Let the past sleep, but let it sleep in the sweet embrace of Christ, and let us go on into the invincible future with Him. (Oswalt Chambers)

Friday, April 28, 2006

Getting Back in the Groove of Home

Bright eyed Sydney ready to dance and playI'm home.

I still occasionally find myself singing A B C D E F G. . ., Sydney's favorite song on her Leap Start Learning Table. I'm sure I heard it several hundred times while in Idaho, but each time was a delight as she smiled and danced along with the catchy little tune.

Who needs coffee when a bright eyed little sweetie like this wants to play at seven in the morning?

Purple violets 2006The Michigan reality is yardwork. There is still much to clean up at Violet Acres and we're working on it old people style - a little each day.

Many little spring flowers are in bloom including my favorite, the blue violets. They grow wild on our property. There's a large patch in the west wooded yard and other scattered "volunteer" plants here, there, and everywhere.

The bluebird eggs hatched yesterday. It's been too chilly to open the box and take pictures, so there are none.

Opal Chameleon socks in progressPattern: Eagle's Flight by Megan Humphrey

Yarn: Opal sock yarn, 75% wool, 25% nylon

Color: Rainforest Chameleon

Needles: Addi Turbo #1

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch

There was some knitting done on the trip, but not much.

These are daughter Heather's birthday socks sitting crooked on the sock blockers. I'm hoping to finish them this weekend.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

H is for Hands

ABC Along Button

Granddaughter Kimmy's baby handsOne of the most memorable moments of my life was being present for the birth of my first granddaughter, Kimberly Louise, in 1995.

Seeing my own daughter give birth to her daughter was awesome, but the very very best part happened about ten minutes later.

Daughter Heather still had post-birth work to do and she called for new dad Tony to come be with her, meaning I got to hold the new born Kimmy. There was a rocking chair in the room. While we sat together and rocked, she grabbed my finger. Ten minutes old and she grabbed my finger.

I know babies do this all the time, but this was MY granddaughter and, therefore, very different and special. Instant bonding. Instant love.

This picture was taken after Kimmy went home. Her little hand in mine. I love it.

I had a mouse pad made from this picture and used it at work for years until the picture wore off.

Granddaughter Sydney's baby handsIt was almost ten years later before I was grandma a second time. Granddaughter Sydney Anne was born to my son John and his wife Anne 2000 miles away in Idaho.

I missed the birth, but four weeks later I flew west to meet my new granddaughter.

As you can see, the meeting was a success. Sydney decided her paternal grandmother was OK and gave me the sealing finger hug on our relationship.

Granddaughter Kimmy's hand holding Granddaughter Sydney's handLast August I had the pleasure of bringing Kimmy on her first plane trip.

Two of the most important people in my life met for the first time.

The tanned hands of nine year old Kimmy held the baby pink hands of four month old Sydney and declared her an OK cousin.

Writing from Idaho where I'm having a wonderful time with the one year old hands of Sydney Anne.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Finished Embossed Leaves

Finished Embossed Leaves socks in green Austermann StepPattern: Embossed Leaves Socks by Mona Schmidt from Interweave Knits Winter 05

Yarn: Austermann Step, 75% wool, 25% nylon with Aloe Vera and Jojoba Oil

Color: 03

Needles: Addi Turbo #1

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch in stockinette

Most knitters who knit this pattern say they just love how the last leaf is continued to completion in the toe decreases. With a bit of regret, I have to admit I didn't bother figuring out how to do that.

This pattern is written for the standard 64 stitches around, and 64 stitches around is too big for me. The leaf pattern, unlike most other lace patterns, fits snug to my leg with 64 stitches because of the ribbing designed into the stitch pattern. I continued the leaf pattern down the instep on 31 stitches and decreased the sole to 29, for a total of 60.

I'm sure I could have charted the pattern toe decreases to work with 4 less stitches, but I'm stuck in a toe rut. I like the way I always make my toes. Whenever I try something different, I wish I hadn't. And I was in a hurry to finish these socks so I could cast on the pair of Opal Chameleon socks I'm taking to knit in Idaho.

They're done and I'm happy with them. I plan to wear them on my travel day Wednesday.

