Friday, August 29, 2008

Responses for Vest and Vacation

Got some wonderful comments about the Chinese Red Vest, both on the blog and on Ravelry, including this one from Cheryl Oberle:
Hi Vivian, Beautifully knitted! A great Olympic project. Congratulations…and thanks for making it look so good! I’m adding it to my favorites. Cheryl
Never thought of a day I'd be honoring Beijing in any manner, but here I am and I'm rather proud of myself. To China. To our history and our future.

More notes about the vacation: When I said Henry had outgrown Legoland, I meant he's outgrown the little rides. He's not an amusement park kind of guy (nor his parents), never liked Disneyland, Santa Cruz Boardwalk, or Great America. He'd never get on a rollercoaster. On that day we waited two hours in the sun for two rides and after that we decided rides are over! We still love Lego as ever, in fact, right now he's on the Lego website plotting which Clone War set I should get him for Christmas. Without the rides, it's a bit steep to pay more than $80 so the two of us can see the Lego artwork and sculptures. If only there is a Miniland closer and more reasonably priced ... On the other hand, if you've never been to Legoland by all means add it to your list to visit. There are rides for small children but also rollercoasters for older kids and adults. Not to mention the artwork everywhere. We talked to a masterbuilder in one of our previous visits, it's amazing how they put together a three feet tall Lego building.

Jennifer, thank you so much for leaving me the link for Yin Yu Tang. Coincidentally, my maiden name is also Huang, same as the family that built this house. But Huang is a big name in China and my family is from further south.

Another very important destination of our trip that I neglected to mention was Whimsic Alley in Santa Monica. It's an extensive Harry Potter store (they sell everything on the website too) and Henry saved money for months with this store in mind. He ended up with an elder wand, a Prefect pin, and a bunch of Potter candies. I was very temped by a set of Professor McGonagall robes, luckily reality got the better of me.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Vacation Yarn Crawl

From our first stop, Pasadena. My guys dropped me off at Skein, a small yarn shop in an industrial area. The owners are an elderly couple came from Hong Kong years ago, and before they opened the shop they actually visited Ed and Mary Ann at the Knitting Room in San Jose to learn the trade. I don't know many Chinese knitters, and The Knitting Room is not well known even in the local knitting circle. It takes 300 miles south to find the small world. My loot: two skeins of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool. I've been wondering about this yarn since it came on the market as I knit a lot of cables and this yarn supposed to be designed for that purpose.

One souvenir skein of Bristol Yarn Gallery Buckingham, 80% baby alpaca, 20% silk, fingering weight, very yummy.

From Village Spinning and Weaving in Solvang. I have been visiting their super sized booth at Stitches West every year, now seeing their store, was amazed how small it was. But then everything was there, just tightly cramped together. Henry got very interested in some kiddie sized looms and gave me a guilt trip for not bringing one of them home. I convinced him that there are many weavers we can visit and if he indeed would like to devote his time in weaving I'd get him/us a real loom.

Instead I brought home two fat skeins of natural colored alpaca. A little more than a pound, over 1400 yards. I see a nice big shawl from either Victorian Lace Today, Folk Shawls, or A Gathering of Lace.

From our day trip to Santa Cruz, found these on the shelf at Logos, a bookstore on Pacific (down town SC) that sells both new and used books. They are: - Designing Knitwear by Deborah Newton (possible first edition) - Glorious Knitting by Kaffe Fassett (British edition) - Loop-d-Loop by Teva Durham (it was only $10)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Chinese Red Vest

Pattern: Cheryl Oberle's Chinese Red Vest from Folk Vest
Yarn: Newton Yarn Country Cashmere Merino, fingering weight, doubled to sports weight
Needles: Size
4 Cast on: August 8, 2008
Cast off: August 24, 2008
Cost: About $50
Notes: This is in honor of 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Lots of time spent in front of TV and ignore my other duties such as reading and blogging. Finished the night of the closing ceremony, but didn't sew on the frog closures until the next day.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008


