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

Friday, December 30, 2005

Christmas Is A Time For Giving...

but please, please, please somebody take it away! I don't want was I was given. I could really live without it. What was this hideous gift, you ask? Well, as a hint, I can tell you it was given to me by my kids. And, no it wasn't some lopsided ashtray for a mother who doesn't smoke. It was a stomach flu. Who really needs that kind of mess on or around Christmas? Lambchop #1 got the privilege of waking up before the crack of dawn on Christmas day with the vomiting. I was allowed to save the cramping and general yuck for a few days later (no vomiting for me, luckily). Not fun. You just can't enjoy a nicely baked turkey with its rich sausage/chestnut stuffing when you've been wiping puke off a kid's chin the whole car ride up to the relatives' house. She took it all in stride, though, and had a great time with her cousins anyway. Just don't ask what gift we left behind in our wake.

So, why am I telling you all about this instead of showing photos of the fun stuff? That would be because my theiving husband seems to have downloaded the holiday pictures onto his computer before I got the chance. It's all just as well, anyway, since there weren't any knitting-related shots yet. I got tons of Knit Picks yarn from my wonderful, very generous parents. Most of it was what I requested, but there were a couple of nice surprises, too. For starters, I wasn't expecting the Merino Style yarn she accidentally selected instead of the Palette I had asked for. In the end, it worked out for the best, because the two colors I had chosen really didn't match as well as I'd hoped. And, now I have the chance to knit a cute little sweater for Lambchop #1 (already about 1/4 done) in Merino Style, which I've found surprisingly nice to knit with (let's just hope it washes well). Then, she threw in some of that new baby alpaca/cashmere blend yarn they've got at Knit Picks. When I asked her about it, she just said it looked interesting. You've got to love a mother who'll throw in some cashmere just for fun. Then, there was some sock yarn (with nylon this time - that Sock Garden felts if you just rub it the wrong way). And, some dye-your-own lace weight merino. That should be fun to play with. I'm just waiting for the day I get that stitch dictionary I've been wanting. Then, I can design a nice little shawl or something.

Another fun little gift came from my brother and his wife. When I first opened it, I was truly confused. It's was a box full of various-sized "Space Bags". If you aren't aware of these things, they're those plastic zippy bags that you can squash all the air out of to shrink your clothes in your luggage. I don't get to travel much, so however grateful I was for the thought, I was still quite perplexed. Almost a full fifteen minutes later, it hit me. For yarn! The Space Bags are for yarn. They came just in time, too, since I'm still not sure where to put all this new Knit Picks yarn. Thanks guys!

In other knitting news, I was actually able to finish the stripey cashmere blend scarf I was knitting for my brother-in-law. It stretched quite a bit in the blocking process and came out extremely soft. I'm quite pleased, and it's got me really looking forward to the cardigan I'm knitting myself with the same yarn. I'm nearing the end of the body on the cardy, and hopefully I'll soon have pictures of it and the scarf to share.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Santa's Snack

Santa's Snack
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
The kids are all snugly tucked into their beds... visions of whatever floating through their heads. Yada. Yada. Yada.

We put out a little snack for "Santa" before sending Lambchop #1 off to her bed. This is the other half of my slice of Buttermilk Pecan Pie (recipe courtesy of Cook's Illustrated Magazine - though I decreased the sugar and doubled the pecans). It's delicious, and I'm sure I'll Santa will enjoy it later this evening while putting out the gifts.

And with this thought, I bid you all farewell for a couple days. We're off to Lyon to visit family after opening our gifts tomorrow morning. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night (or whatever it is you might be celebrating this time of year).

Homemade "Silver Tab Levi's"

Homemade "Silver Tab Levi's"
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
This is another of this week's creations. We got a nice chunk of army green corduroy fabric the other day, and I had the bright idea of making my husband some pants. He's pretty rough on his jeans and really needs some more. The trouble with that is that he has rugby thighs that don't fit your standard French pants. His favorites are his Silver Tab Levi's, but I've never seen them sold here, and even at their regular price in the US, they're a bit expensive. So, what was my idea? I'll just trace them and make him a pair.

