Friday, January 30, 2009

Not Ready--Still Waffling!

So, Jenn's post reminded me that I may have another potential sock yarn shortage coming up. I'm still working of pair 35 (disgraceful! I should be finishing pair 36 tomorrow! Good thing I over-achieved by 1 pair in the first 6 months, and that I suspect baby E is on the verge of outgrowing her Christmas socks, so I have an excuse to make baby socks!), which means I have 17 pairs left to reach 52.

And here's my current sock yarn stash:
2.7 skeins of Anne from Schaefer Yarns
= 4 pairs of adult socks, 2 solid and 2 striped, and possibly a pair or 2 of baby socks. These skeins are gigantic.

1 skein Enchanted Knoll Farm superwash sock yarn
= 1 pair of adult socks, plus baby socks or wristwarmers or something. I haven't used this yarn before, so I'm not as sure how much will be left over.

1 skein Fannie's Fingering Weight, from Farmhouse Yarns
= 1 pair adult socks, plus something (probably not baby socks because it's not superwash, but I loved the color).

1 skein Madelinetosh sock yarn
3/4 skein Jitterbug
= 2 pairs of adult socks, 1 solid and 1 mixed (striped? contrast toes & heels?)

So that's 11 pairs. I've ordered some black sock yarn from Knitpicks, enough for 2 pairs (a belated bunny-sitting payment), so that's 13, which means I'm short 4 pairs.

Wait! I also have a 4 oz. of superwash roving that I meant to make into sock yarn, so that means I have enough for 14 pairs.

So, should I get some sock yarn? Or just hold my horses and ask for sock yarn from Schaefer Yarns next time? And remind myself that there's no chance I'll make it through both the CT and MA sheep and wool festivals without buying sock yarn? (Although I will have to knit fast after the MA festival, because it's May 23 and 24, and the sock year ends May 31!)

Waffle, waffle, waffle.

When you answer, bear in mind that as of Monday, I'm switching to working part-time, in order to start getting back into the consulting I'd intended to do when I first moved to New Haven. Since my first consulting gig isn't lined up till March, maybe I shouldn't kick off (ha-ha... kick off... super bowl sales...) my partial unemployment/self-employment with a shopping spree?

(Although on the other hand, think how much knitting I'll get to do before March!)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I heart Montana

Hey, I finally have a picture of my Montana Tunic!

The yarn is my handspun, the pattern is from Gale's book, and I love the sweater unreasonably--I wear it at the slightest provocation. Probably more often than I should, since it's kind of distinctive.

I worked it over fewer stitches because my gauge was bigger, and I left off the pocket due to a yarn shortage. The skeins weren't very even (color-wise or gauge-wise), so I alternated skeins every 2 rows--that's why it's a little stripey. I keep meaning to reinforce the back of the neck with a ribbon because I think it wants to droop off my shoulders, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. I followed the pattern, which said to leave the stitches across the back of the neck live, and knit the collar from them directly, but in retrospect, I think it could have done with the stability of binding off then picking up. (Although if the pattern had said to do that, I might have ignored it anyway... in which case I would now be writing that I should learn to follow directions!)

In my imagination, it matches both a pair of handspun socks AND a pair of handspun wristwarmers (which I also want to wear constantly). In reality, I try not to wear it with the wristwarmers outside the house (although I do wear it with the socks, since they hardly show), because I suspect that would take me further down the slippery slope that leads to wrapping oneself in a handknit blanket and thinking it's clothing. (That slope is very nearby, and very slippery, by the way... I am currently wearing a handknit sweater, the same wristwarmers I imagine match my Montana Tunic, and a handspun/handknit shawl as a scarf. In my defense, my office is very cold!)

On the other hand, I may not be as obsessed as you might think. I accidentally left my socks-in-progress in my office when I went home on Friday (I did mope all night, unconsoled by my other WIPs, and go pick them up first thing when the library opened on Saturday, but let's just keep that between us, shall we?), and I forgot my socks this morning when I packed my work clothes to bring to the gym (normally, I wear handknit socks plus tights (plus a skirt), but under tall boots so only the tights show).

Would an obsessed person be able to forget like that? I think not!

Long Lost

I've just remembered that I forgot to report on my Christmas knitting (I think. I definitely didn't show pictures... right?). I finished the last minute sweater--which was a minimalist cardigan for my sister.

I made the smallest size, but adjusted the stitch counts to fit my gauge. I'm not quite sure what the yarn is--Gale gave it to me in the fall, but she'd gotten it from someone else, and the labels had been lost in the process. It was definitely wool-based, possibly with mohair (because it set off Sunflowerfairy's allergies), tentatively identified as possibly from Green Mountain Spinnery (because if you're going to tentatively identify things, you might as well decide you have something great!).

