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Update and Antics

Last weekend, in a failed attempt to destroy the outside of our house, one of our big oak trees dropped a large limb on our house.  This limb, weighing an estimated 1.5 tons, fell onto the house, rolled across the roof, and then fell onto the porch, leaving a small hole or two, scraped shingles, and some rough edges in its wake.  It was a futile attempt.  We didn’t even lose power, although we have suffered some inconvenience and some wracked nerves.  Next week we hope to get a new roof on our house, thanks to our home insurance company and our helpful neighbor who is also a roofing contractor.

Following the tree incident, there have been several incidents with our children, who have together, sought to destroy the inside of our house.  I guess they don’t realize they have to live in it too.  I think the root cause of these deviant behaviors is that espOso and I have been preoccupied with the roof and they haven’t been getting their usual levels of emotional attentiveness and physical exercise.  Here is a sampling from yesterday:

During the day while I was at work…

  1. Twin B spilled Twin A’s milk at breakfast, intentionally.
  2. A spilled A’s milk at breakfast, intentionally.
  3. One of the twins pooped on the floor upstairs. We aren’t sure this was an accident.  If you know our family well, you will know who did it, and you may suspect considering the age of the perpetrator, that it was an intentional.
  4. B smeared toothpaste around the bathroom, on surfaces including the sink, the door handle, and his father’s abdomen.
  5. During the cleanup from that, his father walked back into the bathroom and was astonished to see B standing upon the bathroom vanity systematically pouring water on each of the lightbulbs of the fixture above the vanity. He temporarily lost his speaking ability, but I assume he recovered it pretty quickly.
  6. Twin A immediately switched on the lights and verified that they still work.

I returned home from work so now both parents were on duty, having a quiet after-dinner discussion in the living room about how the day was going when….

  1. B poured out nearly half a gallon of vinegar on the kitchen table where he was lingering over his kale. He came into the living room to complain that his lips and eyes were burning a little.  We soon understood why.

Oso left for work and I was on duty for the afternoon.  As my first action I attempted to retire to my room for a moment of reflective solitude.  Twin A retired with me, however, and we both reflected on a book about landscaping for a few moments.

  1. Too much silence prompted me to check on B and found him standing on the top platform of the cat tree washing the picture window with a wet pair of shorts. Wet with water from the fish tank.
  2. Upon closer inspection, I found submerged in the fish tank a very clean pencil case and a turned-on flash light. “So the fish can see better,” B explained.   How helpful.  I guess he needs to see well for his pencil drawings.
  3. B asked if he could cut paper with scissors. “Sure, it will be a mess,” I thought, “but it will keep him busy while I reassure the fish and clean up this other mess.”  I gave him both paper and scissors to develop his fine motor skills. *  He  tested the sharpness of the blade by cutting the cords to the little fan we use in the kitchen and also his dad’s new phone charger.  Good thing we only use intrinsically safe tools around our house…
  4. Meanwhile, Twin A had gone to use the potty. When I went in for the wipe, I smelled a strong scent of Old Spice.  There, on the floor, were fragments of a stick of deodorant, smashed to smithereens by little fingers.

At 7 p.m. I hustled them out to the community garden to get out of the house so that there would be something left of it at bedtime.

  1. At the C.G., B picked an unripe tomato and over-watered the potted plants in an attempt to be helpful.

The rest of the day was, thankfully, uneventful.  Oso returned home from work and we kept a close eye on the boys til bedtime.  Does anyone want me to drop the boys off ant your house for a few hours?

 

*Yes, Barb, I should have watched him the whole time.  But I left him unattended for … just a minute.

Last week in the rose garden…

When I decided to plant a few roses I started by doing the research.  You know, the best thing about doing something new is the research.  The internet is great– I really like the gardenweb forums where I can look in the very active Carolina Gardening forum and several rose forums, and see which plants struggle and which are easy.  Our library system also has a good nonfiction dept.  I read a couple books about roses and I tried to pick out a few varieties that would combine beauty with scent and also be easy care.

