Monday, March 30, 2009

Another silly quiz

You're Jurassic Park!

by Michael Crichton

You combine all the elements of a mad scientist, a brash philosopher,
a humble researcher, and a money-hungry attracter of tourists. With all these features,
you could build something monumental or get chased around by your own demons. Probably
both, in fact. A movie based on your life would make millions, and spawn at least two
sequels that wouldn't be very good. Be very careful around islands.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Eye candy and a public service announcement

It's possible that spring has sprung. Tiny pockets of green are appearing, often with flowers attached. A robin or two has been sighted.

The general view is still as miserable as ever, but now I have hope!

And now I give you some info from the good folks at afghans for Afghans! Tell all your friends.

Oh, I plan to knit for them, but often other things get in the way. Let me just finish those few things on the go, and I'll start up a wool blanket for them...

(This was posted on Ravelry, so you get the Ravelry tea cup in the appropriate place!)

Dear Knitters and Crocheters for Afghanistan and Supporters,

** Shawl-Tea for Afghan Women Members of Parliament **

After quite a lot of planning, logistical challenges, and timing
issues, we are now ready to tell you about our very special endeavor …

afghans for Afghans is hostessing a tea party for the 91 women members
of the National Assembly of Afghanistan.

Phenomenal in so many ways, yes.

Each of the 91 Parliament Members, both in the lower and upper houses,
will receive a shawl hand-knit or crocheted by one of our volunteers.
The purpose of the gift of tea party and shawls is to express our
admiration for these courageous women, encourage their strength, and
warm their hearts. This is a gesture of our respect and friendship. We
wish to do something kind and personal for these women leaders working
hard – and under tremendous hardship and obstacles – to serve their
constituents so that the people of Afghanistan can rebuild their
war-torn country. These women lawmakers have become powerful role
models to many Afghan women and girls.

Our idea started brewing (yes, tea brewing!) last year, when we made
shawls for the new moms at CURE Hospital. We set aside some of the
shawls with the dream of presenting them to some of the dedicated
Afghan women leaders. These women need TLC, too, so they can continue
taking care of their citizens.
The supply was supplemented by several more shawls created by our local
volunteers. As some of you may recall, these rectangle shawls were made
longer and wider for more coverage in the customary style.

Please know that we feel these 91 shawls represent all the meaning and
soul invested in the 80,000 plus wool gifts made by all our volunteers
over the past 7 plus years. And, for that, we are grateful, and hope
you feel joy and honor in this presentation to the Afghan women MPs.
Please make a cup of tea and symbolically join in from wherever you

The shawl-tea started to really bubble when a wonderfully capable
colleague here – a school teacher who travels to Afghanistan to train
teachers – graciously agreed to take on the challenge and honor of
being our representative during one of her trips. For security
purposes, we can’t share too many details at this time, and everything
is subject to safety. Anything involving Afghanistan is subject to
change and modifying as we go along. We’ll learn much more and share
more after our colleague returns to the U.S.

Please note, we’ve discussed our plan with the Afghan Embassy in
Washington, D.C, and they are encouraging about the purpose and value.
In our planning, we have worked together with Afghan-American women
community leaders here in our San Francisco Bay Area, which has the
largest Afghan-American community in the country. Later on (end of
April, most likely), we hope the shawl-tea story can be used to tell
more North Americans more about the well-educated, strong,
professional, and courageous women legislators of Afghanistan. Our
effort is about promoting understanding and support, from women to
women. As always with the afghans for Afghans project, this is not a
political message.

** Introductory TV Story for You! **

Last week, our San Francisco ABC station aired a brief news story about
our shawl-tea for the women in Afghanistan’s Parliament. See our
devoted volunteers packing up the gorgeous shawls and take a look at
the lovely hang-tags in English and Dari (created and donated by –

** Financial Support Needed **

We generally do not send strong fundraising messages to our volunteer
email list, as you spend a lot of your time, talent, and money in
knitting and crocheting (and mailing packages!) for the people of
Afghanistan. afghans for Afghans runs on the energy of a lot of
top-notch volunteers. Thankfully, we’ve always been able to cover our
operating expenses through some financial contributions, sales of
patterns, postcards, and kilims from time to time, and in-kind
donations of goods and services, such as transport, as well as through
our partnership with the San Francisco office of the American Friends
Service Committee, which handles mail intake, our working and storage
space, and counsel.

However, at this time, we must raise funds. Financial contributions are
needed for the tea hospitality in Kabul, logistical and coordination
matters, and an honorarium for our school-teacher colleague (who is
using the money to continue her good work in Afghanistan), for example.

This is the time to involve your concerned friends who don’t knit or

This is the time to ask those who would feel moved – to support our
shawl-tea in tribute of the women who sit in the Wolesi Jirga and Meshrano Jirga.

This is the time to forward this email (intact, please) to people you
know who would be intrigued by this citizen initiative that reaches out
to the courageous women leaders of Afghanistan.

By making a financial contribution, more caring people can join
together to make our shawl-tea happen and to continue the work of
afghans for Afghans.

