Springtime in Chicago

I don’t think there is a finer place to be in the world than sitting on my back porch on a sunny, pleasantly warm spring day. I’m not the only one with this opinion, either. My mother-in-law stopped by yesterday morning for a visit. We sat on the porch sipping tea, nibbling on fresh fruit, and just enjoying the experience. About every 20 minutes she would comment how she needed to get moving along, but that she was having trouble moving off our porch on such a lovely day.

Here’s a photo of my completed Inside-Out Socks taken on the porch this weekend.

STR Inside-Out SocksWe had the most fabulous weather this weekend and I took full advantage of it. There was actually little gardening for me to do beyond some minor weeding and pruning the roses. I’ll be executing Phase 2 of the landscaping plan this spring (hopefully within the next 2 weeks) so I will not be planting my annual veggies for some time. They’ll be going in an entirely new location, which means no soil prep right now, either.

This is the year I make a major change in my gardening. I hope. For the past 3 years, I’ve been using a small area in the yard directly behind the house for annual veggies. Now that I *seem* to have the side yard bindweed issues in hand (I won’t even pretend that they are solved, just “in hand”), I can move on with my master plan to devote that yard to edible gardening. I will get another load of mulch put down first, then have raised beds constructed on top of it all and filled with fresh soil. This way, I will not be disturbing the soil underneath all the weed liner and mulch that likely has bindweed seeds in it.

There’s lots of space in that side yard and lots of sun. I’m hoping to have permanent beds for asparagus and blueberries built, and to add a total of 5 more beds for annual veggie rotations. For this spring, if I get just 2 annual beds built I’m sure that will be enough.

I’m glad that there wasn’t a lot of yard work to do because I have been incredibly tired this weekend, too. I’m guessing and hoping that it is just allergies. Otherwise, I am clueless as to why I am getting stupidly tired (e.g. tired to the point of not being able to talk coherently) so easily every day. I crashed on Saturday at about 5:00 and napped until 7:30. On Sunday, I made it to 4:30 before laying down for 90 minutes. I’m seeing my doctor tomorrow for my annual check up, and this is one of my discussion points with her.

As for the short Sedona, Arizona vacation, it was…well…OK. We ran into some problems managing our time last Sunday. We were effectively kidnapped by Mark’s half-brother for a good chunk of the day and didn’t make it up to Sedona until early in the evening.

About this kidnapping comment: that’s what it felt like. When you tell someone — more than once — that you’ll be visiting for brunch, does that mean you’re spending the whole day with them? I don’t think so. Mark’s half-brother did. He asked us to park our rental car so he could take us for “a little tour”– what we thought meant a tour of his gated community — then zipped us away for a tour of Surprise, AZ’s strip malls and housing developments for retirees and non-retirees. Mark seemed paralyzed at speaking up, so after 90 minutes of “This is the Walgreen’s where we get our prescriptions, and that’s where they’re building an Appleby’s” it was up to me to set him straight. I explained that as much as we’d like to spend the day with him, we had thought that we were just meeting for brunch and had reservations in Sedona. We still didn’t escape until 3 PM and the traffic on I-17 delayed us further.

All I can say about these gated communities in the Phoenix area is this, “not for me!!!!” I guess this is typical for new communities: to be insulated by gates, golf courses, and strip malls from anything going on in the world. Every house looks nearly the same and every strip mall has the same chains of stores. It would drive me insane. If this is the typical experience of Americans these days, then I can see why we’ve become so ignorant of what’s going on globally.

I guess I should consider myself lucky, too, that Chicago retains some character from bygone days. We can visit a local restaurant that is not like any other restaurant. We can visit local shops that are not like any other shop. And so on. Individuality, what a concept!

So, we only had one day in Sedona. That one day was one of unseasonable weather: cold and wet. Not just rain wet, but icy rain wet. And when we went out for a hike, we got caught in it. By the time we walked back to our B&B (about 2 miles) we were soaked and freezing. That was the end of our hikining in Sedona.

I got several photos during that time, though.

Stormy weather in red rock country This is typical of the views. Red rocks, green trees, and stormy sky. There are more photos here on my Flickr account.

The next day was sunny and fairly warm, but we had to head out of town right after breakfast so we could make our return flight home. To sum it all up: Phoenix was blech and Sedona was pretty, but not fabulous. It still doesn’t beat northern New Mexico as the place that stirs my soul the most.

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In the desert

Greetings from Phoenix, Arizona. Mark and I flew in yesterday afternoon and will be spending a few days away from home and the girls (our dogs). For Mark, today is a working day. This trip was precipitated by business for him. Me, I’m just along for the ride right now. Tomorrow we start our mini-vacation as we head north to Sedona.

Phoenix is very flat and very brown. There are mountains ringing the valley where the city is located, but the actual valley itself is topographically bland. The gardener in me is fascinated with the desert vegetation, though. Palo verde trees are just trippy! They have such tiny, needle-like leaves and are green throughout their entire being.

