Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Day Knitting

What to do when you finish a large pair of socks and want a simple knitting project to work on while visiting on Thanksgiving Day(Bird mittens? What bird mittens?).

Dive into the stash, grab a cone of yarn from Scotland and cast on for a lace scarf (Ploughed Acre Scarf - lace pattern from a Barbara Walker Treasury, scarf pattern by wildknits).

As you may have noticed I have started to wind off the yarn into a 'cake'/center-pull ball. Cones are not very portable and I have travel plans for this scarf.

Now, deciding to wind this off mid-project has involved a bit of breaking of yarn and then spit splicing. My intention was one break but... well the yarn had another idea! About a quarter of the way through the first cake it went flying across the room. Yup, yarn a little too slippery for the ball winder. So I applied my high tech solution to this problem

After adding the rubber band I was on my way. Due to the tangle that ensued (yarn from the outside interfering with the center pull feature during the trip across the room) I had to break the yarn once more. Finished winding the initial flying cake, spit spliced the yarn together and began winding off the cone again. Everything was going great and then I took a hard look at the ball-winder, the cone and back again. The yarn was not all going to fit! Another break in the yarn was needed. Second ball wound up in no time though, and only slightly smaller than the first.

Originally I was a little concerned about having enough yarn for a long scarf (unblocked this scarf is over 6 inches wide) but now I am less worried. This has been an amazing cone of yarn! Bought it at a knitting retreat years ago from someone cleaning out her stash. Knit a large shawl from it (gifted to our pastor when she was going through treatment for breast cancer), and have knit at least one hat with it. The yarn is a little stiff as is, due to the oils left on it for machine knitting, but once it is washed up fluffs and has a wonderful feel.

So far no recipient in mind for this scarf - we shall see what presents itself ;->

Been running consistently - at least for me - and pulled out the training plan last night I used for the Superior 25k. Time to start planning for next years races. I am running about 14 miles per week right now and need to get that up another few miles before I jump into the training plan. I have found that I need a long build-up and longer miles to 'race' well, so will start the formal plan mid-January for a mid - May race. If all goes well, I will have a perfect base and be in a good place for training for my second marathon (going back to the Half Voyageur, non-Jarrow's Beach year).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you all have a nice break from your routine(s), can gather with an interesting group of people, have an opportunity to be outdoors enjoying the beauty of a late fall day and get to eat your fill of delicious food.

Preparations have begun at Wildknits: Turkey was picked up yesterday from our local farmer; pumpkin was baked, pie filling was prepared and the pies are in the over; beets are cooking; bread is rising; groceries are purchased. The rest of the meal will be prepared tomorrow. Fresh turkeys cook pretty quick so there will be time for a run in the morning on one of my favorite sections of the SHT - Knife River.

This section may eventually be abandoned as the trail is built from Duluth to Two Harbors, but for now it is the site of some memorable runs year round. It is a rooty, twisty hilly section - all the best of the SHT. Portions run along the Knife River - high above and close to the riverside. Demands your attention or you will trip over a root, run into a tree or step into a puddle. Not too long - maybe 4 miles top, trendy downhill- if you start at the top :->

After the run it will be back to the house to get the turkey in the oven, start the herb puffs, make cranberry sauce and finish up all of the last minute stuff that is Thanksgiving in America.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pickled Herring, Holiday Cheer and Broken Windows

It must be winter!

The temperatures are dropping (though still no snow) and car windows are frosty - leading to comical attempts at scraping (I am short, my car has a lot of glass, attempts to reach the middle of the windshield without leaning on the car in my work clothes.... amusing). Apparently it was so cold overnight yesterday that it broke auto glass:

This window was just replaced in August (trauma induced by a bass amp). The theory is that something was wrong with the installation and the cold (low yesterday morning 7 F) lead to the break. Sigh! Thankfully the damage is covered by the warranty as that car does not have glass coverage. And lucky for me - that is not my primary vehicle. Unbelievably, I did not notice the window was broken when I left for work - too focused on scraping windows and getting going on time. In my defense, I do not park on the same side of the street as this car ;->

Over the past week there has been a large container moving in and out of our refrigerator. I am not initiated into the mysteries of pickling fish, but that is what has been happening in the Wildknit's kitchen. Started with last Sundays catch of Lake Superior Herring Once they were cleaned and filleted (saw a lot of roe which can be sold for the caviar market in Sweden) the fish was cut into chunks and went into our crockpot insert with a brine solution. After an overnight stay in the refrigerator the fish is rinsed and then covered with white vinegar for another overnight stay in the fridge. One more rinsing, and then the fish goes into the pickling jars and is covered with pickling solution. After 5 days it will be ready for consumption. This recipe does not involve canning - just refrigeration. Now, I am NOT a fan of commercial pickled herring - 'shudder' - but do find this to be quite edible.

