Friday, August 25, 2006

Seen and Not Heard

I'm entertaining the baby, who has been woken up for the second time this morning, after a grand total of about 15 minutes' worth of nap.

I am crystal clear now about why the Victorians, champions of thin, lath and plaster walls with plenty of hard surfaces around, insisted that children be quiet.

Needless to say, no knitting yet today.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Never mind the knitting; here's dinner

This morning I worked really hard to get dinner ready for tonight by whipping up a samosa-like filling of potatoes, onions, peas, spinach, spices, and a little butter like this:

If I had remembered to get ghee it would be more authentic, but I also forgot the ginger and chili pepper. Nevertheless, I managed to get it made and packed a snack on top of it so we could go to a lake and swim. True to summer here, the air was cool while the sun was warm. I managed to get into the water a little, but not too far. Just chasing the littlest one. The high point of the day was when Thing 2 came running out of the water toward me, excited as only she can be, shrieking that she had seen a great big fish and what could she bring it out of the water with?

It took me some time to realize that she was talking about a dead fish. The penny dropped only when I saw another child pulling on a length of fishing line. I think this was a big one that got away -- but only from the fisherperson.

She did pull it out, and it was about a 10-12" ex-catfish. The other mothers there spent a lot of time shouting to their children not to touch it because of germs, and disease, and whatnot. I figured that unless the kids ate the fish, and even probably not then, it was nothing compared to what swimming in water used for all bodily functions by fish and ducks might be doing to them. But I wasn't their mother, I was Thing 2s, and I was actually delighted with her.

Then the lifeguard declined to dissect the fish and threw it away. Since we were not leaving just then, I didn't think I could bring it home for a science experiment. Some learning opportunities you just let go.

After being wrapped in my generic pastry (half unbleached flour, half whole wheat pastry flour, some butter, salt, and water) and baking, they looked like this. This is the lone survivor.

The latest diaper soaker is coming along slowly. I only unknitted the first ribbing and a few more rows, so I'm not actually remaking too much of it. No pictures unless I finish, quite frankly. I'm in the last 25 rows or so, so maybe tonight.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Fantasy Curriculum 101

Terry Pratchett has a theory (the "parallel universe theory") that says that every possibility for everyone is happening/has happened somewhere. If that's true, then somewhere in Italy, there's a farm with my name on it. In this reality, however, I've been spending some time in the fantasy life section of the library. Mostly books about people who somehow stumbled into some farming or rural life in Italy or France, like this and this. Dilapidated houses, ramshackle gardens, eccentric neighbors.

Now that I think of it, it's kind of like my life.

Because I'm in charge of our school curriculum, I mostly try to expand on interests the kids have already. Weirdly enough, this hasn't happened with things like putting their clothes and books away, nor vacuuming. In a pinch, I can inspire dish washing. I'm not above, however, saying, "Hey! I'm really excited about this! Let's try it!!" Which brings me to our project for the year. Thing 1 and I have designated Monday as baking day. We're baking our way through Carol Field's The Italian Baker. Then Thing 1 looks up something on the internet about the region or city that the bread hails from, writes something about it, we find it on the map, and plan our future trip there. Well, okay, the last part is pure fantasy, but I want my kids to think of the world as their future playground.

We baked pane di Como this week, and like lots of the bread it required a starter mixed up the night before and left to ferment and develop. I use an old workhorse of a Kitchenaid stand mixer to knead most of the time now. After doing without it, I can knead anything, but prefer the ease of the mixer, especially with sticky doughs. Thing 1 has some trouble simply because of the size and strength of her hands, but I have high hopes for her around springtime when she'll have been practicing.

We also had some issues with the oven. I think the insulation isn't great, so the flames go a lot, and the baking stone overheated even though the overall temperature wasn't over the one called for. I think we need to get it off of the floor of the oven.

The bread was, however, yummy, and I have high hopes for the rest of the year.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


They grow so fast.

That's what we're always being told, and sometimes finding out for ourselves.

The diaper covers? After a good try-out of both, they're clearly too small.

And they have to be lanolinized more evenly than I managed. If the lanolin gathers in spots, they become dirt attractors. Add a meal of black beans eaten by hand? Dirty cover.

Both of these things are discouraging, especially since I performed a knitting feat that I don't indulge in lightly. Intarsia.

I've started a plain one from this pattern in a very dark wool. Lessons learned!

Friday, August 18, 2006


Glad the naan provoked the kind of drooling excitement that I felt. (Heh. Wonder what kind of Google searches that's going to catch?) I used this recipe mostly, but of course cooked them in a cast-iron skillet. Tonight's dinner is spinach-feta pies. I use a pastry recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, mostly, then I mix up the filling at will. It usually has minced onion, chopped spinach, either frozen or fresh, cottage cheese, feta cheese, garlic, an egg if it looks runny, ummmm, salt, pepper -- that's about it. Saute the things that need it, mix it all up and put it into circles of pastry. I fold them into half-moons. When the filling doesn't leak out all over, they're great.

