30 July 2007

James loves Red-Red

Red Red is a bean stew that comes with plaintains. It often has goat, chicken, or fish in it. That's it in the bottom left hand corner. It might be our favorite food of Ghana.

A recipe for veggie red red to make when we get home. Yummy.

26 July 2007

fabric here, fabric there, fabric fabric everywhere

Accra (the capital and big city in Ghana) is filled with luscious fabric. Everywhere you go many of the women are wrapped in the most amazing prints I've ever seen. A few yards of fabric seems to have many different purposes, it can be a skirt, a shawl, a dress, or a baby carrier. Brilliant.

You can buy lots of fabric at the Makola market. Its like the Mall of America for Accra. Stall after stall of merchants, many of them selling fabric.

among other things...........

I like the fabric best, miles and miles of fabric...............

We won't discuss how much I bought. Yet anyway.

22 July 2007

headed for africa

The past few days has been a frenzy of preparation for our trip to africa. A few weeks ago we obtained most of the things we needed like passports, visas, luggage, money, etc. So I was feeling like I was ready to go. Then I realized there was a lot of finsihing up of things and fixing of clothes that I wanted to take. The house descended into a messy hell while I altered tunics to keep the sun off of my vampire skin and finished up crafts in projects. I think we are emerging.........

Clue #3 finished on the mystery stole:

I wanted to have Clue #4 done before I left since Clue #5 and Clue #6 will come out before we get back. BUT Clue #4 is long (it is a two week clue to give everyone a chance to read the Harry Potter book) and is just not going to happen. I have 4 rows of it done so far.

Pulpita the octopus:

Wow, she is awesome. I can't wait to watch my students put her on their heads since that is pretty much what I want to do whenever I look at her.

All that is left is, oh right, the packing. We've been accumulating all the stuff we need in a pile in the bedroom so now we have to tame it:

It might be a long day...............................

When I get back I will post photos of my adventures!

20 July 2007

what to knit at the opera

We did it! We survived 17 hours of opera AND enjoyed it. For the past 4 days we have been spending every evening at the Met watching successive installments of the Ring Cycle.

Somehow James and I spend a lot of time in dark theaters mostly watching movies or operas. This affords a lot of knitting time but adds the complication of darkness. At the movies this is usually OK, the seats are large and deep. If you need to see what you are doing you can wait for a light part of the movie and hunch your head over to see your knitting without bothering other people (unless of course you are knitting an octopus near an asshole).

The opera however affords less space than one get on an airplane and it is often full (definitely sold out full in the case of the Ring Cycle). There is little elbow room, little leg room, AND if you are sitting in the cheap seats way at the top, the slope is such that anything above chest level gets in the way of the people behind you seeing the stage.

Things you CAN NOT knit at the opera:
1. Large things like sweaters
2. Things on double pointed needles, it makes the people next to you nervous that they will get poked
3. Things that require you to look at your knitting
4. Things that require you to move your arms a lot (to move stitches)
5. Things that are not very wide and require you to turn your knitting a lot (this often leads you to bring your knitting up too high or over to the side to far.

This rules out a lot of things. Unfortunately I have the problem of quickly falling asleep in dark theaters unless I am moving. Therefore, to get through 17 hours of opera I HAVE to knit.

The first night I decided that perhaps dishcloth knitting was the best choice, Even though it requires color changes and slipped stitches I thought I could probably feel the stitches instead of looking. I think perhaps I was not being careful and lifted the knitting to far to the side prompting the man next to me to lean over and say, "I'm sorry, but that is really distracting." This was so sad for me. I thought, "how will I go through 17 hours of opera with no knitting?" So, I started practicing very discrete knitting on my lap. It was brilliant, James didn't even realize I was knitting. It took a long time though and hurt my arms a little.

The next night James and I switched places and I ended up next to a French lady who began talking to me about knitting and how much she loves to knit. Score! The sum total of nights one and two (with my lovely parrot assisting):

Night 3:

Night 4 was the trickiest. I ended up sitting next to the French ladies husband who perhaps did not appreciate knitting as much because he switched with her after the second act. Then in the third act I realized I had a fever and did not want to knit anymore. But then I started falling asleep. So Night 4 produced:

Lessons I learned about knitting at the opera:

1. It helps you stay awake
2. It might annoy the people around you, apparantly more so if they are male.
3. I can fix dropped stitches in the dark.
4. Maybe when the opera is sold out I should only knit during intermissions so as not to annoy people around me.

