It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Mr. Knitting Sarah had to work on Turkey Day proper, but had the following two days off of work so we decided to rendez-vous up at my parents’ house for a mini-break. We had a marvelous time complete with yummy food, good company, and some little adventures including a trip to Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s a favorite spot for us as the walking trails are relatively short & paved and there’s always plenty to see as well as a very fun nature center that the kids love.

As usual, Mr. Knitting Sarah enjoyed howling with the wolf pack and I have to admit a highlight for me was watching one of the wolves wag his/her tail while he/she howled. I’d never noticed that before and it was just a very touching to see the canine clearly happy to be singing. I was mildly disconcerted when I walked over to see what my daughter was looking at and saw that…

…the mountain lion had started chewing on its enclosure. Of course I understand these enclosures are safe enough, but I’ve been at zoos when monkeys escape and have run-ins with eagles (true story!)and other random things happen so I can’t help but be acutely aware that we may place animals in nice enclosures, but we never really tame the natural world. A cougar gnawing on anything less than a foot from my child regardless of the safety features will always be unsettling to me and I’m at peace with that. But I digress and I’m happy to report we all survived the harrowing adventure to the very safe wildlife sanctuary.

I’m also happy to report that all the myriad of breakages that happened before the holiday have been rectified. We have a new and amazing clothes dryer, a microwave that is no longer making like it might explode, and I found a keyboard that does not have any sticky keys to substitute for the one on my computer that started to fail. It’s like a whole new magical world here!

This magical feeling, however, may actually be due to the fact that we also took some time to decorate for the holidays.

IMG_1507Moose led the way with some serious holiday napping.

IMG_1509-2We got the kiddos a little mini-tree for their room and my daughter decided they had to have ALL the Christmas baubles I made during the Merry KAL. She later brought a handful out for the main tree, but I’m glad I caught a photo of the mini-tree buckling under the glory of the Merry KAL.

We bought an nice full artificial tree about 12 years ago when we bought our house and about 5years after we got it the base broke. Unable to find a new base that would fit and unwilling to buy a new one, every year since I’ve spearheaded a campaign to keep the tree upright while investing as little money as possible. I’ve used towels, cardboard, duct tape — you name it — it was always an adventure in “engineering” and it has always involved at least one catastrophic tipping per year.

This year, we finally opted to spring for a new tree.

IMG_1503-1We downsized quite a bit so that the tree would fit a bit better in our tiny house that will be full of family for the holidays. A smaller tree also means that I can leave my wheel out in the main living space until the real influx of people arrive. There will be a lot of very merry spinning this month, indeed.

I also had the kids set me up with a little advent calendar. We always have these countdown calendars for the kiddos and I kind of wanted in on the fun this year. Since I didn’t know that Opal makes one until it was too late, I handed the kiddos some sandwich baggies and my neatly wound sock yarn leftovers. In the secret of their room they each picked 12 yarns and placed them in individual baggies and then put them in my fantastic giant project bag from The Fawn and The Fox.

IMG_1515If I’d thought ahead at all I’d have whipped up or purchased a Christmas-y project bag, but… well, hindsight is 20/20 isn’t it.

The idea is that each day I will avert my eyes and grab one baggie (or one yarn) out at random and add it to my Knitted Patchwork Blanket. As you can see by the 4 little blocks in the left-hand corner, my big aspirations with making progress on this blanket this year did not amount to much so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to resurrect this project in a fun way. The kiddos have opened their advent calendars for today, I can’t wait to dig into mine in a few minutes!

Of course there’s some holiday knitting happening around here, too.

IMG_1513And there’s a whole lot of unrealistic expectations for what I’ll actually accomplish in the next 24 days. No matter, though. I’ll get to what I get to and I’ll be enjoying the very merriness that surrounds me because it’s certainly beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here.

