Monday, January 28, 2008

A civilized walk

I am, and always have been, a city girl. It's unfashionable nowadays to admit to preferring the urban lifestyle, but there it is.

However, I’ve also grown up on the west coast of the US, where a little bit of driving brings you to mountains, and coastal hikes and paths are a short hop away. I’ve also spent close to a decade in the Pacific Northwest, where the summers are so short yet so sweet that people actively go out and enjoy as much of it as humanly possible. And then they recuperate in the winters by flying down snow-capped mountains at ludicrous speeds.

The thing is, those places have wilderness. A hike means chugging up a mountainside through the forest to a lake. A camping trip means a tent, sleeping bags, tarps and bear-proof food containers, along with the rope with which to hang it from a tree branch.

The Limey and I went on a walk this weekend. (Note: it’s a walk here, but a hike at home.) It’s as different a beast as can be to the hikes I’ve been used to at home. But it was loverly.

We walked along the River Wey. Over fields and along farms, and in one part, across a golf course. Along the way, we saw:

St Nicholas Church- old as the hills, pretty as a picture, and still being used for services, of course.

Pyrford Place, summerhouse of Queen Elizabeth (the First!). I love the first floor entrance. I wonder if it belongs to the owners of the house behind it, or if it belongs to some historical authority. Imagine having that in your yard! What would you do with it?

The remains of Newark Priory, abandoned in the 1500s, apparently. Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately), it's on private land, so we couldn't go and climb around. I love climbing around on ruins. I had a great time in Turkey for that exact reason- they took terrible care of their Greek and Roman ruins, so you were allowed to clamber up and ruin them further. I feel guilty about it, though. But I digress.

You know how in the US, the destination of a hike is a great viewpoint or a mountain lake? Well, they are much more civilized here. The mid-point focus of our walk was

Yes, The Anchor, a pub right by Pyrford Lock, with a huge parking lot and families from around the area coming for their Sunday lunch. So we stopped by for a quick pint and apple-and-blackberry pie with custard.

We started back (it was a circular hike, which is nice, no re-tracking) as the light became perfect for scenes like this:

Friday, January 25, 2008

In a ponytail

I almost exclusively knit for myself, but every once in a while, I'll knit for people if they're special enough. Christmas this year I did three small knit gifts. Here's one requested especially for the recipient to help herself keep warm during marathon mentoring.

Reasonably Hip in a Ponytail
Yarn: Maybe 2/3 of a ball of Sirdar Denim Chunky, from the Southampton John Lewis
Needles: 4.0 dpns
Pattern: Reasonably Hip, by Elizabeth Cobbe for Magknits Dec '07

Notes: I knit the pattern as written and got a stockinette stitch short row band instead of garter. Apparently everyone else knew about this error but me (it's been corrected now). I knit most of the hat, then decided that the stockinette band looked really bad, so frogged and started again.

A specific request was to make the hat ponytail-compatible, as the recipient runs with her hair in a ponytail. At first, I was going to put the Reasonably Hip brim on Hannah (from the same issue of Magknits), but she really liked the shape of Reasonably Hip, so I just added a ponytail-sized hole, instead. Works beautifully.

The pattern is simple and easy to follow. It took me maybe two or three train trips to knit the thing (including the first frogged incarnation). The only thing I'd change is the way the brim is knit. I'd try to avoid having to seam the front of it, since it adds bulk I'm not so happy about.

(As a bonus, in that first photo, you can see the top of my Hourglass Sweater. Despite extra raglan decreases, I couldn't avoid the Flashdance look. I've worn it multiple times since I knit it maybe a year ago. I may still frog it.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Cursed yarn

I've more or less given up on the yellow alpaca Gathered Pullover. I've finished the front, back, and started a sleeve. (I'm doing the opposite of every knitter alive: I've modified an in-the-round pattern to be knit flat.) I didn't do a gauge swatch, but I've blocked the front, and it looks to be pretty close. And I do really like that cable.


There's no waist shaping; there's no shaping at all except for the cable pulling in. The problem with this is that it's pulling in at the bust! So the whole thing is sort of smock/empire/afghan/tent shaped. I don't look good in this shape of garment. I always look pregnant. (I once scared my mother half to death by wearing a dress with an empire waist.) I tried to add waist shaping, but it just doesn't look right. Plus, I've just sort of fallen out of love with the pattern.

I haven't totally given up on it, but it's going into hibernation. This is the 2.5th incarnation for this yarn. It was a close-fitting round-yoked raglan which I actually wore a few times, then it was the 3/4 finished raglan that I couldn't figure out the sleeves for, and now it's this 3/4 finished Gathered Pullover. Eh. Maybe I should give up on this yarn.

Friday, January 11, 2008

On the bandwagon

The waiting list for Ravelry got short enough that signing up to it is more like waiting to get processed rather than waiting for an "invitation" (which reminds me of middle school popularity insecurity), so I signed on. They got back to me in a couple of days.

My username is Platinum. Come on over and say hi!

Monday, January 07, 2008

The meat question

I've never been a vegetarian- I've always eaten fish and seafood. However, it's been 10 or 11 years since I stopped eating birds and mammals. (Anything else I'll try at least once.)

I don't eat birds and mammals mostly because of the way our food animals are treated while they're being grown; I've no moral problems with the actual eating of animal flesh. In that same vein, I don't care what kind of animals are eaten, either. Dogs, cats, horses, snakes, frogs, whatever. I eat fish and seafood because the farming/catching of them doesn't so obviously torture them. Maybe I just don't believe their pain is as acute as those of a battery-farmed hen or a veal calf.

More and more recently, though, I think about starting to eat all kinds of meat again.

As long as the meat comes from happy animals, I don't theoretically have a problem with it. At home, I can control this by buying carefully; there's lots of ethically-farmed meat available. (For Pete's sake, the cat eats chicken that's been raised under the watchful eye of the RSPCA!) (Not that watchful, obviously, says The Limey.)

Outside the house, I'll probably keep more or less to the same eating habits I'm doing now. I'm certainly not going to start eating mammals and birds just to eat chicken mayonnaise sandwiches from Boots. Restaurants are easy as well. If they don't say clearly how and where they source their meat, I'll stick with the vegetables.

My problem is what to do when I'm a guest at other people's houses? Obviously, it is rude to say, Yes, I do eat beef, but yours isn't good enough for me. And I refuse to lie about it. (Just as I refuse to say I'm a vegetarian to make my life easier- fish are animals, too.) For instance, The Limey's mother really tried very hard to make sure there was lots of choice for me at Christmas dinner. She wouldn't have done it, and I certainly wouldn't have asked her to do so, if I ate turkey and bacon and sausages. But if it was noticed that I didn't eat them, there would probably be some awkward scenes.

Any ideas from y'all wonderful readers?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Happy (belated) New Year!

We were drunk by the time we wandered to a bridge from which to watch the fireworks being set off from the London Eye, so pictures of the night are, uh, blurry. To say the least.

We'd brought beer for the waiting around and prosecco for the cork popping sound at midnight. Afterwards, we wandered along the streets, along with thousands of other drunken revelers. At least I wasn't singing football songs at the top of my lungs (why football songs?!) and I did feel like a street drinker of a higher class, as my drink was in an actual glass!