Sunday, August 31, 2008

In the past couple weeks I've had several friends ask me to knit for them, their children and grandchildren. I've been knitting as long as I've known all these people and these people have all known that I knit since they've known me. Still, for some reason, I have an ever growing queue of requested projects now. Good thing my dear mom is knitting my requests (the dress is almost finished, I can't wait!).

Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely not complaining. I love it. For a knitting-addict on a budget, it's really an awesomely cool deal. I suppose it's the knitting equivalent of becoming a drug dealer - enough action to support the habit and free junk (in the parlance of drugs I say "junk"...I would never refer to yarn as "junk") .

But, even so, knitting for others is a completely different thing than, well, just knitting. You have to measure, and count, and do the bloody swatches and make the guage. You have to check references for exactly what size a 3 year old kid is, how much sizes change with different bust measurements. An extra 4 inches in the sleeves of a sweater knit for, say your husband's birthday gift, can be over looked. Of course I mean, I, the knitter, can overlook it. Unfortunately my husband couldn't see the extra 4 inches as 4 inches of extra birthday love from his wife, as I tried to explain to him but that's another story and, frankly, his problem (actually 8 extra inches of love. Come on! I may guestimate lengths for sleeves but I do make the two sleeves the same length, usually). But I digress...Iwas talking here from my perspective, the perspective of the knitter - knitting for others is another cup of tea. Sleeves should be the proper length, decreases should be done well, the collar should lie properly and the ... well, everything should be done well.

So yesterday, having completed the back, the front and one of the sleeves of a sweater for a friend, I decided to frog it. In Knitliano or Knitlish or whatever knitlingo you parla, that means I gave up on it. Quit. Surrendered. Actually it means that I, like Dr. Frankenstein, looked in horror at what I had created and, disgusted with myself, decided to kill it.

First I swore at the sweater, then I swore at the yarn, then I swore at the needles, then at myself, then I killed it. And then I cried. Poor little sweater, it was shit. Really shit. Bad knitting. Wrong yarn. Wrong needle size. All my fault.

From the beginning it was a chore to knit this thing - not fun at all. Well, this happens sometimes when knitting for others...they choose the pattern, they choose the color. These two things seriously affect the knitter's pleasure. But this one, is MY pattern - I designed it, I chose the colors! And still I found that I had to bribe myself to work on it. "Two more rows and you can weave a little." "Finish the decreasing and you can start those socks you want." Should have been a clue to abort, no?

A bigger clue would have been that I SAW the thing as I was making it. I saw it was ugly in the first 6 rows. It's not really like you need to finish a whole sweater to realize that it's ugly. That's the beauty of knitting, when you see that it's not going well, you can always rip back and start again (Right, Mette?!). This differs from creating, say, a person, in which ripping it back to it's raw materials to start over is a bit, well, problematic.

And still I finished the back. And the front. AND a sleeve.

Today I started the thing again. The whole thing from the beginning. No bribes needed. It's coming along quickly and turning out it had in my mind when I designed it.

If you you'll excuse me now, I have another sleeve to finish. Thank God it's a baby sweater. Photos tomorrow.

PS. I'd decided not to do birthday posts this year. It being my 3rd blogging year, you readers have probably heard enough about my how cool my friends and family are. And, well, I'm kind of out of nice things to say about them. BUT I want tomake an exception and give a big freakin' happy birthday to nephew Max who is 18 today. Max, welcome to the wonderful world of adulthood. Two questions for you, Dude: 1. Have you done your draft registration? 2. Who are going to vote for?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hast du angst? maybe...

Remember all those horror films we all used to watch when we were younger (and less informed, um, I mean STUPID)? Remember all those really really stupid things that people did in those movies when we would scream at the characters things like, "You f$%^in' idiot!!! DON'T GO IN THAT ROOM! THERE'S BLOOD STREAMING FROM THE WALLS! DUHHHHH!"


Well, those were old movies. Maybe those characters didn't know any better. They had never seen what could happen. But I have...I've seen my fair share of those groups of friends out in the middle of the woods, families in old houses, and those single women in remote hotels. I've seen them ... and still... I did this...

