Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bloodline -- North

My mom's side of the family is from Manchuria, in the far corner of northeastern China. Manchurians were the rulers of Qing dynasty, the last dynasty of China before the modern culture took over in 1911. Manchurian is a minority in China.

4. My maternal grandfather, Yu Su, also known as Jin Ming 金明, was from a wealthy family. He joined the Communist Party at a very young age and was sent to Moscow to be educated in university, where he met my grandmother. As things go with any political party, my grandfather voiced his opinion and stepped on a few toes. It just happened that the toes belonged to Joseph Stalin. My grandfather was arrested, sentenced for eight years in prison, and was sent to work in labor camp in Vorkuta in the Arctic Circle. He ended up spending about 20 years there, watched many people freeze to death. He survived by offering his fabulous cooking skills to the camp guards, and with the Chinese cook's help managed to get a job in the kitchen. In return, he married the cook's Russian born daughter and had three children with her. The family went back to China in the 1950s and my mom met her father for the first time when she was 18. Because of his early Party membership, my grandfather was able to obtain a job with the Chinese Department of Forestry and eventually retired in good standing with the Party. I met my grandfather's family for the first time when I was about 10, but visited them often for a few years. They were very Russian, conversations were sprinkled with Russian phrases here and there. They never accepted my dad and treated me exactly like how the offspring of a southern concubine should be treated. My grandfather died in the early 1990s. My grandfather's mother, brother and sisters went to Taiwan before the Communist Party took over China in 1949, and later most of them came to the US. It was one of the cousins in this branch of the family eventually helped my mom land in San Francisco in the late 1980s.

5. My maternal grandmother, born Guan Shu Lan 关淑兰, later known as Lin Na 林纳,a translation from her Russian name Lena. Guan family was a large family in Manchuria. My grandmother's parents and elder relatives were teachers and local government officials. One of her uncles joined the Communist Party and later brought her along. In the 1930s she was sent to Moscow to study, where she met my grandfather. Upon my grandfather's misencounter with Stalin, my grandmother was recalled back to China, leaving her three young daughters behind -- two from my grandfather, including my mom, and another girl from a different man. She reunited with my mom in the early 1950s when she (my mom) was a young teen. By then my grandmother was married and had three more children. In the 1950s, my grandmother founded Qi Qi Ha Er Steel Co. 齐齐哈尔钢厂, now known as Beiman Special Steel Co., Ltd. 北满特殊钢有限责任公司, and was the first chief executive of the company. This company was the anchor of China's steel production in the country's early days. My grandmother's accomplishment enabled her to be elected as representative to the first three People's Congress, and the representative to the Eighth Communist Party National Congress. When the China-Russia relationship went sour in the early 1960s, my grandmother was accused of being a Russian spy. Her family was told that she committed suicide while being confined during Cultural Revolution, but there was no witness of her death. My grandmother was a tall and handsome lady, far ahead of her days. Her friends and peers admired her, and remembered her as one of the most noteworthy women of their generation. An official funeral was held for her in 1979 to clear her name.

6. Grand parent number six, my grandfather's wife, Red October, as she was born in Russia and that was her Russian name. We privately called her Red October in Chinese, which was not a pretty name, or simply "fake grandma". She spoke very awkward Chinese so I hardly ever talked to her (I speak no Russian). She had absolute distain to my mom, as she believed my grandfather was still in love with my grandmother, which could be true. Once she threw a huge fit because my mom went to visit my grandfather when he was attending a conference alone. After that she always personally supervised our visits to my grandfather. She died in the 1980s after a stroke further damaged her brains.

7. Grand parent number seven, my grandmother's husband, Su Ming 苏明, who we privately called "fake grandpa". He rode my grandmother's skirt and became a hospital administrator in later years. From this person I learned at a very young age to recognize a liar, a ruthless cheater, a cold blooded traitor. He's dead.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Henry's Qudditch Sweater

Henry doesn't usually ask for things, probably just scared of his mom. I knitted him a few sweaters when he was little before he had opinions about choice of clothing. As all big boys, now he lives in T shirts and shorts, sweaters are for keeping the dresser warm. One day we were at the library and I showed him Charmed Knits. He really wanted the Quidditch Sweater, like Can-I-have-it-next-Tuesday kind of want. He had to wait couple of weeks till I got the yarn from The Knitting Room during the shop hop. It's my first time to decide on a project based on an actual pattern, walked into a yarn shop to buy the yarn specified in the pattern, and cast on the same day. This picture was taken last week, the front is done since then and there are couple of inches on the back as well.


