Archive for March, 2008

Bullet Dodged, Opportunity Grabbed

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Oy, it was a busy day, but quite good in the end, I tell you. We dodged a huge bullet this morning, one that I’d had my head buried firmly in the sand over for quite some time – well, maybe that’s too strong of a metaphor, but I’d been choosing very carefully to not worry over it.

Sophie has a heart murmur, which the doctors have noticed just about every time we’ve had her in the office for at least the last year or so. But they’ve always noted it, told me it sounded like the kind of murmur that lots of small children have, and that in no way indicates an actual problem. And because we have had enough issues on our collective plates to worry about – some I’ve shared with y’all and more that I haven’t – I chose to relax, shrug my shoulders, and blindly trust the doctors for once.

Then, a couple months ago at her two-year checkup, the doctor listened again and listened a little more intently and said something about how she really still thought this was one of the normal murmurs not worth worrying about but that she couldn’t absolutely rule out a problem, so let’s just make an appointment with the cardiologist, okay? And she strongly urged me not to worry because even if it were a real issue, it would be something for us to just watch and be aware of, not something that could drop my precious child dead tomorrow. So we made the appointment, and because my plate was still full to overflowing with worry, I set this issue aside and ignored it till the date on the calendar arrived.

And today was the appointment. Joe’s parents came and watched Julie so that Sophie and I could go see the cardiologist. They did a bunch of tests, the nice doctor listened very carefully to Sophie’s heart, they did one more test. There was lots of waiting and kind of a lot of people in Sophie’s face, but my girl performed like a little angel – she smiled and sat docile and held still while they covered her in electrode stickers (twice). She let the nurse take her away and immobilize her upright for a chest x-ray and came back smiling, having giggled through the experience. She lay still watching an Elmo video for at least half an hour while the ultrasound tech worked gel around her chest. It was painless, and best of all, because we had all the tests that there apparently are in the matter, we were able to get a completely clear bill of health for her. We never have to go back, and we never have to worry about it even in the backs of our minds when we take her to the pediatrician and they hear the murmur. Whew!

Part the second -

Last night I was poking around on the Ravelry boards and read that one of our semi-local yarn stores is getting ready for a going-out-of-business sale. The Yarn Garden is in Anoka, about half an hour from where I live, and when I read on their web site that they had ONline cotton sock yarn 40% off and Lavold Silky Wool at 60% off, my buttons were pushed and I knew that I had to get over there at the earliest possible moment.

So this afternoon I dragged the girls along over there. Thirty minutes in the car, then we trekked up into the building and found the store, to find a note on the door saying that they’d be back at a time that was ten minutes from the time we’d arrived. I’d noticed a sign for a cafe in the basement, so we trekked down there and found a little cookie-snack for the girls and by the time they’d eaten it and we got back up to the store they’d re-opened.

Now, I really would have liked to look around a little bit, to scope out the yarns and maybe even take a few pictures to share here on the blog. But my two girls had some pent-up energy and despite my admonitions before and after entering the store to stay close to me and keep their hands to themselves, it was a little bit like trying to shop while herding cats. So I found the yarns I’d come looking for and picked some out quickly in between rounding up my children.

It turns out, they have not started the store-wide sale yet – that starts April 1 – but what was left of the Silky Wool really was 60% off and I bought all ten of the remaining purple skeins at $2.80 a skein (woot!) And even at that ridiculously low price for yarn that I’ve been lusting after lo these many months, it felt pretty crazy to be buying another sweater’s worth of yarn. By the way, when I left the store it looked like they had only two or three skeins of the yarn left, in hot pink.

And I also bought four skeins of sock yarn – again with the cup overflowing, but it couldn’t be helped. The sales lady claimed that the ONline wasn’t on sale this week, that it had been on sale last week and would be again next week, but I pulled out my Sidekick and showed her the notice on their webpage listing the sale, and she agreed to give me the sale price.

Man, it felt like a race for the goods, and I won! In a way, I’m kind of glad that the girls were there distracting me, and that we arrived before the start of the store-wide sale. I did glimpse some very nice merino handpaint (but was too distracted to remember the brand name), lots of Fleece Artist stuff, and a nice selection of other sock yarns. My stash is fat enough already.

And finally – about the stupid Easter joke and yesterday’s apology. I want to make something perfectly clear to everyone. That apology was heartfelt. I meant it. I’m really sorry for the hurt feelings. Thanks, but I don’t need anyone to defend me on this one. Yes, this is my blog and I can say whatever I want to here. But you know what? It just so happens that Tammy, the one who stood up and complained about the joke, is a loyal reader and commenter. She and I have corresponded offline. She is a sweetheart, and I respect her for standing up and speaking her mind in a fairly calm way. I really am sorry for having hurt her feelings, and I would prefer that my readers not hurt her feelings either. I’m not going to delete the comments that have come through so far on the subject, but I think it’s time to drop it. Any more that come through with a tone that is anything less than conciliatory and kind *will* be deleted. Because it is my blog.

