Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What The?! ... August Reading

This should tell you just how off my entire month was.

I only read three books.

You read that right....three. I think my average is somewhere around 8-10, with half of those being audio and the other half being print.

1. Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West, Dorothy Wickenden (ebook) This book came with multiple recommendations - from Books on the Nightstand and NPR. It is a nonfiction book, based upon the authress's family history and the letters written by our two society girls, Dorothy and Ros. I absolutely adored this book, which tells the story of two well-educated society girls who just decided to go teach school in Colorado in the early part of the last century. Wickenden is a great storyteller, and you can tell that she loves her subjects dearly. Along the way, she also talks about many of the characters that Dorothy and Ros met along the way, discusses historical events important to the story and to the character of her two main subjects, and introduces the reader to a place and time that perhaps aren't all that well known in the larger subject of American History. Really, if you love reading about women who have more than their share of gumption, you'll love this book.

2. 44 Scotland Street and 3. Espresso Tales - (CD audio, library) by Alexander McCall Smith. Light and fun, these books are exactly the sort of non-taxing audio that I needed this month. I actually checked out all five books in the series, and the next three are already loaded into my computer, waiting for me to find the time to listen to them. (I am catching up on my podcasts right now.) The Scotland Street novels were originally published in serialized form in a daily newspaper, and there is a bit of information from the author on the first book that explains what special requirements that created for both his writing process and the story itself. These are quiet books about everyday life with people you are very likely to meet and know in a city, so if you are looking for big action they aren't for you. If you love great characters, though.... By the way, Smith has created a villianess so vile in Irene that if I knew someone named Irene I'd be tempted to call her and yell at her just because of the unfortunate circumstances of her name. That's how much I loathe the character!

It's probably that I'll finish a fourth book before tomorrow, so I'm going to go ahead and include it here:

4. Silver Sparrow, Tayari Jones (library e-book) Add an NPR author interview to the same list of recommendations that Nothing Daunted received, and you have a book I couldn't pass up - especially when it showed up on the library's ebook list. It's not a spoiler to tell you that this book is about the two separate families of a man who commits bigamy. The first half is the story of the daughter in the second, illegal family - who actually knows about the first family. The second half (which I just started last night) is told from the perspective of the daughter in the first family, which knows nothing at all of the father's duplicity. I'm enjoying it, but I'm glad that I checked it out of the library, and I don't think it's going to stay with me for very long.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday

The Pixie in my Jr. Prom dress

A Princess and her cat


  • My focus really has been on the girls for the last couple of weeks...

  • Which is part of why there haven't been as many posts as I had hoped for.

  • The Princess is ecstatic to be back at school, and is loving every minute of it!

  • The Pixie...not so much.

  • The Princess started EEE - our gifted program - last Wed., and is hoping she made it into her top selections for her major and minor classes.

  • She's a chip off the old block. Her top choice for her major is on animals and extinction - which was my major class in Missouri Scholars Academy back when I was 16. Her first choice for her minor? A writing class.

  • The Pixie spends a lot of time daily trying to convince me to let her stay home with me. She likes school - but she doesn't ever want to go back.

  • For the first time ever, she's being confronted with a strict teacher (not necessarily a bad thing), and so her first full week wasn't so smooth.

  • I can tell that she feels as if she has no control over her life anymore - she spends her days doing what other people want her to - and for now that is dimming her light a bit.

  • Sigh.

  • It hurts to see my baby so stressed out.

  • Double sigh.

  • Also, I'm working in the afternoons to help my two wee extras readjust to the schedule at my house. The Boy is taking it fairly well, although he misses the Pixie. Cupcake is still mad because she'd rather spend her afternoons with her Mom. (Can't blame her! Her mom is super-fun!)

  • In some ways, babysitting the two of them without either of my girls home is easier...I hadn't realized just how loud The Boy and the Pixie could be, or just how much they were behaving like squabbling siblings towards the end of the last school year. My afternoons are definitely quieter, and The Boy now spends his time talking to me....which is always a hoot! (He's 3...and talkative....and as cute as a button!)

  • Then again, the half hour they all have here to play after we pick the girls up in the afternoon is insane! May have to figure out a plan to get them to all calm down.

