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.

  • 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.


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.


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.


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.