Let me set the scene...

It's about 7pm, I call David. I'm talking to him outside on my cell when I hear the faint sound of music coming from in the house. Confused, I go in and our computer cell phone is ringing. (If you are a regular reader of Olive Knitting you know that Casa Cornwell doesn't have a phone line, we use a cell for internet...thus the ongoing lamenting about dial up) But it wasn't really ringing, I've heard it ring before, this was music. And when I got close, it wasn't even music. It was someone talking with a music ring tone happening at the same time. This would be freaky enough but added to the fact that no one has this number...well, it was a bit more than freaky. Ok, wrong number - no biggie.

Cool as a cucumber, I hung up on whoever had mistakenly tried to mix it up on our computer cell.

After the convo with David I took the doggies out to the terraces for a little running. When I came back in, the kitchen lights were out. "Damn, I thought I left those on." As a matter of fact, I HAD let them on. They were gone. Done. Burned. Finished. The whole line of them.

Ok, this happens. Planned obsolescence. David put these lights in when we moved in 4 years ago and replaced them two years ago. That math works. It's about time for them to go. Bad timing, however, since I won't be fixing them. Just means that I will be making dinner during sunlight. Which, unfortunately is earlier and earlier. Good thing I had that training during my recent visit to the midwest when dinner is at 5.30.

Cool as a cucumber, I lit a few standing lamps. No biggie.

Then I went into the bathroom...this one IS a biggie. There was a bottle of aspirin out of place. Don't laugh. The first thing I do when David leaves the house is put everything away, in its proper place. David has a lot of strengths but putting things where he found them is not one of them. How did that bottle get to where it was? If by some weird chance I had missed it on my first sweep of no-David organizing, how did I miss it again and again? It's the bathroom...not like I haven't been going in there for the past two days without him.

Ok, here's the tie into the intro to this post...what did I proceed to do?

I took a bath. I TOOK A FREAKIN' BATH! Duh!

It didn't occur to me until I was two minutes into the soak...WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! Suddenly I remembered all those stupid movies, those stupid people. And suddenly I felt that I WAS one of them. I TOOK A BATH.

Geez, it's a miracle on enormous scales that a psycho southern Italian with a headache dressed as his dead mother didn't come screeching in and stab me to death. But alas, I'm here to tell the tale.

Remember a month ago when I talked about "avere paura" or "hast angst" or "being afraid"...yeah, well, a girl has the right to change her mind.

I've now dug out the keys to Casa Cornwell and locked her up. After hitting "publish post" I'm going to bed to watch Bourne Supremacy. That should help. I'm pretty sure that the CIA is not trying to get me.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I've made a decision...

Sjoekie lent me a couple books on weaving, so I've started. No matter that they are in Dutch, I'm figuring it out. I'v decided that...

I want to become this woman...

Or this one...

I'm a little worried, however, that I'll become this one...

Wish me luck.

PS. Check back for new posts frequently in the months to come. David left this morning for the last leg of his working season. Alone on the side of the mountain again.

PSS. You may have noticed that I'm adding new stuff to the sidebar here at OliveKnitting. The newest is my Etsy "mini". For those of you who don't know, in addition to knitting and fixing things that break around my house, I make jewelry. That's a connection to my shop. It's a work in progress, changing daily. Have a look, then buy a lot of stuff. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

the story continues...

So, perhaps you all have been sitting on the edge of your desk chair waiting to hear about the hole in my car tube and why it isn't working. Well, I'd love to tell you the amazing story about how David and I were pushing the poor little thing the 2 km down the mountain road when our kind and most generous and knowledgeable neighbor, Mario saw us and proceeded to fix the car. In that story, the brilliant Mario would look under our hood, see the hole in the tube, and then with the precision of a heart surgeon, use my Swiss Army knife to cut the part of the tube with the hole off and reattach it. I would then hop in the car which would start right up. We'd all kiss, David and I would shower Mario with thank yous and everyone would go on with their day.

I'd like to tell you that story but it would be fiction. Not true. a lie.

