Category Archives: Misc

Stroke… and Counting Our Blessings

My grandmother–my only living grandparent–had a stroke on Saturday.

She was extremely lucky, and she is extremely resilient.

Lucky, because it happened in broad daylight, while she was in a public place (grocery shopping, to be exact) with my mom.  Someone called 911 for them, and she was taken to Sunnybrook Hospital immediately.

Lucky, because when it happened, there was one person standing next to her.  She fell onto the person on her left instead of hitting the ground or the shelves.

Lucky, because her stroke affected her left side of the body, from arm and down.  She never lost consciousness or speech.

Lucky, because even though she was having a bad case of flu since last week and was on Tamaflu, she was tested negative for H5N1.

Lucky, because all her living children have moved to Toronto–and none of them nor their spouses have full-time, regular 9-5 jobs.  All but two of her grandchildren are also in Toronto.  My brother in Seattle arrived on Sunday evening; my cousin in San Francisco is coming on Wednesday afternoon.  Everyone is collaborating and coordinating the effort to provide the best support to her hospital stay and recovery.  We’re talking about 4 hour shifts here.

Lucky, because despite the relatively big size of the blood clot (2-3″), she was put on tPA treatment, and her body responded to it positively.  By Sunday, she has already regained some motion on her hand, and limited gross motor skill on her left leg.

Resilient, because she insisted she didn’t have a stroke, and fully believe she was hospitalized only for the flu.

Resilient, because when she was told they would take away her NG tube if she proved she could eat a jello, she chowed it down in seconds.

Resilient, because when she was asked to walk (with the aid of a walker), she was told to slow down–she thought they’d discharge her earlier if she proved she could walk.

We don’t know what will happen next.  We’re fighting against having her stay at a rehab hospital: she has shown minimal loss of ability; she doesn’t speak English; rehab will be farther away from everyone’s home than her home; it will be less flexible.

Grandma, I know you won’t read this, but I still have to say,

We all love you.

Year of Horse Outlook

January 1 of 2014 has come and gone. Many people have set (and some probably already failed) their new year resolutions.

I haven’t.

It wasn’t as much a problem of finding potential resolutions. Everyone can resolve to better health by ways of weight-loss, exercise, diet and the whole shebang–there’s always room for improvement. A lot of people wouldn’t mind making their financial outlook a little brighter by debt reduction, earning more, and increase savings. Self-improvement is also a big thing; many want to learn a new skill, language, or knowledge, or improve one they already know.

I could pick one or more from these areas and call it a day. I may even get bonus points for setting concrete, measurable goals.

Yet, I haven’t.

I haven’t set any resolution, because December is always a hectic time to properly reflect on the year. By the time January 1 comes, I feel ill-prepared to set a goal for that new year.

Contrarily, January is often a slow month, giving ample of time to reflect and plan.

I’m Chinese.  I will turn 36 in 2014. Chinese believe in 12-year cycles; this year with mark the start of my 4th cycle. I decide to start things anew.

(Oops, did I just tell the whole world my age?!)

I am starting my New Year Resolutions on Chinese New Year.

While CNY always falls on a different (Gregorian) date, it has this neat property to always fall on a day between late January to February. And, as I’m surrounded by plenty of extended family, I don’t have to the luxury to forget about it.

(I suppose I could use a more defined date and system, like the Groundhog Day Resolution chosen by my productivity hero David Seah. But watching groundhogs trying to find their shadows is nowhere as fun as receiving red pockets!)

What’s In Store for Cindy in the Year of Horse?

This is the first year of my personal cycle.  Aptly, the theme of the year is Renewal.

Here are my 3 goals:

  • Health: Lose 20 lbs of fat — This is pretty self-explanatory.  Losing 20 lbs of fat will bring me closer to my pre-baby body.  I’ll post more on how I plan to achieve this.
  • Financial: Start a new business in 2014 and find 3 paying customers — This needs more reflection on the WHAT.  And more hustle for the HOW.
  • Intellectual: Write 4 programs/applications for each of 12 different programming languages — One language for each month; one program for each week.

Here are a list of new habits I intend to form:

  • Exercise every day.  (“Off” days will still have active recovery.)
  • Floss my teeth every day.  (Hey, don’t judge.)
  • Keep a journal.  (The perfect excuse to buy a Moleskin?)
  • Practice copywriting every day.  (I’ve come to believe copywriting is a very versatile and transferable soft skill .)
  • Work on business for 1 hour every day.
  • At least one code push to github every day.

I still have another 20 days to flash out the detail, such as what exercise and diet regime to follow (or experiment), how to perform exploration on the business to start, which programming languages to learn, defining the cue/anchor for each habit, etc.

No Shawl for Me!

The Wisteria Arbor Shawl I kept trying and failing was frogged last week.  After too many frustrated attempts, I decided to switch to the Japanese Garden Shawl instead.

