Is a year enough time to plan?

Last night, while lounging on the couch and waiting for trick-or-treaters to climb the stairs and ring the bell (I always feel bad for the littler ones because those front steps are kind of steep), Richard and I listened to a rebroadcast of the original radio program of War of the Worlds. Richard’s heard it before but for some reason, I never had (although I’ve read the book it’s based on, of course).

While the claims that the first airing of the radio drama in 1938 caused wide-spread panic are not true, the myth has continued to persist, and the radio drama itself has become part of west’s cultural heritage. And while we were listening, I noted to Richard that, in an era where social media wasn’t even a gleam in anyone’s eye, and the radio was the most common source of news, it’s easy to see why some listeners might have been understandably concerned.

And that got us to chatting about whether or not something like the radio drama could even *work* today, in the era of instant communication, across a wide variety of media platforms. Richard and I, years ago, took part in Blog Like It’s the End of the World Day a couple times, which was a lot of fun, but we haven’t done that in a very long time (well, except for when we were overrun with Daleks and when the giant mutant spiders attacked, but that was just me doing it by myself, for fun).

So….now I’m wondering. Would anyone else be interested in trying to do an homage to the original radio drama of War of the Worlds, for Halloween, 2018? My thinking is that everyone who participated would have to agree to stick to the plot of the both the book or the radio play, and work within those parameters (not just radio, of course, but any video/images/text done in the original style and theme), but using current media to spread the story over the course of the day. I’m not entirely sure how we’d all pull it off yet – this requires some thought – but it just feels like something that would be fun to try.

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Stroopwafel Saturday

My younger sister is a baker – not just a baking enthusiast like me, but a ‘went-through-training-and-knows-what-she’s-doing’ baker. So she’s who I contact when I have questions about why my bread is doing things it shouldn’t be doing, or what sort of cookie dough one should use when one is going to do cut-outs with patterns, and that sort of thing. She also, like me, loves to try new recipes, and on a recent trip up to Seattle to visit with her, we took advantage of the fact that we were both in the same place with access to a kitchen, and tried out a couple recipes – chocolate-filled hand pies, and homemade Tagalongs (the chocolate-covered peanut butter-filled cookies one can usually only get from Girl Scouts). It was messy and silly and tasty and a lot of fun and when I got home I got to thinking that if she and I lived closer, we’d likely be getting together on a regular basis to try out recipes and play with butter and sugar and flour.

So a week or so ago I sent my little sister this recipe and said, hey, even though we’re not in the same place, maybe we could try doing these together over Google Hangouts. She was game, so we checked our calendars, and today was the day.

The recipe itself is pretty straightforward – you mix up the dough and let it sit for a bit, and then you make the caramel (both of which smelled absolutely delightful while going together), and then you make the cookies themselves. And then the next step is to split an already-thin cookie into two even thinner pieces, while still hot (possibly there was a tiny bit of swearing and uttering of ‘ow, ow, ow!’ during that process), then dollop a generous amount of caramel in the middle and finally, smoosh the two pieces together, spreading the caramel syrup between them. Then you set those aside to cool and when they are done, you have stroopwafels!

If you happen to have a pizelle maker, which my sister does because she scored it for $10 at a garage sale years ago, then you can smash the dough in there and it will come out nice and thin with gorgeous patterning on both sides. However, if you do not have a pizelle maker (like me), you can jury-rig a dough-smashing system via the clever combination of an electric skillet and a saucepan. Put the dough on the skillet, grease the bottom of the saucepan, and then use that to smash it down into a flat thing. Pro tip – a regular waffle iron doesn’t work (I tried) – the divots are too deep and your dough won’t smash thin enough.

Here are my finished stroopwafels. I know they look a lot like lopsided pancakes (see above re. ‘don’t have a pizelle maker’), but trust me, they’re actual cookies, with delicious brown sugar maple caramel syrup in the middle, and they are quite, quite yummy.

The end result of the whole thing is that we both had a lot of fun, laughing and chatting over the video call, showing each other our dough and our cookies and our caramel, and we have decided we are going to try to do this on regular basis. Because after all, we live in the future now, with webcams and laptops that can be propped up in the kitchen, and living two states away from each other should not be the deterrent to doing something we both love to do, together.

