Budget Meals

Spaghetti is definitely one of my go-to meals in the colder months. Especially when we’re craving some comfort. Tonight seemed like a good night for that.

January is always tough. I feel like it’s also the fastest month of the year. We’re almost through. Finances are tight. While better times should be ahead, now is still hard.

I just happened to go meat shopping on the right day. I was able to get twice what I had planned. Half of the beef went in the freezer, the other half was tonight’s spaghetti with leftovers. Half the chicken went into the freezer, while the other half will be put in the crockpot in the morning for whatever I decide to make for dinner tomorrow.

I was also able to make some box muffins for our bedtime snack and might have enough left for breakfast in the am. Everything is easier with a full belly. Hopefully the carbs will help everyone sleep.

Side Quest Arm Warmers

I grew up watching movies like Willow, Ladyhawke, Princess Bride, Labyrinth, The Never Ending Story… These movies are very magical pieces of both mine and my husband’s childhoods. Essential additions to our movie collection that we bolstered in our early years together. Willow is an especially dear one for us.

In those pre-children years we often stopped at different stores on our dates to buy movies. If we lived close enough to a video rental store, we would occasionally rent a few. It’s how we spent our off time together because we both worked a lot. When I became pregnant with our first child, we seemed to pick a lot of our childhood favorites.

When trying to decide on a name, we were watching Willow and really loved the name Elora. We decided to spell it with an A, giving her a bit of separation from our inspiration. And this, of course, meant our children have seen Willow many, many times; including behind the scenes and other extras.

I was very excited to hear about the tv show, but also nervous. I did not rewatch the movie beforehand and just went for it. My husband and I both really enjoyed it. It’s a sequel where the next generation is learning to take on the mantle as the previous one learns how to pass on what they can. I thought it was a great passing of the torch story with all kinds of references to the film. It’s not a remake. It’s the next adventure.

These warmers are inspired by the ones Elora wears when they begin their quest. As I was planning out the hooded wrap shawl she wears, yarn that I had purchased for fun seemed perfect for knitting something like her sewn ones. Broken rib stitch creates a nice hug while still stretching for movement. Plus, the inner texture is really soft.

They are snug at the wrist which helps the elbow portion stay in place. I have really thin wrists with a decent bicep and this is why I love knitting for myself. I can create the fit I want. Now my kids are asking for their own. High praise that makes me want to do it for them.

Snow Days

Snow Days have become something very different from my grade school years in this post pandemic environment. Since using laptops or tablets for classes during lockdowns, they have found a way to not need makeup days at the end of the year. Just do that instead of a surprise day off.

Part of me is really frustrated that they can’t just relax. We can’t just lay around watching tv or go play outside. Another part of me is grateful they have something to keep them occupied for some of the day. Away from each other. They’re at that age where getting along in short lived magical moments.

I have also noticed that my kids seem to enjoy it. They have lots of breaks and end a little early. They appreciate being able to relax in their rooms while doing their schoolwork. Our youngest stays with me and she has paper packets ready to go for these days. Nothing online except educational games, if she wants to. And of course she wants to.

While they’re not the Snow Days of my youth, they are what my kids will remember. I make them a nice, cooked breakfast. We have lunch together. They play outside when their work is done. And we have that mug of hot cocoa. At the end of the day we all feel like we had a bit of a breather, even if they did still have to log in for some lessons.

Ribbit Ribbit

It’s a swimmer. She would drown in this. My sister. I’ve been wanting to rework the whole pattern anyway. Shift a few cables. Change some moss to regular reverse stockinette. Alter the stitch count a bit.

I mean, that’s lap blanket size. I’m so glad I stopped to check. It was a feat rolling it all back up. I was actually less broken up about it than my husband and kids. They lamented while I cheerfully set to ripping.

Two balls later, it’s all wrapped up. No more sweater. And the rewrite begins.

Mushroom Aran

I finally have the sleeves set aside and am working back and forth around the body. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s going to be too big. I’ll probably keep going a bit longer and then put it on yarn to check the size. She wants it big and cozy, but I’m not sure she wants to drown in it.

I never do gauge swatches. They always fail me. I often change needle and yarn size and just sort of guesstimate what size pattern will get the size I want with the sizes I’m working with. Sometimes I get it wrong. But I’m ok with ripping it out and starting over.

I’ve gotten kind of tunnel visioned with this sweater, so I’ve managed some real progress. I’m rolling with it though. The enthusiasm will turn to fatigue and I’ll switch off to something else soon enough. Oh, and the yarn color is called Mushroom. Earthy.

What’s For Dinner?

Dinner was a hit! And I even forgot to add seasoning. Again. I’m really bad at that with casseroles. I would have been happier with some salt and pepper at least, but it was really good.

I was going to use egg noodles, but I guess I used them up already. So I grabbed three different kids of pasta. Each box holding what was too much for some other meal. Some cream of chicken, frozen broccoli, shredded cheese, and canned chicken.

While I cooked the pasta, I laid the broccoli out in the casserole dish to thaw a bit. Once the pasta was done, I mixed everything into the broccoli with some milk and cooked it for about half an hour at 400 Fahrenheit. Then I added some more milk (it was a little dry) and topped it with cheese to cook for another 5-10 minutes.

