Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesdays are For Weaving

Tonight I actually got to do some weaving!!!  But first I had to finish warping my loom.  First I tied the warps that I had pulled through the heddles last week onto the leash stick on the back end of my loom.
Warps tied to the back end leash stick

Then I had Ms. Maybelle hold and straighten the warps as I rolled the warps around the spool at the back end, being careful to place paper between each layer of warps so they wouldn't get tangled.
Paper in place to make sure warps don't get tangled.  Ms. Maybelle tells me I have pretty warps.  I agree enthusiastically but tell them I would love them even if they weren't pretty.

Next I adjusted the tension on the front end by tying the warps to the front end.
Warps tied to front end leash stick.

I wound severl bobbins with different kinds/colors of yarn for my weft.

Hand-crank bobbin winder and bobbin the background.
Then you shift the frames to check to make sure that your warp is clear (nothing is out of place when you move the frames).  If it isn't, you have problems.  If it is, you are amazing.

I am amazing.

Then I started out with a little fat yarn to help square up my warp threads.
The green yarn is just filler to square up the warps for where I start to weave for real.  I will take the green out when I am done.  The turquoise is my tabby: the first of my real weaving since I started my weaving class.  Isn't it pretty?

THEN I GOT TO WEAVE FOR REAL!!!  I started with a little basic weaving (over under, over under) that is called tabby.  After I did about an inch of that, I sewed a hem so that it wouldn't come all unravelled when I take it off the loom.

Next week I am not going to class, so in two weeks I will start the real business of weaving my twill patterns (in a variety of yarns and colors).  So. Excited.

Monday, August 30, 2010

How Meta

"Screw this sheep!" I shouted. Much louder than I meant to, I realized as my roommates looked quizzically over at me from across the living room. I had interrupted our viewing of the NCIS marathon with my outburst and no one looked pleased.

"You are referring to your knitting?" asked one confused roommie. Seeing the concerned looks and raised eyebrows, I realized that I might have a little issue. I am supposed to be working on my doula certification. I am supposed to be writing grad school applications. I could be watering my garden or sewing a quilt. Planning for next year’s Vagina Monologues. Saving the world.

Instead I am knitting a sheep.

Not such a problem really, except that this sheep I am knitting is driving me bonkers.
This sheep (look for LoveEwe by Christine Wilkins on Ravelry) is giving me trouble. Each little bump is actually one stitch that you turn into five stiches, knit five times, purl five times, and then turn back into one stitch again. What you see in the picture is 18 rows...something that would normally take me MAYBE an hour to do. This has taken me several weeks on and off.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Weekend Update: Nekkid As a Jay Bird

This weekend, I did not end up birthing a baby.  This made me sad. 

But the sadness was balanced by the joy of Spa World USA (don't click that link unless you are ready for some of the most persistently obnoxious website music you have ever heard.  Ali threatened to become a hacker just to be able to shut down websites that play music).  Three friends and I journeyed (way out in suburban NOVA) to this Korean spa to check out what we were told would be an experience to remember.
Road trippin' to the spa.  We got lost.  Who makes a road called Lee Highway and then another one called Old Lee Highway and then have them cross?  Who could possibly look quite as crazy as I do at this moment?

Apparently, in Korea and other countries, bath houses/spa are where families might go to hang out in pools and spas to relax and socialize.  In Americans' minds, apparently Korean Spas are associated with fish that chew the dead skin off your toes.  There were none of those that I could find at Spa World.

When you arrive at Spa World, you immediate relinquish your shoes before even walking into the dressing room.  They give you very stylish outfits to wear in the common areas. 

But when you are not in the common areas, you are nekkid.  So very nekkid.

As in haven't-been-this-nekkid-since-I-was-8-or-10 nekkid.  In junior high and high school gym class it was like a contest to see who could change gym clothes showing the least amount of skin (note: My dad tells me that when he was in junior high, the gym classes were segregated and they would swim in the nude.  And that when the YMCA was men-only, everyone swam in the nude there, too.  That would so not fly these days).  Even in college, my roommies and I were pretty modest about the whole living in close quarters thing.

Here, in the gender segregated areas, women were walking around, washing themselves, lounging in the pools, getting massages.  All while very, very unclothed. I am sure that there is a feminist message in here somewhere about how American women are taught that our bodies are bad and that we should be ashamed of them and that it why it was so difficult to take our clothes off, even just in front of other women.  Hmm...

