Friday, September 28, 2012

Rainy friday

The little guy is home sick today. I was hoping we could get through the school year without a sick day, and here it is, not even a month in, and already he's felled by a stomach bug. I've been fighting it off, too. Yesterday my brother and I stopped by a new cupcake bakeshop in town and my stomach actually turned just thinking about  sugary frosting. (Although later I did eat half a pint of Ben & Jerry's ... shhh.)

In a few minutes I'm off on my bike to the grocery store to stock up on sick-day supplies: O's favorite chicken nuggets (Ian's gluten free), some orange juice, and tea for me. Yesterday I called my insurance company and made arrangements to put my car on a part-time policy effective October 1. In the last two weeks, I've driven it once --  to a parents' meeting at O's school -- so I'm feeling good about garaging it for the next year. My husband filled up my Charlie card (that's the MBTA's subway/bus card) when he was at work and my bike is mostly kitted out. All I need is another Trek grocery bag and some reflective tape to sew on my windbreaker. Last weekend I had fenders installed so I'm eager to see how they work on the wet trail; it'll be nice to walk around Whole Foods without a muddy bum.

Of course, autumn and winter biking means more knitting. After all, a girl's got to stay warm:

unicorn socks

honey cowl

The top photo is another pair of wool socks. The colors are garish. I have no idea what possessed me to buy this yarn (Patons Kroy Socks). Oh wait ... yes I do. We were on vacation in Houston and each skein cost $3. And in Houston, bright colors don't look so garish. But up here in the northeast? Yikes!

O and I are calling these The Unicorn Socks based on a bumper sticker we spotted at Newbury Comics a few weeks ago, a picture of a multi-colored unicorn that said, "I'm so gay I poo rainbows." It's funny when you're 10. Except when I threaten to put the finished socks in his Christmas stocking.

On the bottom is another madelinetosh Honey cowl.  I bought another skein of Malabrigo Arroyo a few weeks ago at Hub Mills. I couldn't resist the colors, so deep and autumnal. I'm nearly finished knitting it and hope to have it bound off by this evening. And yes, that's a Transformer helping me along since my other pal is bedridden. Don't ask me which one -- I've only figured out the good guys are called Autobots, the bad guys are Decepticons, and that they are not Terminators but Transformers. It's tough keeping up with boy culture, lemme tell you.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thrummed mittens

I have a "thing" for red mittens.

And I'm fascinated by old fashioned knitting patterns, especially patterns for objects my ancestors would have used.

Robin Hansen calls these thrummed mittens "fleece mittens" in her book, Favorite Mittens. She says they originated in Labrador and northern Newfoundland and have only a tenuous (and recent) connection with Maine knitting. My father's Scottish ancestors settled in Nova Scotia; I like to think they wore such warm, cozy mittens even if the historical accuracy of my romantic notion is laughable.

I used Stephanie Pearl McPhee's directions for these mittens, except that I didn't knit into the back of the thrum -- when I tried this, the thrum turned out looking wonky. I just knit the thrum and stitch together to get a neat little heart shape.

I offered to make some more of these for my boys, but they laughed at them. Just you wait ... by January the fleece will have matted into an insulating layer of wool and I won't be able to peel them from my son's hands. It always happens.

My Ravelry details here.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

"Let's do some improvisational comedy ... now."

I must have watched this clip a dozen times last Friday and I couldn't stop laughing. Who knew Liam Neeson could be so funny?

Friday, September 21, 2012

An experiment in doing without

This week I decided to give up my car. For the next year, I'm going to do without it and see where it leads.

For years I've idly wondered aloud to my husband if we could go from a two-car family to a one-car one. He thought no, and he was probably right. We were living in a town with a deplorable sidewalk situation and a nonexistent biking culture. Getting to the library or the grocery store on a bike was often harrowing.

One of the attractions of our new town is its bike-friendly culture. Still, when we moved here in 2011 I needed the car to drive my son to his school back in our old town. When he got out of school in June and we enrolled him in the local public school, I found I didn't need my car that much. I had a bike trail to use for grocery shopping and town amenities and two farmstands open year-round within a mile of our home.

A couple weeks ago we found out our beloved Subaru Outback was in worse shape than we thought, $1800 in repairs we needed right away, then $2,000 more in the spring to fix an ongoing emissions problem. The debate became Do we sink major bucks into a 12-year-old car or go out and buy a new (used) car?

