Saturday, January 28, 2012

Knitting it EZ style

This blog post is pure knitting content, so if you are not a knitter, feel free to skip this one.

Most of the things that I have knit since coming to Spain have needed to be ripped out. Knitting is a basic skill that I have been able to do for several years quite well. There has been almost no obstacles in creating what I wanted with the two sticks and some yarn. I tried patterns fearlessly. I taught knitting for three years. I would learn with my students. I have learned techniques only to turn around and teach it in minutes. I know knitting.

Maybe I knew knitting.
Since moving to Spain I have had to rip out and reknit 90% of the projects I have started. I suppose that  it boils down to my mind is so full from all of the new things I have to learn I miss the simple things. This phenomenon has only gotten worse since I started my new job, although it may have something to do with the fact that I am only knitting at the end of very long days. 

So here are somethings that I have knit over the past months. Believe when I say all of them had parts re-knit at least once, but I think I was able to fix them well.

Meet my new Mobius scarf (Zimmerman inspired). It is a reversible cable pattern in one of my favorite colors. I can put this around my neck twice and use the twist to fold down into the "V" of my jacket while having the other loop close to my neck and face.
I got this yarn in Reno at Jimmy Beans wool with one of my favorrite friends. So this Scarf well always remind me of the Rocky Mountains and Lara. 

I love Lornas lace's Shepard line. This is Shepard Sport, in the colorway Brick. It is sturdy and soft. It holds up well in Socks, so probably in scarves too. I should have alternated the skeins as one is darker than the other, but this is a mobius so I am pretending that the color change (which you can purposely see in the picture) is on purpose. 

This was my Barcelona project over Christmas, and it was perfect, just the right amount of interest with the cable twists every 6 rounds and K2, P2 rib for the rest. I knit this in a strip and then grafted the ends together with a half twist. It did take forever on size 3 needles, but I like the professional (store bought?) look the small yarn gives it. I have been wearing this for weeks, and it has yet to be blocked, so it looks this good pre-blocking.

Elizabeth Zimmerman (also the first person believed to knit a mobius strip) was one of the greatest knitters of all time, and I will always be a fan. Recently I have knitted a lot of designs inspired by her. The Opinionated Knitter is a lovely book, with great photography, stories, and patterns. One pattern that I have wanted to make for quite some time is the "Baby Surprise Jacket". It is started at the shoulders and through some smart shaping, and some origami, it becomes a jacket. It is an ingenious and timeless design.

 Knitting one these out of cotton might not have been the best idea I ever had. Cotton always shows decrease and changes in tension. However my friend Audrey is due in March and maybe by the time the baby can fit this it will be summer?

I would like to make one out of wool next, as sewing up the shoulders neatly was very difficult. Maybe a provisional cast on? I am not sure if that would work. I made the shoulders presentable by doing an I-cord 3 needle bind off on the shoulders and just an applied I-cord on the neck. It took me about 6 tries to get it right.

I found buttons to match at Corte Ingles. Just standard shirt buttons but the colors match almost exactly.
Now I must remember to mail it off to Colorado. :)

Please note the expanded "skirt" in the back to make room for the diaper, genius! 

This hat is ingenious too! It is the Gnomy hat in the Knitters Almanac. It has built in ear flaps and it hugs your head. I made modification to the top of the hat for it to come out round. I do not remember exactly what I did as it took me about 7 tries and a lot of suggestions from other Ravelry members to get rid of a bump that was forming at the front. (The hat in the book ends in a point, looking like a gnome hat.)

This hat looks very rustic because it is made out of somewhat thick and thin handspun. As I was making this for person that had to be outside in the cold by the sea, I made sure to line the ear part of the hat. I used doubled lace-weight Pollworth I had spun. 

I am so in love with how creamy the white wool looks, why do I not work more with white? 

 I sewed the live stitches of the white wool down with a sharp darning needle, making sure to split the piles of the brown and not have it show through to the other side.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Hello from cloudy and gray Madrid.
It looks as though winter is finally here? Everyone here says that this is a very mild winter, and I believe it. Even for a place where palm trees can grow outside (you just know the winters can not be THAT fierce if there are palm trees) it has been very mild.

I am ready for the winter, and I crave snow something fierce.
This picture was taken an hour ago as I walked through the park from an early morning class. The park has been "put to bed", the sky is gray, it is cold enough to wear a wool hat. 
Come on winter, what are you waiting for?

