Paris Isn’t Jinxed

Les Invalides, Paris
Les Invalides, Paris

Six weeks ago DB and I were in Paris for my long birthday weekend.  If you were reading the blog back then, you know that we both got sick and I spent one of those precious days laying in bed not able to move.  I had a bad taste in my mouth over Paris.  We both thought that a return trip would be just the thing to wash those bad memories away.

Turns out that I was back there again, albeit for work, sooner than I thought I would be.  I was in Paris Tuesday and Wednesday this week, just home late last night on the Thalys train.

The above photo was taken from my colleague C.’s car while she was taking me on a tour around the city.  She’s a real local.  She was born in Paris.  Her parents were born in Paris.  Her grandparents used to own a cafe in Paris.  She drove me around like anyone would drive around in their home town.  She knew all the right streets to take and where the high points were to be found.  It was fantastic to be shown around like that!  Even nicer, it’s vacation time so most of the locals are away on holiday and the streets were relatively quiet.

After the tour we went to a restaurant called Pasco.  We sat outside on their terrace to eat.  It was so warm!  I’m not used to being able to sit outside at 10pm and not even need a sweater.  The food was VERY good and not any more expensive than you would pay in Amsterdam.  I had sea urchin for the first time ever.  Yum.

It was a good trip, although fast and tiring, and was good to put some positive thoughts of Paris in my head.  After being there twice in six weeks I feel like I could really find my way around very easily.  I took public transport to and from Gare du Nord coming and leaving.  I’ve seen more of the city this trip.  Next time DB and I go to Paris I can pretend I know what I’m talking about. 🙂

The Little Engine That Could

Just when I think I have a running schedule that works for me, that I can stick to, it all goes to hell again.  This week I didn’t run on Friday because I just didn’t feel very good and had kind of a migraine in the making.  I finished a sock instead, always an acceptable substitute.

The Wednesday before I DID manage to run 6 km in the morning before most of the world was up and around.  I took this photo, which almost shows what I was trying to capture.  If you look in the water at the reflection of the trees, you can see bands of green.  In person these were beautiful bands of green algae.  The water was so calm.  Not a fish or bird was disturbing the algae and it just streamed out along the slow moving water.  Even my lousy iPhone camera managed to capture just a little of this green loveliness.  Oh, and the 6 km run was nice too.

This morning I went out for an 8 km run, which went very well.  I’m still ok on my Dam to Dam schedule, but I have to say that at the end of this 8 km run I was thinking “Oh MAN! This is only HALF of the Dam to Dam!”  Will I be able to keep to the training and make the whole 16 km?  I feel kind of like The Little Engine That Could.  I just keep trudging along, doing my best, not giving up even when my body doesn’t want to continue and my mind is too tired.  Is it optimism and stubbornness that keeps me going?  Probably those things, plus a good fear of getting old and not being able to move anymore.  Fight old age!  Keep moving!  Arthritis can’t catch me if I’m fast enough!

At the half way point this morning I was at the outskirts of Velserbroek.  It’s really the Dutch version of suburbs.

There’s water.  There are modern apartment buildings, brand new.  There are bike lanes and no car lanes.  It’s created in the polder where there used to be only water or marsh.  The highway is just a short distance away for that commute to the city or train station.

I’ll get around to updating my running schedule soon.  It’s all stored online so I won’t lose the history.  It’s more important that I keep running than to keep a running diary.

Nothing Like the Beach

I didn’t grow up near the beach, which probably explains why I still think it’s pretty special to hop in your car (or even on your bike) and be at the beach in 15 minutes and have dinner and take a quick snap of the sunset.

I was feeling kind of down, physically and mentally, so what better way to lift spirits than a trip to the beach.  It works for me.  We headed to Zandvoort Saturday night for dinner, at Bruxelles aan Zee.  We sat inside to eat, but plenty of people were sitting outside for dinner.

After having so much rain lately, it was nice and convenient that the sun came out just for the occasion.  After dinner we walked along the beach for a while.  There were still a lot of people out and about.  These last photos were taken at about 8:30pm.

There were even surfers!  This is about as big as the waves get here at the North Sea.

It’s times like this that I’m so glad we moved to Haarlem.  I know full well that if we still lived in Amsterdam we wouldn’t have bothered to drive the 25 minutes to reach the beach.   Any kind of nature, whether it’s a busy beach, or a small forest in the dunes, does my soul good.

1/2 DYO FO

Got it?

The above photo is 1/2 of a Finished Object, which is a pair of Design Your Own socks.  I finished this one today.  I am really really happy with it.  It turned out to be exactly what I wanted, but couldn’t find a pattern for, so I just made them up.

