Sunday, November 26, 2006

The promised pictures

I promised I'd post pictures from the cabin:

I told you I was busy! This is just some of the stuff I read while there. I liked Jane and the Man of the Cloth (thanks, Allison) and couldn't put Holley Bishop's Robbing the Bees down. Animals in Translation is another wonderful work By Temple Grandin. If you've never read any of her stuff, give it a try. Carrie Bebris' Suspense and Sensibility lost me in the preface. The "spirit in the mirror" isn't what I hope for in a good mystery. I'm looking forward to reading The Queen Must Die, by William Longgood. I think I've read at least one other book by him, but titles escape me. That was one reason that being an English PhD student was a challenge for me!

"Bee literature" simply fascinates me. Before we took off, I checked the hive once more, and saw things I don't understand. I also saw new bees chewing their way out of their waxy birth chambers, which left me stunned and feeling honored and fortunate. Unfortunately, reading about bees doesn't teach me all that much. I'm just getting a handle on how little I know. I imagine any endeavor worth its salt has this effect on its devotees. I know knitting is the same way for me.

Speaking of knitting, here's some closer peeks at the sweater. An adorable collar -- I just love this colorway. Maybe that's why I liked the sweater so much (although not enough to finish it in less than five years). In fact, it's been so long that the yarn in the kit has changed.

Any bets on how long it takes Thing 4 to stain this beyond recognition? Hopefully I'll keep it away from food by whipping it off of her if she exhibits any hunger signs. Little swimmy fish around the bottom:

What the things did over Thanksgiving:

You can't see it, but Thing 4 is wearing new dalmation puppy rain boots. And how tired were they on the way home?

Thing 4 is asleep there too -- you can just see her head over the top of her seat. Thing 2 didn't nap, because she almost never does. Despite my anxiety dreams about finding horrible things upon re-entry, the worst was a load of sour laundry in the washer. Or maybe the mostly-eaten mouse in the trap that had been dragged upstairs to the carpet.

It's good to be home. The cats are lovely -- I swear the kitten is bigger than he was -- and we had, in fact, left a fairly nice and clean house for our return. I have work to do tonight before I knit, and I'm going to get it done. But I am not going to weave ends in until tomorrow. That's a daylight activity.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Final tally:
one turkey
three and half books of interest to myself
one Saturday San Francisco Chronicle
one last week's Chronicle book review
ten or so renditions of The Cat in the Hat
stacks of river rocks
One small sweater (half done to start, now all but assembled)
four trips to the coffee shop
two pairs of shoes made so wet by falling into Austen Creek that they couldn't be worn
nine Duraflame logs used
umpteen games of "make the baby laugh"
and many things I've left out.

That was my Thanksgiving in a cabin in Cazadero. Redwoods everywhere, only sporadic rain, a creek close enough for the kids to go throw rocks and make things as the spirit moved them, and a coffee shop just a short walk down the road. It's been very nice.

Knitting-wise? Not so great. I spent the drive up half-untangling a pound of beautiful green yarn over which no doubt Thing 1 and I are going to fight, so I didn't knit for those four hours of holiday traffic. Easier on the brain than knitting (and the eyes in case of an accident).

And, had I been able to use my brain, I wouldn't have knitted each of the sleeve starts at least twice. Got to remember that increase rate! But the sweater kit that I bought when Thing 2 was about six -- months -- is finally done. Thing 4 is going to look adorable in it, but I can't post pictures until I get home. I promise, after I unpack and hook up the cable, pictures tomorrow!

In lieu of that, this meme from Turtlegirl is going to have to suffice. I swear I've done this before, but what the heck. I can't find it in my archives. Without further ado, some Things About Stefaneener:

A) Four jobs I have had in my life:
1. Photo Mate
2. Dog poop scooper
3. Hurt book repairer
4. Graduate secretary

B) Four movies I would watch over and over
1. Raising Arizona
2. The Princess Bride
3. A Christmas Story
4. ummmmm, not much of a movie gal

C) Four places I have lived
1. Granada Hills, CA
2. Charlottesville, VA
3. Tempe, AZ
4. Knoxville, TN

D) Four TV shows I love to watch:
1. nothing currently

E) I have been on vacation:
1. Alaska's Inland Passage
2. Venice, Italy
3. upstate New York
4. Guerneville, CA

F) Websites visited daily:
1. Knitty Forum
2. Yahoo! mail
3. Bloglines
4. Random bopping around

G) Four of my favorite foods:
1. Toast
2. Chocolate
3. Coffee Heath Bar Crunch Ben and Jerry's ice cream
4. Blenheim apricots

H) Four places I would rather be right now:
1. My mythical farm I could have without leaving my urban place like this
2. Italy (just for a visit)
3. ummmm, the garden?
4. at my table, drinking tea and talking to Suzee

I don't tag, so if you want to do this, let me know you did.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Stash and Solitude

Most of my life, I thought of myself as an extreme extrovert. Energy came from being around other people; I didn't need time alone to recharge. I didn't understand friends of mine who would unplug their telephones for days on end. Save for reading, my hobbies were social ones: sports, dancing, graduate school.