Temporary Barbara Setback
I frogged 6 inches of the Barbara shawl last Friday.

Barbara is a Faroese shawl. The sides have a 10 row repeat but the center back has a 20 row repeat. Somehow I knit the wrong row in the center back panel and never noticed it until days and much knitting later.

It's frogged and the stitches are back on the needle, but I haven't forgiven myself yet for not noticing sooner.

Barbara is packed away until after I return from Idaho.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Countdown to Idaho

Only two more days before I wake up before dawn and head for the airport and Idaho.

I'm in triage mode:
  1. Has to be done before I leave - laundry, packing, income tax (done!), clean out purse, books from library, organize sock project, go to bank for cash, pack, post H for the ABC Along.

  2. Would be nice to have done before I go - clean kitchen, clean bathroom, vacuum house, finish raking out gardens.

  3. I'll think about this when I get home - most of the housework, yard work, FLAK, Barbara Shawl.

According to the National Weather Service 5 day forecast for Coeur d'Alene, it's going to be about ten degrees colder there than here in Michigan. The Idaho nights are dipping below freezing and the Idaho high temps are in the 40s and 50s.

Son John and Daughter-in-law Anne have planned a fun week for my visit. They're going to be busy doing things and I'm going to babysit. I'm trying to remember what it's like to feed a one year old. It's been a long time.

I can hardly wait. Now, what do I have to do next?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Stuff in the Mail

Opal Chameleon in the skeinJust about the only complain I have about my favorite sock yarn, Opal, is that I have no place to buy it in person. The online pictures never do justice to the beautiful colors and patterns.

This is Opal Chameleon from the Rainforest collection. I audibly ahhhed when I took it out of the box. As usual, the colors exceed expectations. I'm hoping I'll be better able to show the beautiful colors when I start knitting it.

There was another ahhh when I touched it. Recent Opal collections seem to be plumper and softer than earlier collections. It feels heavenly.

Daughter Heather asked for something with green for her May birthday socks, so this yarn is scheduled to be knit during next weeks trip to Idaho. Now I need to find the perfect stitch pattern to show off the yarn colors.

Aran Sweater Design BookAnother package in the mail this week contained the new, improved Janet Szabo's Aran Sweater Design. I'm excited to have this 175 page addition to my knitting library.

It has all the basic, technical things you expect to find. Information that will allow you to follow a published Aran pattern and get profession looking results. Then, it goes on to teach designing: finding attractive cable combinations, getting the sweater to turn out the right size, picking yarn and color, and much more.

There's more. It goes on to describe and diagram bottom up construction, top down construction (neckband first and body first), dropped shoulder construction with and without saddles, peasant sleeve construction with and without saddles, set-in sleeves with and without saddles, raglan sleeves with and without saddles, and raglan construction bottom up and from the top.

Very impressive. I will be using this as a reference book for the rest of my knitting life.

And I have to mention the four patterns at the end of the book. One of them, the Set-in Sleeve Aran Project, is on my knitting list for that Dusty Teal Peruvian Highland Wool I have sitting in my stash. You can see a picture of the pattern here.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Updates on Gail, Sunny, Bird Nests, and the Rabbit

Gail's Christmas Socks
Back in February I wrote
Gail the dog trainer has a birthday the same day as John and I'm trying to decide if I'm going to knit a pair of socks for the occasion. She got a pair for Christmas which I've never seen her wear, even though she told me she loves wearing them. Was she just being polite? I see her twice a week. The socks should have made an appearance by now. It would give me great pleasure to knit another pair of socks for her, but I don't want to give her something she doesn't really like.
Her birthday was March 18. By the first of March, I still hadn't seen her wearing the gift socks, so I sighed and bought her a book for her birthday.

Then she started wearing the socks. She wore them three times in the two weeks before her birthday. I was so pleased. And now I know what to give her for Christmas next year.

Two weeks ago Sunny had back spasms was diagnosed with spondylosis, excessive bone production that occurs between spinal vertebrae in dogs. Two of her lumbar vertebrae are all ready fused together and her entire spine is showing excess calcium deposits.

Sunny is off drugs now and we're working on training her to go up and down the pet stairs instead of jumping on and off the furniture.

