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.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Right Up My Street...

My little golden Nugget playing with the hose, just because the Brits would say.  We Americans would say "right up my alley..." but I've been watching a lot of Brit TV for the past several years, and I've picked up on some of these expressions.  For instance, I now say "no joy" where I used to say "no luck."  Little things like that.  Anyhoo, I'm loving this week's Ten on Tuesday from Carole at "Carole Knits".  Here we go:

the 10 Books On Your To-Read List:

So. Many. This is just a tiny (wee) scratch at the surface:

1.  Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz.  Love this series of books so much.  They are so funny.  I've been putting off reading this one, because it's the last in the series and I can't bear to say goodbye to the characters.  Great dialogue.

2.  Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evonovich.  Another comedy mystery series with very likeable characters and great dialogue.  I'm a sucker for this kind of book.  Her books always make me laugh out loud at least once.

3.  Tote Bags and Toe Tags by Dorothy Howell.  Another funny mystery with a very screwed up heroine who's heart is in the right place.  Anyone seeing a pattern here?

4.  The Lamb's Supper: the Mass as Heaven on Earth by Scott Hahn.  And now for something completely different.  Yes, I do sometimes take a break from consuming mindless but amusing fiction to dig into some much better fare.  What can be better than this guy's books?

5.  Prayer for Beginners by Peter Kreeft.  This man has so many good things to say about the faith and a gift for putting them into words in a way I can totally relate to, despite the fact that he is a million times more brilliant than me...  I bought each of my kids this book for their confirmation as a primer, hoping it will lead them to search out all his books.  Amazing insights. 

6.  Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Bought this for my father's birthday some years ago, knowing of his passionate interest in the American Civil War.  He didn't think he would find much of interest that he didn't already know about Lincoln's life, so he was not that thrilled to receive it.  Thought I had wasted my money.  Boy, was he wrong!  He started reading it and apologized to me.  Said it was the most fascinating book he had ever read and one of the best written.  Since then, both my brothers and sister have read it.  I now have it, but don't know where I've put it.  My sister gave it back to me to read after she was through with it, but it was very bad timing, as I had just started my chemo treatments and had no desire to read anything.  Added to that was the fact that Abraham Lincoln is my most admired hero and I am always grief-stricken when I read accounts of his assassination.  I just can't bring myself to read about it, especially when my sister tells me she had to stop reading for a while when she got to that part, because it was just so very sad.  I have no doubt that this will be one of the best  books I ever read when I finally crack it open.  Doris Kearns Goodwin is a remarkably fine writer.

7.  Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay.  Being a big fan of the Showtime series, just can't help myself.  I need to find out if the novels are as good as the series, despite my huge disappointment with the final episode of the series, which I watched this afternoon and am still smarting over.

8.  Latin for Dummies by Clifford A. Hull.  I'm a language buff.  Romance languages, primarily, so have a keen interest in the root language that spawned them all.  Plus, I love that Latin is a "dead language" and thus does not change as modern language does.  The pureness of the aesthetic appeals to me.  And, being Roman Catholic, well...

9. Mother Teresa: In My Own Words by Mother Teresa.  A modern day saint persevering in her faith despite a 50 year "dark night of the soul."  I have always been extremely drawn to Mother Teresa. 
A woman truly deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded, unlike a few others I can think of (Obama, anyone?)

10. The Shape of Water (Inspector Montalbano, Book 1) by Andrea Camilleri.  Love, love, love this Mhz International Mysteries series starring Luca Zingaretti and airing on PBS.  The Sicily depicted is fascinating and beautiful and I want to experience the novels as well, which I hear are really fine.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Back in the Saddle Again...I Think

Wow, it's been ages since I participated in Ten on Tuesday (Carole Knits)...I blame it on the new smart phone.  I finally buckled to pressure and got one, and I'm addicted.  Anyhoo, I've decided to dive in to today's Ten on Tuesday:

10 Things You Miss About Your Own House When You Go Away

1.  My pets --especially our kitty.  We haven't had the puppy long enough to get as emotionally attached, but we've had our dear Lucy for 12 years and she is firmly engrained in our daily routines.  I miss her yacking at me to feed her in the morning, her little love chirps throughout the day and her quiet affection.  She's a very loving, social kitty, and I need my "fix" every day....

