Blarg!

February 7th, 2013

Hey, Blog!

Yikes! I finally have a not-so-busy week (relatively speaking) now that my big birthday is over – I just had a very round-number birthday, and celebrated it in style a couple weeks ago. My awesome husband threw me a party at a nice farm-to-table restaurant in town with an awesome drinks menu and a private party room called Eat Street Social. I didn’t have to do all that much work before the party, other than make sure as many people as possible were invited and fret over whether or not anyone would actually show up…

As it turns out, we had plenty of people show up, and it was a blast. We had athletes from the gym…

The current generation of family (and man, we have a good-looking family!)

We had some neighbors and old college friends….unfortunately, neither Joe or I are very organized or decisive when it comes to making social arrangements, to a large contingent of this category were unable to get babysitters, so it was largely underrepresented. Still, they did end up mixing some with the other groups and seemed to have a good time. Hey, when there’s free all-you can eat appetizers and an open bar it’s hard not to have fun, right?

I managed to make a short but successful speech when it was time to cut the cake (it was about how I can’t believe how wonderful my life and friends are, and how my coach calls moments like this “I love you man” moments, but you would have had to be there.) And speaking of the cake, Joe hit the nail on the head – I have an obsession with the perfect chocolate cake, and he got it from Turtle Bread Company. (OMG I’ve been going to this place for pastries and lunch for years and years, but if you have not checked it out, you truly must. The Linden Hills one is the original and my favorite.)

I know it looks good, but I wish I could hand out tastes to everyone reading here. It is the best chocolate cake ever – spongy cake, real butter cream frosting – all high-quality ingredients -oh my! It’s a good thing that it was not a giant cake – I knew that a lot of my friends were on a super clean-eating cleanse thingie, so they wouldn’t eat much if any, and also I didn’t want to take it home and binge on it for the next two days. Instead, I got to eat two very small slices at the party and send a few slices home with guests. We had picked up cupcakes for the girls and the babysitter to eat at home while we were out, too. Everyone was happy.

Even Joe. And especially, me.

Yikes! The party part of this post was supposed to be a sidetrack/prelude to the other stuff, but I’ve already gone long, and my time is up. I was going to mention the post in my head where Julie’s dolls go exploring in the house (she was a little jealous when Sophie’s skunks had a party without them)

Here they are as I found them – I think they were hung over from too much partying the night before maybe? I actually have all the pictures here, if there is enough clamor for it, I might get around to writing the post!

I was also going to mention all the crazy Girl Scout business we’ve been up to. Last weekend, Julie did Feed My Starving Children with her troop, then we went out both days to sell cookies in the neighborhood (Cookie Go Day was last weekend), then we hosted 11 girls from Sophie’s troop for a sleepover in our basement. Yikes! By Sunday night, I could barely hold my head up to watch the Super Bowl! But it was honestly worth it – so much fun! Just don’t ask me how much work went into clearing out our basement rec room enough to make it presentable. The answer is months’ worth, culminating in a frenzy the week before. But now the basement is almost presentable at the moment!

We also had two snow storms, which meant getting out and shoveling and I finally got to try out our new giant snow thrower. After three years of indecision, Joe and I finally agreed that we needed a two-stage machine that can handle the heavy snow and manage to throw it up onto the 6-foot snow banks that often build up by the time March rolls around in Minnesota. Funny story – he used to do all the snow removal back when I was out of shape and had to small children that couldn’t be left in the house alone or trusted to play outside without intense supervision. He would come in and tell me that we needed a bigger snow thrower. I had no understanding of it, so I shrugged my shoulders and said “Well, if you think we can afford it and we *reeeeeally* need it, go ahead.” So he lived with what he had for longer.

Then, last year, I decided it was time for me to take over more responsibility when it was snowing while he was at work and the kids were in school – I felt like it was unfair for him to have to come home in the dark and work outside till ten at night after stressing out in an office all day. So I learned how to use the old snow thrower and discovered its limitations. So early this winter, I suggested maybe we should go ahead and get the bigger one. He scoffed. “No, ours is fine. It does the job.” But then one weekend early on it snowed, and he went out and did his manly snow-removal duties in daylight. He came inside and said “Are you serious about ordering the new one?” and I said “Yep. Go figure out which one we need.” So we ordered it from somewhere online where he found a good deal, it showed up on a giant pallet on a giant truck a couple weeks later, and we haven’t had a serious *serious* snow since.

The snow I was removing a couple days ago was only a couple of inches of the very light, fluffy stuff, but I really wanted to try the new monster out. Oh, boy it is a monster! It took me half an hour to figure out how to start it, and the thing can drag me all over the driveway. I think I’m in love.

I felt a little wild and crazy in that moment. I know I looked that way trying to manage this huge new machine! I really must go glance at the owner’s manual.

Well, now we get to the Blarg! part of the post. All that running around, exposure to petri dishes in child form, lowering of my immune system by wearing myself out first at the gym and then shoveling snow (I actually did more shoveling than machine operating!)  along with over-indulging in Girl Scout cookies (damn you, Thin Mints!) lead to me succumbing to a nasty GI bug the last couple of days. Which is why I had an extra hour to spend sitting at the computer instead of swimming four thousand yards in the lap pool.

The lull is almost over, I have to go prepare for Sophie’s birthday party this weekend. She’s turning seven.

