NaBloPoMo Ends – Bonus Post!

Well, everyone, I survived NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) where the goal was to do a blog posting every day.  I did it!  Yippee!

I have to say, it’s become a real habit and posting every day doesn’t feel like a burden at all.  A big reason for that has to do with my work.  If I had tried to do this 6 months ago there’s no way I would have managed it.  I was working like a fiend at work and would have just been too drained to write for fun.  But these days work is very calm and my brain is free to think about more interesting things. 🙂

I have gained a lot of new readers this month!  What I find really interesting is that since I start blogging every day, more people are coming by to read.  For the last 6 months I’ve averaged between 300 and 350 unique readers per month (who ARE you people??).  This month of November I’ve had 595 unique visitors!  How about THAT!  That’s exciting to me.  That’s cool.  I hope you all keep coming back.

I’m not going to make any promises about posting every day from now on.  But I will say this – I’m sure gonna try.  I’ve enjoyed it, I’ve learned from it, and I’m curious where this will take me (us).  

I have a list of posts in my head already:  X is for (come back to see!); finally posting the photos and instructions for my first ever sock design; showing you my latest haul of knitting books, including Nancy Bush’s Estonian lace knitting book (so yummy!); keeping you up to date on our SnB group and of course my knitting; and also, of course, happenings around my little piece of the Netherlands.  It’s so gezellig.  Come back and see what’s happening now and then.

Oh, and also congrats to all the other NaBloPoMo finishers, like Lou.  Well done!

That Time of Year

Today was the family Sinterklaas party.  The Sint and his Piets (all 4 of them) showed up around 1:30pm and entertained us for quite a while.  I have to say, these guys are good, especially the very tall bald Piet.  He tell stories and leads the songs.  Sinterklaas, the old man that he is, sits and watches all that, in a most dignified manner.  

Sinterklaas does interview each kid before they get a present.  He knows all about the kids’ school and sports and hobbies and asks about all of them.  It’s very sweet.  Here are some photos:

I also have a 2 minute video of the big Piet leading a song.  Sorry for the darkness of the picture.  I was filming directly into a big window.  No, there was no chance to move around much.  The room was FULL of parents taking their own video and photos!  You would have thought it was a Japanese tourist destination.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aov_Vhb2uV4

After Sint and the Piets leave, we get ready to play the dice game.  Every adult (or almost adult) brings 2 presents wrapped up:  1 purchased and 1 from op zolder (from the attic).  We sit in a circle and take turns throwing a big sponge die.  Roll a 6 and you get to pick and unwrap a present from the pile.  But don’t think you’ll get to take it home!  Oh no!  The game isn’t over yet.

Once all the presents have been picked up from the pile in the center, we take a break for snacks and drinks.  Then the second part begins.  This part is timed:  45 minutes.  This time, if you roll a 6, you get to take a present from any person.  If you roll a 1 you have to give one of your presents away to anyone.  If you roll a 3, the next person in line loses a turn.  Oh it gets loud and rowdy!  I ended the first round with 5 presents under my chair.  I came home with 1, that I didn’t even have earlier.  Most of the presents are really junk and the fun part is seeing who has to take the most junk home.  Less is usually more.  There are always a couple of “good” presents that everyone fights over, which is also quite fun.

All in all, another fun family day.  Eventually I’ll learn some of these songs.  Until then, I’ll just keep filming!

How Not to Knit on the Weekend

It really is winter.  We went into town early today (I got my hair cut and we bought small things for Sinterklaas tomorrow) and this afternoon I slept.  I haven’t slept in the afternoon in a long time.  I really needed it I guess and it’s dark so early that it felt like hibernating.  

I can’t knit but I can still read.  I read parts of Barbara Walker’s “Knitting from the Top”

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I really hate sewing up garments once the knitting is finished so I do try to knit in the round every chance I get.  I also have picked up sleeves at the top and knit them as a narrowing tube to the cuff, but this book takes it even further and explains how to do a fitted sleeve in this manner using short rows.  Cool!

I also spent some time reading “Anathem” by Neal Stephenson.  I’ve also read “Crytonomicon” and “The Baroque Cycle” (a trilogy) by Stephenson.  If you read these books and don’t learn anything from them, you are a well read genius.  Stephenson himself must be a well read genius to be able to create such works.  

All of these books revolve around science, but the characters are so well formed that the science never gets in the way of a good story.  What a writing talent to be able to do that!  I’m about 3/4 through Anathem and can hardly put it down.  It’s not an easy book to begin.  It takes place on a planet like Earth, but with a very different history/future.  The population is divided into those who live in “maths” and devote their lives to studying theorics, and those who live outside (extramuros) and live ordinary lives much like you and I.  The protagonist is named Erasmus and lives as a fraa in a math.  You will spend the first 100 pages just getting to grips with the terminology and world that is constructed by Stephenson.  The first 100 pages are not easy reading, but stick with it because it’s well worthwhile!  As I read now I’m so used to the terms and way of speaking that I don’t think twice about it.  I can read about Erasmus wanting to plane someone for not using the rake in discourse, and I know exactly what that means.  I’ll have to search the net (or the “Ret” in Anathem) to see if someone has built a web site using the Anathem dictionary.  