2.  My own bed --hotel beds usually leave me aching in the hips and thighs, and the pillows are generally inadequate as well, compared to my own. 

3.  The convenience of my closet

4. Lounging in my bathrobe in the mornings with a cup of coffee before I start my day.  This is especially true of the weekends. 

5.  Having a bathroom to myself - usually when we travel, it is with the whole family, which means waiting in line to use the bathroom before we can go off and do the fun stuff we have planned

6.  My recorded programs - I watch a lot of public TV, especially the international mysteries, Masterpiece Theater, etc.  Hotel TV-- usually not very good.  And if Wi-Fi isn't free, that means no Hulu for me either, so TV viewing usually reverts to whatever sports program the husband cares to watch, and I tune out.

7.  Not having to babysit valuables - I miss the freedom of home, where I can leave my laptop on the bed, my kindle on the table, my smartphone on the dresser, my digital camera wherever I used it last.  I detest that I always have to be hyper aware of my belongings when I travel.  Makes me feel like my possessions own me rather than the other way around.

8.  My privacy - I need a certain amount of "alone time" every day.  This can sometimes be hard to find when I travel with the family.

9.  Puttering around the house

10. The comfort of home...

Okay, I admit it, I'm a creature of habit and a homebody.  As much as I love traveling to exotic locales and relaxing with the family there, I really do enjoy my own home and am always glad to come home to it...How 'bout you?

Monday, September 9, 2013

This Happens a Lot

One of the biggest challenges to my prayer life is finding silence.  I can't tell you how many times this message, "Be still.  Be quiet" has come through to me.  I don't hear it internally or anything like that, but I feel like God is telling me to be quiet by reminding me through other people to do so.  It's like a constant refrain whenever I think about prayer, the command for silence and the elusive search for it.

 So I try to find it, but it eludes me.  I'm not even sure how to find it, or what it is exactly, to be truthful.  There is an interior silence that definitely eludes me, that's for sure.  The little voice in my head is constantly blabbing.  I hold an internal monologue 24/7.  I think sometimes, "Maybe this is what He means.  He wants me to turn off that little voice so He can get a word in." 

So, in my effort to find the Sacred Silence, I spent some time before the Blessed Sacrament this Saturday, praying for peace around the world, as Pope Francis enjoined, and desiring to spend some time in silent adoration.  Just to sit in His presence and know that He is God.  Not asking for anything for a time, but just loving Him and letting the joy of loving Him radiate.  That was the intention.

So what happened?  Let's just say, I missed the boat again.  I never really got a chance to settle in for that silent adoration.  First of all, when I entered the chapel, there were already two people there praying.  That was fine.  They were praying silently and we didn't disturb one another.  So far, so good.

 I told God my intentions of joining my prayers with the other Christians praying around the world for peace and I then I began the rosary.  I got to the 3rd mystery, and then distraction occurred, in the form of a trio of people who entered to pray aloud the Divine Mercy chaplet. 

Now, the Divine Mercy is one of my favorite devotions, right up there with the rosary.  However.  In this instance, and to my chagrin, they made so much noise, pushing chairs around, shuffling back and forth and such to arrange things "just so", intruding on our silent prayer to shove a prayer card in our hand, that it totally disrupted the flow of my prayer.  All I could think was, "please stop." And then they started.

They prayed loudly and the woman who was leading the prayer had a very unfortunate cadence which was DISTRACTING in itself.  I joined them in the chaplet, knowing I couldn't finish the rosary with that going on, anyway.  When it was done, I finished the rosary and said some brief concluding prayers and high-tailed it out of there.  Don't worry, I went straight over to the church for confession....

Don't get me wrong.  I wasn't annoyed with the Divine Mercy trio.  It just served to illustrate for me how difficult this task of finding silence is and will probably continue to be for me.   

