Friday, March 10, 2017

And Through Winter

And then some other stuff happened. In August my whole family came for a visit, including my handsome nephew Hal. Here he is trying out a new mango skin treatment.

Mary and her cousin Elly (only 2 months younger) both became obsessed with ice cream sandwiches. (Photo courtesy Adam J. Ruhland photography)

Jason and I went to Quebec City. Oh, is this a story. Due to the world's worst airline (cough cough *Porter Airlines*) not actually being able to deliver us to the city we bought tickets to, we ended up missing a day of our vacation. We were instead treated to a scenic (not scenic, it was dark) 3-hour bus ride from Montreal and a several mile walk in the pouring rain at midnight through a very hilly city. So that was fun. It was nice city although I severely underestimated the French-speaking nature of Quebec. They are really into giant hotels there.
My favorite part of the trip was actually outside of the city. Montmorency Falls is taller than Niagara Falls, and I am aware of this because we walked all the way up the side of that hill/mountain there because I am not one to wimp out and take a cable car. 

We also went to Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier which is not a "national" park as in the nation of Canada, but a "national" park of Quebec which is not even a nation but whatever don't get me started. It was pretty much deserted but beautiful, and we walked several trails along scenic stuff like gurgling brooks and mossy trees. This is a boreal forest which I didn't even know about!

Then it was pumpkin time. Mary went trick-or-treating for the first time, and after a few shy starts she figured it out. "Wait a second... I hold out my bag and people put candy in it.... WHAAAAT". 


This is just a picture of Mary eating breakfast.

Then it was Christmas time. I vowed last year I would never put lights on a Christmas tree again because it is THE WORST so I got this pre-lighted tree and everything was much better. Mary continues to cluster ornaments on the bottom 1/4 of the tree, but she's short so I can't blame her. At least she doesn't eat them anymore.
Now it is now. Winter was not too wintery this year so I can't complain too much, but I'm still waiting for it to be over so I can start gardening. Mary cried when I told her we couldn't plant the pumpkin seeds because it wasn't warm enough yet. I know the feeling, kid.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Summer Living

Recently, I stood outside in the heat and blazing sun with coworkers at a work event, who were all complaining about summer. It's too hot, too humid, the sun is too bright. I don't know what's wrong with those people, because summer is the best. I used to be a fall evangelist, and don't get me wrong, I get excited about beautiful trees and ideal temperatures along with everyone else. But, fall doesn't last that long, and recently has been overrun by millennials drinking pumpkin spice lattes and insisting that leggings are pants.

Standing out on the metro platform in 12 degree weather, I feel like I might actually die. 110 degree heat indexes are no fun either, but still feel bearable if not merely uncomfortable. Being able to think "Hey, I'll go outside," and then 1.5 seconds later being outside, is priceless. Going to pick vegetables for dinner is priceless. Not caring that your toddler is covered in paint because you can just hose her off in the yard later is priceless.

This summer I've started trail running and I'm already dreading going back inside when the snow and ice hit. We've already been to visit sunflower fields, the water park, a friend's pool, and a local festival where Mary was very impressed by the fire station and "the man falling down in the water." (She continues to talk about the dunking tank. "Is he wearing shoes? Did his hair get wet? Is he wearing water pants?")

The garden was built over several weeks this spring, and I've already learned a lot: mainly, even though the plants looks scrawny and far apart to begin with, in a few months they will become a jungle and your friends will start to hate you for forcing so many cucumbers and zucchini on them. Winter is the biggest thing gardening has going for it. It's just long enough for you to forget how much work it is and how bugs will happily destroy all of that work in one night.

As a knitter I have to think half a year ahead, and today I ordered yarn for a super-warm Icelandic sweater. It's hard to imagine that 7 months ago it snowed four feet in one day; but at least I know as I shiver through another winter, 64 pounds of zucchini are looming on the horizon.

Friday, May 13, 2016

A New Home

Let me sum up: in October we moved from our townhouse to a house on half an acre, adjacent to 47 acres of farmland. The fact that we could move ten minutes away and yet be in another world continues to amaze me. I can see cows and goats just a few miles down the road! Moving consumed most of last fall, and my time has been spent painting and hanging curtains rather than sewing and knitting. I'm also almost finished building a 225 square foot raised bed garden.