Whatever it is, I finished it more or less on time (not in time for Christmas, but in time to hand it over in person on the 27th), and she claims to like it, so hurrah!

Since then, I've turned the leftovers into a pair of mittens, an assortment of scrap hats, and one of those felted boxes from the first Mason-Dixon book. Which isn't yet felted, because I've dredged up the wreath/cinnamon roll from this time last year, and I want to felt them together. (I like to think of myself as not having old UFOs, and I don't want to start with this one!)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Trip, Part 1

(I realized I should just start writing about the trip, lest it start to seem like gigantic task and I never blog again. So here goes!)

The whole thing--including holiday travel in the US--was so rushed it felt like we were skidding from one place to another, and only if we were lucky would we screech to a halt in Jerusalem (ideally, in time for the work portion of the trip!), so I apologize in advance if this seems scattered.

We left NYC on December 28 (having been in DC that morning, and in Ohio the morning before that...), and arrived in Cairo the next day. We'd found a bed and breakfast online, and arranged for them to pick us up at the airport, and knew we were flying south to Luxor on New Year's Eve, but hadn't figured out anything in between (except that I knew I wanted to see the pyramids, and the Egyptian Museum). But, thanks to lucking into a great B and B with very helpful owners, it was fine.

I know bed and breakfasts are always a little bit like staying at someone's house, but this was really, really, really, someone's house--the Nileview Bed and Breakfast is a city apartment--big for a city apartment, but still, an apartment. There are only a couple of guest rooms, and the other guests were friends of the owners, so it was like we were their friends too, except that we didn't actually know them.

Interestingly, the owners' friends were from Qatar (one a native Qatari, the other Scottish... there was kind of an epidemic of Scots, considering we were in Egypt, since half of the couple that own the Nileview is Scottish too), and the husband was like a one-person Chamber of Commerce--not just "Visit Qatar!" but "Move to Qatar! Buy property! Convince the university where you work to open a campus there!" (I think he may have overestimated our income and our influence on those last two... although several US universities have programs in Qatar, Kevin and I are many levels removed from the ones who make those decisions!). So we heard all about Qatar, as well as Egypt.

That first afternoon, we set down our bags and took off for the pyramids--left to our own devices, we would have procrastinated and fallen asleep, so it was good to have someone else in charge. On the way, Muhammed (the owner of the Nileview) stopped to buy carrots off a vegetable cart parked on the side of the road.

The farmer peeled them, broke off most of the leaves, and handed them in through the window to eat like popsicles. Best tasting carrots ever. (We never would have been able to accomplish that ourselves, given that our attempt to buy oranges some oranges we saw on a farm truck in Sicily ended when the farmer gave us lemons... they were free, admittedly, but we'd wanted to buy oranges!)

There were carts like this--pulled by donkeys, and always with wobbly, about-to-fall-off wheels--all over, coexisting with cars on all but the biggest roads. Speaking of cars, everyone told us how scary the traffic in Cairo would be. It's definitely chaotic! There are no traffic lights or signs in most places... so drivers seemed to do whatever they wanted, mainly by honking and waving at each other.

Say you want to cross the near lane on a two-way street and turn into the far lane. Just drive into the near lane (blocking them entirely, although they can kind of drive behind you by veering into the cross street you came out of), then inch forward into the other lane till you get far enough that you're starting to block traffic there too--someone will let you in, or the police officer directing traffic will stop the far lane so you (and the other cars which have gathered around you--they're also trying to turn, but would like to pull in front of you at the same time) can get out of the way.

So, yes, chaos. And most of the cars are dented. But at the same time, it seemed more human than driving in the US--more like people interacting while inside cars (and bumping into each other--hence the dents), and yelling Hey! Watch out! with their horns than like cars interacting.

Anyway--we made it to the edge of the city, then onto camels, then out to the pyramids. Which are much smaller than I thought they'd be. And disappointingly, you can't go inside them--the passages are too narrow, the air quality is too bad, and all those people (breathing, touching the walls, radiating heat) would be too damaging. But it was amazing to see them, and to think of them having been made by people, stone by stone.

Our guide/camel wrangler took pictures:

(If you follow the link and see the equivalent picture of me, you'll notice that I look perplexed, and like I don't understand that my other arm and legs are part of the picture... that's because when I was posing, I had no idea what the picture was meant to be of, or why in the world the guide wanted me to hold my hand up like that. I didn't figure it out till I watched him pose Kevin the same way. Also, wow, is that sweater of mine unflattering! Definitely too short. And it pilled like crazy the whole trip.)

