Monday, August 25, 2008

Sweet & Twisted Tri - Race Report

First things first, this will not be a joyous celebratory essay. Yesterday's race was horrible in more ways than just my overall place. Now that I have seen the actual stats, I know that none of the segments were the longest from my personal record, but this race beat me like no other.

A couple of things I learned: drinking in smoky clubs in the week before a race and smoking a gift cigar or two is probably ill-advised. But most importantly: attitude really IS everything.

4:45 am
I start out the day with the obligatory peanut butter and english muffin and then took the WORST pre-race picture ever. Hello, Squinty McPufferton!

O Hai, its 4:45am

Amy and I headed over to Pace Bend park where we were not as early as we thought. We got two spots side by side on an end (instead of two end spots).

Amy and I are the odd couple at transition
[She is Felix, I am Oscar]

6:30 am
As usual, I forgot a flashlight, but remembered everything else. Transition was set up without too much of a hitch and I saw several Rogue team mates. As I mentioned in the last report, seeing folks there and excited makes such a difference; I was surely glad to see their smiling faces.

Hopefully not my last race with Amy
[Amy and I, before transition closed]

Carol and I are about to bust some shit up
[Carol, bringing grace and flair to the DNF]

I tried to get a shot of all of the women bustling to set up their transitions, but instead got this strange shot:

Back in my day, we did triathlons in the SNOW

Amy and I made jokes about how we would tell the grandkids that back in OUR day, we did Texas Triathlons in the snow. Later, I would be convinced that I had photographed the actual mold spores that filled the hot, humid air and my poor, tired lungs.

7:45 am
The best part of the pre-race meeting was the overheard remark, "Haha, I thought he said there's going to be a mountain lion at bike out!"

***

Oh Pace Bend Park, how I hate hate hate races on your shores! Just like the miserable Dilloman of 2006, the water level was so low that we had to set up a little shoe transition at the bottom of a long rocky hill. This time, however, we at least got a standing start-- no treading water for 5 minutes waiting for the horn to sound.

At this point, it seems important to discuss my mental state for this race. In a word, it was "fucked." I had my recent lay off on my mind, some weird boy stuff, and the lack of a single one of my friends on the sidelines to cheer me on (not even the one STAYING AT MY HOUSE ALL WEEK). Still, I didn't feel anxious or panicked on the surface. Maybe if I had, I would have taken more specific action to remedy it. Instead, this unresolved negativity would be my race companion for the rest of the day.

***

My tri buddy, Amy, hates the swim the way I hate the bike ride. While waiting for my wave to queue up, we talked about how wrong it was to spend a whole leg saying to our selves "I hate this. I hate this. I hate this." So, I spent a few moments brainstorming things about the swim that would rock.

THINGS ABOUT THE SWIM ON SUNDAY THAT WOULD ROCK:
  1. It will be a great all body warm up.
  2. The water doesn't taste like goat ass.
  3. The water is not cold.
  4. It is only 500 meters (instead of the 800 we expected).
  5. It is the last time we will have to swim today.
8:24 am
When it was my turn, I waded through the hot, sucking mud into the warm water and got ready. It was such a harbinger of doom that I didn't even seem to care where I was in the pack for the wave start. I was right where I least wanted to be, in the dead center... and I didn't even notice until we took off. Right away, I had feet and fingers jabbing into me, knocking me around, and slogging water into my mouth and nose. Skin and suits were bumping me from the side and crowding me from behind. I was having trouble getting a solid breath with all the bodies around me, so I stalled and waited for some elbow room. This was probably within the first 50 yards.

I had been practicing breathing on both sides during my training sessions and had gotten pretty good at it, but even once the crowd thinned out, I couldn't get enough air in to make it three strokes. I was starting to gasp by 100 yards. And it was about this time that the Fear showed up.

It is unclear, even with a day to reflect, whether the Fear was the cause or effect of a physical reaction. About a month ago, after a very stressful day at my former job, I went to my swimming workout and completely freaked out. I couldn't catch my breath, was practically hyperventilating at the end of each lousy 25 yards and had to quit early. I didn't realize until I got out of the water that I was having some sort of anxiety attack. I had never really appreciated the physical ramifications of my stress level until that point. Sure, intellectually I understood that 'fight or flight' makes one take shallow fast breaths. But until you are trying to swim and your airway is constricting, it is just a Fun Fact to Know and Tell, you know?

