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It's been a bit since I've written on here.

OK, a really, really long time. My last post came when I was still in Switzerland. So that was November.

There are reasons, I swear! Life got in the way, depression, work, old job then a new job and a long slow recovery.

I feel like I'm digging myself out two years of mental ambushes between exploding relationships and horrible job. Since January though, things are at least turning uphill.

In all of that, writing and sometimes even knitting fell by the wayside. It's hard to write when you are catatonic.

Then along comes the Knit and Crochet Blog Week. I did this last year and liked the excuse to write on a topic each day. It seemed like a good way to slide back into writing for myself some.

So the first topic is a tale of two yarns, something you love and something you hate.

No photos for this at the moment.

When I was in the midst of bad things at the old job there was one very bad day. More of a concentrated explanation of every reason and way I sucked as a writer and reporter. So I decided to treat myself to something lovely.

Yarn Barn in Kansas carries Buffalo Gold yarn. It has brilliant colors, is amazingly soft and is fantastically expensive. I would never buy it under normal circumstances because it is so pricy.

This time though I decided to get some. Buffalo down, silk and cashmere, in a greenish turquoise lace weight yarn. It's still twisted in the original hank. I haven't even wound it in a ball and I don't think I ever will.

It's not enough to make anything with and I like just having it. In the middle of a lot of bad things and some very down times it was this little bit of perfect I could pull out and smile at.

It's one of those times I'm glad I'm not in the habit of treating myself with expensive things all the time. Like everything else, you can build an immunity to luxury. When you do it takes more and more to have any affect.

That 40 grams of fiber still makes me smile - because it is soft, because I like the color, because it was a very special treat.

So there is the yarn I love - or one of them at least.

On the opposite spectrum I have a rather large ball of Lionheart Homespun wound in this lump the size of a basketball.

I started a blanket with it.


The first time was my ill-begotten idea to teach myself crocheting. That didn't work so well, and since I was planning to make an afghan for my first project there was a lot of yarn looped in to the misshapen thing I had started.

So the misshapen thing became a giant ball of yarn - eventually I figured I would make a giant blanket - only knitted this time.

I even cast on and started on a pattern of my own invention. I got about 10 rows in and lost all interest.

Any number of projects have distracted me since then. Sweaters, wine totes, socks, baby stuff, baby blankets - you name it I've likely knitted something in that category.

Through it all the giant ball and lonely forgotten needles sit there making me feel guilty.

It's not that I exactly HATE the yarn. I just prefer jewel toned cottons, Merino and alpaca. Acrylic might repel moths and other fiber munching beasts but apparently it also kind of repels me.

I need to do something with it, and maybe I will eventually. Give it to some child learning to knit? Hold it up as a cautionary tale.

Maybe the zombie apocalypse will come and I'll want the warmth of a knitted afghan.

When I'm done with all this other yarn OK?

Why yarn is a great souvenir

I was in Bern yesterday, which was lovely and wonderful.

It also gave me the chance to do some yarn shopping.

Thanks to Knit Maps, I knew there was a yarn store on one of the main walking streets in Bern's old town. It didn't take too much to find it since the street we happened to be wandering down was the one it was on.

Essentially, there is a large cobble stone street with public fountains ever 200 meters or more then covered arcades on either side of the street. I really enjoyed Bern, it was very photogenic.

But it was also easy to spot the store under the arcade.

Everything seems more expensive in Switzerland. Most of the yarn in this store was in the 15 to 20 Swiss Francs (CHF) range - pretty much $15-$20. That was a little more than I wanted to spend on yarn at that point in time.

I got a two balls of a sock yarn I can't find in the states and two balls of a fuzzy cottony yarn I'm going to make arm warmers out of. Oddly, arm or wrist warmers seem to be very trendy around here. I saw four or five high end stores selling them for up to 40 CHF.

I also managed to only speak German in the store, which is pretty good since I don't actually know the word for knitting in German. Go fig, but I do remember enough to conduct a transaction.

It was a very cute, and well ordered small store. I think there was a downstairs to it, but I didn't go down. Just petted things upstairs.

On to why I think yarn is such a great souvenir versus some other things I could be buying.

My brother asked for a beer Stine if I could find one. I had spotted one in a store earlier in the day so after buying my yarn I went and got his beer stine and with out thinking about it, dropped it into the bag with all my yarn.

So far no problem.

