December 31, 2007

Turtle Mania

Another reveal - I made these lounging pants for my favorite two-year-old. I thought the turtle pants were pretty darn cute when I finished them, but then I made the turtle toy and all together it is simply over-the-top cute.

The only problem is that it doesn't look to me like the pattern built in sufficient diaper room. I may be making these again, a size bigger, after his parents get a chance to try putting them on him.

December 30, 2007

A Foray In To Wedding Photography

My cousin and his new wife were married in a civil ceremony in South America, where they met and lived up until a month ago. Yesterday they held a small church wedding here. So small that I was asked to be the photographer. Its not something I'd like to do routinely, too much pressure, but I enjoyed the role.And while I fell far short of what you'd expect from a professional, I did get some great shots under difficult circumstances.* I was apparently fairly convincing in the role, too, since one of the elders who assisted with the ceremony asked for my card afterwards. (I was very confused for a second before I realized she didn't want the business card identifying me as an attorney.) I won't show many here, not knowing how others would feel being pictured on our blog.But my sister isn't shy - and is very photogenic - so I'll show you this one.

It was a great day. The bride is a warm and funny (and beautiful) addition to the family, who clearly brings out the best in my cousin. We enjoyed celebrating with them and welcoming her in to the fold. Its probably lucky he married her before she got a good look at all of us, but she handles the chaos well.

* The priest gave me free range to take pictures during the ceremony, but no flash. The bride and groom had only limited patience with the posed pictures afterwards, and even with my flash the lighting was tough. And the reception was held in a house that forced me to run through another room to get around a wall for most every show I wanted. All in all, I'm pretty pleased with the photos I obtained. And since the groom's mother assured me "at least you won't have your finger across all the photos, the way I did when I took pictures at the wedding in Chile," I'm guessing they'll be pleased, too.

December 26, 2007

The Glow

I know its been a great holiday when I wake up the morning after and the world seems to have a peaceful glow. We succeeded this year in having a holiday that was busy, joyous, and full without being stressful. I surprised the family on Christmas Eve with bags of treats - the table of pickled vegetables and baked goods you saw yesterday.

And on Christmas morning, most of my gifts to others were hand made or the 'just perfect' thing I knew all along they wanted. I never once set foot in a mall and I only went to one box store - for bows and Alex's stocking stuffers. I hope to start planning ahead early enough next year to make most of my gifts again; it was so much more fun this way.

My Mom and Aunts all have creaky joints, so they each received a heating pad. The pretty cover is removable, so you can wash off the menthol, and the rice bag inside is flannel.
My Uncle, whose passion is fishing, received a basket of snacks. Homemade granola, vegetable chips from the farmers market and extras of the Christmas goodies. Dad, the hot sauce fan, received the habanero hot sauce made from my bounty of habaneros. (And an extra, personal gift that made him cry.) I didn't think to get photos of either.

For Grandma, my sister and I made a photo album of pictures old and new. It was not only a hit with her, but with the rest of the family too.
I forgot to take a picture of the gift I worked longest on - a collection of cloth grocery bags for my sister - and was most excited to show you. (I'll try to get a photo shoot with them soon.) I used pre-embellished denim and then made bags of assorted sizes to accommodate different types of groceries. I'm hoping the french seam will keep it strong enough, and I'm really pleased with the handles - both a strap for over your shoulder and small handles for gripping.

Of course, it turns out my sister forgot that she asked me to make those for her Christmas gift over two months ago and proceeded to make cloth grocery bags as gifts for other people. I couldn't believe it when the first one was opened. She swears its still perfect because she hasn't made any for herself, didn't have the long strap on hers and now she has a matching collection. I'm still pleased with them, but it definitely took the wind out of my sails a bit!

But, I think the rubble work scarf was my coup de grace, anyway. Here's the finished photo.
This one's hard to give up.

I have a few more gifts for people I'm not seeing until New Years, but all in all I'm feeling pretty proud of myself this morning.

December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and yours many lovely treats and special moments.
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December 20, 2007

Mmmm, Chocolate

I've given in to the instinctual need to bake at Christmas. I now have 15 half pint jars of chocolate cake in the oven, and its all the blogosphere's fault. But, really, how could I resist the chance to give my neighbors serving size cake? If these turn out as well as I expect, I'll be doing several more batches over the next few days.

Which should drive my husband nuts, seeing as how he doesn't eat flour or sugar.

December 16, 2007


I'm still busy with lots of Secret Christmas Stuff, but this weekend I worked on a few projects that are blog safe. For my two little cousins who love to color and craft, books and special coloring tools.The youngest is new to the family and I have no idea how her parents feel about markers, so she gets twistable crayons. The oldest gets really cool markers I am coveting myself.

I made the books with cardstock and drawing paper, running a line of stitches down the middle and then trimming to fit. This was not my most successful project and I have real doubts about the sturdiness of the spine, so I reinforced with tape. (Blue painters tape, specifically. I thought it would be more festive than masking tape.) They are cute, but I'm going to need to do some research or thinking before trying that again.

My plan is to put the two books, crayons/markers and some loose drawing paper in to a small canvas bag for each girl. Time permitting, I'll decorate the bags with their names or something. (I toyed with the idea of making bags for them, but then I realized I have the right size bags on hand from a wedding project that went nowhere.)

And for a friend who has requested I knit her a scarf someday, a sewn scarf to tied her over is in the works.
(I'd like to thank Teddy for the lovely modeling job.) I usually keep friend gifts to a minimum and/or simple, but this friend is stuck in Florida working while her family and her boyfriend all celebrate Christmas in Virginia. We're taking her in for the holiday, and I wanted to have something nice for her. Kathy's Rubblework Scarf fits the bill, and it has come together very quickly so far. Tomorrow evening I will back it with purple flannel left from the T-Shirt quilt, and I think it will be lovely for her.

**I will not be trying to finish this, or anything else, tonight. I am decidedly tired tonight. When I finished the books, I went to get the markers out of a cabinet that we threw out a good six months ago. I then started the scarf and had to rip apart the small square blocks twice before finally getting them right. When I successfully finished the front of the scarf, I decided I should consider myself fortunate to have gotten so far and stop.

