Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Letter To My Daughter's Kindergarten Teacher

Last night I picked up several activity books at Barnes & Noble to keep (Princess) busy today. On a whim, I picked up The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo - figuring that she was at least old enough to start listening to such books. (Today is the dreaded 'fever is gone, but they still have to stay home and stay quiet' day.)

(Princess) was very excited about the book (she saw the movie on her birthday) and wanted to help read. So we sat down with it this morning, and have already gone through the introduction and the first chapter. I'm VERY pleased and impressed with how much of the book (Princess) was able to read by herself! Even better, she's excited about reading and working through the book together. At one point she yelled, 'there's a LOT of word wall words in this book!' before gamely struggling on.

I can already see that (Princess)'s developing confidence, and that she doesn't mind puzzling over words until she figures them out. I'm only stepping in for words that I know are beyond her or when I can see her getting a bit tired. I made her put the book down for a bit, but she's already looking forward to working on it more this afternoon.

So thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping to turn my girl into a reader!


PS. Plus, she asked for her own journal yesterday!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


The Green Woman spent all day with her nose pressed to the window, watching for birds. She and I are on a mission to document as many different visitors as we can spot. This is quite difficult, as our feeder is still relatively new and the birds relatively shy. Plus, we've not played with the super-zoom (mighty technical term!) much, and so we don't entirely know what we're doing. Nevertheless, we've gotten some good shots.


If I wait for good pictures of me wearing this sweater, I might never get around to posting about it! (Too dark by the time my husband gets home, forgot with my parents last weekend, and have you ever seen the type of picture a 2 1/2 year old takes!)

So, without further ado, I proudly introduce my very first NaKniSweMoDo sweater! (It's natural habitat when I'm not wearing it...)

It is, of course, the delightful February Lady Sweater by Pamela Wynne. (One of 3,753 projects on Ravelry as of this AM!)
Yarn - Cascade 220 Heathers, 5 skeins
Needles - Addi Turbo US 8 (5 mm), 40 inch and 16 inch
Buttons - white oak from The Button Shop
Dates Knitting: While technically I started this on my birthday (Dec. 17, 2008), I set it aside at the end of that day and didn't touch it again until January 1 as it was my first NaKniSweMoDo sweater. It was finished on January 13, 2009.
This was a very fast, very easy knit. I'm delighted with the results, and am thrilled with my new round-the-house cardigan!
And I'll try to get pictures of me wearing it just as soon as possible.....

Comments From the Peanut Gallery

She's curled up right now in her favorite nest on the couch - home sick from school.

A little while ago, I curled up with her for a good snuggle.

"I don't like it when you are sick," I whispered.

"Me too," a soft little voice quivered, "I don't like it when you are sick either."

We smiled at each other.

Then she brightened, "But I like the lunches Daddy packs!"

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Monday List

Isn't she beautiful! The new bird feeder hosts a rather large group of female cardinals. I know the males should be around...but we only ever see one or two. Personally, I'm rather fond of the more-subdued ladies.

Drumroll, please...

Last week's wrap-up.
1. I did indeed finish my initial evaluations last week. I had a few questions come up in the process, and am waiting to hear back from the show superintendent before I go forward. I am amazed at how much I've learned in the process, and am very excited about what's to come!
2. I finished the first sleeve of my husband's Cobblesone on Saturday, and am about 1/3 of the way up the second sleeve. I chose to do the sleeves on a 16 " circular needle, because I know that this yarn ladders when DPN's are involved. Unfortunately, 16 " circs hurt my hands and slow me down considerably. (I had really hoped to have both done by now!) Ah well!
3. I did chose a shawl to work on this week, and in the process made myself very happy.
4. & 5. Art and Writing just didn't happen last week. There are only so many hours in the day, and it was a busy week.
6. & 7. Mornings and Bedtimes both improved - although not as much as I had hoped.
8. Sears did come to fix the treadmill, and the bad news is that it has cracks in the frame and probably won't last much longer. We're going to use it until it croaks, and then we won't be replacing it. Quite frankly, though we've used it quite a bit, we've found the upkeep to be prohibitively expensive.
9. A lot of my P.E.O. work was completed, but I have more to do.
10. My husband cleaned both girls' rooms over the weekend while we were at my parents' home. Yay husband!

