Monday, December 10, 2012

elving and etc

December is the time for stilted and secretive blog posts, for pictures showing the tiniest slivers of finished objects, and hinting at kitchens full of gingerbread spices but never actually SAYING it. That's what's happening in most of the crafting world, at least.

I, however, can be reasonably sure that no one I'm making anything for this year has even the slightest knowledge of or interest in this blog. Ah the comforts of obscurity...

One of my New Years' resolutions last year was to try out fair isle knitting, or stranded colorwork, which I've always found pretty intimidating. Well, I finally tried it, with 3 weeks left of the year to go (I always work better under pressure) and other than a few problems figuring out how two strands of yarn can sort of cause some sizing issues...

I feel pretty happy with it. What started as a gift for an adult woman is now a gift for a tween... and after thinking about it, the tween is probably a lot more likely to actually WEAR a slouchy multicolored hat full of hearts. So.... hurray?

Honestly most of my crafting isn't even Christmas crafting. It's oh shit it's 20 degrees this morning and no one has a winter hat type crafting. Hence Ben's nome hat, and Chase's updated, non-moth-holey watchman's cap. Those black watchman's caps are great, the pattern is simple and they fly off the needles. The problem is that I bought about 5 pounds of that black yarn on sale many years ago, and it was on sale because there's maybe about 5 strands of fiber that came from something organic in the whole damn thing. The rest of it is a vaguely wool-like acrylic that actually leaves BLISTERS on my fingers when I knit it too much. So yeah. Only one more watchmans' cap to go and then I'm retiring that yarn for the season. 

Here's some non-knitting crafting for once. If my mom happens to be walking behind you while you read this, please distract her until she moves along, because these little embroidered napkins are for her. I sketched little Christmassy type things, and have been embroidering them whenever the mood strikes. Other than the fact that I can't seem to make tiny gingerbread men not look like tubular globs of poop, the project seems to be moving along pretty well...

And here's Jane's Christmas sweater -- I'm honestly really proud of this one. It's from the 3 lines pattern (just search for that if you have a ravelry account). It was such a fun pattern to follow, the yarn is swish from knitpicks, which is so soft and squishy (especially after knitting from those plastic sheep for so long) and the only thing left to do is pick 3 buttons. I think I'll go with Millie's fly-delta-jets buttons, because 1- we've got a drawerful of them and 2- why not? it certainly differentiates this from a store bought sweater.  

The thing about knitting anything for people under 30 as Christmas presents is that there's going to be that moment. When they open it, and they look at you... and they're waiting for permission to put it down and go open another more promising package... you have to ask yourself if you'll still have a great Christmas after that.... If you'll be able to suck it up like Mrs. Weasley (surely one of the most wonderful knitters of recent fiction) and not only smile delightedly through it, but actually knit them something again next year.... I'm ready for it. All the lost hats of the last 7 years of parenting, the dog-chewed merino scarf, even the thrummed mittens I found in the chicken coop, all have prepared me for this moment. Knitting in a household with small children can feel less like crafting heirlooms and more like building sandcastles. I'm ready. 

You know what doesn't suck? Knitting for people who are genuinely happy to receive (even if maybe they're not particularly hat people). My dad is modeling a fair isle hat I started for my sister (the second Anne related Christmas knitting failure). It ended up fitting him a lot better than it would have fit Anne, and it certainly gives him a festive glow, doesn't it? He's never anything but full of gratitude and whatever the descriptive noun for "being a good sport" is. Of course he wore it while I was there, sitting right next to him, but unless my dad is on a sailboat and it's raining and also maybe freezing? He's not really a fan of hats, most particularly warm, itchy wool hats. So my money's on that hat sitting at the foot of his couch, ready to pull out and pop on should I unexpectedly knock on the back door, but largely unworn otherwise.  Still better than finding it in the chicken coop, though. 

And here's a palette cleanser of completely not-related-to-Christmas-crafting pictures. Bear and his cone of shame, otherwise known as Ben's favorite new way to torment the puppy. They are really a super team. 

And another super team --- these are my carpool line companions. Jane never met a seatbelt she didn't immediately incite into a battle and eventually swear vengeance against. When you slow down going around a corner, you have to keep in mind that she's probably planning which direction she's going to tuck-and-roll in.  Keeping her in a seatbelt when we're actually technically stopped  in a carpool line is like giving a 2 year old a piece of ham and having him walk back and forth in front of a chocolate lab puppy. Foolhardy and predictable. So I pick my battles, and this is what the carpool line looks like most days. At least for the next week. Then we're going to load them all up and head home to Beaumont for Christmas. 

That's four extra knitting hours in the car... if you were counting. 

Friday, November 23, 2012


With smoked turkeys

One sick baby,

Another sick baby,

One alarmingly well baby,

apple pie,

pickles, whiskey, and Aaron Franklin on youtube,

one bonus great dane,

And a whole lot of food, even if it was just the five of us. Everyone seems to be more or less on the mend today, and we are full of turkey and gratitude.  And hope that the stomach flu passes you by this year. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

On my honor, I will try:

Wren and I went on our first Girl Scout campout this last weekend and to be honest I was initially kind of dreading it.  I mean, Wren's friends with these kids, but I don't really know their moms all that well. And a weekend spent in the constant company of my peers.... well. Introverts wil understand my ambivalence.  Also I couldn't get to the library before we left so I was terrifyingly bookless. 

