Monday, March 31, 2008

Wee Tiny Sock

It's quick, it's fun and it's so gosh darned cute - how can one resist knitting at least one if not many of these wee tiny socks? This one is winging its way to Pennsylvania to my downstream swap pal. The yarn is tofutsie - it's from a sample given to me by Allison, who I met through the International Tote Exchange. At the time, I thought it was pretty but hadn't get gotten the sock bug and wasn't really interested in knitting with teeny tiny needles. I tucked it away for just in case. This was the perfect project. I love the way the tofutsie felt on the needles. It produces a very soft sock. I'm not sure how it would wear, not having anyone around with a foot so tiny.

I knitted it from the toe up using the magic loop. It features a short row heel, a technique I am finally beginning to understand. I've always gotten the concept but had problems understanding the execution. I'm still getting holes, despite knitting the wraps. Hopefully, those will disappear as I do this more. The cuff is a mock cable stitch that I discovered for a baby hat (pictured a few posts back) It's easy and it looks so cool:
It's over 5 stitches - the set up is k3, p2
row 1: sl1st, k2, psso, p2
row 2: k1,yo,k1,p2
rows 3 and 4: k3, p2
It took about 3/4 of a Harry Potter Movie (the second to the last one)
The swap is a display of simplicity - knit a tiny sock and send it to someone. Meet two new people.
DH's reaction was, "You knitters are weird." But this is from a man who chases dead birds around the rain forest.
Does anyone have any experience with knitting shrugs? I was never interested before but suddenly have a yen for one - I'm thinking something a little intricate to highlight the plain beige yarn dm (dear mom) brought me from China - but not something so complicated that I can't watch an episode of say Men in Trees.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Race to Save the World's Rarest Bird

In the 1970s, a group of students doing research in an unexplored rain forest on a steep mountain on Maui discovered a delightful small bird with a black mask. At first, few believed it could possibly be an unidentified species. It seemed so unlikely that it had never before encountered humans. As it turned out, there was no known record of this tiny bird from the finch family. It was named the Po'ouli.

Just three decades after being discovered, they are all gone. The last known Po'ouli died in captivity just a few short years ago in the midst of a heroic, heart breaking attempt to save the species from extinction.

A newly released book, The Race to Save the World's Rarest Bird: The Discovery and Death of the Po'ouli, tells the dramatic story of this bird's life, how it came to Hawaii, why it was in endangered and why rescue attempts ultimately failed. It is also a window into the challenges of the Endangered Species Act and the future of other endangered species.

Dh wrote the book and I couldn't be more excited. He found out about the bird when there will just three left. At the time, he had returned to graduate school to study biology after years as a political and business reporter. The bird was gone by the time he first proposed writing a book about it. This is a lifelong dream for him and I couldn't be more proud. It's been a long road for him as he has spent hours gathering tons of information and finding just the right words to make the story come alive. For me, it's been a lot of late nights and weekends holding down the fort and dealing on my own with our 5c. I'll admit that I'm biased, but still I think the book is great. There are descriptions of the rain forest that make you feel as if you are walking through it. Even the geography lesson on how Hawaii came to be is interesting.

If you know anyone interested in birds, Hawaii or endangered species policy, please spread the word.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Year of Socks

I have determined that this is the year I will conquer my lingering fear of socks. I have made them successfully, but for some reason, I have sock-block in my head. As with writer's block, I think the only way to get over it is to just do it. So, I've found this exchange on Danielle's site to give me an added boost:

the sign-up deadline in Thursday. MeanwhieI've also got a pair of big girl socks on the magic loop -yes, a pair. Two at a time. I feel a little like I'm walking a tight rope, except that it isn't really that hard - yet. I haven't gotten to the short row heels.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Cleaning Games

The little girls were home sick. The living room was a mess. What great ingredients for a new game: Wizards, gremlins and princesses.

Here's the premise - the gremlins have come and messed up the kingdom. Things are strewn about where the don't belong. We are the wizards and must put everything back in order so that the princesses can play. We got a magic basket into which all the things that didn't belong had to go.

It took the 5yo all of about 5 minutes to figure out that she is not only the wizard, but also the gremlin and the princess! Still, at least she played along. The 2 yo was jiggy with it for a little while but then she saw through my ruse and announced "I don't want to clean anymore." So I still ended up doing most of the work but at least I had company and I kept them from making an even bigger mess for a few minutes.