This Week's List:
  1. Finish P.E.O. work. It's important!
  2. Set up a schedule for spinning the alpaca samples, and then get to it! My goal is to have everything finished and ready to return to the show officials by the first of March. I definitely found last week that slow and steady wins the race...and makes for a happier judge. A solid schedule is the key!
  3. Work on Cobblestone. In my heart of hearts, I would love to have it finished by the end of the month....
  4. Work on my shawl. This is my 'reward' knitting - to be done only when everything else is taken care of and/or on my night off.
  5. Finish cutting pieces for quilt, and then start sewing them together. I know, I explanation post is coming as to how this could have happened. I have to strike while the iron is hot, though, because otherwise it might not get done!
  6. Continue working on my morning and evening routines. It helps soooo much!
  7. Actually make that appointment with my acupuncturist. You all have permission to hound me until it gets done.

Have a great week!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Biology Lesson

If it looks like a duck...
Acts like a duck...
And sounds like a duck....

Than it must be a quilter.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How To Make Bad Art - And Really LOVE It!

I figured out the trick last week.

If I want to play with my art supplies, than I have to trick myself into doing it! As much as the desire has been there, I've had trouble actually getting myself to show up in my sketchbook. For months and months, I've dutifully packed up an art bag to either carry around the house or take with me when I have some free time away from the family. The problem is that I NEVER open the bag. Last week, I made a snap decision to play with my art supplies and pulled out the bag before I even had time to think about it. (Personally, I think the Green Woman was waiting until she saw even the tiniest break in my scheduled to-do list that day...and then she jumped in as quickly as she could.) The picture you see above is the result of that play time.

The good thing about my artist self - and the Green Woman agrees whole-heartedly with this assessment - is that I am able to smile and enjoy my work for all of the positive things I see in it. It's almost as if I've found one place in my life where my hypercritical inner voice simply doesn't exist. Well, that's not entirely true...I do retain reason and a critical eye, but for some reason my heart and soul is very gentle with myself when it comes to art.

That's not to say that I look at the picture above and see a perfect work of art. Far from it. I know that it's a beginner piece, likely to please very few except for me and my girls. Saying that it's a bit flawed is like saying there's a little bit of water in the Missouri River.

BUT, when I look at this picture the things that I notice are by and large the things that I'm pleased with. For example: There is a general sense of motion in both the water and the tree on the left. Actually, I love that tree on the left for its color, softness and drape. The bank was a serendipitous accident that pleases me no end. When I first drew in the line for the hill on the right, I didn't see a bank at all. It suggested itself later as I was filling things in - and it was perfect. This was the first time I tried my watercolor pencils, and while I didn't use them to their full capability or purpose I did enjoy the feel of them against the paper and the colors they left behind. All in all, I'm happy with this little picture, and feel like I can share it with you simply because it was a happy experience.

The Green Woman and I are very pleased. In fact, she's pushing the sketch pad towards me right now....

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Monday List

First of all, I can't believe I didn't make time yesterday to do my list! No, I didn't forget...I was just so focused on the things that I was working on that every time I thought about it I pushed it aside for 'later.' Silly me!

Last week was an interesting week for me - very productive, constantly changing, oddly focused and yet distracted at the same time...

