Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas wrap-up

Our Christmas this year was wonderful.  The fact that we were able to be together as a family is no longer something that we can take for granted, and it added special meaning to our celebration.  Greg will have to go back to Iraq in a week, but we are enjoying every moment we have while it lasts.

My brother Jonathan was here as well (he's in the Army as well, and is stationed fairly close by), and he and Greg were responsible for almost all of the holiday cooking (seeing as I have so recently given birth, they gladly gave me a break from the responsibilities).

Christmas Eve, Jonathan made a fantastic Bolognese sauce (his own recipe -- based on the one from Best International Recipe, but with pork chops added to the ground beef, cream instead of milk, and red instead of white wine.):

Christmas morning, I baked donuts (from 101 Cookbooks -- love that recipe!  I double the cinnamon that's added to the sugar coating.):

These donuts are rather excellent with a big mug of coffee or a cold glass of milk.

Christmas dinner was ham, stuffed artichokes (breadcrumb, not sausage), snow peas, jasmine rice, and a salad of mixed field greens with apple and prosciutto.

While waiting for everyone to get up on Christmas morning (i.e., baby "Billy" and I), the children got their sunglasses out for...whatever reason.

We opened tons of fun gifts, including this fantastic Thomas Keller cookbook set that Greg gave to me:

Daisy got a tea set (one of her first "girl" toys!), which she loved:

The children all opened up a big wooden train set, which pieces match the one they already have.  We've had a huge track set up in our living room ever since.

Greg managed to find us our biggest tree yet -- just over 13 feet:

Jonathan and the baby got a chance to bond, and he gave baby the nickname of "Red Billy", since he was so brilliantly red for the first week of his life.  We've decided that "Billy" is a perfectly acceptable name, so it has now become the baby's bloggable tag. 

I hope that your Christmas, if you celebrate it, was full of joy and wonder, and that you have a safe and happy New Year's Eve tonight.

(And as if you needed more pictures... for a more thorough play-by-play of our Christmas, click here for the Flickr album, which was put together for all of our relatives who weren't able to be here and watch the children open gifts themselves.)
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008


An FO for my newest little FO!

BuzzBee pattern by WoolyWormhead from downloadable pattern booklet: Wee Wooly Toppers

I'm typing one-handed, babe in arms, so you can check out the project here on Ravelry for more details, if you're so inclined.
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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Thank you to all for the overwhelming congratulations. We are all doing well, and are enjoying our time together as a family. In an upcoming post I'll write up the birth story, but for now...

Merry Christmas, everyone!!
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Friday, December 19, 2008

The new guy

Yesterday, straight on my due date, and three days after Greg got home, we got to meet this cool little dude:

He arrived at 9:55 on the morning of Dec. 18th. 9 lbs, 6 oz (4200 grams for the metric among us), 2 hours active labor, boy, bloggable name as yet undecided.

Thank God I don’t have to dread labor anymore! (Oh, and BTW, this was one occasion that a spicy curry actually DID work. I’d forgotten that I haven’t been cooking spicy since I’ve been only cooking for my kids in the recent past. What a surprise!)

An interesting fact that we learned the other day: My midwife was casually mentioning Daisy's's birth weight to us as "really big -- close to 11 lbs".  We told her that no, definitely she was about 9-1/2.  She went to her notes, and gave us the weight in grams... as it turns out, we did the conversion wrong.  She was 10-1/2 lbs.  Holy crap.  No wonder why she looked so fat!!
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Grapes In Central Park -- complete

Some of you wondered who took the family photo in my last post.  To get the shot, I set the camera up on a tripod and set the timer.  After about 10 tries, we had a keeper.  =)

I realize that any moment this blog is silent, wild speculation is bound to occur.  As of this moment, no baby, no husband. 

As much as I'd love to obsess about Holy Crap My Belly Is Huge Why Aren't You Out Yet Baby, I'm going to show you a knitted finished object instead.

Last night, I finished up my Grapes In Central Park Hoodie.

I think that this is the first sweater I ever had a serious desire to make.  Why I've waited so long to actually accomplish it is beyond me.

This sweater has extra meaning to me, because the generous and talented Chris from Briar Rose Fibers handpainted this yarn in a colorway just for me and sent it as a gift when Greg deployed.  It's comfort knit into comfort.  I love it!

It wasn't difficult, and the actual knitting of it didn't take all that much time.

