Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sunny Days

One of the protaganists in C. S. Lewis's "That Hideous Strength" says that we (humans) used to like weather. What was meant was that we didn't just like sunny days, or rainy days. That snow wasn't the only thing that would make our hearts happy, or having a great sandal tan because of the uninterrupted UVs. Instead, we liked all weather. That we enjoyed seeing the variations in nature.

I like that idea. I like rainy days, and snowy days, and sunny summer days. I like fog and wind and lightening. I'm very much a "weather" fan, although I enjoy most of it from the comfort of my home with some sort of project. I'm sure if I was out living in that weather I would feel differently. But from my windows almost all weather seems promising in its own way.

But, I've also noticed that I like decisive weather. I'm not a fan of those days that can't really decide what they are. When you wake up to a patchy sky that looks like it might clear up, but instead it gets sunny in one place and rainy in another. It's like weather schizophrenia. And if there's anything I will rail against it's inconsistency. And so inconsistent weather is my least favorite. If it's going to rain, I want it to pour. Sunny means no clouds, or only enough around the edges of the horizon to offset the different blues. I like my snow clean with very little mush and my fog thick and tangible. I like any weather that really knows what it is and tries to be true to itself!

I can understand people that are partial only to sunny weather. Those days are a lot of fun. You don't have to bundle up, you are able to stay pretty wam all day and actually enjoy the feeling of wind on your skin. And, now that I think about it, maybe that's why people like sunny days so much; you are able to actually enjoy being outside in a more direct way. You can feel the sun, wind, grass, water splashes, all of it unmediated. Running around in the rain is unfortunately relegated to the young and slightly crazy, or otherwise "normal" people under great duress. And so with the exception of sunny days, all other weather is a variation on clouds or precipitation.

In Alaska this summer we've had very indecisive weather. So that means very few sunny days and many people, my husband included, are upset about it. But when there is a sunny day, such as today, they make the absolute most of it. And, it is great to see so many people out and enjoying the weather.

Handmade Christmas Update and Lemonade

So, because this blog is open to the public and that public just so happens to include my family, I can't be too specific and pictures are certainly out; it's that whole Christmas surprise thing. I am making progress, though I've scaled back my plans in favor of sanity. And taken some tips from a friend of mine and decided that some of these gifts are more birthday appropriate. And by "appropriate" I mean, "more likely to be finished."

And, in my search for caffiene-free, lower sugar, and tasty beverages I have rediscovered lemonade! Actually, I should say I was reintorduced to it. My wonderful little nephew orders it at restaraunts and so I followed his lead one time and now I am mixing it up at home and loving it! So thanks to that awesome little guy!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fabric Laundering

So, before you think this is a rant about doing laundry, it's not. I don't do laundry. My husband does it all, except for when he's sick and then I put things from the washer into dryer and fold them, if they are completely dry. But other than that, he's pretty particular and so he does it all. Including, actually, the fabric. But that's beside the point.

This is about something more devious. I recently figured out a way to pad my fabric stash with nice relatively big cuts of beautiful fabric. I was in a fabric store and saw a beautiful fabric with a medium all over bird on branch print. There were three colors of the same print and I knew they would make beautiful cloth napkins. And, the warm tones would mean they would make beautiful cloth napkins for my house.

I asked my husband if he agreed, and once he knew this was for napkins and not a large quilt with just one fabric, he said I could have my napkins. While I browsed with my friends I was mentally calculating the yardage I would need.

Now, I can get 4 nice-sized napkins out of a yard of fabric. And, 12 napkins would probably be plenty for the, let's admit it, modest amount of entertaining or even eating at the table we do. So, I thought, "Great, one yard of each and I'll be good to go." But then several things occurred to me at once. First, I would be left with very little fabric left over. Probably only enough, really, to tie the napkins together. Second, I really liked the fabric. Third, my husband had no idea how much fabric it took to make these napkins. I'm sure you can see where this is going.

I walked out of the store with 4.5 yards of fabric (and matching thread) instead of the measly 3 I actually needed; I would have my napkins and a more well-developed stash. The only down-side was that I had deceived my husband. So, my conscience got the best of me, and I was so proud of figuring it out, that I told him about it. He's very indulgent (more on that later) and so laughed about it. We also then laughed about the fact that I pretty much stink at being sneaky.