I started to ask my spouse if he and the boys would like to tour a rose garden with me. Then I recovered my senses and asked whether he would mind me taking a day trip without him to see the Wilson Rose Garden.  As soon as he realized he was off the hook for looking at flowers half the day he was supportive and enthusiastic.  I have a coworker who likes gardening and is pleasant company, and she agreed to go with me.  We made our plans back in the winter to go in May when everything would be in bloom.

Located at 1800 Herring Avenue, Wilson, NC, the Garden looks small on google maps but it has a lot of roses.  It is about an hour from my home.

The main attraction for me was the Old Garden Roses section. I feel intrigued by these historic flowers, many of them come in soft colors and have famously lovely scents. Also there is the mystical idea that some of them are so ancient they could be clones of a flower that bloomed during the time of the Roman Empire, Christopher Columbus, William Shakespeare, etc.  These old roses have survived the decades or centuries because they are tough.  However, I am learning that location is everything.  A rose like the Damask from the Midde East might prefer drier climates than the Southeast(ern U.S.); a rose like the Gallica from France might prefer cooler weather than we can offer here.  So I was hoping to see how these beauties were coping with eastern NC.

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In the Old Garden section there were several empty beds, some had labels in them for roses I had hoped to see.  Either they had been overcome by the shade on that side of the garden or by the climate extremes we have around here.  The example of the Damasks (Ispahan) had already bloomed for the year by the time we visited in late May.  I saw no Gallicas.

I enjoyed seeing the Peace rose, a modern classic popular from the time it was introduced at the end of WWII.  I have read about this one but never seen one outside of photographs.  The rose books do not exaggerate it’s loveliness.

My friend gravitated toward the more modern roses.  There were some brilliantly colored roses with yellow in the center, progressing out toward coral, orange, and red shades.  These were her favorites.  She also liked Mutabilis, a china rose on which the flowers change color as they age.

We saw a rose with small, purplish, fragrant flowers that we both liked because of the scent.  That bed was perfuming the whole garden.  I wrote the name “DayDream” in my notebook but none of the websites advertising the DayDream rose indicate that it is highly fragrant so maybe I misread the tag.

We both really liked the Rugosa roses.  They had beautiful folliage, some nice flowers, and lots of cute little rose hips forming.

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When we had seen enough roses, we sat in the shade on the garden wall and chatted about our husbands and our careers and what our kids are up to.  It was a sunny morning with a  cool breeze scented by the roses.  For me that was a big highlight of our trip, beautiful surroundings, good fellowship, and the peace and quiet to relax and enjoy.

As noon approached we went to a Jamaican restaurant for lunch and decided to look for the Whirligig museum before we went home.

The whirligigs turned out to be the most interesting part of our trip to Wilson.  Wilson is an example of a town that once housed a prominent industry, in this case tobacco, that has moved on.  NC has a lot of towns like this that formerly housed industries like textiles, furniture, tobacco, etc.

Wilson is remaking itself into a destination town.  It has fast internet, lots of free parking, an Amtrak stop, and several tourist attractions besides the rose garden 🙂  Our tour guide told us that the whirligig museum will, when finished, be the largest free theme park on the east coast.  [Maybe he said the U.S. or the world.  I can’t remember but I’m trying to be conservative with my quote.]

Wilson was the hometown of Vollis Simpson, a creator of whirligigs.  You can read what a professional writer said about him in  NY Times “Junkyard Poet of Whirligigs and Windmills”.

Our tour guide said after Mr. Simpson’s retirement his wife asked him to tidy up his shop.  Instead of hauling away the odds and ends, he began to make whirligigs.  Mrs. Simpson, I know what it’s like…

Some whirligigs are large, some are small, they generally have a wheel that spins in the wind and powers a little man chopping wood or riding a bicycle or playing a guitar.  They are brightly colored and some have a lot of reflectors on them.  A large whirligig is featured at the NC Museum of Art.  We actually saw this one in the repair shop while we were there.  Mr. Simpson’s whirligigs were featured at the 1996 Olympics in Georgia and internationally.  He also had a pasture filled with whirligigs on his farm.

