Saturday, 31 December 2011

Sweaters Intimidate Me

My miss-givings about knitting a sweater are less about the technical construction (though the idea of having to do the maths and worry about fit do intimidate me) than the fear that after all that time and effort* it won't fit or, whether it fits or not, it won't be flattering. Add to that a lifetime's desire to be thinner and fear of getting rotund-er and knitting a sweater seems destine to be a source of regret.

One of my goals in life, not a New Year's Resolution, is to love myself for who I am rather than holding out for a better version of me, one more worthy of love. Assuming there is a static goal-line one can cross and believe that now, finally, now one is worthy of love and happiness and acceptance (both observational and personal experience inclines me to think there is not), even if such a prize were achievable, I personally respond very badly to such negative incentives. I get very stubborn when told I can't or shouldn't do things. I'm sure you're all shocked to hear I can be so contrary, but I really dig my heels in and become "[as biddable] as any mule in Christian-dome".

My weight has, without particular effort on my part, been stable these past six weeks. That's not a considerable length of time, but it does seem to indicate that this is a weight my body is comfortable with and thus a shape I'm willing to throw time and effort at. I always prefer to wear quality clothing and shapes that flatter, but it's hard to justify investing in a wardrobe rather when one doesn't know if one will continue to lose or start to regain**.

But even if my shape changes, I can't keep waiting for tomorrow. This is the year I start knitting sweaters and if they don't fit in a year or five years, well I'll knit more sweaters. And I'll be a better sweater knitter in a year and I'll keep this sweater for when I pass through this weight again***.

~ * ~

* the cost of the yarn, aside from the initial investment, doesn't bother me as a bad sweater could always be frogged and the yarn repurposed.

** for the curious I am neither at my lowest nor my heaviest, but after gaining 2lbs/1kilo for the last five months this six week platform seems significant.

*** I tend not to follow trends, preferring a 1940s aesthetic, so I'm not worried about styles becoming unfashionable.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

NYR: Pattern Selection

Having resolved to knit two sweaters (one for me, one for DH) and add to my sock repertoire, I have spent a fair amount of time reading my sock and sweater books, flipping through magazines, and, most of all, creating filter after filter in Ravelry. Patterns were matched to yarns, measurements and meterages were determined, yarns were selected and discarded based on price, reviews, colours and finally availability. This brings me to a tangent:

On the whole, having an online store reject attempts to add quantities of yarn not actually in possession of the shop is a good thing. It would, however, be better if stock quantities could be determined prior to trying to add them to my "basket". As opposed to manually adding each colour I like only to determine, time and again, they don't have the requisite quantities. In half a dozen colours, plus a few I didn't really like that much anyway. Had that effort resulted in purchasing yarn my irritation would have been tempered by the joyful anticipation of nice, affordable yarn. As it is, I'm just irritated.

But I have selected my patterns and my yarns: for my sweater I'm trying February Fitted Pullover by Amy Herzog. Even as a non-knitter of sweaters, her name had been increasingly familiar with very positive associations. She has a few designs that don't interest me, but when I read the descriptions I found they weren't knit with me in mind (sweaters for the bottom-heavy, rather than my very full hour-glass). It's a nice that she and I agree on styles both for and not for my figure. I ultimately decided against a sweater from Little Red in the City as they are none of them quite what I want for my first sweater. Ysolda's day will come.

For my DH I picked Terry's Pullover by Carol Fuller from Interweave Knit's Holiday Gifts 2009. I found it in my Ravelry filtering, recognized it as the one Socktopus just knit for her husband, and it was already high in my Ravelry queue - despite going through yesterday and significantly reducing the number of items in said queue. My husband has a generously sized nose and the shawl collar should allow easy clearance for pulling it on and off.

For both sweaters I ordered Jamieson & Smith's Shetland Aran, in a tealy-blue for me and a dark sage green for DH. I used their Shetland Supreme for my Sheep Heid Tam so it's a brand with which I am familiar and I like the idea of knitting with affordable wool from local(ish) sheep (given that my efforts for even more affordably priced Knit Picks yarn from the mothership were for naught). Now it's just the joyous anticipation of wool and the finishing the projects in progress so I can start my sweaters.

Except it's the Thursday night between Christmas and the New Year so there's a very real chance that J&S are closed for the holidays. Even if they are open, I don't think they can get my order put together, packed up, and ready to go out in time for Friday's last collection given that the Shetland Islands aren't exactly a renowned transportation hub. Saturday is Hogmanay, New Year's Eve, traditionally a bigger deal than Christmas*, and New Year's day falls on a Sunday which means the British bank holiday is observed on Tuesday - 2 January, Monday, is a Scottish bank holiday. So, assuming J&S is open tomorrow and they can process my order before final collection, the absolute earliest I can expect my happy parcel is Thursday the 5th. Did I mention we're leaving for our honeymoon on the 8th?

Fortunately, I have the yarn for my next sock project: Knot Socks by Nancy Bush from Sock Knitting Master Class (see, a pattern from one of my new books!) using some purple Araucania Ranco that I purchased for myself when getting the replacement yarn for to knit replacement Brainless socks for my DH who accidentally felted the first pair. The pattern is cuff-down with a cast-on (double start), heel turn (square), and toe (star) I've not tried before.

~ * ~

* Christmas was actually banned in Scotland for almost 400 years, until the 1950s, because it was considered a "papist" holiday. Presbyterians really don't like papists.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

New Year's Resolutions?

Tis the season for knitters to plan their yearly knitting and make resolutions such as "Knit things with yarn I already own and no buying new yarn" or "knit at least one thing each month" often selecting the patterns and yarn in advance. I neither have a significant stash, nor a problem with not feeling like I've knit enough, but I do have some specific skills I would like to acquire, namely sock techniques and (gulp!) sweater knitting.

Both socks and sweaters span a range of skill levels from "suitable for a competent beginner" to "seriously mad skills, yo!" and while I while I have some skills my repertoire of sock construction techniques is somewhat limited* and I have zero** sweater experience.

For Christmas, my DH gave me Ysolda Teague's Little Red in the City, a book about sweater modification (with seven patterns) and just today I picked up the digital copy of Ann Budd's Sock Knitting Master Class which covers a variety of sock construction techniques, both cuff-down and toe-up and a variety of cast-on, bind-off, heel, and toe methods. Add to this my Best of Knitter's Magazine's Guy Knits, and the form of my resolution becomes clear: Knit a sweater each for myself and my husband, and work my way through Sock Knitting Master Class.

My current method of knitting is to alternate between knitting for myself and my husband, so my master class goal is not so much to knit all 18 socks as, 365 days from now, being able to say "look at the new techniques I have tried". And two finished sweaters.

~ * ~

* one pair cuff-down socks, rounded heel, wedge toe, kitchener BO; several pairs toe-up, short row and Turkish CO, rounded heel, Judy's Surprisingly Stretchy BO

** I have knit three baby sweaters using different techniques but they're on a completely different scale and "shaping" isn't particularly important.

Friday, 2 December 2011

A Long-Overdue Post on Wool Socks

On the Friday when I got my glasses (did I post about that?) and my job, I also bought several pairs of wool socks and tights. I know, I know - this is a violation of the "only own hand-knit socks" movement that I'm not a part of, but I spent a month working on the Purple Socks and, alternating between a pair for my husband and a pair for myself means a drawer full of (only?) hand-knit socks is not in my immediate future but my need for warm footwear is ever-present. I cheated and bought socks and I am not sorry.

My quest was actually for wool tights as the four pairs (two black, one purple, one brown) of wool tights I purchased for the winter of 2009 are starting to give up the ghost. One pair of black tights got thrown out for having holes, the other pair has some alarmingly transparent patches, the purple ones are too big, and the brown ones are, well, brown. My husband conceded that wool tights are a necessity and two winters was good value for money and I went to purchase more.

I only managed to find wool tights at H&M and M&S (it must be an initialization thing) so I bought a black pair from H&M and a navy pair from M&S, both significantly wool and not "wool-like" or "met a wool fibre once" or "wool content is measured in single digits" which is what most retailers seems to mean with the word. I'm beginning to understand that the UK doesn't have advertising laws stipulating that the word wool refer to, you know, actual wool*.

While at H&M I also found two pairs of wool socks, each around 75% wool/25% nylon which is my preferred fibre for knitting socks (the nylon adds structural integrity, important for socks). One pair is a crew-length fair isle sock in cranberry and cream, with lots of loose ends inside for added warmth. The other is a knee-high cabled creation in cream. They're both warm and slightly itchy, which is pretty much how I feel about my hand-knit socks. Best of all they came in lots of sizes rather than the usual "one size fits some" of retail socks. For those of you who want nice wool knit socks but lack the skills or desire to knit your own, these are perfect.

In other news, I did finish my Purple Brainless with pictures possibly to follow and am knitting a replacement pair of the Husband's Brainless that the eponymous sock-wearer accidentally felted in the wash.

~ * "

*Tangentally, I'm not one to get bent out of shape if you use wool as a compound noun to describe another type of fleece ("angora wool" or "cashmere wool") out with that, wool means something and it means the fleece of a sheep.

There are workmen in my living room

Chris and I decided, after getting married last June, that we'd take the money people gave us and have a fireplace installed in the lounge. The house had one when he moved in but it wasn't very good and, after he bought it from his landlady, he had the fireplace removed. Fast-forward to having someone with whom to cuddle in front of a fire and a better fireplace seems the thing to have.

We did some research, picked a design, had a consultation and made a down-payment back in September and finally, finally, today they're starting. I said I wanted a fireplace before it started to snow and the weather seems to be cooperating. Yay?