More to my liking is the Holiday Cheer that was also cooked up this weekend. Otherwise known as "Christmas Beer". Traditionally, we start talking about brewing this up for the holiday season in the fall and then procrastinate to the point that we are brewing on Christmas Eve and the beer will not really be ready for consumption until well into the new year. But this year we got the timing a little better. The recipe includes honey, ginger root, cinnamon, and grated orange peel in addition to the requisite malt extract, malts, hops and ale yeast. It is now sitting in a 5 gallon carboy. The first 24-72 hours involves a lot of noise! Active fermentation is taking place and there is a lot of gurgling as the excess gases escape through a hose and into a container of water. All is quiet now though - fermentation lock is in place and the carboy sits, wrapped in a sleeping bag, under the kitchen table. Rather than bottling 5 gallons of beer, we now move it into a soda keg when fermentation is complete.

Made it sound like I was busy this past weekend, huh?! I was only an assistant for all of this cooking. I do the shopping and help out with some prep, but am not the chief cook or brewer. Jon has been pretty busy of late - and I notice that the sourdough starter has moved from the fridge to the kitchen table so bread is also on the way. And we have not even started to assemble the Thanksgiving Day menu!

As non-traditional as we can be there are some stand-bys that are expected on the table. This year there will be turkey (fresh from our local CSA), herb puffs (Laurel's Kitchen - one child has already requested the recipe for her meal far away in Montana),cranberries from a local supplier and pies made from the pumpkin we got with our last summer Food Farm (CSA) share. There is talk of a brussel sprout salad (now, give it a chance! Shredded brussel sprouts, peccarino cheese, walnuts... quite tasty) and we just downloaded a recipe for a cranberry-walnut upside down cake from the Almanac ( website. As you can see we cook for a crowd and like variety.

Another Thanksgiving Day tradition is to head out for a walk in the woods. For a few years now that has included spotting a porcupine! Wonder if we will see one this year? Luckily Porter has never gotten ahold of one on a holiday.

From last weekend:

Playtime at wildknits - Porter and Hobbes (standard poodle)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Deconstructing a mitten - a photo essay

Sit back and enjoy a series of photos detailing the ripping back of one of the bird mittens (while I research early signs of dementia - one possible reason I knit a whole mitten without noticing my error?):

What I love about shetland wool - it is 'sticky'. Unlike smoother yarns the stitches hang onto each other just enough that it was remarkably easy to pick up all those stitches. Now what to do with the thumb.... should I try to kitchener it back in place or rip it out? think I will wait until i finish the hand 9again) to tackle that problem.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I finished the Bird Mittens! Or did I?

Much excitement around the Wildknits household. After months of work (well, really hours of work and months of procrastination and messing about with other knitting projects)I finished the Bird Mittens. No more stranded knitting on size 0 needles with lace weight yarn! No more detailed patterns and charts to follow! Another pair of beautiful mittens ready to be gifted to an anxious recipient!

Look pretty good, eh? Could use a blocking to even out the stitches, but overall a nice pair of mittens.

Here is a look at the palm side and the thumbs:

And that is when I saw it! Notice the thumb on the left hand mitten. Go ahead, embiggen the picture if you need to. What do you see?

Yup, I placed the thumb in the wrong spot on the left hand. Don't ask me how, or why, I did not notice until I was finished with the mittens. I've tried denial (they still fit, feel okay on the hand, no one will notice...) but this means a visit to the 'frog pond'. I am hoping I can at least salvage the thumb and not have to reknit that as well (that would make 4 thumbs knit for one pair of mittens). Though it would mean kitchener stitching the thumb to the hand... hmmm, maybe re-knitting the thumb for the 4th time isn't so bad.

