Friday, September 02, 2011

A Bunch of Stuff to Look At

Well, my birthday has come and gone again. The day of was pretty frustrating and disappointing (in the way that long, hot, ordinary days are), but the day after was better. My husband gave me AWESOME maxi dress I've been eyeballing for months and made me a tasty lemon cake. Piper gave me the new Anthony Bourdain book (I think she may have had help picking it out).

I have been:

Knitting like a fiend, but have nothing to share at present. I actually still have some stuff that I finished in the spring which I haven't blogged yet. I'll get to it eventually...this summer hasn't left me much time for sitting in front of a computer. 

Rocking out to these playlists, which I learned about from this lovely lady.

Using my Groupon for Yarnhouse to buy 3 skeins of this merino yarn (in color 319, a lovely brown/yellow/orange/blue) and 4 skeins of this silk-bamboo yarn (in a silvery grey). I refuse to consider using these for any projects not destined for myself. A lot of the yarn I initially pick up for myself I wind up making into stuff for others, but this time I went into the yarn shop with two things on my mind: a 70's-colored hat and a silky, lovely cowl.

Speaking of the 70's, I am so excited to see all the 70's-inspired designs slated for stores this fall. There's a little story to this: about six months ago, I had a forehead-smacking revelation. You see, for a long time, I thought that, given the right conditions, I would rock a 20's/30's vintage look, drop-waisted dresses and cloche hats and doll-baby makeup. But after I got this book (which I think every woman should own), I noticed myself gravitating to the pages profiling the "California Casual" style. In the book's own words,

"This is a look that is grounded in a time and place that may never have existed outside of our collective imagination: the tawny, golden-edged Malibu of the '70's - possibly embodied by Farrah Fawcett in a white halter dress at sunset, glass of wine in hand."

It's Goldie Hawn, Farrah Fawcett, surfer girls and breezy maxi dresses. Broken-in leather caryall bags, wide-legged jeans, skirts with a handkerchief hem. Gladiator sandals, plain cotton tees, stacked heels. 

When I finally stood in my closet with the book in my hands, open to those pages, I thought holy cow, I already own half of this stuff. And what's more, those items were my favorites. And somehow, in the middle of winter, when I was watching Love Story and thinking about Ali MacGraw's fab style, I realized that I am a 70's girl. I may admire a nice vintage frock, I may love the way my little sister can totally rock a 50's circle skirt with petticoat underneath and perfectly-drawn eyebrows, but for me, this will always be the look I aspire to:

I also realized that my love for this style is why I spent months tracking down one of Nancy Botwin's (the character from Weeds) handbags (yes, the Lucky hobo) and why I love everything Karen on Californication wears. This is why I grew my hair out and had it cut in layers and embrace its natural body and tendency to puff up like blowfish when humidity strikes. Why I love regular, lace-up roller skates and why I watch Swingtown (yet another show I loved that was canceled) over and over. And it's nice to know that and to fully embrace it. All the looks I've tried to copy in my life, all the things I've tried to wear that just didn't suit me (giant wide-legged skater/raver jeans whaaaat?), and it turns out that a little part of me knew the truth all along. Every friend I show this book to and point at the "Californa Casual" section and tell them "this is what I'm doing" instantly says "Oh, yeah. That's you all right. That's perfect."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Mouse Family"

She keeps wanting to draw a "mouse family" and then hang it on the fridge, just like in one of those "If You Give A Mouse..." books that I thought were so cute when I was a kid but now, a large number of titles later, do not find quite so charming. Of course, I hadn't realized that these books exactly describe life with a little kid until I read them to my child, so there you go.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Swirly Summer Beret

So, this thing.

I wanted a new summer slouchy beret in cotton, something cute and multi-colored to wear around without roasting in the heat. I found this yarn on clearance and thought I'd struck gold. I am not overly fond of using variegated yarns in lacy patternwork so I went for the simple One-Day Beret, which I had previously used on this hat.

I don't know why this didn't turn out like I wanted. The wool one I made was too big, so I went a bit smaller and it's not too small, but not the fit I had in mind. I used Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off, and I think it just doesn't work for cotton. Despite using a needle two sizes smaller than I used for the rest of the hat, it's just sort of stretched-out and lumpy and weird.

Piper likes it, though. She keeps asking "Is that my hat...or your hat? Can I wear it?" So maybe I'll just give it to her and make myself something else.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Party Favors

With her early-summer birthday, I usually try to do something summer related as a party favor. Last year we only had 3 kids over, so each kid got a sand pail with chalk, a small shovel, and a bottle of water in it. This year we had a dozen invitees, so I bought a couple 6-packs of scented bubbles (they're supposed to smell like different things, but they all smell like sno-cones to me) and some fancy tissue paper. I traced & cut star shapes out of cardstock and wrote on them with a silver Sharpie. Simple, easy, cool.

The kids really liked them, but I handed them out at the party as were waiting for the food (it was a at a big bounce-house place, so we were having the pizza they supplied with our "party package"). The only thing worse than one kid whining "When are we going to EAT?! Where is the PIZZA? I am TOTALLY STARVING TO DEATH RIGHT NOW!" is ten kids, all at top volume, in order to be heard over the noise of the indoor play-place. I grabbed the basket and started thrusting small packages into sticky hands as fast as I could while I whispered to my husband for the love of God, go find our party hostess and figure out where the hell the food is before they start gnawing on our limbs.

Before the pizza and accompanying "party hostess" made their way back to our bright-blue party room, I realized two things, two terrible and tragic mistakes I had made:

1. If you're making party favors to give to little kids, make sure they can untie the ribbon themselves, otherwise you will have a room full of preschoolers squealing in frustration because they cannot get your super-tight double-knots off the thing they want so much to open; and
2. It is not a good idea to give 10 kids sticky colored liquid unless they are outside and possibly surrounded by fire hoses.

