Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

I generally find myself being somewhat contemplative around the end of the year. Actually, I'm like that most of the time but at the end of the year, I have a better excuse. I like to start by looking back and noting how things went. I certainly learned a lot - like when the directions say to knit 5 inches before starting the decrease and you've knit 6 inches - you really should frog an inch even if you're on a serious knitting deadline for Christmas. You can see there results if you don't - a silly gnome-like top. So instead of frogging an inch, I had to frog the whole top! Silly knitter. The result was worth it - a nice rounded top that delighted the recipient.

Thankfully, I remembered a lesson from years past and didn't put too many things on the "must knit" list. There were just the two hats. The pink one was finished on the ride to the party where it was handed over, but it was handed over complete. (Unlike the year I gave my dad a hat with the needles still in the top - I explained that I wanted to get the fit just right).
I also tried something new this year - taking a quick inventory of my favorite projects for the year. I highly recommend that. I found the retrospective made me appreciate the projects even more. My short list includes:
green lace scarf for a friend
felted pink purse for cousin
ruffly baby hat for friend
little itty bitty hats for charity
My other big lesson for the year is that it is okay to frog a UFO. Not everything that is cast on is meant to be finished. It's like taking a ribbon off a kite and letting it fly higher.
Along with contemplation of the previous year comes contemplation of the coming year. Resolutions! My expert tells me they should be lofty but grounded. They should be defined with actions. So here are my knitting goals:
This is the year of cables. I have dabbled in them but now I want to embrace them. I want to understand them and be able to create with them freely.
Action: make at least three items with cables.
Stash collection: I wouldn't call it stash busting since I believe yarn should be collected as much as it should be knit. But I do want to free the yarns that would be better used by someone else to make room for ones I love. This is challenging for a natural-born collector such as myself. I cling to possessions - even useless ones. On some level I think it makes me feel comforted to have an abundance, but it gets to the point of choking me and holding me back.
Action: Donate unloved yarns to good cause.
Sweaters. I have yarn from Italy that is intended for a sweater. I knit a sweater once. It took forever and came out only okay. I have been unable to motivate myself to make another one since. My excuse with this yarn is that I have been unable to find the right pattern. I think I have it now.
Action: Knit the Sweater!
Organization. I have wonderful supplies scattered about the house. I can usually find what I need or I make do with what I can find. Wouldn't it be wonderful to know exactly where everything is?
Action: Clean up messy knitting drawers (again)
I'd love to hear about your lessons and resolutions!
May the coming year bring you many great knitting discoveries and joys along with enduring happiness in the rest of your life.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas

My shopping saga has ended - it was long and drawn out. There were times I was in near tears, but overall, I would have to say I had fun. Not the least bit because I was out of the house while someone else had to deal with the nuttiness that is my family. In the end, there were two crucial presents that won't show up until after the big day. But, the good news is that I was able to find replacements for both for less money!

Now, my fingers must fly - I have one last gift on the needles. Will I be knitting on the ride to the party? Quite likely since tonight will be devoted largely to wrapping all those presents I brought.

I hope your holidays are going well and that your knitting is brining you more peace than angst.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

mail order snail order

I thought I would be clever this year and order most of my Christmas gifts on line. Skip the traffic, skip the congested parking lots, skip the crowded malls. It seemed like a good strategy.

But - you know how they say you have two of days to order to take advantage of the super saver rate and have your stuff arrive before Christmas? Turns out, that's not quite right. Of the 18 items I had planned to order, only 1 was expected to arrive by Christmas. My other option was to pay a gazillion dollars for two day or overnight shipping, which pretty much negated any savings I would have had from going to the store. Even to save time and money, I can't pay more for shipping than I would for the item in question!

So much for trying to be organized and on top of the game - I will be out there this weekend with the desperate procrastinators fighting for parking spaces. I can only hope that retailers' desire to dump stock will trump the consideration that shoppers are now desperate and will likely be willing to fork over more dough just to get what they need in time for Christmas! (You don't have to feel sorry for me - I really like to shop so I'm not horribly upset - just hopeful that I can find what I want at a decent price)

I did order one thing that I don't think I will find in the store. The expected delivery dates are Dec. 24th - 30th. This is for the 6yo. Do I:

A) take a chance that it will arrive but prepare a just-in-case note from Santa explaining that he couldn't fit all the toys on the sleigh and one is coming in the mail? or

B) buy an alternate present that I can return if the original arrives in the mail?

I never expected Christmas to become such a high stakes game!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Brioche God Bless You

Is it Green or is it Blue?

My friend Allison mentioned that she was making a brioche scarf and it was like someone had said the secret word that set off a program inside of me: "must knit brioche." I'd looked at the hat in Weekend Knitter any number of times but it always seemed too complicated. Suddenly, it seemed doable. I won't lie - it wasn't easy. I had to start over several times until I finally got the hang of it. But once I got it, it was like the break through when I first got the hang of knitting. It was soothing and exhilarating all at the same time. And then it came time for the crown. I put up an honest fight, but it kicked my but! Once, twice, three times - still not looking right. I was ready to give up and knit in one color but something in me urged one more try. It was like when you look at those magic paintings where you have to cross your eyes to see the 3D image. It just made sense. The big problem, of course, was me and my inability to actually read and follow a pattern.
Now that I'm standing on top of the mountain, I will whole heartily say it was worth it. This is a fun hat to knit and it's warm - which is good since cold weather is headed our way.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The wonders of photo shop

The downside to having five children is that it is nearly impossible to gather them all into one room at the same time to take a Christmas card photo. It's gotten even harder as my older ones turned into teenagers who think it's lame, which is how they feel about most of what I do. I trapped them this year by taking them out to a restaurant to celebrate a birthday. After they'd ordered, but before the food arrived, I popped out the camera. There were a few groans but general cooperation - perhaps they knew the food might never arrive if they didn't comply. Getting them together was difficult, getting them to smile all at the same time proved impossible.

