Obsession Thursdays

Obsessed with linen

layers of breathable wrinkles. be still my heart.

I hate hot, and I don’t do summer well. But about 3 or 4 years ago, Jillian took me to Acme Mercantile before a speaking engagement at the Ann Arbor Public Library, and she introduced me to my new summer love. Flax Designs.

Brenda Dayne, goddess of the Cast-On Podcast, tried to do the same thing with me, calling the style Lagenlook [the German word for “layered look”]. But I kept finding pages like this and never quite got the fever for it that she had.

That’s because I had been looking in the wrong place. Flax Designs are also Lagenlook, but pared down. It’s about layers of linen, sometimes in bold colors, sometimes soft and almost vintagey, like the picture at left.

There are styles upon styles, and years of different cuts and shapes to find for sale online [eBay is great for Flax].

What I love, more than just being able to put on easy, breathable shapes for summer is that the sizing is very friendly, to all body shapes. It starts S, M, L and then moves to 1G [g = generous], 2G and 3G.

Jillian and I stopped into Acme today and they’d just marked down their summer stock. I scored a white tank, my favorite pants [the Floods style] in screaming turquoise and a round-necked jacket in a rich, vibrant peony for layering when the temperature starts to finally go down. Here…take a peek at the crazy-fabulous summer Bold color palette for 2010 [thanks to TenderTreasures.com for the great photo — also a great place to find Flax]:

Like softer colors? There are tons of those. I dare you not to google.

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Obsession: Dexter, Roxy and Microchips

Settling in nicely.

World, meet Dexter.

Dexter is a stray dog who came into my life recently.  My hubby and I had had a dog, a lovely yellow lab called Avery, and she died of cancer four years ago.  We’d been talking about bringing another dog into our family, but the time hadn’t seemed right.

And then three weeks ago, a stray dog appeared in the yard of a dog-owning neighbor.  The stray was handed over to the joint care of me and my hubby, and another neighbor who had recently lost her own dog.

He had no tags on his collar, and no microchip, so we launched a massive campaign to find his family.  We posted with the city animal services and the Humane Society; we made him a trending topic on Twitter.  We put up ads on Craigslist and Kijiji, and posted on Facebook.  We blogged about him. We made posters and distributed them around the city with the help of friends and family; we toured him through all the local vets, pet shops and groomers.  And nothing.  No one knew the little guy, and we had no idea where he had come from, or where he belonged.

After a week of searching, we had a tag made with the name Dexter and our phone number on it, and he moved in with us.  We’re thrilled to have him living with us, and he seems to be enjoying it. He’s a good dog, and someone had clearly cared for him: he’d been neutered and he was healthy and groomed.  But someone, somewhere, has lost a beloved family pet.

If he had had a microchip, he could have found his way back to his family.

Happy and safe.

I told Mandy this story, and she told me the story of her cat, Roxy.

Roxy, too, was a lost animal, and Roxy, too, was chip-less. Mandy rescued Roxy from the streets when she was a kitten – she was sick and injured, and likely wouldn’t have survived if Mandy hadn’t taken her in.

We’re glad that these particular lost animals landed with people who could look after them, but as any shelter will tell you, that doesn’t always happen.

I know that Knitty readers are animal lovers. The help you’ve offered in the course of the search for Dexter’s family is proof of that. And I know that many Knitty readers have pets of their own.

The lesson in this is that if you have pets, please have them chipped.  A tiny little microchip is injected under the skin of the animal, usually around the shoulder or neck area.  The microchip has an ID number which is registered in a master database, along with information about the animal and its people – a description of the animal, and contact information for the animal’s owner and vet.  A vet can do this, or any animal shelter or rescue organization.  A scanning device can find the chip and instantly access the information about the animal – and any vet will scan a lost animal, free of charge, to see if it has been registered.

It’s quick, inexpensive, and utterly painless for the animal.  And it means that your lost pet can find its way home to you.

Needless to say, we’re having Dexter chipped.

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How DO you pick a new camera?

