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

Sunday, November 27, 2005

What Charity Sale?

I didn't see any charity sale. Or, at least nobody else seemed to notice one. We had a great Thanksgiving buffet-style meal, even if it was only luke warm and didn't include any of the stuff I'm used to from home. What really didn't go well, though, was the charity sale. It was not an auction, as some of my readers seemed to have thought. Just a thing where you lay stuff out on a table and cross your fingers that you won't be taking it home. I apparently didn't cross enough fingers (or maybe I crossed too many - do they cancel each other out??). And, I wasn't the only one. It would seem that the advertising for this part of the Thanksgiving banquet was a little under-done, and nobody came with their cash or a shopping/charitable spirit.

A little disappointing, but as a result, we've got some nice new hats and a scarf around here, not to mention some lovely breads and pastries (a few of the cinnamon rolls did go) to munch on. And, to top it off, as a bonus for being some of the last people to leave, we got to take home a truckload of leftover turkey. My plan is to cook some stuffing and mashed potatoes my way, claim Thanksgiving is on Monday this year and have ourselves a feast. Ooh, and the bright spot of the whole experience was that my walnut/cranberry pie went over really well. So all was not lost.

And, I do believe I'll be giving that scarf to my grandmother-in-law. At first, I thought a close friend in Chicago might enjoy it, since it's so chilly there. And, I still think she might like it, but I have to say that the 90-some-odd-year-old lady whose favorite grandson is my husband should certainly get some knitted goodness this year when we go visit. And, having come from a long line of knitters, she'll more than appreciate the gesture.

As for the hats (yeah, I forgot to mention that I was able to bang out another one really fast last night and this morning), I believe I will just over-dye them and keep them. I love the softness and warmth of the yarn (given to me by my sister-in-law), but those colors just aren't something that should be anywhere near my face. If anyone reading this blog looks really good in brown or a butterscotch color, maybe you should mention it now before I dye them. You may just win yourself a hat. The style I came up with is pretty feminine and reasonably flattering, I feel, so they're worth having around for cold weather (especially since every other hat I've ever own looks funny on me - the trick, I realised, is for it not to be too form-fitting on the top. A little poof is much better.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Branching Out Scarf

Branching Out
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
And, here we have the last post of the evening. I swear, I'll leave you alone after this one. I just had so many things to share today. Oh, which reminds me that I never got a chance to wish people a happy Thanksgiving. It's a bit late for that now, I realize, but I do have an excuse for not doing it.

See, I had come up with a brilliant goofy little post where I mentioned that my chicken was quite a turkey, because each evening I know it's dusk because she starts to repeatedly hurl herself at the kitchen window in an attempt to grasp the vine there to perch for the night. It was cute, I swear, but apparently not meant to be, because my computer jammed on me. I was using that post as to segue into Happy Thanksgiving wishes, but, like I said, it didn't happen. Not like you missed much, anyway. Your meals were most likely better than my silly jokes.

Anyway, on to other topics... like knitting. I finished and blocked the branching out scarf yesterday, and it sure is lovely. I was afraid that Anny Blatt Fine Kid yarn would be a bit scratchy, but it's nice, after all, even if it is a bit thicker than Rowan Kid Silk Haze.

And, for anyone not yet into lace, this is a great starter pattern. It's pretty simple, yet the end result is elegant. Like every time I've played with lace, I felt magic when I saw the finished product. Oh, and if any family members or friends like the feel of mohair and would love a lacey scarf for Christmas, place your order now. This was a great quickie pattern, and that just might be doable.

Now, while all of you munch on warmed-over turkey and stuffing, I'll get to preparing tonight's Chinese stir-fry (I sure miss my country, sometimes).

The Things I Do For You

Caramelo Hat
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
You may not have ever thought about the care that goes into a blog post on this here blog. Okay, well, maybe not much care goes into the actual post, but the pictures are a really big deal around here. And, this is especially true if you'll be seeing any part of my body in the picture. I'm very, very hard to satisfy, which is perhaps the reason it's so difficult to pin down the dear husband for a photo shoot. I did just that this evening, though. And, I gotta say, he's really cute, but does the man not notice he's giving me a double chin... in every shot?

So, after 10-15 minutes of agony for everyone involved, I scurried back to the house and snuck in one more head shot myself (okay, well, maybe two). Ready. Aim. Snap. That's when I hear "Psh" behind me. I've been caught. My vanity has been unveiled. I just can't put a horrible head shot of myself on the internet like that (yeah, let's not mention the one from last week with my tongue sticking out). And, here's the camera man rolling his eyes at me.

Do you really want to know how many shots I actually take before sifting through them to settle on the most acceptable one? That's the beauty of digital, but if you only knew, you might:

a) think I'm a really great blogger
b) think I'm a perfectionist
c) think realize I've got absolutely no life
d) tell me it's just not worth the trouble, because that hat is just not my color in the first place...

which brings us to talk about the hat a bit. It's a quickie project that makes me realize I need to make more hats for the family. So easy. I just started knitting and changed things when I felt like it and kept things the same when I wanted to do that. Then, suddently - Tada! It's a hat. Wonderful.

We won't be keeping this particular hat around here, though. Like I said, it's not my color. It'll be going at the charity sale tomorrow (we hope!). If it doesn't sell, I may just have to dye it.