The cables were of the simplest kind, and the design is classic and wearable.

I haven't determined how I'll fasten the front yet, but I'm not worried, since I won't be able to even think about the fronts meeting for a good while (this is not knit to my soon-to-be expanded nursing measurements, if you catch my drift.)  It fits perfectly though through the armholes and arms, so I know that it will be an excellent fit overall when I am finally back to my "normal" about a year-and-a-half, or whatever.

I did follow Stephanie Pearl McPhee's suggestion and ran a chain of crochet along the neck/base of hood to reinforce it against possible sagging in the future.

The only other modifications I made were to knit the bottom rib only to 2-1/2 inches (I don't like tons of ribbing hugging my middle), and I knit the sleeves in the round up to the sleeve cap shaping.  When I seamed the pieces together, I used this little trick that I came up with:

I lined up the pieces, then ran a long running stitch through them to hold them together about an inch from where I'd be seaming.  This keeps everything in place perfectly, and you don't have to worry about pins slipping out and stabbing you, or moving those expensive Knit Klips around as you go.  Everything stays in place, and everyone is happy.

Now I've got my eye on a few new projects.  There's nothing like swatching for about 4 projects at a time with a baby due-date looming!
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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A brand new level of crazy

Today, I have no fiber content for you, knitted or otherwise, and here's why.

Today was the day I'd planned to clean for Greg's upcoming arrival.  A few days early, but I figured this would give me a chance to get a reasonable amount of things done each day without going totally crazy.  Let me just tell you: the nesting urge, once fully unleashed, is a frightening and powerful beast.  The children helped some, because of course the Best Thing Ever is to squirt excessive amounts of cleaning supplies all over everything, and we actually had a very nice day together.  Things accomplished today:

  • Children's toys picked up and put into their room
  • Floors in living room, guest room and sun room swept and vacuumed, including rolling up area rugs and getting under them.
  • All furniture moved and cleaned under (vacuumed inside couches, moved piano, corner bench, etc.)
  • Living room and my room dusted.
  • 7 loads of laundry washed and hung to dry (= 14 trips up and down 2 flights of stairs)
  • Both bathrooms cleaned.
  • Some windows and both glass doors Windexed.
  • Microwave scrubbed out.
  • Kitchen cabinet surfaces wiped down.
  • Hood and stove range cleaned on top of and under.
  • Oven door window scrubbed.
  • Computer room partially organized.

I still want to wipe down the inside of the refrigerator, finish the computer room and hit a few other clutter spots, but I had to stop myself after 8 hours.  It's 10 at night right now.  The children have been in bed for 2 hours, and I'm just now finishing my dinner.  I will clean more...if I can still move tomorrow.  I'm telling you though, this level of Crazy Clean feels good.

And while we're here -- a happy (and very belated) Thanksgiving to all of my American friends out there...and a happy Two Thursdays Ago to the rest of you.
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Monday, December 08, 2008

Alke is very, very cool

Hey there all of you readers!  Is there a one among you who does not have a Ravelry account?  Because I just so happen to be holding an unanswered Ravelery invite, and I will forward it to you upon request.  First-come, first-serve.  If you have been wanting to join the Ravelry community but keep forgetting to sign up, or are discouraged by the 1-week-waiting list, take heart and leave a comment (be sure that your e-mail is linked).  I'll send it along to the first commenter who wants it.

Moving on...

Thanks for all of the woven love and complements on the belly  The baby feels like a little superstar, and I'm not discouraging it.  I hope to show you the wriggling little creature in short-order; I feel full to the bursting... although I was huge with Daisy as well, and she was 9 days late.  ~sigh~

Something very cool happened today.  I went to pick up my mail, and there was a package waiting for me from the Netherlands.  I could hardly wait to open it!  Alke, a friend from the Spunky boards over on Ravelry had sent me this as a little "cheer-up" surprise:

Now the book is just precious (there are crochet things in there, but the sewed softies esp. caught my eye -- as soon as the sewing but bites again, this book will be seeing a lot of use!), and the card was lovely, but the scarf!  I literally had tears in my eyes as I unfolded it.  A handspun, handknit scarf, from Alke, to me.  No one has ever spun for me before, and I can tell you that it is a precious, precious gift.  I put it on several hours ago, and I am loathe to take it off.

