Trappist Heaven

December 31, 2004

Kevin had his first beer (I believe I can get this story right) when he was in Amsterdam for Model UN in high school. He had a Westmalle trippel (a Belgian trappist ale), got blitzed, then had to ride by bike back to his host family's house. He's been trying to repeat the experience since.

It turns out that there's a distributor near us, so yesterday afternoon we headed over to Bottleworks in Wallingford (I think?) and picked up some Trappist ales (two bottles of each) for a tasting:

I'm a beer person in general, but these really belong to a whole separate category. Mmm! We split a bottle of each kind while watching the Two Towers, though after the Westmalles it seemed like any more would be wasted on us, so the two Chimays will have to wait for another day.

Here's the best that we could capture it, given the limitations of my camera timer and the fact that i'd put on my high heels for the occasion and almost didn't get back to the couch in time:

Not a bad way to ring out 2004! It's good to be back in Seattle.

Serious airline karma

December 27, 2004

I booked my tickets home for Christmas back in October after being scalped for my Thanksgiving tickets. Nonstop flight to Boston on American for $450, not too bad. Unfortunately, I booked it back when I thought I might have to return for work, so I made it a short trip (Wed-Mon, including flying time). I wasn't ready at all for yesterday to be my last night home. In a fit of optimism, after staying up late talking with my mom, we checked the flight status to find that my 9am flight had been canceled due to snow!! The earliest that they'll be able to fly me out is Wednesday, and I got a seat on an afternoon flight through Dallas. Kevin is supposed to land in Seattle an hour later, so the timing couldn't be better. And I get a few more days home with my family and Comet, the best dog in the world:

I know there are a lot of people who've been inconvenienced and living in airports, but at least after all of the airline meltdowns this past week, there's one person who's happy!

Finished Hayden!

December 26, 2004

Dave's hat fits!! And the plane rip-out was the last one, so it was finished and under the tree by Christmas morning. (I don't know how people manage all of these Christmas knitting deadlines. One project strains my skills.)

And from the back:

Thanks again to Laura for the great pattern and for hosting the knit-along!

Shar & Sophie

December 24, 2004

My sister Sharon brought her Sophie and flower home from school, so I finally got to snap a picture. :-)

Again: Happy Birthday, Shar! and I can't wait til your visit!

more Hayden issues

December 23, 2004

On my (nonstop! yay!) flight home to Boston yesterday, I had more of a lovely time with Hayden. Turns out that the ripping spree I went on last night was completely unnecessary. I made it through about 90% of the decreases, and then somewhere over middle america realized that those three inches were really quite needed, and then some. Bum-mer. Why can I never knit hats correctly the first time through??

I magic-looped for the first time, and after a few unsuccessful attempts got the hang of it. I think that dpns are easier, especially w/ multiple colors of yarn going (I kept getting tangled), but somehow I don't have any #8 dpns, so the two circulars did the trick!

Dave's hat progress

December 21, 2004

Well, really early January, in the "retroactive post, now that the gift's been given" category:
I've been working on the Hayden Hat in the blue, light blue and beige Encore that I bought a few weeks ago. I love the pattern, but the decreases have been tricky for me. Dave's hat was coming along a little too well... I knit an extra three inches, and then had to rip back. Here's a picture half way through the ripping spree:

and another once a few rows had been added to the carnage:

On the plus side, at least I'm ripping so that I can start decreases, so it won't take as long the second time around...

decking the tree

December 18, 2004

Last year in Boston, buying ornaments for my first tree, I quickly seemed to develop a theme:

It wasn't that I was extremely enamoured with snowmen, they were just the most widely available option. A few weeks into advent, I began to notice the alarming trend, yet was helpless to stem the flow of snowmen onto my tree. I looked far and wide (and I really do mean everywhere) for variety, particularily along more religious lines -- we do celebrate this holiday for a reason. However, I had almost no luck.

Then, this year Kevin's mom sent out all of his old ornaments. Along with the obligatory snowmen, we have a whole new genre inhabiting this year's tree:

Firefighters. :-) I suppose though if I had to choose a theme to guard our tree (who will be unwatered for over a week, poor thing), firefighters aren't half bad. We'll have to leave variety for 2005.

Twas the week before we both left town for Christmas...