So, I guess my fabric laundering days are over. At least, in this version. I have another technique that's great for enhancing your fabric and yarn stashes.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Early Bird

For some reason this morning I could not sleep past 7:15. I woke up and was awake. I tried snuggling with my little boy, which usually puts me or my husband out no matter how insomniatic we are feeling, but it did me no good. It actually worked out quite well, because it reminded me of why I do like to get up so early. Your day is so much longer and more open to possibilities when you get up earlier than, oh say, 10:30.

I did get out of bed and wrote for a while. Then I went downstairs and decided to dust off (literally) the recumbent bike. I've been thinking I needed to get back on it for a while now and finally did. I usually don't divulge my plans for exercising or trying to lose weight until at least two weeks have passed and I'm reasonably sure I'll keep it up. But in this case I thought it was too funny that I did have to take a duster to the thing. It was great to get back on it. Then I showered, finished a book, and dressed all before my son wanted his breakfast!

I was elated to have accomplished so much and so started teasing my husband to get out of bed. I of course did this in the way many parents do, I think: through my son. He can't speak yet, at least not in a language understood by the world in general, so my husband and I speak for him.

"What's that Bobby? Daddy should get out of bed? I think so too!"

Then, in a high pitched pseudo-baby voice, "Yeah, he really needs to see how much fun waking up is!"

After continuing like this for a few minutes I thought Bobby was helping me out by leaning towards his dad and doing his grunt communication, but instead he pooped out of his diaper and onto my pants. That put a damper on my morning real fast (they're very comfortable pants and I was looking forward to relaxing in them all morning) but while my husband showered Bobby fell asleep again and we had a nice nap together. My husband did a load of laundry that included those pants while Bobby and I slept and so by lunchtime all was right with the world. And I have plans to be up early again tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sleeping

Before our son was born my husband and I heard from almost everyone that you really need to sleep when the baby sleeps. Then, I was a bit surprised when we were being discharged from the hospital and the doctor said the same thing. For some reason, I wasn't expecting that. We certainly hadn't been doing that in the hospital and when we got home we really had a hard time sleeping when he was asleep.

I think it's a relatively common belief among new parents, whether they'll admit it or not, that you must maintain visual contact with your child in order for them to keep breathing. If you're not watching, you never know what could happen. And, in general the wachfulness does seem important, practically every baby product came with a warning about leaving children unattended. However, the last night in the hospital I was paranoid about every little noise he made, and could feel the lethargy in every part of my body. My husband didn't seem much better off. I'm pretty sure neither of us were in the best condition to be attending a child in any meaningful way.

Luckily, my mom volunteered to watch our sweet new baby sleep, and therefore keep him breathing, while my husband and I got some much needed rest during those first two days from the hospital. When she left she encouraged us to tag-team, and we figured out how to really do that and give each other some mostly uninterrupted sleep. I have to admit this would be a lot easier if my husband could also nurse him, though.

But even as we got better at sleeping when we could and trusting our son's respiratory health to last while our eyes were closed, it was still difficult to sleep during the day when he was napping because all you wanted to do, really, was sit and stare at him. Children, and particularly newborns truly are amazing. The only thing I was motivated to do for quite a while was admire this new little person that had been hanging out with me for the last nine months. Plus, my own sleep patterns told me that night time was for sleeping, not the day. Also his sleeping was sporadic, 30 minutes here, 3 hours there. I never knew how long I had.

Now my husband and I have started shifting between napping with our son and using that time to get things done. And that's one thing I wish they would tell you in the hospital or on the steet corner, or in the grocery store, or wherever else new advice is handed out to new parents: how long are these instructions good for? I know very few, if any, parents who nap when their 2 year-old is down for his or her afternoon nap. But sleeping with your child, napping in the afternoon, is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable sleeps you cen get. If you look at the time stamp for this message you'll see that maybe the sleep thing isn't going all that much better. But it is. I can very easily sleep during the day now!

Friday, July 18, 2008

This is a knitting book?

So, I started reading through the book I mentioned last night: "A Knitter's Alamanc" by Elizabeth Zimmerman. I was thinking I'd thumb through it, read a bit, and decide on my pattern priority list.

