Archive for January, 2009

Caught in the Act

Friday, January 30th, 2009

A week or so ago, the girls and I finally dragged ourselves out of the house after days inside, hunkering down from the cold. We made our way over to the local Barnes and Noble, mostly so that I could peruse the knitting magazines on the racks, but also so that I could help them pick out a new book apiece. [cough] bribery [cough].

And let me just take a moment to mention Barnes and Noble as an aside. I know, they’re a chain. But as far as regular bookstores go, they’re probably the best brick-and-mortar place we’ve got around here. I mean, there are the wonderful specialty kids’ bookstores like Red Balloon over in St. Paul and Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis. Both great places, but without knitting books and magazines. There are the local yarn shops which carry knitting books, one in particular where I get a discount as an employee. They’re also great, but no kids’ books, and they don’t carry the wide variety of knitting magazines, and sometimes even knitting books that B&N often has. So that’s where we often end up on a reading-material outing, for better or for worse.

But back to the story. I picked out my magazines (first, before the girls got tired of shopping, and with the children’s section still out there as an incentive). We picked out the kids’ books – the girls pushed all the buttons on the noisy Elmo and Disney princess books which I refuse to bring into my house while I selected a few Valentines’ Day themed books, then traded one in for the kitty book Sophie picked out and the early-reader Cat in the Hat book that Julie picked out.

We meandered over to the checkout, where I mostly kept my girls out of trouble while waiting for the chatty women-of-a-certain-age ahead of us in line to complete their purchases. As usual, the sales clerk offered me the chance to pay a certain fee for the privilege of a member card, and I finally capitulated and bought one. We do end up buying children’s books and magazines often enough that I’ll probably at least break even. But the guy also pointed out that the holiday clearance stuff was now 75 percent off, and that with the card I’d get an extra ten percent off that price. Well.

I’d noticed some pretty good stuff on those clearance tables as I’d passed them by earlier, not realizing that it was 75 percent off by now, and at 85 percent off, I knew I needed a second look. There were some things in the pile I knew would be worth saving for next Christmas at that price. So we headed back over there, and that’s when it happened.

One of my readers walked over and introduced herself. Well, she came over and said hi, and she did tell me her name when I asked her, but my fried mommy-brain has since lost the information in the ether. She was a very nice lady, and not at all creepy in the way some blog-stalker people have been in the past. I can’t explain it. We had a quick little conversation, and that’s all there was.

Of course, in my mind, the thoughts went something like “Sheesh, I look like crap – but oh well, I make no secret of my everyday schlep on the blog.” Then, “Oh, I hope I haven’t been picking my nose or doing something else embarrassing…” you know, the kind of thing that would make a reader say “So THAT’s what she’s really like in everyday life!

And here’s the cool part. Having been made self-conscious in that particular moment was actually quite a gift, because it made me realize just what a great moment it was.

I was spending time with my girls having fun. I was keeping them relatively in check, but talking to them quietly and nicely despite having to corral them in a busy bookstore with much to see and touch. I had agreed to buy Julie a stuffed doll from the clearance section, Angelina Ballerina’s friend Alice was there for only a couple dollars, and would go perfectly with the Angelina we already had. So then Sophie glommed on to a big, green Grinch toy, and I was trying to convince her that she didn’t really need it. I mean, we already have five million stuffed animals, and a Grinch isn’t exactly cute and snuggly. But I was having fun trying to say no, and she kept saying “But I need de Grinsh!” in her cute little almost-three-year-old voice. And I realized that it was only going to cost me a couple more dollars, so I finally agreed because it only seemed fair.

And it was a sweet moment, and I might not have held onto it and come back to thinking about it over and over again over the last week or so if it hadn’t been for the nice lady who came over to meet me and the girls and say hello. It sure is nice, for once, to be caught in the act of being the kind of parent I want to be, with two little girls who are so wonderfully themselves.

Oh, and by the way, later that afternoon, we all three sat on the couch as I read the new books, except for the last one, the early-reader Cat in the Hat book, which Julie read, with very little assistance, aloud to me and Sophie. It was the first time I was certain that my five-year-old pre-schooler has taught herself to read, and I could not be more proud.

Ewww…

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Phoebe wants to know what I have in the container by my sink. Well, brace yourself. It’s probably one of the least aesthetically pleasing features of my kitchen, but I’m happy to tell you about it anyway. I’m assuming that you’re asking about this old pitcher with the blue lid that showed up in the background of the photo of Sophie with the chocolate-face, although I know it’s been in the background of a picture or two in the past.

