Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

If only I had an army of elves to help me!

I know not to start a letter with an apology, but still, I am sorry to have neglected you all but I have been unbelievably busy getting everything done for Christmas.  From last minute gifts, finishing up those that were already started and of course the "oh, crap!" when I realized that I forgot to make something for a special someone the crafting side has been pretty busy.  Then of course there is the baking...   the still to be made homemade rolls and pound cake for Christmas Day, the cheesecake for Christmas Eve, it never seems to end this time of year.  I had trouble paring down my list of cookies and this year made a whopping ten different varieties.  Mister Vonkysmeed thinks that something is seriously wrong with me, I think he may be right! 

I promise to come back with a recap of my holiday crafting and of course more observations on the stunts of my two little ankle biters in the New Year.  Until then Merry Christmas, belated Happy Chanukah, Joyful Kwanzaa, Jolly Yule, and a very Happy New Year!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Prepping for xmas

It is my belief that it is never too early to start knitting or Christmas, particularly when you are a relatively slow knitter as I am.  I actually started working on my holiday knitting back in June with the Haruni shawl for Chatty-Cathy and am making fairly good progress on the rest of the projects as you can see from my finished project basket.  I have 19 projects completed, 2 in progress, and a few more to go most of which are sewn rather than knit.  You know, it feels so much better to write it down and realize I don't have that much left to do, especially considering that the projects aren't that big (I don't do sweaters for xmas, too much fear of it not fitting!).

So this would be the reason I haven't been really good at updating things here right now, I've been busy knitting/crocheting/sewing and haven't felt the time was available to type.  Then of course I haven't really been able to give a breakdown of what I did and am working on as many of the recipients actually check in here from time to time.  Thus the messy basket shot of the finished items all jumbled together, so good luck trying to discern your gift in that mess peekers, bwah-ha-ha!

Maybe I'll try to get started a little sooner next year so I still don't have this overwhelming anxious feeling that I must knit faster hanging over me as I have the past month.  Perhaps doing something for me, than a gift, than something for me and so on will help spread it out a bit better.  But, you know what they say about the best laid plans!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cow fetish

Not that kind of fetish, what kind of sick people are you?!  I was talking about this kind of fetish:
fet-ish  noun
an object (as a small stone carving of an animal) believed to have magical powers to protect or aid its owner; broadly:  a material object regarded with superstitious or extravagant trust or reverence
After an angiogram last month discovered a torn arterial valve, Pops-in-law had a wee bit of open heart surgery this week to have it replaced.  He is doing amazingly well and is being sent home from the hospital after only 4 days.  In case you were not aware (and I was not until this request came my way) that when a valve is replaced they can be harvested from either pigs or cows and as you probably already guessed, Pops-in-law got some beef.  So Mister Vonkysmeed suggested that I could just "whip out" a little cow toy for him to put a smile on his face.  I suspect the humor will be most enjoyed by my Mister, but whatever it takes to help everyone get through this stressful event.

Now on to the crafty bit... I used a free pattern, Fabio Frog, from Lion Brand for the head, body and arms and for the snout ears and horns I used Chibi Cow by Marika Allely.  Why did I not just use the cow pattern you ask?  Well, I was lazy and wanted to make as few pieces as possible and this seemed the easiest way to go for me (the cow pattern has the head and body crocheted separately and had more rows to do-yes, I am that lazy).  They were both very easy to follow and the cow was done in a day.  I added on my own tail, just poked some yarn around a few crochet stitches, then braided it and ended with a nice knot.  Last of all I found some pretty checked ribbon recycled from an old floral decoration to tie around Bessie's neck, now if only I had a bell...

I did suggest embroidering stitches along the cow's chest, but Mister Vonkysmeed thought that might be a step too far for his conservative father.  All right, but if the Mister ever needs something like this, it is getting surgery stitches!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

Love me some Norman Rockwell!

Tomorrow is one of my favorite holidays, Thanksgiving.  Why?  It is a whole holiday about being with family and remembering what in our lives is good.  Plus there is a whole lot of really yummy food around!  Turkey roasting all day, stuffing, The 6 Fingered Man's yams (yes, I really do have an Uncle with six fingers-only on one hand the other got amputated-it's murder on little kids just learning to count!), mashed potatoes with gravy, and oh the desserts!  We get to smell this yumminess all day while hanging out with the family, usually watching football and talking and laughing together, pretty relaxing.  That said, Christmas is a close second with all the presents thrown in too, but on turkey day the focus is on togetherness and gratitude, not a huge haul.

So today on the day before our feast I wanted to take  minute to thank you first of all for reading this, but there is so much I have to be thankful for in spite of the hardships my family has gone through this past year.  I am hugely thankful for Mister Vonkysmeed, without him my life just wouldn't be complete, I mean who amongst us is lucky enough to marry their best friend?  Yes, that would be me!  Then of course I am thankful for my two little blessings, Lil' Miss and Destructo-boy, in spite of driving me crazy on a regular basis I cannot imagine life without these two in it.  Then of course I am so very thankful for the extended family, they are all so loving and supportive and I can say we are lucky enough to be one of those rare families with very little drama, makes the holidays so much easier!

Then of course I am thankful for the roof over my head the food on my table and the support from a certain someone who is ensuring we are taken care of.  With this year of unemployment there is no way we could have survived without that assistance, we are so very lucky for that in a time when so many others are losing so much. 

And on a less serious note, I am so thankful that KTLA 5 has brought back the Twilight Zone marathon, I have missed my day of black and white tv goodness.  I don't get to enjoy it at my aunt's house where we all gather (they like their football, so I bring my knitting!) but in the morning at home, you know what I will be watching!  I wish it were on today too while I do some baking for tomorrow, I am making my very first pumpkin pie (mmmm, pie!) and am making a Cheese Ball with Everything for the big day tomorrow.  I might even bake some dinner rolls from scratch!

