Monday, March 24, 2014

Raising Adult Children is Hard

Still life with socks
There's been a lot of knitting around here lately, which is a good thing, because there's also been a bunch of not so good stuff to deal with, and I've needed the consolation of the rhythm of the needles.   Been throwing a bit of a pity party for myself, too, I freely admit.  Not going to drag anyone down with all the depressing deets, just suffice it to say that the transition from childhood to adulthood is not going as smoothly as I would like for my oldest son.  We'll all get through it, I have no doubt, but it is no fun at the moment. 
And now for something completely different:
The mismatched socks above were originally started for youngest son's girlfriend.  Once I realized they would be mismatched, plans changed.  They are now residing in youngest son's sock drawer, and he has no complaints about their mismatched nature.
Youngest son has been providing lots of excitement around here.  His high school basketball team has won the Northern Californian Division 4 championship and are playing for the state title against Southern California this coming Saturday.  We are so excited and proud of this young team.  There are no Seniors on the team.  The oldest player is a Junior.  The entire remainder of the team are Freshmen and Sophomores.  Quite an accomplishment. 

 I plan on spending tomorrow doing some finishing and blocking for a lot of the WIPs that have been hanging around here for some time.  I'll try and get a photo shoot together as well. 
On the designing front, I have an idea for a waterfall cardigan that I'm itching to get started. 
I've begun attending my parish's women's knitting/crocheting group.  My last three finished items will be donated to the group for sale benefitting various charities.  I already donated two hats last week, including one I designed myself which I (of course) forgot to photograph before I donated it. 
In addition to the waterfall cardigan, I have an idea for a hat/gloves combo in fair isle pattern and will be starting some hat/scarf and hooded scarves for donation as well.  Busy, busy. 
On the gardening front, I ordered beaucoup ivy geraniums for the front pots, a climbing pink rose, and am dreaming about some heirloom tomato plants and strawberries for this Spring.  I LOVE this season, especially here in the Bay Area, where the weather is so lovely.
And our new puppy should be born some time over the next three weeks or so.  Another joyful event to look forward to.
Well, that's all for now.  Will try to check in tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Up To No Good

Wow.  It's been a l-o-o-o-ng time since I joined the "Ten On Tuesday" hosted by Carole at Carole Knits.  Partly because the topics haven't moved me towards inspiration, and partly for other reasons.  This week's idea sounds fun, though, so I'm going to dive right in.  This week Carole is doing something a little different: she's asking everyone to come up with ten sentences that start with "I am..."  So...

I am...

 ...desperately searching for tickets to my son's basketball game this Wednesday.  The game will be televised on a local sports station, and the event is sold out, but I still need two tickets so Nana and Grandpa can watch our boy play.

...hooked on "Hay Day".  Who knew an iphone game could be so addicting?  I'm just a country girl at heart.

...sick of paying bills.  And filing taxes.  And filling out FAFSA forms.  One burden lifts and another instantly takes its place. 

...beginning to crochet.  I'm still partial to knitting, but crochet has its charms.  I particularly like motifs and the fact that you don't have to bind off as you do in knitting.  Also, you don't have to worry about the hook falling out of your work and the whole thing unraveling on you whilst you are still a fumbling newbie...

...knitting on the border of my lace shawl.  Hard to believe this pile of mess will block into a lovely wearable item.  I've just about completed the border on one long side.  It's taking some time.  I toyed with designing my own, but decided to go with a pattern from Victorian Lace Today instead.  The yarn is Heron bamboo lace in pumpkin spice colorway.

...solo parenting for the week.  Husband is away on a seminar and I have the king-sized bed to myself. 

...taking care of a sick puppy.  Our little Nugget got very sick this weekend with an upper respiratory infection she picked up from the local dog park.  Won't be taking her back there; which is sad, because she absolutely loves it there and we get such a kick out of watching her express her joy with the other dogs and people.  We'll have to limit our interaction to walks instead.  Not quite as much fun for her, but I'm not willing to have her get sick again.  My youngest was beside himself with worry over her until we could get her in to the vet. 

...grateful for the gift of life and love.  Every day I give thanks for the life I have been given and the love that God has surrounded me with.  Every single day.  I give thanks not only for being loved, but for being capable of loving. 

...elated about my son's new high school swim coach.  His coach from his competitive year-round team has accepted the job as head coach for his high school as well.  I still haven't come down from the high of hearing that news.

...ready for Spring to arrive.  So, so ready.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

That Lady is Still Knitting Socks

Gratuitous photo of our dear Lucy, just because
I really need to get back to the discipline of blogging, darn it.  December has for all intents and purposes come and gone, and here I sit with nary a single post to show for it.  What is wrong with me--wait, don't answer that.  Plenty, I know.

Anywho, on the knitting front, just another pair or two of socks:

Nick's socks post blocking
 Sorry for the poor picture quality, I just snapped a quick iphone photo post blocking right before I packaged them up for Sevy to give to Nick.  They look kind of grey/black, but they are actually quite a nice shade of deep blue.  Lang jawoll.

