Monday, September 29, 2008

Michael's Third Birthday

My baby turned three yesterday. Despite knowing it to be the universal lament of parents, I still can't believe how fast he is growing up.

My poor little guy woke up sick and grouchy. After giving him some juice to perk up his blood sugar a bit (he too seems to suffer from morning blood sugar lows) we let him open the presents from his two elder siblings.

Gregory worked very hard to knit Michael a little yellow teddy bear.

Michael loved his little bear and Gregory took great pride in it. Gabrielle had started a knitted gift for Michael too, but in the end, she raided her personal stash of stuffed animals for a birthday present for her little brother.

Because all three kids awoke with colds to one extent or another, and Kurt and I felt like our own white blood cells valiantly strove against invading viruses, we decided to skip church and have a restful day.

I suppose feeding the kids my abortive cake effort the day before for lunch lacked wisdom. But what are you going to do with half a 3D bear cake? I discovered too late, parts of the bear cake pan had been looted after the hurricane along with most of my cake decorating stuff and tried to make due. Making due resulted in a small oven fire, a house filled with smoke, a disembodied chocolate bear head cake and a frustrated me. So, I slapped the bear head on a platter, cut it into wedges and told the kids they could have it for lunch. They thought it a fun idea and since the smoke in the air choked them as they ate, they barely noticed the smoke flavor in the chocolate cake.

After giving Michael a decent breakfast, he felt a bit better and we let him open his remaining presents.

He got a red car from Grandma. He particularly enjoyed this gift since the car had room to perch his little "guys" inside and drive them about the house. And since Michael constantly grabbed Gregory's "guys" for play, we got him some of his very own.

Aside from Mr. Potato Head,

Michael received cars and "guys" for his birthday. They are his obsession. Of course Mr. Potato Head is sort of a "guy" though Michael ended up storing his "guys" inside Mr. Potato Head calling him a "bottom house."

I think Michael loved the Cars movie racing set best.

He raced Lightening McQueen and the King most of the afternoon, though the King always wins.

I think Michael really had a great time playing with his toys despite his runny nose and watery eyes.

In fact, I think the day would have been ugly had it not been Michael's birthday and had he not been distracted by all his new toys.

Of course, Kurt got to play too.

I think he spent a good 45 minutes building this race track before discovering the cars didn't work. Then he spent a couple of hours re-boxing the set and returning it to Wal-Mart. He replaced the race track with a Lightening McQueen radio control car, another hit with Michael.

In sticking with Michael's car obsession, I made him a gluten free chocolate car cake. I had planned to decorate it but with everyone sick, I decided to serve it plain (with real ice cream and coffee flavored whipped cream I made myself). Michael never really eats the icing anyway and mostly likes the ice cream best.

Michael had been talking about eating cake with ice cream and blowing out candles while the family sang "Happy Birthday to Michael" ever since Gabrielle had her birthday back in July.

He proudly blew out each candle one at a time and we didn't have the heart to tell him he should do it any other way.

Today, Michael asked if he could turn 3 again with more cake, ice cream and presents. Then he dragged the "Cars" race track toy into my bed next to me and played loudly with his cars while I nursed my early morning allergy/sugar crash headache.

Did I mention the track makes racing noises and plays sound clips from the movie?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Harbingers of Fall

Amazingly, cool breezes and falling lows announce Fall comes early this year to the Gulf Coast. The weather is glorious, even if my allergies prevent me from enjoying it. The kids have found reasons to spend time outside once again and I keep wishing I could do likewise. It is actually cool. Comfortable. Amazing weather for September. The weather people report we are to see a low of 53º tonight. But they also inform we are under a high pollen alert. Sigh.

It wouldn't be Fall without something to harvest. Rising above even the most determined weeds produced during the hot months of summer when we simply could not keep outside long enough to keep up with them, the sugar cane looks ready to harvest.

Of course I am assuming the sugar cane is ready to harvest since I've never actually seen it growing before. But it is a good 10 to 12 feet high and surely must be tall enough.

And I remember the farmer from whom I brought my original cane telling me it would be ready in late September to early October.

Now I just have to figure out HOW to harvest sugar cane and what to do with it afterwards. Growing sugarcane sounded so cool last Fall. Now, I'm not sure what I am going to do with piles of the stuff.

While trying to get a good picture of the sugarcane, I inadvertently stepped in a fire ant mound.

