Wednesday, January 30, 2013

FYI: Keeping Track

I could be snowbound today if I let myself. It's nothing but white around here, and though we're used to going about our business in the sloppiness, it feels like a good day to stay in.

It's funny how our bodies remember things we haven't yet acknowledged. My bad dream last night, my (more than usual) agitation trying to form pigtails out of tangles in time to get out the door, some unformed expression caught in my throat. "Oh, that's right...." And then I remember.

There are the good dates we keep track of: our first date, our marriage, our first daughter's birth, and the second and the third. And there are the other kinds of anniversaries--the bad news. I was wondering how much dates matter when we are not on this earth. Does my mother celebrate her birthday still? Does she think, "I would be 64 this year." Do the others we have lost wonder how we'll acknowledge the day they left? Hope we are thinking of them? Or are they too busy where they are working in some way, and catching up with each other?

I am not good with math, I prefer intuition, but I am fascinated by the numbers: 40 days and nights; 40 years in the wilderness; 40 weeks of pregnancy; 7 of this and that; 12....  The dates on our calendar that gain significance because the big events keep landing on them. The numbers must mean something. It all seems so precise.

I believe God cares very much about the date we arrive and the date we leave this earth because those dates determine our time here with a certain group of people. Time to love and teach and be loved and taught and form families of one kind and another. Limited time. So I am keeping track today of the time that has passed since we lost some of those we love, and acknowledging every day we are blessed to have so many we love right here and now.

My "FYI" posts share news or a perspective about something that's been on my mind. You can read them all here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How to Crochet 10: Working in the Round

Though I love nothing more than finishing a project, the actual "finishing" of crochet is my least favorite thing. I just don't like weaving in all the ends and seaming the pieces. Whenever I follow a pattern, or design one of my own, I try to reduce the number of places for breaking the yarn and attaching new yarn to cut down on the literal loose ends. I also love patterns that are worked "in the round" because it means less seaming, and sometimes seamless!

Not only does it save time, but the result is often more comfortable to wear (this is especially true of sweaters). Hooray! Working in the round is just like it sounds: rather than working back and forth in rows you work in a circular pattern to create a shape that is either flat, like a disc (think hot pad or doily), or tubular (think cowl), or conical (think booties or hat or baby bonnet). It is typically the way you create crochet flowers--one of my favorite embellishments. Ironically, you also need to work in the round to make a granny square.

Hopefully just these few project mentions have persuaded you to give it a try. It's easy, and it opens up the possibilities of things you can do with yarn and a hook.

Click to view the photo tutorial for crocheting in the round.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

FYI: The Grass is Green

Scarlett, with paint-stained hands, in a Skinny Scarf
The other morning I went to drop off Scarlett at her preschool and noticed a young mother dropping off her daughter at the same time. On a snow day she was wearing heels and hose, a great coat, and accessories. Her hair was blown straight and she had on full makeup. Clearly she wasn't schlepping between a gradeschool carpool and a pre-shower workout. She was on her way to work.
I slid some tinted lipbalm over my lips and adjusted my ponytail and thought for a minute that I would likely feel better about myself if I were all made up and on my way to an office. Then I remembered when I was similar to that woman and would drop off my oldest at preschool on my way to the office. At that time I looked more than a bit enviously at the mothers in jeans and flipflops or workout clothes and thought I would likely feel better about myself if I were home full time and squeezing in a workout or a few errands during the preschool hours.
So I am trying to remind myself that the grass is pretty green right here, in this stage I'm in right now. I feel I am running a marathon of picking up after a suddenly full house (what happened!?) and it still doesn't look picked up. I seem to be falling further from my expectations when it comes to completing creative projects. There are always things I could be doing better as a mother and a neighbor. And maybe it will be a bit easier in a few years, when I'm out of the little kid stage. But then I'm sure there will be something else. And I'll miss the little kids.
I really like the advice "if everyone were to throw her problems out into the street for a swap you would look at all the others' and run as fast as you could to collect yours again."  We each have our own blessing, opportunities, challenges, and sorrows. I am trying to enjoy those that are mine. It's so tempting to exhale through the day and think about what things might be like... But I am trying not to. Because with a little perspective on today I will likely realize the grass was greener. That's what does it, isn't it? A bit of perspective.
Hope you are enjoying yours.

My "FYI" posts share news or a perspective about something that's been on my mind. You can read them all here.

Monday, January 21, 2013

How to Crochet 9: The Triple Crochet

I am excited to resume my Head Over Heels in Crochet series. The love affair continues for me, but it's been challenging to fit everything in (my life and my blog!). I have some crochet projects planned but I'm also happy about picking up my How to Crochet posts. There is still so much to learn, starting with the triple crochet. Anyone notice that's where we left off? Sorry to leave you hanging for a bit...

The triple crochet is a tall stitch, as you can tell from my little sample above, so there is a lot of space around it. It's a great one for bohemian crochet skirts (I made one for myself and love the idea of some for my girls), airy sweaters and other patterns. And though it sounds impressive (something like the triple lutz), it's really just a simple extension of the single crochet and double crochet stitches you have been working. (If you haven't viewed the tutorials for those please start there as I break down the movements, such as yarning over, to a greater degree than I do in this tutorial.)

