Wordsmiths

Even though it wasn’t finished I gave my daughter the Fandom blanket I’ve been working on. It was her birthday (back in January); I wanted to give it to her for a special occasion and there was no way I was waiting until next Christmas. So instead she got a P.I.P…Present In Progress. Which sounds a bit like RIP so I made a tombstone to go with it…

Which apparently I did not get a picture of. Hey, I was super exhausted that day.  Her birthday fell on a week that I was working extra shifts And the kids had extra appointments and activities. Really it was just an outline of a tombstone that I printed out and wrote on, nothing spectacular. I wrote the dates Fall 2015-Winter 2017 (because this will be finished this winter) on the tombstone. My daughter was impressed with how long I’ve been working on this. (My first post about this blanket-to-be is here.)

While I’ve shared some of the squares as I made them. (Like this and this.), there are a couple that I’m especially proud of that I haven’t yet.

These four are the latest additions.

From left to right is Wesley from The Princess Bride (she’s a huge fan of the book and the movie), Shakespeare, a quote from the musical Hamilton  (the daughter literally knows all the words. To the entire show, no joke.), & a horse (that’s pretty self explanatory).

I found both the horse and the Princess Bride pattern on Ravelry (here & here respectively) but had to get creative to make squares that represented her two favorite wordsmiths (Shakespeare and Hamilton in case that wasn’t clear).

After scouring the Internet I came to the conclusion that no appropriate Shakespeare patterns existed. So I did what any good crafter would do and made one myself. There are websites to help with that. Basically you import a picture as a JPG or whatever, set the parameters (how many pixel/squares for example), and a pixilated picture is generated.

It took some playingaround to get Shakespeare’s face to look even close to right and that resulted in a square I knew wouldbe way too big. To par it down I took a screen shot of the pattern on my phone and cropped it in. I followed the screen shot (shown above) as a pattern. Even though I cut a row or two from the Bard’s forehead region he’s looking a bit long in the face.

Oddly enough I had trouble finding a Hamilton related crochet square and that was including a thorough search of Pinterest. I tried putting the logo, the one with the guy on top of a star, into the pattern generator but couldn’t get a clear picture. The guy looked like a jagged rectangular nothing. It was not good.

What I did find on Pinterest was more than a few images of Hamilton cross stitch projects. And guess what….

Cross stitch is also made of pixels!

Who knew? So, once again I took a screen shot on my fancy-dancy phone and used that as a pattern.

After some zooming in and lots of little black square counting I’ve got a pretty decent Hamilton square. (My daughter pointed out that I could have just made one that said “And Peggy!”. It would have been more simple but the quote I made is pretty cool as well.

And of course my girls was super excited about the quilt squares.

She suspected that I was making something for her birthday but had no idea what it was. She’s wanted a “Fandom blanket”, as she dubbed it, ever since I made this one for a friend’s baby almost two years ago now.

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I also got my daughter tickets to see the Lumineers in Grand Rapids. That’s what I call a present with a bonus. She was excited and I got to go to a super cool concert with her. It was a win win win.

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Life’s Short…Buy the Good Yarn!

Last week one day I found myself with an odd little half hour gap between finishing my run and picking up kids from school and, for some unfathomable reason, I did not have  yarn and a hook on me. I remember leaving the house for my own school earlier in the day. It was a two-test Thursday and I had been up early (5:30 am) to study.

ND Gross

Gross is right!!!

Because of the tests it was of utmost importance that I get to school on time if not at least a tiny but early. On time is not something I’m great at. I was frantically grabbing all the last minute stuff when I spotted my yarn and knitting needles…”Nah”, I thought, “I won’t have time for those” and left without them. So naturally that was the day I did have time for some yarning.

Lucky (or maybe dangerously) for me there’s a yarn store right by my kids’ school. I quickly remedied the lack of yarn and hook or needle situation I had going on. Crisis averted! By that time though I only had a few minutes to start something. I had intended to make a super quick run-in and by yarn store standards it really was just a quick stop in (seriously, I think time stops in those places) but I did linger slightly longer than necessary over my oh-so typical debate over quality verses cost. Don’t get me wrong, I love my (mid-range) cheaper acrylic yarns, they really are ideal for so many projects, but every once in a while I want grown-up, good yarn. As I went through the aforementioned familiar debate a small part of me thought “Fuck it, buy the good stuff once in a while!” This is an attitude I apply liberally to both coffee and beer…hey, beverages are kind of a big deal!

