24 July 2008

Tommy-toes coming!

Our wee garden is growing nicely! I am already thinking about an expanded container garden for next year. As much as I wish I had more this year, I also am very aware of how big of a pain it would be to move any more containers than we already have! Mr. Hin is growing nicely and has his very own tomato ring now:

This was how he looked just a little over a month ago (6/16):

Lookin' good, Hin! And even better we have:

with a second level of blossoms blooming now. It won't be long before we can have some little 'maters to eat. Too exciting!!! Unfortunately, it my excitement of showing the tee-tiny tomato to the kids a week or so ago, I broke off what would have been our first tomato. Mama has been doing better with her own advice since then: Look with your eyes, not your hands!

Interesting Times

We (individually and collectively) have been getting into all sorts of trouble lately. Let's see, we'll back up a little over a week ago. Last week started out with gorgeous weather: sunny and clear, low humidity, hot in a summery way rather than in an oppressive way. By midweek, the humidity and the heat were both on the climb, so we arranged to meet our local adopted grandma at the beach. The Madison area is just filthy with lakes, but I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I hadn't been swimming in a lake in at least two decades. The ocean, yes. Pool, indoor and out, yes and as often as possible, but lakes or rivers? Nope.

So on Wednesday, we set out for a swim in Lake Wingra. Since it is a shallow lake, it was as warm as bathwater. The kids had a blast! We brought sand toys and splashed and played and dug and poured all afternoon. Beeb hung out at the shoreline and had a great time digging and splashing. I managed to suppress my squeamishness at swimming in a lake and had a better time than I thought I would. Needless to say, there was sand everywhere by the time we were ready to head home. We hosed off with a shower before we left, but even so, I had a major case of the screaming heebie-jeebies the whole way home with the sand and the vegetation and everything on me.

Once we got home, we had all took proper showers and got out of swimsuits. At this point, I would like to apologize to the City of Madison for taking home Vilas Beach in its entirety. We really should have left some behind for others to use. I thought we had washed most of it down the drain when I sprayed out the bathtub, but it turns out I was wrong. I had significantly underestimated how much sand Beeb had put in his mouth. For DAYS after, every time he pooped, there was more sand in his diaper than had been in the swim diaper when we got home. Yeah, one of those things they don't tell you about before you become a parent. With three kids, we have had plenty of technicolor poops from chewing on crayons, but even those didn't prepare me for the sheer volume of sand this little dude was processing.

All said, I'm not in a huge rush to get back to a beach anytime soon, but on the other hand, I really do need to work on getting over my lake-phobia with all the nice lakes and beaches nearby (and so much cheaper than the swimming pool, since we will be losing our apartment swimming pool with the move.)

The next grand adventure was Friday night Knitting at The Sow's Ear. Prior to the evening in question, Dale-Harriet had put out the call (oink, I say, oink) for a little Hog-n-Blog meetup in the back room of the Sow's Ear. Let me tell you, the turnout was grand! There was Chocolatesheep Beth, Molly Bee, and Elizabeth SABLE representing the Hog-n-Bloggers. JaalaDay joined Beth and Elizabeth for the release of a new issue of Knit Circus and CathyCate had made the trip to Madtown and has posted some great pictures of the insanity here. Let's just say there was much laughter, some well-deserved escape from non-fiber life, and tattoos in places not available to the general public (they were temporary tattoos brought by CathyCate, and Cindy, I snagged one for you after our meme inspired tattoo discussion. I'll bring it to Last Saturday Knitting).

On Monday, Beeb mastered a new skill. I went upstairs to throw in a load of laundry and came around the corner to find him looking very pleased with himself in the upstairs hallway.

Mad skillz. He gots em.

Tuesday was a quick trip to the zoo since the humidity had broken and the weather was nice again. In the Herpetarium, we heard the tortoise "talking," so we went to investigate, since the most active we have ever seen the two tortoises is maybe blinking.

Oh. *ahem* Moving on...

