Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Crafting Year In Review

Finished Knitting Projects:
  • 1 kid's vest
  • 2 baby surprise jackets
  • 1 matching baby surprise bonnet
  • 3 mini hearts
  • 6 shawls
  • 12 pair of socks and matching minis (not surprising given this was the year of socks for my friend Shelda and I!)
My list of completed knitting projects is rather shorter than usual because of...

Ongoing BIG projects:
  • Princess
  • The Scrapbook Blanket
And I love these two projects more than you can possibly imagine.

Spinning:
  • completed 2 1/2 Jacob fleeces
  • the odd combo of Shetland and silk in greens
I'm not real happy with my spinning list for the year.  I have a bunch of wonderful fibers that I didn't go near because I was working on the Jacob fleeces.  I do love and appreciate them, but the fact of the matter is that since my parents did all of the shearing and processing themselves this year they weren't in the best of shape and spinning wasn't a lot of fun.  I'm sure that will improve next year as they have chosen to have it all professionally done.  It was also incredibly hot this summer, and I don't normally like to spin when it's that hot.

The IMPORTANT part is that I'm actually USING my handspun now.  Three of the knitting projects listed above are knit with handspun.

Stepping outside of my comfort zone:
  • embroidery (LOVE!)
  • sewing (Enjoy, but never going to be a priority)
  • drop spinning (ditto sewing)

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Reading Round Up

First, let's do my December Reading List:
  1. Harry Potter Books 5, 6, and 7 in audio. To quote my FB status update, "Note to self:  Listening to the final chapters of the last Harry Potter book while knitting in a public place (Starbucks in case there was any question) is not perhaps the best of ideas for a woman who is prone to crying."
  2. Grave Sight and An Ice Cold Grave, Charlain Harris (library, ebook), I needed some light, junk-food books after HP.  These did the trick.  I feel no need to read the other two books in this series.  I also checked out the first books in Harris's other two series, and deleted them after a few pages.  I think the Sookie Stackhouse books are wonderful, but Harris's other series fall flat.
  3. The Leopard, Jo Nesbo (library, ebook)  Crazy how much I enjoy down and dirty Norwegian crime/mystery books.  They really are a bit repulsive if you think about it, but Nesbo is such a great writer that he really sucks you in.  Think Steig Larson lite. 
  4. The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson (ebook)  I'm reading this one right now, and will probably finish it up this evening.  It's amazing, and I highly recommend it.  The Fang family is wholly unique and Wilson's writing style is funny and heartbreaking and completely engrossing.  LOVE it!
Second, here are my top 5 books of the year:
  1. The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
  2. A Thread of Grace, Mary Doria Russel
  3. The Passage, Justin Cronin
  4. Mr. Chartwell, Rebecca Hunt
  5. Blackout & All Clear, Connie Willis
  6. (honorable mention) Bright's Passage by Josh Ritter

Finally, 4 Ways in Which My Reading Habits Changed in 2011:
  1. The biggest change is that I got an iPad and started reading most of my books in ebook format, which surprisingly enough I enjoy thoroughly. 
  2. Thanks to my iPad I read a lot more books from the library.  In fact, I've probably recouped 2/3 the cost of the iPad in books that I probably would have just purchased before.
  3. Also thanks to my iPad AND my monthly reading lists here on the blog I've started to finally purge the crates and crates of books in storage.  Some I'm replacing in ebook format, others (mostly big, silly series) I'm just doing away with and checking out from the library now.  Part of it is a larger household simplification that we're going through, part of it is that with my lists I don't feel a need to hold on so tightly anymore, and part is simply that I like to carry around my library of really good books in my iPad so that they are easily accessible should I want/need them. 
  4. Thanks to Books On The NightStand my reading has expanded to include many more genres than it had previously.  I still love my fairy tales, fantasy and mythic fiction best....but with good recommendations I've discovered that there's a lot more out there than I had expected. (Four of my best of 2011 books are BOTNS recommendations)
Thank you for indulging me in all of my book posts, and Happy Reading in 2012!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Holiday Round-Up

I - ahem - appropriated this picture from Mom's camera.  Believe it or not, this was the picture my parents used on their Christmas cards this year.  Too funny!