So I did…

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And then I started this scarf     20160128_195921.jpg

and I love it…even though I have three other projects going on right now including two that are somewhat time relevant. (The scarf is another one of Elk Studio Crochet’s “Make it for ME” January series. Ironically, I’ve made two of these projects and neither is actually for me.)

The take home here is: Life is short, get the good yarn, make the projects you want to make, don’t wait.  At least once in a while.

And while you’re at it buy the quality coffee, the good beer, and go running when it’s fifty degrees (Fahrenheit) in February even if it means not getting the laundry and dishes or homework done… because life is better when you enjoy it starting with the “little” things.

Every [Snow] Day a Gift

It’s Monday morning, the first one after the holiday break that my kids are with me. I missed them immensely during the two weeks that they were with their dad so this past weekend was spent reveling in the beauty and comfort of the “boring” day to day of life as a single mom with five kids. Mostly there was catching up on housework (by me), sleepovers with friends (definitely not me), rented movies watched (by everyone), and just basic relaxing and hanging out together. For me the highlight was probably taking my youngest two and a neighbor kid to a (family friendly) bar a few blocks away on Saturday night to see my son’s guitar teacher perform. I brought knitting and had a beer, they got desserts, it was great. (Yes, I spent my Saturday evening knitting at a bar…. with three kids. I’m so cool!)
Yesterday, after missing church due to a flat tire that refused come off without a fight, we finally got around to making our Christmas cookies. A little late, I know. Maybe they should be called New Year’s cookies this year though it’s even late for that. When the kids were smaller we made these cookies a few times a year at various holidays or sometimes just for fun. They’re buttery sugar cookies, the kind you roll out and cut into shapes then frost and cover with sprinkles or sparkly colored sugar. It can be quite a process, especially with a bunch of young kids ,and always a mess. Because we’ve made these same cookies for years, we have the process down to an art if not a science. Everyone can roll out their own dough, maneuver the various shaped cookie cutters, and even the frosting and decorating isn’t half the sprinkle storm it once was. Of course there’s still a giant mess but now I can actually make some cookies too instead of bouncing from kid to kid to help with sticky dough or prevent the consumption of excessive amounts of uncooked cookie.

Some things, things like making cookies, are much easier now that my kids are older but the challenge now is getting them to engage. I wasn’t sure the older two were even going to participate this time. They would be more than helpful when it came to eating the cookies, I’m sure, but after calling them downstairs twice and sending siblings up to fetch them a couple more times it didn’t look like they’d be making the cookies with us this time. When the younger three and I were about half way through rolling and cutting the dough one then the other finally wandered down to join us. With the oldest being sixteen and the next two turning fifteen and thirteen in the next couple months I always wonder if this is going to be the last time. The last time they want to help pick out the Christmas tree, the last time they want to make cookies, the last time they ask me to make them something just because. You never know when it’s the last time until after the fact. With one kid looking at colleges and taking driver’s ed, though, it’s clear some last times are coming. Maybe they’ve already happened. As a parent it’s sad and a little bit scary to think about that, to realize that the time your kids will be under your care and protection is running out. As a divorced parent the fear and sadness of that realization intensified.

When I was married and my kids were smaller I was with them All. The. Time. Literally. The longest I had been apart from my kids was maybe four days. Sure there were some days that all I wanted was an hour or two of peace and quiet but for the most part I loved my life as a mostly stay at home parent. I took pride in being the best parent I could be. But that time with my kids was definitely something I took for granted. I thought I’d always have it. Even as the divorce progressed I never imagined I’d loose half of my time with my kids. Sure, they’d be with their dad some of the time but I had always been the primary care taking parent so why would that change? When the final decision on parenting time was handed down (two years ago at the end of this month) it hit me hard, felt like a sucker punch. Call me short sighted but I totally did not see that coming. It took me a while to adjust to our post divorce parenting time schedule. Suddenly time with my kids was at an all time premium. Because I was missing so much time with them there was this weird hyper-focus when they were with me. Must make the most of this time! Must do all the things!

