Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Back In Time - January Books

Print:

Before I get into the actual books, I'd like to point out that all three of my print books attempted to go back in time through both literary style and actual setting.  It was pure coincidence as I just read what sounded good...but it does provide an interesting comparisson. 
  1. Jamrach's Menagerie, Carol Birch - Truly, it was not what I expected, but was absolutely beautiful and has really stuck with me.  Of the three, this book is the one that stylistically reads like a period/classic book.  In fact, in some ways it out-Dickens Dickens, which was fascinating.  I don't want to spoil anything, but I will say that it's not for the faint of heart.  Parts of the book are absolutely devastating, but there is such beauty and hope in the end that it was worth it for me.
  2. The Woman In Black, Susan Hill - Made mistake of reading ending before going to bed.  Nightmares all night - even though I pretty much knew what was coming.  Sadly, this book was a stylistic mess.  One should not have to reread paragraphs in a ghost story multiple time to try to puzzle out what they mean.  Hill wanted to recreate a Victorian(ish) style...and she got lost in it.  Fortunately, her plot made up for it, and now I can't wait to see the movie!
  3. Death Comes To Pemberly, P.D. James - More fun than I thought it would be.  Brilliant, in fact!  I  have studiously avoided all send-ups of my beloved Jane Austin, but I heard so many wonderful things about this book that I thought I would give it a try.  I laughed out loud, quoted parts in my journal, and ultimately think Austin would have loved. 
Audio:
  1. Night, Elie Wiesel - Devastating. 
  2. Watership Down, Richard Adams - It's been at least 20 years since I read this one, and I had forgotten how much I loved it.  I also appreciate the fact that though anthropomorphised with personality, Adam's rabbits and creatures aren't allowed to do anything they couldn't actually do and follow their species' traits really well.
  3. The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy - Had never read.  5 min in wanted to scream because I remembered Hardy was the author of my all time most reviled book (Tess, if you want to know.  Hate it with a passion.)  HOWEVER, I really enjoyed it and found myself very emotionally invested.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Thoughts On A Monday

Crazy cat still runs when she sees a camera...and it's been almost a year. 
Never seen anything like it before. 

  • Margene was right.  I've bought a new sketch book (because new is very good in these situations) and have started again.
  • I have no illusions of grandeur...I just want to be able to sketch enough to please myself.
  • The weather is seriously starting to annoy me.
  • We all have colds.  Yuck.
  • Starting this week, weekends will be knitting-free for a while.  I'm letting myself be so busy with my knitting projects that I don't ever get around to any of the things I want to do, and this seems to be a good way to try to shift that for a bit. 
  • We'll see.  Might instead just make me crazy.
  • Thanks also to Margene, I have learned of The Month Of Letters, and have decided to join.  It fits right in with some other personal goals right now.
  • After very great debate, I decided to remain an active P.E.O., even though my relationship with the organization has been rocky for the last two years.  (I would like to point out that my issues have nothing to do with the women in my chapter - who are all lovely, and wonderful to know.)
  • My kids are fantastic.  Did you know that?
  • January is traditionally a tough month for me....and this year is no different.
  • My cold is derailing my plan to get back to the gym this week.  Who wants to work out when they can't breath?!
  • I feel some spring cleaning/organization coming along.
  • There is a great need in my heart to finish the Princess Shawl....It feels as if it's the last thing I need to do before something big starts to happen...Can't explain it any better than that.
  • As it will be 66 degrees this afternoon, I think I will take a walk.
Have a fantastic week everyone!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

For Cathy


Way back in the early days of the blog I spoke a few times about my desire to learn how to draw.  For some reason, it's always seemed to be a skill that was beyond me.  I certainly knew several classmates who were considerably more gifted than I...and as this was one thing that didn't come naturally I think I allowed myself to be well and truly scared off.

Perhaps we should discuss someday the fact that unless it comes easily I don't do it...it's a topic worth exploring for many, many reasons.

Anyway, I've been thinking a lot lately about my friend Cathy Johnson, who is a gifted artist and a very magical human being, and decided today to post something to make her smile.

SO, I present, two of my sketches from my short-lived attempt to learn how to draw back in 2008.  I'm actually quite fond of the first...and still have no idea how I managed to accurately reproduce the pattern from my knitting bag.  The second has always made me laugh because the source material was a picture of a sweet, happy bird and mine wound up looking rather p'd off.

Enjoy!

