Saturday, December 20, 2008

Adventures in Sockworld

Every sock I have knitted so far has been the same basic pattern - cuff down. Start with the leg, work down, turn the heel, do the gusset and foot, Kitchener stitch the toe. Five double pointed needles.

My lovely sister bought me Cat Bordhi's Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles last year. The first pair, of course, I knitted for her. They were Columbine Peaks, on two circular needs, and I fell in love with that technique. A pair of plain black garter rib socks for you-know-who was done using the same technique.

Toe up socks have been a bit of a mystery, so I decided to knit Cat's Cable Top pattern, using some blue/grey/white bamboo yarn. What an adventure! The brilliance of knitters is never ending. There have been so many new techniques to learn, with the help of Cat's book and her videos on Youtube. Youtube replaces the skilled granny or auntie in transferring knitting skills.

First was the cast on. I learned how to cast on from my mother - long tail, thumb method, and that's how I always did it. Recently while knitting tams I branched out into the tubular cast on, which is wonderful, but not appropriate for toe-up socks. A quick search revealed Judy Becker's Magic Cast On. Absolutely gobsmackingly amazing. When it worked I called the Man of the House over to ooh and aah.

Then came the toe. This is Cat Bordhi's Turned Toe, which does a kind of heel turn on either side, forming what she calls 'a sleek parking garage for your toes.' Because I am new to all this I have done exactly as she instructs, even though I have my doubts about the size of only 48 stitches around my foot (I usually go for 72). The toe is easy and very inventive, and seems to fit (this is one of the joys of a) toe-up, and b) twin circulars - you can try on as you go.) The toe seems a little pointy, but when it is on it seems fine. The size seems OK, perhaps a little snug.

Onwards around the foot, and then to the gusset. Don't know about you but I hate picking up stitches. I don't know why that is, I just do. So this seemed good -instead of decreasing then picking up, you just increase for the gusset on one of the needles.

Next came the heel turn. I have never done wrap and turn short rows, and this too was a revelation. Cat's videos once more were played over and over, with BabyNetbook on my lap and knitting in hands. This is a fascinating and beautiful process, resulting in miraculous shaped knitting, just right for one's heel. Amazing.

It isn't over yet. I have never done i-cord, and the tops of these socks have a cuff edge of two i-cords twisted and knitted on. I am looking forward to it.

From this one sock I have learned a new and wonderful cast on, wrap and turn short rows, and more. I am definitely a recent convert to knitting on twin circulars.

Photos will be posted when sock 1 is complete. The way it is going, it won't be long.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

This week targetting....

Maggie Alderson is a terrific writer and I turn to her Saturday Good Weekend column as soon as I can. A few weeks ago she wrote about the police signs you see on our roads - This Week Targetting...SPEEDING, or SEAT BELTS, or DRINK DRIVING. She wrote about personal grooming. This week targetting... FLOSSING, or CRACKED HEELS.

This has become a mantra in this house now. This week I am targetting ....USING UP ALL THOSE LITTLE BOTTLES OF MOISTURISER YOU GET WHEN YOU FLY BUSINESS CLASS. Business class is wonderful (there is no going back now I have enough points to upgrade), but what to do with those little goodie bags? I have bottles of moisturiser and tiny tubes of toothpaste and sockies galore, saved for years. This week I have chucked all the socks, put the tubes of toothpaste in the cupboard to use them, and am working my way through the little bottles of moisturiser.

What am I targetting next week?

As my favourite saying from the I Ching goes, 'it furthers one to have somewhere to go.' Perhaps the I Ching wasn't really thinking about airline moisturiser, but hey, it is working for me.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"She couldn't even knit!"

Said Gordon Wood's mother, speaking of Caroline Byrne in today's Herald.

Knitting is a fine art indeed, but one suspects that her inability to knit might not have been the only reason she was thrown headfirst off the Gap.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The manhole covers

There was no shortage of manhole covers on our travels. Here is the haul:




Desert Botanic Gardens - Phoenix (OK these aren't really manhole covers, but I think they can be included here)



Phoenix and the Heard Museum

We are home now, and it is too easy to let the trip record slide. There are a couple of days left though, and a couple of wrapup posts to make.