What should I expect? My little apples didn't fall too far from the tree! My room was so bad when I was a kid that I had to make a path to get through to my bed! That didn't really change until I had kids. Now I'm all about the clean. I don't consider myself a neat freak but I have to insist on things being picked up. There are just too many of us with too much stuff. I've also begun to appreciate being able to find things when I need them. What a concept! Which leads back to my ongoing challenge of figuring out how to teach my children to do as I say and not as I did.

I've virtually failed with the older ones. Despite years of requiring them to "clean" their rooms they are now certifiable hazmat sites. At this point in their lives, there are bigger battles to fight so I've let that one slip. With the younger ones (my second chance?) I'm hoping to do a better job at teaching them how to clean and to appreciate having things around them be in order. Maybe I'm fighting a losing battle. Maybe whether the jeans are on the floor or in the drawer is in the genes? My 5yo's bf thinks it's great fun to clean.

The clean room in the pic is not ours - that's their grandpa's house. It looks like a picture in a magazine. All the time! Even when the kids have been playing in it for two hours. I don't get it, but it's true.
We Easter in Connecticut where it was too windy too fly kites. One of the good things is a 2.5 hour ride - 2.5 hours of nothing to do but mediate fights and knit. I worked on the Clapotis and a new pair of socks but finished neither.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Hoppy Easter

The problem with having five children is finding enough hiding spaces for all the baskets! To say nothing about filling all those baskets.

The 14yo was in charge of coloring the eggs this year - here she is multitasking like the best us.

Coloring the eggs is so much fun. Finding them is a blast too. But then what to do with them?

Here's our favorite recipe:

Peel and chop hardboiled eggs

In a frying pan - melt 2 tblspns of butter, add 2 tblspons of floor

Slowly add a cup or so of milk, constantly stirring

Add 1/2 cup cheddar cheese and eggs

Season to taste with pepper and salt or 1 or 2 teaspoons of dry mustard

Serve over toast

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Proof that Spring is coming

Yesterday it seemed as if Aslan might really be on his way (Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe reference). Today, not so much with a steady, cold, sleety, rain. But, I have proof! And we all know what a picture is worth....

I have rediscovered a recipe for a delicious, healthy shake I used to make way back in high school. And, it's a good use for bananas that are still perfectly fine but unacceptable to children who judge everything by its cover.

You will need:

1 frozen banana(easiest if you peel and cut into a few pieces before freezing)

1 cup of milk

1 (or 2) tablespoons of peanutbutter -chunky if you like the texture, otherwise smooth.
Mix these in a blender or food processor - how long depends on how smooth you want it to be.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Stunning (mistake)

At long last I have finished the beautiful scarf for my very good friend Jill, who deserves to be royally spoiled. She is one of those special people who does so much for everyone else. She has a strong faith in God and it shows in how she treats those around her. She and her family have given up a lot to serve God, but she doesn't complain much. Not that it's always easy for her, or that she's always happy, but she is always striving to find peace and to be satisfied with what she does have. So I wanted to knit for her something special - something that was crafted just for her. I chose the Tahki Charles Stacey sampler lace scarf in Superior because it looked so cool on the model and the yarn is a luxerious blend of cashmere and silk.

If this is an intermediate pattern, then I want to know what it takes to be an expert pattern! It kicked my butt! One row took me 2.5 hours with all the frogging it took to get it right. Thankfully, they didn't all take that long. Overall, I like the scarf - it certainly kept me interested switching from pattern to pattern. The closeups are of my scarf. The picture is from the company and shows the true color of the yarn. My yos don't look quite as neat as those in the picture.
I discovered -- after I'd grafted the two sides together, after I'd blocked it -- that I made the second pattern on one side too long -- by about 1.5 inches! First I went into shock. Then I made my way through the five stages of mourning - denial, anger, bargaining - I hit them all. I contemplated whether there was anything to be done about it, but concluded that there wasn't. Doing it over was out of the question given the time already invested and my urge to get this to my friend before she needs a beach towel more than a scarf. The pattern is too complicated for grafting.
Finally, I took a deep breath and decided this is the way it's supposed to be. The longer side is the "front" and shorter side is the "back," like a tie. (DH was quick to point out the short coming to the comparison, but he's not a knitter so I don't take him seriously). In reality, it won't be noticeable when she wears it and she probably won't notice it at all.
Here is what I've learned:
When making two haves of a scarf - compare them frequently to ensure they match or knit them both at the same time.
Regardless, the yarn is awesome. It's so soft, it's likeholding a bundle of downy feathers. There is a subtle sheen from the silk underneath the halo of cashmere.
Although, this pattern was extremely challenging, I would like to try it again. It's a great "think piece" for knitters looking for a challenge. It is not the best project to work on while watching a gripping episode of Lost but it's fine for Sponge Bob Square Pants.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Speed Knitting

