Friday, March 29, 2013

Homemade Friday: Imbolc Pullover

Apparently I have a thing for knitting sweaters that have lace designs in unexpected places.  Like this one

So when I saw the pattern for the Imbolc Pullover in Knitscene's Winter 2012 magazine, I kind of knew I'd be making it.

Someone needs to tell this person to check her
background before taking a picture standing in front
of her neighbor's trash can. I blame Christopher.

It's simple and something I can wear easily and often, but it's not boring, you know? 

I used Knitpicks Simply Cotton Sport.  I bought a bunch of it when it was on clearance for being discontinued.  I love the yarn and am a little sad they don't make it in color anymore.  They do, however, have a white one.  Which is a most unrealistic color for me as it would be stained by various peanut butter and jelly covered hugs and also sporadic wine spillage.

So no white, at least until my children learn to wipe their hands better.  No guarantees on me learning not to spill my wine.

I started this at the beginning of the month, I think.  Or the end of last month.  I've been a little bit lax on taking knitting notes.

I made the medium size because my gauge was wonky, as it normally is.  I also lengthened the sleeves and body because I've got abnormally long arms and torso.

It's still damp from blocking at the moment.  I only tell you because I want you to see how dedicated I was to put on a damp sweater and stand outside in the cold and force my husband to take photos of me wearing said sweater.

You're welcome. 

Pattern: Imbolc Pullover from Knitscene Winter 2012
Yarn: Knitpicks Simply Cotton Sport 
Gauge: Who the hell knows
Needle size: 3 and 4

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Motherhood and More: Child takes advantage of toddler bed freedom*

We didn’t have a choice, really. Once she figured out that she could swing her long legs over the side of her crib and jump down, unhurt, it was all over.

She tested the waters, first figuring out how to fling herself back in headfirst, but unable to find a way back out again. But then, after a particularly difficult bedtime routine, I heard her little feet running on the wooden floors above my head, and I knew she was picking up whatever toys she could, whatever blankets she could, to bring back to her bed.

I tried to ignore it, to pretend like it was not time for what I knew it was time for. But I couldn’t do that for long. It was time to transition my daughter to a toddler bed.

I don’t know if you’re aware from all of my complaining or not, but my daughter is especially challenging. It’s not that she’s bad, she just requires a lot of one-on-one attention and when she doesn’t get what she thinks she deserves, she acts out by spitting on the floor. Or smacking her brother. Or spitting on her brother and then smacking him. So I was understandably worried about this new step.

The first night, in a fit of foolishness, I decided that I didn’t have to zip her pajamas up backward like we normally do to prevent her from undressing and peeing all over her bed. Apparently, in my mind, a toddler bed meant that she was automatically ready to get out of bed in the dark and go to the bathroom by herself like her brother does.

Don’t feel bad. My husband thought I had lost my mind, too.

So at 10 p.m., when I checked on her to make sure she was actually in her bed, which she was, I also noticed she was wet. And her blankets were wet. And some of the plethora of toys that she’d collected in the hour or so that she’d been roaming in her room before she fell asleep were wet, too. And sheets, of course, those were wet as well.

So I made my husband help me clean her up because he’s the only one who can force her to calm down and sleep when she’s refusing every attempt I make. He only grumbled a tiny bit about how he knew this would happen. I appreciated that.

We cleaned her up and changed her sheets and zipped her up backward in her pajamas to keep her from taking them off again and I snuck downstairs and left my husband to deal with an unhappy 2-and-a-half-year-old. Luckily he was only stuck up there for a couple minutes. Otherwise I would probably still be privy to eye rolling and heavy sighing. Jokingly, of course. Maybe.

So the first night was eventful, but once she was fully asleep she was fine. Naptime, however, is not so enjoyable. I hear her roaming around upstairs, running into her brother’s room, running after the cat, running to find another book or toy to bring into bed with her. And she even came all the way downstairs while I was on the phone interviewing a source for the newspaper.

Sorry, source. That noise was me surprised to see my daughter, who was supposed to be sleeping, or at least pretending to sleep while playing in her room.

And bedtime, now that she’s discovered the full extent of her freedom, is equally enjoyable. She likes to run to her brother’s room and jump into bed with him, or run to the top of the stairs and yell down at her father and me. Or run after the cat.

I’m hoping that once the newness wears off a bit she’ll be better behaved about the whole thing. However I don’t expect her to stop running after the cat any time soon.

That’s just who she is.

*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on March 27, 2013.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Homemade Friday: Shawl Collar Cardigan

I'd like to say that I won't be able to wear the sweater I'm currently knitting, that it will be entirely too warm for a full sweater.

However, if you look at the forecast for the next week or so, you will see that I will have plenty of time to wear it, even though it's not finished yet.  I'm close, so I'll show you it next week.  Probably with a scarf and hat and multiple other layers because late March in Kentucky is the perfect time for all that.

I know I should stop complaining, that many, many people are still dealing with snow and ice and super cold temperatures.

