Monday, June 26, 2006

Ennui and Me

I'm afraid that the term "unseasonably hot" is going to become a quaint memory. Or else a daily reality. The kids' long-sleeved, long-legged, SPF 50 bathing suits came today. Amazing just how precious a little bod is when it's wearing a wetsuit-style swimsuit. They all appear to have skin like mine, which tans before it burns. On the other hand, awareness of sun damage is so much greater now for them than it was for me as a child that I keep them wrapped up like Bedouins, while still wanting them to be able to spend as much time as possible in the water.

When I feel like engaging in some self-berating for not living on a farm where my wild children could run free, simultaneously having the sense of accomplishment and responsibility of taking care of large animals (who's been to the county fair lately?) or for choosing to settle in a part of the country with astronomical, near-joke status real estate prices, I think about the good stuff.

My spouse works hard so we can afford to live in this area. My garden grows year-round. We can swim easily and well all over. The bay is a few minute's walk from the house, and there are a number of public lakes within a few minutes' drive. The swim lesson program run by the parks department appears to be a good one. We have a tight, large, homeschooling group. They go to lakes a lot. They don't laugh when I put my hair up with knitting needles:

There are, however, days when a litany of blessings still isn't enough to overcome the weight of whatever it is I'm carrying. So the knitting, of all things, suffers. My "Cabaret" remains sleeveless, and I hate the edging I started for Thing 1's tank top. I've lost my Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns somewhere (don't ask me how!) and the woman who found my lost wedding ring hasn't contacted me again after our rendezvous didn't work out.

Oh well. Swim lessons start again today, and it's time to make bread for the fair. This, like all things, will pass, and sometimes that's about the best lesson to remember.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Monday, June 19, 2006

Summertime and the Living is Busy

Stop me before I cute again! Actually, I've promised three more of these little beauties, inspired by Stephanie, of course:

Knit from's Sonata collection -- a very fast, very fun project. I'm just guessing at how many stitches for each kid -- I figure once I have this one assigned (turns out it's Thing 3's with 90 stitches), then I'll just go up or down 10 stitches to fit the available head assortment. Notice that I have posted no pictures at all of Cabaret's sleeves. Wonder why that is? Hard to photograph the nonexistent.

[Jen, "winging things" is clever-speak for figuring out what to do when you've got the wrong number of stitches and ripping seems counterproductive. Besides, you spin, let me remind you.]

And in the magical half hour before the Things stumble out of bed, Thing 2 sporting her Tina Turner-esque bedhead, I want to play catch up. This weekend, in addition to knitting, we entered our town's sand castle contest. One of the things I like most about living here is that despite sporting some of the world's most insane real estate prices, this town manages to retain some innocence.

The team next to us sounded as though they were out for blood -- not having a lot of fun and being very competitive -- and they did win a second place. That did little to underscore my repeated admonishments to Thing 1 that what mattered was the fun, not winning. But their sculpture wasn't world class, and the castles were, in my opinion, even more amateur. It was so much fun! I especially liked a sculpture entry titled "Sand Andreas," which featured a cool collapsed building over a fault line. Turns out they were trying to make a city when gravity intervened, so they went with plan B.

What'd we make? A Picasso-inspired pregnant mermaid:

And a closeup of her lovely face:

The Things were annoyed that we didn't win, but the judges liked the sand Ipod better. I just figured that since we made it to the contest, and then actually finished an entry, with one mom and four children, one of whom was intent on eating sand and clay and then crying unless held, we won.

On Sunday, I took the three youngest to a local regional park for a snake talk. I learned how to tell a gopher snake from a Northern Pacific Rattlesnake (gopher shiny, rattler dull), and that the guy talking caught his first rattlesnake at 6. Thanks, Snake Guy! Now Thing 2 wants to make a snake hook from a paint roller and be taken into the hills in the evening to hunt snakes. I may do it with her sometime, but it's a major undertaking with babykins.

The coolest thing to come from the talk is that Thing 2 is all jazzed up about keeping a journal about the critters she observes. She took my garden pest book outside and discovered what was eating the pole beans -- loopers!

So she and her brother caught them (because, of course, we can't kill the garden pests) and named them (Catty and Pill), and made little houses for them. Then we read about them. Then we wrote in the journal about where they were found, on what date, etc.

I don't know about most homeschooling families, but our summers feel more packed than our school year. We go swimming a lot, go outdoors a lot, and just have lots to do. Now, of course, I have to take the kids out to somewhere so that Thing 2 can observe something alive about once a week, or she just falls apart. Weekends are busier; everything seems to speed up. It probably doesn't hurt that I'm a sunshine kind of person from way back -- good weather makes me want to get up and go. And it will get very hot in September/October, so we have to get to the Ollalieberries and lakes and such before I just want to lie on the floor and moan. Hence, busy.

