Crafty as a Serpent

A knit blog with recipes and theological musings interspersed.

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Location: Portland, Maine, United States

Abby d'Ambruoso is a Lutheran pastor and interfaith chaplain, currently serving in a variety of ministries in Portland, Maine.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sock Wars have begun, en guarde!

My pointy sticks are out and the wool is flying fast! Beware, Sock Wars have begun!

With some minor glitches at the beginning of Sock Wars, I have finally obtained the pattern (that actually happened yesterday, but hey, I've been knitting).
I am knitting for a person named Henke.

Most of you will know that I am a fairly well traveled person. You might also recall my interest in linguistics. Imagine my surprise when I saw the name and realized that I cannot figure out if my target is male or female.

Using my training in linguisitics, I have guessed that Henke of German origin.

And I am guessing that Henke is a woman.

But I could be very wrong.

Why does this concern me?
Well, I am getting to the end of the foot of the first sock, at which point I must decrease. I do not want to decrease too soon and have too small a sock. Yet, I do not want to go with a sock that will be too big either. I need a definitive answer, and soon.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Cold weather=sweater desire

Yesterday was downright chilly. I never checked the temperature, but I could feel the need for a light sweater. The organist at church was wearing her mother's handknit shawl, which was beautiful, and that reminded me that I have a shawl that was given to me my Will's mother. It had been her mother's, but no one else was likely to actually use this shawl. It is made of acrylic and has a couple missed stitches. I actually take comfort in that. It means that Will comes from non-perfectionist relatives, and this is a good thing.

It was cold last night in the house, enough that it was great to snuggle under our down comforter. Today, the cold air that remains is making me itch to cast on a sweater. I keep thinking of that cone of cashmere in my stash. But I have promised myself to reknit my purple sweater, which is more for Fall and Spring. What is keeping me from that is that I have to knit up 5 swatches for a class on seams and finishing techniques at my LYS this Saturday. I don't know what's going to come up between now and then, so I've been knitting the swatches sooner rather than later. But knitting stockinette like this is hardly captivating. At least the yarn is a pretty light green wool. I'll be unraveling those swatches after the class and knitting up a little felted something with this skein, I'm thinking.

I found a great knitting blog this morning. Nurinkurin is a Finnish knitblog. I just LOVE how Anna takes risks with her knitting. She's quite bold. Her blog is good times.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

What a week: In which I explain why I'm so darn crabby

I've been reading emails from my colleagues who are also on internship. They talk about how they don't really know what to do, how they have so much free time right now. I read these emails and wonder what parallel universe they must be on.

This Spring, I thought about packing up all my books. I specifically packed books that I would like to read on internship. People said: you'll be bored for the first couple months and then you'll also have no friends, so bring your books. You'll need them.

Happy me, these things are not true.

This Sunday, I'll be preaching at Salem for the first time. I'm absolutely thrilled. I've been letting this sermon percolate, I've been waiting patiently for the goodness to drip through the filter and present me with a lovely sermon. But it is slow going. I'm preaching about how labeling people makes them into "others" and that those divisions don't exist in God's eyes. There's so much division and people labeling their neighbors as "others" here that I don't even know where to focus. That's the flip side to having a diverse neighborhood and a successful outreach effort.

So yesterday, Friday, my normal day off, I set aside for working on my sermon and catching up on my to do list because I had been neglecting it in favor of a million meetings and other more pressing tasks.

Instead of conquering the list, I only got through some of it. My number one task of "sermon", did not get done. Today is Saturday, which I had hoped would be my day off. Instead, I am working on my sermon.

Will is canning in the kitchen. He's making more sauce and trying his hand at salsa today. But I'm too darn crabby to be in a hot kitchen today. For now, he is content.

Yesterday, I thought it might be helpful to switch to another task for a while. So I took my first sweater down to my LYS (which still rocks, by the way) and frogged the whole thing.

YES, I FROGGED the WHOLE sweater. Happily, while I was there, I made some new friends. I could spend a lot of time down there. Did I tell you that there's a bakery a couple doors down?

So my first sweater is now numerous balls of yarn waiting to be cast on with a new design. Rick, one of the owners, suggested doing the sweater in reverse stockinette because it will show off the mottled effect more of the yarn. We will see.

This weekend is the Greek Festival here in Toledo. In fact, the festival is just a few blocks away, in our neighborhood. This means we can hear traditional Greek music until Midnight again tonight. Last night we helped with the parking (an annual fundraiser), and some of our youth were to show up at 10. When no one came, we called around and some other youth showed up at 11. That was way awesome of them, particularly since they're working again tonight. I feel like baking them a cake in thanksgiving.