So, what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving Eve?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

FO Pembroke vest & Turkey hat

Just in time for Thanksgiving!  Known affectionately as Turkey Day around this house, I saw this hat pattern and had to make it for Destructo-boy to celebrate this holiday devoted to eating.  I even finished the Pembroke vest I had started for him to wear on Thanksgiving that I was knitting along with some other members of the Knitting For Boys group on Ravelry.

I lucked out with the color, it's called honey but it looks just like perfectly roasted turkey skin.  The hat was kind of a pain to knit, especially the decreases, I really had to pay attention to keep the goosebump pattern looking right.  But the effect is perfect, it really does look like turkey skin.  It took awhile for me to get to the legs, after fighting with the decreases I wasn't in a real big hurry to do so again on the legs.  It took three tries to get it right.  I started by making the turkey leg seperately with the intent of sewing it onto the hat.  For this I followed the patterns stitch counts and wow did it turn out small!  It was kind of like seeing quail legs on a duck, much too little.  I started again, this time increasing the stitch count by following this modification and tried the technique of picking up the stitches on the hat.  Unfortunately this time I started much too high on the hat, sigh, rip, rip, rip...  I started on last time a little lower and it worked perfectly, so happy with the results!  The boy seems pretty happy with it too.

Turkey hat specs:
Chicken Viking hat by Sarah Mundy, available online from Aloha Media

needle:  US 5
yarn:  Lion Brand Vanna's Choice

The vest was actually a really quick knit, I was surprised when I was suddenly done.  I talked about knitting up the back here, for the front I followed the same modifications as for the back.  Once I had the two pieces sewn together it was time for the finishing of the ribbing along the neckline and the armholes.  Prompted by some questions and comments amongst the people participating in the KAL I decided to look into doing some shaping on my ribbing.  For the armholes I did the following:  on round three I K1, P1, K2tog, P2tog, then knit in pattern until only 6 stitches were left, then I K2tog, P2tog, K1, P1.  This resulted in the ribbing snugging in against the body a little better instead of flaring out.  For the neckline I was inspired by the neckline shaping of the Keene vest, so on rounds 2 & 4 of the neckline ribbing I did a S2KP over the center stitch and the stitches just before and after it. This resulting a much neater looking ribbing methinks.  I certainly like it and the boy seems to be happy with it especially since he grabbed it and ran off to cuddle it once it was done.  Did I mention my kids like it when I knit for them?!

Pembroke Specs:
Pembroke vest by Kristen Kapur pattern available online in Petite Purls, Summer 2009

needle:  US 7 & US 5
yarn: Encore worsted tweed by Plymouth yarn

Saturday, November 13, 2010

First of Many ER Visits...

Destructo-boy fell today, prompting my very first 911 call, and my first trip to the emergency room.  We always knew he would be the one of our kids to go there first being the Dangermouse that he is, I just wasn't expecting it this soon, and while Mister Vonkysmeed was away for the weekend too (although I should have known to be on high alert because things always happen that way don't they!).  What started as a nice little photo shoot with the kids to update my Ravelry projects page turned into a screaming bloody mess. 

See, all I wanted were some pictures of my handknits actually being worn, so I got the kids dressed up all nice, grabbed my camera and started shooting.  Destructo-boy started getting all giggly, spinning in circles to make himself dizzy and ended up falling against the back of the couch.  Now mind you, this is an upholstered couch with the frame well hidden under fabric, who knew the back of a couch was dangerous?  He immediately started crying and I scooped him up as the hit was quite audible, then when the screaming became frantic I got my first good look...I swear it looked like he was crying blood (has someone been reading trashy vampire novels?).  I guess faces bleed heavily as his previous bad injury was tearing the upper labial frenulum (the piece of skin holding the upper lip to the gum) when Lil' Miss knocked him down last year, and boy did that bleed!  No need for an er visit that day, a quick call to the pediatrician reassured me there was nothing they could do for that one. 

But this one. well as I couldn't tell how bad the damage was, and my brain was screaming 'BLOOD!  Blood, blood, blood!' combined with a fear that his eye might be involved I grabbed a towel to hold pressure on the wound and then the phone.  Do you have any clue how hard it is to hear a 911 operator whilst holding a shrieking child?  Yeah, it's hard.  She kept yelling at me and I couldn't hear much of it, until I managed to locate a pacifier, then sudden quiet.  I suddenly realized it wasn't nearly as bad as I feared if he calmed down with just the binky.  But I needed someone to look at it before I was willing to transport him, I'd rather be safe than sorry with my kids! 

Lil' Miss was very excited when the firetruck pulled up in front of the house, I was just glad to have someone to look at it.  By then the bleeding had mostly stopped and they advised me to get him to the hospital for some stitches, but put on some steri-strips to hold it together until we got there.  And once there, well, we waited for awhile, and then we waited some more.  Did I mention I hate waiting?  Of course when they were ready to see him he had just fallen asleep in my arms, figures. 

For the examination and the eventual glueing procedure they swaddled him, mind you this kid didn't really like to be swaddled as an infant so he really wasn't having any of it now (especially not while being held on his back on top of me, who was also holding his legs in between mine, boy can that kid struggle!).  I thought he was loud before but this volume was pretty hairy!  So, they superglued it shut, as it turns out the cut was too shallow for stitches but too deep to be left as is, so glue to the rescue!  Along with some more steri-strips to hold it all together.  I just hope it doesn't scar too badly, I think hoping for no scar is a bit much, let's just keep it small okay powers that be?  And no more ER visits for awhile too, I don't think my heart can take another one too soon!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Costumes for Halloween

 Why oh why did I decide to make them myself rather than just buying them?!  Hmm, maybe because I am an idiot?  Or maybe because I'd feel guilty being a stay at home mom if I didn't?  Regardless of why, I decided to do it and boy am I sorry!  It has probably ended up costing about the same to sew the costumes for the kids as it would to simply purchase them already done.  Then besides the money spent is the vast amount of time involved, it takes quite a bit of time to cut out the fabric, sew it, press it, finish it...  Although, the kids get something really personalized out of the deal.