I apologized to the parents, who all gave me a wave and a "Please. This is nothing. Two drops of water-soluble pale-blue bubble solution on that shirt will be totally eclipsed by something much worse any second now." But the kids loved the bubbles, and they all ran around blowing bubbles, smelling each other's bubbles, trading colors, and generally having a very good time with the stuff. Most importantly they stopped whining until the food arrived.

The only major problem was some tears from the birthday girl, because she can read her own name now, so she thought all these were hers. "But those are my presents! My name is on them!"

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Class Picnic

Yeah, this happened two months ago, but the photos were on a 2MB memory card and do you know how long it takes to fill one of those things up? A long time. And it takes even longer for me to get around to uploading the photos.

Her school has an end-of-year picnic for each class, and students' families are invited to pack a lunch and come eat with the kids on the next-to-last day of class.

Sushi for a picnic? This is how we roll. Get it? Ha!

I had packed her the usual in her lunch box that day (cream cheese & jam sandwich, carrots, water, grapes) but as a surprise I stopped at the grocery store on my way to the picnic and got some sushi, a crisp apple (out of season I KNOW!) and some strawberry-flavored sparkling water. She was pretty thrilled, and I was secretly gloating because all the other parents were so amazed that an almost-four-year-old ate sushi with such enthusiasm.

She was pretty pleased, too.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Blue Leaves Hat

This thing was so easy. She picked the yarn and asked for a hat, and I figured since she would probably wear it twice and then toss it somewhere, it couldn't hurt if it was something I could wear too, right?  I originally made 95% of one using this pattern. It did not go well. Too big, too floppy, just not right at all. So I pulled it out and started over. She was quite upset. She had been hovering and bugging me about when it would be done ("Is that my hat or your hat? It's my hat? Is it done yet?") and when she saw me frogging it she wailed "Mommy! Why are you pulling out my hat?! It's MY hat and I want to wear it right now!"

I gently explained that keeping the hat in its present form would make her look like some sort of smurfy pastry chef, or like a blue glob of goo was digesting her head.  She was undeterred and continued to whine. I gave up and started knitting the new one with the unused end of my 2nd skein, and let her wear what was left of the first hat until I needed the yarn. She eventually grew tired (and probably hot), and I found it under the dining table.

I picked a totally different pattern the second time around, with a little more attention to yarn weight and texture. This worked very well. It was my first time working off a chart, and I think I didn't screw it up too much. The hat looks okay, at any rate, and she is quite pleased with it. I made the "adult" size, and even though she's 4 and has a smallish head it fits her okay with the brim flipped up. It's a little big, but that means we should get some years out of it and unlike the first version, is not so huge it's falling over her eyes all the time. I can wear it too, which is  nice.

This yarn (Cascade Cotton Rich) is quite nice to work with - all the cool comfort of cotton with a little spring in its step. I really loved this pattern - so simple once I got going, and gets lovely results. I think it would be a great pattern for a yarn splurge, like some luxe wool-silk blend for winter. I love finding patterns like this, that look great and don't take up a lot of yarn, because I can spring for 1 or 2 skeins of something awesome and feel like I'm living the high life without spending $160 to make a sweater.

Pattern:  Lace-leaf hat by Sophy T. O'Donnell
Yarn: Cascade Cotton Rich
My Ravelry details are here.

P.S. The other hat in the above picture will be blogged soon. I have mixed feelings about it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

"I made a smiley guy, mom!"

"I made a baby smiley guy too! He's mean but the baby guy is happy."

My husband has recently expressed a desire for a new tattoo (he has two) and is also encouraging me to get another one. Piper has been drawing these lopsided "guys" all over everything lately and I love them so much I am seriously considering using them for a tattoo design. Is that weird? 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Shrinky Dinks!

She got these for her birthday, and during one recent (looong, boring, HOT) day we busted them out. I didn't even know they still made them, did you? And what better way to cool down on a hot summer day than baking some plastic?

Piper thought the first part - the coloring - was pretty cool, but she got really concerned when I put them in the toaster oven. "Mommy! What are you DOING to the mermaids?!" I think the process sort of disturbed her. At least the first batch, anyway. The second batch, she was fascinated by the curling and shrinking and seemed quite sorry when we did the last one. After they cooled and she discovered she now had multiple small creatures she could stuff into an old cocoa tin and carry around (and shake and make a LOT of noise), she was pretty happy.

They came with little cardboard stands, so we set them up and had a little play, which probably should've been titled "Medusa and Zombie Mermaids Beat the Shit Out of Some Small Sea Creatures."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cue Darth-Vader-Style "NOOOO!"

Complete with shaking my raised fist at the ceiling, right there in the freezer section of the grocery store.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Simo Dress

So here's a project I actually did complete:

Bribe her with a sucker? Why, yes I did.

Pattern: Simo by Cirilia Rose
Yarn: Berroco Weekend (75% Acrylic, 25% Cotton; 205 yds, 100g)
Needles: Uhh...8 maybe? I finished this thing like two months ago, I'm a bit fuzzy...
My Ravelry page for it is here. 

This thing is so stinkin' CUTE. And it was pretty easy. I think it only took me 6 or 8 weeks, carrying it around and working on it here and there - at a birthday party, as she ran amok in the children's museum, or while yelling "DO NOT STAND ON TOP OF THE MONKEY BARS OH MY GOD PLEASE GET DOWN BEFORE I HAVE A HEART ATTACK" at the park.

It's not written to be worked in the round, weirdly enough, but I did it that way anyhow, because given the choice between all that purling and turning and then some awkward join-up of yoke and sleeves and THEN two huge seams to sew vs. barreling right through in the round, only one piece to keep track of, a much-less-awkward join up of yoke and sleeves, and only a couple ends to weave in...duh. Of course I took the easy way out. It did, however, take me four freaking days to figure out how to sew up the sleeves. The very last little bit of finishing, and I was so stuck. In the end it was pretty obvious (sew the tube to the armpit), and I smacked myself upside the head for not figuring it out sooner.