December 14, 2007


We've plunged right in to the holidays here. We had a great Thanksgiving with everyone there, including family from Texas there to visit, showing us just how quickly a baby can grow when out of sight, and a new wife and daughter introduced to us from Chile. As wonderful as it was, it was still four days since we'd returned home, so the next day we quite literally did not step foot out of our front door. And we didn't do much more than that on the weekend, but we did have to do some shopping to prepare for the company arriving the next Wednesday.

Yep, the next Wednesday Alex's cousin came to visit. From South Africa. For the first time since they were little boys living in Bulgaria. I couldn't decide whether the fact that this was so cool was going to outweigh the lousy timing. (I mean all I wanted to do was sleep, and we were going to have company?) As it turned out, he was the easiest houseguest ever. The kid could have stayed another week and I would have been pleased to have him. He was thoroughly entertained while we were at work by a bike and vague directions of how to get around town. When I got home, he was happy to help out with whatever I was doing and equally as happy to read his book if I needed to lay down. When I needed to go to court for a quick hearing on the day I'd taken off to spend with him, he was excited to be able to attend.

He really took no effort at all, and what effort we did make (and you know we did, right?) was thoroughly appreciated. Make pickled vegetables like they have in Bulgaria? He can barely wait until they finish curing to taste them, and then from the sounds of it I had to assume they'd be outlawed in several states. Light a fire in the chimnea and have dinner in the backyard? "Lovely." We took him canoeing, where Mother Nature decided to impress him with a half dozen otters frolicking in the run, and he was thrilled.

And then, we took this architecture student and Frank Lloyd Wright fan to see Florida Southern College. Ah yes, sometimes we are good. It took up most of a Sunday and never would have been worth it for me, but for him? Oh, we had taken him to the Promised Land. He could touch and photograph actual Wright buildings and the Water Dome. It was pretty cool to be part of that!
All in all, its been crazy busy since we got back. I'm not complaining, though, since everything has been. So. Much. Fun. that I've really enjoyed the whirlwind. But, when he left a week later, I did feel it was time to declare it Christmas. I have been a busy little elf - decorating, crafting, cooking and just a tiny bit of shopping. A quick break to spend time with (yet more) company and then right back to it. Most of it is Secret Christmas Stuff (except the decorating, which isn't all that exciting), but I'll see what I can share later.

(I do have this job that they insist I show up for, and its past time for me to be in the shower and on my way.)

November 23, 2007

T-Shirt Quilt Report

Because I know you're checking, S. The T-Shirt quilt is now sandwiched. That means the backing fabric, the batting and the top have all been securely safety pinned together and are ready to be quilted. Hey, it's progress.

November 21, 2007

In Lieu of An Actual Post

Hi, I'm back. I haven't gotten the energy up to share any of our wonderful trip yet, but it's coming soon.

Meanwhile, in an uncharacteristic move, I took an on line 'what type are you' quiz, even though I could barely remember half the people and movies it referred to. And then, even more surprisingly, thought my friends would probably agree the quiz got it right.

You Belong in 1954

You're fun loving, romantic, and more than a little innocent. See you at the drive in!

What do you think?

November 05, 2007

Dober Den!

We've been in Bulgaria a week now, and took a day off yesterday where we didn't leave the apartment. I don't think Alex even changed out of his PJs, and if he did it was brief. And I just now feel like I might be able to put a coherent sentence or two together.

The first days, week, of a trip to Bulgaria is always a flurry of catching up with family and friends. I was a bit startled to realize that I had people to catch up with this time, too. Family and friends I had met on my last trip here, a few of whom I've since seen in the States and all of whom receive regular updates on our life from Alex or our state-side family. It is a wonderful feeling to be so accepted, and in the case of the grandparents flat-out loved. (Think "our grandson loves you, we love you" and expand that to genuine, amazing generosity of heart that leads Dado Mitko to declare he wants to kiss me at any junction, Baba Danchi to attempt to force feed me so that I will grow cheeks, and Baba Maria to regularly pinch those cheeks that are growing.) But, the conversations in English are still few and far between, and that is surprisingly exhausting.

My Bulgarian vocabulary slowly grows, though I wouldn't count on my attempts to transliterate (is that the word?) in to the English alphabet. I can say good morning, good day and good evening all in their proper context. (Dobro Ootro, Dober Den and Dober Vecher, respectively.) I can also use the more casual hello or hi (stradvete or draste, definitely misspelled) and good night (le knosht). I haven't been able to spit out goodbye yet, but since everyone here uses 'ciao' I'm not worried about it. I can toast (nostdrave) and tell someone that something is very good (mnogo hoobovo), though I always make the object male. I have a smattering of nouns, including cat, knife, store, sweater, hat and cigarette. (Lots of smoking here - everywhere. There is no such thing as a nonsmoking section, though I'm relieved that most of the family doesn't allow smoking in the houses.) And for some reason I still remember ladybug from two years ago. Kalinka, it's just fun to say. If I'm hungry, I can ask for salad, tomatoes, water, wine, beer, coffee, tea, banitza and a type of meat I mispronounce as Kebabshke, but get close enough that people feed me. Fortunately, I like all those things! (I could also order rakia, their national liquor, but that I don't like.)

But since merely being able to ask for a few types of food and a knife (not a fork or spoon, mind you) won't get me far, I am incredibly fortunate that Alex is unendingly patient with translating for me and the family is all willing to go to incredible lengths of sign language to communicate with me. We actually do pretty well with the basics, and they have some English words to throw in there, too. Perhaps most surprisingly to me, I am beginning to occasionally get the gist of a conversation. As long as there aren't too many conversations happening at once, every once in awhile I'll realize that I understand the topic they are discussing or even the main point. I surprised Alex - and myself - the first night by understanding that his grandparents were asking who was caring for Gwen while we were gone. I couldn't possibly hold that conversation, but I understood it. Passive knowledge, Alex called it, and hope that I may actually learn this language some day!

October 26, 2007

Pansy Purse

My Pansy Purse - made from the pleated purse pattern in bend-the-rules sewing by Amy Karol. I didn't follow her embroidery pattern exactly, and I added a magnetic snap. But, other than that it's exactly her pattern.

