Perspective.

Is the glass half empty or half full? It’s all how you look at it.

I’ve been spending quite a bit of time navel gazing here lately, pondering the greater meaning of life, exactly what talents I do possess and just overall taking stock.  I blame the change of season and the start of a new school year for this.  Also an upcoming birthday that is bringing along a hint of a mid-life crisis I-don’t-even-know-what-to-call-it-because-it’s-not-a-crisis-as-much-as-it-is-some-heavy-duty-life-stuff, that when I talk to friends about why this is forthcoming, all agree, it’s a pretty damn valid impetus and furthermore, I’m handling it pretty damn good, all things considered. Continue reading

DONE.

Two years ago next month, I blogged about how I had started a sweater for Pat.  Over the last two years, I’ve occasionally posted on the progress as it’s happened.  I threw out his birthday as a goal date to have the whole thing finished this past summer, half jokingly.  Then the other day, I realized I could actually make it happen. Yesterday afternoon when I stopped to do a stitch count, I realized I was rows away from being done, really done. So I sat and knit until I bound off the last stitch.
I still can’t believe it.  All those piano lessons.  Soccer practices.  Roadtrips.  TV show marathons.  Movies.  College football AND basketball games.  Bowl season.  Everything I’ve sat through but felt guilty about sitting still for, I picked this up and kept my hands busy.  Everything I’d had to sit through and wanted to use the time to be productive.  This is what I have to show for it.    I’ve not felt so proud of an accomplishment in I don’t know how long.  I set a long term goal and hit it.  Pat’s birthday isn’t until Monday, so I even have time to block it and properly wrap it.
Last night, as soon as I bound off the last stitch and cut the yarn, he tried it on.  At some point yesterday afternoon, it started looking too big.  A few months ago, I worried the arms were too short.  All worry for nothing.  It fit beautifully.  I snapped a few shots of him wearing it last night, but I managed to combine the photography skills of both my grandmothers and so I have a few blurry shots with his head cut off.  No matter. It needs to be blocked before he wears it anyway.  
I want to shout from the rooftops that I’m done.  I did post a shot of it to Facebook last night as well as emailed it to a few friends not on there or known to not check it regularly, which I suppose is the modern day equivalent of shouting it from the rooftops. I keep high-fiving myself.  I finally finished the sweater.  
The pattern is from Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitting Without Tears, with an assist  from this Knit by Numbers article on Knitty’s website.  Once I got over my math hang-ups, it was easy.  It’s knit in the round, from the bottom up – so there were no seams, just weaving in ends.  I’ve knit scarves more complicated than this sweater. It just took time and patience.  Lots of it.

Sometimes, really.

 It’s Mid-January.  
I’m starting to get cabin fever.  I know, it’s way too early for that.  I think it’s mostly due to Edie being home sick 2 days last week with yet another bug going around, that I managed to catch as well.
It’s just a mild cold.  But the idea that I’ve got another one after the back to back ones that kept me out between Halloween and Christmas has me cranky.
Also, I’ve now spent the better part of the last 3 weeks in my tiny, dark house with my family.  I love my tiny dark house, I love my family.  But enough. 
Thankfully, the weather was warm this past weekend.  Warm enough I wandered around outside and noticed my hellebore starting to bloom.
 
They aren’t supposed to do this until closer to the end of February.  
I’d love to regal you with tales of my outdoor adventures this weekend, but not long into my soaking up the sun out there Saturday, I had a run-in with nature.  A bird perched itself on a tree branch above me and proceeded to relieve itself, all over my lap.  That was enough nature for me for the day.
I headed back inside, where I was inspired to do some cleaning – not only did I get the Christmas cookie tins and holiday china packed away, I re-organized the upstairs linen closet.  Admittedly, balling up sheets and shoving them in wasn’t working anymore, which is what prompted that bit of organizational madness.
Once I got the house clean, I have to admit, I was sort of looking for an excuse to sit and work on my two big projects – Pat’s sweater and the quilt.  I’d recently realized I’d made major progress over the holiday break where we sat and watched tv almost incessantly when we weren’t hosting friends.
 Several inches worth of progress on the sweater.  It finally is starting to look like something.