There is a scarf included in the pattern, which I made in a violently bright pink color specifically requested by Piper. She wanted the whole dress made in that Barbie-vomit shade, but I persuaded her that a pink scarf would be cooler. Unfortunately, it never seems to be near the dress when I have my camera. Hmm, now that I think about it, I haven't seen it in a couple of weeks, not since she was using it to tie up one of the cats.

This was a nice yarn to work with. It's cotton-acrylic, in that mutlti-strand way, so I had a problem here and there with snaggy loops when the yarn bunched up, but it wasn't too bad. I normally avoid acrylic, but I thought 100% cotton might be too heavy or stretchy, so I gave this a go. I finished this a couple days after Easter, and she's worn it a few times. It got quite a bit of use on our recent visit to Michigan, when I discovered I had packed for 90-degree weather but they had 65-degree weather.

It's really too hot to wear it these days, but that doesn't stop her. She LOVES it, which makes me unspeakably happy.

Friday, June 24, 2011

2 Projects Per Month: 2011 Halfway Tally

As an alternative to my usual lame New Year's resolutions, I vowed that this year, I would power through my backlog of knitting projects by completing two items per month. I had almost no rules - the projects could be totally new or polishing off a work-in-progress, there was no particular order other than that dictated by holidays, birthdays, or swap requirements. Now that we're halfway through the year, I decided to take stock.

The news is....not good. I am not even close to meeting my goal. Take a look:

January: Grandma's Hat, Yet Another Milo
April: Bunny Nuggets
May: Simo Dress & Scarf, Pink Poncho
June: Do the four things I've started and frogged count?

So, if I totally power-knit for the rest of the year and finish three projects per month...hmm, that idea is so ludicrous I'm just going to stop right there. Most of the projects I have managed to finish this year remain unblogged, because it's gotten difficult to find time to take the photos, upload them, then sit down to write about the finished object.

Part of the problem is that I have been pulling apart as much as I've knit lately, sending myself back to zero on a weekly basis. And despite the magic of Ravelry, I still feel like my to-knit list is super disorganized. I'm having trouble putting a pattern into my queue more than once, so even though I'm making multiple items with the same pattern I can't put all the projects into once computerized list. I think I am also falling into the trap of "too many things on the needles at the same time," splitting my focus and forgetting where I'm at with each project.

In other news, we've had exactly two showings of our house. The only feedback we got, from one showing, was that "the house showed well, but buyer decided she wanted a two-story home." Our realtor had an open house and not a single buyer came. It's sort of depressing.

Even though the neighborhood (and not-from-this-neighbhorhood) kids are out in full force now that school's done, thus making me a nervous wreck and thoroughly miserable most of the time that I'm home, for the moment it's okay if the house doesn't sell. My husband got a new job and will be doing training for the next few months, after which he'll be assigned to a permanent post. The likely locations for that post are on completely opposite ends of the city, and not near Piper's school, so we won't know the best location for us to move to until the fall anyway. Even that could change during the late winter/early spring, when we'll know where she will be going to kindergarten. We are not sending her to the neighborhood school here, and most of the other public schools in this district are not so great either. We will be making the rounds of lottery drawings for charter schools, or possibly finding a way to send her to a low-cost private school on the north end of town. Since the north end is where she goes to school now, and that's where all the parents with school-age kids I know are, I know almost nothing about the schools on the south end of town. If we have to move to that area I'll really be in a pickle.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Grandma's Hat

Back in January, when I heard my grandma was not doing well with her chemo, I decided to make her a hat. Something soft and fuzzy and WARM.

I was still working on the Torture Tomten (which remains unfinished and is so horribly screwed up that I think it will have to be frogged) so I had all this fuzzy pink acrylic stuff sitting around.

I used the Felicity pattern (also seen here), some slightly bigger needles to accomodate the bulky yarn, and after a few days I had a fuzzy pink hat.

Hello, welcome to my dimly-lit bathroom. 

Fuzzy and pink is not normally my thing, but it turned out pretty cute.

I sent it to her with a nice little letter and some of Piper's artwork from school.

My grandma passed away about five weeks after I sent this, but as far as I know she did get it. I hope it brought her at least a little comfort.

Friday, June 03, 2011


Yesterday was her birthday, my baby girl is now a whopping FOUR years old.

Unlike last year, where almost everything was handmade (including that quilt sewed entirely the night before her birthday), I did not make any gifts this year. I also did not make her cake or cupcakes, because she told me she didn't want me to.

(sniff, sniff - cue one mama's heart cracking just a bit)

She told me, "No, I don't want you to make the cake. I don't want cupcakes." She wanted "a pink and blue Hello Kitty cake from the bakery at the store," a sugar-laden mountain of frosting she had seen at our local mega-mart. So, rather than bust my ass making the totally-from-scratch, blueberry-filled, topped-with-homemade-blueberry-whipped-cream cupcakes I'd planned, I ordered the cake.

It was pretty good, actually.

We also did not do the party at our house this year, because it was just too HOT. She has many more friends this year, 11 classmates plus a few others, and even if each kid only brings one parent, that's still 20 extra people to cram into my house. Last year it was about 100 degrees the day of her party and this year promised much the same thing, so we just invited some school friends to the Monkey Joe's closest to where they all live. It was totally easy, all I had to do was show up with the cake, and absolutely worth the money. The kids got to run around in air conditioning and have a blast, she got to have her best birthday yet, and I did not have to cram 20-30 people into my house. Which turned out to be a good thing, since we have gotten a couple calls to show the place, including one yesterday which only gave us 20 minutes' notice. I am so happy people are finally looking at the house that I can't say no, but I also cannot imagine trying to evacuate over a dozen party guests and clean the place with 20 minutes' notice. Yesterday we were gone when they called, out having family birthday fun, so we'd left the place not exactly pristine, and my husband worried that nobody was ever going to show the house again because the beds weren't made and there was wrapping paper on the floor, but I assured him that a crock-pot soaking in the sink and a few scattered birthday cards were hardly the worst things a real estate agent could've seen.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

First Day of School/Last Day of School

One of my friends saw this and said "She went from having baby arms & legs to having big-kid arms & legs!" It's true. She's all limbs now.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fingers to the Bone, I Tell You

Where have I been?