But, yeah, I am a true heathen. The basic definition of the word heathen is someone who is not Christian, Jewish or Muslim, and does not acknowledge their God. That’s me. I’m an agnostic. If I were to attend a church, it would be the Unitarian Universalist church that I used to go to before I got lazy and decided I’d rather spend my Sunday mornings sleeping in, drinking coffee and reading the pPublish Postaper in my pajamas. Some day we will go back to that church when the girls are ready for Sunday School, because they deserve to have a thinking community in which to ground themselves and help them to understand religion in order to decide what they believe for themselves.

Star of the Day

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

This morning Sophie and I got to spend some time in Julie’s classroom. Her teachers have a program called Star of the Day, which involves each child in the class getting a special day to be featured in the class’ group time, when they are invited to bring in some photos, a favorite book and toy from home, and parents and siblings are invited to join the class.

I jumped at the chance to come to school and see just what it is that she does during her secret, separate life away from me four mornings a week. It seems that even starting in pre-school it is often difficult to extract information with the standard “what did you do today?” questions.

The kids were running around playing with different activities when we arrived – Julie was hanging out with a group of mostly boys, playing with toy dinosaurs. I got her to show me her lion among the bulletin board display of their art projects. It’s fun to see the whole set together, since I usually just see Julie’s when she brings it home later, out of context. Julie’s is the one with the red nose to the right of her head. I have to say she did an awesome job on the paper-fringe mane.

A few minutes later, the teachers rounded everyone up to sit down on the carpet. Julie got to sit in the teacher chair and was presented with a special hat, which just happened to match her outfit today. Her teacher walked her through showing off all her photos (our family, our cats, a baby picture, and a current picture) and her book – she chose to bring one called “Fairies are Fun” – and the yo-yo that she had chosen for some reason as her favorite toy.

Then her classmates got to raise their hands and ask her questions. It was hilarious. They all kept asking the same things – “what’s your favorite food?” “what’s your favorite TV show?” and “what’s your favorite book?” Julie did a great job of answering them all over and over, although it was hilarious that she kept saying different things for her favorite food, and none of them were actually her favorite foods. She said spaghetti once, and she won’t eat spaghetti because she hates anything involving tomatoes! It was an incredibly cute scene.

Then it was time for the kids to head down for play time in the gym. The teachers distributed all kinds of bikes and toys for them to play with, and even Sophie got in on the action. Sophie was actually quite popular amongst the kids, who kept wanting to pat and touch her, to the point where she was a little confused. She loved letting a couple of Julie’s friends push her around in the car, though.

After that, it was time for lunch, and Sophie seemed to enjoy sitting next to big sister drinking chocolate milk from a carton and sharing Julie’s lunch out of her lunch box.

And then the morning was over – Julie chose to ride the bus home as usual, and Sophie was quite upset that she didn’t get to ride the bus too. Our house is one of the last on the route, so we had no trouble beating the bus home.

Moving on to some knitting content for a moment – my recent yarn acquisition from Germany arrived a couple days ago. I don’t know what got into me, but I went ahead and ordered a giant pile of Kauni yarn from this store. Okay, I’ve been wanting some since Susan started her sweater, and forced myself to hold off because I was busy with other projects and have no immediate plans to start a new giant sweater project right away.

Still, this yarn may not be available forever, so I ordered enough in the green-yellow colorway…

And in the rainbow colorway…

For a sweater each. The thing is, as others have noted on their blogs, the yarn doesn’t cost very much at all – but the shipping does. So it made sense to add a few bucks to the order and get twice as much yarn. Really. Sense.

And that leads me into a little story that I find kind of silly-funny. I’ve mentioned before that Joe doesn’t really mind about my yarn purchases – we each have our own little pot of discretionary money, and we are each allowed to spend it as we will, no questions asked. He’s quite supportive of my addictions because I am equally supportive of his. Even so, I didn’t mention a couple of recent falling-downs in the sock yarn bins lately because I *do* have a wee bit of sock yarn stashed already, and I knew he would just smirk and roll his eyes. Well, I did go ahead and photograph it and put it up on Ravelry, and last night he and I were chatting after the kids were in bed and he said “So, that yarn that showed up on your Flickr stream the other day – was that new?” Busted! We had a little laugh over that one, and hey look honey – yarn for a couple sweaters!

Back to the family stuff for a minute – here’s a photo Sophie took of me yesterday while I was checking e-mail first thing after we got Julie on the bus. I let her play with the camera as long as I’m watching her and right there, and this time she got an almost-decent shot in.

Joe’s parents were over yesterday too – they watched the girls for me while I went to an appointment – and when I came home they were giving the girls piggy back rides.

And Julie had produced this amazing picture of our house.

Over the last few months, Sophie has gotten more and more involved in Julie’s ballet class, and since it’s a very small class with a very sweet teacher, it’s been okay that she wants to practice along with the bigger girls. Last week teacher Rachel suggested that Sophie should have a pair of ballet slippers and tap shoes of her own, and even helped us dig some that fit out of the consignment bin for practically nothing. I figured if we were going to go that far, we may as well get her a leotard as well, and I couldn’t buy a new leotard for Sophie without getting one for Julie too. Which lead us to this little scene yesterday…

Rachel says maybe we can even work it out so that Sophie can be in the Spring recital with Julie. They’ve just started practicing it, and it’s going to be very cute. They’re dancing to the Sleeping Beauty theme “Once Upon a Dream” which happens to be one of Julie’s favorite songs.