Lil' Miss has decided she wants to be Super Girl for Halloween, now before you get all excited this is not the Super Girl of Superman fame, she came up with this idea independently.  Here's the best part, when I asked her what her superpower was (because most heroes have special powers dont'cha know!) she informed me that Super Girl brings rainbows to people.  Yes, rainbows.  And what is special about that exactly, well it keeps changing.  At first she brought rainbows to teach people their colors, but now it has morphed into being a kind of replicator (where the food comes from in Star Trek for you non-geeks) that pops out fruits and veggies with special rainbow dots on them.  Does my kid have an imagination or what?!

Since every hero needs a nemesis (now imagine that word being used correctly by a 5 year old playing with her My Little Ponies and you have some insight into my world!) Super Girl is faced with the catastrophic powers of Destructo-boy!  Yes, we the parental units are really imaginative, aren't we.  Seriously, with a nickname like that how could he be called anything else?  With the window rapidly closing on how many years we get to dress them in coordinating outfits I like to take advantage of it as I can.

Sadly, we the adults don't really get to play along this year as we have in years past.  Lil' Miss has always had an entourage with her, Mister Vonkysmeed and I, Grumpy, Chatty-Cathy, and Kako Grikor all tag along with her on the special day, and after the first year we have all dressed up right along with her.  I think her Alice in Wonderland year was a favorite of the neighborhood, I was the Cheshire Cat, The guys were all cards, and Chatty-Cathy dressed up as the Red Queen.  I guess we'll all just be mild-mannered citizens according to Mister Vonkysmeed, at least the kids are happy, isn't that what really matters?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

WIP: Pembroke vest

This was a planned project, actually queued it quite some time ago that has ended up being a KAL (knit-a-long) in the Knitting For Boys group on Ravelry.  A KAL that I somehow seem to be nominally in charge of, how did that happen exactly?  Not sure, but I think it may have something to do with all of us interested in doing a project together but no one knowing quite how to begin.  I made a few suggestions and ended up setting up the discussion thread that resulted in my personal choice winning.  No, I did not cheat, I simply waited and hoped!  Once we had picked out the pattern I happily set  a discussion for us to all to support one another as we worked on our creations for our little guys.  It is fun to see what others are doing, especially any solutions they may have found for any problems with the pattern or suggestions to improve it.  Destructo-boy will be the lucky little guy to eventually wear this vest, hopefully by turkey day as that was my original plan. 

For my Pembroke I decided to mirror the cables, I think it is just so much nicer looking that way.  This involved some white out to redraw some symbols on the chart, but it is coming out beautifully.  Unfortunately I didn't really pay attention to one of the most common comments/notations on the pattern, that it runs small.  Meaning even if you attain gauge as noted, the finished garment will be smaller than that indicated in the pattern.  I realized it was coming out a little short after I did the cast off stitches for the armholes.  Since for ths pattern you need to start on a particular row for the cables to line up properly with the v-neck, I couldn't just add more rows.  To make the body longer I would have to tear it all out and begin over.  Yeah, not happening.  Instead I added on 1/4" to the length of the armhole and consigned myself to the fact that it may be a one year garment.  Oh well, at least I already have a worthy little one that hand me downs can go to!

Then I had a little problem at the armhole cast off for the shoulders, they came out totally uneven, in the way of six stitches uneven.  So I adjusted the cast off for the shoulders so they would be even, on the neckline shaping row, I cast off 4 stitches as in the pattern and then knit 12 stitches (13 live stitches now) put these 13 stitches on a stitch holder, cast off to 16 stitches from the end with 1 stitch on the right needle, total 17 stitches live. Pretty much followed the pattern from there and the two shoulders are now even.

Next to cast on the front and hope it goes as well!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Growing Pains

They are more than just physical aches.  My lovely neighbor, The Child Whisperer, clued me into the simple fact that when a child is going through a growth spurt they start acting out at the same time.  I just realized after seeing how Lil' Miss has almost outgrown her leggings purchased for her at the start of summer that the major attitude problems we were experiencing over the past two weeks must have been due to a little growth spurt. 

In spite of realizing the why, the simple existence of the 'tude is beyond aggravating.  Ever have a cute little blonde blue eyed 5 year old talk back at you?  Doesn't matter how cute that child may be, you still want to grab them by the scruff of the neck and pitch them out the nearest window.  The fun is multiplied when you realize that elements of the 'tude are your own annoying habits being reflected back at you (yes, I really regret some of the choice phrases I have popped out with now that it's too late!).  Thankfully it only last a few weeks and then she gets back to her normal self, but nw we get the fun new tricks she is learning from her friends at school to deal with!

Not to be left out Destucto-boy has entered the terrible twos.  Lil' Miss didn't get there until she turned three, but the boy is already there.  It is completely normal for the age, but sometimes it is just so incredibly tiresome, especially when you are trying to get somewhere and he insists on doing everything himself.  Then when he doesn't get his way he starts screaming at such a volume as to put a Howler monkey to shame.  Some days I wonder why it ever occurred to me that having children was a good idea, then one of them gives me a hug or kiss and I remember.

Mister Vonkysmeed and I are not looking forward to the teen years, I don't know how we will survive!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

FO: Tomten

My very first EZ (for the uninitiated this is an abbreviation for Elizabeth Zimmermann, a very famous knitter and writer about knitting) pattern is this Tomten jacket for Destructo boy.  It was both easy and difficult for me.  The easy part was the stitch pattern, I mean, what's easier than garter stitch?  Having to figure out my own stitch counts based on my gauge and deciding how many ridges to do, well, that was more difficult for me.  I am used to using patterns which practically hold your hand whilst you knit so having to figure it out for myself was terrifying (you could say I am a bit insecure about my own design abilities!).

