Sunday, January 22, 2012

Back to the Real World

If you're a weather-watcher, you know that the Pacific Northwest was hit by winter ice storms and snow last week. In my community, a foot or more of snow hit Sunday/Monday/Tuesday of Martin Luther King weekend and then persisted all week, with temps down in the teens plus (minus?) windchill.

Now comes the obligatory disclaimer: I know this doesn't sound like much for those of you in cold climates, buuuuuuuuut....

It paralyzed our town. Remember that most people don't have snow tires, although we do have lots of Subarus, and see snow about two days every other winter. Snow removal equipment is scarce (from a fiscal standpoint we can all see why fleets of snowplows are impractical) and we live in a hilly, hilly, hilly, nay, mountainous region. With little-to-no snow removal on side streets, snow packs down under tires and feet, melts slightly, then refreezes, turning neighborhoods into air hockey rinks.

So this resulted in an unexpected week off of school for the kids and me. We had knitting time, game and puzzle time, screen time (admittedly probably too much), outside-in-the-snow time, sledding time, and lots of reading time. It was wonderful.

But tomorrow is back to the real world. This week will be catching up and moving on and, somewhere sandwiched amongst all of the end-of-semester-panicking, I'll be attending a funeral of a dearly loved person who slipped away last Thursday afternoon, surrounded by her children, after fighting the good fight, in peace at last.

And the snow fell.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

After thought, an afterthought

Every time I knit a pair of socks--about twice a year, that is--I think: OK. Last pair.

Then I finish them.

And slide them on, wrigging my toes in wooly glee.

Then I think: OK. Maybe one more pair.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On Deck: or my January insanity

I spent some time diving into the wreck (sorry, gratuitous Adrienne Rich allusion there) that is my stash over the 3-day weekend. I'm not a big resolution person (mostly because I know how likely I am to last all of, oh, five days with some grand scheme for personal overhaulment). However, I do intend to finish the items in this bag before starting any new projects. Here they are, in no particular order:
An eggplant scarf, intended for my BFF. Started & raveled.

My languishing Noro/Black Ivy League Vest. I had made it up to row 66 and I think the neck shaping caught me off guard. Now that I'm 15 lbs slimmer than when I started it will actually fit me and look Must Be Finished.

Dream in Color Starry, in a midnighty blue-purple, for The Orchid Thief shawlette. Then, I will find a glamorous event to wear it to and put on my best mysterious and pensive expression.

It's either the Geodesic or the Featherweight Cardigan with these skeins of Knitpicks Shadow Tonal (plus one that's already wound and consequently Not Pictured). Isn't the blue so vibrant and happy?

This is another fair isle vest: the Corrie Vest from knitpicks. They've put out a few different colorways for this pattern, but this one is Neutral, I believe.

Eeep. I'm starting to hyperventilate at the pattern unfolding here. (breathes into paper bag for a sec)

Q: What am I prolific and productive at knitting?
A: Worsted-weight sweaters, felted slippers, and hats.

Q: What am I slower than molasses at?
A: Socks, lace, and scarves.

Q: What am I planning?
A: A scarf, a shawl, and two fair-isle vests.

Hmm...a challenge? Or desperately forcing my square knitting peg into a round hole?

Maybe Dana 2012 is the Dana of fine gauge?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Knitting Book Review: The Best of Knitscene

Knitting Book Review: The Best of Knitscene: A Collection of Simple, Stylish, and Spirited Knits
(2011, Interweave Press, 144 pages, 20 projects. Source: personal purchase.)

By: Lisa Schroyer

Nutshell: 100% concentrated Knitscene
Background: A couple of years ago, I started buying each issue of Knitscene as it came out. (Why Interweave hasn’t made it available for subscription yet, I just can’t fathom...) I was already a fan of its style—a little bit younger, a little bit hipper, and slightly easier constructions and techniques than Knits—and I was excited to see this book arrive.

For those of you not familiar with this lovely little mag, it began in 2005 as an occasional special-interest publication by Interweave. Based on its design sensibilities, I imagine it was an effort to target young, new, “hip” (whatever that means) knitters.

Think of it as the Skipper to Knits’ Barbie.

