Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Last Three Weeks- Crafting

In the last three weeks I have made more things than I ever thought possible. Well, that's not true, I know it is possible to make a lot more than I made, but it was record output for me. I didn't manage a handmade gift for everyone, but the dream still lives on. It is possible if I can manage these three things: start earlier (as in next month), get people to stop having birthdays between Christmases (don't know how that one's going to go over), and by not working on any other side projects (yeah right, already blew that one).

This year I just didn't start on time or give myself enough time. And in one example of spectacularly poor planning I signed up for a quilt class on December 7th. I don't really regret it though: Here's the picture from the pattern front; mine will look very different.

The class went from noon until 6 pm and that was right before the last two weeks of school (which consists of not a little bit of grading, planning, and copying). In addition to lasting pretty much all day this class required a good bit of "homework." Now, teachers are notoriously bad students, but in this way I completely break that mold. I listen when the instructor is talking, don't skip class, and always do all of my homework. So, the Friday before class I bought my fabric. I wanted something that sort of resembled the Alaska wildflower mix that we saw this summer.
I ended up with a mix of more browns than greens, but still really like it and that weekend proceeded to cut out 224 6"x8" rectangles and 224 3.5" squares. Then my loving husband devotedly drew not one, but two lines on the backs of the squares.
The lines were where I sewed, and the second line is because I have this crazy idea that one day I'll use the leftover half-square triangles for something very cool.

I went to class and and worked almost the entire time, but because I had two lines to sew on every block it took twice as long. So when I left, of the 56 blocks I need to complete my quilt, I had a grand total of seven completed. But I think they are lovely!
I love the way the blue stands out and I think the rest will do the same.

Now if only I can think of something to do with all of these...

But, I put aside my Twinkle quilt (sadly) in order to get back on the holiday crafting train. I had quite a bit planned and not all of it ended up finished. Some not at all and others partially. In the partially finished group was a pair of socks for Bob. He ended up with 1 and I finished the other today. I tried to tell myself it was because I wanted to make sure it would fit right, but really I just ran out of secret knitting time.

My mom also received an unfinished gift: a stocking. The stocking part is finished, but the ruffle that attaches to the top is not quite done (about 4 more rows I think) and then you knit a cuff up from there.

Here's a little back story on this stocking: My mom has wanted this stocking since she saw the pattern in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine from 1990. You do the math on that. And after she knit Bob and stockings and was buying yarn to knit Bobby's, I volunteered to knit hers. Bad, bad idea. How fast she agreed should have told me something.

She brought me the pattern and the yarn and flipped open the magazine to show me the picture:
It said to turn to page 113 for the index of directions, and then that sent me to the actual pattern on page 79. This circuitous route to the pattern should have been my first sign that this was not going to be a simple deal. Or the mention of the word "heirloom" in the description (think: "Ah, yes, this si the stocking that cost poor aunt Leah her sanity."). And, if that didn't give it away the page of directions should have. It's three columns and the first two are devoted to lace patterns. At the top of one it had a little note that said the following:
Skill Level
For the expert knitter.
(The italics were theirs.)

I took it home and got nauseous just reading the patterned sections. I told Bob I had three options:

Option 1. Work on my lace knitting skills. Build them up through a series of other progressively more challenging projects.
Pros: A trail of other achievements leading up to this one. An experienced if not "expert" would be attempting it when the time came, instead of knit-a-sweater-with-a-duck-tail-me.
Cons: It would be another 18 years before my mom got her stocking. I might develop a mental block about this project and that alone could keep me from ever knitting the stocking.

Option 2. Knit the thing starting now. Just go at it and hate my life for the next 3-5 years.
Pro: It would get done eventually and I would feel great when it was finished.
Con: The whole hating life for 3-5 years thing. (I'm pretty sure divorce may have been in the cards with this one.)

Option 3: Outsource my knitting.
Pros: My mom would get her stocking. The stocking would be done right. My mom would still have a sane (and married) daughter.
Con: I wouldn't have actually knit the stocking I would have paid someone to knit it and I got into the whole handmade thing because I wanted my hands to be the ones doing the making.

Bob was a big fan of option 3, I kind of wanted to go for option 2: it seemed dangerous and edgy.

I ended up giving it a try. I didn't get passed the 3rd row of the 1st pattern and I only got past the 1st row because my sister (who I had literally taught to knit the week before) pointed out one little phrase in the pattern I was overlooking. Yeah, ironic, huh?

I took it in to ask a woman who can knit with the best. She suggested I chart it out. I had knit from charts before so I did.
I was pretty impressed with myself that I could even write out the chart (it wasn't really that hard, though) and after I had a visual of what I was doing I was unstoppable. I knit a sample to make sure I could knit the pattern I had charted.