The first views of the campground, looking like the setting for the lowest of low rent "THE HOOK WAS IN THE SIDE OF THE CAR" style stories, were not super comforting. 

But we stuck it out, we PARTICIPATED (which anyone I've been to camp with since the age of 10 will find hard to believe, but I promise Kelly, I participated). And Wren participated until her lips were blue - swimming in the middle of October. 

We treasure hunted -- here the girls are heatedly discussing what exactly this clue means, and which direction they should run frantically towards next, while a pack of shuffling, winded moms stop to gulp from water bottles in their wake. 

Our treasure hunt ended at the Guadalupe, looking so lovely in the fall weather.  Cypress trees and Sycamore trees. I love Texas river bottoms. 

Is there a badge for falling in a river? If so I will be painstakingly sewing it onto a Brownie vest at some point in the next few weeks.  

Overall it was great, and I'm so glad I went. It was a special chance to spend time with Wren when I wasn't consumed with logistics or refereeing, or doing anything but enjoying her. We walked in the woods and sang at the campfire and got to talk about school and books and friends and all sorts of stuff on the drive with just the two of us. 

And forced interaction on a weekend long scale is just the right way to force an introvert to make friends with other moms, it turns out. We both survived, and we'll definitely sign up to do it again in the spring. Maybe Wren's troop will be the color guard that time! I'd better make sure I can remember my Girl Scout pledge. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Walnut Creek

Our neighborhood creek has water in it again and we've been going whenever we can, in the hopes that if the dog runs enough he will forget to eat all our favorite things when we get back home.

He usually doesn't forget. It's like puppies at this age have a little 'to-do' list to work through. 

-- one item of sentimental value from owner's childhood (CHECK)
-- one expensive and hard to replace item previously in daily use (CHECK)*
-- every pencil and toilet paper roll in a 5 mile area (CHECK)
-- treasured children's toys that they will certainly throw giant tearful fits about (OH HELL YES ALL THE CHECKS FOREVER)

They still love him somehow. Children are forgiving. Especially if they are little woodland elves, as this one certainly is.  She always finds a walking stick on our hikes and then leaves it by the beginning of the trail "so someone else can use it!"

Everyone's favorite game - throw rocks in the creek, making Bear think that he should fetch them, until he becomes increasingly frantic and desperate and starts diving with his whole head under the water, inhaling gallons of Walnut Creek in the process. 

So maybe actually these particular children are not actually that forgiving after all....

*bonus puppy points for any Apple products, obvs. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

fall phone photos

A fuzzy blurry phone full of fall pictures -- 

My bees, still struggling. But aren't they adorable? I ordered them their winter bottom board, and a nice new roof yesterday (instead of ordering myself my favorite Anthro dress that just went on sale YOU'RE WELCOME BEES). 

Socks socks and more socks. I am really in a sock groove. This was the third of a set of four and I'm casting on the fourth today. I am getting ahead in my Christmas knitting (which is the kind of thing someone says when they want to spark a worldwide yarn shortage or other terrible event of karmic retribution on a grand scale). 

Ben, throwing rocks in Walnut Creek, which has water in it for the first time since late May. Bear forgets every week that he can swim. He walks into the water like he thinks it's going to bite him, and then halfway through retrieving a stick he remembers he can swim. I wish there was a way to type out the way his voice sounds in my head. I guess sort of like Ralphie from the Simpsons? 

One of our babysitting swap nights -- our turn for the babysitting. I promise we didn't just leave them alone with the ipad the whole time, but it certainly did make the last 20 minutes go pretty smoothly. Parenting today, eh?

My date night with Jane -- our 100% middle child, who needs all kinds of one-on-one attention and she definitely lets us know when she's missing it. We went to Whataburger and talked about school and birds and trucks and strawberry milkshakes. 

And here she is at a roller skating party for one of her school friends last weekend. I believe this was the 'night at the disco' portion of the party? Not really clear on what exactly was happening. But yes, I was also wearing skates, and taking a picture with my phone. Pretty impressive, huh? You should have seen the amazed faces of my fellow parents when I skated out of the restroom with no visible cuts, bruises, or clothes soaked from falling in the toilet. Success!! 

More fall knitting- Ben's birthday vest, in its early stages. I cast off the edging yesterday, and now all I have to do is embroider his initial on it. It didn't turn out exactly as I pictured, but what ever does? I am deciding to be proud of my continuing construction skills instead of disappointed that it doesn't look like the pattern. And he really doesn't care. He's turning two. 

A picture I snapped last night at work, a cart full of books to catalog and repair. It makes me happy to see them all stacked up there, ready to go. A coworker was sort of trying to mess with me the other day, and brought a giant box of books into my office and said "Oh sorry these are for you..." But then he saw the look of incredibly dorky excitement and glee on my face and had to say "Oh no actually these are for the book sale... I was just kidding...? Wow. You really like books, huh?" 

