Sunday, December 31, 2006

Knitting Resolutions

I have been inspired by Scout. She has decided to "Just Froggit", and I'm jumping on board with her program.

I have decided to frog Icarus. Yes, I'm in the border, but I know I'm going to run out of yarn. I did not have a US size 3 circular needle when I began this project, but after last week's trip to the LYS, I now have one in my possession. I loved the way it was working up when it was young and small and I believed I had enough yarn. I want to go back to loving my Icarus! After I frog it, I will dedicate myself to its completion and work away until the very last stitch.

Here's the next challenge. I am going to frog the mohair travel shawl, which I actually made out of kid mohair. This means, I will have way too much fun delicately picking at my fuzzy yarn. The original pattern called for it to be worked in two pieces, and having completed the first half, I now have second-half syndrome. I no longer love the way this one was working up, so now I get to search for a new shawl pattern. I'm thinking about some options like Branching Out (which will give me plenty of leftovers), Print O' The Wave (but worked in one piece a la Mason-Dixon), Leaves and Waves, or more than likely the Yarn Harlot's Snowdrop Shawl. I've loved Snowdrop since the first time I saw it on the blog. With almost 2000 yds of hot pink mohair, I can't think of anything better to brighten up the winter and to get myself ready for spring.

I'll post pictures of my piles of fiber as soon as I rip them up!

It's time for our quiet family New Year's celebration. We're staying in tonight with mucho munchies, and the kids are trying to make it to midnight so they can watch any fireworks on TV. I think the Moose may crash early, but I'm almost positive the Roo will make it through. Anyone willing to lay odds on this one?

Have a safe and fun evening wherever you are. See you next year!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Speed of Socks

After my trip to the LYS last week, I started a sock for the Moose, then I did a sock for the Roo, and repeated the process. By Thursday morning, I had two complete pairs of socks, and my children now happily wander through the house with striped warm feet. They wear them with the pajamas at night, which makes me think I need to make more so they stay nice and toasty.

I am delaying my gratification in knitting my alpaca hoodie. Instead, I dove into my miniscule stash (I am odd--I only keep yarn around for projects in progress or projects to be) and came up with several skeins of navy blue Encore which were destined to be a Hogwarts scarf. I really have no need for a double-knitted, 10-inch wide scarf here in SoCal, so I frogged the scarf and started a top-down, loose-fit raglan for the Roo (growing room, you see).

I started by making a gauge swatch--25 stitches wide and 25 rows long--and then I used Knittingfool's sweater wizard to come up with a pattern for the sweater. It's all based on Elizabeth Zimmerman's percentage method, but I, the math teacher, did not feel like doing all that math myself. So far, I have only had to make one major modification in the neck. I cast on using US size 6 needles instead of size 5, and I increased the number of stitches to be cast on so it would fit more easily around her head. All this is so she can have a Weasley sweater like the ones Molly makes for her children and for Harry every Christmas. If you need a good picture of one, go to Alison's blog. She even has her own pattern there.

Here's why I opted for a raglan. Though I love seaming sleeves and sides of sweaters, I find setting in the shoulders tedious. It probably has something to do with where I place my increases. It will come with time and practice which only means I get to do more knitting!

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Real Meaning of CHRISTmas

After all our planning, buying, baking, knitting, crafting, singing, decorating, and wrapping, this is what it's truly about. God's promised Messiah came to save us all and fulfilled all the Law and the Prophets. Here's the real story from Luke 2:1-20 (NIV)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

May God bless you and everyone in this holy and precious Christmas season. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Progress of Sorts

As expected, I am tired of Icarus. After Friday's trip to the LYS, all I've done is work on new socks. I made a plain vanilla sock for Moose in his chosen yarn, and I've started a plain vanilla sock for Roo in her chosen yarn. I love these socks! After fighting with the Mardi Gras sock yarn for so long, it was nice to see some forward movement in my knitting.

I will keep working on my socks today, and I'm thinking about dragging out the Mohair shawl instead of Icarus. It's miles and miles of mindless garter stitch except for the edging, so it will be good TV knitting. I'm DVR-ing oodles of Christmas shows to watch later, so I'll need something for all those programs.

Tonight's agenda includes feeding the reindeer, leaving out gingerbread cookies for Santa and a piece of cheese for Santa Mouse, and possibly attending my first 11 o'clock communion service since the kids were born. Having small children in the house who can't be left for long periods of time absolutely precludes my attendance at such solemn occasions. They both want to got to church tonight for the Communion and Carols service instead of to the more family oriented 7 o'clock service. It's the first time they have ever been interested in staying up for the late service, and I'm inclined to let them go if they can make it. We're going to take it slowly today and judge their readiness for this grand event by their behavior towards one another and us. I find the late service to be more intimate and more holy for welcoming Christ's birth, and I will be thrilled to be able to go this year if we can.