Oh, my friends. I have been knitting. And knitting. And KNITTING. Trying so hard to catch up with my "2011 = 2 Finished Projects Per Month" goal I set for myself.

I finished the dress that was supposed to be done in time for Easter (eight or so days late, which for me is like finishing it on time) AND the matching scarf. I screwed up the scarf bind-off so one side curves oddly and I tell myself 'that's just to keep it from sliding off her neck' but the more I think about it the more it bugs me, plus I know there's a couple mistakes in the lace pattern and it's only a 20-row scarf so I will probably just rip it out and make a new one. So if I finished two parts of what is technically the same project but one will have to be re-done, does that mean it's a draw?

I'd show you pictures, but they are still on the memory card which is in my camera in the cupboard, and the only reason I'm getting to type this right now is that my husband has a rare afternoon at home and is currently entertaining our almost-four-year-old (less than two weeks until her birthday!) in the other room and I got out MY NEW NETBOOK which was a Mother's Day gift from aforementioned husband and I am now frantically trying to bang out this blog entry before they get tired of playing hide & seek and realize that it's past lunchtime and I have nothing to feed them.


Back to the knitting: I am working as fast as I can on a bright pink version of this poncho, which my daughter has asked me to make for her school friend. She's been begging me to do it for at least six months, and when do I get around to it? Oh, a couple of weeks before school ends. I knit 13.5 inches of that feather & fan pattern in just two days, and then my arms hurt so bad I had to take a two-day break. Using my sucky super-long metal needles, which were all I could find when I started the thing, is really slowing me down. I am now only halfway done with the knitting, and I have to finish the thing this weekend because this upcoming week is the last week of school.

Assuming I finish it in time, I'll have to remember to take pictures of it before I give it away.

I also am working on: a sweater for P that needs sleeves and its approximately one billion dangling yarn ends woven in; more tiny bunnies like the ones I made P and her friend for Easter; a hat for my brother; a hat for my sister; six things for crafting debts; a shawl for my mom; a hat for me, a hat for P; and a hat for somebody else that's turning out so cute I want to keep it for myself.

I don't have any pictures of those projects, either. I'm just a tease today. A big knitting tease.

Monday, May 02, 2011


So, it's May.

Summer is sneaking up on me again. And, as of today, my beautiful little girl has only one month left to be three years old! I have not planned a party. I have not planned a gift. I have neither designed nor started work on this year's birthday shirt. We haven't decided what we're going to do this year - usually on the day of, we take her out for breakfast (pancakes) and a day of fun. She's much better in the car now, so we have been thinking about daytripping out to one of the NC aquariums.

Piper and I spent most of her spring break with friends in Nashville. It's about a 7-hour drive, and she did very well. On the way there, she was a bit squirrely for the last hour, but here's the thing: she didn't sleep during the drive. At all. So I am perfectly willing to give her a hour of boredom and seat-kicking. We went to visit some friends who moved in the fall, friends who have a little boy about a year younger than Piper. The two kids were buddies before the move, and picked up right where they left off. There were a few squabbles over toys and cranky hours after missed naps, but on the whole they did very well together.

For my part, I tried to be as good a houseguest as possible. My friend has only made a few new friends since moving, and I know only too well how lonely it can be when you're alone with a kid all day in a strange place. So we talked. And talked. And talked. We played with the kids, she took me out to see the hipster district of Nashville (where we went shopping for vintage books and vintage clothes, eee!), we ate some kick-ass food from Cafe Rakka, and we talked some more. It was so nice to have company all day long, and her son is such a sweet little guy that I didn't have to worry about him whacking Piper over the head with things, or playing games involving guns and killing. Piper's sharing skills were not always up to par, and that is something we need to work on, but I think both kids had fun. She is already asking when we're going to visit again.

She's out of school in a few weeks, and after her birthday we will probably go visit relatives in Michigan for a while. We have to be back before the end of June because I've signed her up for some dance lessons this summer, which I am pretty excited about.

I am also excited about my almost-finished knitting projects. I am thisclose to finishing the dress I'd planned for Easter - only a week late, that's basically "on time" for me - and most of the way done on her sweater as well. The sweater was supposed to be a surprise, but she came out into the living room one night long after she was supposed to be asleep, saw me knitting away on it and asked "Mom! Is that for ME?" So much for the surprise. But she loves it anyway, and keeps asking if it's done yet. Soon, kiddo...I hope.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chaos Can Be Redeeming

This is what our living room looked like a couple weeks ago. There was much sorting and boxing and throwing away. The carpets were cleaned and closets organized. I worked my ass off on that front yard.

Now it is done, the sign is in the yard, papers are signed, and I am checking my email every hour for news from our real estate agent. It's been over a week and we've only had one person call, no showings yet. I am trying to keep a positive attitude while I pick up every stray sock or toy and mop the kitchen floor ten times a day.

Now that it's done and clean, I just have to maintain it all, which is not bad (so far, anyhow). Come evening, after the kid is in bed, I find myself fully justified in plopping down on the couch with a homemade latte and a pile of knitting. I did not get the sweater or the dress I had planned as Easter gifts completed, but I did manage to make a couple Bunny Nuggets (one for P and one for her friend). I have so many projects that are almost done. I am forcing myself to complete all the tedious finishing work - picking up stitches for button bands, sewing seams, blocking and straightening.

Did I tell you I set myself a knitting goal for 2011? I told myself I was going to finish two projects per month. So far January is the only month where I actually managed to do that (another Milo for a little friend and a hat for my grandma). Hopefully I can complete all my works-in-progress and make May a real show-stopper.

Friday, April 08, 2011

While people in my home state wait anxiously for spring, we are in near-summer here. It's 80 AGAIN today, and I am irritated. Partly because warm weather brings out the hordes of asshole teenagers in my neighborhood, but also because I want my seasons. I don't like to skip. I don't want to go straight from 35 to 85, which is exactly what happens down here, and every year I forget and every year I get annoyed.