Work & Play

 I spent Saturday morning sewing a new top pattern (more on that later) and we then took the afternoon at the pool. I’m elated to share that we’ve reached a point where the kiddos and I have a system that allows me to actually swim laps again. The pool open hours plus the hours my husband works paired with homeschooling and the swimming skill levels and ages of the kids has made it pretty much impossible for me to swim laps since we made the leap to homeschooling. It’s been almost a year and a half that I’ve given up my own pool time, so it’s a big deal for me to be back at it. It feels amazing to be back in the water. As an added bonus, as I ease back into a routine that is currently only in the 20-30minute time frame, the kids happily swim for upwards of 2hours. That is a little quiet knitting time for me while I watch them play.

IMG_0459What a great addition to our days on so many levels!

With the help of Mr Knitting Sarah, on Sunday I worked on a schedule for school. One of my biggest challenges with homeschool is that I really want it to be a fluid — not a ‘school’s in’/’school’s out’ kind of situation, but more of a ‘learning is always happening’ kind of mindset. Daily goals are ever-present, lessons are scheduled out with definite plans, but I’m trying to avoid the feeling that we’re punching a clock on learning. That being said, I hear “are we still in school?” and “what’s next?”” about a thousand time per day from my darling children and it makes me a little crazy. As chillaxed as I want to approach our days, it seems my children require a proper printed schedule and that’s just fine. I hunted online for some free templates that I could customize and lo and behold by the time the rain passed around midday, I had created something that I think will work.

IMG_0477I have never been too handy with these types of computer things, but I’m really happy with how it all came out. I have weekly schedules for each kid and a weekly lesson plan (not pictured) for me all which can be edited week-to-week. I worked all three sets up through mid-September and I’m very hopeful that this approach will not only help curb the incessant ‘are we there yets’ from the kids, but also really help me stay on top of the things I need to have prepped for each week so that I will be doing less last minute scrambling. This week was pretty easy because we’re still just running easy half-days to get used to being back in school. Next week will be the big test when we really hit the books with full days. I feel pretty confidant we’re in a good position to really fly this year and what’s more, I feel more like our overall trajectory is pretty easy to handle and the minor additions that change from week to week are pretty manageable, especially with the expert help of my partner. Phew.

That completed, once the rains passed around noon we took our Sunday afternoon outdoors. Between my hubby’s schedule and his slow recovery from his back injury earlier this summer we haven’t done much hiking. It was a lovely late September day… or at least that’s what the windy, cloudy barely 65F day felt like!

IMG_0465

There were some beautiful wildflowers along this road-turned-trail and we got to see some beautiful Egrets, Sandhill Cranes, an American Wigeon, some Coots, and even a couple Black Necked Stilts off in the distance, just to name a few of the birds present. By the end, we were all lightly frozen and ready for the homemade chicken soup that was in the slow cooker at home.

We spent the evening huddled under blankets and I knit away on my Summer Sock KAL socks some more.

IMG_0467More on these soon, too.

We awoke to a pretty chilly morning. I’m wearing full-on wool handknit socks for the first time since early June and I’m thinking a whole lot about starting one of the many sweaters I have on-deck for this fall & winter. It was cold enough that Moose required an emergency implementation of “Operation Hot Dog.”IMG_0476We like to refer to this photo as his “Obi-Wan Moosenobi” portrait.

It was definitely a weekend that had a pretty good balance of work & play — I hope you enjoyed the same and are able to face this week refreshed and ready-to-go!

A Little Escape

Earlier this week, we found ourselves very undecided as to what to do with my husband’s day off. I could tell he really wanted a visit to a big water beach and I pretty much always want to be on a big water beach, but we’ve had mixed luck with the two we usually go to on Lake Michigan the last couple times. To arrive and find high water levels and almost no beach or that a school of small fish have washed ashore covering the beach as far as the eye can see is just not something we were really wanting to roll the dice on this time, especially after the hour plus drive time to get to either location. Mr Knitting Sarah has been working extra hard lately and we kind of just needed his precious day off to be fun and easy. So he suggested seeing if we could pop up my parents’ house and spend the night.