Pattern: Quidditch Sweater from Charmed Knits, by Anne Bergeron
Yarn: Encore worsted 4 skein in Cranberry and 1 skein in Butternut
Needle: size 7
Size: XS (chest size 30 inches)
Cost: About $30
Cast on: September 18, 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bucky the Little Brother

Bucky: I want this bed. Trinket: I was here first. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Trinket: Go away! Bucky: No I won't. I want this bed. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Trinket: (If I turn my head the other way when I wake up he'll be gone like a bad dream.) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Bucky: tsk, tsk, tsk, I'm waiting ... --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 10 minutes later Trinket lost the bed to the pug. Little brother wins.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

P2P Loot

Lulu Yarn's Marinella from Full Thread Ahead in Los Altos for the one-skein project, Roman Holiday. 60% sea cell, 40% silk.


 Blue Sky Alpacas' alpaca and silk blend (50% alpaca, 50% silk) from Yarn Paper Scissors in Burlingame, for their one-skein project, Cabled Headband. It came in this extra cute pink triangle shopping bag.


 5 skeins of Noro Transition from Creative Hands in Belmont. A gorgeous blend of 55% Wool, 10% Silk, 7% Cashmere, 7% Angora, 7% Alpaca, 7% Camel, and 7% Kid Mohair. 100g skein, 132 yards. On sale for $5.99 per skein. I grabbed all that's left of this colorway.


2 skeins of Noro Iro from Creative Hands. 75% Wool, 25% Silk. 100g skein, 132 yards. Also on sale for $5.99 per skein and I got all the Iro on the shelf, luckily they are the same color and same dyelot.


 With gas and food, my expense for P2P probably topped off at $200. Not too bad for an extended weekend of fun.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Shop Reviews -- P2P Day 3

Saturday, September 20 This was the most leisure day, with generous hours to spare, much less driving, and all during the day light. The guys went to Napa for Henry's guard camp, hosted by the Warriors so none of us had to be home until dinner time. I wore my Bonsai Tunic for this occasion. I decided to drive to the far north point first and cruise down towards home. 280 is always an enjoyable drive. Almost two years of driving on 17 every day makes me so appreciate of an open road, and going 70 mph seems to be impossibly fast. 1. Yarn Paper Scissors in Burlingame is the far north store in the hop. Downtown Burlingame reminds me of Los Gatos, even has the same shops. The store is upstairs but wasn't hard to find. The card making station is so cute, makes me almost wish I do paper arts as well. I did fall in love with their one-skein project, a cabled headband, but they used cotton yarn which I dislike for knitting. They allowed me to switch to the alpaca/silk yarn, also from Blue Sky Alpacas, and gave me the 10% discount for it. 2. What a difference a few miles make. The next store is in downtown San Mateo, Nine Rubies. The street reminds me of Castro St. in Mountain View, complete with a Chinese restaurant supply store, and a Japanese "dollar" store. No picture to share, to protect owner's copyright. (Side note: I know rude people when I encounter them, but dumb as I am, the knowledge usually doesn't come to me until it's too late. Turning your back to a customer that you met before was rude, and talking about the customer within ear shot in unkind words was exceptionally rude. I'm also well aware of my skin color and aware that some people does not appreciate my existence in their towns because of my skin color. It has happened in Los Gatos, Saratoga, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Carmel, Solvang, and on this day, San Mateo. I cannot, and would not, should I had the choice, change the color of my skin, the language I speak, and my origin. I learned to ignore the behavior, but I will never forgive the hostility.) 3. Down El Camino, take a few extra loops, I finally found Creative Hands in its new location. I visited the store a few times when one of the South Bay Knitter members was the store manager. It's always well kept, with nice displays of samples and yarn, and people are always very friendly. It helped not only they recognized Bonsai Tunic, they really seemed appreciate seeing it in person. They had Noro Transition and Iro on the sale rack for $5.99 per skein. Should I go rob a bank? 4. Two yarn shops a few blocks apart, only possible in downtown Los Altos where residents seem to have unlimited disposable income, or so they want you to think. Uncommon Threads has been around for awhile. We went there when Henry was very little and he threw a huge temper tantrum for the entire time I was in the shop. It's a sign. Opal looks lovely in a large skein, though I'm not tempted to knit a sock side ways. 5. Full Thread Ahead, finally a project caught my attention. Hollis designed a cute little capelet/shawl, using one skein of sea cell and silk mix yarn. The yarn sells for $35. The pattern is lace knitted in wedges to form an open circle. This is the only complete one-skein project I bought. 6. Last stop, Purlescence in Sunnyvale. It was not yet 5pm and I was well ahead of the schedule. I was happy to have finished the entire shop hop as planned, yet sad the shopping was over. I lingered for a long time, looked at yarn, and flipped through some chapters of The Natural Knitter by Barbara Albright. Maybe someone with an Amazon account will buy it for me some day.

