Friday, March 23, 2018

When Clouds Cry

Hawai'i is such a sunny paradise, right?


Well, yes, of course it is. But it is also very humid and that gorgeous vegetation doesn't come out of a dry soil. At least not in those parts that are covered with rain forests, like the Southeastern part of the Big Island. It is stunningly beautiful and it is... wet. Very wet.

This is the Puna District, and it's probably the least well-known part of the Big Island. It does rain a lot here, and I mean a LOT. The skies just open up and the water gushes down. For people who are chasing the sun this is certainly not the place to go. There are no sand beaches here, but the coast is stunning. Wild and rugged. Lava coast, of course. We're right at the foot of the volcano after all.

These four photos above were taken within one hour, and you can see how quickly the weather changes. From grey skies and heavy clouds to some blue gaps and rays of sun and then back to torrential rain.

Highway 137 - a favorite road of mine - winds along the coast, most of the time very close to the sea so that you can hear the ocean roar and sometimes the spray of the waves hits the windshield. My favorite part is driving through those natural tunnels made out of bizarrely crooked trees that bend over the road.

It feels a bit like being in Tolkien's Middle Earth  - I was expecting either some elves or Treebeard to appear among the tree stems.

On the Southeast corner, at Cape Kumukahi, we parked the car and went through the lava moonscape down to the ocean - we started in the sun and ended up in the rain. Of course. Even though there is mostly lava here, new life is fighting its way to the light, dotting the mostly black landscape with its cheerful green color.

By the time we reached the water it had started to rain again and everything was grey, but the ocean was stunning. It never disappoints. Just look at those colors.

Puna District and the volcano are the areas that first come to my mind when I think of Hawai'i. No sand beaches for me (except for black sand, but that is for another post).


Have you ever visited my Etsy shop?
From March 22-29 I'm having a spring sale.
15% everything in the store.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Winter Knitting Projects

Winter is a great time for knitting since there are less daylight hours and it is so cozy to curl up on the sofa and knit up some garment or other. Even though I knit throughout the entire year, it is something special and very comforting during the darker season.

At the end of January a very special little girl turned three. I have been knitting for all of her birthdays so far - I showed you the projects here and here - and this year didn't make an exception. I find a lot of knitting projects on Pinterest where I have several knitting boards and when I saw this pattern I knew this was the one for the Kiddo.

It has a beautiful leave pattern down the front of the cardigan - unfortunately you can't really see it that well in my photos.

In the back it has a super cute ruffle row - easy to make and such a nice touch!

I used a rustic tweed DK yarn with 65% wool, 25% Alpaca, 7% acrylic and 3% viscose - probably not the ideal yarn for this, but I like the look of it. Here's the Kiddo on her birthday:

I am currently knitting this cardigan in a bigger size for another little girl, and this time I used a worsted yarn. I will show you how it looks when it will be done. I still need to do the neckband and sew on the buttons.

My friend Lyz celebrated her birthday in February, and since she had lost her home and everything that was in it in last October's firestorm I made a sweater for her. My yarn store had my favorite worsted yarn - Malabrigo Rios pure merino - in a truly scrumptious color, called "Reflecting Pool". Lyz's name was written on it!

The sweater is called "In Stillness" and is a very simple, but beautiful pattern. Now, knitting a sweater is always a bit tricky. I had Lyz's measurements, but I couldn't try halfway through whether it would fit her since it was supposed to be a surprise. Sometimes I had doubts that it would be too small, then I thought she might not like the color... anyway, a couple weeks ago we met and I gave her the sweater. She tried it on and - what can I say? It actually took my breath away, she looked so beautiful. The sweater fits perfectly, and only I know where the mistakes in the pattern are. The pattern description was sometimes a bit unclear and the stitch count was downright wrong, but somehow I managed to follow it and even learned a new cast-off technique.

In between I knitted a Baa-ble hat because I needed a quick project before starting another sweater, and this hat knits up so fast and is fun to make.

As you know I love to knit clothes for dolls, especially 18-inch dolls like American Girl dolls or the My Generation dolls you can get at Target. This blue swing top is really cute and not very difficult.

The trick is to pay attention and make the increase stitches in the right places which I sometimes forgot even though I had stitch markers everywhere. There are times when I just get carried away and knit and knit - and forget to do the important increases (or decreases for that matter).

I'm not quite sure about the yarn. It is an acrylic yarn, but I don't know by which company. A friend of mine who passed away last summer once gave it to me from her own stash and it didn't have a label. I do like the light blue and the tiny specks of white, pink and yellow in it. It also has a subdued glimmer.

This swing top is knitted from the top down, no seaming needs to be done. Three buttons are in the back so that even small hands can put it on and off easily.

At the moment I'm knitting another swing top (I often work on several projects at the same time), this one with a completely different blend of nylon, kid mohair, wool and metallic. It's not an easy yarn and drives me up the wall every now and then, but the colors are so vivid. Shortly after I had taken this picture I realized that I had messed up earlier and had to unravel it again. Story of my life...

And socks... there are always socks. I found this wonderful superwash wool from Cascade and offer socks in these colors in my shop right now (these socks are made to order):

I'm making a pair in the purple color right now. When you see the yarn as a hank you can't really see how beautiful it will turn out when it is knitted. Remember the socks I made for myself last year? That is the orange-red yarn from this very same series!