December 13, 2004

... and so we finally bought a tree. Apparently in Washington, they only sell Douglas Firs and Noble Firs, which both look a little odd for a girl used to Balsams. After a fair amount of calling around and u-eys (how would *you* spell that?) on busy roads looking for something under $50, we finally ended up at home depot where we found a reasonably nice douglas fir for $20. I'm worried that it's going to lose all its needles, but it does look and smell so Christmas-y in the living room, so I'm going to stop stressing and just enjoy it. My mom packed my share of our family's ornaments as well as a good bit of tinsel (I couldn't find any last year -- maybe it's a boston thing?), so it was fun to see them all come out of their wrappings and find a spot on the tree.

I like that the tree lights and the fish tank are both reflected in the window. :-)

Our *fish* tank.

December 12, 2004

We finally have a fish!! Want to see him?

Yeah. We can't see him either. He's a royal gramma, which sounded like a great fish to start with until we got him home, he disappeared into our live rock, and we googled for a bit more information. It turns out that these fish live in caves that they either find or make in the rocks in your tank. They venture forth occasionally, but mostly just stay in their lair. Our guy booked for the rock as soon as we let him into the tank. The entrance is in the back, and therefore invisible to us, but we can see through a tiny hole in the rock to part of his cave (The dark patch in the center of the photo above has about a 1/3" hole in the back and we can sometimes see part of his fin.) So, basically we're doing more rock watching.

Speaking of the rock, though, you can see some of our coralline algae (the maroon, purple, and pink on the rocks) -- this is supposedly highly desirable and shows that we have good calcium carbonate levels in our tank. The plant at the bottom is about 2 inches in circumference. We had a worm munching on it, but he's finally stopped. To the upper left of the fish lair cave, you can see five of our unidentified purple tube polyps: they have brown fringed exteriors and bright green interiors and are about 3 mm across. They look like short stumpy purple tubes when they're closed. I'd love to know what they are. Finally, doesn't the white rock w/ the splash of red just above the fish lair look like a skull with a bloody mouth? It gives me the creeps.

Really, you say. Enough gushing about the rocks! Show me a fish! Well, our guy is getting a little braver, so I got a photo:

Isn't that great? You can see a millimeter of his purple head if you squint through that little opening there. So far he's out of his lair, but sticks right by the entrance to it on the back side of the tank.

Since Kevin and I probably have more patience with this game than you do, here's the best shot I have:

In person, he's a lot more magenta than royal purple towards his head. I think that the flash and the tank lights are responsible for the odd color. I had to crawl around the side of the tank to get this shot, but isn't he pretty?!

Sock Progress!

December 10, 2004

It's measuring in at 4 and a quarter inches. Pretty cool. :-) Here's a blurry photo:

Happy Birthday, Sharon!

December 06, 2004

For my sister's bday, I'd made her a little Sophie bag (around the time that my parents were here visiting). Now that she has it, I can finally post about it. :-)

I made the bag using Cascade 220 (of course), in Black, medium rose (#9424) and light pink (#8114), on size 10 needles. I made a pocket big enough for an id or credit card on the inside by picking up 19 stitches, knitting 20 rows, then binding off and sewing up the sides. Here are the exterior and interior before felting:

I ran it through two cycles so that the stitches would be completely invisible, which led to a smaller Sophie than others than I've seen. For comparison's sake, here are before-and-after measurements of different parameters of the purse:

Circ. of Opening:17"14"





I was really happy with the result overall. If I could go back I would have made the stripes a little wider and the pocket a little deeper. Here it is blocking:

In the foreground, you can see the pieces of a flower that I made to go with it. The flower turned out to be much too big, so I made an even smaller piece to add, which is awaiting felting in this picture. Here's the finished flower:

Instructions for the finished flower (composed of a dark pink "smaller flower" and a light pink "larger flower") are here:
Smaller flower:
Knit 5 petals in color A:
Cast on 5 stitches, knit 4 rows in stockinette.
Row 5: knit 1, CDD, knit 1
Row 6: CDD, pull yarn through remaining stitch to bind off.
(CDD = Centered double decrease: sl 2 stitches to right needle, pull
right stitch over left. sl st back to left needle. pull left stich
over right. RS: K remaining stitch. WS: P remaining stitch)

Sew in any loose ends, then take a new piece of yarn, thread it through the base of all the petals, and pull tight. The petal should dimple. Sew back and forth to close up any gaps.

Larger Flower:
Knit 5 petals in Color B:
Cast on 7 stitches, knit 6 rows of stockinette.
Row 7: K2, CDD, K2
Row 8: K1, CDD, K1
Row 9: CDD, pull yarn through remaining stitch to bind off.
Sew in loose ends, then bind together as for smaller flower.

