Monday, April 30, 2012

Queen's Day

My brother is always happy to say that his birthday is a national holiday in Holland – his birthday is Queen’s Day, April 30th.  And while we are still making our way in a new home and a new land, I can’t forget about his birthday.  When describing my brother, I say that he has hit “the mother-load” of marrying into a very athletic family.  His in-laws swim, cycle, ski, golf … I would say anything relating to sports, they do!  When asked at his wedding by his new in-laws to me what sports I participated in, my response was that “I sprint to the mall for the sales.”  I enjoy running and swimming but not competitively; but I would rather quilt, knit - anything like that.  My mother made most of our clothes growing up including all of mine and my sister’s prom dresses, and my wedding dress.  My mother made things for my brother as well; and because of this, he is always appreciative of whatever is made for him!  He is one of those men who just “get’s it.”  He lives in Colorado with wife, Vodka, who I taught to knit a few years ago; and they don’t live very far from where The Shaker grew up.  So when it came around to his birthday, I was thinking, I can’t make him a hat. It’s springtime.  But The Shaker said, you can ski in Colorado way into May and knowing your brother and his family they will probably ski in May.  Ok, so that was all the reassurance that I needed.  So off to find some yarn ….

As you know I am not a big “superwash” wool fan.  But I did some thinking … My friend Christina said that superwash wool has had the scales removed, this makes it possible to put the garment directly into the washing machine and will, hopefully, avoid shrinkage.  She recommended to me go down 2 needles sizes, may be in even three.  I chose to make my brother Jared Flood’s “Turn a Square” hat using superwash wool.  The pattern calls for worsted weight yarn and US size 7 needles (4.5 mm).  The pattern was very clear in stating that the gauge was very important so choose needles that would get you 20 stitches in 4 inches.  So I knitted up a swatch on US size 5 (3.75 mm) and then I soaked it in water, removed the water by blotting and then left it to dry.  Then I measured the swatch.  I did this because of Christina’s advice:  superwash wool has no scales; therefore, it will grow because the wool’s scales are what grips the yarn together and therefore holds it shape.  So with no scales, there will be growth.  Her advice paid off, and the swatch came out to be 20 stitches to 4 inches, and 24 rows to 4 inches.

I chose red for the hat to embrace our new surroundings and I knew that he would like that idea.  Plus, bright orange (in honor of Queen’s Day in Holland) on my brother’s very tall body might just be too a little too much ...

The Martini Knitter

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Congratulations Jigger!

Olive is out in Malibu, California sipping Genever Smashes in the sunshine and celebrating her son’s, Jigger*  graduation from Pepperdine University.  She and I have been “bbm-ing” on our Blackberrys all weekend while she is out there; which I have to say isn’t too easy with her being 9-hours behind me.  Olive has 4 sons in total but we have gotten to know Jigger fairly well since leaving the US.  Jigger, like Olive, likes to travel around Europe. 

About a year after we moved, Olive and Jigger came to Europe did some traveling and then swung through to see us towards the end.   We have an old Xbox that still works and that we haven’t gotten rid of or upgraded.  One day we were talking about video games and Jigger said that we must get Halo.  This is the whole reason why we still have our old Xbox console – because of Halo.  At the time, Jigger was completing high school, Gin was in middle school and Vermouth was still in primary school.  Jigger is one of the nicest young men we know, but when it comes to Halo/video games there is a whole another side.  He taught us several video game etiquettes that the girls still use today and have passed Jigger’s video game wisdom onto their friends as well.

And then a few years ago, he was abled to study abroad and came to Heidelberg, Germany.  Which was great for us because we saw Jigger a few times that year which also meant that we saw Olive as well.   He gave us some great travel tips too.  One time he went to Porto, Portugal and brought The Shaker back a wonderful bottle of Port wine.

Jigger is just one of these really easy-going all-around good fun guys.  But that went out the window when his graduation announcement showed up … We always knew that Jigger was smart but Cum Laude smart!  Upon seeing his graduation announcement, it says his name and that he is receiving his Bachelor of Science in International Business, Cum Laude.  The Shaker and I reflected upon if we knew anyone who graduated Cum Laude.  Um … we couldn’t come with a name.  I mean there might be someone we know, but who has just not mentioned it. 

Olive, Jigger and Olive's husband who we call
The Coaster
Olive with her family, Jigger, The Coaster and Scotch
Congratulations Jigger! You Rock!