  • Thank you all for understanding why I needed to take a bit of a break for the holidays.  It was very much needed this year!
  • Having said that, the fastest way to cure any sort of writer's block on my part is to apparently  put a restriction on my public writing outlet.  I found that the day after I put up that post I had so many ideas of things to write about that I almost broke my own rules. 
  • Christmas this year was a fabulous success. 
  • Why?
  • We had a major Christmas Miracle when our (horribly inept, nasty, etc) HOA approved the plans for the playhouse my dad wanted to build the girls in time for work to be done on Christmas Eve.
  • There will be more about the playhouse when it's done.  I can't wait to share its full story with you!
  • Dad and Sean are working on it right now.....
  • Because of the playhouse approval, our holiday schedule changed at the last minute.  To my delight, it wound up giving us the most relaxed, enjoyable Christmas we've had since the girls were born. 
  • We spent Christmas Eve with my parents and my brother here at the house after a secret day of construction.  (I had to keep the girls away from the house all afternoon, which was neither easy or fun.)  We were unable to go to church because of the playhouse (truly a shame, as I LOVE Christmas Eve services), but we did have our traditional Chinese take-out meal. 
  • Best of all...Unkie Erin wore the girls out so that they actually went to bed at a decent time!
  • The four of us then had all of Christmas morning to ourselves, which was a blessing. 
  • After church,which I insisted on as we hadn't been able to go the night before, my in-laws came over for a while.  It was so nice to have them here by themselves. 
  • Normally we end up with most or all of the grandparents here at once, but this way the girls were able to really focus on one set at a time.
  • Also, the two sets of grandparents do gifts in a very different way.  Separating the visits this year took any and all crazy (and unnecessary) competition out of the equation.  It's not that it's ever been an obvious problem...but there has been a weird undercurrent during some Christmases past.
  • The afternoon was devoted to reading, playing with toys, and fixing a very low-key fried chicken and faux tators meal.  The girls were delighted to be able to stay home and play with the fun things Santa brought, and Sean and I were so worn out that we appreciated the quiet!
  • Then on Monday I took the girls to Independence to spend the afternoon with my grandmother.  (She's 85, and the four hour round trip is now out of the question for her.)  Again, the girls were able to focus on their Grammy-Great, and because she wasn't stressed out by having to drive anywhere she had a lot more fun than she normally does as well. 
  • After that the girls went to my parents' home for 48 hours, and I drove back to Columbia to relax and reflect. 
  • Food was thankfully not an issue for me at all.  While I couldn't eat either the Chinese or the cinnamon rolls (from scratch!) I made for breakfast, I did buy myself a gorgeous piece of salmon that more than made up for it.  We didn't make desserts or cookies this year, and our non-traditional Christmas dinner was fun and took the focus off of the food. 
  • I did eat a Patrick 70% dark chocolate bar, which was my one concession to the holidays...and was worth the tummy ache it gave me. 
  • I will need to do perhaps two more posts on Christmas, but I think this is enough for now!
In the next two days, look for my December reading list as well as a review of 2011 reading and crafting.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Merry And Bright

The Magic Tree in it's original location, photo 2009.
Miss Pixie just came over and saw the picture and asked,
"Are Magic Trees really magic?"
Yes, my dear, they are.

Friends, I absolutely adore Christmas.

And yet....due to a second round of flu this weekend, I am horribly behind in my preparations.  In trying to figure out how to go about making sure everything gets done and I don't go crazy in the process (because really, I'm too worn out from being sick to even contemplate the crazy plan) I've decided I'm going to have to put the blog on hold until after the holidays.  I'm hoping I'll have time to write a bit between Christmas and New Years, but there is no guarantee at this point.

So for now...thank you very much for reading and sharing comments with me in 2011.

May Your Holidays be VERY Merry and Bright!

And I'll see you again in 2012.

Love,
Kristin

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Uh Oh....

So I spent yesterday afternoon knitting swatches from my handspun Jacob yarn.  When Dad gave us the sheep last year for Christmas there was an understanding that he got the first sweater from the wool, and I wanted to make that happen this winter.

The problem:  The yarn smells so bad to me that I can barely stand to work with it. 

No, it's not dirty. 

Yes, it was washed both during processing and again after I finished the yarn. 

The stink was so bad when I washed the swatches that I could barely stand to go into the room where they were drying.

But....

When I asked my family about the smell, none of them noticed anything.  My husband put the swatches right up to the face and told me that I was nuts because they didn't really have a smell.

So why is this a problem?

This is a major problem because this was the first step in the development of my alpaca allergy.  Years before I judged that show - resulting in the overexposure that's left me unable to handle alpaca fiber without significant discomfort - I thought it smelled really, really bad...when no one else noticed anything.

Sigh.

Right now it's just the Jacob.  I don't know if a wool allergy can be breed specific or if there is something else going on.  I'll be calling my allergist asap.

Monday, December 12, 2011

What I Eat

It's been 13 1/2 months since I received my food allergy diagnosis....a long bit of time that's had many, MANY ups and downs.  I've tried to steer clear of discussing my allergies on the blog very much because the topic has generated some rather ugly comments.  I've been accused of making things up, have been told that I'm wallowing in drama, and have often had my allergies brushed aside as not being all that important.  The fact that I've truly struggled with the diet - which is considerably more difficult than I initially thought it would be - has only compounded the problem.

I'm quite happy to report, though, that my diet has been clean for 42 days now...a record...and it looks as if this time it's truly going to stick.  (Trust me, there will be a party when I hit 100 days and 1 full year!)

For the time being, I've postponed the idea of doing a separate blog because it's honestly a bit more than I can handle right now.  Having said that, there are a few issues I'd like to discuss publicly, so the topic will occasionally come up.  How I feel does have a huge influence on my creative life, so I feel that it is an appropriate addition. 

The first thing I want to talk about is what I actually can eat!  (Reminder:  I am allergic to dairy and to yeast.  The first is straightforward, but the yeast allergy is very complex, requiring me to cut out all sugars/sweeteners, obvious sources of yeast like bread and pastry, grains, vinegars, fermented anything, and foods that may carry mold.  Easier to say what I CAN have: meats, most whole fruits (no juice or dried), veggies, eggs, beans.)

Typically, when I first tell people about my allergies there is a rather shocked, "Well what on earth DO you eat?" response.  So I thought that I'd go ahead and answer that post.

It's pretty simple:

Breakfast:  is usually leftovers from the night before - a ground turkey or beef burger, chicken breast or bowl of soup.  Sometimes I have eggs, which I always enjoy.  My new favorite is a big bowl of mixed greens with a couple of soft cooked eggs on top with a pinch of salt.  The eggs slightly wilt the greens, and the yolks stand in for salad dressing.  Sometimes I add a piece of fruit, but it's usually just the protein because I'm normally in a huge hurry.  I've found that I MUST have a fairly large protein breakfast to make sure the rest of the day goes well.

Lunch:  Same as breakfast!