Today? Swim lessons start (or else I'm going to have to get that Newfoundland) and we're making jam. I'd like to troubleshoot the yogurt, too. It hasn't been seting up so well. Oh, and the dentist, too.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Sweet as Ice Cream

Amy's use of the word "reveal" reminded me of how insidiously television has worked its way into our lives. Seeking some non-mediated experience (actually, hoping to escape a very hot house and catch a spare breeze or two, while taking pictures to make a party invitation), we headed to the local beach after dinner. We've been beaching and laking lately, so today we did estuary.

I kept putting Thing 4 down because I wanted a shot of her ambling off into the sunset, and realized too late that, as Eric said, I'd created a monster. She crawled into the water. She walked into the water. She did everything but cartwheel into the water. Her siblings were already neck-deep, which is a feat, given how shallow the water is, but they're steadier on two pins than she is.

They all also got tan lines, even though we were at the water at 6:30 pm. What is with this? Good skin or global warming?

Pictures taken, kids thoroughly wet, we headed home where I sewed the second button onto what has become known, thanks to Suzee, as "Neapolitan." While the colors are off in the picture, it's pink, white, and sort of an ecru. I promised the girls tank tops out of Sugar'n'Cream, and just sort of winged this one. Thing 2 has asked for one just like it, while Thing 1 has slightly different ideas. We'll see how they play out. If I finish them all in time, they're going to be my World Cup project.

For this one:

I am not wild about the gauge, but it's so cute I feel a sugar rush when I see it.

Front view, modeled:

And the back. The buttons are little rosebuds.

I'm contemplating knitting little lace-edged bloomers to go along with it. Stop me before I stick a bow to her head with Karo syrup!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Knitting, worrying, knitting.

Oh for a Newfoundland to pull my children from the deep,
Oh for a Border Collie to from harm them all four keep.

That, sung to the tune of "O For a Thousand Tongues," was running through my head today while we were at Natural Bridges State Beach. Northern California beaches apparently are nothing like the tame beaches I grew up with down south. I don't remember signs saying things like "Intermittent waves of unusual size and strength . . . Wading and swimming dangerous." Actual quote from the brochure: "Hazrdous rip currents and large waves that can appear out of nowhere and sweep the unsuspecting visitor out to sea. . . extremely dangerous . . . never turn your back to the waves." Eric says it's because of the litigious environment that America has become, and I'm sure that plays a part. Every year, though, there's at least one headline in the paper about some poor soul who was pretty much just standing there when a wave came along and snatched them from the shore. Ever since last summer's close-but-it-all-turned-out-okay water incident, I worry when we swim.

I don't really want a big, hairy, drooling dog. I just want to rent one around water.

I even got a teeny bit of knitting done, but none on the brown sweater. Contributing to my lack of knitting were not only the big, adventurous kids but also Thing 4, who was gung ho on sand ingestion. This little project uses two techniques that I've only done theoretically until now. The first one was the cause of an actual "aha" moment last night. I give you tubular edging:

You just take your odd number of stitches, k1, sl1 purwise with yarn forward, k1, all the way to the end. Next row, you do the opposite -- slip first, then knit. Well, when I started trying it, those little purl bars that you can see really bothered me. I kept pulling out the stitches (must rip, apparently, no matter what the project) and trying again.

I finally went to bed in disgust with my lack of knitting prowess. As I was lying there with my elaborate pillow system employed, it struck me: Those purl bumps are really (really) the bit of yarn in between any two stitches. It's just that, in this case, the stitches are every other stitch, because the slipped stitches become the other side of the tube. Elegant in its simplicity. I suppose this is how Mrs. Whatshername in War and Peace knit two stockings at once to amuse her children, sort of. At any rate, it makes a truly nice flat bit of hollow knitting -- edging, or in this case, strap. It is going slowly, though.

As the light became ever more blue as Mr. Sun went down, I focused on this:

Picot edging formed with a yarn over followed by a k2tog. Yarn overs are apparently going to keep showing up! I like the effect, although the color on the picture is distorted. I hope when it's washed and blocked the "fat" look will be muted a little bit. I can hardly wait, because this little confection is so scrumptious it almost makes my fillings hurt.

Anyhow, fun stuff to liven up my knitting life. Tomorrow at the lake I'll get a lot more done.

If I either get a Newfie for the day or coax the middle two into life jackets. Otherwise it's going to be a full day of hovering.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Body ISO Sleeves

Since my husband stayed home from work this morning to watch the United State's disappointing World Cup opener, I got to run solo. After a couple of weeks of not running, after the root canal, I found myself changing from someone who looked forward to getting out regularly and was looking for strength and flexibility things to do on the days I didn't run, to a woman who wondered just how I had ever found the time to get out of the house regularly, let alone to run.