Shop Reviews -- P2P Day 2

Friday, September 19

Cris met up with me in Scotts Valley for the southern leg of the hop. Our plan was to cover about 200 miles, visit seven shops in about five hours, in Friday afternoon traffic. It's a daunting task and I love the challenge.

1. Luminous Threads in Felton. This is the shop closest to my work, but it's half knitting and half fabric. It's in a quint little mountain town, across the street from a new age-y market. Maybe just a little too quint and antique-y. I work in a small mountain town, if I get a chance to wonder out, I need more excitement.

2. We rolled down the mountain and head to the ocean. Golden Fleece in Santa Cruz had just moved to a new location. It used to be in a historic building on a back street, now it's in a commercial strip mall on a bigger street. Much more visible if you know where to look, but the store seems smaller and there is little parking. As I mentioned in the summary, personal attention sometimes gets to me and keeps me away from a small entity like a yarn shop. Another pet peeve of mine when it comes to visiting yarn shops, I prefer not to visit a shop during a group meeting, unless there is a back room to hide this group. I just don't like to be stared at, which is usually what a big group would do when they are done gossiping. I do this myself. Sitting at a big table, working on a simple project, don't have much to say to the person sitting next to you, here comes a new face through the front door, hmm, what might she be up to? Anyway, at the old location Golden Fleece used to have a big room for groups and classes, now they have a table on the right hand side of the door. In an one-room shop with no barrier, you are kind of just walking right in front of everyone. It makes my hair stand up.


3. A few miles away is Swift Stitch. A very small store tucked in the corner of a well remodeled big building. The owner used to work for Seagate, small world. Cris bought two skeins of Collinette Jitterbug in a beautiful blue green colorway. Just in case she forgets to tell you, she loves them.

4. Next stop is Yarn Place in Capitola. Getting out of Santa Cruz was a bit of a chore. There was heavy traffic on Mission, so with help from the ladies at Swift Stitch, I figured out my way down Swift, turn on West Cliff, and get back on Ocean and catch highway 1 from there. If you are local but have not driven down West Cliff before, put it on your bucket list. It's the most beautiful part of Santa Cruz, connecting Natural Bridges, the lighthouse, the wharf, and all the way to the Boardwalk. There are multiple small beaches along the way, a nice wide trail to walk or bike on, with Pacific Ocean on one side and nice houses on the other.

Yarn Place was a disappointment. The shop was small and disorganized, and the shopkeeper was busy talking to couple of women about her husband. I changed the water bottle for her, since it looked like she had some kind of injury and couldn't put the 5-gallon bottle on the cooler. I'm not athletic by any stretch, but some days I seem to be the only person change the bottle at work.

5. Now the long drive to Monterey peninsula. I'm so glad Cris volunteered herself for this ride. We've known each other for quite a few years, but only through various meetings. This time we finally have a chance to talk.

Monarch Knitting is lovely as usual. Very tired dogs sleeping left and right. Henry has been bugging me to get him a loom. I don't feel like wasting $50 on a kiddie loom, but $250 for the real thing is a bit much.

6. Knitting by the Sea in Carmel is a window to the town. A place wants to remain so quint that would not use street numbers. I've been to the shop only once many years ago. Shopping in the downtown of such a pretentious place intimidates me. By now Cris and I were both tied and hungry, so was the shop keeper, obviously. But that doesn't explain the card board boxes laying around, nor the significant lack of friendliness. Do I have horns and not know it? The crochet hat was lovely, but not enough to reach for my credit card.

7. We were almost late for Continental Stitch in Morgan Hill if not for their knit-along meeting that ended at 8:30pm, half an hour after the shop hop time. I visit their booth at Stitches every year, but this was my first time to the shop, first time to downtown Morgan Hill for that matter. It's a lovely place, but I'm not sure if there is enough reason to come back. Morgan Hill is along the way to other things, not a destination by itself.