Friday night, as I was sitting and ripping out delicate little stitches, I realized I was over halfway done ripping apart the quilt.  More like, 75% done disassembling the back from the front.  That definitely went faster than I thought it was going to.
Both are projects I had pie in sky visions of being done by Pat’s birthday, which is a week from today.  The quilt isn’t going to make it – even if I do get the back fully removed, I still have quite a bit of repairs to make to the top of the quilt. It could be an anniversary gift.  But the sweater?  I think I could make that happen in the next week. The weather forecast for the week looks conducive to sitting and knitting.  And having spent a big chunk of Saturday cleaning, I think I could reasonably pull it off.

In progress.

Now that the canning season is winding down, I’ve been able to move out of the kitchen somewhat and onto other projects.  First up, a check on the progress of Pat’s sweater.

 From that angle, it doesn’t appear as if much progress has been made, but really, it has.

 See?  That’s a few inches there.  There’s 360 stitches per row.  The first few rows took me about an hour each, but I’ve managed to pick up some speed and can now do a row in 30-45 minutes.  I’ve completed the armpits and am now starting to shape it, heading up to the shoulders. I had Edie help me with the math and I think I have about 60 rows or so until I can start the collar.  If I sat and did nothing else for an entire work week, I might get it done by Christmas.  I think I’ll shoot for his birthday towards the end of January.  That seems do-able as well as gives me a project for those lazy days after Christmas when I like to sit around, watch tv and eat cake.

I also went ahead and bought another cone of yarn, ensuring that the last of the two cones I had on hand for this will be enough. Whenever I get nervous and go out and buy more yarn to finish a project, I ensure myself leftovers.  I haven’t decided what I’m doing with the leftovers yet.  Thoughts?

I’m also whipping up a pair of fingerless gloves for the lucky coworker that my husband drew in his office holiday gift exchange.  She had fingerless gloves on her list of suggested gifts.  I’m using some merino from the stash that I inherited when the university students moved out last spring.  Someone left two large boxes of yarn out by the curb that my friend Eddie found and dropped off here.  There was a mix of acrylic and really nice stuff (like this merino), but most of the nice stuff was in some weird colorways.  I kept some for myself and shared some, just for projects like this.  This yarn is from a local farm and is dreamy to work with.  The pattern is a slightly altered one from Knitty called Fetching– they are quick and easy.  I knit the left handed one seen there in a night’s worth of television watching. 

 Also on my needles is a poncho for Edie.  I’m trying to surprise her at Christmas, which means working on this when she’s not around.  Which means outlasting her at bedtime.  Thankfully she’s got a sleepover this weekend, so I’m hoping to make some real progress, because outlasting her at bedtime is really hard.
  I’m basing her poncho on the poncho I knit for myself several years ago that was only slightly based on a pattern.  Her poncho involves a good bit of counting stitches, looking at my poncho and math.  Oh math.  How I don’t like you.
The yarn for Edie’s poncho is also from the stash, some of it from the discarded stash Eddie dropped off.  I’m hoping I have enough and am resisting going out to buy more until I really have to. Really.
This last project is something for me.  I found this yarn (which I can assure you does not glow like this in real life) for $2/ball at the Fiber Festival last month.  I had gone telling myself I was not going to buy myself anything unless of course, I found a deal too good to pass up and especially if it involved orange yarn.  Clearly the yarn gods were listening.  I want to do a lacy scarf with this, but I’ve had the hardest time finding a pattern I can work without having to rip it out and restart it 4 times.  These two have passed the test, but I’m not sure about committing to either one.
Yes, this one is lovely and open, not to mention knits up incredibly fast and easy,  but I just knit myself an orange zig-zag scarf last fall.
 