On a happy note, though, it's color reminds me of caramel candies, and I've named it the Caramelo Hat. I don't know if you can see it in the picture, but the top is sort of poofy and gathered and I love this about it. It gives it a more feminine look than just a bowl on my head would. I may just have to redo this in another color. Better write out that pattern quick before I try to sell it tomorrow.

The Whosawhatsit Sweater

Noro Sweater
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
Remember way back in August or early September, I claimed to have finished a sweater? It was the Noro sweater on the front cover of Noro Knits. I never can remember the name of it, so don't even ask (I'm way to lazy to go look it up). It may or may not be called Gloria. That's the best I can do.

Anyway, nobody ever saw any proof of that sweater actually being finished. You may even remember me blaming it on the fact that the camera man was harvesting his grapes at the time. And, of course, then you started wondering how long a harvest lasts. I could lie to you and tell you that it goes for several months, but... no, that's what I'll do: the harvest lasts for several months and just ended yesterday (scout's honor - even though I was a Campfire Girl), so we finally got a chance to get a shot of this comfy sweater. "Why is it all pilled and used looking?" you ask. Yeah, hmmm. I've got no answer for that. Just shut up and admire thing will ya?

The details:

Noro Kureyon yarn in what may or may not be color number 129 (again, the memory falters this long after the fact).
Anny Blatt (the solid color) Merinos yarn in whatever color happened to be on sale for dirt cheap when I was at the outlet store. I know, I'm not good with the specifics. So, sue me (actually, please, don't, because we've got no money). It's cute, though, ain't it?

Baking Bonanza

Baking Bonanza
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
Why, it's a regular ole bakery around here. Tomorrow is the American Women's Group Thanksgiving potluck, and I'm ready! Not only did I volunteer to make a few knitted goodies for the charity sale, but I was also suckered into (okay, well, somebody called and asked) baking something as well (you never really have to twist my arm hard to get me to bake).

I was up earlyish this morning and had a hankering for pancakes. Yeah, I'm telling you about the stuff that's not in the picture first. I really wanted to try this recipe I've had for a while that serves the pancakes with an apple sauce/syrup. Problem is, I didn't have any apple sauce. So, I enlisted our favorite husband to chop up some apples. A few minutes in the pressure cooker (love that thing!), and we had apple sauce all ready to go.

Breakfast was tasty, but I all that leftover apple sauce to deal with. You can only eat so much of that in a week, so I bottled a bit and then made apple butter out of the rest. Yum (well, yum for later)!

Then, it was on to the baking spree for the potluck. First, I made a huge (and I really mean enormous) ball of dough. That sucker was fun to knead. I've never made more than 2 loaves at a time, and it was interesting to change things up a bit. This was a batch big enough for four loaves. Three of them became cinnamon swirl bread (center in the photo) and the other became cinnamon rolls (left and bottom right). Those will get sold at the charity bazaar tomorrow (yeah, we'll be taking our commission, of course). While all that was rising, I put together a little pie (top right).

That pie is interesting, too, and I'm really curious to know what it tastes like. I didn't have any pecans on hand, but that's my husband's favorite pie. I did, however, have a ton of fresh walnuts still in their shells. So, I sat down with my meat mallet (the kids seem to have run off with the nutcracker - but it's better for working off steam when you whack at them with the mallet, anyway). So, this thing's REALLY from scratch. The only thing I didn't do was gather the nuts myself, but my mother-in-law did, if that counts for anything. Anyway, so, I modified a really delicious recipe I have for pecan pie (some of the modifications include maple syrup, which is the best way to make pecan pie, and the addition of cranberries, because I love them with walnuts). Well, see tomorrow how it turned out. I'll just have to make sure I get some.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Guilty Conscience?

I walked into the livingroom, and upon seeing my toddler with a pile of opened markers and a non-coloring book, I dashed to the other room for a piece of paper. I flew back to the livingroom while saying his name (and, I swear I wasn't yelling it).

His response: No! Nooooo!

I slipped the blank page between him and the soon-to-be-victim (a.k.a. non-coloring book). The little head turned... "Merci, maman".

So, they DO know right from wrong at age two. They just don't really care. At least he's polite, though, right?

Do-It-Yourself Stone-Wash Jeans


Insert jeans of four-year-old into laundry. DO NOT CHECK POCKETS. Wash and dry as usual.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

What Would You Pay For It?

Branching Out Scarf
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
I believe I mentioned that my local American Women's Group was having a little charity bazaar. It's taking place after our Thanksgiving dinner this weekend, and I've promised to try to knit some things and bake some goodies, too. I've so far knitted very few things to sell. I've got one or two (maybe three) washcloths that might sell, but two are a bit small and would be best for babies. Then, there's the red capelet that I still need to finish up. It's only a matter of making the tassles and weaving in ends, but we all know how fun that can be.

So as not to show up totally empty-handed, though, I decided to knit a lacey scarf or two. My plan is to add a couple quick bookmarks to it and call it a day (well, it'll likely take a few days, but who's counting).

I've got all this Anny Blatt wool/mohair blend yarn I bought a month ago. I'll likely have plenty for what I wanted to do with it, so I decided to sacrifice a bit for charity. This is not as easy as it would seem. I love the idea of knitting for a good cause, but I seem rather attached to my stash and have trouble parting with any of it.