OK, so Sunday. I heard later from different sources that a lot of people had a tough day with their allergies. I also had that cigar a couple of days before and spent two nights in not unsmoky bars. And I was laid off two weeks ago from the only real job I have ever had and have absolutely no idea how I am going to spend the next two months, let alone two years or decades of my life.

All of these things were happening when the horn sounded. Which one was the proverbial straw for my camel back, I don't know. All I know is that I couldn't take a deep breath. And I freaked out. I knew I wouldn't drown or anything (vive le backstroke), but my brain started talking all kinds of nonsense. At one point, after making the buoy turn, I got a huge mouthful of water and in my sputtering, my animal mind said, "Just drink more"... To be clear, I wasn't suddenly feeling suicidal, I was feeling disoriented and confused. There was this steady stream of mental chatter, where normally I only count breaths and strokes. During the entire 500 meters, I don't think I got more than ten strokes in a row even once. I did a lot of side stroke and a fair bit of backstroke. I took exactly two awkward and inefficient breaths on my left side.

And then finally, I was out of the water. I was so exhausted from that (almost) 17 minutes that I wanted to just lie down in the sand. Instead, I found my river shoes and headed up the hill.

As I said at the beginning, the race FELT like the worst ever, but it wasn't. My swim pace was actually better than the Rogue last month (wha?! how?! no way!!). And while the run up the hill was almost exactly as long as it was at the Dilloman two years ago, I somehow managed to pull the transition off about a minute and a half faster than I did then.

8:47 am
At first, crossing that little red mount(ain) line was actually a bit of a relief. There was almost a breeze, and I felt like I had so much more control over my environment. I saw Rachel at the top of the first hill, and that put a smile on my face, though the hill felt a bit harder than I thought it should. I felt more winded than usual, but I was sort of stuck on the idea that maybe it was just my weird swimming and anxiety "thing." But that "thing" was really the Fear--and it can apparently bike AND swim.

Maybe it is because the bike is the longest leg for me: too much time and nothing but the sound of wind and the occasional "On your left," my mind just stayed unhinged. I was doing entirely too much thinking, and it was almost all defeatist and negative. More job stuff, friend stuff. Without the water to distract me, I could be even elaborate in my miserable daydreams. I could see it happening, and knew it was a recipe for disaster. But once it was started, I couldn't stop it.

At about mile 3, I started coughing. What had started as shallow breathing now had a "tickle" to it. If I tried to take too deep of a inhale, I would reflexively bark a little cough out. This didn't help. Each hill (there were approximately 17 of them it seemed) was a herculean effort. Since I couldn't stop all the mental shit-talking, I decided to try a different angle. For once, I was going to fuel on the bike ride like I was supposed to! I have taken a Gu on practice rides before, but never during an actual race. I fumbled my bento pouch open, groped around past my phone and pulled out the little foil pack.

I didn't even look, and stuck the corner in my mouth to bite off the tab. Only, there wasn't a tab.

Weird, maybe I have it upside down. Flip. Stick edge in mouth. Nothing.

At this point, I have to look, cause I am wondering how I could possibly get opening a Gu wrong, and realize I have nearly eaten the giveaway moist towelette on accident.

I didn't even laugh at myself about it until later when telling Amy the story... That's how foul my mood was. Anyway, I got the Gu on the second try and managed to eat it without further incident. I want to say more about the bike ride, but already this thing is so long, even I am getting bored listening to me bitch.

THE BIKE RIDE IN THREE WORDS (finally):
  1. Hilly
  2. Bumpy
  3. LONG
My time was longer than I had hoped (by more than 10 stupid minutes!) But I still beat my first Danskin and Dilloman paces. The dismount was uneventful this time. I remember hearing Stacy cheer for me at one point, which was bolstering and I managed to get down the dusty hill and back into transition snappily.

I was so tired. I was coughing. The breeze had faded. Only 3.1 miles to go! ARRRRGH.

9:58 am
Whatever had lodged in my lungs was really making me wheeze at this point. When I got up onto the hill, and the "lumpier" part of the trail, I realized that I had done some damage to my injured arm on the ride. I was getting this sharp elbow pain every time I tried to run more than a few steps. I tried holding my wrist with my other hand, hooking it in my trisuit shoulder strap, holding my arm far away from my body and close in. The best I could get was a bearable throbbing ache. It was a long, slow 5k. I was so happy to see Marian at the first water stop, but was a complete zombie at the second one.

