Monday, August 30, 2010

Because I can...

I'm happy to report that my desktop is not only set back up in its new home, but it is now reconnected to the interwebz, so not only can I edit photos on it, I can upload them without having to play musical files with the flash drive that I can never seem to find when I need it! See!

Yes, I know! You couldn't have lived another day without seeing a picture of the peach I ate for a snack today. But really? It was a good peach! Very juicy!

All right, about this?

This is my faaaavorite corner of my new office/yarn room. Two book cases, largely dedicated to yarn and knitting and spinning related things. The top shelf of the shorter book case holds all of my loose patterns, as well as knitting magazines and pattern booklets. The next two shelves are both full of knitting books. The shelf below them is half full of spinning and dyeing books, and the other half is random papercrafting books. The bottom shelf is all nature, gardening and travel books.

Now the taller book case...ahhh! Here is where I'm FINALLY able to house some yarn out in plain view! I cannot tell you how much I love this! When I was downstairs, I kept all of my yarn housed in plastic bins because it gets pretty dusty down there, especially in the winter when we're burning the wood stove, and I didn't want to risk the yarn getting dirty. But up here, I can put it out without much fear of that. And it is so nice to be able to see it and just wander over and fondle it any time I please. ;) The top shelf is all of my handspun. The next shelf down is all of my Three Irish Girls yarn -- one of my favorite yarns ever.

The next shelf -- the one with the two bins -- is what I'm calling my "inspiration" shelf. If you're a knitter with a stash (who's ever heard of a knitter without a stash, right? Well, they do exist. ;)), you can likely relate to this. Over the years, I've collected a lot of pretty, pretty yarn. Key word there is collected. I will buy one or two or a few balls of a yarn simply because it is beautiful and lovely without having any real purpose in mind for it. I figure some day, the right project will come along for it, but the risk there is that in the interim, the pretty, pretty yarn gets hidden away in the depths of the stash until I forget I have it. And when I periodically stash dive and run across it, it's a pleasant surprise, and again I think, "I'll use this some day."

Well, I decided to go through my stash and pull out my most favorite of all the pretty, pretty yarns I have collected, and I've placed them in plain view where I can see them and pet them and -- hopefully -- be more likely to actually use them. The basket on the left contains balls, the one on the right contains hanks. That one also has a LOT of Malabrigo. Mmmm...Malabrigo. Yum! Somewhat related to the inspiration shelf is the inspiration basket sitting there on the floor. I pulled out one ball from each of a dozen bags of my favorites of large lots of yarn I have, hoping to become inspired to do some big projects.

Ok, moving on...the next shelf is office supplies. The bottom shelf is all of my completed scrapbooks, baby books and other such albums. (Incomplete scrapbooks are on top of the book case. Scrapping is a hobby I used to be so into, but I haven't done it at all in close to four years. I'm determined to get back to it. Some time.)

There's more yarn stashed in the room, but this photo doesn't show it. I'd love to add more photos for you, but in the midst of editing tonight, my computer popped up one of those messages that said something like, "Your hard drive is going to explode soon because you've filled it with too many files." Indeed, my hard drive was nearly maxed out! So, I'm in the long process of transferring a ton of files to the external hard drive. I'm determined to make this computer stay alive as long as possible. A new one isn't in the budget just now!

For now, I'll leave you with this last picture. Any guesses on what the bags are for?

Sunday, August 29, 2010


...we start our new school year. Our 11th year of homeschooling. I think I'm ready. It's been really interesting, figuring out how to do high school. After a lot of my own learning and researching and talking to more experienced homeschoolers this summer, I've made some big adjustments to my way of thinking about the kids' learning at this level, and I think it will serve us all well. I feel good about things, and that's always a nice way to start off the year.

In general, I finally feel like I'm able to breathe a bit lately. It's been such a relief to be done with the house stuff. I'm still arranging and organizing things, but that will be an ongoing project, not one to stress over. We enjoyed a really nice weekend these past couple of days, friend time, family time, outings, down time, all in balance. The weather couldn't have been more perfect. It was a great way to end the summer. I feel so thankful. :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Putting it back together...

This weekend marked the end of this phase of the Great Painting & Flooring Adventure of 2010. It nigh about killed us all by the end. OK, maybe it wasn't that bad, but I can honestly say the thought of wielding a brush or roller again anytime in the near future makes me want to weep, and I'm pretty sure Kevin feels the same with regard to any part of the Pergo installation process.

The dining room and spare bedroom (which is also known as my office/yarn room) are finished, I can start putting the place back together. I feel like we've been living in a warehouse full of random stuff for weeks now. It got so bad this weekend that it was impossible to reach the far end of the living room without channelling our inner ninjas and creating a path over several pieces of furniture.