Some things are fun to buy on impulse. Earrings and shoes, definitely. Technology? No way.

I am not an obsessive researcher when it comes to getting new technology — I mean how many ways can you research which iPod to get…it’s more about picking the color than anything else. But that goes out the window when it’s time to get a new camera.

Lumix FZ20

I bought a Lumix FZ20 [Panasonic camera with Leica lens, very highly reviewed here] in 2005 to shoot things for Knitty. It performed very well, but I found that I was not taking it along as much as I should have because it was big.

So when we went on a trip to Italy in 2006, we bought a little wee Canon digital Elph. And it won, getting used 90% of the time from then onwards, just because it could fit in a pocket.

When I accidentally dropped it and busted the lcd screen, I found a tutorial online that showed how to replace it, and the parts were less than $40 via ebay. Hub fixed it in an hour. That little Canon has had a lot of use in 4 years.

But I wanted the extra features a DSLR-type camera like the Lumix had to offer. So I did what I do when it comes to picking a new camera:

  1. I check DPReview.com. I like how they are so precise about examining every aspect of a camera, including the good and bad. They usually alert me to models of cameras that stand out among the rest, and help me narrow down what it is I really want.
  2. Once I have a favorite or two chosen, I go to [don’t groan] Amazon, and see what the majority of consumers have to say. I know what’s there is not unbiased, and I know there are often reviews planted by the manufacturers of some products. But for cameras, it’s been helpful. If I find an issue that a lot of people mention, further googling can help me determine if it is a real problem or if it’s just inexperienced users that are causing their own problems.

Canon G11

The model that I kept coming back to was the Canon Powershot G11. Powershot, not Elph, meaning it won’t fit in my pocket. But it’s still nowhere near as large as a DSLR, which was my other possiblity.

This camera has a vaguely retro feel about its design which I like a lot, but more importantly, it has features I really wanted. It’s got an exposure compensation dial at the top left. The top right has an ISO dial (to choose how low the light can be where you’re shooting), and everything else was familiarly Canon-esque, which is a good thing. I like how intuitive it is to reach for a feature and find it where you expect it to be. I’ve found Canon to be wonderful that way over the years.

Look! I can see myself in it!

It also had this, which I have wanted forever: the tiltable viewscreen. Ideal for shooting over the heads of others, or avoiding glare on the screen in bright days [which happens a lot]. I also happen to have crappy closeup eyesight, so using a viewfinder isn’t something I like doing. A good lcd screen is my friend.

I’ll be able to fine-tune the white balance when I take Yarn Roundtable shots [the Elph was notorious for shooting purples as blues, no matter what I did, which meant more Photoshop fiddling after the fact] and lots more, as I get used to all the stuff this camera can do.

The Amys (Swenson and Singer) play with the tilty lcd screen at yesterday's Stitch & Pitch in Toronto.

Once I found the one I wanted, I stumbled across Wishabi.ca, a super-handy site for Canadians. It helps you figure out whether it’s cheaper to buy it in Canada or the US today, including exchange, duty and taxes, and will e-mail you when something you’re waiting to buy goes on sale. Super neat.

So why is this an Obsession Thursday post? Because I’ve done nothing but obsess about choosing the right camera for the last 2 weeks. My upcoming trip to Scotland means photo opportunities will be happening constantly. I don’t want to miss a single one.

Yesterday’s quick experiment at the Stitch & Pitch game in Toronto was great fun, and I have the ride over the ocean to finish reading the manual cover to cover.

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Obsession: Iced Coffee with A Shot of Vanilla

Slurp, slurp

It’s hot where I am – you may have already heard that.  I know it’s hot where a lot of our readers are.

When I was younger, my favouritest hot weather treat in the entire world was ice cream.  Now I’m a lactose-intolerant grown-up, my favouritest hot weather treat in the entire world is an iced black coffee with a shot of vanilla syrup.  It’s like a grown-up version of a coke float, in an odd sort of way — but with more caffeine!