Our last day in Phoenix was a travel day, but that wasn't until the evening. We reviewed options, and decided on a visit to the Heard Museum. After packing and re-packing, and after breakfast (the Holiday Inn Express throws in a good free breakfast, but the coffee is the usual US execrable weak brown water) we set out. Michael suspected there might be beads, and indeed there were. There was a terrific exhibition called Home, which was all about home crafts of the Indians. Rug weaving, beads, jewellery, and magnificent basket weaving. Of course the beads always interest me, but I can see how the basket weaving could become a passion. Such fineness, detail, design. There was a magnificent display of Katsina dolls, too much to take in. I took issue with a display of some fine knitting - one completed legging and the other in progress. The sign said they were being knitted on sewing needles, but a) I did not see any eye for threading yarn, b) their points were not sharp enough to be sewing needles, unless for leather, and c) they looked exactly like my fine steel double-pointed needles. Hmmm.

There was another section which reminded us very much of the Smithsonian Indian Museum. Lots of very little, quite similar, and very wordy displays for each individual tribe. I can just see all the politics involved in these displays. The message is often one of harmony and love for the earth and the sense of solidarity with people, but this fragmentation into tribes is also a message of Us vs. Them.

We had a coffee, and Michael was terribly disappointed to find that there was only one variety of coffee - regular. No espresso. The usual pale weak brown water.

The shop was fantastic, but we are just retailed out. Not that we've bought much in the way of souvies, but we have learned from past experience that what looks good in the US southwest does not look good in a little terrace house in Sydney. The style just jangles. And because my mother is from New Mexico, I really do have enough in the way of silver/turquoise jewellery.

After the Heard Museum we set out in the car without a clear plan. We kind of had a mall in mind, with a food court for lunch, but didn't have any of our usual reference material. All the brochures had been packed or ditched. So we drove around and around, ending up in Glendale. It seemed utterly deserted. Although we found a kind of historic area with shops, there was not a soul to be seen. Could be because it was in the high nineties out there, with a merciless sun. A moment to note: we passed the Bead Museum, and I passed it without a flicker of interest. Yes, bead point has been passed.

We found a Visitor Centre, which was manned, and got some directions. We found ourselves at the Desert Sky Mall and had some lunch from the Mexican place. Tamales for me, my favourite.

We were now in travel mode, so took the rental car back to the airport and started the long process of getting home.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Phoenix, and the Desert Botanic Gardens

The sun shines brightly here in Phoenix, and it has been in the mid-90s (F) so an early start was in order. It is easy to understand why people from colder climates want to retire here. It wouldn't be for me. The constant hard bright sun would drive me berserk after a bit. The flat arid terrain, coupled with the total dominance of the car also does not appeal. There are no pedestrians, the place seems dead, apart from the cars on the roads. Looking at the suburbs it would be impossible to do anything without a car. Contrasting this with the arcology concept of close living, and the way we live in dense inner city Sydney, it seems sterile and terribly artificial. I guess if you went to one of the many churches you would have a social life!

The Desert Botanic Gardens were wonderful, and very different. I spent a lot of time fiddling with my camera settings, learning about RAW vs JPG and all the various options for aperture and speed. It was lots of fun, and I enjoyed taking closeups as well as vistas.

The suguaro cacti are enormous and varied. Here is Michael wearing his Arcosanti t-shirt to give perspective:

The morning light made for some nice views of spiny plants:

A little bird provided his silhouette:

and I enjoyed taking some closeups:

Naturally there were vistas, and I couldn't resist. Especially the one with the sign, where there was a very handy stand for your camera. The timer setting can be very useful!

Prescott to Phoenix, Tuesday 28th October.

A travel day, and a few odds and ends to deal with. We drove from Prescott to Phoenix, which didn't take very long. The zip on Michael's leather bag had sprung, so I'd found a luggage repair place on the web, and used our GST navigator (Uhura) to get us there. How did we manage before the web and navigators? The guys at Cobblestone said they could repair the bag by the next day, and were very affable. Across the street was a Dillard's, our favourite department store. We went over for some retail experience. I always buy bras at Dillards. The service from Jill and the range was terrific, so I bought four. Michael likes a particular brand of shirt, in a hard-to-find size, and found one there. The salesman had the most amazing comb-over hair I have ever seen.

One of the things on the Phoenix agenda was to visit Utopia Street and Utopia Estate. Uhura got us there. Utopia in Phoenix is trailer homes, an estate for the over 55s. We took photos, of course.