The opera was great but I never would have made it without the knitting (so it is a good thing I was sitting next to a nice french knitting lady). The most hysterical part of the entire experience is that we were by far the youngest people there (by decades almost). In fact many people kept asking James, "are you a musician?" Because they couldn't figure out any other reason that such young people would be there. When surrounded by so many old and older ladies I was the only one knitting. Perhaps this has something to do with one's sense of propriety, or the women's movement which makes many older women not knit or definitely not knit in public. And it is probably true that One Does Not Knit At The Opera. But I still found it amusing.

Gris-Gris burps.

15 July 2007

i like crafts

Today, in honor of homemaker extraordinairre Amy Sedaris, was an official Craft Day. If you have not read or looked at the book, I Like You, you really need to stop, go find it and read. It might be the most hysterical homemaking advice book in the entire world.

Its full title is "I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence" and in it she manages to take her unending quest to make her entire life as ridiculous and hideous as possible to a whole new level with hilarious reults of course.

First up was the "cherry blossom tree"

ingredients: twigs, popcorn, nail polish

Next was the "eye burrito"

ingredients: pantyhose, felt, beans

Followed by the ever popular "felt disks"

ingredients: felt, thread, buttons, "crazy stitches" (crazy stitching is for those who don't know how to sew)
You have absolutely no idea how enticing and amazing felt disks are. We scoffed and laughed but, once we began, couldn't stop. Evidently they make great eyepatches for your inner pirate. I have since bought yet even more felt just in case the felt disk urge arises again.

And what craft day would be complete without the creating of "competitive ribbons"?

ingredients: felt, thread, yarn, much creativity

And finally, the piece de resistance, the carrot potato bracelet

ingredients: carrots, potato, thread. The instructions call for it to be dried in your closet for a week, we shall see.

Behold the net result of our incredible craftiness:

Don't you want to try?

13 July 2007

sleepyhead stole

I have always struggled with the math. Granted, I made As in high school math, did well enough on the SATs and GREs, but that was only due to my ability to pick the right formula, stick in the numbers, and get an answer. I'm completely positive that most of the problems I've ever missed in my life do not come down to problems with formulas but rather the more basic and simpler level of arithmetic.

Since I've become a teacher I have learned the fancy word for this is "number sense", I have none. Well not none, but what I have is not strong. This is what enabled me to argue passionately with my mother that, yes, 29-12 COULD be 32 and why does math have to have one right answer anyway?

Luckily just like children learn better number sense, adults can too. Of course, having passed the best years to do this (ie the years where you are building a foundation for math rather than going back in and doing some major renovations and hoping the structural integrity of the building survives. Which it isn't really, have you ever really tried to figure out why the fancy stuff you do when you add unlike fractions works?) it is slower going. But, I like to think that over the past decade or so I have learned a lot about math that I didn't know or at least really understand before.

Imagine my surprise today when I realized all of that counts for nothing. Apparently I am now having difficulty just counting. The reason I know this is the beloved mystery stole. As I was happily knitting, I was working on this section that should have had 14 stitches. As I came to the end of the section I had one left over. So I unknitted the section and counted the number of stitches. There were 16.

Odd, I thought. Next I decided to count the section that followed this one as sometimes stitches leap over the little stitch markers. Maybe the extra 2 stitches go there. So I counted.

There were 12. There should have been 14. "Ah-hah!" I announced, feeling very proud. Clearly section 1 has two extra stitches and section 2 is MISSING two stitches. It is clear what has happened.

So. I started knitting thinking that I could just move the last two in section 1 over to section 2. Unfortunately, when I finished section 1 I (yet again) only had 1 stitch left over. How could this be? How can you have a section of 16 stitches, work 14 of them, and have 1 left over? I know enough math to say this Does Not Make Sense.

So, I took it out and tried again. Yet again, only 1 stitch left over. Apparantly late at night 16-14=1. I thought, "Well now I am certainly going to be screwed on section two since I NEED 2 extra stitches and only have 1." My slight but improving number sense also tell me that 12+2=14 (so do my fingers when I double check that I am not crazy).

But, since I was in a bizarre math black hole anyway, I decided to go in deeper. I knit the second section of 12 stitches adding in the extra one. And after I had worked all the stitches in the section (12) there were none missing and none left over. Apparently, not only does 16-14=1 BUT 12+1=14.

Who knew? Somehow everything worked out and the stole is looking beautiful....

(Everything above the white line is Clue #3 that I worked today, see the pretty beads?)

I think maybe the stole is mad at me and is warping the time space continuum to make 16-14=1. I think it is tired. There it is resting on the couch and all of a sudden it gets picked up, prodded, poked, and pulled on. What can it do but screw with my head mathmatically to make me stop and go to bed?

Good night stole. I hope you are less grouchy in the morning (my fragile number sense can't take much more)

12 July 2007


I might be sick. I can't quite tell. When I wake up in the morning I FEEL sick but then well......I don't really DO anything all day but knit, so its sort of hard to tell.

