Archive | March, 2007

Dear Richard (A belated letter to dad)

31 Mar

(I wrote this stream of consciousness letter today and debated posting it, but then thought it would be nice to do something to remember him by…)

Dear Richard,

I really miss you so much, I mean, with you gone, there is one less person around telling me how I should live my life. The number of people busting my chops about something has dwindled exponentially.

I miss our phone conversations. The times when I would call and mom wasn’t at home – you were more willing to talk longer and about more meaningful things then. I’d hear about your motorcycles and the weather in DC and you’d hear about the problems I was having with my job. You were actually very understanding and open in later years – something I was really glad about given the tough times we had had for so long.

I miss you stopping in unannounced. Sure, I knew that you were on the road and a few hundred miles away. But you always seemed to make such good time riding that you’d arrive a good half day earlier than I’d planned. Yeah, and even though driving you around town was no picnic, I did enjoy the conversations we’d have over dinner, you telling me things that I shouldn’t tell mom or stories that she didn’t know about you. It was like we shared something that was special and just between us, something precious that no other person can ever touch.

I miss babysitting you. Mom caught onto what I was doing, but I guess you never did. Whenever you seemed frustrated about something while you were traveling together, I’d just ask you a question about your childhood. Seemed to work and some of the stories were really interesting too. Every time I drive around LA, I see some place that you had a story about – playing hooky and getting caught on Hermosa Beach, working at the factory downtown, watching foreign films near USC. You always had something new to reveal and were so willing to talk about your childhood.

There are of course things I won’t miss, but through the years, those things seemed to dwindle away anyway. It’s like we went full circle in our relationship and even though I resented you treating me like I was five at thirty-something, it was good in a way too, for way back then, things between us were so simple, honest and loving.

Remember, back in the days when we’d go out, just the two of us alone, and hang out? You’d take me to work and let me draw on your chalkboard, plying me with forbidden candy bars. Or, we’d go to the mall and you’d always get me a toy or an ice cream cone. We talked about so many things during those times, I just wish I could remember what they were about. I also remember you reading the comics to me every Sunday morning, it was such a great ritual – when I was little we were really buds, weren’t we? I never told you, but my earliest memory of looking up from the crib is of you.

It was so hard touching you in your casket. I know that you live in my heart, but it was strange having you lying there lifeless and empty when your life was so full. You weren’t even cold like I had expected you to be. I wanted an extreme – like you and our relationship. Something that felt familiar. But, there was nothing. Just a wry smile coaxed out of your face that looked familiar, but seemed foreign at the same time.

I never got to say goodbye to you. You know, the week you passed away was the one week that you didn’t bombard me with a phone call? Why is that? How did that work out?

I can’t believe it was a year today, probably right now, at this very hour that you left. You never did anything in your life quietly, but your passing was. My life has seemed so much more quiet without you, something I’m still not used to. It just seems like you are on a long trip and incommunicado, but, in fact, you are gone.

Nothing else to report.

Love,

Kate

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The Sakura Brothers: Amigurumi Tutorial #1 for Knitters

30 Mar

SB hanging out

The coming of spring where I grew up (outside of Washington, DC) always meant cherry blossoms. They signaled that the winters were over and that there were only about 2 more months left of good weather before the hot muggy summers began. In Japan I loved cherry blossom season, walking along the banks of the Shukugawa River under the bowers of the cherry trees, the blossoms carpeting the ground like a blanket of soft pink snow.

Since there aren’t many cherry trees here in LA, I thought I’d create something to remind me of the energizing transition from winter to spring that I often long for (here in LA most of the year is spring…). And thus, the Sakura (Cherry) Brothers were born.

The red cherry, Suppai-kun (bitter) suppai is a little upset since he was made with really old yarn from my first knitted sweater project 16 years ago. His little brother, Amai-kun (sweet), however, is a much happier fellow hanging around without a care in the world being made out of a bright Naturespun wool.

I had been wondering how I could translate a crochet amigurumi pattern into a knitted one. After seeing the envious faces of the knitters in my Tuesday night Stitch and Bitch group who don’t crochet, I thought it would be good to write up a few basic patterns, which are more like tutorials, for designing knitted amigurumi. Many of the vintage patterns I have can be a little hard to follow for beginners, and the design principles of amigurumi are pretty basic. It’s just a matter of getting a few simple shapes down and the rest is simply creating more rows between increases and decreases to generate new shapes and sizes.