It felt good to be on the move again, especially since without children or dog I was free to go wherever my feet took me. I ran down by the beach and then through a variety of neighborhoods, including passing the house in which Thing 2 was born. I always imagine knocking on the door to the flat and telling the current residents about it, but haven't. Some random thoughts while running:

1. Someone has been catching bat rays and cutting off their "wings" -- for soup, maybe? I passed too many dead on the beach without them for it to be random or natural predators. That's what changed my mind about running all the way down the beach.
2. Upscale neighborhoods on a Monday morning seem like a set from some science fiction program in which all of the residents have been spirited away and replaced with alien beings or pod people. In this case, they were all masquerading as gardeners, roofers, or masons. It got eerie.
3. No matter how many times I imagine sending my dear progeny to boarding school as a relief from the pressures of family life, whenever I pass a crowd of schoolchildren being harangued by a teacher, I figure that I'll keep homeschooling. I don't know where they were being taken today, but a couple of classrooms' worth was out on the street being walked along.
4. Most people out exercising don't look like they need it. It's more heartening to me to see folks like me who aren't full time athletes plugging away, rather than a beach full of what appear to be college cross country runners.

It was nice to be home, feeling as though I'll be able to get back on the exercise bandwagon again. Besides my family awaiting my return, there were these two:

A front and a back. Now all I need are two sleeves. Heh heh. "All I need," indeed. I have high hopes of wearing this before summer is out, at least weatherwise. Since summer heat here is really until the end of October, with fog through July, I figure I'm safe.

Arty shot of YOs -I have to milk them for all their worth, given my history:

Some foul beast dug up all of my blooming cucumbers -- racoon, maybe. Oh drat it all. I guess I'll buy plants and get them in, plus caging them securely. Darn darn darn. No pictures of the devastation.

Even though the U.S. seems as though it is going to have a very very abbreviated World's Cup, I have my project to work on. Chastened by my experience in the Knitting Olympics (and the bizarre ripples it's cast into my knitting life), I'm not making a big deal of it. If/when I finish, I'll post about it. Until then, it's knit, knit, knit.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Sweets from the Sweet

Reason umpty-thousand why knitters are wonderful people and blogging brings together friends you would never, ever meet:

From Meredith, way up north, this big, bulgy box, labeled "Received Without Contents" (and I tell you, that is a very strange sticker to find on a box from the local post office) showed up at my door yesterday. Syrup! Quarts and quarts -- well, litres and litres -- of maple syrup evaporated from Quebecois trees! Really! My children can have yogurt now. Because, I'll tell you, in a financial weak moment, I picked up a bottle of faux syrup, and thought, "Mmmm, yes, much cheaper," and then I read the ingredients -- High Freakin' Fructose Corn Syrup -- and thought, "Not for my little kids." And gave all of my money to the syrup folk.

But now, I can laugh, "Ha! Ha!" at the checkout people at Trader Joes and go home and eat lots of maple yogurt. We will raise spoons to the overly-generous Meredith. And then I will deal with someone tugging on my knee, saying, "Maaaa, maaaa, maaaa," because Thing 4 is all about yogurt. She also just today began to walk.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Monday, June 5, 2006

Best InTentions

A rather nice camping trip with the homeschoolers this past weekend was made even more delightful with the completion of this:

Bouyed by my sucess, I immediately cast on with size 8 needles for the back. I knit merrily along, since the children were all occupied by one thing or another. This child-occupation is one of the good things about camping with a ton of families. That, and the fact that someone in the group will have mosquito repellent or sunblock or size 6 knitting needles or olive oil if you've forgotten it.

My knitting was enhanced by a slight impulse purchase for the trip:

You may not be able to see it, but that background is a camping hammock. Oh boy, was that a hit. Not only did my spouse get to rest on it with Thing 4 being a little chest bug napper, but most of the short crowd found it irresistable as a swing. And yes, that is the much-wept over green sweater rescued from the grass at the side of the hammock. [Today, she said, "That sweater might need a wash." No kidding, honey.]

I was on such a knitterly high that when all of the kids were being watched by People With Fewer Children, my spouse and I escaped to Point Reyes Station for a cup of coffee. He just said, "I wondered when you were going to get around to that" when I asked brightly, "I wonder if there's a yarn store in town?"

Fortunately, there is! Look here

At this store, the depth of my self-delusion became clear, because I bought this

It's not quite visible in the picture, but that's about 500 yards of hand-spun fingering weight spun from Lincoln sheep raised in the Chileno Valley from pin draft roving by Bo-Rage Yarns. Yes, a huge honking skein of yarn that can really only be a shawl. With yarn overs. Because, of course, having finally muddled my way through mastered the simple yarn overs on the front of that cotton cardigan, can a wedding-ring shawl be far behind? Oh, yeah. That's probably why I look so insanely happy. I'm in complete denial.

Back at the campsite, I reread the pattern for the back of that cotton sweater. "Cast on 78 stitches, do this, do that, then change to larger needles." Whoops. That triumphant camp knitting became this

I spent the rest of the trip doing this, pretty much.

That shawl may have to wait.