It took quite awhile for me to get started, I was literally staring at the web for hours, perusing all the projects on Raverly and looking all over the web for sizing guidelines before I finally cast on, about 6 hours later (yes, it really took me that long to work up the gumption to just do it).  I really wish it didn't take me so long to actually get projects started but it often does, remember my battle with the socks?  Once I got it started it moved pretty quickly though taking only 3 weeks to finish, for me that's pretty good as I usually have 3 projects going and of course am often busy keeping the little ankle biters mollified.  Of course I had to restart the hood 3 times as the armholes were too deep and it took a couple of tries to get it right.  Let me say this, attempting to fit a sweater in progress on the 5 year old is difficult enough, on the almost 2 year old it is nigh impossible!

Once I got the hood done I looked at my radically diminished ball of oats colored yarn and said a little prayer that I would actually have enough to finish the sleeves.  This is where my recently purchased scale came in really handy!  Mister Vonkysmeed thought I was silly, but hey, I wanted my sleeves even so the scale helped my figure out how much was left and then helped my to calculate how many ridges I could get out of it by multiple weighings (I was weighing after almost every ridge, overkill? maybe).  In the end it came out just fine, if a bit slim on the oat color, oh well it's probably better to have lots of a darker color on the sleeve hem to hide all the inevitable dirt and food stains that will happen with this sweater.

Can you believe those buttons I found?!  They seem like they were made to go with this sweater, I almost squealed out loud in JoAnn's when I spotted them, the boy sure did when I handed them to him to hold until we checked out (he squealed a little differently when I had to pry them out of his hands to be rung up though).  Once I got the buttons and loops on I tried the sweater on Destructo-boy and he would not take it off.  He even yanked on the hood until I helped him get it up and wore his new tomten for the next 2 days straight, mind, I hadn't even had a chance to wash it yet!  It is terribly nice though to have my work appreciated, so much nicer than all the sob story postings on Ravelry about gifted sweaters ending cut up in dog bed.  Best of all, it fits the boy well now, and he still has some room to grow.  Hopefully we will get another two years of wear out of this sucker before I need to make him a replacement (unless he wears it out first!).

Tomten specs:

Used pattern recipe from Knitting Without Tears, Elizabeth Zimmermann
needle:  US 7
yarn:  Berocco Vintage in the oats, dungaree, and fennel colorways
  • cast on 120 stitches
  • worked for 30 rows before beginning hood
  • made 9 increases on hood which is 44 ridges total
  • for sleeves after 20 ridges changed decreases to every 5th ridge rather than every 4th
  • 65 ridges total on sleeves
  • 3 stitch applied i-cord all around opening, also used i-cord for button loops

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Apples, apples, apples!

It is officially fall in spite of the heat we have been enduring!  And what is a classic fall fruit?  Yup, that would be apples, and we are lucky enough to live close enough to two different apple picking locales that we made a trip out this past weekend to Oak Glen to go apple picking.  In spite of the 40% chance of rain from thunderstorms (our local weather systems have been rather manic depressive the past few weeks!) it was a beautiful sunny day, almost too hot, note my sunburnt shoulders, sigh...

The apples available for picking this first weekend in October were Red Delicious, Granny Smith, and Rome Beauty.  Since I detest Red Delicious apples we got a peck sized bag and filled it up with Granny Smiths and Rome Beauties.  The trees were all around 6-7 feet tall, plenty low enough for a little girl to reach the lower limbs to pick off ripe worm-free apples.  I was expecting apple trees more the size of what were depicted in The Wizard of Oz, but these were great.  After seeing myself and Mister Vonkysmeed pick apples from the trees Lil' Miss was eager to do it herself, taking hold of the branch in one hand and grasping the apple in the other she gave an expert twist and off popped an apple, quickly followed by another and another.  Thankfully she did understand about checking the apples for wormholes first so we seem to have gathered a clean batch.  Destructo boy didn't really understand what we were up to as he kept picking up half rotten apples from the ground, we finally gave up and had him ride on Daddy's shoulders (which may have been his plan all along!) while we filled up the bag.

I foresee some srious baking in my not too distant future, we like apples here but I fear will not eat them all up as is before they go bad.  I have not counted but suspect there are at lease 20 apples in our little bag.  I am planning to make a yummy German Apple cake that I have successfully made before and may even try my hand at an apple pie.  Anyone know of any really delectable recipes?!

There were even some raspberries still available so Lil' Miss and I went in search of some amongst the rows of vines.  We managed to fill our little tray fairly quickly, much more were there than I thought would be.  Lil' Miss even caught on pretty quickly about what is ripe versus what isn't quite ready with her instructing me as to what to pick by the end of our last row.  I am so looking forward to next spring when we are planning on putting in a little vegetable garden in our sideyard, what fun we'll have then!

Funnily enough Lil' Misses kindergarten class is studying apples this week.  They all have to bring in an apple to school and will be painting with them, tasting them, and making applesauce with them.  I honestly had no idea when I set up the date for the apple picking expedition that her class was doing this, but it worked out great!  She even got called on to tell her class and another kindergarten class at the school about her experience of going apple picking over the weekend, I am such a proud and happy mama!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Or blog, or think for that matter!  My town's average temps are in the low 70's so we don't have things like central air conditioning.  We are currently in the midst of a pretty nasty heatwave, yesterday it got up to 97 in my home and at 6:30 am this morning my thermostat read 80.  The thought of knitting makes me weep with misery, and the kids barely have the energy to annoy me.  So, I shall return when I can manage to sit in front of the heat producing computer for more than 5 minutes at a time.  I hope all of you are getting the fall weather I wish I had!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

WIP: Wine Rib Scarf

 I don't know if you recall my brief post about a gifted yarn that I received right around when I had my wisdom teeth out?  It's a lovely skein of Fleece Artist baby alpaca in the wine/burgundy colorway, a boucle yarn that really had me stumped as what to do with it.  I was practically tearing my hair out trying to figure out what to do with this yarn, as it is a boucle yarn it really would not work for a complex stitch pattern but I did not want to do some basic pattern, I wanted something with a bit of interest to it.  I fell in love with the Truffle cowl, but after giving it a go the stitch pattern just wasn't showing up through the fluff of the yarn.  Then I found the Short Rib Row scarf and it is working beautifully!

