Thursday, May 24, 2007

a finished object

A finished object for your viewing pleasure:

This is for my youngest sister. Her birthday was Monday and she just passed the NY state bar exam, so I wanted to do something more than I usually would (gift card for Old Navy, or the Gap, or Target, or...) and she has asked for a handmade afghan several times.

The pattern has a name, but I don't recall what it is right now. It's from A Year of Afghans 1996 (a Leisure Arts book). I crocheted it with Red Heart worsted in soft white using a size J hook. It went pretty quickly, except for the fringe which took about twelve thousand years. But I think it needed the fringe to look finished. I'm not exactly sure of the finished measurements, but it's somewhere around 4 feet wide by a little more than 4 feet long. She has a small studio apartment, she is only 1 person, and she has to fly this sucker home to the midwest, so I chose a pattern that made a smallish blanket.

And I even posed it artfully on the broken tree in my backyard! Just for you, internet!

Here's a bit of a closer look:

Yep, it's got bobbles. And cables, even! Who knew you could crochet a cable? Certainly not me.

Well, it's done, it's photographed, it's wrapped and ready for my sister's birthday dinner on Saturday night. Hope she likes it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

another post where I complain a lot

I have been having a bad day that's lasted for weeks. Ever have that? I just feel out of control, like I'm flapping in the breeze and can't get a grip on my life.

We've been spending money like we have it, creating two large new beds in front of the house. We've filled them with stolen plants (perennials from other beds and/or my parents' house) but had to add some newly purchased perennials and annuals and of course, top soil, that plastic edging stuff, and mulch. Hubs had to put a new roof on half of our shed - it's a hy-ooge shed, more like a small house than anything - and even as a d.i.y. project it costs a bundle. Shingles are expensive, yo. Thank God he has a good friend from high school days who knows how to do that stuff and was happy to help out. (Also thank God neither of them fell off the roof while working, considering it rained on one of the two days they'd allotted for the project.)

The house repairs from our ice dam problem were not so much d.i.y.-able, so we paid big bucks to have that done. Two nice young men came to do the work, finally, and replaced our gutter, repaired the siding and flashing, and fixed our bathroom walls and ceiling. However, we had to remind them to also replace the downspout, which was obviously crushed and was in the estimate, and to remove the old pieces, also included in the estimate. Once it was all done we were pretty satisfied with the work and happy we'd paid to have it professionally completed...until I cleaned the tub. I was scrubbing out the sheet rock dust, and couldn't seem to clean two little spots. So I tried using my thumbnail and guess what! They weren't hardened sheet rock at all! There are two, count 'em two, chips in my tub! The dude dropped a tool on my tub and made two chips and didn't own up to it! Nor did he put anything down to protect the tub surface! Hooray. Now, if we choose to bring this up, it will be our word against his and we have no proof that the tub wasn't chipped before. Le sigh.

And then, I took my car for an oil change at my dealership because they do it for $9.95, but they couldn't get my hood open. Which is funny if you recall what happened to me last year (I can't seem to link to the old post. It was February 27, 2006 if you want to read it. Suffice it to say my car hood flipped open while I was driving because my hood latches failed). Anyway, they said my entire hood cable and latch system had 'seized' due to corrosion and they would have to remove the headlights and grill, and then unbolt the latch system to get the hood off. Then they would have to replace the entire cable and latch system. At a cost of $350-$400.

Say what?

I so do not have an extra $400 just laying around. It turns out this is a known problem with my model car. What the heck?!?

Luckily my dad happens to know the man who owns the body shop where I got the hood repaired last year so my dad asked him what he thought. He told my dad to tell me to come see him and that he could take a look. I dropped off the car this morning. One day and $60 later, the hood is fixed. All it needed was a $12 part and some labor. I'm not someone who tries to get something for nothing - it's not my style - but wow, am I grateful for connections right now. And I can finally get an oil change and refill my washer fluid. Financial crisis averted!

Also, I totally lost my credit card as I left Target yesterday. We had a killer parking spot and someone pulled up for it right as I got back with my cart full of child and purchases. For reasons I cannot explain I did not put my Visa right back into my wallet/planner thing and I was holding it in my hand. When I saw that someone was waiting for my space I went into panicky rushed mode and probably dropped the card as I was tossing bags into my car. Luckily I discovered that it was missing later in the afternoon and cancelled it before anyone made any charges. I did call a couple of stores in the plaza where we were shopping, but no one turned it in. It's probably still laying there in the parking place. So. Freaking. Annoying. I am an idiot.