Exploring With the Stinky Sisters

January 16th, 2013

We’ve had these three little beanie baby stuffies for years and years. I think they may have come from a McDonald’s Happy Meal at some point, back when I occasionally bought those for my girls on days when we were pinched for time. Now they won’t even touch McDonald’s food (except for the breakfast sandwiches, in which we still indulge on rare occasions when we are required to be up and out of the house before the sun). I digress, as usual. Over time, these three lovely skunks became known as the Stinky Sisters.

Sophie rediscovered them from the stash of stuffed animals recently – we have so many, most of them are relegated to bins in the basement, a smaller selection lives on a shelf in our upstairs hallway, and each girl is allowed two or three at a time to call her own, with trade-ins allowed whenever they request it without screaming and/or whining about it. We have these rules for a reason, I don’t just make up Draconian laws on a whim despite what my children sometimes seem to think…

But this morning, Sophie left her Stinky Sisters on the kitchen table, looking out the window. On the way out the door to the bus stop she informed me that they were going to wait for her there today, so they could see her when she is coming home. Funny enough, that is where our old cat Daisy (may she rest in peace) used to sit waiting for us to come home. Most pets do that – they find a spot near the door or window where they can anticipate their people’s return. We all would like to believe that they spend their day there waiting, but if we’re honest we know that they wait till we are gone and then go exploring the house, looking for a comfy spot or something interesting that was not there the day before. This is as it should be, and the truly beloved pet, at least in a home filled with routines, knows when to expect their owner and is ready and waiting for their return at the appropriate time.

The Stinky Sisters are no exception. They started off slowly at first, checking out the ever-present bowl of fruit on the table. Lately we’ve been eating clementines like they are going out of style. They are like candy! This is also the table where homework is done, so if you look closely you’ll see a peek of the ever-present pile of papers and pencils that also live in this spot.

Soon, the sisters moved on to the living room. There, they found some wind-up Ugly Doll toys having a little party on a library book, which makes a nice hard surface when not actually being read. These toys were supposed to be stocking stuffers at Christmas, but Santa had purchased them much earlier in the year and forgotten them in their hidey-hole.  They were unearthed a couple weeks too late during the post-Christmas purging of junk, at which point they became spontaneous gifts-for-no-reason. We have a strong love for all things Ugly Doll around here.

Next, the Sisters took a trip over to the shelf where they checked in on the ant farm. This may have been the best present given or received in our house this Christmas. The girls had both circled ant farms in various toy catalogs during the lead-up to Black Friday, and when Joe and I sat down to leaf through the catalogs ourselves to pick out the goodies, he exclaimed that *he* wanted one for himself. Well, I’ve always secretly wanted one too, so I ordered one and gave it to him – it had to be opened a couple days before Christmas, because that is when the ants arrived in the mail, and I didn’t have the heart to make them wait in their tiny test tube. These new-fangled ant farms with their mysterious gel substance that acts as both digging-dirt and food are pretty cool. Ours came with a base that lit it up from the bottom, and unfortunately that part broke within the first week, but still – it has been entrancing to watch them build their tunnels over the last few weeks.

The sisters soon got bored in the living room, and just like my girls, they snuck into the office room to see what Mommy has been working on in her private space.

Bear with me while I share another side-story. When Joe and I were first married, we watched a lot of the Food Network. There was a show where chefs would knock on random doors and ask to come inside and cook gourmet meals from whatever the family had in their kitchen. On one show, this fabulous chef was stuck in a kitchen of dieters who ate only pre-packaged and processed foods where the only oil-type substance for sauteing something in was “I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter”. She quipped “I can’t believe I’m cooking with this stuff.” Apparently I thought that was funny enough that it’s stuck in my brain for more than ten years. Anyhoo, I think of that all the time when I’m knitting with the yarn shown above and think “I can’t believe I’m knitting this stuff!”

Before Christmas, I knit a beautiful infinity scarf thing out of mawata silk that I’d attenuated into yarn – so light and fluffy and warm! And it went into our family gift-giving game on Christmas night. All of the little girls at the party tried to win it, but I really wanted it to go to a grown-up, who would be better able to take care of it, delicate as it was. In the end, I promised my two that I would knit them their own scarves if they would stop fussing about the one at hand. Later that week, we went to the big-box craft store and I let them pick out something more appropriate to little girls. To my own internal shock (horror?) I actually steered them to this stuff – it’s super-bulky nylon chenille that I knew would be soft against their skin, if not particularly warm, and quick enough to knit that I could have them done before the Spring thaws. Julie’s scarf is already done, but I’m making her wait to have it till Sophie’s is off the needles as well, one or two more sessions should see it done.

Once the Sisters were done bouncing on the layers of squishy chenille, they moved on to the exciting Ferris Wheel structure of my spinning wheel. Notice that there is no fluffy wool sticking out of the orifice on the front – the singles are all spun for this giant batch of wool – it started out as a 4-lb fleece if I my records are correct (and I’m not exactly 100% sure that I’m matching up the fleece to the right records, sadly). I know that I skirted the thing mercilessly, throwing out any and all dubious bits before washing, and then I combed the locks into top, which meant that even more ended up in the compost. It will be interesting to see what the finished yarn weighs.

So now comes the wider view – I am busy plying the yarn as time allows, usually late at night when my brain is good for nothing better. I used my beautiful Earl Oman wheel for the spinning, but all of the bobbins were full by the time I was done, plus my Rose wanted in on the action – she is faster at plying with her higher ratios.