Here are some details to begin with.  When I make the second sock I will take photos along the way and write everything down into a pattern you can follow.

Yarn used: KnitPicks Risata (42% Cotton, 39% Superwash Merino Wool, 13% Polyamide, 6% Elite Elastic)
Construction:  toe-up, using my own toe design, left and right footed socks
Cast on:  60 stitches total
Needles: 2.25 mm, 2 circulars
Stitch pattern:  Italian Chain Rib, which can be found in Barbara Walkers first stitch dictionary, and also is in Charlene Schurch’s More Sensational Knitted Socks
Gussets: reverse Stockinette stitch
Heel turn:  wrap-less short rows
Heel flap: k1, sl1 on right side, purl all stitches on wrong side
Finishing:  k1, p1 rib for a few rounds, then k1tog, yo for 1 round, then k1, p1 rib for a few rounds, making a nice picot hem which was stitched down on the inside

They are really stretchy to fit my duck feet (see photo above) and lots of sizes of feet.

I have to tell you, I love love LOVE this yarn.  Unfortunately they don’t ship it to Europe so I’m afraid I’m going to have to buy some and have it sent to my mom for pick up in October.  It is really nice to work with, it looks great and feels great.  It’s much better than the other KnitPicks yarn I’ve used.  Highly recommended.

Stay tuned for the full pattern coming soon!

Crafty Updates

Above is my progress on Muir.  This represents 2 pattern repeats.  Not bad for a little over a week, especially since I didn’t work on it 3 days last week.  It seems like every damn thing I’m doing these days has a hard deadline (does this sound familiar?), which I also seem to do to myself regularly.  I have to stop that.  This shawl needs to be finished before we head to California in early October.

I ALSO need to have some sewing done by the same time.   This afternoon I worked on the test bolero that I’m making to send to M. so she can try it on and make sure she’s happy with it before I make the real one in silk.  I don’t have photos.  It’s going a lot slower than I had hoped.  It’s not so easy to make ruffles look good when you have no pattern to work from!  I made 3 versions of a little cap sleeve ruffle before I was happy with it.  I now have to take out the first one to make it look like the third one.  I hope to have the whole thing finished by the end of next weekend.

I’m so happy with how this sock is turning out!  I’m just making it on the fly as I go.  When I knit the second sock I’ll write everything out as a pattern you can follow.  Yesterday I made wrap-less short rows for the heel turn and I’m a little over half way through the gusset decreases.  I’ve only worked on the heel turn at home because it was too fiddly and complicated to deal with on the train.  The rest of it has been done only on the train all last week.  I started it 8 days ago.  The more socks I make, the easier and faster they are to make.  Perfect train projects.

So, that’s my crafty update.  Tomorrow night is our SnB night so more progress will be made on the sock.  Tuesday night we’re going to go see the new Harry Potter movie.  Oh boy!  I can’t wait for that!

In Spite of Myself

Today I copied the 3 day per week, 10 week, 10 mile training program into my diary.  In spite of the fact that I haven’t kept to a schedule very well in the last week, I’m still ok.  I still have time to meet my goals.

Today I ran 8 km in the dunes west of Bloemendaal.  Sometimes everything just comes together perfectly and a run is really enjoyable.  Today was one of those days.  The weather was cool and mostly sunny with no wind.  I was rested from not running at all during the week (trying to look on the GOOD side of that).  There were only a few bicyclists on the trail so I didn’t have to pay attention so as not to get run over.  It was really really nice.  Ahhhh.  It’s such a great feeling to have a good run.  I started to play the song “Aquarius” in my head.  “When the moooooon is in the seventh house, and Jupiterrrr aligns with Mars….”  I just felt like the stars and planets were aligned just right for my morning run.

The above photo was taken at my 3.5 km mark.  Someone was actually swimming there.  Brrrrr.  This route has a big hill at the beginning, and since I run out and back, also at the end of the run.  I ran pretty gently for the 4 km out, and picked up the pace and ran faster on the way back.  The hill at the end was tough, but I actually like running hills.  I am pretty good at it too.

Now that I have the 10 week schedule in my diary it will be in my face and reminding me daily of what is coming up.  Tuesday I should run 5 km.  I’m up for that.

My Antidote

Running?  What running?  Work?  Too much work!  And the dentist and the migraine.  Ugh.  It’s been a tough couple of weeks and I almost can’t take late evenings during the week with all the other stuff going on.  My running has really suffered (I’ve missed 2 days this week).

