Friday, January 29, 2010

thoughts on giving

Today I took the kids to story hour at the library. It's been a crummy week here, cold and dark and gray, and Hubs and I are both battling a headcold/cough/sinus thing. Luckily the kids remain healthy, so maybe this germ is one they've already had (*knocking on wood.*)

So anyway, we left the library and scooted to the car, and my son just refuses to keep mittens on his hands, no matter what I do. If I manage to get them both all the way on, he uses his teeth to pull them off, that is how hateful he finds mittens to be. And folks, it is 12 degrees F right now, plus it is windy. Horrid, horrid coldness.

Daughter plunged into the snow outside the library, so she got in the car all snowy and even colder than she had to be, aarrrgh. Then I hoisted AJ out of the stroller in his big puffy snowsuit and buckled him in as quickly as possible with my bare hands (can't do carseat buckles wearing mittens!).

Finally I got around back of the car to shove the library books, diaper bag, my purse, my knitting bag, and the stroller all in the back, and while doing so I caught the eye of another mom doing the same thing, two cars down. She made a groaning sound and said "it's so cold!" I replied, "this is ridiculous!" And then she said, "this is HURTING!"

And she was right, it WAS hurting. When I finally jumped in the car, my hands were cold, sore, dry, and a funny reddish-purple color. I held them in front of the heat vents, which were going full blast.

Then we drove home in our nice warm car to our nice warm house to eat a nice warm lunch.

And I got to thinking, as I have been a lot lately, about people who do not have that option. We are all giving to the people of Haiti right now, or to the organizations that are helping the people of Haiti, correct? We're having telethons, and donating in the grocery store checkout line...and it's all good. It is definitely good, and necessary, and the right thing to do from a human compassion standpoint. But I find it frustrating that people are so willing to give to this poor country when our own citizens are out there freezing right now.

In our city there is a program called "code blue" that goes into effect when the outside temps dip below a certain level. Shelters are opened to take in homeless people, so that no one has to lose body parts to frostbite or, God forbid, freeze to death. They are featured on the nightly news when it is really cold outside, asking for donations of blankets, jackets, socks.

We have also been hearing about how people are going to food banks in record numbers right now, and the food banks are facing empty shelves. Everyone is willing to give at Christmas, when our wallets are collectively open and giving is on everyone's mind. But how about now, and for the rest of the year? How about remembering the single mom raising her kids on crappy wages, or the grandmother raising several grandchildren in her tiny apartment on a tiny social security check? Or the father and husband, swallowing his pride and going to ask for a bag of food to get his family through the week while he searches for a new job in a difficult economy?

Now, I'm a conservative on most issues, I'm of a capitalist mindset, and I fully believe in pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps. But I also know enough to recognize when one does not even have the bootstraps to pull - it could happen to any of us. That's why, in these unsure times, I'm trying to be frugal and save and be the best steward of our money and assets that I can be. But there are people out there who truly need some help, even if just temporarily...maybe only once. It is a horrible thing to have to put your hand out and ask for help, from a pride standpoint.

So when we're in line at the supermarket and they ask us to donate to the people of Haiti, do it, if you're so inclined. And then throw a dollar or two to your local food bank, to help our neighbors here at home.

Friday, January 22, 2010

for pretty's sake

For the past several years I've really been on a "make useful things" kick (probably stating the obvious, huh?). I used to be a big embroiderer, but I stopped when I started having kids. I couldn't see the point of using my time to stitch little motifs when I could make clothing and useful household items instead.

But lately I've been struggling to find things to do with my daughter that we would both enjoy. For about the last 3 or 4 months she's been peppering me with questions when I work, wanting to try everything I am doing (including cooking, baking, ironing, caring for AJ, etc) but she's been a bit too small and a bit too young for most of it.

Last night she kept me company at the kitchen table while I stitched up a quick, simple half-curtain for the bathroom window, keeping busy going through my threads and sewing supplies. She asked a million questions and wanted to know when she could PUH-LEEEEZE sew something. Today I decided we'd go for it while the baby took his nap.