Most excitedly, I will soon have my desktop hooked back up, which means I can return to the joy of posting high quality photos instead of cell phone shots like this...

While Kevin and the kids fought with the last room of Pergo yesterday, I hid safely away in our bedroom where I'd set up the sewing machine and ironing board and set to creating valances for our bedroom (above) and the dining room. I had a really hard time finding fabric I loved, so I ended up with fabric I mostly liked. Somehow, I ended up making them all a little shorter than they probably should have been, but I was erring on the side of not blocking out any of the precious natural light our dark little house gets. So. At least they're up there. Even small valances look better than bare, naked windows.

My biggest quandary is what to do with the paint in the spare bedroom. The color I used (which I'd purchased three years ago for my office when it was downstairs and then never ended up using) was called Fall Gold. You'd envision a lovely, warm yellow color with that, wouldn't you? Right. What it ended up being was more of a Screaming Atomic Blazing Sun yellow...

You know how when you're knitting and you get that little niggling feeling that something is not quite right, but you ignore it because you're sure you're gauge is really just fine and you've followed the directions correctly, only to knit the whole damn thing and find that not only was your gauge way off, but you only did half of the raglan increases you were supposed to do, so the sweater you just finished would fit a very fat giraffe buy probably no human you know? Well, this yellow room is my fat giraffe sweater of this house project. Above is the first swatch that did not adequately trigger the expected "Danger, Will Robinson! Danger" signal in my mind, thus allowing me to put not one but two coats of it on the walls. Granted, it was midnight when I put the first coat on. I was sure it would be better in the daylight. And it would be less intense with a second coat, right? Darker? At one point, I was lulled into believing it was cheerful and reminded me of sunflowers. Um. Yeah. Attack of the giant sunflowers that want to EAT YOU!


I do not have it in me to repaint this room, or even to apply any of the possible decorative "fixes" I found when I Googled "toning down bright paint" (I am clearly not the only person to contend with this issue, and it also seems that yellow is the number one color people have this trouble with). So, I'm going to remain optimistic and hope that once I have everything IN the room, and have things hung on the walls (lots and lots of things, LOL), maaaaaybe the yellow won't seem so freakishly insane. Denial clearly has a long statute of limitations.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Random things I've learned this week...

...ordering four bags of Hershey's Cinnamon Chips from eBay in mid-August, which will be delivered via USPS and sit in one's mail box in 80 degree weather: not such a good idea. You end up with four bags of cinnamon chip goo.

...if you freeze the aforementioned bags of cinnamon chip goo, it will solidify and can then (hopefully) be rebroken into some chip-like form that will render them once again usable.

...13- and 14-year-old girls are not the best at coordinating plans, thus resulting in parents needing to drive to multiple locations before ending up at the correct place. Grr.

...the remaining rooms in my house that need to be painted will not paint themselves, no matter how hard I hope for that to happen.

...likewise, no matter how much I envision the exact fabric I want to use to make my bedroom valances, I will not be able to find it or anything remotely similar, and I will be very, very frustrated.

...Joel Osteen may be a great guy, but something about him kinda skeeves me out.

...Vampires Suck was a hilarious movie, if not a little weird.

...laundry works so much better when you remember to put the detergent in. Trust me.

...because my desktop is completely disconnected due to house projects, editing photos is, of course, what I want to work on the most right now...because I can't. Sigh. matter how old I get, I continue to have to make the conscious choice to not make really bad decisions sometimes.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Love what you own, use what you love...

So, the main goals of this summer's house projects were to replace crappy old carpet with pretty new flooring and to repaint walls that desperately needed sprucing up. So far, so good! We are definitely attaining those goals.

However, I also had some sub-goals for this house re-do project, because I can never have too many goals, it seems. My sub-goals went like this: 1) Get rid of all the stuff I just don't love/need/want/use anymore and 2) make better use of the things I do love and already own while 3) repurposing as many things as possible in order to 4) avoid the purchase of too many new things that have the potential to just turn into stuff I no longer love/need/want/use at some future date.

I've been doing a fantastic job with #1. As I mentioned the other day, we just gave a porch load (literally) of stuff away to the Vets last week. In addition, I have a few things I'm going to try to sell on Craigslist, if I ever get my arse in gear and figure out just how to do that. And I have some other things that I'll likely put on my local Freecycle list. It really does feel good to get rid of things, whether I get some cash for it or not.

