Monday, November 29, 2010

You, too, can knit a scarf!

Flipping through the Macy's circular yesterday, while eating my late lunch, I stopped dead in my tracks.

I know the world is alive with handknits & chunky cables (go to Pottery Barn and witness the poorly constructed over-priced acrylic (ick!) throw blankets & pillows on every.single.surface).

Didn't see what stopped me dead? Here's a close up.

And, what threw me for more of a loop? The price:

$20 for about 240 yds of acrylic blend with plastic needles. And do you see a cable needle in there? Hmm... unless Martha's planning on teaching you how to cable without a needle on the back of that 3 inch X 3 inch wrapper, you're going to need some new tools.

I'm happy to see mainstream companies embracing the knitting, I am, but this made me giggle a little.

Happy Cyber Monday!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pfffttt at Dear Prudence

So, this question to Dear Prudence is odd, yes, but Prudie's reply is something else. (on the record, I think it's a bit nuts to knit socks for every member of a pre-school class... finger puppets: yes, small toys: yes... but socks?)

Everyone who has a relative who begs for handknit socks, raise your hand.

Yup. I thought so. I just felt a huge draft of wind as all your hands shot up.  

I'm guessing Prudie is 1) not a good knitter, if one at all and 2) not getting another handknit anything from any knitting friends anytime soon...

Q. Help! Advice on Gift-Giving: I am a knitter who is knitting socks for my son's preschool class. I intend to give these socks as Christmas gifts this year. I am keeping them a secret as I would like them to be surprises. The only one who knows is the teacher as I needed her help getting the kids' feet sizes. My question revolves around the note I am going to include with the socks. Of course it will include washing and drying instructions (cold water and low heat); however, I am stumped about how to ask for the socks back if the kids don't like them, so they can be redistributed. Now, I don't really want the socks back for my own son; I would like the socks to go to someone who'd actually wear them. What would you do in this instance?

A: In this instance, I would stop with the socks and knit a sweater for my own child. While many people enjoy handmade scarves, there's a reason people stopped wearing lumpy, itchy, droopy handmade socks as soon as industrial looms were invented. It's sweet of you to want to make gifts for the entire class, but you're investing way too much time in a gift that won't be appreciated. If you want to do something handmade, maybe you should bake some treats. Or you could offer to come in and do a knitting lesson for the kids. Unless you're making socks they can hang by the fireplace for Christmas, no one wants handmade socks in their Christmas stocking.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

10 on Tuesday: Turkey Style. :)


10 things to Love about Thanksgiving:

1. I don't have to cook. I love cooking, I do, but I cook (and PC) for Christmas and that's quite enough holiday cooking for me.  PC's aunts cook. 
2. High School football. Yeah, i know? Weird, I don't particularly enjoy football but the high school games on Thanksgiving remind me of my cheerleading days (grades 3-12) and it's always fun.
3. Gravy. I love gravy on mashed potatoes, my turkey... pretty much everywhere.
4. PC's aunt Paula's cranberry relish... it's delish. She makes it just for me now. :P
5. Family... we go to PC's family for the "bird" and try to catch up with my family for the "pie." This year that gets trickier b/c my family will be in NH while PC's is in Massachusetts.  I miss my family on Thanksgiving when we don't get to see them; and I hate racing around trying to get there in time for dessert.  Growing up, it was always a crazy day in our family: we'd have grandparents, god parents, cousins, 2nd cousins...everyone stopping in for some turkey, a slice of pie, a cup of coffee.... and the wood stove burning after the table was cleared.
6. Traditions: new & old. PC's family doesn't have too many Thanksgiving traditions that I can see except his dad carves the bird and they (used to) rotate houses for this holiday, but now this is my tradition too... so new to me, but old to him! 
7. saying grace. Growing up, we said grace at the table every night. Nowadays, the holidays is the only time we say grace (or with our friends) are the holidays. I think of it as a time to slow down and remind ourselves to be thankful for the people in our lives and the blessing of having food to put on the table. Once you had your 1st Communion, you could say grace at the holidays. Ours was fairly basic, but it stands the test of time. 
8. Thanksgiving dishes.  I know... I should hate it right? But, it always was the "girl" time in my house... and I learned a lot about being a (future) wife, (future) mom & woman in that kitchen. In PC's family, this chore appears to be detested,but I enjoy it. 
9. my mom's paper turkey. it's from my brother Rob's 1st Thanksgiving (the other 2 of us didn't have 1st Thanksgivings, I guess) and it was put on our table every year. And every year, Jon & I tried to  knock it over with a roll. 
10. Piantadosi rolls. If you grew up in the Melrose/Malden/Everett/Medford area.. you know these rolls. And if you had a ma like mine, you got them from the factory on the outlet days, when you could grab them off the racks as they came off the production line... still hot. :) 
11. Chocolate pudding pie. My grandfather & my dad wouldn't sit down unless they knew it was already in the house. And, I have to admit, it's my favorite too!