The Martini Knitter

*FYI - a "jigger" is a 1.5 shot of alcohol and Jigger above has added about 5 shot glasses to our collection - hence his name.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The First 30 Days

Me at the Vitra Design Museum

I feel like the President of the United States with this title: The First 30 Days.  I have to say that when we first moved to Holland, we were in what we called “The Honeymoon Days;” everything is wonderful and exciting.  And then every day life settles in … but this isn’t the case for us this time.  Yes, it’s a new country and new culture but it’s Europe.  We like where we are living; Basel is a small city but with many things going on.  The city wakes early with hustle and bustle and has the feeling of accomplishment at the end of every day.  We have even been told that Brad Pitt comes every year to Art Basel Art Fair – I will keep you posted on that siting if it happens. 

The first two weeks for me were about finding places and things.  Where as for the girls it was about “German Boot Camp” as it has become officially called in our home and The Shaker starting his new job.  But the later half of this first month has been about meeting and making new friends – just plainly - finding our way.  Gin and Vermouth have not been thrilled with being stared at, checked out or called “Oh you are the new girl I heard about!”  In which there is nothing wrong with that, except we have been the “old guys” for so long. “Blending in” hasn’t been as easy as we have liked it to be, but it’s coming.  On the other side of the coin, the girls have heard girls say, “Yeah, I am no longer the “new girl!”  And they know that at the start of next year that will be them as well.

I was told by a couple of close friends from Holland, who have lived abroad most of their lives, that I must plan on doing everything that I hear about; to get out their and make friends.  I have been told that it is harder to meet people when your children are in high school than when they were in primary school - especially when it comes to moving to a new location.  For me, I really can’t answer this either way but I have taken their advice very seriously.  So … I have been to coffee morning, out walking with a group of women, and to Pub Night with The Shaker.

And then yesterday there was a morning out at the Vitra Design Museum, which is in Weil am Rhein, Germany just over the border.  It is a home design museum that still designs and manufactures modern furniture.

These are designed by Alexander Girard in 1963
They reminded me of something that my
mother would have in our home when we
were growing up 
This reminded me of our friend's
kitchen in Holland - very modern!
I thought their home collection furniture as very 1960’s retro.  Some of it was comfortable to sit on and others where not so much; but this had to do with a matter of personal taste.  And you know, every time I sat down I thought:  would I be comfortable knitting here?  And for the amount of money they were asking for, yes, I wanted it to be comfortable!

The Martini Knitter

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Channel Island Cast On

Vermouth loves her socks so much that I pulled out some more sock yarn from the stash and casted on.  But before casting on, I thought I would try something new.  I bought Knitting Fever’s “Indulgence” sock yarn last year while visiting the US.  I did a Ravelry yarn search to see what people did with this yarn; and I found that – surprise, surprise - many used this yarn to make Ann Budd’s “6-Stitches Per Inch Sock” from Getting Started Knitting Socks.  That was all the advice I needed!  I chose this pattern and I am doing 1x1 ribbing as the sock leg pattern (knit 1, purl 1).

I really like eMagazines.  They come instantly and with no VAT, no duty fees, no nothin’ simple and easy delivery!  My favorite one so far is Interweave’s Sockupied eMagazine because of the interactive features it has.  I think I bought the eMagazine for $10 (USD) and I got 6 sock patterns.  But it’s a magazine - so along with the patterns you get advice, reviews and interviews.  In the premier issue, I remembered seeing different cast on methods.  And I was right; they had 3 cast on methods, including the Channel Island cast on method.  But what is cool is that they have the written directions (you can print these) and they have a video right there in the eMag that you just click on.  But you don’t have to buy the eMagazine to see the video by Eunny Jang, it’s on YouTube as well. 

In the video, I liked Eunny Jang’s easy to follow directions.  But what I didn’t like was the slip-knot that you undo once the sock is well on its way.  You undo the knot and then weave in the ends.  I figured it was the 3 strands from the knot, plus the other one that you drop after you are done completing the cast on and you have begun your leg pattern.  I think I had 5 strands to weave in.  I don’t mind weaving in the ends, but 5!   I also tried to very hard to see what the sock looked like at the circular join of the sock.  If you watch Ms. Jang’s video, she moves that part of the sock very quickly under her hand so that you can’t see it.  Nothing wrong with that, I just wanted to see how to make it look nice at the join.  So off to the Internet I went to visit my favorite site, Google.  I found this video on how to do the Channel Island cast on.  And for me, I liked it better. 