As much as I love the colors of this yarn, a wine red and purple blend, it is not really my color, I am more of a spring colors kind of girl so to someone else it shall go.  Thus it will be a Christmas present for the lovely Missus Gordon, for whom I had originally purchased another yarn but after showing the freebie yarn to Chatty-Cathy and Auntie T was persuaded that this would be much more to her liking (which turns out great for me because guess who gets to keep the tropical sunset colored Araucania Itata I bought with her in mind?  That's right, me, me, me!).  I certainly hopes she likes it, even though it isn't really my colors, I do love how the handpainted yarn is looking with the patterning in the scarf, so are the kids as they keep stopping to pet it as I am knitting this project.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Starting school

For us it's not so much Back to School, as it is starting school.  Lil' Miss has begun Kindergarten and boy do I miss her during her time at school.  I managed to not cry the first day though, yea me!  She was perfectly fine with it all, telling me to go watch her from behind the fence to the Kindergarten recess yard rather than wait next to her for the teacher to take them into their classroom.  Such a self-confident little person, amazing!  We did go to the orientation the day before school started so knew where to go and the basics of what her room looked like and who her teacher was going to be, so that may have added to the confidence of Lil' Miss.  Apparently our school has had a little surge in enrollment as they had to hire on a teacher just four days before school started due to needing three classes for Kindergarten instead of two.   Guess which teacher we got?  I don't mind getting the new teacher, I am not such a fan of Lil' Miss being in the portable classroom though, it would be a bit nicer to be in a permanent room.

We are now into our second week and in spite of any reservations that I may have she is loving school so far.  She enjoys getting up to get ready for school and eagerly tells me about her day on the way home.  Luckily enough we live close enough to the school that it's an easy walk there and back for everyone.  We are even starting to see friends on their way home so are learning where in the neighborhood her new friends live.  We'll see how well our walk goes once it starts to rain though!  I plan on investing in some rain boots and rain jackets for both rugrats to keep them dry for that walk back and forth, we'll see if I need some rain boots too after the first couple of times walking in the rain.

I am still trying to figure out what to do with myself, how to rearrange my schedule with this change.  I am a bit of a creature of habit so will be much happier once I get it figured out and know what I am doing and when.  On the plus side, since I have to be up and ready earlier than I have gotten used to I am already adding in one good routine to my day, Destructo-boy and I are taking the looong way home from school so I can get in a little exercise every day.  Then once we get home I do my daily cleaning and then do my consultant work, and before lunch I have cleared all my "must do's" from the days schedule.  It is truly strange to have all afternoon to knit/scrapbook/sew before heading back out to pick up Lil'Miss at the end of the day.  I am sure we will all get comfortable once we settle in our new routine and I can only hope Lil' Miss continues to love school as much as she does now.  I still miss her every day though!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Popping the sock cherry, part 2

So now I am working my way down to the toe and decided to check my gauge just for giggles, yup, you knew this was coming didn't you?  It has changed, I am now getting 8 stitches per inch just as indicated in the pattern, and that makes for a sock too small for my colossal feet.  Apparently working with the yarn and needles has changed my gauge, well crap, are the socks still going to fit?  Thank goodness for stretchy yarn, I tugged, pulled, yanked, slipped it on and can still get my foot into the sock, thank heaven for small favors!

Continuing on, I completed 7 repeats of the lace pattern from the heel flap break before starting to decrease for the toe.  I decreased down to only 34 stitches before grafting, but it looks kind of funky, really long, and the toe is rather blunt (okay, comments on my Yeti sized feet aside, this darn sock looks weird!).  I think on sock number two I may see how only 6 repeats of the pattern goes before starting to decrease, and decreasing for more rounds.  Yes, that would mean redoing the toe on sock 1, oh joy, feel my enthusiasm!

weird looking too big sock

Now why don't I just rip out the toe of sock #1 and redo that you ask?  Well, what if I'm wrong, what if only 6 repeats is not enough?  Yes, with my luck that is what would happen.   So on to sock #2, which will fit a little differently anyway due to my gauge changing as I knit and get more acclimated to these really tiny needles.

Yup it is definitely tighter to get over the damn arch, but the length is perfect!  Doing just six repeats of the lace pattern after working the heel before starting the toe is just right, so I will definitely be reworking sock #1.  Before I even finished sock #2 I was trolling the patterns on Ravelry looking for other sock patterns to knit.  I have some self striping felici in my stash I have to work with and am thinking the stroll tonal I have will get used for socks too (mind you I still have to redo the toe on sock #1 when I finish the second sock).  That's it, I am officially hooked!  I haven't even worn these socks but it was a fairly quick project, easy pattern, and it is an item that will definitely be worn.  Now I finally 'get' all the groups devoted to socks on Ravelry, I can see how knitting them can become an obsession.

It was very quick work to get the toe on sock #1 taken apart and redone, I was able to complete most of it before walking Lil' Miss to her first day of Kindergarten (more on that another time, sniff-sniff).  Now they are done, washed and laid out to dry.  I can't wait to get started on my next pair, but have some holiday gift knitting to work on first, sigh...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Garden Enhancement

I spent my Friday digging in the dirt to get all my new plants in the ground instead of updating my blog.  Sorry about that, if it makes you feel any better my hips are killing me after kneeling all morning bent over to get the plant holes dug.  This has it's roots in me wanting to not have to pull weeds anymore and grew to a pathway from the sidewalk to the top of the driveway with a new planter.  I just think it make for a much nicer approach to the house to walk up a path rather than up the driveway, I think it's called "curb appeal."  So my loving and sweet Mister Vonkysmeed spent a few weeks digging out sod to make room for this grand idea of mine.