I couldn't put it down. I was reading about knittiing an aran sweater. I was reading a knitting pattern and I couldn't stop myself! It was as though I was sitting in a personal knitting class. The introduction tipped me off that this was going to be a different sort of knitting book. And the descriptions I had heard from others with the book told me that it was more prose heavy than anything else. But when I finally made myself put it down, it felt like I had just hung up the phone from talking with a long-lost best friend. And this is a knitting book?!

I have never knit an adult sized sweater, much less an aran sweater. I don't know if I ever will. And even just reading about cutting holes for the sleeves sends shivers up my spine and almost makes me sick thinking of the horrors that could result. But, I couldn't stop myself from reading more and more of the pattern! She inserts so much of herself into her writing. It was and is amazing. It might be one of those books I get in hardback so it sticks around the house for a long time.

And, this book helped reaffirm my opinion that what draws me to different forms of human expression is the individual. I like feeling connected with another human being. I recently read an interview with a fabric designer in a quilting magazine and what she said sort of confirmed this idea as well. She wasn't successful until she started designing what she wanted to, instead of designing what she thought other people wanted to buy. So, it all comes back to that idea of being true to yourself and sharing some of yourself with other people. It's those connections that we want. It's those connections that make a knitting book an irresistaible read.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A book, a kettle, a quilt

I have this wonderful image of curling up under a blanket on a rainy day with a good book and cup of hot chocolate or tea. When I was in high school and for some time in college I had a chance to do this very often during the winter, but instead of being rainy it was snowy. Snowy is nice. It's very peaceful and calming if the wind isn't blowing, but rainy weather is my favorite. Rain evokes a cozy feeling for me. But, this image is dependent on having that hot choclate or tea and a blanket. Books were always available in our house, so the only time it was a problem was when I was being particularly picky.

Now, in my own home we have all of these things as well, but my image has changed a bit. We recently bought a new kettle. Our former one was handed down to my husband, who I was engaged to at the time, from my parents who had had it for several years themselves. About two weeks ago we discovered it was dripping green-tinged water. We promptly threw it out, and for the record hadn't used it all summer. I had remembered seeing some very pretty colored kettles in various cooking stores around town, but I couldn't find one that fit the image I remembered. We ended up with one that was very similar to our old one, though a bit different and with a less shrill whistle. Maybe that will change by the time it starts dripping green. So, when this fall and winter rolls around I'll have a bright new kettle to heat the water for my tea or hot chocolate.

It's not only the kettle that is new in my revised moment of restfulness. I have, over the past two years, gotten into sewing and quilting and now hope to have a home that is filled with handmade things. For the past year or so I have been a bit obsessed with having quilts for the back of our couch. We have blankets, but they are the kind anyone can get at a home store. They are warm, they are cozy, but they are not unique in any way. These future quilts may not be a unique pattern or combination of fabrics, but they will be unique in their mistakes and the slight tilt of crooked seams. I have patterns picked and fabrics bought for two such quilts, but haven't yet made them. So, while I dream of one day cuddling into a quilt I made, a store-bought blanket will have to do for now.

The book will never be an issue in the foreseeable future. And I recently bought a book that I'm very excited to read through, though it's not necessarily a "reading" book. Part of my hope for a handmade home involves knitting a lot of things for use around the house and for my family to wear. Several patterns I've been interested in are found in Elizabeth Zimmerman's book "The Knitter's Almanac." Though it is a knitting book with patterns, it also, I have been told, has a good bit of prose, back story, and even the patterns are written out in prose instead of typical row instructions.

So, while I need to read the book to get a start on making things and the quilt pieces aren't even cut yet, I can still curl up on my couch, snuggle with my son under a blanket, and read while it rains. One day the full picture will be there, but right now we're just taking it one piece at a time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An Unfit Father

I have recently (as in over the past few months) met many fathers of young children. Because we now have a baby we find ourselves gravitating towards other parents, and particularly other new parents. Now, since our little boy is only 3 months old most of these "new" parents seem very experienced and together. I'm hoping one day we'll be that way. But, something I've noticed with all of these couples is how great the dads are.