Dinner:  Roast or steamed veggies with a meat source.  I can spice up whatever it is IF I have the fresh spices growing in my wee spice garden.  I try to alternate the meats - turkey, beef, chicken and seafood - as much as possible so as to not create any new allergies.  Likewise, the veggies are rotated, but are frequently dependent on what has come for the week in our fabulous Bounty Box.  I figure the more we can stick to local/seasonal food the nutritionally better off we are anyway.  I try to make sure there is a root veggie - potatoes, parsnips, etc - in the meal because that helps prevent late night munchies, which have been a problem for years.  I'm very fond of making vegetable soups with either beef or turkey thrown in for both flavor and protein.  Soups also are the easiest thing to get down for breakfast, so sometimes I make them a couple of times/week.  As you can imagine, I do fix separate meals for myself sometimes so that I can feed my family the things they love but I can no longer enjoy. That is happily getting easier to do. 

Snacks:  Potato chips are my real 'sinful' treat.  So long as they are only potatoes, salt and oil I can have them.  The Terro root veggie chips are my favorite, but our grocery store carries a cheap brand of organic chips that I also enjoy.  I make fresh humus often, which I eat with either a small protein source (tastes great on top of turkey or chicken!) or raw veggies.  Oddly, I've come to love celery with hummus...and I hadn't eaten it for years before this.  Roasted garbanzo beans are a great take-along treat.  Leftover meats and hard boiled eggs do when I feel the need for something that will stick with me for a while. 

The BIG Treat:  seasonal fruit!  This summer it was local peaches from the farmer's market, then we had honeycrisp apples - so big they were a meal unto themselves, and now I'm enjoying Clementines by the bag full.  In the spring I imagine the strawberries will be my new favorite! 

And a few last comments:

Sometimes I have a meatless day - which for me means eggs for breakfast and a steady source of beans for the rest of the day to get in the protein.  I don't do it often, but it does give me a break once in a while. 

The big benefit is that it's pretty darn hard to eat too many calories/day on this sort of diet, so I can eat as much as I want of anything that I'm allowed.  Bonus! 

Yep, it's a bit boring at times.  I just have to deal with that.  It's still also VERY difficult around holidays and when at parties/gatherings.  Packing my own meal/food to take with helps.  I tend to eat by myself for a lot of those occasions sometimes.  It's not ideal, but it's what I have to do. 

Planning ahead is an absolute must.  I get in trouble if I don't have allergy-friendly food easily available. 

It's also not as bad as people think.  After the first few weeks your taste buds do adjust.  You'd be surprised at just how amazing that seasonal fruit tastes now!

The best part is that once I hit the one month milestone any cravings I have are about what I need nutritionally.  I'll find myself really wanting an oily piece of salmon if I've not been getting enough fat or Clementines if I need some vitamin C.  I finally understand what all those experts talk about when they tell you to listen to your body for what it really needs. 

So that's that!  If you have any questions, I invite you to ask me in the comments and I'll answer them at a later date!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

One Thing

 I never have to worry about is cold feet.

Although...three pair are facing immediate retirement...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Where I've Been This Week

 I've spent all of my spare moments in the last week or so working on finishing up the feathered border on my Princess Shawl....and it has been amazing.
 The last 40 or so rows have been tricky because of the mirror imaging.  Not only have I had to memorize the pattern in two directions, but I also found myself having to correct quite a few mistakes on the chart.  (The already corrected chart, I might add.  I'll be contacting the designer.)
 Totally worth the mental gymnastics.
 I threw the pattern (8.5 x 11.75 inches) on so that you could get an idea of the size.  Also, if you look at the pattern picture, that lighter section at the top of the border( 24 more rows) is all I have left to do before beginning the triangular portion.
If I'm smart, I'll set the whole thing aside for a while so that my hands can get a bit of a rest.  I've not been so careful in the last few days, and I know better. 

A few notes:

1.  There are two joins in the section I photographed, and I'm quite happy to say that you cant really see them unless you go looking....and look hard.  (There is a visible pull on the bottom that does need a bit of TLC.)

2.  I have discovered that audio books are my best friends while working on this project.  TV is completely out because I HAVE to look at my hands on this one.  It's also too jumpy, and disjointed because of commercials.  Music fights to take over my logic brain...asking me to knit along to the beat and making it considerably more difficult for me to memorize the repeat.  Audio...well it's just enough of a distraction to shut off the overly analytical portion of my mind so that I can relax into the patterns and repeats. 

3.  I've estimated about 160 hours in the work that I've done so far.  Worth EVERY minute!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Five Things I'm Doing This Week

  1. Decorating (albeit slowly) for Christmas.
  2. Organizing my wee corner of the basement so that it can be more serviceable this winter.  With the decorations up in our living room, there really just isn't the space for my spinning/knitting/misc. stuff anymore.  Plus, I'm tired of moving things around all the time. 
  3. Sleeping a lot because I came down with the flu late Tuesday.  Not going to lie.  It was short lived, but ugly and it's going to take some time for things to go back to normal. 
  4. Spinning Jacob fleece like CRAZY!  If I'm going to fulfill my obligation to produce a sweater for my father by the end of the year I have to work on it as much as possible. 
  5. Focusing on keeping my kitchen clean.  Not going to lie on this one, either.  I'm not at all a good housekeeper, and it tends to be messy.  I believe I've found my limit, though. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November Reading Report