But screw it.  I want to play outside on the new tree swing my husband made "for the kids."

But seriously, look at how happy they are!  Full of joy and energy and the love of being outside.  This, of course, was before they realized there was only one swing and once that happened there was much yelling and screaming and fighting and basically a normal Saturday afternoon, except this happened outside instead of inside.

Fun fact: I bought the shirt Adele is wearing in this photo
from a thrift store when I was pregnant with Sebastian, before
I knew he was a boy.  I just loved it.  It has a copyright date of
1977 on it.  Hippie.

And now we're back to being cold.  Today I pulled out an old sweater I made years ago.  I can't tell you exactly how many because I am old and this was before I started taking detailed notes on what I knit.  But I think it was four years ago.  Or five.  Maybe.

I first saw this pattern as an advertisement in a magazine for the book Knit 1.  As soon as I saw it I wanted to make it.  It was light and looked so pretty and simple.

I bought the book, and then proceeded to knit at least two other sweaters from it instead of the one I'd bought the book for, because that is just how I am.  Fickle.  Flighty.  A knitting charlatan.

I'm not sure what made me decide to knit the sweater, finally, years after I bought the book, but I finally did.  I used Knitpicks CotLin yarn, in Linen, I think.  My gauge was off, which meant that I knit the medium size and ended up with an extra large.  Which is fine.  I would like it to be a little more fitted and a little lighter and with shorter sleeves that don't get in my way when I try to work.

But the sweater adds a nice, warm, extra layer that's not too hot, as wool would be.

And it's held up pretty well throughout the years, thankfully.

The pin I'm using to keep it closed was a Christmas gift from Christopher a few years ago.

(I first tried to take pictures of this sweater myself, but ended up with this:

And this:

 And this:

In order to have a picture that actually showed the sweater, and to also come in out of the cold, I enlisted Sebastian to help. He was thrilled that he was actually able to touch the camera as usually I refuse to allow him too.  Those kids are destructive.

 Here are Sebastian's photos:

Adele is obsessed with that backpack.  She won't take it off.

Pattern:  Shawl Collar Cardigan from Jo Sharp's Knit 1.

Yarn: Knitpicks CotLin in Linen.

Friday, March 15, 2013

This week.

I got the call Sunday morning.  It was early-ish, around 8, and people don’t usually call at that time so as soon as my phone rang I felt like something was wrong.  But I always feel like something is wrong when I my phone rings at an odd time, so I went through the spiel in my head: You worry too much, everything is fine, your mother is just calling to see if you’re coming over for dinner.

But that wasn’t it.

My friend, whom I’ve known for my whole life, one of ‘the girls,’ had lost her husband the night before.  He just collapsed.  I didn’t know what to say.  I still don’t know what to say.  He was such a kind, nice, funny man.  And so young.

Heather and Jack had been together for about as long as Christopher and I, give or take a couple of years.  And you couldn’t find people who were any nicer.  They have a little girl, Amelia, who’s 3.  And Heather just had baby Collette two weeks before Jack died.

My mom wanted me to call all of the girls and let them know.  And so I did.  I felt helpless, but this was something tangible that I could do.  Something I could do to keep from someone else having to do it.  Every time I spoke with one of the girls I just kept repeating “I know.”  But what I was really saying was “I know.  I don’t know what to say, either.  I know, I don’t understand how this could have happened.  I know, I’m hurting for Heather and her babies, too.  I know, I don’t know what to do.  I know.  I know.” 

It was the same with each phone conversation.  Our words were stilted and short and full of disbelief.  And  helplessness.

I know.

Sunday afternoon I drove to Heather’s house.  I wanted to be there for her.  Her family was there, of course, and they were taking good care of her.  I held the baby for an hour, because it was, again, something tangible.  It was my first time meeting Collette.  She is as gorgeous as her name, and as gorgeous as her older sister.

I didn’t cry at the funeral, and I have no reason for it.  But I cried each time I called my friends.  And I cried when I hugged Heather.  And I cried Monday night when I was alone, trying to pick out something to wear to the visitation. 

I haven’t been sleeping well.  I just keep having dreams about her and Jack and the funeral.  And I’m just sad.  It takes me hours to go to sleep because my heart hurts.

On Monday morning at the gym after a particularly awful workout I went to take a shower.  It took me a minute to realize that the water wasn’t warming up.  I started to leave but then I thought about Heather.  It was like, this type of pain, the cold water, was nothing compared to the shock and depth of pain and disorientation that she was dealing with.  And part of me believed that by stepping into that frigid water, by letting it hit me, I would alleviate some of her pain.  I know it sounds ridiculous.