By the third mile I was fighting back tears of frustration. I can run, goddamnit! Except, I couldn't... If it wasn't the arm, it was the wheezing cough. I would try to pick out a landmark, a tree or sign, and say to myself "Just run to that." Then I would ALMOST make it. Once I came out of that hillocky, uneven terrain and could see the finish, I renewed my efforts to slow jog in, but still had to walk part of the final bend.

Once I was under the trees with 300 or so yards to go, I started to jog and somehow shut all the physical and mental hurt off for the next few minutes. I had to hold my arm up and against me during the final sprint, but I ran the bitch in. Two-twenty-four.

10:48 am
I was gasping and coughing and the tears wanted out so badly, but I saw Carol and kept my shit together enough to say "No, I am not ok. Arm. Hurts." I worked on catching my breath and notcrying with all I had left.

Finisher's medal

The rest of the early afternoon is very disjointed... But some genuinely good things happened.

GOOD THINGS THAT HAPPENED TO ME AFTER THE RACE:
  1. Actually won a raffle prize
  2. Got my arm worked on by the great Advanced Rehabilitation folks
  3. Helped several Roguesters cheer Theresa across the finish (probably the best I felt all morning, actually)
I wanted so badly to have a better attitude than I did. Finally, I just had to pack it in and get my almostbawling ass home. I am so thankful that Amy drove, as I am not sure I could have handled traffic on top of everything else.

As far as brass tacks go, two hours and 24 minutes is still better than my first Danskin time, but the distances were more comparable to Jack's Generic which I managed in 2:11 two years ago. My Dilloman at the same location (but with a longer swim and shorter bike) was an excruciating 2:37. I can say I didn't totally bomb out, but I couldn't have been less "on" for this race. Ultimately, this is what disappoints me more than the numbers. Where was all of my discipline and strength when I needed it? And how do I know I can count on it next time?

Unhappy racer.
[Damn it.]

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Worst. Race. Ever.

I can't talk about it just tonight. But I finished.

Somehow managed to finish...

I also finished one more knit for the Ravelympics.

More tomorrow maybe.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY

I know that today is not Sunday, but it's been on my mind.

Tomorrow is the last triathlon of the season! (For me.) My number is 220 and my swim cap color is silver... think good thoughts.

Rather than prepare like an elite athlete, I have been entertaining an out of town guest... Doctor Phoebe is here from the UK for ten days (as of Thursday) and we have been having a blast.

We were best pals in high school but she has since been all over the world. We have only seen eachother twice since I graduated.

last_day
[L-R: My sometimes stalker, Michael, Me, a former friend from back in the day, and Phoebe]

Here we are in Mrs. Irish's Creative Writing class... My junior year, her sophmore year:
mrsirish

That was 1990. We saw Nine Inch Nails at the Pine Street Theatre and spent a lot of time at Confetti's dance club.

c_p_m2
[Crammed into the photo booth with Michael at Confetti's]

Ah, Feeb!

And now, we are having just as much fun. (Except not tonight, which is her birthday... I am sadly having to prepare for my race by Doing Nothing. She is out seeing a couple of really great bands with a friend from Uni. She won't be at the finish line tomorrow, which is a bit heartbreaking, but I'll live.)

Doctor Phoebe and I
[Pic by PVMoore, taken on Thursday night]

Feeb and Me
[Before going out, at Arts n Drafts... She's still figuring out the whole "knitting thing" that I am all on about.]

Fun Times. I am going to hopefully finish one more WIP tonight, but that may be it for my WIPs wrestling... Tomorrow may be too shot. Stay tuned for the race report.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Flashback Friday and lemons

This week it is back to cute lil kid pics. Before all those awkward years (I sure hope they are over soon!)...

That Koala bear was made out of actual Koala Bear
I look like I am maybe 2? My biological father brought that Koala Bear back from Ausralia, along with two Kangaroo skins. He always said it was made from actual Koala, but I am sure it was just rabbit. I kept it for a long time... it might even still be around in a box. His mother, my late Grandma Fowler, used to put a different colored ribbon around its neck for all of the holidays.

I don't think I could wear a water buffalo on a T shirt now
Again with the Power Stance. Heh. My (other) Grandmother, the amateur photographer, had just gotten a new, faster lens. We spent all morning with me posing on--and jumping off--driftwood so she could practice "action" shots. She brought me that T-shirt back from Manila (probably already 2 years old from the look of the fit)... I wore it until it was scandalous.

