Monday, February 25, 2008

i'm baaaaa-aaack

I'm sure all of your lives were quite empty without me this last week. Or perhaps, not having my blog to read, you've realized just how pointless and unnecessary it is afterall, and have vowed to stop reading it altogether. I sure hope it's the former. Or at least something in between.

Josh and I had a lovely time in Costa Rica, though not at the Miami International Airport where we wasted many, many, MANY hours of our lives that we'll never get back (our flight to San Jose was delayed 4 hours, our flight back to Baltimore just 1). I wish I could say I knit during those empty hours, but fear of having my knitting confiscated prompted me to check my socks, rather than try to carry them on. Fortunately I had the foresight to keep my knitting in a plastic bag; we had to check our duty free liquor for the Miami-Baltimore flight (because, clearly, a box of sealed liquor bottles with a fresh receipt proving it's been purchased just moments ago is a sinister threat to national security) and somehow, despite luggage being handled oh so delicately, one of the bottles shattered, spilling delicious Flor de Caña rum all over the contents of my suitcase. Anyone who will be traveling to Central America in the near future is encouraged to purchase a replacement bottle (or, say, 8) of Flor de Caña for me. I will reimburse you in cash or yarn. And for those who are more interested in my actual vacation than the trials and tribulations of international air travel, here are my photos.

Now, on to the knitting! Yes, the rumors you've heard are true. Mrs. Darcy is done! Let me piece together one of those fancy FO posts all the cool kids seem to be doing these days:

Yarn: Elsebeth Lavold Classic AL in slate grey, 7 balls
Mods: None of my own; I copied someone's mods for the armhole decreases because the pattern was wonky for that part
Brilliant thoughts: I've blogged numerous times about Mrs. Darcy, so I'm not going to rehash all the details. The sweater turned out well, but not having taken the time to really delve into the art of sizing, I knit the pattern just as it was written (and it was only written for one size), and were I a more skilled knitter, I think some adjustments for a better fit could have been made. For example, I am, sadly, quite short waisted, and had I thought about that for a second before casting on, I would've moved the center ribbing up so that it actually fell at my waist, rather than below it. I also thought the sleeves turned out quite long, and I have looong arms, so that's saying something. Overall, though, I think it turned out quite well--it may not be a perfect fit, but I wouldn't call it too big or too small, either. So far I've had no problems with the bottom rolling up, even though I opted to skip the crochet around the edge. It's quite comfy and warm, too, so it should serve its purpose--protecting me from the frost chill of my office, year round.
I finished the first sock of the pair I'm knitting for my grandfather, and am about halfway done the second. I sincerely doubt it will be done by the end of the month, but the important thing is getting going on these Christmas projects in advance, so I'll try not to be too self-critical if my projects aren't completed in their respective months.
The second-chance order I placed with WEBS shipped out surprisingly quickly and was waiting for me when I returned home. I now have yarn for 2 more projects: the impossible looking hemlock ring blanket, and the comfort shawl for my mother-in-law. And with 2 swaps wrapping up soon, I should have a few more yarn packages coming to me in the days ahead. :)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Pura vida!

I'm off to Costa Rica in a few short hours (our flight is at 6:30am, what a brilliant idea on our part!), don't miss me too much while I'm gone. Mrs. Darcy is all sewn up, she'll be blocking while we're away, so I'll have a shiny new FO to show off when we get back. :)

Hasta luego!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

go ahead, make my day

Hmm, I don't think I've ever actually watched a Clint Eastwood movie, come to think of it . . .
Let’s start off this post with some good old-fashioned flattery. We could all use some of that, right?
So, the lovely Sheryl tagged my blog as one that Makes Her Day. Woo hoo! This cheered me right up as, since slipping and falling on the ice on the way home from work yesterday (no major injuries, just a bruised hip—thankfully I’m not quite geriatric yet), my life has just been one minor, irritating disaster after another. So it’s great to hear that one of my endeavors is actually valued by someone other than me. I want others to feel that same joy, so I’m passing the Make My Day award on to these entertaining and inspirational kids (most of these are knitting blogs):

Knit Happens
See Leann Knit
Knitta' Pleez
Culinary Concoctions by Peabody
Ms MoneyPenny
A Serious Job is No Excuse
Fancie Pants Knits
Confessions of a Clumsy Knitter
Knits & Pieces
Lickety Knit

So go check out all of these blogs, because they’re awesome. And because I said so. And while you’re at it, check out I dare you not to laugh! “Stoopid dog, why u not read doormat?” Cracks me up every time!
Legal-type fine print: The rules of the award are : Give the award to 10 people (or more) whose blogs bring you happiness and inspiration and make you feel happy about blogland. Let them know by posting a comment on their blog so they can pass it on. Beware you may get the award several times.

