January FO: Molly Knit Hat

After all those hours on garter stitch, my hands were itching to knit something with more variety. I found this lovely textured knit hat pattern called Molly … for free!

Molly Knit Hat Front

I dug into my stash and found this lovely Tosh DK in the gauge called for in the pattern. I loved the interplay of the lights and darks in the hand-dyed yarn. I rolled the three skeins into center pull balls but ended up only needing one for the hat.

Tosh DK Center Pull Balls

Here it is in progress. It was the perfect little project after the large blanket.

Molly Knit Hat in progress

Remember those Made in China project bags from the giveaway? Well, I kept one for me! It was just the right size for the yarn, notions and needles. The pattern stayed within easy reach tucked into the outer pocket.

My China Knitting Bag

I love the texture created by the color variations of the yarn combined with the pattern. The cabling is easy and I really like how it tapers down as you decrease.

Molly Knit Hat Back

There may be enough yarn left for a cowl or small scarf. I may reuse the cabling and textured pattern in the hat and whip up a matching scarf …

A Totally Frivolous Post

It was time for a manicure so I walked into a nail salon near the apartment. The place was tiny. It only had room for 5 seats and they were always occupied.

What drew me in was the clientele – all young ladies mostly in their twenties. The manicurists were laughing and talking as they bent over their intricate work. Every now and then they argued. Their voices grew louder and more demanding. Scowls were all too common. One of the younger girls was a bit clumsy, always managing to trip over someone’s foot or bumping someone’s arm just as they were about to paint a nail. She got the brunt of it.

At first, all I wanted was a new color. Then I started paying attention to the other customers. The colors went far beyond those of the rainbow. One lady was carefully applying bright purple sequins on someone’s nail with a toothpick. Another sprinkled glitter from a brush. Yet another painted tiny designs on each nail guided by a picture in a book. They were like artists mixing nail colors together, consulting with each other, choosing just the right sequin or ornament from trays and trays of shiny baubles. I was hooked.

I had fun trying new designs. Like putting on a new persona in a faraway land. Besides, I like the look of pretty nails while hands are clicking away on knitting needles.

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The Stars Above

It was my last weekend in Beijing. There were only a couple of sights left on my list and this was my last opportunity. Unfortunately, the air quality was not in my favor. The AQI had vacillated between “Unhealthy” and “Very Unhealthy” since Friday. One could almost touch the air, it was so thick.

Azimuth Theodolite

On the daily commute, we would pass by the star-gazing equipment at the Ancient Observatory. This was my destination.

According to the brochure, the Beijing Ancient Observatory was built in 1442 during the Ming Dynasty.

Sextant

As I walked around the grounds, I felt both sadness and anticipation. I would miss this city.

Sundial - Detail

I would miss its history and its splendor, but most of all I would miss my new colleagues and friends.

During those last two weeks, every time I said good-bye to someone, it was with the knowledge that I might never see them again.

Chinese Moondial

Even though my sadness was tempered with the anticipation of being home with my family and friends, it would be hard leaving.

Armilla Sphere Replica - Dragon Detail (facing right)

My only comfort was that the stars above would somehow guide us back together someday.

Armillary

Zaìjiàn. 在见。

Weaving in Ancient China

After a three-month stint in Beijing, I went home for a month. It’s funny how being away makes you appreciate every little thing. Of course there is family – my husband, sons, my mom, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues. Then there are blue skies, clean air, the sound of quiet, driving my car, air conditioning, clean bathrooms, ice …

A month later, I am back in Beijing. It’s different this time. While it is still a fabulous adventure, it was much tougher leaving home. The first time, there was the mystery of Asia and the challenge of the new business venture. We still have challenging work to do but I miss the rhythms of home.

While here, I continue to explore the city. My first free day, I went to the Summer Palace. It is 20 subway stops from where I stay and took almost an hour to get there.

Summer Palace 1

The property is huge like most everything else here. It covers an area of 2.9 square kilometers (720 acres), most of which are bodies of water. It is kept immaculately groomed and landscaped. I walked for five hours straight that day, up and down steep stairs and around the lake.

Summer Palace 2

I enjoyed …
The walk.
Being out in the fresh air on a cool day.
The rich vegetation of the gardens.
The earthy smell of the pine trees.
Seeing families camping on the grounds, having picnics and taking naps.
Watching ladies dancing under gazebos.
Listening to an old man playing his flute by the lake.

Summer Palace 4

Summer Palace 5

Summer Palace 8

Summer Palace 6

Summer Palace 7

Along the corridor of the Studio of the Jade River (Yuhe Zhai), there was a series of stone carvings. According to the placard, the original scenes were painted on woven silk by the painter Cheng Qi during the Yuan Dynasty (mid-1700s). The scenes portray men farming and women weaving in ancient China. I selected the ones showing women’s work.

The stone carvings were framed and the bright day cast reflections on the glass.

Farming and Weaving 1
Farming and Weaving 2

Farming and Weaving 3

Farming and Weaving 4

Farming and Weaving 5

Farming and Weaving 6

Farming and Weaving 7

Farming and Weaving 8

Farming and Weaving 9

Farming and Weaving 10

It was a beautiful day but there is still no place like home.

Zàijiàn Beijing

The cacophony of car horns

Curled tongues at the end of every word

Clearing the throat of phlegm … followed by the inevitable sound of spitting … on the street … next to your foot

Where an AQI over 200 means take shallow breaths

The inviting sound of rain signaling a clear tomorrow

Toddlers peeing by the sidewalk

Grown men peeing by the sidewalk

Men baring their bellies to cool off

Old men walking their birds in the park

Animated card games

Grandmothers dancing in the park

Graceful tai chi movements

Inventing your very own form of sign language with exaggerated gestures

The joy of being understood

The frustration at understanding only every five words spoken

The din of motor bikes

Dui, dui, dui, dui, dui, dui

Sidewalk barber shops, a pile of hair neatly swept to the side

Music blaring from the mobile boot-legged CD vendor

Selling anything from the trunk of a car

Where a cloth on the floor and a few knick-knacks means you’re an entrepreneur

Avoiding going blind from looking into the green laser lights for sale at busy intersections

Fearing for your life from pedi-cabs passing by

The constant ringing of bike bells

Coming home with bruised arms from everyone who bumped into you

Carrying a small towel everywhere you go to wipe the grime from your face

Forcing your way onto the subway train

Forcing your way out of the subway train

The rancid smell of bodies huddled together on the train

Blaring unending car horns … that everyone ignores

Being accosted at the market … Lady, lady, you want a bag?

Bargaining as if your life depended on it

Wondering if it’s silk or polyester

Never feeling you got the better part of the bargain

Long distance phone calls that never connect

Carrying tissue with you at all times

Squatting and praying you don’t slip

Avoiding looking at the trash can in the ladies’ room

The joy of ice cubes

Ten dollar foot massages

Sweating in the back seat of un-air conditioned taxis

Not knowing whether its best to open the window to let air in or close the window to keep pollution out

Undistinguishable odors emanating from food vendor stalls

Contemplating ordering the jelly-like mass on the menu but deciding against it

The best soup dumplings ever

Craving sautéed bitter greens and bamboo shoots

Funky nail art

A mountain of shaved ice under condensed milk and slices of mango

~~ * ~~

Zàijiàn doesn’t mean goodbye … it means see you again

在见 北京