That's a lot of money to sink into an old car, even if it is otherwise in great shape. As for car shopping, I'd rather get a root canal than go car shopping. I'm not exaggerating. I hate almost everything about the experience -- the slick salespeople trying to sell me more than I want, the amount of research that we have to put into it (my husband won't buy a box of toothpicks without doing extensive research on the benefits/drawbacks of flat-end versus round) and the weeks of rigmarole and drama of car-buying in general. If you get a used car, you inherit the past owner's headaches. When my husband had to buy a car last year, he spent weeks looking for a specific model, got it all checked out by his mechanic, and bought it; within two months, he had to sink a couple thousand into it for something that was missed during his mechanic's inspection. Don't get me wrong: I love looking at cars and get all ooo-and-ahhh- at a car show. But buying one? Seriously, rev up that dentist's drill.

So I've decided to go without a car until September 30, 2013. The plan is on October 1st I'm going to reduce my insurance on the car to the bare minimum and store it in the garage. With this type of insurance coverage, I can't drive the car but I don't have to drop the registration. If I decide in a couple months I just can't live without a car, I can put the regular coverage back on, and get it fixed or sell it/buy a new car. I was just too unsure of dropping the insurance and registration, and right now I'm not ready to sell it. If things work out really well with my plan, maybe I will drop the insurance/registration, but baby steps right now.

It's not like I'm going to be completely car-less. I'll bike or walk during the week, and if I need a car, I can take my husband's on the weekends. Or if there's a day where I absolutely need a car, I can drive him to the commuter station. If I need to pick up Oliver from school during the week, I can call a cab. If I need to get into the city, it's no big deal: we've got MBTA buses that run twice an hour into Cambridge. For longer trips, like visits to my parents in CT, I can always rent a car.

Even though I'm a bit nervous about this, I'm also excited. Since I dislike spending money on fuel costs and believe Americans waste way too many resources with their oversized cars and SUVs and thoughtless driving patterns, it feels like I'm putting my money where my mouth is. Whenever I've been to Europe, I've looked with envy at the city squares filled with parked bikes and wished I lived in a community like that, where people bike instead of drive. Why wait for that trend to come to U.S. when I can go for it now? I like the idea of putting physical effort into obtaining a thoughtful list of goods I need rather than passively driving to a mall and filling up my trunk with "stuff." As I age, the more I need physical activity -- not just to keep in shape, but to get my head clear -- and I need it most in the winter. A bit of Internet research shows that winter biking isn't all that uncommon, especially around here. On especially wicked cold days, I'll stay home, just as I do when I have a car. ;-) Lastly, we'll save a considerable amount of money as a result of this experiment. If I can go without a car for a year, maybe I'll decide I don't really  need one. But if the experiment feels like it has to end, I'll have saved enough money to pay cash for the car I really want -- a Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, or some other tiny car with a great safety rating and good gas mileage.

Any advice to share? I'm all ears! (Speaking of which, I'm researching lightweight balaclavas I can wear under my helmet to keep my ears from freezing off.)



Sunday, September 16, 2012


Did you know there's a cloud appreciation society?

I didn't until my friend Jenna noticed all my cloud pictures on Facebook and pointed me to a neat little book, The Cloud Collector's Handbook.

Ever since I was a child, I've been fascinated by clouds, especially storm clouds. I noticed this going through my photos last night -- I either focus on the dark and ominous or brilliant blue cloudless skies. I wonder if that speaks to my personality? ;-)

I'm forever being yelled at to get inside during a storm, but for me watching dark clouds race overhead is the best form of entertainment. Is it for you? (And for those of you reading this in Tornado Alley, no, I'm not talking about killer storms ... we're talking good old fashioned summer thunder and lightning. I'd be in the basement in a flash should I see a funnel cloud.)

As much as I like a good storm, I'm hoping for clear skies ahead.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A day off

Today I decided to close my laptop and enjoy the weather.

Ready to roll

I packed up some snacks, ID, my cell phone and a bit of cash then hit the trail.


I don't know if you can see them on the trail up ahead, but it looks like other people didn't want to sit at their desks either.