One more bit of knitting content – I tried to get a picture of the snowflake scarf the other day, and of course the minute I lay my knitting out it instantly attracts the kids. Just as well, because unblocked lace looks like crap anyway. I’ve made more progress since this photo – I’m up to five repeats of the main motif.

A couple other items I want to mention – I know this is getting long, but I want to fit these in before I forget.

1) I’m sorry that I hurt some people’s feelings with the joke I made about Easter. I was in kind of a bitter frame of mind when I typed up that post, and I guess I assumed that people reading a blog by the name of Heathen Housewife would be willing to put up with a little irreverent humor. But I realize now that what I said was really a slap in the place to people who hold the holiday sacred, and for that I am sorry. I can be a bit of an asshole, I’m afraid. But please understand that I was trying to be tongue-in-cheek and silly, and that my intent was not to hurt feelings. Will try to do better in the future.

2) We finished our taxes last night. I was the one holding up the show in the end, because I had been avoiding totaling up my knitting business income and expenses. Between both the patterns and the yarn dyeing, my actual profit? Less than $100. I was a little shocked – I thought it was going to be a tiny bit more. I had to remind myself that the whole point of the venture was not to get rich, but to support the habit and have some fun. And if that was my goal, then I certainly succeeded. But I also think it is important that nobody thinks I’m getting rich off this scheme. Especially since the State Fair competition is limited to amateurs, and I certainly think with that amount of profit I still fall well within that category. And I didn’t even apply all of the expenses to the equation that I could have! Again, I’m not complaining – I do all this stuff because I love it and it makes me happy!

I’ll leave you with two happy little videos from yesterday…

Barre exercises

Tappin’ Fools

Keep On the Sunny Side – or something.

Monday, March 24th, 2008

It has been another rough week at the Kang house. I guess I’m just going to be honest here. I haven’t posted this week because I just didn’t feel like writing, and I didn’t have much happy-happy joy-joy to share around the interweb. I mean, don’t worry – nothing catastrophic came to pass around here. It was just more of the same damn old crap that happens to come along with all the good stuff in life, but it really finally caught up with me this week.

Oh, and I started to type up my whining moans about how hard my life was this week, but it is boring even for me to listen to. Let me try again, only shorter. Sophie got better, Julie got sick. No playdates, no school, no field trips. Leaving me overstimulated and feeling like I couldn’t possibly keep up with the needs of my two lovely children, let alone consider any of my own needs. Everyone was even more sleep-deprived than usual because Sophie has been teething again and keeping us all up at night. It all came to a head on Friday when I found myself screaming at the girls, then all three of us crying our eyes out till Joe came home and made everything better.

And now, two days later, everything does look a lot better. Julie is feeling better and will be going back to school in the morning. I think we’re going to make it. And here’s the funny part – I have a whole pile of pictures freshly downloaded from the camera which prove that there were happy, good moments in the week. Let’s focus on those now…

Julie was quite cute all curled up on the couch with her blankie and her bunny.

There was some warmer weather this week, and I think it was on Wednesday that I stuck my head out the back door and snapped a couple pictures of the Spring’s first green shoots popping up out of the ground.

Of course, it went ahead and snowed on Thursday. And then it snowed again on Saturday and today. But I think it will melt off again this week. We will hopefully be playing outdoors some day this week – I can’t wait to put the girls in their rain boots and let them go splash around in the snow-melt puddles.

I made sourdough bread again, and it turned out even better this time around than the first. The loaves were giant!

Sophie and Julie spread the paper from the easel all across the floor and spent half an hour or so coloring on it. This event was made even better by the fact that they were using the back of the paper that had already been colored on. Julie was just as busy as Sophie is in this picture, but she ran away when she saw me with the camera.

We dyed Easter eggs yesterday. The actual egg dyeing took about five minutes, but I let them use paint brushes with the dye on some paper towels, and that lasted another ten minutes, and then they used the stickers that came with the dye, and then they played with the little egg holder thingies, and in all we got almost an hour out of the activity.

Oh look! I finished the final versions of the sock cuffs. I ended up reknitting both cuffs, for a total of four lace cuffs worth of work in the end. I am happy with these results – I kept the opening in the front, because that is where *I* think it looks best – it helps accommodate the raised instep of the foot there. The edges look much neater with that bit of garter stitch on either side. I did take one bit of advice and got rid of one layer of faggotting at the top, which I had been considering myself. I’ll write the pattern up in the next week or so, time and energy permitting.

The girls got Easter baskets this morning…I struggled with the decision of whether to bring the Easter Bunny into our home, but in the end I decided that the girls should not be deprived of a tradition that many, if not most, of their school friends will be talking about every year of their childhood. And, after all, Easter is an old pagan holiday and the bunny an old symbol of fertility that the Christians adopted for their morbid raise-the-dead holiday (sorry! sorry! I know better, I do, I just couldn’t help myself….Jesus was not a zombie!)