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I suppose I could have just pulled out one of the self-patterning yarns in my stash and done a stockinette sock, or else dragged out one of the other sock works-in-progress, but instead, flush on the heels of zipping through Mosaic Marbles, I decided I wanted to do a little more colorwork. Also I decided I’d be nice and make a pair for Richard, since the last one didn’t turn out so well.

So over the weekend (when I wasn’t processing a gazillion tomatoes into sauce, because it’s that time of year here in the Central Valley) I started and ripped out the first of a pair of socks, too many times to count. And then eventually I gave up because the yarn I was using was on the thin side and even 80 stitches around was too small and it looked like in order for them to fit, I might even have to go up to 100 stitches. I’m sorry, but life is too short to be knitting socks with that many stitches on the needles, so instead of turning the yarn into socks for Richard I decided that they were destined to be something else, and I cast on for these. The more I knit them the more I loved them and wanted to just keep on knitting them, and before I knew it, they were done.

I have loved this motif since I stumbled across it, many years ago, probably in a stitch pattern book somewhere. I like how it looks if you do it just in one color with knits and purls, but I love it the most when there are two colors in the mix, and suddenly there is this 3-D effect. It’s stranded, which is the perfect way to use thin yarn without ending up with a sock that’s much too thick to be practical (I do live in California, after all, where one doesn’t actually really need warm socks most of the year, unless one happens to work in an office where they routinely set the AC to ‘arctic’). I just did my usual ribbed cuff and heel flap and single-stitch stripes on the bottom of the foot, and I decreased the toe while still keeping the pattern going until almost the very end. I am quite pleased with the result.

However, I don’t think this is the end of it. As much as I like *these* socks, they’re missing something. I feel like there needs to be a better way to have the pattern flow organically, from cuff to heel to toe, without those solid blocks of color. So I’ll definitely be doing more work with this motif in the future.

Summer of Socks Count: 9

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The fourth pattern for Tour de Sock was released Monday night. We all knew it would take 2 colors, so there was wild speculation as to what sort of pattern it might be. I was holding out for stripes, stranded, or mosaic – basically anything but brioche because that’s one thing I’ve yet to tackle and I didn’t really want to deal with it during a speed competition. Thankfully, the pattern – Mosaic Marbles – was just mosaic knitting. I’ve done mosaic socks before – I was the test knitter for these socks and I loved the pattern so much that as soon as I’d shipped the sample pair back to Knitpicks, I immediately cast on for my own. So I was actually pretty excited to see pattern #4.

I surreptitiously downloaded the pattern to my phone and then emailed it to Richard while sitting in a meeting, and asked him to print it, figuring that’d give me a head start when I got home later (I’d already wound the yarn). Hah. Turns out the printer was out of black ink, and by the time we figured that out, every place that might sell printer ink was closed. No problem for the evening – I just camped out in my chair in front of the computer and followed along from there – but I was leaving the next morning for a two-day work trip and I really didn’t want to have to deal with reading charts from my phone.

Thankfully Amazon Prime Now managed to get ink to us Tuesday morning. Also thankfully I realized the charts were pretty easy to memorize so I didn’t have to refer much to the print-out anyway.

But on to the knitting. Since Tuesday was only a site visit – which requires tromping around but no sitting in meetings – I got up extra early and plowed through half a sock before we left. The trip down was about four hours straight of driving. I wasn’t the one driving, and half the drive was through twisty, windy roads and up and down hills, but half was pretty straight. So I decided to give knitting in the car a try. I wasn’t honestly sure how it would work out – I am prone to getting queasy when not the one driving, especially on hilly and twisty roads. But on the way down, I managed to finish up the first sock just shortly before the roads started to get a bit bumpy and windy.

I cast on the second sock Tuesday evening once back at the hotel and managed to get in a couple pattern repeats before I was just too tired to keep my eyes open anymore. I turned the heel on the way down to the meeting Wednesday morning, and on the way home, the instant we made it out of the hills and I felt like my stomach could handle it, I dove back into knitting. By the time I got home last night all I had left was the toe. I scurried in the door, dumped my stuff, waved to Richard and the cats, and then sat down and hastily finished it off.

Yarns are Knitpicks Stroll in Dove Heather and Pansy, because I know someone will ask (I adore how the tone-on-tone purple works in this!).