Of course they pale compared to Kaefer's blue snowman slippers...

Sunday, March 4, 2018

An Image and Its Story - February 2018

To my surprise I hadn't taken almost any photos with my dSLR during the month of February. I wasn't aware that I used my phone that often. It seems that I wasn't in the mood to schlepp my big camera around, but I also used the phone a lot at home. I guess I was simply lazy.

February whizzed by in the blink of an eye it seems. Where has that month gone? What happened during that month? Lots of work, Kaefer was here for a very short weekend, I enjoyed two long weekends, and I baked some bread again.

It's been a long time since I had baked bread. I used to do it so often, not only for me but also for friends who would buy it from me. This was before I started working at the high school. It seems with work lots of things have come to a standstill.

I had forgotten how much I enjoy baking bread. This whole wheat bread is super simple to make, so it was good to start with this one. Seeing the flour, water, yeast and salt coming together to a rough dough that would proof overnight was delightful, forming the dough the next day and cutting the star pattern into it was a pleasure, but the real bliss was the delicious smell that waved through the house while the bread was baking in the oven. How was I able to live without that for such a long time? The bread turned out perfectly, and we could hardly wait for it to cool down a bit so that we could devour a couple slices with butter. I'm glad that I took a few pictures before that, and I finally played with textures again to give it a more rustic look. Since I process my photos mainly in Lightroom I have come to play more with presets, but this time I decided to try a texture again. I'm glad I did.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Crater Hiking

Ever since I looked down into the crater of Kīlauea Iki in the summer of 2016 I wanted to hike through it. We didn't have the time back then, but when we stayed on the Big Island so close to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park this past January we hiked down to the crater, through it and back up again.

When you look down to the crater from the rim you can see clearly a path leading straight through it. In the background you can see the fume rising from Halema'uma'u Crater, its big sister and home of the goddess Pele (Kīlauea Iki means the "little" Kīlauea).

It looks pretty tranquil, doesn't it? Can you imagine that only 59 years ago - in 1959 - it was a seething lava lake? You can see the scale of the eruption in this very impressive video. The crater is a mile long, 3,000 feet across and the floor is more than 400 feet below where I was standing when I took this photo.

Let's begin our hike, shall we?

We start out by hiking about half a mile along the rim and descend through lush rain forest. This is a smooth, nice walk down the rim through gorgeous vegetation and the never ending sound of lovely birds. And then you're stepping outside the rain forest and the scenery changes dramatically.

The crater opens up and you can see all the way to what looks like the end of it. Here are still quite a bit of the 'Ōhi'a trees, but from here it looks like these are the last ones for a while. Or so you think.

We follow the trail along the stacked rocks, called Ahu. It's a good idea to do that because you can easily lose the trail if you don't pay attention, and since this is a still active volcano it is not advised to stray away from the path. Even though I haven't seen them, I know that there are still vents that blast out hot steam and you really don't want to get caught in those.

It's tempting to think that such a barren landscape is boring, but nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, it's black lava and lots of it, but the shape of it is ever changing.

But the really fascinating thing is to see the way nature recovers. There are 'Ōhi'a trees growing out of nothing, seemingly effortless. I saw ferns seeking their way to the light through the tiniest opening in the lava. In places where we don't see anything but black hardened lava, life breaks its way through. It is fascinating.

You can cross the crater in an hour if you're a good hiker. However, it took us more than two hours, since both the Geek and I stopped ever so often to take photos. I am so thankful that we share the same passion when it comes to photography. It would be agonizing if one of us didn't enjoy it.

Remember I said at the beginning of the hike you can see all over the crater to what seems like the end of it? Well, we're already past that "end" point. And it still goes on...

However, the landscapes changes and is getting rougher than the floor of the crater we passed through until here. We are much closer to the eruption center.

The Geek and I took our break here, eating granola bars and drinking water. We took our sweet time admiring (and photographing) this beautiful 'Ōhi'a lehua blossom.

Aren't they pretty?

Unfortunately there is a newly identified fungal disease called ROD - Rapid 'Ōhi'a Death. It attacks and kills 'Ōhi'a on the Big Island. The fungus clogs the tree's vascular system, depriving the canopy of water and may kill the tree very quickly. Since 'Ōhi'a is the keystone species in Hawaiian forests, ROD has the potential to cause major ecosystem disturbances. Fortunately, the 'Ōhi'a in the summit area - that includes Kīlauea Iki - are not yet infected with ROD.

Most of Kīlauea Iki crater consists of smooth lava called pāhoehoe. This lava flows rather slowly and forms a smooth surface or "ropey" shapes when it cools and hardens. It's easy to walk on. The other kind of lava, called a'ā, is rough and sharp. This is the lava we find at the end of the crater. It is not easy to walk on at all and a wrong step can be rather painful.

However, this is where we found quite some of Pele's hair. Remember, Pele is the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, but what's her hair? It's fine threads of volcanic glass. The strands are formed through the stretching of molten basaltic glass from lava. It is extremely light.

We're at the edge of the crater at the end. A last look back before we climb up to the rim, again through lush rain forest.

Here, the ascent is much steeper and the trail has many steps to make it easier. I'm glad that we chose this way to go, because my knees would not have liked to go down this trail. Yes, I was sweating and huffing and puffing, but I would do the entire hike again in a heartbeat .

And up from the rim we can see the fuming Halema'uma'u Crater of Kīlauea.