In Wilson, we walked down the street toward what we thought was the whirligig park. It looked disappointing– a run-down-looking paved area with a shop.  We wandered in and found that it was the museum-like refurbishment area for the Whirligigs that would be placed in the park.  Inside the shop was the work area and also some exhibits.  It was neat seeing them up close and in pieces like that.

A few things I learned

  • The reflectors used by Mr. Simpson were mostly cut from Dept. of Highways signs.  He sourced them from a prison where they were manufactured.  Part of the restoration process is to duplicate the exact lettering on the pieces of reflectors.  However, out of spec DOH signs are now contracted to one recycler and the restoration workers must duplicate their own sign pieces.  Our tour guide says this is probably easier anyway, since the fragments are so small it would be difficult to index the leftovers if they were cut from existing signs.
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Part of a whirligig at the repair shop.  Note the reflectors.

  • Mr. Simpson used whatever paints he had on hand and did not take care to make the finishes weather resistant.  Now they are being sanded down and painted with a 30-year-grade, archival type paint for metals.
  • Mr. Simpson used whatever materials he could get from junk-yard establishments.  For example, one structure uses wind-catchers made from a bunch of metal wine-glasses with the stems cut off.
  • Some of the old whirligig parts will not be restored, they will be dismantled and the rusty, historic-effect pieces will be used for indoor museum exhibition.  Duplicates have been cut out to replace them on the refurbished whirligig.
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Old Guitar man for the indoor museum and new guitar man for the park.

The park site is down the road from the shop and our guide walked down with us to see it.  There are plans for seating and informational kiosks, sidewalks, and food vendors.  Across the street will be a microbrewery.  In NC we have a microbrewery across the street from everything.

Eventually, Mrs. Simpson came out ahead as Mr. Simpson was able to sell some whirligigs to collectors and institutions, nationally and internationally.  I don’t know if he ever cleaned up his shop, but Mr. Simpson, in his 90’s, was able to sell his own whirligig collection, out in the pasture, to the town of Wilson for a tidy sum.  The town was told, by the appraiser, that they got a bargain.  Mr. Simpson knew that his creations would be restored and cared for.

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Several refurbished whirligigs have already been installed in the unfinished park.

My friend and I left Wilson in time to get home about the time we would be getting home from work.  It was a nice break from my daily routine and I really enjoyed my day off.  If you decide to visit Wilson someday, stop by Raleigh and see me!

Pics

I’m in the mood to share a few pics today.  I realize I have been really remiss on pics of the boys.  I just don’t get the camera out very often.  And when I do the results are tentative.  But my friend and neighbor, who has a special bond with my children, is a great photographer and she makes each gift of babysitting into a photoshoot.  I am so thankful!

These are portraits she did last summer.

Twin A is going to blow bubbles and Twin B is going to throw the ball.  Weren’t they cuties?

They still are.  See below for the Mother’s Day photos she took while Oso and I went out for a date yesterday.

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I could have dressed them better, but I wasn’t expecting pics!

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She said she had to be stern to get photograph cooperation.  I know them pretty well and I bet she did.  This one captures the mischief dynamic pretty well.

A Thankful Heart

Before dinner, we do that classic family exercise of going around the table and naming things we are thankful for.  I realize this is often reserved for Thanksgiving Dinner and other formal occasions.  Our kids really enjoy this opportunity to be introspective, and to have our undivided attention, while they name the things that give them joy.

Twin B is pretty conventional.  He has graduated from naming doggies and puppies and bubbles, the first things he was thankful for as a three-year-old, to naming apex predators:  “Yions (lions) and tigers and wolves.”  He almost always names “ships that sail on the SEA!” and  sometimes he says he is thankful for “You and you and you,” pointing around the table at each member of his family.  It’s really sweet and I love him so much!

Twin A, however, closes his eyes, and uses this opportunity for a public service announcement.  He keeps the rest of us hungry while he names many things that he is thankful for, or hoping for, whichever is the case.