I read an article late during my pregnancy about how men were, in general, taking a more active role in their children's lives. And that they were really getting involved at an earlier age than they used to, helping out with diapers, soothing, bathing, just general care. This reminded me of the fact that hospitals are now allowing men to be present for births, which is relatively recent. And, I thought, "Well, that's about as early as you could be involved." But, even before then my husband was involved with our son, reading to him through my skin every night before bed, talking to him and playing with him before he had seen him.

All of this also reminded me of a conversation we had with a midwife during one of our prenatal visits. Somehow the topic of weight gain came up, not mine, but my husband's. The midwife said that supportive partners typically gained about half the weight the woman does. My follow up question was, "So, if they gain as much weight does that make them super supportive?"

"No, just cuddly!"

So, my husband's paternity weight was evidence of his fitness to be a father. I have to admit it was great to be able to do so many things together. We made our child, we ate larger though healthier meals, and we bought bigger clothes!

And now together we can work on our physical fitness together, whenever our son gives us the chance!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Handmade Christmas 2008

I have big plans for Christmas this year: I want to make every one of my family members and close friends at least one gift this year. Now, before you write me off as crazy, or divorce me (if you're my husband), hear me out on this. I have, by my calculations 22 weeks left and at least 16 gifts to make. As of right now I have 2 of them completely done, 1 almost done, and 5 that are ready to be started. So, I've got half of them to the ready-to-be-made point or beyond and conveniently enough we are just a bit over halfway to Christmas. For the record I am choosing to ignore the fact that the year is half over but my gifts are not half finished. And then I have ideas for the last 8, but don't have the materials for them yet. That's not too bad. Add to that the fact that I'm gong to allow a paper-pieced tag/ornament to count as the handmade part and I'm sure all will be well!

Some people may wonder or even be a bit skeptical about this plan of mine. I know that it is a bit ambitious and perhaps even a tad unlikely (except for my tag/ornament safety net). I have exactly one day less that one month until school starts, so now's a good time to get things finished. And, I have put all of the projects in my planner and if I can follow that schedule I will be done before Ocotber is over. I think that my schedule is certainly going to be pushed back a bit when school starts and so realistically I'll probably be frantically sewing or knitting or both on Christmas Eve. But, even if that's the case at least I'll be pulling out my sewing machine on the day after Thanksgiving, instead of my hair with all the crazy crowds.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Paying Attention

In one of my college classes we read a book with the words “Paying Attention” in the title or subtitle. Ironically, I don’t remember. But the main tenet was that we needed to pay attention to the things going on around us. That particular book focused on technology and education and the inequalities that can be found in different school in regard to access to technology. But the same idea came up in a later class that was about teaching reading and writing. One of the biggest things we need to be able to do is to pay attention, to notice things, before we could teach or change whatever it was that needed changing. Then, a few years later I was in a program that focused so much on reflection that it became a bit of a joke, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t their purpose. So, over the course of 3 years I had a lot of encouragement to notice things and mull them over, to try to make sense of them.

Now, I’m not always the quickest person, and it wasn’t until last night that I figured out the importance of paying attention even when involved in non-academic pursuits. For example, if I had been paying attention I would have noticed that the last three pieces of a quilt block I had been sewing weren’t actually sewn together because my bobbin thread had run out. After I finally made this connection I started thinking of all the other times I should be paying attention, or, to be fair, maybe just more attention.

Cooking is an important time to pay attention. There’s the whole don’t forget to pull things out of the oven issue, but more sinister is noticing that the oven is still on three hours after your dinner guests have left. No wonder it was so warm upstairs.

It’s important to pay attention when knitting as well. Then maybe you won’t realize that you dropped 1 stitch in your fair isle pattern two rows up and that that is why the mitten is looking just a bit wonky.

Driving, particularly during construction season, is a great time to pay attention to road signs that proclaim lane and road closures and, conveniently enough, detour routes, before you get to the actual “Road Closed” sign. Paying attention to these things can even cut your drive time!

So, there are clearly many small times in life when we should be paying attention, lots of attention, to the things going on around us. Even as I’m typing this, I’m noticing that, along with all of his other 3-month clothing, my son’s pajamas are getting too small for him. The little caps that fold over his hands are no longer keeping even most of his fingers and their accompanying nails tucked safely away from his eyes.