Without giving any too many of our secrets, I can tell you with absolute authority that more than one iced coffee was consumed during the production of the First Fall issue of Knitty.

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What the heck is a Nabaztag?

meet nabaztag.

It’s a rabbit. It’s a device. It’s plugged into the wall. It’s got wifi. It lights up. Its ears move. It does tai-chi. It’s made of plastic. It reads messages aloud that were sent electronically as text.

<— It looks like this.

I know. Nuts. Who cares?

Go for a second and watch the opening animation at the Nabaztag site. Then come back. [Please.]

See? it’s kind of captivating, isn’t it?

nabaztag:tag. note the belly button/microphone

Nabaztag was introduced in 2006 and was, honestly, buggy and limited in function. The new Nabaztag can be identified by its belly button, which houses a microphone. –> This makes your little rabbit able to interact with you.

Press the button on his/her head and say “weather” and he’ll tell you the weather. Say “air” and you get a light show representing the air quality in your area.

I am a rabbit person, and I love geekery, so when I saw this in 2006, I wanted. Badly. But it was almost $200. It still is, if you buy it in North America. So I didn’t do that. I waited 4 years and went the eBay route.

Since then, hub and I have realized that we can use our Nabaztag [named Leopold] almost like a super-geekified intercom. One in my office, one in his, sending messages back and forth. So I went searching for another one for him. [Of course I claimed the first one.]

On the hour, Leopold tells me the time. It reminds me to get up from my computer and stretch. He makes tinkly noises as he does Tai Chi [his ears wave about while his lights make with the pretty]. He reads me messages [see that “Make the Bunny Talk tab at the top of this page?]. He’s fun. There are Nabaztag iPhone apps. Utilities all over the web [google your heart out]. Figuring out what he can do is half the fun. Not everything works perfectly: have Nabaztag read an RSS feed to you and it comes out in a robotic voice that’s only vaguely intelligible. That don’t bother me none. It does enough other stuff that I’m enchanted with the thing.

Violet, the company that created Nabaztag, has had problems. Last year, they sold out to Mindscape, a neat online gadgety shop. And their price was way lower than I’d found anywhere else [69 euros]. And they ship worldwide. And with the 5 euro coupon I found [code: NLMG], plus they removed the VAT, too good to pass up. So hub’s is on his way here.

Today, I found an even better price — 49 euros at Carrefour. Don’t think they ship outside of France, though. In fact, most of the good Nabaztag resources are in French. Solution? If you’re not already using the Chrome browser, give it a try. It’ll translate pages to your chosen language on the fly, and has been most handy for me [with my high-school French]. It’s now my default browser.

In any case, I wanted to leave you with a little taste of what Nabaztag can do. As part of the arty festival, Luminato, Nabaz’mob came to town. 100 Nabaztag rabbits lit up in a darkened room and moved their ears in a 20-minute hypnotic ballet, choreographed to an ethereal soundtrack.

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Obsession: Coil-less Safety Pins

A good collection, improved

Many older knitting books mention a rather mysterious tool: the coil-less safety pin. I’ve been reading about them for years, and quietly wondering what the fuss is about. I’m always up for trying a new tool, but I could never seem to find them.

I do love me a good safety pin. I use them for all sorts of things: as markers, as stitch holders, as a crochet hook substitute for picking up dropped stitches, to keep track of a bunch of increases and decreases (just stick ’em in the knitting when you do the increase, and you can more easily count them). I even use big ones as shawl pins and instead of buttons on cardigans. I have a fair collection in a little tin – including the little plastic safety-pin style stitch holders.

The little plastic marker ones are good, but they are very small. And the traditional safety pin have a serious weakness: the yarn can get trapped in the coil. I’m doing a lot of lace knitting at the moment, and I’ve been nervous about using standard safety pins with delicate yarns. It occurred to me that coil-less safety pins might be the answer. But I’d never actually found any!

I’ve looked in every knitting shop I’ve ever been into, and never seen them.  Sure, stitch holders are basically giant coil-less safety pins, but they are too big. I wanted smaller ones.