Yeah, it's just that easy. Not once did it occur to me that that may not be the least complicated way to make a pair of men's pants. I think I was actually almost done with them before the fear set in. You know, the point where you actually think, "What if these don't even fit, and I've just wasted a bunch of fabric?"

But, apparently, I learned my tracing skills quite well back in the third grade, because they are exactly right. They have a few beginner's quirks (this is my first real pair of pants), but they fit him nicely, and he loves them. The only thing still missing are the belt loops. I didn't have time to finish that part before having to whip through our kitchen/sewing room to clean before some friends popped by.

I'm thinking I may actually have to do a little tutorial on this procedure, because it was actually a lot easier than it seems, and I'm very surprised at the results (though, like I said, it never occurred to me beforehand that they shouldn't turn out well). Someone else may want to learn how to do this with their favorite pants, and it'll probably help me work out the kinks, too.

Can you see my hubbie's having a little GQ moment, here? Got to love him all barefoot and in the kitchen like that. All I have to do now is get him knocked up.

One of This Week's Creations

Chinese Pastry
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
I've got this Chinese cookbook my mom gave me years ago. I've never even taken much time to look at it until recently (no pictures). It's really got some great stuff in it, though. Here's an example. This is a little pastry that I've filled with sweetened sesame paste. They're quite tasty, and you can put all sorts of fillings in them. You may recognize them best filled with pork or some other meat, but they're pretty yummy sweet, too.

Friday, December 23, 2005

One Woman Sweatshop

Santa has been very lazy this year. He sent me a little note telling me to do his shopping for him, and oh, by the way, could I possibly throw in some knitting and sewing? Normally, I wouldn't mind (because I like to keep things on good terms with the old guy), but he sure didn't give me much notice. I mean, if it had been up to me, I certainly wouldn't have started the sewing just three days before Christmas. No one in their right mind does that.

So, here I am spending my entire day slaving away with scissors and sewing machine to make a few last minute gifts. One is done: a little sweatshirt/poncho for my husband's wheelchair-bound niece. She's the same age as our daughter, so we've got a pretty good model right here at home. Another is almost done: a pair of corduroy pants (modeled after some Levi's Silver Tabs that fit my husband very well). If I'm lucky, I'll even have enough time to actually finish knitting the last third of that scarf I really need to get done. Tomorrow. Yeah, that'll have to get done tomorrow.

No, wait, we've got surprise visitors. They actually gave us much more notice than most of my husband's friends do. Instead of the usual 10-20 minutes, we were given a whole day to get things in order this time. Too bad it's a couple of days before Christmas, and I really have way too much to do as it is. Anyone feel like coming over and cleaning my neglected kitchen tomorrow morning? I'd ask the elves, but it appears that they are on strike this year. Why else would Santa have me doing all this knitting and sewing right down to the final second before gifts are exchanged?

Pictures tomorrow... or maybe the next day...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Lamb With Chestnuts and Carrots

Lamb With Chestnuts and Carrots
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Yesterday, we went to see some friends who live a little over an hour north of us. They're great fun to hang out with. The husband is Italian and the wife French (Actually, as a cultural aside: the French often don't actually marry. They just have children without ever going through with the paperwork. They're still very much committed to the family, though. This couple isn't actually married.). They've got two very sweet little girls. They're oldest is only a few days older than ours, and they get along great.

Any parent can tell you that it's a miracle to spend several hours chatting with parents and not once to hear an argument. That's how well our daughters get along. They've known each other literally from birth, so that may be part of it. Anyway, they set the tone for the little ones, and everyone has fun without the fighting. Wonderful.