I have not written in quite sometime because I have been beyond busy. I do not know how many hours I am working a week but it is enough to make me edgy if I have not been working for 10 minutes. I have 26 hours of in-class teaching time, then the commutes, then preparing for the classes, and of course trying to keep up with the housework, and errands. I stay up late, and get up early to get it all done.
This week both me and my husband have had a cold, and since I do not know how to go about calling in sick, I just powered through it. Now I just have one more 2.5 hour class until the weekend!

Also I have not written because like blogs with pictures, so I have been waiting to find the time to take them. Ok, more than just time, I have not been carrying my camera. However, now that I have new classes I have the opportunity to see new part of the city.

I teach some classes in a famous International company, and so twice a week I have been able to see a new fancy business office part of town.
 Because it is full of importent business and high security I fell odd about taking pictures, so I did not "frame" the pictures as well as I usually do. This is my journey to, up and across the bridge over the highway to the other side and the buss stop.

I wanted to capture some of the buildings because they are so cool. I have recently discovered a ton of modernly designed buildings here. Some are just interesting shapes and colors like these ones, and some look like they are giant toys, like they are made out of legos. I even found one building that looks like a Rubik cube (without the colors).

Hopefully I will be able to capture some of them on film and share them with you. 
Keep warm!

Monday, January 9, 2012

2011 recap

I think that the new year stunned my blog mojo. I having been fighting with myself about wether to do a year end wrap up, as it is a bit overdone. But this blog was started as a personal journal to record my first impressions of Spain and my new life.

My New Years Eve was low key (like most of the holidays I have had here in Spain). I think due to the fact that everything is different, just taking out the trash is still a cultural experience, I do not feel the pressure to do something spectacular on the holidays.

DH and I ran errands in the morning, then went out to an local Argentinean restaurant that is in our fancy neighborhood. It was  La Vaca Picada, it was good, close, fancy, and less expensive then I thought. Coming out of the restaurant we decided to go for a walk in the park. I love the golden sunshine of a winter evening in Madrid, and to be honest it has not been very cold here making it good walking weater.

We did not make it all the way to the park as hoards of runners in white shirts were heading the other way and curiosity got the better of us. A lot of the runners were festive and dressed with a nod to the holiday season.

 Some runners were in full costume
We finally read the back of some of the shirts and saw that this was San Silvestre Vallecana, a famous 10K. Famous was right there was thousands of people there. The race seemed to be starting down the hill by the stadium, this was at the top of the hill, where for some reason runners were milling around waiting to start too. I wish I would have had the courage to capture more of the costumes, they were a spectacle!
This is what I mean by not having the urge to seek something memorable to do for any given holiday. This day is memorable on it's own. There is always the unexpected here. I mean this race took place 5 minutes away from our apartment, and the festival air was palpable.

DH and I spent most of the day doing an "end of year re-cap", something that we had not done for a long time. We move a lot, and big change every 1-3 years is normal for us, big this year has been one for the record books. So as an effort to record it...

2011 in review:
January - We found out last minute that DH was not going to South Africa for 6 weeks to study Meerkats on the 6th. I was unemployed (still) and unmotivated to look for a job as I was sure a move was emanate (this was just a feeling not a truth).

February - We found out last minute that DH WAS going to South Africa for 6 weeks to study Meerkats on the 14th, happy Valentines day to us.. We got ready for his trip as if in a dream. I did not actually believe that he was leaving until the night of the day he left. I was still unemployed and very depressed. I spent most of the rest of February completely withdrawn and alone. Most of my contact with the outside world was a daily e-mail from DH, and usually, a 5 minute phone call from him. It was not a time I was proud of or want to relive.

March - The first half of this month was much life the last half of February. We spent DH's birthday on different hemispheres. Then I went to check the mail one day and found a letter in French addressed to DH. He got an interview for the CNRS for the last week in March and they let him know by SNAIL MAIL! I spent a frantic couple of hours trying to get a hold of him, and finally realizing that I would have to wait, and I sat down with google translate and painstakingly translated the letter.

Things got very busy for me starting that day, for the rest of the year.

