And Then There Were Two

cars

There are now TWO cars, belonging to this household, parked in front of out house.  This is a normal situation for an American household with more than one adult in the house, but it is not normal here.  Some households don’t have a car at all.  In this household there is only one person with a driver’s license, so two cars is a bit excessive.

The one on the left is the Amazing C2.  I bought it new exactly 8 years ago and it has been a fantastic little car.  It still IS fantastic! We call it Amazing because it always amazes us how much stuff you can fit into that little car.  Go to IKEA, fill it up, it works.  With only two people, it’s been just big enough to do what we want to do.

The one on the right is the new, as of 3 days ago, member of the family.  A brand spanking new Prius.  Of course Toyota changes the model names for every country where they sell these, so it’s hard to tell you WHICH Prius it is.  Here in NL, it is the Prius Dynamic Business, with the built in a Solar Ventilation System and electric sun roof, backup camera, and all those other Prius bells and whistles.  It’s pretty amazing. I love it.

I’m still getting used to driving a bigger car though.  When I moved to NL I brought with me an Audi A4 station wagon, which was even longer than the Prius.  I was used to a big car then.  Of course in Switzerland there is more room for parking and driving and it’s easier to have a big car.  Here in NL, you have to be an excellent parallel parker and be used to competing on the roads with bikes everywhere, pedestrians, scooters, buses, trams….. I’m used all this traffic now, but when I first moved here I was sure I would kill a biker.

So now comes the big job of selling the C2.  It’s 8 years old but only has 38k km on it!  Can you believe it?  That’s less than lots of people drive in a single year!  If you know of anyone in NL looking for a great little city car, one owner, low km, please let me know!

Little Birds

bird out the window

I was going to show you my progress on the lime lace project today, however, that project is in time out.  I’m mad at it.

Saturday morning I was working on it, starting a new pattern round.  The stitch count didn’t work. There was something wrong.  I counted, then recounted, and counted again.  Only after knitting and tinking 12 stitches, 4 times, did I see that there was a very small notation at the beginning of the chart on row 83.  “1M.Z.”  Oh. What the heck does this mean?

I remembered reading on Ravelry that on some rows you have to shift the start of the round 1 stitch ahead or behind.  I guessed that I needed to move 1 stitch backwards (zuruk) and indeed, once I did that, the stitch count came out perfect. On I went.

However, moving these stitches around means moving the stitch markers and somehow, I have no idea how, I dropped the stitch marker, went to reach for it, and pulled the stitches off the needles and dropped 3 stitches. And they fell. And fell.  This is at the mesh section.  You know, with double yarn overs and ssk and k2t stitches making a mesh.  I tried to recover and knit it back up, but it looked bad and I was not happy.

I tinked back 3 rounds. That took well over an hour.  Then proceeded to drop 2 more stitches and tinked back 2 more rounds.  And then when I tried to start knitting again nothing looked right.  It was, by then, 9pm Saturday night.  Screw you lace knitting.  I obsessed over this thing all day and couldn’t face it anymore.

I put it down at the end of the couch and there it has sat all day.  In time out.  It’s been a long time since I’ve gone a day without knitting, but today is a break day.  Tomorrow will be better.

The above photo was taken out of our living room window this morning.  Isn’t he pretty?

Turning Japanese

When I was in Thailand a few weeks ago I went to this big shopping mall in Chiang Mai.  For a city that is not so big (population 150,000), it has a very big mall!  Four floors tall with one floor just for electronics, a floor that is mostly food (I lost count at 6 Japanese restaurants), clothing, books, this and that.  It was pretty amazing and next time I have to go there for work I’m taking an extra suitcase to bring back stuff.  Where else can I find clothes that are the right length for me?  I should have been shopping in Asia all along.  Trying to find clothes that fit in the land of the giant humans is impossible for me.

There is one small bookstore that carries only Japanese books.  They have the usual manga and teen rags, but also business books, gardening, cooking, languages, all kinds of books crammed into this one small shop.  And of course, what did I find?  A knitting book that I just had to have.
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It was kind of expensive.  The equivalent of 60 euros (about $78).  OK, I felt like it was really expensive and when I heard the price I put it back and walked away.  That night I talked to DB and he said “WHAT? You go back and get that book.  You have other knitting books that cost that much so if this one is so special you should have bought it.”  You see why I love him.

So, the next day I did just that – I went back and bought it.  What a treasure!  First of all, when the Japanese say “knitting” they also throw “crochet” into that category so this book has 700 knitting patterns and 300 crochet patterns.  Fine.  I didn’t know that when I bought it because it was shrinkwrapped, but I’m not disappointed.

There are the usual list of knit and purl stitches, but then you get into some nice combos, like lace with cables, and this one – #511 – which is a combination of brioche and normal knit cables.

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There are fair isles and interesting color work patterns.
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And lace of course.

