Thursday, January 28, 2010

Black Friday Cardi in progress

Greg is away on a 3-day business trip right now, and the business of caring for the 4 children alone sort of makes my head spin. Any time that he has to go away for even just a few days, I get this sick feeling in my stomach that I won't be able to make it; that I'll somehow fail in the myriad of things that need to be done. I know, it sounds silly after the whole 15-month deployment thing, but still, these are the thoughts that come into my head.

To deal with the above foolishness (in my head), I'm making it a point this week to plan less of my own Stuff To Do, letting things fall to the wayside in deference of spending time with my children. Dinners plans involve things like fried-egg sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches large, thrown together "kitchen sink" style salads with toasted bread...we're basically eating lots of homemade bread along with other easy-to-fix additions to make dinner prep less time consuming for me.

So we're managing. Sometimes I feel like I can't breathe, but Greg'll be home tomorrow, and that will be very happy indeed.

Once the children are in bed, however, my time is my own. I've been watching the 5th season of Weeds (which I ordered from last week for this express purpose. Yay escapism!), and working on a Girl Friday cardi from the latest Knitty:

Progress on my Black Friday cardi

I am very much enjoying my new KnitPicks chart keeper, which, along with excessive use of stitch-markers, is helping this brain-dead Mommy to actually make some sweater progress.

Well, dinner -- and children -- are calling. It will be good to see Greg again tomorrow. Very good.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Squarely Striped

A friend wanted a Turn A Square Hat; Greg kindly agreed to model for the FO shoot:

I knit it out of Lang Yarns Mustang -- a cotton/acrylic/wool blend (35%, 35%, 30%) in black, striped with baby-soft Gedifra English Tweed in gray.

I had to re-knit the crown once because it was about an inch too long, but other than that there were no snags in the project.

Gotta love a quick, simple knit that jumps off the needles almost as soon as you cast on!

More details (what little of them there are!) on my Ravelry page.

PS. An interesting note (at least to me) -- I bought the Mustang yarn at the little yarn shop down the street from me in Germany, and the only mention of it's existence online seems to be at wiseNeedle. I wonder if it was discontinued or something? Or maybe never offered in America at all? Sad, because it wasn't scratchy at all to my super wool-sensitive husband. I should have bought more of it when I lived there! Ah well, at least I've got CottonEase here. :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Blues show "Joined At The Hip": Pinetop Perkins and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith at Antone's in Austin, Texas

Normally, I'm not the sort who likes to go out, stay out late, or (God forbid!) dance. My sisters, however, convinced me that "it would be fun", and Greg suggested that we go to a blues show at Antone's in Austin. As soon as I learned a few more details on the show however, I knew that it would be something very special, indeed. Pinetop Perkins (96-year-old Blues legend, living in Austin) was joining up with Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and his band: Frank Krakowski on guitar, Jimmy Mayes playing drums, and Bob Stroger on the bass.

Greg stayed behind with the children (I felt bad to leave him, but he insisted!), dressed us in some of his leather jackets and coats (we didn't get a picture! How terrible!), and we were off.

The show was incredible. Literally, a soul stirring experience. To be in the presence of such blues was an honor to even be there. It blows my mind to read about all of the people these men have played with, all of the shows they've done, the long careers they've led. Pretty awe inspiring.

My sisters, of course, all went out to the center of the room to dance, but I wasn't feeling confidant enough.

It seems, however, that I may have caught the drummer's eye anyway...

Oh dear Jimmy Mayes, you are my new celebrity crush. I don't give a damn about the age difference -- that guy is hot. (Not to be concerned -- nothing can match up to Greg's all abiding fascination with Ellen Page.)

Check out this video from a show that Wilie's band played about a week before the one we were out, featuring Jimmy:


(If you click around, that YouTube poster has a few more videos from the same night, which are all quite good.)

I love the play of light and images in a dark room...

Pinetop Perkins, with his magic fingers:

Willie "Big Eyes" Smith:

"Little Frank" Krakowski:

This fellow approached Joy and asked her to dance; she obliged him, making this older gent's night a VERY happy one, indeed.

After the set was over, Jimmy Mayes called me up on stage and introduced himself...and asked me out. Had I been quicker on my feet, I would have suggested that all of my sisters and I hang out with the band together (in true Youth Group Non Dating style) (haha), but this idea didn't occur to me 'till after I'd already turned him down. Ah well, hindsight and all that.