Mykaela's Secret Santa socks from Sevy, all wrapped up
Again, apologies for the poor photo.  Just snapped on my iphone the morning of the gift exchange.  The lighting in the house is not great at 6:30 AM...  Just barely finished this pair in time.  It didn't help that Sevy requested them about a week before the exchange, and I was still working on Mom's sweater --which is now (finally) finished and in my mother's possession, yay me -- I'll relate that sorry saga in the very near future.  Suffice it to say, many curse words were muttered during the making of that sweater, let me tell you. 

Getting back to the pair of red socks in the photo above, the reason I barely finished in time is because the first two pairs of socks I started didn't pass muster, so I started this third pair two days before the gift exchange.  That's the way I roll, doncha know?  whipped up a cable "rib" pattern and inserted into my standard vanilla sock recipe.  Eye of partridge heel.  Again, I know, it's getting kind of tedious, isn't it? 

Will catch up with other news over the next day or two.  Really. 

Till then,
Happy Knitting!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Knitting and Reading and Making Soap, Oh My

Just can't seem to finish this book.  I've been reading it steadily, but it always seems as though I'm stuck 3/4 of the way through.  Sorta like when you're knitting a scarf, and it seems like you enter a new dimension of time whereby the more you knit, the more the length stays the same...

And mom's sweater is slowly starting to be seamed, but I'm hating the process.  Never again will I voluntarily design a pattern that needs seaming.  Never. I'm kicking myself for not making this sweater a seamless knit.  When will I ever learn?  It's not that seaming is beyond my capabilities.  It's simply that I HATE DOING IT!!! It takes time away from my true love --the knitting itself!

If you're a knitter and a reader, join the yarn along at Small Things.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Did We Skip October This Year, Or What???

Theoretically, I know that October came, but man alive it passed so quickly.  I simply can't believe it's over already and we're halfway thru November, to boot.  One of the reasons I know it came is because I have a trio of little decorative punkins that was the sum total of my decorating efforts.  Sheesh.  How 'bout the colors in these socks, though?  Aren't they gorgeous?  Here's a little photo essay of the knitting that occurred in October (while I was apparently too busy to pull out the ole laptop and blog already):
Designed by MagsKnits (that's me) for a custom order

Another MagsKnits design for special customer

The piece de resistance - A MagsKnits design blanket to complete the ensemble


Finished these socks and gifted them but forgot to take a picture of the finished product.  D'oh.
Lang wool socks for Nick (Friend of Sevy)
Knitting both socks in this pair at the same time, just for kicks.  Sometimes I do that.  It defeats the Second Sock Syndrome.

Mountain Colors Bearfoot, darned if I know the name
Now, on to the next activity...

Sunday, November 10, 2013

That Lady What's Always Knitting Made....Soap!!! Or, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

What Fall Looks Like Chez Nous

Wow.  I was shocked when I logged in and saw that the whole month of October came and went without a single blog entry from yours truly.  There certainly was plenty to blog about, but it is now lost in the haze as though it happened decades ago.  That's what it's like inside my brain these days.  If I don't get it down right away, it just evaporates.  In any case, I'll try to capture some of the high points from the photos I managed to take. 

Let's start with the soapmaking adventure, shall we?  And adventure it surely was.  They aren't kidding when they say the learning curve is steep.    I made 4 batches, with the first one the week of Halloween.  The next 3 were all made over the past couple of days, and while each was somewhat of a failure in several aspects, I did learn a lot and all of them actually turned into soap, albeit not very visually appealing...Baby steps, I always say.  As long as they lather, and feel good, I'm reasonably happy. 
Here's what I learned from each batch:
Batch the first: Lavender and sage - Loved the fragrance.  Took a looooong time to trace.  That's because I stirred by hand (never again) and there was a lot of olive oil in the recipe, which can take a long time to trace.  Also, being brand new to this, I didn't recognize trace and continued to stir much longer than I needed to.  It set at a pretty low temp, so I wasn't expecting much, but it turned out fabulous.  Beautiful creamy white color, set properly, everything was spot on.  Until I tried to get it out of the flipping mold.  I didn't prepare the mold at all, and it was impossible to get it out.  I ended up having to cut up the very expensive plastic mold to get it out.  Not happy.  I didn't take pictures of this one, and made it at mom and dad's.  I'll get a picture of it next time I go over there.  Next!
Batch Number Two - Lemon and Sage Fragrance

Having learned from the experience with batch number one and the fiasco of the unmolding process, I prepared this mold.  I lined an empty cardboard juice container with parchment, and felt pretty smug that I had licked that problem.  Foreshadowing, anyone? 

