Tuesday, November 29, 2011

telling the story

A few years ago, I started making digital photo albums for my kids for Christmas, of the previous year. I make one for each boy, and one for Curt and me. This way, I figure, the boys will have a copy to take with them as they (sob!) move on in life.

They have become a tradition in our family. The kids mention each year how much they look forward to seeing them, and during the year I find them paging through the ones I have already made to revisit those memories.

I have been busy working on the album for 2010 this month, in the hope of getting it done by Christmas. It struck me how much this is a labor of choosing how to show them, each year, what I am trying to say: I think this is a good life, and I hope you agree. Your life is full of blessings. You are loved. I hope that is enough.

Like this one I came across today, of my eldest son and his youngest brother in Maine last year:

As they navigate the rocky shores of life, I keep wanting to repeat these messages to them over and over again: Your life is full of blessings. You are loved.

I hope that is enough.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

seeing double, knitting double

It has been a rough week in these parts. My LSH and I have spent every waking hour on a campaign against a new business ill-suited to our town, and I am seeing double with exhaustion. We had a town meeting last night that was somewhat encouraging, but it's hard to know just where this will end up.

Political action is not my usual mode of operation. I am very much a "you have your views, and I'll have mine" sort of person -- though my children may beg to differ -- but that's what happens when you are married to a person who belongs to the opposite political party. I was hoping that, at the very least, the boys would be inspired by my civic engagement. Instead they complained non-stop about the lack of clean clothes and home-cooked meals.

So let's talk about knitting instead, shall we?

I finished my first double knitted project last week, which I think is destined to be a Christmas present for Primo, because it is in his school colors. Double knitting is a technique that allows you to knit the front and back of an object at the same time, producing a reversible item that is actually two layers of knitting.

This was one of those projects I couldn't put down. It was so much fun to watch the pattern develop, even when I had to rip out rows due to mistakes when I wasn't paying enough attention.

Please excuse crappy knitted object photos.
Exhausted, no time, blah blah blah.
But at least the kid is cute.

It took me a while to figure out how to hold the yarn most efficiently for my knitting style. I finally ended up with the picking method recommended by StitchDiva but you can see problems with my tension on the reverse (red) row and I gave up on getting jogless joins on the stripes.

The switch in tension is pretty obvious on this side,
especially the bottom band.

I don't think it really matters though. Secondo and Terzo, both of whom had to lend their heads for sizing, really liked the hat. Of all the hats I have made, this one is definitely my favorite. If you want to try the technique yourself, I highly recommend this pattern, with this explanation of how to work the decreases at the top.

Since this is a late Wednesday pre-turkey post, I'll go ahead and say: Happy Thanksgiving to one and all! I hope you have many things to be thankful for tomorrow.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

great little shed

At the beginning of the summer, I tried to head off the inevitable claims of boredom (as if that's possible!) by suggesting that the boys build a little shed in the one fenced field lacking shelter. I was embracing the 4-H "learn by doing" philosophy, perhaps a bit too naively.

They enthusiastically ordered me to take them to the Home Depot, picked out their own lumber and supplies with great excitement, and assured me they (mostly Primo) had it "all planned out in their heads."

A few days later they marked the boards and got their father's help to cut them up.

There was much enthusiastic hammering and drilling and such, and they managed to get three sides up in pretty short order... and then they hit a brick wall, planning-wise.

In other words: the roof.

It sat there for a few months, and as the end of summer approached, I started to panic a bit. I suggested they consult our building guru, aka my father, to get some advice on getting a roof on the darn thing. My dad, initially thrilled to be asked, had no idea what he was getting into.

He came and took a look at their first effort and told them to take the entire thing apart. Because he is their grandfather and not their parent, they obeyed without one word of protest. Plus I think they realized that they really, really needed his help.

He returned for quite a few days to guide them in the proper construction of a little shed.

They even shingled the darn thing!

Today the weather was finally dry and warm enough -- and more importantly, we weren't running all over the state from activity to activity -- that they were able to get it painted before winter hits.

I even caught Kali and Kevyn in it the other day when it was raining. I wouldn't swear by my kids' ability to build another one on their own, but I sure am grateful for my father's rescue on this one.

Friday, November 18, 2011

basket update

I forgot to take a picture for proof, but there were quite tickets in the cup for my lottery tree at tonight's basket auction. Primo, who was volunteering at the event, thought it may have had the most.