These things are a terrible nuisance. And they are everywhere this year. Rain makes them swarm and Fall makes them swarm and sometimes they just swarm. It gets to the point where we can barely walk across the yard. There are some good bait products for fire ants, but I dare not put them out because our chickens will eat anything sprinkled on the ground. Fortunately for my sandaled foot, this was a relatively new and small mound. When you step on a fire ant mound, the little monsters will instantly swarm all over you and then in seeming answer to a secret command, they will begin, all at once, to sting you. For me, the problem is compounded by my grass allergy. The feel of grass, especially grass seed heads, on my skin is about the same as fire ant stings. So sometimes I don't look right away if I am standing on grass. Like this morning when I snapped my sugar cane pictures. The fire ants began their assault before I took my last picture. I figured the wind had merely blown the grass against my bare leg and foot. Wrong.

Our turkeys have grown big enough that I started thinking about a butchering schedule.

Then I had the opportunity to pick one up yesterday. (I let them free range from time to time and getting them back into their coop is not always the easiest chore.) The little runt couldn't have weighed more than six or seven pounds. I suppose it will be a few more weeks until they are ready for our freezer. Since I made the mistake of getting attached to them, I'll admit I am rather relieved to put the task off to an indefinite date in the future.

After piling priority knitting projects onto my "to-do" list, I did very little this week. I got sucked into "editing" novels for the children. I think I went through six 300+ page novels with a black permanent marker. They were delightful stories about dragons and the people who care for them, but every once in awhile the author stuck stupid stuff into the story. Stuff unnecessary to the story line, but stuff my kids didn't need to be reading. But in all, I had very little marking up to do and only ripped out one page. The kids had a grand time reading their new books. They are insatiable when it comes to reading. Of course they get that from me which explains how I got sucked into the task so easily at such a bad time.

I did manage to complete the third installment of my first MS4 stole.

I really like this pattern, though I would have liked to see more beads in the middle parts. I can't wait to see how it turns out. Blocking will make a huge difference too.

I also started the weaving for my brother's scarf.

I had a bit of a time getting my picks per inch straight. I think I've got it now. Since my struggle produced an obvious stripe, I decided to turn it into a design detail and will attempt to make 8 tighter repeats on the latter end of the scarf too.

I'm having such fun with my weaving that I am already thinking I might do a couple woven Christmas presents in addition to my normal knitting. That is the one rough part about Fall. It reminds me Christmas is coming. And there is so much to do. . .

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Knitting Insanity

It is official. I set up a standard and met it. I am completely insane. After determining I had imposed more knitting on myself than sanity could possibly allow because all of it was to be completed within a month, I immediately started knitting a second MS4 stole in Jaggerspun Zephyr lace weight wool and silk in the suede colorway.

I love the rich neutral tones interspersed with iridescent gold lined beads. I've finished clue one and hope to start clue two today. Tomorrow clue three comes out. I wish I could finish clue two before then, but that is not to be considered, not even under my present delusions of grandeur.

I have managed to squeeze out a couple more inches on my brother's fingerless gloves.

I'm finished with the thumb gussets and am continuing on up the hand. All of the lace I'm knitting makes these a bit boring, but I'm so glad to be able to make them for my brother. Snow is just wrong somehow. And temperatures below 40º. And to face all of that without wool? May it never happen to the family member of a knitter!

A few days ago, my nine year old daughter Gabrielle decided she wanted to learn to knit. At first, I suspected a plot to distract me from my goals. My children have the idea they are entitled to a large part of my attention. All three of them to different extents. And I've tried to teach my kids to knit in the past. Many times. It never ends well. I end up fixing tons of mistakes on impossible projects. But she persisted.

I bought both Gregory and Gabrielle Dale "Learn to Knit" kits a couple of years ago. They've since used the quality wool yarn to tie each other up and for any cause requiring string or rope. I gritted my teeth and tried to look the other way. How I suffered at the thought of that poor innocent yarn being tortured in the hands of ruffians. But for 3 days in a row, Gabrielle brought her knitting over to the couch while I knit and joined me. After a couple of days, Gregory couldn't stand it and asked me to remind him how to knit as well. Again I suspected a plot. I thought Gregory intended to wrest Gabrielle's attention to himself and turn the entire thing into a game involving space ships and world domination. I continued to suspect their intentions even when my husband Kurt caught them up in the middle of the night, huddled on the bathroom floor quietly knitting together while we slept. There have just been too many past disappointments. But amazingly, they both finished projects.