It's definitely bigger than I usually carry, but perfect for our trip to Bulgaria. I need a bag big enough to carry my knitting, the camera and all the other odds and ends that I keep with me at all times there. Plus, I'll enjoy having such a cheerful bag with me. I mean, just look at the embroidery detail.But, now that I've shown you what I'll be carrying in Bulgaria, perhaps I should go pack for the trip, hmm? I mean, we leave tomorrow and the trip is three weeks. I might need something more than a cute bag to take with me.

October 21, 2007

Where are my sweaters?

A week from today we will be on a plane, headed for three weeks in Bulgaria. Everything about this trip is wonderful - lots of loving family, time to relax, great food, a beautiful country. Everything but the weather, for this Florida girl.

Today's forecast in Sofia? 43 (farenheit), feels like 39. 81% humidity.

October 17, 2007


Life is moving along smoothly, the earth is in it proper orbit and the sky is blue. Today is much like yesterday and tomorrow will be much the same. You think you know what to expect. And then the phone rings. Or, more likely in this modern age, the email pops up. Suddenly, the earth is wobbling wildly on its axis and you're not quite sure how to take your next breath.

Today I received an email that told me a dear friend, but one I talk to much too rarely it seems, has spent the last week in the cardiac ICU at the pediatric hospital. She's sitting at the bedside of her adolescent son, waiting to find out why there is fluid around his heart. Heart failure in a healthy 13 year old. My world was suddenly a very different place.

I can't even begin to imagine what her world looks like.

We spoke this evening. The fragmented phrases of two friends, trying to reach out across the unfathomable. Me trying to feel out how I can help, without asking anything of her – without asking her to put the energy in to thought. Her trying to tell me the hell she has been through, wanting to lean on me but not having the energy to string the sentences together to do so. My friend, who has tackled her life with such amazing strength and energy, so tired and scared, struggling to even speak.

It is so unspeakably unfair. This amazing woman who has fought so hard for this life for her and her children, and who has reached her goals with such good humor and grace. Who was married this year, to an amazing man who has wrapped her and her children in an amazing bear hug of love. Who told me just last month that she is pregnant with her fourth, and last, child. I know. I know it wouldn't be any fairer to another family. But this family... This family deserves a break.

I asked very few questions tonight, but I do know that she asked me to come this weekend, because the company helps. But not now, this weekend - the doctors expect to have him back on the regular floor by then. They had to put in chest tubes to drain the fluid from his heart and lungs. And it hurts, but it drained the fluid. So, I tell myself he seems to be turning the corner. The doctors wouldn't be talking about releasing him to the regular floor in a few days if he hadn't. Chest tubes may be painful, but they work...

So, I take a deep breath and feel my world steady a bit on its axis. Still I feel shaken by the reminder that tomorrow may not be anything like today. Bruised by the memory of my friend's fear and exhaustion. Profoundly grateful for the blessings in my life.

October 11, 2007

The Princess

That is my shawl - handknit with yarn Alex bought me the Christmas before we were married. Knit as a shawl for my wedding day, until I realized it contained mohair which would shed on my white dress and set it aside. It was finished on our honeymoon, and as a result filled with memories.

So, when the dog lays on it, I tuck it around her more snugly. She is the princess.

October 07, 2007

Rainy Sunday

A cup of tea and a lapful of knitting - the perfect way to spend a rainy Sunday.

October 03, 2007


From baby steps to leaping bounds - the Halloween quilt has been a dream. The top is pretty much pieced. I do think I want a border, but I have to buy some fabric for that. Darn.

I've named it Boo-tiful. This naming quilts is new to me, but I kind of like it.

Baby Steps

The backing for the T-Shirt quilt is ready. Last night I ironed, cut and pieced. But, it wouldn't be the T-Shirt quilt if I didn't have at least one issue. One long seam is all I needed to piece it, but the bobbin ran out a third of the way in. And the top thread held in the fabric anyway, so I couldn't tell I wasn't actually sewing anything until I got to the end. Weird, no? But, re-doing one seam, particularly when it doesn't involve my seam ripper, isn't that big a deal.

But, that little snafu aside, the two pieces of the quilt are now ready to be sandwiched with batting. I think I need to do some research on that, since I always really struggle with wrinkles. I read somewhere that you should use masking tape to secure the backing down and then smooth batting and the top on to it, only I can't figure out how you baste it once you do that.

So, progress is made. Baby steps.

October 01, 2007

Remember that flat of marigolds I bought back on September 13th and then left until I decided what I wanted to do with them? Know where they are today?


And my squash plants washed away, literally, in the weeks of heavy rains we've had since then. It looks like I was a bit early putting those in. And the fall watermelons suffered the same fate, but they were a long shot anyway. Now I'm just hoping my tomatoes don't feel over-watered, because I know they are pretty finicky about rain amounts.

On the other hand, I haven't had to drag out the hose in weeks either. And I still have a habanero bounty, though I am definitely going to have to look up more recipes using them. That or give everyone we know hot sauce for Christmas.


I seem to work in flurries of productivity these days. This weekend I finally finished the top of my dread enemy - the T-shirt quilt. Even the final borders were painful, and one row absolutely refused to line up. But, the piecing is done. I plan to find the little patches I saved that were too small to be squares and applique them on the crooked corners... and you'll never be able to tell. (I am assuming I will eventually find the darn things.)

S - if there was ever any question of my love for you, the fact that I persevered and will be presenting you with a completed quilt is proof enough. However, I have decided that I get a break before piecing the backing. (Truth be known, it's the ironing of it that I am putting off.)

Tonight, I sat down on the couch only to realize that I wanted to sew. I haven't felt a strong urge to sew in weeks, so I hopped up to indulge it. One I Pod (Nano) pouch coming up.

And, with that done, I still felt like sewing. My not-so-scary quilt has taken form, and I am really pleased with it. (The colors blend better in real life than shows up in this poorly lit photo.)