Yay! I win yet another contest entirely of my own devising, that has absolutely no bearing on anything at all. But given the crapstorm of a week that we've had around here, I'll take whatever I can get.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

back in nj

We went to Ohio, and came back with one fully-outfitted country boy, two sick kids, and too many miles to count on the car, but it was a good trip. We got to see almost everyone on our list and were shown such wonderful hospitality and care that it made us wish we lived closer.

Though of course I got a few looks like this if my somewhat-but-not-always-polite crew thought the visiting and chit-chat had gone on a bit too long:

Not used to such family visitations, at one point, Terzo exclaimed, "Why are we going to all these different houses with the same people?" Ninety percent of his focus was trying to get to the hotel pool, yet again. (I have no idea which of them took this picture but it is a very accurate representation.)

One particular highlight was getting to see one of my sprout hats on an actual baby's head (my new first cousin once removed... I think... we spent a few hours one night trying to work out some of these connections). Yes, it's a little big, but he'll grow into it. That's the thing about babies.

 As a matter of fact, by the next time I see him, it probably won't even fit.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

heading west

Unlike my LSH, I am not from this state. I actually hail from Ohio, which is a great state to be associated with as it seems everyone has some sort of connection to Ohio at some point in their lives.

Most of my extended family still lives there, including several very dear aunts, cousins and friends that we haven't seen in some time. Since the boys are off school for the next two days, I will be taking advantage of the break in their schedules to whisk them off -- just me, no LSH this time -- to points west. The best part, by far, has been calling everyone to let them know we are on our way at long last.

Geese over a recently harvested corn field near our house.
They're headed south, we're headed west, 
but it's still the same basic idea.

See you in a few days.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

gift basket idea

I don't know about your town / church / school / kid's sports team / [insert favorite charitable cause here], but in these parts the gift basket auction is where it's at in terms of fundraisers.

Last year I made two baskets (one for church, one for high school) complete with a hand-knit hat and fingerless mitt set, hot chocolate, tea and coffee fixings, insulated mugs, dunking cookies, etc. They were tepidly received, so to heck with that.

This year I decided to change my tack. The church got the hand-knit baby hat and a bunch of hand-made marshmallow blow guns, courtesy of my boys, plus the usual nut brittle, courtesy of my LSH.

The high school got this, which I am passing along to you as an idea for the easiest gift basket ever:

It consists of a Christmas photo holder (this one from Pier 1, which is chock-full of stuff that looks as if it came straight off the set of the recent Grinch movie), a glass charger from Michael's (on clearance) and nine scratch-off lottery tickets, plus a few tiny confetti presents. For value I put "Who knows? Could be $20,000!"

But I really spent under $50 -- less than last year -- then put it in a gift bag, taped it shut and bunged a bow on the front. Total assembly time: about twenty minutes, tops.

Hope this helps another harried fundraiser!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

little sprout

One hat down. I finished the Little Sprout hat last night. Two days, start to finish, so the perfect quick and easy baby gift.

Yarn: Louet Gems Sport (machine washable)

I had actually made a hat like this last year, which turned out a bit too small. In March of this year, though, a special baby with a perfectly-sized head was born, and so the hat was mailed off to him.

A little bit better staged than the first one...

I was so pleased with the way that the first hat came out, I always intended to make another one so I could fix and publish the pattern. I thought I would kill two birds with one stone with this hat: contribute something for the church, and finally get the pattern (simple as it is) written out and put up for others to use.

I even had the perfect name: Little Sprout. When I went to check the name -- lo and behold -- there was a pattern that was almost identical to the one I had made! It was just too obvious, I suppose.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

hat central

Have you caught up with that barrage of late-October posts yet? It is an accurate reflection of what October is like around here. We turn the calendar page to November and things automatically calm down a bit.

I finally have time to do a bit of knitting, though I am still a little scattered! Here is my project area in the living room: three hats going at once. From left to right:

  • a double knitted hat in the local high school colors because I wanted to learn how to do reversible knitting; may be a Christmas gift for my sophomore.
  • a baby hat for the imminent church auction.
  • the beginning of an idea for a published hat pattern. 
If I could concentrate on just one at a time, I might actually produce an item to keep someone's head warm.