Gail the dog trainer had a dog with spondylosis and let me know she can help with good advice on what Sunny should not do. We've had several talks about Sunny and doggy school.

Sunny loves doggy school. When Sunny and Pappy see the treat bag come out they know it's doggy school night for one of them. They sit and watch until I tell them which one is going. The one who gets named jumps around in excitement. The other one goes off to the back room and pouts. It's totally unacceptable that Sunny never gets a turn to go to doggy school.

Fortunately, Sunny's favorite part of doggy school is the obedience, so we're going to switch her out of Advance Hobby/Agility into an obedience class. Tomorrow (Tuesday) night will be our first time to attend.

Bird Nests
It was 59 degrees today. The swallows have returned, the black flies have hatched, and I officially pronouce it spring in SW Michigan.

Mother bluebird peeked out the nest box hole at us during the first morning dog walk. Later I checked and there was the first blue egg. She'll be laying one a day now until she has four or five.

The Mourning Dove nest has been abandoned. Either a predator got into it or the cold killed the naked babies.

Mourning Doves are stupid, clumsy birds. I know most people like them. I like them too, but they're still stupid and clumsy. This pair got confused about nesting season and did it a month early. I'm sure they'll try again.

Jill asked . . .
Any chance you can point out the Mourning Dove nest? Is it really that pitiful stick or two under the bird?
Yes. That's it.

Mystery nest of leaves and rough weedsJust spotted this nest on the shelf of an old, unused satellite dish way out in the back field.

It's a collection of coarse weeds and dead, dry leaves. Looks like it would blow away if I sneezed on it. It's just as pitiful as the Mourning Dove nest.

I'm not familiar with this type of nest and I haven't seen the associated birds so I don't know what they might be. If I see them return to this nest I'll report.

Anybody know what kind of nest this is? Want to guess?

The Weight Loss Rabbit on My Sidebar
In my April 1 post I promised
Next Wednesday I will weigh myself, reset the rabbit if necessary, and see if I can hop him along a bit before I leave for Idaho.
I kept that promise and was delighted to see that I have not gained any of the lost weight back. The rabbit is exactly in the right place.

I do admit to being a bit challenged in finding the motivation for the last five pounds. I'm working on it.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Knitting Log for April 8

Swatches for Frances and Barbara shawlsLast week I did more swatching with the fingering weight linen.

Both are Faroese shawl swatches from Stahman Shawls and Scarves. The top is Frances, the bottom Barbara.

Knitting the first three swatches, Elizabeth, Gracie, and Marialis, I decided I liked the linen best on #4 needles, so I stuck with #4s for both of these.

I was excited all the while I was knitting the Frances swatch thinking it was the perfect shawl for the linen yarn. After the swatches were washed and blocked, it was obvious that I preferred the looks of Barbara. Barbara more delicate and the edging is pretty and rounded.

That doesn't mean I'm never going to knit Frances, but for this yarn in this color, Barbara is the chosen one.

Start of Barbara shawl in gray fingering weight linenPattern: Barbara Faroese Shawl from Stahman Shawls and Scarves

Yarn: Louet Euroflax linen, fingering weight

Color: Gray

Needles: #4

Friday evening was cast on time. And away we go.

FLAK with body 2 thirds donePattern: Follow the Leader Aran by Janet Szabo

Yarn: Elann's Peruvian Highland Wool

Color: Antique Rose

Needles: US #5

Gauge: 22 stitches/4 inches in Moss Stitch

The FLAK body has turned into mindless knitting. Well, I do have think a little to make sure the cable crossings are going the right way. But not much.

The body measures eight inches down from the underarm seams and I calculate I need 24 more rounds to get the length I want before starting the ribbing.

I'm hoping we get one more FLAK installment with helpful hints on how to pickup the neckline and make it look nice. When knitting sweaters I frog necklines more than any other part. I'm good at making them too big and making them too small. The FLAK neckline will be more challenging than usual picking up stitches along those ruffly cables.

Andean Treasure Lagoon swatchNormally I find a pattern I want to knit and then go looking for yarn. This is an exception.

I want to knit myself a sweater using Knitpicks Andean Treasure, a 100% alpaca sport weight yarn. I've been trying to imagine what kind of pattern to use for a soft, fluffy alpaca yarn.