I've decided to add a fourth row to the bottom. (Or maybe to the top. We'll see which balances better.) The squares are 11" by 11", so right now the quilt is 33" square. I figure a 3" border will work well, but that's still 39" square. I want to be able to use my quilts on my couch, and I figure a little extra length will make that more comfortable. Especially since Gwen always makes me share.

And when I put the quilts and blankets away, she climbs in the basket with them.

(And then flees when I try to take a picture under terrible lighting conditions that causes the camera to flash and sputter. We'll catch her at it again and get a better shot - it's her new favorite place to sleep.)

September 23, 2007

Not so Scary after all

Football season is here, and while I'm not a huge football fan I do enjoy the ritual of watching the game with my husband, steaks on the grill and the dog curled against me. And because I enjoy the ritual, there are teams I have come to care about. So, I now spend much more of my Saturday and Sunday on the couch, significantly increasing the time I want hand work (and decreasing the time spent at my sewing machine.) While I knit alot, I am not always in the mood to knit.

So, I've decided to try my hand at applique. I don't know why I've always been scared of it or felt it was too big a commitment. (And a quilt isn't? It takes me years to finish one of those suckers. On second thought, that's probably it. If it takes me years to finish a quilt pieced on the machine, what would happen if I added applique to it.) But, inspired by Britt's love of applique, I've decided to add some applique in to my football season repertoire.First up, a simple little pattern of Halloween ghosts. It turns out it's not so scary. I finished five of these guys without noticing, and I could easily have finished more if I didn't decide that was plenty for a simple Halloween quilt. (For next year, this fall I'm still trying to finish the t-shirt quilt. I literally just need to add the border and the top is pieced. I couldn't make myself do it yesterday.) The fabric I used for these ghosts didn't require a turned under edge, so it was particularly easy with just a running stitch along the edge.

Next up - needle turned applique. Or freezer paper applique. Whatever it turns out to take for me to get neat edges.

September 16, 2007

Showers of Babies

This week was my week for baby showers - hosting one on Friday and attending another on Saturday. It's enough to make you think wistful thoughts. The Mom's are glowing, the idea of a new life so exciting... And the packages of diapers stacking up keep it all grounded just enough.

One shower was for my childhood friend and demanded a handknit item. Except that I lost track of time and as of Tuesday hadn't picked a project yet. Fortunately, I have a pattern that is fast becoming my Baby Shower Sweater. It's from Hip Knits - the only pattern from the book that I've made, but I've now made it three times. The pattern calls for size 11 needles. I get gauge with 13s. Needless to say, it knits up fast. For this sweater, I cast on Tuesday night and had it wrapped up and gifted Saturday morning.If I hadn't waited to the last minute, I might actually have tossed this one and made it again with different yarn. The pattern calls for a Lion Brand yarn that has mohair in it. It looks pretty, but I find it a bit scratchy. When I made it for the first two showers, the baby was due in warm weather and I was making a 6 months size. I decided the mohair was okay at that age, especially for outer wear. But, this time the baby is due in October and I was knitting the newborn size, so I decided to use Homespun.

It turns out I'm not happy with variegated Homespun, the color changed dramatically from bright primary colors to muted blue/green at points. (It doesn't show up nearly as much in the photo as it did in real life.) I also reached a point in the skein where the yarn hadn't been spun correctly; I had just stringy threads... I don't know exactly how to describe it, but it looked awful. I had to cut the yarn and reattach further down in the skein, and this isn't a good pattern for weaving ends in. And the yarn stretched more in the hood than I anticipated. I actually told the Mom that I'd take that down for her, after seeing it grow at the shower.

On the other hand, all of that seems to be a knitter's pickiness. The Mom loved it, the other women oohed and aahed far more than politeness dictated, asking me questions about it later in the shower. And if the baby never wears it, I'll never know.
I was also surprised by the reaction I got at Saturday's shower for bringing leftovers from an activity I created for Friday's shower. A stack of onesies ranging from newborn to large, a handful of fabric markers, and just a little encouragement resulted in a great activity and a pile of hand decorated onesies for the baby.
I can't decide whether it was more fun at Saturday's shower, where there were kids to participate or at work on Friday, where we had a competition that resulted in onesies with bikinis and highly detailed pictures. All in all, it turned out to be a great activity for any informal shower. (I'm sure I saw it somewhere, and I wish I could remember where to give credit.)

September 13, 2007

A Day Off Work?

Today is a holiday. (Rosh Hashanah. Yes, my office is closed.) When my boss asked yesterday what I planned to do today, I said "I don't know. Probably not much."

You'd think I'd know myself better by now. I slept in until 8:00, but when I got up I went out in the yard to pull down some vines that are trying to take over. I looked around and realized I should really re-pot a hibiscus and get a support for the bamboo orchid. I had a massage scheduled for 9:30, so I decided I'd go to Home Depot afterwards. But, when I got to the office my therapist had to cancel. So, I was at the dry cleaners by 9:45 and Home Depot by 10:00. Since its late summer and it doesn't get hot quite so quickly, I can buy a few plants, right? After all, it's September, perfect vegetable season here.

You know where this is going, don't you? Yup - a purple shower and a penta, both of which I've been planning to pick up to fill in spots in the front. Three crooked squash vines and three tomato plants. Oh, and since our soil is so sandy I need two bags of garden soil and a bag of manure compost if I plan to actually grow any of these veggies. A daisy to fill in that pot in the back that needs an annual. And a flat of marigolds for color in the vegetable garden. Or to fill in around the pond. Or maybe under the bare tree out front.... And, oh yeah, a pot for the hibiscus and the circle support for the bamboo orchid.

Two hours later, I am filthy and beet reed. The temperature is definitely creeping up and the heat-loving dog has even abandoned me for the cool house. But, my hibiscus can now grow and is properly staked, my bamboo orchid is standing up (more or less), my pre-existing beans are in the topiary, all five of the tomato plants I now own have enriched soil and proper support (and the three new ones are planted, of course.) The squash are in the ground and looking pitiful for the transplating. The front is filled in, as is the pot out back. The Australian fern I bought at the farmer's market Saturday is in the ground, and I've enriched the soil in that area after realizing it was dust.