 
 And while one can have multiple black velvet pants, black wool pleated skirts and black cardigans, how many orange zig zag scarves can one really have?
And while I like this pattern, something about it says Old Lady Acrylic Sweater to me.   I like it, but I’m not sure I want to commit to it.  I’m starting to think that maybe I should knit a cowl out of the orange yarn but I’ve yet to find a pattern I really like, so I’ve started pondering the idea of maybe just making one up.  I know, it’s a huge, HUGE step for me, poncho not withstanding.  For what I have in mind and from what I’ve read, I think I can do it.  I am starting to see the appeal of a cowl, and I want something new & orange to go around my neck, so why not?
I have not completely abandoned the kitchen though.  Currently sitting on my counter are two hot pepper ferments:
On the left is a roasted poblano ferment.  My friend Kathy brought some to last Sunday’s swap and it was quite tasty.  I swapped her for a jar of it, in addition to her recipe, as I still had a few gallon bags of poblanos sitting in my fridge, waiting to be dealt with. (Also, it was soooo good, I wanted to make sure I had a supply before eating it all!)  I had a goal of getting a few more jars of pickled peppers, another batch of fermented peppers and at least one batch of chili rellenos out of what I had grown this year.  I can report complete success – I got two more pints of pickled peppers, a batch of Kathy’s roasted ferment AND I have exactly enough good sized peppers to make chili rellenos for the fam for dinner soon.
The ferment on the right is a mix of chili peppers from my friend Cynthia, some of Grandpa Jack’s habaneros and my jalapenos.  They’ve been sitting there about a month or so now.  I’m not exactly sure what my next step with them is going to be, as it’s an experiment, but I can tell you that when you open the jar, your sinuses totally open up.  I read that fermenting chilis was the key to a good flavorful hot sauce (Tabasco is fermented), so in my quest to make a good hot sauce, I thought I’d try it.
I haven’t totally stopped canning, but it has been winding down.  I did several batches of applesauce and apple butter from a few bushels of apples I got out at Henley’s orchard. I came to the realization that I could make a batch of applesauce in my stock pot in a fraction of the time (45 minutes) it took me to make it in the crock pot (about 4 hours), although with the crock pot, I can come & go and not have to keep an eye on it.  I also get nervous about burning the bottom of my pot, as I’ve done with things in the past.  So far so good, I even did a batch of cranapple butter on the stovetop, which took less than 2 hours on low (vs. overnight on low in the crockpot).  I’m not totally giving up the crockpot, as it makes far less of a mess than doing it on the stove and I can leave it unattended, but it’s nice to know I can put up a bushel or two of apples in no time flat on my stove top.
 The cranapple butter came out tasting like cranapple juice –  you mostly taste the cranberries, but they are sweet thanks to the apples. I threw some cranberries and a bit of water in a pan, cooked it for about 10 minutes, then threw it in with the applesauce, about a half cup of sugar and cooked it down until it was the right consistency. Edie has a big thing for cranberries and claims to be ‘over’ apple butter, so I thought she’d like this.  The freezers got a few apple pies while I was at it.  My two basement chest freezers are now at capacity, I’m out of half pint jars and down to my last half case of pint jars.  I might try a small batch of pickled cranberries before I completely call it a season until strawberries come back around, but as you can see, I have some knitting to knock out in the next few weeks.

Falling in love again.

We are big college football fans in this house.  HUGE.  If you have spent any time around us in the fall, you know that we may actually be slightly rabid college football fans.  Going to a SEC school will do that to you.  This year though, our alma mater Auburn,  is having a bit of an off-season.  Unwatchable seems to be the word most of our fellow alum use when describing this year’s football team.  It’s gotten so bad that I’ve just given up watching college football altogether, rather than seem like a fair weather fan who can’t watch my own team.   Considering how busy we seem to be on Saturdays, it’s worked out okay.

I spent last week having a touch of cold.  It didn’t take me out, it really wasn’t that bad of a cold,  I just didn’t feel 100%, more like 86.7%.  By Friday, when my friend Allison came into town for a visit, I was feeling almost myself, about a 98.8%.  We went to a lovely party and when we got home, I noticed my voice was a little gravely, but I thought for sure a good night’s sleep would cure it.

I woke up Saturday morning not being able to speak above a whisper.  And even that hurt.  Edie’s dream, where her mother couldn’t cheer her on obnoxiously from the sidelines of the soccer field (I may strongly dislike soccer, I may be a soccer mom against my own will,  but it does not show in my enthusiasm for cheering my daughter on.) quickly turned into her worst nightmare, when I got another mom on our team to cheer for her in a most cheerful and enthusiastic manner.  As she turned and smiled at the woman to acknowledge the cheers, she also managed to sneak in a sideways ‘eat shit and die’ glance at me that confirmed her own personal hell. It’s those little moments that make motherhood so sweet.