And now I’m noticing that in 10 minutes we need to leave the house. And here’s the biggest point to all of this: if you pay attention and notice something like this, the next step is almost more important, you have to actually do something about it.


(And, I just had to correct the spelling in the title line. It was spelled wrong all day long! How funny is that!)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Delayed Something

A friend of mine is having a baby in about 2 months and I must say that I am jealous. Now, it's not the bad kind of wish-her-harm type of jealousy in any way, just the I-wish-it-were-me kind of jealousy. And maybe jealousy is even too strong of a word. But, there are two things I am sort of jealous of. First, that she is having a second baby. I loved being pregnant. I get positively giddy when I see pregnant women, no matter how far along they are, just because I know part of what they are or will be experiencing. Feeling life inside you is an amazing and powerful experience, and it is something that happens a limited number of times in your life. That time of being able to carry your child with you everywhere you go and feel him or her secretly move, tumble, and tussle inside you is indescribable. So there's that first.

Second, she is nesting. It's the typical pregnancy milestone kind of nesting. The strong urge to clean, set-up, and arrange that has been warned of in childbirth classes and memorialized in family anecdotes. And, in this I am jealous too because I never really nested. I certainly worked with my husband to clean out a room and set-up baby stuff and get clothes put away and those sorts of things. However, all of it was just the being-prepared-and-responsible-for-our-
new-family-member type stuff.

I never felt that switch flip and suddenly needed to clean and prepare. We have friends that cleaned their house better than I did, just because we were coming over for dinner and their house wasn't, "fit for a baby to breathe in." As an aside, their house is probably the most meticulously cleaned place I know of. There are two reasons I would have loved to have this sensation. First, it would have been motivation to do something more productive than read on-line boards about pregnancy and birth while timing prodromal labor contractions for hours on end each evening for four weeks. Second, my house really needed it.

But now three months out from his arrival I am getting all sorts of organizing and cleaning done. For the last two days I have done almost nothing but work on getting things put away, cleaned out, and cleaned up. And the state of both of our bathrooms are really starting to weigh on my mind, along with the carpet upstairs now that I think about it. This is strange. Anyone who has ever lived with me, and maybe some that haven't, can attest, I'm sure, to my lack of interest in almost all things cleaning related. If it involves laundry, a dust rag, or a vacuum then I am decidedly uninterested. But now, I'm thinking of putting myself on a weekly schedule to stay on top of these things. Is this delayed nesting perhaps? Maybe, it's just delayed Spring Cleaning or just wishful thinking. Either way, my house is looking better and better.

Maybe now I won't feel quite as jealous when I visit my friend and she has her sweet, new baby and an organized and cleaned house.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Son's Sweater

I have been knitting for a couple of years now and early on I figured out that I liked to bind off my stitches and be done with it; whatever "it" is. Weaving in ends, can be okay if it's just from the cast on and bind off, and if there are one, or maybe two tasteful stripes, I can handle that. But, when I need to weave in anything more than 5 I get a bit preoccupied with other projects. Similar to when I was a teenager and my room would get strangely clean when I  had a big paper to be working on. I think the worst striped project was a garter stitch scarf for a friend that I really should have known better than to undertake. It had well over 30 ends by the time I was done, and I was done well past when the gift was planned for. Ridiculous. 

The only other part I can't stand is sewing up seams. I don't like it when my seemingly beautiful knitting suddenly becomes my enemy as I struggle to find just the right place to bring the end of a toe together or to attach arms and ears to an elephant. I love the finished products, but sometimes those elephants remain earless, armless, and eyeless for far too long. 

It was knowing this about myself that I put off ever knitting a sweater. I tried, once, to knit a bolero for my son. It's cute but huge, and the arms are lumpy where they attach to the shoulders, and I also don't usually take the time to block things very well, so the whole thing seems a bit off. This experience, combined with my accepted lack of enthusiasm for all things involved in finishing, made me regretfully put down some lovely yarn I had in my hand when I realized the pattern for an adorable baby sweater said, "sew underarms."