It IS for a good cause, though, so I made an effort. I dug in and came up with this blue/grey Fine Kid. It wasn't as soft as I'd hoped (it's no Rowan Kid Silk Haze - that silk really adds some softness), but it feels like it's softer than I first thought. I'm thinking it'll be just fine once I wash and block it.

In case you can't tell, it's the Branching Out Scarf from Knitty. It's a pretty easy knit and goes quickly once you get the hang of the pattern. I can see how it would be a good pattern for lace beginners.

So, as I near the halfway point on this scarf, my question is this: What do you charge for a lacey mohair scarf you've hand-knit for a charity? I have no idea what a hand-knit scarf sells for. Any suggestions? My husband came up with 15 bucks, but I'm thinking the man really underestimates the value of lace (and, he certainly underestimates the value of my handywork, huh?). I'm thinking more in the range of 30-40, but I want it to sell, too. Please, please, please leave me your suggestions in the comments section. They would be greatly appreciated.

And, so as not to leave you with the image of me begging for your help...

Have you ever passed in front of a mirror and caught a glimpse of your reflection and thought, "I may as well be wearing sweat pants or pajamas, because that's how flattering this outfit is?" Happened to me just yesterday.

Good Lord, people, when on earth did I lose all self-pride? I actually went out in those clothes.

Oh, yeah, that's right, I turned 30 this year and am married with two small children. Apparently, I no longer have any shame.

It's sad, really. I have almost no clothes that actually fit me correctly anymore. This is what childbearing has done to me. Things are either the too tight, before-I-got-knocked-up clothes or the too loose, after-the-watermelon-slid-out clothes. There's not much in between.

What's a girl to do? I mean, I can't really justify buying new clothes, because that would cut into my yarn budget!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Olive You

Remember that old knock-knock joke? For those of you who don't, here it is...

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Olive who?
Olive you. (this line is supposed to sound vaguely like I love you, in case you don't get it)

What does this have to do with anything? Not much really. Just wanted to bring you some elementary school humor, which reminds me: I was apparently well-known in the family for my incessant need to tell ridiculous jokes that made no sense. My mom acts as if I stopped doing this maybe around the age of 10 or younger. Some would say that I've held on to the habit well into adulthood...

Actually, there really is a link to that knock-knock joke and this post, however small it may be. The link is in the word olive.

If you look in the picture there, you can make out some silver/green-leafed trees. That's our olive grove, if you can call it that. We've got about 80 olive trees that myfather-in-law tucked away in that hard to access valley there. It's nicely surrounded by lots of prickly holly bushes and spikey wild blackberry bushes. This, of course, makes it really fun to work with the trees. So, they've pretty much been left to their own devices for maybe 15 or 20 years. Then, a couple years ago, Muttonchop and I got the idea of trying to harvest some and pickling (or whatever you call it) our own olives. They turned out okay, but they certainly weren't fabulous. This year, though, my father-in-law went to the effort of actually weeding in the general area of the orchard (only a bit) to ease the access. So, this week we have been harvesting. I've been told we've gotten about 100 kilos so far. That's about 220 lbs. Not bad, really, but we need about 3 times that for what we want to do with them... which is to make our own olive oil. We use that way more than we eat olives, so we've contacted a man with a press and have been told that we need about 300 kilos of olives for one pressing. We don't know if we'll get that many, but if we can't, he'll add some of his in and give us back the equivalent of our olives in oil.

I'm really excited about the idea of using our own oil. First, there's the tightwad aspect that pleases me. Why wouldn't it? I mean, that's some expensive stuff, and I use it all the time in cooking and salad dressing. I usually pay at least 7 euros for a nice liter of it. And, our oil would be about as organic as they come. Wild, really, since we don't do anything to the trees. Then, there's the gift idea of it. You can give these away to people for Christmas! Who wouldn't love that? I could even make up some cute little tags for it. If I remember right, the 300 kilos of olives should give us about 50 liters of oil. I don't think we use any more than maybe 15 a year, and we cook a lot. Then, we'd have to give some to the nice friends who helped out with the harvest. A few bottles each family should be enough, since I think they came for the fun of it mostly. They'd certainly deserve to have their share, but I'd doubt they use as much as we do, since people rarely cook as much as I do (and both husband and wife work in those families, so they don't likely eat 3 meals a day at home). That should leave a lot for use in the larger family. My husband's neice is epileptic after a bout with meningitis when she was a tiny baby. She has a very high-fat diet that consists mostly of vegetable oils. I'm pretty sure some oil would be very much appreciated around her house.

Okay, I could go on and on thinking of free Christmas gifts in the form of oil. But, I'll save you all that and stop here. It may not be a bad way to coax family members over from the US. Anyone up for tasting some of our oil? Instead, I'll leave you with another picture of the sun coming through the olive trees. The weather's been great, and it was perfect for picking olives yesterday (take a look at the Weather Pixie in my sidebar for the current temperature here - amazing for late November).

Oh, and thanks for all the suggestions everyone gave about how to fix my picture download problem. It turned out to be just a matter of changing my privacy settings a bit in Flickr. I am giving this blogger photo uploading feature a try in this post again, though, because I want to see how it deals with more than one picture in the same post. As far as I can tell, Flickr doesn't allow that, and it's not a bad idea for some posts. Cross your fingers for me. I'm hoping there will be a picture on the left part way through the post and one on the right a little later (imagine me closing my eyes and quickly nodding my head like in I Dream of Genie for this to work right).

