Favorite Thing Friday: Straight Needle Socks

Standard

Let’s get the knitter confession out of the way: I hate knitting on double-pointed needles. They are pokey and I never know where to put my fingers to work the stitches! I deal with them to make hats, but I’ve never been able to get past my double-pointed needle issues to make socks. Hence, my obsession with the sock loom.

I love my sock loom (and everybody knows it), but there is a severe shortage of sock loom patterns available. Furthermore, it’s tough to translate a sock pattern from one loom to another, (try as I may, it never works out quite right).  For a while now, I’ve been looking for a solution for both the double-pointed needle aversion and sock loom pattern deficiency.

Lo and behold, I found the answer at my favorite bookstore. While perusing the knitting books, I came across Knit Your Socks On Straight by Alice Curtis. This is my new favorite thing!!

Curtis has come up with an ingenious method of knitting socks on only two needles. The trick lies in creating a flat seam along the side of the sock using a simple crochet stitch that mimics a three-needle bind off. Putting the seam on the side means no uncomfortable bump on the top or bottom of the foot!

Fate was truly on my side as the first pattern in the book called for yarn I already had sitting in my yarn basket (2 partially used skeins, no less!). With stars aligning like that,  I put my Christmas gift knitting aside to learn how to knit these socks! Curtis gives fantastic instructions that are clearly enumerated and easy to understand. Better still, visuals accompany each set of instructions so it’s impossible to get lost.

Within a few hours, I had the leg knit and the heel turned:

100_3986

My first turned heel on needles!

The only major challenge for me was reversing the flat seam instructions from righty to lefty. While I managed to successfully create the seam, my process needs a little refinement. The stitch isn’t as flat as I’d like. I think I pulled it too tight.

Two days after picking up the book, I had a beautiful pair of straight needle socks. And just in time for the first “chilly” day of fall, (chilly in Arizona means it dropped below 60°).

100_3992

My first pair of straight needle socks.

After I get done knitting Christmas gifts, I’ll be jumping right back into this book. There are some gorgeous socks patterns I can’t wait to try!

– – –

What’s your favorite thing this week?

– – –

c.b.w. 2013

Grocery Shopping In London

Standard

Every evening at about six-thirty, I walked through the doors of  the local food store on Muswell Hill Broadway.  During my extended stay in London,  it was my evening ritual to pick up something for dinner and a snack for the next day. While I fell into the groove of a London grocery store rather quickly, the first few days were an interesting experience of learning the norms of a different culture.

Back home, grocery shopping is usually a once a week thing, but I realized very quickly that weekly shopping in London does not work.  First, like many Londoners, I relied on walking and public transportation to get around town, which makes carrying a week’s worth of groceries next to impossible. Second, the house where I was staying had a teeny tiny refrigerator that I had to share with another roommate and the homeowners. It was about the size of a mini bar, so I had no choice but to adopt the London lifestyle of daily market trips.

There were two grocery stores in the Muswell Hill area: Marks and Spencer’s and Sainsbury’s. I went with M&S mainly because it had a large array of fresh produce and a healthier variety of food products. And it was cleaner.

100_0649

My “local” grocery store on Muswell Hill Broadway
Photo by: c.b.w. 2011

My budget constraints left me with about £10 a day for food, which  included my daily Cafe Mocha, (£2.90).  Breakfast and lunch were a snap –  a bagel smothered with Nutella in the morning and a fresh apple in the afternoon. Those two meals together cost me about £10 a week.

Dinner, however, was a bit trickier.  All I had to cook food was a microwave and a toaster, which was actually more restrictive than the budget! Thankfully, Marks and Spencer carries a wide array of frozen prepared meals that are reasonably priced and somewhat healthy (few preservatives or artificial ingredients). If I could get to the store before 6:00 p.m. I picked up a freshly made sandwich or salad. They were just as inexpensive as frozen dinners, but they were in short supply! Just ten minutes past six meant an empty shelf.

I think I tried just about every variety of the single-serve frozen dinner. The store brand chicken casserole, bangers and mash, and shepherd’s pie were my favorites, though I’d stay away from anything Italian (the noodles never cooked right). For £2.29 – £3.29, I got a pretty decent meal with enough left over to get a little dessert.

The candy rack is usually where I found that dessert. Candy bars are typically Cadbury or Mars, but in varieties that were totally foreign to me, (see The Junk Food Tourist for a complete rundown on my candy adventure).  Depending on the brand or size, they go for about 55p or £1.00.

