The blackberries cometh

Hold on to your butts. Three gallons so far, and that’s just the early, cane-end ones …

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Birthday

I had a birthday. My second in Washington state.

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On my first here, I got rear-ended on the first time I tried to drive into town. Ick. This birthday I celebrated with langostine scampi and heirloom tomato salad, which was much nicer.

My birthday treat to myself–decided at a subconscious level, and on the spur of the moment–was to spend the morning doing a lot of neglected chores that had been bugging me. It was clothes-washing day and I always get that done, but I picked up all the I-could-wear-it-again items strewn on the floor and took care of them. With the bedroom floors clear, I vacuumed the upstairs. I got a bucket of sudsy water (the green Dawn that smells like apples) and wet-dusted all the bedroom furniture, including my writing room. I even moved my little forest animals to get everything clean. I straightened up my desktop. I washed the sheets. Then I took a first lick at our TV room, which is badly in need of attention.

After all that, I stuffed eighteen resistors onto each of twenty-five circuit boards, and spent some time looking at my birthday-present books, pictured above. I took three double turns around our back pasture, to get my steps in for the day. I knitted for about three minutes. I took a nap. I cooked dinner.

It was a pretty good birthday. I’m glad I got that housework done. There are a lot more resistors to stuff today … and I need to thread a warp for weaving class. The teacher, Marcia, is relentless with the warp threading. She’s good that way.

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LYS

My new Local Yarn Shop, that is. My yarn shop. Oh my, my yarn shop.

Not exactly mine. The town I live in has (at least) two yarn shops, and they aren’t this one. This one is a bit of a drive–more of a special-occasion visit than an everyday, drop-in-to-buy-a-button sort of yarn shop. But it’s … well. Let me explain.

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Twenty years ago, give or take, my mother got into serious knitting–what some people call Technical Knitting–and began to visit what was then our local yarn shop.

Friends, that was the yarn shop to end all yarn shops.

It was in a historic train station. Two enormous high-ceilinged rooms, with old fashioned wooden-framed, weighted-sash windows and antique light fixtures. Two fireplaces. A cat. Free tea, always ready. Rocking chairs.

And the yarn. Eeeeeeeeeee, the yarn.

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They had Jamieson’s whole line of Shetland Spindrift. They had the whole line of Cascade 220. Rowan. Debbie Bliss. Mountain Colors. Wooden knitting needles. It’s hard to explain to people who don’t remember it how exciting the 1990s were. You’d lived your whole life drinking Folgers coffee and knitting Red Heart yarn on Boye needles and then suddenly there were cappucinos and Lantern Moon.

But I digress. I left home. My parents moved away. The yarn shop closed. All that’s left are the memories, and the desire to find a yarn shop to replace the one that was lost.

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And this one is the closest I’ve found. Its aura is clean and expensive, which isn’t like the old one, but the yarn they sell has the same mindset. It says “we’re going to do some serious knitting.”

Yeah, here’s some snobbery on my part. A lot of yarn shops focus on novelty yarn. Sparkles. Sequins. Multicolored hand dyes. And these yarns are lovely, and my stash overfloweth with them, but if you want to buy a sweater’s worth of a single-color yarn? You’d better be heading to Webs, baby.

Not here. This one has Rowan, Shibui, Brooklyn Tweed, Jamieson, Frangipani, and lots of others I can’t name off the top of my head, and they have lots of it. Last week I went in there and said “I’m going to knit a gansey. I need 14 skeins of Frangipani in Falmouth Navy.”

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And you know what? They had them. In the same dye lot.

So. No fireplaces or shop cats, but I’ll take it. I’ll take it.

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The hubris socks

I finished a pair of socks yesterday. They were a lot of fun to knit.

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This was my second pair knit of Scheepjes Invicta Extra. I still love this yarn. I want to buy more … but I have so much yarn waiting, I really can’t. Anyway: it holds the stitch pattern beautifully and was a joy to work with. It’s cheap, too. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Here is the chart for the pattern. I worked it over 32 stitches (five panels and four cables) on the insteps, for five and a half total pattern repeats. During the last half repeat, I increased the sole stitches from 28 to 31, and worked a short-row heel over 31. Then I finished the pattern repeat, still working it only on the front needle. After that, I worked five pattern repeats with the pattern all the way around (five panels and four cables on the front still, and five cables and four panels on the back). Then ribbing and Bob’s your uncle.

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I’ve been knitting my socks over fewer stitches, recently. 64 was my standard number for years, but I’m finding that 60 or even 56 works better for me. Socks keep their shape throughout the day, and fit into my shoes. Silly me. I have also been putting my socks straight through the washer and dryer like everything else, which is one reason I’m wearing them so much more. After years of hand-washing, I feel liberated.

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Why are these the hubris socks? Because they inspired me to knit a traditional fisherman’s gansey for Sparks. Out of Frangipani 5-ply Guernsey wool. Knit at 8sts/in. He has a 44″ chest so with 2″ of ease, that makes for 368 stitches around. Gak. Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaak.

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I’m going to re-measure his chest today, but otherwise, as soon as my long-cord 2.25mm circular needle shows up, I’m off to the races.