For details on how and where to send a tax-deductible contribution
(made payable to our fiscal sponsor, “the Agape Foundation”), please
visit this web page –

For convenience, we accept credit cards on the secure, online donation
form (also linked from our website) provided by the Agape Foundation
(which will notify us of your gift right-away) –

We appreciate your considering this request for support of afghans for
Afghans, including our shawl-tea for the women members of the Afghan
Parliament. We’re most honored to have this rare opportunity to
directly express our admiration and encouragement – during a very
trying time for these women and all the people of Afghanistan. Thank
you for continuing to stay involved through your generous, heartfelt
gifts of handiwork for Afghan children, women, and men.

We hope you will take this step of asking a friend or two to join all of us and
make a financial donation to the afghans for Afghans project.

With gratitude,
Ann and colleagues

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Holiday time

I've sort of recovered from our holiday. Things are still a little confused because Elaine still has one more week of March Break, and Stephen is working from home a bit. So my computer time is drastically down! However, we shall overcome....

Lots of pictures, folks! Click to embiggen.

We went to Curacao, in the very southern bit of the Caribbean, just 40 miles off Venezuela. It's not a super touristy island, but it has a huge harbour and one day there were 3 cruise ships in! We stayed at a resort a bit out of town, so we weren't really affected by the coming and going of thousands of people on ships. We had our pools,

our food, our palm trees,

our beaches, our swim-up bar. Our giant chess set.

One day we went to the big town of Willemstad, saw the market, the old fort made into shops, the bridge that swings open to let huge ships pass through.

As well as the pretty white cruise ships, big old freighters come and go frequently. There is an oil refinery in the bay, and there must be a small container port, though we didn't see that. We had lunch by the water, watching the bridge open and the ships go by.

Is it kinnearing if the subject knows you are there?

On another day, we rented a van (we were with my brother, his wife and son, so there were 7 of us) and toured around. We found, after much twisting and turning, the distillery where Blue Curacao is made. They also make it red, green or orange, and it is a mainstay of pretty drinks!

We got back on the road and went to the cave! I believe Elaine called it "interesting but creepy."

The island is an old volcanic lump, covered in coral. The land rose, the ocean receded in ice ages, geologic time passed, and we get a big sea cave 48 steps up from the parking lot. The fellow who took us through was very engaging and told us about the geology, about the slaves who hid out there (and cooked, blackening some parts of the ceiling), the algae and the bats. When Elaine pointed out to him that she could see a sleeping dragon formation, he agreed, and then showed her a crocodile as well.

After the cave, lunch. Well, this took some time. We stopped at one likely place, but it was closed up. We drove through little roads and looked at cacti, and finally found Jaanchies, with a couple of tour buses parked outside. At least that meant it was open! The owner has apparently been reciting the menu for years, but it all, of course, seemed fresh to us. The food was good, but there are a lot of bones in iguana meat! Then it ended up costing more than we expected, and the power was down so the Visa machinery was not operating (what ever happened to the little imprinting slider thing?) so we gathered together all our cash and were still a bit short. I think it'll all work out in the end...

Okay, then it was time for the beach!

The guys did a bit of clambering about on rocks,

Elaine made sandballs (like snowballs, but with sand!)

and we got to watch two little girls on a fashion photo shoot. "Here, put this on, carry the parasol and walk around looking cute." I don't think we managed to get any photos of that!

Other days we hung around the resort, eating, splashing in the pools, snorkeling. We went for a Hobie Cat ride out into the rather rough seas. There was always a little entertainment on the pool deck in the afternoon. Maybe you would take a dance lesson (ha!) or learn some useful local language. (Dushi means sweetheart, and also delicious.) One night I hear there was some karaoke being sung, but Elaine and I had retired by that time so there were no reliable witnesses. Stephen tried a bit of juggling and found himself rusty. Robert, my nephew, did very well in the arm wrestling.

These people were watching... Since Elaine and I found this picture highly amusing, I thought I'd include it here.

I knitted a bit.

I took my nice light lace project, but didn't actually work on it till I was on the plane home, because my hands were always sunscreen-y or sandy or wet. But I figure a girl can work on dishcloths with sandy hands, so I made two and a half, before running out of yarn! The one in the foreground is the Mitered Hanging Towel from the second Mason-Dixon book. (Also available free online!) The main part used a whole ball of Sugar and Cream cotton. I changed the strap part thus: I put the "button" hole at the base of the strap, and then at the end I made a "button" by increasing in each stitch all across the row a couple of times. So it goes like this: *increase in each stitch across the row, k 1 row* repeat 2 or 3 times till you have a great rose to fit through the hole. I also cast on an odd number of stitches and did a double decrease in the centre instead of ssk, k2tog.

Now, lastly, the natural history. Perhaps I should have put this first, because who knows if Dave, my bird guy, will read this far....

Okay, first we have the little bird that was most common. Flew around in the palm-fond-roofed dining buffet hall, ate crumbs. Sat on lights looking around.

Then the bigger, also yellow, one.

And then the big sea bird.

It was hard to get a decent picture of this guy, but we tried.

And a turtle, for those non-birders in the crowd.

