Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Block party

With the little man home sick yesterday, I got a lot done around the house.


All the beds now have freshly laundered sheets, all the toilets are sparkling, and the chocolate peanut butter biscotti turned out divine.

I also managed to wash and block a couple of projects.

The Mustard Scarf, free pattern on ravelry, still needs a button. It's a gift.


Mama's Shalom Cardigan. Another birthday present for myself. It's alpaca, and oh, so soft! Also needs buttons.



And lastly, a hat. It's a gift, and boy, does this not look anything like the picture on the pattern.

Well, it does, only in the picture, it's much tighter, like an actual beanie. This would fit a watermelon! I think all the hats I'm gifting this year turned out big. Last year they were too small. Go figure.


There is last-minute shopping to be done around here, and some more houseguests are on the way. I hope to be back here before the big day, but if not, I wish you all a very merry Christmas--full of peace and love for you all.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow and other stuff

This was Saturday morning, when we were waiting for IT.



This was Sunday morning, after IT was done.


There was a lot of shoveling, lots of help from friendly neighbors with snow blowers, and lots of sledding.

Then we took a little drive out to Peddler's Village to see the lights.


We also stopped in to see the winners of the gingerbread competition. Can you believe this one only took third place?


My parents are driving north even as I type this, and my son is on the couch feeling ill. He won't be going to school today, and I'm not sure when I'm going to get my out-of-the-house errands done today. Looks like today is another laundry and knitting day. And maybe I'll find something to make with the giant bag of Hershey's Kisses I bought last week. Happy Monday!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's that time again

Wow. I have pretty much procrastinated all week. I was supposed to be cleaning the house in preparation for a party we're having on Saturday.
I did move the serger and the sewing machine out of the dining room. And then three loads of laundry moved in and took over.

You wouldn't believe the progress I've made on my next sweater, though! I pretty much spent any and all birthday money that came my way on yarn for myself, and I am so enjoying making things!

Anyway, it's down to crunch time here for cleaning--but the weather forecaster this morning mentioned that we could be seeing some snow starting on Saturday, so this party could be over before it even starts. At least I'll have a clean house for the family members who will be arriving next week!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Francis Revisited

For my birthday, my parents gave me a gift card to Webs. And Webs was having a closeout on this delicious yarn from Classic Elite. Of course the picture doesn't do the color justice. It's a very blue purple, and the yarn is so soft.
I found this pattern on ravelry. It was such an easy knit--pretty much all stockinette, with a little seed stitch thrown in at the end. I love, love, love how this sweater fits. Happy Birthday to me!

Pattern: Francis Revisited


Yarn: Classic Elite Renaissance
I think I pretty much followed the pattern as written. I did a provisional cast on to start and then knit from the cast-on edge for the cowl. I knit this very, very loosely to get the gauge (and it was still a little off, but it's okay!).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Holiday Traditions

Before I begin this post, I just wanted to let you know that we lucked out yesterday--the rain did stop, and the sun even came out for several hours! This is what the sump pump looked like as of last night. The water level had gone down a few inches--I quit playing a one-woman bucket brigade (and boy are my arms sore). It turns out the outlet does work, so we may be replacing the sump pump soon. Fortunately, the forecast does look fairly dry for a while.
And now, on to more seasonally appropriate items! Yesterday the kids' advent calendar "activity" was that we'd be putting on the Christmas pillowcases.
They get so excited about these every year. My college roommate made these for us a few years ago, and I love pulling these out of the linen closet every year. I just adore the Peanuts characters (and the Charlie Brown Christmas CD sits in my car CD player every December). I also love that one of my oldest and dearest friends made these for us. It's nice to have a holiday tradition that extends beyond the family. And it's even neater to know that her kids are also cuddling up to their own holiday pillowcases. Everyone had dreams of sugarplums last night!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Got a bucket?

As soon as I'm done with this post, I'm checking in at weather.com in hopes that the radar will show me that this rain is close to being over! Whether our sump pump is dead remains to be seen, because the outlet that it is plugged into is dead. And when I run extension cords across the basement to the other outlets, the GFI trips as soon as I plug it in. So this morning I have been taking buckets of water up from the basement (it's all still contained with the sump pump...for now) and dumping them outside. I feel a little like Mickey Mouse in that cartoon.

If only our long extension cords weren't in use outside (for Christmas lights that still aren't finished), I'd try running those up into the kitchen to see if the damn thing works. Alas...I figure this way I'm getting some exercise!

Once things dry out around here, I can tell you the story of the dress I made for myself yesterday. It looks like a potato sack on me. I'll be hacking it up and salvaging the fabric. Just not today.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Semi-Homemade Christmas

One of this year's homemade gifts is actually semi-homemade! The quilt I made for Caroline last year is going to have to be used in summer months, because she has the coldest room in the house. She has two windows that face north, and though her room is large, there is only one heating duct (and it's right by one of the windows). Since we have a couple of old queen-sized comforters, it seemed silly to purchase a new set.