Anyway, there are workmen in my living room and it's rather nosy (understatement) in the house today. Ginger Kitty is hiding under the duvet in our bedroom but Princess occasionally comes just far enough down the stairs to peer through the railing and see what's going on.

Speaking of Princess, she's poorly again. We ran out of the last bag of food and started a new one (a different flavour, turkey - we always switch when we finish a bag) and she ate fine Monday night but then on Tuesday she stopped eating. The brand we use switches kibble shape with flavour so I bought different food (chicken) for her in case it was the shape she didn't like but she wouldn't eat that either (though Ginger Kitty decided that whatever Princess had must be better than what he has* and refused to eat until we gave him the chicken stuff but now he won't eat until he's sure there's not something better he could have instead). We gave them some tuna because Princess hadn't eaten anything all day and got her to eat a small portion.

The next day I suggested we feed her some of the kitten food (also chicken) we still have as it's small kibble and easy to chew and she ate a little bit but then turned her nose up the rest of the day, even refusing to drink tuna water when offered. Chris was beside himself at this point, googling symptoms right and left - never a good idea - and I bought a bag of fish-flavoured kibble in case it was the flavour she was objecting too and she eat a few pieces but gave up on that as well.

Princess is not a large cat to start with - only 3.3kilos on the best of days - and she's never been a good eater but she wasn't acting like her normal finicky self. She'd get excited any time we walked near the food bowls and bark encouragingly if we stopped to fill them up but then she'd change her mind and scoot away and look like the saddest, hungriest kitty in the world. Normal, finicky Princess would be completely indifferent to food.

I held her with her mouth open while Chris looked for ulcers or tooth decay but we didn't see anything. She still wasn't eating though, so I took her to the vet. She meowed piteously when I put her in her carrying case and the whole taxi ride over but when the vet let her go and she'd decided she'd had enough of a cuddle with me she hopped back in and was mostly quiet on the ride home. Poor Princess. The vet found some inflammation around some of her back teeth but no fever (Princess really didn't like that part), no pained reactions to having her tummy poked and prodded, and no signs of dehydration. We're unaware of anything she may have eaten or licked to cause problems (eating parsley, the vet said, is odd but not harmful). The vet gave Princess a shot each of antibiotics and steroids, scheduled an appointment to get Princess' teeth cleaned on Monday**, and sent us home with a couple tins of "yummy" gentle gushy food and oral antibiotics. The antibiotics, of course, have to be administered with food. "Just squirt it on her food!" they helpfully kept advising me, somehow missing the point of why were were there.

Chris tried her on the new gushy food last night with some success until she realized that Ginger Kitty was nowhere to be seen and came upstairs to find him, locked in the bedroom with me. We tried her again later, with tuna for Ginger Kitty, and he went om-nom-nom-nom but she wouldn't eat and kept looking at his food. I snagged a chunk of tuna from Ginger Kitty's bowl and offered it to her, but Chris smeared it with her gushy food and she still wouldn't eat it. I took Ginger Kitty's entire bowl away from him** and gave it to Princess who promptly face planted. I gave the gushy-smeared tuna to Ginger Kitty and he stopped giving me Saddest Kitty in the World eyes and ate with gusto.

That's about where things stand now. Princess doesn't want to eat the gushy food (or any of the kibble) but will occasionally deign to a small portion of tuna and sooner or later Ginger Kitty eats anything we leave unguarded. The vet suggested giving her a little ice cream as a treat; we'll pick some up when we go out tonight and see if that helps at all.

~ * ~

* a position he maintains even when have the same food.

** her teeth are in good shape, but some animals react badly to even the slightest build-up of plaque. We'll see if that helps.

*** I love my mellow Ginger Kitty so much.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Gainful Employment

I got a job! I had interviewed, probably back in September for a part time position at an international cosmetics* company but, alas, didn't get the job. I avoided the shop for a while but on Friday, when I was in the mall to have my eyes checked, I stopped in to pick something up. The manager remembered me, asked if I was still looking for work, and if I wanted a seasonal position starting Monday (yesterday). Um, yeah! I spent the rest of the day buzzing around, planning celebratory things to buy with my first pay cheque (none of which I've bought yet - see, I have self-restraint).

Yesterday was my first day, a 4hr shift. I'm guaranteed 4hrs a week which is a minimum and the opposite of the US system which seems more geared towards maximums. This week, for example, I have another 4-hr shift scheduled for Friday. The schedule is called the "rota". That was a bit of confusion as my request for the "skedu-ol"** was met with blank looks and I tried to talk my way around what a schedule is ("uh, hours and days when one will be working?") while miming a sort of calendar. Rota. Right. The day was a bit higgledy-piggledy, or as my manager put it, "we're all at sixes and sevens right now."

I spent most of my day restocking shelves, which is generally a good way to learn the product. I have the advantage of having been a fairly loyal customer for years, but things move around and there's a different level of attention given to browsing and knowing the stock. I didn't get any training on register but I did sell a woman two bottles of perfume (for her mother) and ring her up on my manager's till (while my manager stood next to me and told me which buttons to press). I was also taught how to enter and exit the store without tripping the people-counter which corporate uses to track customers vs sales.

As far as dress code goes, we only explicitly covered the need to keep one's hair back off of one's face and wear "five points" of make-up. Five points wasn't clearly defined, but I took it to mean five items of make-up with things like multiple shades of eye shadow being counted as one. So mascara (ma-SCAR-ah not ma-SCARE-a), eye shadow, foundation, blush, lipstick (lippy). This explains the dichotomy between fully made up faces and less than perfectly coiffed hair and a t-shirt. Normally I'd take a dim view of dress codes requiring make-up but, as part of the job is specifically selling make-up, it seems reasonable. Happily I'll be given "five points" of make-up, hopefully at my discretion. Wearing make-up once or twice a week is "fun dress-up" territory, right?

The other dress code we covered (minus a couple of allusions to not wearing flip flops or sandals) was a seasonal red t-shirt exhorting the happiness to be found in giving CosmeticsCompany gifts. My manager said they originally sent out one size of ridiculously small t-shirts that she wasn't confident would fit an 8 year-old and managed to get some larger ones in. The larger ones are "medium" and don't fit over my considerable bosom so it has been suggested that I just wear a red t-shirt of my own and she'll try and get a larger (x-large) shirt for me. I find it somewhat unlikely that I'm the only medium+ employee on the sales floor.

I also got to watch a Health and Safety video which could have been greatly improved had it delivered on the implied promise of potentially dangerous situations ending badly. The video demonstrated the proper technique for cleaning shelves - almost elbow-length rubber gloves and a clear plastic welder-style face mask (the bit about taking everything off a given shelf, wiping it down, and putting it back was merely implied). The not-properly-instructed-in-H&S employee (who was just wiping around the objects on the shelf) cut his un-gloved hand on a shard of glass and then decided to spray the cleanser directly into the open wound - between sucking on the cut and bandaging it roughly with the dirty cleaning cloth. As you do.

I have a few more seasonal or part time things floating around out there, so hopefully this is the start of a busier, less financially dependant, period in my life.

* in the broader soaps, perfumes, lotions sense of cosmetics in addition to the "make-up" sense

** as opposed to the British "shhed-ule

Monday, 7 November 2011

November is not a good month for socks

Remember the Brainless Socks that I knit for my husband? He wore them and gave them back to me for laundering a few times and then he forgot and threw them in the regular wash and, well, felted them. They're much thicker and several sizes smaller than they were, too small for either of our feet. We need a 10yo child to wear them, on a cold day. He's absolutely heart broken about it but fortunately I picked up the yarn at the LYS in town so we went back and bought another skein (plus one for me!) and I'll knit up another pair.

In other news, my Purple Peace socks prooved too small to pull up past my ankle so, after redoing the heel 3 or 4 times, I frogged them and am now using the yarn for a pair of Brainless socks for me (72 stitches, 1.5mm needles). They're knitting up as quickly as one could expect at such a fine gauge. I'll use the (also purple - they only had the green/orange "fern" colourway and purple) yarn I picked up at the LYS for another run at Purple Peace in something resembling gauge. I'd already played with the pattern as much as I was comfortable with my limited (3 pairs finished) sock experience.

I finished my Sheep Heid and it was a joy to knit. I whipped it up in one weekend and could hardly stop myself from knitting one more row so I could watch the pattern progress. At the end I had 75 ends to weave in. Chris counted the cut off ends and gave me a smooch for each one. I was good and didn't cut the ends in half for extra smooches, though we disagreed about the smooch-count so, depending on who you ask, I may have got extras anyway. I apologize for the less-than-stellar photo. I wanted to take better pictures, outdoors and in sunshine, but haven't gotten around to it and I was holding up this post for waiting.

I also finished a Fair Isle hat with ear flaps for Chris. His ears get rather cold and hang out in the gap between his hats and scarves so I adapted a children's pattern for a large adult head. It's a wool/alpaca blend and quite itchy on his delicate skin so we bought a cotton head band for him to wear under the hat. I have one as well and they're perfect for wool-sensitive skin. I still need to knit a pair of convertible mittens for him, and then I will have secured my claim for the title of Best Wife Ever.

I started a scarf I'd been eyeing for years, as part of a scarf and tam set, and it has given me nothing but trouble. I re-knit each section twice to get them right and then realized it was supposed to be knit in garter stitch, not the stockingette I had defaulted to, so I had to frog the whole thing and start over. Now, past the point where I frogged it, I find I'm back to knitting a few rows and ripping back so I'll probably ditch the whole project. The phrase I'm looking for is "Meh.". I'm just not feeling the love, so I'm not really paying attention, and I keep making mistakes. Thus the progress on the Brainless Socks that I can knit while reading.