Then I went off looking for my Edelweiss pin, which has proven very difficult to find for some reason. After several stores, and finding it in the window of a store that was closed, I finally found my pins.

When I was paying I plunked the bag with the yarn and the stine on the counter. The yarn made no noise. The stine on the other hand started singing a German drinking song. For like three minutes. I had no clue how to stop it.

The shop girl just looked at me funny.

So I prefer yarn to things that make noise. I also don't have to worry about my yarn breaking on the way home and it weighs less.

So that is why I think yarn is a wonderful souvenir.
Again with how knitting has change me and traveling. I'm stuck for Gare du Lyon in Paris for an extra three hours at the moment.

When I needed everything to go right it went wrong and I missed my train back to Geneva. Fortunately, this is Europe and we aren't dealing with Amtrak, so there is another train in a bit - well three hours. Also good, they switched my ticket for now charge.

If this had happened a few years ago, I'd have been a bit at a loss as what to do. I'm down to 2 euro, ad I don't want to pay the 3 percent fee to use my credit card just for something to drink. At least I have a sandwich and water with me.

I also have my computer - and had to buy wifi to let a friend know I was running late like an idiot. Even better once this 30 min of wifi runs out I have knitting so I can get something done on the bag I'm working on.

When I figured out I had a three hour wait I just kind of went OK I can deal with that.

So on to other happy things.

I went yarn shopping in Paris - D'UH this is me we are talking about.

But yarn is a wonderful thing for traveling buys. It's light, and very squishy so it doesn't take up a lot of space.

I went to two places. One I got as a recommendation from the woman who writes the blog Knit Spirit. Well, she sent me three recommendations but I only made it to one.

Just a note, her blog is in French but she often includes English translations.

Anyway, the store closest to the apartment I was staying in was Lil Weasel.

The store itself is in one of the covered shopping areas scattered around Paris, those are worth a walk through themselves. You get a feel for what the shopping lane looked like in this picture:

They had yarns that were made in France and a lot of things that were very familiar such as Debbie Bliss and Malibrigo. I resisted buying the familiar yarns and instead got two balls of a wool and linen yarn made in France and a pattern book. The book has a pattern for a pair of gloves I think I'm going to use the yarn for. That way, I'll have a wearable souvenir of Paris.

I also got a bone button for the bag I've been knitting on the train.

Happily, T, who I was hanging around with in Paris, is also a knitter so she was not opposed to visiting a yarn store. She has a very patient boyfriend I must say. I think she got yarn to make him a scarf.

The second store I visited one morning before meeting up with the others. It is called Le Comptoir. It came as a recommendation from a hockey friend's wife, they were just in Paris and she knits.

I will get a photo of this one up when I get to processing those photos. I have been taking tons of pictures.

Anyway this one was super cute with wood drawers full of things. I got some bamboo baby yarn that was on sale. Again made in France. It is Navy blue and I'm not sure what I'll end up making with it.

So that was knitting in Paris. I also saw several paintings and one sculpture depicting women either spinning or knitting. More on those later when i can find my notebook where I jotted things down.

I still have time to kill in this freezing cold train station so I'm going to put the laptop away and pull out the knitting and kill some time that way.

Travel while knitting

The way I look at travel has changed since I started knitting.

I used to insist on driving most of the time, now I am OK allowing someone else to drive so I can sit and knit.

It has also changed how I go about with my packing.

Anyone who has traveled with me knows I am not a light packer by any means. I try, but at some point my need to make sure EVERY possible contingency is covered works against me.

That goes for knitting as well. I can’t just take one project. I might get bored with it - and I don’t want to just do something mindless but I also know I can’t knit cables in the dark.

So I pack a variety of projects. For this trip, I packed the makings for socks (which as I’m sitting in the Lyon train station are almost done), a hoodie I’ve had on the needles for years, the yarn for a shoulder bag, a wine tote (for knitting in the dark) and yarn I could use to make another dust bunny.

As I was repacking the night before leaving my mom looked at the projects and goes “do you really need all of these.”

Ummmm yeah. I pointed out (logically in my mind) that I have nine hours of train rides that I’ll be doing alone. That doesn’t count the plane rides to and from the U.S. and layovers.

She thought I might get by with just the socks. Good thing I didn’t listen to her. I cast the first one on as I was sitting waiting for my first flight. A few hours before landing in Paris, I cast on the second sock and now, sitting in Lyon on a train layover (as I wrote the initial draft), I’m getting ready to turn the heal on the second sock.