Shop Reviews -- P2P Day 1

Thursday, September 18

1. Started my hop at Yarndogs at exactly 10am. The shop wasn't open yet but Deborah let me in. One of my friends from South Bay Knitters was working there and they oohed and aahed over my Chinese Red Vest. I try to wear my knitting every day for the events, this shop hop and Stitches, etc.


2. Next, Green Planet Yarn in Campbell. This is a brand new shop just opened a few months ago. Our group meets here once a month, plus I come to hang out in downtown Campbell on occasions. The shop is nicely remodeled, well lit and people are very friendly.

3. The Knitting Room! Mary Ann and Ed were very happy to see me. The shop was quiet and we were able to chat a bit about families, business, kids, etc. Ed designed couple of hats, one knitted and one crocheted and they were the one-skein projects. I wish they would be less modest tho, like putting out one of Mary Ann's Aran projects, or Ed's elaborate fillet crochet coaster sets. They are extraordinarily intelligent, so much fun to be with. I bought 5 skeins of Encore worsted for a Quidditch sweater for Henry that he saw in Charmed Knits. He doesn't usually ask for things, so for the first time I bought the yarn the pattern called for, to the colorways. $30 for a sweater is not too bad.


4. Commuknity in San Jose. Our group used to come here for our monthly meetings until one day they kicked us out. I'm not very fond of this part of town and something about the shop just never meshed with me that well. The shop is large and roomy, like an exhibit hall. The one-skein project is very pretty.


5. A new knitting and quilt shop, Bobbin's Nest, in Santa Clara. Parking was very awkward. People were nice and friendly, and I introduced them to Folk Vest and Cheryl Oberle.


6. Last shop of the day, Yarn Place, newly moved to Santa Clara. I used to live in this neighborhood but it still took me a few loops to find the shop. It's in an tiny industrial strip mall, but had big screaming letters on the windows to advertise what's inside, just like a $10 a set nail salon.


Monday, September 22, 2008

2008 Peninsula to Pier Shop Hop -- Overall

Nineteen yarn shops in our area organized the second annual shop hop, covering the area between Burlingame (about 50 miles north of where I live, on the peninsula south of San Francisco) to Carmel (on the coast about 70 miles south of where I live). Each shop would open during the shop hop hours, which might be longer than usual, and offer one or two one-skein projects, with 10% off on the yarn and free pattern with purchase.

I am generally a poor supporter of my local shops, for a variety of reasons, but basically I'm a cheapskate. A purchase at full price makes my hands shake and I can't sign the credit card slip. The spoiled brat that I am, I would not part with my money for something, even for yarn, until someone else wants it. If the yarn is always on the store shelf waiting for me, well, I'll gladly pass it on. Because I worked in a yarn shop before, I know the shop keepers are supposed to give everyone comes into the store individual attention. But I'm more of a Walmart shopper type, 1:1 attention often makes me uneasy. I hate to be rude to someone trying to do her job. Once a year I indulge myself for a weekend at Stitches, my knitting brains and my yarn stash becomes entirely saturated with the prettiest colors from Ellen and the most luxurious cashmeres and silks. The rest of the year I veg out in front of the computer waiting for the next big online sale.

Of the 19 stores I've been to most of them except for the northernmost two, and the new shops in Santa Clara, but as my regular visits are brief and sporadic, this event gives me a good opportunity to string them together and get a better idea what the local yarn shop scene is like. I logged in over 300 miles on my little green engine in three days, including more than enough detours so I will not be criticizing my husband's short cuts for a long time. I enjoyed the hops immensely for the most part. The damage to the credit card is minimal, and the emotional return is immeasurable.

Best One-Skein Project: Lulu's Marinella Lace Capelet, designed by Hollis of Full Thread Ahead in Los Altos. Most other shops go for easy project that would please most, but this capelet is interesting and eye catching. The yarn is the most expensive of all, but well worth it.

Shops I Will Certainly Return to: Yarndogs, Green Planet, The Knitting Room, Purlescence, Full Thread Ahead, Creative Hands, Yarn Paper Scissors, Swift Stitch, Monarch Knitting (that's 9 out of 19 if you are counting)

Most Enjoyable Visit: catching up with Ed and Mary Ann at The Knitting Room. I worked for them during my stay at home years and it's safe to say without them there would not be my knitting today. Mary Ann even did my job reference when I finally landed a full time job at BEA. They know fiber arts, they know high tech, they know parenting, they know food, what else can I ask for.

