Saturday, May 27, 2017

Pause


As my belly grows and our little fellow's gymnastics become more pronounced, it can be difficult not to get caught up in the seemingly-endless list of "Things Not Yet Done." Oh, how I want everything squared away and just-so, right now! I've never been good at waiting, though you'd think four babies would have honed my skills a bit.

So I am trying to take a pause -- there are projects I can tackle, but I don't need to worry myself about the ones I can't. It helps to walk into my living room and see this:




That's my childhood Beatrix Potter treasury, being read and loved by my daughter -- to know that she loves reading, and reading the same stories I loved at her age, is such a joy!

And a stroll through our garden (two rows of straw bales) helps when it's tempting to feel overwhelmed. There's always something new to notice there, something growing and changing. I can't wait to pull out the carrots that these fluffy tops belong to!




And there are so many clusters on our tomato plants! I love to peek under the leaves and check their progress, partly so I can enjoy the pungent smell of tomato plant on my fingertips. We had to stake them recently, because they were so large and heavily laden that they were sagging precariously. My container tomato plant last year produced two tiny Roma tomatoes (and that was a comparative success to most of my plant-growing endeavors!), so this unexpected abundance is quite heartening -- perhaps I've inherited my father and grandmother's green thumbs, after all? I suppose I should let the season play out before I become too confident!




The Littles somehow got into their heads that we needed to make strawberry jam, so we took advantage of a sale at the grocery store. You know you're a bit too thrifty when your children ask wistfully if such-and-such a fruit or veggie is on sale! We put a pound of strawberries in the food processor with a tablespoon of chia seeds, and blended them until the mixture was as smooth as it would get. Then into the fridge overnight, resulting in a delicious and fresh "spread" (it's not as thick as a jam). It's already been earmarked for our Sunday tea tomorrow afternoon, which means we'll be putting scones on the menu, as well!




And so, I pause. Before I go find something else to organize, paint, or purge...

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

All the Better to Chew On

I've been quite taken with the adorable silicone teether/pacifier leashes I've seen lately, and decided to try one of my own! Granted, it would have been cheaper to just purchase a single teether clip (they're about $10-$15 on Etsy), but how could I possibly find one with exactly the right combination of beads, rings, textures, and colors? I opted instead to purchase the materials and make one myself -- it's more fun that way, anyway!

I spent far, far too long browsing Etsy for just the right shop. I had no idea there were so many silicone bead options! I was determined to get a wooden hedgehog teether, and I finally found a shop that offered them along with the other kinds of beads I was interested in. When my Etsy cart came to a ridiculous total, I pared down my choices and ordered. I purchased my wood beads and rings from Amazon, because I found that to be cheaper (though now I have an abundance of wood rings and beads left over...).  I stuck to a relatively neutral spectrum of grey, black, and mint green, mixed with natural wood.





I used a tutorial from Chomp Chew Bead Design. I'm not exactly sure how I'd planned to assemble the teether, but I'm so glad I thought to search for a tutorial! Safety was definitely a concern for me with such small beads, but their method seems quite secure (and of course, adult supervision is the best preventative measure!). I was surprised how strong the satin cord is, and didn't realize that it would fit doubled through the beads.





Figuring out a pattern with the beads I'd assembled was the next challenge -- but a most enjoyable one! I adjusted a bit part way through, and am so happy with the final design. I was trying not to make the teether too crazy, but I think there's enough variety of color/shape/size/texture without going overboard (even as I write this, I'm laughing at myself a little because who cares that much about a baby's teether leash?! *wink*). I really wanted a few "loose" rings as an extra teething/entertainment help, so I added those to the center -- they're far too small to fit over the grey crochet beads, so they won't present a choking hazard.

All that was left was the hedgehog teether at the end (which can be replaced with a pacifier if needed). I have plenty of beads left over, so I can make more as gifts, or perhaps make a dedicated stroller toy (you attach clips to both ends, so it can clip across a stroller. So clever!).





Hopefully our little guy will like his teether as much as I do! Not that I imagine we'll appreciate it in quite the same way...