Thankfully, someone invented Photo Shop. And thankfully, I have a wonderful designer friend who knows how to use it way better than I do. And so we have, a nice family photo. Now for the part that I used to think was hard - getting the cards into the mail!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Knitter Spotted

This may be obscure for anyone without children, but others might recognize the show:
Fetch, Ruff Ruffman. It's a bizarre half animated/half real children's show on PBS. A cartoon dog sends real children out on missions during which they learn about the world. My children love it and I don't feel guilty letting them watch it.

So here's the knitting reference - Ruff Ruffman's grandmother was accused of sending her grandson (Ruff's naughty brother Scruffy who is in jail) a cake with a file in it.

Two children were assigned to work with the defense, two with the prosecution and two with the forensics lab.

Meanwhile, grandma knit her way through the show culminating with the miraculous act of knitting a sweater without needles when she was declared innocent.

Now, if they would haver Ruff take up knitting, that would really be something!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Aside from the fact that it might just be too small for the intended recipient, don't you think this hat is awfully cute? The best part is I had enough yarn! Yeah! There was even a little extra for the tassles! Yeah!

I do like the fun fur stripe - especially because it uses up a left over that I didn't have the heart to throw away but couldn't quite figure out what to do with. Here is what I learned from this project: I decided to do the fun fur accent in knit stitch with a garter stitch border on the top and bottom. It looks better with one extra row of knitting in the main color before changing to garter stitch.

I've already had requests for two more, but they're from the 3 and 6yo who pretty much want just about anything I knit.

The yarn is Knit Picks superwash - very soft and scooshy. Just keep in mind there's only around 100 yards on a skein, so you might need more than you realize.

Monday, December 01, 2008

hats off

Little baby hat = quick project, right?

Not so much, it turns out. This one is supposed to be pretty basic -knit two ear flaps, cast on stitches, knit away. Except that I decided I wanted to garter stitch the earflaps and first inch of the hat. It took way too many tries to figure out how to smoothly transition from knitting the ear flaps on straight needles to knitting the entire hat in the round.

And you know that little voice in the back of your head that whispers, this doesn't look right, it looks to small (or large)? Certainly you've heard that before. I ignored that little voice for far too many rows before reading the directions. I had cast on half of the stitchest I needed!

Then I decided it would be fun to add fun fur for a few rows. It was fun the first time, not so much the second or the third as I settled out which rows should be knit and which purled.

Finally, I'm cruising along. The brim looks great, the ear flaps match and...
(I'm sure you can see what's coming) I'm running out of yarn! It was such a little hat and it was a new ball of yarn so I didn't think to actually check the label and figure out how many yards I needed.

Tonight I will decide to a) order more yarn b) keep knitting and see if I make it or c) add in another color.

At the top of my Christmas wish list is a yarn measurer! I sent the link for one to dh so he wouldn't get confused. It worked with the swift and ball winder.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A novel has been born

My mc (main character) Aggie has gone to camp, gotten lost on a mountain, survived an encounter with a bear, made friends with a lifelong enemy and been rescued. We'll leave her safely at camp contemplating how to accomplish at least one thing on her list - kissing a boy.

All of this in 50,000 words written 30 hours before deadline! :)
Thank you for your encouragement! It really helps to have friends in the cheering section!
I feel like I've climbed the world's tallest mountain - okay, maybe not the tallest one - that would be actually publishing and getting on the NYTs' best seller list - but at least a very tall mountain.

Of course the work isn't over - basically what I have is a roughly formed slab of marble awaiting loads of careful carving and editing to turn it into an engaging, delightful and unforgettable story.

Now, however, it's time to start getting ready for Christmas! A ridiculously long list of knitting projects has been forming in the back of my brain. A couple of hats, a pair of socks, maybe a sweater, a doll or two? And on and on. After all, Christmas is so far away, right? I've learned my lesson in the past - I'm not going to stress. If I have time, great. If not, the shops are open until midnight these days.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Important conversation

A friend of mine who runs a major hospital in Boston has asked me to spread the word about a campaign to encourage dscussions ab--out one of the most difficult topics in the world - How do you want the end of your life to be handled. No one wants to talk about, but it's going to happen and this is a gift you can give to those who will be with you when it does. If they know what you want, then they can feel at peace knowing they are making the right decisions on your behalf. You can read more in the text to the left of this post.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


31,023 words.

Our heroine has hoisted on her backpack and is headed up to the mountians with her fellow campers for four days and three nights to test their survival training.

Among the lessons that the leaders forgot - how to identify poison ivy, what to do in a lightening storm and what to do when you see a bear.

And did you know that water hemlock is the most toxic plant in North America?

On a knitting note - I knitted a baby hat for a friend and the other day she said it's getting too small and couldn't I please make her a new one? I could hardly be more tickled. I've cast on for those moments of the day when I need to be occupied but don't have access to a computer.

I hope all your Thanksgiving preparations are going well. I don't have to host, so I'm off the hook, but my thoughts are with all of you who are furiously cleaning and cooking or planning to cook. May all your efforts be rewarded with a great celebration.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Writer needs inspiration

I'm past the 20,000 word mark on the 50,000 word novel. Although I have more than half to go, I feel I have crossed over the top of the mountain. Still a few peaks to go, however, and I need some help.

