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.

Sweater Mania

The “Latte Swirl” sweater has been finished and sent and received! I’m super proud of how it turned out and I’m really proud of my ability to adjust the pattern to give my mom a perfect fit. She got it the day after Mother’s Day and sent me a picture right away. The elastic bind-off was great for this item too.

I’ve started my middle daughter’s sweater. Definitely not done by her birthday (today), but so far it fits, and she knows it’s coming. I’m not sure how I feel about the stripes, but then again, I’m not much for stripes. I also did a few of the things I know better than to do. I put the yarn balls and pull-skeins in a bag with holes in the top for the yarn. This meant tangling that was not so easy to twist out. I wound up cutting one color, running to the end of the ball with another color, and one didn’t fit in the bag in the first place, so all is untangled now.

Then I forgot to make sure all yarn strings were up through the circular needles, so I’m pulling one color up through the sweater to use. Ugh! I’ll be through the body soon and hopefully don’t repeat my mistake with the sleeves.

Next up is my sister’s cardigan. Her birthday also just passed and I’m hoping she won’t mind that her gift is a month late. I’m trying to keep it simple, but it rarely ever is with me. I’m slowly plodding my way through charting and pattern writing the plain top-down pattern with braid cables inserted on the body and the sleeves. It’s difficult and slow, but so worth it and so much fun! I’ve turned into a sweater maniac!

My Coffee Maker Broke

I woke up to my middle child crawling onto the couch with me at 5am to watch her current favorite show, Victorious. I can almost recite all the lines. We sat for a bit when I decided to make coffee and she settled in to start her school work. Ten minutes later my coffee maker sat silent, the pot empty. My sluggish brain was trying to search for a solution when my daughter said, “don’t you have that other thing to make coffee?” Bless you child! Yes!

These are the moments I try to really cherish. The rare mornings I only have one kid sitting here with me. We can snuggle and talk in a way that doesn’t happen with siblings around. Or just sitting quietly with them is really nice too.

Last night was another one of those wonderful spontaneous moments. It had been raining all day and the girls wanted a day off of hiking (even though they love the hikes). I love sitting out back and listening to the rain, so I thought the kids might like it too.

We have a cement patio at the back of the house, so we brought a blanket out and Candy Land. I knit, they played. When the game lost its fun, they found some umbrellas and ran around a bit. It was really nice.

Those waffles made a great breakfast again. I ate mine without syrup. And now my knitting is calling to me and that will be how I finish greeting the morning.

Oh Well, Time to Knit

I was suppose to accomplish a lot today. I had plans of greatness for today. The dining room was going to be conquered today. But it’s raining and I’m tired.

I did make those chocolate chip strawberry waffles.

I did about double the amount of cleaning yesterday that I had planned on, so I think I’ll allow myself to take a cue from Mother Nature and relax today. I’m sure I’ll get a few things done, but today will be a knitting day.

I had planned on sending my mom her sweater by today or tomorrow. Not sure I can pull that off. I still have to finish a sleeve, and weave and block. It’s coming along.

I’ve read a few of Moore’s books and he’s hilarious.
What I’m reading while I work on this sweater.

I’m working on the design for my sister’s sweater. I’m using a basic top-down pattern I found and then inserting some cabling. I think I’ve figured out which cables I want to use and I’ll be picking up the needles I ordered today, so I’ll have what I need to start it.

Then there’s my middle child’s sweater. I had hopes of finishing it before her birthday, but I knew that was too tall an order. It might just be a few days late, but she’ll be happy anyway.

Well, I’m off. I do have a few errands to run and I want to get them done sooner and then just take it easy today.

A Post Short

I’m having a tough time trying to find something to write about today. I’ve got a ton of ideas, but nothing is coming out right. I get going with something and delete it all.

I’ve been listing again. It started with the grocery list. I have a system that I have been perfecting since the kids were babies and making it through the store with the least amount of hassle was my goal. I make a list of meals that I want to make throughout the next two weeks (I use to shop weekly, but currently it’s biweekly). About 8 dinners, a few lunch ideas, and a couple breakfast ideas. Some dinners can be reheated, or turned into something else. I also give myself wiggle room to make stuff up. If I give myself too strict of a schedule I just get stubborn, or forgetful and waste a lot of food.

Then I go through the meals and check what I already have and make a list of what I’ll need to make everything. Then I add the kitchen staples that need replenishing and snacks. Then, I rewrite my list into groups and put them in order of how I move through the store. This has been my system for years. Once I’m home, I make sure to cook the meals with the most perishable ingredients first and work through the week. I keep the more labor intensive meals for earlier in the week, and the really lazy meals I save for later in the week.

After all that was done, I had to make a list of everything that needs to be done around the house. Room by room, I break down all the details of cleaning the room. I have to be able to check items off my list as I go or I feel like I’m not accomplishing anything. Have I mentioned I have OCD and anxiety? Lists help soothe my anxiety so I can put order to the chaos. Making them so meticulously calms my OCD and gives me the sense of control the disorder craves. Then I begin to work my way through the impossible task of organizing our house.