I don’t want to spoil the story so I won’t say much more than that Erasmus ends up on an adventure that is completely unexpected.  The more you read of this story, the more you learn about Arbe (the world like Earth) and the people in it, and the more you must stretch your brain to keep up with the greatest thinkers on Arbe.  Oh, and fight some bad guys too.  I haven’t finished it yet, but I give this book, at this moment, the highest 5* rating.  I love it.

If you want to challenge your brain, either with just a riveting story or with mind stretching science, or learning something about how the Netherlands became the powerhouse in finance that it was in the Golden Age, read Stephenson’s books.  The man is a genius writer, and I never would say that lightly.

The Best Part

At work I live and breath projects. Project phases. Project deliverables. Project beginnings and project ends. And then I go home and work on knitting projects. There’s no escape!

One of the very best parts of a knitting project is, well, the thinking part before you even begin. I start this process even before I’m finished with the last project. I am mostly a serial knitter (one project to the next) and one thing that spurs me on to finish a project is how excited I already am to start the next one.

I’m in that phase now. I’ve finished the scarves and hats (and the Sunrise Circle Jacket is hibernating) and I’m preparing to start the Capelet.  Here’s a nice one I found a photo of on Ravelry, by Tesae:

I’ve read the whole pattern a couple of times. I agonized over colors to use. I figured I would make mitts to match and even a hat if I have enough yarn left over. By the time I finished the Koolhaas hat I was really psyched to start!

I wrote not too long ago that I wouldn’t buy any more yarn for at least 6 months. I lied. I am terrible at keeping such promises. I caved in before the month was even over. I suck. But I bought the wrong yarn for this project (too thin) and I was already psyched! What else could I do?

So I bought this, from Penelope Craft. It’s my first Cascade 220 project and I’m liking the wool already (I’ve fondled it at least).


Unfortunately, I have to be satisfied with the anticipation excitement for a few days longer. My right shoulder and upper back are really bothering me. I shouldn’t even be typing this. Two years ago I had RSI so bad I had to stop knitting for many months. I don’t want that to happen again. I have to put down the needles and put away the laptop at night for at least a few days. I can still pet the yarn though.

I realized yesterday that I don’t have the right needles for this capelet. I need some 16” circulars that I didn’t have. At lunch time today I walked over to de Afstap to buy needles. I have to say, the woman working there was so nice and helpful and chatty that it was hard to leave! I was tempted to buy more just because she was so nice. It’s a long story, and I’ve blogged about it before, but Amsterdam isn’t known for it’s customer service so when it’s good you’re always surprised and happy.

The bridge over the Singel, just a few doors down from de Afstap looked like this today.

From April to October this square is filled with tables and umbrellas where people are sitting outside eating and drinking. Not today! Look at this dreary weather!  And it is really cold.  The statue is of Multatuli, the pen name of a famous Dutch writer.

At the opposite side of the square is Puccini, which is the best chocolate in the entire world. No kidding. I swear. De Afstap is just a few doors down to the right in that little street. After leaving de Afstap, having been VERY GOOD and only bought needles (even after fondling some gorgeous yarn), I went into Puccini. Now, you can’t expect me to be restrained in a yarn shop and then ALSO walk past Puccini without stopping in, do you? Seriously.

I bought dark chocolate covered almonds, dark chocolate covered little tiny candied orange bits (pea sized) and 7 bonbons of various liquor tastes. I will try not to finish it all over the weekend. But hey, I have to make up for the fact that I can’t knit!

What are you thankful for?

Today, in the U.S., it’s Thanksgiving Day.  My relatives are gathering here and there, getting ready to eat turkey and cranberry sauce and give thanks.  What are you thankful for?  That question will be asked at dining room tables all over the country today.  Some people will groan (especially teenagers) thinking it’s a really corny question.  I think it’s a very nice question.  I’m not afraid of it.

And, when I thought about it today in a quiet moment, what I’m most thankful for is that I’m not afraid.  I’m not afraid of being blown up by terrorists.  I stand a much higher chance of being killed in a car accident than being hurt by terrorists, and I don’t spend my days being afraid of car accidents. 

I’m not afraid of violent crime since I’m careful not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and besides violent crime is really low here.  I’m lucky there.  