I need some inspiration. My story is about a 10 year old girl at typical camp in New Hampshire. Mountains on one side, lake on the other. An out of control fire on the first night consumed the high ropes course so now the campers are going to have survival training and overnight camping trips in the mountains. She also likes a boy who has been hanging around with her arch enemy - a snooty rich girl who never has to wash the toilets like the other campers do.

Anyway, I want to add some realism so I'm looking for memories. If you've ever been to summer camp, please share with me your best or worst memories of it. I'm looking for specific events as well as generalities such as how you were dismissed from the campfire or how the day was structured. I'd also be interested in hearing about any odd personalities you encountered. You can leave them in the message section or email me at In exchange, I will send you a copy of the novel when it has been edited. If it is ever published, I will also send you a signed copy.

On a totally unrelated note - there is a great website called where you can write a note to yourself to be delivered at a later date. I've done it twice. It is wild to hear from yourself about where you hope you will be.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy Socks

I received the nicest compliment today. I wore my new stripey socks to a business meeting. My client not only noticed them, she told our designer that my socks made her happy!

I guess it was worth the months that it took me to make them. I could have gotten them done faster, but they were mainly a take along project. I'm very happy with the short row heels - this was my best attempt ever. The method that I used called for using markers rather than relying on counting - much better. I also took the trouble to make sure the stripes match. I totally support knitters who don't need to bother with that step, but for me personally, I'm happier with matching stripes.
I usually like ankle socks, but now that I'm wearing them, I think maybe longer is better for hand knit socks. Next pair - which I will cast on in December.
I'm at 18,651 words on my novel - behind, but still within hope of finishing by the end of November. It is really hard in the evening when I have just a couple of hours before bed and I have to choose writing over knitting. The reality is, this novel will never come to be if I don't and I have some characters who are demanding that their story be told.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Winter Knits

Something happened when the weather started to turn colder - I suddenly felt compelled to knit warm things. All summer I kept thinking I should make some mittens or a couple of thick scarves to get ready, but I couldn't find the motivation. Then suddenly there was this primal urge to cast on wool. First there was the hat with the lace edge and now matching half mittens. I adapted the edging pattern and then turned it into ribbing. The whole time, I kept looking at the dwindling ball of yarn making plans for what I would do if I ran out. I made two at a time using the magic loop method so at least I would run out in the same place. I had just barely enough. I'm sure there is a more scientific way to figure out if there is enough yarn for a certain project, but I haven't figured it out yet.

Next up is the calorimetry from Knitty 2006. I've had my eye on the pattern for many months, but always had something else to do first. I have been wearing my hair up lately and every day for the last month I've grumbled to myself as I pull on my hat that it's time to get to this pattern.

Yesterday, I finally did.

I highly recommend the pattern. It's a fun knit with short rows for shaping. And it's quick - I finished it in a day thanks to the NE Patriots pushing their game into overtime ( it would have been nice if they could also have won, but at least they showed up). I was cutting it close on the yardage for this one as well. I was going to do stripes at one end if I ran out, which I think would have looked nice. As it was, I had enough with about three yards left over. Hmmm... is that enough to at least start a pair of half mits? The yarn is Lamb's pride worsted - a totally dream to knit with.

My gauge is loose however, despite having knit 2 needle sizes down. It could be me, but I choose to blame the yarn.

And finally, I'm sharing my latest kitchen adventure. These are cinnamon rolls using a recipe from the Penzey spice site. I discovered why the directions say to cook them in a muffin pan. Apparently, they are not supposed to spread out into a sort of pancake like shape. Still, they were absolutely delicious due to the vibrant taste of the cinnamon.

The reason I was making cinnamon rolls was to try out the cinnamon, which came in a surprise box of spices from my good friend Bonnie who sews great things and knows I like to think I can cook. She has some great recipes on her site if you're looking for something new to try.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

And yet another project

It's November. For thousands of writers that means it is time to write a 50,000 word novel. Not necessarily a good one. Not necessarily one that anyone will ever read. The most important thing is to finish it by the end of the month. Then you can go back and turn it into a masterpiece.

The idea is to blast through writers block, overcome your inner editor and free the story teller.

I really don't have time to do this. And yet here I am for a second year, stuffing writing into the thinnest cracks of time in my hectic life.

I'm a writing about Aggie, a ten-year-old who has left her bustling city life behind for two blissful weeks in the forests of New Hampshire at summer camp. She's planning to finally pass the swim test so she can go to the dock in the middle of the lake, climb to the top of the camp's tall pole and kiss a boy for the first time. She's headed for way more adventure than she expected as her cabin heads up to the mountains for an extended hike.

I thought about having aliens land in the middle of camp but decided that was just a little too far out. I'm a journalist so any sort of fiction writing is a stretch for me. I have a hard time straying away from the things that could actually happen. Maybe next time.

For the record, I did not go back and edit the novel I wrote last year. I still plan to. I don't know if it's good enough to sell or if anyone else would be interested in it. I had fun writing it and I really like my main character.

What I really like about Nanowrimo (National Novel Writers Month) is the challenge to do something beyond the ordinary. It's a chance to push myself in a way that I don't get to do very often. There are times I would rather just watch television, but inevitably, once I start writing I get totally lost in the story and hours pass by.

I'm already behind - to keep the pace, you have to write 1,666 words a day. I'm at 10,591. I think I can catch up, however.