Now, on to the knitting. No, Mrs. Darcy is still not done. Josh and I were very busy having a fight last night about . . . er . . . well, something really important at the time, so I had no time for knitting. I did have time to angrily flip through a new knitting book I got, so here’s a brief review of Knitting New Scarves: not worth your money. That’s not to say that there’s anything especially terrible about it, but I just don’t, personally, see the merit in trying to knit overly-complicated scarves. If you feel you’ve exhausted the scarf medium, that should be the necessary push you need to branch out to more difficult items (yes, that’s my whole one year of knitting experience talking!). There are a couple worthwhile patterns here (the scarf on the front was the initial draw for me), but many of the scarves are awfully similar, and some of them are just weird—do you need a three dimensional scarf that resembles a string of shark fins? I’m all for a challenge, but I think you need to balance form with function, and a scarf with fins jutting out in all directions probably isn’t going to keep your neck all that warm. But, to each his or her own, so if oddball scarves are your thing, you’ll probably love it—and I think I know where you can buy a discounted copy . . .
I also managed to place a big yarn order last night—yarn for 2 gifts and my 2 swaps. I decided to do the right thing and give WEBS another chance (since they did provide that free shipping code), so fingers crossed for satisfactory service this time around.

Monday, February 11, 2008

heart rate returns to normal

OK, so I had a bit of a panic attack yesterday about the set-in sleeves. Honestly, who wouldn't? Sleeves are a fairly essential part of any sweater worth its salt, so the prospect of a sleeveless sweater (which, let's face it, is a tank top, and nothing more--and what purpose would a wool/alpaca tank top serve?) had me a bit on edge. But I eventually calmed down, regrouped, and got to work. Here's what I came up with:
It's clearly not perfect, but that's not too bad, right? (I'm torn here between wanting real constructive criticism or unwarranted accolades to boost my self-confidence. . . ) The other side looks almost identical, right down to the part at the top, where I think I started seaming under a different row of stitches. Oops. Set-in sleeves are hard. After the trauma of the sleeves, I had no energy for the rest of the finishing, so there's more work to do yet, including finding appropriate buttons. Looks like I won't be wearing this sweater until we get back from Costa Rica--which is too bad, because it's a balmy 25 degrees here today, with a windchill of 17, and I could use an extra layer.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

quick, to your panic stations!

ACK! Mrs. Darcy is all ready to be sewn together--I already did the shoulder seams--and I am at a complete loss with the sleeves. I don't have a blind clue how to sew them in, even with Knitting for Dummies by my side. It's too hard, I can't do it. Maybe I should leave her as a button front vest . . . Please, my knitting brethren, recommend a resource with clear info on setting in sleeves. My sanity is at stake here!

As a side note, I've got 5 extra balls of Elsebeth Lavold Classic AL (50% baby alpaca, 50% merino wool) in slate grey if anyone is interested in taking them off my hands . . . I'll put them in my Ravelry stash later today.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