So let's recap on the schedule:
Friday: get some little things done, attempt sermon, frog whole sweater (for hours), and help at Greek Fest until 11pm
Saturday: wake up at 7 to go to the Farmer's Market downtown. Attempt sermon, blog instead. Reject canning.
Sunday: Preach.

Wish me luck. Or pray that the Holy Spirit will give me words to speak.

By the way, my turnips that I planted in August are coming up and will need to be thinned soon. Yippee!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Adventures in Tomato Land

Today, Will and I revisited my childhood by canning tomatoes. Granted, we only canned 2 pecks (1/2 bushel) of tomatoes and ended with 10 quarts and 3 pints, plus a little left over, so it's not nearly to the scale that my mother would can with my sisters and me. We used to can for hours, late into the night.

We started out with our Squeezo, with the medium screen. I wasn't sure how pulpy it would be. And it turned out to be pretty runny. So we switched screens, but it was still runny. Then I remembered that blanching tomatoes is super quick, faster than a minute. They go in for a little dunk. In and then out. And so I began doing smaller batches and then rinsing them afterward to loosen the skins. Perfection!

We ended up with a mix of tomato soup, whole tomatoes in juice, tomato sauce, and tomato puree. All of it has fresh basil in there because we like basil in our sauce, and there is just no way that I'm expecting to find fresh basil here this winter.

I may freeze some pesto next week, but I'm exhausted today. We were going to make eggplant parmesan for dinner, but forget that. We're going out.

A quick fiber update- another washcloth was born, this time a basket weave and some crochet finishing around the edge. This one looks more homely, thus encouraging Will to actually use it for dishes.

Also, last night we went to a Toledo Mud Hens game and had a great time. There were fireworks afterward. More importantly, I finished a pair of booties to send to my friend Blaire who just had her second baby.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

LYS! Toledo Rocks!

So if you've been listening to me at all these past 2 weeks, you've heard me mourn over leaving the Bay Area and how sad I am to be away from friends and community and fresh produce and my lovely yarn stores. I've been pretty sad. Well, that has changed, my friends.

Three things happened yesterday to Will and me that made us feel at home in Toledo.
1)Our new record player arrived in the mail. Our record player we had had for many years (bought during college- a cheap one from RadioShack) died on the move out here. Who knows if it was just ready to rest in peace, who knows if it just received one too many blows in the shipping. But when we tried to play a record while unpacking, it refused to oblige us. And so we bought a new one. Or we bought an old one that is now new to us. We are very pleased to be able to play our records again (yes, we have vinyl). We are listening to Edith Piaf right now- a record we bought in Ann Arbor last Friday when we were so very sad. At least, I was sad until I found a few Fairy Doors. It was good times.

On to the second thing that made us feel more at home
2) We found a Mexican grocery store. Back in California, we had a lovely local Mexican grocery store, complete with a butcher and small taqueria. We like to make our own Mexican food at home, and we own the tortilla press to prove it. But we did not transport our tortilla masa. Instead, we left it with friends (hey, Sara!). I expected to easily find a Mexican grocery. This one was not too far off the beaten track, and found it on day 13 of our Toledo experience.

Now, these are lovely things, but the BEST thing by far, the thing that has me the happiest to date in our Toledo experience is
3) I found my Local Yarn Store. And it rocks! I had googled yarn stores in Toledo, but the websites are not that revealing. In fact, the website for my lys does not do it justice. Fiberworks is not that far away (only about 15 minutes away, I think) and it has a lot of really great yarn. And they have a weaving studio there and- wait for it- they have spinning wheels- that you can rent! If the exclamation points aren't yet signifying for you, I am VERY excited about this recent development. I can't wait to knit down my stash so I can go buy yarn. And Wayne, who teaches there and who may own the store (I was too distracted by the yarn to remember to ask who owns such a lovely store) said I can come down to knit any time I want to, well, I'm sure he meant whenever it was open.
I've been wanting to learn to spin for a while now, and apparently, they give classes that start with the drop spindle and end on the wheel, which you can then rent out and try out at home. They have different kinds- an Ashford, I think, and some others which I didn't recognize yet.