Actually, I keep losing stuff. I can't find my little box of knitting tools anywhere (talk about a crisis!!!), and I am constantly misplacing important stuff. If I don't write every single little thing down I completely forget. Last week we were out of the house early for appointments 4 of 5 days, and again today because of the car thing. We even skipped playgroup last week to get a morning off. Also, I don't like playgroup, in case I haven't mentioned it.

Every night I struggle to make a good dinner...the freezer never has anything good to offer up lately, and I can barely get the cooking done with Daughter running around yanking stuff off shelves and getting into forbidden areas. She needs lots of attention right now and my patience is short.

Just not good times right now, my friends. Feelin' the stress. I need a couple of nice, slow-moving days of sitting in the shade sipping a cool iced tea with my knitting or a book or something. But the house is dirty! The laundry is multiplying! There are errands to run! We are hemorrhaging money! Gah.

Mmmmkay. That's the end of my venting for today.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

here i am

Ha, fooled ya! I was gone for awhile there, but I guess I'm back. I will just be blogging a bit less frequently than I used to, especially for the summer. Of course I say that now, but as with everything I decide, it is subject to change at my whim. :)

Anyway, it turns out blogging was good for my project self discipline. Egads, have I fallen off the wagon or what? Witness:

I've been starting stuff like a freak on speed. And not finishing a heck of a lot. I guess I need to feel accountable to my invisible internet posse in order to keep my projects under control.

The good news is, I didn't buy anything new to do these projects...oops, not so. I bought a few skeins of yarn for the afghan, but hang on, we'll get to that.

First up: the knits.

I finished my Sitcom Chic sweater (Cotton Ease in the blueberry colorway) a few weeks back and have even worn it a few times, but I forgot to photograph it. I'll try to have Hubs take a picture next time I'm wearing it. After finishing it I got a serious case of start-itis.

Pictured above are some socks for Hubs' birthday (in July but I figured I should get going on these...he has big feet). I am knitting them to a pattern in the vintage Botany book you see in the photo. It was a gift from my internet BFF Karen and it rocks. The only problem is that everything in there is for a size 32 bust...anything bigger is labeled as "matronly...but smart!" Gee, I'd never thought of myself as matronly before. But the sock patterns are just fine and hold up very well 60+ years after publication. I'm using Knitpicks yarn (sock memories, I think), which is a tad thicker than many sock yarns in my opinion, so I chose a pattern that uses size 1 needles for ribbing and size 3 needles for the rest of the sock. Have I mentioned that Hubs has some big feet? Yeah, size 3 needles help with picking up the pace!

Directly underneath the sock is a sleeve for a very basic zippered cardigan knitted in moss stitch. It's from an old Family Circle Easy Knits magazine (2000, maybe?). I'm making it partly because it's a pretty awesome simple sweater that I will wear a ton, and partly because I had enough natural wool-ease in stash to make it. I'm trying to stick to stash as much as possible these days because have I mentioned I'm poor? Crap keeps breaking in and around my house and car. Doesn't leave much cash for crafting (the sound you hear is me, sobbing and petting my precious yarns). Anyway, more about that cardi as I get more done.

Top right in the photo is the feather and fan shawl. I am just over 100 rounds into it, and just finishing up my first ball of yarn (Knitpicks Alpaca Cloud). Two things: one, I am halfway done as far as number of rounds completed goes; and two, I have only used one ball of yarn. Those two things are hilarious because being halfway done with the chart doesn't mean squat when knitting a circular shawl, and the pattern calls for a total of 6 balls of yarn. That means I should go through 5 MORE balls of yarn at 440 yards apiece while knitting the second "half" of the shawl. Bwaaaaaa! It boggles the mind. And it makes my head hurt thinking about it, so I put it aside for a week or two. Also, I was making mondo mistakes for some reason...I will blame allergy meds for that one. Just needed a break. It's coming out super duper gorgeous though. I can't wait to see the finished product. Some day.

Just below the shawl you see a barely-begun Chicknits Chickami. The yarn is called Sinfonia and is 100% cotton...something I didn't realize when I bought it because I was blinded by the 39 cent price tag. I can't resist clearance yarn. So I wish it was a blend, because I worry about the elasticity (or lack thereof) of 100% cotton, but we'll see how it goes.

