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Where I’ve been

November 20, 2014
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My knitting needles took a vacation this summer but I decided to go big this fall.  Cruising around a pattern database, I saw a throw I loved:

photo credit:  Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

photo credit: Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

Hourglass, designed by Anne Hanson.  There were problems.  I would never finish a blanket that takes 2800 yards of yarn, and I only really loved it because it was wrapped around the model.  (While she drank tea, but I digress.)  Clearly, that throw was supposed to be a sweater.  I was going to make it happen.

I’ve knit smaller sweaters for the kids, but I’ve never knit myself a full sweater, let alone one for which a pattern doesn’t exist, so this was a big undertaking.  (OK, there was one bag of a bulky, never-worn disaster back in 2006 before I knew how to choose patterns and yarn carefully.)  I searched for a cardigan pattern I thought could be modified to accommodate the cable and lace pattern from the throw, and settled on Little Wave, by Gudrun Johnston.

photo credit: Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

photo credit: Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

Lots of math and swatching and gnashing of teeth later, I cast on.  In the month since then, I’ve spent roughly 82,000 hours knitting.  I’ve ignored the children, the dog, the husband.  I did more math.  I knit some more.  I painstakingly unknit 4 rows.  I did more math.  I discovered a mis-crossed cable 9 rows down and performed emergency surgery, delicately dropping only those 4 stitches down to my mistake and reconstructing them correctly.  I’ve worn a nice groove into the couch, where I spend each evening knitting and watching Doctor Who.  The lengthening fabric of my sweater caught my tears when David Tennant died (Matt Smith is so not my doctor).  I realized the sweater is Tardis blue and that cheered me a little.  I urge the kids out the door to school earlier and earlier each morning so I can  pick up where I’ve left off the day before.  The dishes collect on the counter unwashed.  Clean laundry is in short supply.  I forgot to plant garlic until 12 hours before our first snow.  Every day, an hour before Kyle comes home, I desperately cast about the kitchen for something I can quickly throw on plates for dinner.  Tonight we might be reduced to cereal because I’m writing about knitting instead of driving to buy groceries.

Charts, instructions, and math.

Charts, instructions, and math.

Seriously.  Math.

Seriously. Math.

But the end is in sight.  I’ll finish the second shoulder today and all that will be left to do is grafting the saddle stitches.  And knitting the button band.  And the collar.  And the pockets.  And sewing up the holes under the arms.  And adding buttons.  And blocking.  On second thought, I might need another month.

But at least it’s looking like a sweater.  And I will never wear anything else ever again.

The beginning.  The sweater several weeks ago.

The beginning. The sweater several weeks ago.

Trick or Treat

October 31, 2014
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Thirty seven degrees and they felt no cold.

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Knights ready to save the neighborhood from all the dangerous chocolate.

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Joined by cousins

Tea reports he got 87 pieces of loot.

Hooray for kids who love to share!

Procrastinating again

October 31, 2014
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Thank goodness for this blog, because I don’t want to be:

a) Cleaning for my mother-in-law’s visit tonight.

b) Grocery shopping to fill my totally empty cupboards.

c) Making a dinner we can reheat so we have time to trick or treat without extra stress.

d) Planting the garlic I should have planted on Monday, when it was 73 degrees. (We woke up to a blustery day with snow on the ground.)

I think the umbrella is toast.

I think the umbrella is toast.

Instead I can share random pictures from around the house yesterday.

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Our outside chalkboard. I am so funny.

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It is so, so hard to be Punkin. What a good dog.  This naturally led to a conversation about cannibalism.  (Punkin eating pumpkins… )

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Pea draws a design for Kyle to carve.

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This is the first year we’ve let Tea carve by himself. He only nearly stabbed his hand 8 times.

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So, so excited to see their pumpkins lit, they don’t feel the cold even in jammies.

Their planned pumpkins turned out pretty close to the final products, I think.

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DSC_06441 webDamn it, I’ve run out of distractions.  Time to go grocery shopping.

