Friday, July 29, 2005

bias update

I've been working on my shrug on the bus and have finished the sleeve part of it and am into the back part. It's going very quickly. YAY! I really like the way it's looking and feeling. It's now 32% complete.

I also learned that using the knit-on cast on was a great method to use. It's recommended for soft, lace edges. That's precisely what I've got. Amazing... I'm lucky.

There is a new knitting store opening up the street from me in a couple weeks. The grand opening is, of course, the weekend of Jen and Kevin's wedding, but supposedly the store should actually be up and running beforehand. I look forward to it.

I purchased the newest edition of Interweave Knits. Yay. So many things to knit, so little time (and money)...

Monday, July 25, 2005

back on the ice

Yesterday I stopped by the Island Sports Complex on Neville Island to play one of my favorite sports - ice hockey. I haven't been on the ice all summer, despite my vows in the spring to skate often and learn how to skate in something other than my goalie skates. However, I was invited to play with the Pittsburgh Piranhas in an upcoming tournament in Philadelphia, so I figured I'd better drop by one of their pick-up hockey sessions to get my body back into the swing of hockey things.

It was fun. I wasn't super great, and I know I want to somehow work on a few skills before I head out to Philly, but I did have a good time. It probably sounds crazy to everyone, but when I'm playing in a pick-up game I find myself cheering for the opposing team - I want them to shoot on me. That's what I'm there for as a goalie, and that's what I know how to do...and that's what I love about hockey.

At least it's one thing I love about hockey. I also love watching good skaters skate in hockey. Some day I'd like to spend a whole period just watching a good skater's feet. It's amazing the control people who know what they're doing can have, with the slightest pressure on one edge of their skate blade making huge impacts on their direction and speed. Lovely.

Probably by now some of you who read this (that is assuming some people actually will read this) wonder how I got into ice hockey and why I'm playing it all that jazz.

I started playing hockey a year after I learned how to ice skate. I learned how to ice skate when I was 15 years old in the early months of 1996, and I learned because I wanted to be able to play ice hockey the next year. The ice skating class I took through the Kentwood Hockey and Skating Association at my beloved Kentwood Ice Arena (I still use a water bottle that sports the arena's OLD address!) was marvelously entertaining. I obviously had no idea what I was doing and so was put into the intermediate skating class (not beginner - I could at least manage to stand up in skates). All the other kids in my class were about 8 years old. A couple of them thought I was the teacher, which was hilarious because I was worse than all of them! Also funny was that my teacher was a year or so younger than I was (and, as it turned out, played on a hockey team that was the rival of the team I played on in high school!). I somehow made it through the humble experience, although I wasn't great at stopping using the "hockey stop."

The next school year I signed up to play hockey on the newly-formed 19 and under girls' team out of the Arena. At first I wanted to play defense, and I accumulated all of the equipment for that, but then, before the season started, I think, the coach told me that the team needed a goalie. I had played goalie for soccer, so I volunteered. Coach Townshend had helped coach his daughter to become a division I college goalie, and he ran a Saturday morning camp for goalies. I borrowed some goalie equipment from KHSA (they're so nice!!) and showed up for my first lessons in ice hockey goal tending.

I had been to a camp or two when team practices started, and then I had to do skating drills where you'd tear down the ice and then have to stop before you ran into the boards at the end. I learned that it's a LOT easier to learn how to do the hockey stop when you're in full hockey pads. It doesn't hurt as much when you mess up and fall down.

I played on the U19 team for my last two years in high school, and then in college I joined the Michigan State University women's club team where I had the privilege to play with some wonderful women who taught me a lot about hockey as well as life. And I was coached by some awesome coaches, too! I stopped playing after my sophomore year because it was becoming too difficult for me to balance school and club sports.

I played on and off for intramural and pick-up teams, but it wasn't until last year (November 2004) that I started on a team again. I joined Central Pittsburgh, a great team of women who really enjoy hockey. I look forward to playing with them again this coming season!

a good bias

I've finally selected something to wear for my friends' Jen's and Kevin's wedding in September!