I have three finished bobbins waiting to be wound off, the fourth is almost done. I’m thinking I’ll have almost two more bobbins’ worth by the end – a sweater’s worth, almost certainly. It is very hard to take a halfway decent picture of black-brown yarn on a bobbin on a cloudy winter morning, not that I actually tried very hard.

Observant readers will note the Garmin box to the left of the bobbins – my big Christmas present was an uber-fancy running watch that can track your mileage and pacing with extreme accuracy. I haven’t had much opportunity to use it yet, since I’ve been running on the treadmill at the gym – I would like to claim that I run outdoors in the Winter, but in reality I am a big chicken and afraid of falling on the ice. Someday. I need time to figure out all the fancy features anyway. To the right of the bobbins is a basket full of other handspun waiting for its turn on the needles. Oh, how I wish I had an extra pair of hands!

By now, the Stinkies had moved across the room to the work table. There, they found some freshly-wound sock yarn. I live in fear of running out of mindless on-the-go projects to take along to swim practice and other enforced instances of down time. I’ll find a moment in the next couple of days to cast on another pair of socks – I think I’m going to do these from the top down. This will be another pair for myself. A couple/few years ago, I knit a little sweater for Sophie out of a different colorway of this yarn – it has a ply of sparkly silver spun in, and the whole time I knit that sweater, I wished for some socks for myself out of it. I always re-wind the skeins into two equal balls so that I can knit both socks at once – on two separate sets of needles, alternating between them so that I still have something completely mindless to work on even if one of them is at the heel or toe and needs a bit of attention from my eyes rather than just my hands. I like to knit in the car if someone else is driving, but I get horribly car sick if I have to look.

Finally, the girls found their way back to the kitchen, where they explored my on-the-go sock pouch. The pair in there is almost done – probably in the next week or so. I would have finished them off at home by now if it weren’t for those frivolous scarves. You can’t see it in the picture, but there is a name and phone number tag on every one of my knitting pouches or bags if there is a chance that it will leave the house. I learned my lesson after losing an almost completely knit sock along with a big ball of my handspun yarn a few years ago.

Sophie will be coming home from school soon, and I think the Stinky Sisters were tired. They are back on their table, dozing as they wait for their girl to return.

All of this reminds me of my favorite quote from The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery:

“You should have come back at the same time,” said the fox. “If for example you come at four o’clock in the afternoon, I shall start feeling happy at three o’clock. As the time passes, I shall feel happier and happier. At four o’clock, I shall become agitated and start worrying; I shall discover the price of happiness.

I think I may go watch out the kitchen window – I think my girls have me completely tamed. Fred will come with me, and just before time for the school bus to come, he will start whining at the back door because he is tamed too. We are the lucky ones, because they will always come.

Twice in One Week?!?

January 10th, 2013

hey, look at me, I’m back AGAIN!

Okay, so I have a story to tell you today, not about knitting. It’s about my kid and my mother-in-law and some other stuff.

I mentioned that my family is heavily into the Girl Scouts these days. It’s a little bit like a cult, only instead of brainwashing you to stop talking to your friends and family and drink heavily sugared, artificially colored drinks that come in little foil packets, they just teach you to be really nice to each other and try to make the world a better place. Oh, and sell a few cookies once a year.

Anyway, our local “service unit” hosts this event every year called International Tea. There’s not necessarily any actual tea involved, but the idea is that each troop picks a country, does a little research about it, especially about girls and women in the country, then sets up a display table about it for the other troops to hopefully learn a little something. To make it fun,  they also serve bites of some food (or drink, in which case tea *could* be involved) local to that country’s cuisine . They also have an option to perform some song or dance or skit related to that country at the end. And all this is background to the story.

This is my troop’s first year hosting a table – last year they were Kindergarteners, and we had never experienced an International Tea, so we attended as guests just to learn how it works. This year, I chose the easiest country I could think of – South Korea – because hello my entire family is from there. I’m going to wrangle my mother-in-law into helping make enough kim bahp for a crowd of 300! Weeeee!

Anyway, I knew there were some cute songs we could do, because I remembered my MIL teaching them to the girls when they were little. Never mind that Psy and Gangnam Style have taken over the planet (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then go search for it on YouTube, and you can be the 1,657,998th person to view it. It’s pretty awesome). I’ve got her coming to help teach a super-cute song to my Girl Scouts in a couple of weeks, but it’s kind of hard to learn a song in a foreign language, especially one that is not rooted in the same continent as the language you’re used to speaking. So I decided we’d get a head start at the meeting we had this week.

Which is more complicated than it sounds, because it meant that *I* had to actually learn the entire song and the motions that go along with it – not just the first three words and hum along to the rest like I’d normally do. I went and searched the Internet for some video and lyrics, and while there was some out there I had a vague memory of making video of MIL doing it with Sophie, and I thought maybe it would be at least as good or better than what I’d found already online. Digging through the photo section of my computer’s hard drive is like a little treasure hunt, and OMG it reminded me not just how much I love my daughter and how delectably cute she was at that age, but also why I really do love my MIL even though – well, she’s my MIL.

Here’s the video for your viewing pleasure. It’s a song about a bunny who hops away looking for chestnuts to collect. Don’t ask me why he’s collecting chestnuts, I had lunch with my Korean sister-in-law today and we couldn’t figure it out either.

