Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Palin Has Been Good for My Vocabulary

Sarah Palin, with her "g"-dropping and "you betcha" kind of talk, has been accused of dumbing down the American (and consequently, the Canadian) language. On the contrary, my obsession (as Todd calls it) with reading about all things Palin has improved my vocabulary greatly.

The first word I learned, immediately after Palin was chosen as John McCain's running mate, was "gubernatorial", meaning "of or relating to a governor", as in "Palin's gubernatorial campaign". Even my very literate friend Fei Min did not know this one. Am I the only one that loves saying this word over and over? It just rolls off the tongue so smoothly.

Then, in reading Christopher Buckley's now famous endorsement of Barrack Obama, which isn't specifically about Palin but does have a few references to her (including the oft-used line, "What on earth can he have been thinking?"), I encountered and had to look up, "rara avis", the Latin equivalent of "rare bird", which I do know in English.

The word "gravitas" is not new to me, but it's never been part of my everyday vocabulary. However, it's been used so often and in so many contexts (referring to candidates, journalists, advisors, Joes, etc., both possessing and lacking) that I now feel quite comfortable popping it into ordinary conversation.

Then there's the word "mavericky". This word is not in my Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, 4th Ed., so it can't be a real word. All the same, I'm grateful to Saturday Night Live and Tiny Fey for popularizing it, as it's such a great adjective. Maybe I will petition to have it included in the 5th edition of the OSPD.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My First 5K Race

When my friend Laura suggested a couple of months ago that we enter the Oktoberfest 5K race, I didn't take the idea seriously. Sure, I used to run a bit for exercise, but that was many, many years ago and very, very slowly. Since then, I'd run occasionally on the treadmill, but doing even a relatively short 5K race was for serious athletes, not a mouse potato like myself. Being the enthusiastic optimist that she is, Laura convinced me to try the Couch-to-5K plan from So I ran three days a week for eight weeks, and today I completed my very first 5K race.

At the onset, I had a realistic goal of 35 minutes and a seemingly not-so-realistic goal of 30 minutes. I was very pleased when, near the end of my training, I managed to do 5K in 33 minutes. Today, I surprised myself by finishing in 30:11. It helped that most of the race was downhill. Also, there's nothing like seeing a 10-year-old kid or a 70-year-old senior sprinting past to give that extra bit of motivation. I finished 25th out of 54 women in the 40-44 age group, and 509th out of 840 racers. So I'm not going to break any records ... but it's nice to know that, at age 41, I can still try something new that I've never done before!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Crochet Scarf Patterns

You can make this scarf out of any five random chunky or bulky weight yarns of varying materials and texture. Note: chunky/bulky weight would give about 12 to 16 stitches per 10 cm (4 in) if you were knitting in stockinette stitch. You can also combine multiple strands of lighter weight yarns to achieve a chunky/bulky weight. I used the leftovers of the Siesta Blanket kit from Needful Yarns. Don't worry too much about exact amounts. You can adjust the frequency and width of the stripes to accommodate the yardage you have. With the materials I used, each 50g skein had about 60m to 100m of yarn. I had partial (but mostly full) skeins of each yarn and I had enough left over to make the mini scarf and blanket as well. Just make sure you have enough of the main colour, as that is used more frequently than the others.

Finished Measurements:
Scarf measures approximately 120 cm by 20 cm (48 in by 8 in) without fringe. The fringe adds another 40 cm (16 in). To change the length, increase or decrease the number of stitches in the base chain, and/or change the length of the fringe to suit.

Use the following yarns or any combination of 5 chunky or bulky weight yarns.
  • 2 50g skeins Needful Yarns Capri (nylon/cotton) -- main colour
  • 1 50g skein Filtes King Extra Stampato (merino wool)
  • 1 50g skein Needful Yarns Santa Ana (wool/nylon)
  • 1 50g skein Filtes King Knotty (nylon/wool/acrylic/alpaca)
  • 1 50g skein Lana Gatto Venus (mohair/nylon/wool), used double-stranded
  • An 8mm crochet hook
sc -- single crochet
MC -- main colour

Using an 8mm crochet hook, 10 sc = 10 cm (4 in).

Base row: using MC, make a slip knot, leaving a 20 cm (8 in) end. Chain 120. Cut yarn, leaving another 20 cm (8 in) end, and slip through last loop, pulling tight.
Next row: Using MC, make a slip knot, leaving a 20 cm (8 in) end. Sc in first chain of base row, and continue with an sc in each following chain to the end. Cut yarn, leaving a 20 cm (8 in) end, and slip through last loop, pulling tight.
Next row: Using one of the contrasting yarns, repeat the previous row, leaving a fringe on either end as before.
Next rows: Repeat, making stripes of one or more rows of any yarn as desired. If you make multiple rows of one yarn, make sure you do not turn after a row, but instead, finish off the row leaving the fringe. Use MC with approximately twice the frequency of each of the other yarns.
Continue in this way until the scarf is 19 cm (7.5 in) wide, or 1 cm (0.5 in) less than the desired width. Using MC, make two more rows.

Mini-Scarf Instructions:
With any left-over yarn, you can make this little scarf for your favourite stuffed animal in the same way. The scarf will be approximately 45 cm (18 in) long, not including the fringe. Using MC, chain 40 stitches for the base row and follow instructions as above. Leave 10 cm (4 in) of yarn on each end for the fringe. Work a few rows until the scarf is 2.5 cm (1 in) wide. Finish with a final row in MC.

Mini-Blanket Instructions:
I had enough yarn left over to make a blanket for the cow as well. Finished measurements of the blanket in the photo are approximately 20 cm (8 in) by 26 cm (10 in). Using MC, chain 25. Work sc in 2nd chain from beginning and following chains until the end. Ch1, turn, and work another row in MC. Continue doing rows in sc until desired length, changing yarns randomly to create stripes of varying width. Use MC with greater frequency and end with two or more rows of MC. Weave in yarn ends.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Leftover Yarn

My afghan is finished, but I had plenty of yarn left over and I made the scarf that Julia is modelling above. Then, with the remaining scraps, I made a scarf and blanket for Kate's Lil' Kinz cow.