It has since graduated to a quarterly publication, just like Crochet and Knits, and continues to have a more current, fashion-forward sensibility both in its patterns and its editorial content. Each issue features a collection by one up-and-coming designer (Amy Herzog and Hannah Fettig were recent choices) as well as a “how to style this knitwear” feature that gives suggestions on accessories and clothing to wear to best showcase your new sweater in the most fashionable, er, fashion.

Synopsis: Lisa Schroyer, current editor of Knitscene, curates a collection of 20 “best-of” patterns from 2005-present. Patterns include: five pullovers, four cardigans, and assorted accessories (scarf, shawl, bag, mitts, vest, and socks). Additional editorial content includes “trends” features, showing the historical roots and modern uses of different types of knitting techniques and constructions (cables, fair isle, Cowichan sweaters, to name a few), plus articles and how-tos by respected knitters like Clara Parkes and Miriam Felton.

Writing Sample: A sort of uber-grandpa cardigan, your own Cowichan-inspired sweater can be a great foil for slim silhouettes, bold patterns, and sparkly fabrics. Knitscene designer Cecily Glowik MacDonald’s Indigo Banded Cardigan is a simple way to feel the Cowichan love with its creamy white base and midriff band of colorwork. Follow Hollywood star Megan Fox’s lead and throw it on over a slouchy white V-neck T-shirt. Add a pair of metal aviators and silky cargoes for a comfy travel look. Pair it with a vintage-y plaid blouse, skinny jeans, and tall boots. Wrap yourself up in one over a sequin tank dress for an offbeat glam effect. (11)

Woot: These patterns rock. I love each and every one of them, and I can see myself knitting and wearing each and every one…though likely minus the skinny jeans and metal aviators. (So far, I’ve only knit the Central Park Hoodie, which I bought as a standalone pattern when it was re-released in 2008. Here’s mine.) Clearly, Shroyer and her editorial team put a huge amount of time into selecting patterns that have been popular, have stood the test of time (relatively speaking), and will appeal to a wide variety of ability levels. They also took the time to re-photograph, re-knit (if necessary), and even re-size the patterns, as well as make sure that available yarns were substituted for those since discontinued.
My top three: The Geodesic Cardigan, the Heather Hoodie Vest, and the Tempest Beret.

Meh: Beware any publication that strives for a hip sensibility, because soon it will be unhip. The shelf life on this book may be limited. However, at $24.95 (and I got mine for less through my membership) it’s cheaper than buying all the back issues, and if even five patterns appeal to you, it’s cheaper than buying them as individual downloads.

Boo: Occasionally, the book uses, for illustrative purposes, a photo of a pattern that is not included in the collection. Mitigating this Boo: they always tell you the name of the pattern and which issue of Knitscene you can find it in. And...I feel compelled to mens' patterns (although Norah Gaughan's Kenobi jacket was apparently designed for men, though it is modeled by a woman in the book.)

Audience? The youthful-feeling female knitting crowd who value classic styling with modern touches. I'd also recommend this as a gift for a new-to-intermediate knitter looking to branch out in a fashion-forward way--both the patterns and the articles would be helpful.

Sequel-worthy? Yes Indeedy! It's still worth buying each issue as it comes out, but if you're just getting started and don't want to spend the $$ for the DVDs of the back issues, this would be a lovely collection with which to begin.

I hope this review is helpful. I plan to continue to go through my shelves and highlight books—some new, some not—of interest to other knitters. Let me know in comments if there are any unanswered questions, or features you’d like me to consider adding. As with any review, my comments are intended to educate, illuminate, and entertain; your mileage may vary.
Have you read this book? What did you think?

Friday, January 06, 2012

Six Days In! Among other things...

This is what my food has looked like A LOT lately.

Green stuff, plus purple stuff, plus assorted other crunchy stuff, plus an oil/vinegar/spice-or-two/lemon-juice dressing. Plus meat. It's disconcerting how much meat--and how many eggs!--I have personally consumed this week. It's quite the diet whiplash, this nonchalance about fats and cholesterol. Or, rather, this rejiggering of the dietary priorities.

Basically, meal after meal, I am eating big piles of food. Which is good, because I really like pile-style food. Mix-ins have been a favorite culinary flourish of mine since I was a kid--some more healthful than others--so I don't mind. (Chili-mac. Yum.)

