Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ugly...but oh so cute!

I just have to take a moment to share one of the most intriguing shows on TV. If you have never had the opportunity to catch it, keep an eye out for the World's Ugliest Dog Competition - aired on Animal Planet. (You can actually use that link to go vote on your favorite ugly dog.)

The first time I caught wind of this contest while flipping through the channels a couple of years ago, I was compelled to watch and my then boyfriend (now husband) walked into the room to see a Chinese Crested with no fur and a tongue hanging sideways out of a very toothless mouth displayed proudly on his new 50" flat screen TV. The first thing to come to mind when seeing such a sight is to exclaim "that is NOT a dog!" However, the bizarrely ugly animals that are included in this show are also bizarrely cute and quite inspiring in their fugliness (not a word I'm sure, but it should be). Outside of their looks though, it's really quite heartwarming to hear the stories of how many of these dogs were rescued and are now so dearly loved by their owners - I believe one of the stories involved the animal shelter actually paying the guy to take the dog home with him.

Any competition where the animal can actually receive additional "personality" points for peeing on a judge is my kind of show. It proves that you don't have to be gorgeous to be a champion!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Free Knit Pattern - Harpa Socks

by Natalie Jacobs

The Harpa sea shell is a natural beauty, with gentle lines and curves. The shell's ornamental ribbing is suggestive of the strings on a harp, hence it's name. Capture it's essence with these lace ankle socks. These are a cuff down sock pattern incorporating a pretty lace pattern for the instep, with some added ribbing interest on the heel. The yarn for this pattern is from indie yarnie Squoosh Fiberarts, in the "Shell" colorway - a perfect fit for this design.

Yarn: Sublime: Fingering by Squoosh Fiberarts (
[420 yards (384 m); Superwash Merino Wool]
Other Materials: Set of 5 DPNs (2.5mm/1.5 US), Stitch marker (if desired), Tapestry needle
Gauge: 8 stitches / 10 rows = 1 inch in stockinette

Note: The lace pattern will make the sock seem narrow until it is placed on the foot, which will open up the lace and expand the sock!

Zig Zag Lace (instep):
Row 1 and all odd rows: p2, *k2, p2* repeat
Rows 2, 4, and 6: p2, *yo, k2tog, p2* repeat
Rows 8, 10, and 12: p2, *sl1, k1, psso, yo, p2* repeat


Cast on 60 stitches and divide evenly between 4 needles (15 stitches on each needle). Join in the round being careful not to twist. Place stitch marker to indicate the beginning of the round, if desired.

1. Work k2, p2 ribbing for 6 rows

Note: This design is for an ankle sock. If you wish to make a longer sock, do additional rows of ribbing until the cuff is the desired length.

Heel Flap:
Work next 30 stitches all onto one needle for the heel flap in Braided Rib. The remaining 30 stitches are not used and will later become the instep of the sock.

2. With RS facing - Sl1, k1, p2, *skip first stitch, second stitch ktbl keeping stitch on left needle, k skipped stitch, slide both stitches off left needle, p2*, [repeat from * to * 6 times] k2
3. With WS facing - Sl1, p1, k2, *skip first stitch, second stitch p keeping stitch on left needle, then p skipped stitch, slide both stitches off left needle, k2*, [repeat from * to * 6 times] p2
4. Repeat steps 2 & 3 until heel flap is 20 rows (or is approx 2 inches long), then repeat step 2 once more to end with a RS row

Note: If you wish to accomodate a larger instep, do additional repeats to create a longer heel flap. You will then need to pick up additional stitches for the gusset and add more decrease rounds later.

Turn Heel:
With WS facing - Sl1, P16, P2tog, P1 turn
6. Sl1, K5, K2tog, K1 turn
7. Sl1, P6, P2tog, P1 turn
8. Sl1, K7, K2tog, K1 turn
9. Sl1, P8, P2tog, P1 turn
10. Sl1, K9, K2tog, K1 turn
11. Sl1, P10, P2tog, P1 turn
12. Sl1, K11, K2tog, K1 turn
13. Sl1, P12, P2tog, P1 turn
14. Sl1, K13, K2tog, K1 turn
15. Sl1, P14, P2tog, P1 turn
16. Sl1, K15, K2tog, K1

There should be 18 stitches left on the heel needle.

Needles 1, 2, 3 & 4 will now be designated.

17. Needle 1 - Using needle holding the heel stitches, pick up and knit one stitch in each loop along the heel flap, and an extra stitch in the space between the heel flap and the instep (11 stitches picked up total)
18. Needles 2 & 3 - Work across instep (30 stitches) with Row 1 of Zig Zag Lace pattern
19. Needle 4 - Using spare needle, pick up and knit an extra stitch in the space between the heel and the rest of the sock, and one stitch in each loop along the other side of the heel flap (11 stitches total). Knit across first 9 stitches of the heel flap

The center of the heel will now be the beginning of the round. Place stitch marker if desired.

Knit to last 3 stitches of Needle 1, K2tog, K1; Needles 2 & 3, continue with Zig Zag Lace pattern stitch across instep; Needle 4, K1, SSK, knit to end (2 stitches decreased)
Knit one round with no decreases, continuing with pattern stitch across instep

Repeat steps 20 & 21 until there are 60 stitches total (30 across bottom of sock, 30 across instep).

