Archive for December, 2006

Blankie and Lace with Subtitles

Friday, December 29th, 2006

I had a happy coincidence today. I was planning to write a bit about the blankie progress and my goals for it now that Christmas is over. Then, I found this little package by my back door this afternoon. Margaret in Maple Grove sent me another handful of her leftovers. Margaret has already sent me a couple nice packages, and one of these days I’m going to have to actually meet her since she lives just down the road from me. Thanks, Margaret!

I’ve mentioned several times in the last month that the blanket has been feeling lonely and neglected. Poor thing has been sitting in her basket waiting for some love, and I’ve been busy with holiday preparations and tiger hats, among many other things. I pulled her out a few days ago and wove in a pile of ends, which was a start in re-immersing myself in this project. I’ve been thinking about what my goals for finishing it really are. Originally, I thought it would be best to finish it this winter while it is cold and I want to have a giant blankie on my lap. I still think that would be best, but having done a little math, which I’m about to share with you, I think that’s a little unrealistic.

Currently, I have about 18 rows done at 16.5 squares per row (half the rows are 16 squares and the other half are 17 squares.) That means I have about 300 squares done. The thing is currently 26″ tall, and I want it to be about 75″ finished. That means I’m 1/3 of the way there, and have about 600 more squares to knit. For math simplification purposes, I’m just counting the big squares as four little ones. Over the summer, I was allowing myself to feel satisfied with a minimum of one square per night, and I often knit several without breaking a sweat. However, Winter only lasts till about April around here, leaving me only 120 or so days or 5 squares per day to meet that original goal. That’s not going to happen.

What I really want is to finish the blanket in time for the State Fair in August. When you enter things in the fair, they have to be in new condition, and the last thing I want to do is finish my blanket in, say, September and not get to use it all next winter in order to keep it fresh for the Fair. I can’t fathom knitting this thing and not entering it in the fair, though – mostly so that anyone who’s been reading the blog and wants to see it in person can get a look at it.

Okay, so I want to be conservative in my estimates. 600 squares is definitely a generous estimate of how many are left to knit. Let’s say I need to have all the squares done by the end of July so that I have a couple of weeks to get the edging done and block it before entries are due, around the middle of August. That’s seven months, or about 200 days (I know it’s a few more days than that, but there are going to be days when I don’t get to knit on the blanket. I’m trying to err on the side of caution.) That means I need to knit three squares a day on average. I think that might be do-able. Maybe I can even aim for four squares a day and try to finish the thing by the end of May. We’ll see. In the mean time, here’s what it looks like right now:

I know I also promised pictures of a newly cast-on project. I did cast on a new project yesterday, and I spent a couple hours working on it before ripping the whole thing out. The thing is, I’m no stranger to knitting lace. I just can’t learn and execute a new lace pattern, especially with laceweight wool, while watching a movie with subtitles. Too bad I realized this at 1:30 in the morning after knitting many repeats of the pattern and realizing that yes, it was full of mistakes and that no, I couldn’t ignore them. Into the frog pond it went, and I’ll start over next chance I get. I’ve got the materials in a bag that I take with me in the car in case the girls fall asleep, so either the next time that happy situation occurs or an evening comes around when I’ve finished my three or four mitered squares. Drat! I don’t think I’m going to have my new scarf done by the end of the winter, but maybe that means I’ll be able to enter it in the fair too.

Before I go work on the blankie, I’ll leave you with a cute kid picture of the day. Sophie wore one of the new hand-me-down outfits from her cousin today, and was adorable in it. She is SO getting ready to walk. She spends most of her free time pulling herself up and practicing her balance.

Tigers!

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

As promised, I have a finished object to report this evening. Here’s Julie modeling her new tiger hat:

I didn’t finish it in time for Christmas, but it wasn’t really intended to be a Christmas present. I really knit it more out of my own sheer desire to knit this hat than out of any sort of plan for putting it to use. So strange, because I am normally a balanced process/product type of knitter. But the Malabrigo and the awesome cuteness forced me into it, and Julie really likes it. I think I may have to scheme up some mittens to go with it because there’s a ton of yarn left over.

Here are the details:

Pattern: Tiger Hat Pattern by Mary Lou Eagan, available here.

Yarn: Malabrigo, one skein of each color. I don’t have the skein tags in front of me, but I think the yellow is Cadmium, and the other is a rich dark brown. The Yarnery was out of black when I bought it, but the brown looks great IMO.

Needles: I used a US 5 (3.75 mm) 16-inch (40.5 cm) circular.