And just below that is a Debbie Bliss cabled pullover that I started eleventy billion years ago for Daughter and then kind of forgot about it. It's just some wool-ease sport weight that I picked up for a great price at a Tuesday Morning store after it had been discontinued. I like the sweater but it doesn't set me on fire or anything, so I'm working on it slowly. Also, like all Debbie Bliss patterns, the child's size 3 would practically fit me, so there is no rush. (Dear Debbie Bliss: why are all your toddler patterns so humongous? Seriously, WHY?)

And onward to some sewing:

After making many things for Daughter's summer wardrobe, I was a little burned out on the sewing. That black blob is the last thing I worked on earlier in the spring. It's a black and white polka dot circle skirt that's finished except for the hem. But it's a really gigantic bias hem and I seriously don't want to sew it. I will, because I want the skirt, but I should have thought more carefully about the pattern before I threw it in my shopping cart. Thatsalotta bias.

The three things on the right are khaki pants, extremely lightweight striped cotton pants, and some kickin' purple corduroy overalls, all for Daughter, all cut out and ready to sew. Check out that groovy 70s pattern for the overalls. It was my mom's and she used to make these overalls for me. Neat! I'm hoping to alter them a bit, though, as the original pattern calls for the pants to snap open and I just want them sewn shut. Stay tuned on that one.

These fabrics were in stash with the exception of the striped cotton - that one came from the dollar fabric bin at WalMart. Seriously, if you are a sewer on a budget like I am, you need to be checking the dollar fabric bin at Wally World. There are some treasures in there, I'm not even kidding. And the khaki linen blend...I am embarrassed to say that was actually a pair of pants I made for myself many, many years ago. They fell into the category of, uh, palazzo pants? I think? They were very, very, very wide and to add insult to fashion injury, they were pull-on with elastic waist. I think I completed them, tried them on, screamed, and stuffed them back in the fabric bin to be dismantled at a future time. Well, that time is now! Hooray for recycling!

And here we have the project I did on mother's day. That pattern ease pile is every single piece of Simplicity 3897 in size 1. Yes, size 1, even though Daughter is 2, because she is skinny, skinny, skinny. Guess what? There are A LOT of markings for this one little pattern. I traced all the dress pieces and all the coat pieces and all the sleeves because I want to make one of everything this pattern has to offer. I'm betting the size 1 will be perfect, but I lengthened all the pieces because my child is not only skinny but freakishly tall for her age. Ok, not freakishly, but 98th percentile. Pretty stinking tall.

The floral fabric is a sweet little poly-blend print I couldn't resist...also from the dollar bin at everyone's favorite discount superstore. Fun! I don't know which dress that will become, but it was sitting there when I took the photos so there you go.

To clarify, I didn't actually SEW anything on mother's day...I merely spent an eternity TRACING the pieces. Not a quick step, but very much worthwhile.

And finally...

Wait, what is THAT?

Your eyes do not deceive you. That's a crochet hook, my friends.

My baby sis just found out she passed the NY bar exam. YEAH BABY!! And her birthday (26th, I think...gulp! That means I am very old!) is coming up in a few days. She has been dropping not-so-subtle hints for years about wanting an afghan, so I figured this is a perfect time. The problem is I only had about a month's lead time on this, so I chose to crochet instead of knit. Yes, I prefer the look of knitting to crochet, but this was all about speed, people, speed! Baby sis will be here for Memorial Day weekend and I want to give her the blanket at that time. I have 4 of 5 panels finished, which leaves one to complete over the next couple of nights of bad TV, and then a week to assemble and add the fringe. Or not add the fringe. Still thinking about that one.

The pattern is from a Leisure Arts book (A Year of Afghans, 1996). I love Leisure Arts books. They're delightfully cheesy, but the patterns are accessible and simple, and I've rarely found mistakes.

The yarn is just Red Heart Acrylic (I KNOW, disGUSting, but the sis, she is messy, and this will end up on the floor, and be chucked in the washer and dryer, etc.), and I have a major beef now with Coats and Clark. Something is awry in the QC department, because this yarn is discolored throughout the skeins. It isn't obvious while working with the yarn, but when the strips are laid out on a table, you can clearly see color changes within the skeins (and they are all the same dye lot, I checked carefully at the store). When I discovered this I was halfway done and almost cried. I showed my mom and she said it isn't that obvious, and that I should just finish it and not worry. But I want the company to know that I am really dissatisfied. I will be sending a letter and a label from one of the skeins because they do not accept emails from customers. How lame is that?!? It's 2007, C&C. Catch up.

Actually, I can even see the color difference in that photo. Can you? Some of the cream is more yellow, and some is more tan. Ugh. What a bummer.


