Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cold Wind, Warm Scarf

Yea!  We are getting new shades on our bedroom windows, at last.  All this time we've had the pleated kind that you draw up and down on strings. They're translucent, so some light comes through even when they're down, and I can lower them halfway when the sun angles in and shines on my computer screen.  But they're at least 10 years old, or more.  Came with the house I think.  Anyway, I broke a second string on one of them yesterday, so it's really lame.  Only has one string left, you can barely get it up or down now.

So we ordered new ones today, in a parchment paper pattern.  These are the double-cell kind, so they'll be more insulation from the outside air.  We got the strings again but with the top-down option.  Hopefully they'll last a while.  The next fix is our bathroom sink fixture.  We have to keep tightening the washer or it drips.  Be nice to get rid of the stupid central ball-joint lift thing that turns it on.  I want separate hot and cold taps.

Anyway, there's plenty of big things I'd change about this house, but the simple fixes really help reduce the frustration factor in every-day living.

There's a storm blowing in.  I'm hoping it's snow, rather than rain, but any precip will do.  Doesn't feel quite cold enough, but the clouds have the fuzzy indefinite bottoms that usually come with snow.  Guess we'll see.

My new crochet equipment arrived yesterday.  I ordered a few books and some foam blocking mats.  There's nine 12" interlocking squares.  I'm going to block the green and pink scarf this afternoon, just to try them out.  The two books were on sale.  One of them is Kristen Omdahl's "Seamless Crochet".  The other is "Go Crochet Afghan Design" by Ellen Gormley.  I'm pretty happy with the Gormley book.  There are some good motifs in it I'll probably use.  May not make an afghan with them, but certainly a scarf or shawl.  That's the nice thing about motifs. Change the yarn weight and use them as building blocks for almost anything.  I was not as thrilled with the Seamless Crochet book.  Maybe after I've gained more experience I'll find more patterns in it I want to make.  But for now not a lot of them interest me.  I'm really not a fan of grouped triple-crochet stitches connected with chain stitch, and it seems like a lot of the patterns use that technique to make the flowers and other patterns.

I'm making some progress on my blue-green pineapple scarf.  I've finished one full pattern repeat, 9 rows of stitches.  It's enough that you can see complete pineapples with the relief texture.  I have to keep track of which row I'm on whenever I stop, but it's not a difficult pattern.  I've decided I'm starting the socks tonight.  I want to get those done in the next few months.  Diane is already 3/4ths of the way through the shawl she's making for me.  I want to get a trial pair of the socks done so I feel confident enough to make a pair for her out of whatever intimidatingly-wonderful yarn she chooses from her stash.

With all this nice cold weather we've been having I've been craving a cozy soft scarf in bulky alpaca yarn.  I was even day-dreaming about a natural color - sort of a tweedy or marled cream.  But when it came down to buying some, nothing I found interested me.  So I ended up with some discounted 50% alpaca/50% wool from Misti Alpaca.  And of course while I was looking I fell into the Etsy money-pit.  Oh. My. Gosh.  There are some wonderful-looking yarns on the Handmade area of that site.  Two stand-outs (to me) were BlackSheep Dyeworks and Sheeping Beauty.  I just loved the colors and the fibers they use.  There was one skein of lace-weight on Sheeping Beauty that reminded me of iridescent peacock feathers.  Wow.

Well, I'd better do something constructive.  Happy weekend, all.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Lazy Winter Day

We're both feeling slightly under the weather today.  An annoying low-level almost-cold, with stuffy head and a certain lack of alertness.  So we stayed in, took down the Christmas tree, moved the furniture back, did some laundry, read, crocheted (well, I crocheted), and just generally took it easy.  It was nice to have a day of no expectations.  But 24 hours is enough.  Tomorrow I'm going out somewhere.

I'm making gradual progress on a new scarf with the green-blue yarn I got recently.  I'm not even through with one repeat of the pattern yet, but I think it's looking ok.  I'm working on not tightening up my double-crochet stitches as much.  I was really reducing the height of the stitch.  I just hope I can get into the new habit of not-so-tight and be consistent through-out the scarf.

I've also worked a bit on the Spanish Tile motif scarf.  I enjoy the color changes in the yarn.  You can see some of the green and grey showing up in this picture.  I'm not sure how well it will block out, being partly acrylic, but I'm going to try.  Otherwise you can't really see the details of the motif.  I ordered a set of blocking squares today.  9 foam squares with interlocking edges, so you can put them together in different shapes as needed.