Enjoy the watchful moments while you wait for Him to arrive!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Two Steps Forward...

and one step back. This pretty much describes my knitting this week while I've been out of school. Let me spin you a yarn...

First, there was Icarus. Yes, I'm working away on it, but the super long rows are making it tedious for me. I started the last pattern repeat and got about halfway through it before realizing I was going to run out of yarn somewhere in the edging. So I had to frog an entire day's work. Thank goodness for that dental floss I put in there! The next day I started the edge, but kept switching between charts 2 and 3 instead of sticking with chart 2. I tried to knit chart 3's row 7 at least twice where it didn't belong. I think I must be desperate to move on to chart 3. Obviously more frogging was involved. I successfully finished chart 2 on Thursday, and my reward for doing that was starting a new sock.

I had to start a new sock because here are my County Clares I finished earlier this week:

They have cables at the top a la Fetching, they are worked in 4 x 1 ribbing down the leg and foot, they have what I consider a "normal" toe, and the afterthought heel. They also obviously need to be blocked.

Yesterday, we had to escape from the cleaning lady. The kids and I don't like to be home while she's here, because we feel like we're in the way. We went out to breakfast, and after eating, entertained ourselves by reciting the names and performing the hand motions for all the states from Maine to Wisconsin. I'm sure the other diners thought we were nuts. It's a memory device called Motion USA used in our 2nd grade class to help the students learn the names of all 50 states. The kids' favorite sign of the moment is Wisconsin. You use your hands to form a triangle and hold it above your head, and it's supposed to remind you of the Cheeseheads. They find it extremely hilarious. After breakfast, we went to the chiropractor and to the library. Then, we went to the yarn store. Oh my!

I had my Christmas gift certificate from my school secret sister, and it was burning a hole in my pocket! I have lots of new treasures like Trekking for the Moose, which is already turning into a sock,

Trekking for the Roo,

and some yummy alpaca

which is going to turn into this for me.

The pattern is from Knitting Pure and Simple. I don't normally wear hooodies, but I really want to try one, and I'm hoping this will scratch the sweater itch I've been feeling lately. If not, I'll probably do the Perfect Sweater from over at Mason-Dixon.

Moose's sock is a result of my rebellion against my Lisa Souza Mardi Gras Sock! Merino. I have started and frogged a sock in that yarn about 5 times this week. I just can't find a pattern to suit me that works up small enough to fit me. I decided (duh!) it must be a gauge problem, so I also broke down and bought some US size 0 Addis so I can try again. I really want to knit Lombard, and I hope this solves my problem.
The DCA and I finished the wrapping last night, and I finally feel ready for Christmas. All that's left to do now is to pick up the ingredients for all the Christmas dinner yummies, so we're off to the store to do our last-minute shopping. I'm sure we'll have lots of company!

After that, I'm going to sink into the sofa with Icarus and the Trekking sock, play some Christmas carols, listen to my children playing, and get lost in the wonder of Christ's entry into the world.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

You Know You Want To!

Go see Stephanie over at her blog. Once again, she is promoting a fundrasier for Doctors without Borders, and she is encouraging knitters to double our previous contributions. The goal for this holiday season is to bring the cumulative total on her page to $240,000. Help share the Light of this Christmas season with those less fortunate--give a few dollars to a great cause! (P.S. All donors become eligible for a drawing after the deadline!)

And in today's news: I finished the County Clare socks last night. I'm odd, I admit it--I love using Kitchener stitch to graft toes, so adding an "afterthought heel" that had to be grafted too was especially fun. It ends up looking somewhat like a short row heel, but with the decrease ridges that look like those on the toe. I still prefer a heel flap, but I may use this option occasionally when a pattern calls for a short row heel--I prefer this look. Sensational Knitted Socks says this is also a great option when people wear out their heels quickly. Apparently, the heel can be easily removed and replaced when needed because it was not knitted as part of the main body of the sock.

Today's project? Icarus. I'm feeling the need for some Black Bunny Fibers between my fingers, so I'm going to go see if I have enough laceweight to make it through the border. I'll keep you posted!

Monday, December 18, 2006


I was way tired of the pink, and the button bar was just too crowded for words. What can I say? It had to be done.

It's a Muppet Christmas!

Friday was our last day of school before Christmas. Of course, the kids were wild, so after we mixed up enough hot cocoa mix (recipe from Yahoo! below) for the parents of both the 6th/7th and 8th grade classes, I popped in The Muppet Christmas Carol for everyone to watch during our Christmas party. It lent a certain Christmas-y spirit to the air and promoted the message of good will to all which is so needed during Christmas these days.