And what is that tree that has such beautiful, purple flowers on it now? For some reason I want to say jacaranda, but I’ll have to look it up. At least I’m not seeing streets full of green lawns like we did in Albequerque. Of course, for now we are in the city of Phoenix business district. We’ll see if the clever and sustainable desert xeriscaping continues or whether it is replaced by wasteful lawns when we move on through the communities ringing Phoenix tomorrow.

Since the past few days have been full of work, work, work and then last minute packing, I felt the need to catch up on blogging today. Technical difficulties have prevented me from using the Blogger interface so I’m using the email functionality. That means no photos in this post. But of course I don’t really have any photos to show at this time. I’d rather not post photos of knitting WIPs, and that’s all I have right now.

I am almost done with my Inside-Out socks from the Rockin’ Sock Club. I’m about 5 rows away from binding off. It’s taken me quite a while to do them since the first sock involved lots of ripping and re-knitting, but the second one is going much faster now.

Socks are usually commuting projects, though. At home and during weekly Stitch ‘n Bitch, I’ve been working on the Lift and Separate wrap cardigan from Big Girl Knits. The back is done, the left front is done, and now I’m working on the right front. I was whipping right through it until last weekend when a combination of allergies, general sleep-deprivation, and work deadlines affected the weekend.

Last Saturday was spent just sleeping or trying to sleep. Every time I got up to attend to some work, I found myself nearly paralyzed with exhaustion. Then I would shuffle back to bed and sleep for another hour. On Sunday, I finally felt refreshed, but I had that deadline for work so I sat down and worked for about 7 hours. Once weekend errands were done, I had maybe one hour of knitting time left before I needed to head off to bed.

It was a busy week at work so there was little time for knitting in the evenings. I’ve brought the right front of the cardigan with me this weekend, just in case. Even though I will be doing all the driving this weekend, I’m looking forward to getting some prime knitting time in. Between the time at the gate yesterday and the nearly 3 hour flight from Chicago to Phoenix, I completed the short row heel and half the cuff on the Inside Out sock. Ahh, I’m feeling better already!

If there’s convenient Internet access over the next couple days I may just post an entry and some photos. Sedona is supposed to be beautiful and I’m hoping to get some really nice shots with my little Canon digital camera.

I must be missing the girls and home already. Although I slept well last night, my dreams all involved our house or the dogs. Maybe they were dreaming about me…

See the Cat? See the Cradle?

I heard about Kurt Vonnegut’s death this morning while getting ready for work. Not a good start to the day to hear that one of your favorite authors is gone, smashing your hopes of ever reading an unexpected new novel or short story by him. I guess it sounds sort of greedy, though. By some accounts it sounds like Kurt was more than ready to check out, and a person shouldn’t have to live longer than they want.

I can’t say I’ve read every book or story Kurt Vonnegut ever wrote, but I’ve read many of them and they’ve all been extremely memorable. Like this segment from Cat’s Cradle:

“The highest possible form of treason,” said Minton, “is to say that
Americans aren’t loved wherever they go, whatever they do. Claire tried to make
the point that American foreign policy should recognize hate rather than imagine
love.”

“I guess Americans are hated a lot of places.”

People are hated a lot of places. Claire pointed out in her letter
that Americans, in being hated, were simply paying the normal penalty for being
people, and that they were foolish to think they should somehow be exempted from
that penalty…”

I loved Cat’s Cradle, Galapagos, Timequake, and of course Slaughterhouse-five. Kurt had a way of making me think while providing me with the necessary distance from the day-to-day crap I need to stay sane, otherwise known as fiction. Thanks, Kurt.

Just another day

This afternoon, I’m running late for an appointment about a mile away, just north of the river. I catch a cab outside my office building. The cab driver greets me enthusiastically, asking if I’m in a hurry. “Not too much of a hurry,” I say, not wanting to goad him into warp speed. Sometimes cabbies are a bit too “enthusiastic” for me. But he doesn’t go crazy and start accelerating like mad. Instead he launches into a rant about how Americans are ruining the Middle East, complete with plenty of four-letter words. He rages about being called a “camel jockey” when he first came to the U.S. from Iran several years ago. I’m sympathetic, but happy to leave the cab when we reach my destination. I walk back to the office from my appointment.

I leave Stitch n’ Bitch tonight and enter the nearby Blue Line el station. I just miss a train and prepare to wait for several minutes. Moments later, a band of rowdy folks descend to the platform. (Will I sound like a crotchety old person if I say they are rowdy young folks?) I’m not really paying them any attention as I concentrate on my book. A train pulls into the station, but it’s a short train so it doesn’ t pull up to the front of the platform. We rush down the platform to enter the first car. All the seats are already full so we stand. Two stations later as the I grab a recently vacated seat I hear one of the rowdies standing near the doors say very loudly “Oh, man that cool wind feels so good on my balls. My balls are HOT!” Everyone in the car has heard this (unless they are completely isolated by whatever is coming through their headphones), but no one reacts in any way. Just before I reach my station, I move to the doors and wait. A young man moves to the doors next to me. He reeks of marijuana. I feel like I’m getting stoned just standing next to him.