Usually when I feel like this in the morning I go to work and spend the day being profoundly irritated and extra exhauseted by 4 and 5 year olds. Then I know I might be sick. Apparently I'm lost without the irritating kid gauge.

Since I feel fine for most of the day I suppose it doesn't really matter BUT it does make me wonder three things:

a) All of those times I feel sort of sick and get irritated and exhausted by kids, am I really sick? Or is a slight "under the weather" feeling exacerbated by a high energy job?

b)Can I get sick in the summer? I generally assume that I only get sick becuse I am around germy children. So, feeling a little sick in the summertime throws me off. How do you get sick if you only leave your house once a day? What germs are you really encountering?

c)If I'm NOT sick what is giving me icky headaches at night and sore throat ickies in the morning, is it the evil air conditioning fairies? And why do they go away after I eat breakfast (No, it is NOT caffeine addiction. I have--mostly--stopped the coffee. Summer is for detoxing so you don't have to feel guilty all year long when you drink shameful amounts of coffee)

The good thing about sickness is that you can still knit (well, ummm except for when you have a 103 degree fever, then you can knit a stitch and then lay for 20 minutes shivering under your warm knitting). Anyway, I officially finished Part 2 of the Mystery Stole:

....and I only love it more. Things were a little rocky there for a while, we were not on speaking terms when it decided to mysteriously add and lose stitches. And the time that it decided to totally mess up the pattern for the previous 10 rows even though I had been knitting the right number of stitches in the right order, that was almost unforgivable. But we worked though the hard times and now.......sigh............it is the lovelist thing I have ever knit. See the beads? See how they go in a little diamond pattern? OK well you can't in this picture but they do. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

Crap. I just looked at the picture and noticed a glaring mistake. One that Can Not Be Fixed. I guess that makes it easy to decide what to do about it. Maybe I can fix it in the blocking.

Back to my original story....the bad thing about sickness is health insurance and money and nasty corporate america. James and I just went to see the movie Sicko. Despite the fact that it was a Michael Moore movie and had the requisite shady jumps of logic and subtle twisting of information it still makes me pray that we never get really sick ever in our whole lives. Because we will be pretty much screwed. We're moving to Canada.

09 July 2007

the all-encompassing mystery stole 3

I think this shawl is going to be Epic. As in an Epic undertaking, an Epic pain in the ass, an Epic obsession, and an Epic achievement.

Here is how I know:

Clue #1--I signed up to do it at midnight the day before I had an 8:00 class which I would have to leave early to dash off to a wedding two hours away. I really should have been sleeping.

Clue #2--Rather than sleep, I began thinking about what yarn I would use. I found some online, but it would have taken 10 days to deliver so I cancelled the order. Then I pulled out yarn I found at a thrift store and spent some time googleing to find out if it would be enough. It wasn't. So I went to bed disappointed and dreamed about mystery stoles all night.

Clue #3--The instant I got home from the wedding I ran to the yarn store. They closed in 60 minutes and it was at least a 45 minute trip on the subway. I was going to go to a different yarn store but they were not open. After a quick survey of all my options I decided that Downtown Yarns was the only store open that was close enough to get to before they closed.

Clue #4--I stayed up till midnight swatching. I dreamt about yarn overs.

Clue #5--The next day I got home and was suddenly seized with a deep desire to do the bead option on the stole. I ran to the Pratt store to see if they might have beads. They did. Upon getting back home again I realized I needed the tiniest crochet hook in the entire universe. I ran to the Pratt store again. They did not have one. Instead I decided that I must be able to fashion a tiny crochet hook out of a Serger needle threader. It worked.

Clue #6--By midnight I had this:

The first half of the first clue (to the mystery stole) finished. Look at the pretty lace. It is very, very, very, very soft. Look at the pretty beads, they are a little stone colored and a little purpley. They sparkle a little in the sun. I dreamt about them.

Do you see how I am smitten?

Clue #7--At noon today I came home and started knitting and by 4PM had this--

Clue one, aka the first part of the stole, finished. Now I am totally in love. I think it loves me back. Despite the fact that every other time I have knitted lace I have had to rip out everything 10 times or had the pattern get all woppy-jawed, none of this has happened yet. I say yet because, well, fate is not kind to people who make definitive statements.

The third part comes out on Friday, I better slow down or I will be forced to begin working on other projects (socks...?)

08 July 2007

so many choices

Done. Well, done-ish. I think Kathleen psychically understood how hard this knitting was becoming and thus scheduled her wedding on Friday--enabling a two hour road trip to Philly which greatly facilitated the Great Tentacle Knit Out of 2007. I still have to go through the frightening and unpredictible process of felting it, which due to a last minute yarn shortage, may or may not work out. I ended up using alpaca to finish it and as soon as I finished I heard this faint memory in my head telling me that alpaca does not felt well. Hmmmm..... More importantly, while it is waiting to be felted, the octopus has a second calling in life.....