I came home from her game, took a hot shower and collapsed into the lazy boy in our bedroom in front of the tv.  Seeing how it was a Saturday in November, there were no less than 3 college football games on our cable less television. I proceeded to spend the rest of the day rediscovering my love affair with college football.  While it’s always good fun to watch the ole ball coach play, the hometown team of Virginia had a ball game going on with Miami that sucked us in, followed by the last two minutes of the Florida- Louisana-Lafayette game which really just geared us up for that Texas A&M- Alabama game which was glorious on so many levels – watching an underdog pull off an upset which in turn upsets the entire National Championship picture.  Even better was watching the downfall of our rival school.  I even decided to go ahead and try to watch the Auburn game, but I was having to stream it and with technology getting the upper hand by deciding to freeze up the screen what felt like every 10 seconds, I took the hint and bagged that idea.  Sunday morning found me reading everything I could about the previous day’s games – it had been a wild day in college football and definitely a good one in which to jump back in and reacquaint oneself. 

It seems losing my voice helped me rediscover my love of college football, which in turn helps me get some serious pre-holiday knitting done.    It’s been a rough season for my team, but the end is in sight.  I can’t say the same for my whisper voice right now, but it’s a great excuse to take it easy and sit & knit with a nice hot toddy while I wait for it’s return.

Scenes from a weekend.

Hot air balloons overhead, market, soccer, the Fiber Festival and Sheepdog trials (where I left the camera with Edie, only to find yet more photos of her toes), an unwilling photo subject,  inspiration for new projects,  a fermenting class at the cooking school, visit with grandparents and a grown up field trip on a dreary Monday to one of the nearby wineries.
Not pictured – new orange yarn that’s already being knit up into a yummy scarf, a home run on a homemade pizza crust, a sublime batch of sourdough bread served with the last of the bacon jam & melon jam, and confirmation that the okra pickles need a few more weeks before they are prime for eating.

Tracking Progress.

In February, 2011, I posted a photo on here and announced the start of a new project.
A long promised sweater for my husband.
In September, 2011, I posted this:
The torso was to the point of being ready to be joined with the sleeves.
Of which I had started exactly one.
This past February I posted I had gotten sleeve one to the point where it was ready to be joined with the torso and I was starting sleeve two. 
I wrote then that at the rate I was going, I should be putting it all together by mid-summer.
Sometimes my guesstimates are so right I think I’m onto something.
Monday night, as we finished “Game of Thrones” (with some Olympics throw in), I realized I was there.
Yesterday I bought myself a new 40″ circular needle so that all 328 stitches would fit easily on one needle and while watching Olympic water polo and the US Men’s Beach Volleyball, I sat down, took a few deep breaths, counted and recounted all my stitches, read and reread the directions and finally put it all together. 
I’ve read that knitting is quite soothing, that you fall into a rhythm that is almost meditative at times.  This sweater, knit entirely in the round from the bottom up that you can put it down at any point and pick it back up, definitely falls into that category.  I don’t think knitting is about talent as much as it’s about patience. Certainly there are talented knitters, people who can look at a ball of yarn, imagine an end result and just know magically how to make that happen.  I’m not one of those knitters.  I need my hand held on any project not a scarf.  At this point, I’ve been working on this sweater project for 18 months.  It’s been interspersed with smaller projects, mostly scarves and more scarves.  I have carried the various pieces with me on every roadtrip, to every soccer practice and piano lesson. I’ve watched endless hours of college football with this in my hands. The majority of both sleeves were knit watching “Boardwalk Empire” this past winter.  There are mistakes, dropped stitches and honestly, I hope the cuffs straighten themselves out when I block the sweater because they look a little funky. The yarn is slightly stiff and heavy – the finished sweater is going to be one that Pat can wear on the water during the winter to keep him warm.  Originally I had wanted to knit him an Irish Fisherman’s type sweater, but sitting down to it was so overwhelming that I realized I needed the pattern to be as simple as possible.  I stumbled upon Knitting without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmerman and realized this was a pattern and I style I could do.  I am horrible at the finishing parts of knitting – the weaving in of the ends, and especially the part where you have to sew together the finished bits.  It’s not at all like the sewing I’m used to. There is nothing more frustrating than spending hours upon hours on something and have your finished product look less than stellar because you stink at the finishing parts. One of these days I’ll get around to taking a class on proper knitting finishing techniques, but in the meantime, I’m quite grateful to have this pattern that lets me knit from the bottom up, all in one piece.  Knitting without tears indeed.