It’s my compost container. Where I keep my vegetable scraps, egg shells, leftover non-animal-product food instead of throwing it in the trash. We used to put the coffee grounds in there, too until we recently got our permanent-filter machine which I guess is easier to dump in the trash can than in the pitcher. I haven’t asked Joe about it exactly, because I don’t want to rock the boat of his early-morning routine. I’m just thrilled to wake up to hot coffee already made in the morning. I’m a bit embarrassed to show my compost pitcher off looking quite so full and *nasty*, but this time of year when it is bitter cold outside, we sometimes go several days before it gets out to the bin in our backyard.

That’s the black thing next to the corner of our garage…

Sorry for the lame picture, but it’s freakin’ cold out, and I didn’t want to get all bundled up to step outside and snap a decent photo. I’m sure those of you who’ve been around for a while have noticed it in my summertime snapshots of the kids.

Anyway, it may seem kind of gross, but it’s not so bad really. It makes me feel kind of happy every time I put something in my bin instead of in the trash. I mean, we all know we’re sending the Earth straight to hothouse hell. We all wish we could do more to live green, right? Well, this is one tiny thing I do that’s pretty darn easy, but it saves the fuel of the trash trucks carrying it away, it saves space in the landfill, it reduces the number of plastic trash bags I use to line my kitchen garbage every year by at least a few.

I’m always amazed at how no matter how much vegetable matter I put into my compost bin, it always seems to settle down and turn into fine, rich dirt at the bottom. Some day we will build a raised-bed garden and then I will use my compost in there. (For now, I’m afraid to have a garden in my yard because the previous owner of our house supposedly dumped all kinds of nasty chemicals in the yard, and we are in an area of town with a history of potentially polluting industry. I need to either build a deep, raised bed or have expensive, non-standard soil testing done.)

Anyway, I was a little leery of composting before I bought the bin and started doing it. Joe was even more worried about the experiment. The bin at our last house didn’t work out too well because I made the mistake of putting sticks and raspberry canes in there, which didn’t decompose quickly enough. This time, it’s working out much better. It doesn’t smell bad or attract vermin because we don’t put meat products in there. It does usually hold quite the cloud of fruit flies during the summer, but at least they stay in there eating all our waste food instead of clouding around the yard.

I think that’s about all there is to tell. Except that I’d keep the thing hidden under my sink, and usually do put it away before guests come over, but there’s not really room for it under there, and it’s inconvenient to open up the child lock and dig it out every time I want to drop a carrot peel or egg shell in.

Thanks for asking, Phoebe! I’m sure you weren’t the only one wondering what that disgusting mess could be.

Birthday Celebrations

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

My birthday was this weekend, and although I’m old enough not to want a flashy party, it is really nice to have people around me remember the day and help me celebrate it.

On Friday, we had our standing playdate with our Canadian friends, who surprised me with my favorite birthday cake, chocolate with chocolate frosting.

There were even party hats.

And pink lettering in the frosting on top.

It was incredibly sweet of my totally thoughtful friend to remember about the cake and make one for me special. Thanks, Jen!

As if that weren’t enough, she produced a gift including eight ounces of luscious merino-silk roving and a pretty knitting book, as well as an original piece of artwork by her daughter M, who is Julie’s age. Subtle, but oh-so-pretty.

Jen wasn’t the only one who remembered my birthday, though. My friend Laura presented me with this beautiful shawl pin on Saturday.

I really love it, especially since I’m newly into making and actually wearing shawls.

And then I got home on Saturday to find a package from my friend Jaci.

A sweet little kit for a needle-felted sheep and a skein of the Noro sock yarn. Yum! Thanks, Jaci!

On Sunday, the girls helped me make another chocolate cake. I’m picky about my cake and had been dreaming about the one I wanted pretty much all month (okay, maybe really since my birthday last year). I like to use the recipe on the back of the Hershey’s cocoa box, which is no-fail and always turns out moist and delicious. Here’s Sophie after she finished licking the frosting off one of the beaters.

And here’s the completed cake, including some decorative candies. I had the colored frosting out, but it just didn’t feel right to write “Happy Birthday Shelly” on my own cake :-P

Joe and the girls presented me with a couple of handmade cards (which I love, but forgot to photograph) and a new MP3 player, which I had kind of been lusting after.

It’s a Creative Zen, which I wanted for several reasons versus an iPod. First, I listen to a lot of audio books, and iPods can’t play the downloadable ones that I often get free from the library. Also, I’ve had good experience with the old version of the Zen which I’ve been using for the last couple of years. The only problem with it was that part of the case had broken, so the battery cover was always falling off. The new version has a lot more memory, and can play pictures and videos I take of the girls. Sweet!