And here I was looking forward to some nice 'quiet' sock knitting now that the mittens are done and the heel stitches are picked up. Guess I will put that on hold and get to work pulling out the yarn I carefully wove in after finishing the top, then pulling out the stitches, and oh yeah, joy of joys, picking up 70 or so stitches in lace weight wool with sz 0 (2 mm) needles. Best do it while there is good light and my eyes are not too tired. As attractive as a certain beverage would be for the task, I do not think it will improve my chances of picking up tiny stitches in colorwork.

Ah well, does provide a handy excuse not to do any housework as the sun is shining - kindof - today.

Did get out the door this morning for a run. Braved the 30 degree temps and winds to run 5.3 miles of hilly road. The Saturday morning running group has officially kicked off our season. We only meet in the winter and run pretty much despite what the weather throws at us. The core group has been meeting for years, I am a relatively new recruit, joining them 3 or 4 years ago I think. Has been great motivation to get out the door and run on other days of the week so that I can handle the 'long run'.

Run went well, mostly recovered from donating blood on Tuesday. Right knee was a bit stiff at times, but I think I just need to be careful about which side of the road I am running on. When running against traffic the cant of the road aggravates my right leg so I just took to running with traffic at times to even out the stress (note: traffic is a relative term, this is run on rural roads with a grand total of maybe 5 or so cars seen the entire 5 miles). Time to get the foam roller back out, concentrate on stretching and try to hit a trail once and awhile.

So, speaking of trails. Duluth decided to "close" the trails within the city this week as they are too wet. Interesting timing. It has been wet for weeks, and the ground is now starting to freeze, so the trails are actually in better shape right now than they have been.

This weekend I am dogsitting a friends standard poodle. He is one year old, and like most standards, is very high energy and 'bouncy'. Quite the contrast to the old man of the house - Porter. Hobbes (the poodle) is almost the same height as Porter and is so agile. It is funny to watch them together. Kind of like a grandpa and a high energy young teen. Porter is not much into wrestling any longer and has been pretty clear about when he wants to be left alone. Luckily Hobbes has listened and I have not had to intervene.

Being used to a dog that doesn't demand much in the way of hands on attention (despite his separation anxiety) it is always an adjustment to go to a dog that expects to be near you and petted on a regular basis. And to top it off, my immune system apparently does not find poodles all that hypoallergenic. I walk a fine line having a dog in the first place and the addition of an extra dog has tipped the balance.

On the plus side, after a hard week at work, nothing like coming home to dogs to cheer you up! Poodle therapy anyone?

With the cold weather has come Sauna Season! The sauna is one of the few places that I am ever truly warm in the winter. The sense of relaxation after a good session.... hard to describe. We have a wood fired sauna so there is a bit of work involved up front, but nothing like a wood fire to raise the temp into the 180 - 200F range. Plus water is never an issue. The stove was rebuilt a few years ago and has a water jacket on one side so we can heat water for bathing in addition to being able to throw water onto the stove for some additional steam. One time we even made it rain in the sauna (way below zero temps outside, very hot stove, application of water, steam rose, hit the ceiling, condensed and... rain! Very cool).

Wednesday I came home from a run and the sauna was heating. Nice way to finish warming up and add another stretching session. The only downside this week was I was one day out from donating blood, so didn't have much sauna stamina and could only take three sessions before I was 'cooked'.

Well, off to get some chores done (yeah right) and fix my knitting error.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Giant Socks?!?

Why yes, that is a nickel perched on the toe of that sock!

Sz 13+. Surprisingly I know quite a few people with this size foot, so was able to get a tracing without the recipients knowledge (or was the model the recipient??? - all will be revealed around Christmas). The sock knitting is moving along quickly, the yarn is a pleasure to knit with. There is some concern around here about size, but as we are not large-footed in this house it is hard to know. Sock matches the tracing pretty well though. Heel has been turned on the second sock, now to pick up stitches along the heel flap, work the decreases and then it is back to "mindless" inches of stockinette stitch for the foot (you can get a lot read when working a sock for a person who wears a sz 13).

It is Porter's 10th birthday today! Now, depending on who you consult that makes him the equivalent of a 56 - 77 yr old (generic calculators put him on the young end, weight based/size based calculators put him on the older end). We are definitely closer to the end than the beginning of his life though. He is slowing down a bit, but occasionally still shows his goofy, playful side. If anything, he has gotten more "cuddly" in the last couple of years. To an outside observer he may seem aloof still, but we've noticed a change. As illustrated below:

Porter loves our friend because he gets hip massages when Griff's around (plus there is usually good food to be had).