To start with I had asked him to help me out with the grass weediness by our water spigot by the front door.  I just couldn't keep up with the damn weeds so asked if he could help me out with digging out some dirt, putting down some plastic and then lay pavers and river stones on top.  I liked it, a lot, and the project grew.  Next I asked for the evil vinca from heck on the other side of the front steps to be ripped out and the pavers and rocks put over there too.  With that change I would have a place for some pretty potted plants and a seating area, what fun!  Then I dropped the bomb on the poor man, I wanted a walkway, a new planting bed, and an arbor cut into the front lawn.  He sighed but agreed to the project.

After lots of measuring and figuring out the project on paper, and using his construction calculator he was off to the home improvement store to get the supplies and wow what a lot of supplies!  Who know we would need so much sand, or mulch, or an entire pallet of pavers, really!?  He really wanted the pavers set right next to each other but I just didn't like that look, I was going for a very specific feel, I wanted a little bit of the Mediterranean in my yard.  I have a couple of books on Mediterranean gardening and all the patios shown are either gravel surfaced, or a mix of pavers and gravel or stones.  Since solid gravel just doesn't do it for me a mix of the pavers and rocks it is.

Need I say the man worked his ash off?  He even managed to get his part of the project done before I had my wisdom teeth removed so he could devote his time to watching the ankle biters for me while I recovered.  So for about 3 weeks we have had about an acre and a half of mulch staring at us daring me to do something with it.  I already had an idea of what to plant as I have another planter nearby that was all finished, I just needed to settle on the arrangement.  Sometimes that seems to be the hardest for me, I like the instant jungle look so I tend to over-plant.  I learned this lesson the had way after having to remove 3 lavender, 2 rosemary, and a Mexican sage form my backyard that ended up in the pots by the front door.  Once I had finally settled on a layout we went out got the plants and put them in the ground the next day (I have finally learned about planting quickly too, after a few dead plants).

In case you are wondering the plants we ended up with are French lavender, dusty miller, English thyme, santolina, and two grapes, a Flame seedless and a Thompson seedless.  In the pots are roses, a Sunset Celebration and a Black Magic.  The big concrete pavers in the middle of the planter will eventually have a pot with a geranium and a large pot with a fruitless olive tree.  The geranium will go in within the next week or two but the olive will be awhile, those suckers are expensive, not to mention the pot to put it in!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Popping the sock cherry, part 1

neener, neener, nee-ner!

They have been staring at me, I tell you they have, that stinkin' sock yarn and tiny little 2.5mm needles just daring me to do something with them.  Every time I go look in my box of fingering/dk yarn it stared up at me, taunting me to actually do something with it, I really hate cheeky yarn so I'd close it back up in the box and forget about it for awhile.  So I have been avoiding, avoiding, avoiding working with it, but since I just got a new box of smooshy yarn goodness I decided to finally use up the last remains from my last large order in April.

After much dithering and hemming & hawing I finally picked out a pattern, Monkey by Cookie A. from the winter 2006 issue of Knitty.  After seeing that there are over 12,000 projects using this pattern I thought it wouldn't hurt to use it for my very first pair of socks.  Plus there are lots of discussions about it in the Ravelry forums so adjusting it to fit my 'How the legend of Sasquatch was born' feet shouldn't be that much of a problem.

After fortifying myself with a large dose of chocolate I made my gauge swatch, okay, that wasn't so hard.  I then ran it through the washer and dryer and realized I won't be running my handknit socks through the dryer, the washer maybe, but definitely not the dryer.  The hanging ends of the yarn from the cast on and bind off felted somewhat and I fear what would happen with socks that actually get worn by my Amazonish feet (no worries, I have no desire to cut off my right breast, but I can tell you I understand why they did that, bowstrings snapping across really hurt!).  So according to the gauge swatch my stitch count is 7 stitches/inch but the pattern is 8stitches/inch.

Considering my gigantor feet and looking at adjustments to the pattern that were made for bigger feet I realized being off gauge actually worked to my advantage, I would have a sock of 9" instead of 8" as in the pattern, perfect for me! You know what they say about the best laid plans though, but more on that later.

Casting on was a total pain in the ash, I am doing this with the magic loop method rather than with double pointed needles.  I have a set of US 4's that are sock needles, but hey are so short it is really uncomfortable to knit with, so circular it is.  I used the cable cast on (I lurve this method, use it for just about everything) and boy do those stitches love to twist around the cable.  So I got it cast on, did the ribbing for the top and then onto the pattern. The pattern itself wasn't really hard, it's just like the lace I've been knitting, up til the heel flap, eek!  But I read through the pattern a few times and found some KnitPicks videos of Kelley's Sock Class on YouTube, and then got started.  Hey, this isn't so hard I even added in one more slipped stitch along the side as not only do I have Godzilla feet but I have an extraordinarily high instep/arch as well (remember those tight jeans that zipped up the calf from the 80's? I couldn't get my feet in them cause my arch was so high).  Uh oh, now I have the heel turn!  More videos and repeated reading, then woohoo, conquered that little devil too.  Then I just had to do the gusset, but now that I have wrapped my mind around what it is I am supposed to be doing it doesn't really seem that hard, yea me!

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Boxes of Happiness: part 2

Remember when I complained about that awful Impeccable yarn and said Mister Vonkysmeed agreed for me to order some new yarn?  Well, it got here the same day we returned from our mini vacation to the mountains, hooray for WEBS!  I think the box may have been handled by Ace Ventura however as the top and side were completely crushed, so bad the UPS delivery person asked me to open it to verify the contents were alright before he would leave.  Upon opening it the dear Mister Vonkysmeed informed the hapless delivery person he thought one of the skeins of yarn was broken, showing the guy the contents of the box who actually broke into a smile for us. 