바데풀 스탭영문 copy
Once we got past all  that, though, it was super fun.  The gender segregated spa area has a variety of pools of varying temperatures.  And there is what they call the bade pool.  It has 9 stations.  You are supposed to spend about five minutes at each station  starting with the "Basher wall" (a waterfall like spray of water to stand under) and ending with the "Bubble Jet" (like a bubbly hot tub...we thought it was like a boiling pot of soup). The spa claimed that these stations have different health benefits.  For example, at the ESTHE station, the "individual can chose the height of the JET nozzles t o focus on body parts that needs water pressure to experience the benefit of spa such as acceleration of blood circulation, overall body function and revitalization of subcutaneous tissue. Great for diet and skin care as it consumes high calories, and removes impurities on skin surface."  Do water jets really consume calories?  My calories?

Apparently the foam from the Bubble Jet "also contains plenty of anion, which relaxes the mind and releases stress."  Are anions good for you?  The website Anions For Health tells me they are, so it must be true.

But in all seriousness, the 92 degree water and the jets were just lovely.  And then going into the hot sauna and then jumping into the 52 degree pool was very refreshing (read: holy crap that's cold).

After the spa room, you can go into the Poultice Rooms area.  There is a large common room where people can relax and read, watch TV, or get on the internet.  There is a little cafe where we ate delicious Stone Pot Rice and Fried Dumplings.  Upstairs there are sleeping rooms and a nail salon and gift shop (which we did not check out, but still piques my curiosity).

The Poultice Rooms are a series of dry sauna rooms that have different properties.  For example, the amethyst Gem Room (heated to a balmy 164 degrees) is "Made with gems including amethyst, rose quartz, green quartz, it emits several million energy oscillating waves per second. The power from these gems increases energy within the body and adjusts the balance within the body, improving the body’s overall condition."  The Red Clay room is supposed to ease feminine troubles....there were many men in that room, I assume hoping that they, too, will avoid these vaguely ominous-sounding feminine troubles.  The Red Clay Ball room was my favorite.  It was like getting into a ball pit full of tiny warm clay marbles.  You could squish down into them and they would fill in around you.  But they were very loud when someone came crashing into the room to lay down next to you.

The final room you go into is the Ice Room.  It is 52 degrees and has big slabs of ice on the walls.  The Ice Room "is essential to maximize the effects of poultice treatments. It tightens blood vessels, muscles and skin cells that have been relaxed and opened to create healthier and younger looking skin. It also expands the benefit of poultice as it removes body waste and absorbs mineral, which boosts your body’s immunity." Mostly, it is REALLY cold when you are barefoot and only in shorts and a t-shirt.

So, nekkidness + water + sauna + Korean food = much entertainment had by all.

Other things I did this weekend:

