Life's Little Details: Knitting, Sewing, Green Living, Frugal Living and Cooking In A Little Corner of Southern French Countryside.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

A Little Something To Do...

You know, with my spare time.

I was a little afraid this silly little test would tell me that I needed to learn French or Spanish (uh, been there, done that). This sounds like a bit more fun. I've actually wanted to learn Japanese, and if I'd continued on to get my Phd in linguistics, I would have taken it as my second language.

You Should Learn Japanese

You're cutting edge, and you are ready to delve into wacky Japanese culture.
From Engrish to eating contests, you're born to be a crazy gaijin. Saiko!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

All of Life's Necessities

Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
I haven't really told you much about the size of this town. It's little. You can cross it twice in maybe 15 minutes. But, they understand the true needs of the travelling tourist, don't they? Afterall, they've got their soda machine. A little ways down the road, there's a postbox (for postcards, maybe) and a phone booth.

I had another picture for you, but my Flickr Uploadr messed up in the middle of that shot and it only got 1/2 uploaded.

If you're lucky, I'll feel like trying again later. It was a pretty one.

Anyway, the trip was good, and I wasn't ready to come home. Apparently, the house realized it and exacted the type of revenge that only our home could have come up with - it sprung a leak. Remember the leaky bathtub I mentioned a while back. Apparently, it wasn't fixed, afterall. So, a full box of nice clean baby clothes is soaked and will be needing to get rewashed and repacked up. Just when you think the end of the laundry piles is in sight... well, it's not.

I did get a bit of knitting done on the drive up, though. I almost finished the second sock pal sock before hitting the windy roads that forced me to put it down in hopes that I'd not get sick. I didn't. I was just at a point where I had to look at my knitting to do the toe, and I don't do that well in cars. Other than that, I just enjoyed a lot of reading time and cooked a few meals so others could have some time off. All in all, a nice vacation, even if it was too short.


Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
I'm so uncreative with the post names today. Sorry. I've got nothing interesting due to a little post-vacation blues today. Of course, my husband's comment was that he had been afraid this would happen with such a long vacation. Goofball!

Chapel Window

Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
More photos of our mini-vacation to share today...

This one is a stained glass window inside the little town chapel.

Reminder: the town is called La Garde-Guerin.

L'un Des Plus Beaux Villages de France

Tower at La Garde-Guerin
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
("One of the most beautiful villages in France") If when travelling the French countryside, you happen across a sign that says this, do yourself and those you plan to show your vacation pictures to a favor - STOP!

I saw this sign outside a village called La Garde-Guerin in the department of Lozere this weekend. Curious to know if it was just a ploy to attract tourists or the truth, I convinced my hubbie to stop. Good thing I did, because it's breathtaking. It's a very well-preserved fortified village. There are some parts that are in ruins, but it's remarkable how much still stands. It most likely dates from at least a millenium ago. I'll have to find more info about it before showing off more pictures.

Stay tuned in the next few days for that, by the way...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Birthday Girl

Applique Butterfly Tank Top
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
...modeling someone else's birthday shirt. This one is for her cousin (who was born four days before her). I cut out the butterfly parts from some of the fabric I was intending to use on that baby quilty that never saw the light of day. I've got a flower all cut out and ready to sew for the model's birthday.

A Good Deal On Peppers...

A Good Deal On Peppers
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
turns into an ordeal with peppers. Well, it wasn't too bad, except the peeling of a million (okay, slightly less) oven-roasted bell peppers gets old really fast. We're saving these for our party. That's one appetizer pretty much in the bag!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

So Many Things to Share...

So little time to do it in. I'd love to sit and show all the things I've been working on these past few days... swimsuit, appliquéd butterfly on girl's shirt, apple butter, roasted red bell peppers. The list is long, but I just haven't had enough time to chat about it. We're taking a little trip for the rest of the weekend. Maybe when I return I'll have time for a little show-and-tell. Until then... happy crafting.