The wrap-up:
1. & 2. Last Thursday and Friday we had (as did everyone!) a nasty cold snap. Because of the frighteningly cold weather, I did cancel our P.E.O. meeting. Some cleaning was done, and I did get complete most of my presidential duties....but once I made the decision to cancel I let go of my expectations for those two things.
3. & 4. I had a great time at my guild meeting last week! I did find all of my knits to take with me, and I finished the last little bit of my sleeve minutes before it was my turn to do show and tell that evening. I'm waiting for buttons to arrive - which they will hopefully do today - and then I will debut my new sweater here!
5. I did make some art last week! It was loads of fun, and as soon as I can get it scanned in than I will post about it.
6. & 7. I did order new hand cards last Tuesday, and they are sitting on my table now. Likewise, I also began my work as the Spin Off judge on Saturday. I am having a lot of fun, and am learning a great deal in the process. I've set myself a schedule that should get me through the entire process in a timely, steady manner. Yay!
8.,9. & 10. My BKB was crazy weight gain wasn't entirely right. By Friday AM nearly 6 of that had disappeared - which means it was probably mostly water. Sadly, I didn't get my exercise plan jump started last week, nor did I manage to get out of bed once to do my morning routine. However, I made some basic changes that seem to be helping already, and I feel a lot better this morning. I also didn't manage to call my acupuncturist...but I did talk to my husband about my winter blues, and I did make it a point to listen every day to my new guided imagery mp3 (which is already helping!). We're starting off this week in a much better place.

And for this week:
  1. In order to stay on track with my judging schedule, I need to finish my initial evaluation of all of the samples by Friday. Shouldn't be a problem!
  2. I'm in a super-fast knitting zone for some reason. I started my husband's Cobblestone pullover last Wednesday, and am already finished with the body up to the underarms. (Seriously...I did six inches yesterday and almost four the day before...) I want to keep it going as long as possible!
  3. However, I also want to get some lacework done this week. I haven't decided exactly what kind of lace I want to work on...but I'm getting the itch.
  4. More ART! Last week was fun....and I really must blog about what I'm learning about myself.
  5. More WRITING! I want to ease back into the writing habit by writing one letter this week. I used to be quite the letter writer, and I miss it!
  6. My morning schedule must be rebuilt. It felt VERY good this morning. to be up and doing the things that I know give me the best start to my day. It's simple - up at 6, do sun salutations while waiting for tea, go downstairs to journal until my husband leaves for work.
  7. Along with that, I need to start taking better care of my bedtimes. No sugar before bed, in bed at a reasonable time, lights out when I'm excuses.
  8. Another good health goal for the week: I need to call Sears today to set an appointment to get our treadmill fixed. I also need to look into getting new workout clothes. I'll tell you why later on.....
  9. I do actually have P.E.O. work that needs to be done on top of all of this fun stuff.
  10. Likewise, I think it's time to finally attack my eldest's bedroom with an eye towards complete organization. (or as much as you can expect in a six-year-old's room...)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

First Homework

Ah...we've arrived at that milestone in every student's life....She's growing up too fast.
Just an FYI - I have officially begun work as the Spin-Off judge, and will probably not be posting much about my handwork until that is finished. I'll try to come up with some fun and exciting things to talk about, but this is likely to take over most of my spare time over the next couple of months. I am really enjoying the process, though, and hope to share with you some of what I'm learning when it is finished.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Coming Up For Air

I have a confession to make.

I am a 35 year-old woman who loves Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books.


Yesterday morning, after dropping my eldest off at school, I made a snap decision to run to my Barnes & Noble so that I could buy the last book, Breaking Dawn. I finished it early this afternoon, and now feel rather lost. If I were a drinking woman - and I am not - than I would probably describe the way I feel right now as a reading hangover. 754 pages in about 26 hours - and it would have been less if I hadn't had to sleep last night.

No wonder I have a headache.

I know that I've spoken before about my English major - which was an act of love for me - and of how much I miss my pre-baby days of near constant book binges. I am a book snob, and I love good writing and skilled authors. The written word is sacred to me, and I take great joy in my favorite books.

Truth is, I have a soft spot for 'young adult' literature. When done well, there's just nothing like it. I can count on one hand the number of bestsellers, book club picks and/or popular adult titles that I have enjoyed. On the other hand, I regularly find gems among the children's shelves in the bookstores.

I'm also a huge fantasy/mythology/fairy tale geek. As much love and respect as I have for the classics, I would far rather have my nose buried in the latest Charles De Lint or Patricia McKillip novel. (Although rather interestingly enough, I prefer to listen to novels by Dickens or Austin.)

I could write a book about my experiences with books in both categories - and of those which are both. (My two all-time favorite books, The Hero and the Crown and A Wrinkle In Time are both.) Rather than wax poetic, though, I'll simply recommend Madeleine L'Engle's wonderful book, Walking On Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. In it she addresses what a children's book truly is and why a fantasy/science fiction frame is so important to telling the underlying truth of a story.