  1. Dracula, Bram Stoker (CraftLit podcast)  I've decided this is my most read book ever.  This is the second time I've listened to an audio version, and I have no idea how many times I've read it.  One day I should sit down and think about what this means in terms of why I read the way I do.  Irregardless...it never dissapoints.  Having the extra commentary was interesting, even if it didn't provide much in the way of information I wasn't already aware of. 
  2. The Magician, Lev Grossman (Ebook)  For the record, I don't believe that Harry Potter or the Narnia books are oh so precious that they can't be lampooned a bit.  (Although the Narnia movies make my blood boil.....)  I enjoyed it, but I didn't find it as fabulous as so many of the reviewers/other readers have.  It's often described as what happens when normal kids discover they have magic and go to school.  Perhaps my problem is that I was never a 'normal' kid, and so I had a lot of trouble relating to the characters.  I also thought the ending was a bit of a cop out.  I have the second book, and am having trouble getting excited about reading it. 
  3. Thursday's Child, Sonya Hartnett (print)  This is an Endicott selection, and it is fabulous.  In fact, I may have to track down Hartnett's other books.  I also may have to go back to the Endicott book list on Goodreads, which I've sadly been ignoring as of late.  I believe Thurday's Child is a YA or child's book....which reinforces the notion that often the very best books are not written for adults.
  4. Zone One, Colson Whitehead (ebook, library)  It's pretty bad when you fall asleep repeatedly trying to read a zombie book.  I didn't even bother finishing it - even though I found some of the ideas interesting.  This book is getting a LOT of press right now, mostly because Whitehead is not a genre writer.  My problem is that I believe he's incapable of telling a story clearly because he's so caught up in his literary conventions.  I consider myself to be a good reader, and I love it when writers create beautiful non-linear stories.  BUT, I detest fancy or clever just for fancy or clever's sake...and that's what I feel Whitehead has done. 
  5. The first four Harry Potter books, JK Rowling (library CD, copied to my computer!)  I checked them out this summer and then spent hours putting them on my computer so that I could enjoy them this fall.  Soooo much fun!  And a perfect background for handwork and holiday preperations.  I must say that the audio by Jim Dale adds a very great deal to the stories.  Also, it's been so long since I read them that it's honestly like I'm discovering them for the first time.  I do find myself crying quite a bit over them....which is silly, but it happens.  A good story is a good story.  (And incidentally, while I detest the Narnia movies, the Potter movies are among my favorites.  Go figure.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Blankie Love

I am quite happy to report that my blanket is officially at the 30% mark.*

The bag you see in the picture is the Amy Butler bag I made this summer, and it has solved the problem of the thieving cat.  For now.  She hasn't been able to figure out how to remove the yarn balls yet....although I've caught her giving the bag a serious look, so it may not take long.

Under the table you can see my beloved Kiera dog.  I adopted her in 1997, and near as we can tell she's about 15 1/2.  (For her size, this is indeed quite ancient.)  Though she has many old age issues, she's still happy and none of her problems are causing any pain.  However, she is moping because she prefers being on the farm with my parents - where she can run through the fields to her heart's content.

*When I strip my bed this week I'm going to measure the blanket against the mattress...which is how I determined how wide I wanted it to be.  Until then, I'm really just estimating how many squares long the blanket will be.  Ergo, it's entirely possible that I'm well PAST the 30% mark.  That would be exciting!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

News From The Farm

1. The sheep are all now coated, which means that we will have nicer wool next spring.
2. It also means they are considerably less photogenic.
3. It wouldn't be a family holiday without a bit of cow herding in bad weather.
4. Cows aren't very smart.
5. The girls have spent almost all of their time outdoors, despite the chill. Reason #946 why we need a farm of our own.
6. I'm learning farm management for Mom's family farm.
7. Corn and bean prices can be interesting.
8. Dad is going to start making buttons from the Jacobs' horns.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

For These Things I Am Thankful

This is the third year in a row that I've shared my grandfather's beautiful words of Thankgiving.  May you all have a wonderful holiday filled with love and laughter, and may you recognize your many, many blessings.

The following poem was presented to the Woods Chapel congregation of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now known as the Community of Christ) by my grandfather, Stanley E. Curtis, on February 27, 1994, two months before he passed away.

"I am a farmer and a minister, and I see all these things that God has made and they are good.
  • To know that out under the ice and cold of winter, there are tender shoots of wheat that will emerge in the warmth of spring and produce a golden harvest next summer
  • To watch a baby calf being born, struggle to its feet and find nourishment at its mother's side
  • To ride the crest of the Missouri River in an aluminum canoe and sense the power of millions of gallons of water searching its way to the gulf 1000 miles away
  • To ice skate to school when the roads were to slick for cars or school buses
  • To wade waist deep in the Little Blue River searching by hand for fish hiding under snags of tree root - and finding them
  • To watch very fragile soybean plants push up huge clods of dirt as they emerge in the spring
  • To see a buck deer with a three-foot wide rack standing in my pasture looking exactly like a Hartford Insurance ad
  • To watch a doe raise a pair of twins later on in the spring and summer in that same pasture
  • To ride a sled down a half-mile long hill with family and friends after a new-fallen snow
  • To be up early enough for most of my life to watch the sunrise
  • To watch rivers overflow their banks covering thousands of acres of land causing millions of dollars of damage; yet realizing this has created some of the richest farm land in the world
  • To watch a nest of baby rabbits grow up less than 20 feet from the back door
  • To stand in a corn field on a warm summer afternoon and hear the corn grow
  • To watch my border collie bring a herd of cows from the pasture, up the road and into the barn to be milked
  • To smell the warm fresh milk on a cold winter morning
  • To hear the howl of a coyote on a moonlit night, and to see his shadow out the bedroom window
  • To have seen the Canadian Rockies, the Norwegian Fjords, the Hawaiian Islands, the Finger Lakes of New York, the Coast of Maine, the canals of Holland, and so many other places of breathtaking beauty
  • To see a wild tom turkey strut in the spring
  • To stand on a hillside and watch a summer thunderstorm move across the valley below
  • To taste fresh, tender sweet corn roasted in its husk over an open campfire
  • To stand in our storm cellar doorway and watch an approaching tornado pass harmlessly overhead after it had created a path of destruction ten miles long and a quarter mile wide
  • To smell a field of new-mown alfalfa hay
  • To sit under the hands of two very fine elders in administration and receive strength and healing
  • To feel the pain and yet the privilege of officiating at the funeral of a neighbor I had known and worked with for 45 years
  • To hear the scream of a mountain lion and see just ahead two huge eyes in the beam of my flashlight
  • To come home from seeing the fall colors in New England and see our own countryside ablaze with spectacular beauty
  • To see forty young friends show up to help move property out of harm's way as floods threatened
  • To watch our 12-year old daughter lead her 2000 pound Holstein into the winner's circle at the state fair
  • To stand before you this morning to testify of the overwhelming power of God's presence in my life, in you my friends, and in all of nature
From these and a Host of other experiences, I can truly say, I see all these things that God has made and they are beautiful."
Happy Thanksgiving, and God Bless.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blessings

