Thursday, June 30, 2005

Red letter week

Or should I say scarlet letter. Ryan was really, really sick back on Saturday - he had a high fever, curled up in a ball on the couch all day, and had a sore throat bad enough that he didn't eat at all (he even turned down ice cream!). By Sunday he was a bit better, though still feverish. Monday he was back to bouncing. That night, as I helped him with his PJs, I noticed a rash. A red, bumpy rash all over his body. Fever+rash=suddenly concerned mommy. He was feeling much better by this point, so I wasn't too worried, but wanted to keep him away from other children (and my MIL who works in a retirement home) if he had something other people could catch.

Off to the Pediatrician the next morning. I love our Ped - she is a no nonsense woman who is fond of using herbs and other nontraditional remedies and who calls me at home when I have questions that need answering. She did the exam, pointed to the rash, and said, "it's scarlet fever - look at the rash. See how it looks like sandpaper?". Um, OK, not the pretty benign childhood rash I was expecting. Oh, and there is a whole host of really scary complications that can happen. And by the way, how long will he be contagious? "He'll be very contagious until he's had 24 hours of antibiotics." She wrote up the prescription and we were off to the drug store.

Normally I am really, really hesitant to use antibiotics for a whole host of reasons. Drug resistance is a big one, but I also feel it's usually best to simply boost the immune system and let the body work. But scarlet fever? My mom became legally blind without glasses from scarlet fever she had as a little girl. I'm not messing with this at all. So we got some of the ubiquitous pink liquid and brought it home. The only problem was, Ryan would not take it. Not with ice cream, not with the highly coveted daddy's Dr. Pepper. This was a lot of medicine, by the way - 7ml, which looks like an pink ocean when you're trying to get it down a 6 1/2 year old boy who will not take it for love or money.. I tried everything to help him take it, from mixing it with the Dr. Pepper to offering it in a milk shake, but got nowhere. Fianlly called the pharmacist to see if there was any other way to take it. Chewables! YES - this could work! They called the doctor's office and set up the prescription. Back to Sav-On's we went. Got the god-sent chewables and had him give them a try. He gagged at the taste, but came up with the idea of taking them like a capsule (he can swallow pills just fine). Out came the water, and he gave it a try. They went down, but he gagged and promptly threw up. Then refused to ever, ever try those again (can't blame him). So much for that idea.

By this point, I'd been trying to get antibiotics in him for almost six hours. Here's where autism gets especially tricky - he was completely focused on that medicine the whole time. I know I'm a pretty stubborn person, but I've got nothing on him. And in his case, it isn't even being stubborn, he was terrified of the medicine in both forms. Anything new is automatically suspect, and the taste or texture of something new can actually be painful to him. And holding him down to take it was just not an option we were willing to consider.

As the day wore on, I noticed that my throat felt funny. No, no, it's not sore. I'm also definitelly not running a fever. Not tired at all, either. No, really. Nope, not sick in any way at all, thank you.

By the time Dan got home, I had to admit that yes, I was sick. My throat felt like someone took a flame thrower and made creme brulee back there. Fever, too. Hmmm....didn't the Ped. tell me to watch other family members for the same symptoms? Sigh. Off to Urgent Care *I* went, while Dan talked to Ryan about taking the blasted antibiotics already.

I knitted away in the waiting room when a man sitting in the corner asked about my needles. Turns out he had seen students of his knitting in class (!) and wondered about the whole process. We talked about the math involved, about how circular needles can knit something flat, and about yarn guage. Then I got called in.

Yep - all the symptoms, right here. She asked when Ryan had started his antibiotics. "Well, not yet, exactly." I told her about my day, and joked that this was a nice break. She laughed and said, "are you sure you don't just want to stay here for a while?" Got my very own prescription for antibiotics, and off I went.

By the time I got home, Dan had great news: Ryan had taken the medicine! He agreed to try the chewables again with some ice cream, and ended up swallowing them with some water. He was quite proud of himself. What a relief! We both would stop being contagious by the next night. Life was good!

Not good. I felt even worse when I woke up yesterday morning. Swollen glands, my throat was on fire, and I had a fever (which felt just great on a hot summer day). All the while, both boys were feeling GREAT - bounce, bounce, yell, scream. Ouch - can you run around while screaming in that room, please? Mommy has become one with the couch.

