Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Accumulating Gear


With our departure for Washington D.C. imminent (think tomorrow), I have been furiously knitting warm woolens for my family. I finished off a batch of Duffer slippers for us this weekend. Of course, mine came out a wee bit too small, when I became a bit overzealous with the whole felting process. (Now my mom has a cozy pair of slippers. I think she was quite pleased with my error). Next up has been mittens.

Everyone has coats and gloves. wool socks. hats. long underwear. even brand new knitted legwarmers. but no mittens. When this oversight was pointed out, I resisted a bit. Wouldn't warm, waterproof gloves be sufficient? Nope. There had to be mittens. So, out came the skein remaining after Aine's emergency snow trip hat. Using this easy pattern, I cast on and last night finished her pair. Perfect. Today I plan to work on a cabled pair for me to match my bright orange hat. Then onto the boys' matchy mittens.

And then finally I will be back to my Leaves of Grass blanket. Lots of knitting has been happening, but it is all necessary knitting. This is a foreign concept living in the land of sunshine. Trying to use wool to keep warm doesn't happen often here, but I think it will in Virginia.

I finished up Joy For Beginners which was recommended in the comments on Alicia's blog this week. Laying around in bed provides ample reading time. It was light and full of inspiration to live fully and do something that pushes your comfort often. Fortunately I also had the inaugural issue of Kindred to keep me company. If you don't know Amanda already, check out her blog and beautiful words. Kindred is full of such beauty and feeling among its pages. I recommend it. I even plan on submitting a piece for the next issue.

So what is everyone knitting? Is anyone else trying to keep warm?

Monday, January 28, 2013

S L O W


It has been a very slow three days. On Friday I found myself with a very sore back. I had been rolling around with the boys tickling them when I did something horrific to my back. Whatever I did was debilitating. I could hardly walk. Nevertheless we headed to the park. I wasn't going to let back pain slow me down. After many hours at the park, most of which was spent hobbling and whining to my friends, I decided I had a problem.

Once home, I crawled into bed. My mom and Dave helped me out with medication and back rubs. I didn't even knit. I just laid there moaning. Saturday saw much of the same. Dave headed out for adventures with the kiddos, while I stayed home in bed. This time I was able to knit and finished another pair of slippers as well as work on the second legwarmers. It was a long slow day, and it was so hard. I am not one to just sit. Sunday was much better, but I had to take it slowly. Laundry was done and preparations were made for our upcoming trip. In between bouts of productivity I had to slow down and rest. My back was telling me when I did too much. It has been a not too subtle reminder to listen to my body and just go slow.

Friday, January 25, 2013

{this moment}


{this moment} - Joining Amanda in a Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

This and That

A few weeks ago, I mentioned joining in on the Leaves of Grass knit along. Since I had the yarn and the pattern, it seemed logical. This was just the right motivation I needed. I whipped through the first two charts, and I was really progressing quite well on the blanket (I am doing it in a worsted weight yarn). Then I noticed that my skein was not getting much smaller. In fact, I still had half a skein - not to mention the other three in my bag. I was on Chart C and still had more than 75% of my yarn left. I became worried and discouraged. I did the only thing I could think of; I set the shawl aside.

I knew I needed a few quick knits to help me along. So, I cast on for a pair of socks and finished them. I then decided we needed slippers for the upcoming return east. I love the Duffers pattern from a few years ago, and had yarn for a pair for each of the kids and me (Dave hates the idea of slippers). I quickly made Benton a pair and cast on another pair for Aine (the pink slipper pictured above). With his finished and hers halfway complete, I found another project to satisfy my need for speed. I started a set of leg warmers.

I now have one legwarmer and a slipper on the needles as well as the Leaves of Grass. I plan to finish the slipper after this post. The legwarmer will be my travel project as it is an easy moss stitch pattern. With these two projects near completion, I think I am about ready to return to my blanket. My need for quick projects has been satisfied. Rumor has it that the final charts require a lot of yarn. I sure hope so, or I will have the smallest blanket and a whole lot of yarn left over!

While I have been knitting, I have been mostly listening to audiobooks. I finished The Newlyweds and enjoyed it. I was a bit surprised by the ending, but I thought the story progressed smoothly. Definitely full of a few small surprises. My next book was one Eamon has been wanting me to read, The Lightning Thief. I am enjoying it, and it gives me quite a few things to discuss with him. He is a huge fan of mythology, so we can talk at great length about the god/goddesses.

My book reading has been focused on the classics. I finished Steinbeck's The Red Pony and am getting ready to read Of Mice And Men. These two were influenced by the selection of The Grapes of Wrath for the Big Read this year. Although I am enjoying Steinbeck's prose, his story's are not bright, shiny happy things. He is able to create such vivid imagery with few words, but he can also relay such deep human emotions. I may need a bit of a break before I delve into the depression era dust bowl. I plan to read that one in the next few months. I have a few other books I would like to read prior to it.