Sunday night we went out for dinner at Fudruckers, not fancy, but tasty and it kept me from having to cook and clean. Then, we invited our favorite neighbors over for cake and ice cream. Unfortunately, the little boy across the street one way was sick, so I ended up taking a chunk of cake over to them later, but we did have the other family over to share our dessert. It is so much more fun to eat chocolate cake with friends than it is without. Especially since Joe doesn’t get excited about desserts – at least the girls are on my side now and share the dessert love, but still, sharing is better and it saves me from eating cake every meal for three days or until it is gone.

Which I would totally do if it were sitting on the counter. As it is, the girls and I had a piece each this afternoon, and I just ate the last piece with a bowl of ice cream after they were in bed.

Another year gone by, and celebrated happily with the help of loving family and friends.

Bohus!

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

I’m a little late with the news, so many of you have probably already heard all about the Bohus exhibit that opened this weekend at the American Swedish Institute here in Minneapolis. I heard about it months ago, and signed up for some of the events on Saturday with my friend and neighbor Laura.

We were up early and out in the sub-zero weather in time for the 9:30 hosted tour of the exhibit with Susanna Hansson, who has translated some of the original patterns to English and teaches classes on Bohus Knitting; and Kerstin Olsson, one of the original designers. It was really neat to walk through the exhibit and have Olsson there to share the history of the designs and the stories and inspirations behind them.

And, um, I realized only after I’d taken a bunch of pictures that none are allowed in the mansion. That sign right next to Kerstin points it out, but I apparently wasn’t paying attention. Oops.

Aaanyway, look! Here’s one of my favorite sweaters from the exhibit, I think it was called the Peacock. It would look great with my coloring. Too bad it hasn’t been reproduced in the kits yet.

There were lots of beautiful sweaters and other garments, many of which were not shown in the Poems of Color book.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve oogled the pictures in the Poems of Color book – it’s beautiful and a great read. I’d seen the photograph behind Kerstin in this picture and recognized it immediately, but only after seeing her there with it did it hit me that I was listening to the pixie-like designer from the old photos describe what it had been like.

After the tour, we headed straight to the viewing of a documentary film by Kjell Andersson, who was there to present it and answer our questions afterwards. It was really interesting, and included mention of the Nazi resistance work done by the movement’s founder, and interviews with some of the knitters and designers.

There was some hanging out and knitting, and Laura (left in the photo below, wearing an awesome Pi shawl that she recently finished), introduced me to her friend Tasha, who I’d heard much about and was very excited to meet. She’s an awesome knitter and spinner.

We went out to lunch at Pho 79, then came back for more fun at the exhibit, including a lecture by Solveig Gustafsson, the master dyer who is creating the new kits for knitters.

Oh, and I ran into a couple of friendly-cool knitter-acquaintances who are lots of fun – Gretchen and Jennie (the Potter).

I got a good chunk of a new sock knit during all this – it’s some of my handspun, and it’s sport weight, so it’s knitting up super-fast.

Oh, and I succumbed to a little temptation in the museum gift shop…

A kit for one of the newly re-created sweaters, the Red Light, which was made available for the first time at the museum shop for this exhibit; plus one of the booklets for the exhibit, which is nice but I have to tell you that if you don’t have the Poems of Color book yet, it’s a much better investment; and a set of pretty notecards, which I think I’ll frame up and hang in my office room.

Serial Sleeper

Monday, January 26th, 2009

I've got so much awesome to share with y'all from the last few days, I
can't wait to get to the computer and load up the pictures. In the mean
time, we're all out to dinner (Fudruckers) and Sophie is at it again…

My days of holding squishie-sleeping children are numbered short enough
at this point that I'm savoring the moment.

Dinner Out

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Joe often picks one night a week to work late now that he's in
middle-management, so the girls and I usually dine out on those
evenings.

Tonight we're at Noodles and Company, which is within the top the
favorites for the girls.

At least half of the times, Sophie falls asleep during the five-minute
drive to the restaurant, and it's hit or miss as to whether she'll wake
up in time to eat her mac 'n cheese hot.

Julie, on the other hand, never fails to clean her plate when cheesy
noodles are put in front of her. The kid has been on a major growth
spurt these last few months.

A Fine, Proud Day

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of my country than I feel today. Sophie and I watched the inauguration while Julie was at school, and the TV is still on waiting for the parade now. Tears came to my eyes more than once as I witnessed this milestone in our history.

GObama!

Weave-Its

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

I think I mentioned before that I’ve developed an interest in these mini looms that have been around forever, and are developing a new following amongst the crafty fiber crowd. I hesitated at first in buying the vintage Weave-Its after a few less than satisfactory experiences buying used equipment online. So I bought a few of these Hazel Rose looms, thinking I was getting a modern version of the same thing.

They are very similar, but designed to create fabric pieces with a bias weave…

And the weaving process is a little different too. I’ve played with them a bit, and intend to eventually use up the leftovers from my diamond sweater to make a blanket or wrap or something on these looms.

