Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Well, I haven't been listening to my own advice lately. "More fun, less work." Right. I've been doing a lot more work than usual lately, so I've had much less time for hobbies, including blogging. Even my knitting became a "job" as I diligently worked on Eve's shawl. But more about that later.

Anyway, the project I was "guest managing" at work (meaning, steering along while the main manager was out on vacation) is nearing its close, AND I'm readying my self and others at the office for my own vacation time coming up next week. Mark and I are not taking a long vacation to an exotic or remote location next week, though. We are staying home and just attending to ourselves, our girls (the dogs: Hannah and Sadie), and our house.

I get quite a bit of personal time off to use during the year (28 days in total), but we just don't have the stamina or budget to go on out of town vacations all the time. We're also a bit lazy about vacations. An out of town vacation not only requires a budget, it requires planning time and decision making, something neither Mark nor I are much inclined to do in our busy, busy lives. So, we're staying home and if the weather allows (meaning, it's not too damn hot) we'll lay a short path of pavers near the back gate so we don't have to keep shlepping across a stretch of dusty/muddy bare ground to exit the yard there.

If it's too hot to work outside, I have plenty of other things to catch up on at home: cleaning up my office, filing, de-cluttering the basement, returning stuff at some shops, finishing/starting some new knitting projects, and going to the LYS to use the generous gift certificate my friend Adrienne gave me for my b-day.

My group was moved into our new offices a couple weeks ago, and it's been an interesting experience getting used to the new facilities, location, and the impact on my commuting. We're now on the west side of the Loop, and no longer near the lake and Millenium Park. We've not only lost the spectacular views, there's a different vibe on this side of the Loop, and there seem to be many, many more office workers, all of whom are cramming into the same 5 places to pick up lunch every day. Seriously, I was shocked and tremendously annoyed the first day at the new office when I went out to pick up a sandwich and found that nearly every place I visited had a line of people out the door! I must get back into the habit of bringing lunch every day.

I also lost my office and my privacy with this move. As a humble manager, I no longer rate an office. So, I am relegated to a cubicle. A very nice cubicle -- near the windows and with lots of space -- but a cubicle nonetheless. Being near the windows is not necessarily a blessing, though. There are big air-conditioning vents along the windows and I spent the first week and a half FREEZING, while the senior managers and partners in their offices -- all clustered in the central, core of the floor -- slowly roasted in their offices. There was no way I'd win the tussle with the thermostat, so I finally brought in this shawl so I could wrap myself up to keep warm:

Heaven shawl

This is Lorna's Laces Easy Pie Wedge Shawl made with Heaven, their lace-weight mohair blend. It was not something I knitted with the intention of wearing in the office. If I had, I would have chosen more subtle colors, and I would have completed the blocking process. However, it is working very well for my purposes because it is large and warm. I wrap myself completely in it, covering my hands, too, and hunch over my laptop keyboard catching the warmth generated by the machine. Eventually I will make some matched wrist warmers and a shawl to keep at the office. Maybe the Clapotis so many folks were raving about a few months ago...hmmm...

Instead of taking the el every day, I'm now taking the more suburban-oriented commuter rail line, Metra, to get to the office. There's a Metra station only 1/2 mile from my house, so my walk every morning has been reduced. I do have to get used to a strict schedule, however. Metra trains aren't like the el; if I miss it, I have to wait about 40 minutes for another. This is a much longer wait time than the 5-7 minutes between el trains. So, I've had to be more disciplined with myself in the AM, and in leaving the office at a set time. The office is only 2 blocks from the Metra station, however, so it can take me as little as 5 minutes to get from my desk to the train.

Yes, it can take me that little amount of time, but there are also the crowds to figure into the equation. Holy crow there are SO many people heading to Union Station between 5 and 5:30 PM to board their train out to suburbia! It's like being stuck in the middle of a salmon run or something.

There is some enjoyment in this new way of commuting, however. The trains are a bit roomier than the el, and I can usually get some knitting done in the AM, and always get some done on the trip home. In the mornings, I've always found it a challenge to knit on the el because I usually have my commuter mug of tea and no place to put it down. The more cramped and crowded conditions on the el even made it a bit difficult to knit on the trip home, although I could often accomplish a small project like a sock. On the Metra, the roominess means I can lug an extra knitting bag in additon to my usual laptop bag, and can find a pretty stable location to set my tea mug. I was always able to knit a few rows on Eve's shawl in the AM and PM on the Metra train. The el is still an option, but it's a much farther walk from the office and from my home, and not as cushy as the commuter train.

...On the needles...

After what seemed like forever, I finally finished Eve's shawl and sent it to her express mail a few days before she left for Greece. It was really an experience in Terminal Velocity, and I have to admit to reaching a point where I decided to just bind off and be done with it. The shawl was supposed to use 6 skeins of Microspun, but as I finished up the fifth skein, I draped it around myself and thought, "This is big enough." And really, it was. It wasn't the full 60 inches, but it fit me very comfortably and Eve's about 6 inches shorter than I am. I just couldn't see her draped in a shawl almost as long as she is tall.