FO: Arm Distaff Thingy

So, I have still been doing a lot of spinning. As we head through July into August, Wisconsin inevitably gets humid with more regularity. When I started spinning, I just kind of draped the roving over my arm and/or shoulder. However, when the humidity went up last year and the roving started sticking to me, I basically put the spinning away until winter. This spring, I started carrying the roving in a plastic grocery bag. I could loop the handles over my arm while I was spinning and just pull out more length as I needed it. Enter this year's increased humidity and one seriously sweaty forearm and/or elbow. So I scratched my head a little. Then I looked at my ball of viscose handspun a bit. I didn't have a project in mind for it, so I scratched my head a little more and cast on for this:

Here's what it looks like all stretched out:

Pattern: Made it up as I went
Yarn: Viscose handspun
Needles: KnitPicks Options, size 8

The basic recipe:
Cast on enough stitches to make arm band a nice width (this one has 21)
Knit a few rows (I did 7).
Cast off 3-5 center stitches. Next row cast those stitches back on (leaving a slit between rows).
Knit until it's about wrist sized.
Next two rows: cast off edge stitches to leave a few stitches in the center (this one has 5)
Knit I-cord until it's long enough to fit a slip knot and a big bunch of roving.

The arm band could be anything from garter stitch all the way to as fancy as possible. I did a seed stitch border with a cable down the center:

More posts coming soon...In addition to our typical out and about summer schedule, I have also been doing more work getting the apartment ready to start moving, so blogging time gets preempted. I suspect that until we get quasi-settle in the new apartment, the blogging will look like this: long silence, then several posts in a day or two. I am planning on breaking things up into several short(ish) posts all at once rather than trying to cover everything in one monster post, so I don't wind up with a series of novellas with every label I have ever used attached to each.

15 July 2008

Why yes, I do knit!

It just doesn't look like it on the blog these days! The two projects that I'm working on regularly are advancing slowly as I have been doing more spinning these days and lots of kid wrangling. I am nearly two-thirds done with Laminaria. I am on the last repeat of the blossom chart and then just have the two edging charts to do. Well, "just" might not be the right word...the edging is over a third of the whole shawl. But it will be a change of pace. The shawl as it stands right now:

And a close up of the denser stars and more open blossoms:

It's still looking all unblocked lace scrunchy, but the blossoms will really pop with blocking!

I am also working on the Kitty Man socks. The verigated yarn is cotton, which combined with my typical tight knitting makes for tired hands if I work on these too long, so the going is very slow! I am going to keep knitting until I run out of yarn. I may do the cuff in the solid orange, but I haven't decided for sure yet. We'll see when I get there!

Close-up of lace-work:

I got the charts for the lacework here (pdf), but the sock itself is my standard recipe.

14 July 2008

My little fishies

I often affectionately refer to my crazy bunch as a zoo, but I am starting to think that "aquarium" might be more appropriate! Bug and Bean finished their swimming lessons last Thursday. Each had a few things on their report cards that "need work" before advancing to another level, but I am just amazed by how much they learned! In addition to swimming lessons, we took advantage of a free day at the local pool last Wednesday with a friend. Bug was finally big enough to go on the water slide so it was a good thing that we had a friend with us. She and Bug went on the slide several times. Beeb was being a Mama's boy and didn't want me out of his sight, so I didn't get to go.

We also spend a fair amount of time at the apartment swimming pool (one thing we will miss when we move!), where Bean has demonstrated her abilities to blow bubbles and kick. Her new favorite thing is to hold onto my hands and swim (with and without bubbles) while I pull her around the pool. She also likes coming with me to deeper water (4'6") and holding her breath and getting dunked to touch the bottom. She has also worked up the courage to jump in the shallow end where she can touch all by herself, with me just watching, but much prefers jumping into my arms! Bug likes jumping in at the shallow end (3') and then swimming underwater as far as he can get in one breath. He kicks like a champ, but hasn't quite coordinated the arms yet. Beeb loves standing on the steps and splashing with his arms. He can stand on three different steps and be ankle deep, hip deep, or armpit deep. He also loves playing "putt-putt." I help him "swim" around the pool by supporting him on his belly or back while he kicks his little froggy legs and splashes his arms. When he gets going on his belly, you'd swear that you could let go and he'd just keep swimming! (I haven't tried.)

I wish I had pictures, but after losing one very nice camera to an ill-fated canoe trip (don't wanna talk about it except to say that the guy who was laughing almost convulsively at the mishap went under with his even more expensive camera about ten minutes later. There is sometimes justice.), I am understandably nervous about having cameras around water! Maybe we can figure something out with Kitty Daddy to keep the camera far from the water.