I can't even believe how well she did. She will be 5 in April, and she has always had excellent fine motor skills, but I still didn't expect much. I loaded up a hoop for her, drew three lines for flower stems, and gave her some green embroidery floss and the biggest embroidery needle I had that would go through the fabric.

She stitched along the lines perfectly. Then she added flower buttons at the top of the stems. All I did was tie the knots in the floss and get her started. Then she was off and running with no further help from mama.

Three flowers and a ladybug. Wow. I am very, very proud of my little girl.

I worked on this little bug while Daughter stitched. It's about 4 inches across and I used variegated blue floss. Not sure what I will do with it, but I guess that doesn't matter. Sometimes it's nice to make things just because they're pretty.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


How much would a loaf of bread have to cost before you'd quit buying bread?

I've been chewing on that one for awhile now. Regular, inexpensive wheat sandwich bread is about $1.50 here, and I buy two loaves each week (we eat a ton of sandwiches, as Hubs takes one for lunch each day and usually Daughter and I each have one, so that's 6 slices minimum per day). I buy that because it's relatively cheap and convenient, but I would rather have better. However, the in-store baked good stuff, like honey-oat-apple, and hearty multigrain, costs about $4 for a small loaf.

$4! For a loaf of bread! Our grandparents and great-grandparents would just barf. Gosh, even our parents remember when bread cost a nickel.

If bread can go from a nickel a loaf to, on average, say $2.50 for a decent loaf of wheat, what will the price get to in our lifetime?

Now, I'm not one of these peak oil activist types, and I hang onto the hope that we will continue to have enough fuels to keep things humming, but I am enough of a realist to know that things aren't getting any cheaper. The cost of fuel affects EVERYTHING. As oil and gas continue to rise in price, all our goods and services will as well. It costs the farmer more to produce the crops, costs the truckers more to haul the wheat to the mill, costs the mill more to process the grain, then again costs the truckers to haul the flour to factories, etc, etc.

So maybe a better question is, how expensive does gasoline have to get before you quit buying bread? If bread is $5 per loaf will you buy it? How about $10? It could totally happen. Our grandparents probably couldn't imagine bread going from 5 cents to well over $3 for some loaves. How about if gas itself costs $5 or more per gallon? How many trips would you be willing to make to the store each month?

I'm guessing fuel prices will continue to rise. Prices of goods will rise as well, and that quick run to the supermarket to grab 3 or 4 things will start looking like a bad idea. Inflation is likely, and we are already seeing wages stagnate while prices rise. Just watch the nightly news and you'll see it.

My plan is to slowly move my family away from total dependence on the supermarket. I've been simply devouring blogs about growing, processing, and storing food lately, and it is certainly feasible, though a lot of work. But I don't like feeling that I would be totally lost if for some reason the supermarket became inaccessible to me.

I want to build a small raised garden this summer and grow some lettuces, tomatoes, maybe cukes, some peppers, much as I can with my extremely limited knowledge and experience. And I am going to make bread-baking a part of our daily lives around here.

I am blessed to have a kitchenaid mixer. Oh, thank heavens for this amazing machine.

My dad, who taught me most of what I know about yeast baking, buys high-gluten flour in 50lb bags. He splits it with me, and we store it in these old cookie containers. They are perfect for the job - not too heavy. I combine flours - about 2 cups of this, and 4-5 cups of unbleached AP flour or a blend of AP plus whole wheat, depending on my mood.

We purchase yeast from our club store (BJ's) in a two-pound double pack for $3.69, and take one pound each. I use the supermarket brand shortening (generic Crisco) because it doesn't affect the flavor (I save my real Crisco for pies where you'd notice). I buy the huge can and keep it in the fridge to prevent rancidity.

It takes maybe 5 minutes to mix up the ingredients, including heating the milk/sugar/salt/shortening mix on the stove. The dough hook on the kitchenaid makes short work of kneading, but if you don't have a powerful mixer with a dough attachment, this can certainly be done by hand. You must knead for 8-10 minutes if by hand, while the machine can do it in about 5-6 minutes.