So, what are you working on this week with Ginny? Read any good books lately. I just put a lot on hold at my library, but I am always looking for good ones.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

No Small Feat

At the beginning of the year, one of my friends noticed I was working on a pair of socks. She innocently asked if it was the same pair that I had been carrying around for months. When I admitted that yes, it was, she told me to just finish them already! So I did. And I wondered what had taken so long. The pattern wasn't difficult. I just had many other projects on the needles. I had finished a lot of them just not my backup socks.
And then I realized that socks really don't take me a long time to knit. They actually go quite quickly, and even with my large feet, I very much enjoy the process. So, using a skein of yarn I recently bought in celebration of 10 years of Knitty, I cast on for another pair right away. Not venturing far from the celebration, I chose a pattern from knitty as well. Instead of my usual two at a time, I focused on one sock using DPNs. It flew off the needles. And I realized I need to knit plain socks all the time. The ease of the stockinette is a great compliment for my time with kiddos. I can easily pick it up and put it down. I don't lose my place in charts or forget the patterning. It was fantastic.
So after less than two weeks I have a pair of socks for my feet, which is no small feat in my mind (pun very much intended). And I am already casting on for another. They are very portable and small, which makes them perfect for our life out and about town. Plus socks always fit. These discoveries are too big to pass. I guess I am a sock convert.
with Nicole as part of crafting on...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Relishing

 

This weekend brought with it an extra day of fun. With Daddy home three days instead of two it felt like vacation. Saturday was spent with cousins. Eamon and Dave were out, so it was just Benton and Aine home to enjoy them. We played inside and eventually moved outdoors to scooters and bikes when the discord reached crisis proportions (much discussion about what is fair and how fair does not mean equal). Scrapped knees and arms ensued while scootering, so my mom and I decided a trip to the park was in order. With the youngest happy and content in a stroller, we made our way to the park. Racing down the hills and feats of strength on the rings and bars took up the most time. Eventually we had to head home and think about food and wonder when the other members of the family would return. A quick dinner of take-out pizza followed once everyone was back, because sometimes child minding and baby soothing takes more time than you think.

Sunday dawned with happy kiddos. I spent some time at my sewing machine mending pj pants, dresses and making a thing or two (oh, how I have missed sewing). The weather was gorgeous, so little time was spent indoors. Skates, scooters and bikes were the focus of the day. A new neighbor entered the mix and LEGOS were brought out to trade, sort and build. Dave fixed the back latch on the truck meticulously taking it apart and applying copious amounts of oil. It locks again-woo hoo! Aine and I headed out to run errands which included a trip to the library. Ostensibly we just went to pick up holds, but that turned into finding several bags of must reads. Home again to share the book pile with the boys who eagerly grabbed stacks to read. Next was dinner followed by ice cream all around and then a bit of Mythbusters before bed.

On to today which is just beginning to unfold. It promises much as we have time with friends planned at the park. Daddy is home too which is a bonus. Amidst the fun, we will listen to this speech and remember freedom is for everyone. Enjoy your Monday.

Friday, January 11, 2013

{this moment}

{this moment} - Joining Amanda in a Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Homeschooling

Today was one of those days when interests and supplies fell right in line. Eamon has been mentioning an interest in the periodic table and elements lately. With this in mind, I picked up a few books on the topic from the library. That was a few weeks ago. They have been sitting relatively undisturbed in our book basket.

Then the topic came up again today. I reminded Eamon of the book, and he came back a bit later with a big book tucked under his arm. He carried The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe around for the rest of the day (a big thanks to Roberta and her blogs for the recommendation). While I worked in the kitchen, he quizzed me on the symbols, and was quite impressed with my recall. Aine joined him, and the two reviewed chemical properties trying to stump each other with their knowledge.

As they were talking I remembered a PBS special on the elements. We headed into the other room and after a quick search of PBS were watching Hunting the Elements. When this initially aired, neither were interested. This time around all three kiddos sat mesmerized by the dialogue (note to other parents, there is a discussion of a chemical bomb and a few photos of the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing). There was even talk about watching it again.

At dinner, we again talked about the periodic table. The recounted many parts of the PBS special and again the book was brought out. I think it may be time to pull out some more of our experiment supplies. I think the elements will be the topic of much discussion for the weeks to come.


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Joining In

When it comes to knitting I can be easily influenced. Ginny's Yarn Along is a great source of inspiration, new ideas and, oftentimes, distractions! I enjoy looking at other people's projects and planning my own version. Often I will have my knitting queue set and then see something new which changes the whole sequence. This happened last summer when another yarn alonger made a gorgeous blanket, and I fell in love. I immediately favorited the pattern and made a note of the yarn used. It took a month or two before I bought the yarn, but I knew I wanted to make a blanket like the one made by Lori.