So, we parents had time to chat about all sorts of stuff. This couple's great to talk with. She's got a very dry sense humor that is not at all typically French (more British, almost), and she cracks me up. She's also a very talented seamstress, and we went through her pile of handmade bags. I'll be showing you what I brought home in another post. And, he's a vet who doesn't mind having his brain picked by the likes of me (and the husband).

Ooh, and before I forget to mention the picture, I thought I'd share the main course with you. I recently talked about wanting to attempt to capture some of the traditional Christmas-time treats served here. You remember? So I can share them with you. Well, here's one - sort of. This is lamb with carrots and chestnuts. The dish itself is not at all typical. The French often cook chestnuts in a variety of ways around Christmas-time (it's such an important food here that it has two names: châtaigne and marron), though none of them would include lamb. The lamb was the contribution of our Italian friend. Like me, he's not hindered by the traditional recipes, so he experimented a little with the chestnuts. I'm not a chestnut girl, but this wasn't half bad. The flavors did mingle nicely.

If you look back to the right in the pot, you'll see some whole chestnuts. They're peeled and cooked whole. I know what you're thinking - you peel them uncooked? Actually, no. Since the French use them in so many different recipes, both sweet and savory, there are a variety of ways to buy chesnuts here. You can, of course, find them fresh all over the place. Those tend to be reserved for grilling (you know, over an open fire). Then, you can get them whole but dried. Or whole in a can (water-packed, I believe). Or there are the whole, vacuum-packed kind (without the water). These are what our friends used here.

They also make flour from them, since unlike other nuts, they're mostly carbs and have very little oil. This flour can be used to make delicious crepes. You can also find chestnuts ground into a paste. And, if they add a ton and a half of sugar per cup of this paste, you get my husband's favorite treat: creme de marron; a nasty-sweet concoction often spread over bread, mixed in with yogurt or fromage blanc, and if you're really disgusting, you'll even eat it by the spoonful. Definitely an acquired taste (I think you have to grow up with that stuff to appreciate it, but maybe it's just me).

So, even though we didn't leave with the item we actually went to get (oops), we had a great meal with some great company. That pile of clothes we had let them borrow can certainly wait until another day. Besides, we came away with some great hand-made bags and the entire 1st season of Desperate Housewives, which my friend assures me I will love. Should I be offended by the implication there? I am a housewife, after all.

As Pure As America, Itself...

Homemade Apple Pie
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Oh the irony, non? I just couldn't resist. Maybe this pie was ever-so-slightly purer than America.

The other day, we had our annual playgroup Christmas party, wherein we all bring sweets with which to stuff ourselves. I forgot to bring the camera to take pictures of some of the traditional Christmas cakes and goodies they serve here. There were dates, prunes and other dried fruits and nuts served with almond paste (which is a sugary sweet concoction mixed with pastel food coloring). I tend to stay away from that stuff, but it's quite festive-looking. Someone also made a little Christmas log with a whipped cream/chestnut filling. Chestnuts also happen not to be my thing, but it seemed to go over well.

Then, there were other less traditional cakes and even some candies that are always served at this time of year. They're called Papillottes, if I remember right. They're an assortment of different flavors all wrapped in shiny metallic papers. Very festive, as well, but I still haven't figured out how you know which ones don't have the almond paste, so I tend to steer clear of them.

My contribution to this calorie-fest was a classic American apple pie. I got the recipe from my Cook's Illustrated magazine, and it didn't disappoint. It truly was the most delicious and visually appealing apple pie I've ever had. There were a variety of spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and all-spice) but in very low quantities. The recipe also called for two types of apples. The result was a slightly spicy pie with a very clean apple flavor. Delicious.

It went over very well with the Northerners in our playgroup. The Southerners kept their distance, though. That's a little cultural tidbit for you. In northern France, people can handle their cinnamon. You often find it in dessert recipes in Alsace and Brittany. You won't see it around the south much, though. For southerners, cinnamon is only used in North African dishes when it can be overpowered by other spices and rarely in desserts. Pity. They don't know what they're missing. A newly pregnant Northerner of the group wasn't complaining, though. That just meant more for her.

