Yarn Along January

Over the holidays and on book club break I was so excited to have the luxurious freedom to read whatever I wanted.  Of course I ended up spending the better part of December previewing Christmas chapter books, trying desperately to stay ahead of my prolific young reader.  BUT, but, but, there has been other reading as well.  One day I had about 5 minutes to spare at the library on our way back from an appointment and I practically ran through the aisles, pulling books joop, joop, joop.  No time to really read or consider.  Gut reaction, judge a book by it’s cover and move on.  Below is some of what I ended up with.

Deer Valley Girl: I know many people love Lois Lenski, but I have to say, the “he said…”, “Then she said….”, “she put down the box”, “see spot run”, style narrative bores me.  I prefer books to be descriptive and nuanced.  Perhaps this is not the best representation of her work?  I don’t know.  But I do know that it’s 145 pages of large print with pictures and it’s been in the house for like a month and a half now, and I still haven’t made it through.

The Rules of Gentility  It takes place in the Regency period, so think Jane Austen, only with a twist because instead of just telling the story outright, it’s told from the perspective of the main characters’ thoughts and is therefore often hilarious and far “proper”.  Quick, light, humorous, rather dirtier than I assumed and just so much darn fun it was the perfect vacation read for me.  I could use a solid month of reading books like this, along with some simple knitting and a whole lot of tea and quiet.

Brown Girl Dreaming: Picked up with one of my book clubs in mind, with everything else I’ve only read a small section, but it drew me in right away and I already feel like it’s one I’ll be eager to share.

Bellefleur: Having read one book by Joyce Carol Oates that deeply resonated with me and another that was well written, but didn’t quite strike the same chord, when I spotted this the thought of luxuriously immersing myself in an epic long book by her sounded just delightful.  It took me a while to settle into it.  Halfway through and I felt like I’d already read three or four books and yet still was somehow unsure of myself within this book.  It’s long and jumps all over the place.  There are endless characters and ever more being introduced.  On one page you are in the present time (present to the story anyhow) and the next you are a 150 years earlier.  It’s strange and eerie and haunting and sometimes quite dull and confusing and astounding and with all of that I’m still really enjoying it.  I’m in a race to finish because books clubs have started up again and my reading time is limited!

Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front: I was introduced to this book by a friend of the author and I have to say, I had trouble putting it down and I’m now passing it around to other members of the household.  Overlooking a few editing snafus, this is an amazing, life changing sort of book.

A Country Affair: Not at all what I expected in picking it up.  I had to come back and add it in because I actually completely forgot that I had read it.  I found a library receipt thing and went, “Oh yeah..”  I think we can deduce that it did not make much of an impression on me!

I actually finally, finally, finally finished the Sweater That Shall Not Be Named.  Though it still needs to be blocked and I seem to be taking my sweet old time with this, just as I did with the whole rest of the project.

I’m working on a Lopi sweater for Elijah, who is uber-impatient and keeps implying that it’s taking forever, when in fact it is really not.  It’s pictured above right before I attached the sleeves to the body for the yoke.  I’m now through the vast majority of the yoke.  I cast on round about the first week of November….for a men’s sized fair-isle.  Not. taking. forever.  Actually going fairly quickly, considering he knew going into this that I had some other projects I needed to work on as well.  He always seems to start in on me when he’s sitting somewhere in the vicinity of my feet (which doesn’t seem like the best plan), so I just poke him with my toes a bit, tell him to give me a break, and keep on knitting.

I also knitted myself a pair of slippers, though I don’t have any pictures of them and they don’t really stay on my feet.

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Christmas 2017

Seraphina’s Christmas Wish List: Eggnog, jelly beans, chocolate cake, candy, bananas, oranges, clementines, grapefruits.  My mother asked, “don’t you want any baby dolls or toys or books?”  Nope. Just sweets.

Elijah watches old episodes of Bob Ross, Galen watches Elijah, I try to figure out which walls can still fit more paintings.  The northern lights one was my Christmas present from Elijah.  Galen is an extremely prolific painter, but I tend to get fewer pictures of his as he tends to paint at night.

Two books that are perfect for around the time of the Winter Solstice:

Little Snow Bear by Hazel Lincoln has been a family favorite for years.  I believe Elijah received it for his 4th Christmas.  The illustrations are divine and I think they were the inspiration for the painting in this post.  It’s a very sweet and gentle story in which little snow bear goes out in search of the missing sun.  Our copy is worn and battered and greatly beloved.