I felt like I needed to declare publically that I've taken up the challenge again. That way, I am more accountable. Hopefully, someone will be watching to see if I make it and that will make me try harder.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Movie Review High School Musical 3

The story is simplistic and completely predictable. The songs sound about the same as the ones in the last High School Musical movies. On the other hand, there is no swearing, the dancers are fully clad and the choreography is fantastic. Another bonus: The movie absolutely mesmerized three 6-year-olds and sent the 3yo dancing in the aisle, which alone was worth the price of admission.

There are, however, few yarn items of interest - a floppy hat made of what looked to be tiny granny squares and a crocheted rainbow skull cap. Not a single scarf or sweater throughout.

Verdict? Okay if you need to entertain someone under 12; best to go with another adult so you can exchange comments a la Mystery Theater 2000 to make it interesting.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Movie Review

Dh and I finally got a chance to sneak away for a movie! With all the kids and all their activities that is a rare occurance.

We were looking for something funny and not too intellectually demanding. Zack and Miri Make a Porno was the closest we could find. There were no worries about it being too intellectualy demanding but it was only so-so funny. At least there were some fabulous hand knit and crocheted items to hold my attention. The characters wore several scarves and hats throughout the movie so it became like a game - is that crocheted or knit? Most of them were made with bulky yarn. They appeared to be handcrafted, but no one in the movie was shown making them. Too bad - that would have made the movie interesting!

As it was, it's disappointingly predictable. Not worth the price of admission.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Halloween Happiness

The costume indecision lasted right up until the night before Halloween! In the end, the 6yo rediscovered her old witches hat and decided that it would be perfect. Due to the earlier costume plans, she ended up being a witch with pink-tipped hair.

The littlest one had multiple parties so she was a

cowgirl, a cheerleader and for the actual day, a butterfly princess - she was supposed to be just a butterfly, but was upset because people kept saying she was such a lovely princess. The easiest remedy was to change the label of her costume and shove a candybar in her mouth! Cause in the end, it doesn't matter what the costume is - the candy tastes the same.

You can only imagine my surprise when I heard said 6yo rummaging in her candy bin the next morning at 6 a.m.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"My homework," she said as if I should have known.

Her assignment was to count all of her Halloween loot, sort it and make patterns. It was amazing how interested she was in school work when it involved candy. She got 72 pieces while trick-or-treating. That doesn't include the stash she grabbed while walking down in the center of town.

She wants to be catwoman next year, she told me today. I'm tempted given the sales, but then again - I'd have to remember where I put it and then there's the fact that she changed her mind 60 times or so this year!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I can knit that scarf in three days or less

Maybe. Our aunt's surprise birthday party is Saturday. On Thursday morning dh asked what we should get her. Suddenly it occurred to me that I should have knit her something. Maybe it's not too late - the felted bowls are fast, I can make a hat in a day, maybe a scarf? There's no time to shop so I am limited to what's in the stash - not much that isn't already committed. My rational minds screams at me - you're on deadline, your mother is coming in to town, it's Halloween tomorrow - DO THE MATH - there aren't enough hours between now and the party. But, just a quick lace scarf? NO! Just one felted bowl? Maybe, not really. But I know I can finish a wash cloth in two hours.

In the end, I decide my rational mind is right - I must finish the articles that are due. I don't need the distraction and pressure of slamming to finish a project when I should be enjoying Halloween. And I want to give mom lots of attention since I don't get to see her very often.

Thankfully, everyone else in the family is kicking in to hire the birthday lady a personal trainer. I'm off the hook. Christmas, however, is just a few weeks away...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Can you measure the severity of the coming winter by the number of hats a knitter feels compelled to knit in the fall? The leaves are turning, the air is crisp and I am driven by some inexplicable force to knit hats. It started with the little hats for the Innocent people then I knit the hat I'd been contemplating for my husband for months. There's was another for my secret pal and then one for Cori and one for me. And I've got a hankering to make more!

This one for the 3yo is by far the most fun of the whole batch. She designed it herself. She picked out the pink yarn from the store and then she went stash diving. It was fun to watch - she knew exactly which ones she wanted and which ones she didn't. Then we had to settle on the design. She turned down so many that I thought she didn't really know what she wanted. Finally, I drew out every possible shape and brim combination I could imagine. Right away she pointed to one. I showed her the drawing three more times, just to make sure. By the last time I think she thought I was totally scatter brained to not be able to remember which one she wanted! The only problem is that I almost don't want her to wear it because I'm so afraid she'll lose it. She has a habit of taking her hats off and walking away.
Mine is a lace edged cap with beads added for a little extra glamour.
I learned something about hat decreases - I didn't follow the patterns since I didn't have it with me. Instead, I decided to just wing it. I had 84 stitches, which meant starting the decrease with 6 groups of 14 stitches or 14 groups of 6 stitches. I chose the latter. I should have chosen the former. My top is okay but it's a tad bumpy because of having so many sections.
The yarn is Ella Rae, which I bought a long time ago to make a felted bowl that I never got around to making. I'm glad, because I love it for the hat. It's soft and comfy. A joy to knit with and to wear - I think it will be anyway. Ironically after my hat knitting flurry, it hasn't been cold enough for hats!
Soon enough, I'm sure.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Halloween Part II

Just three days later:

Mom: Okay, so you want to be Hanna Montana, you have the boots, we can make you a cardboard guitar, what do you need for clothes?

DD 6: I don't want to be Hanna Montana any more. I want to be Tinker Bell.

The organized mother in me (she gets lost a lot, but she is there) wants to run right out and get the costume to check it off her list, but I've got a feeling that she'll be changing her mind.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Halloween is on the way

It's that time of year again - that time when children drive their parents crazy.

What do you want to be this year?
I don't know.

How about a cat? We have the ears from last year.

