Wednesday, February 10, 2016

6 of One, a Half Dozen of Another

Slowly but surely, I am getting back into the rhythm of things. I am still doing some deep cleaning... and organizing—re arranging—and as I do, I am happier with my life.

Shelving that been hanging around for months (some for YEARS) had been set up, and the shelves filled with the things I want, in a way that makes it possible to actually see them--(my stash is staggering!) Things I don't want are being discarded, things I do want are being made accessible.

So that I have also managed to get 6 rounds done on each of these projects, is another good sign.

The hat is simple at this point—This part of the hat will be covered by the folded back cuff, and a simple birds eye pattern works fine. 

It keeps the two layer together, which is what is needed at the moment.  

 In another round or two, I will drop the red and pick up some white, as I continue in the birds eye pattern,  The crown of the hat will be a star/simple stick snowflake like design—and white stars or snowflakes on a black background are better than red ones.  It will make the hat more interesting, too. 

The leg of the sock is about 5 inches now, and I plan at least 6 inches, (maybe a bit more) so the heels aren't far away. And once the heel is complete, I always am more enthusiastic—The foot is always so much faster to knit (or so it seems to me!)

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

The Spice of Life

Saturday past, I went to a mid winter festival sponsored by the CSA my daughter is associated with, which was held at the historic Flushing Meeting house.

I've been to other Flushing CSA events, and this time, (as in the past) I contributed items to the fund raising raffle (this time, some framed food prints... one set of 3 small prints; chard, asparagus, and carrots) , and a pair of prints with a selection of root vegetables and another with a selection of carrots)
I am not a member of the CSA—(my neighborhood is filled with many greens grocers) but I think CSA are a wonderful idea.

One reason I went was for the spices—The CSA tries to work with other local vendors that supply local and/or organic foods and the result was a number of organic food suppliers participated.

John Bowne HS representatives were there—Bowne HS has an agricultural program, and raises life stock (and fresh vegetable) –and offers local free range chicken eggs for sale (of course, a dozen came home with me!) 

And a local apiarist was there, with local honey (and the local winter meant honey production was going on right up till Christmas (2015)--I've purchased honey back in the spring—I don't use a lot of honey in my cooking, so my 4 oz bottle is still half full--but is great when I became sensative to local pollen and was reacting to local pollen..

There were an assortment of home made jams and preserves (nice but a bit to pricey for me...I made jams and preserves when I lived in the house and while they are so much better than commercial productions... $10 for half pint was just too much (in my opinion).

For me, the highlight was the spice ladies They are sisters in law, and both decided on being stay at home mothers once they had children. They, like my daughter, were concerned about GMO (not many spice are GMO) and about pestisides, and additives. Did you ever read the labels on your spice containers?  So many spice have “yeast extract” and salts, (simple salt and more complex ones like MSG,) and “anti caking agents”--and some of these are made from GMO's.

Their  goal was to buy organic spices and mix up their own blends. Like any obsession, things grew. Some of the spice they wanted were only available in bulk—and even when you are from an ethnic background that enjoys spice food, bulk can be more than you can readily use.

So they shared --between themselves, and then with family, and then a business was born!

My parent were Irish—and spice are not much part of Irish cuisine, Salt, pepper, mustard and cinnamon make up the bulk—Occasionally caraway seeds--(in breads) but my mother didn't like caraway, and not much else. So learning about spices, and using them, has been an adult occupation.

I've come to love Indian foods—years ago, it was simple premixed yellow curries (which I still use) and as time went by, I learned to use and mix up my own “curries”--some very mild, some a bit hot (very hot is not part of my food prep!) some green, some red, all with a  range of spices. Chinese golden curry is a staple, and Red and Green Thai curries are not unknown (these are used sparingly—they are often at the far range of heat, for my taste.  But I am still a novice when it comes to many ways to use spices.

But the spice ladies (who are properly known as Spice Tree Organics) have a huge selections of blends—from organic taco spices, to curries, to falafals, and sweet chia blends—which they used for making cookies. Everything for seasoning soup to nuts and every thing in between. I got a small selection to start—and on their web page, a collection of recipes that will make my life a bit spicier.

Spice Tree Organics is the only vendor that sells mail order--If it wasn't, why not make spicing up your life a resolution? 

(The opinions expressed are mine, and I was not, (and will not) be compensated in any way,except for the pleasure I have using these spices) 

Monday, February 08, 2016

Factors—A Math Review

There is a meme that goes round on FB “Another day gone by, and I still haven't used Algebra”--this annoys me, because  algebra includes such basic stuff as mixed addition.

The ability to look at a handful of coins in your hand, some quarters, and dimes, nickels and pennies, and to quickly, (mentally!) tally them up, and know, YES this is the correct change, is using algebra. If you go day by day, without doing that little bit of algebra, —Whoa! No wonder you are broke!