So that's about it on the project front. There's probably more, but I don't want to go searching for half-finished stuff. There's tons going on these days, from graduations to weddings to birthdays to regular old house stuff like landscaping and fixing stuff. But I've already blown naptime by writing this much, so all that will have to wait for another day.

Daughter says:


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

playgroup week 2: i hate playgroup!

PLEASE NOTE: There are many opinions expressed herein. You will not agree with everything I say. I am venting. Please don't leave me comments about how rotten I am.

We went to playgroup again this morning. There were more kids there this time...all boys. Crap. I really had hoped for a few more girls.

Some of the new boys did things like: communicate only in grunts; step on my Daughter during storytime (her ankle, but she is apparently fine); and throw toys! At my kid!

Which makes me wonder...what is the protocol for dealing with mothers you'd really love to punch in the face? Consider this exchange:

Toys whiz by Daughter's head as we exit playgroup. They clatter against the wall. I turn, stunned, to see where the toys come from, and there, at the other end of the room, is a mom with her rather large 3-year-old.

Other mom (to her child): Oh goodness! You need to say sorry!

Child: sorry.

Me, trying to make light of the fact that her kid almost took my kid's eye out: Oh, it's ok, nothing hit us!

Other mom: Oh, I know.

Me: ...

Notice that nowhere in there did the other mom tell her child that it is unacceptable to THROW SMALL PLASTIC OBJECTS ACROSS THE ROOM. What is wrong with people? Seriously! I guess it's ok to chuck toys around as long as you mumble a 'sorry' after you do it.

I hate to say this, especially about a 3-year-old, but the minute I saw this kid I thought, I don't like you. I know! It's terrible! He's only 3! But I could just tell by the look on his face and his mom's attitude that he was not a nice kid. She even told me (unapologetically) that "he's going through the raging 3s right now. He was so great at 2, but now..."

Ok, first let me say that this playgroup is specifically for children who are 2. TWO. Not 3. And really not "raging 3."

And also? If you know your child is kind of a terror, why bring him to a playgroup?!? If he does anything further to put my child in harm's way I will speak to the teacher. I just don't like the kid, and I don't trust his mother.

And I'm not finished. What is up with moms who think they don't have to clean up after their kid at snacktime? Daughter helps me clear her place and wipe any spills. There were a few moms who just left the stuff on the table when we went to storytime. Also irritating: the mom who brought snack today brought those little chocolate covered donuts (I think they are called "donettes" or something). Good grief. My daughter has never even had a real donut, by design, thanks. Why would you bring junk like that for 2-year-olds?!? Daughter didn't even eat it, nor did many others. She took one bite and spit it out. I can't blame her. At least the mom who brought juice brought 100% juice. I know, I know, I bring my kid to this playgroup and I have to live with the way things go. If the snack mom wants to bring crap, I can't say anything. But come on. I'm not saying you have to bring baby carrots or apple slices, but there are about a bazillion better-for-you snacks than little synthetic donuts. Gross.

Another mom brought a special organic super-duper healthy protein-packed cereal bar for her kid's snack (this is the kid who stepped on my kid's ankle), and then let him wander around the room with it, even though all the other kids sat nicely at the table. I fault the teacher for letting that happen. If it were my program, I'd have nicely asked the mother to sit her child down to eat.

I just...I just...AAAARRRRRRRRGH! Gah! I shake my fists at you, lame parents of the world! You are in charge of your kid! Believe it or not, you're bigger, technically you are smarter, and it is your JOB to guide your child in appropriate behavior. Yes, I understand some people give birth to a force of nature, and parenting is an uphill battle sometimes. There are days when I feel drained by bedtime because all I've done all day long is say, "no! don't touch that! stop kicking me! don't throw that! eat with your fork, please! no! no! no!" But I say those things because I have to, so my child will end up knowing how to behave and be a productive member of who other people will not want to avoid (see: holy terror child described above).

I realize I sound terribly judgemental here. And that's because I am being terribly judgemental. It is hard not to do so when the evidence is so clear that some folks let their child run the show. I loathe the thought of sending my daughter to school with kids from homes like that. At least when that happens she will be 4 or 5 and better prepared for it. And hopefully no one will throw anything at her.

I hate playgroup.

But we'll be going back next week, because guess what? Daughter had a great time.

In addition I must add that I chatted with many nice moms/grandmas and their children were mostly very sweet. Sometimes just a few bad apples really spoil the bunch. And again, I'm just venting here.