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.