After kneading, you simply put the dough in a greased bowl (I use cooking spray), cover it with a clean white flour sack towel or something similar, and then cover/wrap the bowl all snuggly-wuggly in a blanket to keep the dough warm.

Kneading is also a great job for kids. Here I am enslaving my daughter - this is after the first rise. We have knocked the dough down and are preparing it for the pans.

Plunk the bread into greased pans - this recipe makes two loaves, but I split it into one loaf and 6 rolls to use for our dinner of french onion burgers tonight - and allow to rise again. This is at the end of the 2nd rise. You can see how high the loaf has risen above the edge of the bread tin.

After 30 minutes in the oven, you'll be rewarded with the lightest, most delicious bread you've ever eaten. Makes the storebought stuff taste like pasty cardboard.

Who wouldn't want a burger on one of these babies?

I couldn't stop myself from splitting open a still-hot roll and loading it up with sweet, fresh, salty butter. SO GOOD. Actually, so far I've eaten that and two slices of the loaf.

If I can do this in the nice weather, and then run out back for some lettuce and other salad supplies from the garden, then all I have to keep in the freezer is meat. I can reduce my need to load up my grocery cart! I can spend less money! This bread recipe costs about 50 cents, I think.

And making bread is not as time-consuming or difficult as most people believe. It is experiencing a resurgence in my generation that makes me so, so happy. What a great thing, to be able to create this basic staple for your family, free of preservatives and mystery ingredients. It does take practice to get a good, light loaf with a good crumb. I used to make really sh*tty bread! But with practice and patience (can't rush the rise!), I've gotten pretty good at it. Oh - you can even use a bread machine just for the mixing and kneading, but I recommend baking in the oven in real bread tins.

Tomorrow, my birthday, is to be a baking day. On the agenda: pumpkin bread (to use up some canned pumpkin I opened last week), english muffin loaves (so delicious, and waaaaaayyy cheaper than buying english muffins), and cookies if time permits.


Basic White Bread

1/2 c milk
3 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp shortening (can use butter or marg)
2 packages active dry yeast (mine is bulk, so I use about 2.5 Tbsp here)
1.5 c warm water (105-115F)
5-6 c AP flour (or a mix)

Heat milk, sugar, salt, and shortening in a small pan over low heat until fat melts and sugar dissolves. Cool to lukewarm.

Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl (mixer bowl if using a mixer). Add milk mixture and 4.5 cups flour. If using mixer, attach dough hook and mix about 1 minute.

Continuing to mix, add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix until dough is slightly sticky to the touch. If using a kitchenaid, dough will cling to hook and clean sides of bowl.

Knead about 5-6 minutes by machine, or 8-10 minutes by hand, till dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in greased bowl, cover, let rise in warm place for about 1 hour or till doubled.

Punch dough down and divide in half. Shape each half into a loaf (or rolls if desired), and place in greased bread tins. Cover, let rise in warm place about 1 hour or till doubled.

Bake loaves at 400F for 30 minutes - if top browns too quickly, loosely cover with foil. Bake rolls for about 15-20 minutes. Remove from pans immediately and cool on wire racks.


There are a gajillion recipes and resources related to breadmaking on the web. I'd be happy to try and answer any questions anyone might have. Please do let me know if you try making bread!


Aaahhh, two loaves of bread in the oven, one child asleep, other child miraculously keeping herself entertained...let's see if I can get a whole post written!

First, thanks so much for the awesome response to what I wrote on Monday. It was really a vent for me, and it felt mighty good to get it out. But I meant what I said, and I'm really changing my views on a lot of things lately.

One of the awesome things I read over at Down-To-Earth was the fact that Rhonda Jean doesn't view her knitting and sewing as "pleasures" per se. She definitely finds the activity pleasurable, but does not set out to knit or sew for the fun of it. Rather, she knits, sews, etc. to meet a need in her household, and then enjoys doing it, and takes pride in the accomplishment.