Yeah, I’m not sure why Sophie was yelling and running around, but it was cute enough to melt my heart a bit. Anyway, the girls in my troop made a valiant effort to learn it last night and made me proud. I’m hoping we can do ourselves proud in front of the crowd at the International Tea.

And, just for a slightly more up-t0-date version of my girls – last February the Girl Scouts had a big 100th anniversary party at the Mall of America. It was a long, fun, stressful day and at the end of it, I took them my two out for burgers, fries and a giant hot fudge sundae. We were feeling pretty goofy, and they posed for this picture while we were waiting for our food. Ack, they’ve already grown up so much more since then!

Dear Blog: I Miss You

January 7th, 2013

Hi, Blog! Remember me? Shelly. You know, the one who used to write here all the time. What? You don’t recognize me? Well, it’s been a while, and I’ve changed some.

okay, the cutesy attitude will get old quickly, but Hi, it’s me, stopping by again. I’ve been wanting to blog again for a while, so today here I am. I thought I’d share a little bit of what I’ve been up to lately – life has changed so much since the days of the fabulous sock-yarn blankie – hard to believe that was six years ago! So much has passed since then, and I feel like that’s what most blog readers of old think of when they think of Shelly Kang – a honkin’ big sock yarn blanket.

Well, a few years ago, I joined a gym and it changed my life. The changes have been gradual, and there has been much work involved, but I have grown a whole new set of friends that I see every week day while we literally work our a$$es off. Well, most of them already had the body shape they wanted. I was at the point where if I didn’t get off the couch and start moving more, I was never going to be able to. Over the last four years I have lost 50 pounds and become more fit than I’ve ever been in my life. I’ve learned to love running (something I NEVER thought I would say, let alone really believe). Last spring, I ran my first half-marathon and surprised myself by finishing in under two hours. And it was fun.

This summer, I swam a race in Lake Superior called Point to LaPoint. It’s two miles from the shore to Madeline Island. I did that in just over an hour.

Yeah, not the most flattering of pictures except you can see the excitement and pride in my face as I went to hug my kids straight out of the water. What you can’t see is them totally not wanting their nasty wet Mommy to drip lake water all over them. Seriously, though, it was an amazing experience and I’m hoping to do it again this year. I could go on and on about the journey I’ve been on with the fitness and the changes in eating, and maybe I’ll come back and share more…

Meanwhile, the girls have grown up so quickly! I was just looking at some of the main Blankie posts while trying to answer a question for some knitter out there just now embarking on their own Blankie project (can you believe that there are more than 2300 Blankie-related projects listed on Ravelry right now? I sure can’t!) But anyway, in those pictures, Sophie was a baby and Julie was a toddler. Now they are both in elementary school. Being their mom is still my full-time job, and I am so grateful that I get to do this job every day.

We have all joined the Girl Scouts – Julie was invited into a troop last Fall, and Sophie wanted to be a Girl Scout too, which led me to a recruitment meeting at which I became a troop leader. Oh, I felt so suckered in! I thought I was signing up for this so that I could make sure Sophie had a good experience, but to be honest I have gotten much more out of it than I have put in so far. I’ve done a lot of cool things with both of my girls that I never would have done otherwise. Here we are at a rollerskating event just about a year ago…

One of the challenges of blogging as a parent is defining the limits between sharing and privacy. To be honest, one of the things that has held me back from posting is trying to figure out what I can say and show, and what I shouldn’t. There are a lot of things that occupy my time and energy that would make awesome blog posts, and writing about them is tempting when I’m in the thick of dealing with them. I deal with certain issues that I think I could share my experiences on and possibly help other parents out there who are dealing with the same things. But those stories are not entirely mine to tell. Once information is put onto the Internet, there’s no taking it back. A few years ago, I had a couple of instances where very nice local blog readers approached me in public at non-knitting events – once or twice when I was out with my girls at our favorite restaurants or shopping. It really hit home to me then that there really was an audience out there reading about my family, and that everything I share about my kids will be background information for the community to know about us before they even meet the real “us”.

It almost feels like lying by omission when I share only the happy-shiny moments of our lives, and I try to be very honest and open in all my relationships. It’s especially hard when issues flare up, but also when I have especially happy or shiny moments and here I am bragging about them again…but, nobody is forced to read my drivel, so I guess I can continue to spew it and you can take it or leave it.

Julie is 9 now, and a third grader. This kid is so smart, so insightful, so delightfully quirky. She reminds me of myself in so many ways, not the least of which is that she also loves swimming and practices with a swim team almost as much as I do. She loves to tell people that she is interested in fashion design, and every time we are at a toy or book store she zooms in on those kits full of templates for drawing clothes fashion pictures or cutting out paper clothing outfits, or – well you would not believe how many various activity books and kits there are on the market aimed at girls who like clothes. She’s had them all. In the lead-up to Christmas, she was circling all of them in the toy catalogs and a light went on in my head. I told her that if she was interested in fashion and really wanted to learn more about it, she needed to learn how to sew so that she could make real clothes instead of all these piles of drawings around the house. We went to the fabric store and picked out a pattern and some flannel, and over Winter Break she sewed herself some pajama pants. I made the shirt to go with them, but she really did do 90% of the work on the pants herself – including the hair-raising-for-me-experience of learning to use the iron. Yes, there was a small burn involved, but she’s fine and it’s almost a given that you’re going to burn yourself eventually when you use an iron. Here she is.