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Peaceful Palms?

Peaceful Palms?
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
So, I've seen people making gloves all over the place lately. And, it's not that I've been itching to join the Peaceful Palms knitalong, but my hands have been getting cold. And, Lambchop #2 lost one of my store-bought gloves last year.

I started to cast on for a pair of gloves in that pink and brown yarn, but I decided that I needed a bit of experience with a non-fair isle glove first.

So, what did I do? Cast on with some Koigu, of course. Those of you who've been around this blog for a long time, may remember some Koigu socks I attempted long ago. I didn't like the finished product, and they were frogged in a recent frogging bonanza. So, the yarn was all ready to be knit up again.

And, it sure knit up nicely into a glove. I did the whole glove from the fingers down to the cuff instead of starting at the cuff. I'll do anything to avoid sewing at the end of the job, and I'm very satisfied with this method.

Nona (who I'm too lazy to link to at the moment) has been doing a tutorial on knitting gloves in this way. She uses the i-cord finger method, though, and just reading the word i-cord turned me off from it. But, having recently learned the very satisfying Turkish cast-on, I decided fingers would be easy to do with that method. And, they were! Having done the fingers "my way" (I later found out that I'm not the only one in the world to have thought of this), I did take a peak at Nona's pattern to join the fingers to the hand. I'm not too sure I followed her instructions exactly since my stitch count was not the same as hers after doing the Turkish cast-on fingers. The join looks nice, though, and I continued on. I pretty much winged the rest of it, and I love the finished glove.

I think Nona does her thumb gusset differently. I don't think her gloves would show that diagonal line running up the palm. I actually really like that look, though, so I went with it.

So, having done a glove, I guess I should head over and actually sign up for the knitalong and knit the other, right?

Ahhhhhh, Peaceful Palms, indeed. I mean, how could they not be while wearing that luscious Koigu yarn?

Photo Upload Attempt

I've had a recent complaint I'd like to address. See, it seems that one of my more faithful readers would like to download pictures from my blog on to her own computer. Actually sounds pretty creepy to me. I mean, it's like I'm being stalked from afar. Doesn't that freak you out a bit? Okay, well I guess it's not that bad since it's my mother. And, the complaint was that she wasn't able to do it. That would be Flickr's fault.

There are reasons I like using Flickr. For one, I can do that fun little FO gallery in the sidebar with relative ease. It's also pretty quick at uploading several pictures at a time. So, I was reluctant to try the photo upload feature offered by Blogger. In the interest of pleasing my mother (because you know all kids live to please their parents, right?), I've tried the Blogger photo uploader. I'm not sure how I like it. It's nice to be able to choose the orientation of the picture (left, right, center, etc.), but it's a bit slow, and I can't do the FO gallery thing. So as a comprise to please Mom, I've decided that any kid-related picks could be done using Blogger, so that she could at least download those. Does that seem fair enough? I think so.

Sooooooo, all that to say that you can most likely download this picture of Lambchop #2, Mom. Give it a try, and let me know how it works.
And, just to put our little cutie in perspective... this is his birthday party at playgroup. There were several kids with birthdays this month, so we joined forces and had a great party. I was in charge of cakes. This is the teddy bear chocolate cake that I made. I also made another less fancy one with coconut milk, which oddly came out smelling a bit like fish. Not sure how that happened, but we were all pretty happy it didn't taste like fish, too (unfortunately didn't taste much like coconut, either - next time, I'll throw some coconut shavings in, too).

Anyway, we all had a blast, and you can see how proud our boy is of his cake. Happy 2nd birthday, little man!

Oh, and despite what Chelee said in the comments about my picture, this little guy's beautiful smile comes from his handsome daddy. That man's smile could charm the pants off of you (and, believe me, because it's worked on me many a time - ooh, did I say that on the internet?).

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Real Me

The Real Me
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
I know people have been reading this blog from time to time, and since I rarely post a picture of myself, you may have wondered what I look like. I know, the writing would have to think I'm at least 5'10" and supermodelesque, but, alas, this is not so.

In the previous post I showed a picture of myself. It was a close-up, and I feel the proximity of the camera to my face distorted things a bit. I worked on getting a better shot, and I really think this one is a much better likeness. I swear. If you're a parent of toddlers, you'll understand that this expression is possibly used a lot more than a regular, ole smile is. Ain't that right?

(Yeah, I can't believe I'm actually posting a picture of myself that looks this ridiculous on the internet. We'll just go with it. I'm feeling wacky today.).

AND... Since "everyone is doing it," I had to join in. I have never actually been much of a joiner, and I feel stupid doing it, but I guess it's better to jump on the bandwagon now than to be that last person who's caught dangling from the rope that hangs off the back end of the bandwagon (scraping your stomach and legs on the ground like in one of those movie stunts). I'm just not in that kind of shape, so I'd better join in now.

So, I've got one of those Frappr maps. I want to see where my readers are. Go click on it, and show me where you are. Yeah, all both of you!

Check out our Frappr!


