Saturday, June 30, 2007

To picot or not to picot

That is the question. This is a swatch of the final "Clematis" edging for the almost Cobweb Crepe shawl. It's going to be knitted sideways around the Old Shale border I'm finishing up now. The picots (those little triangular bits with a hole in the middle of each one) are optional, and I'm not sure if the design would be better with them or without. I'll leave the final decision to my lovely bride to be sister Laurie (please comment at the bottom, Laurie!), but I'm curious to see what others think as well.

With picots:

Without picots (imagine the rounded bits curving a little at the edge - the edge wouldn't be flat or a straight line):

What say you?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Actual, bona fide knitting progress!

I know it doesn't look much bigger, but trust me - it is. I just finished the 28th row of the Old Shale border pattern, which is halfway through that border. Well, at least in terms of rows. Since each row gets progressively larger, I'm not quite that far yet. But doesn't it look much more like lace now? I need to finish this almost Cobweb Crepe shawl by August 3rd, so I'm working hard on it right now. I still have a bit of a tremor, but I'm plowing through regardless. My sister needs something home made and special on her wedding day and I'll finish it if it kills me. Though I'd prefer to just finish.

Speaking of finishing things, I left my job with the Grocery Game after only one month. Initially I felt pathetic for quitting a job so quickly, but it wasn't going to work for me or for my boss. She micromanaged and was passive aggressive, and I couldn't seem to figure out what she needed or wanted from me. Far too much stress for money that we didn't desperately need, especially when this wasn't part of a career path.

So now I have more time for other things like my family, knitting, and my first college class in over nine years. I'm taking nursing pre-requisite course on Food and Nutrition, which is turning out to be harder than I thought. Not so much because of the content, but because I keep having to bite my tongue on things like "artificial sweeteners are very safe and a good alternative to cane sugar" and "a healthy diet should include 2-3 servings of dairy foods every day." Sigh. I'll parrot back what I'm taught and toss out what I don't agree with when I'm done. But it's exciting to finally be back in school and working towards something concrete.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Stone Soup

This Summer, the boys and I decided to have "Open Table" night every Monday. This means all the neighborhood kids can come by on Monday and have dinner at our house. I decided to add a wrinkle and make dinner something everyone could help make as well.

Tonight, we read Stone Soup. For anyone unfamiliar with the story, it involves a soldier on his way home from a war. He stops at a farm house, asking if they can spare any food and give him a place to stay for the night. The farmer sadly tells him they have very little food because of the war and poor harvest that year, so they can't help the soldier. The soldier plucks out a stone from his pocket and tells them he can make a delicious soup from it.

First, fill a pot with water and add the stone. (Then change your mind, drain the water, and decide to saute some stuff first).

Next, add a wee bit of bacon (it was "salted beef" in the story - figured salted pork would do just fine):

Then add onions:

Then carrots:

Then add water, potatoes (oops, no picture) and salt:

Then cook for about half an hour or so. Add sliced cabbage and cook another half hour or so (like all the precise, specific directions here? This is a very exacting dish, let me tell you).

Enlist some child labor to make rolls:


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Last day of school

Today has been a complete whirlwind. The boys were antsy, nervous and excited this morning from the moment each got out of bed. "I'm going to be a FIRST grader today!" "No more school for THREE WHOLE MONTHS!" I got them both off to school and somehow managed to pry a very, very troubled Arden off of me with reassurances that today would be a good day (poor sweetie). Then I scurried through a huge list of errands, since this was my last two hour child free week day time for the next three months. I mailed off the apron, bought some daikon radish and rice sprinkles at the local asian market, bought some things at the drug store, and dropped off books at the library.

Then I swung back around to pick up Arden, who was literally bouncing up and down yelling, "today was the best day ever!" over and over again. Once he gave his teacher a full body hug (the kind that resembles a monkey clinging on to it's mama with hands and feet) and he hugged all his classmates, we walked hand in hand to the car and drove home. Now, he's been despondent at the thought of missing all of his friends during the Summer, actually crying himself to sleep several nights. Dan came up with the best idea: make up some cards with Arden's name, address and phone number and hand them out to everyone on the last day of school. I printed out quarter sheets of paper that read: "I'm going to miss you this Summer! Arden X, address, phone number". I figured a small sheet of paper might get lost in the shuffle of the last school day, so we rolled up each paper and tied them with colorful yarn. He really is going to miss every single child in his class, and several asked for his phone number so the idea was a really good one.

Off we went to have lunch together, the last we'll have on a school day since next year he goes for a full day along with Ryan. Then back to school for a talent show put on by the upper grades, complete with singing, dancing, Tae Kwon Do, and a gymnastics routine set to "White and Nerdy" by Weird Al Yankovic. The Principal thanked everyone for a wonderful year, the bell rang, and suddenly I had a First grader and a Third grader. Sniff!