~ * ~

In other news, our dishwasher is still broken. The repair man came back this morning with the parts he'd ordered last week and fixed the machine and announced that something else was broken and he'd have to order that. Chris, who has been washing dishes twice a day (I dry and put away) declared that if this doesn't do it, he's going to buy whatever washing machine is in stock and can be installed that day and be done with it.

We had Aged Parent*, Chris' father, over for Sunday Dinner last weekend. Oliver and Libby eventually warmed up to his being here and, while they stayed out of his reach, they forgot themselves enough to run around like mad things, much to Aged Parent's amusement. When we saw him yesterday he greeted us with, "how are the maniacs?" We get that a lot, from the very few people who see them with their guard down. We made an Asian-fusion beef and mushroom pie, served with mashed potatoes and buttered Brussel sprouts for dinner. We split the pie filling, freezing half and using the rest for the pie. Of the half we baked we dished out a third and served a third of that to each of us. Chris and I, in our very first forkful, each bit into one of the two star anise seed pods. It's not a very good telling of the story, but I continue to be bemused that, with 1/18th of the pie on our plates we got both seed pods in the first tasting.

After a fortnight of "warm" weather, it's started to be seasonably chilly (happily, given the woollen accessories I want to show off!). Aged Parent called on Sunday to tell us that it was too cold for us to walk over. It was cooler than it had been but still well above freezing. There was a time when I visited Aged Parent on alternate weeks so Chris could have some time with his father and, while Aged Parent would call for the least reason and tell Chris not to risk coming, on the weeks I was to visit, be it floods, fires, or blizzards, nothing would be said of staying home. Guess we know I'm family, now.

* Great Expectations reference

Thursday, 27 October 2011

This is turning into a weekly update

First things first, Princess is doing much better. She's being anointed twice a day - a process she really doesn't like though it validates my daily corporate cuddling (I hold her like a baby and give her skritches until she purrs (and only then will I let her go if she wiggles)). In some ways, Princess is a lot easier with things like this than Ginger Kitty - he's a big scaredy cat and struggles desperately to escape from anything he perceives as threatening, which is pretty much everything*. Princess, otoh, will lie there passively until she thinks you've been lolled into complacency or are distracted and then she'll try and slink off. The ointment we were given (which is to say purchased at no small expense) is marketed for dogs and suggests application before feeding or going for a walk so the pup in question will be distracted from trying to scrape or lick it off. Eating holds very little appeal for our Princess but she's a huge fan of the Magic Red Dot so her evening applications happen immediately proceeding Red Dot Time. Her morning anointing is supposed to come before Treat Time but she's wise to us and has stopped showing up. Ginger Kitty thinks with his tummy and would fall for it every time and twice on Sundays.

~ * ~

My Jamesion & Smith Superior Jumper Weight Yarn finally arrived (though I still haven't received a reply to yesterday's, "You haven't fogotten my order, have you?" email), so I'm finally good to start on my Sheep Heid hat. In the meantime I'd cast on a Peruvian style Fair Isle cap for my Dear Husband but, even though I'm trying to keep the carrying strand loose, it's pulling too tight. Bugger. Mind you, if it's too loose than the stitches will sag and stretch and that's possibly worse. There's a golden tension - I just have to find it.

My Purple Peace socks are growing. I spent most of yesterday redoing the first heel only to rip it back to the gusset before bed. Each time I frog something and redo it I gain a greater understanding of what success - in this case defined as "things being the way I want them to be" - looks like, right?

My yarn swift arrived last week and I had to take it out and play with it right away, winding a skein of Malabrigo Sock Yarn. It works like a dream, though perhaps not a happy one for Ginger Kitty. He paced the perimeter of the room, unable to decide if he should flee or pounce. When I finished, he jumped up on my roll-top to investigate:

~ * ~

Our dishwasher broke on Sunday and the earliest the repair man can make it out is Monday. We've been having a left-overs and take-away week and we're still doing at least two rounds of dishes-washing a day. Chris washes, I dry and put away. There was a small disaster yesterday as Chris, in his over-zealousness, dumped his half-drunk Gin & Tonic down the sink and washed the glass. The ice had melted and he thought it was an abandoned glass of water (forgetting that he'd set it there, on the other counter/worktop moments before). This overly-zealous approach to cleaning up while I'm cooking has often resulted in me exclaiming, "But I was still using that!" Now he knows how it feels.

In other news, Chris got both the new Steve Jobs' biography and his (Chris') new MacBook on Monday. I have a very happy husband - though he keeps the biography face down as the front cover picture is "Scary Steve" and the back cover picture is "Nice Steve". I can't make these things up. Chris has even read a (singular) chapter.

I stalled out on my aSoFaI reread (because I was watching telly while knitting, not because I wasn't interested) but I was able to get into a partial Hollows (by Kim Harrison) reread. I saw that book 9, Pale Demon, had come out in paperback and the kindle price dropped accordingly, so I reread books 5 through 8 and then read book 9 in its entirety on Tuesday. I started Pratchett's latest, Snuff (an ebook I'd pay HC prices for) that evening but decided I'm not yet ready to let go of Rachel Morgan so I've switched back to telly for the time being.

I'm catching up on (A Town Called) Eureka and am halfway through season 4. I didn't recognize Balthazar, from Battlestar Galactica, until he made the crack about hallucinating a "tall blonde in a slinky red dress" and then I could've believe I'd missed it. All I can really say in my defence is that it's been some time since I've seen BSG. I still haven't seen the second half of the fourth (and final) season of that series! I also acquired Castle with Nathan Fillian. I had seen an episode or two before I moved to the UK and have heard nothing but good things about it since. I tried showing an episode to Chris but he didn't seem interested, so I guess that's a "watch while he's at work" series, too.**

~ * ~

* he's actually getting better. Now, instead of bolting for a hiding place in a cupboard, he'll often bolt a few feet and then circle around to see if it was actually threatening or just startling. His orange coat is a Red Herring - this is the real reason he's known as Ginger Kitty.

** Our watch-together series are, currently, Hawaii 5-0, Star Trek TNG (we ran out of ripped Voyager and DS9 so those are paused, as is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, House and Numbers), Stargate:SG1, and The Big Bang Theory. We just watched the NYE and my husband is very sad that the Aquaman costume with sea horse steed doesn't actually exist. Someone get on that!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

On Husbands, Socks, Steam and Swifts

Last night my husband came up to me as I was reading in bed, reported on The Paying of the Bills, and said, "send me the link for the wool for the sheep hat." And my little wifely heart did flip-flops of happiness beneath my breast*. Today, my little wifely hands added the appropriate skeins of Jamieson and Smith (1 ball in each colour) to a shopping cart and took the liberty of ordering them myself because A) it's easier than saving the shopping cart and emailing a link to my husband and then looking over his shoulder while he orders**, B) he defaults to ordering things in his name just as I default to ordering things in my name but I don't open things that arrive in his name unless I'm 100% certain I know what's inside and that it's for me and I like opening things so it needs to be in my name, and C) I still have the debit card from taking Princess to the vet***.

Is that not an amazing hat? I'm really hoping she'll chart matching mittens.

~ * ~

I finished the Brainless Socks (for Husband) - not to be confused with Brainless Husband Socks as that would be something else entirely. I mentioned them previously. They knit up very quickly, though I had to frog my first start after a few inches and switch to a smaller needle. That's my method of swatching for socks as it's no more effort than knitting a small square or tube and has the advantage that, if it's correct, you're already a few inches in. When I started over I decided to do the entire cable pattern with twisted stitches, though I did a straight rib and, if I did that over again I wouldn't. I hadn't done a lot of fibbing so I wasn't cognizant of how twisted verses non-twisted rib would look and I prefer twisted rib. But they look fine and Chris is completely in love with them, and that's what counts.

I didn't really touch my Zum Dirndle socks until yesterday. I twist the yarn as I knit and I can't dangle two-at-a-time socks to un-twist the yarn so I moved one sock to DPNs (bamboo - the only other needles I have in 2.0mm but I'm worried they'll snap if I actually knit on them) and am working on the other sock in magic loop. I'll just have to switch projects around frequently enough that my tension stays even.

I cast on a pair of Wendy D Johnson's A Finer Peace socks using Ripples Crafts BFL sock yarn in "plummy". To get the fabric I want I'm knitting the largest size on 1.5mm needles(!). They'll be amazingly warm but will probably take as many hours as the uber-complicated knee socks. I need to buy thicker sock yarn for faster socks.

~ * ~
We received an Amazon gift card from Shaun and Uli and I did a happy dance because it was a lot of money for spending on SF/F novels and, as my DH isn't much of a reader, that meant it was all for me. Chris insisted it was meant for wedding registry purchases (ignoring the fact that if they wanted to pick something off of our Amazon registry they could've done and the fact that Shaun confirmed it was intended as Book Money) so we each got to pick something "for the household" - a yarn swift for me and a milk steamer for him.

See, a certain fiancé-cum-husband had a very fancy, very expensive coffee machine that he'd had for years and loved. It was the kind that you fill with beans and then push one of a handful of buttons, letting it know if you'd like one or two shots and if they should be shots or Americano and I don't even know what all else, except it also had a milk steamer. Only it stopped working so my fiancé-cum-husband bought a new coffee machine, one that doesn't grind it's own beans but still has a milk steamer, packed up the broken one, and sent it off for repairs. Fast-forward about four months and his coffee machine is finally finished and eventually shipped back (with instructions to use filtered water and occasionally descale it) and my husband put the replacement unit in my office**** and set the original one up in his. All was once more perfect in his world except...Remember the new coffee machine? The cute little blue one? Well, it has a better milk steamer than the big expensive one and this occasionally causes husbands to pout and dream of better milk steamers. That's why we had to use my SF/F novel money to buy a milk steamer.

Obviously no explanation is needed for buying a yarn swift.