I’m not afraid of losing my house or my job, although “concerned” and “watchful” are more appropriate words.  These days you have to keep your eyes and ears open and be careful to prepare for bad news.  The company I work for has instituted a hiring freeze, a training freeze and project and budget cuts.  Who knows, maybe layoffs are next.  I think though that I’m pretty safe.  At least I hope so.  In any case, I’m not afraid.

I’m not afraid of becoming sick.  Well, here again, I think careful watchfulness is how I feel.  I run and go to the gym and try (honestly I try) to eat good food.  The rest is up to genetics, environment and just plain luck.  At least where I live I know I’ll always have decent health care, no matter how much money I might or might not have.  That takes a huge amount of fear out of my mind.

I’m not afraid of losing DB and I don’t think he’s afraid of losing me.  I can’t imagine any two people who are better suited to each other.  He’s sitting on one couch at this very moment with his laptop open and reading who-knows-what on the internet.  I’m sitting on the other couch writing this on my laptop.  Need I say more?

I’m not afraid of catastrophes hitting us.  Come on, who can predict that and what can you do about it?  No point worrying and being afraid.  

So, over all, I’m pretty thankful about all that.

I wish that I could be with my family today.  I miss my mom.  I miss M. and the kids.  I wish a lot of things in the world were different and especially I wish that everyone could be thankful for not being afraid.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

FO Alert!

Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever posted so many FO’s in one month before!  Don’t get used to it.  It’s only because of all the small things I’ve made lately, mostly for gifts.  Today’s FO however is for ME!

As posted earlier, I’ve been working on the Koolhaas hat.  I finished it Monday night.  What do you think?  Looks pretty good in this photo doesn’t it?

But then I saw THIS photo…

Ugh!  It wasn’t until I managed to photograph my own head that I could really see what the decreases looked like at the crown.  They looked like crap.  How could that be?  Because I didn’t do the math.

I made this hat from sport weight, not Aran weight as the pattern called for.  I added one additional pattern repeat to compensate.  When it came time to decrease for the crown I thought that I’d have to add an additional 4 rows somewhere to make it fit correctly.  So I made up my own decrease sequence as I went along.  Wrong wrong wrong!  I am not more clever than Jared Flood!  And if I’d done the math in the first place I would have calculated that I only needed to add 2 rows, and that I could easily do that, without screwing with the design, if I added them at the very end.  After all, making a circle decreasing by the same % as in the original directions will work just fine.  It’s just a ratio after all.  

Last night I frogged back to where the decreases began and this time followed the 10 row decrease instructions through row 9, then did an extra *k1tbl, p1* row, then row 10, then repeated row 10 again.  Perfect.  Have a look now:

A colleague of mine took this photo for me at lunch time.  I really love this hat, and it was really fun to make too.  DB says I look like a cancer patient in it because, well, I have really short hair and this hat makes me look bald.  I’ll have to make an effort to pull some hair out around my forehead.  I tried it on another colleague at work and on her it looked really cute.  She has hair.

Anyway, lesson learned.  Do the math and don’t try to be too clever!

Credit Crisis? What Credit Crisis?

Have you been affected by the credit crisis?  

My mom wrote to tell me that at Mervyn’s and Circuit City in her town there are close out sales going on.  All sales final, no returns allowed, no credit cards accepted.  They are closing down for good, all over the US.  Frankly, I didn’t understand how a town of 60,000 people could support all the stores they have there.  How can you build an economy on unstoppable shopping?  One day the bubble has to burst.

This is being written of course by someone who hasn’t lived in the US for 16 years.  When I go there to visit it’s always quite a culture shock in the way that consumerism is so in your face.  It feels out of control.  It feels like so many spoiled brats who must have what they want now.  And the chickens have come home to roost.

What really ticks me off is that it is us, the tax payers, who will pay for the unbridled greed of some people.  I didn’t sign up for a mortgage I can’t pay for.  I didn’t loan money to people who can’t pay.  I didn’t plan the strategic financial structures of a bank like so many houses of cards that with one poof come crashing down on an unsuspecting world.  And yet I will have to pay, one way or another.

I have a decent job.  DB does too.  We just bought a bigger house in August, which, assuming neither of us loses our job, we can continue to pay for.  I have no car payment – it’s paid for.  I have no credit card debt.  I guess I can count myself extremely lucky.  However, some of my retirement money, that is sitting in a life insurance policy, is probably worth about nothing right now.  I don’t want to know what it’s worth.  I can’t bear to know.  It will make me just too mad.

So, even if you don’t feel any effect directly from this global economic f*ck up right now, rest assured you will.  And for those of you out there who are already suffering, I really feel for you.  The best advice I’ve ever heard is to get educated about your own money and never trust anyone to take care of it for you, and don’t live beyond your means, no matter what.  Even if the TV is blaring at you about how you must have the latest and greatest of everything on offer down at the Mall.  Those chickens, they come home eventually.