Monday, January 23, 2012

More Warm Hands

Look at that face...could you say no?


by Laura Nelkin
(another version of the pattern is available through Ravelry with more options)
Knit Picks Harmony DPN's...3.00mm
Knit Picks Palette - extra from Andean Chullo Kit - held double
January 19 - 22, 2012


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thoughts On A Sunday


  • We stayed home from church this morning.  The girls needed to work on their rooms, and I wasn't feeling my best.  I think that God understands that we sometimes need to rest and nest.
  • Our bird feeders are at long last welcoming flocks of our feathered friends....and I am once again spending long stretches of time at our back door watching them play and eat out on our porch.
  • Parenting sometimes stinks.  Now is one of those times.
  • I really need to work at becoming multi-craftual.  I have lots I want to do and try, and yet I seem to stick only to the things I know and am best at.  It feels like it could become a dangerous rut....or it could just be who I am.
  • This week will be the week I go back to the gym.  I am nervous, excited, frightened, annoyed, hopeful and resigned all in one.
  • Today I'm going to do some finish work.  It will be a good thing.
  • Another good thing will be the nap I'm going to take as soon as I finish this post. 
  • I have started to spend a lot of time in my little corner of the basement when working on  projects.  I would spend more time there...but it's really cold down there...especially the floor. 
  • There are rather inexplicable holes in the heels of two pair of relatively new socks....one of which is only six months old.  It's quite annoying.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Melissa

Melissa started out as my Mom's friend.  Truth be told, I have no idea how or when they met...just that one day my mother was always talking about Melissa. 

I know I met her for the first time when she came out to my parents' (disastrous) sheep shearing day last spring.  At the time, I was annoyed with my parents for inviting so many people to witness their second - and last - attempt at shearing sheep by themselves (They've hired a pro for this spring.), and so I'm quite sure I came across as surly.  Fortunately, she didn't hold this against me. 

Since then, I've gotten to know Melissa better and have come to admire her incredibly creative sense of exploration in all things fiber related.  She really lives the type of creative lifestyle that I aspire to...on the sort of farm that lives in my dreams.  Also, she has a fiber studio/cottage that is to die for!  I love going to visit for an afternoon or evening of fibery goodness.  At our last such visit, she finished the toe off of her very first pair of fingering weight socks...and I snagged the leftovers for my blanket! 

You can find Melissa on Etsy, where she makes the most fabulous things!  For the knitters among you, I can highly recommend her double point stitch holders. Santa brought her headbands to my girls for Christmas, and they've been worn almost every day since.

In fact...I need to go email her about a birthday present....

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Christmas Playhouse - Part 2, As Promised!

About three weeks before Christmas I sat down with the girls to write out their Christmas lists for the grandparents. (Normally, this is done around the time of Thanksgiving as I start getting pressure from all parties by early November for it...but what can I say, we were late this year.) As scribe, I dutifully recorded requests from each of them as well as the items they both wanted with as much detail as they gave me. When I transferred the list to email so that I could send it, I made sure to write it exactly as it had been dictated to me...good, bad and just plain nutty.

One of the things that had surprised me was that both girls requested a playhouse, tree house or fort. This had NEVER come up in conversation before, although it was something I had long wished for both of them. After all, I had a playhouse when I was a child, and I had loved it beyond measure. It never occurred to me that either set of grands would have any interest in providing it. Christmas lists are supposed to range from practical to fanciful dreams....it's fun to make them and it helps to teach kids that they don't always get what they ask for.

Anyway, you can imagine my surprise when I came home from an evening meeting a few days later to the news that my dad had called Sean because he had decided a Christmas Playhouse was exactly the project he wanted. I was THRILLED! and EXCITED! and AMAZED! (You would have thought he was building it for me. Ahem.)

Dad called me himself the next morning to discuss the plan. He was frustrated because he had initially wanted to build the girls a duplicate of the playhouse he and my grandfather had built me...but after an exhaustive search he had not been able to come up with the plans. (Honestly, mine was built about 30 years ago...and there's absolutely no reason why he should have found them.) Poor man was pretty upset.

Which is where my own magic comes into place.

I interrupted Dad's ramblings.... Dad, I found plans online six months ago for a playhouse that looks exactly like mine. I can't be sure, of course, that they are identical, but the similarity is eerie and according to the ebay listing they were initially drawn up well before you would have used them.

Remember when I said that I had loved my playhouse? and that I wanted one for the girls? Well, that had led me to do some poking about online way back when. I knew Sean and I couldn't justify the expense - not with flooring that needs to be replaced and a dream vacation that was already planned - but it was fun to periodically look at the plans and dream. My playhouse had been a very unique structure - an a-frame with a deck on the side, and with a real door (that locked!) and window. Little did I know...