I’m quite pleased with these, and with my placement – 62. Managed to get them done in just a bit over 48 hours, even with working two full days *and* a very long work road trip, all because it turns out I *can* knit (under certain specific circumstances) in the car.

Summer of Socks count: 8

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Because I finished the last pair of socks so quickly (and after I let my hands recover from that) I realized I had lots of time to do at least one more pair before the next pattern was posted. I thought, briefly, about casting on something new but then I remembered that there were two pairs lurking in bags that needed to be completed, so I sighed and dragged one out and slipped it back onto the needles.

I don’t remember when I first cast on for this pair, and I’d already finished the first one and gotten about halfway through the second leg before setting them aside. But I have been avoiding finishing these socks for a very, very long time. Even now, knowing that if I just sat down and focused it would only take me another couple hours, I still procrastinated, willing to knit just about anything else but these socks. On the plus side, this means I managed to whip out several lace pieces for the upcoming Lacy Knitters Guild newsletter, but on the minus side, it wasn’t until this morning that I sat down and finally finished off the toe, and that was only because the next pattern drops this evening and I need the needles free and I just couldn’t bear the thought of putting these things back onto a holder to lurk in a bag again. Better to just finish them off and get them out of my hair completely.

I am pretty sure the yarn is Knitpicks Felici, but I can’t swear to it because I lost the ball bands a long time ago. The pattern is something a friend was doing for her own pair of socks, and I liked it much more than whatever it was I’d started to do with this yarn, so I copied it (mostly – I reduced the number of stitches per pattern repeat in order to fit my gauge).

The feeling upon completing these socks is mostly relief. Am not sure if it was the pattern, or the colors, or a combination of both, but I’m just glad they’re done and I never have to knit another stitch on them again.

Summer of Socks count: 7

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One time shot

Pattern 3 of Tour de Sock is Indecisions, because the designer included a number of places where you could make a choice as you knit along. Either a ribbed cuff, or a folded picot cuff. Either a fancy heel or a slightly less fancy eye-of-partridge heel. Either continue the lace and cable motif down the top of the food, or just switch to a corresponding rib.

Of course, this being a competition, we had restrictions on what we could do (no nice simple top-of-foot ribbing for us, in other words). There was a specific cast-on we were required to use if we wanted to do the ribbed cuff. I tried watching the linked YouTube video, but I quickly gave up on that – I had no desire to sit through a lengthy blather about how much the person in the video loves this cast on, blah blah blah, and I don’t mind a picot cuff all *that* much (plus there were bonus points available for the picot cuff). So I gave up on the new cast on, did the picots, and then just kept on going, including the fancy heel because, hey, more points, and why not.

The pattern was released early afternoon on Friday. I ended up finishing the first sock in roughly 8 hours, and as far as I could tell from the chat and help threads, I was definitely at the head of the pack. I did cast on for the second and thought briefly about trying to stay up and finish it, but previous experience has taught me that knitting while one is in danger of actually dozing off while doing stitches only ends in copious amounts of swearing and unknitting later on when one is more awake.

Thanks to insomnia, however, I ended up just waking up a couple hours later and getting back into it…which means I managed to finish this pair of socks in less than 24 hours. Yay. I blearily took pictures, tried to massage the cramps out of my hands (because ow), and sent off the info. Later on, it was confirmed – I came in 9th. I am quite pleased with those results. It’s higher than I ever expected to finish for any of the patterns, considering there’s a couple teams in Finland who have all been routinely finishing theirs in shorter periods of time.

Will I be trying to do any of the remaining Tour de Sock patterns this quickly? Ha, I don’t think so. My hands aren’t happy with me, and I suspect I won’t be quite so ‘lucky’ as to have so much free time around when the patterns are released. Good enough that I did it once. That’s more than enough.

Summer of Socks count: 6

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Two little wins

Two recent ways in which I am winning at this whole ‘adulting thing’:

1) Yesterday I *really* wanted some sort of baked good, except I didn’t want to actually have to *bake* it (because sometimes I am just not in the mood, yes, I know, I too am shocked by this, and also sometimes all I want is just one little piece of a thing, and not an entire giant batch of thing – see above regarding the ‘adult’ part of this equation). I suppose one of us could have gone out to purchase a thing, but we were both tired and needed showers in order to go out in public, so that was my excuse to lounge, slug-like, on the couch and simply whine about the lack of baked goods without actually doing anything constructive about it.