If anyone reading this has a method for silencing themselves and the world in order to center on the Creator, I would so love to hear it...please share.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Knitting Update and Call to Prayer

 The mom sweater is coming along nicely.  I have now finished the back, both fronts (except for some button band stitches that are on hold for later) and one sleeve.  The second sleeve is about one third of the way finished.  Dare I hope this project will turn out as planned?  Here she is laid out in her current state:

I know she doesn't look like much now, but soon she will be all "put together", so to speak.  I'm pleased with her so far.  She has been co-operating -- no more purl stitches where there should be knits and such.  The yarn knits up soft and drapey, and it looks like the sweater my mom asked for.  My only worry is that she may be a smidge too small.  I plan to block the hell out of her and hope for the best. 

I'm trying a different finishing technique this time.  I usually use mattress stitch for the sleeves and body, and three-needle bind-off for the shoulders.  This time I plan on slip stitching the seams with a crochet hook.  I think the yarn is thin enough that it won't add too much bulk.  However, if the seams appear bulky when I'm done, my plan is to steam iron them flat.  Hah.

Okay, now for the call to prayer.  If you are a person of faith, please join Christians around the world this Saturday, September 7th for a day of prayer and fasting for Syria, the Middle East, and all over the world.  Pope Francis has issued an invitation to all Catholics and other Christians as well as people of all faiths and people of goodwill to unite our prayers and fasting together on this day.  I plan to offer my prayers and fasting for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in Egypt and Nigeria specifically as well as Syria.  The suffering in those regions is terrible.  I am grateful to God that I live in a place where I am free to practice my faith without suffering physical persecution, and I grieve for those who do not....May God's grace sustain them.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

And the Ash, Ash, Ash, Came Down, Down, Down

When we entered Yosemite National Park on Friday morning, this is the scene that greeted us:
Lovely blue skies and those breathtaking views that we've grown accustomed to seeing over the past several years.  Had a lovely walk down by the river, good conversation with friends who are like family, and felt at peace watching the boys frolic about. 
Twenty four hours later, we drove out of the park and the scene looked like this:
No, that isn't fog.  It is haze from the smoke and ash that blew in and settled in the valley, driving us from our idyll...

In the face of our own disappointment and that of the boys who had been looking forward to this weekend since we broke camp last year, we decided to make an impromptu drive to Disneyland instead of admitting defeat and coming home.  That would have been just too depressing.  On the plus side, on the way out, we were treated to this sight:

Momma and baby bear were just awesome.  Far enough away to pose no danger, close enough to thrill...

Forgive the poor video quality, but all I had was my smart phone and it doesn't zoom...

We had a great, if exhausting, day at the happiest place on earth and then hit the road to get home by the wee hours of Monday morning.  All in all, this was a weekend we will never forget.  It turned out to be quite lovely...


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Please Don't Be Angry...

I found some problems with the instructions for the sweater in my last post.  I've gone back and made the corrections in red text.  I also removed the instructions about marking the shoulder stitches, as I think they may have been confusing, and they are unnecessary.  I have now progressed thru the front pieces and am commencing on the sleeves:
 And the fugly striped socks are continuing apace:

Surprisingly, I don't find them as fugly as I thought they would be.  The placement of the dark brown/green multi heel flap works for me.  And they are slated for my youngest who loves them and all hand-knit socks.  He has started a fad at his high school with them and I've now been requested to knit a pair for one of his classmates.

And that is all for today, as I have a 4 day trip to Yosemite National Park to pack for. Joy.  Despite the forest fire that is still raging and trying to consume everything in its path, the part of the park where we do our annual camping is open and not in any danger. 

See you when we get back, God willing.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wanna Knit a Sweater With Me? No, Really. Do You?

So, I was thinking that it might be fun for any interested knitters who stumble across this little blog to join me in knitting the sweater I am designing and knitting for my mom.  I haven't got that far along yet, so it's still possible to catch up and "knit along" with me.  Here're the details:

V-neck cardigan style -perfect sweater for the knitter who hasn't yet dipped their toe, so to speak, into knitting a full-on garment.   This is a basic modified drop shoulder (so no full fashioned decreases), requiring little to no shaping, knit in a K1, P2 stitch pattern at a worsted weight gauge. 

Button band is incorporated into the garment while knitting, and I'm designing the whole shebang "on the fly" so there may be some bumps in the road, but if you're interested in the adventure, I will be posting the instructions here on the blog.