One day last week “I’m thankful for the whole world.  I’m thankful for drinking juice.  I’m thankful for treats.  I’m thankful for mountains.  I’m thankful we can do everything.  I’m thankful for a lot of chocolate.  I’m thankful for the whole world.  I’m thankful for outer space.  I’m thankful for space ships.  I’m thankful for the earth.  I’m thankful for a lot of presents.  I’m thankful for eating some chocolate and candy.  I’m thankful for chocolate candy, and I’m thankful for chocolate candy, and I’m thankful for chocolate candy.”

Often when he pauses we optimistically insert a hearty “Amen!” but he steams ahead.  I suppose all this food-gratitude might just mean he is hungry at dinner time; however after all this meditating on chocolate he has trouble eating whatever is being served for dinner.

I will share some more things for which Twin A is thankful.  Sometimes, as a parent, you don’t know how to respond.

Recently “Everything!  I’m thankful for having hot cocoa and bubble gum.  I’m thankful for space ships.”

“I am thankful for all the good tasting cough drops.”  (He did get in the car a couple days prior and eat ALL the good tasting cough drops.)

“I am thankful for eating ice cream at the ice cream store.  Strawberry ice cream, though.” (He was promised a trip to the ice cream store for keeping his diaper clean and dry but he hadn’t gotten to go yet.)

“I am thankful for candy and all the suckers.”  (We really need to start locking the car.)

“I am thankful for chocolate.”

“I am thankful for eating strawberry ice cream.” (He picked out strawberry ice cream during a grocery shopping trip the previous day with his dad but hadn’t gotten to taste it yet.)

“I am thankful for too many presents for Christmas.”

“I am thankful for too much ice cream and too much candy.”

“I am thankful for my fishing pole.”  (He doesn’t have a fishing pole.) “I am thankful for  eating too much chocolate.”  (He did do that.)  “I am thankful for eating a strawberry smoothie.”  (Not that I know of.)

“I am thankful for Santa Claus.”

Pig Man

After their semi-nightly bath, I witnessed an unusual conversation between my kids.  Four-year-olds are known to have abstract conversations, but this was pretty out of the ordinary even for mine.

They were discussing what they would eat for snack that night.  Twin B wanted to eat pig man.  A knew what he was talking about because he said he wanted pig man with no peanut butter in his nose.  B said he didn’t know how it would stick together with no peanut butter.  After a little more conversation they resolved this and decided to have pig man with no peanut butter.

It felt like a moment from another dimension so I later asked my spouse if he knew the meaning of pig man.

His response was “Pig man is when I quadruple stack round crackers with peanut butter inside of them, put it in the middle of a little plate, and then take apple slivers to make the eyes and mouth.”

Sounds pretty good to me.  I think I’ll take a pig man as my snack too.

The Handy Husband: Episode 2, Vermiculture Harvester

Domestic Tranquility

Being a crafty person, I consider myself blessed to have a husband who also likes makin’ stuff.  Consider this:  A cool summer morning with no mosquitoes (OK, this scenario is partly fantasy).  Say it’s a Sunday and the kids aren’t moving around much yet.  We take our morning beverages and adjourn to the shady microclimate under the oak trees.  We have our reference books, sketch books, and graph paper.  We sit together reading, looking at inspirational photos, drawing, taking notes, and planning out our separate projects.  We sound out our ideas and talk out the details and concerns.  I have planned a small orchard, a little landscape design for the front of the house, and a few knitted hats.  My spouse has designed a rainwater catchment, chairs, tables, a chicken coop, a sidewalk, a worm spinner, several windmills, etc.

These little interludes of relaxation and companionship are highlights of our weeks.  I love having another creative person in my house–especially this one who makes more than messes.

The downside is the double stash.  And believe me, the chest filled with yarn and the dresser filled with fabric pale in comparison to the stacks of bricks, blocks, pavers, lumber, pallets, sticks, bamboo, paint cans, urbanite, fill, extra extension cords, wires, rope, string, fencing, fence posts, wheels, tires, other miscellaneous bike parts, buckets, pvc pipe, barrels, etc.  I would show a photo but it might make you feel queasy jealous.  (We have made a resolution this year to keep the yard neater!)