Monday, July 18, 2005

A Bug Flew Up My Nose

Great post title, don't you think? Sounds a bit like a book title for eight-year-olds. I was fretting over what to call this post. The only thing that came to mind was a short description of the sewing project I started this evening. And, just as I started to type in the words, a bug flew up my nose - and even escaped alive. It was a little one. A gnat, I believe. So, there you go. A behind the scenes look at how a ridiculous title is born.

Enough of that. It must be something in the water. I have been a bit "off" all evening. I received several worried/amused looks from my husband earlier while dancing and singing a song from Mary Poppins to entertain my little lambchops. They loved it. He looked like he was contemplating whipping out the straight jacket and calling out the men in white coats.

Anyway, about that sewing project... I believe mentioned the 20 pieces of kids' clothing I got for 60 euros on sale the other day. Maybe I didn't. Either way. I got 20 pieces of kids' clothing the other day for 60 euros. I'll save you the trouble of doing the math - that's an average of 3 euros per piece (oh, and, they're all new, in case you were wondering). Most of them are t-shirts in various sizes, plus a few pairs of pants. A lot of the t-shirts are white. I've been thinking about the possibility of dyeing some, but I'm not sure I want to go that far. I did, however, have the brilliant idea of adding a bit of interest to a couple of plain white tank tops. My daughter and her cousin are almost exactly the same age (4 days separates their birthdays), so I've got yet another birthday to think about this week. What's with all the sex that apparently goes on in the fall? Are people afraid their nether regions are going to frost over for the winter, so they want to get some good use out of them before they do? Whatever it is, there are entirely too many kids born in the summer months - myself included. It sucks when you're little, and you don't get to celebrate your birthday at school. Then, when you do have a party, all your friends are out of town on vacation. Not fair. Yeah, ummm, slight digression. Where were we?

Oh, yes, my idea, which has half become reality so far, is to add a flower to one shirt and a butterfly to another. Shirts decorated in this manner, in my experience, instantly become favorites with a 4-year-old girl. So, tonight after exhausting my throat singing way too many lullabies, I sat down with some long-neglected quilting scraps and cut out some shapes. They're all ready to be sewn on. Maybe I'll get a chance to do that this weekend. I have another larger sewing project I want to tackle for a friend, as well, so I'm planning to do several sewing tasks in one day. Can I slip a swimsuit for myself in there too, you think? Nah, that may take a wee bit more planning. But, I did get the fabric to make one today. I'm not even sure I want to post a picture of that when finished. It's like showing off your most recently purchased bra on the internet. Not sure any of us want to go there.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

A Birthday Sparkler

A Birthday Sparkler
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
I'm throwing this picture in for several reasons. One, I love the pun it allows me to make. Are you ready for it? My baby boy's eyes are not the only things that sparkle. Corny, I know. No, don't click away. Take your hand of the mouse and back it slowly away. I promise not to make anymore dumb puns like that if you'll stay.

Another reason to show this photo is to let you in on a bizarre (at least to me) habit the French have. "What's that?", you ask. Well, the sparkler is sticking out of a birthday cake. That's right, fellow American's, the 4th of July sparkler your mother always warned you could poke your eye out or set your hair on fire is used in France to decorate the cake's of three-year-olds. How's that for a cultural difference? Little Lambchop #2 was loving it though (not his birthday, by the way).

Oh, and yet another reason to show this shot is to give Grandma the chance to see that our little boy's black eye healed up nicely only to be replaced by the nice black and blue lump on his forehead. It's rough being a toddler.

Yet Another Reason to Love the South of France

A Day At the Beach
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
As if we needed more reasons to love living where we do...

Here's one: we're about 20 minutes from the closest beach and only 30-40 from several others. We've got our pick of all kinds of beaches to frequent. And, the little ones love it. You can see that by the ear-to-ear smile on this one's face.

Homemade Lavash

Homemade Lavash
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Here is my pride and joy (or at least as far a this week's baking goes). They're just so durn purty. Look at the way those spices just... well... spice up a plain ole flat bread. As our dinner guest commented as I rolled them out (after the dinner dishes were cleared) and started to decorate, "It's a work of art." It feels that way when they come out of the oven, too, and you smell the mixture of spices blended together in the hot air. I had a tiny nibble to check the flavor. Good stuff. The dough has honey in it, so there's a sweetness behind the spices. Weird, but not bad.