I liked the picot edge; it looks fancy when it wasn’t that hard at to do.  I hope that you can see the edge when the sock is on.  Ok, it will be under my pant’s leg, but I will know that there is a pretty little edge on the sock.

The Martini Knitter

Monday, April 23, 2012

Writing It Down

So last week I worked on the socks for Vermouth (Toe-Up socks by Leah Mitchell) and finally got them done.  Now I am one of those knitters who like to have several projects going at the same time.  Most of the time when it gets to point in the pattern where I have to pay attention to detail, and no longer able to knit round and round and round.  This is usually when I have another project started and I will work on that for a while.  So I have learned the importance of keeping a notebook.  Especially when it comes to knitting socks because I put them down so often and come back to them in a week or sometimes longer.

I have seen tips where it is important to write down on the pattern how many pattern repeats you did this. I wish I had this info when I was working on Cookie A’s “Glynis” socks (from Sock Innovation).  I didn’t’ make the right amount of pattern repeats in the foot part of the second sock like I did when in the first sock.  So my toe part is off, but you can’t see it because it’s in the shoe - hiding.  But live and learn and I applied this to Vermouth’s socks – which did pay off!  I wrote down my method of my madness on how I started the toe, and then I wrote down how many pattern repeats I made in the foot and that wasn’t too hard, because I kept a sticky note with the pattern row numbers on it and when I finished a round, I crossed it off.  So I went back and counted those repeats – 9-pattern repeats in the foot.  I made other pattern notes, like in the gusset and the heal flap parts and then how many repeats I did in the leg part (4-1/2 repeats).  I am pleased with the outcome and so is Vermouth.

Not super happy with the pointy toe thing -
But Vermouth loves them

So I made a plan last week to finish them and while doing this, I watched “Mad Men.”  I have started with Season 1 and now I am on Season 2. I am cracking up at the relationship between Don Draper and his daughter, Sally, who he has taught how to make cocktails.  It looked like a Manhattan that she gave to her father and his friend Carlton but it could have been an Old Fashioned. My parents are from Scotch/Martini days of the 1960’s as well.  But I don’t think my mother taught my brother how to make martini until he was way older than Sally Draper (mid-1980’s).

The Martini Knitter

Friday, April 20, 2012

Come on! Tell Me What's Inside the Bag!

I think my life is back to normal.  Today will be the first day that I will not have to go to the grocery store.  I have gone every day.  There is a grocery store around the corner from us and sometimes I take the tram into the center to do other shopping as well.  I only buy a few things that I can carry in 2 bags.  That’s it.  I try very hard to stick to the list because I haven’t ventured out with my “Oma Tas.”  
Oma Tas means "grandmother bag" in Dutch
Our Oma Tas is big.  And I have no idea why since we bought it in Holland!  Everyone has a smaller one and I think it has to do with the tram.  You can get it on and off with ease.  And ours might just cause trouble, like it might be too heavy to heave on to the tram.  But what I have noticed here is that people who do have an Oma Tas leave it by the cashier stands and go off and do their shopping.  I have been doing other shopping as well and by the time I get to the grocery store, my Oma Tas would have items that I have already purchased.  But now this makes me wonder*, about whether or not the bag has items in it.  Because I am not sure about how much stealing goes on around here. 

We have noticed bikes being parked outside with maybe a lock only securing itself and not locked to a post.  For instance, Gin saw this and uploaded it to her Facebook page saying  “You know you are not in Holland when you see a bike and it’s not chained or locked.”  This was outside our apartment building.
All of us are fascinated with the fact that you can park your bike outside, at night, choose to lock it or not, and in the morning it is still there!

Oh! Yes, I have been knitting.  Have I finished anything? … No, but I have been great at casting on and starting.  I will try and finish some things this weekend. 

The Martini Knitter

*An after thought:  I wonder if I can dare Olive to sneak a peek in an Oma Tas when she comes for a visit.  You know? Strictly research purposes only.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Slight Crisis

We had a slight crisis over the weekend in our home:  I couldn’t find the “the green bottle” in the local grocery stores - Martini and Rossi’s Extra Dry Vermouth.  At a young age, the girls always knew that a martini was made with “the blue bottle” (Bombay Sapphire) and “the green bottle” (Martini and Rossi Extra Dry Vermouth).  Now, thankfully, they could never, and still don’t know the radio of vermouth to gin.  I also have an uncle who likes martinis as well.  The first time I was at a bar with him he told the waitress to just “wave” the vermouth bottle over the glass and another time, “just to introduce the 2 bottles to each to other.”  But I found it; my little green bottle was there – at the train station’s liquor store. 