So.  Much. Yarn.
  • Made waffles.  Three times.  Three different meals.  Shhhhh, don't tell.
  • Finished my curtains.
  • Wrote a little more on my grad school essays.  No idea what to say....
  • Got a gigantic shipment of yarn.  Again, shhhhh, don't tell.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I'm not entirely sure what the progressive verb of "to be a doula" is, but my dad calls it dueling.  That amuses me, and so......
This weekend I am the on-call doula at the birth center for both Friday (my day off at my 9-5 gig) and Sunday and hope to be dueling both days if a couple of babies decide to be born.  On days I am on-call (which is about four 24-hour periods a month), everyone in the world seems to have a bun in the oven.  My P-dar goes berserk and I start wondering "will she be my client?  How about her?"  And because I could be called at any moment, I do a few things to get ready:
I go to bed early the night before.  I learned my lesson last month when I was called Sunday morning for a birth that lasted until 7am Monday morning, an hour and a half before I needed to be at work.  That day hurt (like hit-by-a-distracted-driver hurt), but would have been a bazillion times worse if I hadn't gotten my z's the night before.
I shower and brush my teeth.  Again, who knows how long you are going to be without a shower?  And I've heard horror stories about laboring moms smelling someone's bad breath or body odor and throwing up all over the offending person.  I choose not to be "that girl who got thrown up on."
In case I do become "that girl," I dress in my doula costume (this costume is neither uniform from doula to doula nor required...nor does it include a mask or cape...sad).  In my case, it is comfy shoes (although I need to find some less nice ones to make my hospital shoes), easily washable comfy pants (they have to be something I can nap in, and that dry quickly in case I have to help someone in to the shower/tub and that I don't care enough about that I could abandon them for a pair of scrubs is something biological happens to them), and a variety of layers on top since the hospital fluctuates from freezing to boiling depending on the day.
I keep my doula bag at the ready.  My bag has a bunch of handy things in it, such as:
  • Rice sock - you can stick it in the microwave and it stays warm for a long time.  This can  be used  to relieve pain (I use one for myself after a particularly hard round of weed-pulling at the garden).  They are easy to make: men's sock, white rice, tie a knot.  Bam!  Rice Sock!
  • Paperwork - to get my certification I have to document everything.  I have consent forms, data forms, and evaluation forms I have to get filled out for every birth.
  • Change of clothes - in case I get wet in the shower, or thrown up on, or end up in the hospital for way too long, or just have cold toes and want another pair of socks to wear.
  • Lotion - something about the air conditioning in the hospital makes my hands dry.  If I were taking private clients, I would have them bring their own lotion for massage, etc, but I don't want to lend mine as you never know who is allergic.
  • Tooth paste/tooth brush - smelly breath=never ok
  • The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin- awesomist book.  I recommend it to everyone who is supporting someone who is having a baby, whether a doula, a partner, or just a friend.  I gave away my other copy already.  Going to have to get more copies as more people I know get pregnant and I need gifts.
  • Trail mix/granola bars - the last birth I attended, I didn't eat enough before hand and got really super light-headed at a critical moment.  I had to step out into the hall and put my head between my legs and drink some juice so I wouldn't pass out.  The nurses thought I was scared of needles.  Mostly, I just needed to eat more.  Now I eat early and often.
  • Gum - again with the bad breath.  Just no.
  • ID Badge - the labor and delivery floor has some fierce security.  This is what allows me to get in.
  • The phone numbers for the midwives on call/birth center instructions - I call the midwives on duty in the morning to let them know I am ready!
  • Money for a cab - The bus doesn't run at night.
  • Knitting - a long birth when a mom has an epidural and is able to sleep for a while feels reaaaaally looooooong without something to do.  I feel bad about reading, though, cause that takes too much of my attention.  If I knit something easy, I can still pay attention to what is going on.
  • Business Cards - to leave with the mom and midwife when I leave.  I always encourage the moms to call if they need anything later.  They usually don't but I feel better about leaving them if I know they can reach me if they wanted to.
I realize that most of the things in my bag are for my comfort rather than the mom's.  Some doulas do carry a birth ball or a rebozo or a lot more informational materials.  If you have met previously with the mom, you might have a copy of her birth plan.  You might have a gift for the family (I am seriously considering carrying a slew of hand-knit booties in gender-neutral colors for this purpose).

For me, I've discovered that the most important tools I have in my arsenal are my hands, my ingenuity, and my compassion.  I use my hands for pain reduction techniques like applying counter pressure to the hips or lower back and comfort techniques like holding hands or brushing the hair off her face.  I use my ingenuity to make a rebozo out of a bed sheet, to produce a hot pack out of wet wash cloths I put in the microwave, and to increase a baby's heart rate by helping to get her on her side despite an epidural. 

But I've discovered that more than anything a laboring mom wants acknowledgment that this is tough but that she can get through it.  She wants to know her partner and other loved ones are cared for and that she doesn't need to worry about them.  And she wants to know that what is happening to her is normal and that she is doing a good job.  I try to use my compassion to give her those things.

So wish me luck with my dueling this weekend.  I will let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Most Evil of the Crafts

Before you say it, yes, I do have way too many hobbies.  I am a chronically bored person and coming up with new ways to entertain myself is just what I do.  First there was beading, then beading turned into card-making, then knitting, then to wire wrapping, then sewing and now back to knitting.  And with the current project on-hand, I will have to learn to spin and dye (and shear??) as well.  But I was recently introduced to the most evil of the crafts: weaving. 

A space opened up in the weaving class at the Art Space.  Art Space DC is a community, volunteer based art center where anyone can go and take really reasonably priced art classes like photography, cooking, pottery, etc.  Pretty much all of the teachers are volunteers, including my teacher, Ms. Maybelle Bennett (I promise a post on her another time).

Here is why weaving is evil:

The first week, Ms. Maybelle taught me how to wind my warps (warps are like the longitude of your fabric).  You use a warp board like this to make the warps the length you want.  You have to wind the just the right way so that they go on to the loom correctly.  There is a guide string on the board to help you do it right.  It took me two hours to learn the parts of the loom and then wind my warps.
Warp board with guide string.
The second week, I started to set up the hand loom by tying the warps to the leash sticks.  Then one by one I pulled the threads through the leash sticks and through the different parts of the loom.  The first part is the reed.  The reed is a series of metal slots (called dents). The size of the loom is talked about in terms of the number of slots you have per inch.  The table loom I am learning on is a 12 dent loom, meaning it has 12 little slots per inch.  It is twenty inches wide.  You thread each warp into a different dent on the reed.  The reed is in the beater that moves back and forth to smoosh (or beat, I suppose) your weft (also known as woof or filler) threads tightly against the front of the loom so that your weaving stays nice and even and tight.