 My reason for doing this is twofold:  I thought it would be fun, and this way I won't do the usual and create the sweater with only minimal cryptic notes and then try to figure out what the heck I did and write it all down.  This way, the pattern will be complete at the same time as the sweater, and I can then offer it on the Ravelry site for free.  And it will also have been test knit by real life knitters, so should be error free, right? 

The size I am knitting is for a 40" bust with about 1-2 inches of ease.   I will work up the instructions for a couple of sizes smaller and a couple of sizes larger as well, to offer a full range of sizes in order to interest as many as possible in knitting it.  This is intended to be a comfortable sweater in a classic style. 

If you're interested, just keep checking in here to get the next set of instructions. 

Let's get started:

Stitch gauge: 7 st./inch in K1, P2 ribbing, using US size 5 needles
Row gauge: 8 st./inch in K1, P2 ribbing, using US size 5 needles
Needle size: US size 4 and US size 5
Yarn: I am using Berroco Comfort DK in black.  Yarn content is 50/50 Super Fine Nylon and Super Fine Acrylic.  It is very soft and makes for a nice drape, but you are free to substitute your own yarn at the same gauge.  I'm using this yarn also to make my mom's life easier when it comes to washing and drying the sweater, but I will be recommending to her that she machine wash on gentle or delicate cycle in cold water and lay flat to dry instead of using the dryer.

Instructions are for bust sizes 36", 38", 40", 42", 44".  If you would like instructions for a size other than these, please contact me and I will provide them.  Just give me a bit of time to get back to you, as I don't do this for a living, so I have other priorities from time to time...wink.

Instructions are for bust size 36, with other sizes in parentheses, just like professional patterns!!!  By slipping the last stitch of each row with yarn in front, you will create a very neat finished chain selvedge edge.  This will make seaming easier, as well as look nice on the edges of the front button bands.


With smaller (size 4) needles, cast on 130 (139, 145, 151, 157) stitches.

Row 1 (WS): K3, P1, *K2, P1.  Repeat from * to last three stitches.  K2, slip last stitch with yarn in front. 
Row 2: K1, *P2, K1.  Repeat from * to last three stitches.  P2, slip last stitch with yarn in front (wfy).
Rows 3-6: repeat first two rows.
Row 7: change to larger (size 5) needles.  Continue in pattern as set until piece measures desired length to armhole, or about 13 1/2" (13 1/2", 14", 14 1/2", 15"). 

Shape Armholes:

Bind off 9 (12,12,15,15) stitches at beginning of next 2 rows.  There will remain 112 (115, 121, 121, 127) stitches.  Continue even until armhole measures 9" (9 1/2", 10", 10 1/2", 11"), ending with a wrong side row.

Shoulder Shaping:

Bind off all stitches. 

Keep checking back for the next set of instructions, or contact me to let me know you are ready for the next installment...Feel free to invite any knitter friends you may have to join in.

Have fun.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Happy Street

We've been experiencing a lot of this lately.  Youngest son caught midway through his flip turn.  His speed has caught the eye of his new coach, who has invited him to join his elite high school swimmers for year round swimming at no extra charge.  He has mixed emotions about it -- on one hand jubilant because it means he really is that good, but on the other apprehensive, because the elite swimmers are truly wickedly fast and it means he will be moving from 1 hour workouts 4 days a week in the evening to 2 hour workouts from 7 - 9 am daily.  He's had his hour of being the "big fish" (sorry, pun intended) in the pool with other swimmers who he is very much faster than, to being the "little fish" with the sharks.  I'm eager to see how he will adjust.  He knows a couple of the swimmers in the new group, and they tell him the workouts are grueling.  That is another thing he is apprehensive about. 

And we still have to get through the end of AAU basketball with the huge tournament in Las Vegas.  We will be driving a car full of kids and supervising them 5 days in between games.  Should be a hoot.  I'm exhausted already, just thinking about it.  The husband is giddy with excitement.  He truly loves coaching and is gifted at it.  It's amazing to see how the kids flourish under his instruction.  The same kids who are marginal players on their high school teams become highly skilled contributors for him.  I think it's because they know he believes in them, and they start to believe in themselves.  Instead of coaching through intimidation as so many high school coaches do, this man believes in positive re-enforcement, and he values them and their success over his own ego.  I know I'm tooting his horn, but we've been in youth sports long enough to see that there really are not that many like him out there, and the kids suffer for it.  Okay, I'll get off the soapbox now.  You're welcome.