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Notice the charts?  Everything is charted.  No written instructions.  Can’t read Japanese?  Me neither.  But at the front of the book there are diagrams with the chart symbols.  Just match the symbol from the pattern you like with the symbol in the diagrams and you can figure it out from there.

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The crochet patterns are also charted.  I’m not very good at crochet so this would be more work for me to decipher, but probably is well worth the effort.  There are 300 crochet patterns!  Who would have thought!  There are some really lovely edgings too.

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If you want to look for this book, I can’t really help you with ISBN numbers or anything like that.  The only thing in English is the title.  Search for that and good luck to you!

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Everywhere I go I look for Japanese knitting books.  I LOVE the fact that they are always charted.  I love charts.  I have this other stitch pattern book that is fantastic too.  It is mainly complicated lace and cable designs.  I used a modified version of the cover stitch pattern in my Butterfly Circus socks.

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The first Japanese knitting book I ever bought was this one.  I can’t even remember where I bought it.  It has 20 garment patterns in it with stunning intricate stitches.  I haven’t made anything from it, but I just love to look at it.

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All of the patterns are written for just one size.  You have to figure out the other sizes yourself, which I understand is typical for Japanese patterns. There is no English in the book, but if you are a good knitter you can figure it out.  Everything is charted.  There are complete charts of the garment pieces too.  No need to converse, just knit!
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I’ve gotten pretty good at matching symbols to symbols in order to figure out the instructions.  If you are patient, it is doable.

DB and I are hoping to go to Japan sometime in the next two years.  You can bet that I’ll be taking along an empty suitcase for knitting related items.  I’ll feel like an explorer discovering a whole new world!

 

Taking Shape

Fruhling row 71

I’m up to row 71 (out of 370) of the Frühling pattern by Herbert Niebling.  Now that I’m able to put it on an 80cm (32″) round needle, I can see how the pattern is developing.  Like all lace knitting, it doesn’t look great until it is finished and blocked.  Still, you can see there are leaves and netting designs.

Niebling patterns are often intimidating to knitters.  They look so complicated and difficult.  The truth is, they are very detailed, with large charts, but the knitting itself is not difficult at all.  It just takes patience and determination when the boredom sets in.  So far I’m not bored at all with it and I really look forward to sitting down and working on it!

I’m able to read the knitting pretty well at this stage.  The leaves grow, the netting between remains basically the same.  It’s hypnotic and addicting knitting.  This is a present for my mom.  Surprise Mom! 🙂  I decided that since it’s going to take me so long to make, she (and you dear reader) might as well enjoy seeing it grow.

I think this will become my Sunday knitting post for a while, tracking the ever growing Niebling lace.

Elephants

I started a new job in September.  The company I work for has offices and manufacturing facilities all over the world.  Since September I’ve been to Paris, Los Angeles and two cities in Thailand – Bangkok and Chiang Mai (the factory is actually in Lamphun, 30 minutes from Chiang Mai).  When I organized the trip to Thailand I made sure I had a weekend free so I could see a little bit of the country.  When you fly in on a Monday and work every day, you don’t see anything except highway, cars, hotel and work facilities.  I had never been to Thailand before.  Actually the only place in Asia I’d been was to Singapore and that was only for 2 days as layovers on the way to and from New Zealand.

Honestly, I was a little nervous traveling to Thailand on my own.  I was new and hadn’t met any of my colleagues there yet either.  All new and unknown.  By the end of the 9 days, I felt really comfortable and at ease and confident.  My Dutch colleague, HJ, calls Thailand “Asia-Lite” because it’s a very easy place for westerners to travel in.  Easy for him to say!  It was still a little scary for me.

My colleagues are incredibly nice and helpful and took great care of me.  I had lunch with them in local lunch spots and dinner at the best Japanese restaurant in Chiang Mai.  They made sure I had rides where and when I needed.  I hope next time I won’t be such a burden and can be more independent.  I loved touring the factories and seeing how people work.  I love factories in general anyway – stuff is really happening there!  Stuff is being MADE.  I’m a maker at heart – any kind of making I get excited and interested.

Anyway, the point of this blog post is to tell you about the elephants!  Before I left for Thailand, DB bought me a travel book.  I needed to find out what I could do on my free weekend.  I found a day trip to an elephant park.  Not just any park.  This is an Elephant Nature Reserve.  Elephants roam around free.  They form their own family groups.  They are not ridden or forced to perform stupid tricks for tourists.  Some are rescued from terrible circumstances and some were born on the park.  The center was started by an amazing woman named Lek Chailert.  They have a FB page of course.  Their web site is here.  You can book a trip in advance if you like.

On Saturday morning a van arrived at my hotel to pick me up.  I was the last on the route and there were already 8 others in the van.  We drove the 2 hours to the park and watched a short movie about the park while en route.  We got there around 10am which was feeding time.  All the tourists (there were probably 75 of us there on this day) were shy and hesitant.  The tour guides showed us what to do and how to feed them.  The elephants receive 60% of their food from humans and the rest they forage for themselves.

