Catching My Breath & Some Finished Knits

 

Holy Guacamole. The past 5 months have about done me in. I still can’t believe it, but we made some BIG changes in rapid succession. Husband and I are always looking toward the current plan, the 5-year plan, and the retirement plan. With G-Man being a senior in high school and Bear not too far behind, we have often talked about moving away from home and making a change.

But one day, during our many conversations, he cut to the heart of the matter, which was that deep down, we never want to be too far away from our families. We also know that college students are like boomerangs. You may set them free, but they come back quicker than you think. So, we vetoed major moves while the boys are in college. Bean still has plenty of time before that’s a concern.

But, if we planned on staying in Louisiana, we wanted to settle into a home that was better for our long-term plans. Fast-forward a week, and we found a house, like THE house that ticks all of the boxes for at least the next ten years. So, long story short, we bought the house, moved, sold our house, and all the crap that comes with it. After this, I’m ready for life to settle down.

In the meantime, I finished a few knits in between all of the chaos:

I finally assembled Knitterati 2018 Gradient Lapghan. I’m glad this project is complete, let me tell you.

Pattern: Tale as Old as Time (available for for purchase on Ravelry).

Yarn: Must Stash Yarn’s Perfect Must Match in the La Belle Et La Bete colorways.

Needles: US 2

Notes: Technically, after reading the pattern, I just did a provisional cast-on of 112 stitches in the round, knit until I was getting close to being out of yarn, and grafted the ends together.

Pattern: Beeswax Hat (available for purchase on Ravelry)

Yarn: Plymouth Yarn Baby Alpaca DK in the Chestnut colorway.

Needles: US 6

Notes: I love the cable hack she has in this pattern. It makes it a pretty quick knit.

Pattern: Crisp Apple Strudel (available for purchase on Ravelry)

Yarn: Berocco Vintage DK in the Pumpkin colorway.

Needles: US 5

Notes: I love these. That is all.

Pattern: Basic Granny Square (free on Ravelry).

Yarn: Caron Cakes in the Berries & Cream colorway.

Hook: US H

Notes: Tried my hand at some basic crochet. I did this small blanket as a learning project, and I just wasn’t a fan of the process. I think I’ll try again someday, but for now, knitting is my thing.

Pattern: PussyHat Project (free on Ravelry).

Yarn: Spud & Chloe Worsted in the Penguin colorway.

Needles: US 7 and US 9

Notes: Altered the pattern to knit in the round.

Pattern: Pixelated (available for purchase on Ravelry).

Yarn: Shelridge Yarns Windmere Bulky in the Thistleflower colorway.

Needles: US 11 & US 13

Notes: Cute pattern and I added a removable pompom to the top.

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We are just about to finish the last few house projects this week, and then it’s on to *gulp* college tours. Send bourbon stat!

 

 

 

 

 

A Finished Knits Round-Up

So, I’m finally getting around to posting all the finished projects I completed recently. Without further ado, here are the details:

Pattern: Celestarium Shawl

Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in the Deep colorway

Needles: US 4

Notes and Mods: The beads on this shawl mimic the night sky as seen from the North Pole. Used silver-lined beads from Michaels and applied them using the crochet hook method. Used the circular cast on with crochet hook. Just placed bead in the loop before picking up the stitch. I also used kfb for the increases instead of M1 because its faster and easier for me. I set up the pattern in Knit Companion and used magic markers to count stitches. As this got bigger, I pre-marked bead placement on each row with removable stitch markers. Taking one minute to do that on a large row saved time counting stitches along the way and made the project portable, as it became just endless knit stitches with a bead here or there. I omitted the  YO/ktog. I like the look of projects that did not better. Finally, I incorporated Stellar Waves edging instead of original border.

Pattern: Elm Blanket

Yarn: Yarn Bee Soft & Sleek Solids in the Mustard and Teal Green Colorways

Needles: US 8

Notes and Mods: I have no clue why they call this that colorway teal green because it is far more blue. Otherwise, the pattern is very easy and I like going with less traditional colors for babies.

The remaining projects were from the Cascade 2018 Gradient Lapghan Knitterati knitalong.

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 6 from the Knitterati 2018 knitalong.

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in the Forged Iron colorway

Needles: US 7

Notes and Mods: I should have gone down a needle size. My row gauge was off and I had to omit a few rows.

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 7 from Knitterati 2018

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in Blue Indigo colorway

Needles: US 7

Notes and Mods: Only did five pattern repeats because my row gauge was a but off on this one as I was too lazy to swatch.


Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 8

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in the Country Blue colorway

Needle: US 6

Notes and Mods: Had to go down a needle size from the pattern because I could tell after 2 rows it was way too big.

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 9

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in Iguana colorway

Needles: US 5

Notes and Mods: Fabric construction was interesting, so I am skeptical it will hold the dimensions evenly when final blanket is assembled.

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 10

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in the Blackberry Wine colorway

Needles: US 6

Notes and Mods: None. Easy knit.

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 11

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in the Glacier Grey colorway.

Needles: US 7

Notes and Mods: I should have gone down a needle size as the is pushing the dimension limit. I don’t like the way these cables look. They are too puffy in the middle.

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 12

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in December Sky colorway.

Needles: US 7

Notes and Mods: Fastest and easiest of the blocks but probably should have gone up a needle size. I had to block this pretty aggressively to get it to size.

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 13

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in the Grapeade colorway

Needles: US 7

Notes and Mods: I liked the twisted stitch detailing.

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 14

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in Flint Grey colorway

Needles: US 7

Notes and Mods: I hate bobbles. That is all.

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 15

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in the Violet Ice colorway.

Needles: US 6

Notes and Mods: I liked the structural detailing on this one.

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 16

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in the Chive colorway

Needles: US 7

Notes and Mods: Just glad to be done. Now I just need to suck it up and assemble the blanket and border.

So, there ya go. I think I may be ready for some instant gratification knitting.

Totally About to Go All Marie Kondo Up in Here

Do you ever feel like you are a master imitation of a broken record? I finally realized that’s exactly how I sounded when, for the 1000th time, I remarked to a friend this that it’s been a tough year. Scratch that, a tough four-plus years. After losing Dad last year, we went on to lose both our neighbor and good friend, followed shortly thereafter by my uncle. Considering that I already win the award for “Most Unhealthy Ways to Cope with Grief,” I’m not at all surprised that I’ve been operating on semi-toxic fumes for far too long.

But this last week, we took a long-planned family vacation, which was amazing, exhausting, and magical. When we came back to Louisiana, spring was in the air, with the wisteria in full bloom and the grass already filling in the winter-brown lawn. I know the hellfire summer is just around the corner, but something about coming home to a landscape transformed on the tails of a truly epic vacation gave me the kick in the ass I sorely needed. I spent the past couple of days thinking about what needs to change, and as the title suggests, I’m about to go Marie Kondo both literally and figuratively on myself, and my environment. It’s time for some physical, emotional, and spiritual spring cleaning, and part of that is returning to this space and getting back to the things that spark joy, as cheesy as that sounds.

So before I get back to it, let’s take the 50-cent recap of the past months, shall we?

First, I invested in an amazing smoker and subsequently smoked allllll the things, including all my neighbors’ Thanksgiving turkeys, lots of pork butts, bratwurst, and so on. One day, I want to volunteer with Operation BBQ, and help those suffering from disaster or displacement.

Bean joined the Cub Scouts!

She’s having a blast.

I knit a blanket for a special baby and won second place at the State Fair:

We did a winter garden of cabbage, broccoli, spinach, and carrots. (We also planted strawberries in the fall for a late spring/early summer harvest):

And finally, I finished all of the Knitterati 2018 blocks (though I have yet to assemble the blanket and add the border):

Oh, and one more project. Dad’s wife asked me to make pillows from some of his dress shirts:

So, even if I was not at my best this past year, I can say that I kept making. However, I think it’s time to dust off the cobwebs and realize that maybe there’s a bit more nuance between seemingly normal and truly healthy. If anything, at least my house will be cleaner…maybe. Probably.

Definitely maybe.

Finished Knits

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 5 which is part of the ongoing Cascade Yarns Knitterati 2018 KAL. It’s available for purchase on Ravelry.

Yarn: Cascade 220 Merino in Pale Lilac colorway.

Needle: US 7

Notes and Mods: No real notes on this one. It was easy and straightforward.

Pattern: Protest is Patriotic Shawl by Nycraft Craftivist, available for free on Ravelry

Yarn: Loops & Threads Woolike in Red, White, and Navy

Needles: US 4

Notes and Mods: I knit this as written, but carried the red and white yarns up the side rather than weave in 1000 ends. If I were to make it again, I would follow what others did and use white beads for the stars rather than the white yarn. The stitches are too small to really pop against the blue. Otherwise, I love it. Also, I was pleased with the yarn in general, and it’s a good option for projects on a budget.

 

Summer’s End–Family, Community, and Canning.

