All Done and a few WIPs

I am very excited to say I finished the sweaters! All three of my girls have a similar sweater made to their style and with their favorite colors. Just in time for me to head back to work.

Now I’ve started a shawl for a friend. I love the beginning of a shawl. It starts to work up so quickly. Then the rows get longer and longer, and longer… The color changes I added to this one has been helping, but I don’t think the cable on the needles I’m using is long enough. Oh well, it’ll work.

I’m also really antsy to finish a vest for my brother. It was suppose to be a scarf, but it’s so wide I don’t think it will work. I don’t want to buy more yarn, and he can pull off a cable vest. Now, I have to figure out how to make a vest. And strangely I’m not dreading the seaming.

Then there is my Spring/Summer shawl I would like to finish in time to enjoy it this Summer. I’m still not sure if I like it, or if it will end up going to one of my daughters. I’m committed to it now and refuse to undo it. I may end up loving it and having them steal it from me anyway. I keep trying to convince them to knit their own. They’re both pretty good at it as beginners. If they kept at it they’d be amazing, but I won’t pressure them. Maybe someday they will make me shawls and sweaters. Hmm. A gal can dream.

Ready?

I find myself coming to a screeching halt as my first day back to work looms nearer. I thought I would use this time to ease my body back into use (I have been doing more stretching and yoga, but only one workout this week, so far), but instead, I find myself sinking into the couch, wrapping my hands around yarn and wooden needles, and finding even more reasons to love Downton Abbey, the 7th time through. As the world comes together in solidarity for the injustice facing so many Americans, I am shoring up my energetic resources.

See, I had my first near fainting panic attack since high school/college. I self talked and played games on my cell phone while waiting to cash out at the grocery store. I had fewer groceries than I had planned on getting. I knew better than to go to the store without a solid plan. At least right now. When I have to wear a mask. When everyone else’s emotions are so raw and tangible. I went on auto-pilot unloading my cart and paying. As I tried to calmly push my cart out of the store, I began to hyperventilate. I managed to hold the tears back as I loaded up my car and then sat in my air conditioned car and let myself panic. Just a little.

See, I can’t tell myself it’s all ok. I can’t tell myself to calm down. It makes me panic more. If nothing is wrong, then why can’t I breathe? I turned my stereo on. Music is always soothing. Driving helps too. So I drove and stopped to buy my first drive-thru coffee since this whole thing began. It was wonderful. Then the panic returned. The rest of my day was an ebb and flow of different levels of panic. My husband sat with me. He often leans on me just enough to give me that pressure comfort without making me feel trapped. We went for a walk in the woods. By the end of the day, I was so wiped. I had forgotten how exhausting these days are.

So, I’m managing some of the movement self-care. I did do some yoga before the walk, so I would be ok for the car ride (we drive to the woods). As I thought through what may have triggered me, I recognized a few things that I can do differently next time. Being better prepared with a list and a plan is always important for me. It was also interesting to notice part of what started my spiral was everyone’s good mood. After all the fear and anger that had been escalating these past couple months, and now with police response to peaceful protesters, and the looters and rioters with their own agenda, it snapped me off balance.

As I prepare to return to massage therapy I need to find my balance. I am very excited to be returning; it is part of who I am. The unknowns of returning to work may be a bit panic inducing for me, but when it comes to the actual massage, I’m better at it than I am at breathing.

Three Wee Sweaters

This sweater has been a bit of a different experience for me. I like to let my daughters pick the colors for what I make them and did the same with these sweaters. I love the pattern so much, I wanted to make them each one.

Now my kids are like most and are each unique and quite individual. They also like having similar clothes to match with each other. I thought it would be fun to alter each sweater just a bit. My middle daughter’s was easy. Two pinks, two purples, and stripes. While I really don’t enjoy stripes, it was pretty straight forward design. Picking the buttons was a bit difficult, but really these were the only ones that made sense.

Then my youngest picked her colors and they lent themselves to a different design. She is quite taken with Frozen and I found a stitch pattern to add into the middle. I did second guess myself a bit and used a life-line for the first time, just in case I hated the look of it. Turns out, I really liked it. The button choice on this one was actually easy. I had set most of these buttons to the side for a previous idea; I guess they were actually meant for this one. Adding the seed stitch as the hem really pulled it all together for me.

