November 23, 2005
The morning after we got married, I interrupted Jason in the middle of a sentence to say: "Hey! I have nieces and nephews!"* I then proceeded to do what I christened The Nieces and Nephews Dance. Seriously, "my nieces and nephews" comes in a close second after "my husband" in terms of my favorite things to say now that I'm married. So, with all of this excitement, you'd think that I'd be further along on Robbie's blocks.
When I made blocks for Henry two and half years ago, Lauren made me promise that I'd make them for her babies. Of course, I agreed. When I made Sydney's earlier this year, she was already pregnant with Robbie and she reminded me of our deal. She loaned me a piece of his nursery bedding to pick yarn colors months ago. But then the wedding came, I got sidetracked, and here it is November and Robbie's about to celebrate his four-month birthday and the kid still. has. no. blocks. What kind of Tia am I?
I set a self-imposed deadline of this weekend. It's going to be close, but I suspect seeing this little face is going to keep me very motivated. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, if you celebrate it!
*I'm an only child, so the only way I was going to get nieces and nephews was by marriage. I refer here specifically to legally-recognized nieces and nephews, since I've been Tia for quite a while now. ;)
November 22, 2005
Remember the Mommy sweater I knit for Jason's sister, Rachel? No? Let me jog your memory...
You may also remember that Rachel is mommy to Syd, who despite being born at under four pounds is an adorable butterball as she approaches her first birthday. An adorable bald butterball, that is. Much to Rachel's chagrin, and despite the fact that she dresses her in the girliest of girly clothes, Syd is routinely referred to as "he" and "him" by strangers. (Rachel to a supermarket employee: "She's wearing a tutu for God's sake -- she's a GIRL.")
So is it any surprise that when Rachel decided that Syd needed a handknit sweater for Christmas, it would (1) involve a pink heart, and (2) incorporate Rachel's favorite color combo of pink and brown? The pattern is from Knitting for Baby and the yarn is the super-soft Cashmerino Aran. I had to make some adjustments for gauge difference, but the sweater went very fast (cast on in Granada, finished before we got to Seville!). The only thing keeping me from the seaming -- besides laziness, of course -- is trying to decide if the roll-neck is too long. I knit it exactly as long as the pattern calls for but it seems awfully bulky, especially for Syd, whose sensitivity to animal fibers is still an open question.
There's enough yarn left for an accessory, and I have just the thing in mind. I'll post it once I'm sure it's going to work -- but if it does, it's going to be so fabulous.
November 18, 2005
The Pinnacle of Knitting
When we were at Jason's sister's place in the country last July, my mother and I made a trip to the Morehouse Merino store. When she caught me staring longingly at the Pinnacle Poncho kit she asked if I wanted one. I told her that I'd always wanted one, but I wanted it in the colorway shown in the picture. Unfortunately, when I discovered the poncho pattern at Rhinebeck the year before, they didn't have that colorway at their stalls at the fairgrounds or at their store.
"You mean like this?" she said, holding up a kit with the perfect colorway match. She bought it for me as a "honeymoon present" under the condition that I not start knitting it until the honeymoon. And so began three more months of gazing longingly at it, this time in the comfort of my own home.
Needless to say, it was the first thing I started knitting on the honeymoon. It was speedy knitting -- worsted weight yarn on US11s goes pretty quickly! I finished up on the train between Seville and Madrid, and slipped it on in our hotel room as soon as we checked in. It was an important knitting moment, the culmination of over a year of lusting after this poncho.
Given the buildup, I should have known better. It looked B.A.D. on me. Too long, not flattering around the neck, too much fabric over the arms. Yuck. Not wanting to pollute my good honeymoon mood with hateful thoughts toward a knitted object, I quickly shoved it to the bottom of my knitting bag and didn't think about it for the rest of the trip.
On the flight back to Boston, an idea came to me, and by the time I unpacked that bag at home, I already knew what I was going to use the yarn for. And I think with just one picture, you're going to figure it out too! (If not, go here.)
What a great pattern! We're flying off to Cali tonight and this is coming with me on the plane. Have a great weekend!
November 15, 2005
As I mentioned earlier, we decided to honeymoon in Spain because of our fascination with Andalucía. Granada and Seville were the major attractions, with a stop or two on the beach and in the country to help us relax. And while we would have been content to have stayed in Andalucía for the duration of our trip, airline schedules and budget considerations made it clear that Madrid was the logical place from which to leave. So we ended our Spanish adventure with 36 hours in Madrid, which isn't enough time to properly "do" the city but plenty of time to do last-minute souveneir shopping and relaxing before heading home. (Darn, guess we've got to go back!)
Seeing as how we weren't going to do the tourist-y stuff in Madrid, I dropped Betty (blogs in Spanish but speaks English; feel free to comment!) -- the only Spanish knitblogger I knew of at the time -- a note to ask her about Madrid's yarn store offerings once we checked in to our hotel. As soon as I finished sending the e-mail to Betty, Jason and I headed out to get the lay of the land. We ended up on the Plaza Mayor when it happened again: we found a yarn store! El Gato Negro (The Black Cat) was large, bustling, and stocked from floor to ceiling with colorful unlabeled hanks.