Notes: This is a great little pattern, and I’m pretty sure I’ll knit it again eventually. Mary Lou did a great job putting together the graph, and it’s for a great cause. Thanks, Mary Lou! I started it on December 4 and finished it last night, so technically it took 22 days, but that’s because I barely had a chance to knit on it. I could have finished it in probably two or three evenings if I had been able to knit straight through.

Oh, and here’s Sophie looking like she’s doing a roaring-tiger impression, but really she was laughing I think as she was chasing Daisy cat around the living room.

Tomorrow – hopefully an update on my poor, neglected blankie and possibly a new-project sighting as well.

Christmas is over, long live Christmas

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

We made it through the last three days of fun and excitement, and I am very happy with how Christmas turned out this year. I’ve been thinking all day about how I want to write this post. I want to talk a bit about something that has been bothering me a lot this month – really, it’s been bothering me for a whole year now, and I have been anxious and preparing against it happening again all of this month especially. I know I have a tendency to whine, and this is not meant to be a whiny post – but I am going to say some negative things only so that I can contrast them with just how positive I feel about the outcomes this year.

First, I’m going to share the fun stuff and the pictures, and if you want to skip my rant, you can stop when you get to the last four paragraphs. Christmas Eve was our traditional dinner and gift-game at my cousin Ron’s house. He and his wife Molly befriended my almost ten years ago when I moved to Minnesota, and I’ve been with them almost every year at this time since then. We’ve had fun every time, and I hope we never wear out our welcome. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, so I’m going to have to hope that Ron and Molly send some copies of their pictures our way. Julie had a blast playing with their cats – chasing them around really.

Later that night, we got home and put the girls to bed – I haven’t mentioned it lately, but Sophie is going to bed much more easily and sleeping in her crib for much longer stretches. I stuffed the stockings, put the gifts under the tree, and did a few more little things before

Christmas Day is a happy blur, so let’s do it in pictures. This one is mid-way through opening gifts. Sophie’s big present was a new set of blocks that interlock. Sophie didn’t really get very many presents this year, but she’s only 10 months old, and we already have so many toys from when Julie was a baby there just wasn’t much to buy that we didn’t already have. These are pretty cool blocks, though, and you can see Julie likes them too.

Julie mid-way through opening her stocking gifts. I had a lot of fun buying little junk to stick in there, and she had a lot of fun digging through it.

Here’s what I look like first thing in the morning when I’m happy but still waking up. Sophie is enjoying her new ball.

After all the packages were opened, we went down to the basement and discovered one more present that Santa left. A set of giant blocks made out of cardboard. Julie seemed to like these as well.

Here’s a wide-angle view of the basement room. We hadn’t been using this space at all, except for storage, which is really sad because our living/dining room is not that big and this is fully finished space that is great for a playroom. Joe and I spent some time this month clearing it out and childproofing it so that we can move some of the toys down there and let them go crazy.

The curtains on the left are some of the ones I just finished sewing – that doorway leads to a storage area along the back that is just an eyesore.

Joe’s big present was something he hadn’t asked for but that I couldn’t resist when I saw it. I found it at the No-Coast Craft-o-Rama a few weeks ago – it’s a stained glass robot. Somehow it seemed like the perfect gift for Joe, and he says he likes it. I did also get him a couple of smaller things that were actually on his wish list.

Joe got me some good gifts too – a nice little selection of single-source dark chocolates from E. Guittard. I’m waiting to try those till my palate clears a bit from all the holiday sweets and treats. I want to really enjoy them. I also got a new external disk drive for my computer for easier backups, and we bought new Photoshop software on sale after Thanksgiving as well. Score!

I spent most of the rest of the day scrambling to get ready for the party, and managed to get everything done with a bit of time to spare. Joe’s parents arrived first and helped out a bit – mostly by taking care of the girls while we finished setting up. Sophie was amazing – she let practically everyone at the party hold her at some point, and didn’t complain at all even though I was busy and away from her most of the evening. Here she is in my MIL’s lap.

Here’s a picture of the food spread. You can’t see all that well, but we had a nice number of delicious dishes, but a simpler meal than last year for sure.

The table from my perspective. I think I had Sophie in my lap as I was taking this one. Not everyone got to sit at the table, but I managed to score a chair and eat for a few minutes.

After dinner, we had a bit of a present-opening extravaganza. The girls were a little wild, but they had a pretty good time. Sophie sat on the floor and chewed on the unopened packages for a while, and Bella the dog who was visiting with Joe’s cousin Natalie kept her entertained too. Natalie, if you’re reading? Bella left a nice little present in our bathroom!

Here I am helping Sohpie open one of her presents.

A good time was had by all, and I have to say how pleased I was with the way the evening flowed and with how much help everyone was in getting the work done and even cleaning up a bit afterwards. The girls were exhausted, and both of them went to bed as soon as the party was over. Julie was still tired today, and we paid for it with some squirrelly behavior this morning. It’s SO to be expected, but it took us a little while to figure out what was going on.