Algebra is vital for knitting—since basic counting is part of algebra. There are lots of other math skills needed and many of them use algebra-- Like deciding on a yarn--This sweater calls for yarn A, with 220 yards, and I need 7 skeins, I am using Yarn B, with 207 yards per skein. How many skeins do I need--(I see, from the comments in Ravelry, most knitters had just inches of yarn left.. so how many skeins do I need? A quick bit of math makes it clear—7 X 220= 1540, and 7 X 207 =1449...and given that information, plus the notes from other knitters, I know I need 8 skeins of yarn B—and maybe it will be cheaper to use the recommended yarn A...and I go through another set of calculations.

But the math I use most as a knitter, and a designer is factoring. I hated factoring as a kid. . Do you remember it? It is an almost lost skill in today's calculator rich environment.

Factoring is the skill you need to add up mixed fractions (among other thing) ¼, + ½ + 3/16ths—for example(and really, this is an easy one! To add the fractions, you first change them, to have a common denominator (the lower number!) So what is a common factor for 2, 4, and 16—D'oh, 16!
Now, multiply both halves (top and bottom)  of each fraction to change all the fractions into x/16.

¼ becomes 4/16ths, ½ becomes 8/16, and 3/16ths stays the same. And now we add up the 4 + 8+ 3 and get 15. and our final answer is 15/16ths. If instead of 3/16ths we had 9/16ths, our answer would have 21/16ths, and would then have to reduce the fraction (and get 1 5/16ths as an answer)

This is the algebra we all know and hate! It's the Algebra that makes us say, Wow, I need the $$$ laser tool that figures out all of these fractions, and tell me, (with me doing any of the work) the precise measurements and tells me what length I need to cut to make this...(any household project from replacing cabinet door knobs to adding a new room!)

Or we spend the money on making someone else do it... It is the algebra that Tom Silva keeps telling us is easy on the TV show This Old House.. and it really isn't that hard, but most of us are out of practice—and we never liked doing it anyway.

I find, as I design things, factoring is my friend. I have favorite numbers—and will change yarn or needles to get the gauge to that works with my favorite numbers.

96 is one favorite number, and so is 72, 64 sometimes often wins out over 60an other favorite)—though, in general I really like numbers that are in the 12 times tables! 12 has so many factors.. 1, 2,3,4, 6 and 12. Then, every other multiple, (every even multiple, like 2 X 12,and 4 times, (and so on) has 8 as factor...and ever 3rd multiple, (3 X 12, 6 X12), has 9 as a factor.. so 72 (Oh such a beautiful number) has, 1,2,3,4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 18, 24, 36, and 72.  With all these factors, the world is your oyster when it come time to select a stitch pattern for your project!

By now, you might be thinking... OK, Helen is a real math nerd... but if you want to design, and to have stitch patterns (vs stocking knit or plain knit (garter), starting with a number that has many (vs. few) factors,  creates a huge number of possible stitch patterns to chose from! 70 by comparison is more limited.. 1. 2, 5, 7, 10, 14, 35, and 70--

What is more, there are only fewer even numbers, 2, 10, and 14 . I think, (and I could be wrong, but I don't think I am,) there are many more even numbered stitch patterns than odd, and if you are limited to just 10, and 14 well, it's harder find patterns you might like. I also tend to like symmetry, and 5 repeats of a 14 stitch pattern just doesn't seem as attractive as an even number of repeats...

the fold back cuff with a chevon design.
Why all this math? Well I have started the double knit hat for D, and my cast on number is 72, and with this a starting point, I can just work out a simple pattern (like this chevron for the fold back cuff) with almost no effort... I don't need a chart, just a number of stitches (8) that is a factor of 72, and bingo, the pattern emerges like magic! I might chart the snow flake pattern I am thinking of for the sides of the hat—but with all the factors I have to work with... it will be a snap!

For me, hardly a minute goes by that I am not using algebra! I think in numbers.

Meanwhile, I've added some round to the sock too..64 isn't as versatile as 60, but 8, as a multiple has a lot of advantages.. (perfect number for sets of 5DPN's or for 2 circ's) and this pattern has 8 stitches, making is simple and symmetrical. I'd show you but my camera memory card is full, and I wanted to post this--NOW!.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Snow Day

Just over 2 years ago, my DD gave birth to twin girls--(No twins do not run in the family, one (of a huge number!) of 3rd cousins had twins—so there are a pair of 4th cousin who are twins--hardly common occurrence!) 