But anyway, the Easter Bunny left two cards at the top of the stairs last night, with long long pieces of yarn attached to them for the girls to follow down and around into the living room to their semi-hidden baskets.

Each girl received a stuffed animal, new spring pajamas, and a handful of candy.

Candy that was consumed befor…

and after breakfast.

And really, it was a small handful of jelly beans, a few Whopper eggs, and a few dark chocolate foil-wrapped eggs. I’m happy with my decision to give them just enough candy that they could eat just about all they wanted in the course of a morning, and be done with it – no fights later about when or how much more they could have, and when they were done there was a big tooth-brushing session to clear out the sugar.

Okay, and I tried a new recipe last night. I read a blog called Make Your Own Damn Dinner, which I love, and she’s written a few times about this panko-crusted fish, which sounded awesome. I always sort of ignored the idea, though, because Joe generally doesn’t care for fish (and I’ve generally come to terms with it – it tastes nasty to him, I’m not going to make him eat it!) and before this fall because Julie wouldn’t have been able to eat the panko crumbs.

Anyway, it dawned on me that Joe *does* willingly eat fried fish sometimes – as in he even orders fish and chips at restaurants occasionally – so maybe he would like this, and I went ahead and gave it a whirl. OMG! It was so easy, so yummy, so wonderful! The only bad part was that it did kind of stink up our kitchen for the next 24 hours or so. I served it with steamed veggies, but next time will make up some cole slaw to go with it.

And! I thought the leftovers would be worthless, so I actually foisted some of the fillets on our lovely neighbors-across-the-street while they were still hot, and the neighbors loved it so much they called me begging for the recipe an hour later. But we still had a bit left over, and I reheated it in the toaster oven for lunch today. I made my own yummy version of filet-o-fish, and it ROCKED!

I mean, nice whole-wheat burger bun instead of the yucky white-bread version, real cheddar cheese instead of the plastic processed stuff, and fresh fish in actual fillets instead of the little uber-processed squares from the freezer. I could have eaten about three of them. I am SO making this fish again, stinky kitchen or no. Thanks, Badger!

Today Julie was feeling much better. Joe brought out the art supplies and she went nuts with them. She’s named her pig Will and has been talking about him non-stop all day as if he is her baby and she is taking care of him.

Oh, and you can see in the foreground, I got a few rows of knitting in on my snowflake scarf before Sophie woke up. To top off all the good, we got to go eat dinner at Joe’s cousin’s house tonight. Her mother-in-law was cooking, and it was a fine feast of ham and scalloped potatoes and other good stuff which I did not have to cook. Life is looking much better now than it did just a few days ago.

Lacy Sock Cuffs Yawn

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

So I’m still working on those lacy-cuff socks. Or rather, I have been working on the socks. I finished the second cuff a night or so ago and then blocked it out and then today let Julie give it a spin. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Here’s what the new, second try looked like laying flat on the table…

I had to make it quite a bit fuller, by increasing quite a few stitches at the top of the ribbing, in order to get the lace to lay flat in a full circle for blocking purposes. And I’m not at all sure that this is a good thing, but again perhaps I am getting ahead of myself…

Here is a closeup of the grafted seam in the lace cuff…

It is not entirely horrible, but it is not perfectly perfect either. Really, it is not at all noticeable when the sock is being worn, but it is not exactly beautiful on closeup examination, as in the kind a State Fair judge would perform. My grafting skills, while good, do leave a bit to be desired when it comes to joining knits to purls and purls to knits and when it comes to yarnovers my mind just begins to boggle. Never mind that this is supposed to be a sock design that will be written up in a pattern, for which I will have to find a way to explain some kind of process in words as to how to duplicate whatever I did. Yick!

Okay, now on the left in this picture we have the new sock, with the very full, wide cuff, and on the right we have the older sock, with what I consider to be a quite happily proportionate cuff. I have to be honest here and admit that I prefer the one on the right, with the exception of the little problem with the non-matching cast-on and bind-off edges down the center front. But we’ll get to that part in a minute.

Here are the socks being modeled by two wiggly little four-year-old feet. Old one on the left, new one on the right. Because there is more fabric in the new sock cuff, it is heavier, and hangs down further than the old one. An additional disadvantage, I’m afraid. This problem would be somewhat alleviated when the child put on some shoes, but we can’t have pretty little sock cuffs dragging on the ground now, can we. Also, this picture doesn’t adequately show just how big and floppy the new cuff looks in motion. It’s quite full, but not really drapey enough to look frilly and gathered.

Our little photoshoot was held at the top of the stairs, where my darling model and my darling would-be model both wanted to practice their barre skills using the hand rail. Quite distracting from the whole attempted-sock-photographing.

But quite cute at the same time.

Here are Julie’s feet in First Position. Can you see the floppy fullness I’ve described? I don’t care for it, not one bit.