Distorted Me
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
My mom complains sometimes about not seeing me often enough. Despite the fact that we both have webcams, it only works occasionally the way it should. As a result, I see her often, but she rarely gets to see us. It's a mystery we've yet to solve, but we suspect it has something to do with either my computer or the slowness of my internet connection.

Anyway, so, Mom, this shot's for you (the Tequila's for me, okay?). Now you can't say you haven't seen me in sooooo long anymore.

The picture is a little distorted, though. That happens when you do a close-up yourself, I guess. I'll give everyone a chance to see what I really look like in the next post.

Kitty Kuteness

Kitty Kuteness
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
The cats seem to feel right at home in the house (much to my husband's dismay - no animals in the house is his rule). I try my best to keep them out, but what's a girl to do when they get all cute on you like this.

This is Silly, who seems to have mistaken the floor mop (in France, most people have these rag things for a mop - they're actually really great for "skate-mopping" and for sopping up messes on rainy days) for prey. She was all over this thing. I think it's officially dead now.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

There's a Chicken in My Window

There's a chicken in my window.
I swear, it's right up there.

I don't know what it's doing.
But then, you don't really care.

I'd take a picture of it,
if I thought the shot would take.

'Cause I know you don't believe me.
You think it's some mistake.

But, she's really up there.
Perched up on the sill.

She staring in that window,
Scratching the screen with her bill.

I know that chicks have beaks not bills
But beaks just didn't rhyme.

I'd have thought some more about it
Y'know, come up with somethin' better if I'd had the time.

Believe me or not, but I'd have to say
That chicken in the window's quite a funny sight.

I do believe she's closed her eyes.
Yep, she's tucked in for the night.

Yessiree, Bob. Quality entertainment, indeed. I suppose I could share some knitting with you, but it'd just be more shots of the same stuff I've been showing. And, golly gosh gee willikers, isn't pathetic poetry so much more fun.

And, for those of you wondering, yes, there really is a chicken in my window. At 9pm. She's perched up there, squished up against the screen. At first, I thought she was stuck, but she appears to be up there intentionally. I guess she's either after the light that's in the kitchen, or she's feeling safe this close to the house (because she really couldn't get any closer).


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I Got Nothin'

I have been remiss. You may have noticed the amount of time that has passed since my last post. It's been a whole four days, which is rare around here. This is all because of bad weather. I know you usually blame the cancellation of a concert or soccer game on the weather, but a blog post? How does that happen? Well, when is rains really hard with light and sound effects, everything has to get unplugged around here. Anything not unplugged risks getting zapped. Once it was a phone. This time it was the little computer on the fridge - the part we've never even had the chance to use yet where you can have running water and ice cube. Now the thing is forever set to the default - whatever that might be. This all reminds me that I'm supposed to be on the web looking for a replacement, but I'm here blogging instead.

The other excuse I had for not blogging is illness. We've all been pretty yuckified this past week or so. Some stomach bug has made its way into the family and has zapped me of energy and the desire to do much of anything. No extreme symptoms. Just fatigue and mild nausea, and no 24-hour thing. This has gone on all week. It's icky. Had me even wondering if we were having a third child. We're not, though. So, don't get all excited, huh Mom?

This is pretty much why I've got nothing for you today (aside from a little virus to pass). The only thing I can think to say came to me when I read Rachael's most recent post about stupid worries.

I'll just give you what I said in her comments (you'll notice I'm a comment hijacker)...

Had a stupid worry moment just this morning. Had the rare pleasure of passing three military vehicles in the ten minutes it takes to get from home to school to pick up my daughter. One was a tank, and one of the jeeps stayed camped out on the road next to my home (this is a country road, not a neighborhood). My first stupid worry: "Can the military pull you over for a ticket in France??" Second stupid worry: "Are there rioters in our quiet village that I'm not aware of?" Third stupid worry: "What if they're doing some weird covert ops exercises in the underbrush next to our home, while using live ammo?" This last one isn't all that weird, because then, they just may as well be the civilian hunters we get out her all the time. Eek!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Meme! Pick Me!

I've been passed this meme by Chelee. So, I thought long and hard (and still couldn't come up with something intelligent to say), and now I give you my answers. Just a few things you never really wanted to know about me...

Five things I plan to do before I die:
1. meet my children's children (this is really planning in advance)
2. visit some far away, exotic country like Japan or Peru
3. learn to spin yarn on a spinning wheel
4. live from a craft I enjoy
5. actually move into the new house we've been building for the past 2 years

Five things I can do:
1. bake my own sourdough bread
2. cut my own hair
3. draw a really schnazzy sentence diagram
4. run 100 meters in 10 seconds flat (not really, but I can probably change a diaper that fast if the kid holds really still)
5. laugh at myself (okay, well, only sometimes, but I'm really good at laughing at others)

Five things I cannot do:
1. wear a Wonderbra (seriously, you don't want to see this)
2. stand by and watch someone treat another person as inferior
3. dance without looking at least a little bit stupid (or feeling like I do)
4. go very long without saying anything
5. go to bed without sweeping the sheets to remove dust (I'm not very obsessive/compulsive most of the time, but I have very sensitive skin and can feel even the tiniest particles - sometimes I'm very surprised when I can feel one under my leg and when I find it with my hand it's miniscule.) Needless to say, my husband thinks I'm nuts.