After searching online and in stores, I finally found this cute pink flannel duvet cover. The only problem--it was king-sized. So last week I spread out the king-sized duvet cover on the floor and then laid the queen-sized comforter on top of it. I trimmed it down on three sides (making sure to keep the side with the button closures intact), and then stitched up the seams. Piece of cake!




And she'll get a bonus gift! A scarf made from a thrifted, felted sweater... that is backed with some of the leftover flannel. I hope she'll share the scarf with her mama.

In the mood

Look at what is falling!
It's so much easier to get in the holiday mood when there is snow coming down. Time to get the hot chocolate and marshmallows going.



Happy December!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Holiday Ornament Swap

Last year, I went a little overboard on holiday swaps. Actually, I went a little overboard on handmade everything! This year, I cut back--but I did continue to participate in the Holiday Ornament Swap.

Felted mistletoe sprigs! Free pattern on ravelry! Super easy!I stopped when I had enough for the swap (I had to make 10, so I was ready for a break.) But these knit up in about 20 minutes, and I think they're so cute, I may make one for our tree...eventually.



These went out in Wednesday's mail. Now all I have to do is sit back and wait for my new lovely ornaments!

Simplicity 2560

My parents gave me a gift card to Jo-ann Fabrics for my birthday. I guess I could say that they gave me this really cute short-sleeved cardi!
I'm on a pinky-purple-lavender kick lately (you should see the yarn I'm working with!). This is view A, but all the different options for this pattern could easily be interchanged. My only gripe about this pattern is that there are no long-sleeved options, but I may experiment with that later. I still have some knit fabric in my stash to play with.
Sewing this up took longer than I thought it would, and that is because I used my serger, and Serge and I don't get together that often. There was a lot of stopping and starting and re-threading. Really, this could be made without the serger. It just won't have those pretty finished seams.
I wore this yesterday, and I loved it! My daughters loved it! What's not to love?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Post-holiday picture show

I'll fess up now. I took three pictures yesterday. Here is the first. It's the white-chocolate pecan pie before it went into the oven. It was so very delicious!
And here is Bobby's favorite part of the meal. I just had to take a picture of it like that--fresh out of the can, no artful slicing to pretend that it's anything other than cranberry jello!I wish I had taken pictures of the main attraction, which this year was a tie between the supremely awesomely delicious turkey and the beyond scrumptious, first-time-I ever-tried-it and-have-raised-the-bar-for-all-subsequent-Thanksgivings homemade gravy. I mean, my mother-in-law was saying I should go out and buy and cook another turkey so we could enjoy the rest of the leftover gravy!

Here is my latest knitting project, finally completed. This thing has completely derailed my holiday handcrafting schedule. I'm so glad it is done.
It's our new advent calendar. I discovered this pattern last year, and I knew that I wanted it for this year. The pattern is for sale--you can find it through ravelry. I highly recommend making it over the summer!

I have already hung it up. Another confession: I was at the mall this morning at four. That's right, four. I had birthday money just burning a hole in my pocket, and I didn't want to wait until tomorrow to go shopping without the kids. So I had a grand old time and was home by seven. I am beyond tired. I stopped by Jo-ann's for some doorbuster fun, and had a jacket/cardi all cut out and ready to sew...only to discover that I do not have any ball-point needles! That's when I started decorating. And because I'm dying to sew this thing up, I may actually go out later with the kids. I hope that Michaels sells sewing machine needles!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thirty-nine!

I turn thirty-nine today. I want to take a picture of myself today and post it here, but I am still in my pajamas, and I do not want to scare you.

Anyway, this birthday seems almost as big as the next one...maybe I'm giving too much importance to the numbers. I've been wondering whether there is anything I want to do/see/accomplish before I turn forty next year. There are things I'd like to do eventually, but nothing that I really feel pressured to do in the next year.

So now I wonder, do you have a "bucket list"? Is there something you want to do or see before any milestone birthday (or kicking the bucket?)? Have you crossed anything off your list? Share with us.

And if I don't get to stop back in here tomorrow, please know that I am thankful for all of you, my virtual buddies. I wish you all a happy, peaceful, and delicious Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thankful

Thank you so much for your sweet comments about Fletch's passing.

The kids are doing better. Rob and the kids made a cross to put up in the yard to remember him by.

I am adjusting slowly.

After thirteen years of letting the dog out one last time before going to bed or leaving the house, I'm having to make new routines.

The kids had a picnic on the floor of the sun room over the weekend. They'd never been able to do that because the dog would steal their food.