School started this week, and for the first time, its arrival felt bittersweet. Usually, by this time, I feel like I will sell my soul to their teachers in exchange for removing the Heathens from my home for a few hours a day. August means we’ve devolved into who-looked-at-who the wrong way, which in turn, ends up being a crossover between “Who Moved My Cheese?” and The Hunger Games.  This year, however, summer seemed to fly by at a too-rapid pace. It doesn’t help that G-Man is a junior, Bear is a freshman, and Bean is in (gulp!) first grade. I wish I had a few more days at the pool or the camp, but in the end, the promise of less than 100-degree heat means that I’ll get over it quickly. So, the summer recap:

We had our epic family reunion with my 80-plus cousins who are just as zany as we are, fun days at the Gulf and the camp, questionable fishing, and general mayhem:

There was some knitting, which I will post about tomorrow:

I smoked and cooked at bit (including hosting 4th of July for our neighborhood, and tackling fresh pasta):

But, if I had to sum up this summer, I would call it The Summer of Canning. We spent the spring installing and planting several raised beds in our postage stamp-sized back yard. We hope to adopt a year-round gardening plan down the road, but ultimately, I think the Husband and I feel called to find a balance between the frantic digital pace of modern daily life, and the skills, traditions, and values that we internalized from our parents and grandparents.

We want to raise well-balanced, knowledgeable kids that have adequate life skills by graduation, or at least some exposure to many things and the attitude that they can figure crap out if they try. This isn’t just about gardening. G-Man must have changed tires on the family car six times this summer as we dealt with failing tires and those pesky nails the contractors down the road kept dropping. He also has a bank account, and I’ll send that kid to the Kroger at the drop of at hat, which means he now knows where to find vinegar and pectin, and the difference between a poblano and a banana pepper. G-Man and Bear can cook a meal, bake a mean cookie, and follow a recipe while adapting if needed. As such, the garden is another extension of our desire for fresh produce and deliciousness, while modelling life skills that might keep our kids from being left for zombie bait in the event of a Walking Dead scenario. Kidding…Kidding…

But, with that garden, came the dilemma of keeping up with it. I swore to the Husband that I would not let his efforts go to waste. I’ve written about canning before, but this behemoth was beyond my ability to manage, or at least my available time. But then, the blessing came. My neighbor had never canned and wanted to learn, so I did a quick recipe with her (that she brought over) so she could get the basics. One thing led to another. Before long, we transformed into a well-oiled operation of shared labor and shared bounty. We worked side-by-side each week, harvesting, prepping, and putting up recipe after recipe. We fought the bugs, the heat, our restless kids, and the burn of hot peppers from forgotten gloves. As the days blended together, we visited, shared stories and memories, and ended up with overflowing pantries of salsa, jalapeno jelly, serrano jelly, pickled peppers and onions, cucumber relish, pickles, spicy tomato jam, pickled jalapenos, and more.


We even put together and vacuum-sealed bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers for fall and winter entertaining. A full pantry and freezer soothes my soul and makes me feel more connected to the strong women in my family tree. That was something I didn’t expect, but I’ll take any day.

Over these intense kitchen sessions, I noted to my neighbor that I can now see why chores like canning, quilting, butchering, and harvesting historically often turned into group events. People helped their neighbors or friends with these labor-intensive activities not only to share the load, but also to connect in a way we now have lost, and which we often miss in our disconnected, overworked, digital lives. (and yes, I get the irony of saying that on my digital blog, but I do believe we can all find a better balance between the power of the internet to connect and educate us, and the temptation for it to consume us at the expense of genuine experiences). Whether we were enveloped by steam from the canner, or got lost in the hours of chopping 12 pounds of tomatoes at a time, we strengthened our bonds as both friends and neighbors in a way that made me feel closer to her, and my family’s history and traditions.

So, as I come to summer’s end, I still feel like it flew by, but as I reflect, I also think of it as time of connecting with family and neighbors, cultivating skills, and transitioning from the tragedy of losing my father to letting the light back in. That, if anything, was probably the best takeaway of all.

But you know what’s even better about summer’s end? I can now plan the Halloween decorations and party. Mwhahahah!

Craft, Craft, Craft All Day Long–Finished Knitting and Cricut Projects

It’s already Satan’s Sauna here in Louisiana, which does not bode well for just how miserable we will all be come August. The garden is in and going great, and I’ll probably put up a post later in the week about the new raised beds we built. The husband has been travelling constantly, so I’m happy we were able to get this project done in time for the summer season.