Five things that attract me to the opposite sex:
1. height (I like 'em tall)
2. masculine hands (the fingers need to be square and strong, not fatty or tapered like a girls)
3. eyes (I tend to like green or blue but a nice shape can get me, too)
4. sense of humor
5. apparently, an accent, though I wouldn't have thought so

Five things I say most often:
1. Careful!
2. Calm down!
3. Not in your mouth!
4. You know?
5. Je ne suis pas française (means: I'm not French - mostly said in an apologetic manner when perfect strangers eye me bizarrely after something offensive I must have said.)

Five celebrity Crushes: This is really hard, since I don't really tend to have celebrity crushes - I'll make an effort to at least name some people I find sexy while I'm watching them act, though.
1. Dean Cain
2. Ron Eldard
3. Joaquim de Almeida (it's the accent thing)
4. Ewan MacGregor (again with the accent, and I mostly only find him hot when he's singing).
5. Christian Bale (but only when he's playing a role that doesn't have him looking plastic - really, he can look less than perfect, and he's better that way. And, he's way better with a British accent.).

I don't think I'll pass this on, because I don't want to be a burden (or show how few people actually read my blog). But, if you're in need of blog fodder, be my guest...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Do You Hear the Snickering?

No? I sure do. It's the baking gods. They read my recent blog entry where I stated that I can pretty much make any bread without much difficulty. They must have seen that as a bit cocky of me and decided to punish.

(Read on down for knitting/dyeing content)

For those of you who have never made bread before, you are probably at least aware that the bread needs to rise before being baked. What you may not know is that it's possible for bread to over-rise. This is not desirable, in case you couldn't tell (the word "over" being your first really big clue).

So, I slipped today's bread into the oven to rise a bit while I took a little nap with the lambchops (such is the leisurely pace of my life in the French countryside). Then, I woke and had a little snack of freshly-baked banana bread and some yummy, organic apple juice. After that, I decided to take a little stroll through knitblogland. Tralala... then it hits me. The bread! I hop up and trip over a few scattered objects on my way to the oven. Fling open the door and what do I see? Well, let's just say the scene was gruesome...

There were bits of bread dough all over the floor of the oven. The whole thing resembled some sort of splatter pattern from the scene of a bombing (luckily for me, I wouldn't know first-hand, but I've seen plenty of action films, so I KNOW.). So, what do I do? I mean, I can hear the baking gods giggling while they point their doughy fingers at me. I can't let them get the best of me like this, so I scoop up the bread pan and pack it back down slightly. Then, I grab the bits of dough-splatter from the oven floor.

This is when I notice that they have done a nice job of cleaning some of the char that has recently taken up residence there. So, with a swipe or two with the dough gobs, the oven was cleaned. Ha! That'll show the baking gods to mess with the likes of me!

Okay, now on to the knitting content that so many of you at least three of you come here for. Remember I mentioned my plan to dye some yarn last night? Well, luckily, the knitting/dyeing gods were smiling on me (and not the evil, snickering kind, either). The experiment went really well, and I pretty much got the exact colors I was hoping for. This being an exact science and all, I can tell you exactly how I did it. You ready to take notes? Got your pen and paper? Good. Here we go.

1. After presoaking yarn in vinegar-water, mix food-coloring dyes in water until you acheive a deep muddy brown color (for brown, I threw in lots of red and green, plus some yellow and a drop of blue). Just toss the colors in however you "feel" it.

2. Throw your yarn in, and heat the mixture to almost boiling.

3. From time to time, lift yarn out of water with spoon to see if you like the color yet.

4. When desired color is acheived, drain water off and add clean hot water to rinse (don't let the running water actually hit the yarn - and don't shock the stuff with cold).

5. Keep rinsing in this fashion from time to time till water comes out clean.

I did this with all three of these yarns and got pretty much exactly what I was hoping for with all of them (except the brown has two different color variegations in it, but I can live with that).

A little info on the yarns and the dye:

Brown and Dark Pink: Knit Picks knit your own sock yarn.

Light Pink: that cheapo Anny Blatt angora that had the slight yellowy tint I wanted to try dyeing (Yay! It worked and didn't even felt like I was told it might).

The dye: I've tried Kool Aid twice now, and though I like the colors, they're a bit day-glo to me. They can be fun, but I wanted something more traditional and non-florescent for these colors. So, I used the good quality paste cake-decoratoring food coloring you can get at craft stores. I'm so happy with the result. They really come out with quality colors. So, if you're looking for something a little more traditional but still safe for kitchen/kid use, try these. I got mine at Michael's.

Oh, and a little hint: a little goes a long way with these.

And, does anyone else agree with me that the darker pink goes really well with the brown. I'm wanting to make some fair isle gloves with that stuff. We'll see if that works out, but I really like those colors together (I saw someone making some socks in those colors a while back). My husband thinks I'm nuts to like them together, though - but what does he know???

And, the light pink will be a charity scarf, I think.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Durrow Cable Update

Durrow Cable
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Last but not least, we've got the lovely Durrow cable arm. So perty, and I'm loving this knit. I suspect that there's already a knitalong for it somewhere out there - that's how cool this thing is. No, maybe not. I just did a little google search and didn't come up with one. Whatever. Not important, since I'm really bad with those things.