The flat of marigolds is under the grapefruit tree waiting for me to decide what I want to do with it. It will wait until tomorrow. Or Saturday. Maybe Sunday.

I am now showered, but find I don't have the energy to put lotion on my skin. Soon, though, I'm going to have to find the energy. I need to go shopping for the last of the supplies for tomorrow's baby shower. And I'd like to finish the knitting on the sweater for Saturday's baby shower before we go out to the Bar event at 5:30. Oh, and I suppose somewhere along the line I should eat some lunch. Water is good for you, but it doesn't stand alone.

But, I must say, this is a great way to spend a Thursday.

September 08, 2007

Productive Time

I was at a three day Summit this week. What with all the sitting around listening to speeches in between the productive session, it provided very productive knitting time. This scarf was only four or five inches long at the start and now its well on its way.

Ironically, I almost abandoned the scarf at four inches. The crunchy silk wasn't quite turning out as I envisioned. The waffle weave wasn't particularly interesting. (You can barely see it in the photo, but is clear in real life now that the scarf is long.) I had pretty much decided to set it aside until I came up with a new use for the yarn. But, I needed knitting to take to the Summit and lace wasn't going to cut it. I grabbed this just so I'd have something to knit - for the feel of knitting, not the product. And now I'm pleased with how its coming out and so glad I knit on it long enough to see that it was actually going to be something nice.

It was intended, though, as a scarf for Alex, and I think it will end up being for me. Upon seeing and touching the start of the scarf he asked, 'why isn't soft like the things you make for yourself?' Okay - I guess my thought that crunchy silk was more masculine was not well thought out. I know perfectly well that he prefers his clothes and accessories soft. Guess I'll just have to make a trip back to the yarn store for some smooth silk. Darn. ;)
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September 01, 2007

Snapdragons and Cookies

I bought a clutch of lavender snapdragons this week and put them in a vase in our bedroom. The next time I came upstairs I was puzzled by the lovely spicy smell. And then I realized it was the snapdragons. Such an unusual smell for a flower! I've been enjoying it all week.

Snapdragons always attract me in the professional gardens, but I've never planted them myself. I like the tall varieties, and to stay pretty they require regular clean up and staking. I'm too lazy. (And, unlike the landscapers, I don't plant anything for just a week or two and then yank it out to replace with something else at the peak of its bloom.)

This winter, however, I'll be planting snapdragons and considering them worth the work. Any cutting plant that will fragrance my house that way can claim some extra attention. Though, my vegetables plant will warn them, not too much extra attention. I am willing to pamper plants that produce something for me a little, but anything that requires me to wait on it hand and foot is out.


We are a living cliche. I am baking chocolate chip cookies. He's participating in a fantasy football draft. When did this happen?

August 29, 2007

Brave Cardinal

Due to the cat's diligence, I rarely see birds on my feeder. They flit around and land high up the trees, but the cat lifts her head from her napping position and meows a warning at them. Every time. She's a lazy, but very effective guard. And I can't convince her that its not her job.

I suspected the birds snuck in feedings when Nala was off hunting mice. (Which she has started regularly leaving me as gifts. Another job I can't convince her is unnecessary.) However, she sticks pretty close to me when I'm in the yard, so I never got to see any birds on the feeders. Even the mocking birds just sit in the palm tree and think about it, but decide they aren't brave enough.

Sunday we were in the car about to leave, when we saw this cardinal land in the Crape Myrtle and look around. He then flew to the grapefruit tree and checked out the other side. After one last look from the palm tree, he settled down on the feeder for some lunch. I was delighted. And it also confirmed that they have learned to look for the cat before landing.

I don't think that she could reach them on the feeder, but they are clearly unconvinced its a risk they should take. So, I'll be dragging out the ladder this weekend and hanging the feeder higher. And then I'll curse that decision every time I have to get the step stool out to fill it.

August 28, 2007

Of Snotty Noses and Sticky Fingers

Some times you just need a snotty nose. And sticky fingers. When they come with delighted cries of “Ca-wa” each time he discovers I'm still there and tugs on the hand to take me to his next adventure... well, the world doesn't get any better than that.

I spent my vacation with my best-friend, a woman who has been there for me in ways and at times I can't even begin to recount in the space I plan to spend here. She is indispensable. These days she comes with the bonus of a husband I enjoy and a munchkin who is the light of my life. And the 48 hours I spent with them were more revunating than any other vacation I could have come up with. In the last 20 months, the shock of the fact that my best-friend is a mom has worn off, but there is still a great pleasure in being folded in to her little family. I loved the conversations interrupted by “rock a rock, peas” as, I imagine, only the childless can. But, how could I resist this little bit of connection between me and him?

I had innocently set the munchkin in the rocking chair to allow myself easy access to his feet while I put on his shoes. How was I to know he had never sat in the chair alone before? He was so very proud of himself, and rocking the chair while sitting alone was clearly an adrenaline rush for him. For the rest of my visit, he would declare “rock a rock” at regular intervals and insist that we depart immediately for the rocking chair. He'd sit in it and rock with the greatest devil-may-care grin on his face. It was the kind of moment you live for.

So, I spent my vacation supervising a rocking chair, playing with shapes, reading book after book, passing stuffed animals back and forth for hugs, taking walks holding adult conversation while standing up, creating gin rummy tournaments after bedtime and a hundred other small and beautiful moments. It was perfect.

August 22, 2007

What I'm Not Going to Write About

For a week and a half, I've been thinking of posts I plan to write, taking the accompanying pictures and even starting one or two.

I was going to write about the birthday present I completed. This lovely picnic bag and three picnic placemats (identical to the one I posted about before).

And about how this was as far as I had gotten on the t-shirt quilt before running out of the interfacing, because I keep making dumb mistakes. And how it is sucking the life out of me and I. hate. it.

But when I went to the quilt store they were out of the interfacing, so I had an excuse to buy this beautiful fabric and Amy Butler's Cabo Halter pattern instead. And then I finished the Cabo Halter and worn it twice already. But I haven't gotten around to taking a photo yet.