Here she is eating leftover dessert after lunch. I made a wheat-free apple pie and a special little pan of wheat-free bread pudding just for her. What she loves most is the whipped cream. In the foreground, you can see my serving of bread pudding. Oh my, you wouldn’t believe how yummy this stuff was. It was Gooo-oood. I used this recipe from the food network, only I substituted the chocolate bread from Turtle Bread (two loaves) and doubled the recipe. It took a little longer to bake, but was otherwise fine. The whiskey sauce was a great complement to it as well. If you’re local and can get this bread, you have got to try this the next time you need an easy but impressive dessert. If you’re not local, maybe you can get them to ship the bread to you – stale is okay because you want it dried out before you add the custard and bake it. Everyone who ate it liked it.

This afternoon, we all headed out to the mall. Joe’s cousin gave the girls Build-A-Bear stuffies that needed filling, so we braved the crowds. The whole mall was busier than all get-out, but the Build-A-Bear store was super-crowded with kids using their gift cards and filling animals just like us. Here are the girls with “Lucy” the cow and “Wiggles” the bunny. Julie came up with the names. Notice she’s still wearing the purple tutu. I promise, we do put clean clothes on her every morning – she just strips down to her shirt and tights and puts that tutu back on the minute she has a chance.

Alright, I’m off to sort through all the gifts a bit more – we got so many things from all the relatives, and Joe’s cousin Sarah brought over a huge tub of clothes for Sophie to borrow. None of Julie’s old winter clothes fit Sophie right now because their birthdays are almost six months apart and Julie was a bigger baby than Sophie is. Luckily, Katelyn’s old clothes are in beautiful shape and are just the right size. I am so grateful to Sarah for sharing them with us!

With any luck, tomorrow I’ll have a finished object to show off. Now, read the rest of the post at your own risk – it’s the whiney part I mentioned at the beginning.

So here’s the back story. Last Christmas was pretty awful for me. There I said it. I was just going to point you to the post from last year about it, but I went and looked and there is none – it was so awful I didn’t post about it because I was really angry and I didn’t really have anything nice to say to balance that anger off. I was so angry, and nobody else seemed to even raise an eyebrow at the situation, it didn’t even seem like it was really happening. It’s taken me a year to decide that yes, I really had a right to be angry and that NO, I wasn’t going to let the same thing happen again.

Oops, I just double-checked, and there is a post on it. Whew! I did a good job last year of describing the evening in as positive light as possible. Go read it and look at the cute pictures now if you want to, but the summary is that I was 8 months pregnant and ended up hosting dinner for fifteen people, almost none of whom helped at all and I spent the whole time cooking and cleaning in the kitchen instead of spending time with my loved ones.

Now the good news. After a year of agonizing how to handle this situation the next time, I managed to work it out so everyone had a good time, including myself. I was up front with Joe’s cousin and simply told her without anger that I had felt really hurt last year that I had spent the Christmas party in the kitchen and that I would really like some last-minute help this time. I suggested that we do a pot-luck and that I was going to make lasagna instead of the traditional roast meat dinner. Lasagna you can prepare ahead of time and simply pull out of the oven and it’s ready. Roast meat usually involves carving and gravy-making and other things that need last-minute heating. I delegated the side dishes and salad to the other women, and reserved the desserts for myself only because I really enjoy making desserts and, more importantly, eating the desserts that I make.

I was a little disappointed not to have the traditional Christmas type food that I grew up with, but it was SO worth it for the company in the kitchen and the freedom to hang out in the living room with the rest of the party for a greater portion of the evening. And I make a pretty good lasagna any way. This time, everyone had a reason to be in the kitchen, and most of the women offered to help this time. There was closer to the right amount of food, which meant that nobody’s dish went untouched, and everyone had room for dessert. I feel like this year’s experience has helped me heal the wounds from last year, and now I can look forward to future Christmases knowing how to plan for happy all around.

Conversation

Sunday, December 24th, 2006

I know, I know – I said I wasn’t coming back till after Christmas. But I just had to share.

We’re in the kitchen. Joe is holding Sophie, who is all dressed in her coat to head out to the store with me to pick up a couple of last-minute groceries. I’m putting on my coat.

Me: Sophie, are you ready to go to the store with Mama?
Sophie: Ma ma. Mama!

I looked at Joe. I started crying. Joe looked at me. I grab Sophie and give her a huge squeeze. I wipe the tears from my eyes and ask Joe if it really happened and he said yes. Sophie’s first words, and they are mine. Talk about a Christmas present!