This is the first chart and one repeat of the second chart, if I remember right. I almost typed that it was two repeats of that second chart, but there's just no way that arm could be so short if that were the case. Wishful thinking? Yeah, maybe. It's such a fun knit, though, that I'm not aching to get the arms over with (the plain ribbed body, perhaps, but not the arms).

Alright, now it's time to take advantage of the after-kids-are-in-bed free time. I usually knit while watching a movie or something good on tv. Tonight I decided to skip the film and do some yarn dyeing. I've really been in love with the color combo of brown and pink since I saw some socks in those colors. So, I'm off to attempt a reproduction. Wish me luck!

Charity Capelet

Charity Capelet
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Before I dig into this post and tell you all about what's in that picture, let me first apologize for the quality of it. We've had no sunshine today (and I finished this after dark, anyway), and the flash has completely altered the color. It's actually like a brick red. Then, there's the horrible framing of the thing. I have a really good excuse for that. It's because the lighting in the room was so bad that I couldn't actually see the shot in my camera tv window until after I took it. This is the best I got.

Okay, now that I got that over with, what is this thing? If you own SnB Nation, you may recognize it as the Spiderweb Capelet. If you've ever looked closely at that capelet, you may recognize it for what it really is: a screwed up Spiderweb Capelet.

Part way through the pattern, I realized that I misread part of the instructions. Thing is, though, this is something I'm knitting for a charity craft bazaar benefitting US hurricane survivors, so there was no way I was frogging the thing. I just kept on knitting it with my "design detail" to give it an "on purpose" regularity. I think my oops messed up the sizing (Or perhaps the model is quite a bit more anorexic than she looked to me in that photo - does the camera add 10 or 100 lbs? I don't recall.), because it'll be great for a preteen. Actually, that's not so bad, really, because this style is all the rage with the young'uns these days, right?

Anyway, I kind of like it "my way". It gives it waves on the bottom edge that I don't think are in the original. Took me maybe three hours to knit, including my trouble grasping the pattern (which I will swear is due to my general feeling of yuck today - tummy illness seems to have jumped from Lambchop #2 to Mommy). I've got enough yarn to give it another attempt, too, so we'll see what I come up with between now and the 27th (the craft bazaar).

'A Baking We Will Go

Homemade Buttermilk Bread
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
I've long loved baking. I have even dabbled in bread-baking for quite some time, now. I've got several books on the subject and can confidently bake just about any bread now with no trouble. Trying to stick more closely to a budget that resembles the amount of money we actually have has prompted me to I bake my own bread a few times a week now. Actually, we never buy bread at the store anymore. I mentioned recently that I dislike the flavor of store-bought bread more and more. The bread in the picture may give you a little idea of why.

I don't usually make this kind (Buttermilk White Bread - an excellent recipe from Beard on Bread (I doubled the recipe to get two loaves and added in some whole wheat flour to satisfy my desire to feed the family healthy foods)), because it calls for ingredients that increase the price of the bread. Well, that and the fact that the more French-style sour dough bread I tend to make suits my bread-devouring husband's palate much more. I have noticed, too, how quickly this one disappears (perhaps he likes the sour dough less than I had thought...).

Anyway, all the breads I make frequently make me want to take pictures. Aside from a recently blocked knitted object and a breast-feeding newborn, I can think of few prettier things than homemade bread fresh out of the oven.

So, of course, I decided to share the loveliness. It made some mighty tasty grilled cheese sandwiches, too (believe it or not, that's the whole reason I made it). I guess it's a shame I couldn't share that, as well.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Three Guesses!

Durrow Cable Sleeve
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
So, anybody have any idea what this is? Okay, well, obviously, it's some new knitting. And, since I'm so excited about this new project that I can barely contain myself, I'll tell you what it is.

But first...

I've got to keep you in suspense and lead into it slowly, so... remember how I've been badgered by our largest family member (the guy who's about 6'1") for a new sweater ever since I mistakenly made that nice blue manly sweater from SnB a little closer to my size than his? Then, there was the attempt to make the stripey thing in the round that ended in me ripping out the entire body due to incorrect sizing and possible lack of yarn to finish. So, obviously, we can all see that I'm not meant knit this man a sweater. He has clearly done something to anger the knitting gods (perhaps it is his lack of enthusiasm when I start a new, really cool project - yeah, we'll say that's it).

But, since you never can tell when you're back in favor with the gods, I'm making another attempt at knitting him a sweater. You may remember a while back that I bought an enormous amount of Anny Blatt Dandy yarn (a beautiful wool/silk blend). I went for overkill and bought way more than I should ever need and waited for inspiration to strike.

And, strike it did - in the form of Mag Knits newest edition: the Durrow cable men's sweater. My husband may not have the scooter and helmet to match his sweater, but I think he'll be able to pull it off quite well without them.

I've started with the sleeve, because I was so excited about doing that cable. I have been in love with the assymetric quality of Durrow cables, and I have been wanting to give one a go for quite a while. I actually almost used one for that cable baby blanket a while back, but it didn't fit in the way I wanted (intrepretation: too complicated for my budding cabling skills). Now, after getting some more cabling under my belt, I was finally able to figure out that whole mess where you make one stitch into three without it looking hideous. My excitement at that achievement actually had me awake half the night (it's pathetic, I know). Because, if you look at the pattern, you'll see what I saw: If I can do that, I'm a real, live advanced knitter now! I swear, the proof is in black and white right there on the pattern page for all to see. Kinda makes a girl giddy, don't it?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Blue Cat Hair

Toasty Hands
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
So, what do you do when you have some leftover blue angora that isn't even enough to make a decent scarf? Why fingerless mitts, of course! I'll admit to never really being a huge fan of this look, but my hands were freezing last night while I knitted. Necessity is the mother of invention, as we all know, so I snatched up the angora and whipped one of these suckers out this afternoon.