Returned to the hotel for another hot tub experience for me, followed by a review of possible activities for the next day. We contemplated a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West. This would have been interesting, particularly as Paolo Soleri had spent some time there and learned a lot from Wright, but it was an expensive and extensive tour for which we didn't quite have enough enthusiasm. We are completely vista-ed out, so I suggested perhaps some botanical interest with the Desert Botanic Gardens. That's the plan.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Are we in Sim City?

Those of us who spent far too many hours playing Sim City 2000 will be familiar with the term Arcology. Arcologies were these huge self contained structures with thousands of unseen inhabitants. Some were pleasant looking with greenery, others seemed dark and sinister.

We wondered at the time where the term came from. Now we know. It was coined by Paolo Soleri, a combination of ARChitecture and eCOLOGY. Soleri is an architect and visionary, and his vision is partly realised here in Arizona, in Arcosanti. We visited today, and it is why we are in nearby Prescott.

Arcosanti is out in the arid desert, and his book (purchased at the gallery) says that this is part of the plan. If you can do your living in the arid areas and keep the productive land for producing, this is a better way.

About 75 people live there, and the site funds itself through sales of its cast bronze and ceramic wind bells designed by Soleri. They are indeed beautiful. We went on a tour and saw the innovative architecture. What was most impressive was the way the work spaces are largely open, huge apses, oriented to make best use of sun and shade according to the seasons.

We went on the short tour, given my an almost uninterested young man with multiple piercings. His most enthusiastic comments concerned the very modern swimming pool. He pointed off into the distance at the vegetable gardens, and announced with pride that he didn't eat vegetables. (I class this comment in the same category as those who for some reason take pride in announcing that they don't read fiction. Let's reject Shakespeare and Dickens, shall we?)

We went expecting some earnestness and ideology. There was none of that.

It was very Italianate, with cypresses and olive trees. Soleri is Italian and this obviously reflects his culture.

The aim was to have five thousand residents.

The philosophy behind it is very compelling, and the book makes very interesting reading. I can't help thinking that where I live offers some of the advantages proposed by this architecture. The dense inner city offers community, resources such as libraries and hospitals and schools, restaurants (akin to communal kitchens?) yet privacy, all within walking distance, no reliance on the demon automobile. It is certainly a far cry from suburbia and its sprawl totally dependent on the car.

You certainly need a car to get to Arcosanti though! It is in the middle of the desert.

A selection of the windbells which are everywhere, and which form the business basis of the community:

The ceramics apse

The large community apse, where community meetings are held:

Living quarters, and some of the infrastructure spaces such as library and archives:

They even have their own manhole covers, presumably cast in their own foundry:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Where is our pedometer?

Those of you who read of our adventures in Greece this time last year will remember our obsession with the pedometer and achieving more and more steps each day. So where is the pedometer this time?

It is here, safely packed away. I would be too embarrassed to record the few pitiful steps we take each day. This is the USA, not Greece. We don't walk anywhere here. If we can't park outside the front door, we go somewhere else. Today we went to a mall, and it was pretty spread out, so we drove through the parking lot from one store to another. In Grand Canyon we drove across the street to the restaurant and the coffeeshop. It is sad, really, but somehow the environment just isn't conducive to walking anywhere.

I shudder to think what the scales will make of all this.

Grand Canyon to Prescott, Arizona

Another travel day today. From Grand Canyon we drove through Sedona and Jerome to Prescott. I did all the driving - it wasn't that much of it, and it was through utterly spectacular scenery. We had one or two stops, so there aren't too many pictures.

Sedona features wonderful red rock formations. Jerome is an old copper mining town built on a mountainside, and it is very picturesque indeed. The drive took us through forests and by the side of a river, with trees in their autumn colours. We drove on State Highway 89A which goes over Mingus Mountain on a very precipitous route with lots of switchbacks.

I enjoy using spas and pools in the various hotels, if they are available. Often I am the only one there, but last night at Grand Canyon there were several people - tattooed pierced Okies (described as such by them, from Oklahoma.) There was the usual exchange of 'where are you from'- Grand Canyon is like a United Nations. One of the young men recommended Sedona, so that's why we went. I asked one woman where she was from - 'Arizona, unfortunately.'was her response. I was a bit taken aback, and said I thought Arizona was pretty damned impressive. So much natural beauty. I asked her where she would rather live. In my mind I wondered - Japan? Australia? Scotland? Bali? She responded "Colorado." I had to laugh. What is to choose? Now when we see fabulous sights, like the red rocks of Sedona, we remark to each other that it isn't as good as Colorado.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Monument Valley to Kayenta and then Grand Canyon

Man, one's shoes get dusty tromping around in the desert!