That yarn has been sitting in a little pile waiting for me to start. I kept coming up with other projects that needed to be done first. Honestly, I wasn't sure I really wanted to tackle a blanket. Last week I had just the nudge I needed to begin. Lori mentioned a knit along starting for the Leaves of Grass pattern she used for her blanket. I immediately knew I had to join. It was the little push I needed to change the yarn from skein to project. I quickly signed up before I could make any more excuses. I even bought the pattern that same night.

With the disappearing loop tutorial in front of me, I cast on this week. It took a few times of ripping out and reknitting before I felt like I was making progress. Part of this may be that I tried knitting Chart A while at the park with my kiddos. It isn't easy watching kiddos climb an adjacent butte while trying to read a knitting chart. I prevailed and am halfway through the first chart. I love it thus far. It is really beautiful. I know I won't finish this any time soon, but I now have a great project to work on while we drive across country again!

As far as reading, I have been focused on a pile of financial and lifestyle books. Dave and I know the life we want to live; we are just trying to figure out how to better fund it. For entertainment, I am listening to a good audiobook entitled The Newlyweds. It is about a woman from Bangladesh who marries an American she met online. It is quite good. I am nearing the middle and things are getting quite interesting. Hopefully I will finish it soon and be able to give a full recommendation.
What it looked like last night spread out


Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Lemon Season


While enjoying the snowy weather up north, I had plenty of time to knit. One project that I started was a veggie bag. I had a single skein of linen from Claudia Handpainted yarn in the poppy colorway that was begging to be used. The Ilene bag seemed like a perfect fit. The knitting went very quickly, and I finished the bag once we arrived home. The timing on this knit was perfect as the lemons here are beginning to ripen and are ready to be picked.

With bag in hand, I headed outside to grab some fruit off the tree. Lemons are not my favorite food, but with an overabundance this time of year you have to adapt. I grabbed a few particularly ripe ones from the tree. Aine and Benton helped me find just the right ones. I was amazed at how much this bag would hold. My arm got tired before the bag was full!

We now have plans to make some lemonade and lemon curd tomorrow. I will probably brew some lemon and ginger tea with a smidge of honey for our breakfast in the morning. Then we may pick up some fish at the farmers market to be flavored with lemon wedges. Lemon cookies will round up the day's menu. As you can see, although they are not my favorite, lemons are quite popular around my home this time of year.

Monday, January 07, 2013

B L O O M

Last year I shared my word for the year with you. I chose stretch, and it applied so well to my year. I had to really stretch my level of comfort while living out of state for 6 months. I continued to stretch it when we returned and moved into my parents' home while we waited for Dave's promotional assignment. My creative abilities were pushed to new limits and I could feel myself growing out of my previous confines. The word continues to apply to my life as I try to expand my world view all the time and I will carry this word through the coming years.

2013 brings different thoughts though. While I will continue to stretch, I want more. However, I wasn't sure what my focus would be. I tossed a few words around in my head. I shared them with Dave, and he made suggestions. I sat with the idea and then I realized what my word had to be. This year my word of focus is b l o o m. It seems like such a fitting word for me right now. I want to make sure that wherever I am, my life is full. The idea of bloom where you are planted seems to apply. There is so much potential in this life that I want to make sure no minutes are lost. So, this year as we ready our family for another stay in Washington D.C. (much shorter this time), I am focusing on happiness, success and blooming right where I am. And to make sure I don't forget I found a bracelet to use as a reminder.

Did you focus your intentions for the year? Do you pick a word? If so what is yours?

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Day-Tripping: Alamo Lake
















 I admit that when Dave suggested a day trip, I inwardly cringed. I had wanted to go hiking, escaping the confines of the indoors for the gorgeous weather we experience this time of year in Arizona. I wanted to stretch my legs and just get out. Car rides can be long and my belly does not always like the twists and turns of Arizona driving. However, Dave really wanted to scout out a location for future camping. He convinced me that it would be fun. The clincher was that it would include a bit of hiking.

We set out on our day-trip rather late in the day. Fortunately Alamo Lake is not too far away. The drive took us through a few small towns full off abandoned storefronts and run-down homes. We turned off the main road toward the lake with full bladders and excitement. After finding a restroom, we scouted out the camping. There is a campground, but Dave wanted to see what the National Forest camping was like (and we didn't want to pay the $7 campground fee). We followed a circuitous dirt road with the laughter over the dips and bouncy terrain drowning out the complaints from Aine and me about our touchy tummies. The camping appeared to be pretty good, although different from our typical forest locales. There was plenty of space and a few scattered campers. As the road progressed we found ourselves closer to the lake and our goal.