My husband took an art class called “Material Studies” when he was a student.  Perhaps it changed him; he is forever collecting materials to be studied.  Now enter the sketch book(s) where the materials will be fitted to plans, drawings to scale, etc.  Then the internet will be trolled for ideas.  (I think Oso is one of the few men in America with a Pintrest account.)  Finally, Youtube will reveal instructions from experts, other people’s ideas, trials, and triumphs.

At last, birthed from this process will be a masterpiece in lumber with flourishes in hardware cloth and bicycle ruins.  Here, to inspire and educate, my espOso’s latest creation, the worm spinner, aka vermiculture harvester:

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construction phase, wormspinner.  Note in background, bicycle graveyard and windmill rotor blades.

 

Vermiculture

We put all our vegetable scraps and small cardboard-type items in a container and every night I go out to shut the chicken coop door and feed the herd.  The worms, our hungry livestock, rush to devour whatever delicacies we feed them.  Just like other animals they don’t like orange peels and onions.  Unlike other animals, they happily eat newsprint.

Our red wigglers repay my nurturing by excreting worm castings, the black gold of the garden.  I have read that the worm castings are like a secret weapon in insect warfare,  keeping plants so happy they won’t even contemplate getting sick.  (This year I will surely medicate my green bean plants with castings).

Harvesting the Castings

It is difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, and we don’t want to throw the babies out with the bathwater, so to speak.  So Oso made this worm spinner.  We shovel in a scoop of worm castings, worms, and partially composted vegetable matter.  We turn the crank to spin the wire cylinder.  If the castings are dry enough, they will fall through the screen while the worms and large pieces of compost do not fall through the screen and spin all the way down the to the end of the tube where they will fall into another tote and saved for later.  Rinse and repeat, so to speak.

 

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Oso adjusting the worm spinner. The castings fall to the tarp and are collected. The worms fall out the lower end and are also collected. The boys had a picnic because the weather was so pretty for a January day.

This vermiculture video was inspirational in the production of the vermiculture harvester.

 

 

Book Review: Betty Crocker’s Kids Cook

My four-year-olds are avid foodies:  Twin A with a carb fixation and Twin B with more omnivorous tendencies.  While they have both become more selective, now and then rejecting chili and other foods with multiple ingredients, they still have good appetites-and an interest in how food is prepared.

Here is a photo of my sons watching us cook. In our kitchen the seating area is behind the stove.  The kids can stand on kitchen chairs and lean over the back of the stove to see what we are cooking and how.  They have done this since we moved here when they were 2, watching, asking questions, offering requests and opinions.

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The studio audience on “This is Your Breakfast!”

 

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Twin B appreciating the smell of cooking eggs.  I told him it’s the butter that smells so good.

Twin B has practiced his cutting with a butter knife and play dough and progressed last year to slicing mushrooms… or should I say dicing them them?  He cuts them into diverse looking chunks.  No matter, they taste the same on pizza whether thin or thick.

He has questions about recipes:

“How do you make soup like this?”

“Well, by cooking onions in a little butter until they get sweet and then adding chicken broth carrots, and celery.  At the end I added broccoli.  Do you like it?”

“Yes!”

My mother realized we may have a future chef in the family (and who doesn’t want a chef in the family?) and bought a cookbook at a yard sale:  Betty Crocker Kids Cook!  *  It’s hard-cover, spiral bound, and published in 1999.  The kids love it.  Especially Twin B.

I keep the cookbook with mine on the shelf in the kitchen and, especially when it was new to us, he frequently asked to look at it. The book has photos of kids who endorse the recipes, accompanied by cartoons of aliens or monsters.  The recipes are all illustrated with photos of the finished product.  I think my son reads it more like a menu, identifying the things he would like to eat and asking to make them.  Sometimes in the evening he brings the cookbook to his dad and asks to read it.  They discuss the steps listed to make certain deserts foods.