Bedford trail head

I headed over to Lexington center, which is about a 25-minute ride (for me ... I'm slow). Depot Park in Bedford marks one end of the Minuteman Bikeway; the other end is near Alewife Station in Cambridge. It's usually very busy but today the path was mostly filled with office workers on a lunchtime walk.

Green smoothie

Once I got to Lexington center, I sat in the green and drank my greens. My son thinks the color is disgusting, but I think it's lovely. Ingredients are bananas, dates, frozen mango, three handfuls of kale, and coconut milk. Yummy and very filling.


I stopped by one of my favorite yarn shops, Wild & Wooly. The ladies who work there are always helpful and fun to chat with. When I was heavily pregnant with O, they taught me the long-tail cast on, which, if you're a knitter, you know is one of the best cast-ons evah. So I'm always forever grateful to them. This was the first time I noticed a display of Green Mountain Spinnery Mountain Mohair in lots of gorgeous shades. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough cash on me to buy the two skeins I wanted for a project, so I told them I'd be in next week. They kindly let me photograph the yarns so I could match them to my project when I got home.

Cary Memorial Library, Lexington, MA

Cary Memorial Library is across the street so I dropped by. This library is one of the most attractive libraries around; my photograph doesn't do it justice. Unfortunately their collection of knitting books wasn't as good as Bedford's, so I didn't pick up much. Which is good, considering I'd have to lug all the books home on my bike. ;-)

Lexington Minuteman at Battle Green

Since this is a blog for Anglophiles and not merely a dumping ground for all my knitting photos, here's a shot of the Lexington Minuteman on Battle Green. Just look at the sky! You see, there was this little local skirmish some 235 years ago and we like to commemorate it with lots of memorials, statues, and monuments.

The ride back to Bedford is much faster since there's a slight downhill grade. My bike and I were home in less than 20 minutes. And then I took a nap.

Animal sightings: Chipmunk, squirrels, cat (domesticated); heard a hawk

Monday, September 10, 2012

Honey cowl



Over the summer I found this luscious pink yarn at my LYS (local yarn store). I'm not really into pink, but this color called to me. It glowed. I picked it up and read the label. The color? English rose. But of course.

The yarn itself is Malabrigo Arroyo.The pattern is Honey Cowl from madelinetosh and all the details of my knitting are on Ravelry. It was a completely satisfying knit, meaning I enjoyed the pattern, I loved the yarn, and I was thrilled with the results. In the past I've had problems with Malabrigo yarns -- they pill terribly, even while I'm still knitting. This yarn, however, has shown no signs of pillage.

I almost can't wait for the cold; it's just the splash of color my gray winter coat needs.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


First, let's get clear: I love dogs. Adore them even. If we could get a dog, I'd be heading out to our local greyhound rescue today. When I'm out taking a walk in the neighborhood, I can't resist a friendly dog (always asking permission first before I pet).

But dogs and my bike? Not exactly a love connection.

Here's the story. Yesterday I was out running errands on my bike using the bike trail that runs along our property. It's not just for bikes ... you can walk, jog, and maybe even use it for cross-country skiing in the winter. The trail is part of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and links up to the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway terminus in Bedford; it's one of the most heavily traveled bike trails in the U.S. Bikers actually commute to jobs in Lexington, Arlington, Cambridge and beyond using this trail, and on the weekends, it's even busier with families on bikes, in-line skates, or on foot.

Anyway, yesterday I'm pedaling along with my groceries (packed in my super-cool Trek Interchange grocery bag) and about 50 yards up the trail I see two women walking three dogs.  None of the dogs are leashed. They see me and two of them bolt and run full speed toward my bike. Immediately I slow down because the dogs are heading straight at me. Again, I love dogs, but I can't really tell if their barking is friendly or if they want to tear my legs off. One of them starts running circles around my bike, which is knocking me off balance, especially since I've got the groceries. (You don't notice a load like that while you're biking, but it becomes a balance issue when dogs start dodging you.)

So here's what ticked me off. Rather than call the dogs back when the women saw me coming, one of them yells, "Just hit them! These dogs never behave! Seriously, hit them! Hahahahahaha!" Seriously, she thought it was a joke. I couldn't believe it.  I managed to bike through the scrum of dogs and dumb humans, but as I passed the dumbasses (the human ones, not the dogs), I gave them a black look and said, "Those dogs should be leashed." Now that I've had time to think about it, I wished I'd called out, "Forget the dogs ... I'm going to hit you instead."