Body Of Sock:
Continue knitting all stitches for the bottom of sock each round (stockinette), but using the Zig Zag Lace stitch for the 30 stitches on the top of the sock until sock is about 2 inches shorter than desired length. End on row 6 or 12 of the pattern stitch

Toe Decreases:
Knit to last 3 stitches of Needle 1, K2tog, K1; Needle 2, K1, SSK, work across by knitting the knit stitches and purling the purl stitches to create 2x2 ribbing until the last 3 stitches of Needle 3, K2tog, K1; Needle 4, K1, SSK, knit to end (4 stitches decreased)
Knit one round with no decreases maintaining the ribbing across the instep stitches

Repeat steps 23 & 24 until there are 20 stitches remaining. Move the stitches from the top of the sock onto one needle (10 stitches) and from the bottom onto one needle (10 stitches). Weave in with kitchener stitch or other preferred method for finishing sock toe. Weave in all ends.

© 2009 Natalie Jacobs
Pattern is for personal, non-commercial use only. You may not make items originating from this pattern for profit without prior consent from the designer. For any questions regarding the terms of use, please contact the designer at

Thanks to my test knitters who helped me make sure that the pattern is clear and easy to read!

Jenn (
Christine (Christine07 on Ravelry)
Michele (maprice on Ravelry)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Behold the belly!

It still stuns me to realize that I am at the age where my friends are actively discussing pro-creating. Indeed, what would have been considered sordid TMI details a couple of years ago are now discussed no differently from talking about which new recipe we want to try for dinner.

One of my closest friends is due to give birth next month and I am thrilled to be a pseudo-auntie to her unborn. From the moment she said she and her husband were considering getting started with increasing their family size, I just knew she was going to be one of those happy pregnant women who just make it look so damn easy. None of that throwing up, hot flash, pickle craving business. Sure enough, she's 6 weeks out and is still happily tottering along in her heels, albeit more tired than usual, while proudly announcing that her baby is "the size of a pineapple". Of the pregnant women I've known, few have shared her perpetual pregnant glee...and I can only hope that I make it look that easy when I'm in the same position!Anyway, I was thrilled when she asked me to take her belly pics. I've never done maternity shots before, but was excited to oblige. In addition to the required B&W shots, I suggested we take pictures in the park seeing as she grew up in the Northern California wine country and it seemed fitting that she should be frolicking outside.

They're supposed to be a surprise for her husband's birthday this month so I went to her house fully prepared to be ninja-like. Camera bag was hidden in the car, his offer to drive us over to the coffee shop (where we were supposedly going to spend the next hour or so yapping incessantly about female stuff) politely declined, and we were in the process of devising a plan to get him out of the house later in the day to do nude photos in the baby's room (figuring that a naked pregnant lady at the park might raise a few eyebrows). His announcement that he was going to Best Buy to get a DVD player was like a gift from above as we left the house, waited until he had turned the corner in his car, and then ran back to the house to get the indoor photos done in the short window of opportunity offered to us!

We then scurried off to the park and an hour or so later, innocently returned to admire his choice of electronics. I can't wait to see his face when he realizes what we were up to, but for now I have her permission to share these with you.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I actually did it! Meet the website.

Several years ago I purchased the domain and had some seriously gung-ho ideas about getting my photography portfolio online. With my rather rudimentary html skills, I put up something that vaguely resembled a rather simplistic portfolio web design...and then it sat there for a year or so...and then it ground to a resounding halt. A halt that was costing me an annual domain/hosting fee that I wasn't doing anything with.

For a while, I had a fantastic idea to make my own ecommerce portion of the site to sell my wares - photography, crafts, yarns, and whatnot. I spent a few days getting all active with positioning the paypal "buy now" button all over the place and realized that I basically had no content management for my items at all and that was just not going to work.

A few months ago, my friend Charlie (a college student that we bribed with a home cooked meal) came over to help me with some web programming for my husband's music site. He introduced me to the CMS (Content Management System) powered by Wordpress. "But Wordpress is a blog", I told him. "We don't want something that looks like a blog". He gave me the basic rundown on PHP, SQL, and a bunch of other three letter concepts that really meant WTF to me at the time. Then said "you're smart so I know you'll figure it out" and left me to my own devices. After days of crying, banging my head against a wall, and staring blankly at the computer screen; I ended up with this. I can't even describe how proud I was to launch that site, but with all my new found web design powers, my attention turned back to mine.

Yes, I want my website to be so many things but after working on my husband's site for so long, I realized I just had to focus on what I wanted my own website to be in this moment. I decided on a photography portfolio, found the template, found the photos and off I went.
So, I have a ton of content to still be added, but it's a damn fine start and boy am I proud! One day yes, you'll be able to shop on it, and who knows what else. For now though, Organic Stills finally has a big girl website that I am happy to share with you all!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

July already?

Looking at my calendar on my office wall today, I'm realizing that it's already July. When the hell did that happen I wonder? This year has been somewhat of a whirlwind so far and doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon. The irony is that it's 100 degrees outside and I've spent most of the day so far working on Christmas albums.

The fact is that in order to get Christmas albums into stores at the appropriate time we have to start working on them as early as March. Yes, March. By the time Christmas actually rolls around, I'm ready to tell Rudolph where he can stick his White Christmas. Indeed, come December, I'm hunched over and Grinch-like and ready to kill at the first few bars of "Feliz Navidad" (which just may by my most hated Christmas song of all!) It's not that I hate Christmas songs. I just hate Christmas songs when I'm working on them in the middle of spring and through the summer when I would much rather be contemplating sticking my toes in the pool.

So, I shall lament the rest of my office day before the long weekend, surrounded by holiday cheer of the non-July 4th variety.