So, here it is – Amigurumi Knit Tutorial #1 – Heads

Most amigurumi are knit in the round and based on a circle that’s been divided into 6, so the number of stitches for each increase or decrease should be a number that is divisible by 6. The width of the head simply depends on the type of yarn used, the size of the needles and the final number of stitches at the circumference (most larger toys are generally 48-60 stitches). Even though I had followed a lot of patterns before, it wasn’t until I saw a diagram in a Japanese book that’s similar to my very basic one below that I finally ‘got’ how many stitches to increase and decrease and when…

circle scan

Each small circle represents the total number of stitches on each odd numbered round after the increase, based on 6 increases per round. To make a larger head, simply knit more stitches before each increase (30 would be K3, inc 1; 36 K4, inc 1, etc…). The decreases are simply the reverse of the increases except that the decrease is made before the knit stitches.

So, here’s the basic pattern in knit-ese for Suppai-kun. (Amai-kun was simply knit on smaller needles with one less increase…)

Yarn: Wool, Wool-Blend, and Cotton-Acrylic blends. Also acrylic yarns with a little fuzz work well for knitted objects (makes the increases and decreases look more subtle).

Needles: 4 DPN size 6 or 7

CO 6 sts, place 2 sts on 3 DPN
Rnds1 & 2: k6
Rnd 3: M1 every st (6 inc made, 12 sts)decreasing 2
Rnd 4 & every even rnd: k
Rnd 5: k1, M1 (6 times, 18 sts)
Rnd 7: k2, M1 (6 times, 24 sts)
Rnd 9: k3, M1 (6 times, 30 sts)
Rnds 10-12: k
Rnd 13: k2tog, k 3 (6 times, 24 sts)
Rnd 15: k2tog, k 2 (6 times, 18 sts)
Rnd 17: k2tog, k1 (6 times, 12 sts)
Rnd 19: k2tog 6 times (6 sts)

Cut yarn, leaving a 2 inch tail. Stuff with batting or polyfill. Using yarn needle, thread tail through rem sts & tighten. The head is done!

The stem was simply a 3 st i-cord tied into a knot and sewn onto the top of the head.

Add felt, crocheted or pipe cleaner/wire arms and legs. Embroider a face or use buttons/felt or googly-eyes to embellish. The ends can easily be hidden away inside of your creature, and that’s it! (Remember to embroider embellishments if you are giving these away to small children.)

With just this basic shape, it’s possible to make a variety of little guys, adding embellishments and such to give each its own character.

Sakura Bros

Next tutorial: Bodies

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The Hospital Sucks Socks

29 Mar

Red Socks

There are those projects that are completed and never have a story or a memory attached to them — maybe they were done while watching mindless movies or the occasional PBS documentary. But, then there are others that, well, will be perpetually associated with certain events.

My current sock project is definitely one of those.

I would love to say that it only had to do with a mishap in the crockpot — a dyeing job gone bad. But, unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way, and there is so much more to this story than just merely a blending of colors, wool and a little heat…

It began about 3 weeks ago when I decided to finally get around to dyeing a hank of Knitpicks bare fingering superwash to make into socks. I had never dyed such a large amount of commercial wool in my crockpot, and grossly underestimated the amount of dye (food dye) I would need. As I placed my wool in the dye bath, the color took to the wool super quickly and I realized that there were going to be huge splotches of white. Originally the color I was aiming at was a deep burgundy, a beautiful wine color that I could use to make a modified version of the Rainy Day Socks on Magknits. But, alas, my wool was now a mess – some of it was purple and other parts were a shade of barely lavendery-gray. So, forsaking my original idea, I dumped a packet of Pink Lemonade and later Black Cherry Kool-aid in the dye bath. The colors were slightly better, and I figured I would wait to see how they turned out.

While the skein was drying I was a little worried. Sure there were a lot of variations in the yarn, but some of the colors were far from what I had originally intended. As luck would have it, though, once I started to knit with it, the various colors became warm and wonderful striations – my yarn turned out okay and I was saved from having to over-dye it.

At first the colors reminded me of Valentine’s Day, a holiday I (until about a year ago) detested and abhorred. As I started knitting my socks, romantic (or sentimental, depending on how you look at it) thoughts would enter my mind and I would think about my boyfriend and how lucky I was. I never thought that these socks would truly be linked to him, however, until last Friday.

In the middle of the day, my boyfriend called to say that he had unbearable pain, which turned out to be kidney stones. Somehow I knew that we would have to wait for a while in the ER, so the last thing I grabbed while going out the door were my socks. Of course, what we both thought would be a couple of hours in the Dr.’s office, turned into a 15-hour ordeal. First we went to Urgent Care (spent 2 hours there). Then we were sent to another hospital for a CT scan (not the hospital right across the street, but in downtown LA during rush hour on a Friday). We were seen by the initial nurse within an hour, and I thought, “Oh, this might not be so bad.” Well, 4 hours later we finally made it inside the ER. Another hour or so went by until we saw the Dr. Then 3 more hours until the CT scan…