  • The other big schedule change is that I am now back in the gym again.

  • I have a new trainer, who I am going to be seeing twice/week through September to help me really get back into the swing of things. She is great at pushing me in just the way I like to be pushed.

  • I was very sore all of last week, which I rather bizarrely loved!

  • I also got one of my full speed interval treadmill workouts in - being good and walking so as not to damage the hip flexor again. (It's healed, but still a bit tender after lengthy workouts.)

  • My BKB and I started walking the trail last week, and have scheduled one workout together/ week. (Literally, we sat down with our calendars on Saturday.) For now we may stick to trail walking - which is great. I don't feel a need to push as hard as I was, and I don't remember the last time I walked the trail with a friend just to walk.

  • The plan: two strength training sessions/week, two strong cardio sessions (most likely walking/running...but I may try a spinning class soon) and one or two 'fun' workouts (walk or bike the trail).

  • There is also a distinct possibility that I'll switch it up a bit more and add some yoga into the mix. I'll be honest...I need the relaxation part.

And on that note, I need to get my day started.


Have a great week everyone!



Sunday, August 28, 2011

More On The Blanket




  • My creative life has been centered around the Scrapbook Blanket for the last week....good for my heart and soul, bad for the blog.

  • I love to look at all of the yarn!

  • Some stats: The blanket will be about 20 x 30 squares, which will make it big enough to cover my queen-sized bed, draping over the edges just a smidge. As of last night I had 307 squares done, or 27%. All in all, there will be 1,151 squares...meaning I have 844 to go.

  • I haven't hit the point yet where I'm fussing too much and need to put the blanket away.


  • I *might* add in single squares of the sock yarns in my stash.


  • Actually, that's a *probably*


  • While technically I have enough yarn to do the entire blanket now, variety is still a concern, so I am going to continue to collect and add yarn.


  • To explain - I have roughly 100 different yarn balls in the basket, and many of the smaller ones will only yield another 1 - 3 squares, leaving me to rely more heavily on the larger balls as we go. I don't want to get to the top 1/3 of the blanket and find that I have considerably fewer options up there than I did at the bottom of the blanket.


  • Given that, I have started to edit my palette a bit. I pulled solid colors which were over represented, and may pull the few yarns that I just don't like.


  • The odd thing about that is that even if I don't like the yarn, it may look fabulous in the blanket...so maybe I won't.


  • I've found that it's really important to be able to lay the blanket out on the kitchen table so that I can step back and make sure the color/large block placement is remaining random. The blanket is rapidly nearing a time when that won't be possible, though, and I'm a bit concerned about what I'm going to do when that happens!


  • Speaking of the large squares - sort of - I'm shooting for 15-20 of them, many of them representing people in my life.


  • I do have about 1/5 skeins of the yarn I'm going to use for the i-cord edging. I might go ahead and start adding that on soon. I dread i-cord, and the edging is thus a daunting task. I don't want to leave it all to the end...because honestly if I do the blanket might never be finished!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Rules

This is the most recent picture of the blanket. It's actually grown since it was taken.



  1. There are no hard and fast rules for the scrapbook blanket.

  2. The blanket is only to be worked on when the mood hits, and there are no deadlines or timetables. (In other words, it is not to be forced!)

  3. Collect as many scrap yarns from friends as possible.

  4. Each and every person who contributes to the blanket is to be acknowledged in the blog.

  5. New yarns jump to the front of the line and are immediately added into the blanket.

  6. Attempt to work through each yarn in the basket once before reusing a yarn. (This is admittedly becoming more difficult as the number of different yarns grows.)

  7. Use every color available/given except for white and black.

  8. Be open to using white and black if the mood hits.

  9. Color placement is to be as random as possible.

  10. Larger squares are also to be as random as possible

  11. When I find myself fussing a bit too much over color placement and/or the placement of the larger squares, it's time to put the blanket away for a while.

  12. The process of knitting this blanket is to be savoured...as are the memories and friends present in each and every square.

  13. By its nature, this is a slow project, and that slowness is a gift to be enjoyed and appreciated.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday

Today I:


  • Woke early after the first good night of sleep I've had in months.

  • Celebrated that good night by actually writing in my journal for a bit.