And all this has led me to put off ripping off a cuff and replacing it with a third try just yet. But I did have a brainstorm about simply adding a few rows of garter stitch to either end of the cuff with the open front a la sock #1 and hopefully making the edges acceptable to my taste. I decided to sample it with a little swatch before committing to another two evenings of cuff knitting…

…Still not perfect, but perhaps slightly more acceptable. I’m still trying to figure out what I really want to do about it. No rush, I suppose.

In the mean time, I finished up a little knitting for the lovely ballet teacher Rachel – I used up some of the leftover yarn from her socks to make her a pair of these…

Which I had seen some of the dancers at the studio wearing, and which she says they call “foot undies.” She liked them, and wore them during our class, even though they are incredibly silly looking.

I also whipped out a pile of these over the weekend:

They are simple stockinette swatches, knit on my Singer LK150 machine. They are meant for my students to play with in the Damage Control class that starts this week. I find that a)some students fail to do their homework before a first class, and then have nothing to play with, leaving them disgruntled and irritated and b)other students have much less trouble working on a swatch in which they have no emotional investment, making them much more likely to succeed in learning what I’m trying to teach.

I really will have to get back to those sock cuffs soon, but in the mean time I think I’ll spend what’s left of this evening working on the snowflake scarf. Any thoughts or suggestions about the socks would be well appreciated. Thanks!

Y’all Make me Laaaaugh!

Friday, March 14th, 2008

Lace Funnel Cozy?
Bouquet Trimming?
Wine Bottle Cozy?
Coffee Cup Holder?
T.P. Cozy?
Banana Cozy?

Y’all give me more credit for creativity than maybe I deserve. Okay, more than I hope I deserve!

I really liked some of the other suggestions, though – it would make really nice trim for a pair of kiddie shorts or leggings. Will have to think about that some more one day in the future!

In the mean time, those of you who guessed lace sock cuffs…

were spot on.

I finished blocking the first one yesterday, and let Julie try it on last night. I know, I know, this appears to violate the manifesto, but it doesn’t really because they aren’t for *her* really. They are for me, and for the pattern that I’m going to write up here in a minuteday or five.

They are really pretty in person, and I like what I did more or less. A pair in little girls’ shoe size 12 is going to take just under on 50-gram skein of Regia Silk, which makes them a super-fast knit and really not much more expensive than a pair of store-bought fancy lace socks. I bought two skeins of this yarn, so I’ll have enough to test-knit a pair in a smaller size as well. I love this yarn, by the way! It is incredibly soft and kind of fluffy without being furry. It feels luxurious.

My only hesitation at the moment is that the front edges of the cuff are not exactly straight, and they are not exactly mirror-image either. You can see what I’m talking about in the first picture at the top where it’s blocking. This doesn’t particularly bother me, but I’m afraid it would bother some of the people who might knit it up.

I considered, when I started these, doing a bunch of increases right at the edge where the lace is applied so that the lace would be more gathered-looking, and then I would be able to graft the edges together at the end, which might resolve this problem to some extent. I think I may give that a whirl on the second sock, which is just about to the point where I need to start the lace. That option has one little problem – I don’t think the edges will match up perfectly even with graceful grafting, so there will still be a kind of seam. And to my eyes, it’s almost better to have the edges sitting there saying “Look – I meant to do that!” versus a guilty seam sitting there whistling and looking askance mumbling “Never mind me – nothing to see here” when really *ahem* there is.

Whaddayathink?

Lace?

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

I can’t believe nobody even bothered to guess what the lace from yesterday was. Let’s look at another picture of the finished piece blocking.

It was quite the logistical challenge to figure out the best way to block this little bugger, but I think my solution worked pretty well. It’s now off the box, drying from step two of the blocking process. More pictures tomorrow, probably, but in the meantime…any guesses?

Still Tired Tuesday

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

Oh, hey look it’s Tuesday already, and I’m still ignoring my blog! I keep thinking to myself “hey I should blog about this (whatever I’m doing at the moment) tonight!” And then I finally get the girls put to bed and the dishes washed and by then my brain is just too numb to do anything but watch a DVD and knit. So I’m going to do what I always do when this is the case…dump all the pictures which I’ve been accumulating on you and hope for the best.

In no particular order,

Sophie looked so cute the other day, hanging out in my office with me and naughtily digging through the bag full of stuff that I had taken to work with me over the weekend. I love that the tiny little stair-step-sized ledge at the edge of my yarn closet is the perfect size for her to sit on like a bench right now.

Here we have Julie with a plate of tasty and nutritious curry chicken and veggies with brown rice, which I served for dinner a couple nights ago. She didn’t touch it, and instead ate only a peanut butter sandwich.

I know it looks like Sophie is eating *her* dinner, but really she is just eating the rice before moving on to a peanut butter sandwich of her own.

I read this post over at Suburban Bliss the other day, and it really resonated except that my husband doesn’t really seem to appreciate home cooked food all that much, and yet I do manage to put home cooked food on the table more nights than not anyway. It can get disheartening, though, I tell you.