This time I recognized trace, and used a stick blender (the only way to go, if you ask me), but kept at it a bit too long, especially after adding the turmeric (for color) and the fragrance, which sped up trace quite a bit.  Wasn't sure this was going to gel properly.  It was nice and warm, which it was supposed to be when I wrapped it in the towel and set it to gel, but I was a little bit worried that it had traced too heavily.  Happy surprise: it gelled just fine and turned into soap.  Yay.  However...

I apparently jostled it a bit when I set it to gel, and some of the soap overflowed the container on one side.  Also, it turns out that cardboard juice containers are not the best mold.  "Why?" you ask?   They are too flimsy.  The sides of this one bulged out and consequently, the bars are only about 2 inches tall.  It's not apparent from the photo, but they are too small, and very, shall we say, "rustic" in appearance.  Also, the scent is a little too sage heavy and the lemongrass scent I used to boost the lemon scent didn't work out very well.  Back to the drawing board...
Batch the Third - Jasmine Honeysuckle
Being confident that "I had this" by now, I soldiered on with my third batch.  The learning here was enormous.  I was confident that I could recognize trace, and decided to challenge myself with a little creative coloring, because everything else was sure to go perfectly, don't you know.  Ha. 

Let's see, what went right?  Well, the scent is beautiful, although it turns out I could have achieved an equally beautiful scent while only using a third of the honeysuckle fragrance oil, thus saving product and money.  D'oh.  I can now recognize when trace is so heavy the soap is about to seize.  Because, yes, this one escaped seizing by a hair's breadth.  In fact, when I poured the gloopy, lumpy mass into the mold, I was quite sure it wasn't going to gel, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had.  Also, the color experiment didn't go that well. 
I used 1 tsp of alkanet root in 1/3 of the batch and spooned this on top of the uncolored 2/3.  Having heavily traced, the alkanet root didn't mix in very well, but I just shrugged my shoulders and poured it anyway, because I knew that if there was any possibility of saving this bad boy it was to get it into the mold and insulated ASAP.  That top layer was an ugly dark gray.  It is supposed to turn the soap a color ranging from a light purple to a light pink, depending on how much lye is in your soap.  In that regard, it is a good colorant to choose, because it acts as a litmus test that shows you from the color how much lye is left in your soap.  Ideally, it should lighten to a light pink during the saponification process, indicating your soap has proper Ph level.  As you can see, the color in my batch is a very dark purple, bordering on black.  I'm hoping that as the curing process continues (4-6 weeks), the color will lighten, indicating that the lye is properly reacting with the oils to completely saponify...  We shall see.  Because if it stays this color, the soap will be too caustic to use. 
Also, again, the juice container thing didn't work out so well as a mold. I'll make a mold from a cardboard box for the next batch.  Because, yes, soapmaking is fun, darn it.  And I plan on doing it a lot more.  Next!
Batch Four - Bergamot Neroli

Oh boy.  Let's start with the positive, okay?  Poured at the proper stage of trace. The orange juice container stood up well as a mold this time.   Liked the citrus peel I added for exfoliant and visual interest (the brown specks). 

Now for the flipside: Wanted a nice deep yellow color, which the bars actually are, although you can't tell from the photo, so used 2 T of yellow palm oil to get the color.  Big mistake.  Should have only used 1 T.  Why? Well, because the recipe already included a lye discount, so the addition of the extra palm oil was too much superfatting.  I think. The soap gelled well, yay! However...It feels oily and there are air pockets which leak liquid palm oil.  I'm hoping for the best during the curing phase, but I fear these bars will be too soft to use. 

As for the fragrance....I used 1 tsp of roman chamomile to "fix" the bergamot and neroli fragrance and I no like.  That chamomile fragrance imparts an earthiness to the citrus notes that is not pleasing to me.  Hopefully, it will mellow during the curing phase and become more appealing. 
So there you have it.  Despite the failures of each batch, I find the process intriguing.  Working with lye was not as scary as I thought it was going to be.  I'm planning on making some cardboard molds later today and trying my hand at another couple of batches tomorrow.
Also, there was quite a bit of knitting during October.  I'll show that in my next post.
Till then, have fun and try something new, why dontcha?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Another Ride on the Hodgepodge Merry-Go-Round

This week's hodgepodge (link in sidebar) has me realizing I am boring...

1. What's one thing that's still the same about you as when you were young?

I'm still very shy and uncomfortable in large groups of people where I don't know anyone.
 2. What's more important-history or science? Why?

History, because it is about people.
 3. Lima, kidney, string, garbanzo, black or pinto-your favorite bean?

Probably pinto.
 4. What's something people come to your town to do?

Attend the annual Art and Wine festival.
 5. When was the last time you were in a meeting? Sum it up for us in five words or less.

Two years ago -- parent rep on anti-bullying team.
 6. What special event would you like a VIP pass to attend?

Can't think of a single event I want to be a VIP at...

 7. What's one piece of advice you'd give a writer?
Be genuine and kind.  Write about people from a place of compassion always and make sure your dialogue is real.

 8.  Insert your own random thought here.

I miss the red hawk that used to hang out in the fields I drive by in the morning.