That really got me thinking!

Now, I know this is going to sound like about the hokiest thing anyone has ever blogged, but sometimes when something needs doing and there are several ways around it, I think...are you ready? Seriously? Ready? I think: What Would Caroline Do?

All right, get up off the floor and stop laughing. I'm completely serious here! What would Caroline Ingalls do, ladies? And the thing is, I know the answer. Oh yes I do, and not just because I'm an expert on all things LHOTP. I know the answer because I know the kind of woman Caroline was. She was a woman who could make do, I'll tell you what. Who remembers that chapter in The Long Winter where the Ingalls family runs out of lamp oil? And Caroline makes a light out of some fat, a scrap of fabric, and a button placed in a saucer - a button lamp!

And one of my favorite, favorite passages in any book ever is the chapter in Little Town on the Prairie ("Blackbirds") which describes the clothes Laura and Ma are making for Mary to take to college. Aaaahhh, swoon! I have loved this particular chapter of this particular book since I was a child. I've pictured, over and over, the lovely handmade brown cashmere dress with the brown and blue plaid overskirt, all trimmed in shirred strips of brown and blue plaid with red and golden threads running through it...the high collar of plaid with "a gathered length of machine made lace" fitted inside.

This chapter also describes how they made Mary four new white petticoats, two gray flannel petticoats, and three red flannel union suits. Laura carefully hand stitched the 6 yards of knitted lace she'd made to the bottom hem of one of the white petticoats, and she trimmed the flannel petticoats and union suits with pretty contrast stitching. They had no patterns for any of this - Ma had a dressmaker's chart, a measuring tape, and newspaper to make patterns from.

Boy, oh boy. I do so love reading and re-reading this chapter! I close my eyes and imagine myself having to walk to town, purchase the "dress goods" with what precious little money the family had (if you recall, a good portion of Mary's college money came from Laura working in town - can you imagine your children giving of themselves that way???), then coming home with no patterns, just the skills my mother taught make an entire wardrobe by hand for my child to go off to college. And though the items were so beautiful, these women took no particular pride in the making - they did it because that is what you had to do. There was no mall, there was no Target. Sometimes there wasn't even a mercantile that carried ready-made clothing. If you needed it, you had to make it, and cutting corners was not an option (ie: Laura giving 6 yards of handknitted lace to Mary for a gift, then stitching them on her petticoat...which no one would ever really see.)

It makes me look with different eyes on the overflowing drawers in Daughter's room, and the overflowing shelves bulging with little boy clothes in AJ's room. Made in Sri Lanka, made in Vietnam, made in China.

Made by mama.

Now that AJ is officially large and in charge, and we have so much less worry, I'm considering dusting off the sewing machine again. Because I can, and because my kids need and deserve some good quality, handmade, basic clothing made by mama's hands. I can find the time to do it - here's the important part - if I make it a part of my household duties.

Warm wool socks for Hubs.

There was a time when a woman wouldn't have been considered very good wife material if she couldn't cook, bake, clean, sew, mend, and knit for her family. I am thrilled to say I can do all of those things with some degree of proficiency, because I learned them at my mother's (and father's) knee, and I have practiced them to become proficient.

I am proud of my ability to provide these things for my husband and children. And there is no reason why it can't be a part of my household duties to make items that will be used and worn by all of us.

Future dishcloths.

Everyone has certain needs, right? We need clothing, shelter, food, heat...and we have been trained, as a society, for the past 100 years to outsource as much of that as possible. And for what, exactly? So we can play the Wii? So we can drive the kids to activities where they interact with other kids in the same way they SHOULD be interacting out in the backyard? So we can watch more TV? So we can sit at the computer?

What, exactly, are we doing instead of providing all these basics for our families? Back in the day, the Caroline Ingalls day, everyone worked really hard. But how many old stories do you read that say "we were poor, but we were happy?" Am I the only one who feels better at the end of a day when I worked really hard and got some stuff done, rather than sitting around in sweats watching TV? (I'm not saying we should never relax, I'm speaking in generalizations a bit here.)

