Monday, June 28, 2010

All those teeny, tiny stitches...

Can eventually add up to something nice!  I am making progress on my two current projects both of which use fingering weight yarn, it's slow but they are coming along, Haruni & Isabella that is.  Just finished chart A on the Haruni, it has gone much faster than I envisioned (remember this is a Christmas present folks, wow did I overestimate the time it would take!).  For some reason I thought lace equaled many hours of frustratingly, painfully slow knitting, but not so!  I realize the next chart takes up about half the yarn yardage, so I'm guessing it'll take about half the time too, but I am quite happy with how this is going so far.  Based on my time assumption I may have Haruni done in another two weeks at my current pace.  I will admit to being officially hooked on lace and am pondering the next shawl already, maybe Gail?  With beads next time too?!  Wouldn't that be frustrating and bewildering fun!

Isabella is also moving along quite nicely, I have separated the front and back (remember, I have been knitting this in the round because I hate seaming!) to shape the armholes and am rapidly knitting up the back, I have about 3 more inches to go before the neckline shaping.  I am doing more decrease rows than the pattern calls for as I really don't like the extra wide shoulders most of the completed projects on Ravelry have (reminds me of 1980's shoulder pads, I barely survived that decade the first time, let's not do it again okay?).  The top of the shoulder seams stick out beyond the shoulder of the wearee as the pattern is written and to me looks a little goofy and ill-fitting, so I decided to narrow it up a bit.  Hopefully this doesn't backfire on me!

And yes, I am already pondering my next project.  I have yarn for several items in my queue (hats, gloves, a few winter cardigans that are pretty but would be hot to knit during the summer) but of course there is something else I want to make for which I do not have the yarn.  That something would be the Lilas cardigan by Hilary Smith Callis from The Yarniad.  It is beauteous, and from the pictures of finished projects posted on Ravelry it looks equally good on many body types.  Simple, chic, and versatile, this looks like the garment for me (as if I could ever actually be chic, now that's funny)!  I want to try some Spud & Chloe sweater yarn for Lilas, (yummy!) but do I really need to go buy more yarn when I already have stash boxes bursting at the seams?  Hmmm, have to think this one over...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Backyard surprise!

That would be a surprise for the kids, not so much for us!  It's a water slide Mister Vonkysmeed created on an existing playground slide in our backyard.   Add a $15 plastic pool, a fountain pump (purchased at his toy store, Harbor Freight Tools), and some assorted sprinkler system drips and you too can turn your own playground slide into a super fun water slide.  Mister Vonkysmeed and I have talked about doing this for several years and finally decided to just do it because if we kept waiting the kids would be too big to enjoy it, so I told him to go be creative (within a reasonable budget of course-my standards not his)!

Both Lil' Miss and Destructo-boy love it!  Their faces when Mister Vonkysmeed turned it on were absolutely priceless, made every penny we spent worth it.  I think we do need to mark out a splash zone like they do at Sea World however as they create huge splashes across the patio every time they come down!  Although it would be awfully fun to see one of our friends get a nice wet surprise during our monthly barbecues!  We'll see how long we go without an accident, I can just see someone busting through the side of that pool and sliding onto the patio, not fun (and talk about road rash, yeouch)!

Too bad my butt's too big to fit onto the slide (yes, I have tried, unsuccessfully), otherwise I just might be tempted to try it out myself (like I did with the crib the other day on an especially rough afternoon with the kids).  Happy first week of summer!

Haven't you ever had a day like this?!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hey Mom cardigan's done!

Only took me 30 days, but I got my Hey Teach! done, and the weather is still appropriate to wear it!  Unlike my scary scabbard that I finished just as the weather warmed up to the point where the alpaca yarn made it much too warm to wear, sigh.  My new cardigan should get a lot of use over the summer in the evenings when it gets cool outside from our ocean breezes (I have thin California native blood, I even got cold in Hawaii of all places!).  Have I mentioned yet that I love Knitty, their patterns are fantastic and they provide them free of charge to us all, hooray (just gotta remember to click on their advertisers to keep the good stuff comin')!  I am still kind of surprised that I was able to complete this so quickly, for me at least!  I think I still have the summer of the ice blue bamboo shell in my head, that sucker took all summer to finish and it was not that complicated of a pattern.  It was however, the first thing I made that was more complicated than a scarf or an afghan.