I would happily swap my northern comrades; I could use a few more days of cold and moisture. My yard needs it, my handknits crave it, and more than that, my soul needs it.

There is an ease and a joy to warm days after cold ones; a feeling of renewal and promise that is lacking in warmer climates. After so many dark days, the tiniest sunbeam brings a smile. 55 degrees is now shorts-and-no-coat weather, even though in September 55 degrees made you break out the parka. The air is fresher, washed clean with chilly rains. When summer comes, it means fireflies, lounging on porches, lemonade, slowing down to savor every warm moment. Sitting in the warm dark holding hands and enjoying the feel of your skin against the air. Flowers bloom and you have time to appreciate them before they're gone.   The warm days are so fleeting, so welcome, that you want to suck every drop of fun out of them before winter returns.

Here - and to a lesser extent, also in California - I feel like summer is something to dread. It's not a time for open windows and running through sprinklers, it's a time when you race from one air-conditioned environment to another, because between ozone alerts and sky-high temperatures playing outside means health risks. Southern summer means you damn well better get up and be at the park by 9:00 am, or you're going to pass out on the monkey bars by noon. It means you swim in the morning and spend the afternoon laying on the living-room floor with a popsicle because it's too hot and still to play. Summer here lasts so long, and it's so hot and fierce, that you wonder why the first settlers to this area ever dragged themselves out here in the first place. The baked clay earth hardens and the grass dies. Everything wilts and melts. It's not a lot of fun, honestly.

I miss that transition, each day a little warmer and brighter than the last. I miss smiling as I watch the weather report and see the numbers creep just a little higher each week. I miss rush of gratitude for the return of warm days and checking each patch of grass for tiny flowers. I miss looking forward to summers, to planning treats and trips and I miss lounging on porches with my lemonade.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Busting Some Butt

We are frantically working around here, trying to get this place show-ready...oh, yesterday. The deadline I personally set for myself was April 1st, and we are long past that. Another few days of de-cluttering and picking up, I think, and then we need to have the carpets cleaned. I just cannot BELIEVE how hard it is to transform our house from the slightly-cluttered-but-livable space it is into the picture-perfect model home I have in my head. I want it to be perfect, not "good enough," and I am making myself completely nuts.

Fortunately, we have a Realtor that we trust completely, so I know that once I am done mentally and physically exhausting myself working on the place, all I have to do is keep it clean and water the grass, because he will take care of the rest. If there are buyers out there, he will find them. If we need to change something, he will tell us. If we're being unrealistic on price, he will gently talk us down. So I have that to look forward to.

It wasn't that we had a lot of hard things on our list, just lots of little, piddly, time-consuming stuff. We have no garage, no shed, and very little attic space, so anything we needed to store (bicycles, yard tools, baby stuff, off-season clothing, etc) was stacked up either in our bedroom or the office. This meant I had a towering canyon of boxes, bags, and hampers to go through. I'm probably keeping more than I should, but I just don't have the mental energy to give myself a tough-love talk for each and every box I go through. A friend who lives nearby has an extra room and he is letting us store things there, so I can at least have a little elbow room to attack the rest.

We had the house power-washed and the yard aerated & overseeded; we replaced the mailbox and painted the post. We're patching up the interior paint, taking care of spots that were left by the people before us and which we have been looking at and going "Oh, yeah, probably should fix that" for three years. I dug out last year's failed attempt at landscaping and planted nice colorful flowers instead. I still have a little work to do out there, but right now I am so busy inside I can't figure out what else to do outside.

The nice thing about all this is that I can finally justify all those home-decorating purchases I would never allow myself to indulge in normally. Plenty of bookshelves, decorative baskets, a nice laundry hamper, all the stuff I normally tell myself I can do without. And since I am going through and doing everything thoroughly and completely, it should make unpacking & setting up in our new place a snap. I've already worked out the kinks here, so when we move I'll have my perfectly-organized work space or craft storage system or quiet sanctuary of a bedroom all figured out. All I have to do is take it out of the boxes.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

5 April 2011: Self-Made Brunch

 Today I dropped the kid off at school, then realized I'd left my phone at home. I went back to get it and puttered around the house pretending to clean for a couple hours. When I got hungry, I decided to do more than just microwave some leftovers and made myself a solo brunch: extra-large hazelnut latte and a strawberry waffle. Tiny treats make a day brighter, right?

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Easiest Vegetable Soup Ever.

11 March 2011: I made a pot of this for the kid, and she ate three bowls a day until it was gone.


Chop up whatever vegetables you have on hand - I used 1 carrot, 1 stalk of celery, and a handful of frozen green beans - and toss into a pot with 1 cup (more or less depending on how much your kids love carbs) veggie pasta. Cover with water (vegetable stock is much more tasty, if you have it), sprinkle in a little thyme and some garlic powder. Cook it all together until the pasta is done and veggies are tender but not mushy. That's it.

This only takes about 15 minutes to make, and it's become my go-to lunch for her. My favorite local health-food store sells bulk colored bowtie pasta, and it's colored with natural stuff like beet juice. It's WAY cheap, quite tasty, and she loves it. It's also become a good way to use up vegetables that are a little past their prime but not quite ready for the stock-pot.

Friday, April 01, 2011

One More Rule

I remembered one more of my "rules for packing":

5. Pack it Tightly
I don't mean make the boxes heavy, or crush things. I do mean use every single bit of space. The less room things have to shift, the less likely something's going to get broken or damaged. No space at the top of the box means when they're stacked they won't cave in and crush the contents. So when you pack your books and there's little nooks and crannies left, stuff socks and underwear in there. Put a towel or clothes on top of everything before you tape it shut. Slip paperbacks into small spaces in other boxes; top off large boxes with lightweight stuff like pillows and stuffed animals; add kitchen linens around the inside of boxes of plates and cups. Any time you can cram something into a box, do it. You'll cut down on the amount of boxes you have to move, and your stuff will be much more secure. It will also add some amusement to your unpacking process, like when you really need a cup of coffee the first morning in your new place and you have to pull four pairs of lacy Victoria's Secret underwear out of a box to get to your favorite mug.

