Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sandy, don't let the door hit you on your way out

Considering our experience with last Halloween's nor'easter, this year's Sandy was a bit of a non-event here in greater Boston. We lost power for about an hour early Monday morning (last year we were without power for four days), no trees hit our house (we had two trees fall in previous storms at our last house), and all we have to do is rake up the yard a bit. And since we hadn't raked leaves before the storm, this is something we have to do anyway.

Yesterday I took the bike out and ventured down the trail.


I was able to get over and under these fallen trees (the one I scooted under looked well jammed into another tree. I moved quickly!)


Unfortunately there was no getting around this mess, but I only had to backtrack a couple yards to connect to a path that brought me around to the local middle school. The detour added only ten minutes to my grocery shopping trip.

Speaking of shopping trips ...


My husband has been urging me to kit up my bike properly if I'm to succeed at my year-without-a-car experiment, so I drove over to Burlington and plopped down beaucoup dollares for this zippered grocery bag. I'm what you might term parsimonious about certain things. I'm generous about spending money on my son or a good friend, and I don't mind spending money on food or yarn (after all, the yarn will make mittens, hats, sweaters ... practical items with a long shelf life!), but it just about kills me to crack open my wallet for an $80 bike bag. I fretted over the cost all afternoon. But I know it will be a good investment and besides, I saved about $80 in gas in the last two weeks by not driving my car so that's how I'm trying to look at it. Still, I'm feeling guilty. Damn Scottish genes!

Tonight is Halloween, my son's favorite holiday. He doesn't care about the candy ... it's all about the costume! He even mentioned not trick-or-treating this year; his friend isn't into candy either, and they were just going to walk around the neighborhood doing their ninja moves. I put a quick stop to that idea, because dammit, if I'm going to walk around in the cold with them, I want some Almond Joys, M&Ms (peanut, please), and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups as a reward.

Friday, October 26, 2012

FO Friday: Cabled hat with pom pom

I was skimming through the Telegraph's fashion pages as I am wont to do and this cute cabled hat caught my eye:


$140, my friends!

Designed by British designer Paul Smith, this pom-pom hat is knit from "lambswool" and has a fold-up ribbed brim. What I really like, though, is the play between the staid dark gray and the silly neon pink pom-pom.

This week I pedaled over to Wild & Woolly in Lexington and bought two skeins of Berroco Ultra Alpaca -- one in a dark gray, the other in hot pink -- and got to work. Two evenings of labor, using a free pattern I found on Ravelry, I got this:

I took this shot before blocking so the stitches aren't as smoothed out as I would like. (My ribbing always looks wonky before blocking.) I also have a small bowl under the hat to give it shape; when the hat's on my head, it's perfectly rounded instead of pointy. Shot of new hat in action TK as soon as my photographer returns home from school.

I do have to say, I like my version better -- my cables pop more and the hat doesn't look felted like the Paul Smith one does. My hat is light and soft, but thanks to the 50% alpaca blend, unbelievably warm ... warmer than just "lambswool," I'd bet. I will begrudgingly give Paul Smith the better pom-pom -- mine's not as full and puffy as his. I need to go back to pom-pom making school. Best of all, my hat cost far less than $140. Each skein of yarn cost $10.50. I used 64 grams of the gray ($6.72) and 10 grams of the pink ($1.05) for a total material cost of $7.77. Now of course there's labor. But I knit this while watching television at night; I start to fidget when I don't have something to do with my hands, so it's knit or bite my nails.

I'll be wearing my new hat on my daily hike through the woods. Next up: hot pink cabled mittens to match.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

British media law baffles me

Several weeks ago I mentioned my interest in the Jeremy Forrest case, the British schoolteacher who ran off to France with a 15-year-old student he was tutoring. The student was returned home to her family in England, and a few days later, Forrest was extradited to the UK.

The story disappeared.

I searched the papers online to find out what happened next. Surely The Sun would run with a salacious headline, or at the very least, the Daily Mail's gossip pages would rehash the saga of Forrest's abandoned wife. But there was nothing. It was as if the duo had never run off.

Then yesterday, I spotted a short piece in the Guardian that reported a British court had lifted a ban from the defendant being named in the press, thanks to a challenge from  ten media organizations, including the Guardian and the BBC. Still, there's been very little on the case, except that there's no longer a ban. Great, but what's next? A court date? Probation? Prison time?

Here in the U.S. it would be highly unusual -- if not unheard of -- for a media organization to be banned from naming a defendant in a court case, especially in a case that has already drawn media attention. The exception I can think of would be if the defendant were under age 18, and even then, it would be extremely rare.

So I ask my British readers: why the ban? I also notice that British newspapers often turn off commenting features on online stories involving a crime "for legal restrictions." Any insight?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Knitting bounty

Last week I mentioned I couldn't wait to share some of the goodies I'd acquired in the past few weeks.