And then I went to JoAnn's and found the interfacing, so all the t-shirt squares are done. Plus I found a gorgeous sashing fabric (flannel no less) that ties it all together, and I might even start liking this quilt again. Except we haven't had enough time apart yet, so I'm not actually working on it yet.

During lunch the other day, I was composing a post in my mind about the change of seasons in Florida. How we do have them, but they are more subtle. And how I love that. How much better my mood is this week because the heat has peaked and we're on the other side of that, and how I know that even though we are still reaching highs of 96 with no rain.

I even started a post on the hurricane hitting the Yucatan and how sick to my stomach it makes me feel. That one I actually halfway wrote before drafting it. I just couldn't get out of my mind how devastated the trailer parks are when a bad hurricane hits us, and how huge swaths of Mexico are shanties that won't stand up any better to the winds. Except most of those Mexicans can't shelter in a stable school, if they can get a ride. And like the trailer park residents they don't have any resources to start over after the storm. But its not a pocket community, it's half the countryside - and what are they going to do?!?

But it turns out I don't feel like blogging. I can compose half a post in my head - and sometimes even on the screen - but I don't feel like actually writing it all out. I'd rather go to the library or putter in the garden or just about anything. Actually writing apparently isn't on the list right now. So, I'm not going to write about any of those things.

Tomorrow I start a four day weekend, and I head off to spend some much needed time with my best-friend and my favorite little guy. I'll be delivering her birthday present, reading stories and spending unrushed time with them. I need this little break. And then I'll come home and still have the weekend with my husband. Maybe I'll even come home to write a post or two. Or maybe not.

August 15, 2007

Indoctrinating the Innocent

Last week a story about sightings of unidentified objects in the skies over England came on the radio, and the broadcaster announced that there were multiple reports of UFOs. Alex promptly turns to me and says "they have alot of quilts over there, huh?"

I gaped a moment before sputtering out "how do you know about that?" You see, for those other innocents in my life, in quilting and knitting parlance a UFO is an "unfinished object" - that project you begin but eventually abandon to the back of the closet or the cutting table. I had no idea he knew that term, certainly not well enough to immediately whip out a pun that hadn't even occurred to me, the creator of the UFOs currently cluttering our 'office'. (Lets be real here, I turned the 'office' in to my project room months and months ago.)

He said I told someone about it in his presence the week before, and with a little thought I remembered it. We were at lunch with one of his colleagues who told me about the sweater she started knitting and never finished, and I was reassuring her this was normal and we even had a term for it, UFOs. (I was basically recruiting her back in to the ranks of knitters, assuring her one abandoned project should not be the cause for all lost hope.)

I would say he was apparently listening much more closely than usual for that to have stuck in his mind. Only, I used it in terms of knitting, and he referenced quilting. And I am much, much worse at quilting UFOs than knitting. I think I may have indoctrinated him. He's learning the parlance of knitting and quilting without meaning to and without any conscious effort on my part. One direct, yet small conversation about knitting UFOs brought to the surface my many other references to UFOs. And there it all sat, ready to spill out in a quilter's pun at the slightest provocation.

You may shower him in pity now.

August 11, 2007

Would you like some cheese with that whine?

It's an August Saturday - 90 something degrees and 80 something percent humidity. I'm cramping. I should be wearing a loose sun dress, drinking a glass of iced tea and trying not to move.

I am dressed in slacks, a shell and a cardigan. (Well, I'm carrying the cardigan, but I will be wearing it when I hit the air conditioned class room.) In 8 minutes I have to leave for work, and I won't get home until close to 5:00. I will spend that time being charming and informative as we train new volunteers.

I am having trouble being gracious about this.

August 08, 2007

Fabric Therapy

Stressful weeks are apparently also very productive weeks these days.

Tonight's therapy was, predictably enough, another sample from Simple Sewing. This time the picnic placemat. This placemat's destiny is not yet determined, but I am very happy with it. The frogs are so happy.

This is working for me - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix playing on the IPod, a glass of wine I don't actually drink because my hands are full of fabric, and a couple of hours with my scissors and sewing machine.

August 06, 2007

Just Because

I came home tonight with the need to do something - something I could finish tonight, specifically. I decided to try this basic tote from Simple Sewing. A little linen, even less of a decorative fabric, under two hours in the sewing room (no tears), and I have a new bag. It'll be perfect for a knitting project, a book and my wallet or a small shopping trip. It's sweet and it gave me that feeling of having accomplished something that I was craving.

I've looked at Lotta's directions for this bag several times recently, and each time I couldn't figure out what she was doing. It is very different from the tote pattern I made up when I made my grandmother's bag. What she's doing, it turns out, is giving some strength to the bag - there's no bottom seam to be stressed (that's just the fold in the fabrics) and the bottom panel is sewn on to the main panel giving you double thickness where all the weight settles. Genius.
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July 30, 2007


I had an extra knitting helper this weekend, and she was not nearly as tolerant of my knitting as Gwen. At one point she even reached up and was mouthing my yarn! She quickly figured out that was a really bad idea, right about the moment I unceremoniously dumped her off my lap.

Having successfully finished all my projects, I was able to cast on for a new project. Its the short-sleeved version of CeCe by Chicknits, and I was a little nervous about a lace garment. I haven't done much lace. Much to my delight, I really enjoyed starting the lace pattern and quickly cruised along through the first 12 rows of the sweater. And then disaster struck. I'd love to blame what happened on the additional help, but it was all me. I missed a stitch, so I tried to rip back and fix it. In the process I dropped a stitch. Unfortunately, it was a stitch above a yarn over. I could not figure out how to pick up a yarn over. It just got worse from there. The stitch dropped lower, and since its in the middle of the lace pattern there were more yarn overs and strange twists... It got ugly.

I finally just frogged all the way back to the ribbing and started over with the lace pattern. So, here's what I have to show for my weekend knitting.

It's a really good thing I'm enjoying this pattern! We'll see if I still enjoy it hundreds of repeats later.

July 29, 2007

Swimming Lesson

Since Lily's family goes canoeing several weekends a month and she always goes along, we were very surprised to learn on a recent trip to the dog park that she is a very poor swimmer. The lady beside us put it best when she remarked "Now that's a doggy paddle." Lily tries to swim vertically - her feet hanging down to the bottom and limp while her upper legs flounder around on the top of the water. Words to fully describe it fail me, but it is a pitiful sight.