For Dad

Lambchop #1
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
The other day, my father told me to line up the kids against a white wall and do some pictures of them. "None of those candid shots," he told me. I laughed at the white wall thing, but I understood that he wanted something portrait style.

Problem is, though, kids rarely sit still long enough for that. I could always strap them down for it, but I suspect that we wouldn't get the sweet smiles we're looking for that way (that could also create some unwanted visits from child welfare type people). I even resisted the (very strong) temptation to actually line them up against a white wall, each holding a board stating, "Southern French Detention Center" with a number. That, after all, was the first image that popped into my mind when he told me to have a white background. In the interest of maintaining good ties between France and the US, though, I decided against it. And, besides, I was lucky enough to snap this shot of Lambchop #1 the other day and figured it may just do the trick.

Enjoy Dad (and don't be fooled by that sweet, innocent smile)!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Christmas In France

I was just over at a site called Tune in Tokyo. It's the blog of a friend of my sister-in-law. She's spending a year teaching English in Japan. She writes about all sorts of experiences she's having there. Oh, yeah, and she learned to knit just before moving there, so extra goodness there.

She just posted an interesting post about Christmas as it's celebrated in Japan. It's pretty funny to see what traditions they're making up as they adopt this western holiday. And, she gave me a little idea for some posts of my own. I've been here for about 4 1/2 year now, and I've been pretty much familiarized with the Christmas traditions of this region, at least. So, I think I'll share some as I think of them. I'll probably be doing this a little closer to the actual day, since a lot will be related to foods served at holiday meals. Something to look forward to. I always find it fun to se traditions of different places.

What traditions are common in your country or region of the US? I know from my little Frappr mappy page that there are some intresting places represented by my audience (if you can call 18 people an actual audience - I love seeing that map, though), so let me know in the comments what your favorite holdiay traditions are (it doesn't actually have to be Christmas, by the way).

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

My Knitting Spot

My Knitting Spot
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
I've seen people out in knitblogland posting pictures of their favorite knitting spot. I'm not quite as ambitious as some (using photoshop software to write captions all over the picture), but I'll show you where I knit.

This is the corner of our livingroom. It's where most of the books live (though, none of these are knitting or cooking related - those are kept in their own special homes). A while ago, I spent hours organizing all of these books. They were separated into French and English books, reference, fun reading, oversized.... None of that lasted as long as I had hoped. First, there was the husband slyly planting books on the wrong shelves. That was liveable. Things really went hay-wire when Lambchop #2 (we've already discussed his destructive ways) decided to drag them about the livingroom. My organized shelves just haven't been the same since. I guess I just didn't have the heart. I'm sure I'll find a way to fix this someday (barbed wire seem too drastic?).

Oh, yeah, that's not why we're here. We're here for the knitting. So, that corner of the couch next to the lamp (the only light source in this room, aside from a smallish window) is pretty much mine. You can tell by the fact that it's covered and surrounded by knitting projects. The box contains the top-down raglan cardi I'm working on. And, in place of those books still MIA, I've thrown in some other projects.

From right to left on the shelves (all on the second shelf up, since that's what I can reach while sitting)...

1) The recently abandonned Durrow sweater that I'll eventually give in and finish
2) A longish suede leather bag that I made by hand when I was pregnant with or breast-feeding my first (by the way, if anyone has a good source for leather to sew, I'd love to have one)
3) The black and gray wool/cashmere scarf I'm knitting my brother-in-law for Christmas (about 2/3-3/4 finished)
4) Then, there's the plastic bin tower between the sofa and shelves. This thing's ideal for keeping my current projects in (there are just too many at the moment to be tamed by that little guy - I really need a bin for each).
5) Oh, and the red thing on top of the bins is a sneaky project that's currently flying in under the blog radar. I may share later. We'll just have to see how it turns out.