Lucia and the Light by Phyllis Root was a happenstance library find and entirely new to us this year.  The story is modeled off of Nordic lore, but more modern in tone and appearance.  It had me from the opening page, “Lucia and her mother and baby brother lived with a velvet brown cow and a milk-white cat in a little house at the foot of a mountain in the Far North.  The cow gave milk, the cat slept by the fire, and the baby cooed and grew fat by the hearth.”  When the sun disappears one day Lucia’s mother tells her that they will, “be each other’s sun until the real sun returns”.  The sweet story turns into an adventure when Lucia sneaks out to find the sun only to discover it’s been stolen by trolls!  The trolls, admittedly, were too much for sensitive, three-year-old Miss Seraphina, but I will keep this one in mind for next year.

Life with teens: I have one who walks about draped in home-made whips and another who randomly wears boxing gloves as some sort of bizarre fashion statement.

The baby doll Juliette has been in a somewhat horrifying state for about a year now.  She never really recovered from that time when Galen decided to give her “troll hair”.  And beyond which was getting rather grubby with two years of loving.  When two days before Christmas my neighbor dropped by with some brown mohair yarn I decided the time was ripe for an impromptu surprise makeover.  I do not adore the highlights.  They are what was salvageable of her original hair, plus the little bit of that yarn that I had leftover.  I was afraid that if I used an entirely new hair color she might be too different, so I tried to blend the two.  It’s ok-ish I guess.  I also cleaned her up, refreshed her rosy cheeks and donned her in her new Christmas nightie (of course) she made her grand reappearance on Christmas Eve.

Elijah helped with the Christmas pajamas again this year.  Thank goodness.  It’s too daunting for me alone.  It took 16 yards of fabric to cover those boys of mine!  Sixteen!  We hated the pattern (Simplicity 2771) so much that by the time we got to Galen’s we decided to switch to another pattern entirely (Kwik Sew K3945).  Elijah made that complete set on his own in probably a quarter of the time it would have taken us with the other pattern.  And probably half the size- the others were HUGE!

For the girls I used old standbys.  My favorite Kwik Sew 3423 and it’s bigger sister Kwik Sew 3105.  I used the latter for Mairi Rose’s first Christmas and have turned to them both regularly ever since.  I made them each a pair of pink organic cotton velour leggins for underneath.  And they are terribly sweet and soft and toasty and cuddly in them.

Oh, I almost forgot!  Seraphina’s romper….I was rushing out the door headed for a long car ride and trying to quickly pull together everything I needed for the day’s knitting.  I had every intention of sizing up the Lady from the North Cabled Romper, but something went amiss with my paypal and it decided to treat my payment as a check requiring three days to clear.  Are you kidding me??  So I grabbed a stitch dictionary instead and designed my own as I went along.  I was already well into it when the pattern arrived several days later.

And the chickadee!  I love him so.  It was a little project just for pleasure, started with some friends, mostly crafted on Christmas day, finished a day or two later.  I think I might have to make a tradition of it and make a new bird each year to add to the tree.

 

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December

And this is as far as I got in what was going to be a very full advent sort of post.  Better some than none?  I don’t know, but here you go anyway.

The garden is covered in ice and snow.  I’ve been scanning/quick reading Christmas chapter books all month to make sure that they are ok for Mairi, who reads at least one a day.  I’ve been making a list so that I don’t have to start all over again with Seraphina.  I should share it here, but who wants a list of Christmas books after Christmas??  I’m absolutely exhausted, but I suppose that can’t be helped.  Christmas pajamas are complete, but for a few snaps still needing to be set.  It took 16 yards of fabric to cover my boys this year, for goodness sake!  The girls’ are of a different fabric and pattern this year- pink and matching, Seraphina is going to be thrilled and hopefully Mairi Rose will be tolerant.  My Grandmother’s shortbread with all sorts of alterations for dietary restrictions turned out only so-so.  Elijah has been covering at least one canvas a week (that is one of the more recent ones above) and Galen has been averaging a painting a day (didn’t get so far as to include those pictures).  We’re supposed to have a snowstorm Christmas morning and I’m pleased about that.  Currently I’m trying to figure out if there is any way to fit in a Christmas Eve nap, but I think I probably ought to go clean up my living room instead.  It’s also my sewing space at the moment.  You might just be able to picture the chaos.  Or maybe not.  I seem to bring with me my own special brand of chaos.  And goodness I need to be on top of it all soon because in 12 days my children have a birthday.  Mairi Rose will be 9 and Iain will be 18 (!!!).  p.s.  Who decided that 18 makes for an adult?  I think I might like to have a word with them…  And there are still gifts and things to be tended to there.  So I think I’ll end here by saying a very merry Christmas and happy holiday season to all of you!!!!

with love, Melody, Steve, Iain, Elijah, Galen, Mairi Rose, Seraphina, and a whole slew of chickens

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Yoda Tea (for lung inflammation and congestion)

Back in the spring when I was sick with pleurisy I tried just about everything to ease the pain, reduce coughing and try to get back on the path towards wellness.  This strong brew, named ‘Yoda‘ by my children for it’s characteristic sickly green color, was the single thing that I felt benefited me the most.  With cold and flu season upon us, I’ve had regular requests to share this recipe.

