Monday, February 26, 2007

Progress, on Several Fronts.

It's been a gruelling week chez HalfSoledBoots. My poor little baby is on day four of a feverish cold, or flu, or whatever it is. She looks like a ghost - observe:

But I'm in high hopes she's beginning to feel better. I did the old Vinegar Sock trick* last night, and it seems to have broken the fever. This morning she had something to eat, and has been actually playing toys today. It feels like weeks since she has been herself, instead of days. I remarked to my mother yesterday that it's no wonder the 'flu is so often fatal to impoverished, undernourished children, since it turned my healthy, strong, first-world girl into a mere shadow of her former self in just three days.

Waste Not, Want Not

Work continues on the Ogee Tunic, excruciatingly slowly. I actually can't believe how long it is taking me to knit this, between the splitty yarn, the slippery needles, the sick baby, and the sick mummy (yes, I've had it too). At this rate I won't be finished until June.

But I really like how it's looking. I think the yarn sub is going well (the pattern called for 100% wool; I'm using 100% cotton because it was in my stash and wool wasn't...those are the rules).

And lastly, in the continuing spirit of Using Up What We Have:


Oldish speckled bananas, and Old slumpy apples.


Lovely, buttery apple pancakes.

Yummy banana bread.

* The Vinegar Sock is an old-fashioned home remedy for fever. You soak a sock in vinegar and put it on the child, putting another sock overtop to keep the vinegar more or less off the sheets. The vinegar is absorbed through the feet and drawn up through the body, cooling as it goes. It does not usually bring the fever completely down, it just makes it bearable. The principle is, if your body elevates its temperature, it has a perfectly good reason for doing so, and as long as it's within a few degrees of normal, you should not get all wiggy with the Tylenol, but simply let the immune system do its job. Once I had a vinegar sock on my daughter for about 36 hours straight, and by then you could smell it on her breath, and she was complaining of a funny taste. But, the fever was down.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Please, Come and Give Me Your Money

So, this party. It was a good time, actually, with a lot of nice decorations, some very tasty food, ten women, and lots of wine. Sounds promising, right?

The fly in the ointment was, it was an Epicure tasting party.

Here's the thing. They have great products, and I use them a lot and, therefore, believe in them. However, it bothers me that the society we live in is rife with people trying to make money off their friends. Am I the only person who is seriously embarrassed about hosting for profit? "Hey, friends: come to my house! We'll have food, and drinks, and a really fun time! Oh...and bring your wallets."

What's even worse are the suggestions They provide to achieve "maximum party attendance". They tell us that "anyone can be a customer. Parents from your child's sports teams! Church groups! School contacts! Neighbours! Family members! Random strangers you see on the street! People you used to know in high school, but haven't spoken to in fifteen years! Everyone's a customer!" What I want to ask these people is, how much do they like being proselytized by every salesman/woman out to make a dollar? How much do they like being warmed up by a friendly smile and an outstretched hand, only to find that the outstretched hand is holding a catalogue and an order form?

I don't know where the line is between making a living and taking advantage. I've been thinking about this a lot lately because I am having some financial tension, and have been considering everything from direct-sales, to weekend-retail, to Google-ads-on-my-low-traffic-blog. For some reason, I am agonizing over this last one, wondering how readers feel about the presence of Google ads and, further, whether anyone ever clicks them. Because if they don't, there's not really much point. And, if they do, does that make me mercenary? Or, worse, would people visit HalfSoledBoots, see the Google ads, and think with a contemptuous curl of their lip, "Sellout" while vowing ne'er to return?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Cucumber on my Eyes, and I am All Set.

I have spent the weekend doing some much-needed domestic chores, getting ready for a party I'm hosting tomorrow. Man, am I out of practice doing the hosting thing. There's a lot of cleanup involved, let me tell you. Back in the day, when I used to throw parties all the time, I seem to remember it being no big deal - but that was before I Saw The Light, started knitting, and stopped doing housework.

But, I recently got this cool book in a $4.99 bin at Save-On Foods:

and it has inspired me to create this:

Pretty twinkles! It's just a crystal vase filled with minilights (the string goes down the back side, behind the mantle, and then through the chiffon fabric tacked to the edge of the mantle) into which I poked three beaded "floral picks" I got from the Dollar Store...invested the enormous amount of $1.50 on each of them. The room was very dark when I took that picture, so you can't see the picks really well, but I assure you they are lovely.