Front of the loom with the reed completely sleighed.
I only have 70 threads (compared to the hundreds that might be needed for a wide shawl or blanket) for this first sampler project.  It still took me more than two hours to "sleigh" my reed.

The back side of the reed as I pull the threads through towards the heddles.
The third week I pulled the strings that I just put through the dents through each of the heddles located on the harnesses.  The harnesses are the the things you pull up and down (using levers at the top of the tower) to make the patterns on the fabric.
This is the loom from the back but you can see the tower (the tall part), the levers on the side, and the harnesses (the metal frames in the middle).
These are the heddles.  Essentially they are wires attached at to the harnesses at the top and the bottom.  They move from side to side depending on how many warp threads to have and where you need them to be.  They have slots in the middle through which you thread your warps.
The threading of the heddles sucks WAY less than the sleighing of the reed, but took a whole evening nonetheless.  So why do I think that weaving is evil, you ask?  Because it has taken me three nights (that's six hours) so far and I am only half way through the warping process.  I have at least one and maybe two more nights before I can even begin to weave.  Additionally, this is me only learning to warp the loom for twill weaving.  Next I will have to learn overshot warping.  And I am sure there are other techniques as well.

Don't get me wrong; I am going to stick with it because it is an interesting skill to learn (and a good way to use up the yarn stash).  But ohmygosh is this a slow process.

Me, trying to pretend that I know how to weave.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I forgot to mention that I was also busy on a knitting project this weekend.  For non-knitters, the following is going to be pretty uninteresting.  I apologize.

I knit this capelet (there is some on-going debate among my friends about whether this should be pronounced cape-let or cap-let and whether a capelet is the same thing as a shrug.  I vote cap-let and "no.") out of some kind of Pattons yarn I got years ago.  At least, that is what it is supposed to look like.

Through some combination of using a smaller size needles (and thus needing to add repeats to make it longer), this being my first attempt to do cable knitting, and not being able to count to ten, mine looks pretty darn different.

Again, for non-knitters this won't make any sense, but here is my altered pattern.
Size 15 (I think?  Possibly 13) needles
Cast on 120
Round 1: P1, *K10, P2; repeat from *, end last rep with P1
Round 2: P1, *5/5 LC, P2, K10, P2; repeat from *, end last rep with P1
Round 3-10: Repeat Round 1
Round 11: P1, *K10, P2, 5/5 LC, P2; repeat from *, end last rep with P1
Round 12-19: Repeat Round 1
Round 20: *5/5 LC, P2, K10, P2; repeat from *
Round 19-24: Repeat Round 1
Round 25 (decrease round): *K2tog, K8, K2tog; repeat from *
Round 26:  knit
Round 27: *K10, 5/5 LC; repeat from *
Round 28-34 : knit
Round 35: *(K3, K2tog) twice, K10; repeat from *
Round 36: *5/5 LC, K8; repeat from *
Round 37 (Decrease round): *K1, K2tog; repeat from *

Folks, what I just realized is that while I meant to actually make this longer by adding a repeat between cable rows, taking out two rows every repeat actually made it the same length.  Except that I used smaller needles, making it actually shorter than the pattern called for when I meant to make it longer.

For non-knitters: Basically, I arsed it up...crap...

PS  I just visited the pattern online again and realized that they have made major changes to the pattern since I printed it.  So basically I screwed up something that was already screwed up....crap, crap, crap....

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Note on Street Harassment

I was walking through Bethesda Saturday night (an action I suggest you not take unless you are in junior high or really REALLY need some Gifford's ice cream) with my (male) friend.  At one point a man rudely commented on my outfit.  I turned to my (male) friend and asked if he had noticed what just happened.  He said that he had noticed that the man made a comment but did not realize that it was harassing in nature.

I immediatamente got disproportionately upset.

I say disproportionately, because rude comments are directed my way frequently in DC, where being a woman and in public is apparently a valid excuse for people to say rude things to you.  I've gone through phases where I ignore it, where I give the harasser an incredulous look, where I confront harassers in a calm but firm way, demanding respect a-la-Marty Langlan (if you have never taken a self defense class from Marty, you have never lived), and phases where I fling some less-than-well-rehearsed cuss words in their direction.  I believe that any response that helps you get through your day is the right response.  I am currently in a phase where I turn to my neighbor and loudly say "Can you believe that people are rude enough to act that way?"  It works for me because I get acknowledgement that I am not crazy for thinking that behavior is wrong, and it raises a little attention among those around me if I say it loudly enough.