*Boxes: A friend tipped me off to a good source for moving boxes - egg boxes. She said:

"Go to the grocery stores and ask what day the eggs come in and if you can get boxes. Go every time they get a shipment and grab as many as you can. Free and very sturdy. They even have handles and they are a good size. Note: this tip does not apply to produce boxes."

Thursday, March 31, 2011

24 March 2011

We stayed late at the park because I didn't want to go home, and wound up assembling an impromptu dinner from the snacks in the car.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

23 March 2011

83 degrees, dry as a bone and ultra-windy. I spent part of my childhood in Southern California; this weather spooks me worse than tornado sirens.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rules for Packing

My friend Rae is moving, and we are de-cluttering and pre-packing as much as possible, and all of it reminds me of how many times I have moved. It's a big number. I have grown pretty good at packing, and developed the following set of rules:

1. Don't use paper. 
        Don't wrap things in newspaper. Don't buy packing paper. Don't use styrofoam peanuts, or bubble wrap, or any of that extra stuff. Use your clothes. Use your sheets. Wrap tiny breakables in socks and roll them into a comforter and put that in a box. Put washcloths and dish towels between your plates, wrap glasses in table linens. You get the idea. Anything you would use paper for, use something you already have. Not only does this save you a lot of money in packing materials, it will reduce the amount of boxes you have to lug by at least one-third.

2. Get boxes that are all the same size.*
       Copy-paper boxes are perfect, if you have a ready supply. They're solid and sturdy, big enough for most things but small enough that you have to work reeeeaallly hard to make 'em too heavy to carry. For our move from Michigan to California, I spent the year before our move swiping boxes from work and storing them in our attic. When it was time to pack, I brought them all downstairs, filled them, and re-stacked them in the attic for a couple weeks until the truck arrived. If you can't get copy-paper boxes, use file boxes from an office-supply store. This size works well. Of course, some things will have to go in bigger boxes, and that's fine, but having everything in same-size boxes will make loading the truck really easy. Heavy ones on the bottom, lighter & breakable stuff on the top, load around the furniture. Taa-daa.

3. Start early. Like, super early.
        Start packing as soon as you know when you need to be out. Keep out your 10 favorite cd's (or none, since, like many others, you probably download a lot of music these days) and pack the rest. Pack your books (pretty soon you probably won't have the time or brain power to do a lot of heavy reading anyway) . Pack your off-season clothes. Go through the Christmas decorations and re-pack them so nothing gets broken. The serving platters you only use on holidays, the breadmaker, the waffle iron. Pack up 2/3 of your kids' toys. Do a few boxes every night and stack them somewhere you won't trip over them. When crunch time rolls around, you should only have a few things left to pack. If you have to go a few days earlier than planned, pre-packing means that when your truck shows up, you actually have stuff to start with, instead of all your "helpers" standing around snatching away every box as soon as you tape it shut. 

4. Weed, weed, weed. 
        Starting early means you will also have ample time to go through your stuff and ask yourself "Do I honestly want to pack this and lug it into the truck and take it out and put it in the new place and unpack it and find somewhere to put it?" Even if you're lucky enough to be able to hire someone to do your packing or lugging, you still have to unpack it and find room for it and shuffle it around a few times before it gets to its eventual resting place in your new abode. When in doubt, throw it out.

That's it, I think...happy moving!

*Of course, if you don't want to buy boxes, try my favorite source for super-sturdy, mostly-the-same-size boxes: the dumpsters behind bookstores. There will be a specific one for cardboard. Word to the wise: it's always better to do this on a dry day, during daylight hours, preferably with the store's permission.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Home is Where the Hurt Is.

Sunday I spent about  nine hours in the yard, tearing out the front flower bed we put in last year, moving all the rock somewhere else, straightening the stone border, putting in new dirt and planting flowers. I removed the ghosts of last year's hostas and dug down into the clay soil to put in some flowers that Piper had picked out. Things much more sun-loving than my pretty but doomed hostas - violas, pansies, some pink thing that starts with a d

I used all the huge chunks of clay soil I dug out to make room for the flowers to fill in some low spots in the front yard, which involved lots of hacking at damp chunks of brick-red (and brick-like) clay with a broken shovel in order to break them up. I put some garden soil over the fills, and grass-patch stuff over that. Between the orangey-red clay and the bright-green grass patch, my yard looks like a faded vintage Christmas card. 

Now I am watering the ever-loving crap out of everything, hoping that the 80-degree-plus weather and super-dry winds we've been having don't kill everything before it gets started. In order not to bust our budget (plus, we live in drought country), I've become the Water Marshall of the house, collecting every spare drop and dumping it on the yard. I put buckets in all the bathrooms to catch the water that we inevitably run before it gets hot enough to shower in; I dip out dishwater that's not too grimy and truck it out to the yard. It's pretty labor-intensive, but I desperately want a nice yard this year. If we were staying in this house, I'd love to install some fancy Dwell-approved graywater system, but something like that would cost more than our entire house is currently worth.

I am also nursing full-body muscle aches from my afternoon of toil. Ye Gods, I ache. And it's worse today than yesterday. My legs, my back, my arms - everything I could possibly pull or strain or max out, I did. I could go soak in a nice, hot bath, but I'd probably guilt myself into dumping the water on the yard after.

Friday, March 18, 2011

It's 83 degrees here right now.

Instead of making me happy, this makes me CRANKY.

Sure, there are the ongoing issues with neighborhood kids, roaming bands of irritating teenagers hanging out smoking and swearing on my lawn until well past dark and the (several) houses worth of adults who let their kids run the streets screaming and riding bikes until midnight. But it's more than that.