School pictures

October 21, 2014
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school pics

Here you go, Grandparents.  The boys’ school pictures are in.  Tea insisted on wearing a tie to dress like his Daddy going to work, and Pea insisted on dressing like his big brother.  If Tea had his way, he’d dress like this often, but I allowed the tie only on picture day.  This is completely opposite from my days in elementary school when my mom required me to wear a dress or skirt unless there was gym that day, but all I wanted was jeans.  Jeans were never allowed until I broke Mom’s spirit with my whining in fifth grade.  Well, Tea and I have that in common – mothers who issue random, annoying rules about clothes.  (I still love you, Mom.)

The boys are far more photogenic than I ever was.  One of the pictures that makes me laugh the hardest was something that my school sent home, probably as part of a Christmas present or something, when I was in first grade.  I look like I was beat up before they stood me against a wall to take the shot.

Stephens0035

 

Darling.  It was obviously taken on a non-gym class day.

Constitutional fortitude

October 6, 2014
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I’m not always sure I’m cut out for this parenting thing.  After school today the boys played “in The Fort”, which, in the past, has meant the hobo village they’ve meticulously constructed and constantly modified ever since they scavenged some junk from the neighbors on bulky trash day in July.  “The Fort” is beautiful to them.  I, however, knowing all about real estate, know its true value is location.  That is, hidden behind the gazebo so I can’t see it.

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The fort formerly known as The Fort. Feel free to stay awhile, but you might have to fight off the neighborhood cats.

Today, however, they apparently had a new meaning for the words “The Fort” which they didn’t tell me about until after they’d been outside for an hour.

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The new fort known as The Fort. You totally want to let your kids play here now, right?

The Fort is now a few rotten boards perched precariously over the uneven, spindly branches of our pine tree.  The upper platform, I am assured, is the roof, and is NEVER to be sat on.  This is mildly comforting.  The lower platform is at least 8 feet up.  It is not nailed, glued, tied, or even taped to the branches.  They were very proud.

 

I wish I hadn’t seen how they climb into it, but I can’t complain if they sit there to voluntarily do their reading, right?  I decided they probably wouldn’t die and held my tongue.  I am trying so, so hard to let them be creative and independent and capable and stifle my “GET DOWN FROM THERE – YOU ARE NOT MADE OF RUBBER BANDS!” tendencies.

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So I bit my tongue and smiled and congratulated them (and gently reminded them to pleeeeease be careful – I am still their mother).  Ten minutes later, the storm door slammed and I turned, expecting to see Tea clutching a broken arm.  He shrugged and nonchalantly said, “I decided to climb down – the wind was pretty strong and my body didn’t feel safe.”

Phew and hurray for listening to that little voice, kid.  I’m proud of both of us.

Super Hedgie

September 19, 2014
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I haven’t been bitten by the creative bug in awhile, so when an idea flitted into my head as I was waking up yesterday, I decided to run with it.  Today everyone in the boys’ school dressed like a super hero.  I can’t remember what Tea said their super powers are.  Something having to do with being super citizens and students, I think.

I’d intended to tell the boys to dig something out of the costume bin to wear.  Whether there are actually two wearable capes left, I’m not sure.  Probably not.  Super heroes are hard on their clothes.

But as I was waking up yesterday, still cushioned in the comfortable, non-reality of dreams, I thought, “Hmm. I could sew some capes.  And make freezer paper stencils for shirts.  And masks.  And whatever those wrist bands are.  What are those wrist things, anyway?  That wouldn’t be too hard…”

After the kids were off to school, I drove around town searching for t-shirts and fabric.  Materials acquisition took far longer than I’d anticipated.  Tea requested an orange shirt.  Pea wanted red.  I could only find an orangish red / redish orange shirt, so that had to do for both.  Fabric for capes and masks was found at a different store.  I already had thread, paint, brushes, freezer paper, elastic, and velcro, so the whole project set me back less than $9.

I went with a Super Hedgie theme, as the hedgehog is their school mascot.  I used an old cape of the boys for a rough idea on design.  Our printer is out of ink (It has been out of ink for months.  Ahem.) so I had to freehand the hedgehog for the stencil, which I really, really did not want to do, but it turned out alright.

The slippery cape material was quite challenging to sew, but by the time I picked up the boys from school, they were done and one shirt was painted.  I alerted Kyle to the “Creative Emergency” and he brought home pizza for dinner.  I love that man.

I cut out felt masks in the shape of hedgehogs, (the felt stretches too much, and I’m sure the boys have torn them off by now) and made wrist thingies.  I finished up as Kyle and I watched an old Doctor Who (they are about to die!  Oh no!  How ever will they get out of it this time?).