More Holiday Fun!

Saturday, December 23rd, 2006

The pre-holiday fun continues around here. I’m feeling pretty good about having enough of the stuff on my to-do list checked off. All that’s left is cooking and cleaning, and most of that stuff has to be done in the last day or two anyway. Tomorrow Joe’s parents are taking Julie to the zoo, which will free me up to run a couple of errands with only one child in tow as Joe runs an errand or two of his own and then hopefully helps do some cleaning around here.

One of the errands I need to run tomorrow is to a local bakery, Turtle Bread, which makes a certain chocolate bread. It’s not cake – it’s bread. I’m going to buy a loaf or two to use in making a bread pudding. Which reminds me – must go to basement and dig around for whiskey for the sauce. Wish me luck in this adventure – I’ve made bread pudding before, but never with chocolate bread.

Anyway, I need to get some more things done tonight like finish clearing out my office room as much as possible – I still have a nagging feeling that my brother-in-law could show up as a Christmas surprise since he’s done that several times now for various occasions. If so, it’d be nice to have the guest room ready for him. Maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part. Julie sure would like to have her Uncle Dave here for Christmas. I also want to bake up a few more cookies for Julie tonight – we ate up all the sugar cookies, and they were good, so it’d be nice to have another plate to put out on Christmas and some to leave out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

In the mean time, I’m going to quick show you a few pictures from today. We went to the Mall of America and walked around for a few hours. It kept us out of the house and was actually kind of fun despite the crowds. They had a “Polar Express” engine display set up – the girls were only somewhat impressed.

They were much more excited to watch what was going on inside the giant gingerbread house.
I took them in it the last time we were at the mall, and Julie liked it so much she wanted to go back through it. Here they are looking at the display:

And here’s the display:

The crowds at the mall were deceptive. When we pulled in to the parking ramp, it was quite full. I somehow magically found a prime parking spot right in front of the elevator on the fifth floor of the ramp, but the whole ramp was full of cars circling looking for spots. The funny thing, though, was that the hallways were totally navigable, there were no huge lines for food or restrooms, and even the “attractions” like the gingerbread house and Legoland were not all that overcrowded. The most crowded spot I noticed while there today was the Apple store. People were lined up to look at all the gadgets and stuff – this picture doesn’t fully convey how many people were in there.

We ate lunch in the food court overlooking the amusement park. I had packed food for Julie – partly because of the allergies and partly because the Mall doesn’t have very many decent choices for food. I’m even grossed out by the level of fast-food grease available there. Julie spent a lot more time staring out at the roller coasters than she did eating, but that was fine. I usually let her eat her grapes as we walk around after lunch – it buys me a bit more time if I want to do some actual shopping.

When we got home, Julie ran around in the yard for a few minutes, tromping down the first real snow of the year that came down yesterday afternoon. It’s quite slushy now, but she had fun doing her little happy snow dance.

I peeked out the front door and found a package on the steps – my Secret Pal came through with an early Christmas present in the most amazing way. I’m loving this Secret Pal business. I totally lucked out with someone who was fun to buy for, and with a pal who bought perfect stuff for me, and was very generous and fun. The card is super-cute with three little mice wearing knits and ringing bells. My pal apologized for the fact that it said Christmas inside, which I thought was sweet, but not totally necessary. I know it can be hard to find the right card without the wrong message inside. There is a copy of Lavish Lace by Carol Rasmussen Noble and Cheryl Potter – it’s supposed to be patterns that go well with hand paint yarns. I can’t wait to sit down and really read through it, but on first glance it looks like it has some nice patterns. There are three giant skeins of Italian lace weight merino – one in white and two in cream. These would be excellent for either practicing with dyeing on my own (is that what you had in mind, SP?) or knitting just as they are. I think my favorite thing in the package is the little project bag just the right size for a pair of socks. It’s from Lantern Moon, and the fabric is beautiful. This is something I think I’ll really use – great for carrying the socks inside my diaper bag and/or toting around when I’m at the park or a play date or something. I could even stick my phone and wallet in there too. There is a sa-weeet packet of beaded stitch markers that will be perfect for the lace project that I’m getting ready to start…I promise, I’m going to use them, but I also promise they will end up in the cracks and crevices all around my house and car just like the collection of plastic ones there already. Finally, a decadent little treat – chocolate covered coffee beans – which I love, but I really am going to have to exercise every ounce of self-restraint I possess with these. I know they’re caffeinated, and I don’t do caffeine unless I want both myself and Sophie bouncing off the walls. I’ll be fine as long as I can eat just one or two a day. They came in a little stocking that will make a perfect baby-safe tree ornament. Oh – and to top it off, a gift card for Starbucks. A girl can always use a mocha latte to go with her knitting. Secret Pal, you hit a grand slam with this gift package! Thank you for such thoughtful gifts! I don’t know what to say really. You’ve far exceeded my expectations.