And, that's my space. Of course, like all knitter's homes, an occasional project shows up in odd places, but this is pretty much the command center.

By the way, my mother is probably simultaneously pleased to have a glimpse of my daily activities and horrified at the thought of me posting this mess on the internet. Live with it, Mom. I have to.

The Toddler That Broke Christmas

The Toddler That Broke Christmas
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
This Christmas, my gift has been to realize an essential difference between boys and girls. No, not that one. I've been aware of that for some time now. I've got kids of my own, remember?

What I've learned is closely related to the old cave-man-carrying-a-club thing. I've known for quite a while now that my sweet, gentle two-year-old son is fascinated by sticks. He's constantly trying to play with his own (but that's irrelevant here). He's also always picking them up outside. He isn't forming a collection, though. See, this gentle little guy is actually a little beast (in a sweet way, I swear). He loves to beat on things with the sticks he amasses. It's a boy thing, I've been assured. And, I must admit my girl never once had the idea to do that until she saw him having so much fun.

What's really disturbing, though, is what you see in the plate in the picture there (never mind how disturbing it is that I would actually take a picture of it). This is the part where I stand up in a room full of sad-looking thirty-somethings and say (holding my candle in front of my chest, of course)," Hi, my name is Krista, and I'm the mother of a destructive toddler." That's about the time that everyone in the room bursts out laughing, saying, "Oh, is that all?"

I suspect it's normal, but, people, will I ever be able to purchase nice things again? I was raised by parents who taught me that it's best to buy quality merchandise and take good care of it for a really long time. I like this idea, but kids don't seem to fit into the plan. That plate there is my proof. Yeah, so what if they're not high quality Christmas ornaments. Does that give you the right to rip off poor Santa's arm? How's he supposed to deliver the gifts now? I actually thought for a few minutes there that we were in for another of those Bobbitt moments, but my daughter finally found the hand. Oddly enough, it was able to slip right back into the hole it came from. That's when Lambchop #1 decided he didn't need that Coke glass after all. Of course, that little removal was permanent.

On the bright side, Lambchop #1 wrote her very first word today. On the fridge. With non-washable ink. I'm trying to move past that and concentrate on the fact that she actually knows how to spell Noel. Not bad for a four-year-old who can't yet spell her own name. Shows you where the priorities lie.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Doing the Wave!

Bamboo Clapotis Shawl
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
I'm just about posted out after the other two I've already done today. I'm going to have to quit after this one. That works out well, actually, since I've got nothing more to say. But, we're doing the wave (like at a Baseball game), because that's how excited we are about this finished Clapotis Shawl.

Doing the wave also goes very nicely with the whole Clapotis theme, since in French, "clapotis" means those little ripples you get in water. It's aptly named, I think. Just look at those waves.

A few details for you:
Yarn: Southwest Trading Company Bamboo (unknown color - the balls weren't labeled).
Modifications, I made the shawl a bit thinner than the pattern specifies. She gave great instructions for doing this, and all worked out well - so well, in fact, that the width I randomly decided on was perfect for the amount of yarn I had on hand.

Sweet Revenge

The Beginning
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
After the trial (see previous post for details) in which my husband was sentenced to a life without hand-knits, I vowed not to finish the Durrow sweater for him. I love that sweater, and I'm really saddened by this punishment, but we must show no mercy to the Evildoers (I tell you, Bush is just too fun to quote)!

In my anger, I sat down and cast on for the sweater I've been dreaming about of late. It had been put on hold until a bit of Christmas knitting and that Durrow sweater were at least well on their way to being finished. Yesterday, though, I had a change of heart and decided I needed a bit of selfish knitting (I'm sure you can understand).

The mess in the picture here represents this selfish knitting. I'll bet you can't figure out what project that is. It's a bit unfair, actually, because some balls of yarn are being obscured. Look closely, and you can see at least three. Two are black and one is purple. There are actually five. Two purple. Three black. I know. What on earth could justify that?