So you can imagine my delight when I took the Christmas movie quiz I found over on The Knitting Philistine's blog.

Your Christmas is Most Like: The Muppet Christmas Carol
You tend to reflect on Christmas past, present, and future...And you also do a little singing.

While I was there, I also found the Muppet Personality quiz, and it turns out that I really AM my favorite muppet!

You Are Animal
A complete lunatic, you're operating on 100% animal instincts.You thrive on uncontrolled energy, and you're downright scary.But you sure can beat a good drum."Kill! Kill!"

So, I have lots of plans for my Christmas vacation. First up is to finish the STR County Clare socks which have now been started and frogged about 6 times since my last update. I just couldn't find a pattern that I liked, so I reverted to type and invented my own. I've started sock #2, and in my dream world, I will finish it today or tomorrow morning. I also plan on returning to Icarus and to the Mohair Travel shawl. I love Maude to pieces, and I want to take my time with her and to enjoy her for as long as possible. I am not quite so enamored with the other two shawls, and I want them out of my stash!

My secret sister from school gave me a gift certificate for my LYS for Christmas, so I will definitely be buying yarn some time in the next two weeks. I feel the call of another sweater, so that may be next on the needles after the shawls come off.

Some time in the next few days I have to mix up the annual batch of Colonial Williamsburg gingerbread. This is a family tradition that started when the Navy banished us to the Left Coast several years ago in a location much too far from the Raleigh Tavern Bakery. We'll have lots of gingerbread people to keep us company while we're out of school!

I also get to mix up my first batch of the DCA's grandmother's homemade doughnuts. She makes them every Christmas, and sugaring them is a treasured memory of his childhood. This year's request was spurred by hearing that she was making them for all the family back in Delaware last weekend while his parents were visiting. I think I can handle it once I find all the ingredients.

The holiday hustle continues here, but the message of Christmas remains the same. The Light entered the world to show us the Way: He was God made man, and He came as a child to save us from our sins. The greatest gift of all is the salvation we receive when we call on His Name. Keep Him at the center of Christmas, and you will be blessed indeed!

2 C. sugar
4 (1 oz.) squares unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 C. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 T. instant coffee powder (optional)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Process all ingredients in a food processor until chocolate is finely ground. Pour into a nice jar with a tight-fitting lid.Type or print neatly the cooking directions on a small card, punch a hole in the corner, and attach with a ribbon to the jar.

*Attach this to the Jar*
Directions for 2 servings
Stir 1/4 cup mix and 2 tablespoons hot water in a medium-size saucepan until blended. Gradually stir in 1 1/2 cups milk. Heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until hot.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Button, Button...

I woke up at 3:15, and I can't go back to sleep, so I'm doing whatever good knit-blogger does and I'm surfing around your sites and updating mine. In the process, I found that Scout has a new button for her shop, so of course, I have to change it. Isn't it cute? I think it probably matches her new merchandise tags for the store!

I'm also trying yet again to upload a Lime 'n' Violet button. I love those girls, and I want all of you to go and visit their podcast. They have so much fun reviewing yarn and books for the rest of us!

I think I may go knit now--I might as well make myself useful if I'm going to be awake.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Do the Holiday Hustle!

It's the Christmas season, so it's that time of year when we all seem to run around crazily in 97 different directions trying to accomplish every little thing that needs to be done. My life and my knitting are definitely falling into the holiday hustle and bustle category.

I frogged Maude. After I took those lovely pictures last week, I stretched her out in all her loveliness on our coffee table to admire her glory. Yep, you guessed it, the glory disguised not just one, but two, places where I worked the ends of the bias stitch rows incorrectly. I couldn't bear to leave the errors there because I suspected it might someday affect my decreases on the other end. I re-started Maude and found I made exactly the same mistakes as before. I frogged back to the first mistake, picked up my stitches, checked for more errors, and then disgustedly threw her in my knitting bag. I have ignored her now for over a week, and I don't feel any pricks of conscience as a result.

Knitting was slower than usual this week because of my schedule at school. I spent breaks there and time at home entering grades into the computer and getting ready for report cards because the trimester ended Friday. I am pleased to say my report cards are almost completely finished. I just need to print them, copy them on letterhead, and stuff them in their envelopes in time for Thursday's awards assembly. It was painful to stay five hours on a minimum day afternoon, but at least they're done. I won't be one of the people scrambling over the next few days!

On a brighter note, I have made some amazing progress on some other things. I finished the plain vanilla *b-marie* socks on Thursday night, and then I wore them to work on Friday. They were a huge hit with everyone who knew them as my conference socks from Thanksgiving week.