My socks were a point of interest for many of the nurses when we first got into the ER. They were fascinated by the fact that I was knitting, and I (mistakenly) thought that it would help us get taken care of within a reasonable amount of time. The head nurse on duty chatted with me amicably at first, but then, as the night wore on, was extremely surly. When Doug had a really high fever and I went to her to ask her to do something, she never even glanced at me, but simply pointed to a blue storage bin and said, “There are blankets there.” Far be it for me to ask for a cup to put Doug’s contact lenses in – it was deemed a major ordeal. Granted there were hardly any nurses on duty and only 1 doctor for over 30 patients at a time, but whose fault was that? I only made my requests after we had been there for 7 hours…

All the while, my poor boyfriend was in excruciating pain. I felt entirely helpless and frustrated (but was trying to keep my cool). All I have to say is….

Thank God for my socks!

My socks kept me sane. They gave me a point of focus when everything seemed so unsure. They helped me stay strong even though I felt tired, uncertain and angry. They helped me stay awake. Just the feel of the soft wool through my fingers was soothing and calming enough to keep me going, because it wasn’t until 5 AM the next morning that my boyfriend was finally admitted to the hospital.

So, what I initially I thought I would dub my V-Day-colored-socks with varying shades of reds and burgundies, have now become the hospital socks. They’ll hold fond memories simply because of the stamina and comfort they were able to provide me during one long rough night, so that I, in turn, could try to give comfort to a loved one.

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Which T-shirt slogan do you like???

26 Mar

My mom just sent me one of those forwarded email messages that traverse the globe, but I thought they were pretty funny, so I thought I’d post it…

Bush T-Shirts

1) (On an infant’s shirt): Already smarter than Bush.
2) 1/20/09: End of an Error.
3) That’s OK, I Wasn’t Using My Civil Liberties Anyway.
4) Let’s Fix Democracy in This Country First.
5) Bush. Like a Rock. Only Dumber.
6) You Can’t Be Pro-War And Pro-Life At The Same Time.
7) If You Can Read This, You’re Not Our President.
8. Hey, Bush Supporters: Embarrassed Yet?
9) George Bush: Creating the Terrorists Our Kids Will Have to Fight.
10) Impeachment: It’s Not Just for Blowjobs Anymore.
11) America : One Nation, Under Surveillance.
12) They Call Him “W” So He Can Spell It.
13) Which God Do You Kill For?
14) Jail to the Chief.
15) Who Would Jesus Torture?
16) No, Seriously, Why Did We Invade?
17) Bush: God’s Way of Proving Intelligent Design is Full of Crap.
18) Bad president! No Banana.
19) We Need a President Who’s Fluent In At Least One Language.
20) We’re Making Enemies Faster Than We Can Kill Them.
21) Rich Man’s War, Poor Man’s Blood.
22) Is It Vietnam Yet?
23) Bush Doesn’t Care About White People, Either.
24) Where Are We Going? And Why Are We In This Handbasket?
25) You Elected Him. You Deserve Him.
26) Impeach Cheney First.
27) Dubya, Your Dad Shoulda Pulled Out, Too.
28) When Bush Took Office, Gas Was $1.32.
29) The Republican Party: Our Bridge to the 11th Century.
30) 2004: Embarrassed; 2005: Horrified; 2006: Terrified.

Which one is your favorite??? I laughed (and sometimes cried — see #28) at some of them, but I thought 27 was my all time favorite…

Yamorichan (Little Gecko)

23 Mar

Yamorichan 2

I love geckos. (Probably pretty obvious given the moniker for my blog.) Even though I have a cat, the gecko is my favorite critter. There is something soothing about the clik-clik-clik they make while I’m sleeping in a thatched bamboo hut on a South-East Asian beach knowing that they are dining on all the pesky mosquitos that might otherwise dine on me. It’s nice coming back to a place being greeted by these little creatures who so unassumedly take care of me.

I always feel lucky whenever I find a gecko or anole in my house.

Once when I was living in Florida, a lizard fell on my head in the shower. I shrieked, but was happy knowing that it was there. Another time in Japan I noticed my cat playing with something (I thought it was a string or a cat-toy). Upon closer examination, it was a gecko. Machan (the cat) had laid into him, biting off his tail. There was blood on the carpet. She just didn’t get that the gecko was a friend — keeping the demon-like spitting mukade (poisonous centipedes) and mosquitos at bay. Luckily I found him in time, gently putting him outside and hoping for his recovery. I kept seeing him around my front door that summer, somewhat battered –but still alive– and I never had one single mukade the entire summer.

If there is such a thing as an animal totem, the gecko (or lizard) is defintely mine. They are said to be intuitive, sensing things that happen around them which may not be readily apparent. They are creatures of change, growth and dreams. What to one person may seem a slithery thing, to me is a sleek and shimmering animal of beauty — agile, knowing and patient (qualities which I don’t necessarily posses, but rather aspire to).

