Monday, April 29, 2013

On The Verge

Have you ever been at a place in your life where everything seems just about to happen?

What's Around The Corner

Since this is a knitting blog, you'll note below that I'm just shy of finishing the Icelandic wool pullover.

In a few short weeks, the months of preparation will finally result in the sixth annual Men's Spring Knitting Retreat.

Easton Mountain's fundraising campaign to replace their broken hot tub is just about to reach their goal.

I'm finalizing administrative tasks to switch the legal way in which I'm working with my current client (it won't change much, except that it will be better from a tax perspective for me).

Well, I guess it's not that much, but it seems like things are about to pop, like when popcorn is just about to start popping.

Current Knitting

As noted above, I am just about to finish the latest sweater project.


Just a few more rounds of ribbing on the sleeve, a few ends to weave in (very few...I think it might be three) and a little blocking, and this project will be just another sweater in our armoire.  I started this project towards the end of January, so it's taken about 3 months to knit it (with other projects interspersed).

Readers' Comments/Questions

Thank you all for your inspiring comments on the generic blog entry.  I expected folks to respond in a clever way, but your responses far surpassed my expectations.  It's nice having brilliant readers.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Generic Blog Entry

One or two sentence introduction to today's blog topic, trying to add some level or intrigue or controversy to a topic that is probably stale and boring.  Possibly followed by a vibrant graphic if that would help add visual interest.

In-Depth Analysis Section

This is the section where the introduced topic is discussed at length.  Either the topic is supported with a hearty endorsement of the blogger's viewpoint, or is discussed with a twist or interesting perspective that might surprise long-time readers.

Witty and succinct are the hallmarks of this section of a blog entry, although often never meet those standards.

Also, include some hypertext link to a friend's business, or a link to something on Amazon that might generate referral income to pay for blog-related fees.

End with something strong that summarizes the topic and makes for a jarring segue to knitting.

Current Knitting

Brief description of the progress on the most recent knitting or spinning project, followed by visual proof of stated progress, despite how little has been done.


A modicum of humble gushing about how much I like or hate the current project.

Readers' Comments/Questions

Quote any questions or comments from readers that might spark controversy or interest, using the following format:

Mary-Helen asks, "I've often wondered how seriously you were taking that countdown to retirement. Would you want to retire in eight days (if it were possible)?"

Without a doubt, I'd stop working tomorrow if I could, as long as I could do so without reducing my life style.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Goal Setting

I find goal setting to be an incredibly useful tool in keeping me focused.  But I also don't let goal rule my life...they're just goals after all.

Retirement Goal

The countdown calender in the left column of this blog shows I have only a few days left until retirement:


Of course, the above is just a screen print, so the number of days will be dependent on what day you looked!

Regardless, unless something quite drastic happens before the end of this month, it's not likely I'll be retiring.

A couple of reasons:

  1. I'm working with a client whose project won't complete until the middle of next month, and they want me to stay on for the remainder of the year.  I really like this client, and they pay me well.
  2. I haven't met my financial goals for retirement.  Seems I'm still a bit short of what I'll need to retire.
  3. There is no government healthcare, and it costs about $13,000 a year to insure Thaddeus and I for health, and that won't reduce until he reaches age 65 (in another 6 years).
So, I'm not sure when I'll retire, or even semi-retire.

I'll keep you updated, but I'm not going to re-set the goal.

Current Knitting

I got a bit more work done on the second sleeve of the Icelandic wool pullover.



Gray on gray doesn't really work, and the size of the sweater is really for Thaddeus (who is a little bigger than I am), but still I think this is going to make a fine looking sweater.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

More Bigger

Why is it that some things seem more tragic than others...especially when "tragic" should be the worst it gets?

Perspective Doesn't Help

I remember when 9/11 happened and how shocked and devastated I personally felt.  People would try to make comparisons to put the number of deaths into perspective, by stating the number of people dying in the Israeli/Palestinian struggles, or by citing how many children die at the hands of guns each year, and it didn't make the devastation any less.

Again, with the Boston Marathon, I feel personally attacked.

Selfish perhaps, but I can't help feel like the bombers went after something I hold dear.

As far as I know, no one I know was hurt or killed by the bombs, but I still am eager to see justice done to the perpetrators...and this justice feels much more like vengeance.  This kind of event brings out my worst character traits, all having to do with ego, but it seems the best I can contribute to those suffering losses or injuries.  Some form of solidarity with them against the hateful people that did this.

I know healing will come.  It always does.  And like a popular posting on Facebook, I will try to look for and focus on the helpers.

Current Knitting

I was glad to have something else to focus on than minute-by-minute stories from Boston, so I was able to make some progress on my current pullover project.


I did finish the first sleeve and completed the picking up of stitches and shoulder-cap shaping of the second sleeve.  This will soon be a completed garment.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Birthday Celebration

This past Thursday, I turned 54 years old.  Or 19,724 days old.  At an average of 63.5 beats per minute of my heart (which is my current average heart rate), I've used up 1,803,562,560 heart beats.