Dad asked me to order the plans and have them sent to my house, which I did immediately. They took almost a week to arrive, putting us at that point less than two weeks from Christmas. To Dad's surprise, and my satisfaction, they did prove to be the same plans he'd used 30 years ago.

At which point the big hurdle had to be faced. We live in a neighborhood with a Homeowners Association and a set of draconian Covenants and Restrictions. According to that document, outbuildings of any sort are forbidden. Also, our HOA board is known for being rather hateful. I won't bore you with the details - which in any case are rather ridiculous - but I will tell you that Sean didn't think they would approve the playhouse while I maintained hope that they would have no reason not to, both of us using past history to prove our points.

Then...our Christmas Miracle...about four or five days before Christmas Sean got news that the playhouse had been APPROVED! Yay!

The game was on, and I plotted with Dad. All previous plans for Christmas were scrapped so that Dad could surprise the girls by Christmas.

On Christmas Eve my parents and my brother drove to Columbia with a cattle trailer full of building supplies. Dad had done as much as he could at home so much of the framework and base were already done and just needed to be assembled. Mom called when they were 20 minutes out and I hustled the girls out the door for a day of fun around town. (Which by the way, even when doing fun things it is very difficult to keep two small girls away from home for five hours on Christmas Eve.) Less than 5 minutes after we left my parents arrived and construction began. Fortunately, they finished about the time my patience and the girls ability to play along with my crazy plans wore out.

We arrived home in the late afternoon to find my family all inside enjoying coffee with Sean. After greetings and general chatter we sat down to exchange gifts. Dad put the girls on either side of them and gave them a card to read. On the card were instructions to follow the string to their Christmas gift. (Those of you who've been with me for a while know this is a time-honored tradition in my family. The BEST gifts ALWAYS come at the end of a string, and there is always at least one string under the tree.) Down the stairs, through the basement and out the back door they went...

To find their very own playhouse!

You've seen the pictures and probably can imagine how excited the girls were. By the time we came inside, they had planned years worth of play. It was an amazing end to an amazing couple of weeks. In fact, it may have been the best Christmas surprise EVER. (There is some debate as to who was more excited...the girls or me. We shall leave that for others to decide.)

The unseasonably warm weather really helped us out over the next couple of weeks. Dad was able to come down a few days after Christmas and over the course of three days he and Sean were able to get almost all of the work done. (Sean was on vacation from Christmas to New Years.) A few days after New Years, Dad brought the window and door down and finished the work. If we had had a traditional Missouri Winter, he probably wouldn't have had a chance. As is, not only was he able to finish in record time but the girls have been able to play out there almost every day since. In fact, I was rather hard pressed to prevent them from literally moving in as soon as it was done, and I had to explain to Gillian that No, she could not have a slumber party in there for her January birthday!

In the spring I will paint the exterior and will put down some sort of flooring inside. (I'm leaning towards peel and stick linoleum tiles...cheap and easy to clean.) I might also do the interior...but I'm waffling on that a bit. Sean and I are going to then put a path in our backyard leading from our sliding glass doors to the front of the playhouse. We're hoping this will do double duty, helping to keep the inside a bit cleaner and also assisting with an erosion problem we have. The girls have also requested a flower bed on the side opposite the deck, which we're happy to provide. There will be, of course, more pictures to come as all of that comes to pass.
So there you have it...the story of the Christmas Playhouse!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Letting In Her Very Own Green Girl

Last summer my girl told me about an idea she had.

Mom, I want to make my own quilt.  It will have a flower for spring, an ice cream cone for summer, a pumpkin for fall and a snowflake for winter.

That's a tall order, I said, you'd better ask Grandma to help you with that.

 And so she did.

The quilt has been a wonderful project for the two of them to share.  The Princess looked through all of Mom's books and patterns to find just the perfect design for each season.  (She drew the flower template for spring herself!)  Mom let her raid her fabric stash to pick the colors she wanted, and then they cut and pieced together.  I believe a few field trips to the quilt shop were required - certainly for backing, and possibly for some of the blocks as well.  Once the blocks were finished they decided together how best to organize the top so that Mom could finish putting it together.  This last weekend they quilted it on Mom's long-arm quilting machine....with Mom letting my girl do much of that work by herself.  Mom stayed up late last night to finish the binding, and we were able to bring it home with us today!

Amazing, isn't it?!