We spent five days in the last week traveling to southern California. After reading my knitting friend Fae's travel blog when she went to Portland and London, I was very motivated to log in my trip report every day, even brought along my laptop and the UBS cable for my camera. Alas, I spent way more time in front of the TV than the computer, watching Olympics and knitting (more on that later when I have a chance to take pictures of my knitting). Now you get to see the trip in one big report. Bower's Museum, Santa Ana One of the only three locations in the US to host the largest exhibit of the Chinese terra cotta warriors outside of China. More than 20 full size original terra cotta warrior statues and many more artifacts from the time period, about 200BC. I didn't have a chance to see them in China, so this was very exciting for me as well as my American family. We were told that this exhibit is better than the original in Xi'an because we get to see the statues up close, but I think in Xi'an you'd get the full scope much better when thousand of them standing under one roof. Bowers Museum also has a great collection of Chinese arts in its permanent exhibits, so I had the chance to introduce my guys to brush painting, calligraphy and porcelains. Had an interesting conversation with a museum worker about the historical development of the core Chinese culture. The Gamble House, Pasadena Winter home for David and Mary Gamble of the Procter and Gamble Company (and Mary's sister, who spent more time in the house than anyone else). Designed by Charles and Henry Greene, the house and its furnishings are excellent examples of Arts and Crafts movement. The rich dark woods hand crafted into various parts of the home a hundred years ago, still glow with superb workmanship.

La Brea Tar Pits

In downtown Los Angeles, mammoth and other assorted animals trapped in the tar pits in ice age. Now people dig out the bones and put them back together, after the tedious work of cleaning off the tar. There were couple of videos to show how everything came about. A large enclosed glass room (Fish bowl) where you can watch the workers clean and sort the bones. Great place for a school field trip, if you can stand the smell.

Venice Beach

My guys found this place to play basketball on the beach, were able to join a game, and won! I took a walk down the beach, shopped (think all the weirdoes from Telegraph Ave. packed into Santa Cruz boardwalk), and generally enjoyed myself.


Henry and I love the Lego sculptures in Miniland. We saw New York and Las Vegas, which were both under maintenance when we were there two years ago. Sadly, I think Henry has outgrown Legoland. This is the only amusement park I ever enjoyed.

Bill took a vacation from our vacation and went for a bike ride down the coast. Sounds lovely, doesn't it?

Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

Day trip after we got back home. Special exhibit about Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). More painting, calligraphy and loads of porcelains. Small mention of history of Beijing and Forbidden City was nice.

Besides China, the exhibit about Southeast Asian arts is a must see.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Raise Your Right Hand, And the Other Right Hand

Finished two fronts of my Pagode, must have taken me a few months on and off working on them. A slight problem: they are very alike, in fact, they are just about the same, actually, they are duplicates.

I knitted two RIGHT FRONTS!!

Rather than deciding to laugh or to cry, I find it hard to comprehend how I could have done it. I spent months knitting garter stitch on size 3 needles. I've looked at the knitting for so long, even showed them to other people, they just seem natural to me, that they are the same. Too bad I don't have two right arms.


The little hermit crab in the picture, Goyle, was pronounced dead last Friday. Prior to that he was missing in action for about a week, only his empty shell was in the tank. We suspect that he was molting and something happened during the process and he didn't make it.
Here is what Bill wrote last Friday when he and Henry were home together:
"I took the time to sift through the terrarium 4 times very carefully. The only thing I found was one leg and a pincher. No other "parts" of the missing crab. We also went through every shell and the log very carefully and came up empty. "Henry decided he wanted to bury Goyle's old shell with the pincher I found in the backyard. We put it underneath the stones below the bunny in the backyard. We said a farewell that "he gave us a lot of enjoyment and we hope enjoyed his life" and then we covered over with dirt and stones. The bunny will watch over the little crab's spirit. "
We brought these two crabs home about a year and half ago and Henry named them Crabbe and Goyle. Crabbe has always been the stronger, more active one, and obviously the survivor.
Now we have a crab named Crabbe; a pug often addressed as Pug; a dog answers to Dog -- even though he doesn't think he's a dog; a kid sometimes references himself as The Kid; a wife signs her emails as Wife; and a husband that's just that.