For my cardigan I used Knit Picks shine worsted in the serrano colorway on US 8 needles.  I cast on all three pieces at once as I detest sewing seams and for this garment it didn't seem that necessary as it was cotton and would stretch (hopefully) as I wear it anyway.  It came out a little shorter than I'd like but as I think it will stretch some while being worn I'm not too worried, I can just block it out a little bigger if wearing it doesn't get it to grow.  I didn't have much trouble working the lace pattern over the decreases as some knitters have commented on as being troublesome on the Ravelry forums.  For some reason I was able to wrap my head around it fairly easily with the help of the handy dandy lace chart (I am beginning to think I really, really like charted patterns!).  Overall it was a fairly easy knit, just enough difficulty to keep it interesting but not so much that it required my undivided and total concentration.  If you are looking for a nice summery cardigan, look no further this one is great!  I was even able to get the buttons for my cardi on sale at Jo-Ann's, as all their buttons were half off, yea!

I really liked the yarn, nice and soft with a really lovely sheen, gee that's why they named it shine!  As it is mostly cotton,  60% cotton and 40% Modal (beech fiber), it didn't give a whole lot but it was light years better than Sugar n' Cream (which I like for washcloths but not much else).  I don't know how it will wash up and wear yet, but to knit with it, it does give off some fuzz that will end up on you, your hands, and unfortunately up your nose.  I spent some time sneezing while knitting this sucker let me tell you!  The finished garment does have some weight to it, I used approximately 8 1/2 balls of yarn so that is about 420 grams, just under 1 pound of fabric.  It is pretty and soft and I'm thinking I will be enjoying this creation for years to come as long as I take good care of it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The unofficial, official birthday baker

Yes, that would be me, as long as I am invited to the party I am almost always willing to make the cake (barring sickness, pregnancy, or general bitchyness).  I really do enjoy baking and birthdays are especially fun to prepare for.  Now I will admit, my cakes and cupcakes are pretty damn homely won't win any awards for beauty, there are many others out there who can make them much prettier than I can but mine taste dang good if I do say so myself!  To me the flavor is much more important than having 'decorator' finishing touches (although I am trying to improve my finishing techniques, without much success admittedly).

My kids get the biggest benefit of my enjoyment for baking as they get a different homemade cake or cupcake each year.  Over the last few years they have had: carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, the now infamous and often requested Chocolate Lover's cake, white cake (box mix, I was pregnant at the time and not feeling great) with my first attempt at buttercream frosting, a rich chocolate cake made from scratch with orange cream cheese frosting (it tasted just like a chocolate orange that you get around Christmas and whack to separate the segments), and vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting.

The Chocolate Lover's cake is the most often requested when I am ordered offer to bake, especially when I make chocolate ganache to pour on top.  The ganache started as an attempt to fix a botched cake for a birthday of Grumpy's.  It's a bundt cake and I apparently had not greased the pan well enough so some of the chocolatey goodness got left behind.  I tried to cover it up fixed it by shoving the broken piece back on top of the cake and then pouring the ganache on top, didn't really work as it was still pretty obvious what had happened, but no one cared as they kept raving about how great the ganache was on top of the already rich chocolate cake.  For one of Mister Vonkysmeed's birthdays I upped the ante by not only doing the ganache, but also making some homemade vanilla ice cream, oh, was it good!

Last month I made a vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream frosting for Big Pops, per his request, and although the cake was great, the frosting was a tad on the sicky-sweet side for me.  I also made a sour cream lemon pound cake for Pops in Law that was delish, that one will most definitely get made again!  For Lil' Misses' recent birthday we had vanilla cupcakes with strawberry cream cheese frosting, the extra frosting was fantastic for dipping animal crackers in.  I was hovering on the opposite side of the table dipping away for a good 10 minutes before I forced myself to back away from the table (damn that scale!).

Next up will be Mister Vonkysmeed's birthday the following month, hmm, maybe combine chocolate and coffee somehow in cake form, with some homemade ice cream too?  I make a mean coffee & cookies ice cream, yummy!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Haruni, my oasis in the stockinette wastelands

Something that isn't stockinette, oh happy day!  Having just finished the Twirly skirt for Lil' Miss (which she is prancing around the house in as I type!) it is time to cast on a new project that doesn't require miles of knit stitch.  My new project of choice is the absolutely lovely Haruni shawl designed by Emily Ross for which I will use the fantastic new stroll tonals yarn in royalty by Knit Picks.  As I am not sure just how long this sucker will take (I have never done a whole lace shawl before, or even a partial one for that matter!) and it is intended as a Christmas gift for Chatty-Cathy I decided to get started on it now.