At the Enchanted Forest
It is not easy being a glamourous super model before you are even in kindergarten. This is in front of the "Crooked House" at the Enchanted Forest.* Last time I was there, I was in high school and on copious amounts of hallucinogens. I remember my girlfriends and I sat down in the crooked house to smoke some cigarettes and calm down, until we were chased out by outraged parents.

**********

And lastly, when life gives you lemons... feed them to a baby.



[This one has been passed around more than... ok, I can't think of a metaphor that isn't offensive. But, A LOT. I think this version is from College Humor, but I found it via Stitch.]

*Here's the official site for the Enchanted Forest, and Tina and Chris Pfeiffer have some great pics of the place HERE.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tropical T -- Finished

Here it is...

Tropical (Barney) T

Pattern: Oat Couture Tropical Tee
Yarn: Cascade Sierra
Ravelry Link: Tropical Tee

Mods
Not a one.

What I liked best
Easy peasy knit. And the dolman sleeves actually work.

What I would do differently
Um. Knit a WAY smaller size.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Last bike workout of EVER (if I want)

Though not the last time I have to ride it... I will do a mini brick on Saturday before the tri on Sunday, but then I can hang this bitch up til Hell freezes over, if my cold, black heart desires. My bike coach tells me that after 6 months of running (I start half-marathon training in three weeks) that I may be really excited about getting on a bike in the spring. I will believe it when I see it.

Today's Horoscope:
Cross-purposes, crossed wires, and conflicting energies may have left you drained of late, but realignment is now underway that will allow you to get back in tune with things. You will find yourself better able to take charge of your daily routine and let it energize you rather than drag you down. Experimentation with various alternatives now leads to the choice of a single path that both conserves your inner resources and brings you dividends in the process. Put aside time-wasting diversions and go with what -- and who -- really make you feel alive and glowing.

Thank you again, Universe, you are coming in loud and clear. I am working on it.

So here is the giant T-shirt. Opinions, please. I could throw it in the washer on hot and see what happens.

giant barney sweater
[I'll clean that room up... let's say "tomorrow."]

OR I could throw a white patent leather belt around my waist and get some scrunchy leather ankle boots...

giant 80s barney sweater
[I know you wish you had my silver-plated brass knuckles belt buckle.]

OR I just knit my mom a real nice present. What say you?

I will weave the ends in tonight while I watch crap TV and post the official FO tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Closing in on another FO

Quelle Horreuer!

So here's the Tropical T as of five minutes ago:

Barney

It would appear to be approximately 1438 inches across the chest.

OK, I'll measure to be certain.

Um. 25.25" ACROSS.

sigh.

I am hoping that it has a sort of retro, giant shaker sweater look about it when I am done. Otherwise, it might fit my mom.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Not-so-manic Monday

I woke up before the alarm went off today. That is the second time that's happened since last Wednesday. It's the strangest thing. I couldn't drag my sorry ass out of bed for nothing before this happened.

Don't get me wrong, I didn't pop up and start being productive or anything. I lay there for a minute, and tried to decide if I wanted to go back to sleep (I didn't) then I wandered into the craft/office room to the computer. There was still some signing up to do related to the roster of classes I am taking in the next couple of months... And some chatting I was hoping to get in with a friend of mine who is far away.

Somehow I managed to make a healthy breakfast, get some yapping done AND make it to yoga class by noon. Before anyone says anything, I am practicing compassion regarding my time management. (I mean, come ON. NOON?)

Today's question, therefore, is: How long do I get to say that I am still recovering? I have heard "a couple weeks" from several folks. I have applied for unemployment (thanks, Lara) but am nowhere nearer to deciding what I want to do with the next third of my life. It is harder than I would have thought to "do nothing" even though there is a certain guilty pleasure about it.

The community college that I will be (re)attending in a couple of weeks offers a teacher certification program. I noticed it when I was flipping through pages looking for inspiration. Then tonight at running, Theresa (a teacher) said, "They need math and science teachers". And then proceeded to explain how EASY and FAST it would be. Now, I hate math... but science! I am a total science groupie! Especially geology, astronomy, and botany. Exploding stuff in test tubes? Wicked! There are even science experiments that one can do with yarn!