From out of nowhere.

Remember how I said I seemed to be missing some photos of a scarf I had knit and I suspected a certain smaller person who lives in our house that likes to play with my camera to be responsible for their going MIA?  Well, I owe her an apology.  I took some shots of the magnolia tree in our front yard yesterday, which is now opening up and gloriously pink and when I uploaded them to share here with you what came up instead were the missing shots from our Baltimore weekend.  My camera has been on the fritz lately and I’ve been worried it was the camera – I’ve been saying when this one goes, I’m moving up to a fancy camera and not another point and shoot, and quite frankly, that kind of toy is nowhere near our current budget.  But after a few different incidents, I’m starting to suspect that my memory card has gone bad, which is actually a much cheaper fix.  Phew. 

So, since they showed up from nowhere, I thought I’d share.  First up, seen on a front porch on Falls Road, near Hampden hon, in Baltimore as we ran around town one day during our visit there last month.

Yes, that’s a Christmas penguin hanging out with a member of the nativity, who is wrapped in a feather boa, with a half full (or empty, depending on how you look at things) large malt liquor beverage under his chair. 
I love Baltimore.
Also suddenly back were the pictures of the scarf I had knit my cousin’s girlfriend for her birthday.
Ginger, as we call her, is a lovely gal and has built quite a relationship with Edie.  I’ve told my cousin Mark, her boyfriend,  if it doesn’t work out with Ginger, then he is the one who has to break the news to Edie, because that is not going to go over well and he is going to suffer her wrath.  We hope it doesn’t come to that though.
I have a scarf I knit for myself a few years back in this style – just loose and freestyle, changing yarns as the whim hit me.  I thought Ginger might appreciate one, so I whipped this up for her the week before the party.
While most of the yarns were white, I did throw some pink and green eyelash yarn in for color.

I also did some cables, as I find them fun and I find when I knit cables, the process seems to go faster.
This section is in the eccentric cable pattern.  ( I used A Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara G. Walker.  Which was also one of my best thrifting scores ever.)
There you can get an idea of the different yarns used – green eyelash yarn, a bulky chenille, a pink eyelash yarn with bumps of color mixed in, a boucle, a fingerweight yarn, a multicolored eyelash yarn I mixed in with the fingerweight and lastly, a worsted weight cotton.  (If you need a reference on yarn weights, look here). I kept to just a knit stitch outside of the cabled sections.

That’s the basketweave cable stitch. 
I’m knitting a scarf in a similar vein for the silent auction at the annual luncheon for the Jed Foundation, using primarily blues, from the stash Kristin gave me.  February has been quite conducive to knitting, as the second sleeve on Pat’s sweater is really coming along as well.  I’m almost up to the elbow on it.  I’m even starting to kick around ideas of what my next big knitting project is going to be. 
Meanwhile, the shots I meant to show you.  What a difference a few days make!
What I call the tulip magnolia, Pat calls a saucer magnolia.  It’s the pink magnolia in the front yard.  It’s the first thing to bloom every spring and it’s starting to bloom.   Now let’s hope it gets to open up without a hard frost, which will turn the beautiful pink blooms brown.  The top is opening up, but the lower blooms have a few more days I think.  (Clicking on the image will give you a better view of the glorious pinkness.)

The peach tree is also starting to show some opening buds.
I love looking out my windows at the pink trees in the front yard.
Such a nice sight.
Hello spring. 

Recent Knitting Projects.