Sophie is almost 7 and in first grade. She loves to dance. Until last Summer, her hair was quite long and she claimed she was going to grow it down to her ankles. I think she really believed that she was going to, and the idea of combing through the tangles at that length gave me nightmares. Eventually, I told her about Locks of Love, where you can donate your hair to be made into wigs for children with permanent hair loss. She loved that idea, and was able to donate a full foot of her beautiful silky brown hair. Now it’s growing back nicely, but it was cute even as a short bob.

I knew that she would be sad if Julie got to work with my sewing machine and she didn’t, so I bought her a plain tote bag and let her pick out different colored threads to sample the various stitch patterns my machine can make to decorate it with. I’d say that was a win.

Yes, I have in fact been doing some crafty activities…just maybe not quite as much as I used to. Things have shifted a bit as well. After I learned to spin, I really took to it like a duck to water. It’s so meditative! So calming! Eventually, I dug even deeper and bought a few dirty fleeces straight from the sheep so that I could process them start-to-finish. Let me tell you, I’m glad I know how to do it. It’s been fun learning. I’ve told my husband to shoot me if I ever bring another dirty fleece into the house. I might be willing to buy a fleece and send it away to be washed, but sorting and washing fleece is not at all glamorous! I have a ton of pictures on my hard drive from my adventures with it last summer, thinking that I would blog it – I’ll go back and look at those if I need reminders why not to do it again.

Actually, I am just finishing up spinning the singles on a Romney cross I bought in 2011 – at least I think that’s what this one is – I’ve actually bought six fleeces total, and I didn’t keep my records very straight, so this could be one that I bought this Spring. I’ve got seven bobbins full of skinny singles, and now I’ve  got to decide whether to make 3 or 4 ply yarn with it. I’m leaning toward 3, but I’ll have to sample and see how it looks. There’s definitely a sweater’s worth here.

Knitting has not gone by the wayside, though. I still knit socks at a rate of just less than a pair a month. Joe decided last winter that he might actually like to wear hand knit socks to work – totally knocked me over when he announced that he’d like a few more pairs after years of hiding the few pairs he had in the back of his sock drawers. I told him we’d start with one more pair and take it from there.

I’ve been wrestling with a very nice batch of purple Elspeth Lavold Silky Wool yarn – I had a sweater 80% done, when I tried it on and discovered that the design was awful (not mine – I was knitting from a pattern out of a magazine) and ripped the sucker out. That represented months and months of work, though, so after washing the yarn it sat for a bit while I worked through my disappointment. I’ve started a new sweater – working on the arms first, two at a time on a big circular. I have my reasons for doing it that way, and maybe I’ll show you.

There is also another sock yarn blanket in progress…this one is not as amazing as the mitered square one. It’s just a collection of clunky crocheted granny squares. I made the mistake of doing too many rounds on the first 10 or so squares I worked up, and by the time I realized that it would be cuter with smaller squares, I was not willing to go back. For some reason, it feels like a summer project to me, and I’ve set it aside for now, maybe to be finished in time for next year’s state fair. We’ll see.

On the horizon, my glittens (fingerless gloves with mitten-flaps that go over the ends) that I wear every day are on the brink of wearing out. I have a plan for a new pair, and a matching hat of course…but the plan involves spinning some specific yarn – it will be a really cool project that I’d like to share so don’t hold your breath, but stay tuned!

The backlog of updates is daunting. Hopefully I’ll be back soon. Thanks for checking in!

Shelly

Slippers’ End

December 10th, 2011

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Almost the only hand knits that my darling husband truly appreciates are the felted clogs that have been famous in the knitting world for the last ten or fifteen years. I put the leather soles on them, and until this morning he was on his second pair, worn daily in the winters over the last ten years or so. That’s a petty good track record for any knit, in my opinion.

This morning I woke up to a steam of cursing and a temper tantrum worthy of the best…well I’d better not finish that sentence – he does read this sometimes. Fred had chewed a hole right through the heel of one. Time to go buy some Brown Sheep and knit a few new pairs for the whole family, I guess.

As punishment for leaving his slippers where the dog can get them and then trying to blame said  known-to-destroy dog for what happened next, I am publishing sad-face morning pictures for the world to see.

:-)

Ladies Who Lunch

December 9th, 2011

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Sometimes Sophie and I share a big salad for lunch. She loves hard boiled eggs, so I chop some up warm and toss them with romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, a little balsamic vinaigrette and cheese crumbles…oh and sunflower seeds.

I used to pretend the salad was just for me, and feed her bites of the bits she likes off my fork, but these days there’s no need for subterfuge and we each attack the big bowl with our own fork. I’m cherishing these last months of lunching just the two of us while she’s in half day kindergarten.

(for the record, my other one won’t touch salad with a ten foot pole…but likes other veg just fine. You should hear her rave over kale soup.

More Holiday Weekend Fun

November 27th, 2011

I’m loving this holiday weekend. I feel like we’ve packed it with the most fun our family is capable of having. Friday afternoon we all went to see the new Muppet movie. I think Joe and I enjoyed it more than the girls because of all the references to the old show – but hey, we all got to eat popcorn, and the girls did enjoy themselves. This afternoon we came home from an outing, watched lunch, and then I showed the girls some more Muppet clips on YouTube. Specifically, we enjoyed the original Mahnamahna song.