The next few weeks were a blur. We tried and succeed, to change the interview date (DH was in the middle of nowhere SA and need to be there as long as possible).
We agreed that I should to europe on this interview as I had not gone the previous two times (and I was going out of my mind by myself), and I sat down to try and plan a complicated trip. I changed flights and wrangled things until DH and I where flying into Paris within 10 minutes of each other. We would meet in Paris, do the interview, Spend a day exploring, and then take the train down to Montpellier. Montpellier was were we would be living if he got the funding and we figured we should see it while we were all the way in Europe. Then we would take the train to Barcelona and see the in laws for the first time in 3 years. We would than fly out of BCN together, back to the States.

All this was planned to a "T" and I was studying French like a crazy woman, when we got the news.

It was a perfect storm.
Looking back I am not sure I would have moved if this exact sequence of events did not happen.

  1. We found out that if DH stayed at Duke he would have to be in South Africa for 6 months at a time.
  2. We found out he got an 18 month grant to go and work in Madrid.

Please remember that all of these plans and options were discussed in a short daily email (when he had power) or during a 5 minute phone conversation that he made with standing out by a dirty pond, the only place he got cell phone reception (when it was not raining).

The 18th month grant had a previously picked start date (picked in November 2010 by both of us) of March 1st. We found out he got the grant March 15th. The grant comity was late and was granting us a start date of April 1st instead.

We were meeting in Paris on March 24th, and flying back from Barcelona on April 4th.

We started the process to push the start date to June 1st.

I continued to French, knowing that I would be living in Spain, and seeing my in-laws soon. My husband is tri-lingual but stuck in the wilds of SA with no real resources to study so it was up to me.

We flew to Paris, and had a European vacation less than two months before we had to move to Europe.
The whole experience was very surreal.

April - The first four days were spent in Barcelona, then we flew back to the US and had 7 weeks to shut down our life there and move "across the pond". I went trough every single thing that we owned evaluating it's "worth" and wether we could replace it easily in Spain. We sold or gave away all of our furniture, most of our stuff, and our two cars. We got moving quotes, picked a company, and started buying boxes. I speedily renewed my passport. We made a very hard decision to not store anything in the States, and to not fill out overseas paperwork for DH's green-card. I bought Rosetta Stone Level 1-5 and studied for hours a day when I was not packing and getting rid of our possessions.

We were going to Europe on an 18th month grant and a prayer (that we coudld stay). All of the job opportunities for DH recently were mostly in the Europe anyway.

May - the start of May was a continuation of April, but more frantic. We were running out of time. There was no time to think really, which was probably just as well. I started saying goodbye to my country and my friends. I finished up a wedding shawl for a friend for July. We got the cats set to fly internationally. We booked plane tickets for all four of us (two cats and us) for the 24th of May.

We got up on the 24th of May early, and started throwing the remaining things out of our apartment. Then we got a text that our first flight was canceled and all hell broke lose. We needed to leave that day, everything was planned, we threw out our mattress!

After being on the phone for 45 minutes we finally got a flight our that day for all of us (cats had to be on a separate ticket) that meant we had to leave in 10 minutes (animals have to be there at least two hours before the flight or they are not allowed on the flight).

We had to leave in 10 mintes!

Luckily most of the work was done, and I had my friend Sarah - who graciously offered to throw out the remaining stuff in the apartment and return the apartment keys. I will be forever grateful.

We threw 200 pounds of luggage in the SUV we had rented, and the cats in their very large airline carriers (it barley fit), and sped but only a little as we could not afford to be stopped, to the airport.

That is the state-of-mind that I left my country in.

When we got to the airport in Madrid it was a living hell getting the cats back, and I will leave it at that.
We rented a studio apartment for the 4 of us for one week and started looking for apartments.

The rest of the months are documented on the blog, but here is a synopsis.

June - Was a month of paperwork, studying Spanish for 3-4 hours a day, and a blur.

July - Was for settling in more, and studying Spanish for 3-4 hours a day

August - Studying Spanish for 3-4 hours a day, getting used to Spain, My SIL visited, and my 33rd birthday.

September - This month actually got a little boring for a while, it was kind of nice. I studied Spanish for 3-4 hours a day

October - Finally here I have my Residency appointment scheduled (from 4.5 months ago) for this month, on the 18th. After I got my card I could look for a job! I went to my appointment and did not have everything, I was rescheduled for November 4th.

November - Got my permanent Residency number and within a week got a job! Had to deal with a lot more paperwork, including 3 trips to the SS office. Got trained for my new job, just a little bit, and started.

December - crazy 80 hour work weeks while I prepared and tried to get used to my new job as an English teacher.

What a crazy year!