I made Shepherd’s Pie last night. No pictures, sadly. I think it was my best yet! I season the heck out of the ground beef and add plenty to the mashed potatoes (made from flakes), so the vegetables need nothing. I made it with peas and corn because that’s what we had. And I usually top it with cheddar cheese. So good!

Juggling Knitting

So many stitches!! This is the most frustrating part of raglan sweaters for me. I’m still adding stitches and shuffling them around and around the cable. Soon I’ll be able to set the sleeve stitches aside and just work the body, but until then I’m just pulling and pushing a lot of yarn.

It’s coming along though. I’ve spotted a mistake or two, but no one else will notice and they’re marks of an original, so they will stay. I’m hoping my sister will like it. I think she will.

Working on my sister’s cardigan means I have less time for my sweater, which I started a couple months ago. I think. It keeps getting put on the back burner for other projects. I did make a few things for my family for Christmas.

I made four of these and they always take longer than I anticipate.

So I was busy. Then I found a beautiful purple yarn while buying yarn for my sister’s sweater and couldn’t resist making myself something. I needed a hat that I’ll actually wear. And new fingerless mitts. I made one hat, but it was too small for my liking, so I made another, tweaking my design. I don’t take it off often. My middle one claimed the first one. Then I made mitts to match and they’re perfect.

While we were watching the new Willow, I remembered someone asking about making the hooded scarf shawl that Elora wears and my plans to make one myself. She also wears long arm warmers (not knit) and I decided to use the stitch pattern I used on my fingerless mitts for long arm warmers to go with the hooded scarf shawl.

This all means I’m currently working on two sweaters and arm warmers. I would be working on the scarf shawl, but both sweaters are using the needles I need for the yarn I bought. So, I have to finish one of them before I can get started. Which means I’m sticking with three projects. And lots of stretching!

It’s Not Just Making a Phone Call

On the surface it sounds simple enough. Just pick up the phone and do it. But it’s so much more complicated than that.

First, I need a script. I have a tendency to freeze when I panic, or forget everything as soon as the other person says “hello”. So I will practice what I need to say for a bit. Sometimes I make notes, or set out the papers with the necessary information.

That all takes energy. So I have to assess my energy level and the importance of getting the call done. If I’m low on energy and the call can wait, it waits. If it can’t wait, I have to build up my courage and pep myself up. If I have energy then I just attack it.

Now, I’ve spent energy prepping for the call. I’ve spent energy making the call. So I also need time to recover from the call. So, before I can even get to script writing, I need to figure out if I have the appropriate recovery time. If I don’t, the call waits.

All of this runs through my head the second I know I have to make a call. So I am then going over my schedule trying to find the spot that works best and talking myself into making that phone call every day leading up to it. Even that fails sometimes and I am left battling the guilt of putting it off for another week. Which, you’ve guessed it, takes energy.

I’m tired just writing about it. And maybe also from that phone call I tried last week and finally accomplished this morning. That’s one thing I’ve learned. Calls must be made between 8am and 10am, or in that short window between getting home from work and the kids getting home from school for the best results. I have also been getting better at making some calls between appointments at work. Getting them done and off my back is amazing for my anxiety! And, I finally made another phone call that took me three months to do a couple days ago. Time for some coffee, knitting, and relaxing.

And Again…

Once more I’m starting back at taking care of myself. It’s really an ebb and flow sort of thing. Phases of rest and stillness. And phases of activity and movement.

I’ve come to realize, or more completely understand, that I have a lot I’m still healing from. There is a lot I am helping my family heal from. Kindness has been a big theme for me these past several years.

With that in mind I have decided to start even smaller with my goals. Little steps towards better habits. The first of which is getting myself moving again.

I took a couple weeks away from work, adult responsibilities, and didn’t even leave the house. It was exactly what I needed. But now, I am feeling rather stuck and stiff again. So I have pulled out a trusty yoga magazine and am working my way through a strengthening program.

A few minutes a day of some focused yoga. Two days of core work. One day each of legs and hips, back, and arms and shoulders. I’d like to also start doing a restful routine in the evening, but a few stretches climbing into bed is all I’ve managed. At least I’ve kept up with the strength training. It feels good.

Still Early on the Journey

And this is why I don’t finish writing everything out before I start knitting. As I continued working on my second attempt stitches just weren’t lining up for the second sleeve or the other front panel. And I wasn’t liking the look of the thin line cables that frame the main diamond cables. They were getting lost amongst the moss stitches.

I realized I did need to make charts for the second sleeve and left front panel to keep it easy for me. Did I mention this is a raglan top-down cardigan? So I wrote out the framework in reverse and began writing it all onto the graph paper. I made a few notes and labeled everything.

Then I got a fresh page to write out the new pattern. After a few lines I tried it out for a third time and I think I’ve got it just the way I want. So I’m now using six pages of charts to write eight lines of pattern at a time and then knitting 16 rows. Then I repeat.

This is one of the fun parts for me. It can be frustrating and tiring because I have to keep starting over or redo the pattern, but once it starts coming together and the cables begin emerging from the stitches I get excited. All that hard work is paying off and my vision begins taking shape.