The need to wear out two excited dogs drove us to spend several hours at the dog park both Saturday and Sunday. The 90 degree humid heat drove us to spend those hours in the water. Lily wasn't so sure about this plan, but we finally got her out in the water with us. And the swim lessons began. Alex found that lifting her hips just a little encouraged her to swim, well, horizontally. And to do that she had to use her back legs at least a little. It was small progress, but it was progress.

Of course, we almost caused Gwen to regress in the process. Gwen has long been an excellent, if reluctant, swimmer. This summer's heat has even inspired her to do laps around us in the lake, rather than just swimming to us and demanding to be held. However, the sight of her Dad spending so much time swimming with Lily and the frequent refrain of "good girl" apparently caused her some consternation. I turned around and there she was swimming to him in the same ridiculous doggy paddle Lily uses! Yikes. So not the plan. We immediately discouraged that and praised her for swimming properly, but she still tried it out from time to time... We may be better off with an 'only pup' since our parenting skills apparently don't extend to sibling rivalry.

July 28, 2007


This was the kind of week that did not lend itself to blogging. (Lots of yucky cases at work, too much stress and frustration, and too little time at home. Much better by the end of Friday, thank goodness.) But, it did lend itself to soothing knitting.

And the accomplishment of finishing my first pair of socks was an excellent bonus.

July 27, 2007


We are babysitting this little Lilliput this weekend while my sister is on a whirlwind trip to New York. She is one of my favorite creatures, but don't let this ladylike pose fool you. This munchkin has more energy than ten big dogs. I only got this picture by using a steady stream of "stay" followed by a greenie bribe.

I have had two shadows since I arrived home, and they were not pleased with my original choice of activities. 'No, Aunt Cara, you will not knit.' 'No, Mama, you will not read Harry Potter.' We must wrestle in your immediate presence. If you are seated, only your lap itself counts as immediate presence. The husband, of course, has a not-so-voluntary work social event tonight. I am on my own with these two little monsters. And I love every minute of it.

Since they were having none of my indoor activities, we all went out in the yard. I noticed earlier that my Florida Hibiscus was looking sad, and I bought a bigger pot believing it was root bound. In just the two days it took me to do that, the hibiscus looks almost dead. There were mushrooms growing in the pot and white ashy powder all over the soil and the base of the plant. Oh, this is not good. So, re-potting involved pulling the roots free of all the soil I could manage, completely fresh soil and a brand new pot, a thorough watering and then a good squirt of fungicide. There's still lots of green wood, so there's a chance. But, there's not much in the way of leaves so I don't know if it can pull off that whole photosynthesis trick. I guess we'll see.

July 21, 2007

Of Coffee and Clove Cigarettes

There was a coffee house in my hometown that served very little in the way of good coffee, but was a venue for local bands and a teenage hangout. It was in an old building - dark and dusty, with 'found object' art on the walls mismatched cafe sets and a very liberal policy. I know they served alcohol later, when I was older, but in my teenage memories its the smell of old wood, coffee and clove cigarettes. Teenagers trying to be grown up, and by virtue of that very act being quintessentially teenagers.

But it was the live music that clinched the deal. We could sit in the dark on those creaky chairs, sipping our coffee or chai and watching the local bands performing under the bright lights of the "stage", a series of box platforms shoved in a corner. The music was always too loud to allow you to hear one another, but we pretended we were building relationships anyway. One night a week was open mic night, but it was the weekends, when the bands played, that we loved.

One summer night my friends and I were hanging out at the coffee house and we heard a band that even I could tell was something special. Tabitha's Secret. They played songs that had interesting lyrics, and they weren't playing cover songs. And they were good. I bought their tape that night and played it often. And then I heard one of the songs on the radio. Slightly different, but only slightly. Matchbox 20? Who is that? That's 3 a.m., and Tabitha's Secret recorded that song at least two years ago. I have the tape.

It turns out Matchbox 20 is the band most of Tabitha's Secret joined. (A high school friend told me there was only a one person difference, but I've never actually checked that fact.) The little local band that played the coffee house in my hometown is on the top 40. It felt like a brush with fame, and I still get a little thrill when I think of it.

I'm dorky like that.

July 17, 2007

Confusing the Muggles

Today was apparently a day for strange sites in central Florida.

This morning I went out back to water the plants. The garden was very dry and the ground was thirstily sucking up the water. I went to water the front. And everything was wet. Everything - the soil is wet, water droplets shimmer on the leaves and the pitcher for spot watering is holding water. It was unmistakable - it rained in the front yard and not in the back. This happens sometimes in Florida; you'll see it raining on one side of the street and not on the other. But it never stops being weird.

And then at noon, I was waiting for the light at the corner of a major thoroughfare and a residential street. Walking down the sidewalk is a guy with Elvis hair - jet black, wavy, the whole deal - black, plastic thick-rimmed sunglasses, a cigarette and several tattoos. He's wearing black boxers, a white undershirt, black slippers (with socks) and a gold bathrobe, loosely tied at the waist. I wish I could have taken a picture, because trying to describe it just doesn't do it justice.

Maybe the wizards are moving about for some reason? Though, I don't know why they'd be watering half my yard...

July 16, 2007

Knowing Private v. Public

Last week I spoke with a friend who lives out of state, one I don’t talk to often enough for reasons that aren’t nearly good enough. But, she reads this blog. She was telling me that she loves to read it, that she felt like she got to be here when I finally gave Mom her quilt and for the little life stuff you miss when you are away. And then she said “it’s so nice, you sound so happy.”

I’ve been thinking about that comment a lot since she said it. I am happy. My life is good, and I have no room to complain. This morning I woke up in a soft bed snuggled next to a husband I enjoy being with, listening to the contented snores of my dog. I poured a cup of coffee and took it out in to the yard to water the plants I have the joy of growing. I came in to an office full of people I like to do a job I feel passionately about and am good at. I don’t earn what my degree says I should, but I have the luxury of working at the job I love anyway because my life is pretty straightforward and my husband is incredibly supportive. What do I have to complain about?