And, in the dining room, this -- which I have to say is the start of maybe the most fabulous table I've ever set --

It's a scrap of peach-coloured georgette in my mum's punch bowl, with about 25 mini-lights coiled inside it. Then I scrounged around til I found a glass plate that fit inside the punch bowl, to hold down the lights and provide a level surface on top of which I can put flowers, or cut-up veggies, or whatever I like. I haven't quite figured out what to do with the rest of the light string, yet - I tried winding some of it around the milk-glass pedestal plate in the foreground, and I think that looks nice's just the cord I need to deal with. If my future holds a lot of mini-light decorating, I think I will have to invest in some battery-powered strings. I'm sure I'll come up with something, but any suggestions you have would not be taken amiss. Anyone? Jenny?

It did occur to me, as I was wrassling 450 minilights around my home, that this might be on the verge of too weddingy. But then I realized that the absence of white tulle, and the presence of taste and judgment, would avert that particular calamity.

And now I am off to bed. In an effort to stave off the cold I suddenly feel coming on, I have just finished a rather vile drink comprised of very hot water, the juice of half a lemon, and one drop of lavender essential oil. Though I highly respect essential oil in all its external applications, I have to say that, taken orally in water, it is absolutely disgusting. It has a disquieting way of cleaving to the palate.

Hopefully more knitting next post, unless I am prostrate on my bed with a raging fever, lifting my fainting head only to hoarsely berate Mr HalfSoledBoots for insisting I get the Flu Shot. In which case, I'm sure you can understand that my fingers will be too busy flipping him off to type.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Shell Tank

Okay, spring can come any time, now.
Shell Tank
Cast On: February 8
Bound Off: February 15
Pattern: Norah Gaughan's, from Knitting Nature
Yarn: 6 balls Jo Sharp Soho Summer 100% cotton, 100m/50g, colourway "Thyme"
Source: Urban Yarns
Yarn Cost: $18
Needles: splintery "Collection" bamboo 3.5 mm circular, and lethally sharp 3mm, 14" steel Boye
Tension: 23 sts/inch
Finished size: 44" bust, give or take an inch. Probably closer to 43".
Speaking of bust, please overlook the white bra show-through. How fugly. I had to put the flash on and ended up flashing more than I intended. No one was available to take pictures of me, as usual, so I had to make the best of it by myself.
Mods: None, surprisingly, except for a yarn sub from Classic Elite's Flash to Soho Summer.
Notes: This was a quick one. Fun to knit, even with the profusion of stockinette. I would knit this again, but I would add at least an inch to the finished back length. It would require some screwing around with the right-front increases (because the front doesn't need to be any longer), but the back really is too short as it is. Finished size is 19", as given in the pattern, but I'm hoping I can block an extra inch or so of length into it.
The shell tank, reclining on a bed of heather. Much as I'd like to do, myself.
And, while I was outside in the weak February sun, strewing the landscape with knitting, I saw that spring is, indeed, trying its damnedest.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

FO Goodness' Sake, Focus, Mon!

Sometimes I worry that the subtext of this blog is rapidly becoming the text. I look back and notice that not much knitting content has appeared recently.

To restore my sense of balance, here is an FO I meant to post a couple of weeks ago. I'm not satisfied with the pictures, which is why I have refrained. However, I feel that pride in one's imperfection is important, so I present the Cappuccino Fingerless Mitts. They are so called because they are knit from two lovely colours of Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk - one could be called Espresso, and the other Coffee Cream.

Cappuccino Fingerless Mitts
Pattern: My own, with rib pattern supplied by Cables Untangled . (However, the little mistake you see there is all me; not part of the chart.)
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk (Aran), one skein each of colours #13 and #14
Yarn Source: Beehive Wool Shop, Victoria BC
Needles: Two 5mm Clover Takumi bamboo circulars, and 4.25mm bamboo DPNs
Tension: Dunno. Sorry. Aranish - 4 sts per inch or something, you know the kind of thing.
Cast on: January 27
Bound off: January 28

These were knit without a pattern, merely using some guidelines from, and a rib pattern found in, Cables Untangled, by Melissa Leapman. I have knit with this yarn before, so I knew approximately how many stitches it would take to comfortably go around a wrist. The pattern repeat was over a multiple of four stitches, so I cast on 24.

I knitted the thumb gusset with the smaller needle, in 1X1 twisted rib. I wanted this part of the mitt to be denser and warmer, to ease joint pain. I charted a simple gusset and worked lifted increases on either side of the gusset stitches as needed.

The planning page out of my knitting notebook.