I thought I’d share a few more pictures of the little crafts we’ve been doing to decorate the house. This barely counts as a craft – I punched holes in all the cards we’ve received so far and strung them up with some yarn and push pins in the dining room. It makes a nice garland, and keeps them on display but out of little hands that would destroy them in seconds.

This is a portion of the garland that Julie and I made for the Christmas tree out of construction paper, glitter glue and yarn. It’s very 3-year-old kitsch, but it adds interest to the bottom of the tree where I can’t put the more fragile ornaments and it was fun to make.

I made a bunch of plastic canvas needlepoint ornaments a few years ago. These are also on the edge of tacky, but they are safe and cute and well, I’m all about the tacky when it comes to my Christmas tree.

I didn’t get the best picture, but we made a pile of salt-dough ornaments as well. Julie had much more fun with cutting these out than she did with the actual gingerbread dough. This dough was much less sticky, and I was much more relaxed about letting her play with it since it wasn’t meant for food.

And now, I really must go get a few more Christmas-elf chores done before bed. I’m kind of thinking that this may be my last post till after the big day. I’ll leave you with a copy of the photo montage we sent out on the cover of our holiday cards this year. I can’t believe what a busy, wonderful, blessed year we’ve had. May all of you celebrate your own joys from 2006 and may we all have as many more in 2007.

Hello, Frenemy

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

I had a maudlin post half-written last night about mourning Christmases past and blah blah how hard the Christmas season is on adults. Thank goodness I didn’t bother posting it. Tonight, you get a happy post instead about how busy I’ve been making this a happy time for myself and my family. I have to say, I’ve been working very hard to balance keeping traditions I enjoyed as a little kid, creating some new traditions of my own, and reigning in my drive to do every single damned thing possible for a perfect holiday. We’ve been keeping it pretty relaxed and real, and that is good. Yay!

One tradition we had when I was growing up was an advent calendar. My mother had made one out of cross-stitch embroidery, and every year sewed Hershey’s Kisses to loops all over it, which we then got to cut off each night as a treat. I didn’t go to that extent, I just bought one that involves moving button ornaments up to the Christmas tree, but Julie love-love-loves it and looks forward to moving a button each evening.

So, since the last post, I have checked several items off my to-do list and started in on a few more.

The holiday cards are done, with the exception of sending return cards to people that send us cards that somehow were not on our initial list as they come in. I had to go buy an extra box of cards because I miscounted my original list, but luckily there were still the same ones at Target. Joe was a huge help in getting the cards written, and he didn’t even complain much about it.

The washrags are finished, washed, and wrapped up with the hand made bars of soap I bought at the craft fair a few weeks ago. I can hardly wait till Thursday to give them to Julie’s teachers, and if I never knit with flax again it may be too soon.

Oh, that ball of yarn on top of the washrags? I let myself wind it from the skein as a treat for finishing the wash rags. It’s the Fino by Alpaca with a Twist that my SP9 pal sent me. I’m going to make myself a scarf out of it, but I have not yet (in my mind) earned the right to cast on just yet. This yarn is really nice. Soft, shiny, fluffy and I just know it is going to be warm. I had mentioned in my questionnaire that I was interested in trying Kidsilk Haze, but I am so glad she sent me this beautiful stuff instead. Thanks, Secret Pal!

Oh, and speaking of Secret Pal goodies, here are the fingerless gloves I knit up with that Morehouse Merino wool she sent me. The lighting here is kind of off because I was trying to get a picture of the stitch definition. These are really soft and warm, and I am going to put them in the gift-game we play at my cousin’s house every year on Christmas Eve. The pattern is my friend Jean’s, and is available at the Yarnery in St. Paul.

The menu and grocery shopping for Christmas is done, with the exception of a few fresh veggies that I will buy later in the week. I’m keeping a running list of what’s left to pick up, so that’s under control.

My office room is still a pig sty. I did at least strip the guest bed and the sheets are in the wash right now. There are simply too many projects going at the moment for me to sort through everything, but I’m confident it will happen soon.

I still have not wrapped the rest of the presents – I did a bit of sorting this evening, and it is going to take me an entire evening to wrap them. This is 90% of them – I still have to unearth the other 10% from their hiding places.

I started the sewing project this evening – hence the title of this post. My dear frenemy has come out of the closet for a visit.