My friend Kristin got rid of her stash and gave me a big bag of yarn when I saw her last summer.  I wanted to say thank you and so I knit her a scarf out of some of that yarn.  Here it is:
The ends are this are knit out of a fun chenille pom-pom type yarn, with the main body of the scarf being this very soft, almost suede-like yarn.  I got a number of compliments on it while I was knitting it.   It was very  easy to work with and did I mention soft?  A good hunk of it got knit when we were driving to Alabama to visit the in-laws over the holidays.   Nothing like 10 hours in a car, one way, to knock out some knitting projects.   I’ve started another scarf out of her gifted stash as a donation for the upcoming silent auction for The Jedediah Thomas Smith Foundation annual luncheon, which is another way to say Thank You to her.
This is one I knit for Edie for Christmas – also from Kristin’s stash.  It’s a fingerweight yarn.  I’ve knit this pattern several times over, it’s quick and easy and turns out quite cute.  I think I got it out of the Sunday paper a few years back – it’s all knit stitches, where you  increase every stitch every other row to make the ruffles.  I have two HUGE cones of this yarn and this scarf didn’t make a dent.  I’m thinking it might be a lovely shaw at some point.  It’s quite soft and well, purple.  Our favorite color next to orange
My friend Bonnie worked on this scarf one night, when our knitting group had gathered after a particularly tense PTO meeting at school.  In her haste to remember the wine, she had forgotten her knitting, so I lent her one of my projects, since you know, I always have a few I’m working on.  She couldn’t stop commenting on my tight little stitches.  Indeed, there are 1600 stitches in the last row of this scarf with a finished length of 32″.  I knit this on size 8 needles and wasn’t sure how the finished product would turn out.  It’s actually just the right length to wrap around a neck.  It’s quite darling on Edie. 
What intrigues me about knitting is how different yarns and needles create such different results.  I have a heck of a time with gauge.  When I knit scarves, I don’t have to worry about the final measurements as much, I just knit until it looks right.  You can’t do that with sweaters.  Speaking of sweaters….

Serious Progress has been made with Pat’s sweater.  Sleeve No. One is done.  (Okay, so it’s an inch short in that shot, but it’s much farther along than it was here.  I’ll be starting Sleeve No. Two this week and at this rate, I might be able to start putting it all together by sometime mid-summer.  Pat’s hinted it would make a fabulous Christmas gift.  It’s definitely taking me longer than I had anticipated – the yarn is on the heavy and stiff side because it still has a good bit of lanolin in it.  Which means it’s perfect for him to wear out on the river on cold days.
I also knit a really fun little scarf for my cousin’s girlfriend, but a certain little someone who likes to play with my camera may have deleted the photos.  Oh well.  It was white on white, mixing up all the white yarn I had on hand, with some pink and green fringe yarn thrown in for fun. I gave it to her without all the ends woven in (I finished it a few hours before her birthday party and realized I hadn’t brought my needle to work the ends in and didn’t feel like running out to get one.).  I threw some cables in here & there for fun and because I like knitting cables.  They seem to make the process go faster for me for some reason.  Hopefully I can get a new shot next time I see her (and work those ends in!).

My New Orange Scarf.

Remember the orange yarn I bought at the Fall Fiber Festival?  I finished the scarf I knit for myself out of it this weekend.  I promise, it’s not as glowing as it is in that photo.  Although it is pretty darn orange.  And pretty soft.  And pretty much just right.
The pattern is this from Knitty.com.  I’m on Ravelry, but honestly, it’s just one more website for me to keep up with, like Goodreads, which I’m also on and completely neglectful of.  Occasionally I will remember to look on those websites for ideas, but I spend more time tracking down where I wrote my log-ins than I ever actually spend on the sites.  Sigh. 
Do you know about knitty.com?  I love it.  LOVE it.  I have gotten alot of ideas and patterns from there.  It never steers me wrong. 
Anyway. 
The scarf.  It’s bamboo yarn and incredibly soft to the touch.  It knit up pretty easily.  I only had 2 balls of yarn, so I didn’t make it as wide as the pattern called for, nor did it turn out as long. I didn’t gauge it, I just played around until I liked how it looked and then hoped I had enough.  When I got to the end of the first ball, I measured the length to make sure it would be as long as I wanted.  I’ve been known to knit and reknit scarves until they are *just* right using this highly scientific method.
I made some progress on the scarf I started for Edie too.
Lots of football viewing makes for getting a lot of knitting done. And our Thanksgiving weekend was definitely in excess of that activity.