They started with the "Pocket Troll" pattern in their books and then went on to other patterns. They dumped their pieces into my blocking pile before weaving in their ends causing me great consternation. There is no way I'm doing THAT task for them. No way.

Gregory knit the pieces of a teddy bear for Michael's birthday at the end of the month.

Gregory even wove in his own ends after I took these pictures.

After spending some time day dreaming about the wonderful times we would have knitting together and enjoying productive hours as a family, Gregory broke into my reverie with something I hadn't considered. He wondered if he could use the knitting needles I use for sock knitting. Egads! I'm not sure I'm ready to put something so precious into the hands of a kid who can't remember to put his clothes in the hamper after a shower. I'm thinking a trip to Knit Picks before Gregory's upcoming birthday is in order.

I finished warping my loom yesterday for my brother's scarf. I did it in about a week, which is record time for me. My last project took a year to warp.

If I can figure out how to keep my youngest two children from severely injuring each other or screaming me into another headache, I may be able to get to some weaving today. In between all of my knitting. And parenting. And keeping the house in reasonable condition. And those other things reasonable adults are supposed to do every day.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Rounding the Bend

Fall knitting season is in full swing and I am zipping right along. My trusty companion helps me keep pace.

[Cafe DuMonde coffee and chicory with cream and a dash of vanilla in an over sized cup]

Sometimes, September ushers in seasonal weather changes, which bring migraines to the household. While these once plagued only me, both Gabrielle and Gregory are starting to suffer as well. Even Kurt has had more headaches than normal. That means very little gets done on many days. Right now the kids are in bed with headaches. They are not doing school, which means I am not grading their work. They are not making messes, except for Michael who is doing his best to mess up the house on behalf of his siblings, and I do not feel compelled to do much housework. No one is really eating much, so meals are iffy, though I made homemade rosemary chicken and potato pizza last night and have plenty left over for today if needed. And I have pretty much mastered the technique of knitting through my migraines since sleeping during the day causes all sorts of sleeping problems the following night.

I've finished clue 2 on the Mystery Stole 4 project.

I'm starting to think I might like to start another one of these. I like all the beads, though the pattern is more dense than I usually like in lacework. However, living in the south, I've figured out this stole might be the perfect weight for our coldest weather. But with all of the projects I need to do in short order, I'm concerned about the lack of sanity behind thoughts of starting another one of these. The second one would be a gift if I did do it. I wonder if I have another set of size 3 circular needles. . .

I managed to cast on for my brother's fingerless gloves Friday evening and over the weekend, got through about half of the thumb gusset increases.

I'm hoping to finish these soon so I can cast on for another hat. Since my goal is 2 hats, a pair of fingerless gloves and a scarf, I am doing quite well.

Progress on the scarf continues though not as fast as I'd like. I managed to thread the heddles of my loom over the weekend.

After threading the heddles, I decided the scarf was too wide as designed so I pulled out 2 pattern repeats, one from each end. That should leave 12 inches in the reed and about 10 inches for the width of the scarf. How wide should a scarf be anyway? I don't think I've ever owned a scarf before having lived all of my life in the southern portions of the country.

Today is rainy, the older kids are in bed with headaches, Michael has unrestrained access to his toy box in the bedroom he shares with Gregory and I think I'll grab a glass of kombucha, put on the next "Lord of the Rings" audio book disc and get back to my projects.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Knitting Race

The great September 2008 knitting race has begun. Not only am I trying to keep up with the clues posted to the Mystery Stole 4 group,

[Clue 1 completed.]

but I am trying to send as many woolen items to my brother in Germany as my knitting needles and schedule will allow. I finished the blue hat I started last Sunday.

I'm hoping to be able to cast on a pair of fingerless gloves for him before the end of the day. Of course I also have to take the kids to the library and start clue 2 on my Mystery Stole. I found another hat pattern I'd like to try as well. The blue hat is a size large and we are a big headed family. To be on the safe side, I'd like to do an extra large hat too. The pattern I found is by Charlene Schurch in her "Hats On" book and is for a stranded watch cap. I haven't done any stranded knitting in awhile and a hat will be fun. I figure I'll do it in black and gray since my brother says he likes clothes in these colors.