Homemade Corn-Apricot Muffins

Homemade Corn-Apricot Muffins
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Here's an example of the yummy corn-apricot muffins I whipped up tonight. Quick recipe, and oh so delicious. They'll make a good breakfast tomorrow.

Homemade Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

Homemade Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
We're going to do a little photo show for you tonight. I realized tonight that I've been a bit too busy to blog much lately and, even worse, I've had few pictures to share. So, I plan to bowl you over with them tonight.

The first is my oatmeal-raisin cookies. Very tasty morcels, indeed. Just a tad too much sugar in the original recipe, but very good.

A Bakin' Fiend

There's a baking fiend in the house. My new tightwad ways have motivated me to bake more from scratch instead of buying cookies, bread, cereal, muffins and crackers at the store. I never realized how expensive these items were. Crazy. I mean it. Check the per pound or kilo price next time you're shopping. I think you'll be surprised to find that you could buy some good meat for those prices. I've started experimenting with the idea of doing a lot of baking all in one day so that I have to bake less frequently. Saves me from having to broil in the heated kitchen several times a week instead of just several hours on one day (maybe two). So, today, I've baked some bread, because we had run almost out of the last loaf. Then, while I had the flour and mixer out and handy, I made a sour dough starter that I'll have to feed for a few days, some delicious corn-apricot muffins and some lavash (Lebanese flat bread). So, we'll avoid making/buying cereals for a little while with the muffins, and we'll have bread and crackers to munch on when we want. The lavash is very pretty, too. I do believe I'll have to snap a little shot of that one to show off.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the yummy oatmeal/raisin cookies I made last night. My parents recently gave me a bunch of issues of Cook's Illustrated magazine, and I've been so intrigued by so many of their recipes that I feel like I'm baking non-stop these days. Nobody's complaining that I've noticed, so the recipes must be good (I like them). Anyway, the cookies and the corn muffins came from that magazine. So tasty. The bread and lavash are from my Christmas present that gets used a lot (The Baker's Apprentice). Such a wonderful bread book if you're wanting to go a bit beyond the regular yeast quickish-rising methods you see in many books. This one has you do all sorts of fermented starters that really make a difference in the flavor of the bread. Mmmmm. The lavash is good. Just pulled the first batch out of the oven.

In other news, we've been to the flea market today. I loaded up on used/good condition toys for the little ones. All for 10 euros, I came away with two Barbies (hair intact and not too shabbily dressed), a Playmobil ambulance with little people and a couple of dinosaurs. The dinosaurs were actually a "gift" from the vendor. Then, when he saw my daughter later, he gave her a pony that I had been eyeing but passed on. He was very generous, knowing it was her birthday soon. He made her one happy almost-four-year-old. Only thing missing was one for her brother. We'll be having to get another horse for him some time soon. Apparently, the dinosaurs just didn't do it for him the way My Little Pony does. Who knew?

Oh, and some knitting has been getting done around here. Muttonchop was out last night for business. After getting the brats little angels in bed, I sat down with a movie. With some light entertainment, I was able to complete one repeat on my feather and fan shawl. Well, actually, it wasn't just during one movie. A second came and went before Muttonchop finally made it home. That was a weird one too. If you like funky independent spoof movies, check this out. It was called "Psycho Beach Party". It was a combination horror/blanket beach party of the 60s movie, but made in the last couple of years. Quirky, for sure. I actually got a kick out of it, but I can see how some would think they'd lost an hour and a half they'd never get back.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Worn Out!

I have had enough of the partying. I just wasn't made for this kind of life. It's too much for me. It started Saturday, and, luckily, it's over as of this evening (at least for a little while). There were two parties (Saturday and Sunday) each over an hour's drive from here. Then, since we live near pretty much nowhere, the birthday parties yesterday and today were about 45 minutes from home, too. Add to that the fact that we were out late at yet another party last night, and I've had it. I'm so glad it's over, because I'm apparently getting too old for this. We need to stop making friends if this is what friendship brings with it.