On the one hand, I have a very nice sewing machine. It is user-friendly and reliable. On the other hand, I really don’t enjoy sewing at all and tend to curse up a storm while I’m using it. I sit there counting the moments till I can walk away, go sit on the couch and knit. I at least reached the point in the project where I can go do some ironing of hems, which is still odious to me but can at least be done in front of the television. I downright hate the iron, but I suppose I can get over having to use it this once.

As a motivating factor, here is a picture of the crazy-nasty old curtains I am replacing:

Those are Peanuts characters, and there are some really sexist comments on there like “I’m too feminine for this game”.

Now for some gratuitous cute-kid pictures. Sophie is picking spaghetti noodles off her bib and eating them.

Julie, still wearing her purple tutu, has dressed Daisy cat in a tutu as well. I can not believe how much Daisy puts up with from my girls. I had my back to Julie for about 30 seconds while she did this, and I immediately took the thing off her after I got the picture. So funny, so sad.

Getting Ready

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

Like everyone else out there in mommy/knitter blogland, I am busy getting some things done for the impending holiday. Today I scrambled around doing some cleaning that is only marginally holiday related. I washed everyone’s sheets, did some vacuuming, folded some laundry…but it needed to be done, and now next weekend is clear for bathroom-scrubbing and detailing all the more public spaces as best we can with two little rug rats messing it all up again instantly before the 15 or so guest arrive for Christmas dinner.

I also got a hair cut. I love getting my hair cut, especially when I get to go to the fancy-schmancy salon where they give you a really good scalp massage and somehow the cut just looks and feels spiffier as you walk out to your car than otherwise. I desperately needed a hair cut, so I feel not a tinge of guilt in calling this a holiday preparation. We’re having at least fifteen people over for dinner next week, after all!

While I was running around doing my thing today, Joe was busy playing with the girls for much of the day. It is so sweet to see him with the girls, talking and playing with them. I kept wanting to stick my head around the corner and see exactly what was going on as I heard something cute come out of someone’s mouth. As I was leaving for the salon, he was pulling out his guitar, and I wanted very badly to sit and listen to them sing songs, even though I knew that he wouldn’t be doing it if he knew I was around.

Julie and I also finished up our little tree-decorating project. I didn’t get a picture of it, maybe tomorrow – it’s a garland involving those circles of construction paper and tons of glitter-glue. Turned out pretty well for 3-year-old busy work. She spent a good chunk of the day carrying around her wad of yarn and besides teasing the cat with it, claiming she wanted to learn to knit. So while dinner was in the oven, we sat down for a few minutes and recited the old poem “In through the front door, once around the back, out through the window and off jumps Jack”.

We kept the lesson very short, and I left it on a positive note. I want her begging for more, not avoiding my yarn and needles with rolls of the eyes. Still, it is very exciting to a knitting mama such as myself when her daughter shows an interest.

Here’s a little tally of what’s done and what’s waiting to be done:

Done:

  • Presents are bought.
  • Cookies are baked.
  • Tree is decorated.
  • Some cleaning is done.
  • Two of three washrags for teachers are knit.
  • All of the holiday cards are addressed.
  • Half of the holiday cards are signed and ready to go out.

Not Done, in order of priority:

  • The other half of the holiday cards need to be signed and put in the post on Monday morning.
  • Must knit that last washrag. I really don’t care for knitting with flax – maybe I can find a stitch pattern that will be both useful and interesting enough to make it worth my time and hand pain. Need to have this done by Thursday at the latest, but they all need to be washed and wrapped nicely, so I’d like to finish the knitting by tomorrow night.
  • I need to write a menu and grocery list for Christmas dinner, then do the shopping. It’s a pretty simple meal, so I’m not too worried, but the sooner I get it over with, the more time I will have to run back to the store and pick up whatever it is I’m sure I will forget.
  • I need to clean up my office room and get my junk out of the living room as much as possible. It’s driving me crazy, and I don’t want our guests looking at my ten different knitting projects draped all over the entertainment center and bookshelves.
  • There’s a sewing project in the basement that comprises a big part of Julie’s gift. Her big gift is that we’re cleaning out the basement and making it into a play room, and that involves making some curtains to hide a doorway to the storage area (already blocked off with a baby gate).
  • It’s too early to start now, but I’ll need to cook Christmas dinner. 90% of it can be done ahead of time, and I am determined that I will get to spend some time relaxing with my family on Christmas day and not be a frazzled mess in the kitchen like last year.
  • All the gifts need to be wrapped. Including the million-and-one little things I bought for the present games and for the stockings. I have till Christmas Eve on this one, and I may need it because I have to first remember exactly where I hid all the various gifts.