100_0724

nom-nom-nom . . . The Double Decker is my favorite!
Photo by: c.b.w. 2011

Shopping in the store is about the same as it is in the U.S. It’s crowded, people don’t always move, and it has that urban food smell that dominates all grocery stores. However, things get interesting when it’s time to wait in line and pay. British people take waiting in line (or queuing up) pretty seriously. There is no whining, line cutting, or standing too close to one another, nor is there tolerance for obnoxious conversations on a mobile phone. If any of these unspoken rules are broken, the British are not shy about voicing their disdain.

What I found most fascinating was the courtesy of placing the conveyor belt divider for the person standing behind you. Whether I was carrying one item or five, the person in front of me never failed to  place the divider. It didn’t take me long to adopt the policy both in London and back home. A little kindness goes a long way.

The cashiers sit instead of stand as they scan purchases. They sit on ergonomic stools that actually looked really comfortable!  People either bagged their own groceries or the cashier took on bagging duties once money changed hands. Bags are not free, but rather optional and for a fee, (5p). It didn’t take long for me to wise up and bring my own bag in order to avoid being charged extra.

After a while, I got to know the cashiers and I no longer got lost trying to find the snack aisle. I knew the left door always got a little stuck when it slid open and there was always a huge puddle in front of the exit after it rained.  I’ll bet if I went back today I could still find the Nutella and the best frozen bangers and mash a girl could ever want. This little store, along with so many other things became part of what I call my “new familiars.”

– – –

Just curious:

As this series progresses, I’ll being using this section to ask questions to clear up my own curiosities. However, please feel free to leave your own questions and comments below.

Are small refrigerators common in London homes?

What’s the story behind having to pay for a bag?

How would locals describe food prices – high or reasonable?

Londoners, what did I get wrong?

– – –

c.b.w. 2013

Playlist For A Sequel

Standard

As I wait to hear back on the query letters I’ve sent out for my novel, I’ve been keeping busy with another little project.  Over the last couple of months, I’ve been filling up another Novel Notebook with research, brainstorm blocks, image collages, sketches, research notes, and a playlist  for the sequel to Novel #2.

At the core of my writing process is music. The playlist for Novel #2 proved to be an immensely powerful tool in helping me shape characters and mood. Overall, 94 songs served as the soundtrack for the “movie” playing in my head from start to finish. As I embark on writing the sequel, I intend on using this tool once again to create a stronger emotional sense of my characters as they undertake new journeys and to aid me in creating an atmosphere that is a bit different from Novel #2.

Novel #2 is all about falling in love and fighting for what matters most in life. There is struggle, but also strength and determination. Therefore, the music on my playlist was often ethereal to reflect the nature of Ian’s identity, but also to emulate the euphoria of falling in love. In addition, songs with a strong beat and empowering lyrics dominated the latter portion of the novel to represent a fierce conflict that rages both internally and externally for my characters. Aside from storyline songs, the playlist also included music for individual characters. In particular The Beatles, Junip, and Death Cab for Cutie represented my main character, Amanda.

The sequel follows a different plotline in that it’s a step beyond the “origin” story for Amanda and Ian. They now find themselves in a new struggle that is defined by several factors:

  • Falling in love is great, but it’s not always easy
  • Confronting past “demons”
  • Once you have what you’ve always wanted, it isn’t what you imagined
  • Issues of identity

A new journey means new music, but there still has to be ties to the familiar in order to maintain continuity.  The mood is a little darker, but it’s not overwhelmingly heavy. As for my characters, they are experiencing growing pains, but they retain their core personalities. To make a playlist to accommodate these issues, I started by selecting songs on the old playlist that I consider to be overall theme songs. These are songs that will work for the entire series as they reflect Amanda and Ian’s bond and the big picture journey they are traveling.

For example, Firefly by Delerium is the ultimate song that inspires Amanda and Ian’s journey as a whole:

At the same time, I am selecting songs that are unique to the plot and character development of the sequel. To achieve continuity, I’m looking to the same bands for new music that has a familiar feel. Delerium was the central component of Novel #2’s playlist so I combed through all of their albums and found a perfect new mix. Additionally, the band Junip has since come out with a new album, which is great news for Amanda!

Here’s a selection of what I’ve got so far . . .

Delerium – Semantic Spaces

  • Flowers Become Screens
  • Metaphor
  • Resurrection
  • Incantation
  • Consensual Worlds
  • Metamorphasis
  • Flatlands

Delerium – Single Tracks

Junip – self titled

Tempted (Conjure One Mix) – Collide

The Beginning – Joey Fehrenbach

Kaleidescope of Memories – Simmonds and Jones

The Cedar Room – The Doves

Russia – Magna Carta

First Snow – Emancipator

The Daydream – Tycho

Once I get this playlist loaded on my iPod, my muse will have the juice it needs to start writing the first draft!

– – –

For more posts on creating the perfect music mix, see The Daily Prompt: Mix Tape Masterpiece

– – –

c.b.w. 2013