Well, I've been eyeing the Ribby Cardi for a while but can't afford to purchase any new yarn these days (and the stash I've got really should be enough to tide me over for a while) to make it. I hear Bonne Marie's patterns are a pleasure to work with, and I'd love to try one, but instead, I decided to make my own Ribby Cardi knock-off. It'll be similar in style, but I like the idea of knitting a top-down raglan cardigan (Say it with me, children: NO SEAMING).

Now, this wouldn't be so bad in one color only, but it's down-right crazy in two. But, nobody ever said I was sane, so I'm doing it. It took a bit of practice before I was able to tame the 5 balls of yarn, but we seem to have come to an understanding now, and things are going pretty smoothly. I've knitted about 5cm (2") so far, so that means I've only got about 25cm (10") to go before I can get to the armpits and use only one color at a time. I must say I'm looking forward to that moment, even if it does seem a bit far off in the distance. It'll be my oasis in the desert as a play with the tangles of yarn produced by this nutty endeavor.

By the way, the yarn is some more of that Anny Blatt wool/cashmere yarn. You can bet your sweet tushie that I'll be keeping this away from the dog (and probably the husband, for that matter).

The colors aren't really what to appear to be in the picture here. The midday sun seems to have lightened the purple up a bit. It's actually a lovely eggplant color. The yarn label calls it "chocolat", which explains the excellent price I got on it at the outlet store.

Dog Sinks Teeth In

Exhibit A
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
That's what the headlines would say today if anyone actually cared about the fate of my hand-knits. Obviously, as you can see by that hole, no one does. Remember the pretty wool/cashmere hat I posted about just the other day? The one that Lambchop #2 was so cutely posing in for us? Well, against my better judgement, I allowed my husband to put it on the little guy's head. I even insisted several times that I should go get Lambchop's own hat. Muttonchop insisted a little more than I did, and the hat stayed on Lambchop's head.

Of course, Lambchop didn't make it back into the house with the hat still on his head. We sent out several search parties throughout the evening and the next day. The hat was finally located in the winery. Unfortunately nothing could be done to revive it. It lay lifeless, having sustained several bites (see Exhibit A at right). Lovely as this yarn may be, it appears not to withstand such a fierce canine attack.

I have been mourning its loss since yesterday, and I've just come to be able to speak of it without bitterness now. While the bitterness was still lingering, though, blame was placed on the owner of the cap. He knows who he is and is fully aware that next time he should listen to his all-knowing wife and not place a wool/cashmere hat on the head of a two-year-old. Throughout the entire trial (where I was named judge, jury and executioner), he claimed his innonence. First, he attempted to blame the innocent two-year-old. Seeing that defense could not hold, he shifted tactics and accused the dog. Being the impartial judge that I surely was, I saw through his shinannigans, and sentenced him to a life without hand-made gifts.

He begged and pleaded to no avail, and in a last-ditch effort to obtain clemency, he even repaired the hat himself. The finished product truly was a sad sight, but he gained points for cuteness and an A for effort. He even tried to weasle his way back into my good graces by exclaiming, "You know, this yarn really is wonderful to work with." He's a man after my own heart, I must admit, but it remains to be seen whether he'll ever be receiving any hand-knit goodness from me again.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Hats Off To You!

Hats Off To You!
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
Yesterday, in my pathetically photoless post, I mentioned having hat pictures to show. I know it seemed plural at the time, but due to some technical difficulties (okay, my desire not to post horrible pictures of myself on the web), there will be only one. The other would have been a shot of my Caramelo Hat with its new do. I over-dyed it a little while back and got a nice rose/brown color that I can live with. I don't know if it's exactly flattering to my skin tone, but it certainly doesn't wash me out like the other color did.

Anyway, enough talking about pictures I'm not showing you (there's been lots of that today - see the previous post for more of it). Let's talk about what we can see. My little cutie is modeling his daddy's new cap for him.