In a fit of silliness, the girls and I decided to record our own version, which I have (probably foolishly) posted to YouTube, and am now sharing with you…

The outing earlier was a trip to a local park where we took a bunch of family photos in the hope of getting one for our holiday cards. I love the timer feature on my camera, which takes ten in a row each time you set the timer. It still is not easy getting four people and a doge lined up and smiling, eyes open, but we came away with something passable. Fred was quite excited and distracted by the flocks of geese living in the park, and the girls were quite grossed out by all the goose poop covering the grass and the fact that Fred considered it a gourmet snack. Joe was just unhappy about the cold, and I was grinning and bearing it all while trying to hold it all together.

This was our second choice of photos – a close call with the one we are actually using, but if you’re local, you’ll probably recognize the park in question. That’s an old beehive barbeque oven that was moved to Lilac Park over by the NordicWare factory a couple years ago – it was originally built during the depression, and was restored by a local committee after years of sitting unused next to highway 100.

Yesterday I stole some time in the afternoon to knit a bit on the sweater I’ve been wanting for myself. I feel a bit guilty starting a selfish project in the middle of the holiday madness, but the lace is a nice challenge and a perfect excuse to sit on the couch with the girls while they watched Howl’s Moving Castle.

This is going to be the back of the Dahlia Cardigan that was published in the Fall Interweave Knits. When I saw the pictures, I knew that it was time for the pile of Silk Garden yarn that had been marinating in my stash for the last five years to come out and play. I have a feeling progress on this will be a little slow, but I will squeeze in a few rows when I can and it will get done probably before spring rolls around and the weather warms up.

I should probably also mention what I was up to the morning of Thanksgiving…since I wasn’t hosting, I had time for my normal workout at the gym before preparing my two dishes and taking them over to Joe’s cousin’s house for dinner. We usually swim on Thursdays (me and the awesome group of athletes that I hang out with). We decided to have a little fun since we’d dragged ourselves in on a holiday, so we had a few races. There is a back story, but really only funny to those directly involved. Video was taken, and again, I am foolishly sharing it with the world here…

That’s me in the shark cap, and of course the first thing I notice when I look at myself in the video is the fact that I still have a giant pear-shaped tummy compared to all my lithe athlete friends. I’m okay with that (for now) – and it doesn’t hurt that I held my own in the races – the people who finished first in this IM were college swimmers and incredibly fast. The lady in the lane next to me is my awesome coach, who is an incredible athlete and although I am not all that competitive by nature (especially compared to the people in this group) it did feel good to hold my own in the pool after spending the entire summer struggling to just keep up on the runs.

There has also been a teeny amount of spinning – I pulled out some nice merino roving that’s been waiting around for my attention – I bought it with three other colors of similarly-blended wool, and am spinning them all separately in the hopes of someday knitting up a striped sweater or three. This is another stolen-moment project right now – but I needed something on hand for a moment here or there of quick spinning in between other projects in my office. The spinning wheels always look so lonely when there is nothing in progress on them!

Oh, and backing up to Tuesday, I had the chance to meet a reader from Florida. I got an e-mail a month or so ago from a nice lady named Carole who has been knitting my blankie and was planning to be in town to visit her son. She wondered if I was interested in a meet up, and I figured why not? It would be an excuse to sit in my favorite coffee shop and knit for an hour or so, right? Turns out she was fun to talk to and had lots of questions about various projects. My coach from the gym (who also knits) came and sat with us for a while, and it was very cozy.

Thanks for getting in touch, Carole! (Here she is with her blankie-in-progress and the original blankie, which I pulled out from the storage ottoman by my couch so they could meet up.)

Finally, in case anyone is dying from suspense, I did track down all the Calico Critter pieces I had in mind for Sophie’s presents, but none in the places I’d most expected. Last week I’d gone to local toy store Creative Kidstuff with a coupon for 25% off one item, where I bought the Caravan Family Camper and the Convertible Coupe along with the rabbit family. I was a little horrified by the prices, but I figured I should at least secure the items I wanted before the crazy Black Friday shopping started, and then see if I could do better. Turns out, I was able to buy the car at half off through Barnes and Noble’s website at midnight on Thursday/Friday, but they had already sold out of the camper. Which is why I got up and out the door on Friday morning to try for the camper at an actual B&N store. Unfortunately, the store that I picked has already sold out of that particular item before the big sale.

The good news is that they had a different present I wanted for Julie – a pottery wheel toy. She’s pointed that toy out many times in catalogs, and the catalog I had at the moment sold it for $57. B&N had it for regular price of $27, and I used the Black Friday deal to get it for $13. I wouldn’t have bought that one for her, but Joe’s mom gave me a check at Thanksgiving dinner and asked me to pick out gifts for the girls from the grandparents. I was happy to do that because they mean well but have no idea what the girls like.

Back to the Critters, though. Sophie will get a family and the car as her big presents for Christmas. I need to look through the other things I’ve bought and make some decisions about whether maybe grandma will give her the carrying case/house for Christmas too. We’ll save the camper and another family for her birthday in February. As I was running around shopping for these toys, I started to worry that too much of it at once would not be as much fun as spreading out the collecting over more time. Really, with these “collectable” toys, the waiting part is a good chunk of the fun.

I feel only slightly guilty about having to return the car back to the store where I picked it up last week. While I was there, I spent quite a bit of money on other stocking stuffers, and these toys are more popular than I’d realized, so they will have no trouble selling it in its still-perfect packaging.