This is pretty much how I spent my train trip from Paris to Geneva, and the layover.

The entire project was almost done before I even get to Switzerland. I had the last inch of the toe to finish. Then I started making a pair of children’s socks with the left over yarn. Those are almost done and sitting back in Switzerland. I’m in Paris right now.

My knitting friends saw nothing wrong with my project choices or numbers. As one puts it when I was talking about the train rides “That is so much knitting time!”

Fortunately, on the way here some of the yarn is serving an alternate purpose while I work on other projects.

I brought along a large suitcase which is stuffed to the gills. Mostly with baby stuff, but there are also four bottles of BBQ sauce and a waffle iron, both of which, contrary to what you might think, are very hard to fine in Europe where my friends are living.

So for now, the yarn is doing double duty packed around the waffle iron helping ensure it travels safely.

Carrying all this stuff for my friends did force me to pack lighter on my own stuff (projects aside). Since most of it will be left in Geneva that leaves me most of a suitcase to fill.

So guess who is going yarn shopping!

I also need to buy a button for the cabled bag I worked on coming on the train back to Paris.

Needle organization

A while back I posted about trying to find something to organize my circular needles.

And I got many wonderful suggestions. This is why I love my knitting peeps, they are helpful in so many ways.

One problem I ran into was the cost. Many of the organizers I found were pretty pricey and I realize I just don't have the time to make something like that right now. Plus, it would involve sewing, which I will go to great lengths to avoid.

Ultimately, I got this case from Namaste Inc. which makes a variety of knitting organizers, bags and accessories.

It is pretty, it is compact, it is stylish and best of all, it is in my favorite shade of green!

Usually, Namaste's products are out of my price range. They make lovely super chic looking things. I'm more of a free tote bag kind of girl.

This item was either on close out or on sale so I got it for about $20.

The outside is faux leather with a silver clasp and the little handle. The inside looks like this:

So I'm getting my circular needles organized as I find them. Never again will I wonder what happened to that #15 32" set I SWEAR I just saw somewhere. I will know where to look.

Next I need to start wrangling all my double point needles and figure out just where all those size 9s are going.

Travel while knitting

Views like this are why I would consider paying extra for window seats when flying:

That was the view flying home from Las Vegas on Wednesday, just a lovely sunset. Of course, folks look at you a bit oddly when you pull out a camera to take a picture of the plane's wing. It's hard to explain that it isn't the wing it is the light, really I'm photographing light, people.

Then I turn around and take a picture like this:

And I really get odd looks. Or maybe the looks started when I used the tray as a document holder, or when I pulled out the knitting? I don't notice those looks anymore.

Since I was traveling - flying to be exact - I had to pick what I was going to take with me knitting-wise.

Anyone who has seen me pack for a trip knows that limiting options is not my strong point. I mean what if I get bored with the baby blanket I've been working on for a long time, or go to a show and want something at which I don't need to look? Or, or, or, or.....

Plus there is a trick to travel knitting. You don't want something too bulky - such as a giant sweater. Or too complicated - such as a lace shawl. You want something kind of compact and simple.

So of course, in my mind, a half-done baby blanket made up of multiple hexagons is EXACTLY what works.

Owning to my general indecisiveness, and me packing in less than two hours, I also took another bag full of knitting and needle felting options. I had one wine tote I needed to knit, material for a hand bag for a friend's daughter, a wine tote to needle felt, a washcloth. Oh, and more yarn for the baby blanket and a hedgehog.

Some people want to be prepared, I want to be over prepared.

In someways, the baby blanket is the perfect travel project. It isn't that hard and I've done the pattern enough that I just need to be reminded what to do on that round.

It is smallish, each piece is only 9 inches across so the knitting part doesn't take up much space.

It is a conversation piece.

And I DO need to get it done before traveling to Europe to give it to its recipient.

The problem is the blanket itself. Instead of sewing the pieces into the blanket once everything is done, I'm using something like a three-needle bind off to hold them together. I'm sure someone has done this before and I just haven't seen it.

If it is a new stitch - I'm demanding everyone refer to it as the Jeannie stitch.

The upside will be a finished blanket with no sewing. Because I hate sewing, HATE it. Hate it so much I might not finish a blanket that needs to be sewn together.

Why do you think I learned to knit in the round if not to avoid seams? DUH!