I guess I better get busy. I guess maybe I don’t have time to sit and work on the tiger hat or the blankie after all. If you haven’t read Stephanie’s post on holidays this time of year, go read it now. It’s almost exactly what I would say about the season if I were as eloquent and organized of thought as she is. We celebrate Christmas in our house to get through this darkest time of the year. The lights, the good food, the company and warmth…the joy of anticipation and the keeping busy getting ready. These things all help to pass the darkest days so that we can start to welcome back the sun.

I’m off to finish writing those cards.

Murder on Zarthan

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

Okay, nobody actually died, but it looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy had bled to death with a struggle this evening after I finished mixing up a pizza dough for my family’s dinner. Seriously, the floor, the cabinets, the refrigerator handle. I cleaned up most of the evidence, but if the CSI team shows up, they’re going to have me in the slammer before I can stammer gluten-free pizza crust.

The pizza turned out quite well, especially considering that I threw it together in half an hour because the girls and I were sitting in the car – them napping me knitting – till Joe got home. Too bad the three-year-old for whom I made the special wheat-free crust barely touched it, and I finally offered her a bowl of reheated chicken soup so she wouldn’t go hungry. She slurped that down in no time, and I’m not going to complain about having a kid who wants to eat chicken and vegetables over cheese and white bread.

I may complain, for just a moment, about having a three year old who still soils her pants THREE times a day. Okay, most days it’s once or maybe not at all, but today was a bad ‘un. She still doesn’t poop in the potty (she’s done it twice ever) and she will pee in the potty only when physically led there and kindly asked to “make a tinkle” and sometimes it helps if I sing “Tinkle Tinkle Little Julie” to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Oy. I don’t want any comments on this paragraph, unless you have first hand experience with a kid who was a slow potty trainer, the parents were patient and kind and let them do it at their own pace, and eventually they went off to college making the appropriate movements in the potty every time and wiping their own behinds. I’m serious. Unless that’s you, don’t comment on this part. Or I will bite your head off. Don’t make me.

Now back on the happy track. Today was exceptionally warm weather for December in Minnesota. It got up to 50 F today (that’s 10 C for the rest of the world), and when you’ve been stuck indoors for weeks, that’s park weather. My friend Jen and I took a long walk with the girls to the park, then made a Starbucks pit stop on the way home this afternoon. Everyone was happy and tired, which is what led to the blissful backseat napping this evening.

Tomorrow they’re coming over to our house to bake some cookies, and then we will probably not see them again until January as they’re going home to Ottowa for the holidays. Just typing this out makes me want to cry. Maybe I even have a tear in my eye. Sorry, Jen, but it’s true. We’re going to miss you terribly – especially since Julie doesn’t have school for two weeks. It will be okay, and we will all be very very happy to see each other when you return. That is the bright side.

Yesterday the girls and I went to our Wednesday-morning knitting group (hi, ladies!). We just started going to this group over the summer, and I am continuously amazed at how quickly they accepted me/us as part of their circle of friends. They are nice, funny, and very thoughtful ladies. And I’m not just saying that ’cause I know they’re reading. Anyway, we had a little Christmas party, and people brought treats (except for me, because I’m lame and the only baking I’ve done this year is gluten-free gingerbread that I’m not sharing because I’ve got to save it for Julie and I was too disorganized to pick up something store bought) and the treats were good.

We played that game with the presents where people draw numbers and steal from each other, and this group was a little lame about it for the most part because hardly anyone stole anything. Except – and here’s the cool part – the gift that I contributed was stolen several times. That made me feel pretty good, especially considering that I was feeling a little inadequate about the whole no-treat-bringing thing. I pre-measured a skein of Knitpicks bare sock yarn for self-striping dyeing, and included that plus some instructions and packets of Kool-Aid. Who knew it would go over so well?

I came away with a nice gift that I’m surprised nobody stole from me – it included a handknit panda bear that both girls wanted to steal, but which I am keeping for myself, a pair of Christmasy antlers on a headband, of which I will show you a picture when my friend e-mails me the pictures off her camera, two lovely skeins of Artyarns ultramerino in teal, a gi-normous candy cane and a pair of humongous Clover knitting needles. All very attractively packaged in a basket lined in red felt embroidered with Ho! Ho! Ho! which makes me laugh and is why I picked it.

Now I’m off to watch a DVD and I swear I am going to finish addressing the holiday cards tonight if it kills me. And hopefully start the third of three face cloths for Julie’s teachers. I need to have them done by next week so we can give them to them before the break. I am tired of knitting with flax. I haven’t washed the first two yet, but they better be some damn fine face cloths when they are washed because they have been a major pain in my hands to knit. And boring McSmoring too. This coming from the girl who loves to knit stocking-stitch socks.

Important – Bears!