In the mean time, my curiosity go the better of me and I found a couple of the vintage Weave-It looms on e-bay and have been playing with them over the last week or so.

I’ve got quite a bit of yarn left from my hat and mittens, so I’m going to see about making a scarf to match.

The really cool thing about these Weave-It looms is that you can make lots of different texture and color patterns with them, and since they’ve been around so long there are lots of old books floating around, many of them scanned-in and free on the Internet.

I like this tweedy one, but it took a bit longer to make than a plain one, and I’d rather get a project started and finished and keep it simple this first time around.

On a vaguely related note, Sophie has a new friend. She calls it Baby Cockroach.

In the gift-exchange game we play on Christmas Eve with my cousin and his family, there are a couple of boobie prizes that float around and show up every year. One of them is this plastic cockroach, and it ended up at our house for the year this time around. The girls were a little squeamish about it at first, but then Sophie found it in my desk drawer recently, and thinks it’s hilarious to open the box and “scare” me with it. Then I bump the hand in which she’s holding the box and make the roach jump on her, with more hilarity ensuing.

Well, Sophie is also into pretending that all of her stuffed animals are babies lately, and taking care of them. So when we were hanging out in my office room the other day, and I was playing around with squares on my loom, Sophie wanted a square for her own, which she proceeded to use as a blanket for Baby Cockroach.

You wouldn’t believe the mileage we’ve gotten out of this silly thing.

Birdie’s Blankie

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

I never did get around to publishing my New Year’s resolution post. It’s still sitting in my list, and I may or may not end up polishing it up to share. While I was thinking about my knitting plans for the new year, I spent some time digging through my stash closet, and I found a very old project whose time has finally come.

I had a great-grandmother named Birdie. I didn’t know her very well – she was already quite old by the time I was old enough to remember visiting her. Most of my memories of her are from visits to the nursing home where she spent the last years of her life, but I remember a tall woman, who although old and confused always offered us butter cookies from a blue tin. She was nice enough, as far as I knew her.

I don’t remember ever being aware of her knitting, but apparently she did. When I married Joe, my great-Uncle Homer (Birdie’s son) heard through the family grapevine that I was a knitter and sent me a package in the mail as a wedding gift.

In the package were these pieces of an afghan that Birdie knit before she died in the late 1980s. They had never been put together, and nobody left in the family had any idea how to finish the blanket, so they sat in storage for twenty years before Homer passed them on to me. I was thrilled when I opened the box at the time. I love the idea of completing the circle of a project started so long ago by my great-grandmother.

But. Back when I was newly married, I was a relatively new knitter. I wasn’t very confident in my skills in finishing, nor in fixing some of the small holes that were in the pieces when I received them, probably left by long-dead moths. I packed the pieces away and kept them in my stash waiting for the right time. I’m ready now.

I pulled them back out of their box a couple weeks ago and took another look. The first step was a nice Eucalan wash. This blankie was knit by an old lady in a nursing home, then left to marinate in storage for thirty years, and it certainly smelled like it. After that, it was time to start seaming. Only a couple of small balls of pink yarn came with the blanket pieces, so I decided to go with a simple mattress stitch seam.

From the front, it looks great, from the back, it’s not bad.

As I’ve worked with the blanket, it’s been clear to me that Birdie was no master knitter. There are lots of knots where she joined pieces of yarn together, and several places where dropped stitches were ignored and even one or two places where there are extra rows in the pattern.

But I don’t really care too much about those things. I’ve decided to respect Birdie’s work, to do a fine job of finishing it, to do what is necessary to keep it from falling apart. Finally this circle will be complete.

Bacchus Socks, progressing

Friday, January 16th, 2009

You wouldn’t guess from a casual glance at it, but I’ve been knitting quite a bit on my Bacchus sock. I know I’ve knit a whole sock’s worth by now, but I’ve ripped back and reknit at least three times now. At one point last night, I had it just past the heel, but when I tried it on, it was a wee bit too short. And before that, I realized right as I was ready to start the heel that I had done something really stupid and knit the left foot graph on the right foot sock. So I had to rip back and fix that problem. All this after I’d ripped back the first time to fix the bobble issue.

Well, they’re looking pretty good now. I’m almost back to the heel-turning part, and I’ve got a bunch of cute little bobbles that I’m happy with. They’re the ones the designer intended, the second ones I described in my last post – she showed up on the Ravelry discussion and cleared things right up. Very cool.

Here’s what the sock looked like at some point yesterday with the new bobbles and the wrong shaping.

I’ve actually been bouncing around between a few projects, some of which I haven’t talked about yet. I just took a bunch of photos, though, and am off to schedule some follow-up posts to share.