The pattern was nice, but again, I ran out of yarn on Saturday.

I thought about frogging and reknitting with less repeats, but finally gave up–the yarn was just not cut out for shawl-knitting.

As a result, I’m still shawl-less.

While I was still struggling with the shawl, FBB asked me to knit something for him and something for Daddy.  He didn’t know I have already started knitting the red train from the Land and Sea Playset from Knit Picks.

The truck is still UFO though, as I realized I only have 1 week left before nieces Jessie and Kelly leave for the whole summer.  I’m trying to crank out a skirt (from the Sheepy Time Knits Skirt Collection) for each of them.  These should knit up really fast, as I don’t plan to get fancy with them aside from edging.  In the mean time, I have to decide is whether to make the second skirt in the same or different style–sibling rivalry is a tricky business.

I’m only at waist + 3″ on the first (bigger) one; hopefully I can finish them on time.

Still WIP–Wisteria Arbor Shawl

Agony is when you have just not enough yarn to finish a project, you keep trying to stretch it out by undoing the last few rows and trying to redo them slightly differently, but still failing.

This is the state of my Wisteria Arbor Shawl.  The last part of this lace shawl was basically:

After reaching 17 horizontal pattern repeats, repeat the 12-row pattern 2 more times, then work 2 rows in garter stitch and bind off.

My problem?  By the time I finished my first of the 3 vertical repeats at 17 horizontal repeats, I only had enough yarn to do about 6 more rows in pattern before I run out of yarn.  When I tried it on, it was just too short–3 full repeats at 17 would have been perfect.  Buying another skein of this yarn is pretty much out of question–I picked it up from an odds and ends sale bin. 

As a real sock yarn with 75% superwash wool/25% nylon, the yarn was elastic enough to be stretched into a more reasonable length, but it’s still not ideal.

I’m now very close to frogging this, which is disappointing as this shawl was supposed to be my first foray into lace knitting.  I’m contemplating between redoing this same shawl pattern in needles one size up, switching to a different shawl pattern, or just do do something else with this yarn entirely.  I think the yarn–both the fiber content and the colour–isn’t very suitable for this pattern, but I really want my own hand-knitted shawl that adds flavours to a neutral colour outfit.  Perhaps I’ll dive into my book collection again and look for another lace pattern.

Latest Finished Project — Baby Surprise Jacket

The first project out of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s The Opinionated Knitter is the awesome and ingenious Baby Surprise Jacket.

I read and re-read the pattern about 5 times, before deciding to dive right into it, still without the slightest clue on how it’ll turn out.  The pattern was written in late 60’s, I thought, and it’s insanely popular, so it must work.  (Or so the thinking went.)  I had 2 skeins of each colour left over from the OpArt blanket (which I initially planned to be knitted into the larger size, but subsequently decided against), which should be enough.  (Or again, so I thought.)

Well, everything turned out OK — I had enough yarn, and the pattern certainly didn’t disappoint.  Here is what the project look like when I finished binding off:


See what I mean by ingenious?  It was knitted in one piece and didn’t resemble a human-wearable garment!  (One guess I received on Facebook was “jacket for pet.”)  

And here it is, after I sewed the two shoulder seams:



I was watching TV with Daniel when I bound it off.  I had already told him this project was supposed to be a baby jacket, but when he saw this “thing,” he was like “what the heck is it?”  When I folded it up properly, he was amazed, “you’re CRAZY!”  I promptly give proper credit to the pattern, since I couldn’t have come up with a design like this.

Almost as always, I made a few “modifications” to the pattern.  First, I didn’t do any cuff shaping.  That was totally the cuffs were knitted in the beginning of the project, when I couldn’t see how it would pan out.

The other change I made was the buttons and button holes.  The pattern called for 5 button holes, but I was slightly lazy and thought 4 would be OK.  In the end, I agree it should be 5, and should be spaced out better–to my dismay, the top button isn’t closed enough to the neck.

For the buttons, I decided to use knitted bobbles as buttons for safety reasons.  (I’m quite paranoid about choking hazards when it comes to baby garments.  Especially when it’s a gift.)


It wasn’t until about an inch after the neck shaping was done that I was finally able to visualize the finished product.  From there on, the knitting itself became automatic, but my mind was already thinking about different ways of knitting it.  (What if I knit it from the bottom up?  From side to side?  What type of embellishments and edgings would look great?  Can I use something other than garter stitch?  What about colour?)

Alas, time was tight–my target is to have 2 jackets done by Sunday, and I only finished the first one on Wednesday night.  Without fail, I immediately casted on the stitches for the next one.  (Daniel’s response was, “you’re knitting again?”  He didn’t know about my plan.)  I’m about 1/3 done now, and I have yet to decide on what customizations to make.  Hopefully I will finish it in time!


