Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bruxelles: Chocolat, Café Tricot, Chocolat, Bière et Chocolat...

Chocolate at the Chocopolis

Before shoving off for my recent trip to Belgium and France, I made darn sure to arrange a little knitting get-together with a blogger I have long adored: Sophie of More Itchy Knits. If you haven't read her blog (it's in French and English), you really need to because a. she is devilishly funny and b. she throws down some cables that mere mortals like me will only ever dream of.

Of course my non-knitting friends (a group that will be soon dwindling unless they cool it with the negative comments. Phil, I am talking to you) had to deride me/give me shit about this. "Oh Gawd, I knew you had some secret knitting agenda with this trip!". Umm, secret? Moving on.

After our presentation at the conference in Liège, Kenric (yes, the guy that now kicks my knitting ass with his entrelac skills) and I had a café liégeois (i.e. you get the whipped cream on your coffee without the humiliation of actually having to ask for it) and hopped on a train for Brussels with the aim of horning in on the Friday night café-tricot at Arthur's, a lovely little café conveniently located right across from the Luxembourg train station. As Kenric cast-on for the Koolhaas hat on the train we had a gas with our usual mix of shop talk, knitting chit-chat and general tom foolery. We made excellent time and arrived at the event without a hitch, despite a fit of nervous lip balm application just before entering (does anyone else do this?).

The group of knitters were so friendly and gave us a warm, warm welcome. Sophie and I traded little gifts--I brought her a yarn that is obviously unavailable in Europe, Brooks Farm Solo, and she gave both Kenric and I the most lovely packages of baking chocolate ever as well as a recipe, written by her with her usual sense of humor, for Belgian Truffles. How did she know that this would be so up my alley?
Café-Tricot at Arthur's in Brussels
We stayed for several hours and had a great time knitting and chatting about the current Belgian constitutional crisis (Umm hello! They don't have a government now), the tension between the Flemish and Walloon population, the intricacies of language policy in Belgium as well as knitting techniques in both countries. All in all, a really nice event that Kenric and I felt lucky to be a part of.
Beer at Delirium
We topped off our jaunt with a visit to a chocolate shop (see first picture above) and
Delerium, a world-renowned beer drinking joint that will bring out the inner frat guy like nobody's business...

Musée de Tchantchès

Once back in Liège, Kenric and I parted ways, but not for long as much to my delight he's moving to Philly later this month. I spent my final day wandering around the city, checking out the beautiful gardens and parks and doing something that I could only ever do alone as the ridicule and scorn I would face from my family would be too great for me to endure. I am of course talking about visiting a museum dedicated to marionnettes, le musée Tchantchès. I enjoyed this place so much that now even I am weirded out by myself. In any case, Liège's most famous resident is a naughty medieval fellow named Tchantchès and if you go to Liège, well you can visit his museum, too.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Taking this show on the road...

Spring Forward in STR Mediumweight 'Lovers Leap'
This Summer of Socks thing is really kind of working out for me, I have to say. I sort of can't believe that a mere 2 months ago I was forlorn sock hater. Now sock knitting seems to be my only interest. Ashley called me a '
sock machine', which is much better than being a 'sock tool', so I will accept the moniker with pride.
Spring Forward in STR Mediumweight 'Lovers Leap'
The Specs:
Pattern: Spring Forward by Linda Welch
Yarn: STR Mediumweight in 'Lovers Leap'
Needles: HiyaHiya 1.5, Magic Loop
Time: July 10-14
Spring Forward in STR Mediumweight 'Lovers Leap'
These are ever so slightly too loose, beware of potential bagginess with this pattern. But since I'm going to be getting on an airplane in several hours (translation: every single part of me will immediately start swelling), I don't think it will be too much of an issue. This pattern was fun, fun, fun to knit--very simple and easy to memorize. I seem to be on a bit of a Socks That Rock kick these days--I just love their solids so much.

Today is the day that I leave for Belgium and France for a two-week jaunt. My knitting pal Kenric and I will present a paper at a conference, attend a café-tricot Stitch N Bitch in Brussels, eat as much endive as possible, and then go our separate ways *sniff sniff*; he'll go to Switzerland with his partner, and I'll go meet a little someone in Paris whose curmudgeonly self has never left the grand ol' U S of A. That's right, the Darling Resident Marxist Curmudgeon is taking his hand-wringing show on the road and bringing his analysis to France! People, this is huge...but am I ready for the next 6 hour layover in the DTW airport, you ask?

1. Pre-departure, Duty Free Activities? Check! (Just browsing people, for real).

2. Super-special, one-of-a-kind, kick ass camera strap? Check! Scored this one from Caro, isn't is fantastic?

3. Really complicated, overly ambitious Tour de France kal knitting project? Check! (But who am I kidding, any project with a chart is so not happening once I hit the friendly skies...)

4. A much more realistic, doable knitting project? Check! Better start getting the lead out on these, I'm seeing the recipient next week!

5. Totally awesome, très retro handbag that the Tween Thing said made me look "
sorry"? Check! Thanks Babe, right back atcha! I can embarrass you even when you are thousands of miles away...