That said, I do complain. Just ask my husband! The last few weeks, when I was well outside of my comfort zone at work, I complained plenty. I complained about my fear of failing at the task, about how beat up my body felt from the tension, and about things that shouldn’t have rated a complaint but did because I was so anxious. My husband walked on egg shells, trying to be understanding and biting his lip when I was… less than understanding.

Now, I’m not criticizing myself for not knowing how good I have it. I do appreciate my life, and I know the complaints are just human nature. What I was thinking about is that I do not write about that stuff here. I could have written about being outside my comfort zone at work. In fact, I almost did, and then I realized it wasn’t interesting to anyone but me and not even really to me. But, the night one (or both) of us is being unreasonable, is not the night to type an entry. The day I come home from work thinking “I might as well be a kindergarten teacher, because I supervise a bunch of five year olds” is not the day either. I write this blog mostly for myself, as a journal I can look back at and reminisce over. But, it is a very public journal and my private life doesn’t belong on it. Other people’s private lives most especially don’t belong here.

I think bloggers forget that sometimes. They sit in the privacy of their home writing, and they forget that this is more like standing in the middle of the town square shouting. Heck, its more like taking out billboards all over the world. As I’ve started reading blogs, I’ve seen entries that make me wince and immediately navigate away. Some blogs are so full of these entries that I never read them, no matter how many people link to them.

So, I’m glad that my blog sounds happy to my friend. I am happy. Very happy. But, those moments that aren’t so happy? You won’t be reading about many of them here.

(And, S? I didn't miss the hint about how you look for your quilt to show up on the blog. I bought the interfacing Saturday. You should see signs of it appearing soon. I mean, its only been a year.)

July 05, 2007


American life moves so fast, even when you don't want it to. I'm dizzy with how quickly everything is going by. So, I'm trying to slow down and take some time for the little things. This weekend it was a boycott on obligations and a chance to finish some projects. I made a real dent and with a holiday in the middle of the week I've gotten several finished.

There was some house-stuff.

No pictures of the vermicompost I built or of the plants I re-potted/put in the ground. It was perfect, though. We are getting plenty of rain, and the plants are thriving! We'll see how the worms are doing. The rain is why I haven't gotten around to the photos, though.

But, I did get a picture of the husband stabilizing the "pantry" before it falls over and all the food breaks open on the floor. And while he did that, I modified a curtain to fit. (It was created as a shower curtain, though its never had that use.) The primary goal is to keep the sunlight off the food, but I won't turn up my nose at the fact that it means no one can see the chaos I allow to reign in there!

But, best of all there was crafty stuff. I did finally finish the picnic quilt. I really love how it turned out. I ended up with just plain ties - and more sanity for it. I also ditched the plan to embroider flip flops on the border. The quilt is so busy and bright that it needs that undisturbed cooling blue around it. Binding is still definitely my least favorite part of making a quilt, but it went a little better this time. I actually remembered to baste the layers and then I cut the binding fabric a 1/2" wider and used a bigger seam allowance, making my life much easier as I wrestled with my sewing machine. I also got out the book for a refresher on turning the corners. But, best of all, on the way home from work on Monday I was wondering whether I should tackle sewing on the binding or hang out with the husband. I found him in the office working on one of his projects - installing something or other on the computer, I think. The office is also my sewing room, so it was perfect. I enjoyed the binding much more having company while I worked on it. My hand still cramped handsewing the back side, but that would be solved by working on it for smaller periods of time. But, I wanted to have it for the 4th. And I did. I took it to the 4th of July barbecue last night and thoroughly enjoyed using it to watch the kids play in the pool during the afternoon and then admire the fireworks at night. It was a hit with the kids who liked to lay on it when they got worn out, making me a very popular girl.

I also had time to make these sweet little turtles. (They'll get embroidered faces.) I realized on Sunday night that none of the hundreds of spools of thread I had matched the turquoise for the binding. And going to the store wasn't an option right then. So, I made another turtle. And now I've made yet another. These are so much fun, and so very cute. One more and I can make the wall-hanging pictured in the book. I don't usually make projects as designed by someone else, but I may make an exception for this one. I like it and I don't quite feel like making a whole quilt out of them right now.

June 30, 2007

Can a young dog learn new tricks?

So, it's good to try new things, get out of your comfort zone, stretch yourself... right? 'Cause I'm doing a lot of that right now and it's frustrating. I know this comes as no surprise, but I do not like to feel like I'm not good at what I'm doing. (Shaddup, I admitted it.)

I took my first stab at machine quilting last night. The picnic quilt is done, and I decided it would be a good quilt to learn on. Its for us, not a gift. And it's meant to be tossed on the ground, spilled on, yada yada yada. The pattern is straight lines, so I can do this on my humble Brother. Right? Wrong! The first line - border to first row of squares went just fine. I flipped it over and thought, yeah. I can live with this. But the second line of stitching? The one that actually went between two rows of patches? Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! I spent an hour last night carefully ripping that line out. Apparently, when your squares don't quite match up, (as is always true of mine) hand quilting is much more likely to look good... But, I don't want to spend weeks hand quilting my picnic quilt. I'm going to be much less likely to be willing to toss it on the ground if I do that!

So, re-grouping. I decided to machine quilt the outer box on the machine. (Between the border and the center patches.) I've just finished, and it came out looking just fine. Now I'm going to go back in and embroider asterisks where blocks join, a modification of a tied quilt. I am really not a fan of tied quilts, but I think the embroidery will look good. On the back, it will be sprinkled with little stars. And it will take a couple of hours, at most. Growing, stretching, learning...

What? That doesn't sound like stepping very far outside my comfort zone? Yeah, you're right. The rest of it is work stuff, though, and we don't talk about that on the weekend.

June 21, 2007

Asked and Answered

Apparently we weren't the only ones who wondered when we heard the news. They had a big banner on the front of the building that said the same thing, too. (I couldn't get a photo of that without standing in the middle of a six lane road.) Just how many times do you think they were asked before they decided to put up the signs?
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