First off I needed to wind the skein of yarn into a workable ball so I can actually knit with it and I thought you all would be very intrigued by my oh so fancy ball winding accessory (can you smell the sarcasm?).  As I don't even have the luxury of willing little hands to hold my untwisted skein carefully, I draped it across their chair, ain't it fancy!  Who knew that the family heirloom built for Mister Vonkysmeed's great grandfather would come into use someday as a skein holder for me?

Funnily enough, after complaining about doing too much stockinette in an earlier post, now it seems almost all of what I am doing is lace.  My Hey Teach! has now progressed to the lacework section, and on Isabella I have started the all too brief interlude of the lace panel  in the midst of miles of stockinette.  So my Haruni that was cast on with the intention of being my oasis has very quickly become more of a quagmire rather than an oasis you could say!  Anyway, for some reason I found the Haruni pattern totally terrifying, let me be blunt, it scared the crap out of me!  But since I want to have it done in time for Christmas gift giving (did I mention that already?!), there was nothing left but to knuckle down and get started!

Now that I am a few rows into chart A on this sucker I wonder what my angst was all about?  I am familiar with using charts, having knit and crocheted with them before, and I have used all of the stitches required before so nothing new there, plus the yarn and needles are familiar to me having used both before.  Yet in spite of all this I was anxious to the point of sweaty palms while getting it started, why, I guess I'm just weird that way (or is that wired?!).  Of course now that I have essentially said the pattern really isn't that difficult I am probably going to make some sort of foolish mistake and have to rip it all out, I just know it!

I think I will use lifelines as recommended by the knitters in the Beginning Lace Knitters group on Ravelry (can I just say how relieved and happy I am to have this resource if I come across any trouble whilst making this shawl?) as a way to preserve my sanity.  When it comes to lace it seems to me that the difficulty factor comes in when you need to remember where you are in the pattern and being able to repeat that pattern correctly across an entire row of knitting, as I discovered with my Hey Teach! the other night.  I performed the S2KP incorrectly, so ended up having to frog out 6 rows of knitting once I realized it would take more time (and much more patience than I could ever claim to have) to fix each error one by one rather than just going back to where I messed up in the first place.  Maybe I should use a lifeline on that one too!

Here's to hoping I can get this Haruni finished and blocked in time for Christmas gift giving!   I know, it's a long way off but I am nothing if not a worrywart...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A day with no kids...or knitting even!

That's right!  I got to go to Glen Ivy Hot Springs & Spa with a couple of friends on Friday.  Chatty Cathy told me she and Missus Gordon (#24's biggest fan!  really, she is!) would be going on Friday and would I like to go too?  I'll admit that I'm not much of a spa person, for me the draw was to get away with some good friends for the day and not have to worry about the kids.  Since Chatty and I have connections and were able to get in with complimentary passes, it was kind of a no-brainer for me.  That is provided Mister Vonkysmeed would watch the munchkins for me, pretty please?!  Bless my sweetheart of a husband he simply waved his hand at me and told me to have fun on Friday.  I must've done something right in a previous life, I so do not deserve this man!

Best of all, there were no kids there at all!  Not only did I get a rest from mine, I didn't have to deal with anyone else's either.  It was a truly lovely day, after the June gloom that we get on the coast every morning it was a welcome relief to go inland and enjoy some sun.  During our visit we were able to enjoy all the various pools, baths, steam room, and of course the lounge pool (Missus Gordon's favorite place to be!).  The lounge pool kept us occupied for a good three hours, talking, laughing, gossiping and admiring all the cute swimsuits wandering around.  Missus Gordon complained that you can never find cute swimsuits when shopping but here there were a whole bunch of them!  The best was a red and white polka dot number with black ruffled trim all around the edges and black satin bows on the straps, sooo cute!

And when the sign says the mineral baths will make your silver jewelry tarnish, let me tell you, they aren't kidding!  I think it's going to take me a good half hour with my polishing cloth to get these suckers to shine again.  But boy did those natural hot spring waters feel good, smells bad, but feels great!

When it was finally time to go I discovered a nice little surprise message waiting for me on my cell phone from Mister Vonkysmeed, he titled it 'Looking for mama'

Although I really enjoyed my day, seeing that image definitely made me want to come home and see my little ones again.  I unquestionably needed that time without them for all that!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cuddling with such sweet sorrow

I love cuddling with my kids, doesn't matter to me which one it is, either will do just fine by me.  I know the days are limited when my little ones will want to be held in my arms, so I try to remind myself to enjoy this too brief period of time while I can.  Some days it's hard to remember with that pile of laundry to do, furniture to dust, projects to finish, etc.