The prize packages finally went out on Monday. There were several of them, as you can see. I sent them all the slow, cheap way, so if you won something hopefully you’ll get it within the next week-ish. And now there are no more blankie scraps here. Except for the Koigu and cotton ones, which I am keeping. I feel a little weight of responsibility lifted off my shoulders.

Look – more bread! My friend Jean gave me some of her sourdough starter – one that she says originated in Alaska and that she’s had for like 20 years. How cool is *that*! So yesterday I baked up some sourdough. It turned out a lot milder than I expected, with just a hint of sourdough flavor. It was really good, though, and I ate myself sick on it (when will I learn?)

The recipe called for something like 8 cups of flour, and it was a white-bread recipe, but I just couldn’t bear to make all-white bread so I substituted a couple cups of whole wheat flour in there. It still turned out really nice and fluffy-soft. Yum! I’ve ordered a couple books on sourdough bread baking from the library, and plan on playing around with my new little yeasty friends again soon.

I took this picture to entertain Sophie during the last few minutes before dinner the other night. She loves it when I take her picture and immediately show her the results on the camera. Poor thing has been snotty-sick *again* this week (and now so am I of course).

Look at the new bit of lace on my knitting needles.

I’m really excited about this little project. The idea for it came to me as I was brainstorming class ideas for Spring and Summer at the store, and I’m going to write it up quick. I sort of doubt that my boss will bite on listing it as a class, but if it turns out maybe a few of the patterns will sell. Can you guess what it is?

I’ve made a little progress on the next pair of plain socks…

This colorway is okay – not great, just okay. I think it will be wearable enough, but it sure isn’t make-my-day pretty. I don’t know why I do this to myself – I seem to feel some masochistic obligation to knit up the uglier yarns in my stash first sometimes.

That wasn’t the case with the Love Stinks colorway of Vesper Sock yarn that I just finished up. These socks were going to be for me (of course – this is supposedly the year of knitting only for myself, remember?) but I was almost to the heels a couple weeks ago and I pulled one of them out to work on during Julie’s dance class. Her teacher, R, saw it and commented on how pretty it was, and how impressed she was at what I was doing. We love R to death, she is so sweet and patient and kind to the girls. I really had meant to knit her something before Christmas, and without thinking I begged her to try on what I had so far so I could finish them for her. And today we presented them to her. Look how flexible she is!

I asked her to do some kind of fancy ballet pose with her feet, and this is what I got:

I’m feeling a little guilty about cheating on the Manifesto, but totally glad to have made these socks for R. She was very appreciative and will take good care of them. Dancers are used to hand-washing a lot of their clothes, so she didn’t even think twice when I told her she would have to wash this pair by hand.

Argh! Sophie has been so snotty, she hasn’t been sleeping very well. She was oh-so-ready to take a nap after lunch today, and I forced Julie to at least pretend to take a nap so that she’d be perky for dance class later. Well, Sophie fell asleep right away, and I came down and cleaned up the dishes from lunch. No sooner had I sat down with a cup of tea and a handful of cookies than Sophie coughed herself awake.

My cold tea and half-eaten cookies were still sitting there when I came down after bedtime. So sad! No rest for the wicked.

I’ll leave you with a little video that will probably bore anyone else to tears – but makes me incredibly happy to watch. It’s Sophie, trying to wind a ball of yarn on the ball winder.

On Fixing Lace – and, of course, stuff.

Friday, March 7th, 2008

I really meant to post about fixing my little lace project on Tuesday, the day after my little mishap report. The problem was in fact fixed on Tuesday morning, and took only about ten minutes to get back on track, but the blogging took a little longer because I’ve been busy and exhausted with life stuff. Nothing special or really wrong – just the everyday emotional exhaustion of parenting. I don’t know how the bloggers who blog every day without whining every day manage to do it.

But whee! Look what came in the mail yesterday! It’s the fabulous Sock Yarn C from the blankie wrap-up. Into the stash it goes for marination and aging. Oh, and one of the things I have been doing this last week is loading up my sock yarn stash into Ravelry. It’s not that much in real life, I swear!

But back to dealing with my little lace problem. The thing is, I picked this project back up last week after having shoved it in a project bag many months ago, and letting it sit there while I worked on many other things. There was no real reason for the sad neglect – none related to this specific project anyway. It was just more complicated than my life at the moment tended to require, and also I was taken over by the blankie obsession.

I actually love this project, and when I picked it back up I was all gung-ho to get back into it – so gung-ho, in fact, that I semi-ignored a little existing problem – the needles had gotten tangled into the fabric and pulled a few threads out of whack so it was really hard to tell whether there was an actual problem or whether the snag just made it look like one.

Can you even spot it? It’s 2/3 of the way to the bottom and over on the right.

I chose to assume that it wasn’t a real problem, but one that I could fix with blocking later. But like all little flaws in our knitting, we sit there and stare at it as we knit, and we come to regret ignoring them. So after knitting for a couple of days, and picking at my little pulled thread, I had gotten a little nervous about ignoring it. So when a real frogging situation came up late Monday night, it was a good reason to go ahead and rip-it rip-it a few more times.