How about a princess? You could use that gorgeous blue dress?
That's boring.

How about a Robot? We could make a costume out of boxes?
That's dumb.

Well what do you want to be?

Hanna Montana.

Because that's what my friend is going as.

How about something more, you know, creative?

But Hanna dresses just like you do, it's not like wearing a costume at all.

I don't care.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Red Sox Nation Rejoice

Forgive me my fellow Red Sox fans. I had lost hope. Down 7 to 1 after a demoralizing 13 to 4 loss to the Rays in the previous game, I figured the season was over for our beloved team. I should have known better. Our team has a history of charging from behind. And yet, sometimes I'm a slow learner. Tired from an extremely long day, feeling unable to emotional handle watching a losing game I went to bed.

All thoughts of the game were lost the furious rush of getting everyone ready for school this morning. You can only imagine my surprise when I heard the D.J. say to someone, "well anything can happen, look at the Red Sox last night." What? What? Could it be? Was is possible? Dare I even get my hopes up?

I turned to the news station and it was confirmed. This beaten down, injury-wracked team had pulled it off again! Of course this wasn't the final game and they still face an uphill battle. But I am so impressed that they're still in. And I'm really kicking myself for going to bed and missing what was by far the best come back in decades.

To me, this isn't just about baseball - it's about life. Don't give up. It may look grim, but Big Papi may just have another homerun in him, so hang in and keep swinging.

Go Red Sox!!!!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A cooking mystery

The meatballs tasted fine, but there were green flecks throughout. Those same green flecks appeared in the apple pie, which also tasted fine.

What could possibly have happened?

Bugs? No.

Crayon? A possibility given our household, but no.

Food coloring? We haven't even had any around since last Christmas.

Meatballs: meat, garlic, cinnamon, mace, egg, bread crumbs.
Pie: apples, sugar, cinnamon, mace, flour.

Think you know the answer? Check comments.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A mighty big thank you

I do not always look forward to getting the mail given that there are always more bills than checks. Besides, who writes letters these days - we all email each other. But on one particular day recently is was thrilled to see the mailman because he was carrying a special package just for me all the way from Finland. My wonderful secret pal, now revealed to be Hanna, had sent me some very soft lace yarn, some delicious candies, a darling book with babies and animals and this gorgeous shawl that matches not only my dog, but nearly everything else in my wardrobe. Before becoming a knitter, I thought of shawls as being sort of for the antique set, but now I appreciate how chic they can be. And this one is a lovely shade of blue in a stunning pattern. Plus, I feel so special when I wear it because someone made it just for me.

Speaking of feeling special - I am loved. My good friend Allison in California has nominated me for this oh so nifty award - Thank Allison! Go check out her story about cheerio chai - too funny.

Here's the deal - it's my turn to nominate four other other fab bloggers -

Here are the instructions:

1. Post the award on your blog

2. Post a link to the person who awarded it to you.

3. Nominate four other bloggers

4. Add links to the bloggers

5. Notify the recipients

So here are my nominees - be prepared to travel around the world!

1. Say bonjour to Anna. Her blog is in French, so you may not get all of what she's saying, but the pictures are gorgeous.

2. Check out my Secret Pal revealed. Hanna blogs from Finland.

3. For a fun take on parent, as well as knitting and living in Alaska, fly on over to Holly Jo's blog.

4. For the best socks ever - and some really cute bags and other things, skip on over to Monica's Works for Yarn.

And on a final knitting note - I've been meaning for many weeks to knit a hat for my husband for his birthday, which happens to be today. So why did I wait until the day before to start it? Well, mostly because I thought it was two days before -- I just didn't (apparently) have a solid grasp on the date. Other than that, I had been planning on buying yarn for the hat but never got around to it. When the deadline loomed, I dove into the stash and found a healthy supply of Cascade 220 from some former project and plenty of a gorgeous verigated yarn hand spun by another former secret pal at Saratoga Knits. The pattern is That Chocolate's Gone Straight to Your Ribs, which is worth knitting just for the title alone! The only adjustment I made was to knit 90 stitches instead of 100 on size 5s.
I realized halfway through the day just how close to the deadline I was and kicked the knitting into high gear. I managed to finish without too much effort in time for bed. Heck, maybe I should cast on a scarf - I have a few more hours before the birthday is over. Maybe not - I do have to make a cake after all!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Pure Mutt, Pure Fun

Check out this handsome pup. And isn't that a lovely collar? It's sturdy too. And I'm not just saying that because we won it in a blog contest!

It was run by a fellow knitter and dog lover at Lapdog Creations . Check out her blog for photos of some darling dogs and some fun knitting.

Pure Mutt is a line of dog and dog lover products to promote the adoption of homeless shelter dogs. A portion of the proceeds goes to support Abandoned Pet Rescue. A good dog deserves a good home, right?
We really needed a good collar since he'd worn his on a recent roll on a dead fish. It took several washings just to get the smell of him.

Watson is a tennis ball addict. He will play for hours - maybe longer - we always give up before he does! If he can't find a whole ball, he'll settle for whatever tiny piece he can get his teeth on. The saddest thing is when he chews them until there is a tiny hole and then brings them out to the water where they sink. He doesn't understand the concept and swims around looking for his ball!

On the day of these photos, we had reasonably warm weather and the sun was shining bright. My 3yo rediscovered her witches hat from last year and is just as thrilled with it as the day we found it in the store! She was going to be a princess for Halloween, but has switched to being a witch.
The bigger kids are hunting for crabs. Much to the crabs' dismay, they found quite a few.