Yoda Tea

1 large fistful of fresh thyme*
2 T. of matcha green tea
1 T. of turmeric
1 T. of whole cloves
orange peel- around 1 orange worth
Around 1/2 Cup of lemon juice
Honey to taste

*Whenever we have made this we have used the fresh thyme growing in our garden.  We grow an heirloom variety of “sweet” thyme, which has a very pleasant and rather milder flavor than regular thyme.  Some people have found that amounts need to be adjusted according.

Place the thyme, the matcha tea, turmeric, cloves, and orange peel in a quart jar.  Cover with boiling water.  Steep for at least 5 minutes, strain.  Add in the honey and lemon juice and drink it as warm as you can tolerate it. I suggest regular stirring or shaking to keep the powdered ingredients evenly distributed.
When I was at my worst I was actually drinking it a quart at a time, but obviously it could also be drunk a cup at a time, which may be more appropriate for a more minor illness.

 

obligatory disclaimer: I’m a random mother on the internet posting a tea recipe that she found helpful, not a doctor, so use your discretion and due consideration when making your own healthcare decisions.   
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Yarn Along: 11/11

Although Ginny, the creator and “host” of Yarn Along, seems to have drifted away from it, I’ve always kind of liked that weekly check in of reading/knitting, especially as a way of easing back into blogging after an absence.

There has been a shift in my knitting since I last wrote about it.  I’ve actually been knitting a great deal, just not posting about it.  My Ravelry notebook is woefully behind.  I’ve been working on a number of projects for my kids and feel as though I’ve comfortably settled back into the way things should be.  It would have been better if I was preparing for autumn, but I’ll settle for preparing for winter instead.  I’m currently finishing up the last strap on a romper for Seraphina, when I have the patience I’m working in the roughly eight-zillion ends on a sweater for Iain, and I’m well underway with a sweater for Elijah (pictured above).

I’m currently reading Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody with the book club for adolescents that I run at our homeschooling co-op and  The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl  by Timothy Egan with my high-school group.  The upside to leading the groups is that I get to re-read some fantastic books and share them with these children that I adore.  The down side is that it leaves precious little time for me to pick up a new book on my own!

These two actually have a great deal of overlap and relate to each other.  This was not planned, it just happened that way.  Both groups read at a different rate and they just happened to line up.  It’s been interesting for me to re-read the two of them together.  The first is the author’s memoir of  moving to and working the land on a ranch in Colorado at the beginning of the twentieth century.  It’s sort of like the Little House books, only rather harsher.  The second is a collection of information and real-life accounts of the brutal dust storms that absolutely devastated the high plains during the Depression.  Dust storms that were largely due to the settling and plowing up of the prairie sod in places like Colorado, where people where flocking at the turn of the century!  The politics throughout both are just mind-boggling; horrific in many ways and yet somehow not surprising.  Both books are well worth reading and sharing.

I would love to hear suggestions of your very favorite books for the 13-15 year old range!

 

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Halloween

Two bundt cakes stack bottom to bottom sort of make for a pumpkin shaped pumpkin cake.  We used carrot juice to color the icing and matcha green tea to tint the marzipan.

They were adorable, carving a pumpkin together.  She sings happy birthday to the pumpkin every time we light a jack ‘o lantern.

Elijah has started making Halloween costumes for his friends as well.  This is Gandolf the Grey’s staff….

and Gimli’s helmet…

A motley crew…

Indiana Jones

The Dread Pirate Roberts, a.k.a. Wesley

And my darling Anne-girl.

It was really nice of our neighbor’s black cat to drop by on Halloween for ambience.

Anne of Green Gables dress details:

I started with the geranium dress pattern.  I used the bodice extension and sash straight from the expansion pack.  I took the straight sleeve from the expansion pack and modified it for the oh-so-important puffs using this tutorial.  I made the sleeves first and she came in to kiss her puffs several times each day.  I took the hem band from the pack and made it 1 1/2 times longer and used that to craft the ruffle at the bottom.  The collar is an actual hand-pieced, antique collar.  After some repairs I added a button and bound button loop so it could be worn, but still remain a separate piece.  The rest is just trim.