Personally, I love the fact that the colors go so well together with absolutely no forethought or planning whatsoever.  I also love that it's so perfectly my girl.
At 9 she's already learned to let her muse in....to follow her artistic ideas and to make them into a reality.  She takes each and every step and challenge in stride and enjoys the entire process.  Her vision is clear and focused...but she also rolls with it and can shift her plans to make it work.

Because of all of that, she's tucked in bed underneath her very first design project.  It's a very big accomplishment indeed for a girl who's only 9.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the help of my Mom.  Thanks Mom for everything you did to make this possible!

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Christmas Playhouse - Part 1

Today the pictures...tomorrow the story!
















Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Interlude


Having just completed two (slightly more complicated) knitted requests - and with at least five more knitted gifts in the immediate queue - I'm taking a wee break to work on the blanket.

It's relaxing.

It's soothing.

It's fun to play with color.

It's all sorts of good.

I decided to add in one square from each of the skeins of sock yarn that I have in my stash (with the exception of a few skeins that haven't been wound down yet) just because it sounded like fun.  Also, some of the colors are phenomenal and I wanted to make sure they were immortalized in this particular blanket even though I'm likely to be done with it before I turn that yarn into socks.

I've given it two days so far this week, and probably will stay with it for a few more.

Then back to that queue!  I have girls who need more hats, mittens and scarves.  My dad wants his sweater asap, and there is a set of twins on the way who need something special. 

I've lots to do...and it feels great!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

9

Her second ever picture.


Two days ago!

Happy Birthday, Baby!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

One Very Happy Girl

 Look at that beautiful face!
That's a girl who just got EXACTLY what she wanted.

A couple of months ago my Princess went through the KnitPicks catalog as if it were her own private knitting list.  I swear she had circled half of the patterns in the catalog by the time she finished...much to my great chagrin.  As I literaly didn't knit anything for my girls in 2011, I was happy to make something....just not the entire catalog.  Ultimately she decided that the one thing she really wanted was the Andean Chullo, which was perfect because she had outgrown the last hat I knit for her.

Originally I had intended to use the Palette I already owned to make the hat, and so I purchased the downloadable format of the pattern.  After Christmas when I sat  down to put the colors together I realized I had one big problem.  Although I had a LOT of Palette, I had NO blue...and blue was the one color I knew that she wanted more than any other.

So back to KnitPicks' website where the kits were now on sale.

I bought two.
 Andean Chullo by Kerin Dimeler-Laurence
US 2.5 mm needles - 24" and 16" addi turbo circulars and Knit Picks Harmony DPN's
January 4-8, 2011
I only made two very minor alterations to the pattern.  The first is that I replaced the grey color meant for the very top of the crown pattern with the Princess's favorite blue.  The second is that I worked the i-cord edging from the bottom tip of the ear flap on both sides (rather than going the same direction....it makes sense if you know the pattern), doing the Kitchner stitch at the base of each ear flap to join the i-cords.  It simply made more sense to do it that way as I knew the appearance of the i-cord would thus be identical.

There is a LOT of leftover yarn from just a single kit.

So why two bags? 

Simple enough...she wants a matching scarf and mittens.

PS.  We are calling them llamas, not alpacas, and have thus dedicated this hat to JoJo...the most amazing, most hilarious, sweetest llama in the world!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My BKB



My BKB (Best Knitting Buddy for those of you who haven't heard me use the term before), Jenn, surprised me this morning with this little collection of yarn for my Scrapbook Blankie!  These aren't actually leftovers....rather, Jenn measured out lengths of some of her stash yarn so that I could go ahead and add them in now.  There's enough of the green for a large square, which is right and proper as my best friend deserves a very big square of her own in my blanket.

Jenn is one of the two knitters who I desperately wanted to include in my blanket.  (Shelda is the other, and she is well represented in my blanket already.)  I can't tell you what it means to me to be able to add these little bits of her into a project which represents so much of my life.

A bit about Jenn:

I met Jenn while I was pregnant with the Pixie.  Truth be told, we were hooked up by one of the local yarn shop owners, Bex Oliger, who has a talent for matching up friends.  We were both pregnant, though, so nothing happened until we met again after both babies were born.  At that point, we started to compare notes, realized how much we had in common, started setting play/knitting dates and began calling each other almost every day.

The rest is a magical, knitterly history.

I cannot possibly say enough wonderful things about Jenn to ever truly describe her, so I'm not going to try.  Instead, I'll simply say that she's the best friend I had spent my entire life looking for and I'm lucky to have found her.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Wee Warm Things

Just like that, I needed a break from the Princess Shawl.

Also, both of my girls needed some warm things, and I'm in a mitten sort of mood.