Warm weather also means I can no longer ignore the yard and the fact that despite several years of sweaty, frustrating manual labor on our parts, it remains an expanse of brown dotted only by the green of weeds. It means that any time we get a drop of rain, those weeds will grow six inches overnight and someone will need to go out there and hack at them with our (broken) weed-whacker immediately, because our city is closing schools yet still manages to pay people to drive around monitoring the height of everyone's grass. It means it's time to start washing windows and all the other stuff I put off during the winter. It means it's time for summer clothes again, and none of mine fit thanks to a winter full of tacos, strudel, and guacamole.

Eighty degrees in mid-March also means we're in for another brutally hot summer, with another 98 days in a row of 100-degree-plus temps and daily ozone alerts so you're not even supposed to let your kids play outside. I spent most of last summer trapped in a sweltering house (I'm far too cheap to run the a/c all day long) with a kid bouncing off the walls and not much I could do about it. We have the museum membership now, so we can do that a couple of times each week, but really the prospect of all those months of endless sticky heat just makes me want to crawl into a still-frozen northern cave and sleep until October.

Summer. Bah humbug.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Snapshots: Mid-March 2011

Working on:

Decluttering the house: Every single thing that we tossed aside thinking "oh, we'll deal with this later" or "I'll just shove it in here for now" has come due. Three years, four bedrooms, and 1500 square feet worth. Some days it seems easier to leave the house unlocked and hope somebody wanders away with it all.

Antointte and a few other friends have asked if we could rent the place for a year or two. I suppose we could (we could probably even make a tiny little amount of money doing it), but we don't want to. Things that are happening in and around the neighborhood right now make me think that it would be financially better for us to sell and get out ASAP. I'd be pretty wary of what sort of renters we would attract in this area and I just don't want to deal with being a landlord. I think we are also getting itchy feet again and might want to make another big move in the next few years, and who knows how long it will take to sell this house. It's kind of shame this didn't work out, because it's a cute house (I love the layout) with a nice big yard. It just turned out, for us, to be the wrong house in the wrong neighborhood in the wrong city. This was our first adventure with home ownership and honestly I'm not sure if we'll do it again. We've been looking at some nice apartments and I'm sort of psyched to think about not taking care of a lawn and having access to a pool for all those brutally hot summer days.

Knitting: Warm weather means the neighbors are loud and the teenagers are out until well past dark, so when my husband is working late (at least 4 nights a week), I put the kid to bed, tidy up the house, and force myself to relax by watching TV and barreling ahead with knitting projects. I try to justify the hours spent sitting on my ass by telling myself  "I'm using up yarn, this is part of the de-cluttering!" but it's not completely true. Really, the living room is where I'm least likely to be bothered by the noise outside. But this strategy is allowing me to make progress on a Simo and a Little Bubbles for the kid and prep for Easter with some bunny nuggets. I am also trying desperately to finish the projects I owe for a long-overdue swap. Sherrie probably thinks I have forgotten all about her (I haven't!) because I've owed her something for almost 18 months. The good news is, the knitting project I planned for her second baby will now fit her upcoming third.

Watching: Satsfaction and The Riches. Getting annoyed all over again that The Riches was canceled so abruptly. Really, REALLY annoyed that my favorite new show is probably getting the axe. I've sworn off any new tv shows next season. I just can't take the heartache, you know? 

Listening: I am pretty out of the loop musically these days, since I don't listen to commercial radio, we don't have satellite, and many of my favorite bands have split up or are on hiatus. We spend about two hours a day (minimum) in the car these days, and since our iPod has not been updated in over a year and I don't want to drag 100 cd's into the car, Piper and I pretty much listen to the same 10 things over and over. I have, however, been very much enjoying the free playlists offered by SPIN each  month. I have also been taking advantage of the free weekly downloads from Starbucks. Usually they have the cards with the redemption code sitting on the edge of the counter, you don't have to buy anything or even make chit-chat if you don't want to, you can snatch one and run before the delicious coffee smell sucks you into buying a $4 latte. I've also seen the cards at the mini-Starbucks stores located in the middle of the mall, inside Target, and in Barnes & Noble stores.

Wishing: I need to redesign this here blog - the header bugs me endlessly but I don't have time for the tinkering required to fix it, I hate the color scheme, I really just want to scrap my template and start over. I wish I could wave a magic wand and poof! have a spiffy blog. But that magic wand will probably be called "lots of books and prowling around on the Web" and I will not wave it so much as toil away late into the night for several weeks, cussing and sweating, only to achieve marginally better results. Sort of like most of my sewing projects. Hmmm.

PS. Advice needed: Any other iPhone users with a PC know how to get the photos off the darn thing? I have more than 2,000 photos on my phone which I would like to retrieve, and short of emailing them all to myself individually, I can't figure out how to get them onto my computer. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

01 March 2011

A little peek into how our month is going:

I'm trying very hard not to snap and snarl at her, but I just hate our life here so much it spills out every time I open my mouth. So I find myself annoyed and near hysterics because she needs so much, and destroys so much, and talks so much, and demands so much. The warmer weather means I am in tears every time I hear the thump thump of a basketball on the sidewalk, and that's not her fault. The health insurance is costing us more than we have, and that's not her fault. I despair of ever getting this house in shape to sell, and that's not her fault. Nor is it her fault that the minivan mafia at her school managed to hurt my feelings AGAIN, even after I swore I was done. All of this and more has me wallowing in a pit of despair, and it's not her fault, but we are together so much that she gets to face my fury constantly. It's not making me feel like a very good parent lately.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

In the Shoe Aisle...

...I was suddenly forced to confront what sort of person I saw myself as.