Lil' Miss is the far more cuddly of the two, willing to lie with myself or Mister Vonkysmeed for long stretches at a time (especially in her 'nest' between our legs and the back of the couch when we are stretched out in full relaxation mode).  She was always like this though, even as little baby she was perfectly happy to snuggle in with her favorite people, especially when a book was involved!

On the other hand, Destructo-Boy is not quite so willing.  Oh, he enjoys coming up and placing his head on a knee, arm, hand, whatever he can get to in order to show his affection (what's up with that? is he part tomcat?!) but he is a little mover and shaker never staying still for very long.  No sooner will he climb up on my lap then he wriggles off to go race away and get into something that he probably isn't supposed to be into. 

Which makes it all the more bittersweet with him being sick this past weekend.  When he gets sick his preferences change entirely, wanting to be cuddled by someone all the time.  He is rather particular on who that someone is too, if you are the chosen person forget about it if you are trying to knit or read or anything besides holding him!  Destructo will stand at your knee and cry pitifully (and there is nothing quite as pitiful as a tow-headed 20 month old with a fever) until you put down your distraction and snuggle him.  Both Mister Vonkysmeed and I have commented to each other during his illness that we missed being able to cuddle him as we used to (when he wasn't mobile and couldn't escape from us).  Although I'm not happy that he's sick, I will admit to relishing being able to cuddle our beloved little boy.  Gotta grab those opportunities while you can, for all too soon they will be gone.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Stuck in a stockinette wasteland

That's right, in my infinite wisdom I have cast on three different projects that each have miles of stockinette I am required to knit.  Currently on the needles are Isabella, Hey Teach!, and Twirly Skirt.  What makes it even worse is that in wanting to make things easier on myself (and see how well that worked out!), I adjusted two of the three projects, Isabella and Twirly Skirt, to be knit in the round so all I am doing is the knit stitch, over and over until the coming of the Apocalypse (at least that's what it feels like!).  Thankfully Hey Teach! gives me a little break as it is a button front cardigan so I am knitting it flat, one row knit one purl, although admittedly I am knitting the two front pieces and back piece all as one instead of in three seperate pieces so the rows seem to go on forever!

I'd give anything for some lace work or some fiddly cables right now, even some scary colorwork would be welcome.  But no, I have to perform the knit stitch, ad nauseum.  Theoretically I know it will be over eventually, but first I have to cross this boring desert of knit to either finish the item or progress to a far more interesting section of the project to work on.

Why not cast on a new project that has a more interesting stitch pattern you ask?  Let me present Exhibit A, the Lacy Shell that took well over 3 months to finish.  That may not seem like a lot to you, but I prefer to finish things in a more acceptable period of time (by my own standards, I am not judging anyone else's productivity here!) and this one kept getting put off with other projects so I instituted the 3 project rule (and I'm sticking to this one by gawd!) of no more than three fiber projects in progress at any one time.  So for now I am in the hinterlands of stockinette, but I will cross this seemingly endless expanse of desert and move onto something more interesting.  Something like the Haruni shawl I have planned, doesn't seem nearly so scary now that I am bored to tears.  Note to self, in the future make sure to cast on different kinds of projects, something with cables or colorwork, lace, ribbing, anything but endless row upon row of stockinette!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Five already!?

As I sit here planning for her birthday party I am left wondering where the time went.  She is five.  Five years gone by in the blink of an eye.  I remember so clearly when I had just started my maternity leave, I used to lie down on this very couch and nap while awaiting her arrival.  How did we get from there to here?  And why do I feel like I missed out on something?  No matter that I have been lucky enough to have been a full time mom since she was 18 months old I still feel like I have lost.  That I have been so busy with the minutiae of life, all those little things that make up the routine of each day that I somehow missed her growing up from a baby to this delightful little girl I get to spend every day with.

Logically I know it's not true, I was there every step of the way and have missed out on nothing, but that feeling is still there, niggling at the back of my mind.  I adore her just as she is now, my precious one and only daughter and I wouldn't trade her for anything, she is a treasure to me, tantrums and all.  That said, I miss my baby, my toddler, and soon I will miss my preschooler too.  I now understand what The Momster meant when she said she missed her babies, I am right there with her now in missing mine.  Lil' Miss is growing up much too fast for me to cope with at times, but I am so proud of the person she is becoming.  So happy fifth birthday and congratulations on your graduation from preschool little one, your Mommy will treasure these memories of you forever.
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