We know my parents’ house is always a big hit for the kids — they live in country so there is ample room to run around, there are still bottle rockets from the Fourth of July that my son loves to set off, there’s plenty of room for my daughter to ride her bike, my son usually gets to go fishing with my dad, my daughter manages to talk my mom into having a tea party, and there is almost always ice cream. Moose gets to run and run and run and since there are tons of trees on the property there are always plenty of sticks on which to chew. For my husband and I, it’s just nice to relax and visit with my parents and see the kids so happy.

It wasn’t lost on me, of course, that their house is conveniently located about 5miles from a nice little county park on Lake Michigan. We could have a nice relaxing time and get to a big water beach. It was a win-win! After dinner, my hubby, son, Moose, and I headed out for a little lake adventure while my daughter hung out with Grandma & Grandpa. It was especially beautiful…

IMG_0251I’m not sure who was happier to be in this spot — Mr Knitting Sarah or Moose.

IMG_0253 I think this snapshot is hilarious because they both struck the same pose at the same moment. Like man, like dog.

The late evening sun over the dunes was just stunning…

IMG_0256And this photo just puts a huge lump in my throat as my boy looks so grown up. As kids do, this summer it’s as if he’s being stretched — he’s grown a an inch or so and thinned out considerably. I am bracing myself for the day he’s taller than me, a day I’m pretty sure will arrive in the next year or two.

But I digress.

He found and caught a frog…

IMG_0260This is the first moment he got it situated so he could really look at it — I just love his smile. He & I both love finding frogs and snakes on hikes and consider these precious finds very lucky.

Moose got to swim his great big chocolate lab heart out.

IMG_0254I think normal dogs like to fetch sticks. Moose prefers to fetch logs. Seriously, the bigger the better. Even at home he likes to grab firewood off the pile to chew on. He’s a weirdo.

IMG_0307But he’s a weirdo who understands how to take time smell the fresh air and appreciate these special moments in life.

I looked through the milkweed stands for monarch caterpillars…

IMG_0303But only saw these lovely flowers and…

IMG_0306What I believe are some Canada Goose tracks.

We spent the next morning fishing on the boat with my dad and I didn’t bring my phone or camera. Sometimes I think it’s good to leave those things behind and just be. It was beautiful — sunny with a nice breeze and we caught a number of small fish that we threw back. My hubby almost landed a slightly bigger one, but lost him just as he was getting him into the boat — that’s just how it goes sometimes. We did get to watch Little Green Herons and Kingfishers and Eastern Kingbirds under the buzz of Cedar Waxwings high in the trees at the shore though. I really love watching Kingbirds near the water — they dart out, hover, circle around, hover, grab a bug, and zoom back to a perch over and over and over again. It’s just so fun to watch.

While at the house, for once I didn’t over-pack knitting or spinning. I just brought one project: my Turkish Bed Socks in July’s SilverSpun Sock Nectarine Dream.

IMG_0309I finished the first while watching a Brewer’s game with my dad and started the other the next morning over coffee. I’ve since finished and will have an FO post for you shortly. It’s a good thing as I just got a notice that August’s skein is in the mail — I can’t wait!

All in all, it was a great visit complete with fishing, a big water fix, some quality knitting time, and, of course, some cake and ice cream. What a wonderful, relaxing little summer escape for our family!

Accomplishing the Impossible

For those who’ve been reading this blog for a while you might remember that despite my real love of knitting, I do have a couple nemeses. Scarves can be a challenge and the occasional & inevitable long stretch of stockinette can get to me, but nothing is as rough for me to get into and get done than dishcloths.  I love using them, but for whatever reason the actual knitting of them has never really been enjoyable for me.I honestly have no idea what my problem is with them, but I don’t look forward to knitting dishcloths and while I’m making them I feel like I might go bananas, so I tend to view them kind of like a necessary evil.