I would never hit a dog and, in fact, would probably do myself a great injury by avoiding such a scenario. Those dogs were doing what dogs are wont to do: chase and bark. Second, if I did hit a dog, on purpose or by accident, I'd surely be knocked off my bike by the force and/or loss of control when my balance shifts. I wonder if these dumbasses even know how to ride a bike because one thing an experienced biker knows: biking is often effortless, but the laws of physics become painfully clear when you lose your balance, hit an object or a hole, or have to stop suddenly. Third, it's not my job to control their dogs. They should have immediately called their dogs at their very least, or had them on a leash to begin with, especially if "these dogs never behave." And fourth, and most important, it's against the town laws to let dogs off leash on a bikeway. It's not only especially dangerous to cyclists, who don't want to stop to see if a snarling dog is going to chew their leg off, it's dangerous for the dog. I just don't understand why anyone who has a dog, and presumably cares about that dog, would let them run amok when they could easily be injured if hit and put themselves at liability should the cyclist get injured.

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time I've run across clueless dog owners on the bike path. A couple weeks ago another woman was letting her big shaggy dog run ahead off leash. He came barking and lumbering up to my son on his bike and almost knocked him to the ground. I gave her an earful and she called me a bitch under her breath. Whatever. My son gets hurt by your dog, lady, and I have a lawyer whose bite will be worse than mine. Luckily, most of the dogs and dog owners we meet on the path are perfectly wonderful. The dogs are leashed and well behaved. Owners with dogs who are a little fidgety will hold them close while we pass, and I'm always sure to thank them. Occasionally we'll see someone with a dog off leash, but they'll quickly reign in the dog and hold them until we pass. While they're technically breaking the rules, I at least give them credit for controlling their pets when they see a cyclist coming.

Last night O and I were wondering what we could do to get dog owners to take better care of their dogs on the path. He suggested we start a new website, sort of like Dogshaming, but call it Ownershaming, where people can post cell phone videos of stupid dog owners. For right now, though ... next time I see those women I'm going to point them to my blog.

And if you two are reading this: Take better care of your dogs. They weren't misbehaving ... you were.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back to school

Today my son started fifth grade. New town, new school, completely new curriculum so it's a big change for him, as well as me. He had been at a local Montessori school since he was three. Last year it became very clear the school wasn't right for him any longer, so we decided to put him in public school in our new town, which happens to have a fantastic school system. So far, we're thrilled with it; we're getting far more support than we ever did in a private school. Better yet, he's excited about school this year, which is a big change for him -- he'll be in a classroom that's half boys. At his Montessori school, he was in a mixed grade classroom, the only 4th grade boy in a class of mostly younger girls. Hey, I'm a girl and I wouldn't want to be around that many girls! His new school also has a strong emphasis on physical activity; O's at that age where he needs to move so it's perfect that they have this program called "Project: Adventure" where fifth graders work as teams to work through a pretty impressive obstacle course in the woods. Think Outward Bound for kids.

As for me, I don't have to make a 13 30-mile round trip twice each day ... I just put him on the bus that happens to stop in front of our house and I'm on my merry way. What a relief. The older I get, the more I loathe driving. I don't mind a road trip now and then, but I hate burning gas when I don't have to. My New England sense of thrift grows by bounds with each passing year. Which is another reason why I love our new town: I just hop on my bike and in minutes I can be at our town library, swimming pool, Whole Foods, post office, CVS, and if I'm feeling especially energetic, I can bike to Cambridge and meet my husband for lunch. (As long as I start biking around 9 a.m.)

Anyway, this is a long way of saying ... I didn't post much this summer because I was actually out and about enjoying summer. I tried to stay away from the computer and instead, focused on doing stuff with my son, who's getting to be that age where he soon won't want to hang out with me. Of course, I managed to get some good knitting done, and yeah, there were a few times I got sucked into some good British gossip (Prince Harry! Oh my gosh, stop the presses -- the royal scepter spotted in Vegas!). So I hope as the days get shorter and my time at the computer grows longer, I'll catch up on my posting. Lots to show you!

Hope you all had a wonderful summer. :)