We have made the banana bread, chocolate chip muffins (the boys’ favorite), pretzels, and apple crisp.  You can see that we prefer the desert section, but I am going to help them make sloppy-joes one of these days.

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You can see a binky in this photo.  I promise it is long gone.  Twin A is waiting patiently for me to peel the apples.

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 Twin B volunteered to carefully guard the two types of sugar so that nothing will happen to them until we are ready.

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With clean hands, my son is mixing the butter into the crisp part of the apple crisp.

My favorite part is that most of the recipes use real ingredients.  When I first laid eyes on this book I thought “great, time to buy a lot of Pillsbury refrigerator biscuits and crescent rolls…  sigh.”  But I have found that most of the ingredients are things we keep stocked, like flour, sugar, baking soda, apples, bananas, etc.  While the chocolate ice cream pie (with the decadent photo) requires a parent to buy a pie shell and chocolate ice cream, there are very few shortcuts like that in the book.

It’s fun that the kids can use their hands to mix and kneed some things.  I like to premeasure most things and let the boys pour them in.  I also like that most measurements are whole numbers.  1 cup of flour.  1 tsp salt.  1 cup sugar.  (That is, until the conscientious mother starts making substitutions of part whole wheat flour and cutting back the sugar.)  Later maybe we can study units and measurements this way.

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Fruits of a crafty weekend

 

*Now that I have looked up the book on Amazon and seen that someone is selling it for $499.00 I wonder if I should still let them use it.  The chocolate chip muffins and the banana bread pages are almost worn out from flipping between them!

What a great cook book!

channel cardigan, pattern, and yarn review

The Sweater

Let me begin by stating that I am not a shapeless blob.  I know this because I can run one mile.  I had to work up to this mile starting a couple years after the boys were born and I finally found time to exercise a little.  It’s my goal to run this mile one to three times per week depending on other demands of my time.  Running, even though it is only a mile, makes me feel good (afterward, not during) and good about myself.

When I wear this sweater, I look and feel like someone who needs to exercise.  The fit is the only thing I dislike about it, but it is enough to keep me from wearing the garment.

Things I do like:  the many textures, the strong color, the feel of it–it is really warm, the shawl collar, the buttons, the fit of the sleeves.  I even like the way it looks when it is lying on the couch.  But the shapelessness through the midsection is unflattering on me.

The Pattern

The pattern was well written, easy to understand, easy to execute, easy to plan.  I enjoyed knitting it.

I think the problems with the sweater stem mostly from incorrect size selection.  This pattern gives diagrams of each segment of the garment and shows exactly how long and wide they should be for each size included in the pattern.  I studied the piece-by-piece measurements carefully, adding the widths of all pieces to confirm whether they would fit me. I also measured myself very carefully.  In retrospect, looking at the fit of the sweaters on the models, I think I should have chosen 1 size smaller.  The models are wearing (attractive looking) sweaters that are both snugger and shorter on them.

I should probably admit now that I made a modification to the body of the sweater.  I made it larger at the bottom.  Even though I can run a mile I am still pear shaped.  The sweater, in the diagram and in the photo-shoot on the model, appears very straight.  I figured that even though Mr. Flood is a garment designer he is also a man, and maybe he doesn’t understand the problem of the pear shape.  When I compared my measurements to the measurements of the sweater I realized that the size that would fit at the top would not fit at the bottom.  Unfortunately at this point I had already purchased the pattern and yarn, so I used some tips I read in Maggie Righetti’s Sweater Design in Plain English to cast on more stitches than instructed in the pattern.  I added more moss stitch to the moss panels and kept the chevron panels the same.  Then, at the waist I decreased all the extra stitches and followed the directions precisely for the upper parts.

The sweater fits fine in the hips.  It goes all the way around and it buttons with no stretching.  Perfect.  The problem occurs in the area of the decreases and above.  As I said, I should have made a smaller size of the sweater.  I believe I should have made the decreases a few rows earlier.  Perhaps I should have made almost all decreases in the back and sides and none on the front panels.  Perhaps I should re-read Sweater Design.