The girls and I walked over to 6th St. (in heels!) to listen to some more "modern" blues at Friends, where I finally worked up the courage to dance, and we had a smashing time. Ending the night with some pizza at 2:00am, we finally drove back home with sore feet and big smiles. What a night.

Pinetop Perkins and Willie are planning on playing again together at Antone's in the summer, and Greg and I would not miss it for anything. (Check on Willie's home page to see when his band will be near you!)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Oh for the miracle of more hours in my day...

Well. I had meant to write much sooner than now, and kept forming small "placeholder" posts in my mind, but I had three of my sisters here for a week (along with my 1-1/2 year-old nephew, Chazz):

(From left: Hannah, Grace, Joy, me)

It was a fun visit, and I now have a huge backlog of unblogged pictures loaded into my Flickr stream, but of course when there's a lot of stuff going on, there's not a lot of time to write about it.

I do still intend to do the drawing/contest thing, but I'm going to have to put that off just a little longer; it always takes me just a bit to catch my breath and re-configure myself and my days after a Big Visit. I have so much to share with you though! A secret project, a quick knitted item, some new interests, fun things arriving in the mail...I'd also like to start adding movie reviews to this blog on occasion; I've got a few burning at the top of the list that I'd like to get to as soon as possible! However, at the moment, I only have to energy to write about the past week.

On to the visit!!

We did a Spanish Themed dinner party, complete with Zarzuela (a seafood stew):

(Recipe from Cook's Illustrated "The Best International Recipe" -- you can also get the recipe online from Cook's Illustrated if you're a member on the site.)

Jamón, olives and cheese with a good Spanish wine:

And a porrón to share the wine in. It takes mad skilzz to drink out of it, so instead of a pic of my pathetic looking effort, here's my superhot husband drinking out of it like a pro:

One of my favorite results of the visit was watching my children get to know their cousin Chazz.

Chazz and Billy became friends; it was so cute to watch them interact and get to know each other.

(Yes, Billy has a black eye -- he fell and hit a tiny peg sticking out of his highchair leg. Talent.)

I also baked a pie for my sisters, which I'm almost hesitant to share the picture for, because then no one will leave me alone until I share the recipe.


Well, OK fine, I'll show it to you. But it's going to take me a little while to get the recipe up, because I'm a procrastinator. So my apologies in advance.

Coconut Custard Pie. And yes, it tastes even better than it looks.

That's all I have time to write about today -- I don't know if I've just gotten busier, of if I'm simply slower in accomplishing things, but I seriously need more hours in the day! Aghh!!

The girls and I went to a show in Austin; I'm going to save that for tomorrow's post.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

My favorite food bloggers (etc.) of 2009

Today is Sparky and Max's second day of school since the Winter holiday, and I am enjoying the gentle rhythms of toddler play.

It's amazing how much less manic my day is with only two little ones to enjoy.

We are down to our second-to-last End Of The Year post! As both Julie from the comments and my friend Heather pointed out, I forgot to add food links to yesterday's Best Of. Which, of course, is because I wanted to devote an entire post to food related ones. Yes, that was my plan all along. Right. (Actually, reading over this post, you'll see that it's a good thing I waited -- there's a heck of a lot of great food bloggers and sites out there!)

Alright now, let's get to it! Starting with the blogs...

Blogs I've cooked/baked from (or gleaned ideas from) the most in the past year:

Eye candy:
  • Bakerella (Insanely adorable, artistic setups and photographs.)
  • Bittersweet (Vegan recipes, a little bit of crochet thrown in and fabulous photos.)
  • foodbeam (Recipes and beautiful photography.)
  • she paints the kitchen red (Cupcakes and cakes.)
  • Tartlette (I am literally blown away by her artistic hand with food, and the way she uses her camera to amp it all up.)

A good read:


Sites full of trusted recipes that make figuring out what's for dinner SO much more enjoyable:

Food forums:

I know that I'm missing at least one other main food forum, but I can't remember what it is at the moment.

Do you have a favorite food blogger or food related site that I should know about? Let me know in the comments!