Now that I have four children, I realize that I was actually experiencing a fairly significant amount of alone time. By "significant," I of course mean "any." Time spent walking from my car to a destination, time spent getting ready for bed at night, time spent in the bathroom.

Take the other morning. The state of the yarn room upstairs had been preying on my mind. Between my general slovenliness and the depredations of Things 2 and 3, it had become something of a post-hurricane scene. But on this, the glorious morning of alone early waking, the baby did not wake up when my form exited the bed. Very unusual.

I literally snuck upstairs, where only Thing 4 and the cats sleep. The others are all cozy in one room downstairs. Although I had held out with great restraint (hear that, you all who bought up the lovely light green KSH on sale?) , I had made a few purchases on my local yarn store's closing day. I felt increasingly responsible to neaten it up some:

enough Encore to make Lily Chin's reversible Aran Afghan
Light green yarn for a light green Thing 1 cardigan
bright green yarn for something for Thing 1 -- any suggestions?

So there I was, stuffing yarn in cubbyholes like a postal employee, when Thing 1 stumbled in. I told her to sit in the entry, in order to prevent her taking up the unusually small clear space on the floor. As she woke up, she started to talk. She had lots to tell me, the cats' shenanigans to comment on, and just general early-morning chat. On one hand, I treasure alone time with one of my children and enjoy hearing what they're thinking about. On the other hand, I had so been looking forward to having a little bit of time with just my own voices in my head.

No matter. By the time I was done, all of them were awake and talking talking talking, demanding oatmeal, complaining about the manifold unfairnesses in our parenting, and spinning on the now-clear floor. No matter how chaotic this may seem, these are after pictures, with those two rightmost bins empty, and the pictures move from left to right.

There's more than just yarn in here -- there's a (so far) unused Ashford spinning wheel, some quilting and sewing supplies, a redwork quilt in that box, books, and photographs and albums to put them in. But since I want to have memories inside my head as well as pictures to treasure, I'll try to remember that alone time comes in time, but a sleepy child talking to you or a toddler spinning joyfully with pointy sticks are time-limited offers, and act accordingly.

I hope a blessed and grateful Thanksgiving for all who are celebrating.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sandwich, anyone?

It took an incredible confluence of factors -- older three children playing at other houses, and the baby asleep for a long nap -- but I spent some restorative time on my knees today.

Not praying, although my knees are sore (as is my index finger) but basting. Sometimes I think it's having a fairly clear idea of the quilting pattern for this quilt that keeps me eager and focused on it (although still slow in execution). It's not going to be perfect, but I'm so looking forward to getting it in a hoop.

That also explains why Thing 1's first birthday quilt is still a basted bundle upstairs.

Monday, November 13, 2006

How Time Flies

Hard to believe that this

is, after birthday waffles with whipped cream, a five year old today. I remember that his birth, at home in water like the others, was a perfect two hour birth. Midwives were there and everything!

Of course, at the rate I'm going, he'll be seven before the brown sweater is done.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

When too much is just enough

Bet you thought I was talking about yarn, huh?

Well, last night I was working on the cupcake cake. I had baked the cakes, then set them to cool and taken Jane and the Unpleasantness (which I heard of through Allison's blog) to the bath for a little reading and relaxation.

When I was dry and dressed, I went to get a cup of hot chocolate -- in the book, everyone is drinking chocolate for breakfast, and it was inspiring -- and as I leaned over to get a pan out of the below-counter cupboard, a wee little mousie ran across the counter about a foot from my eyes. My reaction? I shrieked and decided I didn't need cocoa after all. I did clap my hands to make certain that I wasn't going to get another surprise, and moved the cupcakes. Rustlings from behind the stove still gave me the wobblies.

My spouse said that my reactions were harming my reputation as a big, strong woman. Be that as it may, rodents in the house are something of an Achilles heel for my toughness.