Today I was feeling the same need for baked goods, and then it came to me – mug cakes! Single serving size, doesn’t require heating up the oven (it’s been roughly 5-bazillion degrees outside for the past several weeks, after all), and once it’s done, there aren’t any other servings lurking in the kitchen to tempt me.

So I made myself a nutmeg spiced mug cake…uh…I mean…’mug breakfast muffin’, thereby satisfying the craving for baked goods while not actually having to go anywhere *or* dirty more than a couple mixing utensils and a bowl, and thus it was a win.

2) This one may only be relevant to some of you – the sort who either currently live with, or have lived with, small creatures prone to making messes. In this scenario, the mess-making creature is, of course, a cat.

I was sitting on the couch, knitting, and I heard the tell-tale sounds of a cat about to hurl. I looked up, to see Sherman perched atop the tiny little end table by the window, head angled so as to achieve maximum mess-making potential once he let loose.

I only had seconds to respond. Leaping to my feet, I grabbed a small box that had been left on the coffee table, and charged over toward the cat. At the last possible moment, I reached out, box in hand, and CAUGHT EVERY SINGLE BIT OF IT. Said box was then closed up and stuffed into the trash, mess free. Definitely a win!

The fact that a different cat managed to hork in exactly the same place several hours later without me being able to make a similar save, thus requiring the exact amount of clean-up I was trying to avoid in the first place, is not relevant here. Shh. Leave me my joy.

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The only thing not fun was the weaving in of ends

Unlike the first pattern for Tour de Sock, I loved every single thing about the second one – Kanteletar. Colorwork! A new-to-me heel idea that takes the whole ‘your ankle is bigger than you think’ concept into account! Latvian braids!

(Please note bonus Rupert paw in top left of picture. After all, I couldn’t possibly ever manage to get anything photographed in this house without at least *one* cat involved.)

These were an absolute delight to knit. Turned cuffs and Latvian braids are annoyingly time-consuming (which I’m sure was part of the reason why they were included in this pattern, since this *is* supposed to be a race, after all), but they do look lovely when done right, so I don’t mind slogging through them because I know the results will be worth it. And doing the stranded colorwork on these reminded me that I have been wanting to do more stranded colorwork in general, and socks are the perfect vehicle for this (small, portable, naturally done in the round so you don’t have to worry about steeking or any other annoyances, and far less overall commitment than an entire sweater, so if you give up and chuck them in the time-out bin, it’s not a huge loss).

The heel on these is done as sort of a little cup, with increases that flare out at the back of the sock, and then the turning happens at the base, with some short rows as well as decreases. At first I thought maybe this heel wasn’t so effective – when I tried on the first sock, it felt very baggy. But when a friend with larger feet than mine tried it on, she loved it and said it was really comfortable…which thus led me to the conclusion that maybe it just felt baggy on me because I accidentally knit the feet too long, so wasn’t able to accurately judge how they fit.

So since this *is* the Summer of Socks, and there is still plenty of time before pattern #3 is releases, I decided to do up another pair, using that new-to-me heel. I also used the slip-stitch motif from Kanteletar because 1) I really like how the heel centers around it, 2) sometimes you want something slightly less boring than just plain stockinette, and also 3) it makes it a lot easier to get two socks to be identical in length when you can count pattern repeats and not just hold them up side by side and take some wild guesses.

Verdict: I was right – the cup heel was only baggy before because the foot was too big. I’m quite pleased with how these turned out, so much so that I might even be tempted to use this heel again.

As for the too-big pair of socks I completed for the challenge, well, no worries there – I’m in no danger of running out of socks (I’ve made dozens and dozens over the years – my sock drawer is overloaded) so those have been sent off to someone else who will hopefully love them as much as I do.

Summer of Socks count: 5

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Should have done these during Shark Week

So….Tour de Sock.

The first pattern was released July 15th and is Fins. It’s got a lace motif, is knit toe up, and has an interesting method of dealing with the heel – you actually close off the foot completely (but for a bit of waste yarn that gets pulled out later to allow for a leg opening). The leg ends with a garter stitch ‘fin’ bind off.