* I'm having a flowery kind of day. Aren't you?

** I trust my husband but I don't trust teh interwebs

*** She's been naughty and scratched all the fur off one spot under her chin. She did this last October and we took her to the vet and got some ointment and it healed and everything was fine and dandy. We noticed on Sunday that she'd done it again and told her that if she didn't leave it alone and let it heal she'd have to go to the vet and it was bleeding again yesterday (Wednesday) so the threatened trip to the vet happened and we once more have ointment and a dreaded Cone of Shame which is the current "if you don't leave it alone...!" threat. The vet says it's probably a seasonal dermatitis issue as she is otherwise the picture of health and I suspect it will be an annual pilgrimage. Or tri-annual as, this time, I'm not going to throw the ointment away until it expires (in 2014).

**** Originally he was going to keep the new one and sell the old one but he may need to establish an office in town so he's keeping the old one and keeping the new one for that eventual office. I occasionally ask, "are you sure?" but mostly just smile and nod.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Beginner Projects

Having just retaught myself how to crochet, I've been thinking about how I learn to do things, specifically crafts, and I realized something: I don't like beginner projects. Full stop, end of - I don't do them. I understand the point, mastering one step before moving on to the next, but I don't want to invest time in a pointless finished project. This is why most of my crafting abilities are self-taught rather than learned at my mother's knee, even though I grew up in a crafty house.

My mother, when it came time to pass on her DIY skills, picked age-appropriate projects similar to the ones on which she cut her crafty teeth. When I wanted to learn to sew she bought a print half-apron for me - it was one piece printed on a single sheet of fabric and one would cut it out, sew the waist-band in half lengthwise and hem the edge of the apron. I think I got as far as cutting it out and pinning the waistband. I didn't want an apron, let alone one that looked like that apron, and even though I wanted to learn to sew, I refused to work on the project. That was the end of the sewing lessons.

Fast foward to Uni/college where I started dancing (Irish ceili, English country, and Victorian ballroom) and wanted appropriate costumes. That summer I sat down at my mother's sewing machine and made a Victorian ballgown from the underwear out, buying only the shoes and corset. I started with the bloomers and chemise (with pin-tucks and lace!), then a 5' diameter hoopskirt (11 hoops), a skirt (cartridge pleats), a ballgown bodice (boned, lined and trimmed in lace), and then a day-bodice with velvet trim. I also made a flannel-lined wool cloak and a plain chemise and bloomers for Renfaire. That was my beginner project. Did I do everything right? No. Did I make mistakes? Yes. Did I ask a lot of questions and redo things? You betcha. But I sat down to make myself a ballgown and by-golly I did it.

I am the same way with cooking, with knitting, even with programming. I want to hit the ground running and I have boundless faith in my ability to figure things out (or ask for help when I need it). My first knitting project following a pattern was a cable-edged shawl. Uber-complicated? No, but certainly something of which I could - was and am - be proud.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Socktoberfest 2011

It is finally Socktober and that means my first ever Socktoberfest! I know most of you aren't as excited as I am, but as I've decided to be a great knitter of socks (they're faster and cheaper than sweaters but still have potential daily use unlike shawls) having a community ready to uber-obsess about knitting socks is pretty darn nifty.

Socks in Progress:
- Zum Dirndl for me, using Wollmeise Twin in a gorgeous blue. I've turned the heel and am starting up the leg which means adding another three charts, each with a different repeat length. These are officially out of the "mindless knitting" category which is why I've cast on...
- Brainless for my husband, using Araucania Ranco Multy in Fern which is a perfect colour for October, a medley of greens and oranges just like the world outside.
Both socks are from the same designer, Yarnissima, and have the same elements but rendered differently. Both socks have a cable along each side, but mine are twisted and symmetrical and his are regular and identical. My gussets had a bit of lace and more twisted stitches, his don't. It's a bit odd doing the complicated socks first, and then the easy ones, but it adds to the "mindless" aspect of the knitting.

In other October knitting news, there was a Gansey Festival (conference) in Inverness over the weekend, celebrating all things Gansey (also known as Guernsey in other parts of the world British Isles). The website was a bit confusing, saying there was free admission to X, Y, and Z and listing various admission rates (weekend, daily, half-daily) and fees for taking the classes. I figured I'd go and see what there was to see and hope to purchase some yarn: I want to knit a sweater but haven't yet committed to a pattern. I wrote down yarn requirements for two projects I want to start: a hooded scarf and the Sade hat and mittens for the Google+ October KaL. Did I purchase yarn for either of these projects? Of course not! I bought sock yarn (thus tying it all back to Socktoberfest): three skeins of Ripples Crafts BFL/nylon sock - two stripy skeins for Chris and one purple skein for me. There wasn't enough bulky yarn in one colourway to knit the scarf and the only worsted weight yarn for the hat and mittens was extra scratchy and not something I'd want against my skin. I'll keep looking.

Other than yarn purchased, how was the Gansey Fest? Well, I think it would've been better without Chris. He got home and swore never to do that again, meaning go anywhere near the hospital grounds where the conference was being held. He didn't eat before we left, food there was expensive and limited, it was drizzling the whole time we were walking around (getting there and leaving - the conference was indoors), and he was very grumpy. So we wandered around the market, had some food, and left.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Learning to Crochet

Since last I posted my knitting progress has been, um, this side of non-existent. I managed to cut my middle finger in a small cooking incident of the "I can't believe I was so stupid" variety on Thursday. These are the times I'm really glad that 1. I'm not a bleeder and 2. I've never nicked an artery (I'm pretty sure that would nudge the "average blood loss per incident" numbers a bit to the left). I didn't feel it required stitches, being more of a flaying than severing injury and between pressure and immobilizing the knuckle, it sealed itself. Today is my first day without a plaster/band-aid and flexibility doesn't appear to be impaired. I keep wiggling it to make sure I don't develop tight scar tissue. It's visibly swollen but doesn't hurt* unless I poke it. "So don't poke it!" I hear you yell. That's all well and good except, if it wasn't a part of my digit that I use, I probably wouldn't have cut it. It turns out, I use the front side of that finger to stabilize a lot of things, not the least of which is my left knitting needle.

I made it about 8hrs (not counting when I was asleep) before I couldn't stand the sitting idly and picked up my (beautiful beautiful beautiful) current sock project and tried knitting without using the injured digit. It went...awkwardly. I probably would've pushed through, as slow and encumbered as it was, except every couple of stitches my vigilance would slacken, my middle finger would try to participate, and it'd end stabbing pain and Sailor-itis of the Language. Not my best 20 minutes. Knitting wasn't any better than sitting idly and swimming and baking were right out, so I decided to Learn to Crochet.

Now, I understand the basic theory of crochet (1.create a loop, 2. use hook to pull yarn through loop creating a new loop, 3. repeat step 2) and Once Upon a Time, say 20 years ago, I was taught to make granny squares and got a fair way into a blanket though until it became increasingly obvious** that crocheting an afghan in a 40C/100F degree summer wasn't the best idea ever. By the time I picked it up again I was a little shaky on the details and I hated the colours and acrylic-ness of the yarn I was using so it went back into the closet.

Part of my reluctance to learn crochet is my association with acrylic yarn and bad 70s styling. Every time I see a granny-square waistcoat/vest I want to recycle my alumin(i)um needles. I think crochet is brilliant for making stuffed toys and afghans but otherwise has few redeeming features. One of those redeeming features, however, is that I can do it without using my poorly finger. I picked a pattern and every time it used a term I didn't recognize (which was pretty much everything after "chain" and "single crochet") I looked it up online and kept at it till I had something resembling the pictures.

I started with a lacy cowl using rainbow yarn but it was too small so I frogged it and made a different cowl with the rainbow yarn. It's finished other than weaving in ends and adding buttons but it's (ahem) too small so I doubt I'll ever bother. Yesterday I made a third cowl, based on the first two, and it fits but is rolling so I'll probably frog it as well. While none of my projects have been perfect, I'm confident that I've got the basics down and want to turn my attention to small toys.

* though the nerve sensations if I touch it gently are really bizarre and disconcerting

** get it? The blanket was increasing in size and becoming increasingly warm and....never mind.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

FOs: Monkey Socks and Mitts

Monkey - Cookie A
Opal by by Zwerger Garn

I just realized that I have the yarn I used for my socks and the yarn I used for my husband's Swing Socks (HSS) mixed up in Ravelry. Oops. I blame the German labels, German being a language I don't read, and my uncertainty about what to enter as the brand vs name, coupled with my inability to take decent pictures which is why I added the pictures some time after stashing the yarn. When I started the projects, I selected the yarn based on the pictures and they're all mixed up. Bugger.

Anyhoo, these were knit with the Opal yarn which I love. The yarn for my husband's socks was a bit scratchy (though it softened amazingly when washed) and this yarn was much nicer to touch. I also like the stripes which worked out about each row. You can't see it in the lace section, but the heels, sole, and toes have really cute stripes. I think the pattern section would be wavy stripes if it weren't for all the purling. If I knit these again - I don't see myself doing so as there are so many sock patterns out there still to try, but I'm not opposed to the idea - I think I'll just knit the whole thing and skip the purling entirely.

They knit up quickly and easily once I had gauge* - I started off a little large on my 2.5mm circs and couldn't locate my 2.25mm ones (though I remembered where they were later that day) so I sized down to 2.0mm and they were a little small so it was the 2.5mm after all. I knit them together down through the instep and then one at a time for the toes so that, if it turned out to be the wrong length, I'd only have to rip back one sock. They use the same short-row heels as the HSS, but a different toe bind-off in the form of the Kitchner stitch which I'd used for the Corazon Mittens I made for my first winter in Inverness. I had to look it up again and accidentally purled a few stitches on one of the socks, but otherwise it went smoothly.