So, from my family to yours: a moment of grace:

Bless us, O' Lord, for these gifts which we are about to receive through your bounty. And bless us, always, with family and friends. Through Christ's name we pray, Amen. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Holiday Greetings... or not?

I have a "thing" about holiday cards. I love sending them. It's my tradition to sit down the weekend after Thanksgiving, with  my red & green pens, my list of addresses and the stack of cards. But, in the digital age, it's great to see all the new photo cards, etc that come our way. PC & I don't have kids (unless you count Pumpkin, and we do) so it's fun to see all the kids in their Christmas clothes and such. I'm always amazed at how many people have managed to get their trees up in time for the photo, processing, printing and re-sending. 

But, I have a gripe. I do. And I feel bad about it. The lack of handwritten anything on some of the cards. I know, I'm terrible, right? Last year I received a bunch of (beautiful) computer printed cards (shutterfly, kodak...etc) in envelopes with the "to" and "from" printed off of computer labels. Now. I DO print out our return address labels from the computer. And I see the advantage of downloading the address book into an Avery file and printing them out. I get it... I really do. But, when everything is done on the computer... where's the connection? Where's the "happy holidays!" or other seasonal wish from you to the ones you love? Am I just being a curmudgeon? Am I begrudging those who have small people underfoot and are struggling to just get!!!?? 

I'm a bit old fashioned, I know... I like real trees, strung popcorn (Pumpkin eats it, so we can't do that), hand signed cards and a home cooked meal at the holidays. PC knows I'm hokey like that, my family knows and my friends know. 

So, am I just too far behind on the times  with this one? 

I'm happy in my hokeyness. So, after Thanksgiving has passed and we're well on our way to thinking about snowflakes... bring on the Christmas cards. And, truly, I'm happy to have them no matter what.  Because if you are on my Christmas card list, it's because I truly want to wish you & yours a very special holiday season. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday: meh

Yeah, it's Monday. It's a COLD Monday. Well, not really... it's actually a seasonal one, but I'm feeling very cold today. I woke up cold, I got out of the shower cold, and I'm at work: cold.  And, there's a very slim chance of sunshine today.  

Today is also the 1st day of Phase 1 of South Beach for me. Yes, before you ask, I'm going to Phase 1 right through Thanksgiving? Yup. If there were ever a holiday to do this, it's turkey day: low fat turkey & tons of side dishes that are veggies. :) And, on Thanksgiving, I'll allow myself a little treat: like gluten free, low carb stuffing and a little cranberry sauce (PC's aunt makes the best).  So, as I've done in the past, I'm going to tell you what I'm eating and what I'm cooking. All of the dishes are good for the non-South Beach community as well. 

Breakfast: 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (nonfat, plain) + 2tbsp sugar free maple syrup
Snack: celery sticks + hummus
Lunch: Romaine lettuce + pine nuts w/ sherry vinegarette; pulled pork (6ounces) + green beans
Snack: lentil + black bean salad (see below)
Dinner: Balsamic roast w/ onions & mushrooms; asparagus with provolone; 16 ounces milk

Veggies: 9 servings 
Lean protein: 2 servings
Dairy: 3 servings

Lentil & Black bean salad:
Ingredients: lentils (cooked), 
black beans 1 can (rinsed), 
2 small cucumbers, 
3 pieces of roasted red pepper, 
1 small onion diced & cooked, 
1 tbsp olive oil, 
1 tsp crushed garlic, 
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped.
Cook lentils in equal parts water. Cook onions in small amount of olive oil and garlic until softened. Dice pepper & cucumbers. Toss everything in a bowl and season w/ salt & pepper. 
1 serving: 1/2 cup. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Beauty is...

A pile of hand knit mittens :)

Yarn: Cascade 220 (blues)
Needles: US 6 dpns
Modifications: none.
Recipient: brother's girlfriend.