The downside is a project that gets bigger as time goes on.

Here is the project on a train ride at the start of Sept.:

You can't really see it but that is only a few of the hexagons, the blanket is almost done now so it is about three times the size it was there.

At least it is a baby blanket so it won't get TOO big, I've learned that babies are much smaller than I seem to think they are. This means baby blankets can be about a quarter the size I think they should be.

Go fig.

It can also result in some mistakes when putting the piece together, but those aren't too hard to correct.

I discovered the other danger yesterday on the airplane. For reasons I'm still not clear on, I dumped a cup of tomato juice all over myself, the blanket and a travel book I was reading.

Fortunately, none of it ended up on the woman sitting next to me. I would have really been embarrassed then.

The steward gave me club soda to blot at things with. I was more worried about the blanket than my clothes. Since I was wearing jeans, the blanket would have been harder to replace anyway.

I think I got most of it taken care of and also finished up two hexagons during the flights.

So I'm now with in about six hexagons of completion, then I have to sew the ends in.
Normally I don't write about my food excursions, mostly because I have a lot of friends who are far better cooks than I am.

Tonight thought I made something I'm really happy with. I had zucchini, yellow squash and heirloom tomatoes from the farmers market and had spotted this recipe for a Zuchini-Pepperoni Pizza Fritatta. Except I didn't want the peperoni - so began the modifying.

When I went to the Farmer's Market to get the zukes, I saw the yellow squash and thought they would look pretty together in the food. Yes this is how I good, I like appealing color combinations in addition to taste.

So now it was going to be a yellow squash, zuke pizza fritatta... minus the pepperoni.

When I finally got everything assembled tonight I realized I didn't have a dish that could go from stove to oven like a cast iron skillet. Well I have a little pot but it was too small.

With a little more modifying I decided to use a 9.5 inch casserole pot thing I have and do everything in the oven.

It took longer than a real fritatta recipe would but I think it came out well. Tasty at the least. No pictures though because I over toasted the cheese on top of it. =)

One cool thing I didn't realize until after I was eating it as everything except the cheese was grown within about 50 miles of my house. That wasn't planned but it was kind of fun.

Here's what I did, I also doubled everything so I would have lots of leftovers:

8 eggs

fresh Majorm (sp?), Oregano and Thyme

Pepper and salt to taste

4 tablespoons of flour

3-4 cups each of yellow squash and zukes thinly sliced.

Boil the zukes and squash for about 3 minutes then drain and set aside.

Mix the eggs, pepper, salt (I used very little), flower and herbs together. Pour those and the zukes and squash into the casserole dish and mix together.

Put the uncovered dish in the oven at 350 on the lowest rack for at least 30 min. This is a guess because I forgot to look when I put it in the oven. I let it stay until the top was firm and the egg around the edges was solid.

Pull it out, turn on the broiler. Cover the top with thinly sliced tomatoes and sprinkle generously with mozzarella cheese (I used grated stuff).

Stick under the broiler until the cheese is toasty... about 4 minutes I think.

Pull out, slice and serve.

It isn't as dense as the fritattas I've had before which are more like a solid omelet... this is a little fluffier where the eggs are.

I think I need to cook it one or two more times before I get it down exactly.

Lucky for me everything is in season right now.

Knitting weekend

It’s been miserably hot here for the past few weeks.

I can do the desert heat – even when it felt like a convection oven out I could function – but this humidity and high temperatures have been killing me. But finally the weather broke.

Happily, it came at the perfect time. Some friends of mine and I months ago started talking about and planning for a weekend overnight at my parent’s farm about an hour away.

The weekend finally came and the weather was the kind of hot where you wind up soaked in sweat just walking too and from the car.

These were knitting friends, so of course there was knitting anticipated. Everyone brought projects – and food and drinks – but I don’t think any knitting got done.

Not one stitch or one purl, there were no needles clicking away. Instead, there was a lot of food, a lot of talking and other things and a lot of this:

And some of this:

It was just us lounging in the water of the two-acre pond on Sunday being lazy.

While Saturday was awful, a storm rolled through and the weather broke over night. Sunday was a perfect Kansas summer day. Not a cloud in the big blue sky, little bit of a breeze with the sun keeping everything comfortably warm and the pond water was just right.

Not a care in the world, it’s the first time in months I can think of feeling that content and quiet.