The socks only took 70g of the skein. The thing I don't like about top-down socks is the worry that I'll run out of yarn, so I didn't feel comfortable making the cuffs longer than specified. My preferences run to knee socks and I anticipate becoming one of those knitters who converts every pattern to be knit from the toe-up and continuing until I run out of yarn. As it is, I had 30g left so I divided it into two 15g hanks and knit myself a pair of matching mitts. To keep from having to rip out two mitts every time I tweaked something, I cast on one mitt and got it the right size (48 stitches, 2.5mm needles) and when I was sure it would fit, cast on the other, knit it up to the same point, and then finished them two-at-a-time. I used an afterthought thumb and knit them from the fingers up and they reach about 2" past my wrist - a good length.

* I use the term loosely here to mean "an appropriate size to fit comfortably" as opposed to the traditional "size to match original pattern"

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Comforts of Home

Some friends* recently started a podcast Geek Girl Crafts, covering an overlap of interest between geeky crafters and crafty geeks (not necessarily to be confused with cunning geeks), and as denizens of the SF Bay Area they talk about local events that may be of interest to geeks or crafters. The previous podcast included references to gaming conventions, renfaires, and the Dickens' Fair and triggered a bout of homesickness.

My first winter (this upcoming will be my third), I got acutely homesickness about once ever two months: I would be walking along and all of a sudden I would be hit with a wave of loneliness and homesickness and want nothing more than to curl up in bed with a hot water bottle and cry. It was a lot like PMT/PMS only without the cramps. The next day I'd feel fine again. This last year has involved homesickness, but usually passing pangs rather than day-long bouts - and I consider myself to be very lucky that occasional days of homesickness has been the worst of it. I know people who were or are chronically homesick. That day, after listening to the podcast, was just a mild funk that lingered for a few days, mostly unnoticed. That's more my life now: every so often there'll be a slight fugue, a day or three when I'm a bit blue around the edges, usually because Something is Happening back home and I feel left out. I only really noticed this last time because, walking to the grocery store, I saw a tiny oak tree, too young to be called even a sapling, and it's leaves were turning orange and red and I thought, "aww, just like poison oak!" and then had to laugh ruefully at myself because, really, who gets nostalgic for toxic flora?

The easiest comfort for homesickness is food, as importing people can be tricky and they tend not to want to sit in your cupboard for weeks or months on end. My friend T, a fellow USian living in the UK, asks people to bring her Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (blue box). I brought a box for her when I came to visit the UK, back when she was a friend of a friend and not someone I'd ever met. When I had a chance to request things I figured, "why not?" and asked for blue boxes of my own. They really do taste like my childhood which is particularly strange given that my mother cooked from scratch, mostly using things grown in our garden, and Kraft Mac'n'Cheese had almost no place in my childhood. But it tasted like childhood, and soup mugs, and standing in my mother's post-earthquake kitchen. Even my husband, who had never had mac'n'cheese from a box, liked it.

I'm down to one box, which like my one bottle of root beer is now For Emergency Purposes Only, so in the name of Science I purchased a box of Kraft Cheesey Pasta (red box) and made it for lunch.

I'd like us all to take a moment and think of the blue box, the one that tastes like home and idyllic moments of childhood. Now think about the red box with the different name but very similar ingredient list and "nutrition information". Obviously it won't be the same. We know this because, if it was the same T wouldn't need to ask people to bring her blue boxes. But we're hoping, despite the colour shift, that it'll be Good Enough. Oh, Gentle Reader, that is not the case! I think they were going for "tastes like Extra Mature Cheddar cheese" but somehow they missed cheese. It was awful in the way that only "children's food" you haven't grown up eating can be. I eventually dumped enough real cheese and salsa over it to make it palatable but I can't imagine how desperately optimistic I'd have to feel to purchase another box. Cry for me, when you see the boxes, blue or red, and remember tale of woe.

* a friend, a passing acquaintance and a woman I don't believe I've met

Friday, 9 September 2011

FO: Husband Swing Socks

Sunday Swing Socks - Kristel Nyberg
Fortissima Colori, Socka Colori - 100g/420m - 75% superwash wool, 25% polyamide

I first cast these on back in June and knit up the first one fairly handily - and then ran into Trouble. Try though I might and I did try* I just couldn't get the second sock to match the first sock and we're talking a difference of gauge that would not "just block out".

So I started over. This is a learning experience, right? This second iteration knit up quickly and I finished them on August 30th and even let my husband wear them for an hour that evening and again later that week when we went to visit Aged Parent (his father). Aged Parent was fairly indifferent to the socks but when he noticed the beads on my Swallowtail Shawl he declared that I must have the patience of Job. Chris, OTOH, is completely enamoured of his socks and has even started a twitter account for them. Ah, geek love.

Look at the pretty ripples (and the white glow of my English husband's skin)! Oliver tried to photobomb these pictures as well, but eventually wandered off to harass his sister instead. The yarn was a little itchy as I knit with it, but post washing is as soft as a cotton cloud. I was terrified when I took them out of the wash (30C, gentle cycle, hung over the radiator to dry) that they'd stretched beyond fitting but as you can see, they're perfect.

* I decided I wasn't ready for the AutoPilot Socks yet as, without any socks under my belt, frogging and reknitting to get it right was going to break my heart. Also, while I love the yarn I hate the colour. Not a winning combination.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Knittery and Cookery

I don't have much to say about knitting at the moment mostly because, while I've been knitting and have even finished things, I haven't had a chance to take pictures of them and thus I'm not posting about it. Part of the problem is figuring out how to stage things. Now that I've discovered the un-occupied cat tree makes a wonderful drape for shawls (and that staging knitting leads to my cats saying, "no, that's fine, we were done napping here anyway. You go ahead." I really do have the best cats) I can take shawl pictures all day long, but socks need a little more help. My husband is the definition of GGG*, to coop a phrase, so I'm sure he'll agree to model knitwear in exchange for, you know, knitwear.

So yes, I have been knitting (finished the Husband Swing Socks and a "helmet" style hat for Chris, spent two nights trying to work out my own double-knit mitten patterns to coordinate with the hat before giving up because this yarn is not agreeable to frogging and reknitting and therefore less than ideal from a design PoV, and I've turned the heels and am decreasing the gusset on the Monkeys for me. Knitting things, things that can actually be used and have a function, a purpose, is simply amazing.

I've also been cooking. I mentioned that I picked up a cookery magazine for my husband and that he made a Mysterious List of Recipes to Try which he's dribbled out to me day by day so I could go to the grocery store and purchase ingredients. On Monday I made a Sausage Bake with onions, butternut squash, garlic, and carrots which was quite nommy and then on Tuesday we boiled some pasta, and mixed it with the leftover sausage bake, some créme fraiche, a chilli, and some parsley and OMG was that delicious. Wednesday was a Roast Chicken (again with onions and garlic) and a scrummy gravy which tonight becomes chicken pot pies with broccoli. Chris and I had a small fight about who gets to make dinner** and I played the "but dinner takes an hour to prep and an hour to bake and if we wait for you to make it, we won't eat till 8 or 9o'clock" which I played yesterday when he wanted to go with me to buy the ingredients and then make dinner. Because I'm a good and magnanimous wife I suggested that he make the pudding (apple tarts made with the leftover puff pastry from the pies) which I had originally planned on making as a surprise. I try to be GGG too. Speaking of dinner, I should go do that now.

* Good, Giving, Game

** Seriously, we both want to do it. Chris also likes it when we cook together but I want to Do All The Things which isn't exactly in the spirit of cooperation. If neither of us feels like making dinner we either defrost something (if we notice the ennui early in the day) or order take-away (if we give up around dinner time).

Monday, 5 September 2011

Magazine Equality

Yesterday, Sunday, my husband and I walked into town to pick up some things we were out of (milk, laundry tabs). I suggested we pick up some things with which to make dinner which earned me a completely blank look from Chris. The previous night's potato and cheese roll served with roasted chicken had been sliced and toasted to be served for breakfast with bacon and apparently that had satisfied the cooking and eating part of his brain such that he was caught off guard by the suggestion that we might need to cook and eat ever again, let alone that evening. We decided to pull out the last lock'n'lock of beef stew from a couple of weeks ago and save recipe-hunting for another time.

Sundays in the UK, certainly in Inverness, are a bit quieter than their counterparts in metropolitan centres in the US, the bay area in particular. The big chains are still open, but keep shorter hours, but a lot if not most of the little shops are closed. Relevant to my interests, the Victorian Market where the three craft stores are located, is closed and the little health food shop I like to poke around in is as well. The only purpose to walking into town, as opposed to the new Tesco which is 0.1miles closer in the other direction, is to stop at Costa Coffee and have a flat white (him) and hot chocolate with vanilla syrup (me). Alas, Chris had just had his second or third cup of the day when we left the house and wasn't yet ready for a Costa visit and there's no point in buying milk and ice cream* and then sitting in a coffee shop while it melts. In a stroke of genius inspiration, I asked if we could duck into WH Smith and look at their magazines.

I love a good magazine. I loath everything the men's and women's interest magazines stand for ("look at this product which will magically solve all the problems with your life and your appearance that you didn't know you had!") but almost every other magazine is brilliant to flip through - even the trashy celeb mags: seeing how a dozen different magazines compete to give the same story a different cover layout and headline spin (seeing all those covers was as close as I ever got to following "pop culture"). When I worked in a bookstore I loved thumbing through magazines and seeing what there was to see. And now that knitting is my main obsession, I need knitting magazines. I got a digital subscription for Interweave Knits (and Piecework is calling my name) but I figure there must be a UK knitting magazine worth getting, whether digitally or in full glossy glory. I flipped through my binders of patterns culled from my stripped** magazine collection to see which magazines published my favourite patterns and...nothing. I found a few UK magazines online, but couldn't tell A) how often they were each published or B) if there was enough inside of interest to be worth buying one. Thus the need to visit a newstand.