My real concern while we are gone is that the oldest will be home alone and in charge of the puppy.  This will be the first time we have left one of the boys home while the rest of the family is away.  Granted, he's 19 years old, so should be perfectly fine by himself, but I still worry.  He'll be at work from 7 am until 2 pm, so Nugget will have to be in the dog run by herself until he gets home.  We've been conditioning her to it slowly.  She seems to be all right, no signs of overt anxiety.  Here is the current state of the dog run:

She was in it for most of the day yesterday while we were home, and she's in it now, as I type this.  We will bring her in at noon, spend some time with her, walk her, and then we leave for an all day tournament.  Oldest will be home with her, though, and he promised to take her for another walk and play with her.
Remember how I said we'd puppy-proofed, but I was sure she'd find something to destroy?  Allow me to submit exhibit "A":

This is the dryer vent, which occupies the corner of the dog run.  There should be another plastic slat on the top, covering that gaping hole.  I was expecting that she would go after it.  And she did.  We'll need to replace it today, and then cover it with something when it's not in use to prevent her from destroying it again.  Suggestions welcome...

Time to clean the kitchen...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mystic Monk Rocks

Man alive, where is the time going?  No time to blog, but not a lot is getting accomplished around here.  Time to grab the bull by the horns, so to speak, and just do it.  So, here we go:

We've started a coffee of the month subscription to "Mystic Monk" coffee and we love it.  The coffee and tea is produced at a working monastery in Wyoming by genuine monks.  Fantastic products, and I love that we are supporting the monastery by our purchase.  I highly recommend it.  You can find it by following the link to Father Z's blog on the right of my home page, and then clicking on the Mystic Monk button from there.

Knitting updates: very little to report, I'm afraid.  one or two rows on mom's ribbed sweater, which I'm doing in pieces instead of seamless.  I have a feeling I will regret this in a big way, but what's done is done, and I'm not ripping that thing out again voluntarily...

Green striped socks are half complete -- that is, one down, one to go....We have a four day trip to Las Vegas planned next week for the youngest son to compete in an AAU basketball tournament, so I'll probably finish the second sock on the trip.

And, for a little distraction:

This is our lovely Lucy, the sweetest cat in the world, but you wouldn't know it from that glare, would you?  She can get the most intimidating looks on her face, but has the gentlest little soul of any cat I've ever owned, and I've owned quite a few.  The funny thing is, the more severe her expression, the harder she's purring and the happier she is.  We get a kick out of it.  She loves the knitting.  The observant among you will notice that she is lying on the pile of finishing that I've been promising to do for several months now, with no discernible progress.  She is also lying atop a package of my youngest's basketball team pictures from this past school year.  So, yes, I am behind in cataloguing the photos as well as everything else around here. 

And the pupster is now current on her shots and will be attending puppy obedience classes so very soon.  We invested in a gentle leader collar for her walks and the pulling has been drastically reduced, but she still tries very hard to leap at people in her excitement and friendliness.  Like most labs/goldens, she loves everyone and wants to show them SO MUCH...Oh, and we've given up on the fight to keep her off the couch.  She won that battle.

One more little tidbit, then it's off to do laundry:

Little sister came over this past weekend and we whipped up a batch of homemade powdered laundry soap.  I use this all the time and have had great results with it.  I made her do the hard part - grating the Fels naptha bar.  It isn't that hard, really, as I have a labor saving tip -- I heat the bar up in the microwave until it puffs up like a sea sponge, wait for it to cool down, and voila, it practically crumbles into dust with the slightest friction against the grater.  I follow a basic recipe and add oxiclean, and a super-secret ingredient of my own (the stuff in the large plastic container in the center of the top picture) that traps and removes dirt like a little laundry fairy.  It only takes a tablespoon of the product to do a large load, so it lasts a long time and is very economical.  Plus, it's something I can do with my sister, and that is always a good thing, as Martha Stewart would say.