The Pixie made off with a lace scarf of mine two years ago, and loves it still. 
She wanted mittens and a hat that kind-of match.  
 I'm trying my best to make do with what I have, and fortunately I have a drawer full of Knit Picks Palette yarn, courtesy of a friend of mine in the guild. (I only paid $1/ball for her destash, and the money went to support Access Arts.)  After spending an evening carefully reading through all of my mitten books, I settled on a traditional Shetland pattern and gave it a go.
Butterflies for Bairns by Carol Rasmussen Noble
Knit Picks Palette - 5 colors (sorry, tags gone)
Knit Picks Harmony DPNs, 2.25 mm
Dec. 30, 2011 - Jan. 3, 2012

Changes:  I dropped three colors from the main bands, which not only simplified the knitting but also made the butterflies really pop.  I also cheated on the interior finishing, choosing to tie the ends and clip them short rather than weave them all in.  I've read enough fair isle technique books to know that I picked a valid option...especially given that after one wearing the mittens were starting to felt a bit.  (The kid was so excited she tried making off with them before I could weave in the ends anyway....)

One wee project down, and a few more to go.  Mom loaned me Knitted Tams by Mary Rowe, and so there will hopefully soon be a matching hat!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Two Things

I actually have a lot of knitting to blog about....but I'm having an argument with my camera.  Until said argument is resolved, I thought I would bring you this wee post.

In my 2011 Reading Round Up post I mentioned the fact that I now read most of my books in electronic form on my iPad.  Most people who know me in person are still quite surprised by this as I'm an old-fashioned girl at heart, and have always placed great value on real books.  However, I do have two really good reasons for loving to read ebooks, and I thought I would take a moment to share those with you.
  1. My eyes have taken a serious downturn in the last year, and now they are easily tired out.  I'm sure part of this is due to my age.  I'm also sure most of it is my own fault given how much close work I do with my eyes.  (handwork, reading, journaling, computer, etc.)  Being able to adjust the font, the font size, and the lighting on my iPad has significantly reduced the amount of eyestrain I feel when reading.  Reading more comfortably means that I am able to read more and also that I enjoy it more in the process.
  2. I can't cheat with ebooks, or I chose not to.  I don't remember a time when I didn't flip through books..reading random passages and the last two to three pages to get an idea of what's to come.  At the very least I've recognized since college that when I started to do that at night it was time to put the book down and go to bed.  Ebooks have brought that habit to a crashing halt...and have thus made the endings of my books a lot more surprising.  Please believe me when I say that I've tried to stop that particular bad habit many times before...it just never took until now. 
Other things I love:  the ability to highlight passages (a complete no-no in real books for this OCD perfectionist), the dictionary function, links to notes at the end of the book for quick and easy reading, free classics, free samples to download (which I use in a file as my book wish list) and quick and easy purchases. 

Yep, my iPad has been a revelation.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 - Start As You Mean To Go On

I greatly dislike the term 'New Year's Resolutions.' 

Why?  The fact of the matter is that in our modern-day culture that term is generally considered a joke.  Grand promises for sweeping change are thought up as we say good-bye to the old year and hello to the new...only to be broken within days or weeks.  Certainly by the end of February (and that's charitable) all of our good intentions are out the window.  The joke is that everyone knows going into it exactly what's going to happen.  So really, are any of those resolutions truly meant?

Ridiculous.

So instead of making resolutions, I propose to follow the advice of the lovely Breda Dayne of Cast On and:

"Start As You Mean To Go On."

I love that phrase.  It's an action, not a wish.  It gives forward movement while also helping to set into stone the ideas you may have for the way you want to live.  In big ways or small, it says that you just have to get moving.

This is a bit of how I began 2012 as I mean to go on:
  1. I spent an hour writing in my journal....something I haven't done in probably six months.  That hour included a conversation between my somewhat difficult muse and myself.  (The Green Woman thinks I was boring last year.)
  2. I went to church. 
  3. The girls and I worked on puzzles together....focused time they don't always get from me.
  4. I cleaned up after myself, and spent some time organizing my stuff.
  5. During a surprise block of free time in the afternoon, I went to Starbucks with handspun yarn, a pile of books and a notebook and I started to design a shawl all by myself.
  6. I forgave myself for something.
  7. I spent time with my husband.
  8. I set up a space in the house for some yoga, digging my props out of storage.
  9. I fixed a mistake in my knitting.
  10. I refused to start something new until I could finish several old projects.
So there you have it, 10 small steps to help create the life that I want for myself.  10 small ways to start as I truly mean to go on in 2012.