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Something for the Little Guy

The very day I took my White Pine Cardigan off my knitting needles, I cast on a Blue Blanket for our July(ish) arrival! Let's just say my eagerness to start and determination to finish that cardigan first helped push me along through the last few White Pine rows. 


The hedgehog swaddle is one of my little baby splurges -- I love the cotton muslin
blanket I got for Laddie, so when an Amazon warehouse deal popped up on this one,
I couldn't resist! Though how many blankets does a summer baby really need? *wink*

I've actually gone quite a bit past this now, since (for once) I'm knitting faster than I'm photographing and posting about it. I cast on 181 stitches instead of the called-for 133, because what's up with a 22 x 29" baby blanket? So glad I checked the dimensions before I made it! I'm using seven skeins of Knit Picks Galileo in Luster, which was on sale around St. Patrick's day (green!). Though really, the blanket reads more grey than green. The merino/bamboo blend is absolutely lovely, though a bit slippery to work with.

This blanket is such an easy project, though time consuming! At about half-way through, I'd estimate I've put in about 23,000 stitches. Just another 23,000 to go...


Monday, May 08, 2017

Third Time's a Charm





It seems we'll be having a third go at raising a boy!  We are over-the-moon excited (as are the littles, who give him lots of kisses) -- and now that we've actually settled on a name, the "real" stress is over. Forget birth and the ensuing 18 years of parenting, we're just relieved to have come up with a name! Seriously, how is it that my husband and I can come up with a list of girls' names as long as my arm, but when it comes to boys' names we are stumped? At any rate, I'm quite happy with what we've chosen -- hopefully our little guy will agree, once he's old enough to form an opinion on the matter.

With just about two months left in this pregnancy, I am nesting like crazy. I'm trying to work some of it off at the sewing machine (though so far, not many projects for the little guy -- I'm knitting a blanket, so I suppose I'm just using different needles?). Some salvaged leather and a felted wool sweater provided the materials for some little shoes, using this pattern. I have my doubts about how well they'll work and I'm almost positive they won't fit him this winter, but they sure are cute.




There's just something about leather and wool that I love! I have it in mind to make a pair of leather Toms (like these) for itty-bitty feet.




For the most part, though, I've been trying to tackle the little projects that have been building up -- lots of mending for the Littles, new charcoal and black maxi skirts for me (I'd worn out their predecessors!), some alterations to tops and scarves that were not being worn for easily-changed reasons, a nursing friendly knit dress, and a robe to wear at the hospital (and at home!) once our little guy makes his appearance. Did I mention that we're renovating our family room, including plastering the ceiling and filling in the grooves in the painted paneling? Once that's done we'll be painting virtually every surface in the room, including the fireplace but not including the floor... at least not intentionally. *wink* I seem fond of tackling large house projects with a large belly, considering that we laid several hundred square feet of tile at our last house when I was six months pregnant with Rosa! But I'm looking forward to some fresh new surroundings, and with a triple bunk underway in the boys' room (and a bed for Rosa to follow), there will be quite a bit in the way of new surroundings. 

With so much on the to-do list, the time is flying by! And as the little fellow in my belly keeps reminding me with his hilarious antics (and frequent bouts of hiccups), Lord willing, the best is yet to come.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wood Hyacinth



Little bits of beauty in a quiet nook in our yard -- I wonder who planted these lovelies!





Friday, April 07, 2017

White Pine (& Prejudice)

Complete -- what an exquisite word! Especially when it refers to a project that has caused considerable distress over the past eight month. Eight months. Because apparently I can grow a baby in about the same time it takes me to knit a single sweater...

But let's focus on the positive! My White Pine Cardigan is finished and blocked, and I am absolutely in love with it! My plan was to have this finished in time for the cold weather... oops.




The White Pine pattern by Amy Christoffers has been in my favorites for about 2 1/2 years! I was finally ready to tackle it last July, and chose Knit Picks Wool of the Andes (worsted weight), in the colorway "Conch." You probably know by now that I love the color coral, and this yarn is the perfect shade! I used the smallest size even though I was between sizes, because I generally wear my cardigans open and am not a fan of excessively bulky sweaters. Wool of the Andes is a very economical yarn (the price has actually gone down since I purchased it!), especially for an adult sweater. I ended up using 10 skeins almost exactly!