These mitts are very warm, and comfortably snug. I made them for my mother, who has trouble with pain in her thumb joints. I hope they help, and so far they seem to.


I wanted to post an update on my Ogee Tunic progress. It has come a long way, and you'll be pleased to know that I am over half done the front.


I would be fully done the front if it wasn't for this:

Norah Gaughan's Shell Tank, from Knitting Nature

which, coupled with some all-too-available Jo Sharp Soho Summer that I picked up for a song from Urban Yarns (by the way, they have one colour left, "Poppy", and it is now on sale, as part of their huge yarn blowout, for 70% off, people. $2.77/50g ball. **Update: I just checked UY, and they are now sold out of the Soho Summer, although there are some amazing deals still to be had, particularly on the Rowan yarns.**), has become this:

I am about to finish the leftmost piece pictured above, then I will knit that cool cable pattern in the centre-left of the pattern photo, and I will be seaming. And I do love me some seaming.

I actually cast this on as a distraction from the Ogee Tunic, to give me something else to work on when I needed a break from the miles of cotton stockinette. As it turns out, work on the Tunic has been suspended as I voraciously devour this Shell Tank pattern. Busting some serious stash here.


And, finally, my dearest darling is on her way to Jamaica tomorrow. People keep saying things like, "Isn't it exciting? The Beach!!" and "How great to get some sun in the middle of winter!" and all I can do is think, enviously,


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Wonder Women

The other day Mr HSBoots remarked that he would soon be doing some price checks on what it would cost to retile the bathroom, because "those old ones are disgusting: so tired and black".

I smiled fondly as I sat in the corner of the couch, knitting, and reflecting that men sometimes just do not know what the hell is going on. Then I thought, "mental note - clean the bathroom."

So today I got to it, unearthed a scrub brush and some scouring cleanser, and got to work on the tub-to-ceiling tile surround. While doing my Cinderella impression it struck me that life as a woman is a constant act of transformation, of both the humblest and most exalted sort. We change dirty to clean, full to empty -- or empty to full if we're talking pump soap or toddler tummies -- old to new, rough to smooth. We change fleece to yarn, yarn to garments, and never tire of the process. We change sod to garden, then plant seeds and watch for their transformation into flower, or food. Eggs, milk, flour, sugar - in the hands of a woman they become cake (if you're lucky).

Infants become children and, if a woman does her job properly, good people - regular, grown-up people. Their mothers work constantly to change ignorance to knowledge, helplessness to competence, self-centredness to responsibility.

All of these things are against nature, whose tendency is to chaos. The natural, left untended, becomes feral. Is that what we do, we women? Are we the constructive, positive, creative force for improvement, always struggling against natural tendency?

Well, it would certainly explain a lot. Why a woman's quest to transform her body never ends; why so many women burn themselves out in an exhausting race to keep everything in their life under some kind of control - keeping the house clean, keeping the files in order, keeping people at work happy, keeping the children quiet; and why we never seem quite happy ourselves. Never quite content. Gotta change just one more thing. Lose 5 pounds? Well, 10 would be better. Someone compliments your knitting? "Yes, but look here - right on this row...see it? That stitch should be blue, not white."

So I guess my point is this. If you are a woman, you are capable of enacting powerful and comprehensive change. Your constant renewal of yourself and your surroundings can be both a source of, and an enormous tax on, your creative energy.

Like any superhero, what matters is whether you use your powers for good, or for evil.

Personally, I'm done scrubbing the tiles, for another couple of months at least. I would rather use my powers for good -- to restore my creative energy -- and yarn is calling me.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A Bit of Sunshine for a Rainy Day

Woke up this morning to this

frost and fog

and this

dripping trees

so I thought it was time for this.

Now I feel much better.

Those are Nigella's Norwegian Cinnamon Buns, from Domestic Goddess

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Brigid in Cyberspace Silent Poetry Reading

This was supposed to happen on February 2nd, but I didn't have anything I wanted to share on February 2nd. Today, I do.

O brother, Wisdom is pouring into you
From the beloved saint of God.
You've only borrowed it.
Although the house of your heart
Is lit from the inside
That light is lent by a luminous neighbour
Give thanks; don't be arrogant or vain
Pay attention without self-importance.
It's sad that this borrowed state
Has put religious communities
Far from religious communion.

Mathnawi I, 3255-3258, translation by Kabir and Camille Helminski

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Somebody Hand Me a Mallet

Made an enormous roasted dinner tonight. Mr HSBoots decided he'd like a roast beef and apple crisp, so while he went out to buy the sirloin I put on the Yorkshire puddings and cut up a bunch of root vegetables which I tossed in a baking dish with melted butter, oil, salt and pepper.