It worked and I started on the real thing. One hour before my family was due to come over I closed up the heel and wove in the ends. I stuffed the stocking, fabric to line it, and the almost finished ruffle into a project bag I made my mom(she had to have at least one finished gift) and put it in a box for Bob to wrap.

It looks much better in real light. It's knit out of natural white wool in a light sport weight. And it's not blocked so it's hard to appreciate some of the finer details (such as the over 300 bobbles). I was pretty happy. I may be getting ahead of myself, after all it's not completely done yet, but I didn't even realize that actually knitting the stocking and maintaining my sanity and marriage was an option!

Other than that project I also sewed 5 bags, knit 2 hats, sewed 1 apron, and helped my sister sew a needle case for the sister that figured out an "expert" pattern after knitting for one week. I'm kind of jealous of the needle case actually... ...

I still have a few gifts I want to make, and since I haven't seen those people yet, the gifts aren't known to be late yet... So really, they're not, right?

All of that brings me through until today when I started cutting out the pieces for my New Year's Mystery Quilt (doing my homework, but also breaking one of my rules for finishing all my gifts for Christmas). I don't know what the final quilt will look like; all I have are fabric requirements and my friend Sally helping me pick out fabric. I still have some strips to sew together and cut, but I'm almost done.
I'm very excited to see how the final quilt turns out!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Last Three Weeks- Bobby

I haven't blogged in 3 weeks. I meant to plenty of times. I even started a few posts, but they never were finished and then their moment had passed. So, here it is three weeks since my last post, and quite a bit has happened. This post will cover Bobby and his exploits. I'll post again later about my crafting pursuits.

The last time I posted Bobby was ridiculously close to crawling. He would even sort of meditate on his hands and knees, but then revert to his tummy crawl. Well, he saw another little boy crawling around and decided crawling was definitely the cool thing to do. He is unstoppable now.
His speed made it impossible for us to always be right next to him and so we baby proofed with all of the safety paraphernalia. That leaves him pretty much just his toy basket to get into, and for the longest time one of his favorite games was pulling it out and tipping everything out of it.

He wants to get into everything (and often does), and I knew it was time for the second level of baby-proofing when I was in the kitchen and leaned over to check on him and he was munching on the wrapper of some of my secret chocolate stash:

It's incredible how fast he learns and I'm almost scared to think he'll be walking soon. It's amazing, but in an awe, fear, and wonder sort of way at times!

Of course, Bobby just celebrated his first Christmas. He received his first Christmas card and was very excited!
Receiving something in the mail reminded us that we needed to actually mail things for them to arrive before Christmas and Bobby helped us wrap presents for his cousins. His reward was this wonderful piece of ribbon that he dragged around for a few days:

In the run up to Christmas he helped by being very self-entertaining and patient while I tried to finish a bunch of presents. He also went Christmas shopping with me and his Nochi and once on a short trip with his daddy. I'm not sure what he thought of all the shake up to his schedule, but I think he enjoyed himself overall.

On Christmas Eve we bundled him up and took him to a candle light service. He was pretty happy to be back in the Bjorn with his daddy. He gets very excited when Bob puts it on.

Bob and I went sans the fire near him during the service, but this was what greeted us as we approached the church. It certainly helped my spirit given that I was still frantically working away at gifts.

On Christmas, Bobby had breakfast with one set of grandparents. The waffles turned out much better, but Bobby still didn't get one. He did, however, hang out with some of his biggest fans, play with a new stuffed dog, and play a little bit of peek-a-boo.

In the early afternoon two more sets of grandparents came by for dinner. We had a pretty good meal, and then he had his first go at opening presents. Here he is getting a tutorial on unwrapping on the present he gave my parents (sorry it's blurry):It took a few more demonstrations before he was ready to tear into paper, but once he understood what he needed to do he was disturbingly good at it.

He even made a go at my presents at one point, but luckily he still had some in his own pile we could distract him with.

He had a great time I would say. He saw almost all of his family, was able to take a nap with his mom for about an hour (we both needed it by then), and received plenty of new books and toys to entertain him when the boxes and paper lose their luster!

He managed to stay in his pajamas all day because it was the only Christmas clothing we had. I didn't get his sweater done in time; my new goal on that is for the new year.

The day after Christmas he received yet another present and was pretty excited:

Then later we all went to a couple's house for Boxing Day. Bobby was able to wear his new Christmas outfit announcing this as his first Christmas and he was able to open another present there and brought one home! He was too tired last night to open it so he opened it this morning and was enthusiastic about all the noises it makes. Bob and I aren't quite sure about it, yet.