This morning, the cupcakes (blissfully ungnawed) were transformed into the birthday cake of Thing 2's dreams.

There were snake-themed activities:

And snake-themed gifts:

And when it was all over, Queen Cleopatra came home from the vet's.

She's a very vocal Burmese that we got at our local animal shelter, and she had to go to the vet before coming home, to make certain that she had been spayed. She doesn't think much of our other new family member, Puck, a regular old fluffy black kitten:

That said, she may have a point. He's got some manners issues.

So now we have eleven creatures in the house (not counting the mice, whose days are numbered if I have to carpet the place with snap traps) depending on us for food, care, companionship, and housing. The snake is happier with more heat, the parakeets think that the cats are a Very Bad Idea, the dog seems to be resigned to his fate, my spouse (who doesn't like cats too much) has become the favorite lap, and Mr. Sucky the Vacuum and I are going to continue our special relationship. It's okay, I've missed having cats, and these two make me laugh already.

I guess a woman with four children has already demonstrated a commitment to overabundance, huh?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Brought to you by the color brown

I'm up to the shaping on the back of the "easy" sweater. As I read the pattern I'm sort of copying, it appears that the yoke is a combination of a raglan and a very fat saddle shoulder. Okay, I can wing that. Or that's what I tell myself as I lie in bed at night, wondering if I shouldn't do something involving graph paper and measuring tapes.

If I could find any of the dozens of measuring tapes we've owned over the years.

I'm still enjoying the pattern. I imagine myself a tiny little person, climbing hills of yarn.

Then I wonder if I'll ever be able to knit something easy without ripping and redoing. Main Line isn't for ripping and redoing, really. And I'll definitely be handwashing, because I think if I use the machine, even on the gentlest setting, it would strip the shine from the yarn. And heck, if I've ripped and reknit so much, it's sort of special to me. Kind of like knitting three sweaters at once, you know?

And I tried, I really tried. My local yarn store is closing, and I stayed out until everything was 40% off. Even then, over numerous trips, I didn't find anything I really needed. I have a spreadsheet that makes it very clear that yarn is among the "you don't need any more" items in my home.

But I'm enjoying the cotton and cotton blend kick I'm on so much, that when I saw these colors of Cascade "Sierra," I bought enough to make either a mint-chip chocolate sweater for me, plus an autumn gold sweater for Thing 4, or else some funky leaf-themed fair isle for. . . someone? with a mostly brown background. Maybe it's not just cotton. Maybe it's the color, too.

As I write that, I realize that I had the camera set on the wrong light. The colors aren't this washed out -- if I were getting that swoony over these colors, I would have a problem. Imagine them ramped up in intensity about three times.

And the weird, wintry looking light in the pictures? That would explain why the snake is cold. That's why he isn't eating. As an aside? Frozen baby mice in my freezer. Yum. Just the thought is a special one for me.

Thanks, Jen, for your warning story. I think we're going to have to invest in a bigger heater or something. Urgh. And he also can't really be held (the ball he was in is a protective reaction). Hard to explain to a reptile-mad little one, but "You can't hold your pet, honey!" He's only about 12" long, so I'm feeling a bit of concern that we keep his tiny cylindricalness warm. And it's cold for the parakeets, too. Tiny sweaters for everyone?

Hey, go on over to Cast On, and hear my friend Patricia read her essay here. She doesn't have a blog, but she's got good things to say!

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Somebody's Seven!

Seven years ago today, this conversation was taking place in our apartment:

Midwife: "Are you sure, because I'm going about 100 miles an hour, and I don't want to speed if I don't really have to?"

Spouse: "The baby is coming now."

Me: "AAaaaaaggghhh! Get Ellen here NOW!"

In 45 minutes, I went from being pretty certain that we were going to have a baby that day, to, well, having had a baby. Ellen the midwife arrived just in time to catch, but not with enough time to park her car. She just left it and ran. Thank goodness our apartment was on the driveway and floor-level! It was pretty intense.

We probably should have taken that as a sign.

The last seven years have been quite an adventure with our little missy, and today she got something she's wanted desperately for at least four:

Thing 2 has taught me a lot, and it seems that I'll keep learning from her. Besides reading a lot about ball pythons and how to care for your new baby python, by Saturday, I need to learn how to turn this

into a cupcake-snake.

Monday, November 6, 2006

Someone Else's Humor

For some reason, I've had an utterly draining day -- and it wasn't even that bad. I think I need to do yoga or something. At any rate, I knit maybe 2 rows, and have high hopes of more tonight.