I don't think my kids need more plastic toys. I think they need a lot less. Of everything. Except time and attention. I think my kids need to learn to cook, bake, sew, knit, mend, and fix things (and yes, that goes for both genders). I love the passage in one of the Little House books where Laura goes to sleep watching Ma's knitting needles flashing in the firelight as she knits red woollen socks for Pa. My kids will look back on memories of falling asleep to the sounds of goofy sitcoms on the television. And maybe that's not terrible. But at least they will be falling asleep under handmade quilts and blankets, with a tummy full of warm, homemade foods. Of that, at least, I think Caroline would approve.

Monday, January 18, 2010

living simply and appreciating what i have

I know I've been away for 2 weeks...didn't exactly mean to do that, but whenever I went to blog, a few things stopped me in my tracks. The first being my son, who is now a full-on toddler. He literally never sits still unless he is eating or sleeping. There's barely any time for me to sit down and blog when all I have is his 2-hour naptime to get things done. I mean, I can't even empty the dishwasher when he is awake, as he will climb into it. The second reason I've been quiet is that my husband reloaded my computer with windows 7, and now our really, really old digital camera won't talk to my computer. I have to figure out a way to make it work, or else use a different computer to upload photos, or something. I'm sure not going to replace a perfectly functional camera just because of stupid windows 7.

And the third, most compelling reason, is that I've been thinking. A lot.

Just before Christmas I discovered a new-to-me blog, Down-To-Earth. Since then I've spent hours prowling through her archives, reading about her simple life. And as a result, I've been devouring as many other blogs as I can find about simple living, how to make and do and make do.

See, we moved our family to Affluent Town last year because we grew up here and want our children to have the benefit of the excellent school district. Now, we are not what I would call affluent - we have enough to pay our bills, enough for a few of the things we want, and enough in savings to feel relatively comfortable. But we do not take vacations, rarely eat out, don't often purchase new clothes or shoes, etc. I started out being frugal because I had to be (I certainly was not always frugal...see: my whole life before age 26). But I'm becoming more and more frugal because I want to be.

Here in Affluent Town, high school students don't usually ask each other if they have a car...they ask each other what kind of car their parents are giving them for their 16th birthday. Yes, there are a few beaters in the high school parking lot, but there are just as many Lexuses and other fancy cars. Most of the kids have better cars than the teachers, I am not even joking.

Our house is a modest 1960s split-level, 1750 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, attached 2-car garage, nice big backyard. Around here this is considered a "starter house" by many. To us, it is a palace! We don't ever anticipate needing more room than we have, and if we are to move again, it will likely be to a house of similar size. For the foreseeable future, we intend to stake our claim here, maintaining and slowly updating this home where necessary.

I am so grateful to have this warm, dry, safe home that I want to do everything I can to hang onto it. As stay-home-mom and homemaker, I am the CEO of this place, and as such I've come to see it as my job to care for and make last the house and all the items in it. We regularly drive by much, much larger and fancier houses than ours, and just as often pass very small cottage-like houses that were built before Affluent Town became affluent. I am very, very happy right in the middle.

Conspicuous consumption has started to make me uncomfortable. More than uncomfortable, actually. It makes me a little bit sick. Take, for example, my mother-in-law: she has lived in her current home for 4 years. When they moved in she bought all new bedding and accessories for her bedroom. Now, she is completely replacing everything, including purchasing many extra pillows and accessories...and a FIREPLACE (fake). She is so jazzed to show this stuff off...but then we look around their house and see the broken fridge (it is held up by a piece of wood on one corner), hear stories of a leak in their basement that they just can't afford to fix, and eat with silverware that is destroyed from being used as 'tools' for years by my father-in-law (who does not own decent tools and can't be bothered to go find them anyway when a fork or butterknife will do).