I decided on a copy of Knitting Magazine for me and, as a distraction, Delicious (a cookery magazine) for my husband. He was dubious but I know how much he loves thumbing through recipes and Delicious was one I recognized as a Really Really Really Good Cookery Magazine so I purchased it anyway. He loves it. He stayed up past midnight, pouring over the recipes and picking out 10 (ten!) recipes to make this week. That's just the mains - he's decided I should pick out the puddings. He's being very mysterious about it: I'm not allowed to know which recipes he's picked out and he'll be placing our grocery delivery order when I'm not looking so it'll be a big surprise. I am allowed to know what we're having for dinner tonight as I need to purchase a butternut squash, red onions, and carrots so we can actually make it. There was a bit of a kerfluffle about sausage, when he asked me to get some out of the garage-freezer and then said but not those sausages, well maybe these sausages, pick ones that are "meaty" and I made an executive decision that he needs to select the right sausages as I don't understand the criteria.

In other news, I like my magazine if only because it is full of yarns readily available in the UK and the "upcoming events" includes something in Inverness! Another bonus - they have a couple of projects pictured as knit up in alternate colours in the suggested yarn. I may knit a sweater yet.

* I spent the morning catching up with Pioneer Woman Cooks and decided that our two lonely bananas needed to be turned into Bananas Foster which in turn needed to be poured over ice cream. Thus, "double cream" and "ice cream" were added to the list.

** you know how the first page in a mass market (little) paperback says "if you purchased this book without its cover it was reported as destroyed and neither the author nor the publisher made any money off of it"? That's 'cause books that don't sell get returned to the publisher but MM and magazines aren't worth shipping around so you just return the front cover and destroy (or take home) the rest. This was one of the best parts of working in a bookstore until they started a company-wide recycling program and magazines had to be returned whole to be stripped and processed elsewhere.

Friday, 2 September 2011

FO: Beaded Swallowtail Shawl

Swallowtail Shawl - Evelyn A Clark
2-ply lambswool "Sea spray" from Judith Glue
E Beads - 4mm purple from the Craft Factory
4.5mm needles for the CO; 3.5mm for the body; 0.75mm crochet hook to strand the beads
Blocked: 62"x32"

I followed the pattern as written with a few modifications: beads instead of nupps, attached with a crochet hook while knitting; 19 repeats of the blossom lace chart; I was running out of yarn and left off the border lace chart.

I really enjoyed knitting this, as I did her Flower Basket Shawl before. I find the way she charts her lace to be a little odd: I get that it's the simplest way to write out the chart but, for me, it's not charted in a way that visually imparts the lace. Looking at the chart, I don't see how the finished lace will look. Her lace repeats are so elegantly simple that I can knit each row based on how the previous row looked, pausing periodically to count the blossoms up the center, but I have to get a couple repeats in to see how the chart relates to the lace.

Is this a criticism? No. Rather it is a statement of preference based on how charts work for me, and the way I see charts. As another preference, with lace that is "RS: work pattern, WR: k2, p across, k2", I am frustrated if the purl rows are shown in the chart. It breaks the pattern up in a way that makes it more difficult for me to read. For other people, I'm sure it's very helpful. Other people may find that my ideal, having the chart written out with a few repeats show and a red box around the basic repeat, would be needlessly confusing. So no, it's not a criticism, just an observation on my experience reading this particular chart to knit this particular chart.

I also tend to dislike instructions for increasing the size by using a yarn and needles that give a different gauge. Yes, obviously I can do that, but what I really want to know is the multiples needed to get from one chart to the next smoothly. An advantage of knitting a popular shawl like this one (over 9000 projects on Ravelry!) is that for most simple modifications like the ones I've done, someone has already worked out the details. I got the "19 repeats" figure from the hive-mind, without having to work it out myself - a particular bonus as, as I mentioned, the chart isn't visually ideal for me.

A bonus picture of Oliver who, when I spread the unblocked shawl on the duvet, ran over, jumped up on the bed, and lay down right where you see him.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Almost Finished: Husband Swing Socks

I have turned the heel and am almost done with the gusset decreases for the Husband Swing Socks (modelled above, by yours truly as my husband's feet seem to have walked off). I've taken to reading knitting blogs, that being my inspiration to start one, and I keep adding more and more as I find them. I could - and sometimes do! - spend hours reading my RSS feed. One of the best parts of this, aside from inspiration both as a knitter and a writer (and hopefully someday a woman who can take decent photographs), has been reading about techniques and how to properly execute them. Most of it I glance over, taking in the barest details as they don't pertain to current knitting projects. But then, having turned the heel, I remember I read something about different ways to "pick-up and knit", which is what I'm going to do now, and it looked nothing like how I've been doing it* so I googled "pick-up and knit" and found a tutorial on Knitty which explained how to pick up sock gussets and away I went!

I finished my Glasgow-trip shawl last week and finally got my office cleared out enough that I could block it so it's stretched out upstairs thinking decreasingly damp and increasingly stretched thoughts. My husband said, "oh, wow!" a lot and declared it to be his favourite shawl yet. I'll try and stage some decent pictures once it's dry and do a proper write up then (hence neither pictures nor details here, though I've done a few "sneak peeks" on Twitter and Plus.

Speaking of Plus, I've read about knitter communities there and I am eager to wade my toes in that pool. The problem of course is that I don't know who any of the bloggers are (darn "real name" policy) and I feel weird about "following" people who don't know me from Adam. I guess I'll just have to put myself forward and hope for the best.

In other news, because this whole "only working on one project" thing was very bizarre, I've cast on the Monkey Socks in my blue/purple Opal wool for me. Now I'm going to have to force myself to finish Chris' socks sooner rather than later!

*I'm mostly self-taught as a knitter. A friend of a friend showed me how but she is allergic to the wool yarn I was learning with and took a decidedly "hands-off" approach. She showed me "knit" and "purl" and everything else I figured out on my own, trying to make patterns "work". No wonder I've been afraid to make fitted garments!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Autumnal Acceptance

I gave up on summer back in July and found that I've been much happier with the weather since then. Never getting above 20C/68F is much easier to accept in autumn than summer, even if the calendar still says "August". Chris was sad when I gave up on summer, mostly I think because he wants me to be happy and I'm meant to spend warm afternoons on a deckchair, reading in my bathing suit but that's never going to be my life in Scotland. Happiness is in accepting your life for what it is, not railing for what it isn't, so I've decided to accept that I've moved from a land of three seasons (spring-summer-fall) to a land of three seasons (spring-autumn-winter). The good news, of course, is that I now live in a land where knitting is always appropriate and everyone can use a pair of mittens or a wooly hat or scarf for Christmas ("if you wanted a cable-knit scarf, I wish you would've said something in June!").

Anyway, Chris said it wasn't autumn yet and that we still have a bit of summer left but the trees agree with me - their leaves are starting to turn the colour of sunset and drop. There's a tiny maple(?) in our back garden that's always the first to turn: it gave up on summer the same time I did and now other trees are trying to catch up. The days are also noticeably shorter. No longer is the sky still light with twilight when we seek our beds at midnight. No, the sun goes down by half-eight/eight-thirty and a little earlier every day, and we have to turn on the lights, when we got to bed at ten.

Autumn is a time of hearty food so I turn to my crock-pot and the infinite variety of stews that "bung in whatever you have to hand" can bring. Last week I did a beef and scotch broth with celery, carrots, potatoes, garlic, and rosemary and sage from the garden. This week it's turkey with green/runner beans, carrots, onions, celery, garlic, and thyme and sage from the garden. I'm quite proud of my little herbs, the ones that haven't gone to seed (I'm looking at you coriander/cilantro and oregano). The nice thing about a big pot of stew is being able to freeze it and defrost two servings at a time, heated up with a fresh made dumpling/biscuit topping, and getting a week's worth of dinners with very little effort. Stew can also be heated from frozen, so even if you don't think to pull out a lock'n'lock/tupperware in the morning, you have a last-minute meal that doesn't involve take-away/take-out.

Thursday, 25 August 2011


I have made good progress on Chris' Sunday Swing Socks, having done four repeats of the "lace" pattern (one yarn-over every quarter the way 'round doesn't really qualify as lace but I don't know what else to call it - YOs = lace, right?) and I'm now working on the heel flaps (boring!). I switched from Magic Loop to two circs, though still knitting two-at-a-time, for convenience. Mind you it would be more convenient if I owned a 2.5mm circ that's less than 100cm, but I'd rather my needles be too long than too short.

I am happy to report that, flying to London and back, security didn't blink at my knitting needles. They did, however, need to search the coarse-ground oatmeal (as in ground oats, not porridge) that I was bringing for Tonnvane. I also had no trouble knitting on the tube, using my drawstring bag from The Yarn Cake looped over one wrist and both yarn sources (the skein and the unraveling sock) inside. Easier than knitting on the sofa with a quantity of yarn to either side of me, even.

Chris gamely went to three yarn shops with me (two LYS and one department store with a haberdashery). I bought three skeins of a bulky Rowan for a multi-coloured hat with ear flaps for Chris at the haberdashery and one skein of a gorgeous blue Wollemeise sock yarn, another project bag, and some special "safety pin" stitch markers for me from one of the LYS. The other one had some beautiful wool, but the internet was full of bad reviews (confirmed later by a local knitter)) and I'm a little tired of buying a beautiful skein of something and then not knowing what to do with it. That always seems to end in shawls and, as previously discussed, I don't need 400 shawls. So I decided to not buy yarn for the sake of buying yarn from a shop with a bad reputation.