Next post: a brief look at what I've knit in 2009, my top designer picks, and a random drawing for a fun little gift I'm putting together.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Inspire Me

Inspiration. It can be such a fickle thing. For me, it's a constantly shifting source; I'm inspired and pushed to create by so many outside influences. There are many blogs that I follow (I'm not going to give you a hard number -- you would either a: not believe me, or b: think I'm completely nuts) (you probably already think that I'm completely nuts) (and there she goes with the parenthesis again...) (someday I should really learn to spell "parenthesis" without a spell-checker.) What were we talking about? Blogs. Right. When I started to find more and more blogs that I was interested in, I realized that it was time to organize them all in a feed aggregator. There are several of these: Bloglines and Google Reader are two popular ones (I currently use the latter; there is a "share as you read" feature that I like to use sometimes). I organize the blogs that I read according to category, and then depending on how I'm feeling that particular day, week, month, those are the ones that I read.

I was going to write a little blurb about why I like each of these, but instead I'm just going to give you my top picks from each category in the blogs that I follow/subscribe to, as well as some other links to tutorials, free online pattern sites, etc. I have a bunch of projects that need my attention today, and since it's Sparky and Max's 1st day of school after the Winter Holiday, I actually have a shot at putting a dent in my list!

Without further introduction, here is a list of some of the sites that have brought me much inspiration and creative stimulation this past year. (This list is in no way exhaustive -- I read so many! These are simply a handful of stand-outs, although there are plenty of other wonderful blogs and sites out there!)

Craft and sewing:
A Dress A Day
Angry Chicken
Anna Maria Horner
Make Something
Posie Gets Cozy
Soule Mama

Some of these may seem obvious to those of us who live in the online knit/crafting world, but for those who are new to this sort of thing:
Twist Collective
Whip Up

Mommy blogs (there are only three of these because I don't have patience for the format of most in this genre -- these, however, are standouts with clever writing, great photography, and the occasional thoughtful essay):
Girls Gone Child
The Kil Empire

Mommy/kid gear:
Cool Mom Picks

Photography and knitted inspiration:
Life In Color
Lolly Girl
Never Not Knitting

Spinning wisdom:
Abby's Yarns!
Boogie Knits

Do you have a favorite source of inspiration? If so, I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

I have no pictures that are related to anything today, so instead, I leave you with this.

Because once or twice a year, everyone should have one.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Blog posts: Favorites of 2009

Over the past year, there have been a few of my posts that have elicited a few comments from the lot of you, especially the ones written about some of our adventures while Greg was deployed. I've gone back through the archives and have compiled this little list of posts that were either most highly commented on, or else were my personal favorites. Some of these are funny, some were written in the midst of dark moments. Oh dear, it's been quite a journey. I hope that you enjoy this little walk back through our past year. (Each of these categories has posts arranged by date, and I've taken the liberty to include a few from 2008 when Greg first deployed.)

My birthday letters to the children (and anniversary post):
Happy Birthday Daisy!
To My Dearest Max
Happy (very, very, very belated) birthday, Sparky!
Happy birthday, Billy
8th Anniversary

Adventures with the children that weren't funny at the time, but made for good stories later:
And Then I Was Pulled Over For Drunk Driving
Spring Fever
Well then, that was exciting

Beauty All Around
A year
Welcome home my love
To homeschool or not to homeschool: our family's choice

If you have a favorite post that I haven't mentioned here, speak up in the comments. I'd love to know if you've been amused, encouraged, or otherwise engaged by this blog in this past year.

Tomorrow I will post links to some blogs written by other women (and a few men) that I've been inspired by and enjoyed in the past year.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The last ten years...

Inspired by Lolly Girl, here's a review of this past decade. (If none of this navel gazing interests you, prehaps you'd just like to look at a little collage of Greg and I, pulled from the '99-'02 archives...)

Ten Years Ago

Before we jump in our little time machine, I will note that this is the first of a few End Of The Decade/End Of The Year posts that I will be doing, and at some point there will be a contest/drawing, so even if you don't intend to make it through this whole post today, be sure to keep checking back through the week!

Alright then, let's get to it, shall we?

Briefly, let's swoosh back in time to '95...

I was 15 years old, growing up in metropolitan New Jersey, and my dad got a job in upstate New York. We moved from Suburbia City to a dirt road in Windsor, New York. I set out in search of friends anywhere I could find them, and came across a group of kids who met up once a month at a local roller skating rink. The DJ was hot. His name was Greg, and he was 18 years old. Sadly, he wasn't interested in dating with anyone at the moment, so I moved on to other pursuits.

Fast forward to '99...