Then The Shaker discovered after making the first real martini 2 things; no olives and we have a shaker problem – or lack of shaker.  Yup! We forgot to pack the martini/cocktail shaker in our temporary shipment and I forgot to buy olives. I had an olive-less martini – I don’t really recommend this, but to do this only in the direst of situations. But we did have a shot glass courtesy of my mother-in-law’s recent trip to Florida included in a package last week. I solved the problem of no olives and no shaker yesterday:

The apartment is very limited on stem ware!
We are working on that. And to our Whiskey friends,
sorry about The Shaker drinking his Glenfiddich out
of a tea cup - it's this or a water glass.
Then I noticed another thing this weekend, we have no washcloths.  A few months ago, I said how The Shaker wanted me to make him a washcloth to travel with within Europe; because most of the European hotels do not have washcloths in their rooms unlike the American hotels, which do.  Anyway, I thought why should I go and buy washcloths?  So decide I would make "Martini with 2 Olives" washcloths, surprised?  So while out doing the daily shop I bought yarn. I told The Shaker this, “What? I am learning where things are in this city.” 

This is as far as I got, I fell asleep while knitting ...
after finishing my martini
And lastly, at dinner last night, when I was telling the family about today’s blog, Gin chimed up with “That’s the green bottle, right?”  I love the fact that at 17 she still calls them “the green bottle” and “the blue bottle.”

The Martini Knitter  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

And The Panic Sets In ...

We have been in new (temporary) home for a week now, and so far so good … until Saturday night.  I always have a pair of socks casted on so that if I want to do something else for a while, I have a pair of socks to work on.  Olive gave me the suggestion on one of her travels to see me to photocopy the pattern that you are working on; she said “That way you don’t have to lug around the book with you.”  Makes sense - but only if you have access to the book immediately and not in 4 months. 

Now, I must have checked, rechecked and tripled checked my required list of project books for the first phase in the move.  I kept doing this because every time there was an appointment to see our home, I would clean up my sewing room, stashed things away in secret hiding places and then once it was safe to return home, pull it all out again.  I was nervous about forgetting something.  I knew that if I forgot a set of knitting needles that could be easily replace.  But a book? … Written in English? 

As I said a few months back, I printed off my queue list from Ravelry and tripled check it.  But I did forget something … I made the list of projects that I would start while in the first phase of the move but not the list of already-in-progress projects.  So, I pull out the socks that I am working on for Vermouth - who, by the way, has kindly pointed out that everyone have a pair of hand-knitted socks, but her.  They are “Toe-Up Socks” by Leah Mitchell from the book More Last Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson. 

And I get to the instructions that say, “Turn Heel” and the instructions say this:  “Note: Heel is shaped using Short Rows (see page 132).”  It’s 11:00 at night and the panic sets in.  I walked calmly to my stack of knitting books to see if I brought that book, knowing full well that I didn’t.  And all the while, The Shaker is asking, “What you are you doing?”  But I think, maybe, just maybe …  But, alas, no More Last Minute Knitted Gifts!

Now I really have The Shaker’s attention, because now I am opening up my laptop and typing a help/panic email to Olive and the ladies from Twisted Knitters knitting group.  It is 11:00 my time, 5:00 their time, asking if anyone owns this book and could they scan the page or at least tell what is written on page 132.  I know that I am taking a chance with it being Easter weekend and these women are probably not knitting or checking their emails.  But they did check their emails!  I woke up to everyone saying ever so nicely - “Sorry, I don’t’ own the book.” 

But I didn’t give up.  Since it was morning and I dusted away the panic knitting dreams from my mind, I read further into the instructions and realized that page 132 is probably just explaining what “Short Rows” are.  Lucky for me, I know what these are.  But in Short Rows you have to wrap and turn stitches.  So I read further on in the instructions and Row 1 says this:  “Row 1 (RS) Working only Needles 2 and 3, Needle 2: Knit; Needle 3: K7, yo, k1, wrp-t.”  And here is where my problem truly lies: “wrp-t.”  What does wrp-t mean?  I have seen “wrap and turn” abbreviated to “w&t” but not “wrp-t.” 

So now I am checking the Internet for help.  I checked Amazon’s site because you can “look inside” some of their books.  And, yup, you guessed it - the page I want, is not in the “look inside” part.  They have page 131 but not page 132!  Then I googled “wrp-t knitting abbreviation” and “wrap and turn” pops up in the search engine. 