So, what to do about it?  Knit of course.  And do some stash enhancement.  It’s my antidote to too much other crap.

Today, Friday, I had the day off.  YIPPEE!  I relaxed in the morning and knit a bit on the new shawl.  Then I packed myself up and headed in to Amsterdam to have lunch with an old friend, R.  We ate lunch and talked and talked.  We walked around the city and drank coffee and talked and talked.  I had to go to de Afstap to exchange some knitting needles so she came with me.  R. is not a knitter, but is a crocheter.  She saw a scarf made up in the shop and just had to have the yarn to make one for herself.  If someone else is buying yarn, who am I to hold back? 🙂

De Afstap has at this moment 30% off on a lot of summer yarns.  I bought 10 skeins of Rowan Cashcotton.  The name is only slightly misleading.  The make up of the yarn is:  35% cotton, 25% polyamide, 18% angora, 13% viscose and 9% cashmere.  Now, I know full well that 9% cashmere isn’t enough to actually feel the cashmere.  It’s a marketing gimmick.  But who cares when the yarn feels this soft and is this lovely.  As long as I can buy it on sale I’m happy.  It will be very nice to wear against the skin.  Here’s a photo:

I’ve made amazing progress on my new socks.  I only work on these socks on the train or on Monday nights at de Jaren.  Look how far I’ve gotten already!

I’ve just kind of making them up as I go along.  I found a stitch pattern I liked, then just went from there.  I decided to do a reverse St. st. for the gussets.  At this point I think I’m going to make them anklets with a picot edge bind off.  They will be summer socks.  I’m liking it a lot so far.

Unfortunately, while taking this photo I broke one of the KnitPicks needles.  Damn.  These little wooden things are pretty fragile.  This is the second pair I’ve broken.  The first pair KnitPicks gave me a replacement for because I really only picked them up and they broke.  I have no one but myself to blame this time as I put a little pressure on them with my foot (“don’t you mean you stepped on your needle?” my get-real half says) and SNAP it was broken.  And they STILL don’t ship outside the U.S.  Love the needles, hate the policy.

Progress continues on the Muir shawl, but not enough to be worthy of a new photo.  Maybe in a few days I’ll have something to show you.

So, that’s my knitting update and my antidote to stress in life.  Try it yourself.  Works wonders.

Moby in the Melkweg

Tuesday night we went to see Moby in the Melkweg. We hadn’t been to the Melkweg since they finished the new section, the Rabozaal.  It’s a completely new theater with a large seated area and about an equal amount of space in the front for standing.  It’s at the very top of the building, between the “old” Melkweg and the Theatre building that faces the Leidseplein.  If you know Amsterdam you know what I mean.  So now the Melkweg has 3 separate concert rooms plus a small movie theater.

But, back to Moby.  What a great concert it was!  I really liked the song choices he made – it seemed to fit the crowd and our expectations.  Moby has made such a variety of music that it must be hard to pick what to play on a given night.  This was a fairly small venue, compared to an outdoor concert or stadium, so I’m sure that had an impact on the musical choices.  I really enjoy these small concerts more than the big impersonal HMH or Arena events.

The band he had with him was also very good.  Great singers (2), a string section, and the typical bass and drums.  Kelli Scarr, one of his singers, opened for the show as a solo act, but had a lot of problems with all her electronics.  She has a great voice and can really belt it out, but I liked her a lot better as part of the whole band.  She seemed to have more confidence and direction when singing with the band. (btw, if you click on the link above, which takes you to her MySpace site, the song that is currently playing was written by Neil Young, “Journey Through the Past”. )

Would I go see Moby again?  Definitely.  I should also listen to more music at home or on the road!

A Crafty Kind of Weekend

It’s been a rainy and chilly weekend here in northern NL, so obviously the only thing to do is, of course, crafts!  It all started with finishing my Spina socks Thursday night, and then continued with fabric and sewing and knitting shopping with C. and G. on Friday.  I had the day off work, which added to the perfection of the weekend.

Friday morning I first went running (6 km, but more on that later), then met up with C. and G. at the Bagels and Beans on the corner of Ferdinand Bolstraat and Albert Cuijp.  We headed out to find fabric and notions.  C. is learning how to sew and man is she a fast learner!  After just one afternoon she made a skirt, with a zipper and everything, without even using a pattern.  She was wearing it and it looked great.  G. is seriously into art quilts and makes some really beautiful amazing things.  Me?  I just need to make stuff for a wedding.