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Here’s our guide, and just some of the food that is prepared for the elephants.

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After feeding time we took a walk out into the meadow to a small group of females and a baby.  The baby was was about 9 months old.  One of the nannies is very old (60-70 years old) and the other nanny was injured in a logging accident and walks with a very bad limp.  Logging with elephants was only outlawed in the 1990’s in Thailand.  The practice continues in Cambodia and Myanmar.

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We were able to walk right up to them and touch them and talk to them.  It was pretty amazing.  We also walked by the little hospital they have there where they treat elephants from the whole area.  This is an elephant tooth.

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And this is an 80 year old elephant.

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After walking around a while it was time for lunch.  They set out long tables of hot food for all of us – very tasty.  I have to say, my tour group was not very social.  There were 4 couples and me and each couple really kept to themselves.  At other tables people were talking together and sharing travel stories.  Oh well.  I concentrated on the elephants.  I asked the tour guide lots of questions.

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After lunch it was bath time.  We went down to the river and elephants joined us.  Not all of the elephants are allowed to come to the river with us.  One family group is super protective of their baby and get a little crazy in the water when strangers are around.  Another family group has a 3 month old baby and no one is allowed to get near enough to touch them as they are extremely protective and the baby is too young to interact safely with people.  All completely understandable.

We splashed around, throwing water on the elephants to clean old dirt off them.  Of course after the bath they head to the dirt and mud area and cover themselves again, which is what they are supposed to do.  The dirt keeps them free of bugs and sunburn.

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After we washed some of the elephants, the family group that keeps to themselves came down to the river and we had to go up to the sky walk to be safe and keep them safe too.  After we watched them in the water, they all came walking towards the main building, where we were standing, and hung around like they were posing for photos.  In the end we were able to mingle with them and we all got used to each other.
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The only elephant we really had to look out for was the Naughty Boy.  He’s just a teenager and like all teenage boys he likes to stir up trouble.  Everyone scatters when he comes around.  He’s not that big yet, however, even a small elephant running at full force can knock you down and cause you serious physical damage.

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Here’s a photo of Lek with her elephants. There was also a guy with a big movie camera making a documentary for the Discovery Channel.  I’ll have to look out for that on tv!
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It was soon time for feeding again.  And then late in the afternoon we went to see the 3 month old baby, his mother and 2 nannies.  The nannie on the left had half her right rear foot blown off when she stepped on a land mine while logging in Cambodia.  The baby is so adorable.

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I made some short movies during the day.  It’s here on youtube.  If you watch to the end, you will see this family group with the 3 month old baby.  The nanny with the blown off foot is on the left of the screen.  You will see her thumping the ground with her trunk.  Only once do you hear it really well.  What an amazing sound!  And watch the baby try to imitate her!

You are welcome to look at all my photos here on flickr.

All in all, it was a great day.  It’s surprising to me how much of that day has stayed with me.  It had a big impact.  I want to go back.  I want to take DB there.  I encourage anyone who likes to travel or plans to travel to Thailand to go there and not go to the places where you can ride elephants.  We drove past one of those places and could see the elephants chained to cement pads waiting to be ridden around the roads.  This is not how an elephant should live.  And if you can’t get there but would like to help Lek save elephants (and water buffalo and other animals in Thailand and greater Asia), please donate to her organization.  She’s the real deal.

Let’s Start With Socks

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Clearly I have abandoned the blog for a while.  Like a lot of blog writers, I’ve run into the old “why am I doing this?” question.  So many people who are better writers than me, or who have much more interesting lives than me, have started and stopped blogs.  I’ve been keeping this thing up for 6 years!  Who does that?  Not many.

Anyway, I have not given it up entirely.  I’m in the middle of re-thinking it.  And while I’m re-thinking, I’ll just keep showing you some knitting.  Earlier I teased you with a piece of lace I’ve started.  There will be more on that soon.

Two days ago I finished these socks.  They couldn’t be more simple.  No pattern.  Just toe up socks, my usual 2.25mm needles, 64 stitches, k3,p1 rib with plain gussets.  I just wanted socks this color to wear so I knit them up.

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I’ve kind of decided that writing this blog is something I need to do for myself, regardless of readers.  At the same time, I always write as if I DO have readers, and I talk directly to my readers quite often.

Have you read “A Tale for the Time Being”?  Beautiful book.  I loved it.  The writer of the diary talks to her reader, assuming at some point there will be someone reading her diary.  I could relate to that.  I feel the same way.  Even though this is a diary, and a very public one, I figure that there will be someone reading it, sometime.  Even if I only get spam comments that are caught and filtered out.  Even if my blog statistics stagnate down to nothing more than random people accidentally clicking on and then out of my site.  I write for myself, but with readers in mind.