Well, just the last part would be a lie. Mario did help us, he did snip the faulty tube and reconnect it. Unfortunately, it didn't solve the problem. The car didn't start. What really happened after the car's vasectomy was that dear Mario, who was obviously leaving his house for some reason other than helping the helpless Americans, spent the next HOUR trying to find the problem. He recharged the battery. He did something that involved all four spark plugs being out of the car, blown on, tapped on the ground and replugged. He did something with the fuel line. Nothing.

The true story ends with the car going to the shop of a mechanic friend of Mario's. The fictitious story was nicer, don't you think?

Happy endings are relative, however. Break downs are a real hassle, for sure - begging rides from friends, borrowing a car to do the grocery shopping, organizing life around walking or cycling. And, for sure I have been doing my share of lamenting about the situation. Then, on the way to my needle club meeting, I saw what had happened to my poor friend Marina's car.

Check THAT out! Her car burned up. The whole thing, BURNED! And as if that wasn't bad enough, it took her friends Bea and Deiter's car with it. Whoa. Hard to find a happy ending in that situation.

How about a happy ending to this are some photos of the Needle girls:

Mette's finished baby set - can you see the little pearls in those little pink flowers? beautiful.

Sjoekie's finished sweater for her daughter. Her design, her handspun wool. Awesome.

Natalie learned to crochet today.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Living and learning

I found out on this last trip home that my mom has a favorite quote. It goes like this:

"Live every day as if you will die tomorrow - Learn every day as if you will live forever"

Today, in an effort to learn my bit for today, I was pretty sure I wouldn't even live through the rest of today.

I learned to use the weed whacker.

Ever used a weed whacker? Why did I think that it was going to be like vacuuming the outside? I really thought I'd just go out to the side of the mountain and Hoover a little. Not exactly.

First clue was when David told me to put on "real clothes" before we started. "Get out of that sun frock. You'll want to be covered."

Ok, I don't mean to give the impression here that I'm completely illiterate of garden power tools. I have SEEN weed whacking before. David's been known to do his share of whacking. And I see the guy across the street doing it every spring. David usually wears jeans, an old shirt, boots and sun glasses...that's it. The guy across the street dons the full meal deal - neck to ankle rubber apron, rubber gloves that reach his elbows and a mask that makes me think of Jennifer Beals in Flashdance...when she was welding, not dancing. Judging by the neighbor's outfit, I was aware that accidents could happen whilst whacking. But, well, dude is also an 8 fingered carpenter so I figured he was just being overly cautious.

Dressed like my husband, I headed outside. David taught me the oil/gas mix thing, and the different buttons that need to be in different positions to start and make it go. He taught me how to change the plastic string stuff that actually does the cutting. He told me never to lose the spring that's inside. He showed me what to do when the string stuff gets too short. He demostrated how to hold it. I was getting a little impatient...let's whack! I just want to clean the mountain!

I was already thinking to myself "I don't think I'll be doing this a lot."

Then, he put the thing on the ground in front of me and told me to start it. I flipped all the right switches (both of them) and grabbed that little handle. I used my whole body and jerked up, with all the quick pulling force that I saw David use. The handle came roughly 6 inches out of the machine, not even close to the 3 feet required to get the beast going. 10 minutes later, and with a bit of a sore arm, I got it to kind of make a noise. The motor wasn't, by any means, running but it did give a little burp like sound. That's when I said aloud, "I don't think I'll be doing this very much."

A few more pulls and I got it going, with a little help from David. Finally!...Let's whack!

David shows me (again!) how to hold it, and then starts whacking - demonstrating the side to side motion of the machine. Showing me how close to get to the ground, etc.

Friends, shit started flying every where!!! Little pebbles, bits of dried weeds, branches. I ran into the house to get MORE covered.

Returning to the front yard dressed like David if he were a weed whacking devout Muslim woman, I proclaimed, "ok ok! My turn!"

David turned to me, "Do you mind ruining that scarf around your head? 'Cause you will."

I grabbed the machine and found a comfortable position to hold it (which, given the difference in my arm strength to that of David, was different than the position he uses) and started.