I didn't end up buying either pair.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Oh, Look, Another Milo

I just can't stop making these things. They are so easy, and so amazingly portable that I can stuff a ball of yarn in my pocket and knit while I'm walking around with Piper at the children's museum. I have re-purposed a little plastic pouch that was part of the shipping wrapper for some shoes, and it is the perfect size for two balls of Sugar n' Cream plus a 16" circular needle. This little project-in-progress now lives in my car, so I am never without something to knit and I don't have to drag my 5-balls-of-yarn colorwork project back and forth or wrestle with the giant skein attached to that frigging Tomten. So expect to see more of these little vests in this space. They are perfect for adding a little warmth without bulk (leaving those arms free for playground adventures), are lovely for showing off yarn I have some but not a lot of, and don't take forever to finish. They are also excellent for keeping paint off my kid's clothes while she is at school. 

This one was a gift for our little friend (the same one who received the shark lunch box). It's actually the second one I've made him, only the first one was in cotton. It took me a long time because I kept getting distracted. Piper has one I made last year in similar colors and I scavenged all my leftover skeins of this yarn to get this one as stripy as possible. Piper was pretty psyched about having "matching" sweaters with her buddy.

Pattern: Milo by Georgie Hallam
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease (I know! But it's so sturdy!)
My Ravelry page for it is here.

I had a bunch of bits and partial skeins, so most of the stripes' length was dictated by how far I could go without running out of yarn. A couple places I split a bigger amount into smaller stripes so it wouldn't look weird. And I cut the yarn every time, because I didn't want to carry the colors a long way up the inside and leave loops to snag little fingers. So weaving in all those ends took me almost as long as the knitting. Whew!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Giant Cat Attack!

Huge Cats Terrorize Family of Small Woodland Creatures, Hello Kitty May Be Involved.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Santa Hat

A couple of days before Christmas, my child started asking me for "a Santa hat." After a few conversations, I sussed out that this meant any hat with a pom-pom, bonus points if it's pointy in some way. She requested red, and was quite adamant. We went to the yarn store and I let her pick out what she wanted (although I did have to steer her away from the $46-a-skein stuff ). She chose the brightest red we could find - some Cascade 220. I didn't finish it until a couple days after Christmas, but I think it's what she wanted.

This pattern is the "Vintage Pixie Cap" by Hadley Fierlinger from Vintage Knits for Modern Babies.
My Ravelry details are here.

More blurry, grainy camera phone pictures, hooray! 

I got most of the way done with the front ribbing and realized that it was going to be all loose and floppy and that I should've used needles 1-2 sizes smaller to make the ribbing tighter. I don't know why I didn't think of it, because that's what I always do with hat ribbing. So it's kind of loose. Oh, well. It will fit her for a while, I guess. I did the strap in seed stitch and made the end pointy, and it fastens with these two wee little rabbit buttons that she picked out herself. Maybe someday I will remember to get a picture of the nice seed stitch strap with its rabbit buttons, but for now you'll just have to take my word for it.

I can say that the bright red is very nice at the playground because she's always easy to spot.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Anatomy of a Snow Day

 6:55 a.m.: My husband comes in and shakes me awake to tell me that the local school district has canceled school. This means Piper's preschool is also closed. I roll over and think about going back to sleep but instead jump out of bed and ask him if he got some coffee.  "No, I didn't," he says. "There's coffee? Cool." We get to the kitchen and discover that although I loaded the brew basket, put water in the reservoir, and programmed the timer, I did not actually turn the timer on. There is no coffee. I feel terrible, but my husband just shrugs. He can't wait for it to brew, and goes back out to scrape the ice off his car and go to work. I feel guilty about the coffee after he's gone, even though I know he only drinks it when I make it and he doesn't notice when I don't. I watch his car pull out of the driveway and wish he could stay home with us.

7:05 a.m.: I crawl back into my lovely, warm bed, pull the covers up to my chin, and sigh.

7:06 a.m.: I hear Piper wake up and start yelling for me. She comes into my room and I ask if she'd like to snuggle in my bed for a while.

7:08 a.m.: Her version of "snuggling" involves sticking her fingers in my eyes. Over and over.

7:15 a.m.: I get up and after a brief disagreement about the appropriate sugar content of a 3.5-year-old's breakfast, pour her a bowl of plain Cheerios. She eats it and is allowed a bowl of one of my husband's super-sugary snack cereals. The snow outside swirls in the wind.

7:30 a.m.: I turn on the news and watch the coverage of the huge! snow! storm! Coffee in hand, I wander around the house picking things up and paying bills. Piper drags out various toys and scatters them across the living-room floor.

9:30 a.m.: I start wrestling the kid into real clothes and layers of coats so we can go play in the snow.

10:00 a.m.: We go outside and play. I teach her how to make snow angels. She keeps eating snow and I keep telling her to at least get some from the middle of the yard instead of off the car bumpers. We try to make a snowman, but this snow isn't good for packing. Tiny flakes fall as we run and yelp.

10:30 a.m. We are wet, cold, and freezing. We stomp through the front door, strip out of our soggy, muddy, chilly clothes, and hop into things made of fleece and jersey. Hot chocolate and a load of laundry. An episode of Kipper while we play with the dollhouse.

11:30 a.m.: Lunch. More snow outside.

12:30 p.m.: Naptime. For her, anyway. She's out like a light in less than five minutes. The house grows quiet and I try to deal with the heaps of laundry in the dryer.

1:30 p.m.: The neighborhood kids are coming out for the day. I hear noises and go to the back door. There are twenty teenagers and three smaller kids milling around my back yard, shouting and wrestling and posing and kissing. The eventually move into the soccer field and woods, throwing snow and howling. I smile a little bit, and force myself to think well of them. They're just kids, I tell myself. Kids with a snow day.

3:00 p.m.: Piper is awake. She does not want to go back outside, which is fine with me, since it's starting to look slushy out there and the freezing rain is supposed to start any minute. More hot chocolate, some Dr. Who, and an attempt to clean up her play room. We don't do much cleaning, but instead have a play-food picnic and a birthday party for her stuffed cat.

6:00 p.m.: Dinner is soup and fresh bread.

8:00 p.m. Daddy's home. Time for a story and some blocks before bath and bed.

11:00 p.m: I watch the news and discover that tomorrow will also be a snow day, and we will do this all over again.