Of course, we have had lots of fun this week, so I can't really complain too much. And, I'm happy to announce that all the homemade kids' gifts were well-received. French parents apparently have a good appreciation for handmade goodies, which is very nice to know. And, now, I can relax for at least another couple of weeks until the next party pops up. Silly little family that we are, with all my complaining about the parties, we're actually throwing one ourselves. That's worse, of course, because you can't just show up and expect to get a nice meal. But, then, at least we don't have to spend a couple hours in the car getting to the party. The party will just come to us. Anyway, if you're going to be in the area, stop on by (I can make these kinds of generous offers since most of my readers are at least a full ocean away).

Oh, and I even got in some good knitting-in-public time at today's birthday party. It was at a beach set-up for kids with some blown-up air trampoline-type toys. I just stood around under the canopy knitting away on my second sock pal sock while watching the kids play. Someone even joked about it. I proudly told her I aim to embarrass my friends in public as often as I can. And, as a result of my embarrassing habit, I've almost finished that second sock!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Chained Down

I've been somewhat tethered to my almost-four-year-old today. We had a great weekend, full of fun parties, and she decided to end the fun by vomiting on herself in the car on the way back home last night. I first thought it was a case of "too much of a good thing," but she apparently is out to prove me wrong. Must be some stomach bug, because she's been a mess all day, though, luckily for us, the vomiting stopped this morning (and was never constant, at least). I feel so bad for her. It's rough to be a sick kid. And, you know they don't feel well when they won't even play. So, I've been stuck in the house all day attempting to get some things done in the kitchen while keeping an eye on the little one. I made a large batch of pizza dough for freezing and for tomorrow's lunch, a batch of messed-up mozzarella cheese (oops) that we hope will at least melt right and some savory muffins using some leftovers that needed to be gotten rid of (ended up being quite tasty, actually).

No knitting has happened around here, but I intend to change that while watching a movie this evening.

What a boring post. Sorrry. Maybe something of interest will come to me later.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Feather and Fan Shawl

Feather and Fan Shawl
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
While I had the iron out (because that's a rarity around here) for my recent sewing adventures, I decided to test a blocking technique I'd heard about on a French knitting forum. They didn't describe it much, but I knew it involved an iron. So, I decided to pull out the Feather and Fan Shawl I hadn't touched in ages to see what would happen with a bit of steam. I didn't actually touch the shawl with the iron for fear of what might happen, but I steamed it a bit and stretched it out while it was still hot. It worked to do a bit of blocking on the shawl. Worked so well, in fact, that it gave me a motivation to get back to work on this project.

Each row takes so long that I hadn't had the will-power to touch it in so long, but seeing what it could look like finished spurred me on. I've knit a whole repeat (wow!) in the last couple of days (along with finishing the first of my sock pal socks and starting the second).

I've measured and counted repeats, and it looks like I'm nearing the halfway point, though I may not really be hitting gauge since it's not the same yarn as the pattern, and I really didn't care to do a gauge swatch since it's only a shawl and size really isn't a bit issue. So, I'll just go until it looks good to me, I think. Of course, if I'm not careful with my patience, that could be too soon. I'm not too fond of those mile-long rows you have to knit for shawls. You don't feel like you're getting anywhere.

Gift Yarn

Gift Yarn
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
At my kids' playgroup, there is a woman whose job it is to play with the kids and keep the fun times going. Well, her mother knits and crochets some really beautiful garments for her. And, of course, there will always be some leftovers, right? Well, I was the lucky recipient of some of those leftovers. This blue yarn in the picture is something she gave me yesterday just because she's so nice. It's Phil Bouclette by Phildar, which I've never worked with. It's got miniboucles. I've worked with regular boucle yarn before and didn't like it, but these don't look big enough to catch the needles.