But, with so many family and friends that love him (and three day's worth of present opening) I would say he is a very lucky little boy! I hope you had as happy a holiday as he did.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

All Good

Bobby was declared "fixed" at today's appointment. His left kidney is still bigger than his right and will always be, he's at higher risk for high blood pressure later in life, and urinary tract infections could be a problem, but other than that he is set for a "normal" life!

I asked if contact sports were okay; the doctor said, "yes."

Dang it!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside

So, when I get home from work I am greeted by the happiest little man I know! Today when I came to the door my sister opened it and he was there grinning, but then he was very puzzled by the thing on my head. After I got inside and had my shoes off I figured he could try on my hat and then I couldn't resist the scarf. He's quite the little fashion... something.

So, I've been away from blogging for two weeks now. It didn't feel like that long, though, the time was filled with lots of other things. Unfortunately one of those things was not my NaNoWriMo novel. I did break the halfway point before the end of November (25,006 words on November 30th) which was my original goal. I was hoping to do the whole thing, but my new deadline is now then end of this calendar year. Really November is kind of bad planning for that sort of thing. November is when my knitting craving really kicks in to the neglect of all else.

I have been knitting, but I can't talk too much about it. My top-down sweater is put aside for the time being because of all the holiday gift knitting I need to do (that's why I can't say too much about it). I have several projects planned and on the needles. The one I can talk about is Bobby's. Because while he is amazing, he's not reading quite yet, and I have to knit in front of him. That's something I'm hoping to figure out in the future: knitting gifts for people you live with. Suggestions and advice on this front are very welcome.

I am knitting him a sweater:

It's based on a sweater a friend of mine did and I just changed the pattern around the yoke. I'm hoping to get it done soon enough to take pictures and put them in Christmas cards. Now, why I think I'll actually get Christmas cards out this year with a baby when I haven't gotten them out in the past 3 years without one, I don't know, but it's a hope I have. Anyway, this sweater is knit from the top down, so I'm getting closer to the place where I divide for the arms. I'm really hoping it fits him!

That's all I can safely say about knitting so on to Bobby. I can type or talk all day about him. He had his first Thanksgiving.

That morning we tried out our brand new waffle maker. I had been wanting one for quite a while. I think waffles are kind of like magic. You pour in the batter and then with hardly any effort get a beautiful and tasty waffle. Much easier than pancakes in my opinion. So having family over for breakfast provided the perfect reason to get this magical waffle maker! So I had my waffle maker and waffle mix and made my disclaimer about it being the first time I had ever made waffles (the magic may take a little bit, you never know) and gave it a whirl.

The first batch turned out pretty good. A few of the squares had holes and they weren't even, but overall, not too bad. Bob read me part of the directions and said maybe we should be putting in more batter. So I mixed up 1/2 again as much batter as the first time. I happily poured it onto the iron and spread it a little. As I was closing it I thought, "hmmm, the back is a little drippy. Oh well, there's a little ridge around the edge and I can wipe up any little bit that goes over that."

Bob came around the corner as I closed it and he commented on it as well. But, he pointed out, lots of waffle makers have batter on the edges, so maybe it's supposed to do that.

Then it erupted volcano style. It poured out of the waffle maker, down the sides, onto the counter, onto the stove top, under the dish rack. It was gross and just kept coming. You can see where we had wiped it up, but wow. I'm pretty sure that more poured onto the counters than I had actually made.

As we were cleaning it up it beeped; our waffles were done. So we opened it up and the top half was neatly cooked to the top iron and the bottom half to the bottom iron.


I thought maybe we needed to let them cook together. Maybe some waffle magic would happen if we gave it another chance. I closed the iron turned it up and let it go a little bit longer. Yeah it didn't work, and notice the little trace of smoke? I ended up peeling the top half of four waffles off the top iron and onto my plate. Bob, got the bottom half.

Some waffle magic did happen though: those waffles were still delicious!

Bobby didn't get waffles (or bacon or eggs or coffee or sausage or juice. Just ask him. He protested the whole time.) that morning, but that afternoon he had a chance to try mashed potatoes. But, he decided they aren't really his thing. His reaction to potatoes made me worry that maybe he's not going to like any vegetables at all. He hasn't liked peas (I'm not giving up though, I think they were just too thick), sweet potatoes, or rice cereal. And then not even plain old white potato? He still loves bananas and pears, but I'm pretty sure you can't survive a lifetime on those two things alone.

In an attempt to find something else he likes we tried out carrots yesterday. Another hit. He took a few tentative bites, had to be encouraged to try again, but then couldn't get enough of them! Here is an interview about his experience:

He's become quite a bit more talkative and has some new tricks, but I'll save some of that for tomorrow.

On Monday of last week we took him in for another renal scan and ultrasound. Tomorrow afternoon we head back to the hospital for the results of those follow-up tests. Hopefully we'll be told that all is well!

Until then bundle up!