Sometimes I wonder if this is a regular thing with divorced parents, becoming obsessively focused on their kids and making the most of the time they have with them. I’m sure to some degree it is. How weird must that be as a kid to have your parents so interested in your every move, so eager to spend any and all free time with you doing “family time” stuff? Family movie nights, family game nights, family dinners, family prayer time, family trips, family, family, family… It sounds like too much of a good thing. As a teenager I just wanted my parents to leave me alone and let me do my own thing. I thought I could take care of myself, I had that shit handled so just leave me the fuck alone! I can only imagine how annoyed I would have been if my parents wanted me to spend all weekend with them doing family activities like some perfect happy eighties tv family. Gross! Luckily my kids are much more tolerant teenagers than I was and over the past couple years we’ve established a pretty good balance of family, personal, and social time.

This morning when my alarm went off at six-thirty I struggled to motivate myself out of bed. It quickly became clear that it was going to be one of those mornings, the ones where everyone is dragging and it takes some verbal motivation to even get them all out of bed and moving let alone out the door. (Let’s face it, most school mornings are like that here. We are not morning people!)  Around six forty-five I got a text from another school parent “Snow day!” she said. I felt like someone had given me a gift…the gift of more sleep and, even better still, the gift of  another day of relaxing with my kids. Eventually I’ll still have to drag those teenagers out of bed but now we’ll get to sit around in our pajamas and eat sugar cookies instead of rushing our the door. I couldn’t ask for a better Monday morning than that.

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The Ninja cookie, a symbol of Christmas and family traditions.

Christmas Makes…and Almost Makes.

It’s impressive how quickly things can go from Intensely Crazy to Nothing Going On  with the rise and fall of the holidays. Granted the holidays aren’t actually over yet, there’s still New Year’s Eve & Day to look forward to (does anyone actually celebrate New Year’s Day? Other than by praying to the porcelain gods?) but most of the hubbub has ceased. I enjoy a fair amount of busyness in my life but It’s nice to sit around and do pretty much nothing for a change.

Part of the craziness and fun leading up to Christmas is trying to get all the gifts made. Usually I start thinking about making stuff for Christmas shortly after Halloween, I come up with all sorts of awesomeness that I’m going to make and give to like, everyone! Then around mid-November I actually start working on these ideas. Let’s just say I do not have a hundred percent success rate of getting gifts from the idea phase into actual production and completion.

This year I was slightly more realistic with my idea list and only had four or five items I wanted to make. I got three started, two finished, and two last minute December birthday presents not on the list made.

Here’s the Misty Morning Cowl I started AND finished.
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It turned out exactly as I hoped it would except that bottom edge that keeps turning up. Blocking would probably help that. Maybe I used the term finished loosely. This was my first non-hat knitting project. I think knitting takes longer than crochet but that might just be because I’m new at it.

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Not a tube!

My inability (or unwillingness) to follow a written pattern seems to translate to knitting too. I didn’t like the tube look of the cowl as the pattern was written. Some of the pictures made it look like there were increases but there were not. It was just one big tube. Hmm, Once I realized that I planned (also a term I use loosely) a couple increase rows. The first one was after the second section of nine rows, I added a stitch after every fourth. Mathematically this worked out perfectly with the little wavy rows between each nine-row section. My next increase row, which was closer to the bottom of the cowl, was mathematically not as nice even though I increased after every fourth stitch again. It wasn’t a big deal but I did end up with a little weirdness on the ribbing at the end. It really isn’t noticeable though and I’m happy with how the cowl turned out over all.  Doing the same stitch for most a project gets a little boring sometimes though.

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Finally finishing this thing.

I also crocheted a short cowl for one of my sisters for Christmas but didn’t grab any photos before wrapping it up. Then yesterday I whipped up a couple Ninja Turtle mask hats for a nephew and his dad who both have December birthdays. Don’t be too impressed, I had one hat just waiting for the colored mask band and another that was already started. I don’t know who those were originally for but they sure came in handy yesterday.
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The started-not-finished Christmas project is a scarf for one of my boys. He wanted a very long scarf that could be wrapped around at least one full time. I didn’t think this required a pattern and decided to just knit & purl back and forth until it was as long as it should be. Unfortunately I cast on more stitches than I should’ve making it a long and wide scarf….which equals a time consuming scarf, especially since this son is mini-man sized (at least 4 inches taller than me. :/).
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It’s going to be super warm and cozy though. I used all bulky wool blends. It’s SOOO soft!

Yup, I'm pretty much like that with yarn.