I won three skeins of Springtree Road Navarre sock yarn by leaving a comment on Knitty's blog. How cool is that? I rarely win anything, but that may be because I only enter contests when I truly love what's being offered. And when I saw these colors (all gorgeous shades of green and teal), I was a goner. The colors from left to right are Corinth, Tanis, and Leafy Seadragon. What lovely names. Each skein is a generous 460 yards and is a blend of superwash Bluefaced Leicester and 25% nylon for strength. While I think these colors would look great in a shawl, I think I'd get better use of the wool as socks. I have some patterns in my Ravelry queue that would work quite nicely.

So thank you Knitty and Springtree Road -- I will be putting these lovely skeins of wool to good use in the coming months.

On another front ... for a couple years now, I've been looking for this one Candide knitting pattern, the Lightweight Classic Raglan Cardigan:

candide classic raglan cardigan

I've also been on the hunt for the Candide Aran pullover and cardigan pattern. These patterns do pop up on eBay ever so often, but I always seem to just miss them. Anyway, one day I was searching on Craigslist and I saw that someone was selling a box of Candide patterns. The only problem was that they were down in Maryland and I was up in Boston. Long-distance purchases through Craigslist can be dicey, but I decided to give it a try. The woman who was selling them quickly got back to me and agreed to a long-distance transaction. Not only that, she said she'd include dozens of Penny Straker knitting patterns. I love Straker patterns ... they're as classic New England as you can get.

The large box of patterns hit my doorstep a few days later.

Candide Aran Pattern


A nice array ... unfortunately, the cardigan pattern I wanted wasn't here. Boo hoo!

But look at all these Penny Straker patterns:


I just love this New England-y looking guy. Can't see my husband wearing this anytime soon, though. (Sad to say, my husband wouldn't wear anything made of wool.)

I have a lot of duplicate patterns, so I'll probably sell the extras through Etsy or maybe eBay, we'll see. I'll continue my search for the cardigan pattern, and in the meantime, start my planning for the aran sweater. So excited!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Honey cowl #2

I finished my second Honey Cowl yesterday. Today I had good weather and a willing photographer. I love it when my son photographs me. He gets artistic shots and says nice things like, "Mom, you're so pretty." Awwww. (He totally knows he gets extra time on the computer for flattery.)

I used Malabrigo Arroyo again in the colorway Volcan. I told my neighbor it looks like autumn in a ball. Such a pleasure to knit with, too. Usually Malabrigo yarns pill terribly, but this yarn remains pill free ... and it's superwash, too.

Ravelry details here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hey ladies ...

Just read an interview in today's Telegraph with actor Brendan Coyle, who plays Mr. Bates in Downton Abbey, and he's single and available. He says, "I'm going to be 50 soon. I'm single, I'm looking for something meaningful. By the time you've been single for quite a long time, you can get quite specific about what you can and can't put up with." Link follows, but warning: the interview includes a major spoiler for North American audiences. Read more here.

Who knew Mr. Bates had such a female fan base?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Images from a rainy Sunday



A patch of garlic mustard

The fall dreariness continues. Today I had to get out of the house and away from my desk, which is blanketed by financial paperwork for my taxes. The whoop of joy you hear tomorrow will be me, thrilled that the monstrous task is finished and in the mail. And then I can get back to blogging. I can't wait to show off what I won last week and the long-sought-for Aran knitting pattern I found on Craigslist (of all places).

The woodland paths were sodden and mucky, but they didn't stop me. Bonus: I had the trails to myself so I could wander in peace. Even in the gray, pretty flashes of color lightened my step.

ETA: Tonight's the season 3 premiere of The Walking Dead on AMC. O and I will be cuddled up around a bowl of popcorn to watch. A journalist friend who does television reviewing has seen the first three episodes and tells me they're action-packed -- O's hoping that means zombie action! Normally I don't like blood and gore, but for some reason I don't mind seeing a creative zombie kill, although both O and I hope Rick's wife Lori gets torn apart soon -- she's so annoying. BTW, did you know that Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick, is British? I didn't until a few weeks ago -- he sure had me fooled.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New Skyfall trailer

I was just thinking this a.m. that November is nearly on my doorstep.

And that means a new James Bond film, just in time for my birthday. :)


I also found this CNN video on the best Bond scenes. I agree with John Cork, the Bond expert they interview ... the action sequence in the beginning of Casino Royale can't be beat. This remake also happens to be my favorite Bond film. What is your favorite? Are you looking forward to seeing Skyfall?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Car-less in suburbia, week 1

Retired car in rain
Sunday was my last day with my car, so around 8 p.m. I drove it over to the gas station in town, filled the tires up with air, returned home, and parked it in front of the garage where it is presently blanketed in soggy leaves. The week prior I'd driven it just once so I felt confident going into this year-long experiment.

Then this week it rained. Steadily.