So much to knit, so little time - what's a fiber addict to do? Knit faster, of course! In hopes of being able to do just that, I got me a lesson on fast knitting from the affable Lucy, owner oft Minds Eye Yarns in Cambridge.

It turns out, I was doing a lot right :) That's good from an overall sense of accomplishment, but not so good if one is trying to knit faster - how can I fix what isn't wrong? But even Tiger Woods can benefit from some coaching - not that I am the Tiger Woods of knitting, far from it. Lucy had me change how I was holding the yarn - wrapping twice around my index finger rather than my pinkey finger. Also, she showed me how to scoop up the yarn with my right needle, rather than putting the yarn over the needle with my left hand. I should have timed myself before and after the class to see if it actually makes a difference. I feel more confident anyway. Besides, Lucy is fun to hang out with - she's got a great perspective on life and quite a diverse history that ranges from teaching band to junior highers to practicing Zen.
Lucy also showed me that you can change the tips on bamboo needles - use a nail file to make them sharper and then seal them with just a touch of chapstick.

She wrapped up the lesson with a tutorial on the kitchner - I get it! I mean I get how to do it, I don't really "get" it yet - it seems like magic. Now that I see how it is supposed to be done, I'm sure I did something wrong when I did it with my socks. It's still a little like driving in Boston for me - I can do it but I sure couldn't explain it to someone else. (For those who've never had the "pleasure" of driving in my town - it's notoriously difficult because there isn't a straight road to be found - even once you figure out how to get somewhere, it's nearly impossible to tell someone else how)

I had all but given up on accomplishing what I've signed up for this month - the Clapotis and a pair of socks, but with my new speed skills, I have hope. If I can wrap up the green lace scarf tonight (If I haven't just cursed myself), then I can launch into the other projects this week and maybe whip up another baby hat on the side.

Of course, what's an afternoon spent in a yarn shop without a little yarn to show for it? This is the softest pink yarn I've touched in a long time. It's made from soy and cotton. This sock yarn doesn't feel especially soft, but Lucy said it knits up nicely and will be good a summer weight sock. I guess I'm hoping that by knitting something for the warm weather, I'll bring it on sooner. Besides, how can resist something called "clown" yarn?

Incidently, for those who are interested in the new Noro sock yarn - Lucy was wearing a pair of socks she knit with the it. She said it was a joy to knit with and that the socks are very comfortable. In fact, she's looking forward to making another pair. Holly Jo also used it to make a gorgeous pair with very nicely matched stripes.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


This picture was inspired by the noticing project, a blog run by two friends featuring photos they've taken, mostly of ordinary things but with an unusual perspective. It's called the noticing project. They post new photos daily during the work week. Seeing their pictures has made me look at things around me in new ways. I've always been a camera buff and now I see a vast new world of options.
I'm extremely glad to live in the digital age where I can take as many pictures as I want without paying an extra dime. When I started out, it cost about 50 cents a picture with film and developing - that's not conducive to experimentation. I'm also glad to have so much inspiration at my fingertips. (Apparently I'm in a ridiculously good mood today)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Welcome to my new kitchen

At last, we're ready to throw the party to celebrate our new floor - except that I think I'd spend the whole time shining the new stove and wiping out the new microwave. Everything is so nice and shiny, I want it to stay that way - nearly impossible with my crew. Really, I'd have to spend my whole day in the kitchen armed with a sponge and mop.