On the weaving front, I resolved to use my brother's need for warmth as an excuse after all. Really, I spent little time in conflict. I know that I should be moving things out of the house to make it more marketable, but I decided Jesus was bigger than a little clutter and the house will sell in His timing whether or not I leave the loom in the living room. So a couple of days ago, I wound the warp for a scarf.

Yesterday I got the warp onto the loom's back beam and ready to start threading through the heddles.

Unfortunately, there is no good light by my loom and I am thus limited to weaving during certain times in the day when there is enough natural light streaming through the windows. It can get tough weaving around the sun's schedule. Lighting is on the "to-do" list, but who knows when we will get around to the stuff not related to selling the house.

I'm using a free pattern and the planning sheet from the Heritage Yarns website to plan the scarf and that has made everything much less intimidating. And actually, I'm using warping instructions from there as well.

I want the scarf to be as warm as possible so though I am using cotton for the warp, I went through my stash of knitting yarns for the weft. I found some alpaca and silk yarn left over from knitting a baby sweater for Michael when I was pregnant 3 years ago.

The yarn is next to the skin soft and the alpaca should be plenty warm. Based on my planning worksheet, if I keep to no more than 16 picks per inch on my 18 epi warp, I should have enough yarn for weft for a 6 foot long scarf. Now if the scarf will turn out as planned, I will be happy. I'm very nervous about gifting a weaving project in light of my lack of weaving experience. I'm really praying my selvages will be straight enough for my brother to wear the scarf. I don't want to send him anything that looks dorky. Somehow I feel doing mediocre work will contribute to the stereo type of the relative that makes lousy homemade gifts and thrusts them into the hands of poor victimized relations.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Time to Pick Up the Pace

It has been said the time it takes to complete a project will expand to fit the time allotted for it. Around here it seems, projects just expand and multiply. All of a sudden I find myself busy. Really busy. Again.

I signed up for the Mystery Stole 4 KAL. Since I convinced a couple beginning knitters to sign up as well, I feel I need to work on the project myself. That is the only way I will know enough to help someone else if need be. I cast on and worked my foundation rows on Saturday and started knitting the stole Sunday evening.

I really like the pattern so far and hope it will remain intricate. We are going to be knitting 2 sides exactly the same and joining them together in the middle. I've been knitting 2 socks at the same time on 2 sets of circular needles for some time now and decided to do the same for the 2 stole ends (though I only need one set of circular needles). If I can keep my yarn from becoming hopelessly tangled, it will be nice to finish both sides at the same time.

Before starting the MS4, I finished up the heart socks I started last year and then ripped out and started again a few weeks ago.

I like the socks. The yarn however, remained a problem throughout the knitting. I found it broken every few yards throughout the skein and so both socks have multiple joins. I really hope the socks don't disintegrate in my drawer, or worse, on my feet one day. I've never seen yarn so bad before and really don't have a clue what could have happened.

In the meantime, my brother David started his 3rd semester in bible college. Last semester he studied in Israel. This semester he is in Germany. It turns out Germany is cold. Very cold. He will be riding a bicycle the mile to school and back every day this semester. Not only is David 20 years younger than me making him young indeed to my mind, but he is from southern Nevada where it doesn't get cold. At least not cold like Germany. Apparently, it is already getting cold in Germany. And it rains a great deal. Of course the combination of young and from the south has me convinced my brother cannot be properly prepared for the German weather.

Needless to say, I have started knitting the contents of a care package for David. My plan is to make as much as possible in the month of September and then send it off in October in time for the really cold weather.

I started working on a watch cap for David yesterday while we drove back and forth to Fairhope. I'd like to finish this one, a size large, and then make another in the next size up, just in case. If possible, I'd like to knit a pair of fingerless gloves too. Of course since I have been trying to justify starting up another weaving project despite our impending move, I figure I must weave a scarf for my brother too. And I found the perfect pattern since my brother is attending the Calvary Chapel Bible College. It is a modified twill pattern available for free at Heritage Yarns called "Calvary." I love it! I'm hoping to do my figuring in the next day or two and then wind my warp.

And speaking about weaving, while I have been plotting and planning all the new weaving projects I am going to do now that I've gotten started, look at what turned up in the mail a couple of days ago.