One last thing...please go and check out earthchick's raffle. She is raising money for a peer mentoring program for clergywomen that she participated it. While I am not involved in organized religion (nor do I even know earthchick's affiliation), I can speak firsthand of the benefits of this kind of thing for women in male-dominated professions. While women can match men performance-wise is any field (and vice-versa....KittyDaddy is a nurse, so we have seen both sides), having a great support system can really make the difference in advancement and retention of talented women in largely male fields and provide even more great role models for our daughters, granddaughters, nieces, and other favorite growing girls. Plus there are some AMAZING fibery prizes (and even some non-fibery ones). Go take a look...the drawing is in early August and rumor has it that a new prize will be added for every $500 in donations over the original goal (which has already been met).

09 July 2008

Come into my garden!

Our garden, while tiny, is doing well this year. I up-potted Hin the tomato to a bigger "pot" this weekend and he is thriving!

Compare it to a little over three weeks ago after the first up-potting (the garden pics are at the end of the post)! Hin has three blossoms in full bloom and several more buds.

We should have tomatoes before long. The apple trees are growing, too. I think Bug is expecting to pick apples off our trees this fall. I keep telling him there won't be any apples this year, but hope springs eternal at age five.

08 July 2008

I Can Haz Cheezbabies?

If you embiggen you can see some of the skeeter bites the little dude got on the Fourth. Poor lil dude.

07 July 2008

Spin, baby, spin!

Still spinning away. I finally got up the gumption and finished the evil viscose. It wasn't much fun to spin, but the yarn turned out better than I expected! I wonder if it would have gone better on a heavier spindle. I spun the single on my Turkish spindle and Navajo plied it on my Ashford spindle. I got 78 yards of three-ply out of slightly more than an ounce of fiber.

If I ever lose my mind and spin viscose again, I think more pre-drafting, a heavier spindle, and a thicker single might help.

I'm still much in love with the Targhee top:

Just like self-striping sock yarn, the color changes keep me much more fascinated than they have any right doing. Plus, they are just stunning colors, very rich and deep. I am hoping that by Navajo plying this, it will stay kind of self-striping. The last few days have been too humid to spin...nothing to do with the physics of spinning, just the fact that the fibers stick to me when I'm sweaty and I just hate it! So I have been doing more knitting and less spinning until the humidity breaks a little. I guess I really can't complain too much about heat and humidity this year as we haven't even turned on our A/C yet and it is already July!

06 July 2008

A delightful Fourth

We had a lovely fourth of July! Daddy picked up some kabobs and hot dogs from a nearby meat store and we had them with a huge salad (mostly from Farmers' Market, but a few choice tidbits leftover from out CSA box). Of course, it wouldn't have been the Fourth of July without handcranked ice cream. I used milk, cream, and eggs from the usual suspects at Farmers' Market, which made it even better than usual. Also, a fortuitous miscalculation was made. I hadn't realized that we were almost out of vanilla flavoring, so I decided on the fly to use half vanilla and half almond extract. Let me tell you: This WILL be repeated in the future. I really like the taste (and smell) of almond flavoring to begin with, but when it is combined with strawberries...oh boy. All I can say is that I'm pretty sure it should be illegal if it isn't already. We topped our ice cream with strawberries macerated in sugar and a little balsamic vinegar. Everyone got a turn with the crank. Bean cranked:

Bug cranked:

Beeb would have cranked if his arms weren't so short, so he just held it down while Daddy cranked:

Of course, I cranked, but didn't manage to take any pictures of myself! After cranking was the traditional licking of the dasher:

That's my girl! There are a whole bunch of similar photos of a wee (and not so wee) KittyMommy covered with dasher ice cream.

After good food and good ice cream, we went down to Stoughton to walk around the fairgrounds and watch fireworks. I love me some fireworks, but with the wet weather we have been having, we were a bug buffet, in spite of generous layers of repellent. Or for Stoughton, maybe it would be more appropriate to say a bug smörgåsbord. Unfortunately, poor little Beeb seems to have gotten the worst of it. Those darn buggies just couldn't resist such sweet, succulent, tender little fella, and were clearly willing to put up with repellent stink for the treat.

The biggest fireworks though came from west of us. My baby brother and his wife had a little firecracker baby! Our brand new niece was born in the wee hours of the morning on the Fourth. Baby, mom, and dad are all doing great and will be heading home some time today. My parents went down to visit yesterday and sent along a few pictures by email when they got home and she is even cuter than I imagined! I'm getting worried that my parents are going to start getting cocky with all these cute grandbabies running around!