   It is brown of course.  Because Mathew bought Anne a brown dress with puffed sleeves.  Mairi Rose was so offended when he gave her a blue dress in the movie!  This was hands-down one of my all-time favorite costumes.  I couldn’t stop watching her in it.  She’s like a china doll.  And that she picked Anne?  Oh my, well this mama heart couldn’t be happier!

This littlest one was seriously too excited to stand still for a picture.  All of these rather poor ones were taken in rapid succession over the course of like 45 seconds, which was way, way longer than she wanted to spend on it.  Which explains why you can’t really tell what her dress looks like in any of the pictures.  I’ll have to get a better picture of it at some point.  She informed me that she plans on wearing it everywhere so I should have plenty of opportunities!

Ever since we were matryoshkas together two years ago, Seraphina is convinced that we require coordinating costumes, which is how I ended up as a Mama Kitty last year.  And really now, how long is this last baby of mine going to want her mama to wear a matching costume?  Not very long at all.  So I humor her.  This year I was informed that herself, myself, Unicorn, and her doll Milky were all to be princesses for Halloween.  Sometimes I humor her a lot.  I asked her if it wouldn’t make more sense for me to be the queen and she assured me it would not.  I was the mama princess and her, Milky and Unicorn where the baby princesses.  End of story.  Yes ma’am.

Seraphina’s dress is also a geranium, with the gathered sleeves from the expansion pack.  The only modification I made was to add three large, lace trimmed ruffles in tiers down the skirt.  I was also told that her dress must be pink.  I had other ideas in mind, but set myself the challenge of making it entirely from what I had around the house.  Adjustments were made and this is the result.  She seems happy with it!

My dress is a heavily, heavily modified Darling Ranges dress, altered to the point of no longer being recognizable as such.  Mine was a freebie sew as well.  I found the material at our local fabric swap.  Since I was taking the time to sew it, and I happen to really need clothing, I was trying to make something that she would consider a princess dress, but that I could get away with for everyday wear.  I’m not 100% sure that I’ve made a success of it, it’s awfully red for one thing, but I’m going to see how it works out.

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The Handcrafted Wardrobe: The Etta Dress

Funny story: As alluded to, two or three months ago I tried making a big deal of getting all purdied up for Steve’s birthday.  We were planning to go on a date, just the two of us. I quietly worked on a new dress to wear, in a style he would appreciate, as a surprise. I thought it was a sweet idea, but suspected he might be less thrilled when he found out that Seraphina has been telling everyone we know about daddy having a “secret dress”.

It turns out he just laughed.  Which I knew he would.  But the story is funnier the other way.

So, I do this thing sometimes….just because we are totally weird…where I randomly surprise Steve for special occasions by dressing up in the style of a different era, complete with hair, make-up, etc.  And I direct your attention to our ’50′s Valentine’s day (yikes.  Kind of wishing I hadn’t looked.  4 years and baby #5 had some serious impact!).  No idea where this started or why (actually, after re-reading that post, I think it started then!  The blog is educational!).  Like I said, we’re just kind of weird that way.  In honor of his birthday this year, I went with the decade in which he was born.  I was going for a Joan from Mad Men kind of thing, but Christina Hendricks I ain’t!  What I am is a middle aged mother of five, so you basically get what you get.

Sewing a fitted dress when you are nowhere near an average size and shape??  Holy moly.  I shortened the bodice, the skirt and the sleeves….brought in the waist, let out the high hip, brought in the low hip….did a full bust adjustment…a slight sway back adjustment (should have done more!)…made it narrower through the shoulders…lowered the neckline by two inches when one of my two muslins felt too choke-y* and correspondingly altered the collar.  And probably other things that I can’t think of because I’m blocking out the trauma.

*Just for clarification, I don’t think this is a flaw in the pattern, it’s just that people with a history of breathing problems (me) tend to get freaked out by anything too close to their throat.

My darts are all….I don’t know…awful.  Yup, that’s the word.  Terrible, atrocious and mortifying would all fit as well.  Even though I know how to sew darts properly and I swear I did them the “right” way.  Somehow they are still totally wrong.  I want to blame the fabric, but I’m not sure that’s fair.  And I don’t like where they hit.  I think I should have altered that, but I double checked pictures of the pattern and that is where they are supposed to be.  Side note: I seriously, seriously, seriously need a pressing ham if I’m going to insist on continuing to make women’s dresses.  Seriously.  An invisible zipper foot would be good too.