  • Wished that I had packed my camera along when I saw my girls walk into the school together, hand in hand.

  • Met my new personal trainer, who is exactly the sort of trainer I wanted.

  • Remembered how wonderful those tough workouts could be...as evidenced by the fact that I got the giggles half way through when the endorphins kicked in.

  • Left the gym feeling all shaky and weak....and very, very happy.

  • Bought a whole cart full of 'fun' foods to jazz up my girls' lunches.

  • Laughed at the dogs' failed attempt to get into the new trashcan.

  • Made a little boy very happy by fixing his favorite lunch.

  • Made a baby laugh by changing her poopy diapers. Who knew that could be so funny?!

  • Snuggled both of my borrowed children, appreciating them greatly.

  • Caught up on a few of my favorite podcasts.

  • Was proud of my eldest daughter when I heard her own up to one of her shortcomings.

  • Worried about my youngest's adjustment to school.

  • Tried out my new mandolin kitchen slicer. How, oh how?! did I ever live without one?!

  • Made Remy's Ratatouille. It was quite possibly the most beautiful food I've ever made.

  • Took pictures of said dish. I am so not a food photographer.

  • Laughed over the fact that I made cartoon food because the idea of cartoon food has been a running joke in our household for YEARS.

  • Worked on my scrapbook blanket quite a bit. Good for the soul.

  • Snuggled two little girls as they got ready for bed....adding some extra love to help ease them through the transition.

It was a very ordinary and very good day.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

When It Just Isn't Fun

I've been rather dissatisfied with my knitting lately.


My Tree Of Life socks (as you know) have annoyed me, none of the other projects currently on the needles have been appealing, and I haven't wanted to start anything new. The end of summer lethargy and back to school stress haven't helped as both have left me with little desire to actually sit down and knit.


The last time I felt this way, I wound up crying on my BKB's shoulder about the fact that I felt my knitting life was coming to an end. As it would turn out, my heart and soul at the time was rebelling against my crazy knitting lists and plans. (I seriously had enough projects listed to keep me busy for probably five years.) I tore up the lists, separated any yarns and patterns that had been paired already, and got back to the business of knitting whatever seemed interesting in the moment. Within less than a week my knitting mojo was back.


I'm not entirely sure if I have figured out what's going on this time....or if I simply need a break from my needles for a while. Perhaps having so few WIPs at a time isn't as good for me as I had thought it would be? Who knows.


At any rate, I did figure out one wee problem this morning. I had a fairly decent block of time to sit and knit before some planned activities, and I wanted to work on something other than socks. As there were only two other projects in my knitting bag, I chose the lace shawl pictured above...mostly because I adore working silk.


So I pulled out pattern and project, set myself up in my bedroom,


and then just stared at it for a few minutes.


I hated the portion of the pattern I was working on. It had taken me weeks to get through a mere five rows because it was so dull....five rows of a 20 row chart which needed to be repeated three times in the size I had selected. I didn't want to do it. I was trying because I had loved that pattern for so long, but I really, really didn't want to knit that pattern. I've been here before....and ultimately there was only one decision.


Off the needles it came!


I knew I had made the right decision when my only thought as the last stitches slid off the needles was, 'huh...this thing would have been pretty big.'


A little while later the entire thing was frogged, the copy of the pattern was in the recycling bin and the needles and yarn were tucked back into their homes in my craft corner. I didn't exactly feel happy...but I was satisfied with my decision.


I know my non-knitting friends have trouble understanding why it is so easy for me to take apart a project that may have hours and hours invested in it. If it's not right, though, it's just not right. There's no sense in continuing to bang my head on a brick wall..and I think that's what this project was starting to feel like.


Besides, as my wonderful friends at the guild always say, knitting is supposed to be fun.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Opinions?

I finished the foot of my first Tree Of Life sock yesterday, and, well.... I'm not crazy about the foot or toe. The fit is fine, but the yarn is a bit finer than other yarns I've used for colorwork, so the gauge is looser. We all know how I feel about that! Plus, the striped pattern seems to have made the gauge even looser on the top of the foot - to the point where the knitting looks sloppy. (No such problem on the bottom with a checkerboard pattern.)
I adore the pattern on the leg, though!