Cast on 9. Knit 9 rows. Dec 2 every other row, bind off last stitch.
Sew in ends.

Felt, felt, felt.
Trim off excess fuzzies, then sew (with thread) the two flowers together, the leaf to the back of the flower, and a bar pin or clasp onto the back. I added metallic thread and 3 beads as an accent to the front. The finished flower is about 3" x 3.5".

If you want to make the larger petals visible in the blocking photo, just keep increasing your cast-on size by two.

Back in the saddle

December 03, 2004

Yeehaw! With the impending holidays and my newfound dearth of projects (I finished the red hat & scarf, but haven't sewn in ends. pictures tomorrow?), I've decided that my "no new yarn until I get a job" rule only applies to projects for myself. :-) Ahh, rationalization.

The really exciting part of this is that Kevin mentioned in passing that he wouldn't be adverse to hand-knit socks. This was incredibly exciting news to me for several reasons. First, on a knitting level, I feel like knitting socks is the way in which you prove that you have truly arrived. The holy grail, if you will. However, I don't like any of the sock patterns for myself, except maybe for these. So, I'm delighted to get to try my skill and *not* have to wear the result. :-) Second, most of his previous girlfriends have been knitters (he obviously has good taste), and so I didn't want to duplicate their past projects. I'm also a firm believer in the sweater curse... it may have been two and a half years, and we may be living together, but you don't start a sweater unless you have a ring on your finger. No need to jinx these things.

So, I went down to Kirkland Yarn & Stitchery on the way home from other errands and found this yarn (Patons Kroy Socks 4-ply, color #54108) and the Patons Classics Winter Warmth pattern book. The sock pattern I have in mind has the blue arrow pointing toward it.

Kevin gave the go-ahead. Here he is with his future-socks (though it's hard to tell if the yarn or the eggnog is the reason for the smile...) Woohoo for new projects.

I also picked up some Plymouth Encore for one of the gifts on my list. The colors are a neutral beige (#240), a nearly-navy blue (#848), and a slightly tweedy medium blue (#658, which looks much more light blue/gray in real life than in this shot). Expect more info on this project in a few weeks. :-P

Kevin's downstairs working on dinner so I'd better run, but I had to share my new-yarn fun!!

I can't help it... more fishtank:

December 01, 2004

I've been restraining myself from posting about the fishtank because I feel like it's more interesting to me than to anyone reading, but I can't help it, the thing is too cool.

Leah and Ginger were laughing at me & Kevin last night for our watching chairs...

I wish I could say that we don't really spend all of our time sitting there, but I really can't. :-) We bought new lights the weekend before thanksgiving since our used bulbs really seemed weak and we weren't seeing much plant growth. The lights are JBJ Formosa DX which are two blue actinic and two white bulbs. The difference from the old ones is surreal, and our tank is so alive now. We also bought a dude crew -- hermit crabs and snails to clean our rocks, substrate and tank. They all seem happy and are doing a great job keeping all of our new plants in check. Here's a sample view of one of the most popular rocks (you can see three hermit crabs and a snail covered in purple algae -- I circled them in yellow so that they'd be easier to find):

Then we have this guy, who spends all of his time eating (as opposed to most of our snails who spend all their time looking asleep):

He delighted us (I'm serious. we were entranced.) last night by standing up and waving his antennae around. We couldn't decide if it was a king of the mountain display or gastronomic distress, but it was fun to watch.

We also have a neat little double fan which started growing on our rocks once the new lights were in place:

We don't know what it is (it's about 3/4" tall right now, and deep green), so we need to find some sort of salt water algae field guide, but i'm hoping that it continues growing. So neat.
Here are two other unidentified algae colonies:

The green algae on the left has globes between 1 and 4 mm, and sticks to the rock. We have several groups of it. I think that it's some sort of single celled bubble algae. The hermit crabs and snails munch stuff off of it, but haven't eaten any of the bubbles. I'm hoping that it spreads.
My favourite algae is the purple tubes on the right. When the lights are off or any animals come near it, it shrinks into itself and becomes a little purple tube. This blurry photo is of five of them, when they're open. The biggest is 2 or 3 mm across. The centers are a greenish/yellow, and the edges are surrounded by a very fine orange fringe. I don't know what they are, but they're amazing, and I get a lot of milage out of watching them.

It isn't so hard to see why I spend so much time sitting in the chairs watching, right? :-P

Our water quality is looking good, so we are looking at getting our first fish this weekend!! Maybe a neon goby or two?