Now I’m making my way through my oldest’s version. Again, she chose the colors, only this time, I’ve been consulting her on the pattern a bit. At first she had this golden yellow color and I just could not imagine it looking right against her pale skin. Then she said no, she wanted this pale yellow, which totally made sense. I had already decided to do a rib style collar this time, instead of the seed stitch like the other two.

I stuck to straight stockinette stitch for the yoke and then thought to do the yellow as a ribbed stripe through the middle. As I worked on it, I just could not get on board, but I knew I was close to something. I found a cable pattern with the purls in and stretched it out. Then I thought the red would be nice in just plain ribbing, but now I’m continuing the cable design. I rather like the way it’s going. This sweater keeps surprising me. Then I thought to make the sleeves just black, but my daughter insists on them matching the body, so that is what I will do. At least it’s been a fun knit.

Before We Return

I’m not really sure what to write. The joys of being a writer. I’ve got plenty to say, but nothing wants to come out right. We’re almost done with school for the year, which seems strange to say since all that will change is that I won’t be arguing with my older two to get it done. And thankfully their school issued iPads will be collected for the summer.

Hang on, time for the air conditioner! I need to lend a hand.

Knowing that this sort-of vacation/break is almost over has me knitting and relaxing even more. Once I’m back at work I won’t be able to knit as much, and not really because I’ll have less time, but my hands can only take so much. With that in mind, I’m also trying to get back into my stretching routines again and icing my arms down at the end of the day. It really helps reduce the inflammation from excessive use.

I work really hard with everyone in this family on communication. It is one the hardest skills to learn and yet it is one of the most valuable. We also encourage taking a moment alone to calm and collect ourselves if it’s all too much. And respecting that person’s space when they go to take it. I think that is a lot of what has made this time really enjoyable.

For now, I’m going to sit back and soak in the lack of expectations. I am going to have zero guilt for doing nothing this week. I am going to stretch as my body desires with no agenda other than to feel everything again. And most of all, I’m going to soak up these kids before this chance is gone.

Kitchen Magic

Chinese style stir-fry is always a favorite in this house. I’ve started stocking up on dry lo mein and rice noodles for those nights when I need to whip up something quickly with as little effort as possible. I keep chicken nuggets or tenders and frozen vegetables stocked up in the fridge too. I threw the veggies in with the pasta to cook. The middle picture above is all the stuff I put on the noodles. It was delicious!

This one sounds strange, even to me, but it was amazing! It’s chicken salad topped with kalamata olives, carrots, and feta. And of course I put a pita with it. Then one of my favorite breakfasts of scrambled eggs with broccoli and cheese. Served up with some oven baked bacon and toasted bagel.

I had almost forgotten about this recipe. It is one of my favorites. This time I baked a whole bunch of chicken in the oven for the week and cooked the sweet potatoes and peppers on the stove with cinnamon and ginger. Dessert was easy Pillsbury blueberry biscuits.

Best lunch so far this week! Growing up in Buffalo, NY I ate a lot of Greek food. This is my take on Souvlaki and it made me sweetly homesick. I heated the pita, chicken, and bacon with some feta first. Then I topped it with lettuce, sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, kalamata olives, more feta, and a honey balsamic dressing. I ate it down like a salad until I could fold it up to eat like a sandwich. Absolutely amazing!

Another hit! Baked potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and Asiago, spinach sausage. I baked the potatoes and sprouts first for about 40 minutes and then added the sausage for another 30 minutes. It may have taken less time if I had had the oven high enough. The kids loved it, but this one only wanted the sprouts and my oldest only ate the sprouts and the sausage.

Finally started making Sangria. Yummy. S’mores are made in the toaster oven. And this sweater is managing to come along nicely.

Passing Time

It’s interesting to me how the strangest things remind me of how much time has gone by when you have kids. Like when you carry them to bed and more and more of their limbs hang over your arms until there is just too much of them to carry anymore. The first morning you oversleep and don’t wake in a panic that one of your children has set the house on fire while you were sleeping. When they can suddenly see over counters or reach higher shelves than before.