Last weekend, a generous knitter (who also happens to quilt) was at one of my LYSs , waving around a bag full of coil-less safety pins. I cornered her and asked her where she got them. Turns out they are to be found in quilting shops. I’ve never stepped foot in a quilting shop in my life, so without her I may never have found them.

She gave me a few.

My life has changed.

I can use them for all the things I used to use normal safety pins for, but I need never worry about the yarn catching again.

I am indeed obsessed.  You know what to give me for my birthday…

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Obsession of the Moment: Doctor Who

The Eleventh Doctor & Amy Pond.  Image copyright BBC.

The Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond. Image (c) BBC.

Ok, I lie.  This has been an obsession of mine, oh, since I was about 7.

Doctor Who (Wikipedia link for full and wondrous history) is a science fiction TV series produced by the BBC.  Its initial incarnation ran from 1963 to 1989. I am a Brit, and I grew up with it.

It’s about a mysterious time- and space- traveling Time Lord who goes by the name of the Doctor, and is a great mix of science fiction, mystery, fairy-tale and old-fashioned adventure romp.  It’s funny and thrilling and cheesy in just the right balance. The clever trick is that Time Lords can regenerate their bodies, so that when an actor quits the series, he can be replaced by another. My doctor was Tom Baker, complete with awesome scarf (which, naturally, has its own website with patterns for the different versions from different seasons).  The series sorta petered out in the 1980s.

But in 2005 it was brilliantly revised by Russell T. Davies and his team.  And this new incarnation is, IMHO, even better than the original.  It’s funnier and thrillinger and cheesier, but all still in perfect balance. We’re on our third Doctor of the new incarnation, Matt Smith, and he’s turned out to be terrific.  No-one was sure he could fill the very large shoes of David Tennant, who left last year;  just as no-one was sure Tennant could fill the very large shoes of Christopher Eccleston, who was the initial relaunch Doctor. But each has made his own impression – and in the case of David Tennant, what a delicious impression that was.

The latest series is running right now in the UK on BBC One, and in the US on BBC America. (Choose your link carefully – the US is two episodes behind the UK, and the UK site has spoilers for upcoming episodes.)

If you’ve not given it a go, start with the Christopher Eccleston series.  Knitting television of the finest order – and not just because there is a knitter in the recent episode, Amy’s Choice.

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The happiest day of the week?

Perfume oil from Bathing in Luxury

It’s Obsession Thursday again! Here’s what I’ve been coveting lately:

Bathing in Luxury

No alcohol, no plasticy smells. These perfume oils are luxurious smelling and last all day. Plus they come in glass roller-ball bottles – no spilling.

My favorites, so far, are Daydream – a bright smell with citrus and vanilla, and Stroke Me (hey, it’s really the name) – deep and warm sandalwood, musk and vanilla.


Roxanne earrings

Roxanne earrings

Huge (2″ x 2 1/2″) and light. I want to wear these every day.

The swirliness of them is so over the top girly that it makes me laugh. Amy’s surprised I didn’t buy the green ones! [editor’s note: yes, I am!]

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Introducing Obsession Thursdays!

Around the KnittyBlog, Thursdays are for obsessing. There are four of us here, and each of us have our own obsessions. And they change, so this could be the most interesting-weird day of the week.

Only time will tell.

big smoke by butter LONDON

Today, I’m obsessing about online beauty shopping. I saw a link on a post by one of my favorite bloggers and it sent me off to investigate.

Jane Brocket has excellent color sense.  So when she recommends a list of colors, I look. In this case, it’s nail polish made by a company [from California?] called butter LONDON. I know, silliness. But their colors are awesome and the names even moreso.

The shimmery blue is called big smoke.

HRH by butter LONDON

The purple is called HRH. All their products are free of the big bad three: toluene, formaldehyde and no DBP. This is a good thing.

There are lots of other products on the website, none of which caught my eye. I just like color.  It’s not cheap, but for $14 a bottle, you can make your toes happy.

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