One-Row Handspun Scarf knit by Alke using her handspun Spunky Eclectic BFL club fiber in Pie For Everyone

Thankfully, it *almost* goes with what I'm wearing (because, you know, I AM a fashion maven and all of that good stuff).  (I'm completely kidding -- what you can't see is that I'm wearing gray-and-red yoga pants with this ensemble.  Eye-catching, I'll assure you.)

Here's a close up of the scarf texture, because we all know how much I love close-ups:


Thank you, Alke.  Words cannot express how much this little package meant to me.  You are a sweetheart.

On the weaving front, I finished Daisy's scarf last night:

I warped the loom alternating 4 ends each of my handspun Rosebud (that I knit Daisy's hat and mittens out of), and Knit Picks Panache in Merlot, back when it was 100% alpaca and still in production.  (It then went to an Alpaca/Merino/Silk blend, and more recently discontinued.)

To create a checked pattern, I alternated 4 rows of each yarn.  It actually almost looks plaid to me because of the handspun color changes.  Once again, I was thrilled with the difference a quick soak did for the fabric.  This morning it was so much drapier and softer than when I cut it off the loom last night.  Daisy wore it out today with a huge smile on her little face.

I experimented with the fringe a little bit:

Certainly would be more effective with a longer fringe section, but for a 20-month-old, it's probably for the best.  (In all reality, it's not all that safe to let a toddler run around with something round their neck anyway, but I'm keeping her closely supervised.  Plus, it's squishy and thick, which is a plus.)

Alltogether fast, easy, and fun project.  (There Laura, I've done it.  So sorry.  And you can hold me completely responsible for any loom purchases from now on.)

Now it's back to the hoodie.  I want to have it finished by the end of the week, which seems to be a possibility at this point... will keep you posted.
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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Bellyshot: 38 weeks (and more weaving!)

38 weeks.  My friends, this is no illusion.  And I still have 2 weeks to go.  Amazing, yes?

Weaving content coming up -- if you do not wish to start weaving, you may want to look away from all of the woven pr0n.  Incoming....

Two nights ago after putting the children in bed, I opened up the Cricket manual and figured out how to warp it.  As it turns out, it's crazy easy.  So easy, that I wove off an entire scarf that night (Sparky's).  The next morning, the boys were chomping at the bit for me to weave off a scarf for Max too, so I let them help me warp.

This is the single-peg method described in the materials supplied, and it's seriously so simple that I was able to keep things straight while being "helped" extensively.  They thought that it was great fun to race across the kitchen and put the loops of yarn over the warping peg (next to Sparky's hand -- kind of blends in with the background here).  There was a bit of fighting ("it's MY turn to run!!!"), but overall it was fun.  And I didn't loose my brain.  And we actually managed to warp the thing.  Pretty incredible, let me tell you.

By bedtime last night, I had completed weaving Max's scarf as well.  I wet-finished them both (I was amazed by how much of a difference a soak in some Eucalan-infused water did for the finished item!), and we had two little drapy, soft scarves this morning.  The boys have been running around the house with them since, but I managed to confiscate them for a (brief) photo shoot.

Sparky's Little Man Scarf: 57" long, 4-1/4" wide.

I had spun this yarn using the Fractile Stripe method, and it was very interesting to see it all organized in a woven fabric.

Max's Little Man Scarf: 53" long, 4" wide.

You might remember that this started out as a multi-layered batt.  I spun the colors at random with no distinct patterning.  Once again, I love seeing it in the woven fabric.

I warped the loom for both scarves using a complimentary color of KnitPicks Palette fingering weight yarn.  I used the 12 dent reed so that it would be a weft-faced fabric (unlike the balanced weave of my grandma's light blue scarf).  Weft-faced fabric is one in which the weft (yarn going back and forth across) is mostly all that you see in the finished product.

Upon completing these two projects in such quick succession, I can assure you that practice does indeed benefit the weaver.  My selvedges have been cleaning up more and more as I'm mindful of the edge warp threads.  I have noticed that I need to leave a tiny bit more slack when I'm right in the middle, but pull it just a little tighter when I'm close to the back-beam and then again when I'm nearing the heddle.

Now that those are done, my boys are asking "Where's Daisy's scarf?"  She's been running around with my grandma's scarf, so I knew that I needed to get right on it (sets of 3, sets of 3.  Soon it will be everything in sets of 4... does this mean that I should be working on another Sheldon?)