The floor is bamboo - maybe a bit of a gamble to put a wood floor in the kitchen, but it is very warm and inviting. There's more to be done - dh has plans for more cupboards and stuff, but for now, this is a vast improvement over the worn, painted commercial tiles that were down before. I walk into my kitchen and I feel relaxed instead of irritated.
I am working on an interesting system that anyone who is clean or organizationally challenged might appreciate - it's from . They are a brilliant group of marketers touting a store of must-have cleaning items. But beyond the hype of their wares, they have a pretty good system - They break the house into zones and tackle just one a week. Every day, there is a 15-minute job to do. It's a great system for busy people, although there are times when even 15 minutes is beyond me. It's worth a look-see if you're into that kind of thing. There are a lot of good suggestions and motivational stories. I will say after having tried this for a few weeks that it is pretty amazing what can be accomplished in 15 minutes.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


I just saw a moth fly into my studio - should I panic? How do I know if it's the wool-eating variety?

It's almost as bad if it's the food eating kind - last year we lost $$ worth of food in the pantry to a moth invasion. To say nothing of the ick factor.

Here is a very, very easy chicken recipe to try if you are short on time and ingredients:

You will need 2 or 3 chicken breasts. I slice ours in half the long way and then again the short way so I have pieces that are about the size of a deck of cards.

Other ingredients:
1/4 flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar (can substitute balsamic or apple cider vinegar)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon dijon mustard (can substitute honey mustard)
1/2 teaspoon sugar

In a pan on low heat - warm 3 tblspn oil and 3 tblspn butter.
Meanwhile - mix 1/4 cup of flour with a teaspoon of salt and a 1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper (or to taste)
dip the chicken pieces in the flour to coat.

When the butter has melted, turn up the heat to high and add 1 tspn chopped garlic. Heat for about a minute just until garlic has turned golden. Add chicken and sautee for about 3 minutes on a side (I confess that this is never enough time for me, but I know it is supposed to be)

When chicken is cooked through, remove from pan and set aside. Turn down heat and add chicken stock and vinegar bring to a boil constantly stirring. Add mustard and sugar. If the sauce isn't thickening. Continue boiling until sauce has thickened. Pour over chicken and serve.

This was a big hit with the big kids, but not the 2 and 5 yo. That's not saying much, however, the only kind of chicken they like comes in the nugget form.

Friday, March 07, 2008

One Baby, One Morning, One hat

A friend was having a baby but opted to not find out the gender ahead of time – always a bother for us knitters. I had a blue hat and booties ready to go, but something held me back from giving it to her at the shower. Sure enough, the baby arrived yesterday – a girl. A sweet baby girl named Lira. Not that there's anything wrong with blue for a girl, but I'm personally partial to pink for them. I knew it was possible in theory to make a hat in the few short hours before our visit to the hospital – but could I do it? I decided to cast on and find out… there were a few false starts as I tried to get it small enough (I have a tendency to make big hats). I found a mock cable pattern that is just darling and loads of fun to knit. I worked through Project Runway (on Tivo), Sesame Street and a PBS kids show featuring an actor in a giant sloth suit. I finished off the ends mid-way through WordWorld.

The hat is a little big, but I know babies heads grow really, really fast and it will be too small in no time at all.

This oddessey of mine is an argument in favor of an extensive stash. You just never know when you're going to need to whip something up in a hurry. I used Bernat Cotton Tots because it's what I had on hand. After having worked with it, I have to say there are other yarns I like much better for projects like this.

I’m also happy to say that the half mitts for my friend who took us skiing are done – just in time
for a warming trend, but she may still get some use out of them on some chilly mornings. It’s the Morning Mitts from the Knitter’s Book of Yarn – a fabulous book. It’s bound to be a classic. The pattern has a wonderfully done thumb that involves decreases just after the thumb.