If I think about the whole project, I panic. I clam up and surrender. That’s not what this past month has been though, I swear. Life has been one impossible task on top of another on top of another. Making sure I could keep going to take care of my family involved a lot of shoving things aside and not dealing with it. I didn’t have time to fall apart. Years of some really challenging stuff, which I’m sure I’ll delve into little by little. The point is, this past month and a half has been the rest that I’ve been craving. The rest that I’ve been needing. That my kids have needed. And even though my husband is still working from home, it’s been the rest that he’s needed too. It has been really nice. (Even with the kids bickering). (Ok, even with us bickering with our kids sometimes too).

So now that I can breathe a little better, and my muscles are craving movement, and my mind is racing with inspiration, the house is an utter disaster. It puts us all on edge and I usually get about a week of ‘conquer the world’ energy and motivation every month. Now the shopping is done and I’m making a to-do list every night before bed, trying to think realistically of what I can accomplish. I’m in a hurry to create space for my kids to do their school work, as well as play and create stuff. I’m trying to bring the order back that we all crave right now.

To the side of the house chores I list out the meals for the next day and make sure I get anything I need to ready. I set out stuff for waffles in the morning. We have strawberries, chocolate chips, and powdered sugar. I’m excited. Plus the waffle iron is fun. It also takes away any anxiety I might have about trying to figure it out what to make when I might be caught off guard that it’s already lunch time. This way, I’m ready, and I can enjoy cooking; which I do.

Lastly, I’m adding yoga and ten minutes of focused workouts. Mostly body weight stuff. Pilates. I’m trying to re-teach my body proper form after a month of curling up to read and knit, or rough house with the kids. The youngest still crawls into bed with us most nights, and sometimes our middle one does too. It makes for some achy places in the morning.

Writing this makes me think of an episode of The Storyteller by Jim Henson called ‘A Story Short’. We’ve been watching it with the kids recently. Yet another show or movie that my husband and I both grew up with. We get excited about that stuff. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend looking for it. Jim Henson is an amazing storyteller himself. John Hurt is wonderful and all the puppeteers, the sets, the way the stories are told. It’s a must see at any age.

The last two days have been filled with much cleaning and sorting and getting rid of things that have been taking up space. It feels good, but it’s also good to take a break and enjoy the simple things. The little things that make up the big things. And most importantly, I am grateful for these moments with my kids and my husband.

A Little Too Small

Just rolled out of bed.

Well, I finished my daughter’s sweater. She was so excited when I woke her up in the morning and she tried it on. She just makes my heart melt. Then we took a look and the sleeves don’t touch her wrists and it’s a bit tight across her chest. She refused to take it off, until she herself had to admit it was too tight.

Now to find a 2 year old to give this to.

I will make her another one. The pattern was a lot of fun. I’ve already started my middle one’s. I’m changing up the colors and am going to make stripes instead of the two blocks of color. I think I’m having even more fun the second time around. I also love using this bag my sister gave me for Christmas! I keep all of my knitting and crochet supplies within.

Another thing I’m learning is that I really need to use scrap yarn for holding sleeve stitches so these sweaters can be tried on by me or my kids. My first sweater is wonderful, but if I ever make it again, I would definitely make a few changes. I’m really hoping this sweater for my mom fits. We definitely have different body types, but we have shared sweaters.

Almost there.

Hopefully I can finish this sweater in the next couple days and send it off to my mom. Then I’ll focus on sweaters for my kids, but I am working on the design for a sweater for my sister. I’m taking a basic top-down pattern and adding cabling. I can’t find any cable garment patterns I like, so I’ll just start making them up myself. That’s why I finally bought this.

What’s Left in the Pantry?

There is a stack of tires stinking up my kitchen. Our recycling is overtaking a whole corner of the house. The sink is full of dishes. The girls refuse to sleep. The laundry is backing up. And I think my kids are starting a water cup collection in their bedroom. But at least I can still whip up something everyone will eat. Tonight was one of my best ones, if I do say so myself. Stew Covered Cornbread.

I gathered things from the pantry and freezer. I’ve got all those boxes of Jiffy cornbread from my mom and I do love cornbread. Of course I always like to jazz it up. I didn’t have the ingredients for what I originally wanted to do, so I made stuff up as I went.

Canned corn is always sweeter, so that will work. No sour cream, or yogurt, so milk it is. And why not some shredded cheese? This was also the first time I followed that direction that say to let it sit for a few minutes before stirring again and pouring it in to the muffin cups.

Then the stew. I wanted to get rid of this awful can of chicken pot pie filling that I’ve had taking up space. I bulked it up with frozen veggies, cream of celery, canned chicken, milk, and whatever spices seemed right at the time. I heated it up on medium-high until it bubbled, then let it simmer with the lid on. It was amazing! The kids really liked it too.

I love my kitchen gadgets! This one is from my mom and is super easy to use and clean. Just mix up whatever muffin mix you want, pour in, and cook up. Wipes clean. With all these Jiffy boxes we’ve got, some donuts are in order. Apple Cinnamon donuts with applesauce. Easy snack.

Spaghetti is always a hit with the kids. And if I’m being honest, I get excited for spaghetti night too. I never really do anything fancy with it. I just cook whole wheat pasta (I find it more filling than white so I eat less). Ground beef gets salt, pepper, garlic, and chili pepper. Once it’s cooked I add whatever jar of sauce I have on hand, top with grated Parmesan cheese. The best is when there is enough leftovers, you can have baked spaghetti with melted cheese another night.