We'd gone to the Trading Post at Gouldings and bought some lovely things, gifts for ourselves and others, then to the Grocery store for dinner supplies. I made fresh sweetcorn (white) with some of the butter left over from the baked potato from the night before (how many meals does that make out of those leftovers?) plus some corn tortillas sandwiched with pastrami and cheese, buttered on the outside and pan fried. Pretty good. Ice cream for dessert.

The next morning was travel day. Kayenta was definitely on the agenda and the menu. We had an apple and banana for breakfast, with huevos rancheros at the Amigo Cafe in mind. We arrived in Kayenta at about 10.15, ready to eat. Found the Amigo Cafe. Closed. Hearts and stomachs fell. It looked pretty abandoned, but the sign out the front said it would open at 10.30. We drove around a little, got some petrol, looked at a few of the sights of Kayenta.

That took five minutes. We drove around some more, then back to the cafe. It opened as scheduled at 10.30

We were the first customers, but as soon as we sat down and ordered our huevos rancheros, the place filled up, mostly with Navajo Indians, as this is their land. It was delicious, divine, as remembered. We cleaned our plates with much satisfaction. We also enjoyed the reading matter provided - "How to cope when you are surrounded by idiots - or if you are one. " Sample true/false question: cats like to relax in a gunny sack while floating in the canal." I cracked up over that one. I'll spare you more.

We drove on, past the Elephant's Feet

and stopped in Tuba City (Tony Hillerman country) at Van's Trading Post
to get refreshments and change drivers. There was a small supermarket, a pawn shop (for real pawn, like silver and turquoise) and a trading post with Pendleton blankets and jewellery and so forth. To borrow from my daughter's idiom there was a whole rainbow wall of wool skeins.

I'm always on the lookout for wool, and this was not where I expected to find it. The wool itself came from Mitchell, Nebraska, and was either pure wool or a wool/mohair mix. $4.95 per skein. I bought four, (navy, bright blue, lilac and cream) and spent many a happy mile wondering what I will knit with it. Hats? An afghan?

We bought a Tony Hillerman CD to listen to, and were slightly disappointed that extraneous descriptions of the countryside had been edited. That was what we were interested in, really, as we were there.

We stopped at another scenic spot with a mini-canyon, and ran the gauntlet of the bead shops. Michael reaches bead-point long before I do, but I am there now. There is just so much STUFF! We took some snaps, then headed on.

The Grand Canyon is high on the plateau, and the scenery changed to forest. We stopped at the Desert View point, with the stone Watchtower, and took some snaps,

looked around. Then decided that as we had no hotel booking we would press on and secure accommodation, then do what else time allowed. We went to Tusayan, at the south entrance to the Park, and got a room at the Holiday Inn Express. Feeling comfortable about having a room, we returned to Yavapai Point to take pictures of the canyon at sunset. My parking karma was good - there were a lot of people there. Kinda missed the sunset, but enjoyed looking and snapping. I am still coming to grips with my new digital SLR. There is a lot of new stuff to learn about it, and I am enjoying it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Monument Valley

View Larger Map

Nearly twenty years ago Michael spent a year in Utah. I met my mother and my sister (with her two boys) in San Antonio, and we did a road trip up through this whole area. We have many happy memories of (in no particular order) Mesa Verde, Pagosa Springs, Carlsbad Caverns, Taos, and Kayenta, just outside Monument Valley. We drove past Monument Valley, and stayed in Kayenta nearby. In that town was possibly the best Mexican food I've ever eaten. We ate dinner there, and breakfast the next morning. Back then, in 1990, we pressed on to Logan, Utah. Michael and I got married there. I suggested then a trip to Monument Valley, but there wasn't the time or inclination. This is that trip.

We woke to a cold morning, and this is the view from our room.

Breakfast was leftover baked potato with a salad of corn, black beans, green chile and red peppers. Mmmm. We had booked a tour which started at 9, so off we went. Up and down very rough dirt roads, it was simply sensational. Again, the pictures speak for themselves, I can't add too much commentary.

I learned from my trip to Egypt in 2000 that you really need to have people in photographs in order to show the scale. Here is an example: