Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Contest for a good cause

Lisa, A good friend and breast cancer survivor is running a contest on her blog . Check it out if you get a chance.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Thank goodness I knit!

The ride to Killington - the 2.5 hour drive to Killington - turned into a six hour odyssey as we left in the height of the storm. Six hours in the car was a little more family togetherness than we'd bargained for. Three bathroom stops, but no accidents for the potty-training 2yo. I finished one mitten, started the next and worked on my car project - a felted purse that can be knit in the dark, which is good, because it was dark.

The skiing was awesome - I spent a good chunk of the time teaching the 5yo the ways of the long sticks. She did remarkably well and most importantly had fun! The trip home was much, much easier.

The 15yo who opted to spend her time in the cabin said it was the best vacation ever - all sleeping and watching tv.

Friday, February 22, 2008


When there is a parking spot right in front of the yarn shop when one has to park to pick up one's husband doesn't that mean something? Like yarn must be bought? Alas - just enough time for one skein - Noro silk garden to make Maine Morning Mitts for the hostess of the trip. (Before or after my mittens? hmmmmm.....) Must go before dh discovers I'm blogging instead of shutting down computer as promised.
Happy weekend all.

knitting addiction

We're going skiing this weekend. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it. And it's snowing - what could be better. We used to go skiing alot - that was before five kids. We didn't go at all last year. So I should have been dragging out the skis and wiping off the cobwebs, going through the bags to find out if there are any goggles that haven't disintegrated and looking over the neck gaters to make sure mice haven't nested in them. Instead I became obssessed with making mittens out of the leftover yarn from my hat! It's like an something took over my brain: must knit mittens. My Dh was running around doing all the aforementioned preparations and I was running around ducking into the closet with knitting books searching for a pattern. "What? I'm looking for the toddler's snow suit," I said when husband inquired why I was carrying around a flashlight.

I didn't really expect to finish the mittens last night, but still I was disappointed when it was time for bed and I was still four inches shy of the top of the first one. If it were just me, I probably would have stayed up to finish. But I am the mom and the kids will get up in the AM whether or not I've been up all night. So I relucantly packed it all up. I'll have a long drive during which I can pick it up again.

I like that mittens knit up fast but I'm not real keen on the whole thumb thing. I have problems with not getting holes on the m1s for the gussets. I'm also not sure my gussets are long enough. I think, however, with a little bit of practice mittens could become a great go-to project for a quick knitting fix. Please feel free to send along your favorite pattern.

I do plan to tackle gloves soon - I'm trying clear up some of my other more complicated patterns first.

I have looked up the yarn shops in the Killington area - I'm going up to ski and there's a bunch of us so I don't have confidence that yarn shopping will happen, but I want to be prepared just in case.

Monday, February 18, 2008

While on Newbury Street doing an interview for work recently, I snuck over to a nearby yarn shop that specializes in luxury yarns. This reddish-pinkish yarn leapt off the shelves and into my arms. “Take me home, make something beautiful,” it purred snuggling up to me. At $17 a skein, I knew I couldn’t make much, but I figured I could be happy just being able to look at the gloriousness of the colors playing off one another. The yarn is Khroma, “Fiber expressed as art.” It is “Crafted with heartfelt passion for the unusual in beauty and texture with subtle variances.” How could I resist? It’s a 50/50 combination of Baby Alpaca and Merino, making it as delightful to touch as to look at. I would have been happy with that one small skein of 100 yards. But the phone line had problems and it took a great deal of time for the sale to go through. As I waited, my eyes wandered the shelves. The cynic might say it was a very good ploy by an enterprising yarn seller to retain the customer just a bit longer. I’d rather think it was the forces of the universe determined to bring together an amazing combination of yarns. Up on the shelf, too high to be seen when I was walking around the store was a soft skein of light pink and a dark burgundy that complemented my skein of Khorma perfectly. There was no question. They had to be together.

I decided on a hat and set out to find the perfect pattern. Of course, none existed. I liked part of this one and part of that one, but none was quite right. In the end, I decided to create my own. I am now fully in love with making hats. In two (long) nights of knitting I managed to make two hats – the first wasn’t quite right and was frogged to make way for the second. Here is my loose formula, easily adapted to fit a variety of yarns and colors.

My gauge for this project was 4 stitches an inch on size 6 needles.
The band is a long strip joined in the back. Mine is 9 stitches across and 18.5 inches long. I sewed it, but it would be just a little more difficult to cast on with waste yarn and kitchner the two ends together. I slipped the last stitch of every row as if to purl, which created a nice edge.

Then I picked up stitches. I ended up with 66 – this turned out not to be enough, which is the main reason the first hat was frogged. On the second go around, I added 6 stitches evenly for a total of 72. That made for a had that fits my 22 inch head perfectly.

From here, you can add stripes as desired and purl every few rows to add some texture. My striping pattern was this:

Row 1 (the pick up row): MC

Row 2 (the increase row): MC

Row 3,4: Knit in CC1

Row 5: Knit in CC2
Row 6: Purl in CC2
Row 7,8, Knit in CC!
Row 9: Knit in MC
Row 10: Purl in MC

I repeated rows 3-10 until the piece measured 6.5 inches from the bottom. Then I switched to the MC for the rest of the hat.

For the dereases:
1:Knit 10, k2tog, pm – repeat around
2: (and all other even rows)knit all the way around
3 and all odd rows – knit until two stitches before marker, knit two together.

Repeat until there are 4 stitches left between markers. Knit2tog all the way around. Knit one row even. K2tog all the way around. Cut yarn and pull through remaining 6 stitches. Finish off by weaving in ends.

I hope I have yarn left for mittens. I’m going to try to knit them both at the same time so I don’t end up with 1.5 mittens.

I also recently spotted two PDKs

In the movie “No Reservations” The elderly, reliable babysitter is knitting when the mom comes home from work.

And in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy (not the most recent, I was catching up on some missed episodes) George’s mother makes baby clothes not realizing he’s getting a divorce. Toward the end of the show, she is shown knitting a baby hat, but I will note that the clothes shown earlier in the episode appear to have been crocheted. (I realize some people do both so that’s not entirely inconsistent)

On a more personal note: it is with great relief that I welcomed home DH from South Africa. It was some gratifying when on Saturday as we ran the kids around while getting groceries and generally taking care of things, he said, “And, how exactly did you do this when I wasn’t here?” I’m just really glad to not have to anymore.
We went to the beach today - 52 degrees after the rain went away.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

improv cooking

I have endeavored to teach all of my children to cook. They all do reasonably well although they don't like to follow recipes. Still, I figured Hamburger Helper is so easy that even my ds, 13, could handle it. He insisted that he couldn't. I assured him that he could having cooked much more complicated dishes on his own before. Well, it turns out he was right. I got a call during my meeting, "Mom, I think I ruined the dinner. It's all soupy and it tastes watery." It turns out he cooked the noodles and then added the meat, the milk and the cheese powder. Those things are supposed to be mixed together before the noodles get cooked. While I was trying to figure out what to do and whether we had anything else or if I was going to have to order pizza, he suggested draining it all and adding spaghetti sauce. Brilliant. I suggested adding mozzarella cheese and baking it for 20 minutes. Delicious. He's always been so spacey and goofy it's fun to see him emerging into a resourceful, responsible young adult. He's got more going on than he lets on to. I do think, however, he needs to spend some time with the cook book!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Babies and deadlines

There is nothing like a deadline to focus my mind. I had been dreaming of planning a baby blanket for a friend of mine for months - ever since I first found out she was pregnant. There was always something more urgent. Suddenly it was the night before the shower. Some days prior I had accepted the fact that I was never going to get around to making the blanket, but that night I was gripped with a frenzy. I had to make her a blanket. I think I've watched one episode too many of Project Runway. It was 7 p.m. I had just the materials in my closet and three hours interrupted by the need to get my little ones to bed and help my older ones as needed. Luckily, I had a decent stash. I chose a modified rag quilt design.
Here are the particulars, for any interested sewers:
The squares are 8.5 - why? Because the fastest way to make a template was to fold the corner of a piece of paper over to make a square.
The seams are about an inch wide. I sewed the squares into strips and then sewed the strips together. Then I cut the fringe about 1/2 inch wide. (I was in a hurry so I eyeballed a lot)
The hardest part to figure out was how to finish the edges. I could have just fringed them, but that didn't seem substantial enough given the thickness of the fringe from joining the squares. I found a finishing technique called the Hounds Tooth on project linus - cut fringe on the edge that is 1 and one quarter inch, cut a tiny hole at the base and pulll the fringe through the hole. I did that at both short ends and left the edges straight.
It came out well enough that both the 2 and 5 year old want their own version. The only problem is, they didn't give me a deadline!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Simple is as Simple does

I like Target. It's not the prices - although they're often pretty good, the $1 rack up front - which is nice for the little ones or the selection, which is usually more than adequate. I like Target because of its fantastic return policy - bring in the receipt, they take the item - done. No paperwork, no 20 questions. I wish everything was that easy.

I'm trying to get a passport. It started out to be simple enough - there's a form on line. Better yet, you can use your computer to fill it out. It was all down hill from there. I went to an "instant" photo place. First, the only machine they have to print them out on was in use. Then they had to retake it three times to get my shoulders in the right place. It was anything but instant, but at least it was done. Next, you need a birth certificate. No problem, I have one of those, but where is it? It was in a metal fire proof box. Suddenly I realize that I'm not sure if it's still in there or where the box is. It finally turned up after five days of searching in a closet. Oh yeah, suddenly I remember putting it there so I wouldn't lose it.

Now, I just need to find the right post office, which is in another town. Anyone familiar with the Greater Boston area will appreciate that it is nearly impossible to find a place if you don't know where it is. Our roads are about as far from a grid as they could possibly get.

But I did finally find it. I trounced in all happy to finally be taking care of this. By my calculations I have just enough time to get the passport by the time I need it without having to pay extra. With a big grin I hand over everything.

"I hope that's not your birth certificate with the little feet on it," said the clerk. "That's just a hospital certificate. We can't accept that."

What? It has an official embossed stamp. It has all the proper details. It has my foot prints for crying out loud! Just take another print and you'll see it's really me. It's the only birth certificate I've ever had. It's always been good enough before. I wanted to throw a fit, but I didn't. I needed my energy for the next round.

I will note that while this was turning into an inordinately complicated process, it was made a kazillion times easier by the web. The information on how to get a genuine birth certificate was all there. Of course I needed a cashier's check, which meant fitting a trip into the bank, which is nearly impossible with my schedule these days. Well, since I'm going, how about finally getting my will signed?

I got the cashier's check and marched over to customer service, relieved that I was finally going to get the will notarized. She looked everything over and then looked over to where the other clerks were.

"I can't do it right now, everyone is too busy," she said non chalantly. "You'll have to come back."

These little things are what beat all the joy out of us. So many forms to fill out. So much documentation. It's not just enough to take care of things, you have to prove that you've taken care of things. It's exhausting and borderline ridiculous. I guess this is just the stuff that life is made of. I just wish more places would take lessons from Target!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

How do Iove thee? Let me count the worms

With dh away, I have picked up many of the jobs that are usually his - grocery shopping, feeding the fish, taking out the garbage, fixing broken drawers...but by far the wierdest and downright creepiest is taking care of his worms.

I'll spare you the picture.

My well-meaning, back-to-nature dh thought we should be composting to help save the planet. We live in the city with a little yard. Our house is jam packed. There just isn't much room for a compost heap. After extensive research, he decided that worms were the answer. He sent away for worms and a home to put them in. I didn't even know that one could order worms in the mail. They live in a round plastic house about the size of a side table. There are layers of trays. They live in the top ones eating the garbage and the compost falls through to the lower layers, as does the worm pee, politely referred to as "Worm Tea." I will begrudgingly admit that it does wonder for roses.

The whole contraption was set up outside and he happily spent the summer months bringing out banana peels, watermelon rinds, coffee filters and other such worm gourmet delights. He even opted againts a garbage disposal because the worms needed the waste that might otherwise have been just ground up and washed away.

The problem with his plan is that we live in New England, where it gets cold in the winter. The worms don't do well with cold. They had to come inside. They now live in our basement. They live there permanently because their house is too heavy to easily move back outside.

I just don't dwell too much on the fact that we have slimy critters happily slithering around in a big plastic bin in our basement. I put the worm edible items in a bin and they disappear. Except that he's not here and the bin is full.

Not only that, I suddenly had a panic attack that the worms were drowning in their own worm tea. I'm not particularly enamored by the critters, but that's just inhumane. Besides, I'm the mom. This is what mom's do - they take care of all living things in their house.

I drained off the tea - it wasn't actually to dangerous levels yet, but I have no idea how quickly it builds up. I emptied the bin into their house. They were crawling all over the top and the insides. I didn't scream. I didn't even grimace too much. I did have to remind myself that they're just harmless worms. Squiggly and wiggly, yes, but doing good none-the-less. And if they make my guy happy, well let's just say I love him - a lot.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Pictures of coin purse (card purse)

Here at last are the pictures. It is just the right size. I need to add a snap or maybe velcro, as soon as it's dry.