Movies and TV Show


1. Once -- Great music! Two independent musicians met and made lovely songs together, on and off screen. There is a nice clip of them singing together at SunDance on YouTube.

2. Captain Corelli's Mandolin -- Plenty of blood from the captain and pouty lips from Penélope Cruz, not enough mandolin.

3. Joy Luck Club -- The more years I spend in this country the better I can accept these "let's tell them what being Chinese is all about" kind of movies and books. There is a fraction of truth in everything, but it's like saying America is all about McDonalds or Morman temple. You get the idea.

4. Who Killed the Electric Car -- As the proud owner of a 2002 Prius since the dark age that we had to pre-order the car sight-unseen, I can be ever so "green". There is much buzz about electric cars these days. They are supposed to be cheaper to run, and better for the environment. But would someone please answer my questions: What's the actual cost for generating electricity? Not out of consumer's pocket, but the cost of supporting the infrastructure if the demand multiplies because of all the new electric cars on the American roads; the cost of production, transportation, and maintenance of the expanded system; the cost to the environment due to the increased production -- burning coal? new dams? solar panels within eyes reach? Will we need a power plant in every city to meet the demand? What will the earth look like when it's covered wall to wall with power lines? Will you still want to live here?

5. One Flew over Cuckoo's Nest -- Mental illness, that's something I can't deal with, even with Jack Nicholson in it.

6. House of Sand and Fog -- Great movie, great performance of Ben Kingsley, nightmarishly dark.

7. Chariots of Fire -- Bill's pick. He was motivated to start jogging when he saw the movie the first time, in 1981. Not this time around. Uncle Dursley from the HP movies has a small part in one of the scenes at King's Cross. Love the costumes.

8. Bend it Like Beckham -- We've seen Parminder Nagra for years in ER (Neela) and finally catch up on her coming-out movie. Glad I don't have a daughter and glad my son fits in his boy role, thank you.

9. Capote -- One of the Oscar best picture nominees during my short stunt at Netflix. Strange man, strange movie, but very well made (the movie, not the man).

10. Must Love Dogs -- After Capote we decided romantic comedy is the only way to go. John Cusack is cute, so are the dogs.

11. Citizen Kane -- Lesley's pick for our bookclub movie night. Great movie!



(We went to see two movies in a row, a rare occurrence for us)

1. Wall-E -- The last real Pixar movie. The story board way of creating a screenplay is nice to a point. I'm a bit tired of the big chase and ultra idealism in every Pixar movie. They need fresh blood. Nonetheless Wall-E is very well made and an excellent ending to the Pixar era.

2. Mama Mia -- One of the best movies I've ever seen, on par with The Sound of Music and Chicago. Bill is in love with Amanda Seyfried, until she opened her mouth in real live (find her on YouTube).


TV Show:

Swingtown -- Review of 70s life and fashion, and get busy analyze relationships. I wasn't here in the 70s, so it's fun to see the wacky nylon shirts and disco balls, not to mention the music they picked were pretty good. Let me know if you watch the show, we can talk about the characters. There is a group on Ravelry if you are one of "us".

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Recent Reads

1. The Broker, by John Grisham, (audiobook). More nerve ticking brain candies. I've been riding some rough waters at work lately and the book and movie list would show my desperate need for sugar. About this book, Grisham is a skillful writer, but he needs better content than cooking up these Tom and Jerry tour books sitting at his kitchen table in Mississippi. On the other hand, this is easy money for an established writer. In an interview posted on YouTube, after writing An Innocent Man, he said that he was to go back to writing fictions, because it's easier, and it sells.