In cleaning out though, I realized I have a lot of things that I love but don't use nearly as often as I should, considering how much I love them. This realization is what prompted #2. My pottery collection is a good example. I started buying pottery several years ago, usually at fairs or when I'm vacationing and find a good pottery studio. I love supporting artists, and while I may not be a crystal or china person, I love pottery. So, when I was moving things out of the china cabinet the other day, which is where my pottery is happily housed and displayed (it long ago displaced my grandmother's china that I pretty much never used), I asked myself why in the world don't I use it more often? I have a couple bowls I use pretty regularly, but that's it. I'm determined to make better use of these pieces from now on.

#3 and #4 are sort of a set. When I'm doing a house project like this, where my rooms are changing in major ways, I know it's inevitable that I'm going to need to buy some new things. Like fabric to make new valances for the windows, and in the case of our new floors, I'm going to need to buy area rugs because we've never needed them before. However, the temptation is there to buy other new things too. For instance, I'd love to get some new lamps for the bedroom, and a new comforter for the bed. And maybe some fun new things to hang on the walls. But really, I don't need these things, and I don't want to spend a ton more money than what we're already spending.

So, I'm making every effort to repurpose other things in the house so I don't have to buy a lot. In the process of cleaning out and moving things around, I've uncovered some things I forgot I had, things I really love but never had the place for them before. Now I do, and I'm going to use them. And I'm also going to make better use of the myriad photographs I've taken in recent years. Prints are pretty cheap, and I have a ton of frames here on hand. I want to be better about putting them out where we can all enjoy them instead of leaving them languishing on my computer's hard drive.

I'm not a patient person by nature, and it's frustrating to me when I think of how long it's going to take to put all the finishing touches on the rooms. But, frankly, it's exciting too! And I can't wait to see how it all ends up! :)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Inspired (or Crazy!) - The Home Improvement Edition

In the 17 years we've been married and lived here, we have pretty much done all of the major projects one might need to do on a 30+ year old house. The only big things that remained were replacing the nasty 70s era carpet and redoing the kitchen in it's entirety. (We also haven't replaced the furnace, and, God willing, we won't have to do that. Each winter I pray, light candles and sacrifice a small, random animal to the Appliance Gods in the hopes we can put it off just One. More. Year.)

This year, I got a bug. I decided we HAD to do our floors once and for all. The three upstairs bedrooms, the hallway and the dining room. I hated that ugly old carpet. I hated how dark it makes our house look. I knew it was going to mean dropping a chuck of change, but it really, really needed to be done.

And so, we embarked. But first, I created a Master Plan of how we would proceed. Since many of the same rooms were in need of being repainted as well as refloored, I figured now was a good time to do that as well. (I'm a messy painter, so painting while there's nothing but subfloor to drip on seemed like a great opportunity.)

The week the kids were at camp was when we worked on their rooms. This also involved moving our son's room from upstairs to the room downstairs that has been my yarn room/office since our oldest son moved out in 2004. That meant moving alllll of my yarn out of that room, along with all of the other crap I've managed to accumulate in there. Yikes. It never ceases to amaze me how much stuff can fit into one room! Anyway, moved my stuff out, painted the room, moved his things down, and voila...first room done:

Chris, who is 15, predictably wanted his room painted black. Basement, windowless bedroom? Um, no. We went with a light gray on three walls with the darker gray on the fourth. I then purchased new black bedding and some black room accessories. He was pleased.

Since the kids were at camp, I was able to stuff all of Emma's furniture in the Chris's-still-occupied room (it was literally wall-to-wall furniture!) so that Kevin could work on the floor in there while I painted downstairs. Thankfully, I'd just painted her room a few years ago, and it's still good. Just flooring in there, so it was a good practice room for him to do:

Oh my gosh! Such a huge improvement! We went with an American Beech Pergo, nice and light and really brightens things up!

So, if you're keeping track, you'll realize that at this point, we now had one empty room upstairs. This was part of my Master Plan. With one empty room, we would always have somewhere to go with the things we needed to move from other rooms while they were worked on, and then that room would be done last and become my new yarn room/office.

Our bedroom was next on the docket. Unlike the kids' rooms, which I wanted to get done while they were away, the only deadline I was imposing was to have the bedrooms done before we start our school year on the 23rd. So, feeling relaxed, I moved all our things in the empty room a couple of weeks ago, but I only got it painted this week. Kevin started and finished the flooring today...

Baseboard coming tomorrow (hopefully) and then we can move back in, which will be nice because we are crammed like sardines in the smaller room right now.

This morning, however, Kevin threw a monkey wrench into my Master Plan. Originally, we were going to do flooring in Emma's room, then in the short piece of hall between our two rooms, then our bedroom, then the rest of the hall, then the empty room. We weren't sure we'd do the dining room just now (before September), mainly as a way to spread out the cost of the project a bit. However, today Kevin informed me he needed to work the whole way down the hall into the dining room before he could work over to our room (something about how the boards need to be put down), so that would require the dining room to be done now too.