It's wonderfully soft and warm, and Daddy seems to be quite happy with it. It's made with Anny Blatt wool/cashmere blend (the black) and Phildar wool/cashmere blend (the gray). I used Elizabeth Zimmerman's hat formula again. Being just a rough formula, it allows for lots of variations (even if it does force you to do some math of your own).

The only real mishap here was the fact that I was wanting this thing to be a fold-over kind of hat. You know? Where the bottom doubles up. That's what our dear Muttonchop really wanted. And, in an effort to distract him from the fact that he still hasn't gotten that sweater I owe him, I tried to make one. Part way through it, though, I realized that I had made that first band of black too thick to look good doubled over. So, it's not exactly what I intended, but it turned out okay. It just made sure it was long enough to cover his ears, which is what he really wanted the folding part for, anyway.

Oh Christmas Tree!

Oh Christmas Tree!
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
First off, this picture is really fuzzy, and I apologize for that. We just don't have enough lighting in our living room to take decent pictures. Lighting is a real problem in our little trash heap house. The electrical wiring is a homemade job (done by our very own electric shock therapy expert - should I be worried?). No fires yet, after 3 1/2 years of living in these "temporary" quarters, so we're probably safe. That still doesn't help the lighting situation, though.

My theory is that he was really tired of running wires when it came time to install a light in the living room. We've got one plug in the entire room, and it's monopolized by the tv and various video machines. The only light comes from a tiny reading lamp he installed in the first week we were here. Adding more lights wouldn't really help, I guess, because the real trouble with the wiring is the fact that we don't have enough electricity for everything we need to run.

Now that it's winter, and we need to use electric heaters, we can only have one large appliance (aside from the fridge) on at a time. No more washing and drying at the same time! We have to reset our alarm clock each night before we go to bed. You'd think I'd learn that lesson and buy one of those little 9-volt rectangular batteries to put an end to that sob story. That's a thought. Maybe I'll get around to it by the time we move into the new house.

All this lighting talk brings me to the topic of our new house. I had a picture of it to share with you, but Flickr seems to have higher standards. I'm not sure exactly what they are, though, since it let me upload this fuzzy shot where Lampchop #1 has those possessed red eyes (Christmas and the prospect of unwrapping gifts does this to children). This happens with Flickr from time to time, and I sometimes wonder if some other Flickr account has mysteriously received my photos by mistake. We'll likely never know.

Anyway, Flickr's moodiness has robbed me of a great joke opportunity. I'll share the joke anyway, but the accompanying picture will have to wait. See, yesterday, before the electrician left, the new house was beautifully lit up from all rooms. With all of the windows, it was quite a sight to see. In my excitement, I walked over and recited the only Bible verse I know in French: the equivalent of "And, The Electrician said let there be light, and there was light." Okay, so I modified it slightly to fit the circumstances, but he seemed to appreciate it.

So, though I don't have any proof of it, just know that our new house is now alive with luminescence.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

"It's Painful, But It Doesn't Hurt."

This moment of humor brought to you by The Husband...

While out roaming the property this weekend (the whole family came - even the cats followed us like a couple of loyal dogs), we came across a portion of our electric fence that was improperly connected. This is a huge problem around here, because the electric fence was installed to keep the numerous wild boar families out of the vineyard (they love to dig up roots and eat the mature grapes). So, my dear Muttonchop got to fixing. He's pretty good with his stick a couple of sticks, and he soon had that sucker ready to bzzzt like it should.

That, unfortunately, was the exact moment that Happy (one of the cats) decided to investigate the underbrush on the other side. She didn't much like the bzzzt action, and was a bit squeamish about making her way back to the other side. I forget how many volts Muttonchop told me the thing was probably carrying at that moment - now that I think about it, he didn't have it fully reconnected, so it had about half the voltage it normally should. It still gave her a good jolt, though, and I was worried that we may have to rename her something a little less... well... happy.