It took a bit of time and observation for me to figure out that to buy some of this yarn, you had to have a salesperson fetch and weigh it to see how much it would be. Though attractive and -- did I mention? -- large, El Gato Negro presented La Gringa with two challenges. First, like most of the yarn stores in Spain much of the yarn was behind the counters and not immediately touchable. Since I like to see and touch pretty much every yarn in a store before making a purchase, this would have resulted in hours of "Puedo ver eso? De que es hecho? Cuanto vale?" ("Can I see that one? What's it made of? How much is it?"). I've worked in retail, I just can't do that to a salesperson. Second, even if I knew the price it would have been in the form of Euros per gram of yarn... which, as an American, would have been about as helpful as knowing the price of eggs in China. So despite my appreciation for its size and my affection for a certain gato negro of my own, I settled for a picture of myself by their pretty window.
That evening at the hotel, I checked my e-mail and saw that Betty (who was traveling at the time) had forwarded my message to the Madrileña knitblogger Urraca (blogs in French, maintains the Madrid knitters' meet-up blog in Spanish, and based on her link list also speaks English. Holy polyglot, Batman!), who had already written back! Are these ladies fast, or what? The gist of Urraca's e-mail was that for those with little time in Madrid, she recommended two centrally-located yarn store: Lanas Sixto and De Puntillas. (She said she wasn't crazy about El Gato Negro because so much of their yarn was acrylic. Good to know!) She also said she wished she had known that I was going to be passing through Madrid since she would have organized something with the other knitters. Isn't that sweet? Now I really have to go back sometime! [Note:
I've translated Urraca's descriptions and directions for the yarn stores in central Madrid and put it in the extended entry section for any other gringas tejedores who might end up here via Google!] Rather than rely on my occasionally spotty translation skils, I recommend that you read Urraca's review of Madrid yarn stores on the Madrid Knitting Meet-Up blog. It begins here, and Urraca herself has assured me there is more to come!]
On our last full day in Spain, we hit both of Urraca's recommended yarn stores. I found Lanas Sixto to be just as she had described it: warm, friendly, and well-stocked with Spanish (and some Italian) yarns. Best part: a fair amount of yarn was not. behind. the. counter! I bought two balls of Lana d'Irlanda for Alison -- in blue, of course. It was the perfect Euro-yarn: made in Italy, named for Ireland, and purchased in Spain!
De Puntillas was more of a mixed bag. It did have the best selection of international brands, and I fixated on the Gedifra Byzanz. I've been needing a new scarf, and this combination of colors and sparkle seemed like just the thing. The woman at the store was friendly, and kindly showed me a drop-stitch pattern that looked good with the yarn. My only quibbles are that I somehow I managed to end up with mixed dye lots (mostly my fault, I know) and when I got back to the hotel I realized that the yarn reeked of cigarette smoke. I suppose that's the peril of shopping in smoke-friendly Europe!
Click the picture to see a bigger version that includes the view out our hotel
room window. The statue in the background is Cervantes.
The next morning, we checked out of our hotel and winged our way back to Boston and real life. Now that I've told you about my yarn adventures in Spain, now I can start telling you about what I knit while I was there!
November 13, 2005
(Note: I know it's taking me a long time to get through these honeymoon entries, but after this one there should only be one left. Then I'll get back to normal [i.e., non-honeymoon-related] knitting content!)
The day before we left for Seville, we spent a few hours reading our guide books and figuring out what we wanted to do when we got there. At one point, Jason handed me the Rough Guide open to a page in the Seville section and said, "you're going to like this." It said:
On every manhole cover, bus and public building in Sevilla you will see the curious cipher NO 8 DO. What looks like a figure 8 is actually the symbol of a twisted skein of wool (madeja in Spanish). During the eleventh-centry reconquista [reconquest, when the Catholics took southern Spain back from the Moors], Alfonso the Wise, King of Castile, tired of the endless war, made a truce with the Moors. This so angered his excitable son Sancho, that he rebelled against his father and launched a civil war. When the people of Sevilla stayed loyal to Alfonso, the king lauded them with the royal testimonial "No me han dejado" ("You have not deserted me"). In medieval Spanish this came out as "no ma dejado" from which the sevillanos -- long aficionados of word riddles -- came up with NO MADEJA DO, soon encrypted as NO 8 DO and swiftly adopted as the city's crest.
After reading the paragraph, I looked up at him and said: "We gotta get pictures of that for my blog!" As we wandered around Seville taking pictures a few days later, it was so cool to see skeins of yarn embossed, engraved, and sculpted all around!