Also, the belt loops are below the waist.  Maybe it’s supposed to be like this, but it adds to the illusion that I don’t have a waist.  I do have one, and remember, I can run 1 mile.

I don’t think I had a gauge problem.  I made several swatches and after a few trials, the right needles and the right tension were paired with the yarn.

I first resisted writing what follows because I want to seem like a reasonable person, but as I recall the careful measuring, calculating, altering, gauge swatching, knitting, blocking to precise measurements, etc., I am becoming convinced that the sweater grew after I made it.  I didn’t want to tell you, but there it is.

I wear this sweater around the house.  Someday I might figure out how to modify it or figure out how to like it.  Considering the price of the yarn I plan to keep this sweater a very long time…

And that brings me to the final part of this review.  In 2014 I made a New Years resolution to knit a sweater.  I also made a resolution to try knitting a pattern with the yarn for which it was designed; usually I mix and match a pattern from the internet with yarn I happen to have.  I combined the two resolutions in this sweater.  Brooklyn Tweed yarn and Brooklyn Tweed design.

The Yarn

Considering that the wool is made by American sheep and spun in one of the few remaining American mills, the cost was relatively reasonable.  (I mean, I am not accustomed to paying that much for a pre-made sweater, but for the pleasure of knitting it myself?  I decided to use my birthday money and pressed “add to cart.”)

The 2-ply, woolen spun yarn was nice to work with.  It’s soft and airy.  The colors are earthy.  The website describes the yarn with both the word “rustic” and the word “delicate.”  You might wonder how this can be but, but I tell you, it is true.

I would knit something else with this yarn but maybe not a sweater.  One problem was with seaming.  The pattern warned that seaming might be best done with sock yarn of the same color.  The reason is that twist is the power that holds fibers together in yarn.  The tighter the twist, the stronger the yarn, as I learned in spinning class.  This yarn is only two ply and is lightly spun so if you want to seam with it you have to add extra twist as you work by twisting the needle.

In 2014 my kids were toddlers and it wasn’t convenient for me to spend a few hours making a pilgrimage to a yarn store I dislike for sock yarn in a specific color that may or may not exist.  Do I take the boys with me (hmmm that would be distracting and perhaps messy and embarrassing) or leave them with my husband (who might want to spend some time without them since he cares for them solo during the work week) on Saturday evening (when I would like to be home with the family all together)?  This question drove me to buy the yarn online at the beginning.

I twisted the two-ply and used what I already had on hand.  I haven’t worn the sweater much, but the collar has already come loose from the body in one place and I need to re-seam a couple inches.

The Pictures

In Conclusion

Overall, I have to say the experience was a disappointment.  I might eventually take the sweater apart and make something else with it.  However… woolen yarn does something called “fulling” that is like puffing up when washed.  It’s not as extreme as felting, but it might prevent ripping out the sweater to reuse the yarn.  I will try it with one of the several swatches first.

I am not disappointed with the sweater so much as with the way the sweater looks on me.  Which is to say, maybe I am disappointed with myself or my shape. In the future I will pick a more flattering design… If I ever knit a sweater for myself again. This design is beautiful (on someone else).  And I like knitting textured things, but textures add perceived inches in the mirror.  I could save textured knitting for hats or mittens and only knit garments in flat stockinette which, although boring, might be slenderizing.  Or I could knit that cabled fisherman’s sweater for preschoolers who would totally appreciate it if their sweater makes them look bigger.

Updates from Chez Preschoolers:

I realize it’s been awhile since I have written an article. There’s no big news to report, so here’s the little news.
1. Food preferences are becoming more refined. “My favorite food is sockwit.” This is significant because it is the first time a favorite food has been announced. Indeed, favorite anything is a relatively new concept. Also this is significant because it confirms that he is his mother’s son, although I pronounce it like this: “Chocolate.”

