Reading While Knitting

Nothing complicated; nothing too exciting, but yes, I do knit while I read. As well as during many other domestic activities.

Monday, January 31, 2011

All the fingers

But as of yet no thumbs.

With blocking, they'll be the same size, I assume. If I stay up after book club tonight (we're reading Kicked, Bitten and Scratched, a book I heartily recommend) and knit, I might get the thumbs done and perhaps the duplicate stitching.

Probably not.

However, since I knit about four total mittens this month, and almost have a pair done, I'm counting it good. Last night I began charting my next pair, and I can't wait to cast on for those.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

I'd have worn them if they were done

Homeschoolers get to chaperone almost every field trip. This is big fun. Today was a marine preserve for tidepooling! Hooray!!

For a woman with, let's say, issues, about the coastline here, it was a pretty low-key day, safety-wise. This despite the official notices:

We saw many critters:

Who knew hermit crabs went in for the Southwestern jewelery look?

These lovely anemones get their green from algae which continues to photosynthesize inside of them.

Color inspiration was everywhere. Do you think the hermit crabs evaluate their potential houses on aesthetic grounds?

Mossy chitin.

After all of our research, and identifying creatures, and talking about tidal zones and why the rocks on the way to the coast were tipped to the side (hint: we're on a tidal plate), the real learning might have been social. How long can you play "Let's lasso each other" before someone gets hurt?

It was a bit chilly, though. If I had finished the mittens today, instead of just taking them along for a ride in the car, I might have worn them. Think I'll finish before the month is up? Yeah, I wonder too.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Eric always tells me, "In knitting you can just unravel your mistakes; in woodworking, that wood is gone if you mess it up."

Turns out that's not the only difference.

If you mess up in woodworking, you can partially amputate one of your joints. We have about six weeks before we find out if he gets to keep that finger tip. . .

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Distant Cousins

This summer, I had the incredible privilege of meeting and being hosted by my grandfather's cousins' grandchildren. In Sicily. My biggest regret was not being fluent enough to speak a lot with them -- we did a lot of drawing. It's astonishing how much people can convey without a lot of common language.

So, although distant, we were definitely related.

Which, really, is all I can say about these mittens.

Same yarn, same needles, same knitter. . . very different sizes. Perhaps it was the random handspunness of the yarn (which doesn't speak much for my spinning) but it more likely is due to counting errors. I had planned to rely on Magical Blocking, but I think I'm just going to suck it up and knit another one. At the rate I'm going, I'm going to have finished three mittens this month and still not have a pair!

When I say my children "read the newspaper daily" in my homeschooling diary, I'm not always very detailed as to what, exactly, they're reading.

I do, however, draw their attention to stories they might like, such as a recent one about Mt. Etna erupting in Catania, across the island from our cousins, but generally I'm okay with them not reading every horrific daily headline. The comics are generally current-event enough.

Mikey continues to learn what he is allowed and not allowed to do.

Sigh. He's redirectable, thank goodness.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Not quite up to cuff

My first year at college, my sister and I wrote letters to each other. A lot. We had to keep each other up on stuff, and it was just nice to get letters. Then I moved back home for a while, and we didn't have to write to each other. Through various moves, we wrote, or called, and during one particularly fruitful period, we wrote and called. I have boxes of letters from her just sitting around. Now that we get to see each other in person, we don't write much more than the occasional card. I'd rather have the face to face memories, really. However, I still am fortunate to have a couple of friends to whom (and one from whom) letters go pretty regularly.

My kids may not have this, so much.

Hours on the phone, hours IMing, but scented bundles tied up with ribbons? Let's hope they do, at least some. Besides, we love our postal carrier. I'm sure he would appreciate some good handwritten mail to deliver.

He would not, however, appreciate this mitten, cast on to have something simpler to knit out and about, so much.

The cuff is a little short on Eric, who doesn't have unusually long hands. So far, it's a woman's mitten. I like the way the darker handspun looks as though it has black stripes in it, and how the thumb cap-stripe matches up with the body. Completely unplanned.

On the checkerboardy side, the singles effect really shows up -- the stitches have a straight line marching up the mitten.

I've cast on, at least, for the second mitten and its green stripe on the cuff is moving along. I'm tempted to knit it longer, but I think these are going to have to be a shorter pair, in the interest of getting back to finishing the snail mitten

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

He's no Good Dog, Carl

But he hasn't eaten (or even tasted) the baby yet.

In fact, he appears to be nobly taking on the position of Loyal Family Retainer. Ha.

All the two-legged ones got to hold the baby.