And no matter how stressful I find my life, it's really pretty wonderful. See?

I also have lovely things to tell you about this week, but need to wait a bit. In the mean time, this piece cracked me up so much when I first read it -- and it's so perfectly appropriate to my life now -- that I thought I'd share it here. "Nor slide down until you are nearly slid away." Snort!

[Reprinted completely without permission from the Atlantic Monthly]

Laws Concerning Food and Drink
Household Principles
Lamentations of the Father

by Ian Frazier

Laws of Forbidden Places

Of the beasts of the field, and of the fishes of the sea,
and of all foods that are acceptable in my sight you may
eat, but not in the living room.

Of the hoofed animals, broiled or ground into burgers, you
may eat, but not in the living room.

Of the cereal grains, of the corn and of the wheat and of
the oats, and of all the cereals that are of bright color
and unknown provenance you may eat, but not in the living

Of quiescently frozen dessert and of all frozen after-meal
treats you may eat, but absolutely not in the living room.
Of the juices and other beverages, yes, even of those in
sippy-cups, you may drink, but not in the living room,
neither may you carry such therein.

Indeed, when you reach the place where the living room
carpet begins, of any food or beverage therein you may not
eat, neither may you drink.

But if you are sick, and are lying down and watching
something, then may you eat in the living room.

*Laws When at Table*

And if you are seated in your high chair, or in a chair such
as a greater person might use, keep your legs and feet below
you as they were.

Neither raise up your knees, nor place your feet upon the
table, for that is an abomination to me.

Yes, even when you have an interesting bandage to show, your
feet upon the table are an abomination, and worthy of

Drink your milk as it is given you, neither use on it any
utensils, nor fork, nor knife, nor spoon, for that is not
what they are for; if you will dip your blocks in the milk,
and lick it off, you will be sent away from my presence.

When you have drunk, let the empty cup then remain upon the
table, and do not bite it upon its edge and by your teeth
hold it to your face in order to make noises in it sounding
like a duck: for you will be sent away from my presence.

When you chew your food, keep your mouth closed until you
have swallowed, and do not open it to show your brother or
your sister what is within; verily I say to you, do not so,
even if your brother or your sister has done the same before

Eat your food only; do not eat that which is not food;
neither seize the table between your jaws, nor use the
raiment of the table to wipe your lips. I say again to you,
do not touch it, but leave it as it is.

And though your stick of carrot does indeed resemble a
marker, draw not with it upon the table, even in pretend,
because we do not do that, that is why.

And though the pieces of broccoli are very like small trees,
do not stand them upright to make a forest, because we do
not do that, that is why.

Sit just as I have told you, and do not lean to one side or
the other, nor slide down until you are nearly slid away.

Heed me; for if you sit like that, your hair will go into
the syrup.

And now behold.....even as I have said, it has come to pass.

*Laws Pertaining to Dessert*

For as we judge between the plate that is unclean and the
plate that is clean, saying first, if the plate is clean,
then you shall have dessert.

But of the unclean plate, the laws are these:

If ye have eaten most of your meat, and two bites of your
peas with each bite consisting of not less than three peas
each, or in total six peas, eaten where I can see, and you
have also eaten enough of your potatoes to fill two forks,
both forkfuls eaten where I can see, then ye shall have

But if ye eat a lesser number of peas, and yet ye eat the
potatoes, still ye shall not have dessert; and if ye eat the
peas, yet leave the potatoes uneaten, ye shall not have
dessert, no, verily I say unto you, not even a small portion

And if thou tries to deceive by moving the potatoes or peas
around with a fork, that it may appear that thou hast eaten
what thou hast not, ye will fall into iniquity.

And I will know, and ye shall have no dessert.

*On Screaming*

Do not scream; for it is as if you scream all the time.

If ye are given a plate on which two foods ye do not wish to
touch each other are touching each other, and your voice
rises up even unto the ceiling, while ye point to the
offense with the finger of your right hand; but I say unto
you, scream not, only remonstrate gently with the server,
that the server may correct his transgression and peace
shall prevail throughout the land.

Likewise if ye receive a portion of fish from which every
piece of herbal seasoning has not been scraped off, and the
herbal seasoning is loathsome to you and steeped in
vileness, again I say, verily, refrain from screaming.

Though the vileness overwhelm you, and cause you a faint
unto death, make not that sound from within your throat,
neither cover your face, nor press your fingers to your

For even as I have made the fish, and it is as it should be;
behold, I eat it myself, yet do not die.