I was originally planning to make a lovely outfit with a knit skirt, sewn blouse, and knit shrug to offset any late-summer ocean breezes on the Cape, but yarn manufacturers foiled my plans. Two colors of the yarn I selected for my skirt have been on backorder at every place I try to buy it from. Even if the yarn arrived on my doorstep today I hightly doubt I could get the skirt finished by September since I'm not a terrifically fast knitter.

So I have been contemplating something else to wear, and I've decided to dig out an old dress and make a shrug to go with it instead. I never, EVER wear dresses (in fact, when I wore said dress to church this weekend everyone asked me what the special occasion was...), so nobody will know that this dress is old. It's blue and flowy and I think will fit the ocean scene quite well. I need to think about shoes, though.

At any rate, the point of the post in my new knitting project, which is entitled "A Good Bias" and comes from the Spring 2005 issue of Interweave Knits, which is my favorite knitting magazine. I chose this project for this particular wedding outfit because it covers the back pretty well (my dress has no back), it has a lacy but not overly lacy pattern, and it seems like it will knit up really quick. The latter is the biggest reason I picked it...

I cast on with the knit-on cast on method (haven't done that before...not sure if I should have used it for this particular project, but I neglected to consult my cast-on-chooser reference book first) on Saturday night after buying some cheap Lion Cotton from Michaels (which I'll also probably use to make some dish cloths or something from my getting-married friends). So far, so good. It's a fun but simple pattern and is going quickly. Yay! I'm currently 8% of the way done.

Here's a picture of what it will look like when it's done, except mine will be white:

Saturday, July 23, 2005

knitting and knitting again

I took one of my two current projects with me to Jacksonville and worked on it v e r y slowly. It's an Aran sweater from the wrapper of Lion Brand Fishermen's wool. Aran sweaters originated in Irish fishing villages on the Aran islands, are traditionally made with virgin wool, and thus are good at resisting water (and smell like sheep!!!). Aran basically means a bunch of cables in a pattern. I read once that the cable patterns were inspired in part by the knots and ropes that the fishermen used. (Hm, maybe I could design a rock-climbing-knot Aran... Hee hee.) The point of the matter is that Aran sweaters are intricate and have lots of twisting, which makes them a little bit more difficult that your basic knit sweater. In my opinion, the difficulty of Aran sweaters is more a matter of patience than skill, although I suppose skill/technique would determine whether your cables looked even or all messed up. But then again, what does my opinion count - I've been knitting for less than two years, and this is my first cabled piece!

At any rate, my personal knitting of an Aran sweater is very slow-going, mostly because I don't work on it very often and there are a billion stitches in each row, and I have to think about what happens to each one of them individually. So it's quite frustrating when I'm sitting on the bus (where I do most of my knitting) on the ride into work and realize that I screwed up 2 stitches 6 rows back. This was the case on Thursday morning of this week.

What to do? My first instinct was to do what is called "frogging" where you weave the knitting needle into the stitches on the row before the messed up one and then rip (get it? - "rip it" = "ribbit" = "frogging") out the stitches in the rows before by pulling on the yarn (reminds me of the Weezer song "Undone": "If you want to destroy my sweater, hold this thread as I walk away." Very depressing to think of destroying my very own I-made-it sweater...). However, I also knew that I had made a couple little tiny mistakes way back 16 rows before. 16 rows before was, basically, the start of the Aran pattern.

I decided that, if I had to rip, I might as well rip it all out and start over. Waaaaaah! Starting over has occured quite frequently for this particular sweater... I was not excited to do it once again.

But I did. And honestly, it was a good choice. First of all, now I don't have to live with the knowledge that there were messed up stitches at the beginning that were tolerable but noticeable. (I did, however, once again make a mistake, but this one isn't even noticeable unless you're REALLY anal.) Second of all, I've nearly memorized the entire pattern, which spans somewhere around 150 stitches and takes 16 rows to complete. So in the end it's good. But it severly cuts down on my productivity... Good thing I don't have a deadline for this sweater.