I have to admit I missed my car. There was one day where I went out to run errands, and I showed up at the grocery store looking a sorry sight. On the other hand, the rain felt good against my skin while I was pedaling through the woods and then town. You don't get that kind of tactile pleasure behind the wheel of a car. But then again, I am a touch vain and didn't like that I looked like a bedraggled rat once I got to the store. On the days it was too rainy to ride, I walked. Yesterday I took two three-mile walks in the woods. It helped that my brother dropped by with his pickup truck and took me over to Market Basket and H-Mart in Burlington for a "big shop."

Today we're supposed to get a respite from the rain. In fact, I see our neighbor's house bathed in sunlight. So today I'll do all the errands I've been putting off: returning books to the library, picking up a prescription, mailing a package at the post office. My enthusiasm for the car-less experiment is sure to return. Everyone gets grouchy after days and days of dreary weather, right?


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Election time

Last week O came home from school. Excited. He was clutching a green form and couldn't wait for me to read it over.

"I'm running for student council!" he said. Then he plopped himself down at the dining room table and started drafting his platform. This kid had it all figured out. Each classroom can have two students on the council, and rather than have the students vote for the candidates, the teachers pick based on the quality of answers to the two questions they posed on the green form.

I have to admit, I broke out into a little sweat when I saw how excited he was about joining student council. On one hand, I'm happy that he's excited about an extra-curricular activity. O isn't much of a joiner, although he's an outgoing and social child. You know those parents who have their kids signed up for karate, piano lessons, fall soccer, spring baseball, math tutoring, and fifth grade chorus? Well, my husband and I bear no resemblance to them. We're happy to sleep in on a Saturday morning while our neighbors schlep grumpy kids and gear to chilly soccer fields at 7:30 a.m. With dismay I noticed that should O get selected for student council, he'd need to attend before-school meetings every other week.

"That's okay, Mom," he said. "I have a lot of stuff I want to bring up in those meetings. I won't have any trouble getting up early."

Never mind that we've got to drive him there.

O is getting to that age where I look at him and see that he's his own person and the whole concept just blows my mind a little. His interests and traits are all his. When he was in preschool, his teachers told us O was the classroom conflict resolver; the other children would turn to him when there was a problem and he'd try to solve it. I remember my husband and I looking at each other, and I'm sure we were both thinking about how when we were in school, we were the ones causing the conflicts. O loves working on a team whereas his father and I are classic introverts, happy to be left alone in our own little worlds. How could we end up with a kid who plays well with others? How did we get a politician???

We'll find out in the next week if O was picked. He wrote what I thought was a compelling answer to why they should pick him, and he ran out of room on the sheet listing all the problems he hoped to resolve for the school this year, everything from buying a tetherball for the playground to developing a campaign to get kids to wash their hands after using the toilet, which, according to my slightly OCD son, doesn't happen as much as he would like.

I'm not sure fifth graders are impressed by public health initiatives, so I'm glad the teachers are picking.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Criminal or besotted?

Normally I avoid news stories about older men seducing young girls -- pedophilia stories give me nightmares -- but the recent case of British math teacher Jeremy Forrest, 30, who ran off to France with his 15-year-old student Megan Stammers nabbed my attention. Not because of the creepiness of it all, but because it highlights the gulf between Anglo and Gallic sensibilities.

The British focus on the fact that a teacher ran off with a student, a child in the eyes of the law (I believe the age of consent in the UK is 16). Stammers was cast as the victim, Forrest the manipulative kidnapper. Some papers reported that he'd seduced female students in the past. The case has British police urging David Cameron to continue cross-border arrest and investigation work with the EU, as Forrest was charged on an EU arrest warrant. With that kind of cooperation gone, what will happen when the next British schoolchild is ferried off by a creepy pedophile?

The French, on the other hand, took a laissez faire stand. The age of consent in France is 15. What could be more romantic than a pretty girl running off with her musician boyfriend to the south of France? So there's 15 years between them ... love is blind, they say. He had a wife? Eh, so what? Men will be men. They just didn't see why the British were making such a fuss.

In the end, Forrest was arrested by the French police and he's about to be extradited to Britain, but again, his attorney on the Continent  exhibited that classic Gallic attitude: "Jeremy Forrest is in no pervert. This is a story only about love and passion … I believe it will never end. His only crime is to have fallen in love with a 15-year-old, without any recourse to violence or manipulation.” Ah, so this is why Woody Allen loves Paris. It wasn't the baguettes.

American newspapers that reported on this story took a similar stance as the British, not surprising given our Puritanical background and our hardline position on underage sex, especially when it involves a teacher and a student. We just aren't very tolerant of that, unless the teacher is a female and the students are 16- and 17-year-old boys -- then the attitude seems to be "those lucky lads."

What do you say? Do you take the Anglo/American position that Jeremy Forrest violated the law or the French position that he was simply following his heart?