I learned a great deal from this pattern -- primarily twisted rib. Lots, and lots, and LOTS of twisted rib! I tend to dislike ribbing in general, but you'll not find me complaining about "regular" rib in the near future. I also became quite expert at fixing small errors made several rows back. In the past, such a discovery would have resulted in my tearing out every row until I reached the mistake, but now I know how to undo a few stitches (and put them back once the mistake is rectified!). I also know that this technique only works a few stitches "wide," a discovery which cost me several hours of work and re-work.






Sadly, I also learned that I did not like the way the pattern was written! After looking around a bit on Ravelry, I soon discovered that I was not the only knitter to have serious issues with the pattern. I ended up "rewriting" the pattern for myself, dividing up the steps clearly and using only the stitch counts for my size (not that there were many, which is one of my issues with the pattern). I still don't know how you are supposed to decrease in seed stitch without ending up with really wonky patches. Perhaps I need to consult a living, breathing knitter to find that out, but my solution was to simply omit the decreases (except in the sleeves, which fortunately are relatively hidden!). I am so very glad this was not my first sweater, because otherwise I think I would have been totally lost! Coupled with some errors on my part, it made the going very tedious. In fact, five months into the project and part-way through the first sleeve, I put the sweater aside.





I was eventually roused to finish it because I had other projects to start (notably a blanket for the baby-on-the-way!), and didn't want to leave this project in limbo. The last thing I need is an unfinished project cluttering my craft space or my mind. With renewed vigor, I finished the first sleeve and attacked the second. Fortunately, it didn't take long to pick up the pattern again, and I was soon humming along nicely. After bravely tackling the shoulder decreases, I was ready for the button band. That complete, all that remained were buttons and blocking.

I finished it off with the pewter buttons from Colonial Williamsburg that I mentioned recently. I'm so pleased that they're out of my stash and back in my closet! 




So that's the White Pine -- but what about the Prejudice? I'm so glad you asked! Quite simply, it was listening to the audio book of Pride and Prejudice that helped me persevere through those last steps. I have the version read by Rosamund Pike from Audible.com, and I highly recommend it! Rosamund has the most amazing voice, and reads with what I'd describe as "sedate variety" -- far from monotone, but also not distractingly dramatic. Apparently I'm on a kick of listening to books read by actors who have featured in Jane Austen film adaptations, because I immediately started Agnes Grey read by Emilia Fox once I'd finished Pride and Prejudice!

White Pine -- so many emotions knitted up in a single sweater... *wink* I will probably not be making another White Pine in the future; I am too scarred to voluntarily subject myself to the experience a second time (even though I'd doubtless have more success a second time around). But I'm glad I made the one, because I really do love the way this sweater looks! It's one of the patterns that prompted me to finally take up knitting, after all.




I must say, my manifold frustrations were nearly forgotten when my husband (who has patiently listened to me winge about this pattern many a time) observed it drying and commented on how nice it looked. I think he is still a bit surprised -- as I am myself -- when something I knit turns out looking... well, real! Fortuitously, our warm Spring weather gave way the very day after blocking, and it was dry in time to wear on one of the (presumably) last cold days this year. It may have missed most of the action this year, but it will be primed and ready to serve as a wardrobe staple next winter!




I still have three skeins of yarn left over, so at some point I'll be making myself a winter hat for next year. I realized this past winter that I need something to keep my ears warm on windy days! I can't remember the last time I had a winter hat/cap; I never really needed one in Florida. But in the meantime, I've already cast on a Blue Blanket by LondonLeo...


Friday, March 31, 2017

Fresh

After a few false starts, Spring is here! After being taunted by early-blooming daffodils and several spurts of ridiculously warm weather (only to bundle up again as another cold front swept through), I think Spring has finally settled in to stay. Granted, it's nippy outside right now -- but my sense of proportion has been a little distorted by over a decade of Florida's habit of "Winter, winter, SUMMER!" I can't put away the sweaters and jackets yet (it is only March, after all!), but the dogwood outside my kitchen window is blooming and the birds are trilling all of winter's pent-up songs.