Monday, October 06, 2008

CJ's Apple Sauce

I have bought apple sauce all my life and never given it a second thought. I just sort of thought there was some super secret complicated recipe and it only came at the store. (My grandmother is roling over in her grave with that confession). Enter the 3yo. She found a book with pictures of people eating apples in all sorts of ways. Not being able yet to read she got it in her head that it had a recipe for apple sauce since there was a picture of people eating it. She was so excited about making apple sauce that I couldn't resist.

It turns out that not only is the recipe not secret - there are lots and lots of them and the basic ingredients are apples, water and sugar! It couldn't be easier - aside from the need to cut and peel a bunch of apples.

Of course I could have just picked a recipe, but I decided it would be more fun to take bits and pieces of a bunch of different ones. Here's what we came up with:

8 apples (cored, peeled and cut into pieces)

1 cup water

1/2 cup of brown sugar (can substitute white)

1/4 cup honey

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon all spice (or cloves)

Mix together in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. At this point the apples will be so mushy you can probably just mash them all with a fork. Otherwise, put it all in a food processor.

Serve hot or let it cool. I'm sure it would taste good cool - ours never made it that far. It was devoured almost as soon as it hit the table. In fact, it was all I could do to fend them off long enough to get the picture.

My 6yo has declared that we should have nothing but homemade applesauce from now on because all that store bought stuff is "lame." I don't have the heart to explain that although it is tasty, all that cutting and peeling is going to be reserved for special occassions!

You can leave the peels on, we tried one small batch that way. I liked it but the kids gave it a thumbs down.

I have been knitting - I'm still working out my sock phobia. I'm on my third pair for the year. Two at a time, magic loop. The toes went smoothly. The feet were fine. The stripes of the self striping yarn matched perfectly.

Then the heels. I'm trying a new short row method that has you place markers after every wrapped stitch. Much, much easier than relying on counting. But after I started knitting in the round again, I discovered that my perfectly matched stripes were no longer perfectly matched! They are off, just a bit - could be the yarn, could be that I knitted an extra row on the heels. I hope that it's the yarn or that it won't matter - I really, really don't want to go backwards!
Here we are all ready for Halloween! The 6yo and a friend and the 3 yo dug out our stash from the basement (by themselves) and went to town on the porch.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What to cook tonight

Since I've been working from home, cooking dinner has become one of my jobs. It's kind of funny since I grew up on hamburger helper, tacos in a box and chop suey from a can. It's even funnier because I don't really care all that much about food. It's not that I don't appreciate a good meal - it's just that I'm perfectly happy with a peanut butter sandwich. So one would think I'd be content to designate a dinner a day and have done with it - Macaroni and Cheese Monday, Taco Tuesday, etc. But not so. I have an inexplicable, deep desire for different. It's like wanderlust in the kitchen. It's a curse and a blessing. I'm constantly making discoveries - some tasty, some not so much. Tonight, we stumbled on one that was a big hit with all but the 3yo:

I'm calling it Adventures in Hamburger Casserole
It takes about 20 minutes to prepare and a total of 50 minutes to cook

1 pound hamburger
2 cups of rice (uncooked)
1/2 an onion chopped fine
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1 to 2 cups of vegetables (I used broccoli - corn would also be good)
1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese plus 4 tablespoons.

Heat the oven to 375.
Start the rice (two cups of rice and 4 cups of water for my family of 7) Add a beef bullion cube for extra flavor.

Brown 1 pound of hamburger and onion
Once rice is cooked, combine it with hamburger, soup, vegetables and rice in a casserole dish. Top with 4 tablespoons of cheese
Add 2 tablespoons of water

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

The 15yo says its better with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top after its served.

I think it would be good with tomato soup or maybe cream of celery. I suspect that it's a fairly flexible recipe. But then, I'm from Wisconsin so I'm of belief that if it has cheese in it, it must be good!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Time for scarves

The weather turned just a little chilly and suddenly I have an intense drive to knit warm things fast. Maybe I've tapped into my primitive roots to prepare for the long winter ahead? Can you predict how long the winter will be by the number of warm things a knitter knits before the first snow flies - sort of like squirrels and their nut stores? Or am I just a nut?
This gorgeous pink scarf is based on the woven scarf from 101 Designer One Skein Wonders. The one in the book used verigated yarn, which looks really great - but I like the pattern just as much with a solid yarn. The yarn is Lamb's Pride Bulky. The scarf is a little short because I had just about 3/4 of a skein. What you can't see from the picture is how thick it is - no cold northwind will be penetrating this lovely accessory! The pattern looks complicated, but it's really easy - and it knits up fast. This one took about two movies and a few moments while cooking.
Although I really do like the scarf and I think the color is perfect for the 3 yo who has claimed it, I'll be perfectly happy if she doesn't get to wear it for several more months! Since we're not skiing all that much, I must confess that I'm not a big fan of winter. There are just too many extra things to find and do in the morning - boots, coats, mittens etc. At least it makes me appreciate the warm months much more.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

new hat and yarn review

Here is one more little hat for our good friend "charity." It will be sent to Innocent, maker of smoothies in England, which will pop the hat on a bottle and donate a portion of the proceeds to help provide heat for the elderly. Given the temperature today, I can appreciate the need for warmth. I hate being cold so I hate the thought of anyone else being cold and not being able to afford heat.

It's a simple hat with yarn overs (and k2tog) to make eyelets for a yarn string or ribbon.