Our new house also came with a cat, OC ("other cat"). He showed up one cold February day, pleading to be let inside. As a compromise we let him hang out in the garage in an old heated bed of Kiska's. Then we took him to be neutered at a feral cat clinic, and let him inside to recover. He never left. He had an old wound from another animal attack, which ultimately required cat surgery and weeks of recuperation. So, he's ours now! Kiska isn't thrilled but he's too sweet to release back into the wild.

I've also been working on another side project whenever I feel like it: Simple Living for Practical Humans.

That's the update! Between work, wrangling a small child, dealing with 2 cats, and house projects, it's hard to get photography in there. But I'm still here, still knitting, and will check in when I can.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Everything Since April

Yikes, it's been 4 months! Summer started and is happening. I finished up my blue Cruiser mittens pretty quickly, the thick yarn and easy-to-remember pattern certainly helping. I knit a little hole into the palm of one so that I can turn the pages of my kindle when it gets cold out. I also finished up the quilt I started for Mary before she was born. The bright colors aren't really my style, but in the end I'm OK with it. The pattern was quite easy due to mostly strip piecing and bulk cutting. I can't remember where I got the pattern from, but it's somewhere on the internet so it shouldn't be too hard to find, right? What took forever was the quilting. I did free-motion quilting across the entire top and I pretty much hated it. I really underestimated the physicality needed to push and pull a full-size quilt under a machine. No wonder people pay other people to do this for them! I will definitely go that route for my next large quilt.

We went to Sheep & Wool and I bought NOTHING. True to my new year's resolution, I have bought no yarn this year and have knitted completely from stash. This actually worked out well because I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up which made me want to get rid of everything. I sent a large bag of craft supplies off to live with someone else, and I'm working on clearing the decks of my quilting WIPs so I can pare down my fabric collection even more. The fabric I was attracted to and was available decades ago (yes, it has been multiple decades since I started quilting) isn't my style anymore. I have one quilt ready for quilting, and another one about 1/2 pieced.

After 6 years of being away, we went back to New Mexico for a wedding in June. We mostly stayed around Santa Fe, eating chile-based foods and looking at Southwestern scenery. I wanted to go back to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, which was smaller than I had remembered, but is worth a visit. The plaza was cheesy as usual, although perfect if you're interested in a dreamcatcher or t-shirt with a howling wolf on it. We drove up into the mountains for a short hike, which was brutal at 10,000 feet; the views were amazing, however. Oddly, one highlight of the trip was the Jambo Cafe, an African restaurant. Highly recommended.

Of course, there have been baby pools and bowls of cheerios on the floor and naps and reading the same books over and over and over. As Mary would say, "It's allllll gooooooood."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Blues have been living on my needles lately. A friend recently had a baby girl, and being a pink-sparkle avoider like myself, I thought I would make her a baby sweater in non-traditional colors. The pattern is Baby Tea Leaves, and the yarn is Malabrigo Arroyo in Azules. I made a similar one for Mary, and I'm really in love with this pattern. The pattern is written so clearly and the result is super sweet for a baby girl. I made the 12 month size and it eats up 100% of one skein of yarn, which is exactly how I like it. I actually knit the body first, then divided the rest of the yarn by weight for the sleeves.

Also now finished are a pair of Cruiser Mittens in Brown Sheep Top of the Lamb Worsted. I knit a small buttonhole into the palm of one so that I could turn the page of my Kindle when it's freezing out. The convenience of being a knitter! Oh, and I did modify this pattern a bit by adding a thumb gusset. I really don't understand when mitten patterns are written with no gusset, because last time I checked the width of your palm across your thumb is bigger than the width of your palm above your thumb.

How quickly you forget the cold. It's hard to imagine needing to use these now that it's spring. Sheep and Wool is coming up soon! I'm hoping to take Mary this year and introduce her to all the sheep. It's funny how tastes change over the years, and this applies to yarn as well. This winter I realized how much warmer plain old 100% wool is. So, I'm hoping to find some non-superwash wool and/or fiber for socks and sweaters. Even though I've forgotten the cold, it doesn't mean it won't exist again.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Four-Year Blanket

In April of 2011 I had the brilliant idea to crochet a 100% wool colorful granny square blanket. Four years later, it's finished! Like with many of my projects I didn't really grasp what I was getting myself into. 28 skeins of wool = six pounds of yarn = almost 2 miles of yarn = thousands of stitches = 540 color changes = over 600 ends.