02 July 2008

Stormy Wednesday

It looks like today will be an indoor day! About ten minutes into the kids' swimming lessons, thunder started rumbling in the distance and they cleared the pool. The kids went into the locker room to learn about life jackets and safety. About ten minutes after that, the ominous black clouds rolled in and it started raining great big rain drops. I thought I was being clever and had parked Beeb and myself under one of the big umbrellas. Turns out that the big umbrellas block sun, but rain? Not so much so. All they did was turn each big raindrop into several dozen wee sprinkly raindrops, so we got wet more uniformly than the people out in the open. Shortly thereafter, the rain decided to get serious, so Beeb and I made a dash for the locker room, too. Then the sky completely opened up. When Bean asked why I had joined them, I told her it was because it was raining cats and dogs and toads and frogs and crickets and anteaters. No sheep. I checked pretty carefully. Or alpacas. There was some hail though. We waited out the worst of it before making a break for the car and home.

What? Swimming lessons, you say? Why yes, Bug and Bean are both enrolled in their first sessions of swim lessons. Bug is enrolled in the big kids' Level 1 lessons and Bean is in the preschool class. They both love their teachers and announced after the first lesson that they were both going to teach swim lessons when they were big enough. Bean has a "boy teacher," who is a typical pool lifeguard aged dude. Watching him get silly with the little preschool girls is totally worth the price of admission. Beeb and I could have enrolled in parent-child lessons, but I'm pretty sure we wouldn't have gotten anything out of it that we aren't already getting in the apartment complex pool for free, so we didn't. Besides, when it isn't raining buckets, I can make progress on the Kitty Man socks.

Beeb has finally figured out how to sit down from a supported standing position, much to my relief. Relief, not because I was worried about him reaching a milestone or not, but because he would get tired of standing and start shrieking to get down. Incidentally, he has discovered, much to his delight, that he can make an ear-splitting screech and delights in reproducing it. I don't know which will be first, Mr. Yowley McScreecherson outgrowing this phase or Mama going deaf. I know that this too shall pass as Miss Bean went through the same thing, but man, my poor ears. Plus it makes me a bit self-conscious in public as it sounds like he's being tortured when he lets loose. He's not. He's just exercising his vocal cords...probably be a dramatic tenor some day, but meanwhile, you should see people's heads whip around to see what the insane lady is doing to the poor child.

And finally, a gratuitous I Can Haz Cheezebabies...

...that is just wrong on so many levels I hardly know where to start. Yes, he fell asleep on the floor in the doorway to the bedroom. Yes, that's a rubber chicken in his mouth. Yes, it's a squeaky dog toy. In my defense, Kitty Daddy was watching him while I was in the shower (I hopped out and had him fetch the camera so I could take the picture) and the dog toy actually belongs to Bean, not the dog. When she was a toddler, she fell in love with Cheepy Chicky at Target, so we used him as bribery to make the trip go smoother. It is a cute picture, though.

01 July 2008

Busy spinning month!

During June, knitting has taken a bit of a backseat to spinning. Apparently, spinning is another good way to help *unwind* (snerk). Corny jokes aside, I have been feeling more "in control" of things when I'm spinning, except for still occasionally sending the spindle flying through the air, so things are going a bit faster, too.

Spin My Spindle
June 2008
Activity: SpinningPlying
Fiber: CorriedaleCorriedaleAlpacaAlpacaViscoseTarghee
Spindle: Homemade/
Amount: 75 grams
109 grams
288 yards
23 grams62 grams
188 yards
5 grams10 grams

The viscose fiber continues to be the bane of my existence, but fortunately, there are only a few grams left, so I am hoping to use the Mountain Colors Targhee top to bribe myself to get it finished up. The Targhee is spinning up like a dream. The colors are just gorgeous and I am easily amused watching the color transitions.

With a couple more finished skeins, I have been thinking more about knitting up handspun. I am planning a shawl with the two shades of alpaca. I am thinking a fairly simple garter stitch kind of thing to show off the yarn. I have been thinking about a hairband kind of thingy for the Merino-Rayon blend (something along these lines). For the colorful Targhee, I think I will finally cave and give in to a viral knit: Clapotis (yeah, maybe THE viral knit...6514 projects on Ravelry!).