Today, Will and I spent time devoted to other crafts. We got up early and went to the Farmer's Market (which is more "homegrown" than "organic", but hey, beggars can't be choosers). We bought 2 pecks of roma tomatoes, among our regular groceries. We are planning on spending Labor Day here canning tomato sauce. To that end, we drove to Indiana and looked in my mother's boxes which are eventually going to her in California where she just moved.
In the end, we were triumphant on several counts. We found the Squeezo in a box, as well as my baby trunk, some books of mine, and some pictures from my childhood.

During the car ride, I completed one bootie and one dishcloth. I am definitely suffering from Second Bootie Syndrome.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Last night was for finishing (or Damn, I wish I had a camera)

Last night, Will's stripey socks were completed. Even though he has been present for most of the knitting, I have decided to put them away in the Christmas box for gifting at a later date. Hopefully he'll forget all about these nice wool socks so that in our cold December, he'll be delighted and surprised to find them under the Christmas tree.

Will has decided that handknitted socks may be the only knitted item he should be trusted with. Not only does he have ADD, which means he loses things very easily, but he is Italian in heritage, with the genetic predisposition to hair. So when I think about knitting warm fuzzy items for him, I always have to remember that I have to be prepared for the day when he'll come home without said fuzzy item with a sad look on his face. Let's imagine the conversation (based on previous conversations).
"Honey, what's wrong?"
"I'm really cold."
"What happened to your (insert fuzzy warm item that was handknit and, of course, cost much money and time)?"
"I'm not sure. I got hot somewhere and took it off. I meant to take it with me, but...."
"Perhaps we can track it down"

The search ensues, sometimes with results, sometimes not.

But Will has decided that socks will not be abandoned somewhere when he gets hot. After all, he can't very well leave a building barefoot, nor would he unconsciously sit down to take off his shoes and socks while in public. Doffing his hat, however, could and would happen easily.

Second Finished Object:
Garterlac dishcloth.
For our second wedding anniversary (cotton), I got Will some yarn and fabric. What? Why are you looking at me funny? No really. I got some cotton yarn for dishcloths and some fabric for curtains. We just moved into our new apartment and we promised each other that we would make this place into a home, even though we're only going to be here for a year.
And so I knit up a garterlac dishcloth in Sugar and Cream with blue, yellow, and white for our kitchen. Will says "It's so pretty I'm afraid to use it for dishes." But I am insisting that it be used for daily use, except, of course, for bacon greasy pans, etc.
I didn't have a size 7 needle, so I knit it on an 8, so it's kind of big, but I plan to remedy that largishness for the next one by going to my new LYS. The store is not new, but I'm new to it, so it remains my new LYS.

Right now I have nothing on the needles, and I have an urge to knit more socks. At the same time, I know that Sock Wars is quickly approaching, and if I start socks now, I must commit to having them finished and off the needles by then because I don't know what size needles I'll need. We shall see.

I could frog that entire sweater that I'm planning on remaking. I didn't like how it turned out so I redesigned it and I'm frogging the entire thing. But I wish I had a ball winder and swift for the rewinding of that yarn. I am not looking forward to that process sans swift and winder.

I could work a shawl. I have a couple of skeins in the stash that are designated for lace. I even have the pattern for Stephanie's snowdrop shawl printed off and in my pattern book. I have the needles and the yarn. But I have to admit that I cast it on and tried it and got really frustrated when I had to frog my efforts not once, not twice, but three times. At that point I gave up and knit a sock.

I also have some Noro for a hat and mitten set for me for the winter. I don't think I'd like Noro for a functional scarf. I'm anticipating that I will have to breathe through my scarf this winter and really use it like I used scarves in Minnesota. There, when the air is too bitingly cold, you put the scarf around not only your neck but also your face, covering your chin, mouth, cheeks, and nose up to the bridge. Then you pull down your hat, leaving a slit for the eyes. This is how you avoid frostbite or at least chapped skin from the wind and cold. For the last 3 years, I have knit lots of beautiful scarves, pairing them with cotton sweaters that I received as hand-me-downs from friends. I don't mind shopping in other people's closets (or even their leftovers). And so I've given my "new to me" sweaters some life by knitting fun scarves. But these scarves are not for true winters. Or at least, they are indoor scarves, to be worn with the sweater and then a coat over that with a hat and scarf on the outside. Anyway, a scarf out of Noro would be bad because it has such a high content of mohair, which means it is fuzzy and that means that I would be getting little bits of mohair in my mouth with every breath. Icky.
But I would like to make a hat and some mittens.

I await true inspiration to see what I will end up casting on.