Which is why I'm so annoyed that I don't love the entire sock. (Also, the pattern on the top of the foot doesn't show well - especially around the edges - because of the loose gauge.)



So here are some options. Please feel free to leave comments as to what you think I should or should not do. As always, I promise nothing.



Option 1: Leave as is, do second sock. Pro: One sock is already completely done. Con: don't like the gauge or the sloppy look to the top, will have to a second foot.



Option 2: Rip back to heel flap and do a plain foot in one or the other color. Pro: will get a much better gauge for the foot, which will help it wear better. Con: Won't be as warm since it's one layer only. Will have to redo half of a sock.



Option 3: Forget making a second sock and use this one for a variety of cozys and/or wall art. Pro: DONE! Con: I wouldn't have a pair.



Option 4: Leave it in the knitting basket for a few months and hope the Green Woman decides to finish it for me. Pro: DONE! Con: Obvious.



So what do you think?



Kindergarten and Third Grade, Here We Come!



















Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Playing Catch Up

My Rosy Opal socks!



My basic sock pattern - a la Ann Budd



2.0 mm Knit Picks Harmony needles



Opal something or another



March 21-August 10, 2011



OK...so I'm being a bit ridiculous, but how annoying is it that the stripes managed to match themselves up all on their own?!!! I prefer my socks to be off-kilter, which I think is infinitely more fun than going to the great lengths some knitters do to make sure their self-striping sock yarns match in a pair of socks. This is the second pair that has matched, and I find I'm a bit put-off by it.


That, however, didn't stop me from putting them on just as soon as sock #2 came off of the needles. I was at Starbucks for the day, and it was cold. (The gentleman sitting next to me thought this was hilarious for some reason...) They are nice and toasty, which is as it should be.



Last week at my monthly Knitting Study group (through CWSG) I received this fun leftover ball of sock yarn from our other Janet. Janet has a heart of gold - as evidenced by the fact that much of her knitting seems to be gifts for family and friends. She has a tendency to like fun yarn and color, often coming up with color combinations that I love. Thank you Janet for adding a bit to my blanket!





Before I sign off for the day, I did want to address a comment from yesterday's post. Regarding the Columbia Star Dinner Train, someone questioned our trip because at one point I had sworn off of eating out because of my food allergies. Whoever you were, you were absolutely right. My knee-jerk reaction to my food allergies was that I was never, ever going to go eat out again because it just wasn't worth it.

Time, however, has made me rethink that particular decision with the following conclusions:



  1. I am not an island, and my family members - husband included - deserve to have normal experiences like eating out.



  2. Most of the time it is NOT worth eating out, and in fact our excursions (which weren't that frequent anyway) are very rare indeed now.



  3. Chain restaurants of any variety are no longer an option for me. When we do go out, I need to go to privately owned places with chefs who are able to adjust to my dietary restrictions. The benefit to this is that the atmosphere/experience portion of the meal is infinitely better at those places which more than makes up for the things I can't actually eat.



  4. I have to be my own best advocate, communicating my needs as clearly as possible to my wait staff. People are friendly, and they want your experience to be as good as possible!



  5. I am in an unmasking phase where the true nature of my allergies is really revealing itself. It's been an education, and it's been a bit scary at times. (I talked to my allergist this weekend about my reactions...she confirmed all of this is normal.) One thing I've learned is that when my allergens are cooked and of better quality the reactions tend to be much smaller. Therefor if I do go out and something sneaks onto my plate, so long as I'm in one of those better restaurants I'm not likely to have more than a bad tummy ache with some of the more annoying (but considerably less frightening) accompanying reactions.



  6. Having said that, my EpiPen and Bendryl now accompany me everywhere.

Hope this explains a bit!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hello Fall!

You all know how much I love to organize and sort my yarn. Last Friday I pulled all of my sock yarn from the dresser - partially so that I could look at my Loopy Ewe purchases in the greater context of what I already had. Believe it or not, I don't have nearly as much of a yarn stash as some of my friends do!

I have always enjoyed writing my random(ish) posts, and so as we celebrate the return of school, of a more regular schedule, and of my extra kiddos this week I thought I would also return to my random Monday posts.