The weatherman predicted snow this weekend, although so far it's only cloudy.  Not even solid clouds yet.  I keep hoping.  Supposedly there's a 30% chance of snow on Sunday and Monday, but it'll turn to rain on Wednesday or Thursday.  At least we'll get some precipitation.  It's been a very dry winter here.  La Nina is failing us this year.  I was hoping for much more snow than this.  It's not even worth going up into the mountains to snowshoe yet and it's mid January!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Crochet & Kendo

I took up crochet again just over a year ago.  It's something to do when the weather is cold, or if Ken is watching something on TV I don't like but I still want to be social.  I can make gifts for people or something nice for myself.  I used to do embroidery, but my vision makes that harder and harder, and crochet seems more useful.  I enjoy the process, handling the yarn, creating various stitches and patterns.  My skills are still pretty intermediate, but I enjoy trying new things.

I made a scarf over the Christmas holiday that's probably going to end up as a gift for someone, after I've blocked it.  I've been working on some challenging things that are taking me a long time.  The scarf was an easy lace pattern that worked up quickly, so it was satisfying to finish.

I want to start some socks, but seem to keep putting them off.  I don't know why, as I'm actually kind of excited to try the pattern.  I'm partway through a Spanish Tile motif scarf that I really like, and I've started another scarf in a relief pineapple or peacock lace pattern that's a gorgeous shade of greenish-blue.

I've been on Ravelry for a year now.  Mostly I send messages to friends, or look at patterns and yarn.  I'm in a few interest groups, but I haven't posted in any of them yet.  Ravelry is good for is keeping track of your yarn stash, your pattern library, and your equipment (hooks).  If I want to check on how much I have of something I can just look there, rather than digging through the yarn.  You can also keep a "Favorites" list - of patterns, yarn, designers, etc, that you like.  Some things I mark as a Favorite just because I like the idea, rather than thinking I'll make that exact object.  Some things are so cool (but waaay beyond my current skills) that I want to keep track and perhaps make it someday.  My Favorites list is pages long.  There are so many things I'd like to make, it'll take me years to get through it all.

The one thing I don't like about Ravelry is the lack of a blogging function.  I guess the folks who run Ravelry can't do everything, and most people already have a blog anyway.  But there are times when I'd like to make crochet-related comments, and there's nowhere on Ravelry to do it.  So I guess I'll be talking about crochet a bit more here.

I started kendo last Thursday at the Nampa Rec Center.  I've been missing Aikido and looking for something to do instead that wasn't so far away.  When I saw a kendo class was being offered it seemed worth trying at least.  The class listing doesn't show the teacher's name, so I didn't know what I was getting into, but I think I've lucked-out.  The organization's website is here.

The first class was mostly a lot of explanation about equipment, dress, procedures, etc.  But we did do some basic movements for part of it.  Next week the experienced people are going to do a demo in full gear, so we can see what we're aiming for.  I'll be getting my own shinai and starting to get used to all the differences between kendo and aikido sword-work.  Hopefully it will be good exercise as well.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Owyhee River Walk

Ken and I took a drive out to the Owyhee River area on Thursday.  Drove west on Hwy 95 to Hwy 201, and took Owyhee Lake Road out to Owyhee Reservoir State Park.  Beautiful country, as long as you're not expecting any trees.  Lots of wonderful cliffs and rock formations, volcanic colors exposed from erosion, and the river just beginning to ice over.

The dam was built in the 1930's.  You can't walk or drive out onto it, but you can stop near it for photos, then drive into the State Park on the shore road.  There are boat ramps and picnic areas.  It's a very long reservoir in some very desolate, very unpopulated country.  I don't think I'd want to make the trip during the summer - it would be boiling hot out there.  But a sunny winter day with storm clouds blowing in was great.

We stopped at least four times to take pictures of the landscape.  This was our first stop.  Interesting colors, remains of cinder cones perhaps, and eroded pillars of stone.

Next we stopped at an alluvial arch we saw on the other side of the river.  By this time clouds were starting to blow in and the light kept changing from sun to shadows.

This is the Owyhee River flowing away to the east, where we came from.

This is looking a bit south of west, with the sun on the trees.

Below is the arch, with an obvious flow of eroded material coming out.  There's a ford at this point in the river.  Another time we might come out here in warmer weather and wade across.  All the really interesting places were on the other side.

Our next stop was at the Owyhee Dam.  After some lunch at a lake-side picnic area in ever-increasing clouds, we headed back along the road, and stopped at the Owyhee Tunnel.  This time we couldn't resist climbing up for better views.

I took 93 pictures this day.  It was hard to take a bad one, the landscape was so amazing.  We climbed up onto the hill the tunnel went through.  You could see up river quite a ways.  And the rock itself was fascinating, full of lichens and moss.  A sign of low air pollution.  It's so empty of people out there, and you don't see much sign of livestock grazing.  Just fishermen and hunters.  We even saw fly fishermen out in the river.  Brrr!

 Here's Ken perched on the hillside before we reached the top.
It started to rain just as we were coming back down.  Not hard or steady.  But it was a sign of weather to come.  That night a big windy-rainy storm blew through Nampa, and we knew it had passed over the Owyhee River area before reaching us.

A view up-river from the top.