Anyway, throughout the May Gauntlet, I managed to squeak in a couple of more finished knits:

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 4 from Cascade Yarn’s Knitterati 2018 KAL

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in the Seafoam Green colorway (note–the yarn does have the tiniest hint of green in it. It just did not photograph well)

Needles: US 7

Notes and Mods:  I followed the pattern as written then pinned it to dimensions using my knit blockers. I sprayed it lightly with water and let dry. This is Cascade’s recommended method as this yarn does not do well with wet blocking. Overall, I like the block, but with almost 100% of the RS rows featuring cabling, it’s certainly not on-the-go knitting, but otherwise, all the techniques are suitable for an advanced beginner.

Pattern: Just a basic Vanilla Sock for the Husband

Yarn: Sidar Sole to Sole in the 163 colorway

Needles: US 1 DPNs

Notes and Mods: I keep a sock project bag in my car in case of knitting emergencies, so these came together on and off over the past year. Don’t let the pic fool you, these do fit my husband. I had G-Man try them on to take a project picture, and his foot is a little smaller. FYI–Hubs wears a size 12, so I CO 72 stitches, did about 1-1/4 inches of 2×2 ribbing, then knit in stockinette for about 6-3/4 inches (measured from the top) before starting the heel flap. Once the flap was done and stitches picked up, I knit the foot, which was about 8-1/4 inches from the heel flap, and then started the toe decreases. For his next sock, I am going to try the Vanilla is the New Black pattern because I think the heel might be better.

In addition to the knitting, I also have been playing with my new Cricut, which definitely has a learning curve. Here are a few of the test items:

I’m hoping to experiment some more when we get past the family reunion this weekend. Otherwise, I’ll be surviving the heat and enjoying slower days.

Friday Eating and Reading (As I Army-Crawl Across the School Year Finish Line)

It’s Friday, and I am still in the trenches of what we call the May Gauntlet around here. This month consists of three of my family of five’s birthdays, Mother’s Day, another trip to Science Olympiad Nationals for the Hubs and Bear after winning State, Confirmations, graduations, finals for G-Man, driving test for G-man, and yet another week-long business trip for the Hubs. I am, in a word, overdone.

Meanwhile, I’ve been sneaking in crafting, reading, and knitting time in at every possible moment, lest I allow my “End-of-the-year-and-I’m-over-it attitude” to spew out all over innocent bystanders. While I know I will probably want to let my kids run away and join a circus within two weeks of summer vacation, the prospect of a break from carpool lines, packing lunches, the daily uniform search/6 a.m. emergency washing panic, and unplanned trips to the school because I forgot it was our snack day (again), is the only thing separating me from insanity.

Anyway, here’s a few things I have been really into this week:

I just finished The Wishing Thread by Lisa Van Allen. Magic realism and knitting? Sign me up. I am a big fan of Sarah Addison Allen, so this seemed right up my alley. Overall, it’s a cute book, and one that I enjoyed. The narrative of the family ties, local lore, the subtle magic, and hope all made this a nice, pleasant read. If you just want a light, feel-good read similar to Addison Allen’s works, this is a good option.

I love Rick Bragg, who, among his numerous writing accolades, also has his essays featured in Southern Living every month. I’m only about a quarter of the way through this, but I am so totally in love with it. His writing brings to life the essence of the times and influences that defined my grandparents and parents (both good and bad). I started this on Mother’s Day morning, and it felt like a bittersweet balm on my soul. It reminds me of cooking with my mom, and all the stories she would tell of our grandparents and cousins, and the recipes that were simply learned by doing. I still suck at this whole grief thing, especially since I got the grief sandwich going on, but this book reminds me that the stories and traditions mean they will always be with me.

This orzo salad from Food Network definitely wins our dang tasty seal of approval. While I skip the red onion because picky eaters gonna pick, the recipe is perfect for a cool summer side dish (very important when we will reach nearly 100 degrees next week). A couple of notes on this one–I just mix the whole shebang together rather than this pointless staging. You would have to mix it before serving anyway, and artistic efforts are lost on The Heathens. Also, I have a possibly controversial view on pasta salad recipes. I always make 1.5 times of the dressing that any pasta salad recipe calls for, if not 2 times because they always end up drier than I want if I follow the recipe. Thus far, my over-doing-it on pasta salad sauce (for creamy-type sauces) hasn’t steered me wrong. You could also add rotisserie chicken to this for a complete meal, but if so, I would definitely double the sauce just to be safe. No one ever said “My Pasta Salad is too creamy.”  If they did, you should seriously side-eye them.

Time to fortify myself for the last week of school. That means whiskey, in case you didn’t know.