It was great. I was clearly better at this than David (or the frightened neighbor) - nothing was flying anywhere. Not dangerous at all. Cool, I can do this.

Then David took the whacker from me, "Lynn, you're supposed to be cutting the weeds - a crew cut, not a bob. You have to actually touch the weeds with the machine."

He showed me again. Again, shit started to fly every where. Again I thought, "I won't be doing this too often."

Then the whacker stalled, out of the magic gas/oil mix.

"So that's all for today?" I asked, a little too hopefully.


"That's too bad. Let's go have a beer."

Tomorrow I get to learn if that tube in the engine of my car with the hole in it is the reason it won't start. Not as dangerous as garden power tools but exciting all the same...and I can wear my own clothes. I can't wait!

Friday, August 15, 2008

I like Wednesdays

Hey look! The Wednesday knitting group is growing.

And we seem to have a name now - "the needle club". Well, we didn't vote on it or anything but that's how we refer to what we do collectively from 3 - 6 on Wednesday afternoons. Sometimes it's called "das needle club".

Let me introduce the newbies by way of their projects...

-- Natalie (English, living in Italy for about 6 years) modeled a finished item for us. You knitters out there know that each finished item has at least one interesting story that comes from its production. Here's this piece's: Natalie knit this sweater with wool and a pattern inherited from her mother who had started it for her a while back...a long while back since Natalie's dear mum has been dead for 15 years. Natalie finished the sweater earlier this week. Well done, Nat!

--Shuki (Dutch, living in Italy something like 25 years I think - I have a lot more to learn about and from Shuki, the first being how to spell her name) balled some of her own hand spun, hand dyed wool with Mette's help.

Look at the color of that stuff! Naturally dyed and all that, which Shuki has promised to teach me (the spinning part, too). Sorry I didn't get a close up of time. After a life time of knitting in the "arm pit" method (I'm sure it has a proper name...that's what I call it when you use really long needles which you hold in your pits while you knit), Mette taught her the "right" method (which is what I arrogantly call the method know to others as "continental").

As for the oldbies...

--Mette started a rug with some yarn gifted to her by Shuki. I'm sorry I don't have a photo, I really thought that I took one but it's no where to be found. Next time.

--And AnnaMia is still trying to finish that pair of socks, from a month ago. If any of you out there have a good basic sock pattern in German, please forward it to me. I suppose I could google it but I wouldn't know what I was looking at. I'll also be sure to make a sock time.

After das needling was done, some of us went to the balony where we found:

some spouses,

some amazing food and drink,

And Jesus?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Frequently people do things for me that are so thoughtful and generous that, well, it makes me question my worthiness.

Let me give you a few of the most recent examples...

1. Mike (of the comments), a man that I met once, 6 years ago when he bought my Little Blue, recently sent me a couple little care packages. Actually it would be better to say "car packages". You see, Little Blue, the car that we mutually loved is so much more than a car that it created a bond between Mike and I that has lasted longer than the time either of us got to spend with Little Blue. Here's a picture, maybe you can understand why...

Obviously that's a photo of the car, not Mike (and, obviously it's just a photo I took of the web of a Fiat 600, not Mike and my Little Blue which was, well, BLUE). Anyway, back to Mike and his generosity... out of the blue (and the Blue) he sent me all this great Fiat memorabilia from the Denver Automezzi classic Italian car show (which, by the way, I am proud to say Little Blue won the "people's choice" prize in a few years back...not too shabby given the competition included Ferrari's, Maserati's, and the like). Mike sends me such a package every year. Sometimes it's a t-shirt, or a poster, or photos but always something. This year we have a desk calendar, the Automezzi book, 3 years of posters (all of which will adorn my studio) and a tote bag (to become my new mobile knitting projects' carrier).

Thank you, Mike.

2. Remember these guys?

They're the friends who come to visit Casa Cornwell after their annual ski trip every year, only to have some major housely system break. Before they come, they always ask what we want from the US. Last year I requested books on tape (not really realizing how freakin' expensive they are). I listen to books on tape when I'm working in my studio and I explained to Denise and Wayne that I've been listening to same TWO books over and over again for about 4 years. I thought they might bring me, like, one new one. Nope, they brought me, like, a dozen. I went through them like a starving man at a buffet.