I was in the store with a friend of mine, and we both spotted the sample at the same time. It was a beautiful green variegated pullover and I even already had the book the pattern was in. There was a wonderful blue version of that same yarn that would compliment the blue of my son's eyes and who knows how long that may last. The project would supposedly only take 4-6 hours and I already had the needles it called for. It couldn't be more perfect, but there were those words and I knew. I would never be satisfied with how the sweater looked because inevitably my lack of finishing finesse would sabotage the final product. I waited another two weeks, went back with another friend who had knit at least one other sweater and took the plunge. 

I decided to set myself up for success I needed to do everything right, include knitting a gauge swatch. I knit one on the size needles called for in the pattern and low and behold, it was far too big. I went down a needle size and still too big. So, 1 hour later, 2 needle sizes smaller, and the realization that this was probably why the bolero didn't work out, I finally managed to get gauge and I was off. It knit up quick and beautiful, but I don't think I've ever counted all the way to 99 so many times before without the triumphant, "100!" that is ingrained in us from childhood. 

I bound off the neck two days later, and wove in my ends. It's beautiful and amazingly it's the right size. I think. I still haven't kitchner stitched the underarms, but I don't think that will change the fit too much. And, I still need to attach the buttons, but it looks really cute even without them... ...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

One More Blog

I have decided to blog. 

This is a big deal. At least, for me it's a big deal. My first encounter with a blog was when someone decided to blast me. Needless to say it didn't create the best first impression of the blogosphere. Then, while sharing this tale of woe with a coworker at the time the response and viewpoint I heard was, "I think blogs are stupid. I mean, do you really think you're so important that people need to know what you think, or that they even care?" Oh no, of course not. And so, while I love reading them, I knew I was never going to have a blog. 

I was wrong. I am actually wrong about the future with a disturbing consistency. But I am also usually exceptionally happy I was wrong, so it works out. 

There are a few parts of that early sentiment that I have decided I disagree with. First, is the thought that one voice doesn't matter. Second, is that I as an individual don't matter enough. Third, is that if I blog people have to read it. To the first argument I ask if everyone else is talking, then what's one more voice added to the clamor? I may not out-shout anyone, but I'm not trying to. I'm just trying to talk to the people around me. 

To the second argument I have three responses. First, my husband and I are in a dead heat for the "most fascinating person in the world" position for our 3-month old son. I really could end there, but I'll go on to my second response. I know of several people (husband and son not included) who find me quite tolerable, but we don't always get to talk as much as we would like and they just might wonder what I'm up to; that is after all why I read their blogs. Third, at the end of the day I'm not really blogging for other people; I'm blogging for me. 

Which brings me to my response to the third argument: feel free to stop reading at anytime. No one is forced to read what I write or to care about what I post. I'm not claiming to have anything anyone needs. I'm just here, having my say; you don't have to listen. 

Now, I have told you these things so that you understand why it is such a big deal to me that I have decided to blog. It's been quite a mental and, I'll admit, somewhat emotional step for me to do this, but this still wasn't the biggest hurdle that kept me from blogging. For longer than I would care to admit I have mentally toiled over the one thing that was keeping me from acting on my new convictions: I had to name my blog.

This is almost more difficult than naming a child. When you name your child you can always fall back on family names, you can call in help from friends, family, and best-selling books, you can build them around archaic meanings, you can build in nicknames, and you can invent new names that never existed on this earth before, just like your child. But no matter what happens, if you come up with a bad name, your child, not you will suffer the long-term consequences, and he or she can always say, "Yeah, I know. I didn't pick it." But when you name a blog, you are representing yourself and there are very few established and time-honored traditions when it comes to naming blogs. It doesn't help when it seems that everyone else has great names already. Maybe it's just me. I also agonize over user names and e-mail addresses. But, it wasn't until I had a name that I felt I could blog. And just like naming our son, I had to call in my husband for help. 

I do a lot of different things, as most people do, and I often find myself having so much fun I'm unable to stop. I catch myself saying, "one more" very frequently. I knit, and always want to finish one more row. I sew and often want to do one more seam or cut out one more piece. I have a book and want to read one more page. You get the idea. So, now I am adding one more project to the list of things I do. I have decided to blog to keep me writing, to keep friends informed, and to keep track of my other projects. 

I have decided to blog. We'll see if it's so much fun that I always want to write one more post.