There's about 300 yards worth here. Not sure what I can do with it, but I'm sure I'll think of something.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Dear Sock Pal,

Dear Sock Pal,
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
Yay! I've finished one of your socks (of course, you won't know this since you don't know who I am). I kind of like it. I looks pretty fun to me. I really hope you agree on that. And, I'm even pretty proud of the technical aspects involved here. I learned to do some decent short row heels and toes while knitting this guy up, and I've really come to see why so many people are addicted to sock knitting. If you find the method that clicks with your style of knitting and your personality, they'll be like a box of Pringles for you, I fear. Short rows were definitely the key for me. They feel like magic somehow.

My husband even seemed impressed. He grew up surrounded by knitters who made some nice socks, so that's really saying something. I don't recall him even picking out any flaws (which he's excellent at) when he checked them out. So, should I be proud or suggest he get his vision checked?? For now, I'm proud, even if I am a bit nervous about whether my pal will like them. Cross your fingers for me.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A Whole Lotta Sewin' Goin' On

Toy Tool Belt
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
For a supposed knitting blog, there sure has been lots of sewing happening around here lately. This little project was the product of a brainstorming session this morning. We have three toddler birthday parties in one week and nowhere near the funds for all the gift-giving generally involved.

So, as we're learning around here, a bit of creativity can be more interesting than whipping out the credit card. This is gift #1 all finished up and modeled by Lambchop #1. It's a toy tool belt. The little boy it's for is an avid tool lover and just about my daughter's size. It was a pretty simple sewing job, except I decided to attempt to get all fancy with the hammer stitched on the right pocket there. Machine stitching of that sort and I are not good buddies, and I had to backstitch over it by hand to make it look presentable.

The other project that is not entirely finished will be for a three-year-old boy. I made a few bean bags, and I've asked our family woodcraftsman to make a few holes in a square board. I'll paint it up with some paints we've got around here, and he'll have his very own bean bag toss.

The other kid whose party comes up this week is a girl my daughter's age. I'm thinking I'll whip up a bit of fun jewelry for her. This is all very good practice for when my daughter's birthday comes around later this month.

Practice makes... Well... Better, Anyway

Ah, That's Better
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Here we have the better version of a short-row heel. It's not perfect. In fact there are still some smallish holes there. They are significantly smaller, though, so we'll keep on knitting and see how the sock looks on the foot later. Cross your fingers!

The Sock That Had Two Heels

Holey Heel
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
So, last night I had a chance to sit down and knit two sock heels - on the same sock. Luckily for my sock pal (and not so much for me) only one heel remained when all was said and done. The one you see in the picture is NOT the one that I kept. I don't think I need to explain why. What's with those holes? That's really annoying. I definitely need to work on my short-row technique. So, I frogged and redid differently the second time....

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

What A Day, What A Day

What a day! I love how as the kids get older I can actually accomplish more than just one thing (diaper changes) with my day. I got so many things done today, I'm feeling great this evening. I used to think that I could never stay home and not work, but if all days gave me the sense of accomplishment today did, I could certainly do it.

The Tightwad Gazette book I recently got has so many interesting things to ponder. One of them is the idea of calculating how much money you save by making things from scratch (cakes, bread, pizzas, even yogurt). I'm kind of a from-scratch girl, anyway, so I'm eager to do it when someone gives me the excuse that might get me motivated enough. In that book they recommend calculating the per-hour wage you're getting on the savings you make off of a task you do instead of paying someone else to do it. So, I whipped out my trusty little calculator and figured out a few things today.

First, I can make some really tasty yogurt (about 14 little store-bought cups' worth) in about a half an hour including clean-up (maybe slightly more, but if you did it all the time you'd take less time doing it). Calculating the difference in price for the ingredients needed to make my own and the price of the store-bought kind, I figured I'm making about 10 euros an hour making my own. Not bad, and the annual savings is about 160 euros. We could actually do something with that much money. So, of course, I got right to work on making some yogurt.