My other project got left at home because it was getting way too big to bring anywhere. It's a cardigan sweater, and it's MUCH easier that the Aran. I kept exclaiming to myself when I started "Wow, I'm already a third of the way done with the bottom part! ...Wow, it's halfway done!" It is a very welcome change from the frustration of the Aran. This cardigan is the "Fairly Easy Fair Isle" sweater from the book Stitch 'n Bitch Nation. I chose it because I get freezing cold at work with the obnoxious air conditioning in the summer and wanted something that would be warm and snuggly but not hugely bulky. I also chose it because I want to learn how to knit with colors, and this project has a little bit of color work that requires two new techniques for me - stranding and weaving.

I am modifying the original instructions a little bit - I am combining two sizes (large body, medium sleeves, which might be a bad idea, but...too bad), and in an effort to reduce sewing requirements, I'm knitting the sleeves in the round instead of flat (flat would require me to sew the sleeves together when I was done). In addition, I want to make the sleeves the same, exact length, so I'm working them both in the round at the same time on the same needles. There's probably a better description of how to do this, but I got it from the straight-laced sock pattern from Knitty. I'm trying to decide if the "extraspicy" designation of difficulty on this pattern is just because of the two-needles-two-socks-same-time technique or what. Having never really knit an entire sock, I'm not one to make the call. The 2n2s@st technique isn't so much hard as it is...stringy. There are needle cables and yarn all over the place, and when you add in Fair Isle knitting, that's even MORE yarn, so it gets a little messy-looking.

I started the Fair Isle part of the sleeves last night, and I was happy with what happened. I think that by the end of this sweater I'll have gotten the tension of the weaving and stranding all straightened out. I'm doing my Fair Isle with one yarn in each hand, and the hardest part for me thus far is wrapping the yarn with my right hand (English style) as I normally knit continental.


An update on the SCUBA diving training thing. I finished class number 8, passed my NAUI test, and then went on a training dive weekend just before I left for Florida (talk about a crazy weekend...). Brian and other instructors showed us the way to Strawberry Quarry somewhere near Harmony, Pennsylvania. If you ever go there, be sure you bring a very good 4 wheel drive vehicle that isn't afraid of getting muddy. There had been no rain for a long while, and the mile-long two-track going from the main road to the meadow-and-cow-pasture-encircled body of water had some huge mud holes.

For the training dives we had to buddy up (rule number one in diving) - I buddied with Sue, a great woman from my class who was a pleasure to dive with because she has great work ethic and won't quit. On Saturday we did some snorkeling and then 2 dives where we had to demonstrate various underwater skills. After resting for the evening, we went out again on Sunday where we learned how to use a compass to navigate underwater. My first attempt at this was HoR-RI-BlE! plus it was while snorkeling and I kept getting water in my snorkel...gotta work on that because it's no fun to inhale water. But by the end of the day Sue and I could go back and forth across the quarry underwater and end up where we started! Yay!!

I was really happy that I had pretty good buoyancy control, which just means I don't float to the top or sink to the bottom. This is determined by how much air one puts in a blow-up vest (called a buoyancy compensator or BC) that also holds the air tank. It's a very important skill for divers to have. I need a little more practice, but I'm happy with how it's going so far.

A few really cool things about the dives in Strawberry Quarry. First is the thermocline. A thermocline is where water from the top (warm) hits water from the bottom (cold) - you can definitely tell you're there because the temperature drops A LOT -- plus, the coolest thing, right at that interface there's a cloudiness, like fog in the middle of the water. I liked that. It just looked neat. But when I was coming up from the bottom if I stopped to look at the thermocline clouds I shot up to the surface because I always forgot to dump air out of my BC. That wasn't so good.

Second is the fish. It was SOOOOOO amazing to see fish and have them not swim away from me. I don't quite understand why they don't swim away, but I'm glad they didn't. All we saw were small little bluegills and sunfish - well, that might be a lie; I have no idea what fish species look like, I just think those sound like small lake-dwelling fish.