Well folks, not kidding about that laundry, so I'll talk to you later. 

Have a blessed day.

Oh, if anyone of faith is actually reading this, I have a prayer request: my children's former 2nd grade teacher is asking for urgent prayers for her son, named Kekoa, and his troop.  He is in the Army, stationed in Afghanistan and this is a particularly dangerous time for our troops, as Ramadan will soon be under way.  His unit has already taken on enemy fire from Taliban troops and there have been some injuries.  Please join us in prayer that Kekoa and all his fellow soldiers will come home safely and that the families waiting at home will experience the peace of Christ, which surpasses all understanding, while they await their return...

Friday, July 5, 2013

Back in the Saddle Again

Dang, has it really been that long since my last post?  Bad blogger, bad, bad blogger!  Sorry about the cone of silence, but there has been a lot of busy work at the homestead.  Lots of minutiae that is probably of little to no interest to anyone other than me, and some fun stuff.   Add to that the fact that we've been suffering from a week-long heat wave in these parts that has added greatly to my reluctance to engage the electronics.  Anything to keep the house cool.  We don't have air conditioning, so we have to do the small things. 

First, I thought I'd flash my stash as a follow-up to my last posting:

Now, this is only a fraction of the stash.  Shameful, isn't it?  The rest is shoved here and there out of sight in things like the bedroom ottoman and a dresser that should contain clothes, if I were a normal person.  But seeing as I am a knitting addict, I had to sort my priorities and clothes didn't make the cut.  In my defense, this stash has been several years in the making and the vast majority of it was purchased on sale, deeply discounted, or was acquired as a gift from my generous family, who support my addiction in every way possible, and are the grateful recipients of the fruits of my labor.

I'm sad to say that there wasn't much progress on the knitting front in my absence.  Too much of the minutiae previously mentioned. 

The youngest has kept us busy with a dual sport summer:  he is playing for his high school basketball summer league, his dad's AA basketball team, and has joined a competitive swim team.  Juggling all three activities without royally pissing off each coach is quite the delicate dance, let me tell you...We've got a big trip to Las Vegas coming up at the end of the month to close out the AA season, and then school will be upon us before you know it.

The older sons have been working a summer job since mid-June.  It's the first time either have been employed, and I'm very pleased with how they are doing.  My middle son in particular has really taken to it.  No surprise there. 

And little princess puppy pants is growing like the proverbial weed.  We decided to bathe her for the first time yesterday for a dual purpose:  she was starting to smell like a dog in need of a bath, and it was so darn hot, we needed to give her some relief.  Now she is a silky soft perfumed pup.  She seems to be a quick learner, and as long as there are no distractions, very obedient.  She has added "lay down" and "stay" to here repertoire and is allowed to be off leash in the house and in the yard when we take her out to do her business.  We have the dog run puppy proofed (although I'm sure she'll find some way to foil us when she spends some alone time there, our last dog was a wizard at it, and she's pretty smart and way more active) which also accounted for the radio silence on the blog.  Lot's of chicken wire to install.   She is now current on her shots, so the youngest son and I plan to take her to the local dog park as soon as the weather cools down enough.  It feels pretty cool this morning, so I'm hopeful the day will be mild.
We're planning a weekend getaway to visit the redwoods, so I'd better end this here and get to packing.  We're bringing Nugget with us.  We found a motor inn there that allows dogs, so she'll get to come along.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

S.A.B.L.E. and Me

Being a breast cancer survivor is a strange and surreal experience at times.  Every now and then, as the length of time extends from the diagnosis to the present, you are caught off guard by stray memories of how it felt when you were dealing with the very earliest (darkest) days...One of those just happened to me.   For those visiting who are not knitters, "S.A.B.L.E" is an acronym which stands for "Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy".    For those not living with a (potentially) terminal illness, it is amusing, as most of us who knit have an embarrassingly large stash.  For those of us living with a life-threatening illness, it's not quite so funny as it was when we first heard it, back when we were healthy.