I was on such a knitting high Friday after the extra time at work that I re-sized and cast on for a miniature sweater ornament I found via Emily's blog. The pattern for the real ornament is here. I couldn't resist it! Moose's class at school is having a hat/glove/scarf tree for Christmas. As part of the giving spirit of Christmas, each student is being asked to bring something new and warm to wear to add to the tree. The donated items will all be given to needy children for Christmas. I love how our tiny Christian school can still celebrate the true meaning of Christmas and reach out to others during the season.

I thought a slightly larger version of the mini-sweater would make a perfect tree topper in the classroom, and I couldn't wait to give it to his teacher. I knit like crazy Friday night, and finished the sweater before bed. All I had left to do was the weaving in. Roo and I attended the Christmas tea at our church on Saturday, and guess who was there? Moose's teacher, of course! I had the teeny sweater in my knitting bag, so I quickly pulled it out of my bag and wove in all the ends while listening to Christmas carols and chatting with the other ladies at our table. After I finished and during a song break, I jumped up, ran to her table, plopped it on her place setting, and ran away. She stopped by our table later to say how cute it was. Please imagine a picture of it here, since I failed to take one in my eagerness to give it away.

Most of Saturday was spent knitting a pair of Fetching for myself using my leftover Highway 30 Socks That Rock yarn. I used U.S. size 2 needles and didn't make too many adjustments in the pattern. (I must have skinny hands.) I started them in the morning and had one finished before we left for the tea. I started the second one while we were there. I took them both along when we went to watch OU win the Big XII championship with the Sooner Club (Look out Arizona--here comes the Sooner Nation!). I practically finished the second one--I actually bound off the hand part and then realized I did not have enough yarn to make the thumb hole. I had intended to make the hand section longer (24 rows instead of 18), but I had to shorten the length of the hand and frog back to 20 rows instead to have enough yarn. Of course, when I did that, I had to go back and change the other one too. I'm so glad I was lazy and didn't weave in any ends! I finished them up after we got home from the game, and I popped them in my knitting bag to keep in case my hands get cold.

Everyone loved Fetching at church this morning, and I can't wait to wear them to school this week. My friend from church wants half a pair. She only wants one for her left hand, and she wants it extra long to cover up her bangle bracelets. She crochets while she runs the sound board during the church service, and Fetching will keep her bracelets from jingling and clinking while she works. They're not only adorable--they're functional! I already have her Christmas gift done, but I may make her one anyway with some more leftover sock yarn when I finish my next pair of socks.

I intended to work on Maude today since I have been neglecting her so. Instead, I have been doing the holiday hustle around here. We decorated for Christmas when we returned home from church, and then I spent a couple of hours in the kitchen preparing my annual batch of Italian Chocolate Chip Cookies*. When I finished up that enormous task, the DCA and I started Web surfing to find the best price deals on the few remaining things we need for the kids. Because presents are available locally and shipping is getting so ugly, it has been decided that I will spend my teacher work day this Friday bopping around town to finish up the shopping. I then did some online shopping of my own for the DCA and paid those ugly shipping prices anyway.

Somewhere in all this, I started the next traveling sock. It's toe-up (yes, I know--the cuff-down girl must be high on cookie fumes), cabled, and absolutely lovely in STR County Clare. I went with toe-up this time, because I want to try a reverse heel flap and because I want to use the picot edge from Fetching at the top of the sock as a decorative detail. I'm just in need of a challenge after the plain vanilla pair I just finished. STR is pretty stretchy, so I'm confident I will have a lovely cuff when I'm finished. Now where did I put that sock???

*So you want to know about Italian Chocolate Chip Cookies? Once upon a time, the DCA and his family lived in Italy (his dad was in the Navy and was assigned to Naples). His mother's friend shared her recipe, and these cookies became an annual tradition in the DCA's house. When the DCA and I got married, I was handed the recipe and informed that the cookies were now my responsibility. The original recipe calls for a 5 lb bag of flour, a can of chocolate syrup, chocolate chips, and hazelnuts (among the other "regular" cookie ingredients), and the cookies are supposed to be rolled out like the play-dough snakes we made as children and then cut into bite-sized pieces. I followed the recipe exactly for our first Christmas, and the DCA hardly touched any of them. Upon questioning, I was informed that he doesn't eat nuts in ANY baked good. I have no idea why it took me over 18 months to learn this about him or why no one in his family mentioned this tiny change in the recipe to me. I also learned that rolling out a full batch of these cookies by hand in the original method is literally a day-long project and that dunking them in their powdered sugar glaze can sometimes cause them to go moldy. I have since tweaked the recipe and made a few simple changes, and each December, I produce one half-batch of Italian Chocolate Chip Cookies with no nuts dropped by teaspoonfuls on their baking sheets. I must do okay, because the DCA says they're wonderful, and the Roo informed me this afternoon that they are her absolutely favorite cookie in the world. Do you think I can abdicate as cookie queen when she gets married???