I got a late start on these because I was still finishing up a test knit, and so lost most of the prime weekend knitting time. But I did get them done well before the deadline (we’ve got 9 days for each pattern) and I ended up as the 230th person to finish. Considering there’s over a 1000 people registered this year, I’m pleased with that (and I’m not even remotely attempting to win this challenge).

I am….ambivalent about this pattern. It was easy enough to knit, once I figured out what was going on with the leg opening (a *lot* of other people were asking exactly the same question I was, so at least it wasn’t me, it was the wording in the pattern), but I really do *not* like the fins at the top. Part of the challenge is that you have to follow the pattern as written, though, so I grimly knit the fins, but did not cut the yarn at the end . Once Tour de Sock is over for the year, I’ll rip out the fins and replace them with ribbing. This plan was the general consensus for most of the rest of my team too – none of us were fans of the points.

The other issue I have with this pattern is that it basically makes use of the afterthought heel (even though it’s not technically done after the rest of the sock is complete, it’s still the same principle) – you can tell this because of how there’s that line of decreases on the side of the heel, that looks just like how decreases are done on sock toes. It’s a nice idea in theory, except for the fact that the ankle is actually the thickest part of the foot, and the (admittedly few) patterns I’ve tried with afterthought heels don’t ever seem to take that into account, and so they always end up feeling a little tight around the top of the ankle. In the case of this particular pattern, the fact that the motif was lace helped save it, since that gives the sock a bit more stretch, to accommodate the ankle, but it still just fits a little…well…weird.

Anyway. Despite all this I decided I ought to at least give the whole concept one more go. I recently did the Coast Starlight train trip with my sisters (for our 14th annual Sisters Only weekend) and brought along some yarn to make socks for Richard. The first pair was a plain set following my usual formula (Sock pair #1 of my Summer of Socks), but since I wasn’t really feeling the desire to do another pair in the same vanilla pattern, I decided to give the whole afterthought heel/leg idea another try on a pair of socks for Richard.

I finished that pair last night. I did try to add some extra stitches around the leg to account for the tightness issue. But…verdict – no. Just…no. They didn’t work over Richard’s ankles either. Clearly neither of us has feet that were meant for this method of turning the heel.

Perhaps if I really liked the look and feel of the heel I might be inspired to give it yet another try, with yet more adjustments. But since I already wasn’t a fan, it’s no big loss. There’s plenty of other heel concepts out there, besides my old standby, the slipped stitch heel flap, so unless any of the upcoming Tour de Sock patterns require it, I think I’ll just happily sub out a different type of heel if I run into this one again, and call it done.

Summer of Socks Count: 3

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Kicking things off

A month or two ago a knitting friend sent an email, wondering if a couple of us wanted to sign up for Tour de Sock. I checked it out – six waves, knitting socks, potentially challenging patterns – and said sure, let’s do this. So we signed up and cobbled together enough to make a team, and waited eagerly for the first pattern to be released.

I’m two patterns down now, and have already made a couple other pairs on the side, so I’ve decided that during this challenge, I’m going to try to do as many socks as I can (not just the required six), and turn this into a Summer of Socks. The others don’t count to the race; this is primarily to try to clear out some of the sock yarn stash (which is a good thing since I might possibly have succumbed to the siren song of a really great sale recently and have a bunch more lovely sock yarn winging its way to me even as I type this, so it’d be nice if there was room for it). I’m counting any pair of socks *completed* as part of this personal challenge since, despite my years-ago vow to only ever have one pair of socks on the needles at the time (edited to allow for one pair per needle size, since I use a different size for socks for Richard), I’ve got a couple pairs of socks on holders, stuffed into project bags and waiting to be done.

So here’s the first pair to share, which isn’t actually one of the Tour de Sock patterns at all. This is my basic sock formula, made with Knitpicks Felici in Time Traveler. Since we’re both Whovians, and Richard’s favorite doctor is Tom Baker, I knew as soon as I saw this yarn that I had to get it for him. Took me a couple years, but eventually I got around to it. I started these in the airport on the way up to Seattle and finished them two days later, on the train. I can get *so* much knitting done when I’m traveling!

Summer of Socks Count: 1

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