Well then, science teacher? This intrigues me a little. I know teachers are paid next to nothing and are criminally underappreciated, so I am not sure I could take the abuse. But maybe. Anyway, it's on the list. The program starts in January, so I can muddle over it for a bit more. Anyone have thoughts on teaching, science, or hating math?

Also knitting is progressing, but it is progressing with puzzling SLOWNESS. I sort of feel like I should be half way through the stash with all this free time... I have to remind myself that I have a lot of shit going on, even without work busting up the better part of the day.

Thank you so much to everyone who has been reading and has offered me words of wisdom, support, and kindness. I get the comments via email om my phone; please know that you all have been lifting my spirit all day every day.

Oof. This whole post was totally just a stream-of-consciousness ramble... I am hoping that the writing will get more coherent when my brain feels less disorderly.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday

I missed another workout. This last triathlon will be tough, with me become a scaredy-lazy cat. At least it's the last one! Weeks ago, I gave myself permission to never do another tri if I don't want to, as long as I do this one.

I did go to my yoga class, and it was tough--I had to sit several poses out. I have been eating and drinking like shit these last couple of days, and it showed. When I later bought groceries, I made sure to get lots of fruits and veggies... This week I am going to try to turn around a bit.

Breakfast of Champions
[The Breakfast of Champions does in fact include fruit. And liqueur.]

Lunch of Champions
[Sangria, the Lunch of Champions, gives some of the daily recommendation of Vitamin C.]

Today I decided on some classes I would like to take, to make me a bit more marketable and also get me doing some of the things I seem to think I want to do (like write). One of the classes is already full, but I am going to try to talk them into letting ONE more student in to the online version. Cross your fingers for me.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

only slightly more productive

I went out last night, and so I missed my workout today. I was much less broken-hearted about it than I expected. I did a lot of knitting and scanned in some pics for a late flashback Friday.

I like to call these two "Pre-glamour shots."

For Breedx
[Junior high birthday party in my parents' basement. God, how jealous was I of Lori's perfectly sprayed, spiked, and sun-inned hair?]

Claire and I
[My once-upon-a-time best friend and I making our favorite faces in about the 5th or 6th grade. You can't see it, but I am wearing a HUGELY oversized button-down shirt over stirrup pants. It has a giant watch printed on one side of it. I am totally rolling my eyes at my past self.]

After all the fun in the photo albums, some friends took me out to a late lunch. Then I came home and screwed around a bit, then went with same friends to see Dark Knight. I dug it, no big surprise there. I feel better today, but so incredibly unmotivated. I am hoping this too shall pass.

I am meanwhile making brilliant progress on the Tropical T and have the Guitar Strap all vetted for the leather men to sew up.

Friday, August 15, 2008

...

Things I was going to do today
  • Get up early and go run the trail
  • Go to a yoga class
  • Scan some pics for Flashback Friday
  • Plan a much needed vacation
  • Knit the rest of the front on my Tropical T
  • Go grocery shopping
What I did today

Bedridden
[earlier]

Still here
[later]

I also cried a lot.

Everyone has had such positive wonderful advice, and at knitting last night I heard a dozen stories about the best layoffs ever. But today, it is hard. I feel very undesirable. As an employee, as a woman... It's not just the job thing, but that's all I will write about. There are a multitude of unpleasant conversations going on in my world right now, and today... I couldn't face any of it with any level of maturity or composure.

Maybe tomorrow.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Eleven years

Reduced to four boxes. And a severance agreement.

This is what 11 years on the job looks like.

I am reeling. And sick to my stomach. And so angry. And pretty freaked out.

Let this be a lesson to be careful what you wish for: there's all the time in the world to knit now.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Another FO: Socks

Steve's Socks were finished last night. Ends woven in and everything! I hope they fit him well...

finished socks!

Pattern: Basic toe-up sock (64 stitches, figure 8 toe, and a short-row heel)
Fiber: Regia Bamboo Color (in the creatively named color "1063")
Ravelry link: Steve's Blue Socks

Notes:
Not much to say about this standard pattern of mine. It is the only thing (besides a scarf) that I can knit without needing notes or a pattern. The fabric is lovely, the bamboo giving just a bit of shine and smoothness. They drape well enough to wear as sort of "fancy socks" but the marled texture may be too rustic... Anyway, they should keep his feet warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

So far the Ravelympics have been good encouragement... but there is still that damn blanket out there! How many days do I have left?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

First (mostly mostly) Olympic FO!