Finally, I took Saleknitter's advice -- when I posted about the Honeymoon Cami that Alison made me, she left a comment saying that I should wear the Cami when we went to watch flamenco in Seville. So on our last night in Seville, I donned the cami and we headed out to La Carboneria. We really enjoyed the flamenco (and some sangria, of course), and I felt very saucy in my orange top. Jason snapped a few shots when we came back late that night, this one is the clearest. (Excuse the bad hair, on the way to the bar we were caught in a furious rain storm. After 20 minutes huddled in a doorway [which gave me the opportunity to teach Jason the word escampar] it tapered off from a Biblical flood to just a normal everyday downpour and we made a run for it. We were soaked by the time we made it to the bar!)
November 5, 2005
When you get right down to it, the fortified palace behind Jason in the picture above is the reason we ended up honeymooning in Spain. Chosing a destination had turned out to be harder than we had anticipated -- there were just so many places we wanted to go! One day, when surfing around looking for inspiration, I found this itinerary. It was a trip designed for people who "want a balanced mix of beach-oriented relaxation and cultural exploration. Those who enjoy historical sites, architecture, good food and wine, and outdoor activities." Hello, you just described us!
When I was first learning Spanish at Middlebury, I had a wonderful teacher who described the city of Granada so poetically and so intensely that the images of the Alhambra that she painted in my head have stayed with me for years. So when I read the Moonrings* itinerary, and saw that it included a stay within the Alhambra's walls, I was sold. Jason and I share a fascination with forts in general, so he was quickly on board. Andalucia it would be.
All of this is to say that our expectations were very high when we arrived in Granada after three days by the beach. Unfortunately, our first few hours were inauspicious. Has anybody else ever heard of the HALT rule? HALT stands for hungry, alone, lost, or tired, and the rule is that if you are more than one of those things while traveling, you are to stop and rectify the situation before continuing on. Since we were on our honeymoon neither of us were alone, but as we set out that first evening we quickly hit the trifecta: hungry, lost, and tired. We had not yet mastered the timing of meals in Spain, so we'd missed lunch and we were out looking for food when most of the restaurants had not yet re-opened for dinner. We'd had a long travel day, and the labyrnthine streets and alleys in Granada -- utterly charming under normal circumstances -- frustrated us to no end. Oh, and you could also add freezing to my list, since Granada was experiencing some kind of weird cold snap and I had only a jean jacket.
We took immediate action: we ate sandwiches (bocadillos) at a small snack bar rather than wait for the restaurants to open, spent our dinner studying maps to get our bearings, and loaded up on caffeine to temporarily banish the fatigue. Newly envigorated, we set out to wander a bit. We ducked in and out of several great shops, and made our way to the cathedral. In the plaza in front of the cathedral there was some sort of Renaissance Fair going on, including the sale of homemade chocolate (more caffeine!). As we left the plaza, I saw something wonderous, something beautiful, something to help turn our evening around. A yarn store.
I walked in, and encountered for the first time the thing about yarn stores in Spain that I'm not crazy about: the yarn is behind the counter. For somebody like me who prefers to browse on my own, reading labels and fondling yarn, this was a bit of a shock. There was one small bin of sale yarn on the shop floor, so I went there first. And don't you know, it was that very same sale yarn that I ended up buying!
The yarn is called Soffio and it's made by Alessandra Filati -- 100% merino superwash, decent yardage, and I got it for 9 Euros. Yep, that's right, six balls of good yarn for just under $11. As if the good sandwiches and serendipitous yarn store wasn't enough, Granada cheered me in other ways as well. The next day we woke up to a still-chilly city, so we decided that we'd head to El Cortes Ingles, the big department store in Spain, and get me a sweater or two to make it through the planned tours of the Alhambra. We had already noticed that everybody in Granada -- men, women, children -- were wearing ribbed, zippered cardigans, so we figured they would be perfect. (They were. In fact, I'm wearing one of them in the picture above!) As I browsed through the racks, I looked up and saw this sign:
In the end, we loved Granada as much as we'd hoped we would. It's amazingly beautiful city, as implied by the famous, and oft-quoted line about a blind beggar:
Give him a coin woman, for there's no greater sorrow than to be... blind in Granada.
(If you are so inclined, you can see the rest of our Granada pics here!)
*We don't consider ourselves travel agent people, but when we inquired about this itinerary at Moonrings we were so impressed by their approach and willingness to work with us on a plan and budget that we ended up booking our honeymoon through them. Maribel at Moonrings did such a fantastic job that we felt that the fee they charged for planning and booking the trip was, in terms of value for our money, some of the best wedding-related money we spent. I also love that so many of their itineraries are designed for honeymooners who want something between a cookie-cutter resort and an extreme outdoor adventure. I'd recommend them to anybody in a heartbeat!
November 1, 2005
Knitting in Paradise
The first full day of the honeymoon found us by the pool, relaxing and trying to reset our internal clocks and shake off jet lag. Despite our drowsiness, we were giddy to be there. How can you not be, when this is your view?
And to my right were more lounge chairs and lush greenery...
But wait, what's that? Our chaise lounge neighbor was knitting! It looked like a sock, but I couldn't be sure.
For those interested in non-knitting photos of the first leg of the honeymoon, they are posted here with commentary!