The third was the shark. Talk about hilarious - we're swimming along on our last dive (our totally independent dive!) and I look ahead through the semi-murky water and see the outline of a shark approaching!!! I just about freaked out. I, of course, knew that there are no sharks in freshwater quarries in the middle of Pennsylvania. But it really looked like a shark, and a BIG one. It turned out to be something that had been sunk in the quarry - a big metal pipelike thing with some rods sticking out of it, and I don't think it was put there to make people think it was a shark. But I will remember that shark for the rest of my life.

So, now I'm certified and will be getting my NAUI card in the mail sooner or later.'s off to Mexico - I hope! The question now is will there be enough money for Mexico. Despite my saving (which was NOT diligent, I must say) for over a year, I am still in need of some more money to make it to my goal for the trip. I am thus reluctant to schedule the trip because I don't know for sure if I'll have the money in time for when I want to go in November. Plus there are several items that will probably cost me a bunch of money between now and then, but I don't know how much to expect to pay. ...Here's hoping for Mexico in November 2005, though!

returning to life

I've been gone. Apparently.

From July 11 through July 17 I was in Jacksonville, Florida, with the high school youth group from my church, which is Northway Christian. We were helping work on houses being built by Habitat for Humanity, which in Jacksonville is known as "Habijax." There are about a million things I could say about the trip, but I suppose I'll summarize by saying the following:

1. I got to know two gals pretty well - Jessica (whom I had known before) and Mandy (whom I had not known before). They were awesome about letting "old" me hang out with young them. (For an interestin thought on this last sentence, see point 3 below.)

2. I was surprisingly disciplined. I lack discipline in a major way and am trying to work on implementin it back into my life. I think I lost it when I graduated from college, because I know I had it for most of my high school and the majority of my college years. But during last week I was getting up at 6 a.m. to read my Bible and pray. I wanted to sleep and sleep and sleep, but I dragged myself up, even with major lack of sleep. It's unfortunate that I'm much more disciplined when there are others around me than when I am "by myself" at home. It's like I'm trying to impress everyone with my diligence, but...that's not really a good motivation. I feel like my discipline should occur because I WANT to do what I know in my heart is the right and most productive thing.

3. I do feel motivated to put more effort into my relationships. I tend to shun friendships not because I don't like people - I LOVE people - but because, honestly, I feel like I'm more of a burden to people than a blessing. When I ask people if they want to do something, I feel like I'm requesting a gigantic favor from them. Probably there's some really messed up psychology there, so I suppose I'll have to work through that with time. At any rate, whether my issues are worked out or not, I do realize that one can't be close friends with someone if they never spend time together or talk. Thus, I want to make a more focued effort to call up my far-away friends and spend time with my near-to-here friends.

4. I really, really, really like Florida. Perhaps not quite as much as I like my childhood (and hopefully someday permanent) home, Michigan, but it's hard to say. I love the fact that Florida is sunny and that every part of Florida is near water - something I also like about Michigan (NOT the sunny part). I also really like the amazing thunderstorms that Florida gets. I even like the grocery stores there. I do not like that it gets so hot, although I can deal with that - I did work one summer outside in Florida and survived. I also do not like that the water at the beaches is salty. Yucko.

Friday, July 01, 2005

dive, dive!

I'm learning how to scuba dive so that I can get certified and then be able to dive down in Mexico when I go to Cancun for vacation in November. The Mexico vacation is still not set in stone for November due to financial reasons, but I'm planning on it for now.

Yesterday was session 6 of 8 for scuba class. I am taking classes through the Coral Reef Dive Shop in Wexford, Pennsylvania, which is about a 30 minute drive from my home in Pittsburgh. I found out about the shop through my friend Courtney. She worked for several years as a divemaster in the British Virgin Islands. When she came back to Pittsburgh we met at church, which is just around the corner from the dive shop. She was working for Brian, who owns and runs the shop, when I met her.

We have classes on Mondays and Thursdays, and each class has 1.5 hours of classroom time, then about 1.5 hours of diving time at the pool at Pine Richland High School. This past Monday was the first time I felt like I sort of knew what I was doing when I started to go down as I entered the water - it was a great feeling! I'm definitely feeling more confident about diving thanks to Brian's skilled, patient instruction.