We can all run through the house now (well, I don't condone this, but at least Fletch won't start barking and join in the chase).

I still expect to see him lying on the floor as we watch TV in the evening; I swear I hear him making his "old dog" noises while I sleep. As I said, I'm adjusting slowly.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sad

Yesterday we said goodbye to Fletch. After thirteen years, his body was failing him. Rob and I held hands and rubbed his ears as he passed.
Christmas 2008: sleeping right in the middle of the action

I was not prepared for how upset the kids would be. I think I was so wrapped up in my own emotions yesterday that I didn't consider how they would take the news. Seeing them so upset made an already long day even longer. They have constructed a makeshift memorial with one of his dog beds, his food and water bowls, and some pictures and letters they drew last night.
We're going to be getting used to a quiet house and remembering our dear friend.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gettin' ziggy with it

Zig-zag Christmas quilt? Done!
Amy at Park City Girl led a zig zag quilt along over the summer, and I pretty much followed her instructions. I used a couple of charm packs plus some solids. It's a little smaller than I had hoped--maybe 49" by 49", but still a good lap-size quilt.
As you look at the back, you can see that I kept the quilting very simple. I had purchased another color of thread to do some quilting in the pink sashing, but I really just wanted this to be done.

And in the spirit of getting it done, I cheated on the binding. I stitched it to the front of the quilt, then pinned it down on the back and stitched in the ditch. I had to go back over a few places, and it's not pretty, but it is done. The kids aren't going to be checking for nicely mitered corners--they're going to be spilling hot chocolate on it when they watch It's a Wonderful Life. And I am totally okay with that.


Yep, I 've been in the library again. Grace over at Uncommon Grace recommended the Mrs. Sharp's Traditions book as a great resource for year-round and advent traditions and activities for the family. I've been looking through it, and I'm hoping that this Christmas season will be a fun one.

Of course, I am hosting Thanksgiving this year, and that means that I have to stop taking on new projects and put away the sewing machine (at least for one day). Since the dining room has become my work space, I have a lot of cleaning (or at least moving out of sight) to do in there.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

This holiday needed a banner

So instead of vacuuming, or scrubbing toilets, or doing any of the many things that should be done around the house, last week I made this. The burgundy felt was found in the remnant bin at Jo-ann, and the rest are scraps I already had.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Right Now

I have these pinecones. Lots of pinecones. I picked up a grocery bag's worth last month. For free--one of the grocery stores where I shop is across the street from a church, and along the road by the church are several pine trees, and hundreds of cones had blown across the street to a grassy strip alongside the grocery store parking lot. So I pulled in one day and started picking up cones. Then a lady pulled up beside me and gave me a great tip. She told me to put the pinecones in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes. She said it would kill any bugs hiding in the cones and make the sap turn a pretty amber color.
See the pretty sap? It is really pretty. I forgot about the pinecones until I noticed smoke...all throughout the downstairs. It took about an hour to get all of the smoke out, and the great piney scent lingered for hours. Rob and I loved the smell; the kids, not so much.

Anyway, right now, I'm left with all these pinecones (and this is about only half of what I brought home). They're still on the cookie sheet because I don't know what I'm going to do with them! I keep searching the house for some kind of decorative basket to put them in, but I haven't found one yet. They really need a home soon.
And right now, on another part of my dining room table, is the zig zag quilt. Does anyone have a recommendation for quilting thread? Because I'm using a brand-new spool of Coats & Clark machine quilting thread and it is breaking constantly--just like all the other spools of C&C machine quilting thread that I've bought in the past. Constantly re-threading the machine does not make this enjoyable for me!

And right now, I'm knitting these as fast as I can. Seven down, five more to go, and then it's on to the mini-mittens.


And right now, I'm wondering what is the best way to repair these jeans. The quickest way will be an iron-on patch on the inside. Or I could just take these out of the rotation.


And right now, I still can't believe that the kids really didn't notice all the work I did yesterday. They're not asking where anything is...it makes me think I need to remove more stuff!

Monday, November 9, 2009

What I'm Up To

On Friday, Grace had a post that really spoke to me. She wrote about this book, Simplicity Parenting. It was all I could do to keep from clicking on the "buy" button on Amazon. The library doesn't have in stock yet either, but I did find it on the shelf at the bookstore, and I skimmed a couple of chapters on Saturday--all the while telling myself that I didn't need to spend $25.00 on a book that was going to tell me to buy less stuff. (I think that's called "irony".)



Anyway, I skimmed the chapters about toys and books. I have always thought that fewer toys was a great idea (and yet our house is full of plastic crap), but I hadn't ever considered fewer books. But the same logic applies--with fewer toys in a space, the child is free to actually see what's there and will tend to play longer with what's in front of her instead of getting distracted and moving on to the next thing. And with a basket stuffed full of books, same thing.