Today I'm feeling a bit less horrible. The house is a horror and I just don't care. I plan on becoming one with the couch again, with a water bottle by my side. And knitting in my hand.

The silver lining? I fixed the pooling problem. Even got the first half of a sock done, and I absolutely love it. Picture to follow once the camera battery is recharged.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Ponder, ponder

Can't decide if I like it or not. Might need an edging, not that I'm exactly sure how to attach one or even design it. Not that having absolutely no clue has ever stopped me in the past...

Monday, June 27, 2005

Today is another day

The socks are still set aside. Haven't decided yet whether I'm going to keep trying to find a pattern that works against the pooling, or give in to the will of the yarn and just let it happen. Admittedly, I'm a pretty serious control freak so the concept of pooling makes me feel like jumping out of my skin. Or maybe it's that perfectionist bent. Either way, that yarn is getting a well deserved time out.

I glanced over at Kiri II, picked it up, then realized I'm a bit burned out on the pattern for the moment. The leftover laceweight from Kiri I has been taunting me for a while now. There's enough for a good sized scarf, if only I could find the right pattern. Something airy, with enough detail to keep me interested. After looking all over the web last night I didn't find anything that would work. I toyed with buying more yarn so I could make this lovely red shawl, but that ball of white yarn kept taunting. Surely I could put something together that would work?

I've been charting and reworking the numbers off and on today (note to self - chart in pencil next time!) . The start has been knit, ripped, re-knit, ripped, and knit again. Both boys are sick enough to be home and grumpy and in need of entertainment and mom close by, which is reason enough for mistakes, but my counts were off again and again, I think because I didn't take the increases in one part of the pattern into account. Once I figured that each row wouldn't be the same stitch count, all was well.

It's not much, but now that I've figured the stitch counts out, things should go more quickly. As maddening as working this all out has been, I enjoyed the bit of challenge involved. Nothing like a little mental exercise to clear out the cobwebs, eh?

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Taking a break before I pull my hair out

I'm setting the sock aside until it decides to behave in a manner more fitting a not-particularly-inexpensive handpainted yarn. In the meantime, I decided to go make some science. I agree with Norma - they do seem to assume blog owners don't meet up in real life or even perhaps *have* much of a real life, aside from IMing people from time to time. Interesting since I have made so many dear friends through my online travels, people I have met many times in person and who I call and visit as often as finances allow. The Internet can expose you to people you never would have met otherwise, and for that I am extremely grateful.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Make that three steps back

Houston, we have a problem. After rushing to finish up my bubblegum scarf last night (no picture, it was gifted to my littlest's teacher today), I began knitting merrily away on this:

Yes, the pattern does lovely things for the color repeats. Yes, the texture is perfect for the berry-like hues (or is that tints? I always get art terms mixed up). Yes, I had the socks all planned out in my head and knew they would look fabulous. Except for one tiny thing: the yarn is pooling like crazy.

Noooooooo! Not the pooling! There is no point in having a textured pattern on top of coors that want to go in odd diagonals. Well, I suppose the point could be to do k3tog after k3tog and make my fingers ache to make a pattern that nobody will ever be able to see, but I'm not quite that insane (note, I said not quite). After much hair pulling and a few choice swear words (spoken softly, so as not to wake the boys or husband), this was all that was left:

Now, what to do? Should I go the Harlot route and open up my Socks Socks Socks book, even though I never really liked that pattern and my sock pal isn't a fan of lace? Should I try breaking up the pattern with yet another set of slipped stitches, like I did with the rainbow socks? Or should I resign myself and knit every blasted stitch, letting the colors do what they want while most likely knocking back multiple shots of whatever is handy?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

One step forward, two steps back

Not much more than there was a week ago, is there? But looks can be deceiving. This is now the fourth attempt at finding the right stitch pattern for my Cherry Tree Hill yarn with it's lovely, very short color repeats. First I tried this pattern, noting how nicely the multicolored yarn looked broken up a bit. This turned out badly, I think because the darker colors in my yarn hid most of the pattern. Then came the rash moment when pure, simple stockingette seemed like the perfect answer. What better to show off the ever changing yarn? Went happily along for a few inches, then s l o w l y drifted off to other things, yawning slightly. OK, bad idea. Then I tried slip stitches, remembering my rainbow socks and how well that worked with small color repeats. And they were promptly hidden completely by the darker colors in this sock.