This morning the boys woke up crazy-excited to get dressed and wanted to head to school early for a photo shoot.  I am never going to argue with that.

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There was lots of fun and flying until Pea tried the monkey bars.  He’s usually a pro, but the bars were still wet with dew, and he crashed hard, scraping his chin, spitting blood and gravel.  I dried his tears and snuggled him a bit, and it wasn’t long before he was flying around again, trying to eek out as much play time before the bell as he could.

collage

Sometimes it’s fun to drop everything and do something creative.  I never get around to it if I try to just carve out a little time here and there – for me it’s all consuming.  The house is trashed, so I’m not sure Kyle agrees with me, but he’s a good sport.  I’m looking forward to hearing all about the day my super heroes had today.

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On zucchini

August 15, 2014
by

We recently returned from an 8-day vacation.  When we got home, I wandered into the vegetable garden and found seven obscenely large zucchini / “pool ball” (ha!  basketball!) squash laughing heartily.  They were growing so fast I swear they were bigger 30 seconds after I spied them, when I returned with a knife to hack them free.

Child for scale.  The squash are 60% of his body weight.

Child for scale. The squash are literally 60% of his body weight.

This is a challenge for me, although not an unwelcome one.  They are too large to stick in a neighbor’s mailbox under cover of darkness, and gifting them to friends seems nearly like an act of aggression, although one friend did bravely cart one home to make bread.  In retrospect, I should have lent her the wheelbarrow… The largest zucchini is nearly 5 inches in diameter.  The largest pool ball squash would make an excellent jack-o-lantern.  Combined, I harvested 25.7 pounds of squash from one week’s neglect.  Twenty-five-point-seven-pounds.  From three unfertilized plants.

It is astounding to me that three plants can produce so much vegetable matter in one week.  It’s alchemy.

Some people would be dismayed at a counterfull of zucchini, but we love to gobble it up when it’s crashing through the kitchen door for free.  In our five years of vegetable gardening, we have amassed a collection of awesome zucchini recipes, and while I don’t get excited about eating it raw, I’m perfectly happy if it’s cooked up right.

Some of the meals we are currently really enjoying (repeatedly) include:

Roasted zucchini torta with tomato and mozarella, Jack Bishop’s Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook.  This was unexpectedly, profoundly delicious.  It far surpassed what I imagined.  Roasting the squash before layering it with cheese and tomato sauce made it unbelievably sweet and tasty.  We use cherry tomatoes from the garden instead of the canned crushed tomatoes listed when we’ve got them.

Zucchini and ricotta fritters with lemon, Jack Bishop’s Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen.  One of my favorites.  I can eat a lot of these.  A lot.

Spaghetti with zucchini and lemon, Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home.  Pea’s favorite, and fast and simple to prepare.

Zucchini frittata with parmesan, Jack Bishop’s Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen.  Fast and simple for a weeknight, this is awesome with a green salad and some roasted fingerling potatoes.

Bountiful garden zucchini enchiladas (add a can of black beans).  This has been a summer staple in our house for years.  It’s a bit slow to assemble, but can be made in advance.  Cool, fresh tomatoes from the garden are added after it’s removed, piping hot from the oven.  Late summer perfection.

Happily, other bloggers have typed all of these out so I can easily share them with you.  If you see a trend with Jack Bishop, it is because he is my god of vegetarian cooking.  Nom nom nom nom, so delicious.  Don’t ask me about his potato arugula pizza unless you have an hour.  Pure genius.

Now there are only 2 squash left on the counter.  The rest has been consumed, given away, or shredded and frozen.  I have 20 cups in the freezer so far and will probably add to that stash before the season is over.  Given our love of the above recipes, that won’t last as long as one might think.

My favorite quick bread recipe for zucchini is one with lemon.  I add 1t vanilla extract and up the lemon zest to an entire lemon.  There are two loaves cooling on the counter as I type, ready to go to a garden party across town tomorrow.  A blogger I follow is having a pot-luck brunch followed by a tour of hers and three other vegetable gardens on the east side.  I geek out seeing vegetable gardens and can’t wait.  I hope for lots of inspiration for the garden for next year – like other varieties of zucchini I should try.

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