*Concerning Face and Hands*

Cast your countenance upward unto the light, and lift your
eyes to the hills, that I may more easily wash you off.

For the stains are upon you; even to the very back of your
head, and there is rice thereon.

And in the breast pocket of your garment, and upon the tie
of your shoe, rice and other fragments are distributed in a
manner beyond comprehension!

Only hold thyself still; hold still, I say.

Give unto each finger in its turn for my examination
thereof, and also each thumb.

Lo, how iniquitous they appear.

What I do is as it must be; and you shall not go henceforth
until I have done.

*Various Other Laws, Statutes, and Ordinances*

Bite not, lest you be cast into quiet time.

Neither drink of your own bath water, nor of the bath water
of any beast of the field, or any fowl of the air nor of any
kind; nor rub your feet on bread, even if it be in the
package; nor rub your feet against cars, not against any
building; nor eat sand.

Leave the cat alone, for what hath the cat done, that you
should go forth and afflict it so and bindeth it with tape?

And hum not the humming in your nose as I read, nor stand
between the light and the book.

Verily I say unto you, you will drive me to madness.

Neither forget what I said about the tape.

[Ian Frazier, "Laws Concerning Food and Drink: Household
Principles, Lamentations of the Father," The Atlantic
Monthly, February 1997, Volume 279, No. 2, pages 89-90.]

Received from S.McEntire.

Friday, November 3, 2006

Vermin and Viruses

The mice are back; I'm thinking of getting cats, even without the guarantee that they'd chase the mice. I think the rats are back too.

Well, rats, I think. Heee.

We're still snotty. Last night, spouse man said, "So, we're just going to be sick until February, right?" I'm going to get a gallon of that anti-bacterial stuff and dip the kids in it every 10 minutes or so. I know all about the perils of antibacterial stuff, thanks. I'm just tired of being sick in the "I have little children" way.

So Alisha over at her blog is having a contest guessing pumpkin seeds. If you like little Christmas ornaments, make a guess.

Obligatory knitting? I'm into the second ball on the back of the cardigan and wondering if I have enough yarn. Instead of figuring, I'm going to adventure on and find out.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Making it up as I go along

A dear friend and I have been talking about how we compose our lives, often pushed by forces outside of ourselves. I deal with that as I can. One way I do it is not taking advice much from "experts." I have completely stopped reading parenting books, only asking trusted friends when I have specific questions or confusions. I also try to quiet the "shoulds" that peek over my shoulders and shout in my ears seemingly all the time. Part of being a real grown-up, I guess, is taking responsibility for what I do, and not taking responsibility for being or doing what others think I should do.

Sometimes it works really well. Sometimes I just sort of patch things together. Sometimes I do things that don't seem "responsible." I overheard a neighbor last night telling her children that they could each pick out one piece of candy to eat before bed. I laughed. It's not a rule that works for my lively bunch.

I did tell them that Thing 4 doesn't get candy (aside from the pieces she's prying up off of the floor and various furnishings), and that they had to brush teeth last night and eat breakfast today, and that's what works for us. I just heard Thing 2 say, "The day after Halloween is great!" After doing a long ToT with her similarly-dressed friends, Thing 1 is sick with the same thing we all seem to have -- a shattered-glass sinus headache plus runny nose -- but the middle ones are in full hue and cry. I'm hoping to tempt them to play outside for much of the day today.

Sometimes making up your own rules every single day is too exhausting. Sometimes I give myself a day off, sometimes I go for more structure.

It's kind of like knitting. I've lost my current patience for the Schaeffer lace after the last six rows I yanked back (thank goodness it's a tough yarn that doesn't show these re-dos!). In retaliation, starting a new sweater seemed like a great idea. So I looked through some current patterns -- structure, you see? I want something I can knit on without too much thought, that won't make me upset like the lace, but something not mindlessly boring. "Everyday cardigan" seems to be the idea in my head.

I love the sweater in Inspired Cable Knits, but not enough to truly follow the pattern. Saddle shoulders, though, I very much like. And seams will give structure to a fairly floppy yarn, I'm thinking. I like the cable on the arms of "Mariah," from Knitty, but again, not enough to follow the pattern. The colors remind me of chocolate and cherries. It's Knitpick's Main Line, and I'm a little concered about the splittiness.

I've vacuumed and mopped and now I'm going to collapse on the couch. Maybe.