Now, off to order Christmas cards, fix some dinner, and plan my moves for the coming week – it’s looking like another busy one!

Calico Critters on Black Friday

November 25th, 2011

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I really don’t consider myself the Black Friday shopper type, and yet here I an sitting outside a Barnes and Noble an hour before they open so I can get my damned Calico Critter house for half off, making my five year old happy without bankrupting the family. I was at Toys r Us at 9 last night and got half of two families of the little beats as well.

At least I have a coffee and Joe’a socks to knit on.

Two Dreaded C Words

November 20th, 2011

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I discovered last year that I prefer to get the bulk of my Christmas shopping done in November. I would never have tried to accomplish this feat if it hadn’t been for the vacation that took over most of our December last year, but once done it felt pretty good and gave me plenty of time to tie up loose  ends and even knit a bonus gift or two.

Which explains why I’m scouring the internet and catalogs to find the best prices and most interesting things. Julie’s big gift was easy. She asked for a globe or a telescope. I found what seems to be a quality globe with interactive features at Costco for about what I’d seen them going for online, but without the shipping. As a bonus, one of my beloved neighbors says she bought one just like it for her sons and they are happy with it. As for the telescope, well a decent quality one would be pretty expensive, we live in a major metropolitan area with a lot of light pollution, and she is only eight. Also, I have very bad memories of a Christmas when I was about that age and got a telescope a my big gift, which was accidentally broken by a well-meaning uncle before I was even able to look through it. We’ll wait a year or two for that one.

Sophie is another story. I don’t think she really has a clear idea of what she truly wants, but she has a fascination with the Calico Critters brand of toys, and plays quite a bit with the very few she has. That’s the only thing she says she wants – more Calico Critters. For little plastic toys, they are awfully expensive, sold at the fancy toy stores where we occasionally shop for birthday party gifts and where I imagine rich grandparents go to indulge their grandchildren.

I’m going to buy some critters for my little critter, but the amount of money I have budgeted will buy only the most paltry of sets. I’d like to buy a house, but am going to be pushing it with the price of a camper. Anyone have girls who no longer play with their calico critters and are ready to sell them off?

Christmas. I’ll have to do a more detailed gifts post when I’m a little closer to done playing Santa’s elf.

On to the other C word…crochet…

Really, I bet you never expected to see that one around here. But the hooks seem to have snuck
into my craft room, and the inspiration into my  hands.

I’ve had this book of crochet motifs since it came out a year or two ago, and for reasons that escape me I picked up some very thin cotton crochet thread at the craft store not too long ago. This weekend I stole a few moments here and there to play with it. The goal is to possibly make some cuff bracelets that might serve as small holiday gifts of they turn out well…or just to have fun trying. I’m thinking its going to be the latter option.

Now back to knitting a pair of boring socks for my husband.

First Flurries

November 11th, 2011

Life moves so quickly by…we had our first few snow flurries yesterday in my neck of the woods. I feel so grateful that our fall here in Minnesota has been so warm and long (if a little dry) this year, but hunkering down for months of cold and dark is always a little painful. In summer months we have daylight till almost ten at night, but we do pay for it starting about now. As always, life has been busy and I have lots to share…

Our chocolate lab Fred is one year old today. We’ve had him since January, and is is fully embedded as a member of our family. He still likes to chew up anything left laying around, but is starting to settle down a bit, and is pretty well trained (completely potty-wise, 90% on the obedience). Here he is trying to lick peanut butter off his nose. I wonder what diabolical puppy mama would have put that there?

Going back a bit, I attended a knitting retreat the weekend before Halloween. It was just for a couple of days, but it was a much-needed get-away, and I had the chance to catch up with some dear knitting friends I hadn’t seen in a while. New this year for this particular retreat, we had the opportunity to visit an alpaca farm. Thanks to Riverside Suri Alpacas, we got to go meet some of these sweet silly animals and even hand-feed and pet some (they actually don’t really like being touched, but can be bribed with food).

I love this next picture because you can see the baby cria nursing from its mama in the background.

This retreat is one that I’ve attended several other times in the past – it’s called Minnesota Knitters’ Days and is held at a retreat center in southeast Minnesota. This year, Candace Eisner Strick was our instructor – as she has once or twice in the past – and I love that lady. She is so smart, and hilariously funny. She comes up with great ideas and is fun to listen to. Here she is with her sister and an uncommonly friendly alpaca. Candace, forgive me for putting up your photo without express permission, but you look so sweet here, and it’s not a close-up so I hope you don’t mind.

Candace has a new self-published book of socks out, and she has a novel new way of attacking heels and toes. For quite some time, I’ve been so happy with my standard short-row method that I’ve been loathe to try other “new” ones, but since I was there and since it was Candace, I gave hers a go. I actually like it! Enough, anyway, that I am willing to finish a pair this way and see how they wear before I make any further judgement, but from me that is saying a lot. Candace had asked us to work the new method as a swatch with bigger yarn, but I figured I’d be happier jumping right in, and now I have a sock almost done – this photo was taken right after I came home.

If you like knitting socks, and want to try short-row heels and toes that don’t involve the old wrap-and-turn method, Strickly Socks might just be the book for you!

On the way home from my retreat, I stopped briefly in Red Wing to shop for little souvenirs for my girls and to check out the shoe outlet, where I took a picture with the world’s largest boot. Not a great picture, but I snapped it myself with my phone as quickly as I could so as not to attract attention. It really is a huge leather boot. Red Wing’s claim to fame!