Yup, I’m pretty much like that with yarn.

I think natural fibers have ruined me. I may never be able to go back to straight acrylics again.

Crap! Note to Self: Find way to increase yarn budget in 2015.

(Pshh, like I have a yarn budget!)

New Note to Self: Make a yarn budget in 2015. …May need to request more student loan overages.

Sitting and Knitting

Well, shit! Now I’ve gone and done it. I opened Pandora’s box and let all those impish wicked impulses out and of course I can’t get them contained again.
I went and started a new knitting project right in the midst of the last crazy month of the semester. If you’ve been a college student or professor any time recently (or have a good memory of the time you were) you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Just this week I have tests in three of my five classes.Last week I had extra work in pretty much every class. It’s that point in the semester when everything has been whipped up to a feverish pace of papers, homework, and weekly tests. The content is more difficult than it was a few short weeks ago but the commitment and fervor is waning.
I’ve been good, no excellent, at managing my time and juggling everything for the past two months but it has come at a cost. Specifically, free time and recreation…especially making stuff. Yarn stuff to be exact.
I did manage to squeeze in a pair of fingerless gloves for a birthday gift and an awesome Cabbage Patch/Princess Leia wig hat for my niece for Halloween (maybe I’ll get around to blogging about those eventually) but for the most part I’ve suppressed my yarn urges quite efficiently.
As the weather has been getting colder and the holidays are creeping up it has been harder and harder to resist picking up some yarn and a crochet hook or knitting needles and just make something. Avoiding contact with yarn has helped. You know, staying far away from yarn and craft stores, keeping the stash contained and out of sight, backing away slowly when a chance yarn encounter threatens my resolve, things like that.
But this weekend, I cracked.
It was a moment of weakness; I just could not hold out any longer.
I had seven ten-year-olds immersed in Minecraft in my living room, it was late, I was tired and had an hour or so before I could even attempt to get these kids wound down without being the strict mean mom.
Pandora’s box was beckoning in the form of soft grayish-purple alpaca blend yarn and a knitted cowl pattern.
I answered.

Honestly, it took me some time and a few video tutorials to even remember how to cast on. After a bit I realized that the pattern I originally wanted to make with this yarn, the one that’s been printed out and floating between my desk and sewing table taunting me, was a little bit outside the scope of my abilities. Luckily we have the internet and it was easy enough to find something similar that I actually can do. I managed a simple cast on and began:

And so it begins.

And so it begins.


And now I can’t seem to stop myself.Yes, I know, I have homework and housework to get done. It’s all urgent and time sensitive…but I just want to knit.
I find myself sitting in the car for a few minutes after taking the kids to school knitting. I know if I go in I’ll have to get other, more important things done.
So I sit and I knit.
My car has been needing an oil change for about a month now. I finally took it in yesterday. It was a good excuse to be able to sit in my car and knit for an extra twenty minutes or so. It was pure bliss.
And, yes, I knew I should’ve been studying for my upcoming chemistry test but I just couldn’t help myself. After that I stopped at the store to grab a few sort of needed items. Before I knew what was happening I was that weird lady sitting in her car in the Walmart parking lot knitting. It’s a bad sign when your car radio turned off and your fingers are starting to get cold but you just keep knitting just a little longer.
My resolve has officially cracked and I’m not sure I can get it back. The cat is out of the bag and there’s no getting it back in.
In fact, at this moment I’m sitting in the science complex at my school with my knitting beside me. I should be studying or crossing some e-mails off my list or balancing my checkbook and paying bills. This is “extra” time for me as I’d normally be in lab class right now. I missed it because I got out the door late, missed the kids’ school bus, AND got caught in traffic. Normally this would cause me some level of frustration but, right now, I don’t even care.
I just want to knit.

Must. keep .knitting!

Must. keep .knitting!

Happening Stuff

Cat Problems

A little while back I got a ginger kitten from a friend. I think she’s evil. Ok, maybe not quite. But she really doesn’t like to let people sleep in and is very persistent about attention – when she wants it, of course, in true cat fashion. Well now she’s taken to peeing on our NEW couch. I can’t figure out where this delightful behavior is coming from since she’s been using the litter box for months now. Grrr. We got her from a friend who is willing to take her back if I can’t solve this problem – which is wonderful. This friend seems to think she just misses our roommate, who’s out of town for several months, or her cat mom and brother. The friend has suggested that a playdate with her mom and brother would help solve this problem. I’m not at all convinced my kitten is that emotionally deep! I’m thinking the problem has to do with the fabric of the couch or some problem with the litter box. Who knows? I’m pretty sure she’s on her last chance before she gets shipped back to her original owner. I feel bad about it but I will not have a pee couch and she’d be going to another good home.