Then, I have been plotting and planning a lot lately on ways to cheaply organize the mess around here. The organizing book I recently got has lists of places where you can get all sorts of handy-dandy organizers, but I'm not exactly rolling in the kind of dough those places charge, so I've got other ideas. One of them came to fruition this afternoon, and I'm so happy with it (as is Lambchop #1, who immediately filled it with tons of shoes - not exactly its intended purpose).

The object I'm referring to is the one in the photo there. The fabric is some stuff I got a truckload of for cheap (don't recall how much now) quite a while ago. It's not exactly my style, but it's not bad, and it matches the curtain that's already under the kitchen sink. Oh, and please ignore the pink door. Someone else apparently found that pretty, and we never got around to painting over it.

These sorts of organizers often cost at least 25 euros for something really junky. It took me about 3-3 1/2 hours from start to finish, and though I can't recall the cost of the material, I didn't even come close to using it all (and knowing me, I wouldn't have paid much for it - I tend to have a mental limit of 20 bucks on individual items I purchase, though, oddly, I could buy 20 items at once, so no money is saved). So, I probably made about 8 euros per hour in savings on this project, not to mention that I enjoy sewing in the first place. And, best of all, there is now a specific spot for all the junk we tend to walk in with and drop somewhere in the kitchen. Yay!

Oh, and I'm in the process of making some yummy bread (from scratch). I don't know the prices of the individual ingredients, so I can't give you a run-down of the savings there, but you'd probably be ready to click on out of here if I did, anyway.

Alright, now to finish that bread and get in some knitting time.

Monday, July 04, 2005

And, They're Off!

Sock Pal Sock
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
After much contemplation and some necessary practice, I've cast on for a pair of socks for my sock pal. I don't want to give too much detail for fear that she/he may pass by this way and guess this sock is for her/him. I can tell you what I'm making this from, and how, though...

The red yarn is Cascade Fixation. It's knitting up nicely with some black Phildar Fallaise (may be wrong spelling), even if they aren't the exact same composition. The pattern I've chosen is my tweaking of Epstein's 2-color basket rib (from Knitting On The Edge) to knit it in the round (her instructions are for knitting it flat). So far, I've pretty much decided that the cuff will be knit this way, and the rest of the sock will be done in the red only. I've kind of toyed with the idea of making the toe and maybe the heel black, but I'm still not sure. Besides, I've got two balls of red and one of black, so we have to plan accordingly.

Oh, oh, and these are being knit on my very own, hand-made wooden dpns. They were a bit bad about catching the yarn, until my husband intellegently suggested waxing them up with cheese wax, which I already have tons of. I won't go into why I'd have lots of cheese wax, except to say: previous hobby gone terribly wrong. Actually, that's not true - I've made some decent cheese, but I don't have the time or space for doing it often, even if I'd like to give it a try again sometime. Let's stick to the socks for now, shall we?

Frankenstein Bag

Frankenstein Bag
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
The Fall issue of Interweave Knits has arrived, and there are all sorts of fun things to try (the cabled vest will definitely be at the top of my list). There's a great article on Shibori as it applies to knitting. It apparently being much like martial arts, there is much mystery left at the end of the article, and no explanation of the technique is given. You must go to a Shibori Dojo, young grasshopper, if you are to learn...

But, I'm the adventurous sort, and I've got this huge load of free wool to felt with, so I gave my bag a little Shibori treatment. The end product, which we fondly refer to as Frankenstein around here is in the photo to the right. Silly looking, but I'm thinking it still has some potential for greatness - alright, well, not exactly greatness, but I'm going to mess with it some more to see what we can come up with. You'll see what happens when I'm done. For now, just have a good giggle looking at its current state. That's the strap laying in front of it, by the way.

Oh, and to answer Chelee about the size of the back pre-felting... it was about 10 inches long from top to bottom. It shrank by about 40%. Oh, and if you look closely, you may see the flecks of metallic thread I held with the wool as I was knitting it.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Something to Dream About

Bag before felting
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Well, it's pretty durn late here in France, but I really want to knit a bit before heading off to bed. I finished the bag, and I will it felt tomorrow.

Here is a "before" picture of it for you to ponder while I sleep.