Did I mention I ran without pain! Very exciting, and on pavement to boot. Didn't manage another run after last Friday (still easing into the wintery weather) but will give it a go tomorrow and see how the leg/knee/IT band is doing. If all goes well I can start thinking ahead towards training plans for this spring and summers races. Will most likely be a slower run as I donated blood, I know some folks who say they can run the same day they donate, but I really could tell I was "a pint low" today and would prefer not to get sick, so will take it easy.

That said, I had the day off today (from one job) so took the opportunity to get outside for a walk while the sun was still shining. Explored the SHT in the Hawk Ridge area, then hooked up to the Amity Creek Trail and then onto the Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve trails. Nice walk in the woods, with more climbing than I had anticipated. Wonder if it qualified as "strenuous exercise"?

To complete the randomness of this post: prepare for intense blueness when adding blueberries to oatmeal and then heating it up ;->

Sunday, November 09, 2008

First Snow

And my relatives in the Twin Cities think Duluth is cold - I hear they had snow before we did!

Last Tuesday it was sunny and temps were close to 70F. I thought a "too nice to be indoors day" should be declared and everyone let out of work/school. No such luck. Perfect day to get out the vote, though. Maybe a good reflection of peoples attitudes as they headed to the polls and then waited for the results.

For Wednesday's run temps were in the low 50's with some drizzle. Fast five miles for me with only an occasional pain involving the IT band. A little stiffness later, but overall much better than things have been for months. The wet weather continued, meaning Fridays run was a bit wet also, but I found myself shedding a few layers as the temps were still in the 50's.

Woke up to howling winds and rain, which turned to snow, this morning. Temps dropped throughout the day, but not too much snow accumulated (ground is still warm). Intended to get a run in this morning with friends in Proctor but after arriving, looking at the small turnout and the big winds we decided to bag the run. I know, in a month or two these temps will seem balmy, but even us northerners have to ease into winter ;->

So, what else have I been up to:
- Work, always work (including some long hours at both jobs)
- Much more running than I have been able to accomplish in months (and boy does it feel good! - no pain at all during or after Fridays run, now not to overdue it)
- Knitting (one sock done, cuff of the second started - and finished - today, now to turn the heel and get going on the 11+ inch foot) and
- Reading

My reading list.... well, it's a mix of stuff:
- Free-range knitter: The yarn harlot writes again. The latest offering from Stephanie Peal-McPhee
- A couple of books and short stories by Ursula K. LeGuin
- Some other random short stories by science fiction authors I like (even one that had an
ultra-running theme
- The Ever-Running Man by Marcia Muller (a mystery writer whose work I enjoy)
- Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness.

This last book takes a look at the science of choice architecture... and how people make decisions and can be "nudged" into making 'better' choices for themselves and others (always with the option to choose differently). Interesting stuff to think about and not the dry read you might expect from an economist and a lawyer.

Most of my books come from the library. As much as I love browsing the aisles their limited hours make it difficult, so now I browse remotely and reserve the books online to be picked up when I am downtown for work. Libraries are wonderful community assets but in these tight budget times they are one of the services to take a cut - hence the limited hours. I once heard someone say that if the idea of a public library were brought up now a days, it would be a hard sell to convince the public to pay for them (lets all now be very grateful for the foresight of our predecessors!).

Oh yeah, ran the last race of the NMTC Fall Trail Series. Did okay despite battling a cold all weekend and getting a nasty side stitch in the last 1/3 of the race. Brought along Gypsy Soup (Moosewood Cookbook) - a hit last year and again this year - for the post-race potluck. Donated three hats to the prize drawing for the end of the series awards - which all went rather quickly. I have decided it is more gratifying to gift my hand-knits this way (and via the Mitten Tree at work) than at silent auctions. I am always rather dismayed to see what a hand-knit item goes for at a silent auction (despite the suggested retail price) and have learned not to look any longer.

Not much else going on around here. Starting to hunker down and prepare for winter (better get the rest of the straw on the garlic bed, I hear Porter likes to lay in it). One of these days I will get some photos up of the latest knitting projects.

Note to self: no chai after noon, especially not a 'medium' sized one! Hard to get to sleep with that amount of caffeine in my system. Guess I will go back to working on the heel of a sock and reading....