P.S. The delightful trip to the grocery store was more or less a fluke and I’m still not a fan of grocery shopping.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Two year olds and grocery stores

I hate grocery shopping with a passion. I'm overwhelmed by all the options and I always end up way too much that I wasn't supposed to get and not nearly enough of what I was supposed to get. DH took over the job long ago because the bill was always too high when I went. But, I'm working from home now and have "flexibility." Besides, we only needed a few things for dinners that could be cooked in the microwave while we're waiting for the new stove to arrive. As it turns out, with a little thought and creativity, there a number of meals that can be made without a stove - I think I got ingredients for all of them. That is largely because of my delightful shopping companion, who is two-and-three-quarters. She felt compelled to fill up the empty cart and she didn't really much care with what. Her choices ranged from apples to chocolate pudding. Some of it I was secretly tickled about - I love chocolate milk and rarely indulge. How can you go wrong with nachos? All in all, it was a completely delightful day. Here are my tips for shopping with a little Lou Who who is no more than 2:

  • Go in the morning - there aren't as many people, which means fewer obstacles when racing down the aisles.
  • Skip the list - you won't be able to look at it anyway.
  • Bring extra money - it's very hard to say no to the excitement generated over cinnamon graham crackers and blueberry muffins.
  • Be open to new experiences - 2yos have a different perspective on the store - they are at eye level with whole shelves of food you've been missing.
  • For once it's a good idea to go just a little bit hungry - you will likley be buying some ready to eat snacks that will have to be opened as soon as the trip is done.
  • Don't forget the quarters - there's nothing like the thrill of getting a bouncy ball at the end of the trip. Just don't hand it over until you've gotten in the car.

Here's our list of meals:

Baked potatoes with prepackaged shredded chicken and bacon and canned chile

Frozen chicken parmesan with a side of couscous

Frozen spare ribs with a side of instant mashed potatoes (or minute rice)

Clam chowder and bread bowls

Dinty Moore Beef Stew and french bread

I have since discovered that it is possible to cook pasta in the microwave, although I haven't tried it yet. I have successfully cooked meatloaf in the microwave, but it's not a very popular dish in my family. It's best when you can brown it in a few minutes in an oven anyway.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Knitting in Trees

Do you watch Men in Trees? I've seen it a few times but not enough to know any of the names - I did note, however, in a recent episode that the heroine, a writer, was knitting, yes knitting, a sweater for her man, who was lost at sea - a fact she didn't learn until the end of the episode. Do the writers of the show know about the Boyfriend curse?

It was a nice sweater - ribbed from the looks of it. I couldn't tell if it was on circular needles, however. DH was amused that I was so attuned to the details. "Is she doing it right?" he asked.

I launched into yet another project (why o why? I just can't help myself) Fashionably Late in '08 Clapotis. It's a KAL and I just can't resist them. I love knitting with other knitters, I guess. It will be in pinks - yarn my mama brought me from Australia. I'm finding it to be very soft to knit with. I started it to say I've started it... but first: Must finish half-mitts for friend and lacy scarf for friend.

The mittens are the ones I wrote about before. They are the first pair I've made for myself. The thumb opening is a little short and they are probably a little long, but I love them anyway. The colors worked together as well as I had hoped. And I got them done just time for spring :) It's okay - we're not out of the woods yet and winter always comes back.

Notice that they are laying on a gorgeous bamboo floor? DH really went to town and is nearly done with it. I'll post pics when the room is cleaned up a bit more.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Can we build it?

Yes we can! In a rare and brief lull between work, book, and running chidren around, a fix-the-kitchen-floor fever overtook my husband. It started when my dad offered to buy us a new floor for Christmas. We're supposed to have someone else do it, but for whatever reason, it seems to be harder to find someone than to just do it - my guy is like that. After talking about it for so many weeks, he just grabbed a scraper and got started today.

The 2yo was thrilled to see a little Bob the Builder action going on right in her own kitchen. She grabbed her tool belt and hard hat and came down to lend a hand. He pulled up towels and she sang at the top of her lung: Bob the builder! Can we fix it? Yes we can! We'll see... right now we have a very torn up floor. The new floor is sitting in boxes in the foyer - bamboo.

Amazing how much work it all is - we have to move a giant stove, a giant refrigerator and a massive radiator. But at the end of it, we'll have a real grown up kitchen instead of the shabby flop house style kitchen we have now.

On a completely separate note - I have discovered why it is a very good idea for parentsto buy the children comfortable beds (aside from just wanting your children to be comfortable) We started the night just the two of us. Long about 2 a.m., the dog joined us. An hour or so later, the 5 yo climbed in. Just a bit later the 2 yo came in. No more room for me. I figured the best idea was to take over the 2 yo's bed. I wasn't there for 10 minutes later, the dog wandered in!