For the first few months, after they were born, she had a Douala, which she really needed as complications required a C-section (and fortunately all went reasonable well). Since then, I have gone to her home once a week—(some times more than once a week) to help. Mostly my help consist of keeping the girls entertained while she gets on with life—Laundry, cooking and cleaning. But I also go along to planned activities—playschool at the park, read and play at the library and cross cultural programs. The other grandmothers do the same— there are plenty of opportunities, what with swimming in the summer, programs at the zoo, Gymbary, or Rhythm and Rhyme music program.

We had plans for today, which were canceled, (today, the activity for the day will be a walk in the snow with out me) and I have an unexpected snow day. Fortunately, I have plans to see them tomorrow!

So what am I doing with my day off? Well already I have frogged and reworked the cast on for the double knit hat-Just a single row worked. I'll join into a round as I work the next row. The hat is still undefined—I will just make up a pattern as I go...Likely some sort of star/flower motif--

I got a few R's of the sock worked last night—but not enough to make a noticeable change.

And yesterday, I started writing up the direction for my Evolution scarf—and that will be the last you hear of it till its done.

I will do some cooking—because isn't that what you do on snow days? Maybe a pot of onion soup—but most definitely I will make some stuffed shells—I make 2 kinds: Italian style stuffed with Cheeses—a blend of ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses—that I serve with marinara sauce, and shrimp mousse ones—a blend of shrimp and white fish, that I server with a lemon/butter/white wine saute. I will save some of the pasta shells to make some shrimp mousse ones next week.

I only plan to do the cheese ones today, 6 or so.--I'll count out how many shells are in the box, and do half. Meanwhile, I have been eating my way through the soups I cooked at the beginning of January, so a pot of some sort of soup will be made. These will be a nice restock of ready to eat foods. These ready to eat food are a big help for my effort to loose weight—When I have had a busy, tiring day, an quick salad while I heat up a ready made meal means I eat a nutritious meal—with out having to make any effort to cook.

In between cooking and cleaning up, I'll work on both the sock and the hat—and make the day an all over productive one.

And even though the plans were cancelled, it has warmed up that the scant 3 inches of snow is largely melted away, which will make tomorrow activities all that easier.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

The Pattern is Becoming Clearer

And the knitting easier. I had tried out a few patterns before I settled on this spiral—and then I just jump in on this pattern, with out a thought about pre-planning.

Spirals are wonderful for work in the round—the best of them are simple... but almost most all of them require a bit of pre-planning to be their best.

RPM is a great example. The pattern was a hit when first published in Knitty—It's almost a rib, (K4,P4) repeat for the round and then every round-- Well almost.
When first published, it called for 64 stitches... but since the pattern spiraled, there was a place (beginning of round) where you “changed” since to spiral, you needed to P1, (K4,P4) repeat in order to ofset the pattern (or else the result would be 4 X 4 ribbing.)

One person pointed out, if you cast on 63, (vs 64) the pattern would automatically spiral and you'd never have to adjust, and the pattern result would be “jogless”.

The result? An set of instructions for 8 rounds became a single round set of instructions! So much easier—and prettier, too.

My socks have a spiral pattern ,as well –It's a variation of the Barley Sugar stitch –as seen in my Sugar Cane socks—a pattern that naturally spirals, and is easy to knit. What I like best is, the pattern never changes from row to row. It's the same 8 stitches, all the way round, and then a plain row. And repeat.

Well that statement above is true—but only if you have the right set up. When you jump in with out preplanning, the odds are 1 in 8 that it will be set up right.. (I was 5 stitches off—so it took 10 rounds to hit the sweet spot (5 pattern round, 5 plain)

Now I have found the sweet spot, things are going faster each round. Once thing about this pattern—once you hit the sweet spot, the stitches on the needles remain the same, but the beginning of the round moves. (vs having to repostition stitches on the needle and keep the BoR in the same spot.) The BofR is just a few stitches off now, but as I progress, it will move and move—round and round.

Before I found the groove, I was stuck rearranging the stitches on the needle –a real PITA when you are knitting socks 2 ATAT on 2 needles.

Now that I am in a groove, I am seriously thinking of working on the double knit hat I promised to knit for D-- I've taught D to knit --she kept begging me to knit socks for her. Instead, I taught her to knit her own—she's only made 3 pairs (with lots of hand holding) but it enough for her to know what it means to knit for someone else. She's been going through some hard times—with family illness, and while she has brothers, she is the closest care taker,(and the only daughter)--and much of the work falls to her.

I am knitting her a hat to warm her head, and to warm her heart. She had borrowed one of my hats last year--(we had a bitterly cold winter) and I promised her a hat of her own then. This winter has been mostly mild—but there are many more winters to come.. and right now she need a bit of comfort—and what is a warm hat but portable comfort.

After the hat, I will go to work on Evolution—a fun pattern that evolves—It's almost 8 pattern in one—each just slightly different—Each change is a stitch pattern on its own, and each pattern just one or two stitches different—but cumulatively, there is a huge change. I think this will be a fun scarf to knit with its every changing patterns. It reminds me of those word game—where you change one letter at a time and the word TREE morphs to FLED..