Speaking of buying yarn for the sake of buying yarn, I showed Chris the "Happy Birthday, Dear Knitter" video from Franklin of The Panopticon and he kept guffawing. He says that even a year ago he wouldn't have found it funny, but now it's hilarious and he beseeched me to share it, so here you go.

I caught Oliver playing with my yarn. He said he could explain, but so far nothing:

* Credit for the pun goes to Tonnvane who was quite amused at the unraveling of one sock to knit another. She may have been inspired by margaritas.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Resumes and Me

First of all, thank you to the people who have helped me with my resume. You are all brilliant, wonderful people without whom I wouldn't have a functional resume. I know this because just thinking about my resume induces flu-like symptoms. I'm mostly okay as long as someone is figuratively holding my hand and working out for me how to phrase things, how to style things, and basically building my resume for me. It all makes sense then and my anxiety levels drop.

But then it inevitably happens. My guide, my guru, my savoir says something along the lines of "okay, now you do the rest." They push the fledgling from the nest, confident they've provided the skills I need to fly, and I plummet. I freeze up. My head feels too small for my brain, my scalp gets hot - it feels like my blood is boiling and I experience tunnel-vision. I'm alternatingly too hot and too cold. Sometimes I even cry - to put things in perspective, my husband is awed by the emotional display if I get misty-eyed and fear of working on a resume makes me cry. Needless to say, nothing productive happens to my resume.

People commiserate with me, they tell me that they find resume-building and tailoring (I have to tailor the darn thing, too? I can't just create one and be done with it until my next period of job-hunting? If anyone needs me, I'll be throwing up) to be stressful and unpleasant. But it doesn't reduce you to a quivering pile of goo in a bad way? Then yeah, it doesn't compare.

I told my husband that I know how Oliver, our little scaredy-cat, feels. Any time there's unexpected movement, or sound, he crouches down very low and tries to be very small. Things he enjoys doing himself, rustling plastic bags, are terrifying if done by anyone else. He runs away very, very fast and hides behind the printer or in a cupboard, and he waits, trembling with ears perked and the whites showing around his eyes, for horrible things to happen. For me, resumes are that horrible thing

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Blue Period (shawls and socks)

I've been going through a Blue Period - buying a lot of things that are blue. It started with the wedding: Chris and I settled on a bluey tartan for his kilt so I had my dress detailed in blue and my bridesmaids picked navy for their dresses and lo, we were well and truly settled on blue for our "colours". Somehow this idea of matching colours spilled out into the rest of my life. I realized I'd lost weight* and needed to buy an almost entirely new (to me) wardrobe and anything that was a wedding-coordinated shade of blue got bonus points as something I could wear in the days leader up to and following the wedding. I also spent a fairly substantial amount of time looking for the perfect blue yarn with which to knit myself a wedding shawl. Chris even bought a blue coffee machine. It also helps that blue is one of the few colours for which I love almost every shade. I'd be hard-pressed to name a shade of blue I'd be just as happy to never see again, which is not something that can be said of green or red - though purple fairs better. It is perhaps, then, unsurprising that a lot of things in my life, right now, are blue.

A while back, in Judith Glue (a "tourist" shop that sells things made locally rather than China) I picked up an 100g cake of two-ply lambswool in a dark teal described as "ocean spray". That's everything I know about it. It's more of a sock weight than fingering but I have no idea how much yardage I'll get out of 100g! I kept picking it up to make something and then set it back down again, worried I wouldn't have enough yarn. It's not really something I want to snuggle against my skin, so no scarves, hats, or mittens. The best "knit until you run out of yarn" idea that I could think of was a top-down shawl and I finally settled on Evelyn C. Clark's popular Swallowtail Shawl. I made her "Flower Basket Shawl" for Miss Krissy and really enjoyed knitting it, so it seemed perfect. Also if almost 9000** other knitters have cast it on, it must be a great shawl, right?

The only real downside is that part of me would rather be knitting socks. I love shawls - I've knit 7 of them so far this year and this shawl will make 8. Three of those I gave away and one I plan to frog, but I'm still going to be four shawls richer this year. My first "real" project was the Tri-Aran-Angle Shawl from Knitty back in 2003 (but only blocked this May) and I have a couple pashminas that I wear regularly. Eventually a girl has to ask - do I need more shawls? Is there a shawl-niche I haven't filled? For a while this spring there was, when I had a small dark rose shawl and a small red shawl and the wedding shawl I couldn't wear yet and, unless I was wearing something that went well with red or rose, I couldn't drape on a shawl. So yes, I probably have room for a black shawl and maybe a few stoles/scarves, but I can't just sit around knitting shawls that I'll never or rarely wear. If nothing else, where will I store all these shawls?

But I can use an unlimited variation of socks. Socks in different colours, weights, patterns, lengths... I wear socks most ever day (more than one pair in the winter) and need a selection to rotate through. I can also knit socks for my husband who has, as of yet, expressed no desire for a lacy shawl. Socks are about the same investment as a small shawl - most sock and shawl patterns seem to call for one skein of sock-weight yarn. Socks should be the perfect answer to enjoyable, productive knitting. I am starting to buy sock yarn and patterns, to read about knitting socks and construction techniques and am completely hooked on socks.

The only problem, of course, is that I've yet to knit my first pair of socks. They'll be blue though.

* I'd known I was losing weight but it wasn't until I stopped wearing 3 or 4 layers under my jeans that it became, um, obvious that all my clothes were falling off.

** I occasionally hear people say they won't knit something if the pattern is really popular. I can understand not wanting to show up at a party and have everyone else sporting the same knitwear, but I tend to figure if that many people have previously knit it then all mistakes in the pattern have been sussed out and corrected. Also, I like having a wide selection of "yarn suggestions", looking at the pictures of other people's finished projects, and reading their notes. And, quite frankly, the odds of me running into another knitter who has knit the same thing as me and we're both wearing it, living here in urban-rural Scotland are remote.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Sock It to Me, Baby

Well, I haven't run out of sock puns yet. I also haven't managed to finish my first pair of socks yet. I frogged my husband's Sunday Swing Sock when he wasn't looking and cast on 80 stitches based on my gauge when trying to knit the second sock (much, much smaller than the first sock) but my gauge seems to have loosened up again. This probably means I could have not frogged the first sock and managed to get the second one to be the same size, but this way I'm not taking any chances.

Anyway, I CO 80 stitches (twice, since I'm doing them two-at-a-time now) and suspected they were too big but wanted to knit a few inches to be sure so I did two repeats of the pattern and if I'd finished them they'd just have been huge, slouchy socks. I was tempted to just finish the darn things to be done but while I figure my husband could comfortably wear them if the calf is slouchy, he wouldn't want to if the heel and foot were too big around and I really do want to knit something he can wear so, again when he wasn't looking, I forgged them and CO 72 stitches - the next smaller size. I spent the whole evening working on them only to realize that somewhere along the way I'd gotten off on the 1x1 ribbing and the easiest thing was just to frog them again.

That was last night. Today I cast them on again and have completed the inch of ribbing and am halfway through the first repeat of the pattern and I think *knock on/touch wood* that this time I will knit a pair of socks.

And then I can revel in the new yarn I bought in Glasgow. Mmmm, yarn.

Achievement Unlocked: FLR(M)

My Biometrics ID card arrived today so I officially have Further Leave to Remain (for two more years)!

Chris and I took the train down to Glasgow Friday morning, or rather we tried to - the East Coast from London never showed up the night before so there was no train to take back down. They found three coaches, two of which were going directly to Edinburgh and one was hitting the scheduled stops in between - only no one really knew what was going on. There were four railway employees standing around in the station telling people to "go over there" and no one by the coaches to say "Where are you going? You want this coach." There were no loos on the coach and no trolley service and the coach took the back roads rather than the A9 so it took about 3hrs to get to Perth where we were transferring to a train to Glasgow. Not the train we had seat reservations on, of course, as we'd already missed that one. But we could finally use toilets and drink water, the sun had come out, and we would still make it to Glasgow a few hours before my UKBA appointment.

We stayed at the Carlton George which is half a block from the train station and has king-size beds as standard (Chris hates sharing a double). The room was very nice, though very loud with the window open and/or the AC on and very stuffy if they weren't. There was a complimentary (read: already paid for) mini-bar though that didn't get restocked until later. We dropped our bags and made sure we had everything for our appointment and took a taxi from the station to the "business park" where UKBA is housed. We were a little early so we got sandwiches at the forgettable place across the street and then walked around the block a bit and found the subway station, and we were still a little early (my appointment was 2:20, they advise you get there half an hour early, and it was about 10 minutes before that window) but they decided to let us in. I'd brought my knitting, my kindle, and a paperback in case they took those away when they collected our phones. They did take my knitting (because of the needles) but let me keep my kindle. Almost as soon as I got my number and sat down I was called up and handed over my documents to Worker 1 who said it would take him ten minutes to look over so we sat down again. Very shortly thereafter he called us up again, told me he'd hand it over to a second set of eyes (per regulations), in the meantime I would have my biometrics (fingerprints and photo) taken and then if I wanted to leave and walk around, someone else would call me up in about 40 minutes. About a minute later I was called up for biometrics and Worker 2 was laughing and having a gay old time, though she did lament the "no smiling" rule for photos as everyone turns out looking like a serial killer. I did like that they did the four fingers together, rather than trying to do each individually. The two previous times I'd had biometrics done took forever, trying to get a clean scan of each fingerprint, without smudging or smearing.