In my house? We have had the same bedding since we got married. We have nice dishes that we received as wedding gifts, but we reserve those for guests (we do not have china, just nicer everyday dishes). In my kitchen I use the dishes my parents got when we were kids from turning in receipts at the supermarket - do you remember those deals they had back in the 80s? Well, those are the dishes I use. Some are missing, but they are perfectly functional, neutral, and hard-wearing for use with children. My flatware is my dear Grandmother's regular kitchen flatware that I remember using at her house when I was really little. She died over 20 years ago, so you can imagine how old this flatware is. I have it all with the exception of one butterknife. No one knows what happened to it - it was gone before I "inherited" the set (read: grabbed it when we packed up the house after she died). So I have plenty of plain and simple things that work, and all of our furniture and appliances are in good repair...unlike my crazy mother-in-law!

My husband also grew up in a house of "if it's broken, throw it out and buy a new one." I did not. So this past weekend I went to the store and bought a tube of superglue to repair 4, count 'em 4, toys that would have otherwise been useless.

I also sewed buttons back on my husband's pea coat - including one I had to rob from the collar to make a full set on the front. The fabric is not worn out, so I keep repairing the pocket linings and re-sewing the buttons. I was telling my mom about it today, and she said maybe he needs a new coat. When I said that would be $100, she said that's a good price for a coat. Well, yes it is, but if you don't actually NEED the coat, is it still a good price? Hubs and I have both been wearing the same navy pea coats for about 6 or 7 years. I have them dry-cleaned every season or two; they are good, warm coats that hold up well. Do I peruse catalogs and sometimes wish for a new coat? Oh heck yes. I have long coveted a red or camel tailored wool coat. But my coat is still good and who am I trying to impress? So forget it, that $100 can go toward something we need much more.

In addition to that I did something really far out - I sewed up the toes of two socks that Hubs wears all the time (work socks, not sweat socks). Whoa. I have never done that before. I mean, socks are cheap, right? You can totally throw them out and go buy a pack at Target! But if you can put that off, why not? Each of us received a Target gift card from Hubs' grandmother for Christmas. My challenge to myself is to see how long I can leave them untouched. I am hoping to use them for seasonal necessities as the weather warms up this coming Spring (shorts and shirts for the kids, undergarments, socks, etc).

I've also been spending lots of time in the kitchen - living simply, as I've read and discovered, is a lot of work - baking and preparing and storing food. Last week I made a coffee cake, muffins, and dinner rolls, and today it was cookies, pizza dough, and pizza sauce. All totally from scratch, all delicious. The freezer is stocked and I spent pennies.

The thing is, Hubs goes to work each day so I don't have to. I am able to stay in my home and raise my children as I see fit. He earns the money, but I spend almost all of it. That's really quite a burden when you think about it. How would I feel if I was the one going to an office every morning, dealing with corporate B.S., attending meetings, driving around town doing tasks...only to come home and find out my husband spent the day buying crap at discount stores, fed McDonald's to the kids, and cooked nothing for dinner? If he is going to work to earn the money and provide the food, clothing and shelter we all need, then it is for sure my job to be the best steward of those things that I can possibly be.

Does that mean never spending money on anything fun? Nope! Just yesterday we decided Hubs would take Daughter to see "Curious George Live" - her first theatre experience! Someone gave us a free ticket voucher, so we figured we could spring for the other ticket. Because I push frugality in other areas, we are easily able to absorb a little fun spending on a show. And when I'm out shopping and I decide to pick up a couple skeins of sock yarn at Joann's (with coupons, of course!), I do not deny myself that $10 or $12. I figure since I spend all my time cleaning up other people's messes, I deserve a treat once in awhile. :)

So that's kind of where I am right now. I go through my day wondering how I can simplify things, cleaning out cupboards and cabinets and closets, reorganizing, deciding what I truly need versus what I want. Shopping based on need only. We work too hard to waste. I never want to fall on hard times and look around me at piles of stuff, wondering where it went wrong. I want to instill good values in my kids, and teach them to respect and appreciate what they have. It's going to be a real challenge here in our new home, surrounded by kids who have so much. The urge to keep up will be strong. But I think if we stick to our guns and strive to keep it simple, we'll end up happier in the long run.