We went to several shops on the Albert Cuijp market and bought fabric and tools and do-dads.  I bought fabric to make a test bolero for M.’s wedding (to make as a practice before cutting into the silk fabric for the real thing) and buttons for the dress I’m making to wear to the wedding.  I was really happy to find out that there really is fabric to be had in Amsterdam.  Granted, I didn’t see the variety of fabrics that I saw in Paris, and most of it here in Amsterdam seems to be for home decorating, still there’s enough to keep you in small projects for a long time.  It was a great day out with my my fabulous crafty friends!

Friday night we met again at N.’s birthday party, which was held at a friend of N.’s house near the Vondelpark.  It was such a nice party!  There were about 40 people there, probably half of them knitters, and several others artists of various kinds.  We drank wine and ate lovely food and talked for hours.  I feel so lucky to know these people and to share their celebrations.  N.’s mom and sister and sister-in-law surprised her by flying over here from the U.S. for the party.  Very cool.

Well, now we’re up to Saturday.  Are you still with me?

I had made a pact with Andy last week Sunday that we would both start our lace projects on Saturday the 11th, each in our own homes, but telepathically we’d give each other encouragement.  Boy did I need that encouragement!

I started by casting on for Muir using only the Habu silk and stainless steel yarn that I had.  I knit, or should I say STRUGGLED, through 3 rows.  That was enough.  I gave up.  That stuff is HORRIBLE to work with by itself.  It’s about the thickness of a spider’s web, has NO stretch at all, and since it is half metal, it has a mind of its own.  C. has made a BEAUTIFUL sweater combining the Habu with some Habu silk.  You can see that here.  I thought, well, I’ll also combine mine with other lace weight yarn and see how that goes.

I was just about to go online and buy some silk or wool/silk in the same shade as the burgundy stuff that I had, but then I thought – let’s try it out first with what you DO have and see what you think.  I have some white Zephyr on hand that I had bought to make M. a shawl for her wedding (which I’m not making now), so I thought I’d just throw that in to see how it feels to knit and what the result is like weight-wise.

I knit about 4 rows.

And then I discovered that I LOVE the combination of the white yarn and burgundy steel/silk together!  I never would have considered it.  I thought it would look really weird.  It looks fantastic.  Have I said again how much I love it?  See?

And you know what’s even funnier?  The buttons I bought on Friday to go on my dress match this idea exactly!  Look!

Too cool.  I’m so excited and happy about this project.  The results are so nice and it feels great to knit and drape.

However, this is not a portable project, or a train project.  I still needed a train and SnB project.  So this morning, Sunday, I cast on for socks.  I’m using some KnitPicks cotton/wool/nylon/elastic sock yarn that my mom brought over with her in September last year.  I’ve been meaning to make some summer lace socks with it and now’s my chance (hoping that summer comes back).  It’s kind of an oatmeal color.  I’m making a toe up sock, using my own toe, Yarnissima‘s techniques for the gusset, and a stitch pattern from More Sensational Knitted Socks
by Charlene Schurch.

Now, having just finished 2 projects in the last couple of weeks, I’ve cast on 2 more that I’m pretty chuffed (as the Brits say) about.  The sewing?  That will start next weekend…..

FO – Spina di Pesce socks

My Spina di Pesce socks are finally finished!  I’m wearing them as I write this.  I have to say, these are my favorite hand knit socks so far.  They fit perfect, they feel great on my feet, and they look pretty good too.

I made these from Yarnissima’s kit, which means the yarn is Wollmeise.  Yes, the Wollmeise.  I’ve said in earlier posts, but I’ll say it again, this yarn is not really nice to knit with.  It’s twisty and it splits like crazy.  It feels like it’s part cotton, even though there’s no cotton in it.  BUT, the end result is fantastic.  They feel soft and comfy on your feet and they feel like they will wear well.

They took longer to make than normal because I stopped working on them in order to finish my Primrose Path sweater.  That’s ok.  Up until lately it’s been far to warm to wear them anyway.  Now that the weather has cooled off they might be worn now and then.  I actually wore them last night to N’s birthday party, which was full of knitters who copped a feel of my new socks.  (GREAT party by the way N.!)

In case you are wondering, I made them on size 2mm, 0 US, needles.  I have a fair amount of negative ease in the foot, which I like a lot better than loose fitting socks.  With the gauge I had, I added a few rows to the foot section and at the end of the gusset increases I knit an extra 4 rows without increasing to make that section a little longer.  I’m totally hooked on toe up socks.  I love that you can try them on as you go and see how they are fitting.

The cat was pretty curious about our little photo shoot.  So we shot him too.