My point is not that Stephenie Meyer is the most brilliant writer of modern times - far from it -but that she does incorporate two of my favorite genres into one enjoyable fairy tale. I have a healthy dose of respect for her (and for J.K. Rowling) for pulling off the minor miracle of getting kids to read. I enjoyed the books, had fun with the fantasy and am glad I read them. Anytime a book can so completely engross me it's a good thing.

Also, I am rather surprised with the meandering trail that my thoughts have followed this afternoon. I feel an essay coming along...or a research paper. I can almost see connections between Bella and at least two of my other favorite heroines spiraling around in my brain, and I long to get that down on paper before it escapes.

I think I'm going to be busy tonight.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Monday List

The first bird on the Princess's new bird feeder!

It's been a while since we've had a Monday List, and I am definitely feeling the need to get this particular organizational tool going again. We're starting fresh for the new year, so here goes!
  1. Clean, clean, clean....I'm hosting P.E.O. Thursday night, and so the entire upstairs needs to be spotless - including the bedrooms, as they will be needed for coats and other aspects of the meeting.
  2. Speaking of P.E.O., I have a bit of presidential work to do for it this week. Eeek!
  3. On a much more fun note, I do have my CWSG guild meeting tomorrow night. I didn't get to go last month because of the flu, so I have a whole bunch of knits to round up so that I can take them and show them off. I also need to return some books to the guild library.
  4. I have a very fast sleeve and a half to finish on my first sweater for the year...and I believe I have time to get it done before the guild meeting!
  5. Because it will be fun, and because I think I need to do it - I am hereby giving myself full permission to make a complete mess with all of my art supplies this week. I'm going to let myself have fun and make really bad art just to try it all out! Who knows what will happen? At the very least, I'm hoping to loosen myself up enough to just get started.
  6. I need to research and order new hand cards for my judging job.
  7. And I need to get to work on that job. I have a good amount of time to get it done....but the sooner I start the more time I have to actually work on it. I'm super-excited about this job, and I really want to do my absolute best. I'm probably going to get started on Friday - once I get past my other meetings and responsibilities this week.
  8. Time to face the music - I gained 13 lbs over the holiday season (starting just after the flu I had the second week in December) and I feel lousy. My goal this week is to jump start my exercise plan. I may take the time later this week to discuss my actual health plan here on the blog - in large part because of the accountability that gives me - but we shall see. For now, the most important thing is that I get moving...and so I shall
  9. Along with that, I have to pull myself out of bed early in the morning for my alone time with my journal. I really need that time, and yet I've been choosing not to take it for really bad, silly reasons. Enough is enough...I know I'll feel better for it.
  10. Finally, I am going to call and make an appointment for an acupuncture appointment. I promised that I would do just that if I felt that I needed a bit of a tune-up, and I know that's where I'm at right now.

Have a great week everyone!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Happy Birthday Princess!

Guess who turned 6 today....

(Yes, this is exactly what the child wanted to eat!)

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Christmas Knits

I'm quite happy to report that both girls are very happy with their Christmas knits. Bonus points to the Princess, who wears hers all of the time, and is now knitting a scarf to go with her sweater from the leftover yarn.

First up - action shots of the hats!
Sunflower Tam by Norah Gaughan - Knitting Nature
Dream In Color Classy - Cool Fire for my Princess and Visual Purple for the Pixie, approximately 40-45 grams/hat
Needles - Addi Turbo US 6 and 7, old metal double points US 7
Princess - November 23 - 25, 2008
Pixie - November 24 - 26, 2008
No modifications as the pattern was perfect as is!

Even better - the Christmas Sweaters!

Knit Picks Gloss in pumpkin - 3 1/2 skeins
Addi Turbo - 3.0 mm (US 2.5)
May 24 - December 24, 2008
notes: I made the largest size, to be sure of a good fit. For the body I eliminated the seams and worked it in the round up to the sleeve shaping and then back and forth to the top. I would like to have done the same with the sleeves, but the rather unique shoulder construction made that impossible. I do like the cross-over shoulders, but they are much more appropriate for a smaller child. Had I to do it over again, I would have done a more standard neckline. I also wouldn't have let it languish on the needles so long!