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Slow Progress

On the socks—I want them but somehow, I just don't want to knit them. So I carry them with me, to and fro, to doctors visits, and other activities, and instead, I read the paper, of do the crossword puzzle, or week old magazines.. and not much gets knit. And I am on the 4th stitch pattern. I think I finally found one I really like.

Meanwhile—I think about other things to knit..
--A scarf—a fun little design of my own (Evolution) –But I hate knitting scarves—but I want this
scarf—I love the idea of it, even if I dread the work of knitting it

--A hat—I owe a friend a hat—double knit please—She too has been ill, and wants a warm hat .
I have been lucky this winter—the north east has been having a mild winter—but it does still
cold at night-- and night comes so early in the winter.

--Another scarf—for me. Something super soft and not to big, or maybe a cowl. I hate things around my neck—and most of the winter I have the top button (snap, to be honest) of my jacket undone—but some days are so windy—I need something as a filler. I have the yarn (50/50 merino and silk—now I just need the will.

--A light weight vest—I just checked, and it was 2012 (4 years ago!) that I knit my lacy little vest of sock yarn—and planned to make another because I was so happy with it. I have the yarn—I just need to do it.. I am not small, (but I getting a bit smaller) but it only took a month (while knitting other things at the same time) to knit myself a vest/shell on size 3 needles.. It seems daunting to knit a garment with fine wool and little needles, but it really wasn't.

I also need to finish up the third baby blanket (One square, one round, and the triangle shaped one still to come)--And I have been neglecting my granddaughters... They need hand knit hats- fun flower ones, and pretty ones, and mittens to match—again the mild winter has saved me, but they both admired my hat (this one) and deserve pretty hats of their own. (click on any of the images to enlarge)

This is an incomplete list, and it's 3 months worth of knitting!

Sitting on a back self of my mind are a few sweaters –One in alpaca, (pink)--in a sport weight hand dyed yarn, and one in a worsted weight.. One day.

I bought this yarn with the first thought of making a pair of socks, but now I am thinking of it as a soft lacy scarf—I have given a way a few lace scarves that I knit just for fun.. maybe another lace scarf for me to keep and wear. (yet another scarf in my mental queue!) Maybe my waterfalls pattern..

But unless I get knitting—none of these projects will every become anything.. so its slow progress!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Soup's On

and lots of other good thing!

Every day I am feeling better and better—more and more like my old self, I've lost 1 pound (only 1000 or so more to go!) And while I have been to the doctor/clinic 4 times this month, (and need a follow up visit on Monday (new month!) I feel like I am finally making progress.

I have several chronic conditions—and all of them where out of control—several are interlocked (my arthritis is made worse when I am heavier, – and depression tend to make me gain weight, which then changes....) Now, I am starting a new Rx regime, which might have to be (actually, most definitely will have to be) tweaked—but it is not more of the same, and there is a plan in place (not here's a Rx, see me in 3 months, and don't bother me.) to monitor how well things are working. 

Part and parcel of feeling better, is eating better. For the past week, I have been cooking –mostly soups. Good healthy soups—Another pot of Acorn squash soup (1 serving is going to be my lunch in a few minutes) and some Chicken Sweet Potato soup, and some Chicken Stew—an un-authentic Indian stew—Butter chicken as a base, with lots of extra veggies. A tortilla soup too, another cheat, made from a prepared mix—but with extra veggies in the pot.

I confess, I really hate making a dinner that has more pots than people—and since I live alone, I am in great favor of 1 pot meals. Salad or soup and a simple entree, or some appetizers and soup as meal, and one of my favorites, salad as a meal—Taco Salad, or grilled chicken Caesar, or a sea food salad..

With a fridge and freezer full of soups-- I have been eating better—Which makes me feel better, and helped me drop the pound.

Another plus—was a piece of mail. My 2016 calendar—I love pretty calendars, and my sister's husband get them by the hundreds--(most are business calendars) and I am happy to get one.
My criteria for a wall calendar is pretty pictures, and this calendar is oversized and very pretty.

This particular sister lives in Japan, so the calendars don't have US holidays—but I know that the 4th of July is a holiday-- I sometime note other holidays, (presidents day, and things like Easter)but there are plenty of reminders for these days, anyway.

So that's the news—I did cast on a new pair of socks, and even got the ribbing done—I have been playing with a few different stitch patterns, but haven't found one I like yet... but soon.

Another soon will be a special skein of sock yarn... a treat to myself. Most often I spend about $6 for 100gs of sock yarn –sometimes even less (lowest price was $0.50!) but every once in a while I splurge on hand painted ($24 for 100gs). More on that next post.