Greg had gone away to college in North Carolina, so I had only seen him here and there at random for the three years I'd been acquainted with him, but then he started emailing me out of the blue in the fall of '99. With subject headers like: Hey Hot Chick and the like, I should have probably seen what was coming, but he'd never dated anyone, so I thought he was just being randomly, unknowingly flirtatious. When he came home to the upstate NY area on Winter/Christmas break, he made it a point to be wherever I would be...and on January 1st, 2000, we became A Couple.

Greg went back to school to finish up his senior year. The next school year I moved to Tulsa, OK to go to Victory Bible Institute, which was...interesting. I have plenty of stories, which I will perhaps share someday.

2001: July 28th, Greg and I got married, and I moved into his apartment in Watertown, NY, where he was stationed for the next 5 years.

Within two months, he was deployed to Afganistan/Kuait in support of the War On Terror, and I moved back home with my family for the 6 months he was gone.

2002: Greg was back home, and we were able to enjoy life together as a couple. We didn't have a computer at home (gasp!), so I read A LOT, and worked out for hours every morning at the gym. I started to learn how to cook For Real, and became interested in food from around the world.

2003: We started a brand new kind of adventure -- I became pregnant with our first little guy, Sparky. I was suddenly obsessed with sewing. Greg bought me a sewing machine, and I made most of my own maternity wardrobe. I also scrap-booked compulsively. I gave crochet a shot, but picked the wrong pattern to start with (a "sampler" baby blanket), and didn't know anyone who could help me. When I was 6 months pregnant with Sparky, Greg deployed again, and I moved back in with my parents (again!). In September, I gave birth to Sparky in my sister's bedroom (a planned event). Greg got home the next day.

2004: This year is a bit hard to remember...not a lot of sleep, learning to be a mom, consumed with this precious brand new little person that I was caring for.

2005: The year I discovered crochet For Real. I was pregnant with Max, and had a serious urge to create with yarn. I found a local lady who showed me how to work a dishcloth, and I was off and running. I bought another baby blanket pattern, and within about 3 weeks of compulsive hooking, I had this:

Noah's Ark Afgan

I spent about $30 on all of the colors that I needed of Caron Simply Soft, which I felt was a bit much. Also, I had a whole drawer of ball-ends left over afterwards, and felt crazy wasteful about that, so I gave it away to some younger relatives who were learning to knit.

At some point during this time, my friend Sarah directed me to a site called Knitty, and showed me all of these cool things that were being done online with knitting. She also introduced me to my first two blogs: Georgia Bean (formerly On My Mind), and Sheep In The City. I started clicking around, and soon also came across Knotty Mouse, Boogie Knits, and Mind Of Winter. At this point, it was just a foregone conclusion that I would start to knit. And spin. ...And weave. (But shhhh, I didn't know that yet...)

I bought a set of vintage metal needles on eBay, and a copy of Debbie Stoller's Stitch 'n Bitch, and eight days before I gave birth to Max, I sat down to knit. My Grandma Claire had taught me the knit stitch when I was very young, so using Debbie's book, I taught myself to cast-on, purl, follow a chart, and I was off!

Knitting and crochet was all that I could think about. A few weeks after Max was born, I realized that this new found obsession needed an outlet (my husband is a patient man, but truly, the guy can only be expected to absorb just so much of all of this), so I started this blog, set in motion with my very first post on July 1st, 2005.

In the first few months after Max was born, I knit my first hat, cast on for a pair of socks and a wristband with a little bit of colorwork, and suddenly could not put down my needles. I HAD TO KNIT.

BMG Footies

In October we had moved to Georgia (Greg was doing a career school at Ft. Benning in Columbus), and I first began to imagine that I might want to spin. Also, I discovered Knitting Podcasts that year! It wasn't enough to knit alone anymore, so I started a Stitch 'n Bitch, and met many wonderful ladies, several of whom which I still stay (relatively) in touch with: Tiffany, Laura and Becca.

2006: The year started off with a bang -- in January I learned to spin on a spindle, bought a Babe Fiber Starter wheel, dyed some of my own handspun, learned to felt a project, finished up a lingering intarsia UFO, and generally immersed myself even more fully in the fiber arts than ever before.

At some point that year, I found a lady who could teach me more about spinning, which was a wonderful opportunity, and has helped me greatly in my spin-ventures.