A couple of beautiful skeins of Serenity yarn hand painted in the Gulf Breeze Sunrise colorway! It is so beautiful! I've set the yarn on a table in the living room where I can gaze at it for inspiration. Honestly, I don't know how I'm going to manage all of the housekeeping required by the fact our house is up for sale with so much beauty before me.

I'm still spinning on occasion, though not as much as I had been. Right now I am working on the prettiest fiber.

I'm thinking this would make some great socks. I just LOVE these colors! This lovely fiber arrived mysteriously in the mail about a year ago from Denise, one of my Christian Artisan friends. I think she dyed this fiber herself. Very impressive.

I am not the only creative one in my family. Gregory has been back to his weaving and Gabrielle has learned to sew. With a little guidance from me, Gabrielle made her first skirt.

She really did a great job. Gabrielle had been hand sewing for awhile and doing a good job. So we started talking about a sewing machine. Gabrielle had some money saved and we put in the money we had set aside for her Christmas present and the Lord provided a GREAT deal on a used Bernina.

Within a couple of days Gabrielle mastered the use of her sewing machine. A little over a week ago we stumbled upon a 75% off sale on fabric at our local Wal-Mart (they will no longer be carrying fabric). Gabrielle stocked up on fabric. She bought enough to make at least 7 skirts and other things for only $15. What a blessing! I've promised to help walk her through her first few projects. It would be great if Gabrielle could eventually help make her own clothes.

This morning, I found a lovely surprise from Theresa.

I've not done one of these before and it was very difficult to narrow down my choice to 4 of all my favorites. But first, here are the rules:

1. Post this award on your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
3. Nominate at least 4 other bloggers, and add their links as well.
4. leave a comment at the new recipients' blogs, so they can pass it on.

I decided to choose blogs from among my favorites that are newer or outside of the mainline knitting and spinning circles. Here is my list in no particular order:

1. Ginny's Blog
2. Margaret's Blog
3. Loztnausten
4. Tabitha's Blog

I hope others will discover these blogs and enjoy them as I do.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

September at Last!

It is finally September and that means the hottest part of the summer is over! We'll still have hot weather for awhile, but not like we have in July and August. Whew! I love when September rolls around and the hope of cooler days and nights reappears. Of course, that means the real estate market cools off as well and it has been freezing already. Our house has been on the market for 2 months now and we have had 2 people look at it. I don't know when we will sell it. But Jesus does and that must be good enough.

In the meantime, our turkeys are growing up.

They'll be ready for the freezer in another month or so. I'm a bit sad. The turkeys are actually quite personable. They call us from across the yard and will follow me around whenever we let them out. But they are food and not pets and I'm just going to have to deal with it. God has been good to keep us from having to move before we could process our turkeys. It would have been difficult to add butchering to our schedule if we were in the middle of moving.

One of our chickens went broody recently.

We have 2 little chicks running around as a result. They are so cute, but the mother hen has been trying to keep the other hens away from the nests to protect her babies. As such, we've not found many eggs in the nests over the last week or so. Normally we move broody hens to the other coop, but with 9 very large turkeys in there, we decided against it this time.

I'm still not packing or doing moving type things. I don't know why. I guess I'm waiting until it seems more likely that the house will actually sell. So much for walking by faith and not by sight. I am knitting again however.

I finally finished my green and blue socks. They look pretty good on my feet. This is the first time I've tried an after-thought heal and I don't think it will ever become my favorite heal technique. I like the good ole short row heal.

I'm still thinking about weaving. Every time I see Michael with his "Bay" I think about my next project.

Michael drags it around the house so I see it often enough to begin to be obsessed. And God is so good. I'd been obsessing over the Gulf Breeze Sunrise colorway over at Heritage Yarns for awhile and today while looking at the weaving yarn in my stash I found that I already had some!

It has been sitting in my closet for probably a year! I'm not going to use it just yet because I'm trying to figure out why Michael's "Bay" ended up being only 40 inches long rather than the 56 or so inches it was supposed to be. I wove until I could no longer advance the warp and I wound an 8 1/2 foot warp, but I just can't figure out what went wrong.

Since I still have more than half of the warp yarn left from Michael's "Bay" and some of it is still on bobbins, I might try to use it up on another short throw before I use anything else. Of course that means I am committed to getting done with the next project immediately because the Lord could move us at any time. I asked Kurt again today to lower my warping board. I'm hoping he might look at it tonight. If he is not too tired.