Both are flying on adrenaline at the moment, so the rest of the day will be interesting. Tonight we're making whole wheat waffles with crushed berries, yogurt and whipped cream for toppings as a special treat, and hopefully soon after that they will crash and fall asleep. Then I have work to do.

Tomorrow is the first day of Summer. Am I prepared in any way? Nope. Ought to be interesting.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I am such a tease

Do not be distracted by the peaceful, sleeping cat. This picture is only present to obscure the fact that there is yet again no visual crafting content of any kind. No updates on the almost Cobweb Crepe Shawl, no crafts with the boys, not even a lone picture of something tasty. I've been a bit busy. Work, getting into bunker mode for Summer (the boys have their last day of school tomorrow.....wish me well and send chocolate), and a secret project. I just finished making an apron for the May Apron Swap over at One Hour Craft. Now, since the swapee and I know each other and I know she reads this blog (and I read hers), we both agreed not to post about the aprons until after everything got over to each other in the mail. Spoils the fun to see pictures ahead of time, you see. But, but, it's so cute! I want to talk about it! So here are the details: it's made out of fabric, it has many colors, there was thread involved, also use of my sewing machine, pins, an iron, and scissors. Oh, and a pattern. Can't you just picture it? One more hint: the fabric is cotton. Pictures....eventually.

In the meantime, if you blog, knit, and live anywhere near Portland, Oregon, go here and comment. Bobbie is working feverishly on putting together a Portland Knit Bloggers group, which should be huge and full of talented, nice people (like Bobbie herself).

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Knitters Are Coming!

On Friday night, I had the most fantastic time. My new buddy Meghan swung around to my house and off we drove to Powell's. Why? To go see Stephanie Pearl McPhee, aka The Yarn Harlot, do a book signing. Now I've been lucky enough to meet her twice before, and knew there were good things ahead.

I came prepared with a bag of Hood strawberry scones (have to share some Oregon goodness, now), cream cheese to spread them with, and of course chocolate covered coffee beans in case of very late or very early flights. I did feel a large twinge of guilt, since the last two times I've seen Stephanie I brought samosas. I wanted to make them this time, I truly did, but I ended up working over 30 hours this week checking coupons against a database and banging my head against the computer desk when the %$&# thing ATE ALL MY DATA. I spent the week in a bleary haze, staring at a computer screen and hoping that eventually I'd all get it done, interspersed with wrangling the boys. Wasn't even sure I'd get to go to Powell's on Friday, but darned if I was going to try. So in a rare moment of sanity I ditched the samosas plan and decided on scones, something I could do quickly and well and that should at least be tasty.

Meghan and I found parking and trotted over to the book store around 5:00. The original plan was to go find seats, get some dinner somewhere close, and come back in time for the signing. Well, when we got there the room had one row of benches, benches with knitters perched on top. The rest of the room was completely empty. We were told they planned on putting chairs out around 6:00, though eventually we managed to convince them to put chairs out earlier. We all sat, knitting and mingling amongst ourselves. I happened upon Rodger, the perfect fearless partner in crime. I look forward to many knitting adventures in the future. I chatted with Pauline, who sadly is blogless but was lovely to talk with. Then off in the corner I spied Bobbie, carrying the most glorious Argosy shawl. Everyone gathered around, stroking it and admiring the colors. Bobbie is sweet and funny and wonderful in person, and I was happy to finally meet her. I giggled over this little miss (her name is Charlotte). Her mama is Heather, and her dad bought her the shirt. I love it!

Eventually, we realized it was far too fun hanging out to leave and grab food somewhere else. Meghan and I illicitly, one at a time, slipped downstairs to purchase our books and grab sustenance from the coffee shop. Food was slipped into knitting bags and smuggled back up into the "Pearl" room, where we munched while no one was the wiser. I love breaking rules.

Finally, Stephanie arrived. Resplendent in her brand new sweater (which was flung off moments later - the room was really hot), she quickly lowered the microphone and began to speak. She warned against the "crochet marauders", spoke of her worries about a wool blight that would lead to yarn store riots, and detailed the machinations of CHOKE (Cultural Humiliation Of Knitters Everywhere). She was funny, endearing, and had us all laughing until our grins hurt. Then she spoke of what knitters can do, of how much money we have all raised so far for Knitters Without Borders, of the friendships and bonds so many of us have formed, of how special it is in this day and age to make something by hand. It was a beautiful speech.