I finished (but for the weaving in of the ends, but it was 2 in the morning... I couldn't bear it) my Blizzard wrap last night! I crocheted all the way through Howl's Moving Castle (loved it! loved it!) and Muhammed Ali: Made in Miami (also very good) and Nancy Pelosi on Tavis Smiley (both on PBS).

Blizzard shawl - wrapped up
[wrapped up... there will be a wingspan shot once the ends are woven]

Pattern: Blizzard from Scarf Style by Pam Allen
Fiber: Rowan Polar in Winter White (discontinued)
Ravelry link: Blizzard

Blizzard shawl
[I didn't measure it, but I would guesstimate that the width is about 30" and the length (unstretched) is about 65-70"]

Mods: Only mod was the yarn. The Polar is slightly smaller gauge than the called for fiber (its a Reynold's, I believe) so I knew the width would be a bit smaller. The posts I read online said the thing was GINORMOUS, so I figured I could sacrifice a few inches of width and still be happy with it. The stitch pattern and lofty yarn stretch like crazy, so the length (and width) are sort of situational. I think that with it draped around me, it easily comes close to the pattern length of 79".

Blizzard shawl - stitch detail

What I loved
The fiber is dreamy to work with... I am bummed out that Rowan cancelled it. Also, once I sat down to it for more than 15 minutes a month, the pattern was easy to memorize and quick to work. The FO is soft and warm and makes me wish it were Fall so I could wrap it around my nightgowned self and have coffee on a balcony in Brooklyn while I read the paper and nibble a scone. This is definitely a "comfort wrap"... Not one I could see wearing out of the house.

I am not sure if I gave myself the home only limitation because the pics in the book have it wrapped around a nightgowned model like a bohemian robe/throw or if it is the logical use for something shaped this way... but in any case, it will probably live over the back of a chair in my livingroom.

What I would do differently
Work it faster! My gauge changed a bit from... oh, a YEAR AGO, so one end is a bit wider than the other. I compensated for most of this by reducing the stitches in the edging rows on that end. The resulting fabric is so drapey and stretchy that you can't tell, but I know it. I also might reconsider the decision to make such a soft garment out of a handwash-only white fiber, but I'll worry about that once its full of scone crumbs and coffee stains.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Human Race

I will be running in the Human Race in Austin on August 31st. Hopefully I can actually run much of the race, but it should be pretty hot and miserable so I am going to be compassionate with myself about it.

My charity is the UN Refugee Agency campaign ninemillion.org Their goal is to provide the nine million children living in refugee camps around the world a better education by 2010.

If you are interested in donating to ninemillion via my race effort you can do so here.*

*Full disclosure: I am also doing a crazy ass event in September to raise money for prostate cancer research, so you will hear one more pledge request from me this year.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Four steps to a great cup of tea

Did you know that there are tea blogs out there just like there are knitting blogs? I don't know why this cracks me up... Probably because I am picturing somewhere right now in the whole wide universe, there is a tea blogger discovering a knit blog and thinking the same thing.

The tea I brewed today is called Umegashima Sencha. I got a bit of it on my whirlwind and fantastic trip to NYC from a tea shop and restaurant near Central Park called Kai. We had originally planned to have dinner there, but decided on a delicious Indonisian spread instead. After our visit to the Natural History Museum we were in the neighborhood, so we stopped in to buy some ready made cold tea and some souvenir teas for me to bring home.

I will readily admit that I know next to nothing about proper brewing and protocols. I just did what the nice lady at the tea shop told me to do.

Step 1: Bring water to an almost boil. If it starts to boil accidentally, let it cool off before pouring over the leaves.

step 1: heat water

Step 2: Measure out the tea. (I didn't do this at all, I just dumped some out. This is akin to knitting without a swatch on the Tea Blogs.) The sencha is dark green and needly. It has a strong green/moss/pine smell--to my unschooled nose.

step 2: measure out tea

Step 3: Steep the tea. I have this lovely little tea-for-one set and brewed my sencha for about a minute and a half (as per instructions).

step 3: steep

Step 4: Sip and enjoy. This tea has a very strong flavor that gets bitter with just the slightest over brew. It also seems to have a lot of caffeine, cause I feel like I did an espresso shot after I sip a cup.

step 4: strain and drink

(I don't use a strainer; I pour and sip slowly enough that I can avoid the odd leaf or two. Plus then there is no metally taste or lil canvas bag to wash out.)