Finally pulled out my Vogue Knitting book and thumbed through the stitch patterns, looking for something that might work. Aha! Berry Stitch looked like it might fit the bill. Some quick figuring to turn it into a pattern that worked in the round and I was off. Hard to see, but it shows off the subtle color changes well and isn't mind numbingly dull to knit, either. It did require a completely different stitch count, so I frogged, then cast on and did another twisted rib section before starting. This stitch is somewhat bumpy, so I won't continue it down the foot. I'm picturing berry stems travelling down front and back, probably in the form of twisted stitches so they stand out nicely. We'll see when I get there. The yarn colors remind me a lot of raspberries and blackberries sprawling in a sea of leaves. Thinking of calling these "Berry Patch" socks and making another pair for myself. Now to actually move forward on this pair!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Sock it to me again

A long time ago, in a far away universe, there was sockapalooza. Intrigued by the thought of making something for a person I had never met *and* getting knitted socks for myself out of the bargain, I signed up. My pal didn't ask for anything specific, but I quickly became obsessed with finding the right yarn, colors that would flatter and bring squeals of delight. I checked my pal's blog daily, hoping to find clues tp make the perfect socks. I finally decided to try my hand at KoolAid dying, armed with some color your own merino from KnitPicks. Decided on a rainbow of colors with short repeats, and remembered to take a picture in case it came out well. After much fiddling and playing with stitch patterns, I ended up with these. I used a slip stitch pattern to break up the color repeats, with a short row heel and a plain old wedge toe. Glad I saved the picture, since I would love to duplicate the yarn again.

That experience was a freaking blast. I loved seeing what everyone else was working on, and wondering all the while if this might be my socks. Could it be these striped socks, or the cute instarsia ones, or maybe those very soft looking long socks? Watching all of us play with pattern and color was inspiring, and pushed me forward into doing something whimsical and all my own. Then came sending off my completed socks and waiting to see if they fit, and more importantly, did she like it? She did. Then mine came, soft and blue and handpainted love for my feet.

It's that time again. sockapal-2-za has begun.

Decisions, decisions.....

Monday, June 13, 2005

Important dinner plans

Ryan, my six year old, has his first week of summer vacation right now. Next week he starts a summer program "with robots, Mom! And we're building rockets!" Needless to say, he's a wee bit excited. But first we must get through this school-free, schedule free week.

Today's plan: make dinner with Mom as sous chef.

Pizza: "It needs to be really big, and I want to make the sauce. Can we grow tomatoes for the sauce? I think it should have cheese, too."
Salad: "There should be lettuce and some bits of celery, and definitely cucumber, and then it should have carrots grated into little pieces. Can we make some of that really good salad dressing, the one with the soy sauce in it?"
...and for dessert...
Cake: "I want to make vanilla cake, not icky chocolate. Maybe we should put something on top. Can we put blackberries on top of the cake? I think there should be blackberries."

Ryan is donning his apron and we're getting ready to make the pizza dough together. He is sorely dissappointed that our tomato plant doesn't have any ripe fruit to go into the sauce, but I think I managed to convince him that canned tomatoes will also work. Bought some blackberries for the cake, and we're all set to go. Pictures later!

Dinner was delicious

First we made the pizza dough. Both boys helped measure everything into the KitchenAid and watched, fascinated, while the dough hook worked itself round and round. Ryan checked the dough every ten minutes or so as it rose, just to see if it had gotten bigger. No pictures, as the boys were running around fast enough it all would have been a blur.

Next we made the sauce. Ryan decided that tomatoes from a can were acceptable, if not as good as the ones we could grow (smart boy!). We drained the juice from a can of whole tomatoes, added garlic, basil, salt & pepper and some olive oil, then used the stick blender to break it down a little. The noise was too loud, so Ryan went off to work on very important Lego structures. Came back in time to do a quality check.