One day you’re buckling you’re infant into her re-facing car seat and the next they’re buckling themself in without even a booster seat! No more strollers or wagons, they’re all too big now. When I see my youngest finally wearing something that both her older sisters wore I get a little nostalgic for when my older ones were smaller.

I definitely have no desire to go back in time. I do not miss the days of diapers, of waking every few hours to either feed, change, soothe, or clean up accidents, nor the days of tantrums and wild energy. It was exhausting! I actually watch this passage of time with joy. I get to be a part of watching these amazing people develop and decide who they’re going to be. I get to rediscover things I’ve loved along the way and have forgotten about. They teach me all kinds of new things about the world, and about myself.

That, to me, is one of the greatest gifts my kids have given me. I can see myself so much more clearly and they make me want to be the person I have always dreamed myself to be. We work together at being kinder, at forgiving and moving on, taking time and space away if we need it. My husband and I both really try to talk about their big feelings with them, and through this, we talk about how we’re all really unsure of what’s going to happen next, and none of us really know. But that’s okay as long as we are together and help each other through as a family. We have to be more forgiving right now because everyone is a bit off these days and we could all use a little more forgiveness-both ways.

So as we find our ways to mark the passing of time during these unusual months, I hope you can take a pause every once in a while, and take stock of where your time has led you and what your present moment can teach you about yourself. With that, you can make the choice to continue or change. Just know that while continuing may seem easier, and it can be for a while, in the long run, the struggle, the effort, and often the pain of change, births beautiful things.

A Shawl It Is

When I took knitting up again, I was 25, married, pregnant with our first, and stuck at home unable to work. I had been a server and the pain from being on my feet was overwhelming. This meant that my husband, and the only friend or family I had in the area, was at work, a lot. Nights. We hardly saw each other.

Through all our moves (at one point I counted 13 moves in 9 years), I had managed to keep the sets of knitting needles I was given after my grandmother died. (And no, she did not teach me to knit, and yes, I only got them because no one else in the family knit and they all thought she taught me.) I had gotten what was left of her yarn too, so I set to work making a baby blanket while I waited for our little one to arrive. I can’t remember what else I knit during her early years, but I know it was enough that my mom won me a knitting yarn basket when she came across the chance. It was so nice to have so much yarn to use. And at this point, our darling daughter was pretty easy to keep content.

The next time my mom won me a yarn basket, we were living back in my hometown and we were expecting baby number two! This time it had a How to Crochet book, a set of hooks, and all the other basics I would need for crochet. I set to it and learned how to crochet. Thank goodness too because knitting with an infant and a toddler was impossible. Crochet allowed me to continue to keep as much sanity as I could and have a way to show my love and appreciation to others. I began to crochet Christmas gifts with all the yarn I had been given at a time when we could not afford those things. I was able to make gifts for my kids too.

These early gifts were not necessarily really well constructed. I still knit a few things too and my family and friends accepted these gifts gratefully. My gratitude to the people who appreciated what I was giving them drove me to increase my skill and branch out. I bought magazines and learned how to correct patterns in crochet pretty quickly. I could find almost anything I wanted online. The concepts of crochet came pretty quickly for me and I loved challenging myself with it. I stuck to small items I could get done quickly so everyone could get something.

By the time baby number three arrived I was really only crocheting. It was too much to risk losing all that work and it was so hard to focus on knitting. Crochet was fast and, for me, super simple. I made decorations for the holidays and really made some cool stuff. A few people have been less than grateful and even rude about what I’ve made them. Others were honest about what they like to wear, so that I could make them something they would really get some use out of, which is important to me.

Occasionally I come across a look from someone, or a slight shift in body language, or even a rude comment when I haven’t made something for someone, but they see me giving a gift to someone else. I ignore it. They usually have no idea why I made that person a gift. No idea what kind of a history created that piece. And it’s none of their business, and they wrote themselves off my list with that character reveal, if they were even on it in the first place.