  • For Father's Day I made arrangements with a lovely young woman at church for her to babysit the girls once/month so that Sean and I could have a regular date night.


  • You all should be so lucky. Not only is our sitter completely trustworthy, but she is exactly the sort of teenager that you want as a roll model for little girls.


  • Sean was so excited about the whole plan that he made special arrangements for our first date night - which was this last Saturday. He treated me with an evening trip on the Columbia Star Dinner Train.


  • I actually guessed where we were going a couple of weeks in advance - but I didn't tell him that until we were almost there. Irregardless, it was a wonderful surprise to find out that I was right, and then to discover that the actual trip and dinner was every bit as special as I'd hoped it would be.


  • I really love riding on trains!


  • The running joke is that we spent the evening "Going to Hogwarts" which MY NEW IPHONE auto corrected to "Hogweeds" when I texted my BKB to tell her I had been right.


  • You have no idea of how happy I am to have an iPhone. Hallelujah!


  • I am very glad my children are home.


  • Ordinarily I really enjoy my time when the girls go spend a week with my parents. This last week, though, I was oddly off. Very little was accomplished all week, as I was overwhelmed by an odd sense of lethargy.


  • In talking to friends, I've decided that maybe I was just that worn out by this summer.


  • Frustrating.


  • Speaking (sort of) of Harry Potter, we finally watched HP 7.1 at home last week (I'm still not sure how or why we missed that one in the theater.) and then went to see HP 7.2.


  • A couple of thoughts. 1. I am not exactly new to fantasy violence in movies. 2. Nor am I new to fantasy violence/evil directed at children given my love for young adult/children's literature - much of which falls squarely into the fantasy genres.


  • Where am I going? HP 7.2 bothered me. It bothered me a lot. I wanted to scream at the screen, "THEY ARE CHILDREN! STOP!" I absolutely loved the book, but apparently when the action steps out of my mind into actual visuals I freak out....for all that they didn't dwell on it as they could have.


  • I'm going to reread the books....I have the audio versions checked out from the library. I think that will restore HP to my good graces.


  • I need to do a post on the follow-up from the family reunion. For now suffice it to say that the language of craft is a wonderful thing and I"m delighted to discover as an adult that I have a lot in common with some of my distant cousins.


  • I have a few sessions with a new trainer over the next few weeks to help me jump start my exercise routine again. Yeah!


  • Just to be perfectly clear...my food allergies are REAL, and YES I WAS tested for them, and YES I do have noticable and sometimes severe reactions to my allergens...especially as I've now been clear of them for quite some time. Sad that I have to say it, but there you go. If you are one of those people who find this to be incredulous, please contact me. I would love to have a conversation with you about my allergies.


  • JoJo the llama is safely out of danger now that the heat wave has broken. Mom and Dad will continue with their cooling efforts until the weather drops down to the 70's for good...but for now it's safe to say that he's going to be just fine.


  • The wee sheepies are not so wee anymore. You can barely tell the difference between them and the mamas.


  • I must get going. The girls still need back to school outfits and shoes, and as my extra little ones will be here in a few hours we need to go asap!


  • Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Take Two

After the debacle that was Christmas of 2010, we decided to let the girls decide how they wanted to handle replacing their Guinea Pigs. (May the little souls RIP)


The Princess was so traumatized by the whole thing that she decided never again....and that's how we wound up with Shamrock the wonder cat.


My Pixie, on the other hand.....


She was clear from the get-go that she wanted to try a Guinea Pig again.

Before the girls came home this weekend, I went to a local pet store (no more big box stores and potentially contaminated breeding sources for us!) - which gets their G Pigs from local pet owners who randomly have babies - and I brought home Piggie and supplies for the Pixie.


She was ecstatic!

So far his name has been Henry, Humphrey and Fireball. We're still not sure which she's going to settle on...but any way you go he's pretty sweet!


Already (fill in name here) is better socialized than the Christmas Pigs ever were. The manager's kids were in the store the day I picked him out, and they helped me pick the friendliest of the two little males they had on hand. The manager told me single pigs tend to be better pets as they bond better with their owners. This goes against everything I've ever been told about Guinea Pigs because they are herd animals....but already seems to be proving true. (Nameless) doesn't hide when you walk in the room, he doesn't run when you open the cage and pet him, and already the Pixie can pick him up and play with him on her own. None of that ever happened with the Christmas bunch - and they were in the house for well over a month.