Fun Overtime

Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it?! I got paid to go see KISS and Def Leppard in concert! Pretty fun.

 

Knitting Progress

The sampler scarf is underway!! I can officially knit – sorta. I don’t know how to do all the fancy stuff yet like switching colors or binding off but knitting and purling happening! I’m so slow compared to crocheting but that’s to be expected. Although I may put it aside for a bit for to work on a couple simple Christmas presents which will be crocheted. Nothing big this year. No blankets but a few hats and maybe some fingerless gloves.

Other Stuff

I just received my first textbook in the mail. Renting from Barnes and Noble this year has proved to be remarkably cheaper than anywhere else! So nice. The second one should arrive before the end of the week. Here it goes – the semester begins at the end of the week! Whew.

Finally saw (a day late) the new Doctor Who!

My co-blogger and her family came over to watch. It was fun to see how excited her kids were about the new episode. I thought it was super fun and pretty funny. I look forward to seeing where this season goes. Rumor has it he’s going to be a darker Doctor.

 

If you have suggestions for my kitten or comments on the new Doctor Who I’d love to hear them.

Doctor Who, Home Improvement and a Scrap of Knitting

Home Improvements

Let’s start with the home improvement bits. If you remember I bought a house back in March/April. It’s lovely. However now there are, like, house things to be done – some of which I haven’t the faintest idea about. I already mentioned my yard (or lack thereof). So I was looking around and got the bright idea to paint my interior doors. They really do need it. The door on my office was multiple colors and the bathroom door was covered in so many years of hairspray that it just look terrible and is never coming clean. I thought this would be a fairly uncomplicated project. I planned on popping the doors of the hinges, taking them to the garage and slapping some paint on them. Easy, right? Well little did I know they used terrible paint on my office door (the first one I went to paint). As soon as I started washing it off old paint started peeling.

Figure 1 Can you see the different paint colors?? What were they thinking?

Figure 2 The start of trying to get the old paint off

Figure 3 About the point where I gave up

Yeah, I think the pictures show pretty well how it went. Did you know you can get a whole new door for around $50. Apparently you can. So at some point after the last picture I decided I had enough. I just painted over what was left. Before I made that decision I did try some stuff that was suppose to help my peel the paint off. It helped a little but it was still fighting a losing battle. I figure sometime in the future I’ll invest in some new doors. It doesn’t look terrible in fact it looks far better the having two paint colors but it doesn’t exactly look good either. I’m still debating painting a Tardis on it!! Luckily two of the four doors I wanted to paint do not have this problem. They should be much easier to paint. Or so I think right now!! I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Knitting

At the beginning of summer my co-blogger and I decided to learn to knit. She just finished a really fun hat. I just started learning and my first go around didn’t quite work out.

I was attempting to do a ribbed pattern. Turns out I was not moving the yarn correctly back and forth so I ended up wrapping the yarn around the whole project. Oops. I frogged it. Now I’m starting over with a “sampler scarf.” Basically I’m practicing several different stitches and because it seems like a waste of yarn not to make something I’m going to make it into a scarf. I’ll post some pics when it’s long enough. I think I’ve finally got the idea now! You knitters – hats off – it’s tricky! J

 

And Finally DOCTOR WHO!!!

Yeah buddy! Saturday the new season of Doctor Who premieres on BBCA!

We are super excited around here! If you didn’t pick up on it both my co-blogger and I are fans of the show. Really it’s all her kids’ fault. If you’ve been reading our blog you might remember the Halloween costumes, the Dalek cupcakes, the incident with Scott Ian, the Tardis scarf, the bowties and seeing John Barrowman at ComicCon.

We both also follow, fellow WordPress blogger, Geekritique who is posting quite a lot right now about all things Doctor Who! It’s awesome!!!!

This is especially exciting because this is the first season that I’ll be watching as it’s playing as opposed to on Netflix or Amazon. Plus it’s a new Doctor! Aren’t you so excited?!?! You should be…fun filled geeky weekend is just a few days away!