Work in Progress — May 13, 2011

Wisteria Arbor Shawl

This is my first ever adventure in lace knitting.  The pattern is from the book Sock Yarn One-Skein Wonders.  Instead of using the specified yarn, I chose a random sock yarn in my stash, which happened to be a lone skein of LANG JAWOLL COLOR Aktion, with brown, 3 shades of pink, and a light purple.  Looks like ice cream and a bit too busy in colour for a shawl to me, to say the truth.  The 75% supwerwash wool / 25% nylon content seems too springy for a lace shawl.

The pattern calls for 17 repeats, and I’m at 11 right now.

Since thie shawl has no intended recipient nor deadline, I’m started to feel bored about it.

Baby Surprise Jacket

This pattern is published and republished in multiple places, but was definitely a genius invention of Elizabeth Zimmermann.  Specifically, I’m reading the pattern from The Opinionated Knitter.

The yarn I picked was some Knit Picks CotLin–leftover from the OpArt blanket.  I have no idea how much yarn I’ll need for this project, but I should have enough.

This one will be gifted next weekend.  Hopefully I have time to whip up at least one more for another upcoming baby in Hong Kong!

Longies #2

This is definitely in the UFO (unfinished object) state.  I haven’t touched this for at least two weeks.  The leg holes are sitting around, waiting to be knitted.  Because of the ginormous gauge, the body is very big.  Since the legs will be of a different colour anyway, my thought is to knit the legs in K1P1 or K2P2 ribbing, so that it looks like bloomers + leggings.  Hopefully.

Medium Soaker

Another UFO.  It really just need about an hour to finish the leg ribbings, but I just can’t find the love for it.

Sheepy Skirts

I haven’t started these yet, which are intended for the nieces.  Since the girls are leaving for Hong Kong in a month, I don’t have as much time as I thought I’d have.  (I thought I could give it to them in July!)  I’m thinking of switching one to a halter or spaghetti strap sundress, which hopefully lasts longer, size-wise…

UPDATE: The Oriental Lily Dress (found via Ravelry) is sooo lovely!  I might do this one instead.

Fresh(ish) off the Needles — Seaweed Vest and Heel Stitch Longies

Seaweed Vest

I have argreed to knit a sweater for Daniel since the Dark Ages ’90s (which was before I knew anything about sweater-knitting).  Last year, when I picked up knitting again, Daniel asked me about the said sweater.  By then, I was much wiser about sweater-knitting.  (Which was to say, “I know enough to know that I don’t know nary a thing about sweater construction.”)  I backed down and said I would knit a vest instead.

I actually finished the Seaweed Vest about two weeks ago.  I was going to take some good pictures before posting, but I keep forgetting to take the pictures, so here it is, descriptions only.

The vest I dubbed “Seaweed Vest” is a vest I knitted up with nary a pattern.  Instead, I followed the general instructions in Sweater Workshop by Jacqueline Fee — the body followed the vest instructions (which was adapted from the general sweater instructions), modified to a V-neck.  (The book, in turn, was a more descriptive instructions of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s EPS sweater system.)

I called this the “Seaweed Vest” because I used the “seaweed” pattern from A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara G. Walker.

The vest was knitted in Knit Picks’ Swish Worsted superwash merino yarn.  The main colour was Lava Heather, and the contrast colour was Gold.

The last “personalization” bit I did was borrowing the twisted rib from the Mangyle pattern from Knitty, even including knitting the ribs in a contrast colour, while interspersing 2 rounds of the bottom rib with the main colour.

Actually, I initally planned to knit the Mangyle.  However, I have since decided/discovered I really don’t like sewing the seams.  Knitting a vest flat in pieces result in a lot more seams to sew than I like.  Such strong resistance to seams eventually led me to the discovery of the aforementioned book, Sweater Workshop, and Elizabeth Zimmermann.

Yes, the resulting vest involved a lot of improvisation.  And if I eventually determine my gauge of the original yarn I bought for the original sweater, I may even restart it.

Heel Stitch Longies

The Heel Stitch Longies was another put-in-the-back-burner type of project.  Longies is essentially a pair of (wool) pants.  FBB wears specially-handled wool pants or soaker at night as diaper cover.  (A wool soaker is about the shape of a pair of undies.)

The pair of longies FBB wears most often was sewn by me, using recycled, felted wool.  (Recycled wool is a nice way of saying, “the wool sweater nobody wants — let’s try to make something out of it.”)  It do the job, but it doesn’t really fit him well now — I felted it very hard, thus it’s not very forgiving in sizing.

As a result, I wanted to knit FBB a pair of longies.

The first pair was a total disaster: my guestimated proportions/size customization was totally wrong, and I didn’t really like the way the pattern shapes the pants anyway.  It was destined to be frogged.