I used Knitpicks Wool of the Andes (the colors are listed on my Ravelry page here) and only had to order more yarn once, for the border. The pattern is Summer Garden Granny Square, although I only did 3 color changes per round instead of 4. If I had done 4 you'd certainly be reading this post two years in the future. A huge part of this project was joining the squares together; I crocheted them together instead of sewing them, which ended up looking great, but taking for-freaking-ever.

So would I do it again? I'll give you the same answer I gave after I ran a half marathon 12 years ago - "I'm never doing that again." I'm not opposed to crocheting a blanket again, but not granny squares. Joining a billion of those things together killed my soul. But now I feel so freeeee! This thing has been hanging over my [crafting] head for years now, and now I have so much more time to knit all of the things.

Now, let me tell you about the 3 unfinished quilts in my basement, one of which is over 7 years old...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Wool Socks for Winter

Last time I mentioned how I do not do well with long-term projects. I really want to knit complicated cabled sweaters and intricate lace shawls, but about 60% in I end up wanting to burn the thing. Of course when it's finished I'm glad I put in the time and immediately want to start the next big project.

Sometimes, though, I need to knit a pair of socks in 4 days. The way that happens is to find some bulky yarn and big needles (it also helps to have small feet) and cast on 32 stitches. 32!! (A regular sock has about 64 stitches in a round.) I just made up the pattern as I went along, because after knitting about 50 socks so far I could probably do it blindfolded. I used Istex Alafoss Lopi, which is from Iceland and as close to an actual sheep as you can get. The wool is pretty "rustic," as they say, so these are better if worn with other socks underneath. That's ok, because it's 62 degrees in my house and they match my House Hat and House Scarf and House Long Underwear. Is it 62 degrees in your house?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Year of Possiblities

I love this week, which seems fresh and new, like anything is possible in the coming year. I love reading and hearing about everyone's resolutions and projects. Even though I am cynical royalty and know that 90% of these projects will be abandoned (just ask me about my Project 365 that lasted two months), for this week and this month we will indulge ourselves in optimism.
  • Knit from stash: I was the happy recipient of much gift yarn this year, and dropped a couple Benjamins on yarn for myself (whoops). This fall I reorganized my yarn by weight into 3 plastic bins, which lasted about 4 seconds before they started to overflow. My goal is to fit all of the stash back into those bins.
  • Get the house in order: We've entertained the idea of moving to a different house this year, which means that all of those projects that were scheduled to happen someday need to happen now. I have a 2-page list of all of these projects, ranging from cleaning out drawers to minorly remodeling bathrooms, that I will spare you from.
  • Complete photobook pages monthly: Each year I put together a book of pictures from the year, so they can live somewhere physical outside of my computer. Well, this (last) year I took over 1,000 pictures. Wading through them has been a monumental task. This year, I'm going to upload the pictures from each month and complete a few pages so I don't have to do it all at once.
Despite having a terrible name, dutch babies are delicious. Alton Brown's recipe is a winner. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Currently Knitting

I've become a little too into certain Instagram feeds where new projects are posted every few days. Socks fly off the needles in four days, new shawls appear weekly, and a sweater magically knits itself every month. While incredibly inspiring, this is not how I roll. I tend to plod along on a few things over a course of a few months (or even years, in the case of blankets and quilts), which makes my updates all very similar. Hey guess what, this sweater looks exactly the same but is actually an inch longer!

What I'm currently plodding away on:
  • A Red Rock Canyon shawl in two maybe-a-little-too-similar shades of Dream in Color Smooshy with Cashmere. The striping is subtle, but I suspect it will show up more when the shawl is finished. I'm probably more likely to wear a purple tonal shawl than a crazy striped one anyway. Oh, and this yarn is amazing. It's like petting a kitten's belly.
  • Acer Cardigan in Cascade 220. I don't knit many sweaters, but somehow I ended up with two sweater quantities of yarn in olive green. The fronts and back are knitted in one piece, which is why it's so wide; don't worry, I'm not bringing 80s sweaters back.
I finished up a Sockhead Hat in some handspun merino which has finally found its calling. This is the third iteration of this yarn (previously a bias-knit cowl, and then a crocheted cowl), and it works! The merino is crazy soft and warm, although I'm still not nuts about the colors. Also, this is a "slouchy" hat. I'm not sure how trendy people manage to achieve the perfect slouchy hat, because mine always sticks up like a conehead.

Last but not least, I am so close to finishing The Afghan of Death. I started a crochet blanket in April 2011 (yes, almost 4 years ago), and all it needs are about 8 more seams and a border. Remind me about this if I ever mention wanting to crochet another blanket.