Here's what I learned - the garter strips felted away into the fabric leaving no extra texture whatsoever. Still, the Malabrigio is a wonderful felting fabric. It felts quickly and leaves little stitch definition, which I prefer. Also, it has soft stripes, which creates an ethereal effect on the felted fabric.

On a side note - take heed and slow down. I was in a hurry to get the kids to school today so rather than waiting for someone to make a left hand turn, I figured I'd just come up on the right hand side and turn. I didn't take into account the huge size of my van or the fire hydrant extremely close to the road. So close that it caught the rear wheel well and literally tore the metal and folding it like an accordian. Nobody got hurt and the kids were amused, but it will be a very expensive repair. I rush around a lot - mostly because I'm trying to do too much but also because I hate to be late. Well my lesson today is that it's a lot cheaper to be late.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Sad day in Patriot's Nation

My team was good, but in the end, not good enough. New England is in mourning today. We had hoped to be celebrating a final victory capping off an undefeated season. Instead, we're eating crow. I know there are some in the world who are pleased that the team has gotten its comeupance. But this team worked hard. An undefeated season is an amazing accomplishment. It was fun to watch them and it was nice to see everyone so excited and united. We have our differences over so many things, but on supporting our team we agreed. So today we share disappointment. Congratulations to any Giants fans. That team has a great story to tell.

I couldn't during the game knit the complicated lace scarf pattern I was working on - it required too much concentration. Luckily, I had some malabrigo left over and just the right size needles for a felted project stashed in our coffee table. (It has drawers so that I can keep my knitting supplies out of site). I cast on for coin purse at the beginning of the second half and sewed up the sides just as the Patriots made their final, fruitless play down the field. It's felting now. If my loose calculations are correct, it will come out just big enough for the stack of health insurance and membership cards I have to carry around. I would happily upload a picture of the prefelted object, if blogger would let me...

I knit mostly in stockinette, switching to garter stitch on the right side every so often to give it some texture. The basic formula was this:

Cast on 20 stitches. knit for 8 inches. For flap: decrease on both sides every other row until you have 10 stitches. Knit evenly for 4 rows, bind off. Stitch up sides. Felt.

I was going to buy one, but I couldn't find one in the right size and this is "free" given that I had the yarn on hand. It's also a great way to use up scraps. This would also make a good swatching project.

I will try for pics tomorrow.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Hats off

I think blogger is punishing me for saying it had gone bloggy - it ate my post! It was brilliant, too. It was full of stellar prose. It would have made you laugh and cry. It would have made your life brighter and more fulfilling. Okay, maybe I'm exagerating a little bit.

You would think, being a writer, that I would know what I wrote and simply rewrite it. I'm not that kind of writer. I can come up with the greatest lines ever, but I can't remember than much longer than it takes for them to come off my fingertips and onto the key board. If I don't get them on "paper" right away, they're gone into the mystical nothingness of abandoned ideas. Even writing them down on paper doesn't imprint them on my brain. I couldn't tell you the sentence I just wrote, much less one I wrote a few hours ago! I thought blogger was automatically saving drafts. Not this time, I guess.

It was something about hats. I had an epiphany this week about them that helps explain my troubles with them. They shouldnt' be exactly the same size as the head they are intended to fit - they should be slightly smaller. How much depends entirely on a variety of factors from personal preference to hat style to yarn characteristics. Unfortunately, I haven't quite figured out a sure fire formula for figuring out how much smaller.
Still, the last hat turned out great and so did my most recent endeavor - big grin. It's a lavender extravaganza with a fancy yarn brim featuring a subtle cable. The top is a cozy mohair blend with distinctive details. The only glitch - and it is minor - is that there is mohair in the brim as well, which means that when I wear it, I see this slight halo just at the top of my vision.
On a non-knitting related note, I'm making do without my partner in crime. I am being confronted with the full reality of how many children I have. Somebody is always in need of going somewhere or having something done for them. Mom is here, which is a tremendous help. She does the laundry, which is usually my job, that leaves me free to do all the things that are dh's jobs - like grocery shopping. He is so my hero for doing that every week. I don't want life to rush by, but I am really looking forward to Feb. 13th, when he returns. Among other things, he can help me take a decent picture of my next knitting accomplishment.