want to say I am a knitter, not a crocheter.  There is nothing wrong with crochet, I just have limited skill in that arena.  I do have a desire to be more proficient with a crochet hook, but not really the drive to practice the skill.  Here was an opportunity to get my crochet on and spend some time with the always patient Suzanne.

I ended up doing a 1 on 1 class with Suzanne and she got me hooking along.  As you know I am a go big or go home kind of girl and after I finished my ball of tie dyed tee shirt yarn I realized I wanted a bigger basket.  Suzanne congenially offered to cut up a second shirt for me with her speedy rotary cutter saving me from the slower scissor method.  With the second ball and more help from Suzanne I finished up my lovely, crocheted basket.  I know it is not perfect and working that size P hook was awkward to my knit trained hands, but I still have my old tee shirt repurposed into to something else I will love.  Thanks Suzanne!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Burning Down the Couch

I have not been blogging the last couple of weeks because I felt anything I may have blogged about was trivial compared to the tragic events happening in my community.  The situation has been heartbreaking and painful for everyone in the metropolitan St Louis area and our country.  I have been appalled by the violence and hate which has been perpetuate by the press landing on our city en mass as we have become the media event of the month.  I have stopped participating in the media blitz putting my attention towards the other things like my job, my friends, my family and my beautiful wife.  I am moving forward with the hope that others will as well.  Back to the trivia which makes my life worthwhile for me.

Today my beautiful wife wanted to take me to a vintage mall called The Green Shag Market(  We had a great time and saw some fun things.  We were also impressed with the reasonable prices.  Everything was going well until I rounded a corner and saw this couch.  A black, brushed, upholstery monstrosity which was first couch I every remember having.

Who would think a couch could evoke such a torrent of toddler emotions, but it does.  My mother hated this inherited piece of furniture.  She hated it so much that one day she dragged the couch out of our house and into the field behind our house.  She then doused the couch with lighter fluid and set it on FIRE!  I remember watching the thing being consumed by flames while plumes of black smoke billowed heavenward.  It was amazing.  Periodically she would poke at the couch with either a hoe or a rake and it would send sparks flying.  Again, I say amazing. 

About the time the couch had burned down to a carcass of wood and metal my dad came home.  My brother ran to his car and said, "Mom burned the couch."  My dad walked to about 5 feet from the fire and gave my mother his head down, I am judging you stare.  He said nothing, but I am sure he looked at the skeleton of the still burning couch and thought he was lucky it was not him in that fire.

The burning couch was a seminal moment for me.  I learned that things can be burned and it stuck in my forming consciousness.  For many months after that whenever I was asked things like, "What did you do with your other shoe?"  or "Where are your manners?" 

I had a ready answer, "I burned it with the couch."  I used that answer so much my father forbid me to say it.  I started just saying I burned it.  This answer got even more awkward for my parents because I would say it in front of other people.  I remember one woman cautioning my mother about leaving matches laying around for children to play with.

Years later as a teenager I would hear the song, "Burning down the House," by the Talking Heads.  I would mentally change it to burning down the couch.  I have even used the line on my beautiful wife a few times.  Today as I rounded the corner at Green Shag and saw this couch I stopped dead in my tracks.  I pointed and said, "Natalie it is the couch, the couch my mother burned."  People started staring and she tried to move me along, but I couldn't let the moment pass without a photo and time to savor the memory of seeing one of its brethren on fire.

As ugly as that couch was, it left a life time of answers for me.  The next time anyone asks me where something is I can now say, "In the couch at Green Shag." 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Deborah Harkness and The Book of Life

Once again Deborah Harkness stopped by St Louis on her latest tour for The Book of Life.  Since we had so much fun last time she was in town (, my friend Kim F (not Kim G or C) and I decided to repeat the experience.  We were not disappointed.  Harkness was just as delightful as I remember.  This time she was talking about the last book in the her All Souls Trilogy: The Book of Life.  She was very keen to not give any secrets away on her new book, and neither am I, but she read from the first couple of chapters.  She talked about writing her books and answered questions too.

Deborah Harkness Working the Crowd
One of the topics another fan brought up was how does it feel to be successful female scholar and novelist.  Harkness loved this question and said she hoped her success inspired other women to not be afraid of being an over achiever.  I found her encouraging words refreshing in a world that does not always embrace feminism.  Also, when asked how many languages she knew she reeled off about 8 languages, mostly romance languages, but she did also know some Finnish and German.  Impressive.  I felt so lucky to have a second opportunity to bask in her intellect and charming personality.

Deborah Harkness and Tempest
When I had the opportunity to talk to her as she was signing my copy of her book I made it a point to thank her for including married same-sex characters as part of the normal tapestry of the books.  She said, "I wanted to include couples at all stages of a relationship."  I was just happy that the LGBTQ characters were there. 

Now to finish the final book and find out what happens to our cast of vampires, witches, demons, and humans.   Excited, but no spoilers for you.

(Also as an aside, it was so nice to see so many people I knew from my library days.  I miss them all so much).