In June, I launched my (now defunct) knitting podcast, The Knitting Cook. In September of that year, we moved to Germany.

2007: Daisy arrived on the scene (in the computer room -- a planned event), and my life became busier than ever. It didn't stop the knitting or spinning, but becoming the mother of three children did force me to become more organized and disciplined in how I attacked my projects. I realized more than ever before just how precious my time was, and learned to utilize any (few) moments I had to myself.


I also started a knitting and spinning group in Germany, mostly made up of American Airforce or Army wives, and formed a community there of people that I came to love very much.

Our little family started traveling around Europe quite a bit, and visited almost anywhere we could get to by car: Berlin Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Trier Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Garmish Germany, Spain, and Paris France (again!).

2008: Just before Daisy's 1st birthday, Greg deployed. Thus began the most trying 15 months of my life thus far. It was a giant challenge, but somehow I was able to become stronger through it, thanks to God, family, local friends, and so many of you in our wonderful online fiber arts community who stood by me and supported me throughout. In October, I started weaving! (Thank you to dear Steffi, who helped me warp my loom for the first time.) When Greg came home for R&R in December, our little Billy was born (also in the computer room, also planned).

The new little dude: born Dec. 18th

2009: The start of this year is a bit of a blur (although thankfully it's all recorded on the blog!), but in May, Greg finally came back home For Real, and that was a wonderful day. In September we packed up, got a bit screwed over by our German landlords, and said "hello" to our wonderful new surroundings here in the Austin, Texas area.

Christmas 2009 picture

Whew! It's been some decade. Truly, I have no foresight to offer for the next ten years, except to say that I'm sure that it will continue to be an adventure, and I'm excited to see where this journey leads us next!

So, are any of you writing End Of The Decade summaries? If so, I'd love to read them! Leave a comment to this post and I'll stop by. We know each other from our blogs, and what's happening Right Now, but sometimes it can be fun to learn the back story too.

Friday, January 01, 2010

We Partied Like It Was 1999

Happy New Year, my dear friends and blog readers! I am excited about looking forward at this new year, together with all of you, my wonderful community. Let us view the world around us with fresh eyes, ideas, plans. For the next week, I have several End Of The Year or End Of The Decade posts planned, but today we have a very special guest blogger.

Introducing the love of my life, partner in crime, Greg.

(The following post written by my husband Greg.)

Playing at a park near La Sagrada Familia
Barcellona, Spain - June 2009

Ten years ago I was a senior in college and couldn't wait to get home for Christmas break. I already had a pretty bad case of senior-itis, although I really, really needed to pass Spanish, or chance not graduating on time. Maybe it was senior-itis; maybe I was a bit distracted. But it was nearly Christmas break and the only important thing to me at that time was getting home as soon as possible. It was going to be the most incredible holiday break I had ever experienced, and the decisions made would prove to change the course of my life from that day forward.
The date was the turn of the century. Y2K. Many were apprehensive about the impending end of the world as we knew it. And even the naysayers at least stocked-up on a few basic provisions, just in case. But my thoughts couldn't have been further from any of that. Ten years ago today I found my best friend, and together we ventured onto the most incredible adventure of our lives. Ten years ago I found my life's companion...the other side of Faith.

First Date
First Date - January 14th 2000

Our wedding anniversary may be July 28th 2001, and I can't think of a single person who would disagree that that day was unquestionably an awesome one. But the two of us have always had a very special place in our hearts for January 1st, 2000. This day officially marked the beginning of our friendship...our romance. And I can very truthfully say that our relationship has only grown stronger. I can't think of a single person I've ever met, with whom I'd rather spend the rest of my life. Reputedly there are people who say that relationships fade at the 10-year-mark, but I must vehemently disagree. I say that doesn't have to be true for everybody. Time has only strengthened our relationship and I'm often at a loss for words when trying to recount exactly how we did it, and how we continue to do it. We just sort of clicked in that certain way only couples can, and I absolutely wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I love to provide for her and for our great little family. I love her passion for selflessly living out domesticity and home-making as an artform, not out of mere obligation or drudgery. I love the interests we share together, and even the ones we may not necessarily share, because life would be otherwise drab. I love to continue to pursue her like the first day we met and to fervently keep our relationship alive and exhilarating.
I love Faith and that's just that!

Happy Anniversary, Faith! You're everything I could have ever imagined in a friend and a wife. I love you!

Your Husband,

~ Greg


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