On Tuesday the girls decided that we’d order a remembrance blanket from a florist for Heather instead of having flowers sent because it would be something she could keep.  Something she could have.  So I called early, at 8 to try to order one.  And I spoke with a woman who knew about Jack and knew exactly what I wanted.  But she wasn’t officially open yet so I said I’d call back in a couple of hours.  And when I called back no one answered.  And when I called back later she wasn’t there, but a young guy who wasn’t familiar with anything was and he took my number.  And when I called back even later he told me that she still wasn’t there but that I could find the blankets somewhere on ebay where I could at least look at them and pick out what I wanted and be ready.  Except he’d never used ebay and so couldn’t tell me how to find the blankets or even the name of the ebay store.  An hour later than that, because I am an optimist, I texted one of my friends to ask her exactly how much longer I should wait to call a different florist.  It was 3 in the afternoon.  She took care of it, called a different florist and had exactly what we wanted and ordered it.  It took 2 minutes.

The first florist still hasn’t called me back.

The visitation was held in the church gym, which is testament to how well-loved both Heather and Jack and their families are.  We got there right as the prayer was starting, so I found my friends and we huddled together, comforting each other.  

When we got home from the funeral on Wednesday, both Chris and I started cleaning.  Like deep cleaning.  And since then I've gone through junk drawers and tried to organize my yarn/sewing closet, and straightened up the neglected cupboards.  It's like, there is so much disorder.  So much that I can't control.  But this I can.  This little bit of organization can put at least something right again.

I can't imagine what Heather is going through.  Writing this is all I can do.  As my aunt said, who is a close friend Heather’s mom, and who is the person who called my mother, we’re not supposed to have to deal with this now.  We’re too young. 

I don’t feel like I have the life experience to know what I can do.  I have to stop myself from texting Heather multiple times a day, just to let her know I’m thinking about her.  I don’t want to bother her.  But I don’t want her to think that we’re not still grieving for and with her.

Because we all still are.

(I write a little more about the girls here.)  

Friday, March 8, 2013

Homemade Friday: I think I need to put newspaper down all over the house. Or puppy pads.

One child refuses to put any clothes on at all and when she's mad, well, there's only so much yelling and spitting on the floor I can take in the morning before I've finished my cup of coffee that takes forever to drink because I also have to clean up the pee from the floor because she thought that was a better place than the toilet, obviously, so I'm allowing the nakedness for serenity's sake.

The other child is spending the morning watching Ninjago because I just can't muster up the energy to turn the television off because that would also result in an argument and possible stomping and I know he's just going to be a bear later but for now he's occupied.

I haven't been sleeping well for awhile and also my children are more stubborn than any children I've ever come across so today I'm taking it easy on myself.

This means that I have no Homemade Friday post. 

But I do have this blurry picture of my children.

Also Adele just peed on the floor again so I have to go.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Homemade Friday: Vanilla. Really.

If you've been following along, it will surprise exactly none of you that I recently made my own vanilla extract.

It's just, for some reason I am amazed and delighted that I have the ability to make things I've only ever bought before with my own two hands and some easily-found ingredients.  And really, it shouldn't come as a surprise to me.  I grew up in a family that made most of what they ate.  There was no canned spaghetti, or even canned spaghetti sauce.

We didn't buy tortillas, and we never bought a can of green beans.  We went to the basement and brought up a jar that we (they) had grown ourselves and broken and canned.  That was just the way it was.

And I think that's part of why I enjoy this so much.  It's getting back to the way I was brought up.  I don't have the light or the space to garden the way my parents did, and I'm lucky if I don't have to buy tomatoes during the summer, which is a shame. 

But this need to bake things that otherwise would have been bought, or just not eaten, stems from that.  I may not be able to can my own salsa at the moment, but I can damn sure bake some homemade vanilla wafers using homemade pure vanilla.

For making vanilla extract I used a mixture of recipes from The Homemade Pantry and Make the Bread, Buy the Butter.  Both of those books are well-loved and well-used by me, especially The Homemade Pantry.  It seems a little more down-to-earth than the other one, and a little easier to follow.

Making the vanilla is really so easy that I kind of feel like a fool for not doing it sooner.  I hate to pay for pure vanilla because usually it's not in the budget, and I always feel guilty for buying the imitation one that's only a dollar.

For this I used some leftover vodka.  I say 'leftover' because my friend left a whole jug of it when we had a girls' get-together at my house.  Chris drank most of it over time, but there was still some left for me.  So I dumped some in a jar, sliced open a few vanilla beans that I bought online (here) and put them in, too.  And then I shook it up.

And then I waited.  And after a week I opened it up and smelled it and then shook it up some more.

At one point I added more vodka and beans to enhance the flavor.

And then repeated.

I did this for about a month before it stopped smelling so strongly of vodka and started smelling like vanilla.

Glorious, heavenly vanilla.

Other examples of my need to make things from scratch:
Chocolate Graham Crackers
Granola Bars
Vanilla Wafers
Graham Crackers
Soft Pretzels
Baby Food

I've also made oreos and pop tarts, but forgot to tell you about them.  And tortilla chips.  And hummus.  And spaghetti sauce.  And pasta. And other stuff I can't remember right now.