According to Ravelry, a little over 6 years ago I made a batch of Ballband Dishcloths. In an effort to keep it fun, I chose the brightest colors I could find. I really like the pattern and the colors and it was worth the effort. It was just in the last 6months or so that these started to wear out which I think it pretty impressive considering how much they were used and then washed and dried. Even the bright colors held up remarkably well.  I’d supplemented these with 3 New Log Cabin Dishcloths two summers ago, but 3 is not exactly ample supply in my house. This weekend when I finished up my current WIP it was extremely hot, so the alpaca/silk blend I have on deck (even in lace weight) sounded awful to me and the patterned sock I still have on the needles was more brainpower than I had to offer, so I picked up the ‘ol kitchen cotton and got to work.

A few months ago I’d bookmarked Sinkmates by Lorilee Beltman. It looked simple, but not boring and the garter ridges would definitely be strong enough to handle washing dishes. Plus, all the proceeds of this $2 pattern go to the Special Olympics — it is really impressive how much she’s raised so far! In any case, I cast-on and got going and the weirdest thing happened…

IMG_0230-1I got totally hooked!

I think there are a lot of aspects of this pattern that make it work for me — you start with an i-cord and then pick-up stitches and then the whole thing is decreasing, so you speed up with every row. Mentally speaking, that is huge for me and made these — shall I dare say it?! – fun! I could have kept going, but I stopped at 8. That seemed like enough for now and I’d burned through the bulk of this set of coordinated yarns.

I really enjoyed mixing and matching colors…

handpainted1This one I used a plain pink Peaches N’ Cream with a hand-dyed cotton that I’d picked up from Dyeabolical a few years back when she had some cottons available.

wash1This one is just the inverse, with the hand-dye for the i-cord and the plain pink for the main body.

hodgeAnd on this one I added a couple pink stripes to use it up and then ran out of the hand-dye, so I threw on a multi-colored Peaches N’ Cream for the last few rows.

On the hottest night, I cooled off with my dishcloth knitting and color coordinated Grapefruit Shandy…

IMG_0247-0Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that I used my fabulous Knitters’ Pride Trendz Interchangeable Needles for the job. They were perfect for this little project!

stripesOut of hand-dyes for this color family, I used a different multi-color from Peaches N’ Cream and a peachy-pink solid. This one might be my favorite, probably because I really enjoyed knitting it. Yes, I said I enjoyed knitting a dishcloth — what the what?!

In any case, you get the idea — mix & match and at the end of a couple days I have 8 new colorful dishcloths.

all of themYou’ll notice that the pattern includes a little loop in the i-cord at the corner — I left that off since I really have no where I’m ever going to hang these in that manner. I simply made my i-cord with 61 or 63 stitches — depending on how great my counting was at the moment — and picked up one stitch for each stitch in the i-cord.

 The best part about this whole process isn’t that I managed to use up some stash yarn or even that I can now trash the dishcloths I have been clinging to that are falling apart. No, the best part is that I feel like I accomplished the impossible. I made dishcloths for my kitchen and I enjoyed it. I never thought I’d see this day!

12 Random Things on a Wednesday

Our family is set up pretty much so that we all revolve around my husband’s schedule. He works long hours which shift a fair bit to accommodate the needs of the business, so when his schedule throws us a curve ball — like Sunday & Monday off followed by a half day Tuesday — we try to make the most of it. By the time Wednesday rolls around I tend to find myself in a reality that consists largely of good memories, an evil vortex of dirty laundry, and cluttered counters. And I haven’t written a proper blog post in almost a week. As I often like to do at times like this (because really I need to get folding that laundry), I’m going to share a few random things from the Knitting Sarah household.

1. Over lunch I started watching my Craftsy class, Drafting From Worsted to Woolen with Jacey Boggs Faulkner. I am blown away by how much I learned from just the first couple segments. And I am already a total Jacey Boggs Faulkner fangirl.

2. We learned this weekend that Moose loves slides.

https://knittingsarah.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/5ebcf-10731621_1564498083798410_1345795056_n.jpg

Like he literally whines and cries and bounces around begging to go down them. He does not, however, like twisty slides.