Anyone have experience making pastry and some trick to keep the half-moon shaped pie an enclosed phenomenon?

When I'm not swilling down leftover soup (bleah. It's a personal problem, I know. Anyone want some soup?) I'm often drinking water.

In fact, we now each have our own personal Sigg stainless steel water bottle, sized appropriately to the owner. I did the math and figured that over the course of a year we were more likely to spend the same amount on plastic water bottles, even if we reused them, as we would buying those ridiculously priced Sigg ones. No matter how good the intentions, plastic bottles get lost or smashed, or used to transport dirt to the next play areal.

But they're not insulated. My water gets warm. Wool to the rescue! I give you "Grog:"

Knit in Knit Picks' Wool of the Andes, design I made up. It says "Yo ho yo ho and a bottle of. . ." on it. And, best of all, I had cold water all afternoon yesterday.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Things that go "Bump" in the Night

Some things you just can't anticipate in advance.

Some things you can.

So, last night I was sitting on the couch with my eldest daughter, having deposited all of the younger siblings in bed. From directly above us, the site of Thing 2's new bedroom, came a distinct "thump!" I decided to ignore it.

Then, Thing 1 said calmly, "There's things falling out of her room." We looked through the front window of the living room, and indeed there were. I went upstairs and escorted her down with a sleeping bag to her old "room," which was an alcove off of the master bedroom.

This morning, this was on our driveway:

In case you don't live in a world where things like this happen with great regularity and therefore you don't recognize it, it's a stuffed beaver (if there are turquoise beavers) with a Halloween-themed scarf tied jauntily to its forelegs. Apparently there were experiments with gravity and air resistance being carried out.

She also managed to dislodge the fan that had been wedged into her window behind a plexiglass panel secured with screws.

Tonight, I'm putting her in the alcove to start with. Baby steps for this one!*

One thing I could have anticipated was that by the time I got the fourth watermelon hat done, I'd be glad to see the back of that project. This turned out to be the case. One approach to projects like this is to pile it on and get them all done at once.

An equally valid approach, which is almost necessitated if you keep losing the completed items, is to piecemeal them and drag out the tedium pace yourself. I'm not sure they're ever really going to be worn, but I have done what I was asked to do:

As long as we all can still smile, it's probably worth it.

*Even that may take more time than I could have anticipated. Thing 1 yesterday wrote her name, and generously enough, her friends' names, on the side of the house in mud. Mud that she'd made canals in under the deck. Mud made of sand to track into the house. Mud that doesn't easily wash off of the (light yellow) house. Sigh.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Dinner and Diapers

Sorry about the title. It was supposed to be "Head to Tail," but I can't find the freaking fourth watermelon cap so no pictures of them yet.

Taking a page from my friend bfmoma, I decided to show you what we had for dinner tonight. Mostly because it turned out to be unusually yummy, although as usual I made too much soup. Do other people love leftover soup? I might as well just carry mine straight out to the compost bin. . .

At any rate, here's red lentil curry soup with spinach:

Wonder why it's called "red" when it's mostly light orange turning to yellow when cooked? It probably would have tasted even better had I had all of the spices I would normally have used, such as turmeric, whole cumin, not-wilted cilantro, but that's the way it goes.

And I had extra help from Thing 1 and her good friend with the exciting accompaniment -- garlic naan!
It was so yummy that I wished I'd quadrupled the recipe. I also wish I had a big grill outside to make it on, but that can't be helped. Whenever we have Indian food from our favorite restaurant, the naan is always a high-negotiation item ("I'll trade you half of this naan for one of your pakoras") and it was nice to have a basket full.

Both of the recipes were cobbled together by searching for recipes on the internet and picking and choosing. I find that if I read ten recipes for something, it's pretty easy to get the gist of it and go from there.

Last night I spent some time listening to radio shows on the computer, and finishing my first soaker for Thing 4.

Partly because I took my diapers over to my sister and partly because I don't have any diaper pins or clips and partly because this has to be lanolinized, I haven't used it yet. It's from tiny bird's free soaker pattern, and it takes just a tad over one skein of Knitpicks Merino Style on size five needles. I think the instructions to make a ruffle are cute, but possibly quite lumpy under pants. For hot weather, that would be great, but my little one spends a lot of time in knitted legging-style pants, and diaper bottoms are lumpy enough without leg lumps.

I think I should make more if I'm going to use cloth diapers again.

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Actual Knitting Content

I have pictuuuuuuures!!!

Auxilliary Backup Camera (ABC) arrived today, so I gathered up my work of the past month or so and took pictures. I also took pictures of Thing 4 "playing" the piano and of her covered in refried black beans, which Eric promptly made into wallpaper on my computer, but that's a separate issue.

Without further ado, here we have Cabaret:

This is after a few wearings and a delicate machine wash and a machine dry. I like this sweater more every time I put it on. The yarn is a treat and I believe it looks nice on me, too:

The tank top I finished for Thing 2 (Thing 1's is still about four rows in, waiting for a picot edge. I kept trying different lace edgings, and let's just say, I'm still about 0 for 4 where lace is involved.) I am very unhappy with the neck line -- I probably should have read a bit about v-necks before attempting one off the cuff. It looks like she has crosseyed shoulders, but that's the way learning happens here. It fits her as though I measured her and checked my gauge, which I did. The paired decreases making the "darts" worked especially well. There are four, two front and two back.