2. Singing is not always appreciated. “Stop singing that. I don’t like it when you sing.” OK, he is his mother’s son but he doesn’t necessarily like her singing anymore. Or his brother’s singing, or his dad’s. As one would expect, we are all very saddened and discouraged by this and we never keep singing just to annoy him.

3. The twins have learned to report the abbreviated version to mom. “Why is your brother crying like that?” “Because he hit me.” Further questioning revealed some escalation and retaliation.

4. However, sometimes the truth is more straightforward. “Why is your brother crying like that?” “Because I step on his peepee.”

5. We need to renew the study of our vital information.  For a while we routinely reviewed our names, our address, and mommy’s phone number. Last week I asked the boys “What is our last name?” “Ummm….fwobwy…. Deedoe.” In case you are wondering, it’s probably…. not Deedoe.

6. Dragons are not scary. “Dragons are not scary. They don’t eat people. They eat grass.”

7. Some of us can assume super powers. “Pssht!” (the sound of transforming into one’s alter ego) “I have ladybug powers!” Which, apparently, consist of running really fast and flapping one’s arms.

8. Lady bugs are powerful. One son received a carpet-burn type injury on his leg, reportedly from a ladybug.

9. Fighting can be a fun and productive way to get kids ready for bed. “Mom, I wanna fight you!” “Wouldn’t you rather have a hug?” “No (brandishing arm muscles) I wanna fight!” “OK, after you get your jammies on we can fight.” I thought about telling him to fight his brother instead but I realized that would be more trouble than just fighting him myself. So I joined him on the floor and we growled and waved our arms at each other and flexed our muscles and made mean faces. After a few gestures he announced that he wanted to run all the way around the house, enter through the other living room door, and jump on my back and flip over my shoulder. He has trained on fancy ninja stuff with his dad and he instructed me to keep facing forward and not turn around. After repeating this fighting maneuver a few times he agreed to go peacefully and get his teeth brushed.  Much better than the usual fighting we do about getting ready for bed.

10. Dinosaurs are extinct. “All dinosaurs are dead. They are just bones now.  They can’t hurt people”

Christmas Knitting

When I think about Christmas knitting I remember with a smile one of my favorite projects from the past….

My sis started knitting a few years after I did and she didn’t take right off with it, although she makes a respectable stitch now. For what seems like months or maybe more than a year there was a pair of unfinished mittens, her teacher’s idea of a beginner’s project, on a shelf in my mom’s basement. Sometimes I would enjoy reminding her that the mittens needed her, but eventually the pattern was lost and so was her interest in finishing them.

When I was thinking about what to giver her for Christmas, the most clever idea occurred to me: I would pilfer the one lonely partial mitten and the yarn meant to become the other one and I would finish them for her and wrap it up for December 25. So the next time I visited my parents I snagged it all.

I had to change needle sizes to match that tight gauge used in the beginning. Once that was sorted out I quickly tapered the fingers and finished the first mitten. Then I saw the next problem. One finished thumb and no pattern. While the rest of the mitten could be duplicated by a relative beginner like myself–a certain length of ribbing for the cuff, stockinette for a certain number of rows, then make a thumb, I didn’t know how the thumb had been made.

Now I know that it was a gusset type thumb and I know how to make one, but I would still have to work out its positioning by trial and error. I broke out Knitter’s Almanac, my only knitting reference book way back then, and followed Elizebeth Zimmerman’s directions for the Thumb-Trick (Knitter’s Almanac, 145)–the easiest thumb I can imagine for a mitten.

So the thumbs were somewhat different. In the same spirit I slightly mismatched the placement of the contrast stripe across the fingers, tapered the second mitten, and bound off. Done.

Feeling smug I wrapped the gift and sat back to await December 25. I had made something I was sure someone wanted–as she had picked the colors herself and actually begun the project. An added bonus to the recipient and the giver was that neither of us had to face the tedium of knitting the second mitten.

The dawning recognition on her face was glorious. I think she was totally surprised. “Is that….??? Did you finish my mittens??… Yes you did.” Laughter all around.

Better to give than to receive, maybe, but I wish everyone on my list had unfinished knitting laying around 🙂

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