While I've loved my knitting swaps, I have fared poorly in yarn swaps in the past (OK, it was just one swap, but I'm still traumatized by the memory!), but I'm taking the plunge again with not one but TWO yarn swaps this month! I just signed up for this International Sock Yarn swap, which, while it could be a little pricier than my usual swaps, sounds very exciting, plus the Knit It Forward group is doing a yarn and pattern swap this time around, with a travel/regional theme (and that means my buddy will get some goodies from Baltimore, hon, plus anything I might come across on our Costa Rica trip, lucky duck). So now I'm looking for some good yarns to send to my future buddies. Suggestions?
That's it for knitting news, but in keeping with my 101 in 1,001 list, I have visited 2 new restaurants recently, and I'm going to briefly review them for you, just in case you're ever in Maryland and looking for a place to eat.
First, Isabella's Taverna and Tapas Bar out in Frederick, MD. We went here a few weeks ago for my sister's birthday and she works out in Frederick, which is why we had to drive nearly an hour for her birthday dinner, even though she lives about 10 minutes from my house. But Frederick is a nice city with an old fashioned downtown area with great shops and restaurants (El Cacique is also good), so I recommend visiting. I loved Isabella's, a huge list of tapas, and plenty of vegetarian ones for me, plus paella and other "real" entrees if you're not the tapas type. I didn't eat anything healthy, of course. I tried the asparagus fries (breaded asparagus with a spicy, creamy dippy) and the Goat Cheese and Almond Fritters, which were fantastic, plus some potatoes that were pretty good, and the spanakopita, which, unfortunately, wasn't great, but probably because I really prefer it made with phyllo dough. No one had any complaints about their food, and the staff was good about coming around to take orders frequently. I give Isabella's an A. :)
Second, PAZO, in Fells Point, Baltimore, the one specific restaurant I listed. We decided to take advantage of Baltimore's restaurant week last week and luckily Pazo was one of the few restaurants offering their restaurant week menu on the weekends (note to restaurants: if you don't offer your menu on the weekends, it's not retaurant week, it's restaurant 5 days!). I felt a bit like the restaurant was trying too hard to be, well, whatever it was going for--sophisticated, hip, edgy, I don't really know. In addition, I have no idea where this new trend of not being able to actually read your menu and see your dinner companions' faces or your food started, but it has to end--it was so dark in there, I could've been dining with the Dalai Lama and I wouldn't have known. But I digress; on to the food: while their restaurant week menu had several vegetarian items, they were almost all bread. The tapas (again!) appetizers included sunflower tuiles (crackers), rustic bread with olive oil, and goat cheese mousse with crostini (toast), and the vegetarian main entree was saffron gnocchi (pasta). They were all very good, but looking at their full menu, they have several other non-bread vegetarian items they could've offered, so that's a little disappointing. Josh loved his food, though, his tapas included empanadas and some kind of shrimp. But I think we could've probably had a non-restaurant week dinner for the same price and gotten a better variety. In addition, since we were just a couple, rather than a group, our table was practically on top of another couple, so don't look to Pazo for a romantic dinner. Pazo gets a B+ (+ for the free valet parking, even though the driver nearly wrecked bringing the car back, but it wasn't his fault as some halfwit was trying to make a U-turn in the middle of the street; I think they give driver's licenses away for free with your crack in Baltimore . . . on the way home, we were nearly hit by a super genius backing down a street at 30mph directly into oncoming traffic without even a glance in his rearview mirror).

Sunday, February 3, 2008

WIP it good

I was hoping for a big FO post, but alas, Mrs. Darcy is not done. I didn't have much time for knitting this week, so I still have the 2nd sleeve to do. So I guess next weekend is the new goal.
I do have pics of two other WIPs, though. First, the Ridged Helmet Hat--the hat part is done, now I need to add the earflaps:

And another project that I'm brushing the dust off of, the Gentleman's Socks that I originally started before Christmas for my grandfather:

I can't recall if I mentioned in a previous post the unspeakably tragic and stupid mistake I made in converting this pattern from 2 circs to DPNs--I took me about 10 rows or so, somehow, to realize that I was placing the decreases along the SOLE of the sock, rather than in the ankle area. Sigh. So I had to rip back 10 rows, and it took me a while to develop the nerve to do it. I detest frogging, not because I can't come to terms with my own mistakes, but because I can't seem to do it without losing stitches, which creates an even bigger mess, tangles upon tangles of yarn, and often tears, accompanied by yelling at Josh, who couldn't possibly be at fault. But I bit the bullet last night, and it actually went quite well, nary a stitch was lost.
The reason the socks are coming out of the "zzzzzz" pile is that, in keeping with my knitting resolution to do at least 1 project per month (minus January and December) for Christmas 08, I've been planning out projects and drawing up a little schedule over the last week, and this is the first gift up to bat. (I figured I'd start off slow and finish a half-done gift, since February is a short month and, HURRAH!, I'll be in Costa Rica for a week as well). I've got some fun patterns picked out for the year, including Brooklyn Tweed's Hemlock Ring Blanket, Henley Perfected from Interweave, the ever-popular Monkey socks, and the autumnal Foliage hat, and hopefully I'm not being overly-ambitious.