2. The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. I heard the abridged audio version of this book before, and it's so much more fun to read the actual book, especially after I forced the bookclub to read another Gladwell book, Blink, with me. I found this clip on YouTube of Gladwell's speech at TED Conference in 2004. (By the way, if you haven't heard about TED, hurry up and visit their website, join the email updates and watch a few video clips. You won't regret.) Gladwell's image is almost comical, with the big hair, extra large forehead, two sizes too big clothes, but look at the expressive hands, this man is intelligent with an I. After watching this clip a few times, I had Gladwell's voice reading to me when I read the books this time around. Some interesting facts, Gladwell has a degree in history, and was a journalist before writing the two books, logging in a good number of years at The New Yorker and The Washington Post.

3. The Female Brain, by Louann Brizendine. The title of the book should be "The Typical Female Brain", and apply to yourself only if you consider yourself an average typical female. The subject matter is interesting and I'm glad the research is done to identify the development and characteristics of female brain from the regular male's. However as the owner of one of those female brains I can't stop getting emotional when our ovaries are lumped together as one big union, just like how a female brain supposed to respond.

4. Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman. My follow up reading of Goleman's Social Intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to understand and control one's own feelings and how it's expressed. Social Intelligence is similar ability but applies to others, to understand other people's feelings and address it appropriately. These are great books to learn the basics of the how's and why's of EQ and SQ. However the books include a large portion of Dilbert-like application of the Q's in American business world, may help sell a few million copies of the books, but degrades the research.

5. The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd. Story about a young girl in the south ran away from her father's home in search of the mystery of her mother. Similar to Nora Nora and Sweetwater Creek.

6. Devil Wears Prada, by Lauren Weisberger (audiobook). Entirely gratifying to see there is such a nasty boss out there. Things could be much worse, you know. Where is my designer purse?

7. To Infinity and Beyond, the Story of Pixar Animation Studios, by Karen Paik, forward by Ed Catmull, Steve Jobs and John Lassetter. Beautiful over sized book full of drafts and pictures from Pixar movies. I'm 10 years behind in understanding this great little company. When Henry was conceived Bill bought Pixar stock to celebrate. Two years ago I was sad to see the company was sold to Disney as I'm much less inclined to be associated today's Disney than a geeky local studio. Steve Jobs' contribution in this world is not creating a popular product, nor his showmanship, nor supporting Pixar when it was losing its footing, but his vision of computing and the drive to implement it.

8. The Hundred-Year Lie: How Food and Medicine Are Destroying Your Health, by Randall Fitzgerald. This world is absolutely completely contaminated by chemicals down to every molecule, and it's all one big plot by the US government and drug companies. What's your role in this?

9. The Master Butchers Singing Club, by Louise Erdrich (audiobook). There are butchers, someone sings, there was a dog that stole organs. Some books I just can't focus on, so when it was due I gladly returned it.

10. Howards End, by E. M. Forster (audiobook). I'm on CD # 5 of 11. It's a lengthy, well written book, but for some reason it's not penetrating my brains. I'm hearing lots of words, dialogues, descriptions of what people are doing, but can't get a grip on the story line or characters. Took me nearly two CDs to figure out Howards End is a place, not a dying person. It's a bookclub pick for August, so I will plow on till it's done.

11. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, by J. K. Rowling (audiobook). Book six of the Potter series. Listening to this book in the car with Henry while we commute to various summer camps (this week it's in Santa Cruz, an hour a day on the road). Since Henry already knows every word in all the books, it's easy to catch up if my mind skips a beat and miss a few chapters here and there. The movie is coming out in November.

12. Neither Here Nor There, by Bill Bryson. Bryson's account of his "goodbye Europe" trip before moving back to US. Great review of Europe geography, and stirs my travel bug again.