...as a bright orange wig. It was even better before I knit the bottom and the "stuffing portal" because it really looked more like a hat. But I didn't have a camera. Too bad.

More importantly I never have to knit another tentacle in my life (unless, ahem, the felting doesn't work, but I refuse to consider that possibility) and am now freed up to work on other enticing projects. I went through my whole stash and pulled out all the things I am "working" on. It is like a little museum of yarn, or an obstacle course of yarn, depending on your perspective. I pick museum. As I have an expensive degree in professional tour guide-ing I will put all that education to work. On your right you will notice........

... the honeymoon sock(s). Note it's small and portable size and not so woolly wool. For these reasons it shall be reserved for the upcoming African adventure.

Up ahead we have some yarn from the "early sock" era.

Otherwise known as when Sarah finished her pair of honeymoon socks and, though she had yet another pair to knit, went to the yarn store and was seduced by a whole stack of yarn. Its hard to say no when something is so cheap and so intriguing (will it stripe? checker? varigate? ahhhhh the suspense).

Down the hall you will encounter the "mirage tank top"

This tank is lovely in every way, the yarn is soft, the colors float enticingly across the surface, the fabric drapes with an elegant ease. Alas, it is all a lie to trick me into loving it. Unfortunately, it looks so indescribably awful on me that I can't bring myself to finish it. I have learned the lesson for the 23rd time that chunky ribbed knits look beautiful on hangers and very small people, perhaps even bony people. I am now contemplating whether I should rip apart something so pretty, or finish it and give it away. The dillema lies in the fact that A) I have no idea what else I would use the yarn for and B) I don't think I know anyone who would look very good in it.

Next up on our obstacle course, ummm tour.......

The shape shifting yarn. It started life as a sweater, then became shawl number 1, and now is shawl number 2. It insists every time on being much smaller than it should be. To keep it from becoming socks I have purchased the yellow balls of yarn to make a lace trim around the edge. Lace + mohair does not equal fun. It can't be ripped out and I hate lace because I always have to rip it out.

As I was dodging, umm, contemplating my options I began to feel the pull of the socks. As I sat down to peruse the internet for sock patterns, I came across this. It is not a sock, it is The Mystery Stole 3. It is secret agent knitting. You learn the pattern on a "need to know" basis. Basically, every week you get a new part of the pattern, knit, and see what happens. I love this idea. So I signed up and ran to the yarn store as soon as I could. Because everyone else in new york has evidently done the same thing I had the choice of knitting it in red or red. I chose red. Though now that I have it at home I realize it is more of a rust orange.

Then I sat down to look at the first clue (I'm a little late so there are already 2 clues out). Hmmmmmmm........remember how I hate lace? It is the most insanely complicated lace I have ever seen. OK not really but it IS the most insanely complicated lace I have ever thought about knitting. We'll see how this goes, I will try to ignore the socks.............

04 July 2007

one tentacle, two tentacle, three tentacle, four...

....five tentacle, six tentacle, seven tentacle, MORE?

I am a little sick of knitting tentacles.

Here is a little list of Good Places to Knit Tentacles.

On the way to and from a friend's wedding feeling a little sad that there was not more traffic so that there would be more knitting time.--1 tentacle

In the movie theater while watching "Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One" (and apparantly annoying the pants off of someone sitting two seats away. So annoying that during the Director's Q & A he says, "well, throughout the whole movie there was someone in the theater who was doing something that I found extremely irritating and I kept think to myself, 'do I say something or not?' I ultimately decided NOT to say anything because I realized that this what your whole movie is about, irritation and the things in the world that intrude on what you yourself are doing." I love that he managed to make a passive aggressive statement about the annoyance and do it in a way that makes him think he looks soooo smart. Except I think he really looked more like a pretentious ass. For what it is worth, James says that octopus knitting is not in fact distracting while watching a movie, even when you are sitting right by it)--1 tentacle

Sitting in the Ghanaian embassy for 2.5 hours waiting to get a visa and finding out at the last minute that, though the website says you can, you cannot download visa forms and fill them out. You must use the Form. There was not much knitting time as we scrambled to fill out the Form before 3:00 (it was 2:50) when they stop accepting Visa applications.--1 tentacle

On the subway to and from my new class, "Play as a Tool of Early Intervention" with Lesley Koplow. And during breaks. I refrained from actually knitting in class, though I was tempted.--.5 tentacles.

Only 2.5 more to go. Perhaps "knitting while at a 4th of July party and watching fireworks?" Hmmm. Maybe not.