Lifelong friends
 Laughter With Family
Learning New Skills

Quiet Time Together 

Dreams Coming True


True Love
From My Family To Yours

Have A Happy, and Blessed, Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Workbasket

On the needles now:
  1. My Princess shawl is receiving the lion's share of my time right now.  I have about 60 rows left (30 hours) on the feathered border, and then I imagine it will go away for a nice rest for a while.  Maybe.  I'm enjoying it an awful lot....and it would be nice to finish it by the end of the year....although I do recognize that's a bit nuts as a goal.
  2. Handspun Baby Surprise:  I have a ball of merino/tencel handspun in gorgeous soft blues, greens and browns that has just been screaming "BABY!"  Fortunately, the one friend of mine who would truly appreciate a handspun, handknit gift decided to oblige my knitting needs by becoming pregnant with her second child.  Remember when I said a few days ago that I needed to start using my handspun?  Mission accomplished.
  3. Basic Socks:  I needed a mindless knitting project, so I started a pair.  They are living in my purse for the rare moments when I don't carry the ginormous knitting bag.  Typically this is the type of project that takes forever to finish...and that's fine with me.
  4. Bug Out Socks:  Soooo much fun!  Colorwork socks with big, fat bugs running up the feet and legs. 
  5. December Socks:  I honestly can't remember the name of the pattern right now.  I've done the start for the toes because it required a you tube video to accomplish. (This is the only reason why it's on this list and not the planned list.) They'll be pretty easy.
  6. Not so secret socks for my husband:  He's been hinting.  Poor guy needs another pair!
  7. The Scrapbook Blankie:  Which still is a joy to work on. 
  8. Tibetan Clouds:  I'm not sure what's up with me and this shawl.  Typically if a shawl languishes this long than I frog it.  I'm not quite willing to do that yet....but something needs to be done.
Planned:
  1. Handspun shawl.  I've picked out the yarn and pattern, and just need to cast on.  I might keep it as a reward for finishing the Princess border.
  2. Baby gifts for a pair of magical twins.  They aren't due until the spring, and I'm helping with the shower as this is one of my oldest friends from church.  I am planning BSJ's with matching hats, and the yarn is already in my stash.
  3. Dad's Jacob sweater.  I wish I could get excited about this, but I still have a lot of spinning to do, and as I've complained before...our fiber processing this first year left a lot to desire.  My parents are fixing that next year by hiring someone to shear and having it professionally processed, thank God.
  4. My eldest needs a new pair of slippers.  If I can find the pattern I do have enough yarn in the scrap box to make them. 
Sorry there aren't any pictures this time!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

After dinner this evening my Princess pulled out her wheel and got to work on some beautiful merino fiber which I had bought for her this summer.

"Mom, can you teach me how to make a hat with my handspun this weekend?"

"Sure"

"Because I LOVE to knit with my handspun.  It's the best!"

This conversation brought me back to something I shared on Tuesday night with the Columbia Weavers and Spinners Guild.  My friend Shelda and I had given the program for the monthly meeting (more about that later) and during the Q & A session at the end I was asked about my handspun.  I had rather sheepishly admitted that although I love to spin and do it often I almost never actually USE the yarn I make...thinking it too precious for actual knitting.  I told the crowd that I have lots and lots of pretty yarn pets.

You betcha that's a ridiculous way to be.  Even my 8 year old daughter realizes that handspun is far superior to store bought yarn.

And so, with my daughter's words in my mind, I'm going to sit down this evening and cast something on....

with handspun.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Some Long-Suffering But Soon To Be Happy Handspun

It was really too hot to do much spinning this summer,
but in rare moments I did manage to spin up this fine yarn:
The fiber is a 70% Shetland Wool / 30% silk combo...and yes that is a very strange blend.
I purchased it on Etsy from The Thylacine as two 100g braids.
The color is called Weilangta Forest.  I am a sucker for greens...as you know.

It was not actually the most pleasant yarn to spin...again it was a very odd blend, one which I will never buy again.  I adore both fibers, and wool/silk blends, and so I thought this would be fun to try.  Shetland is just far to sticky and textured to blend with silk, though, and that made it difficult to work with.  The end result is interesting - matte with a subtle sheen.  As you would expect, it has the 'scratchier' feel of Shetland.