Yes. Yes I do. 

And one from bright and early this morning. I stepped out of the kitchen and these two put some teamwork in action -- dragging stools and chairs across the house to reach the brown sugar. Their oatmeal was apparently not sufficiently sugared and they decided to take matters into their own, very very sugary hands. It's nice to know that Jane shares, even is what she's sharing is a propensity for mayhem. 

I just realized this photo dump is nearly Wrenless. She's doing just fine - she's loving 2nd grade and her wonderful teacher. She's halfway through the first Harry Potter and very into planning her Halloween costume. She's been writing little books that she leaves for us all over the house- these are usual fairy tales, even though she's not reading Grimm's quite as much these days.  Our most frequent fight right now is over her screen time; she would like more, I would like less. It's something I'm sure we'll be compromising on for the next ten years... which is, astoundingly, how much longer she's going to be living in my house. A blink. So no, she's not spending a significant portion of it on Webkinz world.  

Anyway, that's the family update, instagram style. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


 Here it is! Finally! The Kentopp quilt. I will be so happy to pass this on to its new owners.. who have only been married at this point for what... like 4 months? So that's like a new record for me. Maybe in another decade I'll give someone a wedding gift on time!

The front of this queen(ish) size quilt is obviously pieced KENTOPP blocks, and the back is Kona cotton gray, with a quilted map of our fair city. It was super wrinkly. And it turns out that although I will spend approximately a zillion hours hand quilting a map of your city, I will not spend 10 minutes ironing it. So.. I guess it's good to know that about myself? 

Moving out from the center of the city, Austin gets rural pretty fast. I could count on Mopac, 35, 183 and 360 to give me a general guideline of where I was, but once I was outside of those roads, I had to pick and choose which farm and county roads were going to make it onto the map. 

How many times did I decide I must have spelled this wrong, even though I've been friends with Richard for over a decade, and have actually signed a lease with him? Gotten his mail out of a mailbox everyday for a year? Probably at least 5. 

I named big neighborhoods, and also Austin places that I thought might be especially important to the Kentopps. Perhaps before I hand it over I should stick some venues on there? Or Shangri-la? 

I decided not to get into it with Mueller -- that neighborhood is newish and a bit too twisty and turny for my sanity at that point in the project. And Hyde Park is DENSE man! 

But look! Here's their adorable little Cherrywood house! That was maybe my favorite part. (Possibly because it was one of the last things I did and I could see light at the end of the tunnel). 

The airport got a big wonky plane that looks like a rocket ship with spiky chicken wings on the side. Lesson learned. I cannot "just freehand" a plane. Or really anything but a tiny house. 

And Westlake, of course. I had to name it because there weren't enough big streets over there to hold the batting in place. I guess I could have quilted a little SUV? 

And here's the behind-the-scenes! Me and my faithful helpers, at Chase's office. We hung the quilt up in front of the blackboard and projected the google map. 

I chalked in the main streets, the river, the neighborhoods, and just hoped and prayed that the chalk would stay long enough to guide me when I got there. I DID have problems with quite a few areas that were pretty faint by the time I got to them -- I'm looking at you Clarksville! 

And here is the real hero of this project. Straining to hold this beast up for the photo shoot is the least of his many contributions. Pausing Treme while I threaded another needle. Saying "Oh I'm sorry, that must be so frustrating... please tell me more..." when I pricked my finger/lost the thread/broke a stitch, etc. Patiently not veering into oncoming traffic like a damn saint whenever I yelled "OH THAT'S WHAT THIS INTERSECTION LOOKS LIKE! I GET IT NOW!" while driving through a particularly difficult-to-quilt area of town. 

Also he at no point told me I was insane. Even when I was quilting desperately on the night before the wedding, in order to bring the quilt to the rehearsal dinner, because who doesn't want a quilt at a rehearsal dinner? Any normal getting-married person? SHUT YOUR MOUTH. 

ANYWAY. It's done now. And leaving my hands at some point this week. Making a quilt for a new baby is wonderful, and while I do it I'm thinking about the parents, the family, all the ways it will be changing, all the things I'm hoping and praying for that new person. 

A wedding quilt is different -- I'm praying for entirely different things for these recipients. Maybe I'm also kind of hoping I'll be making them another (tiny) quilt at some point in the semi-distant future.  Also instead of covering one itty bitty person, this has to cover two full size (or in the case of Molly, almost full size) humans. It takes a lot longer. It's hours of hopes and prayers for these two people becoming a family. Assuming I wasn't just watching Project Runway the whole time, in which case, this quilt would be imbued with the living spirit of Tim Gunn. 

I guess they'll find out, either way.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

south padre end-of-summer trip

Most of the picture credit goes to Sarah, and of course also to the apocalyptic clouds on our second morning at the beach. We had a great couple of days with family -- a nice break from this extremely stressful season of life. We took some deep breaths and now we're back home, getting ready for Jane's birthday tomorrow and school starting next Monday. And at some point I'll need to clean the sand out of the car...