Not exactly the pictures we would have taken (we also took those, click on either of the pix above to see the whole set in Kevin's Flickr), but what's funny is that afterward, when we were in the ruins in front of the Sphinx, I overheard another tourist telling his friend about their guide taking the same picture. At least I assume that's what the conversation was about, because he was standing with his hand out in the same position, although I couldn't understand the language he was speaking.

I wonder if he knew what the picture would be while he was posing?

After the pyramids, we rode our camels back to the city, then I fended off a very aggressive perfume sales pitch by staging a coughing fit (I knew my coughing prowess would come in handy someday!), because we were too polite to just say that we didn't want any, then back we went to the bed and breakfast.

That night, we went with Muhammed and Mr. Qatar to a bazaar (where we fended off very aggressive souvenir sales pitches by walking very fast, constantly shaking our heads, and trying to avoid eye contact... no fake coughing fits needed!), and had tea and falafel sandwiches at a coffeehouse. Yet another food miracle--the sandwiches actually came from around the corner, but Muhammed sent a kid (who was trying to sell something to the coffeehouse customers, but was equally happy to run errands for tips) around the corner to buy them.

Now that I'm writing this, I remember that there was actually another food miracle that afternoon--after the pyramids, we stopped for kushari, at this place that looked like a complete dive (sawdust on the floor and everything) but was completely tasty. (And it turns out that I love kusheri.)

I suspect I'm going to keep harping on this, but it was like visiting a city known for amazing food with a friend who lives there, vs. wandering around on your own. On your own, you know there's great, cheap food (possibly only a few feet away from where you are, quietly starving), but at least 50% of the time, you pick a dive-y restaurant that actually turns out to be terrible. (Or if you are me, you eat at Sbarro, even though you hate their pizza at home, out of a mistaken illusion that being in a city where there are good pizza places will somehow improve Sbarro's pizza.) Whereas your local friend has already tested the dive-y places for you, and will only bring you to the yummy ones.

Multiply that by the fact that neither of us speaks even a syllable of Arabic, and you'll understand how excited we were by the kushari and falafel sandwiches.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Home Again

Hey, we're home (actually, got home yesterday). I took today off to start working on the report that was the whole reason for the trip, but instead I waded through my inbox for my real job. And finished up the last load of laundry (bringing to total to 7... how did we wear so many clothes? It felt like we wore the same clothes the whole time we were gone!).

And now I'm going to at least open the file that has my notes in it, and maybe even turn to the right page in my notebook.

Trip stories soon, when I've made some writing progress.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Trains, Planes and Camels

Kevin's a much better blogger than me (for all that he hasn't updated his training blog in more than a year), so he's uploaded some of our pictures to Flickr already.


Here we are on the 29th (just hours after we arrived in Egypt), on the way to see the pyramids at Giza. (There are more pictures in his Flickr account.)

It turns out that camels aren't as comfortable as they look (and they don't look that comfortable, do they?). They're really unstable, and when they stand up or knee down, you tip all the way forward or backward (or both).

Since riding the camels, we've spent a couple of days in Cairo (the highlight for me was the Egyptian museum, which has mummies, plus most of the artifacts from the tombs and other archaeological sites that haven't been taken to museums abroad. Kevin's favorite was the Coptic Museum, which has illuminated manuscripts.), one day in Luxor (where the Valley of the Kings and Karnak Temple are, an interminable train ride back to Cairo (an overnight train, but there weren't any sleeper train tickets left when we bought ours, so we tried to sleep in sitting up... guess who was reasonably well rested the next day and who was exhausted)), then a long, grimy day which ended near Petra, Jordan.

By the next morning, it was January 3, and I needed to be in Jerusalem first thing in the morning on the 4th (that would be this morning), so we only got to spend a couple of hours in the park at Petra. Nowhere near enough time, but also completely worth the wacky detour.

Then the windiest, curviest, hilliest drive (fortunately, someone else was driving) to the Jordan-Israel border, and surreal, deserted walk across the border from one set of guardhouses to the other (I'd expected the Israeli border guards to be intimidating, but we were so clearly non-scary, confused American tourists--despite our strange itinerary--that they were very nice... also it was a Saturday and the crossing was deserted, so they may have been bored).

And now we're in Jerusalem, and I've every finished 25% of my in-country work (I'm trying not to think about the report I'll have to write once we get back to the US...).

(I finished a whole slew knitting, mostly during the US driving tour: the last minute sweater (for my sister Rachel for Christmas), a pair of baby socks (for E), 3 baby hats (1 for E, 2 for shower gifts), baby mittens (for E), an adult hat (for charity), and I feel like I might be forgetting something. I abandoned that knitting bag at JFK, and moved on to my trip knitting, and now I'm about 3/4 of the way through pair 33.)