Almost the entirety of this box is intended for others, but I get to knit with it so it's all good.  Starting at the left and moving clockwise here's what I got:
  • Sugarloaf by Valley Yarns, rose pink
  • Encore Tweed by Plymouth, hunter green
  • Soya by Sublime, ginseng
  • Amity by Elle Rae, aquamarine
  • Lamb's Pride Superwash by Brown Sheep, shane's red
  • Itata Multy by Araucania, tropical sunset
  • Itata Solid by Araucania, light orange
  • Select Worsted Merino Superwash by Plymouth, lichen
  • Itata Multy by Araucani, green/gold
Best of just about everything was on sale so I got it all for almost half of the regular price, yea!  I just couldn't resist the Itata being half off so got enough to make two small shawls for gifts and two shawls  for myself.  I'm thinking Aeolian for me with some of the tropical sunset Multy (and beads, must have beads!), and Saroyan with some for Missus Gordon, Annis with the solid for the Momster, Gail for me of course with the green/gold Multy, they are all gorgeous patterns.  You have no idea how hard it was to stop there, the colorways of this stuff is gorgeous!  And it feels lovely too, can definitely feel the crisp dryness of the silk even though there isn't much in there.

The Amity will make a cardigan for Lil' Miss, probably the Mi Escuelita by Rosi Garmendi  from Knitty: Fall 2009.  The color is lovely, it does have a bit of a scratchy feel, the 25% wool content coming through I guess.  I hope it washes up a bit softer, but the price is great, and I may be ordering more to make a Tomten (Mister V just ordered Knitting Without Tears for me so he could get free shipping from Amazon, hooray!) for Destructo-boy.  Lest you think he got the short end of the stick he did get something out of the box, the Encore Tweed will be used for a Pembroke vest by Kristen Kapur from Petite Purls: Summer 2009 that I intend to have ready for Thanksgiving.  I just love that pattern and think he will look adorable in it!  The Soya is also for him, I am thinking the Gentleman's polo by Kate Oates for next summer would be prefect out of it.  I will wait a bit before starting this one to verify his size a little closer to the season.

The Select Worsted, Lamb's Pride, and Sugarloaf are all to make hats for family members this Christmas.  I have not completely decided on the patterns yet, but am leaning towards the 3AM cable hat for the Barbarian Lord, Palindrome for the StepPops-in-law, and Brattleboro for the Momster-in-law.  Boy have I got a lot of knitting to do to be ready for the holidays!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Weekend away

We were lucky enough to have the use of the Pops in law's condo up in the mountains this past weekend for a little time away from home.  It was a much needed break that we all enjoyed.   We spent our time with some short hikes, 0.5 and 0.7 miles, relaxing at the condo, and playing at the lake (yes, even though there are no pictures we did go swimming!).  Both munchkins did very well on the hikes although Destructo-boy fell down on both, scraping up his knees all to heck and getting a nice faceful of dirt in the process.

walking the Interpretive trail in the Children's National Forest
Lil' Miss finds her Christmas tree

Keller Peak Fire Lookout, 7882 ft

Why do I always choose to go to whatever building is the tallest in the area when I am afraid of heights?  It took a good ten minutes for me to climb up there, I had to stop halfway because my legs just got so weak I had to take a few minutes to gird myself for the final climb.  Then once up there I couldn't stop shaking.  I wasn't even able to go outside to take pictures of the incredible view.  I did get a card certifying me as a member of the Honorable Order of Squirrels for managing to get up there!

Although Lil' Miss found the acorn in the middle of the path I did make her put it back down.  We had a nice little discussion about how if everyone took a little of the forest with them then there would be none left for anyone else to enjoy.  I explained we would take our memories and our pictures with us but no actual objects.  She understood too well as the 'Mommy, please take a picture of insert object here' began!

view of the high desert

Yes, Lil' Miss is sniffing that tree.  The trail guide suggested we do so, so the entire family leaned in for a good whiff to find out what it smelled like.  Of all things it smelled just like vanilla, yum!

requisite arty photo of a Mantilija poppy

See, I even got some knitting in!  I finished off the second skein of my Woodland shawl, finished Grumpy's Christmas present and started on one for my niece, surprisingly productive weekend as knitting goes.  The rugrats were happy to get back home but definitely want to go back.  Hopefully we will get up there this winter while there is still snow on the ground for some wintertime fun!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Impeccable is not flawless

As a matter of fact this yarn has made me veer directly into yarn snob territory.  The yarn I speak of is the newish Impeccable line by Michael's craft stores sold under their Loops & Threads label.  I am using this crap yarn to make a Fresh Picked Color cardigan for Lil' Miss to have for her first day of school in a few weeks.  We picked this yarn (I say we meaning I pointed out colors I liked and she hugged those she liked as well) because it was the best color in a worsted weight yarn that Michael's had in stock the day we went shopping.  I don't think I can quite find the words to express my dismay at using this to make an actual garment but I shall try.  Don't get me wrong, each yarn has it's purpose in life, I have used it successfully for a hat and a few amigurumi toys (most notably my crochet fortune cookies), I just don't think this yarn is a good match for clothing.

the buttons are my favorite part of the sweater

It is so stiff and unyielding it is like knitting with crafters cotton which I normally only use for crochet work as it is just so hard on my hands.  There is no give to it as there is with wools, blends, or even the nicer cottons I have used, it doesn't seem to stretch at all when you hold the yarn between your fingers and give a little pull.  Thankfully it isn't 'squeaky' for me as other Raveler's have complained of, I think because I use only wood needles (the clicking of metal needles is kinds like nails on a chalkboard to me, not soothing at all!).  The fabric coming off of my needles seems rather stiff as well, not the soft, flowy feel of a little girl cardigan I was going for.  Here is to hoping this softens up a LOT after washing.  One positive thing I can say about this yarn is that the stitch definition is quite nice so far.