Now, let's ignore the fact that I don't have the paint for that room yet, and therefore it has not yet been painted so I'll need to paint on top of the nice, new flooring (ack!). Nor had we purchased enough flooring to do all this yet. But more importantly, nothing was moved out of the dining room yet. And can I say that being told this new plan five minutes after waking up and BEFORE I had any coffee was not a bright move on Kevin's part. I may have snarled. Snapped a little even. Mainly, my brain could not get past the thought of where was I going to put this stuff??? Our empty room -- key to making this whole thing work -- was not empty yet! The only other place to go with it all was the living room. And so that's what I did. Moved all the stuff -- my desk top that was temporarily set up in there, all of the book case stuff and the china cabinet stuff and the other random stuff -- into the living room, which now looks like a freakin' flea market...

Here is where I admit that, while I am not a super neat freak and I don't keep a spotless house, large quantities of clutter make me twitch, big time. It's like visual static. And holy moly

Anyway...focusing on what we're getting done, I'm really happy with how it's all turning out. A side benefit of moving nearly everything we own is that I've purged a TON of stuff to get rid of. I filled our front porch last week with close to 30 boxes and bags for the Vets truck to come and pick up. I've got boxes of books to take to Half-Price Books sometime soon.

And today, I boxed up all of my crystal and stashed it on a shelf down in the basement. Salad bowls, wine glasses, water goblets, etc. that we got for our wedding. We are not crystal people. Why I registered for all that when we got married, I have no idea. No, I do know why -- because that's what you were supposed to do! You registered for pretty things! It was tradition! I lectured my kids today, as I wrapped crystal in tissue, and told them...don't register for things that you'll never use! Be yourself, not who someone else thinks you should be. Wish I'd have learned that back then. Sigh.

Amid all the chaos, there is knitting...

I cast on for my Nantucket Red the other night. This is the first six inches of the back. So far, I love it! The fabric has a wonderful drape to it. It is making me very happy. Let's hope that continues!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

An unusual predicament...

After finishing the Citron shawl and a test-knit project, both within the past week, I was down to two projects on my WIP queue. TWO. Seriously? This from the woman who used to regularly have a dozen or more WIPs going at any one time.

Granted, ever since my big WIP knit-down frenzy in January 2009 (I started with a record-high 17 WIPs and ended with only 8), I've pretty much managed to keep things under control, usually with something around 5 or 6 projects going at a time. Part of this feat I credit to my increased use of the "hibernate" status on Ravelry. My WIP count never includes hibernating projects. But even my hibernating WIPs count is at only 5, so I think that's pretty good!

However, today I finished one of the two WIPs that were left after Citron. A pair of socks I'd started back in January. I was up to the heel part of the second one when I quit working on them. I just cannot seem to get the same intuitive hang of heels on toe-up socks as I have for cuff down. I always end up having to rip back at least once because I do something wonky to them. And it really doesn't help to let more than four months pass since you last worked on them! Yikes.

Generic k3p1 ribbed socks, toe-up, slipped stitch heel. 
Yarn: All Things Heather Sock Yarn, Winterberry colorway.

However, finish them I did, and once I changed their status from "in progress" to "finished," my little WIP widget looked like this...
Dude! ONE WIP!!! One??? Really??? Oh my. As much as I will admit that projects finish much faster when I knit monogamously on them, I just can't handle having only one WIP at a time! What can I say? It's a sickness.

Now, I know I will have another test knit project coming up soon -- a garment for me this time, not a baby garment, and one that requires handspun. So right now I am diligently spinning up some beautiful purple merino fiber for that project. (Sorry. Forgot to take a picture. I'll catch it next time.)

But since the knitting part of that project is still in the distance a bit, I thought it a good time to cast on something for me that I've been wanting to make...

This is the pattern for Nantucket Red by Thea Colman. It's been in my queue for a while, and I'm going to make it from one of my all time favorite yarns, Elsbeth Lavold Silky Wool...a pretty, golden, mustardy shade.

I love the rustic-ness of this yarn. It's soft, from the silk, but it's got a nubbiness to it that just makes me so happy. And since my February Lady Sweater, which I also knit from this yarn, is irrevocably too large on me now (though I may try one last ditch effort to try and get it to at least stay on my shoulders before giving up and giving it away), I am looking forward to having another Silky Wool garment to wear. And it should be perfect for fall, too!