The second pair was another, mildly smaller disaster: I didn’t check my gauge, resulting in the body being WAY TOO BIG.  And I ran out of yarn.  It’s still sitting on the needles (well, technically, a cable), waiting for me to finish up the legs in a different colour.

The third one, I decided specifically NOT to knit it for FBB, but just to test the pattern.  As such, I knitted it–a soaker this time–in a much smaller size (“medium” in terms of baby size).  The body was shaped great, but I didn’t really like the way the leg holes were shaped.  (By then, I was much more knowledgeable about knitting to know what I like and don’t like.)  It turned out I was right: the leg holes turned out to be too tight to my liking, and wouldn’t have fitted FBB’s chubby thighs when he was that size.  (I must admit, my most intimate knowledge of baby sizes included extra chubby thighs, since FBB really meant “chubby thighs.”)  It’s now sitting around, bound off and grafted, but waiting for me to pick up the stitches and knit the ribbing on the leg holes.

By the fourth one, I have obtained the renowned A Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara G. Walker.  I flipped through the pages and decided to substitute the K2P2 ribbing with baby cable rib, and the stockinette stitch of the body with the thicker and stretchier heel stitch.  The pattern I chose was a free one called Li’l Aries Longies.

I chose some 100purewool I bought a year ago.  These are handspun, hand-dyed.  The ones I bought were the odds and ends, with only one or two skeins in each colour.  From previous experience, I picked a colour which I had two skeins of.  It was a lighter, greyish blue.

I didn’t gauge this time neither, although I guestimated it to work out fine (and I was finally right about gauge, for once).  The pattern calls for 4 short row sets for shaping in the butt, but my measurements tells me 4 stockinette rows is about 6 heel stitch rows (in my gauge, YMMV).  So I did 6 short row sets instead of 4.

I decided to use the two-at-a-time magic loop method to knit the legs, since I always seem to fail in counting the number of rows, nor do I want to count.  Having a 60″ cable for my interchangeable circular needles helped immensely in this department.  Heck, I can knit up ANYTHING with a 60″ circular needle!

Of course, I ran into some trouble with this pair too.  Namely, I ran out of yarn.

Unlike the previous disasters, at least I knew it was coming, thanks to a combination of my stitch choice and the sizing.  I just didn’t know how much I could knit in my original yarn.

In fact, the trouble started with me not dividing my yarn into two perfectly equal halves.  So one leg ran out of yarn before the other.  [Good thing I was knitting two-at-a-time, because it let me at least end the same colour on both legs at the same round.  Again, it was a calculated risk.]

I tried to rebalance the two balls, but in the end, I still needed to snip out the extra tail I had when I casted on at the waist to finish off the last round of shorter leg.

By then, the longies were somewhere between knee-high shorts and capri length.  That was not quite long enough for my taste.  I went back to my stash of 100purewool, picked out a few single-skein colours of roughly the same thickness, and eventually decided on a black-ish skein, which I thought was the best complimenting colour I have to the main colour.  I added about 3″ more, and just bind off using the Russian bind off, resulting in a rolled cuff with slight flare.

An i-cord drawstring, in the contrast colour of course, was added to the waist ribbing.

The best thing about knitting–and finishing–this pair of longies?  I let FBB watch me working on it, which obviously triggered the first question, “who’s this for?”  Of course, he was all excited when he knew it was for him.  By the time I was knitting the legs, he wanted to try it on–which, again, wouldn’t have been too feasible or at least not as aesthetically pleasing had I not choose to knit the legs two-at-a-time in a magic loop.  I let him try on a few times, giving me a very good idea on how much longer I still needed to work on.

FBB originally requested some sort of applique on this pair (since I did a very rudimentary lemon applique on the recycled one).  Hopefully he’ll accept it without one!

Fresh(est/esque) off the Needles — Baby Blanket


This is a baby blanket originally destined to be a gift for Pia and Joseph’s first baby. For some reason, I thought/mistook the baby would be a boy, so I picked two blue(ish) colours. I was just informed it will be a baby girl–after I finished it. Fortunately, another friend has just announced she is having a baby due in September, and they’re saying it should be a boy, so I can redirect this blanket to that baby instead. 🙂 As for Pia and Joseph’s baby, well, I have originally planned to knit two blankets in this pattern, the second one in white and red, which I think will suit a baby girl. 🙂

The nitty gritty: I followed the OpArt pattern from Knitty Fall ’08. It was knitted in KnitPicks CotLin DK Yarn (70% Tanguis Cotton, 30% Linen).  The lighter shade is Glacier, and the darker shade is Blackberry, which is a dark purple with blue undertone.  Although the pattern called for 2 32″ circular needles, I was able to knit it using a single KnitPicks Harmony Wood circular in size 8 with 60″ cable, using magic loop technique for the earlier, inner rounds.  The picture was taken before I wove in the ends.  It’s currently being blocked.

[Thanks FBB for posing.]