But when I turned to say this to my very feminist male companion Saturday night, I was met with his confusion that any harassment had occurred.  He just hadn't noticed it!  And his confusion led to my mounting frustration as I realized that men often do not see the harassment that goes on around them.

Let me reiterate that my friend is pretty darn feminist.  He once read a book about menarche parties and declared that he wanted to have one for his daughters if he ever has any.  He makes a point of encouraging the young girls he works with to get involved, rock hard, and to not let the boys dominate the game of capture the flag.  He notes gender inequality in institutions and laments the fact that there are so few women politicians.  He gets it. 

But the thing is that he, like other men (I will refrain from adding straight/white/educated in there, though that may play a role as well), get to worry about sexism when it is convenient for them.  Like, if they are late to work and need to catch the bus, they just get to run for the bus.  Women "get" to think about sexism and harassment when it is LEAST convenient to them: do I wear this skirt if it is going to show too much leg if I have to run for the bus?  Will that cause a dude on the street to make a rude comment and ruin my morning?  Will anyone else notice when the comment gets made?  Or will I have to feel disempowered AND alone before I even get to work?

I was going to write out a list of tips for what men can do to stop harassment, but I really think it all falls in the same vein as the Feminist Law Professor's "Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work!" with the added admonition of "notice what's going on and be a little more outraged, please."


Sunday, August 22, 2010


Some people's mothers like neutral colors (taupe, nude, beige, eggshell), and decorate their homes in those colors.  My mother had a period once when I was seven when I think she liked light blue and white, and think we had a light peach bathroom for a while.  Five minutes later, though, she declared lime green and hot pink "earth tones" and destined my sister and me to a lifetime of shockingly bright home decor decisions.  There was a period in high school where if you walked up the stairs in our house, you would be accosted by my lime green bedroom, my sister's bright turquoise bedroom, and a hot pink bathroom (with cow print accents) in quick succession.

So no one should be surprised about what happened this weekend when I was faced with a ridiculously bare new bedroom to decorate.
Ridiculously bare new bedroom.

I made an ill-advised (because it is college-dorm-replenishing season and sort of like hell on earth at any big box store anyway) trip to Target to see if they had any cheap bedding.  After realizing that I must be the only person under age 93 that uses a duvet cover, and as such could not find one in any color but beige and navy blue, I stood in the bedding aisle for an embarassingly long time as worried mothers and hysterical college freshman grabbed twin XL sheets from the shelves around me.

I stood there trying to decide between making my room outreageously loud to the point of annoying anyone who enters or yawn-yawn boring (there didn't seem to be any in-between in the sale section).  Then I realized that unlike in grade school when you had slumber parties and/or random let's-go-over-to-JoAnna's-and-paint-our-toe-nails events and unlike in the dorms where the simple act of opening your door let 70 other individuals examine the contents of your room, there may be a total of five other people that will ever see this new room.  I am allowed to make it as outrageous as I like.

So I got this rainbow comforter on Saturday.

Tried it out for a day and decided that it wasn't nearly bright enough.  So I went back to Target on Sunday and got the matching sheets and made them into curtains.
I ironed and pinned even though I hate doing it.  The curtains are just twin top sheets turned upside-down with a five inch hem at the top for the curtain rod to slide through.  Took a total of an hour to make three of them

One blue curtain, one green curtain, and...

one pink curtain (it really is hot pink and not red like it looks here).

Still trying to work out how to tie them back (I think I am going to cut up the fitted sheets and make ties for the curtains as well as throw pillows for the bed), and the room is still in obvious need of a book shelf and work table, but I think the brightness makes a huge difference.

Thanks for my sense of color, Mom.

Other things I did this weekend:
Pizza toppings that I swear were eventually made into a pizza.
  • Listened to an opera recital in an old folks home in Tenleytown. No joke.  When the singer hit the first high note, 70% of the audience reached up to turn down their hearing aids.
  • Knit a sweater in 90 degree weather.
  • Made pizza, taking a picture of the toppings but not the resulting pie.  I will give out the recipe for the crust if you ask nicely.
  • Realized, as I crawled head first down the stairs with a dust rag to clean the baseboards, that nothing in my new home has been dusted since mastadons roamed North America and that I may be a tad OCD when it comes to cleaning.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


If I am going to make a sweater from scratch, I will need a pattern.  Which one should I choose?

The woah-pocket one: Knit Color Block Pullover

The what-the-hell-is-that one: The Criss-Cross Shrug

The fluffy one: the Knit Diva Pullover

The flasher (in two different styles): Homespun Coats

The super patriotic one:  American Flag Sweater

Actually, I'm still on the hunt, but I do like like this one because it looks easy:
Shawl-Collard Cardigan

And this one because it looks hard:
Dressmaker Detail Cardigan

Monday, August 16, 2010


Warning: this post is not about crafts or babies or law school.  It is, instead, about beer.