I had a flashback of the way it felt when I cast my eye over my yarn stash during those early days; there have only been a handful of times since I first picked up the needles that I have not had any desire to knit.  The first several months of treatments were one of them.  When I looked at my yarn at that time, all I could think was, "That is so much yarn, and now I will never knit it up.  It will still be here when I'm gone."  I could picture my husband and children having to look at it and dispose of it and what an emotional burden it would place on them.  I had zero interest in visiting yarn shops and purchasing more yarn or patterns.  Knitting seemed unimportant.  Why bother to buy more when I might not live more than a few months? 

I wanted to spend every moment that I had left on this earth being with my children or praying.  And I'm not talking about desperate prayers to God to spare me.  There were those, certainly.  I asked Him to give me more time to see my children grow up and become independent.  I asked Him not to take me until they didn't need me any more.  Especially the youngest, who has always loved me most ferociously.  But most of my prayer time was not anguish filled or desperate.  I loved the closeness I felt to Jesus during that time.  I wanted to spend time with Him, contemplating all the love He had shown me all my life.  I wanted to enter more deeply into what He was calling me to in this suffering.  He filled my life with such grace and joy, it was marvelous.  Adoring Him was my delight and unimaginable peace.  I felt His love in the most tangible fashion.  He told me two things constantly, "Be not afraid," and "my grace is sufficient for you."   During my battle, I knew He loved me and that made all the difference.  I knew that whatever the outcome, His choice for me was intended as a blessing beyond measure, and it would be okay.  No. Matter. What.

How many transitions cancer diagnosis brings with it.  There is so much adjusting to do, constantly.   Believe it or not, moving from active battle with the disease to living with being declared "cancer free" is an odd adjustment to make.   But I'm happy to report that I have moved into this phase fully now, if stash enhancement is an indicator:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I should Rename this Blog... "That Lady is Always Knitting Socks":

Fruit striped socks--done.  Only one little problem: I ran out of freaking yarn halfway thru the second one!  You'll notice the sock on the bottom has purple stripes of a different shade.  Well, they were for me, anyway.  I can't say I didn't know this was likely to happen.  I debated with myself on whether or not to make these ankle length instead of mid-calf.  I chose the dangerous path, knowing it was likely to bite me.  C'est la vie.  The yarn was Knit Picks Risata, if you're interested.  I think this may be my favorite Knit Picks sock yarn to knit with.  It is a cotton blend, very sturdy, and doesn't split.  Also, it comes in a lovely array of colors. 

And, no sooner were these off the needles, than I started these:

I'm calling them "Mojito Season".  I went with two different shades of Knit Picks Stroll this time.  There is more yardage in Stroll than Risata, but I still think I'll play it safe and go shorter on the leg portion.  I decided to do the heel flap differently on these.  This picture is not current.  I'm working the heel flap already and I'm not liking it.  I used my old standby, eye of Partridge instead of slip-stitch, and chose to go with the dark green alone, then using the light green for the heel turn, and resuming the striping after that.  I think it's probably going to look hideous, but knitting is about learning for me sometimes.  I'll know what not to do next time.  And these are for either me or my youngest who loves the handmade socks and won't mind that they are not aesthetically pleasing.
Of the several pairs I have made over the past few months, he has claimed all but the pink ones for himself, other than the ones I made specifically for other people.

And in other news, Princess Puppy Pants aka Nugget is settling in quite well.

 She appears to be growing a brain as she gets older, and has learned to sit and play fetch on command.  She is starting to answer to her name and is slowly getting better with the "stay" and "come" commands.  However, she still reserves her best behavior for when treats are involved, and will sometimes ignore commands when she knows there is no food in store.  

We left her outside in the dog run on her own while we were all out of the house for an hour or two on Father's Day.  Luckily, my sister happened to come by unexpectedly while we were out.  "Why?" you ask?  Why, because our darling pup had managed to squeeze herself between the bars of the gate barring the exit to the run, and was loose.  Sis rectified the situation and all was well.  But I can't wait until Nugget is big enough to safely leave alone in her dog run.  Oh, and did I mention she's a climber?  She'll climb any barrier that offers a horizontal crossbar like she's climbing a ladder, and then it's up and over.   And she can jump over her puppy play pen in a second flat, so that no longer works to effectively confine her indoors.   As soon as she's had all her shots, we are going to the dog park and work on some agility training.  I think she may be a natural.