And these girls -- well, I told a friend that all of my wildest chicken dreams are coming true, wondering at the same time if it's quite, quite normal to have wild chicken dreams... 





They are laying so well now -- last week we had eggs from all of them two days in a row, and four to five seems to be our average! After a very slow winter, I'd begun to wonder if even my "three per day" hope would be granted. My fears have been squelched, and we've even been able to gift a few eggs to friends (not many, because we consume them so voraciously!). And they're such entertaining biddies, too! Next winter we'll be putting a light in the coop, because I am convinced that longer days have contributed to better laying.

I feel like the world around us is just waiting to burst into bloom -- at least, the copious amounts of pollen that are accumulating on every outdoor surface would seem to indicate that!







With all of the freshness out-of-doors, I've been in the mood for a little refreshing within, too. My cleaning schedule has worked wonders for my housekeeping! February ended with almost every block checked -- even better than January. Improving rather than tapering off is probably a first for my housekeeping efforts, and it looks like March will be following suit! Having the housekeeping on auto-pilot, as it were, has freed me up to attend to other tasks -- declutterings, deeper cleans, that sort of thing. 

Another refresh? A simple polo shirt, purchased on clearance about four or five years ago for Little Man -- but never worn, because the embroidered skull design proved stubborn. Why, oh why, do they put skulls on toddler clothes? Fed up with the futility of a brand-new shirt cluttering my sewing supplies, I cut a simple leather patch and embroidered it with an anchor. I suppose I could say bought this shirt for Laddie, little though I knew it at the time!  






Fresh and new, everywhere I look. And if the sense of freshness fades from my consciousness, a few kicks and rolls from the little one inside my ever-expanding belly are a timely reminder!


Friday, March 24, 2017

Spontaneous

A beautiful Spring day called for lunch out-of-doors -- after some unseasonably warm days in February, March has been mostly chilly (and often rainy!), so the opportunity was too much to pass up.

Of the many, many things you don't find out about parenting until you're actually a parent, one of the more pleasant surprises has been the frequent consignments of wildflowers I receive! Handfuls of dandelions seem to come my way almost every day:




For our picnic lunch, we headed to the nearby airport. There's an overlooking hill shaded by pine trees that's the perfect vantage point for take-offs, landings, taxi-ings, luggage unloadings -- all of the exciting events surrounding air travel. There's even a speaker that broadcasts the interchange between the airplanes and air traffic control. I find it rather soothing, actually, perhaps because I hear so much about it from my husband, or perhaps because it all sounds so orderly and well-managed. 

Several crows were perched in the pines, watching us with evident curiosity. Well, watching our food, that is! I tossed a few bits over, which were snatched up after the appropriate interval of cautious approach-and-retreat.





We made short work of our food, too! I find myself buying exorbitant quantities of clementines to keep us "stocked" these days. The new quilt made its debut, too, providing the perfect spot to spread out (though I was the only one sitting long enough to really enjoy it!).







I stationed myself at the top of the hill, while the littles raced up and down, stopping now and then for a nibble, or to share some amazing tidbit about the airport (the airport firetruck drove by! Now it's testing its hoses!). The perfect opportunity to indulge in a little knitting. After a long period of inactivity, I am feeling strongly motivated to finish my White Pine Cardigan, which I started back in July of last year. It was going to be finished for Fall, but I ended up becoming so frustrated with it that I put it aside half-way through the first sleeve. Now, with a baby on the way and growing littles, I desperately want to start some other projects -- but I know if I don't finish this cardigan first, it will irk me no end. So, finish it I shall! I'm already into the pattern work of the second sleeve, so I'm hoping that I can stay motivated long enough to finish. Who knows, maybe I'll even get to wear it once or twice before I put it away for the summer...


Almost done the twisted rib cuff for the second sleeve...

Of course, the very next day was bitterly cold -- it may be Spring, but Winter hasn't quite done with us yet. But as the weather warms up, we might be spontaneous again!