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The front hall

Don’t get me wrong: as a house, The Brambles has drawbacks.

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It only has two bathrooms, for example, and they are as teeny-tiny as full baths can be. It has low ceilings: the kitchen is only 7.5′. It has a lot of acoustic-tile ceilings, popcorn ceilings, and ’70s paneling walls (which have been painted over).

But it’s still as close to my dream house as I can come without custom building, and the front hall is the first reason why.

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So many houses are small, period. So many others put all the space into making the living rooms bigger, the master bedroom bigger, the master bath bigger. Those are great things, but when that space comes at the expense of space to move around, put stuff, and accomplish the practical everyday tasks you have to accomplish before you can enjoy your living room or bedroom? Ech. Always made my teeth itch. Give me closets or give me death, people.

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And The Brambles has all those practical spaces. Nice big closets in every bedroom (well, besides ours, but that’s because our “bedroom” is actually the living room … more on that later). A huge utility closet where we throw all sorts of junk. A real utility room, with space for storage and folding laundry as well as the washer and dryer. There is a mysterious room off the kitchen that I have designated my walk-in pantry (more on that later, too).

And the front hall. THE FRONT HALL.

Western Washington is a rainy, muddy, pine-needle-strewn place. Especially if you live in the country, the way we do, you NEED a place to hang your raincoat, take off your boots, and put your house slippers on.

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And we have it, we have it, thank HEAVENS we really have it. The beautiful slate floor came with the house. I painted the walls blackberry-purple and hung my Bierstadt landscapes. That’s the library to the side and the TV room straight ahead.

I love my front hall. L. O. V. E. it. So glad we have one.

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The ferry, the city, the EMP

All my life, going to “the city” meant a 2-3 hour drive along screamingly terrifying interstates.

Now, it’s a short drive followed by a leisurely ride on the Washington State Ferries. MUCH better. We’re lucky to have family who live in the city, too, so we have a landing pad for expeditions there.

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The ferries are drive-on. Once you’ve parked your car, you get out and exit to the passenger deck. People, these ferries are huge. A lap around their decks is bigger than the track at my local Y. There are bathrooms, vending machines, hundreds of armchairs and booths, a cafe, even a bar on board each one.

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Mimi always wants a package of Red Vines as her “ferry ride treat,” then settles down to watch the view. And the view is worth watching.

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Space Needle!

This time we were there to spend the night with the relatives. In the afternoon of our arrival, they took us to the EMP. That’s a museum in Seattle Center devoted to movies and music. Something nice about it is that it isn’t exactly large, but it packs a big punch. I highly recommend this for anyone visiting the city with older children (it was intense enough that Mimi, at five, was a little scared by some galleries) or who just likes to have fun. It’s right by the Space Needle and the Chihuly museum, so there’s lots to do right there.

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There was a special Star Trek exhibit on. I used to be a hard-core Trekker, so I was delighted.

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Where am I? (answer: Jefferies tube)

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THAT SHIRT. Amirite?

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And behind the EMP is the world’s most bananas playground. It looks like something out of Dr. Suess.

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I 100% guarantee that any kids who were “super tired” inside the museum will perk right up.

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And the next morning, after a lot of booze and a lot of crazy-rich food, home again. Goodbye, Seattle. See you next time.

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One year

It’s been one year since we packed up Low House and left Illinois.

That day was bananas. I mean, we watched the moving guys load up a 2000-sq-ft house, and all the stuff in it–and we are stuff-heavy people, if you know what I mean–and then, when they were done, we drove five hours to Des Moines for the night. We had Pudding with us, so we needed a pet-friendly hotel, and in the frantic chaos of packing we hadn’t researched what hotels those might be.

Suffice it to say, the motel we ended up in wasn’t very nice. Not that night, or the night after. On the third night we booked the La Quinta in Bozeman, Montana, and when we walked into our huge semi-suite with a king-size bed for us and foldaway for Mimi, two televisions, huge new bathroom, and comfy, coooooomfy bed, I said “Booking Dot Yeah!”

Anyway. A year since we left Illinois. Have I regretted it? No. Western Washington is gorgeous. I love The Brambles. I love how many things there are to do here. I love the weather, for pete’s sake, even though as summer goes on and the daily high is still ~70F, I begin to wonder if there’s any point in setting up our inflatable pool.

Of course there are moments. Moments I remember how entrenched we were at Low House. How familiar it was. How I was pregnant there, and went into labor there, and spent the long newborn days and nights there. How I knew how to get everywhere, and when to go there, and what to do there. Snow is gone to us, and blazing summer heat, too. Outdoor water parks don’t exist out here. Lincoln’s New Salem village isn’t here. There are one or two stores that aren’t out here, and I’ve learned how to do without them.

This is longing for what had become familiar, and isn’t that funny. Illinois was an interstitial place in my life, I hoped. I moved there to do the job-husband-kid thing. With that accomplished, we moved on to greener pastures. And now that I am learning how to drive places here, and when to drive to them, and what to do at them, I sincerely hope we are here for a long, long time.

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