The yarn is Oasis - 100 percent SOYSILk from SWTC - It looks sort of like cotton. It's soft to the touch. And it knits like a dream. It's got just the right amount of stretchiness. On the little hat, the colors came out as pretty stripes of mixed colors - orange and red in one, purple and violet in the next. I'd like to make a me-sized hat, but alas I had only a sample of the yarn brought by my good friend Allison. She's got some wee hats that are worth taking a look at also.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Goodbye Summer

As if on cue for the first day of Fall, the weather turned cold and the sky is gray. It's that chilly, snow-is -in-the-air sort gray (although hopefully the white stuff is still many, many weeks away). But at least the last day of summer was sunny and warm enough for some time at the beach.

DH asked if it was a good summer. I would say yes. Easy? Not by a long shot. Getting anything done with little people (who felt no need to get anything done) around all the time was extremely challenging. Still, I feel like I had a superb summer that left me ready for fall.
The top ten things about this summer:
1. It was warm, but not too much so - we only turned the air conditioner on once or maybe twice.
2. We vacationed in CT for two weeks and it only rained once.
3. I learned to take a fish off the hook because my 6 yo really, really wanted to go fishing and there was no one else to do it. We also learned you can catch fish with marshmellows.
4. I got to spend 2 weeks in Wisconsin with my folks and celebrated my niece's graduation from high school (although I'm confused, because I'm fairly certain she was just in second grade last year)
5. My children found good activities - one enjoyed camp, another hung out at the beach, one found the basketball courts and the other two were happy wit their programs.
6. I learned how to use the grill. I wouldn't say I'm an expert, but at least I can turn it on and make a hamburger.
7. The little ones are older, so I was able to get back to biking, which I love. I'm very happy to report that I didn't forget how to ride.
8. Because the little ones are older and can be trusted to be out front without running into the street, I was able to spend more time in the garden. As a result, the flowers are still going strong.
9. Having been getting up by 6:30 a.m. to get everyone to school, I really appreciated being able to sleep in a little.
And last, but not least: 10. Our local hot dog shop started selling Almond Joy Ice Cream, which is hands down my favorite. I can usually only find it when we are on vacation in CT.
How was your summer?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

It's just my bag

My good friend Allison from the left coast sent me a great kit for a bag. I admired it a good long time while finishing up some other projects before I cast on. Had I known how much fun it would be to knit, I wouldn't have waited. It's a soothing blend of k2togs and yos - just the thing to calm the mind in the midst of a hurricane during which the wind is yelling, "hey you with the needles, I'm talking to you. Are you just going to sit there and ignore me?" (Anyone who has teens will understand).

The solid green compliments the verigated yarn perfectly. It's super stretchy - it can hold at least a dozen stuffed animals. I'm thinking that it will help with my never ending quest for organization - it will be assigned an activity- soccer or swimming or beach time. Then again, it's so compact, it would be easy enough to carry along to have as an extra bag.

I highly recommend the pattern, The Everlasting Bagstopper from It's a quick knit and a sturdy bag.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

yummy money saving recipe

In a brave attempt at frugality, dh who does all the grocery shopping is trying to buy to a strict menu. It's a grand plan but sometimes leaves the cupboards a bit barren since we aren't skilled at it yet. Last night, I had the hamburger already thawed when I realized we didn't have all the ingredients for my planned dinner. We were missing things for my second and third choices as well. So here is what I came up with: The Family Favorite Mish Mash
To make, you will need:

1 can of tomato soup
1 pound of ground beef
rice (two cups of dry rice and four cups of water for a family of 7 - make what you need)
1/2 an onion chopped (really small for our family)
2 teaspoons garlic
worcestershire sauce (optional)
1 cup of cheddar cheese (more or less to taste)
1 cup of a frozen veggie - corn would probably be best, but broccoli will do.

In one pot - Cook the rice with the can of tomato soup and vegetable and 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce.
Meanwhile - brown the beef with the onion and garlic - drain the grease when it's done.

Once the rice is cooked, combine it with the beef and cheese. Add a little more cheese on top for decoration if desired.

I think it might be more flavorful to combine browned beef with the dry rice and other ingredients and then bake it for 20 minutes or until rice is soft. I'll try that next time.

Send over any ideas for a better name

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I can't stop

These are too much fun! This one is called "Pumpkin" for obvious reasons. It's worsted weight (cascade 220) with size 7 needles. I used 20 stitches - the garter base is 6.5 centimeters but the ribbed portion (p1k3) is just barely 5. The little caps are supposed to be 5 -7 cenitmeters. With fewer stitches, I finished in the time it took dh to read the little ones their bed time stories.


Warning - wee hats are addictive

Plucked from the Garden - this little flower is made out of some bits left from a hat and mitten set I made for myself last year.
The Luck of the Irish - the green of a shamrock bearing a ring of gold.
Could also be titled "Go Packers"

After knitting one small hat and seeing how ridiculously quick the project is for something so gosh darned cute, I decided to try another. And then another. I've got plans whirling around in my head for a few more too.

They take less than an hour and don't require a lot of concentration. They require very little bits of yarn so they're perfect for using up odds and ends. They're also a great canvas for experimentation. Try out a lace pattern or practice intarsia. The best part is that it's all for a good cause. The hats will be sent to Innocent, a UK company that will put them on their drinks and then set aside a portion of the proceeds to help provide heat for grandmas and grandpas.

To see another version, check out the Mason Dixon blog. They also have a pattern posted for a reusable shopping bag that is from their new book, Mason-Dixon, Knitting Outside of the Lines. This one looks to be as good and jam packed as their last one.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lots o' little hats for charity

I told my little ones I was knitting a little hat for charity.

Can you guess their response?

"Who is Charity?"