The fun is that I already know what I want to make from it!  Stay tuned this week...I have a feeling I will cast on very, very soon as part of a greater plan to begin working with my handspun more often!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What I'm Thinking About Today

  • Yesterday my BKB calmly stopped me midstream during one of my rambles about all of the things I really should be doing and why I'm failing to do them and why that makes me a bad person by reminding me that I get into trouble when I am not gentle with myself.  Thank You, Jenn.
  • I've found a place of peace in my Princess shawl.  It's a beautiful place to be.
  • I've also found the balance between how much time I want to be putting into said Princess and what my hands are capable of.  I've not always been good about finding that balance. 
  • My girls seem to have finally - and fully - recovered from their pneumonia, and I'm grateful for that.
  • For the last few days our family has quietly - and without plan or discussion - shifted our evening routine towards spending more quite time together around the kitchen table.  I'm really enjoying it.
  • The depression which has been hanging over me since my surgery a year and a half ago seems to have lifted on its own.  I feel happy - a fragile, crisp sort of happiness, but also a hopeful happiness.  It's been a very long while. 
  • I'm working on allowing that feeling to grow and develop on its own...without pushing, without striving, without fighting. 
  • The weather has been glorious lately.  I am such an autumn girl. 
  • An idea that I've had for a very, very long time shifted a wee bit this morning to show me how it could be accomplished.  That was neat!
  • A friend is in need today, and I wish I could be there to give him a hug.  I hope he knows how much I care. 
  • Finally...and for fun...we have some holiday possibilities which are making my heart sing. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Lady Tryamour

The Sanguin Gryphon, Skinny Bugga! - 1 skein in Lord of the Flies
Oct. 15 - Nov 6, 2011
Alterations - skipped the last repeat of the instep chart because I knew that the socks would wind up too long if I added it.  As is, the length is absolutely perfect!

In fact, these may be my favorite pair of socks from this year of experimentation.  The yarn is wonderfully cushy, the fit is perfect, and they have just enough decoration to make them beautiful and interesting to knit.  It is important to note, that interesting to knit for me means that the pattern is easily memorizable so that I don't have to tote the pattern around with me at all times!

Also, I would like to add that these are a very rare dip into the toe-up sock pond, all of my previous attempts having turned  out to be less than stellar fits.  I'm getting ready, though, to do toe-up colorwork socks, and thought I would practice a tad with the technique before I dove in with the added difficulty of stranded knitting.  It was a happy experiment within an experiment, and I'm ready to move on!




Friday, November 4, 2011

50%

 Two more rows (which I should be able to do this afternoon) and I will be half way through the feather border!
I'm showing you this picture so that you can get an idea of the scale of my Princess shawl.  I blocked out roughly two of 11 feathers, and am only half way through what is essentially the edging....an a shawl knit with 2.0 mm needles and a yarn that looks like sewing thread.

I may be taking a break from the Princess soon.  There are other things I want to make!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Kitten V. Kristin's Knitting Basket

I've woken up every day for the last week to the following scenes of destruction and cat happiness....resulting in hours of patiently untangling yarn. 

You would think I would have learned after the first time.....

To my credit, I did try several different methods of covering and/or hiding the yarn.  The kitten is just that darn smart.

However, learn I finally did, or rather the cat finally won, and the yarn is now safely tucked back away in my corner of the basement.



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My October Reading List

  1. The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss (ebook) * A breath of life into the fantasy genre.
  2. The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern (ebook) * Weeks later, I can't stop thinking about this book...and I desperately want to knit myself a crimson scarf.  If you only pick one book from this list to try, it should be this one. 
  3. Girls In White Dresses, Jennifer Close (ebook, library)  I'm glad I checked this one out from the library.  After The Night Circus I needed a bit of froth to allow my brain to settle ... and that's exactly what this book is.  Kind of surprised it was a BOTNS recommendation.  This is the closest I ever get to "chick lit" and having read it I'm more than happy to stay away from that genre.  Not much else to say. 
  4. The Passage, Justin Cronin (ebook) * Literary horror...vampiric viruses....post-apocalyptic society...and a girl who will save the world.  Bravo.  I have to wait until next year for the follow-up book, The Twelve, and that's going to be very, very hard to do.
*I find myself at a bit of a loss as to what to say this month about these three books.  Every time I try to write more in-depth blurbs I wind up with a mess of superlatives which say nothing at all.  Instead, I'll simply say that these are the best books I've read since I began tracking my reading habits through my blog. 

A very good month, indeed.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

One Dozen

Happy Anniversary Sweetheart!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Listening To My Hands

My hands are most certainly speaking to me today, and this is what they want:
  1. A break from wee needles and tiny yarns. 
  2. To knit something with big, fat (for me) needles and wool.
  3. Lots of stretching...perhaps some work with Chinese therapy balls.
  4. Some TLC...including a good soak in some nice, warm water and a bit of a massage. 
  5. Wristers...for the warmth on my wrists would be welcome. 
It's hard, because my heart and mind are screaming for more lace and more socks....but I'm smart enough to know that when my hands speak like this I'd best listen. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Needles, Needles, Needles

I quite firmly believe that if you are going to invest a large amount of time and energy into something you feel passionately about than you should invest in the best possible tools that you can afford.  Much as we would sometimes like to believe otherwise, the end results DO depend on the materials that you use. 

I was also raised to believe that it was better to have one really nice (fill in the blank) that would last than to have multiple cheap (fill in the blank) that would fall apart with little use.  It's all connected...quality matters. 