This weekend we went to Lewes beach in Delaware and stayed in a bed and breakfast/super old, 99%-full-of-chotchkies house named after John Penrose Virden, a guy whose grave you could see across the street while eating a ridiculous five course breakfast on the front porch.  Yum…

Since it was raining, we went to the Dogfish Head Brewery.  The brewery folks were quick to tell us that Dogfish Head is a craft brewery meaning that they have to brew less than two million barrels (a barrel is 31 gallons) of beer each year.  Dogfish Head brewed 97 thousand last year and is aiming for 140 thousand this year.  The biggest craft brewery in the US is Sam Adams, but they are apparently set to brew over 2 million barrels this year.  They were responsible for getting the designation moved from one million barrels to two million barrels in the first place and are now in the process of trying to get the number raised again.  

We went on a tour of the brewery, the details of which I know I am going to mess up.  But you can go on the Dogfish Head Brewery website to do a little fact-checking if you think anything I say sounds wrong.

The story I was told (by this way perky lady tour guide who I expect to see keg-standing at the next house party I attend…she was soooo excited about beer) claims that English major (they made a big deal out of the fact he was an English major) Sam Calagione decided in 1995 that he wanted to brew beer instead of use his degree (although, have we ever known an English major other than Garrison Keilor who ever used their degree???).  His high school sweetheart/partner wanted to live in Delaware, so that’s where they built his first brewery (it obviously had nothing to do with the lack of sales tax or easy incorporation laws).  His first brewery consisted of two ten-gallon kegs and three dudes who helped him do the bottling.  Apparently, until he started up his operation, there had never been a brewery in DE and he had to go petition the state to make it legal for him to set up shop.  Now they have a big-ass factory in Milton, DE.

They took us back into the factory itself.  First they show you Sam’s old equipment, including the first thing he used to add hops to beer continuously (instead of just at the beginning and the end like most brewers do).  
Old equipment.  Decapitated perky tour guide.

Then they showed us the current-day equipment.  There is the place where they grind up the barley. Regular brewers make a twenty-pound-per-barrel mixture of barley, corn, rice, etc to provide sugar for the beer.  Craft brewers are not allowed to use a mixture and instead have to use pure barley.  Dogfish uses 70 pounds of barley per barrel.... this is a number that everyone around me seemed very impressed about. 

Where they grind the barley
Then they add water and brew the barley down into a mash.  They strain out the mash (which is then sold to farmers for cow feed…someone who knows farm animals: is barley good for cows?) and then cool the liquid down to 68 degrees for ale.  People seemed to know that ale should be brewed at 68 degrees…they either did their homework before they came (brown-nosers), or I am painful under-informed about my beer.  I believe they said that this was a six-hour process.
Where they boil the mash

Fun fact: They have a second, smaller (five barrel) system in the back where this dude (named Brian) spends all his time inventing crazy concoctions, brewing them and then letting people taste them to see if they are good.  How does one get a job like that?  What skills are necessary for that job?  Chemistry?  Can you get a degree in beer (other than the undergraduate certificate that anyone who goes to college automatically gets after their first frat party)?

Then they move it to the fermentation room.  Here they put it in big tanks according to what kind of beer they want to make.  There are metal tanks and wooden tanks. They said the wooden tanks were the largest wooden fermentation tanks since prohibition.  Apparently the wooden tanks are not held together with anything other than the pressure of the liquid inside and metal bands on the outside.  If they removed the beer and let them dry out, they would fall apart.  Another fun/sad fact they told us: every now and then something goes wrong with a batch of beer and they have to let it all go.  This month they had a batch of beer in which the yeast didn't do its job right and they had to let go of $150,000 worth of less-than-yeasty beer.  Ouch.
Fermentation barrels, both metal and wooden.

After the fermentation room, we got to go to “the bar” and taste-test four of their beers.  Here is where you will be disappointed in me, because I could honestly care less about beer (which I think is kinda ewie and a waste of calories that could be devoted to chocolate cake) and can’t even remember the names of what I tried.  One was very hoppy, the second was something I could tolerate, the third one tasted like cloves, and the fourth one tasted like a really intense, clove-y Guinness (chewing my beer….mmmm) that someone told me may have a ridiculously high alcohol content.  I’m told the Dogfish 120 Minute has an 18% alcohol content.  They did not give us that one…No frying the tourists’ brains at 11am.