And, of course, I cannot go without a good carry-around project. That will be another pair of socks made from some Zitron Trekking XXL that I bought a couple years ago with a specific recipient in mind. This pair is going to be a Christmas gift.

I'm going to go with yet another toe-up pair, that way I can control the length of the cuff. (And darn it anyway, I am going to master that toe-up heel if it kills me! LOL) And while Trekking XXL has over 450 yards per skein, I bought two, just to be safe, because said intended recipient has some kinda big tootsies, and I don't want to have to make the cuff short just to accommodate yardage. I love when I think ahead like this. 

And it just dawned on me. I think this may be the first time this year that I have not had a shawl on the needles! Plenty of those in my queue. Dare I add another project? Hmmm.... ;)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Now for the real pictures...

Since no one was else was home at picture time, model-less pictures of my Berry Berry Citron will have to suffice for now! ;)

Citron, knit with 654 yards of 3-ply fingering weight handspun created from 4 oz. of Tempted merino/silk, "Positivity" colorway. I Navajo-plied it to maintain the nice, long color changes.

This is so soft and light and yet cosy and warm! I may have been a little overzealous in my blocking, as the ruched areas aren't quite as dense as I've seen them in other versions of this shawl, or it could be that my gauge was just looser. No matter, I do love how it turned out.

I often wonder what my neighbors think when they see me outside taking photos of my knits. Especially when I'm outside on a Sunday morning, still in my PJ's, zombie socks and gardening shoes...

Oh, and wild hair and no make up! Yep! That's got to be an attractive thing to watch. Or at least mildly amusing. I suppose I could have really put on a show and set up the tripod to take pictures of myself modeling Citron...

Um...yeah. Maybe not. ;)

Instead, my pretty Morning Glory vine was more than happy to play model!

Speaking of pretty plants, I think this Coleus is one of the prettiest things growing in my flower beds this year! I've always loved flowery flowers and never used to be a big fan of variegated greenery, but it's really growing on me lately (no pun intended!).

And I've noticed something else this year. The Butterfly Flowers I planted? They have been attracting more bees than butterflies. And some big bees at that! Look at this dude!

Lastly, let me just say that I am loving - LOVING - that it is starting to feel fallish. Being able to open the windows at night and have the air conditioning off...wonderful! And having the need to put on some hand knit socks and wrap myself in a shawl or afghan early in the morning? Fantastic! Our new school year is going to start two weeks from today, and I'm by no means trying to rush these last two weeks of summer, but weather-wise, give me fall and I'm a happy, happy girl! :)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Dude...that was close...

Apologies now for the total crapazoid photo...used my laptop camera and the lighting pretty much sucks in here at night. But I just needed to share this...

If you're a knitter, you can probably figure out the significance of this shot, but I'll elucidate anyway so you know the whole story.

I finished my Citron tonight, which I knit out of my own handspun (with fiber from Tempted Yarns). If you've knit Citron, you know that there are five ruched sections, each of which double your stitch count until you decrease again for the area between the ruched sections. But then the last section you do is the ruffle, which also requires you to double your stitch count. So, if you do the pattern as written (meaning not doing fewer or more sections), the ruffle is worked on 540 stitches. DUDE. Yeah.

When I finished the fifth ruched section and the decrease section that followed it, I weighed the idea of adding a sixth ruched section, but I feared I'd then run short of yarn and end up with a dinky little ruffle, which would look funny. So instead I went ahead and did the KFBs for the ruffle and decided I'd simply knit the ruffle as long as it took to use up all of my handspun. The pattern called for 11 ruffle rows before binding off. I ended up doing 23.

Near the end, I tried to decide if I could get one more row out of the yarn before binding off. I did my default estimating process of stringing the yarn out along the length of my working stitches, tripling it and then adding some extra to be safe. I was able to do that twice and had maybe one more length left over, so I felt confident that I could get a row plus my bind off out of my remaining yarn. (I'm pretty sure bind off rows use more yarn than regular knit rows, at least that's my hunch.)

Heh. What you see me holding in the photo is what was left after I bound off the last stitch. Twenty-four inches. Or, in fiber-speak, less than a gram. ( will not even register on my digital scale as one gram!) DUDE!!

I was starting to sweat there for a while, because I was soooo close to the end, but all I could think about was having to tink back 1,000ish stitches because I'd miscalculated and run out with, say, ten stitches to go. (And no, there wouldn't have been enough yarn from my cast-on tail to have used to make up the difference! LOL)

I love when I can use up all of the handspun in a project like this, but this was just a little too close for comfort! ;)

Better pictures of Citron (and me...yikes!) forthcoming after blocking and a good night's rest. (Citron and me, respectively. ;) )