Celebrations

Despite how unremarkable a 54 year milestone was, I still got the chance to celebrate a number of times.

As many of you know, about a week before my birthday, the first gift arrived.  After researching espresso machines to replace our existing one, Thaddeus ordered the Rocket Cellini Evoluzione V2 Espresso Machine .  It is truly a dream machine for pulling shots of espresso and steaming milk.


Then I arrived home on my birthday last week to two additional gifts from Thaddeus.  First was a box of 10 tins of hard candies that he knew I like.  These are Cavendish & Harvey Fruit Candies.


In addition to being packed in confectioner's sugar (fine powdered sugar for the non-Americans), they have a very strong fruit flavor.

He also did some additional internet researching to find me the best latte cups on the planet.  And he succeeded.

These are the perfect size for my lattes - Rattleware Cremaware Brown Cup, 12-Ounce and the handle is perfect for fat, manly fingers.  It was like I dreamed of the perfect cup, and Thaddeus found it.

Plus, it meant I could have the perfect latte, in the perfect latte cup with the perfect birthday cherry pie!


Coming home to home made fried chicken and cherry pie was awesome!

Finally, I have been working on my latte art.


It wasn't deliberate, but if you look carefully, you can see a bird's head in profile.  I'm sure some Audubon enthusiast could identify this species of bird.

Had dinner with my mom and brother on Friday night, and our good friend, Charles on Saturday night with more gifts.

Suffice it to say, I had a great birthday.

Current Knitting

Almost finished the first sleeve (or, hardly knit anything since my last blog entry).  PEOPLE!...this is about my birthday...focus please!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Hypocrisy


Since I'm always quick to point out others' hypocrisy when I see it, I thought I'd point out one of my own.

I'm Homosexist

Yes, it's true...I treat gays differently than straights, even when I probably shouldn't.

My current client requires that I drive through a security check gate and show appropriate ID as I drive through.  As I was passing by the security guard this morning, I realized he was distracted by the woman in the car in front of me.  In fact, he was downright craning his neck to see her, and practically ignored me and checking my ID.

I felt like stopping and making a comment, such as, "Maybe you could leave the woman a little bit of dignity?"

Since the security guards here are more like policemen, I opted to just despise the guard silently.

Then, I realized the driver of the car in front of me, was an attractive young man.

My whole demeanor changed.  I was perfectly fine with the guard gaping at him (although, a bit envious that I didn't even merit a second glance), and now I actually liked the guard.

I need to rethink my ideas about objectification and hetero/homo-sexism.

Current Knitting

I've finally made it to the ribbing on the first sleeve of the Icelandic wool pullover.


If the sweater wasn't looking quite as great as it is, I would be dreading the second sleeve.  But now, I just want to wear this new sweater and show it off at the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat next month!

Readers' Comments/Questions

Maureen asks, "How on earth do you know how much wool to buy BEFORE you have chosen the pattern??"

It definitely varies by weight of yarn, so I just make sure I buy enough to make a man's XL pullover, and if the yarn looks like it would make a good cable design, I might get extra so I could do a stitch pattern or cabling.  Here's a good link for estimating yardage for sweaters (and I think the amounts are generous).

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Patron of the Arts

The arts have played a significant role in my life and as often as I can, I support them.

Eat, Sleep and Breathe The Arts

I live in a town that's known as an artist's community.  Many of the now-famous Bucks County artists have spent a lot of time in New Hope and it also attracts a large number of extremely talented emerging artists.  Many of my friends from home are artists or have made huge contributions to the arts community.  Thaddeus an I made a conscious decision to only buy local artwork for our house.  Over the 25 years we've lived there, we've amassed quite a collection of art from local artists.

I am also fortunate to hang out with LOTS of knitters and fiber artists.  Many of them are published designers.  So, when someone like Sean Riley decides to publish a knitting book and uses Kickstarter as a way of financing it, I am a big supporter.

Even in the areas where I don't have a strong sense about the art-form, I rely on friends who do to guide me and let them expose me to their ideas of excellent.  For instance, I don't know a lot about music, but a good friend of mine is a radio show host and has even been a judge for the OutMusic Awards for LGBT music.  He's let me listen to some amazing music and brought me to small-venue performances of LGBT musicians that I would never have discovered on my own.

Two of my favorite musicians are amazingly talented and I'm hoping will both become enormously successful.



Namoli Brennet and Tom Goss are both incredibly talented singer/songwriters, and wonderful people too.

If you would, I'd like you to check out their work.  Go to their web sites.  "Like" or "Follow" them on Facebook.  Buy their music either ordering their CD's or buying their music on iTunes.  And if you EVER get the chance to see either of them in person, GO!

And thank you for helping these two very worthy artists to get a little more well-known and successful.

Current Knitting/Spinning

I've done no work on my current sweater project, but I do have a little bit of progress to show on my Black Bunny Fiber spinning project.


I know it's not much, but it's pretty...no?

Another brilliant yarn dyer sent me my latest sweater's worth of yarn, so I thought I'd show off my latest color of Madeline Tosh yarn.