Testing the beer to make sure it tastes good.  Note: the smile is fake.  I do not like beer.
Found a knitting store in Lewes.  

Ha ha, slipped in some knitting at the end there.  

Sunday, August 15, 2010


The beach is this weird place where people do things that they would never do in real life.  Case in point: A presumably normal day on Lewes Beach.  A 40-year-old man in terrifyingly tiny spandex buries his screaming four-year-old’s feet in wet sand, as his ten-year-old son dumps a bucket of salt water over his own head and marches around wearing the bucket as a helmet.  Two pre-teens menacingly brandish neon blue plastic crabs at a tiny, tu-tued girl with a single pigtail emanating from the middle of her forehead.  A leathered woman in a 1920’s era water costume rocks out to her iPod, ignoring the lifeguard sprinting by to drag two stranded boogie boarders in from where they have unwisely gotten themselves stuck out beyond the surf. 

I knit a sandy squirrel while wearing (gasp) water shoes.  Twilight zone, I tell you.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Doula Certifcation

Two (three?) year's ago, my friend had a baby at the DC Family Health and Birth Center.  During her birth, she was offered the support of a doula.  This woman stayed with my friend throughout the birth, providing physical and emotional support when things got intense, information to my friend's partner about what was going on, and help with pain reduction and better positioning to help the baby come out.
I was fascinated.  Fascinated that there was a someone whose job it is to hang out with laboring mothers, getting to see the whole birth process from start to finish.  Fascinated that there is a birth center in DC that had a program to supply laboring mothers with these support people.  And fascinated that the role of these women was unconditional support for women in one of the most impactful moments of their lives.
Doula literally means "a woman who serves."  According to DONA International (a doula certification organization), a labor doula (there are also postpartum doulas) is "a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth."  There are organizations like DONA International and ICEA that certify doulas, but a doula can be anyone who fits the above description.  Some doulas choose not to be certified for various reasons outlined here.  I chose to be certified by DONA, because I thought their certification process was the most straight forward and because they seemed to have the most training options available where I live.
In order to be certified I have to:
  • Complete a training (DONE!)
  • Do a bunch of required reading (DONE!! but constantly doing more)
  • Attend a breastfeeding workshop (DONE!!)
  • Observe a birth education class, e.g. Lamaze (not yet...)
  • Make a resource guide for your clients that includes a variety of very specific things that DONA things it should have (in progress, I have a lot of resources I use through my work at the Crisis Center)
  • Provide two character references (to be determined)
  • Write a couple of essays (to be written)
  • Provide support to at least three clients, document the births, and receive positive evaluations from both the mothers and the health care providers (hmm...)
The last one is tricky because there are specific guidelines as to which kind of births count towards certification.  I have attended four births so far, but only two have actually counted (and one I didn't get all the documentation that I needed, so it doesn't really count either...boooo....).  Meaning I need two more qualifying births.
"How does one find births?" you might ask.  I work with the DC Family Health and Birth Center in their on-call volunteer doula program.  I am on-call for several 24-hour shifts a month.  If someone goes into labor at that time, the midwife on duty will call me in to attend the birth.
I love it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer Knitting Projects

These are the projects that I have been working on this summer.

I was never good at making a fire at Girl Scout Camp.  This fire was much easier (and doesn't set the marshmallows on fire).

I made mittens.  Out of yarn I got in high school.  They are not for summer unless you like sweaty fingers.

This was supposed to be an elephant.  It obviously is not.  I gave it to a Lovely Friend who was happy enough to call it an anteater and accepted it as a birthday gift despite its horrific ugliness.

This is Hugs.  He is very smart (and pretty annoying about letting you know it as he studies his LSAT prep book).  I tried to bribe Jerba Mate to not move away by letting her adopt Hugs, but it didn't work.  She is now off to do amazing things in the midwest.

This is Poof the Magic Dragon.  Unlike his cousin Puff, he lives in a house, not down-by-the-sea.

Monday, August 9, 2010

What Does it Take to Make a Sweater: Sheep Shearing Edition

I figure the first step in this process is to figure out what it is that I need to do to make this sweater I promised to make. The steps as I see them are:

  • Find a sheep
  • Shear it
  • Prepare the wool
  • Spin the wool
  • Dye the wool
  • Figure out how to knit a sweater
  • Knit that sweater

K, so I'm going to worry about finding the sheep a little later. There are a couple of fiber festivals in Virginia this fall that seem likely. Or do we know anyone with a farm?