For years I had been drawing little geckos in notebooks without really thinking. I love having anything gecko around me (as long as it’s not Southwest-style kitsch). When I decided to get a tattoo about 10 years ago. I thought about it deeply. Ankh or yin-yang symbol — too common. Japanese kanji (character) — not quite right. Then one day I saw a temporary gecko tattoo and it just felt right. If I was going to get permanently inked, the gecko was it — we ‘cliked’. Now with the gecko permanently affixed to my left shoulder, I know that it is my animal, that if it is at all possible, we are linked in spirit.

I’m not one to have super cutsy things in my house. Although I love designing toys and such, they are usually meant for others. But, just once, I wanted to create one just for me, something that would follow me throughout the day, and my latest amigurumi, Yamorichan, (‘little lizard’ in Japanese) was born. He rests on my handbrake, reminding me (although often unsuccessfully!) to remain patient and aware. Keeping me safe from the blood-sucking LA drivers, bringing me back to the peace and tranquility I found on the beach in a thatched hut.

Yamorichan

(Yamorichan Handbrake Cozy)

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Bound By Semesters

21 Mar

notebook

Up until a year ago, for most of my life — except for about a year and a half — I’ve either been in school or worked in one. My life has been defined by the undulations of the semseter — the frenetic energy at the beginning, the two week lull, midterms, another lull, and finals. Everything I did was bound by time — my heart would start beating faster anticipating the frantic energy in August and wouldn’t slow down until December when I would crash from the intensity of the previous 3 months. The other day I realized just how strange it was that, while for most people I know it’s the beginning of the semester, yet for me it’s the same old routine.

I guess I’m finally starting to recover from working in academia.

It’s been a difficult journey, leaving the university teaching life. Nine months out of the year would be super-intense. So much so that on the weekends I would crash out on the sofa with a good book and forgo a more active social life for what I thought was a greater good — my career. Well, time flew by and I was left with little, save for a ‘case’ of really bad burnout. So bad, in fact, that even though my (now former) professional organization is meeting this week, I could care less. So bad that I now no longer have anything in common with most of the people I went to grad school with who stayed in the field (which are few, since the English language teaching world is a tough one.) I took one step off of my career path and now not only am I totally going in a different direction (don’t quite know where yet, but it doesn’t matter these days) but even my sense of time has changed completely.

I no longer care about Spring Break or when holidays begin. Working from home everyday flows into the next, one into the other. It might seem boring or that time is slipping away from me, but in fact the past two years (almost) have been the most intense and maybe even conscious years of my life since I came back from overseas. Each day seems the same, but actually it’s different. I’m not tied to a desk or a class schedule designed by someone else. I don’t have to hold office hours or listen to students trying to change their grade. I don’t have to wake up super-early or work on the weekends grading piles of papers. I can control where I go and when. I can rest when I need to (a lot, 15 years of teaching was really exhausting!), take breaks when I want, and teach only as much as I have to.

It’s a relief. And in fact it feels like I have just woken up from a long dream where I spent most of my time sleepwalking through my life.

Knitter’s Treat Exhange

20 Mar

I found this cool knitting exchange while blog surfing the other day, so I thought I’d post my answers to the questions today…

Knitters Treat Exchange Questionnaire

1. What’s your favourite type of yarn? I love the new corn/soysilk and bamboo yarns but anything that is colorful and fun is great…

2. What’s your least favourite type of yarn? Crunchy acrylic

3. What’s the first thing you do when you visit a new yarn shop? Browse the sale bins (since I’m on a yarn budget these days…)

4. What other crafts do you do / would like to do? Woodblock printing, papermaking, frame-loom tapestry, spinning, crochet, drawing, painting, collage…

5. What magazines do you currently subscribe to? None. But I like the Utne Reader…

6. Put this type of magazine in order of preference:
Knitting / Crochet / Other Craft / Food / Fashion / Garden/Celebrity Gossip/ Home
7. What items do you like to knit / crochet? Toys, Sweaters, Socks

8. Are you allergic to anything? No

9. What do you like to* smell of? Lavender

(*This is not a typo. The question is: What do you like to smell of)

10. What’s your favourite way to relax? Doing yoga & fiber crafts, reading

11. You’re stood in front of a Victorian style sweetshop, an Italian cafe, an old fashioned bakery and a dainty tea room. Where do you go first? The Italian cafe

12. What do you come out with?Fai-trade decaf coffee (and if I’m splurging on the carbs, something chocolately…)

13. Where do you go next? Probably the bakery, although I’m trying to stay away from too many carbs…

14. Any other words of wisdom for your pal? Nope…


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