Then, when I arrived in Wisconsin last week there was a little package waiting for me. Pallies sent me another one! How nice is that?!

Thanks, Denise and Wayne.

3. Ok, well, she IS my mother but she's going above and beyond this time. When I was home I was showing her the free pattern section of the Berroco website and we just happened to take a look at the dresses (it's not really important to the story that I have been wanting a knitted dress for a really long time!). We found "Anna" and mom said, "I'll make that for you." Just like that, "I'll make that for you." Friends, do you realize how much time (not to mention YARN) goes into knitting a dress?! Yeah, me neither because I've never knit one and, frankly, I am too daunted to even think about it.

She's making me THIS (free pattern here).

When it's done I will never take it off. Never. Not even in the summer when it's like 40 degrees (celsius)...unless I'm wearing that cute cabled yellow sweater she made me last spring.

Thanks, Mom.

4. This one astounds me every year...when I go home, my parents shower me with gifts. I come home and THEY give ME gifts. The list is too long to go into but ranges from clothes to tooth paste (in bulk) to an MP3 so let me just say that I had to borrow an extra suitcase to bring it all back. Unbelievable.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

Thoughtfulness and generosity in excess.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

safe and sound and home again...

Some highlights from this year's visit to the US (in no particular order):

--New Friends: I love it when good people make more people,they turn out so well. Checkout these new people...

Asha, 9 years new

Tehmi, 6 years new

Maya, 3 years new

Evelyn, a year and a half new

-- and old ones:

Carleton* pals (and parents of Asha, Tehmi, and Maya), Jay and Roxie. Jay was the first friend I met at college, Rox was the last. Jay helped me survive college, Rox helped me graduate. Cool thing is, they got hitched.

That's Betty (Evelyn's mom). She's also a Carleton pal. We fell in love one night playing chandeliers**. Despite the fact that she tried to get me drunk that first night, we are still in love.

That's Milly (on the right) - she's been my pal for as long as I can remember.

--bowling: much like the Dairy Queen, bowling alleys are not places that I frequented all that much when I lived in the US but is must do when I now am in the States. Dudes, I broke 100 (in one game)

(Jake, honey, I won't mention here how I TOTALLY kicked your ass. It's enough that we both know.)

--family time. There's nothing more to say than that I have an awesome family...period. They are why I need to go back as often as possible and why it's so great every time (them, the Dairy Queen and bowling).

--more family time

-- and more family time

--3 inch thick pork chops, what more can I add?

--452 ways to drink a coffee. On this visit I focused on the versions that involved mostly ice cream and chocolate with just a dash of coffee. God bless America.

--corn on the cob, which I vowed to eat every day I was home and just about succeeded.

(I have no idea why this photo is sideways, I've flipped it 100 million times and re-posted case you can't tell by turning your head 90 degrees to the right, that's my sister buying some sweet corn)

--prairie sunsets, which are almost as beautiful as mountain sunsets.

* For the uninformed, Carleton is a small liberal arts college in Minnesota.

** Chandeliers is a drinking game...which is not worth explaining if you don't already know how to play.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Pits and Rings

They say that you know you're from the American Midwest when you've been to a party at a gravel pit.


They also say you're a midwesterner when you've never met anyone famous but the mayor of your town knows you personally.

Not any more!!!

Yeah, of course I know the mayor. But NOW....I also know someone famous. I didn't just meet him, either. We had algebra together. * We've also been to a party at a gravel pit together.

Let's all give a big cheer for Walworth County Sheriff's Department Seargent Howie Sawyers who won the International Cop Donut Eating Contest. You can hear the podcast here.

Way to go, Howie. I'm proud to say I know you!

*Thanks Mr. Wolf. It was a great class, I learned a lot. You wouldn't believe how much I use that x = 12y +4 in knitting patterns.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

USA 2008 - an observation

More observations, reflections, and photos to come but let's start with this one....

"Is life really different here in the midwest than it is in Italy?"

"dinner at 5.30."