Colonial Williamsberg Sheep Shearing. 
Maybe I should get a hat like that...
Let's start with shearing the sheep. I guess the first question is: what kind of sheep do I need? Apparently the main types of wool are fine wools, medium/crossbred wools and long wools. Fine wools include the well-known Merino and the lesser known Rambouillet. The fibers are very soft and short which, I am told, makes it hard for beginning hand-spinners (aka me) to spin.

Long wools have a course texture. They are better for outer garments or woven blankets. And the long fibers may tangle during spinning. Probably not best for a beginner....

Medium wools are still suitable for wearing but have longer fibers than the fine wools making it easier for beginners like me (can you count me as a beginning if I have yet to begin?).

I'm gonna go all Goldielocks on this one and choose the sheep that is juuuuuust right (aka a medium wool producer). That means I need to find something like a Blue Faced Leicester, a Border Leicester, a Coopworth, or a Romney.

Then once I have the sheep, I have to do one of the following:

A) Find an expert to shear the sheep for me. This is what many farmers do, as a professional sheep shearer is quick and much less likely to hurt herself or the sheep. Problems: There is actually a national shortage of sheep shearers, meaning it is unlikely I will find one in my neighborhood (even if I did have a sheep handy to be sheared). Also, they are not so likely to jump at the chance to shear just one sheep...they like to do a whole heard at a time to make it worth the time and effort.

B) I can shear the sheep myself. To do that, I would go to eHow.com and figure out how to do it myself. They advise that I:

Step 1: Hold sheep in a clean area or pen while waiting to be sheared to keep the wool clean.

Step 2: Find a clean rug for the sheep to stand on while being sheared. Shear sheep away from their pen or sleeping area.

Step 3: Get rid of any feces or other debris that might be present in the coat before shearing.

Step 4: Shear sheep in warm weather to bring out the oils in the coat. This will help keep the blades lubricated to produce a more even coat.

Step 5: Cut close to the body of the sheep.

Step 6: Keep the coat all in one piece as you shear and do not go back and shear a second time.

Step 7: Consider purchasing a shearing platform which allows the sheep to stand with its head secure while being sheared. This also gets the sheep up off the ground which makes it easier on the shearer.

What?!?!  I feel like this is like giving me instructions for cutting someone's hair that consist of: 1. Use scissors; 2. Cut with a firm hand; and 3. Make sure not to make it too ugly. It's missing a few useful details on technique.

It's possible that the Internet is not the best place to learn this particular skill.  I might need a mentor. Shear panic....

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Writing Sheepishly

My office had a team-building day earlier this summer. At the beginning we were supposed to say our names, something we wanted to do this summer, and something we wanted to do sometime in the future. I said my name (hey, I’m JoAnna), what I wanted to do this summer (go to the beach) and then without thinking, I said what I wanted to do sometime in the future. My mom at the moment is hoping that I said that I want to go to law school, get a good job and support her in her old age. Sorry, Mom!!! Instead, I stated confidently that I would like to knit a sweater from scratch, starting with shearing the sheep. My co-workers looked at me like the wacko-banunu person I apparently am and asked the most obvious question: where will you find a sheep???

I asked myself a more important question: where the heck had that declaration come from? It is my experience that if you say something out loud it stops being make-believe and becomes something about which people start asking, "Why you haven’t finished yet?"  I immediately saw that I was in trouble.

In fact, this is the third time in the last year that I have gotten myself in just this type of trouble. I announced that I was going to apply to law school. Oh.  My.  Gosh. No, I haven’t applied yet. No, my essays are still in my brain and not on paper. No, I have no idea where I am going to go. But yes, you are right. I really should get on it.

Next, I announced that I was going to get my doula certification. Yes, I am attending births. Yes, that makes me a “real” doula. No, I am not certified yet. But yes, you are right. I really should get on that, too.

Now the whole sheep-to-sweater thing.  Oops. 

I made the mistake of saying these goals out loud and now I need to get my applications in for school, I need to finish my doula certification, and, apparently, I am in desperate need of a sheep and a sweater pattern (and some serious instruction by a person with experience working with sheep and sweater patterns).

Can you hear it coming?  It's the premise of this writing venture I have here!  I recognize that people keep asking me about these goals of mine because they care. I realize that I should give these people who care some updates on my status.  So I am going to track my progress on these three goals (getting into a less-than-laughable law/grad program, getting my doula certification, and making a sweater from scratch) and hopefully the saying-it-out-loud on a blog will make it come true.  

And I should do it in a reasonable amount of time.  Before, say, August 1 of next year, so people will stop pointing out that I really should get on it already.

Does this seem a little ambitious? Yea, I am a little hesitant (sheepish, perhaps?) making the declaration knowing that at least with the doula and the sweater stuff, it is totally possible that I won’t make my deadlines. Wish me luck?