Someone is happy with it at least!

 After getting only about 2 inches knit over a few days (I kept abandoning it in favor of other wips just so I didn't have to touch that yarn) I decided to put on my big girl panties and just work on the darn thing to get the misery over with.  Lil' Miss wanted her sweater done in time for school so I better get cracking right?  Much to my surprise I got it done in just a few more days, apparently using yarn I don't like makes me work faster, who would have guessed?  Happily after being run through the washer and dryer it has softened up considerably, I am actually rather surprised at how soft it came out.  Now the garment flows and moves like I had imagined the fabric for her finished cardigan should.  I still will not use it again for garments due to the experience of knitting with it.  I knit to relax, so I don't kill people or yell at my rugrats so using distasteful yarn doesn't really augment the experience of knitting for me.

Working with it did convince me of one thing, the act of knitting should be fun and enjoyable for me so even if I am making something for the kids I will no longer buy the cheapest stuff I can find.  I realized that my favorite sweater for Lil' Miss cost $25 from Carters three years ago, so it would make sense for that to be a guideline for the cost of the yarn to make them something (we won't even go into labor costs as that would just be silly!).  Thus I won't get the uber fancy stuff like say, Madelinetosh Tosh dk (will drool damage my keyboard?) but I can afford to purchase good quality yarns from Knit Picks or fancier yarns that are on sale or clearance instead of the bargain yarns at the local craft superstore.  The best part of this decision is that Mister Vonkysmeed is on board with the idea and already approved my recent spending spree at WEBS (ooh, can a virtual credit card melt!?).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tiny Dancer

What is it about little girls and ballet?  Like many little girls her age Lil' Miss loves ballerinas, in fact at her preschool graduation being a ballerina is what she proclaimed was her future profession.  I think it may have started with the Angelina Ballerina cartoons that air on PBS.  We watched them every day for at least 2 years, and there aren't that many episodes, only 39 fifteen minute episodes according to Wikipedia.  Yes dear reader, I know most of them by heart as does Lil' Miss of course!  She may have moved on in her viewing choices but she still loves ballet.

Her summer ballet class at the community center just ended and all the parents were invited to watch the final class.  This class is not a parent participation class (like the one we took while I was pregnant with Destructo-boy, nothing like a heavily pregnant woman dancing ballet let me tell you!), we adults get the fun of waiting in the lobby while the girls dance except for the final day.  They were unbelievably cute, about 18 little girls in leotards and tights, almost every one had on some sort of flowy skirt, a few with tulle skirts, and all running around like little terriers hopped up on espresso.  It was quite a sight to see, and damn if my camera battery didn't die after 5 minutes!

They all showed us they had learned how to do first position, and displayed some other basic moves.  I love how the teacher, Miss Kim, gets them to do some of the basic ballet movements including running, jumping, galloping, (don't know the proper terms, I never got to take ballet) by turning it into something fun.  All the girls in the class had so much fun showing off what they had learned for their parents, and the paparazzi were in full force as they did so.  The best part was at the end of the class when each dancer was given a chiffon scarf to dance with and they all went running around the room waving their scarves in the air.  Amazingly there was only one crash accompanied by tears, it wasn't the only crash, a few others made impact but they got up and just kept on running.  I didn't notice if anyone other parents were quite as amused as I, but I chuckled away through the whole song.

I think we really lucked out in finding Miss Kim, and best of all she actually owns a local studio that teaches dancers up to the high school level so if Lil' Misses interest continues we have someplace local with a supportive environment for her to go.  As long as she has an interest I will find a way to pay for her lessons, she deserves nothing less.  Plus something about seeing her all dressed for class with her hair pulled up in a sweet little bun just pulls on my heartstrings, I actually teared up the first time I got her ready for her class.  Good gracious, when did I become such a softie!?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Having wisdom teeth pulled is...

great for my knitting time!  While hiding out from my at times exuberantly loving kids (really didn't want any head-jaw impact you understand!) I was able to make some really great progress on my current wip.  The Central Park Hoodie is complete and has already been worn.  I had been obsessively knitting on it prior to the surgery but just wasn't able to get it done, I had this deep seated fear that I wouldn't wake up from the anaesthesia, weird I know but there it is.  I spent the day of surgery (we were home by 11am) knitting all afternoon on the sleeve, finishing it on Thursday and then finished the buttonhole and button bands on Friday.  I washed up the sweater on Saturday morning and laid it out on a towel to dry, enduring the wet dog smell in my room for two days, blech.

I wasn't sure how much I'd like the Peruvian wool, but after being washed the yarn has bloomed (check out my newly learned yarny term!) beautifully and doesn't seem as scratchy and dense.  Although it will be great for outer wear I don't think I'd want to use it for anything against the skin, I'll stick with the merino wool fibers for that.  We'll see how it holds up to me and my kids long term, but for the cost of $22 I was able to make a cozy, warm cardigan for myself in time for fall, even though I am wearing it now with the morning chill in the air (welcome to the summer that wasn't!).

I even got my first semi-compliment on it at Lil' Misses ballet recital.  After the baby seated next to me kept poking her finger through my sleeve cables the following exchange occurred with her mother:
"That isn't what you've been knitting is it?" (I worked on it at every class while we waited in the lobby of the community center for the girls to be done with class)
"Why yes, it is."
"Wow, that was quick!"
So at least I know my knitting speed is impressive to non-knitters!  Not that impressive to me, but hey, you take what you can get right?  Now that my cardigan is done I am working on one for Lil' Miss for her first day of Kindergarten.  I am making her the Fresh Picked cardigan by Lion Brand, but I will make it with full length sleeves and full length body instead of cropped as in the pattern.  She is terribly excited about it (I so love knitting for an appreciative audience!) and hopefully I will have this ready for her to wear on her first day of school next month, in 3 1/2 weeks yikes!
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