It can take me months to decide on a pattern for a person. Then I look through and see what I need to adjust, or I’ve decided to blend a few patterns. That can take weeks of pattern work and choosing yarn. Then there’s usually one or two unintentional practice runs before the piece gets underway. I think of the person the whole while, putting our stories into the loops and weaving in hope for the future. It’s a soul-work for me. A spiritual practice. If what I am creating does not bring me peace or feeds my anxiety, I won’t do it.

I guess some people feel insulted if I’ve never made them anything, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t have something in the works. These things take time and the order I do things in is part random and part plan. I am making an effort to make more for myself. I want to wear this stuff too!

After finishing my middle one’s sweater and starting on my youngest’s remake, I will be making myself a summer shawl. Not something I usually do, but I have this pretty light-weight yarn that would be prefect and I think I’m beginning to like shawls. I decided this would be my next project because I began having project anxiety. I kept coming up with more projects and more gifts to make and I get resentful. So a shawl it is.

What Are You Reading?

I have been in love with books and writing since I was very young. Cursive was particularly alluring to me. I remember the pang I felt when I could not understand those scrolling letters and words. I remember the joy of finally mastering it and then transforming my script into my own. Blank pages have always called to me and books have always been a way to nourish myself.

One of my favorites has always been Sherlock Holmes. I read the abridged version of The Hounds of Baskerville as a kid and fell in love. I’ve reread a lot of his stories and, of course, seen films and tv shows with their own recreations.

There has always been something comforting about Sherlock to me. The way his mind worked and the way people responded to him. I, too, have a strange way of perceiving the world. At least people tell me it’s strange. I remember reading one of the conversations between Sherlock and Watson and being delighted that someone could explain it. The deducing he does is so natural to him, that it was hard for him to explain the steps of his reasoning to get to his conclusions. There was such an intricate design within his mind of information that it almost seemed to be magic. Knowledge is magic.

I’m also a huge fan of that era. He is one of the only characters to handle the expectations of gender roles in society at that time while still treating women with respect.

Which leads me to my newest discoveries is the world of Sherlock Holmes. The Lady Sherlock series. The first book took a few chapters to get going, but it was worth all the set-up. Sherry Thomas is amazing at crafting a reality where instead of Sherlock being born a man, he was born a woman in a time when massive intellect was not for those of the feminine persuasion. Her knowledge of that era and how society worked transports you into that time. Her characters are wonderfully colorful and unpredictable. Truly, I am so thrilled to have a female heroine of the same caliber. (Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman is also an amazing series with a super awesome female protagonist!)

And because I’m the kind of nerd who likes to learn everything I can about the things that really speak to me, I also bought a book of facts about Sherlock Holmes in his entirety. I pick through it from time to time. It’s a lot of fun to see what I have figured out for myself and I love learning all the in’s and out’s of how Sherlock became so famous!

I’m itching to read one of these books, or Fearless, by Elliot James. It’s the third in a dark fantasy series about a former Knight of Templar who has mixed werewolf blood. It’s laced with witty/nerdy humor and combines a lot of my interests into a fun read. It kind of reminds me of Jim Butcher’s series “Harry Dresden”.

Right now, I’m reading a book I borrowed from my dad. I don’t think he’s in any hurry to get it back, but I really want to just finish it and return it. I love this guy’s books, but it’s not exactly what I’m in the mood for these days. “A Dirty Job”, by Christopher Moore. It’s a San Francisco style read. That’s where it takes place, but I’ve read a few authors who write in this similar style of San Francisco underbelly where magic is possible; in this weird off-beat way. “Fool“ is one of my favorites by Moore (a twist on Shakespeare). I can really get through some pages in “A Dirty Job” while I’m knitting this dang striped sweater, though. Why did I choose to do stripes this way? I hate making stripes like this! Oh well. The sweater is almost done and I’m halfway through the book.

Who Needs Sleep?

It’s about 2:30 in the morning and my oldest just fell asleep. Everyone else in the house is out and I, of course, am still awake. As much as I fantasize about enjoying a quiet cup of coffee early in the morning, sitting outside, soaking in the peace and quiet, it is not in the cards for me. I mean it happens on those super rare days when I don’t even manage a few hours of sleep. As much as I enjoy those days, I’d rather get my sleep.