When I came home, all that I’d left behind was waiting for me and it was time to catch up. We jumped right in to Halloween (Joe got the girls started carving pumpkins and I got home just in time to help finish up and clean up the mess!) This year I had a little purple princess and a leopard. The night before Halloween, I let them try on their costumes, and the leopard had fun sneaking up on and pouncing on the princess, who did a great job pretending not to know she was about to be attacked.

Halloween itself was a magical night – the weather was relatively warm and we stayed out for hours. There were more kids than usual in the neighborhood, and it felt like a movie set or a Norman Rockwell painting. We made a pack with our close neighbors and it could not have gone better. The girls were quite pleased with their candy haul!

There goes that sneaky leopard again…

This next part really should be its own separate post, but time is short so I’m just going to get on with it. This last spring at Shepherd’s Harvest festival, I took a class on processing raw fleece into yarn, and bought three fleeces at the silent auction there. (Actually I bought four in my zeal to make sure I got “enough” but came to my senses and managed to sell one off to a classmate before leaving for the day). I’m still in the midst of processing all that wool, but am making steady progress. It is quite time consuming, and while I am learning a lot in the process and enjoying it, I’m not sure I will be so eager to do all the work myself in the future. Here are 933 yards of about worsted-weight 4-ply yarn that I spun from a Columbia fleece after washing and carding into rolags.

I’m definitely on a learning curve, and this first batch is a little on the greasy side. I didn’t understand at first just how very hot the water needed to be, and how much detergent was necessary. Also, I think I put too much wool in at once and let some of it sit too long, so the water cooled off and the grease stuck back on the wool. I realized this after most of the fleece was carded, and I was trying to spin it. Still, this yarn is just fine, if a bit rustic. I will knit myself a sweater out of it (once it has marinated in stash for a bit) and I’m sure I’ll wear it with pride It is quite lovely and squishy. There is still a good portion of that fleece waiting to be re-washed the right way – I’ve done a few batches that came out much cleaner and happier, and I’m going to spin them worsted this time for smoother, longer-wearing yarn – probably at a finer weight. Like I said, this could be its own post.

While I’m at it, I may as well show you this 441 yards of 3-ply yarn made from a shetland fleece I bought the same day. It is slightly lighter weight than the cream colored yarn above, but close enough that I could possible combine the two in a sweater (or multiple sweaters) if I wanted to do some natural colorwork. This batch was also early on the learning curve, but it makes me happy when I look at it. Really, I must do a post about the process start-to-finish at some point.

In case there is any doubt that I am a sock-a-holic, here is another toe that I started, just to make sure I had a steady supply of mindless knitting on hand…

One never can have too many socks at the ready for a sudden long car ride, meeting, or random span of waiting time. Almost right after I knit this one up, Joe said something that took me completely aback. He mentioned that he might like to start wearing hand knit socks to work. This is the man who has never been interested in wearing handknits, with the exception of the felted clogs which he wears constantly during the winter at home, and has worn out the leather soles of one pair and is well into his second. I was thrown for a surprised loop! And, silly, wonderful man, he noted that he’s probably need several pairs. I told him we’d start with one pair, but I’d happily put him in the rotation for new socks if he liked. He only wants plain dark colors, but I will cast on a pair soon and set aside the wild ones for myself till his are done.

And back to the girls…something I’ve been meaning to mention that has been taking up a lot of our time and energy – the girls have both joined the Girl Scouts this fall. Julie was invited to join an existing troop of Brownies, which meant that Sophie was very eager to join a troop too. I showed up at the organizational meeting and somehow managed to put my hand up and become her troop leader. I walked out of that meeting stunned and wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into, but at this point, I am very excited about the whole thing – it is going to be a fun adventure. Luckily, Julie’s troop leader is awesome and has been very helpful and supportive so far, plus I have a really nice co-leader who seems to fit really well with me – I like doing the behind-the-scenes organizational stuff, she is great with the kids at the meetings. Let me just say that this volunteer gig takes a LOT of time between training, troop leader meetings, actual girl scout meetings, communicating with parents, and lots of little planning and paperwork bits. Now you know what I’ve been doing with the time I would have spent blogging!

Last week, Julie’s troop had a field trip to tour the Wells Fargo bank in downtown Minneapolis. The bank has a little museum there where the kids learned about the original Wells Fargo stagecoach business in the 1800s, among other things, and then they got to go behind the teller counter and see currencies from different countries and collect a bunch of free lollipops.

I volunteered as a chaperone, so Sophie got to put on her Daisy uniform and come along for the ride. I know I’m not going to like every experience I have as a Girl Scout mom, but so far I’m all over it. I love the values, especially the all-inclusiveness – unlike the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts clearly state that they don’t discriminate on anyone for sexual orientation or religion, among other things. And yes, we’ll be selling cookies in February.

The ladies with whom I work out most week days have started our knitting group back up after a summer-long hiatus. We do a lot of talking and just a little knitting, but they are learning! Here you can get a peek of my latest finished project – it’s a beaded shawl of my own design and that I think will get its own blog post hopefully soon!

And here is a sneak peek of my next non-sock project – I’m just in the swatching stage for a sweater out of the Silky Wool yarn that’s been marinating in my stash since Julie was a toddler…it’s lovely yarn, and its time has come.

Whew! More to come….