She even smiled some!

Thanks to all of the help, I got a nice chunk done on a couple of mittens. Is it wrong to rejoice when the baby sleeps so I can knit? No, probably not. The jury is still out on using her as a work in progress photo prop, though. For the record, her mother cracked up when I showed her this picture.

After frogging, restarting, then counting and tinking back carefully, the snail mitten is now at the correct amount of stitches and heading along fine. The handspun mitt now has even more knitting than in that picture, because after making dinner, I figured out charts for both front and back and am rollicking along. The somewhat uneven thickness is a challenge -- thin spots disappear in colorwork -- but I'm just breathing through it. Warm. Fuzzy. Stash-busting. These are the things to think of. If I knit a matching hat, maybe I'll put it away for a gift set. But that is in fact Crazy Talk. No need to get ahead of anything.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Focus, focus

The folks who wonder how I get so much done ought to see me the past week. Starting work up again after a break has thrown me for another loop -- by now, I feel like my own ride at the fair.

Anyhow, it appears clear that daily blogging might be out of my reach. I'm not going to let myself off many hooks, though; I always assume that if I tried harder, was more organized, I'd finally get everything done.

But I'd have to stay home a bit more to do so. Tuesdays are now my offical Bad Day (I think most homeschoolers have at least one), during which I must feed, school, amuse, hug, and drive four children three different places, then produce a dinner. Then I have to grade papers if I have a class in which nineteen students managed to turn in essays of various competency levels.

But tonight? Tonight I also had to go to my beekeeper association meeting. January is the dues-paying month, and I wanted to see if the new slate of officers meant a new way of doing things.

Alas, no. During the portion of the meeting I stayed for, I knit this:

Handspun singles of some indeterminate wool. I must have bought it years ago at a fiber festival. Looks nicer than I remember it looking, and it will make a handsome pair of mittens. Originally I'd planned to make child mittens, but they'll grow. The kids, that is, not the mittens.

This one's nearly grown:

Generally I like seeing fellow beekeepers at the meeting. Sometimes I get a new bit of information about the bees. But when the new officers did not move the surprise speaker (a city official who had some news about our meeting space) along after every single relevant bit of information in the presentation had receded far, far into the distance, I realized I would rather be home, even if it meant wrangling bedtime and grading papers.

I wondered if I were just unusually impatient and/or touchy. But disorganized meetings, kids who have to sit and read to eat, even if they have just gotten out of bed and dear lord, it's nearly noon and we have to go places and they haven't yet scooped the cat box and yes, thank you, I would enjoy help finding all of the overdue library books, just make me want to cry. It's not that I think I'm an Important Busy Person, it's just that life is so full of good stuff to do and my brain makes meandering conversation in a business setting maddening. I'm pretty good with friends, I hope. I like to focus on a person and talk, and listen, and hang out. A friend said the other day, "You always seem so stressed, but you don't feel like you're rushing me." And I was truly, truly glad.

I think I have so much to do all the time just to keep things this side of Child Protective Services, and yet I'd like to be doing some more of the things I want to do and in order to maybe, just maybe, have a chance to do that before they all grow up and leave the house, they have to toe the line, darn it.

There's always tomorrow.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Just a pet, not a kid

Many thoughts competed for this blog post, and the title one isn't one I planned to go into. I love my pets, love them bunches. But ever since having kids, I've done the, in my opinion, normal shift. Kids first, then pets. Even though they sometimes look like little people, they're not. I also have no kid pictures today. Just the way it went. So I can't prove that they're different, photographically.

For one thing, they're generally less trouble, but my children rarely chew furniture. On the other hand, I just heard a son return yelling before he got through the door. Sigh. I think he's hungry.

He's hungry because instead of putting the (already cooked) dinner on the table, I took ten minutes at the wheel. Then it stretched to twenty because I took the time to make a teensy fairy swatch:

Looks like one of the cats, sort of:

Now I'm all excited about spinning it up, then skeining and I bet fulling the snot out of it so it won't drift. It's so pretty I want maximum yardage, so no plying.

Off to feed the beasties.


Saturday, January 08, 2011

Add one, subtract one and get one done

What could my kids be looking for

yesterday, in the cold, on the beach?

Elephant seals!

Everyone knows a family who lives somewhere great but doesn't take advantage of their opportunities, right? Generally, we're that family. Fortunately, I have much more organized friends, and every year, they trundle down the coast to one of the very very few places that elephant seals come ashore to pup.