February Lady Sweater by Pamela Wynne - inspired by the great Elizabeth Zimmermann
November 27 - December 12, 2008
Mods: I dropped the needle size to a 6, which is what is recommended for the yarn, in order to make an adult sized sweater fit a child. I then chose to work with the XS size (not the smallest size available) - in lengths appropriate to a child - in order to make it big enough to last for a couple of years. I did blindfold the Princess once to try it on to check the fit. She thought it was hilarious, and I knew the sweater would fit that way!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Aunt Kristin Is A Pushover - Photographic Proof

As I told you, my 5 1/2 year-old niece extracted a promise from me last summer that I was honor bound, and quite pleased to follow through on.
We began with the old rhyme while I moved both her hands and needles. By the end of the day, all I had to do was wrap the yarn around the needles while she recited, "In the door, around the back, through the window, off jumps Jack!" We worked on it every day during their visit, and I am quite proud of her progress! My SIL also asked for instruction so that she could help her daughter once they got home, so I not-so-sneakily expanded the knitting world by not just one, but two!

My girls had to help.


My Brilliant Christmas Idea

The Green Woman was totally with me on this one.

I returned home from Thanksgiving to find that my mother had tucked a small bag filled with the items you see above into my suitcase. Mom has an unfortunate habit of sending me things she thinks I might want. Most of the time it's junk (seriously, old catalogs?) but this one was really weird.
Take a good look.
Do you recognize it?
That's's a Princess Diana sweater from the 80's. Mom loved that sweater, but - like so many other women - never got very far on projects for herself. It didn't help that the thing was being made from a fine fingering weight yarn on 2.0 mm needles.
I laid the finished portion out on my bed with both reverence, and confusion. What was I supposed to do with this 20 + year old acrylic sweater piece?

The Green Woman peered over my shoulder, and started whispering ideas into my head.
I tinked back two rows, put the entire thing onto double points (three sizes bigger than Mom's needles - for those of you who like gauge curiosities), added an extra inch or so, did some rapid decreasing and then seamed up the side.
And...voila! a hat!
Mom was rather stunned - she initially thought I had knit the whole thing from scratch. Once she figured out how clever her daughter was (um, or her daughter's muse), she was delighted that her knitting had not gone to waste.
And a Christmas gift was made very easily.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How To Fix A Hole

Several years ago, I made a beautiful Feather and Fan shawl. To my great dismay, I discovered a tiny hole in it after blocking. I suspect pet toenails, although I have no proof. It was horrifying, but hardly anything to cry about. Knitting is knitting, after all, and the beauty of it is that it's infinitely fixable. (We'll not discuss the three years it took me to get around to fixing it....I'm such a process knitter....)

I thought it might be fun to track my progress as I fixed the mistake, so here it is!
Find the mistake. Locate the tiny skeins of leftover yarn that you've ingeniously held onto for all of this time.

Take a deep breath, and then make the hole a lot bigger.

Spit splice in some new yarn.
And then get a royal headache while trying to darn the mistake. If the actual word 'darn' - or something stronger - comes out of your mouth while doing so, don't fret. This is quite natural.

For eventually, you will close up the hole - even if it means carefully grafting two rows when you find that the hole had weakened the yarn just below the initial damage. Don't look too close. I'm sure that it's not quite right - but it's right enough to call done!Wash and reblock.

And enjoy your shawl!

I actually gifted this to my grandmother for Christmas. Gram's been doing plain feather and fan afghans for years and years*, and when I chose this pattern I did so for love of the way that it played with that old, old pattern. Gram loved it, and appreciated the work involved. In our family, knitting equals love.

*I don't really think Gram knits much else. We were delighted when we found a picture of Mom's first birthday and realized that Gram was working on a feather and fan afghan in the background!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Birthday Memories

A big thank you to my husband, my BKB and all of my family and friends who helped to make my 35th birthday so special!