Yeah, I was watching Saving Face, which is partly in English, but about half or so was subtitled Chinese. It was an okay movie. A couple people asked me about it – I suck at reviewing media-type things. If you’re interested in how cultures blend, especially generationally, you might like it okay. Plus I was tired and to be honest knitting lace generally is a game of X steps forward, Y steps back. The X and Y variables depending on how complicated the lace is and how much attention I’m able to give it at the moment. This lace is just about some of the most complicated I’ve done so far.

I probably coulda figured this one out eventually, dropped some stitches down and fiddled them back up the right way, but I knew it would a) be quicker and easier to just rip back a couple rows and reknit them and b) give me an excuse to go ahead and rip back the problem I should have fixed earlier in the week.

Because really – if I’m going to bother knitting something this complicated, do I want to look at it when it’s finished and hate myself for leaving a big ole glaring error in there for 80% of the project? No! So here’s pre-frogging. There’s a needle in the live stitches, and the other needle a bit lower shows the point at which the older error lay.

I have a few personal rules when it comes to frogging my knitting.

1) Back away from the knitting. The moment you decide that you are going to have to rip back to fix a problem, you must evaluate your state of mind. Are you a bit upset? Are you tired? Are you distracted? Is it pushing past your bedtime? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then put the knitting down and back slowly away. Even if you’re feeling fine and have plenty of time, even if you’re feeling absolutely certain that you know what you’re doing – it’s still a good idea to put it down and go take a break before doing anything irrevocable.

Because the worst thing that can happen is that you rip something out unnecessarily or prematurely. There is nothing worse than ripping something out right before you go to bed, and then waking up in the morning wondering whether you could have fixed it all by just doing XYZ. I speak from experience. In this case, I followed my rule to a T and went to bed.

Rule number two is to do the ripping when there are no pets or small children present. For kind of obvious reasons, right? Well, Tuesday morning the light was good, I had an extra few minutes, and one of the kids was at pre-school. The other kid was busy playing happily with some stuff when I started, so I figured what the heck. And then the cat showed up. But this picture was taken once the stitches were all happily back on the needle, so maybe that rule is meant to be bent.

Maybe that’s all the rules I have. Although I do have several other suggestions.

Don’t forget to breathe. Just stay calm and don’t make any herk-y jerky movements.

Work in a place with good lighting and on a surface that has a light background or at least a strong contrast to your project. I used an old white towel that I keep around for blocking things on and it was great – the terry cloth even served to hold the knitting in place a bit while I ripped back.

Rip back to a row before the last one you want to lose, and start sticking your needle into the stitches on the first keeper row as you pull out the last loser row – that way if some of the stitches start to escape and ravel down, you’ll lose one that you were going to rip out anyway first.

Also – that needle that you’re sticking back into the live stitches? Make it one at least a couple sizes smaller than the one you’re using for your project. I keep a bunch of size 0 needles with long wires around the house, and they’re not just for magic loop! Smaller needles are a lot easier to slide into those little loops without stretching out their neighbors.

Oh, and for lace? Most lace knitting has some rows that are more complicated than others. In this case, there are some rows that are knit straight across. Even if it means sacrificing a row or two – go ahead and rip back so you’re picking up stitches on one of those simpler rows – not having to deal with the YOs and the decreases is totally worth it!

Then you just have to figure out where to put your sticky notes back on the chart, and everything is fine. In this case it took all of 15 minutes. Just like ripping a band-aid off a scab. Do it quick and it hurts less.

Oh, hai, look! It’s me wearing my new purple scarf!

Oh look! Obligatory cute-kid pics!

It’s a fairy party!

As of this afternoon – right back where I started on Tuesday morning, plus a few more rows. It’s all good.

Oh, and a couple people wanted to know about the pattern. I found it in an old Piecework magazine that I don’t have in front of me right now. Luckily for anyone interested in this knit, it was republished in Piecework in July/August of ‘07. That’s got to be a lot easier to find now than the one I got my hands on from whenever. Here’s the Ravelry entry.

Gah!

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

I should so totally know better than to try and knit complicated lace

while watching a movie with subtitles.

Time to walk away from the knitting and get some sleep before irrevocable damage is done.

I will just say that I think I’m going to need two main home projects – I definitely want to finish this scarf, but I’m going to have to pick out a new mindless project as well. Yarg!

Scarf! Done! And other Randomness!

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

It turns out that I did manage to finish that simple scarf I showed you last week pretty quick after all. I knew I would have a little extra knitting time on Thursday and Friday, because although I hadn’t mentioned it, I had a little minor surgery scheduled for Thursday, and had pretty much read Joe the riot act ahead of time to the effect of “You will be in charge of the kids and I will be left *!?%& alone for a couple of days!”

I was actually a little wound up leading up to Thursday because of the less-than-stellar performance Joe has given in caregiving after the births of both girls, and I was trying to play it cool, but then of course it all exploded the night before, and I ended up crying on his shoulder in the kitchen at midnight. Either Joe has grown much in the last two years, or my explosion hit home or some other magic occurred because he did a great job of letting me relax and recover from what turned out to be a pretty darn easy procedure.