I felt the fabric would be just perfect.  I was wrong.  It’s a stretch sateen….which quite predictably shows and amplifies every little flaw, both in my figure and sewing ability.   The dress looks ok (and only ok) if I am standing still having just straightened it, but the moment I move at all it shifts and bunches and clumps-clings in funny and awkward ways.  This is probably evident from the photos above.

So much work for something so horribly disappointing!  I think I’ll be sticking with super simple sewing for a while now.

But yes, he liked it.  Though I suspect he wasn’t actually looking at the darts, so I’m not sure how much his opinion should really count for.  Just sayin’.

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A sweater for Kathy

I’ve been very flaky, random, and unfocused with my knitting lately.  Usually I have very specific items picked out for the kids, and occasionally myself, which I faithfully knit through the summer, resulting in a relatively warm, woolen clad family.  But this year I’ve just been bopping around aimlessly from project to project.  I’ve mostly been knitting (and crocheting actually) blankets and shawls.  I don’t know what it is, but the three shawls I’ve made for myself in the last year are screaming that I’m in a rut.  The fact is, all I want to do is knit more!  For the longest time I had absolutely no interest in sweaters or hats or well, anything at all that couldn’t just be wrapped around you.  I think I must be going through some kind of withdraw due to not needing to knit any baby blankets lately.

So I’m arriving late to the cold weather knitting party, but I’m here.  I made a hat in-between shawls.  And I’m finally picking up a few sweaters that have long been wasting away on needles.  The one above is complete.  A friend who is relatively new to knitting started this project for herself, found that she was out of her depth and asked me if I would finish it for her.  The pattern is Lucy by c2knits.  I don’t remember what the yarn is off the top of my head.  She knitted the main part of the body of the sweater.  I picked up the stitches all the way around to knit the collar, hem, and front bands.  I told her this part had been fun and she laughed at me.  I also knit the sleeves and am happy to have returned it to her in wearable condition.

I still have several birthday sweaters from earlier this year to complete and several other ideas drifting through this brain of mine.  I think it’s time to get to work.

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a birthday date

Steve’s birthday just past and we made a long weekend of it.  Saturday an outing for just the two of us, Sunday a bit of a family celebration and Monday, by his request- trying and somewhat succeeding to do as near to nothing as possible.

I got entirely dolled up for our brunch outing (possibly more on that later).  It was a gift of sorts.  As we were sitting and eating I caught the eye of a beleaguer looking mother, trying to herd her young ones out the door.  The somewhat desperate look on her face!  It was like I could read her thoughts.  Because they have been my thoughts so many times.  It was a fleeting moment of mixed emotion that basically amounted to, “It must be nice to have the time, space, and energy for appearances.  I’d rather like that sort of luxury myself, but clearly that is not my lot.  I bet you take it for granted.” Just a split second, a glimpse of a thought, before landing squarely back in the world of, “No, no don’t run towards the street!”, “Please get that out of your mouth,”, “People don’t really like it when you bring sticks into a restaurant dear.”  In a way that probably makes me somewhat awful, it was rather flattering to be on the opposite side of this exchange.  Oh, but I empathized with her.  I really and truly did.  In my own jealousy (I guess that’s the best word.  Maybe envy is better?) it’s less about what the other person actually looks like and more about how they obviously took the time to care for themselves.  Which implies that they had the time.  That is what I find desirable and often unobtainable.  And I think I read more into it then I should about priorities and the ease of the other person’s life.  I wanted to go and hug her frazzled self and tell her that she should see me most days, carry a toddler and a bag for her and help with the door.

After brunch we visited a vintage clothing shop.  Which primarily consisted of us identifying articles that easily could have come out of the past wardrobes of our various relatives.  My trying on outrageous glasses and hats to make him laugh.  And my being made fun of for pseudo-secretly harboring an embarrassing desire to wear all of the pink chiffon garments that everyone else finds hilariously hideous.

We walked the sidewalk sale of a funky, artisan town and briefly visited an arboretum…sadly too late to tour the conservatories.  But that was lovely and I wish we had longer there.  Highlights for me included the immense Japanese umbrella pine that Steve is standing under in the picture above.  A big, beautiful 100+ year old ginkgo, and Cinnamon Vine (both pictured above) which I had never heard of before.  I found it by it’s scent which I trailed across the garden.  It’s this sort of intoxicating floral/cinnamon that had me vowing to add it to our own garden.  Then I came home and started to read up on it, learning that it’s considered invasive and you have to plant it every year and do special things to propagate it and so forth, at which point it all started to sound like too much trouble and I figured I’d just be better off occasionally sniffing a spice bottle instead.

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