Imagine only spending a few months a year on land, and the rest hunting and swimming in very cold water. Walking near them was cold enough, thank you very much. They are awesomely big up close. They said it was safe, but I couldn't get a good picture of my next-oldest child; she was staying very close to the rest because she was wary of these huge pinnipeds.

Speaking of enormous mammals, Mikey got to play with his neighbor, Star, today.

She's so much faster than he is that it's mostly a chase, and eventually he gives up and just watches, making halfhearted feints as she careers around him. He enjoys it mightily. He does most things mightily, come to think of it.

I'm mightily glad to be nearly done (save the thumb) of mitten the first, aka the second.

The real first is now poised to become the second. Hooray for looser tension. It fits less like a glove and more like a comfy mitt. Still, it is a little daunting to be right back where I started, more or less. Oh well, if one has to stay in place, having one warm hand is something.

When I just couldn't face the thought of starting more colorwork tonight, as it got later and later at my friend's knit night, I decided that I could definitely face winding a plying ball. Turns out that laceweight baby camel and silk makes for a slow-winding ball, but a pretty one:

Alas and alack, the "wobble" on my Bosworth mini spindle turned out to be due to a rather substantial crack in the whorl, just at the base of the central "throat":

I guess we're going to try to clamp and glue it. I love this spindle. In fact, I have a huge bunch of baby camel and silk roving rooting for it to pull through.

Tomorrow is certainly enough time to worry about it.

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

What's with the snacks?

I am a fairly good cook (tonight's dinner and frequently undercooked broccoli excepted). Nearly every evening, however, at least one child declares the meal "inedible." Generally, I'm a "more for me!" kind of gal, and besides, there's always that old standby:


A mother who loves food can hope, though, that some day, her averagely-adventurous eating children will say, "This is terrific. You give us the best meals!" right?

At the end of the penultimate ferny thing on the mitten, I realized that I had really goofed way, way back near some antennae on one snail.

For about five minutes, ripping seemed like the right thing to do, then I tried duplicate stitching, at which I am no whiz. It's still visible, but I don't think I'm up for ripping another mitten that much. I'm so close to finishing, and I think that I'll just wear them and not worry.

Of course, I could always change my mind later. What do you think? Rip and redo? Finish this one and start the next, and then decide? Argh.

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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

So much fun I had to do it again

As our littlest one would say, "Of course I want to play Sorry again. It's so much fun!" (So we do, as often as we can.)

Which is how I felt tonight about spinning. My wheel stays idle for months and then I remember that I love this.

As I noted, I love it more without the brightest yellow bits. Sometimes I wonder if I have very strange reactions to colors, because I'm pretty much all about single-color yarns, although I love colorwork. Oh well, unless I'm going to start dyeing or get a drum carder, I'm not going to worry about it.

Worrying about aging has become something of a hobby for me, though. Currently, I'm annoyed that I have something I consider a serious Old Lady problem. One of my heels has cracked in the dry weather:

Nothing like slathering coconut oil on a foot before bed to make me feel the miles. . .


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Progress without pictures

A few rounds more on the mitten today. My sister asked how many hours I thought it took per mitten, and I once again wished that I had a portable chess clock for my knitting. Apparently I could use a downloadable app to do so!

At any rate, I estimated 13-15 hours a mitten (I'm a painfully slow knitter, alas). The sobering realization is that I knit maybe 30 minutes a day, even though I'd like to do more. Seems that between chauffering, and cleaning, and cooking and feeding and homeschooling and working, there isn't a lot of time to knit.

Tonight there was no knitting because it was Spinning Night at the library. I wish I'd brought my camera (and if my friend sends her pictures I'll edit them in) because my Grafton Fibers batt looked so lush laid out I almost wanted to just leave it as is or felt it for a lap robe.

Instead I spun it, and then decided I liked it best without the neon yellow and orange. It's going to be a tweedy brown. Maybe I'll make enough as a long-draw single to make a teeny girl sweater. If not, the standard hat, I suppose.

The dog appears to be standing guard. It's an illusion. He'll follow me upstairs as soon as I go. Definitely a mama's boy.

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Monday, January 03, 2011

Doing yoga with a stuffy nose

It's kind of hard to feel on top of things when you wake up to your spouse saying, "The alarm didn't go off," and you thought he was saying, "The dog has to pee," so leaping from bed is the only sane option.

I dragged on my comfy clothes and ran out front with the dog (who did, in fact, very much need to go) and then watched as Eric almost sprinted out of the door, on the way to his new year.