That fascinating slip-stitch tweed pattern? I gotcha right here.
I don't know if I'm ever going to get over what I thought was a mistake and now can't really find (it was near the top. . .) and want to make a gigantic i-cord strap for it. I may just want to make a black and white version for my cell phone. Only this time I'd use a three-needle bind off for the bottom rather than seaming that, and just seam the side -- for some reason I couldn't make this pattern fly in the round.

I find it kind of amusing that though I never leave the house without a full complement of gear and children, I think knitting a teensy phone pouch will suffice. It's as though there is another person in my head, thinking: "Cell phone, got it. . . couple of dollars, okay. . . bike lock key. . . I'm good to go!" That person then hears me yelling from the front porch toward the (unbearably dirty) minivan, "Just because you are in the car does not mean that we are ready to go! Ask if you can help carry things!" as I stagger out the door holding Thing 4 so she won't sprint down the front stairs, the key/wallet combination I carry because if they're not hooked together I lose one, spare diapers, knitting bag, lunch for 5, sunscreen, a sweater if we're going very far, towels, toys. . .

Some day. And hey, I just bought a pair of spiffy black pants. Maybe Thing 4's godmother will babysit again soon and I can dress up and carry a tiny pouch and feel chic! But in the mean time, I am so very in love with this pattern that I'm seriously considering buying more tiny cotton to make that jacket. I cruised Elann today and looked at the Sonata colors. I realized that maybe one in that moss and cream colorway, while it would coordinate with everything I own, might not work best for whichever girl I make it for. Maybe something more autumnal would work? Something in cocoa and orange? Gold? Go over there and suggest some Sonata mixes for me, wouldja?

Maybe by then these socks will be done.
I realize that somewhere along the line the actual knowlege of how to turn a heel has fallen out of my head. I remember it had something to do with decreasing and short rows, and I have faith that somehow, when I get the second sock to match the first one, as far as heel flappage goes, the knowlege will either have magically reappeared in my brain or I'll find a nice place to look it up. Just one turned heel, and I'll at least have it for this pair.

Now that I can't pretend that I'm just not posting reams of finished items because of the camera, I guess I had better get back on the needles.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Beware of Falling Objects

Things I never Thought I'd See, part 786,048:

Yes, I'm wildly proud of her. No, I don't have the camera back. That picture was taken by another fencer's parent. The camera shop guy told me to call "tomorrow" when I called him last week. Then when my spouse called him the next day, he apparently got a little shirty and suggested that we were harassing him -- the part was on order, and they would call us when it was ready. Spouse said that we probably needed an auxillary backup camera. [Ed. note: I am well aware of the horrible misuse of the word "need" in this context. We have food, shelter, health, overly-active children. We are blessed in embarassing ways. However, I can't take pictures of my knitting. That's what he means by "need."]

Free of the silly distractions of documentation, I've been knitting. Perhaps it's in the air, thanks to the Mason-Dixon crew, but I tried a slip-stitch color pattern from Barbara Walker's first treasury for a little cell phone bag. Besides proving to myself that I can make mistakes on the easiest patterns in the world, I also discovered that I'm madly in love with that little tweed check and now want to make a snappy cotton jacket (with attached i-cord trim and a zipper) out of the same teeny cotton on size 3 needles for Thing 2 or 4. I also want to knit fast enough to complete the 20+ projects I jotted down during a less-than-riveting homily on Sunday.

The endless seduction of knitting is like a basso profundo behind the daily stuff I do. Read a book (think about knitting). Vacuum the house (think about knitting). Write a menu, grocery shop (think about knitting). Anyhow, knitting is just one more of those blessings that crowd in on me. It could be playing the bazouki or researching Civil-War era diaries, but for me it's the stranding and scooping, the hunting for the missing notions, the tug of war between acquiring more yarn than I technically need and using up what I have, making mistakes and swearing at them, frogging and reknitting. No wonder my project list keeps growing by leaps and bounds. During swim lessons today, one of the anniversary socks got four more rows on the heel flap and the ultimate watermelon hat gained an inch or so -- I may be up to the decreases. I have to capture Thing 4 and pop it on her head.

That's going to be a little harder now. She's pretty adept at stairs (the other day's fall down the last three or four outside notwithstanding) and so she can get upstairs. She's snuffling her nose. She's being funny on purpose. She's busy. A great favorite lately is finding small objects and putting them through an open window in the dining room. We have a fan which sits across the window, so she cannot become the small object going through it, but there's a two inch gap at the side. Retrieved items include credit cards, the DVD remote, felt-tip markers, the grinder wheel from the CD repairer, silverware, a plastic cup, and three tubes of lipstick and a pencil.

It's a good thing she's really cute.