And as the sun sets in the west, we say farewell to Curacao.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Enjoy this while I collect my thoughts

I'll give you a few pictures to amuse you, although I don't have time right now to do a proper write-up.

Let's see, we need the swim-up bar.

Often the bartender was at the other side, on the land side of the bar, and one needed to get out of the water to get another drink. Life is tough sometimes. This doesn't show the table and underwater stools.

Here's a sample of the pretty concoctions they could make. It's a Blue Sea, I believe. Blue Ocean?

Dunno, but it has blue Curacao in it. The drinks flowed freely, but they provided little buzz. Probably because if people were drinking real alcohol in that heat all afternoon, much misery would ensue. These gave you the impression you were leading a wild life, but didn't do much else. The paper is a list of vocabulary in English, Spanish, Papiamentu and Dutch.

Okay, the last picture for today. Bird at the bar.

These birds, pretty and yellow and small, were flying around all over the place, eating crumbs at breakfast and occasionally stopping at the bar for a pick-me-up.

Back to laundry and sorting for me now!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Off into the wild blue yonder

See you in a week or so.

I've put a new weather pixie in the sidebar -- she's from Aruba, which is the closest I could get to Curacao, where we are going.

I'll let you know how exciting it is being only 12 degrees from the equator on the equinox.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Going green

I've got my projects sorted for my holiday.

I am taking some cotton for dishcloths, and a bit of lace knitting if I ever want a change.

The lace pattern is from a top in last summer's IK, but I am just using it for a scarf, with the yarn Helen gave me in New York.

I agonized over what to make with this, and finally decided simple is good. The colours are great and I think this will be just perfect.

The project I am not taking involves the interminable band of edging. I did manage to knit a long enough piece. (Hint: block it on the needles! I had thought I would need 22 repeats, but 19 ended up long enough! Know thy garter stitch.)

So, what will the main body be? Flipping through recent Vogue Knitting issues, I came upon a sleek knitted dress (Ravelry link) with a nice bobble-eyelet-cable thing up the middle.

Just what I needed! (This is my indoor flash picture. I'll get you a decent picture that shows the bobbles better when there is a bit more length!) I must say knitting round and round goes much faster than that dang band! The background pattern is staggered k2, p2, with a plain round in between, so I really only have to pay attention to
  1. my beginning-of-round marker
  2. those 30 stitches in the middle
Yeah, that's really it. Of course, the chart in the magazine shows rows 1-10, and neglects to say that the repeat is only of 3-10. So there was a bit of cursing trying to make the bobbles and the cables line up. I kept the bobbles at every 4th row, but crossed the cable at 10 rows.

Now that I realize that the cable is supposed to be crossed every 8 rows, I am faced with a problem: rip back a few rows and do the cable at 8; drop the cable stitches only and miraculously fix it without ripping the whole sweater back; ignore it and carry on, either continuing to be asynchronous, or having one cable different than the others. Or randomly cross at 8, 10, or 12 rows. It's supposed to be a bit over-the-top, so maybe I'll do the random bit!

But, I am not taking a big wool object to my island paradise! I've been instructed to get a picture of me and Stephen at the swim-up bar with drinks with little umbrellas. That's work enough, I think!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Look, flowers for my birthday!

Happy birthday to me!

Due to circumstances beyond my control, we celebrated yesterday, but today Elaine and I saw these snowdrops on the way home from school. We're having a bit of a thaw, and on the sunny side of the street most of the ice has left the gardens. Brave snowdrops have pushed through last year's leaves.

Arthur is already on school break, and we went shopping today. Got a middle-aged-lady bathing suit, which I think looks kinda cute, if one can say that about a middle-aged-lady bathing suit. I'm really all set for my holiday now!

And I got myself a 3.25 mm, 80 cm long circular knitting needle. Very lovely! (This is holiday prep as well -- did you guess?)

Arthur's birthday was a couple of days ago, and he got a gift certificate for a games store, so he picked up a cool new game. (He also got some cool new books. Mommy might borrow this one.)

A bit of a break in birthday season around here now. Stephen's is at the end of April, and tradition would dictate that I knit him something. It's unlikely at this point... He got me a new oak toilet seat though, so I do have to get him something equally special, don't I?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A tiny fracton of a blanket

We all need a plan, something to do with our tidbits of sock yarn. This is what I have come up with. Little squares knit corner to corner.

I might turn some; I might even make some totally different kinds, but for now I just churn one out once in a while, all the same style.

So far, this would hardly cover a kitten, but one day it'll be perhaps crib size. My stock of teeny bits of sock yarn is not in danger of being used up just yet!

Monday, March 02, 2009

I can make it be spring, with simple willpower

On the weekend we had a party on our street. I hosted the dessert portion. (We go from house to house because we are very cool like that.)

With a shake of the pink sugar, my lemon cake became pretty and spring-like.

And I got some pink tulips from the shop on the corner, to pretend that flowers might one day grow here.

And you see, it's sunny enough to take the flowers outside for a photoshoot. Not warm, though. We might get a high of -7C today.

I see there's less than 2 weeks till we go away to sun and fun. Must go find my stash of sleeveless tops! They must be here somewhere.