Then it was time to grate the cheese. This turned out to be a group activity. Ryan got a step stool, then both boys climbed up and took turns grating away. They tried out all of the grater holes one by one, so the cheese ended up in many different sizes. Warmed my heart to see them working together so well :-)

Then we all mixed the cake batter. Ryan was fascinated with greasing the pan.

Lots of patting and stretching, and the dough was ready for sauce and cheese. Ryan spooned on the sauce, then we all sprinkled cheese on top. In the
oven it went. Meanwhile, we put together the salad and Ryan tossed it very carefully with some dressing. Time for dinner! Not sure, but I think Ryan liked it.

After the pizza came out, the cake went in to bake while we ate. Ryan had told me exactly how he wanted it decorated: "I want the blackberries to go around the top in a circle, and some almonds in the middle." Not satisfied with this, he pulled out paper and drew the design he wanted, just to be sure I understood. He decided I should decorate the top, since this was a very important cake. Here it is, decorated under his careful supervision:

We all had a wonderful time, and I plan to do this much more regularly. Now, if we can get something besides pizza on the menu...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Distraction knitting

Meet Stripedy Scarf, named by my four year old son Arden. I needed something mindless and simple to work on for a little while, and this fit the bill nicely. This one is going to his favorite preschool teacher, Miss Farrah. No real reason other than she is amazing and I wanted to let her know just how much we appreciate her. Arden keeps checking to see how long it is, and feverishly counts the stripes one by one. He seems convinced that "ten" is a magic number, therefore the scarf needs ten stripes. Hopefully we can discuss lengthening it - otherwise it will be more useful as a pocket hankie.

Distraction was needed because today I am mother to a 1st grader. This is odd and bittersweet enough (how can I be old enough to have a first grader for a son?), but Ryan is falling apart at the prospect of no more school for the summer. He has Asperger Syndrome, a milder form of Autism, and changes of any kind shake him up immensely. Not only did his classroom look totally different today (big trigger for him - we've learned that moving the furniture leads to three days of horrible behavior every time), but tomorrow he won't have the same schedule, the same teacher, even be in the same room as every other Friday in the last nine months. He sobbed all the way home, and curled up in a ball for over an hour when we got home today. I went out with the boys and rented a movie (Iron Giant), and we've been curled up on the couch and watching together since then. Popcorn for them, popcorn knitting for me.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Patience is a virtue...

...that I do not have. Dan was supposed to have his Annual Review yesterday. You know, where your boss sits you down, goes over job performance during the last twelve months, then gets to the good part: did I get a raise? Note I said this was supposed happen. What occurred instead was Dan madly racing around trying to find parts for a computer enclosure that was supposed to be drop tested that day*. Dan's boss was leaving town later in the afternoon, so there wasn't time to do more than pass on the highlights: he's getting a promotion and a raise.

What would your first question be?

A) How was the drop testing today?
B) Did you get all the parts you needed?
C) How much of a raise are we talking about?

I'll let you guess my response. Here's where things get strange for me. Dan's boss didn't give any specifics at all, other than saying, "we think you will be very pleased." Oh, and they'll go over all the details when he gets back from his week. I expressed mild shock here (all right, I swore like a sailor here - same thing). Dan shrugged and said he'd find out soon enough.

Me: But, but...doesn't that bother you? Don't you want to know how much you're going to be getting? What about your promotion - aren't you just a little bit curious?

Another shrug.

Dan: The money is going into my next paycheck, so we'll be getting it regardless of when I find out how much. The promotion is just a title change, and I'll find out that next week.

Me: But that's like giving you a really shiny box, telling you there is something great inside, then setting it up on a high shelf so you can't open it for a week. That would KILL me.

Dan: Well, I'm getting the raise and the promotion regardless, so one week won't make any difference.

I give up. Anyone know how I can learn to be patient? Really quickly?

* Drop testing involves taking highly technical equipment and dropping it from a specified height in order to see if it stops working. Yes, they actually pay my husband to drop stuff highly expensive computer gear, and yes, he vastly enjoys this process.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Knitted love, check

These were made to Dan's exacting specifications (what did I expect? He *is* an Engineer, after all). Reinforced heels so they don't wear out too quickly. Long enough to fold over, but not so long that they need to be scrunched down. Not scratchy. Colors that won't show dirt too easily. Just long enough for his toes, but not too long. Most importantly, they brought a big smile to his face, which brought a smile to *my* face.