Someone on Ravelry was wondering how lap-weaving was working out for me with my greatly decreased lap, so these pictures are for her:

(Spunky Eclectic Romney in Eclipse being spun in the foreground -- more on that in a future post)

As you can see, I've "created" a shelf to work on by putting my feet up on something under the desk, and hooking the back end of the loom over my keyboard drawer (since I have a laptop and don't use it anyway).

Oh, and...yeah, I've never shown my house in such dissaray.  However, when my husband is here, he hates to have all of my stuff encroaching on the computer area, so I only have a tiny bit longer to enjoy the Desk Disaster.  This means that you, my friends, have a rare "real" glimpse of me in my natural habitat.  =)

As soon as I finish Daisy's scarf, it's back to the Central Park Hoodie.  I've picked up the stitches for the hood, and I really want to finally wear it!!
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Friday, December 05, 2008


This week has been a little bit difficult for me -- trying to buy a larger vehicle (and running into stupid problems that shouldn't be an issue), running extra errands, having trouble sleeping, combating with crazy nesting instinct, not being able to accomplish much homeschool with the children (for the above reasons)...

I had scheduled my monthly spinning Friday for today a few weeks ago, but as this week unfolded, I started to feel that panic that often threatens to grip me as a new baby gets ready to arrive. "I can't do it, I can't do it, I can't do it" was oft repeated in my head, even as I accomplished each task. Looking around my disheveled house, I felt certain that I should cancel Spinning Friday...but then I realized something. I need Normal Life to continue. I need things to look forward to each day. I need something to clean my house for. I want to have people to bake and cook for (besides my children).

I'm sitting here now in my tidy house; everyone from the spinning group has gone, the children are in their quiet times or naptimes, and I am so glad that I decided to keep the date. I feel refreshed by the visit with the other ladies, successful to have managed to clean the house and bake, and all together satisfied and pleased with the day.

For every spinning event that I hold at my house, I bake something special for everyone to eat when they walk in the door -- the last two times was cinnamon rolls (from a fantastic recipe at Bon Appetit that actually produces light, soft rolls!), so this time I made Baked Donuts.

For my kids, the best part was the donut holes:

Recipe found at 101cookbooks with a few modifications: I threw everything into my bread machine -- all the liquid first, then all the dry, just as I do with my bread. The recipe calls for 5 cups flour, but I used 5-1/2 because the dough was too sticky. 1-1/2 cups of the total flour was whole wheat, which didn't weigh the finished product down at all. I actually might try substituting a cup more next time. I also doubled the cinnamon in the cinnamon-sugar topping, and actually would up it to a whole tablespoon next time, because I loved the extra flavor.

I made up the dough last night, shaped it, and then put it on parchment paper-lined panes, wrapped it in saran wrap and then put a layer of aluminum foil over all to ensure that they didn't dry out overnight. This morning, I proofed them in a slightly warm oven with a bowl of hot, freshly boiled water sitting below them.

Instead of sliding the parchment paper onto pre-heated baking stones like I do when I bake cookies and muffins, I chose to leave them on the pans this time, and the texture was lighter and more pleasing than when I'd used stones another time. Overall, I was very happy with them, and will make them again. Plus, anything that can be prepped the night before and needs only to be slid into the oven in the morning is great to me. Feels like I didn't even have to do anything, yet I can still eat freshly baked deliciousness!

Moving on to more fibrous talk, I finally cut this off the loom:

(For details on EPI, etc. visit the Ravelry page)

I decided to experiment with a bit of tone-on-tone embroidery at the one end, and free-handed a little flower.

I certainly wasn't perfect by the end, but you can see the learning curve in the selvedges by looking at the first few inches:

Even though it's far from perfect, I enjoyed the process, and I think the finished product is not too bad. The shifting blues are pleasing (thanks to the Bluegrass Franquemont Fibers Batt I spun the weft from), and the drape and hand of the fabric is lovely. (By the way, I did iron the piece, but from the looks of the above photo I can see that I could have used a heavier hand!) I'm going to send this to my grandma for Christmas, and I know that she'll cherish it always. Because, you know, grandmas are cool like that. (Plus, she looks fantastic in these colors.)