This is the fingering weight yarn, and the color is called Bottle Glass (I think).  Subtle shades of gray, green and lavender.  It's quite beautiful, so I'll have to come up with some design that's worthy of it.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The Role of Your LYS

For the non-knitter, or the knitter who isn't on-line a lot, LYS stands for Local Yarn Store.

Local versus World Wide Web

Your LYS used to be the sole source for many knitters for providing you with yarn, needles, patterns and of course, help when you need it with your knitting.

The biggest competitor up until a couple of decades ago, was Woolworth's or other low price department stores, where knitters could get some of the less expensive acrylic yarns, but really couldn't get any assistance if they ran into a problem.

Today, the knitter's world is vast.  On-line tutorials and videos for every aspect of knitting that could be imagined, virtual stores selling every yarn, needle, notion and pattern book ever made, not to mention Ravelry and various other on-line forums to create a virtual community of knitters across the planet (Ravelry alone just exceeded the 3 million member level!).

So, with all that, what would I need a LYS for?  And what value-added service can they provide?

Here are a few things I think good yarn stores can provide:
- A selection of yarn brands and colors that can help a knitter make good choices in their yarn buying, where the store owner has helped limit the seemingly unending vastness of options
- In-store classes that provide hands-on assistance
- Knitting groups that can get together and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee while they knit
- Knitted store samples that show how a yarn can be used or how a book pattern looks when knitted up
- The ability to feel what a yarn feels like

I had the opportunity to go to visit Pinewoods Farm Wool Shop (please "Like" them on Facebook!), a yarn store in Saugerties, NY.



A co-worker/friend of mine is step-related to the owner and she had been encouraging me to stop in and check it out.  I wasn't overly enthusiastic about it, but I finally took a drive down with her the other evening.




I honestly had forgotten how useful browsing a yarn store could be!

I bought some yarn (I know, you're shocked, right?), and it was a standard brand (Cascade), but they were both yarns I had never even heard of, and she had knitted garments in both yarns to show what they could do.  I have to admit, I NEVER would have purchased either of these yarns had I not seen them in person.

Here's what I got:


The gray yarn on the left is Cascade Eco-Duo.  It's a blend of wool and alpaca that is exceptionally soft.  But what I love about the yarn is that it's two subtly different shades of gray that self-stripe in a gray-on-gray way that is just beautiful.  The bright colored yarn on the right is Cascade Casablanca, which is also a long-color-repeat yarn, made up of wool, silk and mohair.  In the hank, this yarn feels stiff and pulpy, but fortunately, the LYS had a cowl knitted up with it that was soft and drapey and quite beautiful.

I had trouble not picking up some Poem yarns by Universal she had...the colors were as good or better than Noro (and I think that's a big compliment) and they were MUCH softer.

My LYS

When I'm home, my LYS is Twist Knitting and Spinning.They're also a great yarn store (for many of the same reasons I like Pinewoods Farm), and a week from this Saturday, they're sponsoring an important charity event to benefit Autism Speaks.  Please support them in any way you can and check out their web site for details.

Monday, April 01, 2013

B.I.T.

Yes, I am officially, a Barista In Training.

Early Birthday Present

This past Thursday, I arrived home to my new espresso machine...a bit of a step up from what I had before.

For the last few years, I've been churning out lattes on a perfectly good, home espresso machine...a Gaggia Rancilio Silvia machine.


Then I saw the next, more shiny, better home espresso machine and decided I must have it.  So we bought a
Rocket Espresso Cellini Evoluzione V2 machine.


It's kind of amazing what you don't miss until you have something better.  Making espresso on the new machine is so much easier (and quieter) and makes a much better espresso...every time.  Plus, the steamer for frothing latte milk is much better too.  I think I will be able to actually do latte art soon.

My first attempt, I was able to make a strawberry...kind of.


See it at the top?  On its side?  With two little leaves on top?  Okay...we'll when I get an amazing latte art, I'll post another photo.  But the new machine is truly amazing.

Current Knitting

I was able to get a few more inches on the first sleeve of the Icelandic Wool pullover.


Just a couple more inches and I'll finish up with some ribbing.  While the sweater will be way too warm to wear when it's finished, it will be perfect for showing off at the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat in May!

Readers' Comments/Questions

pattieknits writes, "You ought to be able to find cheese from raw milk...I live in the sticks and get it at Wegmans and also natural food stores."

Yes, I can find raw milk cheese, but all dairy (milk, yogurt, butter, and cheese) in France has a richness to it that our milk products don't.  I specifically want to be able to get French raw milk cheeses in this country.

As part of the other foods readers mentioned, Tim Tenclay adds, "Char Siu Bao"

AGREED!  Char Siu Bao are Chinese steamed buns with barbecued pork in the center.  While you can buy them frozen and sometimes get them in Asian grocers or at Chinese restaurants...none are as good and fresh and delicious as the ones I had in Hong Kong.  I need to go back.

FiberNinja asks, "Are you going to Maryland this year? I haven't seen you in ages."

Most probably not...I have to ration the number of weekends I stay away from home, since I'm away from home all week for work.