Then we all lined up to have books signed. This is where sitting in the front row became a problem: there was no way to get to the line aside from walking all the way around the aisles while everyone else quickly hopped up into place. Seemed fair, though. So we stood in line and knitted and visited. I got to see Rodger's new sweater. Also met the very bubbly blogless Terissa, who suggested we all go out for tea and drinks later. Excellent idea! I met Christy, who talked of the Single Sock Liberation Movement and showed me a bevvy of proudly single socks. Carry on the good fight, Christy!

And then, it was my turn. Stephanie looked at me, smiled, and said, "you!" And then right after that, "where are the samosas?" We both laughed and I offered up the scones. She asked what I was working on*, I told her it was a shawl, to which she quickly remarked, "it's got a long way to go then, eh?" Then I had her feel it, and she may have said something like, "evil, evil woman." Heh, heh - I take great pride in my evilness! Meghan took a picture of both of us (note that she is still fondling the shawl) and I'm pretty sure I was in the middle of saying something. Better picture over here (squee! Yep, I'm on the blog). She gave me a big hug after that, and you know what? Stephanie gives a really good hug. Not a big surprise - she's a pretty neat person all 'round.

Afterwards Meghan and I walked over to the tea/lounge place (what was the name of it?), meeting up with Rodger and Terrisa later on. I actually got carded. At 38 years old - what a compliment! We all sat and gabbed and Meghan worked furiously on a wee baby sweater and had a blast. Many thanks to Meghan for the ride and for being my knit event buddy, and thanks to Stephanie for once again making us all laugh and think and feel proud of our knitterly ways.

* (I knitted! For the first time in over a month! Fittingly, it was on my sister's almost cobweb crepe shawl, since I need to finish before August. It felt strange, and my hands trembled as I did it, but I managed. I'm just going to bite the bullet and keep working on it even if knitting feels strange and uncomfortable for a while.)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Busy, busy, busy

I've neglected the blog for a bit now, haven't I? But I have an excuse or two. First, I suddenly got a job. Wasn't really expecting to get one, but I got an email asking if I'd be interested in some part time work from home, work that could be done around two small boys. I'd stopped looking for a part time job a while ago since Arden is only in school for 2 1/2 hours this year, which leaves no time to get anything done. So I jumped on the chance and have been training like crazy for the last two weeks.

I'm working with The Grocery Game, a service I've happily used for years now. You know those ladies who go to the store with a fist full of coupons, buy $300 worth of groceries and pay only $50 for the whole lot? The list was started by one of them. She decided to share the information she uses each week so other people could simply look at the list and decide what they want to buy that's at the rock bottom price that week. The List shows which coupons (if any) to use, what the final price is, and what the % saved is. It really does all the work for you - I spend maybe 20 minutes cutting out every coupon I might ever be interested in each Sunday morning, then pop over to the List and match up what I'd like to buy. And I save around 30% on my grocery bill each week, sometimes more. I get high-end stuff (coupons are almost always for brand names and not generics) for wee prices: I rarely pay more than $1.50 for shampoo (even Aussie or Fructis), almost never pay more than $1 for toothpaste, never pay more than $1.50 for a toothbrush, or more than $1.50 for a box of cereal. It's a pretty sweet deal, all told. If you aren't familiar, go check it out. Seriously. Anyway, I'm now helping make up the list for my area and working like crazy. And getting paid - woo hoo!

Another reason is I now have what my Neurologist calls an Idiopathic Essential Tremor. Tremor means I shake. Essential is the kind of tremor - I shake a little when I move for any reason. My hands shake, my legs shake when I walk, even my mouth tremors a bit when I talk. The Idiopathic means she has no idea why I have it, though she thinks it may have something to do with recent thyroid issues. In the meantime, we're trying out medication to help control the shaking. Unfortunately, what I've tried so far works on the shaking but leaves me tired and drugged and not really functional, which kind of defeats the purpose. So we're working on other medications to hopefully help. In the meantime, it makes fine motor things like typing, writing, oh and knitting very difficult. Hence the lack of crafty content. I'm working up the courage to start knitting again with the tremor, but it's frustrating and I feel a bit like I'm 80 years old when I try. The good news is that it doesn't seem to be caused by anything scary, so I'm grateful.

One more bit of news. I'm going back to school! I start at the end of the month taking pre-requisites to get into nursing school. I've always been fascinated by all things medical and have felt called to help people for as long as I can remember. Ultimately, I'd like to become a Nurse Practitioner, mainly because I like being in charge and that's not exactly going away any time soon. More importantly, that's what I want to do - see patients and help them hopefully get better and healthier. For now I'm taking one lone class this summer, then going full time in the Fall. Ought to be a bit crazy, but I'm then I do crazy quite well. I'm nervous, a bit scared, but very excited. Kind of odd to be 38 and going back to school, but it's good to finally have some idea of what I want to be when I grow up (though I don't necessarily plan on the growing up part).