A few days ago I swatched the Larkspur Lace Pullover in the Spring 2005 Cast On. The picture in the magazine is not clear plus the sweater is knit in a variegated yarn. Without looking at the stitch charts, you'd never guess this sweater had an interesting stitch pattern.

The entire Larkspur Lace sweater is knit in the eyelet pattern seen just above the eyelet ribbing in the swatch. I think the part of the swatch without eyelets shows off the beauty of the heathered alpaca better. If I use any eyelets in my version of this sweater pattern, I'll use them sparingly.

This is going in my stack of potential future projects.

Friday, April 07, 2006

G is for Girl's Athletic Association

ABC Along Button

Prom picture from 19601959. I was 14 years old, and an introverted, unathletic high school freshman. My extroverted, athletic friend (the one in the yellow prom dress) talked me into joining the Girl's Athletic Association (GAA).

Why? Because if we acquired 15 athletic points we earned a ticket to the GAA formal dance and we - the girls - got to ask the boy of our choice to escort us.

Unfortunately, earning GAA points required doing athletic things.

Horseback riding was on the GAA list. My friend lived on a dairy farm and had horses. She assured me that three hours on a horse for three GAA points was "no sweat".

I had never ridden a horse before. She'd been riding horses since she was old enough to sit up, so it didn't occur to her teenage brain that I might need a few pointers. I got on that horse and before I could ask what to do next, the horse took off and jumped the fence.

I didn't fall off. She was a little more helpful after I threatened to go home, and we managed to ride for three hours. The next day I was so sore I could hardly walk. Not a good thing, because I had marching band practice.

I was too stiff to raise my knees when marching 8 to 5 (eight steps to 5 yards), so the band instructor pulled me out of formation and yelled at me for having a "tight skirt". He never did let me explain. The skirt was not tight, my muscles were tight. Stupid man.

It was all worth it, though. That's me in the purple formal. I picked a good looking date, didn't I?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Early Spring

Bluebird nest with no eggsAs mentioned in my last post, our mild winter didn't translate into an early spring.

We haven't had many mild days and, as you can see in the picture, we don't have much green in the landscape yet.

Strangely, though, the bluebirds have their nest build in the nest box. This is the earliest I've ever seen a bluebird nest.

No eggs yet.

Mourning Dove sitting on nestHere is another nest that is way early. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources
"The mourning dove reproductive cycle begins with egg laying in late April/early May."
So what is with all this early nesting while it's still cold?

This nest is a little above eye level in a large pine tree at the back of our five acres.

Mom and dad mourning dove take turns sitting on the eggs, so they're never unattended. They've been incubating for several weeks now. We should have little ones soon. Hope they don't get snowed on.

February Gold daffodils starting to bloomThe February Gold daffodils are my smallest and earliest to bloom. In Michigan they never bloom in February.

I expect flowers the first week in April. Only a few have blossomed.

Unlike the nesting birds, the flora is a little behind schedule.

New rake in two piecesSunday I stopped on my way home from church and bought a much needed new rake.

Monday, the first time I used it, the rake fell off the handle. I was annoyed. I jammed the rake back on the handle and kept raking.

I debated returning the rake, but didn't want to make a special trip into civilization just for that.

I tried to use it again. It fell apart and I finally noticed a screw taped on the back. It's an assemble-it-yourself rake! Whoever would have guessed? There was no clue on the label. There was no clue in the store.

Close up of screw taped on new assemble-it-yourself rakeExcuse me while I sound like an old lady.

In the good old days, you could go to a hardware store and buy a rake that came in one piece.

This morning I stopped at an independent hardware store. The owner told me he stopped stocking rakes because everyone bought them cheap at the big chains and he couldn't compete.

I would be willing to pay a little more for a rake if I didn't have to assemble it. Am I the only one?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Spring Things

Doing my income taxes when I know I'm not going to get a refund is completely bothersome.

Just because we had a mild winter does not mean that spring is going to come early. Warm (over 50 degrees F) spring days have been very rare so far this year. And today isn't one of them.

On Wednesday of this week, at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00am in the morning, the time and date will be 01:02:03 04/05/06. That won't ever happen again.

