Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Furiously Knitting Hats

I'm truly furiously knitting hats as I need to get two done ASAP. They are intended for the children of a friend, both of whom are deploying soon.  I was over halfway through one of the hats I used to knit for the Ships Project when I suddenly got the inspiration to check Ships' site and see what was new with them. Yikes! Requirements have changed, so I had to abandon the HIP (Hat In Progress) and obtain a 100% wool that I thought had a fighting chance of making it through military laundry.  Yarn in hand, I discovered that the needles I wanted were in use on another project.  Sigh. Okay, I chose to use my KnitPicks Option kit with a long cable and magic loop the hat. Actually, it's far better as the Options are my favorite needles now anyway.  I do need to order longer cables as the longest that came with the set is just a bit too short and the longest cables I ordered in addition are suitable only for Mobius knitting. I started two different hats, the basic Ellen's Hat and a waffle hat that I've made in the past for Ships.  Neither one seemed to work.  I got on Ships again and found a spiffy cable hat pattern - Smariek Knit's 3AM Cable Hat. At least one hat will be the cable pattern.  Probably the other will be the waffle hat, but we'll see when I get this one finished.

I'm not in love with the yarn, Ella Rae Classic Superwash. It seems to stick between my fingers when I knit Continental, so I'm whipping these babies out English style. At the moment, I knit faster English anyway, although I'm catching up Continental. The Ella Rae is also prone to splitting, which is a nuisance, especially as I'm learning yet another new trick.

Last night as I was working on the hat, I came to the place where the first cable twist had to happen. However, I was on the couch, with Ming on my lap and George reading A Study in Scarlet. (We've gotten interested in re-reading Sherlock Holmes since we saw the movie!) One of the basic rules of life, as every cat staff knows, is that you cannot move a sleeping cat and Ming was peacefully asleep.  My cable needle was, as expected, on the other side of the room, well out of reach. Bleh! So I set down my knitting, took the book, and read it out loud to George as his eyes were getting tired anyway. We finished the story and gave it up for the night with the cable undone.

This morning my Knitting Daily post came flying into my inbox, as usual. Many times the post isn't anything I'm interested in. I always scan them, though as I've learned many useful tips from the posts. This time it contained a lesson in how to cable without a cable needle.  Woot! I've heard of cabling without a needle and have done it on very small twists, but I've never tried it on full-size cables. I watched the video, then watched it a second time, knitting in hand.  This is awesome!  I may give up my cable needles forever!  Anyway, I'm giving them up for this hat. I've scooted along on the hat and have hopes of finishing it tomorrow.  Since we're going to the boat, I'm hoping to finish both hats over the New Years break and get them mailed early next week. I'd cross my fingers, but it's awfully hard to knit with crossed fingers.

More later as we see how this all works.  Also more later about hydroponics, beer making, and becoming locavores...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Anchoring, Pressure Cookers and Alcohol Stoves

We spent part of this past weekend aboard Gypsea.  Maybe we should have spent the entire weekend as it was the first pretty weekend we've had in a while, but we had chores to do at the land-based home. We went to the Pearl Farmer's Market on Saturday morning instead of the Austin market. While the Austin market has more vendors, the Pearl market seems friendlier to us. We wanted our last market visit of the year to be the Pearl market. I didn't beat out whoever cleans the beef lady out of short ribs.  I'll perfect my technique next year!

We visited Yarnorama in Paige TX Saturday early afternoon. It's a great place and may well become one of my favorite LYS (Local Yarn Shops). She has an entire wall of spinning fiber. I walked out with two new spindles, two DVD's, two bags of fluff, and a skein of locally-produced yarn. One bag of fluff is a merino/yak blend, which just BEGS to be petted.  It's so soft. The other is a wool/bamboo/mohair blend. Both are spinning well on the spindles. Since spindle-spinning works on the boat with its limited space, I'm converting as much spinning as possible to the spindle.

We found ourselves on the boat by late afternoon. The first thing we discovered was that we were out of fresh water! Apparently, we'd used more last visit than we realized. After refilling the fresh water tank, I brought out the new 4-quart pressure cooker. Opinion among cruising cooks seems to validate the importance of a pressure cooker aboard a sailboat. Because it cooks so much more quickly, it uses less fuel. The new pressure cookers are much less scary and more safe than the older versions. I have a 6-quart model at home, but only find myself using it for dried beans. One of my current resolutions is to learn to cook in it. While we were shopping for "boat food", I carried the cookbook that came with the 4-quart model and chose ingredients for a kale-potato risotto. Later, on the boat with fresh water tank filled, alcohol pods filled and ingredients prepared, I waded into seeing how a pressure cooker would work on an alcohol stove. Let's merely say that it was the quickest, easiest, tastiest risotto I've ever made. In fact, with the pressure cooker, risottos become daily fare. Contrary to popular opinion among many sailors, the alcohol stove is a fine heat source.

Sunday morning found us rigging the anchor rode to the anchor and motoring out to the Sometimes Islands (at least the lake level is up so they're not the Sometimes Penninsula!) to practice anchoring. This was our first time to anchor since our advanced sailing classes, our first time to anchor Gypsea, and our first time without our instructor or other knowledgable person by our side.  It took us two tries, but we did it! The anchor didn't set the first time, but the second time I felt it hit bottom soundly.  It drug only a little as we backed away from it and then set securely.  We shut off the engine and proceeded to settle back to watch the afternoon sailboat traffic on the lake. I wandered below to fix lunch, this being the second time to prepare a full meal while not in the marina. As calm as the lake was, it's still a different ballgame to cook in the relative stillness of the marina as opposed to open water.  Lunch was farmer's market veggies with homemade hummus brought from home and a potato/cheese dish I made up on the fly with ingredients we had on board. It's such a luxury to sit in the cockpit on a sunny day in late December, eating lunch and watching the sailboats go by.  As the afternoon wore on, it got colder, so we pulled up the anchor and went back to the marina.

We opted to cook an early supper on the boat and then head home. We're finding that our desire to eat in restaurants has faded amazingly. We've been a month away from having anything in a restaurant and find we don't miss it at all. But this is another story entirely!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

10,000 hours

Just finished my 7th pair of Cat Bordhi's Tibetan Socks. I finally found a good combination of needle size and yarn. Crystal Palace's Mini-Mochi, held double, on size 4 needles is perfect for me. They make thick, soft socks that slip comfortably over the heel, yet still fit elsewhere. The more subtle gradations in color are beautiful. As nice as the Tibetan socks are, I'm purposing a couple of skeins of yarn for nice, thick slipper socks to wear around the house.

I've committed to learning to knit Continental style as opposed to English. It's a major re-learn for me as I've knitted English style since I was 8 years old. I think Continental style will be easier on my aging hands and allow me to knit certain patterns faster. It's certainly not faster now, though! I'm early in my 10,000 hours to mastery!

I'm spending far more time spinning - some on the wheels but significantly more on drop spindles than I have in the past. Part of it is the colder, darker time of year that seems made for spinning! I like to imagine my antique wheels whispering to me about cold winter nights in their past, long before I ever sat to spin with them. Part of it is committing to master spinning on a drop spindle after reading Respect the Spindle. I sat in the doc's office, waiting for my Well Woman check yesterday, spinning away on a bottom-whorl Emily spindle. It's funny to see people trying so hard not to stare or talk to me, but curious. I probably should have elicited conversation, but I'm not yet at the point where I can spin with a spindle and chat easily. Also, spinning is a very Zen activity for me and I like being in the moment with it. I'm a little farther along in my 10,000 hours to mastery here.

More later about local eating, slow food, and farmer's markets.