I usually go through a big purge right before Christmas (you know, to make room for more junk), but this year, I'd like to think of this as a new beginning--less toys and stuff, period. I'd like to keep it pared down all year. I feel Grinchy--it's not that I don't want my kids to have things, I just think we can all do just fine without so freakin' much of it! This year (and I know I say this every year), but this year, I really want to be mindful of what comes in the house and not just buy "one more thing" so they can unwrap it.

I spent most of this morning going through the kids' rooms thinning out the collections of junk. Gone are the eight (eight!) Nancy Drew books that were sitting completely unread after almost a year. Junie B. has moved to the bookcase downstairs. The collection of books in each child's room has been cut by about two-thirds. Most of those moved downstairs to the kids' bookcase; some of them have been passed on to Goodwill.

I decided to try toy rotation again--since Bobby is finally showing interest in the 400-piece box of K'nex he received for his birthday over a year ago, I have left that in the playroom. I moved out the giant tub of Tinkertoys and the two containers of Lincoln logs. All of the stuffed animals (except for that handful of loveys they sleep with) are taking an indefinite vacation in the basement--they'll be moving into Goodwill next week if nobody complains that they're missing.

They're about to come home from school, and I'm a little nervous about how they'll react. Hopefully it will go well. And maybe next time I'm here I can show you some crafting. I'm going to need some Advil later for my back--all that bending and stooping and picking up has taken its toll today!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Quilts around the house

Most mornings I make the children's beds. I go through their rooms in the morning to open the blinds and let in some light. Now that the clocks have turned back, I'm craving all the natural light I can get.

I just love these quilts--I made them for the kids for Christmas last year. I have no such plans for any huge undertakings like that for this year. Cranking these three out was a job and a half--my mom and I were hand-stitching the binding to the backs of the quilts on Christmas Eve day!
This is Caitlin's quilt. I think her room is my favorite. It's sunny and yellow--just like her! She is a crazy sleeper, and her quilt is usually pulled off the bed by morning, so that's why I make the beds instead of torturing myself to get them to do it.

With these dark blue walls, Bobby's room is the darkest in the house. While it's great for going to sleep, I just can't stand to leave his blinds closed once he's up--it's like a cave in there!
Yes, that bed was his big sister's (it's white and a little girly, but it was free). He hasn't complained about it. My mother-in-law offered to give him her old bedroom furniture. It's more masculine looking, but it's a full sized bed, so that will have to wait until...(until he gets a bigger room? Don't see that on the horizon.)

These are Bobby's dirty clothes. That wicker basket is the hamper. We're working on this. I am trying to get the kids to put their dirty clothes in the hamper. I'm trying not to nag them about it, but I have told them that I will only wash clothes that are in the hamper. Also you see a pile of Halloween costumes...


And here is Caroline's quilt. It's queen sized, and it was a beast to quilt, even with the simple cross-hatching pattern. I like all the different fabrics. It's busy, but I love to get lost in looking at all the patterns.

Shel Silverstein has a poem titled, "Hector the Collector." I often call Caroline "Hector." You can see why. She doesn't like to close her dresser drawers. Ever.



So there you have a brief tour of quilts and my children's messes. We are working on "contributing" to the family. They are supposed to be contributing by putting away their clean clothes and by putting the dirty ones in the hamper. Also putting away their shoes. It's a work in progress, and it doesn't appear to be going well, judging by these pictures. I think that the kids are more than capable of doing these tasks, and I am trying to restrain myself from sweeping in and doing it all for them. If I'm going to let them learn responsibility, I have to let them own the tasks, even when they appear to be failing.


And now I need to go work on some of my own contributions to the family--namely, decluttered kitchen counters!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Loads o'photos

I love these mittens. The pattern was very easy to follow, although I didn't do the magic loop as called for in the pattern. I think I needed a longer circular needle to do it successfully. It knit up just fine on dpns.
Today I went in search of yarn for more Christmas related activities. I had a very brief kid-free window of time, so I had to go to A.C. Moore instead of one of my favorite LYS. What a pleasant surprise to discover that A.C. Moore had a much larger than expected selection of Patons wool AND it was all 25% off! Bonus!

What early November post would be complete without some Halloween pictures? Here are the girls after I finished with face paint and right before the oldest ran out the door to trick or treat with a friend.
A fairy and a clown. Later I discovered that the clown had wiped all her face paint off before she went out.

This one is grainy because I forgot to turn the flash on, but I wanted to show the boy in his costume. He's Ben 10--and all of these costumes were either handed down or recycled!
Last night, the boy lost his second tooth! It was a bloody mess, but he was so pleased with himself.


And when he woke up this morning, he quietly took his dollar from the tooth fairy and put it in his piggy bank! Just too cute for this mama!