Even though we were later than we'd hoped, it was early enough to feed Mikey in his crate and use that relative peace to do some yoga. Kristin is my inspiration here. I don't have a fancy yoga/honey house like she does, but now I am the proud user of a deck of yoga cards. Nothing quite like easing into a down dog and realizing that there needs to be a box of Puffs as part of your practice.

Waking up is hard to do. . .

Darn you, Neil Sedaka. What else, I ask you, fits this kind of morning?

I've learned that making children go to bed early is relatively useless, but waking them up early eventually works on the other end. They think I'm cruel, and they might be back asleep, but baby steps will do us all.

At the halfway point?

The second first mitten is now halfway done. That has to be some kind of milestone, right?

Breathing in the wave

Just before I woke up, I was finishing a long dream about being at the beach with the homeschoolers. I know I was with them because there was much discussion about which glass lasagne dish was whose, and we hadn't even started with the Dutch ovens. I finally announced that even if no one else was, I was going swimming. The water was perfect -- still and clear, and there was another shore across from us. It was some sort of bay!

I struck out across the water, and then a giant wave rose up under me. I could feel the power as I kept on swimming. Looking at where the wave was going to land after it crested, I knew I was in trouble. Growing up in Southern California, I spent a lot of time riding waves, and landing this one was going to be a doozy. However, in the dream, I had my face right at the level of the water and kept breathing in and out, deeply and calmly. I thought, "As long as I can breathe in the wave, I'm okay."

Since we can't predict the things that happen, it seems as good a way to proceed as any.

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Sunday, January 02, 2011

Eye can't see well

I need to call the vet this week because it's time Mikey got some shots and other doggy things. But it seems I'm going to have to call the kid-vet too, since Benadryl isn't touching this one:

As a general rule, panic isn't my first reaction. It's still possible that this is a mosquito bite-type thing, but it's gone on for days, and it's getting worse rather than better, and it is uncomfortable. If it's not changed soon, we'll get it looked at.

About four more rows today -- that mitten is halfway done.

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Saturday, January 01, 2011

As you mean to go on

Resolutions and new beginnings just seem to go together, as do the concomitant disappointment when keeping them is more difficult -- the pounds won't come off, the photos don't get organized, those pesky weeds just keep coming up, and who said twelve pairs of mittens in a year was doable?

I've managed this in years past by not making resolutions, other than the most general: "Eat breakfast. Walk occasionally. Eat kale a lot."

This year, though, I'm brimming with them. Maybe it's tipping well into my final half of life; maybe it's not having a truly little child of my own any more (thank goodness for a new niece!) that's freeing up some space in my head. And this blog is part of that. While researching when we got the cats for a pet insurance application, not only did I discover when we got the cats, thanks to the blog, seeing the pictures of the kids and reading about what we were doing was so pleasurable and not having it was an actual ache. So I resolved to post at least one picture of one kid per day and blog something. Alas, that's only one thing I want to do.

Some of my plans involve the kids in other ways:

And, as any parent knows, rearing kids means limits. Screen time is an ongoing struggle here -- in fact, many things about this child are struggles. Rarely do parents blog honestly about their challenges with their children, and the line between exploitation and sugar-coating isn't easy to find. I hope that this year, we're going to unlock some of the more difficult puzzles with our son, even though paying for the professional help to do so is going to be painful.

I'm also embarking on a self-taught course of dog training. Mikey, who recently joined our family, was trained to be a show dog and not much else. He's big, and mouthy, and not quite sure what's expected of him. He's also very lovable.

I love the look he's giving the kid here. "Squirrel? You call that a squirrel? Take me outside!" In researching training methods, I've fallen completely for Karen Pryor and her positive reinforcement classical conditioning clicker training. Her Reaching the Animal Mind book provided hours of entertainment for us, and then gave me a place to start when Mikey came home. As I've delved more into training, I'm feeling overwhelmed, so finding this website with its structured instruction has been a boon. I think it might also save me a few hundred dollars in private training lessons.

So what else? Um, study Italian, teach my courses, keep homeschooling as effectively as I can, walk briskly a few times a week - that leg is still not at all run-able - do some yoga, keep decluttering the house, and oh, yes, knitting.

I started working on the second of the Norwegian Snail Mittens a few days ago:

This would be great almost-two-years-to-a-finished-object stuff if I didn't also bite the fit-bullet and do this:

And it's not done. That "first" mitten was just enough too tight around the thumb area to make it not up to snuff. In a moment of strength, I figured, "I can do this" and just started ripping. When I get down below the tight part, I'll set it back on the needles and start over. By then the "other first" mitten will be done, and I'll be halfway to the first pair done.

As I mean to go on, I mean.

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