And... I must say, I'm converted. These little mitts are wonderful, especially when made in a soft, furry angora yarn. Now, don't be confused, though. I still think this looks hideous, mostly because of the angora and it's furriness, but talk about warm... and soft. I may just wear them for more than knitting. Like blogging or even cooking. Hey, why not? We'll just call the blue mystery ingredient my special spice - okay, on second thought, maybe not so much for cooking.

And, then there's always that little inconvenience of people assuming I've got a blue cat when I go out covered in shedded bits of fluff, but I'm willing to endure that (and actually, come to think of it, this could be a great conversation starter) for the warmth of these babies. I swear, even with my fingers uncovered, the angora kept them warm. Great stuff!

Oh, and a little question for you parents:

Am I the only one tempted to use the kid's Pick Up Sticks (called Mikado here) game for knitting purposes? What would you say those are - about 3mm?

Scene of the Crime

Scene of the Crime
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
I have a really, really good excuse for not blogging yesterday. You're never going to believe it, so I took pictures for proof.

This is the scene of the crime. In the background, sort of roped off, you can see our mailbox. Even further off, you can see the ruins of a small castle that sits at the edge of our property (but not on it).

I went to get the mail yesterday, and I came across some people laying all this red and white tape all over. Curious as to why they were blocking off my mailbox, I asked what was going on. They quickly ushered me away from the area and asked me to take my family away for the entire afternoon and evening. We were not allowed to return until after 9 pm.

Quite concerned for our safety and too frightened to ask more questions, we all headed off to my mother-in-law's house for dinner. Upon our return we, learned what had happened...

Apparently, there was a group of bank-robbing bandits taking up residence in the abandoned castle. Some shots were fired, which drew the attention of some neighbors, and eventually the police were called in to investigate. As it turns out, the fire-breathing dragon who still inhabits the castle (unbeknowst to the bandits) during the summer months was packing her bags for the long flight south for the winter. She heard the bandits arguing and decided to intervene. After fire was exchanged for several minutes (pun intended), the bandits saw they were no match for the flaming anger of the lady dragon and decided to flee. Apparently, one of them bumped his head on our mailbox when he tripped over a branch. That's why the area is roped off.

Okay, actually, what really happened is The Rallye des Cevennes (Cevennes Rally - which is a rally car race done near here) was doing some trials in our area. They had permission from the prefecture (local government officials) to completely close down our narrow, windy road so they could race down it at idiotically high rates of speed to see who might qualify for the real race.

Since it began at 3 pm and went on until 9, our only real choice, besides sticking around and watching the craziness was to get out and stay out most of the day. I almost chose option number two out of curiosity, but the little lambchops have playgroup on Fridays, and the husband had a meeting in Montpellier.

This is the part where I admit to being a great big liar, but the real thing was not quite as interesting as the made-up tale. It was a bit strange to me not to be able to access my own driveway for half a day, though.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

2/3rds Done!

Body of Handknit Toddler Sweater
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Here's a little proof that I have been knitting some and not just pigging out on the Slow Food food that I bought the other day (though, I'll admit to doing a fair amount of that, too).

I'm so proud of this little guy - oh, the little boy, too. I mean, he's cute and all, but get a load of that vest! It's not done yet, because I still have to sit down and calculate/plan/knit the arms, but the vest part looks great, and I don't see why he can't slip it on now and then till the rest is done.

Slipping it off may be the real problem, actually. He's so proud. The second you say, "oh, wow, so pretty/handsome", he's tugging at his imaginary suspenders and smiling coyly. We just pulled it on for the photo op, but he wouldn't let us take it back off, even if it isn't really that cold. Big sister could take a few lessons here (she won't touch the pink and purple sweater I made her with a 10-foot knitting needle).

Oh, and if you look closely, you can see the prefab hovel we temporarily call home (can we call going on 3 1/2 years temporary still?). And, can you see that fall has arrived at the hovel? Kind of almost makes the "house" (and, I use that term very loosely) look almost pretty.

A few random bits of humor for you today:

First, to prove to my husband's mother-in-law (aka my mom, for those of you not up on your family tree terminology) that he indeed fits in with the rest of our family quite well:

He says that Lambchop #2 (pictured here) will be a fireman. His reason: he loves to play with his hose.

Second, you know your house is a constant mess when your four-year-old child has these two things to say...

When you thoroughly scour the kitchen sink: "Wow, is it new?"

When you finally get around to sweeping/clearing the kitchen floor of various debris: "Ohhhhhh, I can even crawl under the table now."

Just a few sad tidbits of our everyday reality.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Woo Hoooooo!!

My blog is worth $1,693.62.
How much is your blog worth?

Yeah! That's right. I can now retire in style! Put that in an interest-bearing account, and I should be set for at least a week and half off the dividends alone.