Where am I going with this?  Well, to state the obvious, my knitting needles are a very important part of my life. Back in 2003, when knitting became my primary hobby/craft/art form, I spent some time testing out the various types of needles on the market to see which worked best for me.  Ultimately, I decided to invest some serious money into building a complete set of Addi Turbo original circulars, and I have never regretted that decision. 
 
Then Came The Princess.

I did the border with a standard 2.0 mm, 24 inch addi circular.  At only 20-30 stitches wide, this wasn't a problem at all.  The stitches stayed on the needle tip and I never had to worry about moving them back and forth over the join. 

This changed when I picked up the 865 stitches along one side of the edging to do the feather border.  It quickly became apparent that the joins on my needles were not at all smooth enough to handle that quantity of wee tiny stitches made from wee tiny yarn. 

I did two things.  First, I ordered a set of 2.0 mm needles from The Gossamer Web on Etsy.  Then I went to a local yarn shop and bought a set of 2.0 mm addi turbo lace needles.  What followed was mostly chronicled in this blog post about facing my worst possible with the Princess

What I should also add is that after I fixed the mistake I continued to work with the addi lace needles until it became blaringly obvious that the metal in the needles was reacting to my hands and was blackening both the knitting and my hands.  This was not entirely unexpected.  When the addi lace needles were first released I tried them...and had the exact same thing happen.  At the time there were reports that this wasn't that uncommon, that there had perhaps been a manufacturing problem with the first few batches.  Problem or not, I returned all of the lace needles I had purchased.  I had been completely grossed out by the tarnishing needles, and couldn't imagine what horrors that tarnish could cause in the yarn.  I noticed 'grunge' showing up on the Princess right before the break happen, but thought maybe I had just not washed my hands well.  When the problem didn't go away but got worse, and when I had black streaks show up on my hands where they came into contact with the needles I knew it wasn't a fluke.  Lucky me, my body chemistry hates the addi lace needles. 

So I transferred the needles to the Gossamer Web needles.  Let me say first of all that the joins are beautiful.  I was STUNNED when the needles slid back and forth from cable to needle tip with absolutely no problem at all.  The bamboo was smoother than I expected, which was very nice, and the tips were very pointy indeed.  It lasted only a few rows, though.  The big problem was the actual cable.  I think perhaps it was a tad wider than the 2.0 mm needles, and it was most certainly made of a very 'sticky' plastic.  While I had no problems sliding the yarn over the joins getting them there was a nightmare.  (My guess is that on the bigger needle sizes this isn't a problem at all.)  Quite literally the stitches were getting very stuck on those cables...to the point that I was actually worried that they were going to break.  Also, I couldn't get past the fragility of the needletips.  I felt like I was doing some fairly drastic compensating with my normal movements to make sure I didn't break a needle...and eventually that would have effected gauge. 

Fortuantely, the wonderful Bonnie of Blue Penninsula had made a suggestion in the comments of my last post on the subject.  She suggested Hiya Hiya stainless steel circulars.  I admit that at this point I was becoming a bit desperate and was also sceptical as h***.  However, I ordered a set from The Loopy Ewe, and waited patiently for them to arrive. 

Dear friends and family, I am in love.  The pointiness of the tips falls somewhere between the Gossamer Web bamboos and the addi lace needles.  The stainless steel is ever so slightly roughed up so that it's not quite as slick as the original addis, but it's nowhere near the annoying gripiness of the addi lace coating.  The important part, though, is that the joins are absolutely perfect.  I've literally cut 10-15 minutes of knitting time off of each and every row because I no longer have to stop and coax the stitches over the joins.  This has made me a very, very happy knitter.  I've now done about 20 rows on the new needles, and so far the joins are holding up just fine.  While there isn't a lifetime guarantee on the Hiya Hiyas (and God Bless Addi Turbos for that guarantee!), they are about half the cost of my addis...so if I do have to occasionally replace them (which I'm starting to think I won't) than it's not going to be tragic.

So I'm back to happily working away on my Princess shawl....problem solved.  Now that the needle problem is fixed I'm cruising along at a really nice pace and am now about half way through the feather border.  (Which is 200 or so rows...at 865 stitches/row)  Pictures will come soon....promise!

I thought seriously about taking some comparison photos for this post....but given my camera it's really tough to get detail shots sometimes and we are talking about needles that are practically the size of toothpicks.  I know my own limitations!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday, Monday...Again!

  • No, I did crawl under a rock or fall down a rabbit hole last week.
  • I did, however, have a bit of a relapse with the pneumonia....and spent much of the week as a coughing mess. 
  • Yuck. 
  • Some good news!  My personal trainer did an evaluation at our last appointment, and I made considerable progress with overall strength.  I love having muscles. 
  • More good news!  My Princess ran for the student senate last week and won!  She wrote a pretty amazing speech (all by herself) and created a poster for her campaign.  We are very proud.  I'm not entirely sure what an elementary student senate does....but I'm not at all surprised she wanted to be a part of it.  My girl is a natural-born leader.
  • Even more good news!  The Pixie and I read a book together for the first time over the weekend.  She managed most of the words on her own!  I LOVE this stage.  It's so much fun to watch your children discover they can read all by themselves....and to see the whole world open up to them in a brand new way.
  • The Boy and I are in a bit of a stand-off over food.  I refuse to let him live on a diet of all-brown and white.  He refuses almost all fruits, veggies and meats.  Project sneaky babysitter begins this week.  What he doesn't know about what I sneak into his food....His mom and I are plotting.  Love him like crazy, and I want to make sure he has the best nutrition possible.
  • Meanwhile, the Cupcake has discovered she can climb...and boy is she proud of herself.  Keeps me hopping! 
  • Oh, and last week I discovered the Cupcake standing in the dog water bowl, soaking wet up to her knees and laughing with great joy.  It was pretty funny, and we've been laughing about it since. 
  • My husband's Halloween decorations have gone to completely new places this year. 
  • Wow. 
  • Come Christmas there won't be anything out front...but you should see our entryway now.  He's planning on taking the girls to look for MORE decorations this week.  I just smile and nod, happy that they are so happy.
  • We had mild frost last week!  Two days of weirdly high temps, and the colder weather should set in.  Yay!  Death to all ragweed!  Hello to warm woolies! 
  • I know...I'm nuts when it comes to the cold weather.  It's just so much easier to warm up than it is to cool off.
Have a great week everyone!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday, Monday