Most Enjoyable Drive: along West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, talking to Cris and showing her the Boardwalk; and later down highway 1, between Capitola and Monterey peninsula.

Most Bizarre Detour: accidentally entered an army base in Pacific Grove on the way to Monarch Knitting and got my drivers license confiscated for a minute or two.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Trinket, Many Thursdays Ago

Henry was five years old in the picture, so it's about four years ago. I had new carpet installed in our living room while Henry supervised the whole process from the kitchen. After the workers were gone I let the dogs out, the three of them had a great time tumbling around on the new carpet, free of any furniture. Sometimes I wonder if Henry would grow up thinking he's one of the dogs, while Trinket thinks he's a little boy.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Bloodline -- South

I have seven grand parents. My dad's side is from Canton, or Guangzhou.

1. My paternal grand father, Huang Han Chang 黄汉昌, born 1893, lived in Canton most of his life. He went to Peru with his uncles when he was a teenager, worked in mines, and saved some money in a local bank. As family stories go, he went back to China to get married and the war (not sure which war as WWI was not in the Pacific) broke out so he never went back to Peru. It was anyone's guess how much money he lost, but my aunts and uncles always talked about it. My grand father died in 1984 and attending his funeral was one of the biggest events in my childhood. It was my first trip to Canton and first time to see most of my extended family. I fell in love with the place and the people, it was where I belonged. A few months later I made the decision to move back to Canton, alone. I stayed with relatives, friends and lived in school dorms during my years there.

2. My paternal grand mother was my grand father's official wife and gave birth to most of his children. She was very small statued, illiterate as most Chinese women in her generation, talked like a rapid fire machine gun and cooked for three generations. I shared a room with her when I stayed with my uncle's family during my senior year in high school. I don't remember her name as it was rarely used. We simply addressed her various versions of grandma. She's the grand parent that I knew best, which is not saying much. She died soon after I arrived in the US, in her 90s.

3. My real paternal grand mother Luo Jian 罗坚, my father's birth mother, was my grand father's concubine, or "small" wife. She gave birth to two boys and one girl, my dad being the youngest. She stayed with the family for some years, but couldn't stand the conflict with the "big" wife and ran away to marry a Nationalist. In the 1950s she was living in Macaw but decided to go back to Canton to visit her children. Because of her association with the Nationalist (at the time most of them already went to Taiwan and apparently this guy was MIA), she was caught by the Chinese government, paraded on the city streets, and later killed. My dad was very young when his mother left and didn't have much memory of her. He was brought up mostly by his older sisters from both mothers. The older boy from my real grand mother was kicked out of home at 12 years old. He eventually made his way to Hong Kong and became a successful business man. It was not until he got back in touch with the family in the 1980s we saw a picture of my real grand mother. It was a large black and white picture. In the picture she was very pretty, very refined, her hair was rolled back into a bun, and she was wearing a plain top with mandarin collars. We also learned that she graduated from grade school, which back in the days made her well educated. My uncle gave the picture to my family to keep. I had it for a few years and when I left the country I gave it to my dad. Ten years ago my dad moved out of our family home behind the Summer Palace in Beijing, and tossed the picture. All of my paternal grand parents are Hakka people 客家. Hakkanese, guest families, were originated in central China and moved south over the years. We are guests of many lands, and by the name we call ourselves, we are not at home no matter where we live. My grand parents spoke Hakkanese, but my aunts and uncles mostly spoke Cantonese, the local language to them. I understand both but can only speak Mandarin. My grand mother made some of the traditional Hakkanese dishes at holidays, but I learned about the traditional clothing and customs only from movies and books. Supposedly we look different from the majority Han Chinese as well, but my family must be atypical Hakkanese.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Bucky on Thursday

How old is too old to be called a baby? Bucky has to be with mom when she's around. If she gets up in the morning and wants a cup of tea before the day starts, he barks at the top of the stairs until someone brings him down. If she carries a big basket of laundry upstairs, he cries at the bottom of the stairs until she gets a free hand and come fetch the 25 lb pug belly. The bathroom habit is the worst. When mom takes a shower, Bucky waits outside the bathroom door. If no one else is in the house, he cries at the door. To save on the ear plugs, mom brings Bucky's pillow into the bathroom and let him supervise her shower. Sometimes she has to chase him down or lure him in with a toy, that just makes him happier. Sometimes Bucky gets hot from all the steam, mom opens the window to give him some air, even though she rather likes the steam herself. Bucky is twelve years old.