But really, it is hard to be stressed when you get to see things like this before going to bed.

Project slut

I cast on a swatch tonight for a new project.

This time it is a tunic for a friend's baby. Nothing wrong there.

Except I haven't finished all the other projects I have floating around on needles.

There the little girl's hoodie I'm making out of this lovely pink and cream soy yarn. For a baby born ohhh last December. There is the hoodie I'm planning to make for a friend's son who was born a year ago... I've made two or three projects there but haven't been happy with any of them.

There is a wine tote, but at this point I don't even count those. There is the alot... which I will explain in a few days, and the pirate moose. Again that will get its own explanation in a few days - maybe a few weeks, we will just have to see.

There are also the balls of yarn currently sitting at my feet that I'm thinking I'll make into a baby blanket. I'm already thinking about the pattern for that.

Those don't take into account all the socks that have no mates, the cast on hoodie for me that I lost the pattern to or any of the other projects I have ferreted away in various areas. Let's not even get into all the yarn I have purchased with the intent of making some project or another.

The problem is I'm kind of a project slut. I might be fiercely monogamous elsewhere in my life, but when it comes to knitting projects I'm very polygamous. I just love them all, and maybe I'm spreading myself a little too thin.

At this point my problem isn't ever a lack of yarn, pattern books or needles. I really have pretty much everything I could ever need. Note I don't say ever want... there is always that next skein of alpaca singing its siren song - or the lovely pair of DPNs.

In a way, I kind of envy the knitters I know who can plug away at an adult sized sweater on size #4 needles for more that a month. They are the happy knitters who get to show their handy work off.

Me, I have stuff on needles that prompts other people to go "so what are you working on this time?" then "oh did you finish XYZ."

At this point I have to hang my head in shame and mutter something like "no I got distracted by this."

So you can see why casting on a swatch and pulling out a pattern from my library might not be such a good thing.... then again what harm can a few stitches do?

Minnesota moment of knit

So while I was in Duluth of the wedding, of course I jotted down the location of all nearby yarn stores.

I mean, DUH!

I came up with three, one in Duluth, one in Superior, Wis. right across a bridge from Duluth and one in Knife River, Minn. The latter was between Duluth and Gooseberry Falls State Park, where my friends were married.

As it turned out, I was rather busy the whole time so I only got to visit one of the stores. That might be for the best seeing how I already have boxes of yarn I should use up. But on the way back from the rehearsal I did get to stop at Playing With Yarn which was in a house that looked out over Lake Superior and had two stories jam packed with yarn and knit related items.

I never would have found it with out signs like this;

Perfect use of highway money really, because it was not on the main road and the numbering around there made little sense.

Happily there were multiple signs:

and finally:

I didn't find exactly what I was looking for, namely locally spun yarn for myself and as a present for a friend of mine who had done me a huge moving favor. Unfortunately, they didn't have any yarn that fit the bill. There was some laceweight silk yarn that was locally spun but it was also in the $40 range - so kind of out of my price point.

The store did have something else locally made, which I picked up for my friend. For me, I settled on a skein of green alpaca chunky yarn I can use for a hat or something to keep.

While I didn't NEED the yarn... see the a fore mentioned boxes, plural boxes, of yarn. I bought the yarn more because I wanted to by stuff at that store.

I love locally owned yarn stores. Well, I really like locally owned anything. But yarn stores hold a special place in my fiber heart. They are kind of like book stores for me I walk in and feel better.

I really wanted to support this shop because it was good, and because Knife River is not that big. Plus is more on the way too and from the main touristy destinations on the North Shore. The shop itself and the highway sign weren't on the main highway along that area. They were tucked back on the scenic route about 1/2 a mile off the main highway.

It isn't somewhere I would have stopped if I hadn't known to be looking for it. My yarn senses are good - but not that good.

On kind of a tangent, when I travel and want to look up yarn stores I go to Knit Map and plot out what will be around me. It is fairly accurate and has helped me find a lot of fiber I might have otherwise missed.

The other two yarn stores, which I had also found on Knit Map, I didn't get to. I wound up sleeping when I could have gone to the one in Duluth and while we drove by the one in Superior on the way home we didn't stop there. I didn't think the two friends I was driving were up for another fiber run. Instead we went to the liquor store to pick up some beer from New Galaru Brewery which is only sold in Wisconsin, hence the trek across the bridge.

So that's it, my Minnesota Moment of Knit.


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