Monday, January 04, 2010

first F.O. of the new year

Oh, how I wanted to start this year off right. I wanted to get up early, get showered, make the coffee, and be ready to greet my children with a smile. But you know what they say about the best laid plans, the road to hell, etc. My good intentions were not enough, and I barely dragged myself out of bed before the children were hopping around like jumping beans, my son trying to fling himself down every available staircase (and in a split level, there are many), and Daughter informing me of the time quite literally every single minute as she played with an old digital watch she found somewhere in the house.

The house is a mess, as usual. Hubs gave it a good straightening before he went to bed last night (I had fallen asleep much earlier), so it's not a COMPLETE disaster, but the floors are dusty and covered with...bits. Of what, I don't know, but I can see them. Ugh. AJ's occupational therapist is coming in just over an hour, and I either have to go clean the powder room or pray really hard that she doesn't have to pee when she gets here.

I guess I could have taken care of all that over the weekend but I was too busy obsessing over this:

I know the photo looks really wonky, but in real life the blanket is somewhat square. I am so, so, so pleased with it! I finished the borders last night, then sewed all the little ends in and gave it a swish in the washer with Eucalan (some of these wools are quite old and who knows where the balls have been?), then laid it out on a towel overnight. Our house is dry as the desert right now so it dried quickly. The squares opened up nicely (I crochet like I knit...tightly!) and it feels so soft now.

It measures about 2X3 feet, so will be a wee crib blanket for AJ. It's made of mostly Paton's Classic Merino, with lots of Lion Fisherman Wool (all squares are joined with that, in the oatmeal colorway). There are also a few other yarns in there, like Knitpicks Wool of the Andes, some Ella Rae Classic, and possibly scraps of Lion Wool, I'm not sure. I used a size H crochet hook (5mm, or I guess the equivalent of a size 8 knitting needle, for comparison).

I'd forgotten how much crochet totally hogs yarn. I blew through most of a huge 400+ yard skein crocheting around each square and putting on a couple borders in that oatmeal color. I'd also forgotten how much it hurts my hands. Booooo. But it was a great little project for using up scraps, engaging in meditative thought, and feeling a sense of satisfaction in getting done quickly (I started it Christmas eve and finished yesterday).

Back to knitting for a bit...but there is more crochet in my future!

Friday, January 01, 2010


Ah, silence. Baby is napping, Daughter and Hubs went out on some adventure involving tacos, the merry-go-round at the mall, and possibly snowman building if the snow keeps up.

I've washed, ironed, mended, bathed (self and children), cleaned up the kitchen, and am settling down with some needlework for the New Year.

Isn't that just about the happiest photo? I love, love, love it. Such pretty little grannies. I've made 28, and will go make 2 more once I've written this post. Then I'll be able to make a little 6X5 blanket to keep my baby (baby? who are we kidding? TODDLER) warm. I'll be edging each square with one more round of a neutral yarn, then joining them and working a couple borders around the whole thing. I think it's going to be great! And - the best part - I only have a few little tiny balls of wool now, to stash away for future projects like this. Maybe another year or two from now I'll have enough for another small project, but I'm quite self-satisfied having used up my leftovers!

Then on to some other projects I've been meaning to make for some time. A lacy curtain panel for the window in my front door, some new dishcloths to replace the hideous old ones currently in rotation, perhaps some dishtowels and bibs. As an aside, do all you knitters, crocheters, and needleworkers browse company websites like Lion Brand, Coats & Clark, DMC, etc. for free patterns? There are literally hundreds and hundreds of absolutely free, easy, wonderful patterns out there for the taking. I've got a bunch in my mental queue.

But first up, finishing that little blanket...

I wish you all a warm, snuggly, yarn-filled first day of 2010!