3. We went for a hike here.

https://i2.wp.com/photos-g.ak.instagram.com/hphotos-ak-xfa1/t51.2885-15/10899239_345141899016718_527994851_n.jpg

We hiked out to a shelter, had a fire and picnic lunch, and then hiked back out through a light snow shower. I’m pretty sure there are trolls in this forest.

4. The kids have been working on survival/outdoors skills as part of school and building a fire has been part of the ‘curriculum’ so they took turns sawing small logs for the fire.

https://i2.wp.com/photos-f.ak.instagram.com/hphotos-ak-xpf1/t51.2885-15/10547021_844036038976493_608833168_n.jpg

They are enthusiastic, competent, and careful. It is pretty cool.

5. As I mentioned in a ‘Today on my needles…’ post, I finished up my Kunye shawl and started in on a new project…

https://i1.wp.com/photos-c.ak.instagram.com/hphotos-ak-xaf1/t51.2885-15/10948774_739526956146074_194082085_n.jpg

Joji Locatelli’s 3-Color Cashmere Cowl in Miss Babs Sojourn (pre-selected kits for this project from Miss Babs are available here). It is kind of like knitting heaven.

5. I went on a crazy organizational bender over the weekend and updated my yarn stash on Ravelry. My fiber stash, however, remains completely not up-to-date.

6. We visited the somewhat local Weis Earth Science Museum and the Barlow Planetarium last week. Both were great and I have to say, I especially learned a lot at the Planetarium show. I can identify at least a half dozen more constellations now than I could before the show and — since we were the only people in attendance at this particular show — we got 1-on-1 Q&A with the gentleman who was running it and he gave us the bonus showing of what it would feel like to be spaghettified. I’m hoping we won’t be running into any black holes anytime soon because it kind of made me want to toss my cookies (along with all the other more problematic ramifications of running into a black hole, of course).

7. I nearly bought this shirt at a thrift shop, but opted against it when Mr Knitting Sarah said he would not be seen in public with me if I wore it.

https://i1.wp.com/photos-b.ak.instagram.com/hphotos-ak-xaf1/t51.2885-15/10950612_790717481021209_1097088437_n.jpg

(If it hadn’t been a weird, distressed layering fabric, I totally would have gotten it anyway, sorry dear)

8. I’m pretty sure I’m going to frog the socks I started last week and pick a new pattern. I haven’t touched them since casting-on, so I think I need something a little less intense right now.

9. I started back on my In Stillness sweater, but mostly I’ve been working on this…

https://i0.wp.com/photos-h.ak.instagram.com/hphotos-ak-xaf1/t51.2885-15/10946392_528590543947975_265338523_n.jpg

It’s that 3-Color Cashmere Cowl again… I am kind of sort of addicted.

10. I started work on a patchwork blanket…

https://knittingsarah.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/1aa94-10919736_830057513727355_193983782_n.jpg

I’m aiming to add just a square or two a week so I can continue to add to the pool of leftover yarns to use while I do. For those who are wondering (and I know there were quite a few), I am following the Knitted Patchwork Recipe by Martine Ellis of iMake. You may remember that Martine was an instrumental part of the Merry KAL a couple years ago. She’s awesome. In any case, I think this free pattern is very well done and I adore the easy to follow instructions on how to join-as-you-go. It’s one of those situations where I’m thankful someone took the time to write it out, so I can just sit down and knit. I have to say, I already love this little start of a blanket!

11. My husband’s work is hosting a live healthy event for the next ten weeks, so as a family we are using it as a framework to clean up our eating habits and be more active. I have already learned to love the chick pea for which I’ve always had an irrational aversion unless it was in the form of hummus. And I’m getting regularly vanquished by random characters when playing Wii Tennis. Oh, and we’re swimming and hiking a lot more.

12. I’ve been lurking the Alewives Fabrics website from time to time. A lot of new prints have been showing up and after some success last year, I’m dreaming of sewing up a bit more of my summer wardrobe this year.

So life keeps on churning with all its glorious randomness. I’ll be back soon with some FO posts, but until then, may your laundry piles be smaller than mine and may you have plenty of time to click away on your latest knitting endeavors!