I sat down again and very shortly thereafter I was called up by Worker 3 who asked if I had anything with regards to my Tier 4 (student) visa, to show that I'd been attending and passing my course. I explained that it had ended in June, the weekend before we got married, and that I hadn't had any communication from them since. He grumbled a bit about needing proof and that chasing down information like this isn't part of the express service of an in-person application and that they could refund us our money and we could get the proof and either mail it in or apply for another appointment, grumble grumble, but he'd ask his supervisor if he could try calling UHI to see if they could confirm my being in good standing. His supervisor said to go ahead and call and, if he couldn't get a hold of anyone that I could get something typed up by UHI and have it faxed in on Monday and they could approve it then without the postal application or having to come back. Phew! Chris was still very angsty, but Worker 2 was able to get through to Claire, the guidance councillor for international students (like me!) and she verified that I showed up for classes and had passed them and was eligible to enroll in the next years' course! So that's two happy things for the day - FLR(M) and an HNC in Computing!

He returned all of my documents and a letter saying "You can stay! Here's how! (not all guidances will apply to everyone we hand this sheet to)", put a "superseded" stamp across my previous visa, and told me that my biometric card, which replaces the traditional sticker in one's passport, would arrive in the post in 7-10 business days. It showed up today, a mere three business days later. I am now a Probationary Almost-Person!

We took the very cute subway (third oldest in the world!) back to the train station and our hotel - much easier and quicker than ordering a taxi, though I wouldn't have wanted to wander around looking for UKBA before my appointment. We spent quite a bit of time grinning at each other and doing little happy dances. Chris had forgotten his nice trousers (which I'd ironed for him) so after dropping the visa stuff off at the hotel we wandered around Glasgow for a bit and found a nice pair of trousers that fit (Chris is tiny so this isn't a given) but continued to be unsuccessful in our quest for a non-black or grey cardigan for him. We had a cuppa at Costa and by then the excitement of the day had caught up with us so we went back to the hotel room, Chris opened the half bottle of Muscat d'Asti he'd brought, and we collapsed on the bed until it was time to get ready for dinner at the rooftop restaurant in our hotel. I wore my wedding jewellery and shoes, a black velvet dress, and my wedding shawl. Chris wore a black shirt and trousers with a red tie and his nice cuff links and tie pin and we were by far the gussiest people in the joint. We ate too much and drank till we giggled and generally celebrated getting to stay together (for two more years!) in this country we call home.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

FO: Eleanor Cowl

Eleanor Cowl - Audrey Knight, Knitty Deep Fall 2010
Misti Alpaca, Tonos Carnaval: Symphony Blue - 100g/400m - 50% Alpaca/30% Merino/10% Nylon/10% Silk

This is my finished Eleanor Cowl, out of the leftover yarn from my wedding shawl. I switched to my smallest needles when I changed charts instead of waiting for the repeat of the second chart - one day I will learn to read patterns carefully. I want the cowl snug around my neck, so I'm going to consider it a fortuitous happenstance rather than a blunder. As I believe I mentioned before, my interchangeable set is metric with whole and half-sizes so I lack a 3.75mm (US5) needle and used 4.5mm, 4.0mm, and 3.5mm for the needles.

I haven't yet blocked the cowl and I don't think I will beyond, perhaps, the very bottom. As I said, I like it snug around my neck. I'm worried that, with winter being cold and all, stretching the lace out will just make it less useful. If this upcoming winter is anything like the last, I will be using it under a scarf and probably considering layering it with another. This is what happens when a Delicate Mediterranean Flower moves to Scotland.

Posting in my dreams

I often lie in bed at night, staring at the light peeking around the curtains*, thinking about the things I want to post. I compose essays on our daily life; the adventures of our kittens; thoughts on governments and politics; novels I've read and novels I would like to read; the weather (currently sunny! first sunshine all week!); things I am knitting and things I'm not knitting; wedding memories; cooking successes and disasters; having my FiL, Aged Parent, over for tea... I find the right phrases, the hook and development, draw pictures with words, and get very excited about the potential and realization. And then, because I don't want to get up and keep my husband from sleeping**, I fall asleep and those thoughts are at best dim shadows when I awake. That, in case you're curious, is why I don't post more.

One of my RSS feeds posted about hand cream for knitters, fast drying without residue, containing willow bark extract: topical pain reliever. At first I was excited - imagine if after a day of knitting socks on tiny needles and pulling my tension too tight my hands didn't ache for a week! Then reality came crashing in - questions about its effectiveness beyond mere placebo aside, do I really want something that would let me knit on oblivious to the pain? Pain is my body's way of saying, "don't do that! or at least, don't do so much of that!" I experience pain when my body is hurt, as a warning of damage. It's one thing to, after a day of knitting, take some ibuprofen and rest my hands on a hot water bottle and switch to a larger, looser project. It's another thing to push on, ignoring my body's cries, to do - what? Finish a pair of socks in days rather than weeks or months? Risk crippling my hands so that in five years or less I've done actual damage and, like a friend, have to crochet with a special hook attached to arm-bands? Thanks, I'll pass.

In other news, I finished my neck-warmer (note to self - take pictures and write a post) and have re-cast on Chris' socks as two-at-a-time, but I think my gauge loosened up again so I may have to frog them again and start over with fewer stitches - don't tell Chris!

In other, other news, my immigration appointment is Friday so we should get the last of that ready for our trip down to Glasgow. Wish me luck!

* around midnight. yeah. But it's starting to get dark-ish and I can believe that eventually it will get properly dark.

** he can't sleep unless he thinks I'm asleep

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Wedding Vendors: Atholl Palace Hotel

Today starts what will no doubt be a protracted (as I think of it) series about our wedding, focusing on the vendors and what an amazing job they all did (and they all did amazing jobs).

Atholl Palace Hotel
The biggest decision with regards to getting married* was picking the venue. I guess some people pick the date first and plan around that, but we chose to find the perfect venue and then select a date from their availability lest we find ourselves choosing between our perfect date and our perfect place. I imagine picking a date first is logistically easier if you're looking to get married a year or two out, but we weren't interested in a long engagement or paying to renew my current visa just to switch to and pay for FLR(M) a bit down the line. We spent a couple of weeks sorting through venues online - and ruled out a lot because their wedding information boiled down to "we do weddings! ask us how!" without any concrete details - and making appointments to visit our forerunners. APH was actually the first place we decided to see, after finding their advert in a wedding mag (scottish weddings? I don't remember), the only one outwith about 15 miles on Inverness, and the last one we visited. They were having a winter special on lodging, breakfast and dinner so we booked a mid-week get-away and went on with our search. Most places we visited were fine and would no doubt have resulted in an equally lovely wedding (and no doubt have done for many others) but we had a few favourites which were almost perfect.

When we got to APH we knew, we absolutely knew, it was the place for us. We love the town of Pitlochry (though previously we'd loved it from the train, this being our first trip there); we loved the hotel, and the grounds, and the proximity to so many low-key things to do. The food was wonderful, the staff competent and friendly, and I almost couldn't pry Chris out of the jacuzzi.

Fast-forward to the wedding prep - Gillian, the hotel's wedding coordinator, was very organized. She took detailed notes on our time-line for the day, who each of our vendors would be, everything. She was only in the hotel the morning of our wedding, leaving shortly after the ceremony, but everything ran smoothly. I didn't catch the name of the gentleman who MC'd our reception but he, and his staff, had everything in hand an under control. He also ran the restaurant outwith the weddings and service was markedly better when he was around (other times it was hard to find the staff or get someone to actually bring you a pot of tea or coffee, and when they did it was often the wrong hot beverage. The mice will play). But for our wedding everything was under control.

The food is wonderful, though a bit heavy (lots of cream, not a lot of salad options) if you'll be eating it for several days straight. We'd eaten there before, on several occasions leading up to the wedding, including the menu tasting, and know that the food is delicious, but on that particular day we weren't in a position to appreciate it. I didn't eat a single thing, all day, that tasted good. It was all just weird textures and muted flavour. This is in no way a reflection on the quality of the food - everyone else seemed fine - just an odd observation.

My bridesmaids and I did our make-up through the hotel's spa with mani/pedis the day before and make-up the morning of and everyone we interacted with in the spa was lovely and friendly. Chris got a facial and manicure on Friday and still talks about it in reverent tones. The staff all snuck upstairs to see us walk into the ceremony room, the finished products of their hard work.

Unfortunately it rained the whole day, from when I got up around 6am till we went to bed around midnight so we didn't get to take advantage of the lovely grounds for our photos but the pictures taken inside the hotel and from under the awning out front are still lovely - when you get married in Scotland you have to consider the backdrop for your photos if it rains and APH was brilliant on that score as well.

The only real problem** was the lodges on the grounds which are maintained by the hotel but not own or run by them - this is to say that they clean them between guests and check people in and out but otherwise have nothing to do with them. Trevor, the guy who owns them, was slow to respond to emails and curt when he did. He had no interest in being accommodating - my guests rented 4 of his units, two for a week each and two for the weekend, and none of the other units appeared to be occupied - but he refused to let my parents book a lodge from Wednesday-Tuesday, insisting on a Sunday-Saturday hire. They eventually talked him into letting them book it from Monday-Sunday (when they didn't arrive until Wednesday) so they wouldn't have to be out of the lodge by 11 and not able to check into the hotel until 2 on the day of my wedding, but he was ungracious about it. Then he let the Gatehouse lodge, the one my parents had originally inquired after, to my bridesmaids for the same Wednesday-Tuesday that he'd refused my parents. Needless to say, we were not impressed, and I'd strongly recommend against hiring a holiday cottage from him.

* the actual decision to get married was easy-peasy

** they did accidentally leave the hotel music playing during the start of our ceremony, so we almost got married to La Bumba (I think? Does anyone remember what the song actually was?), but it was soft while it was playing and turned off quickly enough when they realized