At the bus platform, I stand awaiting the bus with a handful of others. The night is not terribly cold, but it still seems unnecessarily cruel to be standing here with the bus parked and running about 50 feet away, just short of the platform. The driver has taken a break and left the bus. Some gasps of discomfort lead to words of commiseration exchanged between the expectant passengers. Bus drivers certainly deserve breaks, but it just seems like they taunt us when they do this. The bus is here, but we cannot board it. It is warm and well-lit, but we stand shivering in the night until the driver comes back, enters the bus, pulls up to the platform, and opens the doors.

I reach home — finally — and unload: off comes the backpack loaded with laptop and files, the knitting bag, my purse, and my outer layers of hat/scarf/parka. I change into some comfy lounging clothes. I pour myself two fingers of single malt scotch, sit down in front of the TV, and pull out some knitting.

As Scarlett O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Just call me Bashful

Yesterday was filled with more knitterly goodness in my hometown of Chicago. Amy Singer was in town at Loopy Yarns, signing copies of her new book No Sheep for You, showing off the designs, and chatting with all the folks in the shop. If by any chance Amy runs across this entry and sees the photo I’m posting here, please accept my apologies Amy! I was so tickled by the whole experience last night that I turned all bashful and snapped only this one photo at the event. Amy R. Singer See, it was a cold day yesterday so I got to dress up in hand knits and I decided to wear my Mermaid since I adore it so much. When I got to the shop, as I stripped off my parka one of the ladies said to me “I know you! I mean, I recognize you from your blog. I love the Mermaid!” (or something along those lines) and I sort of imploded with excitement. On the outside, I took it pretty well, on the inside I was like “OMG, OMG, OMG!! Someone I don’t personally know read my blog! How cool!”

I got lots of ego stroking about the Mermaid during the event. People kept asking me about it and admiring it. I may as well have just kept repeating “Aw, shucks” over and over again. All that attention plus the fact that Amy Singer was so approachable and seemed to really enjoy talking with me made for a little personal melt down. I’m just not used to such attention and have no idea how to handle it except through deflection. So, deflect I did. When Amy asked if I had a blog I mumbled yes, but that it was just a silly little thing. She shared that she had started out with just a little online journal and was now doing what she loves as her career.

For the next hour or so I strolled around Loopy, fondling yarns, talking with friends and new acquaintenances, and every once in a while I’d stroll back to where Amy was sitting to exchange a few words. Before our little group left to grab a bite to eat, I went back to say goodbye but Amy was in the midst of conversation. So, we just struck off and made our way to the restaurant.

Those ladies at Loopy really know how to throw a party! This is the first time I’ve been down there for one of their events. For whatever reason I’m usually busy when they have a trunk show or something, so I’ve missed their hospitality. They had wine, soda, selzer water, and lots of yummy snacks. They also had a special of 20% off all non-wool yarns.

Of course I didn’t leave empty handed. Besides the signed book I picked up a skein of Art Yarns Regal Silk. There’s a sweet hat pattern in the No Sheep for You book that uses this silk in a lace pattern with Rowan Calmer providing an inner liner. I have a couple balls of Rowan Calmer in my oddball stash, and now I know what to do with at least one!

In general, my knitting has been so-so. I’ve been trying to finish the Rockin’ Sock Club socks, but keep running into problems. I’ve ripped back the cuff of sock #1 three times already. Attempt #1 resulted in some misplaced cables. I was ready to live with that, but when I tried the sock on for a final fitting before casting off, it wouldn’t fit over my heel. I thought it _may_ be because of the misplaced cables, so I ripped back to the first cable round and restarted. Attempt #2 had perfectly placed cables, but it still would not fit over my heel, so I ripped back again, this time to the second set of cables. At this point, I switched from the 2.5 mm needles I was using for the cuff to 3.0 mm needles. This seems to the do the trick, but it’s taken me about 2 weeks worth of commuter knitting (including 2 flights: prime knitting time!) to get to this point.

The Lift and Seperate wrap sweater (from the Big Girl Knits book) that I started the week before I left for NYC is still sitting on the needles and being neglected. I really want to plunge back into it, but this messing around with my socks has taken precedence. I like to have a sock on the needles to carry around and work on during the inevitable pauses in life (riding on public transit, waiting in airports, visiting relatives, etc.); I also like to be at the point where I can just work away and not have to do a lot of fiddling like short rowing the toes or heels. So I have to do those things at home during my evening knitting time.

Hey, it’s spring! The weather may be a bit goofy, but it is still spring. That means there will start to be more gardening stuff added to my posts. Despite our recent cold snap (it snowed yesterday! Eeeekk!), everything is budding and getting ready to leaf out. I really like these transitional seasons. I spent most of the day last Saturday cutting down the ornamental grasses and cleaning up the beds. Now we’re ready to really pop!