Also on Wednesday of this week, Granddaughter Sydney Anne turns one year old. That will never happen again, either.

Sydney eating? her cake at her first birthday partyHer party was last Saturday.

She had her own little cake just in case she wanted to make a mess with it.

Sydney sitting in her new birthday wagonShe also got lots of presents. One of her favorites was this red wagon from her grandparents in Michigan.

I think she likes it.

For those who want to know more, Dad's blog post about the party is here.

For those who want to see thirty more pictures of the party, there is a Picture Trail album here.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Linen Swatches

Linen swatch for Elizabeth shawl, unwashedYarn: Louet Euroflax linen, fingering weight

Color: Gray

I've been swatching in preparation for knitting a linen Faroese shawl. (Yes, Catharina is done. Pictures as soon as I figure out where I have enough space to block it.)

Knitting with unwashed linen is like what I imagine it would be like to knit with waxed dental floss. It doesn't really want to make loops, but it will.

This is the unwashed Elizabeth swatch from Stahman's Shawls and Scarves, knit on #5 needles.

At this point I'm wondering how this yarn is going to wash. Could it possible get soft? Is this lace pattern going to look pretty? Are my stitches going to even out? Was this even a good idea? And, what am I going to do with two cones of fingering weight linen yarn if I don't like this better than I like it now?

Linen swatches for Elizabeth, Gracie, and Marialis shawlsLater - all is well. The swatches are soft and drapey after machine washing and drying.

I'm up for a linen shawl, just need to figure out which pattern and which needle size I'm going to use.

The upper left swatch is Elizabeth, knit on a#5. The solid part of this pattern has a striking knit/purl texture that doesn't show up well with the linen yarn. I do need to knit Elizabeth someday, but I think it will be in some other yarn.

The bottom swatch is Gracie, knit on a #4. I couldn't resist trying the edging on this swatch. Gracie is a pretty lace pattern that might be perfect for my first linen shawl because of being simple.

The rightmost swatch is Marialis, variation A, knit on #3. I love Feather and Fan/Old Shale. Although the results are lovely, the needle size is too small for a fingering weight shawl. Marialis will eventually get knit with a looser gauge and a soft, wooly yarn.

If I had to cast on this minute, it would be Gracie. But the swatching is fun. I may try a few more patterns before deciding.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Let Me Answer

Brenda asked . . .
I have been reading your prior posts about the Eris V-Neck. Do you think the cardigan version would go better?
The pattern is packed away. So, without looking at the pattern to verify this is true, I think knitting the cardigan would eliminate the unappreciated stitches joining the right and left sides of the collar.

Linda asked . . .
Have you thought about those doggy steps?
After checking three different pet stores and finding nothing, I came home and ordered these steps.

If I had read Shelly's and Bliss's comments first, I would have ordered a ramp instead. The vet suggested steps, and I didn't think to consider anything else.

Sunny's x-rays showed spondylosis, excessive bone production that occurs between spinal vertebrae in dogs. Two of her lumbar vertebrae are all ready fused together and her entire spine is showing excess calcium deposits.

Even when her current acute back problem is healed, her jumping and twisting will continue to be restricted.

Much to my sadness, there will be plenty of opportunity to install ramps for her.

Birdsong asked . . .
When is the next grandbaby visit scheduled?
April 19 for a week.

I also have plane tickets for another week starting June 16. Mom/Great-grandma is going with me for that trip.

In August, I'd like to fly into some city west of Idaho and do some driving and sight seeing of beautiful Washington while working my way east to Idaho. Or maybe fly into some city in Montana and drive west to Idaho. I'd like to keep it around 200 miles from Post Falls/Coeur d'Alene. Any suggestions?

I know this is not the knitterly thing to say but seeing God's creation is my primary reason for doing this, not yarn store visits.

Someone asked (but they were too polite to leave a comment). . .
When are you going to lose those last 5 pounds and get the bunny on your sidebar through those flowers?
It was so easy to stop dieting and it's so hard to think about starting again.

I think I've maintained my loss, but I haven't weighed myself in several months.

Next Wednesday I will weigh myself, reset the rabbit if necessary, and see if I can hop him along a bit before I leave for Idaho.