Wrapped in her favorite blanket.

So, what usually happens is that every so often I stay up really late simply to achieve some alone time. I’m an introvert at heart. I need to be alone long enough to unstick my energy from everyone else around me, which this quarantine has been nice for. Although grocery runs are down to once every two weeks because, well, we all know what the grocery stores are like now. And here we are, now approaching 3 am.

After spending two days graphing out the cabling for my sister’s sweater onto 7 pieces of paper with a color coding system to boot, and organizing a few things around the house, I’m trying really hard to focus on this pink and purple sweater. My youngest and I decided on the colors for her remake and I’m excited to get that started too. And then there’s this shawl I want to make and my sister’s sweater…

Well, sleep grabbed me at 4:30 am. I woke up at 8:30 to my middle one cuddling me and turning on the X-Box for some Minecraft before breakfast. Of course my oldest then woke and after some snuggling, I got to work on my coffee. Now that my coffee maker is done for, I’ve been brewing two pots of French press every morning and pouring it into a thermos carafe. It keeps my coffee hot all day, but this also means making my morning brew is a little more involved than it use to be.

Thanks to the school food delivery, breakfast is super simple and I can let us all relax for a few hours. I prefer to wake up slowly. Feel out the day and my mood. Soon I’ll give the kids a snack and get to school work. Now that we’ve switched to paper, it’s been a lot easier to get it done. My middle one also works with the teacher during her office hours every day now. It’s been really nice not fighting on and off for hours about school work.

And of course, I’ll be knitting all the while…

Comfort Food

During quarantine the school district here was able to set up a meals on wheels type program where any kid 18 and under living in this district can sign up for free meals to be delivered to their house. Breakfast and lunch. It has been such a big help in the obvious way of helping with food cost, but it also gave my kids a sense of normalcy at the beginning of this. Foods they were familiar with from school eased some of the anxiety this started out creating.

Food has an incredible power in our lives. It can elicit soul-deep responses in people and transport you to another time and place. It can revolt you, nourish you, delight your senses. I just love having fun in the kitchen to feed the people I love or care about.

Moving into the second week of the groceries, we had leftover chicken stew over buttermilk biscuits (yes, the Jiffy ones that my mom sent us). The girls ate it up. Always a proud moment. And with all these cold snaps, it’s the perfect comfort food before bed.

We also had a beef and potato casserole. I just made a box of scallop potatoes, cooked ground beef on the stove with seasonings (typically salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and a couple others), and then mixed it all together and heat a little longer in the already hot oven. That was another hit. I love casseroles. It’s so simple to pick a couple items and put it all together, stick it in the oven and come back when it’s done. Sometimes, 4 o’clock is the perfect time to start dinner. Then it’s in the oven when the crazy hour hits and I can play with the girls until it’s ready at 5 or 5:30.

Then we had California Cheesesteaks with sweet potato fries. Frozen cheesesteak meat is super easy to cook up and added to the mayo and lettuce on the bun, it was really good. I’ll have to cook more meat next time. I love how easy these were. It’s also nice when your husband gets hungry late and makes both of you cheesesteaks while the kids are sleeping.

Lunch tends to be a lighter affair for me. It’s just the way my metabolism works, which I discovered through trial and error over the years. I eat light during the day and heavy at night. I prefer produce and protein during the day, and carbs with some protein and produce at night. The carbs at night keep me going through the day. All that means is that salads are my go to for lunch. Heavy on protein and veggies.

This salad has avocado, tomato, cucumber, feta cheese, slow-cooked chicken, and a balsamic fig dressing. The kids had their boring side-salad style with Ranch. They absolutely hate balsamic anything. I’ve tried. I’ll try again, but usually I just give them Ranch.

The last one here is the kids’ lunch. Turkey and cheese on a bagel, toasted together in the toaster oven, with honey mustard and a side of pineapples. And of course, we occasionally use paper plates for a bit of a break on dishes. Time to clean the kitchen again.