It was a cold day by Arizona standards, and the lake was mostly deserted. It was gorgeous in the late afternoon sun. We gathered rocks and made a cairn to mark the path back to our vehicle. The kiddos ran ahead and picked up rocks and sticks. We spotted animal tracks and scat. We even discovered a bird carcass which appeared to have been a meal for a coyote or bobcat. We tried identifying the animals and decided many used the lakeshore as a watering hole and hunting ground.

As we walked we stopped often to look at the lake. The colors were fantastic. We continued along the beach ending at a boat ramp. The kiddos ran up and down the bank reinforcements as we progressed toward the boat launch and ramp. It was unused, so we walked to the end to throw a few rocks into the lake and watch the sunset. Our walk back was a bit quicker as we were losing daylight. There was some concern expressed by the younger set, but we assured them that we still had plenty of light and flashlights if necessary. We found our cairn and the path back to the car easily.

With a bit of fresh air in our lungs, we started back toward home. As we drove, Dave remarked on the lack of light and the encompassing darkness. He thought it would be a great place for stargazing. With decisiveness, he pulled over on a dirt road, and we all climbed out to see the stars. Once our eyes adjusted to the dark, we were treated to an amazing night sky. The kiddos went crazy over all the stars they could see. Dave pointed out the Milky Way to them as well as a passing satellite. I saw a shooting star, but the others missed it. The kiddos laid on the hood and watched the night sky for a bit of time. We would have stayed longer if it wasn't getting a bit too cold for us.

When we arrived home, my intuitive husband asked if I hated our day trip. With all honesty I told him I had a great time. It was a beautiful area of our state that I look forward to visiting again. I will remember though to wear my motion sickness bands!

The Best Christmas Ever

The tree at my parents' home
Bracelet from Aine

Modeling her new ensemble (and yes, I should have alternated skeins, but I didn't realize until I was inches from binding off. My friend suggested calling it an ombre effect)


Several years ago we decided that Christmas didn't really fit with our core values. It was a whole lot of excess and often led to feelings of sadness, disappointment and a sense of being overwhelmed. The kiddos would want to play, but still had presents to open. They wanted things that didn't appear. It was just too much. We decided to change our approach. We continue to give one joint Santa gift to the kiddos. We then give them one other main gift apiece. There are a few smaller gifts like art paper, colored pencils or pens and a new electric toothbrush, but that is it. Of course, there are plenty of other gifts from family, but even there we have asked for gifts of time instead.

Since deciding to really downsize our holiday celebrations, I suffer from doubt. Every time I open my inbox or turn on the radio, I hear about sales and buying and more and more stuff. This year I held my ground until just before Christmas. I was out running errands when I had to call Dave to talk me down while standing inside a Toys-r-Us. I left empty handed. Our little family doesn't need anything, but I was worried. My kiddos made lists, and the gifts we had for them did not appear on those sheets of paper.

I should not have worried. This Christmas was wonderful. Although the gifts were not those on the kiddos' lists, they were picked just for them and oh so perfect. Eamon received a new bike/skateboard helmet, Aine found herself clad in a full pink ensemble complete with a new mama made poncho, and Benton has a new scooter. The gifts from others hit the mark too as a carnivorous plant kit made its way into our home as well as some black sparkly shoes. The biggest gift was from Santa. The kiddos found three new sleds and snow gloves until the tree. Santa had arranged for our sunshiny Arizona family to spend three nights in a "Winter Wonderland" up north. Everyone was so excited!


 

So, on the first day of the New Year, our family headed north to Rim County (Strawberry, AZ). We found our cabin and set about the hard work of playing. The cabin had a large sled run, so we all tested the new sleds many times. Even mama and daddy took turns hurling themselves down the slick snow. Aine remarked on the stairs inside the cabin making her legs sore the next day. Nope, it was all those runs up the sledding hill.





The snow was thrown, molded, stored, and eaten. The kiddos fashioned a snow mama one day. It even had oak leaf hair at one point. This collaborative effort stood near the swing the whole time we were there. Over the days new hair was added as well as a nose job, going from carrot to icicle. She was able  even to withstand attempts at toppling by a certain four year old.

We all stayed toasty warm in our cold weather gear which included new boots for some and borrowed snow pants for others. Wool socks warmed our toes as well. A new hat was needed for Aine as she could not find hers as we were packing to leave. This new one "makes her look like a king or queen" according to her little brother. A few times the kiddos played without coats making their mama shiver. They just loved the whole experience.

Of course, when the wind was a little too cold or the toes needed some warming, we headed inside to the wood stove and more fun. Benton loved playing a bit of pool. Dave spent time teaching the kiddos the art of nine ball and the proper dart throwing technique. While I played multiple rounds of Yahtzee and Monopoly Deal. We dined on chili, stew and shepherd's pie. We read, knit and just enjoyed each other. According to Eamon, "It was the Best Christmas Ever!"