Some of you may remember me asking about a certain procedure several months ago, and it is that one. Let’s not go into further details, other than to say that I have no regrets at all whatsoever – even if it turns out to be less effective than I have hopes for it to be, it was a nearly painless procedure and recovery (I do have a very high pain tolerance, though) and I scored a day of near-total leisure out of it the likes of which I have not had since -oh- Julie was born.

But back to the knitting…I thought I was going to blog last night, and I took these pictures yesterday. The scarf looks like a rumpled rag in its unblocked state.

Daisy cat loves to be around my knitting, but I think she was actually a bit freaked out that I was arranging it around her like that.

Oh, and by the way, here is the status of the current pair of socks – both well past the heel, and I’ve knit on them a bit more this evening, so they’re even farther along now.

I always do get a little nervous when my supply of mindless stockinette-in-the-round gets a bit low, so I went ahead and started toes for the next pair, which also served as good samples for the sock class I just started teaching on Saturday. I needed at least one sock set up on double-points to serve as a visual aid in my little lecture on the various needle choices one has when knitting socks – double-points, two circulars, magic loop, two socks on two circulars or magic loop (gods help us).

And since we’re totally sidetracked from the scarf at the moment, I may as well go ahead and show you the skein of yarn that followed me home from the store. It’s Opal cotton-wool-nylon blend sock yarn, just another self-striping variation. Wrapping up the blankie project had me thinking about how sock yarns come and go, and how I’ve passed up some lovely ones in the past that are no longer available and that I would really like to have. Also, I’m sensing a trend in the market away from some of the lovely self-striping commercial yarns that have been available in the last several years. I don’t think they’re going to go away altogether, but I’ve made up my mind to go ahead and buy a skein here and there when it strikes my eye. Plus, I need more cotton-wool stash – I like the socks, and I have a box of cotton-wool scraps waiting to get big enough for another project one of these days. Yes, I do think I should have two heirloom blankets for my two girls eventually.

And now back to the scarf. I had been worried when I started it that my one-of-a-kind skein of 267 yards of handspun Blue Faced Leister wool averaging about sport or DK weight might not be quite enough for a good-length scarf. So I intentionally picked an open lace pattern, to stretch it out a bit, and I chose a rather narrow width just to be sure. If there were enough yarn after all, I could always just keep knitting it longer, therefore allowing enough length to wrap it several times around my neck. Turns out I had about the right amount.

It looks pretty ratty and scrunched up in this picture still, but you can see the strands of sock yarn that I ran down the sides to aid in blocking.

Then I got the sucker wet and pinned it out. It looks much better stretched to its openwork limits. Like a torture chamber for lace.

In case you’re curious, the way I like to block lace is to use strong smooth yarn in the same way one would use blocking wires – run it through the edges, and then just pull it tight enough to make a mostly straight line. The additional pins along the edges help keep the lines from dipping too much. I tie a slip-knot at the ends and poke a pin through the loop to hold it in place. My poor guest bed acts like a giant pin cushion, but at least the vinyl gingham table cloth keeps the water out of the mattress and the checkers are very helpful in lining everything up straight. This method works even better on pieces that are less long and narrow.

This pattern is super easy, hardly worth calling a pattern. If you’re interested in knitting something similar, here’s what I did.

Cast on 31 sts.
K 1 row plain
Repeat next two rows till you’re almost out of yarn:
Row 1: K3, YO, K2, sl 2 sts as if to knit at the same time, k1, pass slipped sts over (centered decrease), K2, YO, K1, YO, K3, centered decrease, K3, YO, K1, YO, K2, centered decrease, K2, YO, K3
Row 2: K3, P7, K1, P9, K1, P7, K3
K 1 row plain
Bind off loosely.

Lace doesn’t get much easier than that.

Oh hey! Those bags I ordered from messie on etsy showed up in like one day. She is so fast on shipping, and she even waived shipping charges since I ordered more than $30 worth. I always get complements on her bags when I’m out with a project in one of them. They are quite handy and super-cute. Perfect for a sock project.

Here’s what my family was doing on Friday while I was laying around knitting and watching movies – Joe took the girls to the zoo, and I pulled pictures off the camera when they came home. They love the area where they can stick their hands in the pools full of fish.

This picture cracked me up because that is such a typical Julie pose and expression.

Oh, and I’ve been wanting to show off these drawings of Julie’s – I think I will have to frame at least one or two of them. The ones on the left are just a couple in a series she did over the last couple weeks – they are people floating away with balloons. The one on the right is a picture of the ficus tree in our living room. I love it so much I confiscated it. Julie loves doing art projects, and she’s had a little leap forward in her abilities lately. Yes, they are totally typical four-year-old art projects, but they are *my* four-year-old’s art projects, and so are utterly precious to *me*.

I’m off to bed, to drift off to sleep pondering which main project I’ll pick up tomorrow – another lace scarf? One of the many sweaters in the wings? The entrelac socks? Oh, the possibilities! Oh, the decisions!