Just realized that picture barely shows any detail. They look a bit like foot shaped blobs of oatmeal, don't they? In person they look much less like breakfast cereal, honest.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Branching Out is blocked and ready to go

I enjoyed the Silky Wool yarn as I was knitting, but blocking made it even softer and silkier. I love how you can really see the pattern and how light and airy it became when stretched out a bit. The color is a bit heathered, which adds to the overall charm and hopefully will make it more wearable for the intended recipient. It's a bit more casual in feel than something fuzzier would have been, which is perfect.

Almost finished with Dan's remaining sock, too. I'd hoped to eek out the second sock without dipping into a third skein of wool, but no dice. Halfway through the toe the yarn petered out. Here's where I admit to shortening one sock and hoping it would stretch - maybe Dan just wouldn't notice? Sigh. Yes, I really am just that frugal.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Pantry raid

I've been on the prowl for lighter, summary dishes lately. It's been growing warmer here, and the thought of simmering something for hours or turning on the oven is losing appeal. Had several chickens in the freezer, cans of pineapple in the pantry, and the sad remains of a jar of mango-ginger chutney we made up last year. Surely something could be made here. Did a quick search on some of my favorite food-related websites, and voila - Cold Chicken Chutney Salad from Liete's Culinaria. Perfect!

I prepped carrots, onions and celery and tossed them in my stockpot, followed by the chicken. Simmered for 45 minutes, then removed the chicken and let it cool a little in a bowl in the sink. Removed the breast meat and shredded it, then returned the rest back into the simmering pot. The stock is still simmering away - I like to keep it going at least 6-8 hours so all the flavors make it into the liquid properly. Later I'll pour it into freezer containers and store for later use. So much better than canned chicken stock, and I get to enjoy a house filled with that wonderful chicken smell while I'm at it :-)

The breast meat was tender, moist, and easy to shred for the salad. Mixed all of the salad ingredients together (well, I substituted home made garam masala for the curry powder) and set it to chill in the refrigerator. Tossed mixed greens and arugula with a sesame-soy vinagrette, then topped with the chicken salad.

Pure heaven.

Branching Out is finished!

Worked the last rows of garter stitch tonight, then wet the whole thing down and blocked it. The starting end tends to curl inwards quite a bit, but careful pinning should even it out well enough. Now to finish Dan's poor lingering sock.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Baked goodness

Not much to say recently. Looooong weekend, full of laundry and other equally exciting things.

But I did manage to put together a recipe that not only get real food into my four year old, it also sneaks in vegetables AND fruits. And he LOVES it. Ah, sweet success. This was morphed from a banana bread recipe - I ended up packing it as full of healthy stuff as I could think of. On a hot day, I make up a half recipe (6 cupcakes), which fits quite nicely in the toaster oven. Said toaster oven doesn't heat up the rest of the house, so this is a very good thing indeed.

Banana muffins
makes 12

2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup grated *something* - apple, zucchini, sweet potato, pear, carrot all work
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (regular WW is fine, but they will be more dense)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350°. Either grease cupcake tins or use liners.

Mix sugar, oil, bananas, grated something and eggs together until smooth. Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl, then add to wet ingredients. Stir until just mixed together. Spoon into cupcake tin, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool, then enjoy.

Many miles before I sleep

At least it feels that way. I love the way this scarf looks, love the yarn, love the color. But for some odd reason, it never seems to get any longer. The ball of yarn *is* slowly getting smaller, but there seems to be very little difference day to day. I have finally gotten the lace repeat down, so there is no more looking at a rumpled sheet of paper to find out if the next stitch is a yarn over or perhaps k2tog (mental note: next time, copy the directions and put them in a plastic sleeve like a good anal retentive, already). I need this finished by next week. Should be easy to do, if the pattern didn't seem to bend time and space all on it's own and refuse to get any longer, ever, thank you very much. I'm seeing a battle of the wills coming here.