Post-feast lethargy set in as soon as the last bite was consumed, of course, and I retired to the living room with a glass of wine and two knitting projects. Loreena McKennitt was singing about monks and paganism and Catholicism and Beltane and incense and rowan trees, my mellow light was on, and all was right with the world. The kids were in the other room, playing quietly (believe me, a rarity).

I had only been settled in my seat for a few minutes, when:

Enter Mr HSBoots, with a box in his hand. He called the girls from the playroom "Hey kids, c'mere!", plunked the box down in the middle of the living room floor, not three feet from me, and pulled out "Hungry Hungry Hippos".

Now, some of you might remember this game from back in the day, when we were all sporting bowl cuts, happily wearing turtlenecks and polyester flares, drinking Freshie and eating Chex mix while sitting on the dark brown carpet in the basement rumpus room. Others might not know it, so let me describe it.


You bang your hippo-lever as hard as you can, and as fast as you can, so his upper jaw shoots out and captures as many as possible of the little marbles which you have earlier deposited in the middle of the game. So let's be clear about this: laminate floor, two-year-old, five-year-old, highly amused 34-year-old, hard plastic game which you win by pounding as hard and as fast as you can.

I'd write more, but I have to go turn off the stereo (Mr HSB claims Loreena McKennitt is making him feel "overstimulated") and get some Tylenol.

Friday, February 02, 2007

New Beginnings

Thanks ever so, Readership, for your kind compliments on St Brigid. I should note, regarding the subbing in of the Rogue side panel, that the underarm of the sweater looks substantially different than what you'd get if you left the double moss in. Here is a (rather poor) picture of the underarm, with the Rogue cable on the left, leading into the double moss border that goes up front and back of the shoulder. The sleeve, obviously, proceeds off to the right. Had I knitted it according to the pattern, that entire section at centre and centre-left would be double moss (or, as it is sometimes called, "basket-stitch"), as is the section at centre-right.

All I did, once I finished the shaped cable on the side panel, was to knit two or three rounds reverse stockinette, then switch to double moss. I figured - rightly, as it turned out - that it wouldn't matter what this part looked like as it would be hidden under the arm. It looks fine, actually, even if it weren't hidden, and I don't think the untrained or uncritical eye would pick it out. As my grandmother used to say, "A blind man running for his life wouldn't stop to look at that."

Onward and upward. I have gamely waded in on the SRP 2007 (Stash Reduction Plan, for those just joining us) and made what I think is a good start on my next sweater. This one, from Norah Gaughan's Knitting Nature, is meant to be worked in wool. However, I didn't have an appropriate wool in the stash, so I have decided to do it in cotton.

I know - you're not necessarily supposed to do that. It may all end in tears. After all, if we start substituting yarns, willy nilly, the natural order of things will be overset, and all of Narnia will perish in fire and water...blah blah blah. I was very careful, swatching assiduously.

I was actually surprised, on reading the pattern, to find that it was worked in wool at all. The model looks more cottony, definitely a summery style I think you'll agree, and I believe the exchange will work well this time.

I will say that this cotton yarn, unyielding and ropey as it is, knits up beautifully but is murder on my hands after working with wool. Well, I say "murder", but what I really mean is "a bit painful".* I am eyeing the cabley bits, yet to come, with misgiving. The only solution is to start something woolly, so I'll have an alternate project when the flanges start a-screamin'.
* (I am sometimes given to hyperbole. Even excessive hyperbole. Also redundancy.)

Something woolly, you say? Something like, maybe...... this?

I have never shown you this picture, my fellow yarnaholics, for fear you may actually mob my house. I got this order back in...November, maybe? from Pick Up Sticks. It was a late-night impulse buy after a referral from SP-M. These are four skeins of Sweet Georgia sock yarn, in Dragon (chartreuse), Merlot (far right, almost-solid red) and Life Aquatic (superwash, aqua). There is also one skein of Seacoast Raspberries, which is going to be beautiful knitted up. I haven't decided yet whether they will all be socks, or gloves, or whatever. I can't do much frogging with them, though, as I suspect the yarn to be felt- and pill-prone, as soft as it is. Gorgeous, though.

Before I leave you, some definite eye candy, in the spirit of New Beginnings:

Welcome to January's-end on Vancouver Island: 1.5" tulip shoots. Don't tell me the globe isn't a little warmer.