Pattern: Fiddlehead Mittens (Rav link) by Hello Yarn
Yarn: Cascade 220, purple & gray
Needles: US 2, 40 inch circulars (a la Magic Loop)
Modifications: I knit this at a very tight gauge b/c I like my colorwork mittens to be "windproof" and these are most definitely! They are not lined.
Recipient: sister in law.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thankful Thursdays

Today, I am thankful for:

1. Modern medicine and the Mass General Hospital. We had a scary moment over the weekend with my dad. The doctors at MGH were AMAZING to my dad: he was zipped in, taken care of... my mom was also taken care of and treated well. The doctors, nurses and staff there don't "talk down" to the patients and family. And, Nurse Kristie from the 10th floor of the White Building, took time out of her shift to talk to my mom while my dad was getting tests, had O2 delivered for my mom (to supplement her travel tank) and made sure she was 100% up-to-date on my dad's condition. Dad's home this week and we all know he wouldn't even be alive if the MGH wasn't there 4 years ago.

2. Veterans. My grampy was a vet and he was so proud to have served his country. While it did make him a strict, distant father, he was a wonderful grampy with great stories and a love for strong coffee & peanut butter. I guess if you were in the Navy in the 40s, you ate a lot of peanut butter. Grampy was a cook and thought there was absolutely NO reason for the men (enlisted or officers) to eat bland, boring food, so he often spiced things up, trying new "secret ingredients" to recipes. One of them involves ketchup on a ham: salt was rationed, but ketchup was not... :)

3. My car. This sounds silly but this morning, my car started. My neighbor's did not. I'm thankful that PC & I have the funds to own 2 cars (PC has my old Kia and I have a new Subaru) that start in the morning, every morning.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Ten On Tuesday: this week is all about dream vacations. I've got so many places on my to-see list that I may never see them all, but that doesn't mean I can't try.

1. The moon. PC insisted I add this one. We love the moon and we'd really like to go there. Not for long, just to see what it's like. PC and I are like that: we say "hmm... I wonder what it's like there" and then we go. This is how we went to Niagara Falls.
2. Norway. I want to go above the Arctic Circle (again) and visit the people. These are my people. Yup: I'm 1/2 Norwegian and I would love to wander around.
3. Annecy, France (again): this time I'd take PC. The Alps are GORGEOUS and I loved Geneva, but this sleepy little resort town, 2 hours south of Geneva, in the Savoie region of France I saw wild swans on a lake, a small village with canals and a church in the woods.
4. Rome. I know, it's loud, it's dirty, but it's filled with amazing art & architecture that spans so many different eras... and of course, there's the Vatican. As a Catholic who is more fatithful than "church-y", I don't feel the pilgrimage pull to the Vatican, but I would like to stop in Saint Peter's Square, stand in the middle and tell my godmother "I am here." She stood there just before my 1st birthday and prayed for me to become a strong, independent woman.
5. Israel. This one place has caused so much conflict in the world. I'd love to see Jerusalem and visit Nazareth. My godfather once told me that he never felt as close to God as he did in Nazareth on Christmas day.
6. South Africa. A land of duality: ocean & mountains; peace & constant change; old & new. And, the sharks. I want to see the sharks.
7. Kenya. African safari as only the Kenyans can do it... sleeping in camps, riding into the savannah in a jeep, armed with a DSLR and a LOT of memory cards. PC and I will be there one day.
8. Alaska. I loved Alaska... the first day there, I told my parents I found home. I still feel the pull to go and explore.
9. Quebec City. I've never been. I can drive there, but I've never been.
10. Stockholm. A cosmopolitan city so clean you can simply jump in the ocean. Imagine doing that in Boston?

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Christmas knitting....

I'm not normally a night owl. Well, not a past-midnight one, at least. Last night found me up at 1 a.m., just dying to finish this mitten. I love this mitten. I hope the intended gift recipient will too.

One down, one to go. :)

No great adventures in color dominance here... but I did use the Magic Loop method and it greatly affected my gauge. I was surprised. I like that I didn't get that weird ladder-ish type mark in the middle of the pattern (it's always easily remedied by a good soak and blocking), but the "around the corner" stranding was a bit tough. I'll use the same method on mitten #2, but I have one more pair of mittens to make this holiday season and I don't think this will be my ideal method. The only way to know is to try, right?

And: knitters... help me. I'm trying to find instructions to make a February Lady/Baby sweater for a 5 year old size. I'm sure it's just a matter of adjusting the cast on stitches, but I'd like more guidance than that. Anyone have a link for me?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Thankful Thursdays

Thankful Thursdays are Back! 

Last year, you'll remember that I wanted to remind people to be thankful. For their health, family, friends, ability to knit, intelligence, freedom... whatever you need to be thankful about: this is the month.

So, join me in being thankful today: leave a comment on this post and tell me what you are thankful for (links to blogs accepted as well).