Herc checking out the wethers through the fence. 
They are jealous of his spiffy, wool-protecting coat.
  • The weather is cooling off, and frost is predicted for this week!  I am a happy, happy girl!
  • I want wool, coffee, pumpkin muffins and more wool.  I will get wool, tea, whatever fruit I can find and more wool.  It's all good. 
  • I got a new sock book in the mail last week, and immediately started working on one of it's patterns.  More on that later this week...for now, just know that I am in love with the project.
  • I did order new needles for my Princess, and until they arrive it's on hold.
  • Today I had my last appointment with my trainer.  Sean has said I should hire her for more training since my time with her was made less effective by the pneumonia that rampaged through our house - forcing me to stay home for most of last month.  We'll see.  With the holidays coming, and having just been on vacation I don't know that I can justify the expense. 
  • Ditto for the hair.  I really, REALLY want red hair again...but the upkeep is prohibitive.  (Red fades considerably faster than any other color, and I would need to go in monthly.)
  • My eldest child had a big disappointment this weekend, and I'm in full mama-bear mode.
  • My littlest is proving to be a night-owl just like Daddy.  Big sigh.
  • My husband shaved for the last time yesterday until January.  Yay!  I love beard season! 
  • Last night I had a dream that was so obvious in it's symbolism that I almost have to laugh.  Normally my dreams aren't quite so blunt.  However, it is rather unusual for a new motif to show up in my dreams, so it will get some thought this week.
Have a great week everyone!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Now That The Worst Has Happened,

My biggest fear with the Princess shawl has been that a stitch would catch on the join between needle and cable and snap.  I knew this wasn't a hypothetical, that it was just a matter of time.  Sure enough, yesterday morning I found a broken stitch as I was working my way across a row. 

Drat. 

Now that it's happened, however, I can move on knowing it's not the end of the world. 

Yes, it takes lots and lots of time to carefully backtrack - undoing all of the stitches until you come to the break, and then going back even further so that you can add the new yarn.  Yes, joining new yarn when you are dealing with such fragile work is a pain in the you know what.  Yes, I would far rather be happily adding new stitches than fixing this type of problem.  Yes, there is the stress of making sure you didn't drop any stitches, and/or of having to fix any runs that have happened. 

But it happens, you deal with it, and you move on. 

Knitting problems have never bothered me all that much. 

The bigger issue is what to do about those joins. 

I quickly abandoned my original addi turbos after finishing the edging because the joins had become loose after an earlier project.  They were thus ok for the edging, but once I had to move stitches over the join they had to go.  The current needle is an addi lace needle...and while the (very, very slightly) more pointed needle is nice I hated whatever they coated the needles with to give them more grip.  I, quite perversely, like my needles to be as slick as possible, and it took a good 20+ rows to wear most of that junk off of the needles!  Besides, as with the plain addis, the joins obviously loosen after time making them a problem.  Addis do come with a lifetime guarantee, but if I have to go through the roughly  6-12 sets it would take at this rate I think I would seriously test the patience of the local yarn shop owners. 

I did buy a bamboo circular from The Gossamer Web, and while the joins look superb they are bamboo...and are thus both fragile and too 'sticky' for my taste.  I am debating whether or not to try them...and leaning towards not. 

I had hoped to finish the first of the three charts for the feather border this week, but instead I think I'll set it aside and figure out what I want to do about this perplexing problem!  As always, suggestions are welcome. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Things I DIDN'T Do On Our Vacation

  1. Freak out on the airplane.  My acting skills are obviously improving.  I still hate airplanes, but I can tolerate them now...and as with the tornadoes, I'm proud of the fact that my girls have no idea of exactly how much they terrify me.
  2. Knit a single stitch.  Seriously.  I took two projects, and didn't touch either all week long.  I keep telling you all that while I enjoy knitting I don't necessarily knit for fun.  Lest you think I was just too busy...there would have been plenty of time.
  3. Worry about my food/allergies/health/appearance in general.  Rather nice to not think about all of that stuff for a week, actually. 
  4. Avoid pictures.  This is rather new for me.  In fact, I jumped in front of every Disney photo pass photographer I found!  LOVE those people! 
  5. Plan too much.  We had basic dinner reservations for our dining plan, but other than that we went where we wanted, when we wanted.  It works for us.  Over scheduling a vacation seems counterintuitive.
  6. Get upset over losing my (rather pricey and sentimentally important) troll bead bracelet on our last day in the parks.  Gram always said you shouldn't cry over things that money can replace - and while we can't afford to replace it just now, it's loss in no way diminishes how wonderful the rest of the trip was.  I'm just not upset about it at all.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The View From My Knitting

 Every afternoon my daughter's cat, Shamrock, joins me on the couch for some snuggle time while the extra kids are asleep.  If I'm lucky, the view from my knitting looks like this.
 She is a kitten, though, and so normally it looks like this....
 and then this...
 Getting a bit nutty...
 kittens....
 what can you do?