How is everyone's Olympics going?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Spotlight on WIPs: three from Maryland

The next three WIPs were all started in the salon of my favorite LYS in the DC metro.

Woolwinders.


Here are two of my favorite Woolwinder people: Jacqui and Karina
[photo by: Kim Werker. I hope she doesn't mind me using it]

The first WIP was started AGES ago when Woolwinders was having a sale. I bought all of the Winter White Polar that Jacqui had left. I envisioned maybe a soft, fluffy cardigan or something. But then, I moved to Texas.

So much of my knitting strategy and long term plans had to be reconsidered when I did that. Now, I have been daydreaming about Brooklyn... Maybe I will get to use all that wool someday after all.

After living here for a bit, I decided that I still wanted to do something warm and comforting with the yarn, and fell in love with the Blizzard pattern (Ravelry link) from Scarf Style by Pam Allen.

WIP: blizzard wrap

Since it IS Texas, I haven't really put a rush on this thing, but it would be nice to check it off the list.

The next two projects were started on the same business trip to the DC area. I went into Woolwinders thinking I wasn't going to get anything, and walked out with enough yarn for a cotton t-shirt and a cotton/silk blend lace vest.

The vest is a White Lies design: The Secret Garden. I fell in love with two different yarns, the Ella Rae Shibu and RYC Silk Aran... I bought all Jacqui had of each and crossed my fingers.

WIP: secret garden vest
I love the stripes and will be adding a hook and eye closure to the front. I don't trust buttons with this feather and fan style lace.

The T-shirt is the o-so-easy Tropical Tee from Oat Couture in Cascade Sierra. I bought this yarn because the raspberry/wine color made my mouth water.

This thing is so easy, its mind-numbing. I just want it finished in time to possibly wear during the summer. I am really hoping that it doesn't turn out way too big... I am afraid to look at the measurements in case I made a giant size way back when.

WIP: tropical t
I still love this berry berry color the MOST.

Thanks for all the cool yarn, Jacqui! I hope I get to see you and Karina and Marietta again soon...

Friday, August 08, 2008

Spotlight on WIPs: two gifts (part 2)

My second gift WIP is technically for a guy named David. I only met him once, for about an hour... Normally you and I would have to be pretty tight for me to make you something, but in David's case I made an exception.

I made the exception because of this guy:
american gothic take 4

Scott and I became friends on myspace just before I left the DC area. We never met in real life and then I was suddenly in Texas... So our friendship consisted of swapping music and goofy myspace comic comments. He has what I can only call near perfect taste in music. Good music is traditionally a weakness of mine.

After I had been in Austin for a bit, I started making frequent trips back to DC for work. On one of those trips I messaged him to say I was coming, and he told me where he was tending bar and we made a plan for Lara and I to stop by for a drink.

We totally did not. We sat at Barnes and Noble at Montrose Crossing that night until they kicked our asses out. Knitting. Gabbing. It was the best.

I think part of the reason I didn't go was that I was having trouble in my ill-fated relationship at the time and it didn't seem appropriate or prudent to go meet up with some GUY so far from home. Even if we hadn't ever really flirted... I mean, who knows what could happen if I were a million miles from my cheating boyfriend and this big strong bartender with a VERY SEXY music collection and these eyes sweeps me off my feet? But also, I didn't go 'cause I wanted to sit and knit with Lara.

Fast forward to last April. There is no more cheating boyfriend and no reason why Scott and I shouldn't meet up for drinks. We did, and within 10 minutes we had swapped headphones and were peeking into each others' iPods at the bar.

"You have to hear this one."
"Ok, while I do, you listen to this."
"Have you heard of The Apparitions?"
"Wait'll you hear this Tim Fite track."

It was a fabulous Dork Fest. Later, we would get so wasted that all I could apparently say over and over (over a game of pool) was "God. I am SO wasted." That boy drank my ass well under the table. The next day at work was ROUGH.

Later that week he urged me to come down to his office, the excellent Iota club and cafe in Arlington, and check out a couple of bands MUCH TO LARA'S CHAGRIN. That trip, I was so hungover... twice? that I blew her off. (I knew I was gonna get to see her in a couple DAYS at MDS&W but I know, its not the point, hos before bros and all that... whatEVER Lara, you know you are my best friend in DC even if you live in NY.)

Anyway. I had to go. (See also: those blue eyes!) I saw two bands that night: David Shultz and the Skyline and Langhorne Slim.