I did remember to bring several sock books so I looked at Wendy D. Johnson’s Socks from the Toe Up about short row heels. And she gave me the idea to just work the stitches as “wrap and turns” what’s the worst that could happen?  I might have to rip it out.  Like ripping out scares me …
I looked at other people's project photos on Ravelry and
I think my heels looks like theirs

The Martini Knitter

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My First "Swiss" Days

Look! Blonde Amsterdam in Switzerland
When we received our new Dutch address, we sent out “our new home” postcards.  We had printed on them,  “The American Evasion – Can the Dutch handle it?” and then our new address.  We had many new experiences in the first few months – one of them being stuck on a train.  Short version: Took the train from Arnhem to Den Bosch; there was a lot of Dutch spoke over the intercom; and then the train was moving off to the train depot - with us still on it.  

We survived that “evasion” and now moving on to evading the Swiss … The weather here has been nothing less than spectacular - sunny skies and really really nice spring weather.  Ok, today it’s a little cloudy …

The weekend was nice and relaxing.  I hear you saying, “But you just moved!”  We moved into a furnished corporate apartment awaiting our permanent residence to become available - this summer we move again.  So in the meantime, it feels like we are on holiday because we just showed up with a really over packed car and one really stressed out a cat. 

On Monday, The Shaker started his new job and the girls went to their first intensive German lesson.  I got to check out the city and figure out where things are. When I first arrived in Europe, I went out but only went to the stores that I knew (this is where my affair truly started with Albert Heijn).  I wasn’t too adventurous - it mainly had to do with the language barrier and the culture shock.  I am soooo over that.  But now every time someone speaks to me I want to speak Dutch knowing full well that they don’t speak Dutch!  I have been trying hard to shake my “goed morgen, dank je well, and alstublieft’s”  (good morning, thank you, please) which just fly out freely even before English does and replacing them with “guten morgen, danke schoen, and bitte sehr.”

But enough about that ... when we came a few months ago, I found the most important thing – a yarn shop.  And not one yarn shop, but two yarn shops!  And this is all The Shaker’s fault.  We had to take the tram to his work for a meeting and there was one yarn shop right their on the #11 tram line and then we went out later on another tram #14.  I was minding my own business, just looking out the window and BAM! there they were calling my name! 

The first one, on the way to The Shaker’s work was Zum Roten Faden.  It has yarn and knitting/sewing supplies.  The other one, Wollare, mainly carries yarn and where I bought Van Gogh sock yarn – I know!  Van Gogh in Switzerland!  I couldn’t find this in Holland. 

And then on Tuesday Gin and Vermouth took me Manor a huge Swiss department store (similar to the V&D in Holland – only bigger).  They have everything including – get this! – a sewing and knitting department!  How much better can it get it!  They carry their own line of yarn (Maddison), needles, and books.  Ok, no surprise here - they are all written in Swiss German. 

The Martini Knitter

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Top 10 of Holland Favorites

A few nights ago I asked The Shaker, Gin and Vermouth what their Top 10 things that they will miss.  We came up with this list.  This list is in no specific order.  Honestly, we will all just miss it:

1. Queen’s Day – April 30th.  Nothing like seeing Dutch patriotism in all that sea of orange!

2. In Arnhem, CafĂ© Dudok has the best “appel gebak met slagroom.”  (Apple cake with whip cream).

3. Bitterballen, Kroketten, and fries with "friets sauce" (aka, mayonnaise)

4. De Bijenkorf’s “Drie Dwaze Dagen” – it’s a 3 day (crazy) sale.  Most Dutch find me crazy for liking it, but I do!  One year I took Vermouth to it and she found the whole experience overwhelming and crazy!

5. Stroopwafels – Freshly made from a street vendor -  warm and gooey! 

6. Albert Heijn – I know! How can I miss a grocery store?  It’s not the grocery store .. but I always thought if I wrote a book about my life and times in Holland I would call the book “My Affair with Albert.” 

7. ChipKnip – it’s on our Dutch bank cards.  You have a chip in-bedded on top of your debit card and it holds a small amount of money to pay for parking, or vending machines, or train tickets etc.  Super convenient.

8. Breaks in the middle of the school day – the girls will miss being able to leave school freely during the middle of the day when they have no classes scheduled. Those days are over as of today …

9. Jip and Janneke – This picture says it all …

11. … and lastly, but certainly not least ….Sinterklaas

The Martini Knitter