Are you ready to triple?

Click to view the photo and video tutorial for creating the triple crochet stitch.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sewing: Pull-on Mini Skirt (Tutorial)

It's about this time of year I get really sucked into those athletic women's clothing catalogs (Title Nine and Athleta, specifically). You know, the ones where all the models are real women who split their time between surfing and yoga, when they aren't rock climbing. And who run to the grocery store, or take a weekend trip dressed like they are ready to go hiking if they find a spare ten minutes. "Gosh," I need to step it up, I think to myself. But it's difficult to fit in those kinds of interests when my days are currently filled with stair climbing (to change diapers and put away laundry) and sprinting (between school, lessons and appointments). I am a big believer in "there is a time and season..."

So, then I thought, why not just dress a bit like these adventurous women? But activewear doesn't seem like it should be my full-time wardrobe unless it is serving a real function (anyone else feel hopelessly honest in this way?) such as clothing me for a workout. Especially given the price tag. So I sewed myself a sporty pull-on mini skirt instead. I think the women in these catalogs throw them on over their yoga clothing to and from the studio, but I wear mine with tights and tall boots and it's kind of a fun switch from wearing jeans to run the daily carpool. Simple, and inexpensive too so I can try out the look without committing too much.

I decided to make one for Audrey too when I saw this chevron fabric. The benefits of a pull-on mini skirt work for girls of all ages: easy and comfortable and a little bit flirty. This particular version (fabric purchased at Joann last Fall) is soft and fuzzy, and the bold pattern suits us both. 

I have been trying to do a better job of predicting what Audrey will wear and this ensemble seemed like a sure thing to me. She likes things a bit more tailored, and prefers bold patterns over pastels and florals.

I even lined the top and skirt with soft knits to be certain they were comfortable to wear. (We're not quite agreed on how comfortable these pieces are but I did get her to wear them, so that's something!)

The Bateau Neck Top is from a pattern I've got in the works. I really like the classic shape with covered buttons up the back and the patch pockets in the front. And it's classic Audrey, to me.

I think the skirt and top are a nice, dressier combination for her, but I'm sticking with the casual take on this skirt for myself. Oh, and I should mention that even though I couldn't resist taking a photo together, I don't plan to go out in the matching outfits. I'm not entirely opposed to the idea of matching but it would have to be just the right outfits, and occasion. That topic could be a whole post in itself, right? Would love to hear your take on the controversial subject...

So The Bateau Neck Top pattern is in the works (UPDATE: It's now available here), but the Pull-On Mini Skirt is a tutorial I've got right here. In women's and girl's sizes. It's about the easiest sewing project there is, so even if you are new to this craft give this a shot! 

Click through to take a look.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Knitting: Waldorf Doll Cardigans

This is one of the projects I let go before Christmas. I had planned to make Scarlett and Tess each a Waldorf doll similar to the one I made Audrey when Scarlett was born. And to go with the new dolls, little outfits complete with sweaters and overcoats. I thought I'd make the outfits for Audrey's doll too so she could feel included, and because I didn't love the outfits I made for her doll. The patterns seem so limited for these adorable dolls, especially when it seems they should have perfect modern, European looking clothing!

So I was thrilled when I stumbled on this Etsy seller while searching for a Waldorf doll kit. I love this sweater pattern and a few others she is selling! I made it a cardigan, per her suggestion for this variation, and I decided to add some crochet loops and sewn on buttons so my littlest girls can practice buttoning. I liked it so much I am thinking I need to try this girl-sized for Scarlett or Tess. Such a good basic!

I followed the pattern for the most part but I used KnitPicks Swish DK yarn, in Rouge, Marina and Serrano, with size 7 circular needles, added another row of ribbing at the hem and sleeves, and did the cardigan variation as I mentioned.

My older two girls haven't been much into dolls, which I why I haven't made them a Waldorf doll yet. Audrey has set the pace with her interests, but now Tess and Scarlett are clearly interested and even Audrey plays along sometimes. So I am optimistic about this, but due to the inherent risk I decided not to kill myself with this project in time for Christmas. I just barely finished the sweaters--as with most things they took longer than I estimated--and haven't started the two dolls yet. Perhaps Valentine's Day presents? When I do finish the dolls and their wardrobes I hope my girls will love them. If not to play with all the time then at least I hope they'll appreciate them and love the idea of Mom-made dolls when they are women.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Cooking: Lemony Chicken and Broccoli Salad (Recipe)

Well, this new year isn't off to quite the start I'd hoped. Usually I charge out of the gates and start checking new things off my list, energized by deadlines met or passed and optimistic about the time spread out in front of me. But this year I can't seem to get going. The latest is that my hard drive is failing. And we can't get a backup completed. Hmm...not good. I'm trying to hold the panic at bay.

On the bright side, I did make a really good salad! Just the thing to start off a healthy new year. There is an Italian cafe near me that serves a fresh tasting chicken salad, which is so simple, and crunchy and full of lemon and I was in the mood for something like it, so this is my take. Theirs has celery and no broccoli, but broccoli is preferred around here, and is one of our favorite salad ingredients, so I went with the broccoli.

Sound good to you? Click through for the recipe.

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