I'm thankful for:
1. my job. I know I did this one last year too, but I've been here 14 months and it feels like "home" and I'm eternally grateful every other Friday, when they deposit my check. Not only does my job provide PC and I with the ability to pay our bills, splurge on some yarn/cds/books, but we have been able to re-start the 401k and savings account addition cycle (as opposed to the subtraction cycle...).

2. my health. 2010 was a scary year for my health: new diagnosis, new medicines, new diet... i'm doing well, and while I could be doing better (and yes, PC, I know: going to the gym), I'm not doing bad. And, PC and I have learned that we are enablers to each other, so we are trying to be VERY aware of not only our own activities, but also each other's. 

3. personal time off (PTO). I'm taking a day tomorrow b/c I need it. I just need a day off. I'm not running errands or cleaning the house. I'm not doing anything but recharging my batteries and drinking tea, while knitting. :) 

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Holiday Gift Knitting

As knitters, we've all been there: you have a friend at work or a relative that you really like. And you want to make them something for the holidays. Do you? Don't you?

Well... I think there is a lot to this decision. PC and I discussed it last night: you knit for those who appreciate it:
  • My mom is always on that list.
  • My dad: not so much. He would love a sweater, but that's a lot to get done before Christmas. So, he'll get a February sweater and he'll love it. \
  • My brother R: nope.
  • My brother J: yup. Even though he the afghan I made him over his head as a shawl. I might be rethinking him.
  • My sis-in-law... even when we weren't getting along, she was always a yes. No one goes crazy for a handknit quite like my sis in law. :)
  • PCs' parents: mom (yes), dad (no), sister... maybe. She's a tough one. She lives FAR away (think different continent) and I think she likes her handknits, but who knows, right?
  • My nani: yes. she loves them. LOVES them.
So, while I'm making a lot of gifts for the holidays, not all of them will be handknit. In fact, I have a kind of cool project I'm going to try this Sunday for "couple friends"... it involves ceramic tile and scrapbooking. Yeah-- -it's that cool. :)

On my to-knit-for-holidays-2010 list:

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

10 on Tuesday

10 ways to simplify your life....

1. buy a crock pot and use it. Year round, I use this handy kitchen tool before I leave for work to create delicious and nutritious meals for me & PC. I cook chicken, beef and soups in it. 20 minutes in the morning keeps me from stressing over what to have for dinner when I get home. And, best of all, when curling season starts (2 weeks ago), I use it so I don't have to rush home to cook dinner on an early draw night. :)

tonight; beef curry w/ lentils and baby carrots. It took 12 minutes to put together, 7 hours on low and it'll be yummy central when I get home!

2. stock your pantry. Mine is stocked pretty well. I have found a new love in my pantry though: Penzey's stock in a jar. It's concentrated bouillon, basically, for beef, chicken and veggies. I love that the little jar is like 10 cans of stock, but takes up less space. We have lentils, barley, rice, couscous, and quinoa in the house at all times; add chicken with some spice rub and you have dinner.

3. keep the house tidy. It really does matter. For example, on Sunday, I spent a good part of the day tidying the house and I have to say: it's easier for me to currently find and put things away. I'm invested in keeping the house clean (PC is too and if not, after reading this, he will be) and organized b/c I'm not exhausted just looking at the mess around the house.

4. I *love* my to-do lists. I make them at work, I make them at home... they are my "thing."

5. Grocery shop together. PC and I have been grocery shopping together since we moved in together 5 years ago. It's something that we both do to 1) keep ourselves on track (no 4 boxes of ice cream sandwiches) and 2) it engages both of us in the process of selecting our meals.

6. Buy in bulk. Not everything and certainly not all the time. I buy poultry in bulk. I go once a month to my chicken guy in Cambridge and spend $30 and get my chicken for the month. I get thighs, legs, breasts, whole chickens and quarters. And, when I get home, I freeze them in "meal" sizes, in ziplock bags, with the item indicated on the front in sharpie marker.

7. Keep things where you need them. All my spices are the right of my stove b/c that's where I need them. It's not where you need them, it's where *I* need them.

8. try it before you buy it. This is in terms of crafts for me, as I tend to hop into a new hobby all willy nilly and with a $200 investment. No more. I like to sew/quilt and knit. I'm not really into paper crafts, beading, etc.

9. Shop the stash first. I have a lot of stash yarn. I'm slowly working my way through it. When I want to run to the LYS to get new yarn, I head to the back room first in my house. And I shop the stash.

10. Give and get hugs. This simplifies my life b/c it reminds me of what is most important: family & friends. This morning, I hugged PC twice just b/c I needed to be close to him and he gives great hugs. And, luckily for him, I do too!