Eve's shawl
Eve's shawl: Easy Ripple Shawl pattern from Lion knit in Lion Brand Microspun

As my reward, I picked Soleil back up and got back to working on something for me. I had no problems with the lace rows, but did run into a snag on the first increase row after that. It wasn't a problem with the pattern, it was a problem with me. After knitting and tinking that row twice, each time coming up short on the number of times the increase was to be worked, I finally just gave up and fudged it, finishing the final increases on the next row. It wasn't until several days later as I again studied the pattern that I realized that I had highlighted the wrong number on the pattern, and was supposed to knit 8 sts not 9 between the increases. Honestly, I had really read the pattern very thoroughly a few times through before starting; I guess I just had a mental block or something.

I also found that my row gauge was off quite a bit and the length was consequently out of whack. Yes, I had swatched for the pattern but I don't recall checking the row gauge. So, I ended up skipping some rows of straight knitting. I think it will be OK. My stitch gauge is also off, despite the fact that in my swatch it matched. I am crossing my fingers that the fit will still be nice, but if I have to I will frog the whole thing. It is a point of personal pride here that I will finally complete a fitted garment that really does fit me!

Over last weekend, I got to the place in the pattern where the neckline is divided. Like a timely intervention, I noticed a post on the Knitlist from someone expressing confusion over this part of the pattern. I thoughtfully ran a lifeline through my sts, then proceeded on with the pattern as I understood it. By Sunday night, I realized something was wrong with my stitch count. I emailed the designer, Alexandra Virgiel, and set it aside until I got a reply.

In the meantime, I worked a bit more on my swatch for Lily, and also Googled a bit on Soleil to see if I could find some other blog or message about the pattern. Jackpot! I found a Soleil knit-along blog that was chock full of tips, including a post by Alexandra pointing to some suggestions on how to make minor changes to the pattern.

I've never been tempted to join a knit-along before, and wasn't sure of the point. My impression was that they were sort of clubby and I really don't enjoy stuff like that. Now I think I understand the benefits and would be inclined to check for one as a resource when starting a new pattern.

Alexandra was prompt in emailing me back and pointing out quite kindly that I had interpreted the pattern instructions incorrectly, hence my incorrect stitch count. Thank goodness for that lifeline!

Soleil with Lifeline
Notice the lifeline (reddish line to the right) in Soleil that really saved my *ss!

I ripped back to the life line Monday night, then spent a good 30 minutes figuring out how to incorporate Alexandra's instructions on raising the neckline with the original pattern instructions. I decided to raise the neckline based on the sheer number of posts to the knit-along about how the neckline in the original pattern was a bit too deep for some folk's modesty. I want to be able to wear Soleil at work without raising eyebrows or flashing people! I've got it all figured out and set up for the deviation now, and am looking forward to working on it tonight.

Last night was a SnB night, but I ended up not going. I was at the office until nearly 7 PM, and had also gotten a message from Jan -- a mentor to me who works out of our Hermitage, TN office but was in Chicago for the week -- that she would welcome getting togther with me for a drink after work. I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to get together with her and "talk shop" while getting and giving some good feedback and career advice. Oh, and we consumed quite a lot of Blue Moon beer during that time, too!

I sure hope Jan was feeling OK this morning when she had her 7 AM breakfast meeting with our lead partner...I know I was a tad under the weather this AM after last night's indulgence!

...In the garden...

Again, it is really sweltering hot outside and I don't want to spend much time doing anything. I have to water, though, as we are seriously rain deficient here. I'm regretting not putting a soaker hose in the veggie bed this year. I just never got around to it, so now I have to water overhand, standing in the blistering heat. I think I may pick up a small sprinkler head or maybe I will get around to laying the hose when the weather cools down a bit this weekend.

I have some small, green tomatoes out there, and the beets are coming along nicely. It also looks like the cucamelon is setting fruit. Not being familiar with this plant, I'm not sure, though. Lettuce is still looking great, and I have to get around to cutting some brocolli, too, before it all goes to flower. This weekend I am planning to dig up the garlic.

It's definitely raspberry time! The black raspberries are really abundant this year, and I spent a good 40 minutes picking berries early Saturday morning, becoming sweat-drenched despite the early hour. With work being so busy, I just haven't had time to pick every day, so I filled two containers: one of good berries and one of "reject" berries that I popped in the freezer for an experiment in making natural yarn dye.

I have a couple gardening challenges to figure out while I'm off work next week. I've noticed that I don't have much color in my perennial beds right now, so I need to research and plan for adding perennials, or even annuals, that bloom at this time of year. I also want to research a bit more about a clover lawn, or a better alternative to a turf grass lawn. Turf just can't handle the heat and even when it's getting regularly watered (something I don't do on principle) it is always is stressed at this time of year and looking not that great. I just don't like the look of crispy lawn, nor do I want to join the legions of neighbors watering all the time to keep the lawn sort of green.

I'll pose a few questions on the Organic Gardening message boards and see what sort of replies I get.

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