Here's the deal - the folks at a drink company called "Innocent" are collecting tiny caps that they will put on the bottles for a special sale. 50p of the sale (really no clue what that is in dollars) will be donated to help pay for heat for the elderly. Not only is that a really gosh darned nice thing to do, this is a gosh darned fun project. There are patterns at the Innocent site along with a ton of pictures of gosh darned cute hats.

DH just shook his head when I explained what I was doing, but even he admitted that it was "sort of cute in a weird way" when it was popped on a bottle. There are photos of much more creative ones on the Innocent website - it's worth a visit whether or not you get bitten by the little hat bug.

The patterns call for 28 stitches - not sure what size needles or yarn since it's in British English. I used sock yarn with size 2 needles and cast on 30 stitches. I did a coin lace pattern, which seems to be my favorite lately - mostly because I've memorized it. I think it's just barely wide enough. Maybe a dk weight would have been better.

The good ladies at Mason Dixon Knitting are collecting the hats in the U.S. for a big send over to the UK. You can email them off their site for an address.

The days are shorter and the nights are cooler here in New England, but the garden is still going strong.

Friday, September 12, 2008

fashion redux

Has anyone else noticed that legwarmers are making a comeback as a fashion statement?
As a knitter, I'm thrilled to have another item that could be knitted - especially as the popularity of ponchos has declined.
This is a simple project yet holds endless possibilities for true creativity.

As a wearer of fashion, however, I'm not sure that I'm ready to embrace this trend.

Monday, September 08, 2008

All around the world

My Children and I have been introduced to Moomin, Mymble and Little My. They are delightful creatures with wonderful adventures in a tongue-twisty story described by Finnish author Tove Jansson. He is Finland's answer to Dr. Seuss. This is the fun of Secret Pal - connecting with someone through knitting and then discovering other bits of our world. My pal has also introduced me to Lin - a wonderful linen yarn with a gorgeous sheen. As you can see, I couldn't wait to swatch - it's a coin lace pattern that I've used on baby hats. I was curious to see how it would play out on this yarn, which has no elasticity.

She also sent some lovely blue sock yarn. It's "superwashvillaa" and "polymidia." I don't know Finnish, but I'll take a guess that it is superwash wool and polyester. Regardless, it's going to be fun to knit.

There were also some darling teddybear needle caps in the package, which is good since I never know what's going to happen with my needles when they aren't in my hands given how many hands are in the house.

My 6 yo dd is as delighted as I am with the SecretPal concept. She likes to help me open the package and look through everything. She has a well developed taste for yarn for someone her age. She is also fascinated to hear about where the pal is from. "Who is my Secret Pal going to be when I grow up?" she asked me recently.

So, to my Finnish Secret Pal - thank you very much for the fabulous package. I really appreciate how much you've spoiled us.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Transitions stink (sometimes)

This explains all the sand in her hair!
Do you remember that show "Let's Make Deal?" You would get something and then the host would let you trade it in for the chance to get something even better? "Do you want what's behind curtain number one? Curtain number two? Or curtain number 3?" You would be standing there with a crock pot in your hand and you could trade it in for a great new ride - maybe a new car, maybe a donkey.
I could never have gone on that show. I would have spent the entire episode trying to make a decision. I'd weigh all the possibilities. I'd consult with the person sitting next to me. I'd wander up a few rows to ask the lady in the funny hat what she thought I should do. I'd go over the benefits and pitfalls with the host. I'd make a list of comparing my options side by side. Then I'd start the process all over again.
You can only imagine how bad I can be when it comes to an even bigger decision like whether or not to switch to a new preschool. I agonized for months. Literally. Agonized. My friends were so tired of hearing about it they'd switch the subject as soon as they heard the word "pre." I'd make up my mind and then unmake it. I put off until the absolute last minute and then I put it off a little longer.
Why was it so hard?
It hit me this morning on the second to last day at the old school. I felt so sad as we went there - even though I really like the new school and I think it will be a good fit for my dd. I'm leaving behind people who I've really come to care about over the last six years. Teachers who've helped raise two of my children and parents who've become friends. Some I will see because we've become close, but I won't run into them in the mornings or at pick up.
When I bumped into one of those good friends this morning, I realized how much I value being able to say a quick hi and have a short chat about some insignificant (or significant) event. This is a big shift for us - like moving, changing jobs or even switching to a new coffee shop.
It's interesting to me that as a transition approaches, suddenly the things we are leaving behind look so much better than they did when we made the decision to leave!
The advantage of real life over the game show, of course, is that I've had a chance to look behind all the curtains. I'm fairly certain that I'm not getting the donkey.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


You know why these animals look so happy and relaxed? Because they're not trying to keep up with three six-year-olds hyped up on granola bars and pure excitement over the pending start of first grade!
What to do with children who have way too much energy? Let them loose at the Stone Zoo, of course. They can run and scream to their hearts content. Which they did. They bounced from one animal to the next just as thrilled as if they were seeing it for the very first time. Amazingly, their enthusiasm remained unabted throughout the entire day.
Today the children are "caged up" in a brick building at the top of the hill learning to read and write (I hope). The first day is so thrilling as they catch up with their friends and figure out their new routines. This morning was good because everyone (even the big kids) seemed generally happy to be going back to school. This afternoon may bring discord as the reality of homework and routine set in, but I'm going to bask in the moment of a peaceful house hold!
Trips to the zoo like this make me want to be a designer! The colors, the intricate patterns, the expressions of the animals just beg to be translated into some fabulous knitted masterpiece. That will have to wait since I have troubles even following simple directions. Of course if I'm designing the piece, then there are no directions to follow, right? Hmmmm...