We did have two conditions for getting the new G Pig. One, Pixie had to clean her room and then keep it clean for at least a week - a tough, tough chore for my little tornado. Two, we had to wait until the heat broke because transporting a small rodent in such horrendous weather could have been disastrous. I'm glad both of those things happened before school started. My Pixie is more than a bit anxious about starting kindergarten, and it is my hope that her new friend will help ease the transition.


And my oh my...I am such a sucker. I do love having a Guinea Pig in the house!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tidbits

In case you thought I'd fallen off of the earth....


While it is true that for the most part I've spent the week in an odd state of lethargy, recovering perhaps from the summer, I have done some fun things. My friend Shelda and I went to visit The Loopy Ewe in St. Louis yesterday....and I must say I'm feeling VERY fortunate to have been able to visit before they move to Colorado.
I spun 4 oz. of singles earlier this week...which will make a two ply fingering yarn. Hopefully I'll have time to ply it this evening.

I've put in steady work on my Tree of Life socks.


I also did finish a pair of basic socks, attended my monthly guild meeting, and that's about it.


In a few minutes I'm off to visit with my BKB...and tomorrow the girls will come home!


Regular posting will resume this weekend.

Friday, August 5, 2011

An Old, Comforting Friend

It is a simple truth.


I am a shy person who doesn't do well in large, social gatherings. Small groups are fabulous. One on one situations are even better. More than that, I get nervous and all goes downhill. In fact, the more people there are, the higher my anxiety level is. We won't discuss the details of how I tend to behave in such situations...but it's not pretty. As a result, I avoid parties like the plague, refused a head table at my own wedding so as not to be so prominently on display and get so stressed out at the idea of a reunion that I want to go to bed for a week.


In my own defense, I come by it naturally and can point to any number of family members who feel the same way (though not my own parents). I don't tend to look at it as a character flaw....it's just part of who I am, and most people who know and love me understand that.


You can thus imagine how I felt when my parents were placed in charge of Dad's family reunion this year....and decided to turn it into a day-long, full-blown extravaganza.


The good news is that I am gifted with a fairly hefty dose of self-confidence when it comes to performing for the public. All of my jobs have required either some form of public speaking or demonstration, and I've found that once I slip on the persona of 'resident expert' I become considerably more comfortable in those large social situations. It's even better when I'm doing some sort of working demonstration because then I'm not only 'on' for the performance, but I'm also distracted by and focused on whatever it is that I'm demonstrating. (And yes, I know that all of this creates a somewhat disingenuous portrayal of myself as I am basically acting instead of just being me. If you don't like it, too bad, it's a good survival tactic.)


I'm not at all sure if my parents were actually considering any of this when they asked me to do a sheep to shawl demo for the reunion, but God Bless them anyway. I started doing spinning demonstrations when I was 14, and can easily escape into the comfort of that old friend. I've gathered wheel, spindles, fiber, handspun yarn and finished projects to show off. It's my armor, and it's all good. I just might survive the family reunion with my sanity intact!


PS. My dear family - I do love you all.....I just would rather see you in smaller groups!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

(Not-So) Lazy Days of Summer

This is what I wish I could have been doing this week!




I have spent most of the week working to get the kids and the house in order for the 2011-12 school year, which for us will begin on August 18th. It's going to be a big year for us. The Pixie will start kindergarten, my Princess enters the gifted program, my lovely borrowed kiddos will be back in the afternoons, and I will start working with a trainer again. Also, we are in the process of rescheduling our missed vacation sometime in the next few months. I'm sure you can imagine the type of prep work all of this requires!


Plus, and I'm ashamed to admit this, the heat finally got to all of us about a week ago, which has created a rather odd lethargic state for all of us. You know it's bad when the girls would rather stay home and clean their rooms rather than go to the pool!

Which is why the Green Woman and I have been silent. My apologies for not putting up a quick note to warn you of our absence earlier in the week. (I know that we have family members who read my blog regularly and worry when they don't hear from me a few times every week.) Posts are likely to be spotty until we settle into the routine of the school year.