Now Sparky and Max want scarves, so I was thinking of using up the rest of the handspun from their hats...I just might warp the Cricket tonight. If I don't, I'll have to answer to Sparky tomorrow, I'm sure.
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Wednesday, December 03, 2008


To those of you who stopped by to comment -- words of encouragement, or just to have a hearty chuckle at my little tribe -- thank you.  It's because of all of you that I don't feel so alone at this time in my life.  (Although, that almost sounds strange to say, seeing as how I never actually AM alone...well, you know what I mean.)

So I've decided that yesterday must have just been a very off day for me (by the way, I did end up falling around 3 AM.  Thank God the kids let me have a tiny little morning nap while they snacked and watched videos.)  And I have proof of my off-ness.  A few weeks ago, I ordered a little Cricket loom (Schacht's newest, and in stock at Spunky Eclectic), and have been waiting for it eagerly ever since.  It'll be great to be able to hold it in my lap while weaving, carry it easily from place to place, etc.  I have a feeling that projects warped on it will be completed more quickly than my much more stationary Kromski Harp.  I have also been looking forward to the latest edition of Spunky Club fiber.

When I picked up my mail yesterday, there were about 5 or 6 boxes, mostly Christmas gifts from Stateside relatives, or things my husband had ordered himself, or whatever.  I glanced through them quickly, and brought them all upstairs (3 trips.  This is why I've hardly gained weight this pregnancy.  It's impossible when you climb stairs of this magnitude a total of 6-10 times in a row several times a week.)  I was tired, and just stacked them all in the hall.

This morning, I happened to give the stack another glance so that I could email my husband and let him know which of his mail-orders had come in.  In that moment, this caught my eye:

Loom + wool.  Yes, my friends, I had not even seen it.  Is that possible?  I gathered this from the post office, loaded it in my car, carried it up two flights of stairs and stacked it in a tower...and NEVER READ THE LABEL OR CUSTOMS FORM.

All I can say is...hurray for surprises!!

(Yes, those are the hands of my two little criminals, and Daisy's fingernails are painted, although she's eaten the red from most of her fingers by now.  Please don't tell me how harmful polish might be to a toddler's system.  I'm not in the mood.)

As it turns out, the thing is crazy easy to set up.  I had it looking like this within the first half-hour of opening the box, and that included a group trip to gather tools from the tool-box, and the excitement of being run round in circles while piecing it together.  If I can do it under those circumstances, I feel certain that anyone can.

(On the left you can see the club fiber peeking through it's plastic wrap.  I'll post proper pictures of it eventually, of course.)

I love that the loom is fashioned entirely of good quality wood, with no nasty little plastic bits to cheapen it.  I was also pleased that the two balls of worsted weight yarn that come with it are 100% wool.  And it's so affordable!  And portable!  But let me show you my very favorite part:

The grumpy little cricket.  I'm in love.  Now if only I could stop knitting sweaters long enough to warp the thing...  (half-way through sleeve #2 on CPH...)
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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Sleepless in Germany...

I can't sleep; uncomfortably firm Braxton Hicks contractions and terrible heartburn had me rolling around in bed for a few hours, so I'm back up.  I'm sipping on a big mug of heartburn tea mixed with the relaxation tea my midwife gave me.  I'm too tired to do anything terribly productive, seeing as it's almost 2am, so instead, here I am blogging.  Well, that's kind of productive, right?  Here's a little look at what's been going on in the past week or two. 

I've been obsessively working on my Central Park Hoodie, and I'm about 3 inches into the second sleeve:

Cleaning the house in a never-ending cycle because of little people like this:

(Together, they unwrapped every single band-aid in the cabinet, squeezed out some ointment, opened a brand-new toothbrush and ate some toothpaste.  In about 5 minutes.  According to Max, Daisy got into the sink herself; this is exactly as I found them.)

Teaching little people to clean because of their evil ways (no, really because it's a good skill, and they're VERY excited about using brooms and spray bottles):

Frustratingly, Max has developed and obsession for squeezing things out.  I find piles of hair conditioner, shampoo or body wash in the bottom of the shower or in the toilet.  Today he was carefully (and quickly) tearing off squares of toilet paper and putting them into the toilet.  He and Daisy paint things with body lotion (walls, bed-posts, etc.)

~sigh~  Baby is due in 2-1/2 weeks, and my husband is due home just a bit before that.  He'll be around for 18 days once he lands here, so I hope and pray that everything works out with baby being born in a timely fashion, and that my recovery from the birth is as quick as possible so that I can continue to manage the home on my own.
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