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

Those of you who have been reading since the yarn burial incident this summer may remember me telling you about Jo-Anne in Ontario who makes teddy bears for kids in need. In my book, Jo-Anne is pretty great. She makes piles and piles of teddy bears (very cute!) and then donates them to charities both local and around the world. I think that’s pretty cool.

Jo-Anne contacted me again this week and shared this picture of the current batch of bears, which went to a local Ontario shelter for Christmas. She sent FIFTY bears to the shelter. Fifty.

Okay, Jo-Anne has used up all the yarn I sent her over the summer and could use some more. I dug through my stash and found a pile:

That’s going in the mail tomorrow. But Jo-Anne knits fast, and there are always kids out there who could use a bear. Here’s what Jo-Anne said to me in her e-mail:

“I can use any weight, from sock yarn to the chunkier or sports yarn weight. I knit them from pure wool, wool blends, and acrylics as well. I wish my budget would allow all pure wool bears, but it doesn’t. As for colours – anything, the brighter the better. If it stripes, or is variegated – that’s good. Solids are good too, even the darker ones, for bear pants or the base of the sweater. If I find the wool too fine, I can easily double it up, or combine two wools. I’m pretty easy, and used to working with lots of different wools and weights (thanks to your help!).
I’d love to get lots of ends and small balls, left-over sock bits, etc. I think knitters often have small balls left that they hate to throw out, but have no use for them. I’m okay with sharing my address if people want to email me at fourgump@sympatico.ca”

If you have some extra yarn in your stash that you would like to send to Jo-Anne, why don’t you e-mail her a note and she’ll give you her mailing address. I don’t have as many readers as Stephanie, but it sure would be nice if we could try burying another house in yarn, this time for a much better cause.

I’m off to do some more holiday card-writing and gift-knitting.

Socks, Santa, Sweets

Monday, December 11th, 2006

I know I promised an FO post for yesterday, and it didn’t happen because I was too tired. Or maybe it was because I was too busy finishing up the holiday card layout and ordering a bazillion copies from Shutterfly. But I finished another pair of socks yesterday afternoon, and Joe took this picture of me wearing them. And maybe there is a cute baby modeling her Bavarian Twist sweater and general juicy cuteness.

I started these socks way back in early September, right before the trip to Eau Claire to see Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. These were back-burner emergency knitting, the kind that I save for knitting in public when I need to pick it up and put it down quickly and knit without paying any attention at all whatsoever. I totally love these colors, but it is cotton/wool/nylon blend, which is best for early fall and late spring in Minnesota so I don’t know how much I’ll wear them in the next few months. The yarn is Online Supersocke 100 Sortierung 64, and I knit it on size 0 Pony Pearl dpns over 64 stitches with my toe-up sock pattern. I used all but the last few yards of the yarn for them, although they are a teeny bit taller than my normal sock length, for no particular reason other than I was enjoying knitting them and didn’t want to stop. I think that covers it.

Yesterday, I took the girls for the annual Santa photo. We go to Steamworks Coffee every year for our Father Christmas photoshoot, and it is a great deal. For $30 you get a half hour appointment with no line, they take as many digital pictures as you want, and you take home one letter-sized page of prints of your choice plus a CD with all the photos and rights to use them as you like. Best of all, we know Aaron, the owner, who plays Father Christmas, because we see him every week when we go there for knitting. He is a very nice man, is great with kids, and has done this for long enough that he knows how to keep them happy and get a nice picture.

Sophie is wearing the Bavarian Twist sweater, and as the Julie-sized version is still sitting half finished in its basket, Julie is wearing her hanknit leggings. I am happy.

Finally, the Sweets part of the post – I don’t have pictures, but Julie and I made gingerbread cookies this afternoon, which was fun and frustrating at the same time. She is simply too little to do much of the cookie-baking successfully, and big enough to want to do it all. She *really* wanted to use the rolling pin, and of course the dough all stuck to it and made a big mess when I let her try. Even after that, I had a hard time convincing her that it was better that I do the rolling. Of course, even the cutting out part is hard for a three-year-old to understand. She wants to put the cutter smack in the middle of the circle with no attention to using all the dough, and then doesn’t push it down all the way so the shape won’t come out. I practiced my patience heartily, I tell you.

Then, I realized after dinner that tomorrow night is my last in a series of classes at the store, so I needed to bake some more treats for that. I am in no way required to bake treats for my last class, but I have made something of a tradition of it, and I enjoy sharing my baked goods with people who will actually enjoy them. It is sometimes very hard having a husband who doesn’t appreciate a good cookie when it is offered him warm from the oven with a glass of milk.

Now, I’m off for a little couch time – perhaps to knit on a Christmas gift project, perhaps to address a few card envelopes. I have so many things to do in the next two weeks I just can’t bear to think about it.