Since I sort of backed into this whole Whole 30 thing--"Hey, I know, why don't I go on a really restrictive elimination diet the day AFTER we do a huge grocery shopping trip?"--I had to scramble a bit this week; hence, the repetitive piles. This coming week I plan to plan a few real meals that the whole family can share, pre-bake or roast some root veggies, and pre-pack some snacks.

I haven't been too tempted so far, just being in the honeymoon stage, even by the large open bag of potato chips that ended up in my classroom computer lab. (That did look less appealing as the week went on though...) I did have a huge dessert craving last night and I invented a Whole-30 appropriate option in the nick of time: I diced up half an apple into about .5" pieces. I grabbed out the bag of almond meal from my gluten-free pie crust experiment and tossed about 1/4 cup over the apple chunks. Then, I added a LIBERAL amount of cinnamon (I'd guess at least a teaspoon) and a glug of lemon juice.

If I squinted my mouth, it tasted like apple pie.

Monday, January 02, 2012

A departure of sorts

Wait. What? This isn't a foodie blog.

No, it isn't. (If it were, the pictures would be a lot better, and use lighting, angles, and depth of field to make the salad look glistening and delectable, rather than just...salady.)

I'm embarking on The Whole 30.

It's a Paleo/elimination diet. I've never done a full elimination diet before, though I've dabbled in it at various times. Recent health issues (I won't go into details, trust me, you don't want to know) as well as some issues in my larger family health history, as well as the Mind Numbingly Depressing Aura of Doom that always takes me over this time of year and makes me want to drive my car off the road--these have all led me to try to take hold of my body chemistry through exercise and diet.

And when I say "diet," I mean that I'm really just trying to focus on the foods I eat, not counting calories or points or grams. (Although I'm not going to lie; breaking through the weight plateau I've been on for a year would be awesome.)

A family member did the Whole 30 last summer, and she felt amazing upon completion. It's going to be tough, and I reserve the right to completely blow it, but I think I can do it. I've already made a lot of these changes, albeit not 100% in some cases, so I think it might be a bit easier for me than for someone who is starting from a more junk-food-y or even food-pyramid-y diet.

Here's the basics--see their website if you want more details: "Eat real food--meat, fish, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats."

No sugar (real or artificial), no grains, no legumes. These three are going to be the toughest groups for me to avoid. We already eat nearly 100% gluten free because of my daughter's celiac, but we still eat a lot of rice, quinoa, and GF breads and cereals. The good news is that I've learned to be creative about eliminating gluten while still cooking well for the family. Sugar, though. Hmm. I've weaned myself off of sugar in my coffee and tea over the past few years. I don't bake much because of the celiac issue -- I can, but I don't often. It's the bags of Skittles and bottles of pop in the checkout line that call to me. There's something so rebellious about eating a clandestine candy bar. And beans? Just when I was perfecting my chili recipe!

No alcohol in any form (even for cooking). Alcohol is probably next most difficult--I've been indulging a little bit too much over the holiday season...but, again, given my family history, learning to have more moderation is probably a good thing. And, I know I said I wasn't counting calories, but this group is all emptiness.

No dairy, no white potatoes, no processed foods. Dairy and potatoes were already nearly eliminated from at least my HOME diet (except for potato chips, yikes). It's amazing how I've gone from the biggest ice cream hound in the world to not even thinking it sounds good when I see it on a menu. We have had home fries and baked potatoes of late...but it'll be easy to replace those with yams or sweet potatoes, which are OK "in moderation." (Well, duh.) As for processed foods--we don't eat many, but it's going to be tough to go cold turkey on the potato chips.

I've made it almost two days so far. Yesterday was tough--we went to a New Year's Day party with tons of greasy, gooey, delectable, tempting hors d'oeuvres and snacks--but I subsisted on vegetables and water. (Lesson learned: pack food for parties.) I had a headache by the end of the day but otherwise felt fine, and then made homemade chicken nuggets for me and the kids (theirs breaded with corn meal, mine just with spice rub)...but I'd rather have a hungry/carb-withdrawal headache than the gut bomb I would have been feeling after filling up on pizza dip, buttered popcorn, ranch dressing, little smokies, and creamy dips and crackers.

So....I'll see how it goes. I'll report semi-regularly on recipes and experiences, and make sure to reflect on my progress when it's over. I even had my husband take "before" photos (these will probably NOT go on the internet, though.)