6. Super-sweet in-flight entertainment? Check! I feel that having gelatin-based candies with one at all times just makes good sense. What, You don't travel with a bag of candy?

So you can see that I am well equipped and completely prepared for my journey. And despite the cankles that I will no doubt be sporting by the time in touch down in Charles de Gaulle airport, I am really excited! See you folks on the other side...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Perverse Sock Menagerie

Recently my approach to sock knitting has been similar to the way in which many sketchy guys must surely deal with their dirty mag collections: I've got socks stashed everywhere! They're on the breakfast table, the front porch and even in the bathroom. For example, when I leave my Yarrow Ribbed socks in the kitchen because I need to get an aspirin in the medicine cabinet, well I have a Jaywalker right there on top of the stack of unread New Yorkers and Nation magazines simply begging to be worked on, just one or two rows, quickly, before anyone sees me. Distraction then leads me to the porch for the umpteenth time to check if the mail has arrived, and Allez hop! It's my Canal du Midi sock, why not sneak in a few rows when no one is around? If these socks were, let's say copies of Nugget magazine, I'd be in a heap o' trouble! But luckily they're just socks, so there is no harm in my actions.
Pride RPM

And happily I have one less sock to kick around this perverse sock menagerie, as the RPMs are way, way done. The pattern is a breeze; thoroughly memorizable and super-quick. It did what I needed it to do, which is to say that it didn't pool. Of all the different Socks That Rock yarns, my absolute favorite is the Mediumweight, as it knits up quickly and is springy-sproingy to work with. I have already extolled the virtues of this particular color way, 'Pride'. It's queer-ific in every smallest detail! It also has the added benefit of perfectly mimicking Play-Doh colors...
Pride RPM
The Specs
Pattern: RPM from Knitty Summer 06
Yarn: STR Mediumweight in Pride
Needles: HiyaHiya 1.5, Magic Loop
Pride RPM
As much as I loved the maniacal nature of these socks, I must admit that my eyes are relieved to be working on my next pair, Nancy Bush's Yarrow Ribbed socks in a soothing solid, STR Lightweight, 'In the Navy'. I love the simplicity of these socks, but what a difference there is between the lightweight and mediumweight... I am appreciating the color of the yarn, yet my hands are wishing for the weightier, beefed-up iteration that the mediumweight presents as I can tell already that these socks are of the 'I knit on these during an entire movie and only did and inch' variety.
Yarrow Ribbed Sock in STR Lightweight, 'In the Navy'
PSA Time: Take a moment to visit Earthchick's blog and read about a special anniversary she is celebrating. I remember reading about her little one's chilling near fatality last summer, and am glad to be reminded (for safety reasons) about it. She is having a raffle with amazing prizes!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Airport Emotional Breakdown, and a pair of socks

Off to Ireland for a month...
On Monday the junior units left for Dublin. Once there they will do all sorts of amazing things like attend a party celebrating their parents' marriage and the birth of their tiny, adorable sister, go horseback riding in the West of Ireland, attend the Oxegen festival, and other quieter things like get used to daily life within a new step-family and feel what it's like to live in another country for an extended period of time. It goes without saying that I am over the moon for them: their dad and his wife are great people who will take good care of them and show them a special time. These are two lucky, lucky girls. . . And yet my excitement for their trip didn't prevent me from TOTALLY LOSING IT at the airport. The waterworks were touched off by an Aer Lingus employee gently asking if "this was the first time they had traveled without their mom". And even though it wasn't, an overwhelming feeling of bereftness came over me. The sobbing was uncontrollable and almost verged on the hysterical. My older daughter was, as expected, humiliated and pointed out to me that "everyone is staring at you", which wasn't really the case. The airport is perhaps the one place (besides a hospital) where crying is completely sanctioned and understood by all. There were many, many others in my situation.
Hedgerow Socks: Jitterbug, 'VIncent's Apron'
Luckily before my sock models departed I had one last opportunity for a photo shoot. These are the Hedgerow socks, a project I originally envisioned doing last spring but only got around to recently. The pattern lends itself to easy memorization, so after a few rows you can really go to town on these. I am particularly fond of the heel, and toe might be my new gold standard.
Hedgerow Heel: JItterbug 'Vincent's Apron'
The Specs:
Pattern: Hedgerow Socks by Jane Cochran
Yarn: Colinette Jitterbug, 'Vincent's Apron'
Needles: Hiya Hiya 1.5 circ, magic loop
Mods: None whatsoever. I'm not that smart.
Hedgerow Socks: Jitterbug, 'VIncent's Apron'
Many have complained about the skimpy yardage of the Colinette Jitterbug, and while I have never run out, this was the first project where it was absolutely touch and go for the final toe of the second sock. In the end I had enough with maybe 7 yards to spare, but I came close enough to running out that I now understand the griping about the Jitterbug yardage. I am especially relieved to not have run out as 'Vincent's Apron' seems to be one of the harder colorways to come by. Despite this potential yardage shortcoming, in my mind Jitterbug is more than rescued by the unbelievable panoply of exciting colors this yarn comes in.