David Shultz & the Skyline at IOTA

David Shultz & the Skyline at IOTA
[David Shultz and the Skyline @ the IOTA club and cafe]

Both bands were great, but David and his boys were really great. Scott especially digs their music and champions them when he can. He asked me if I wanted to buy a CD after the set, and David came over to sell it to me. We started talking... I can't remember if Scott said I was a knitter or if I did. David says, "Oh yeah, can you knit me a guitar strap?" Well, it just so happens that I have a published pattern for a crocheted guitar strap, I said. We struck up a slightly drunken deal (I say slightly because I was sober and he was drunk) whereby I would make him a guitar strap and he would paint me a painting.

I think when we started talking about it I was just trying to impress Scott. But when I asked David what color he wanted the strap to be, he said, "The color of the Kansas sunset as seen through a rearview mirror driving down the highway." (Or something close to that.)

Such a romantic, that one! Who could pass up a poetic challenge like that?

David's Guitar Strap

I came home and found the above three colors (Araucania Ulmo) in a nice sturdy cotton. Then I searched high and low until I scored a good guitar strap kit of notions.

David's Guitar Strap

On a subsequent trip I showed the WIP to Scott and he said it did indeed look like a Kansas sunset. I will have to leave it to David's artistic nature to put it into a rearview mirror or not.

It is now months later, the fiber part of the strap is complete. All I need to do is sew those leather end pieces on and assemble the slide and stop. Since the ends are leather, this requires some fancy equipment that I don't own (hence it's "lingering" status). Now that it is in my WIPs Wrestling queue, I am finally going to have to call some sewing spots or possibly a shoe repair place.

While the strap is a gift for David, I think I am really making this thing for Scott. He has given me some of the most beautiful, moving, hilarious, and just spot on music... We are some kind of kindred spirits he and I, and I am very glad to not only have made his acquaintance but also to have shared more than a few moments (drunk and otherwise) with him.

Drunk and Drunker

Lately, the work budget is in the tank and there are no trips planned to DC. I have to be content with the many compilations he has given me and the occasional note about who's playing -- but it isn't the same as being there. Scott is surly, sullen, and if you ask him, only tolerable when he's well in his cups. He is about as Southern as a man can be. (I hope he gets home to Alabama soon.) He is also a great cook, a talented writer, and a romantic despite his cynicism. I miss him.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Spotlight on WIPs: two gifts (part 1)

You know how they do the little "human interest stories" about the Olympic athletes? It's because they are hoping you'll root for them even MORE once you know they are from your home state/have a mom like yours/recovered from an illness like your cousin. Well, none of my WIPs Wrestling projects have such dramatic stories, but they do each have a story. Two of my Ravelympic WIPs are gifts, and I am going to tell you their stories first.

Today, I am hoping to get you rooting for a pair of socks. (More likely, I am going to get ME motivated enough to finish these two presents, but let's not quibble over something as petty as motivation.) Tomorrow I will try to get a cheer going for a guitar strap.

First up, Steve's Socks

"Steve's Socks" were born on a business trip to Seattle. On that trip, I got to hang out with two good friends, which was stellar, AND see some of the sights in a city that is slowly carving out a spot in my cold, black heart.

Steve's socks

I have known Steve since my senior year of highschool. He was my prom date and my first love.

prom

We fell out of touch for a very long time, but in the last two years have become better friends than we ever were back then.

dressed_for_dinner

I visited him in Portland, OR a while back, and started a pair of socks for him out of Opal's zebra print... But, um. I kept them. If you saw me at MDS&W this year, you may have seen them.

Suited up for the Fest

We don't get to see eachother that often, but when we do, we have a great time. Last March, he drove up from Portland so we could hang out for a bit. Some highlights:


Exploding cars, Seattle Art Museum
[Exploding car sculpture at the Seattle Art Museum]

I did not see Bruce Springsteen in Seattle
[We did not see Bruce Springsteen]

Jenna and Steve, EMP
[Jenna and Steve at the EMP]

I promised to make him another pair of socks, but really give them to him this time. We went to Hilltop East, and he picked out this lovely Regia Bamboo in grays and blues (which reminds me of Oregon skies). They should be at least three season socks for him in that temperate climate of his. And since then they have just lingered and lingered, which is ridiculous.

Steve deserves some socks, doesn't he? Are you rooting for the socks now?

Tomorrow: Music, DC, and a crazy bartender I dig