She seemed to recover her stride reasonably quickly, but not fast enough for me not to worry a bit. I asked the closest thing I had to a shock-therapy expert (yeah, you guessed it - the guy who reconnected it with a couple of sticks) if that could really hurt her. He then turned to me in all seriousness and replied," It's painful, but it doesn't hurt."

There's a bit of logic to that sentence, I guess, if you take hurt to mean harm, but I still got a kick out of the contradiction in it.

And, in case you're more perceptive than I'd hoped, you may have realized that little story was told in an effort to distract you from noticing the lack of pictures. I have several waiting on the camera. They include some hats and other interesting things. I just wasn't really in the mood to mess with uploading them. So, that'll have to wait until tomorrow.

Despite my apparent laziness, the clapotis shawl is doing quite well. This is due, at least in part, to the get-out-of-housecleaning-free card I drew this morning. Instead of doing the various chores that usually compete for my attention each morning, I spent a bit over an hour in the doctor's waiting room. Not the allergy doctor, by the way. It appears that threats are enough to at least improve the allergy problems to make them bearable, so I get to save that doctor visit for another day. Today's trip was to the "oh, no I have to shave my legs today!" doctor. Always pleasant, right? At least I'm not old enough for a good boob smashing session yet.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Disease That Rocked Knitblogland

Bamboo Clapotis Shawl
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
I think most of you can guess which disease I'm talking about here. It hit around this time last year and was quickly passed from knitblogger to knitblogger like an STD in a frat house. I thought I was immune. I told myself I wasn't the kind to catch this very contagious disease, but it appears I was mistaken. Because, as you can see from the photo on the right, I too have come down with a case of the Clap - er, um, The Clapotis Shawl, that is.

I'm knitting mine in some leftover Southwest Trading Company Bamboo yarn. I love the drape of this yarn, and when I saw I would have enough left over from a previous project for a smaller clapotis, I knew I'd fall victim to one of the most-knitted objects on the web. I've been waiting around for a while, but when I saw that I was too fuzzy-brained to actually knit anything complicated, I cast on. It's a pretty easy knit, for the most part.

I have to say, I do understand the attraction to this pattern, now. I didn't like the original width of it, which I made thinner (just seemed too bulky to me when wrapped around as a scarf), but I'm loving these dropped stitches. It's not even the look of them that excites me. It's the feeling of doing something usually disastrous - on purpose - and feeling naughty about it. Too much fun!

By the way, for those counting how long this sort of thing takes, I've knit about a third of it and just started yesterday (at least, I think it was yesterday - the brain fog is clearing slightly, but is certainly far from gone).

The Aftermath

Blogging By Mail 3
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
I didn't mention it until now, but I signed up for a gift exchange. This one, though, was not all about yarn and knitting *GASP*. It was done by a bunch of food bloggers and is called Blogging By Mail. They just started a 4th one, by the way. I don't know who's hosting it, so you may have to do a little google search on that one.

Now, on to my box of goodies... I had so much fun with this. I received a package in the middle of last week all the way from Australia. Cin, whose blog name has escaped me momentarily (I'll have to link to that later), told me all about her favorite holiday, which is not Australian, but from her native land of Malaysia. She told me all about some fun Chinese New Year traditions she remembers from her childhood there.

Along with that, I think she pretty much cleared out the candy aisle of some local store and shipped it to me. This brings us to talk about the title of this post. If you take a look at that picture there, you'll see that it's really a shot of the aftermath. I just didn't get around to taking a picture before the little Lambchops got their hooves on this box.

There were Tim Tams and a Violet Crumble and some little Chinese New Year wafer things and and and... all sorts of other things I don't recall. The weirdest and most fun of all, though, was the the straws. She sent us straws in the mail! Not just any straws, though. These were Australian conceived and Australian made "Sipahhs" (I may have mispelled that). There were ten in the tube on the right, there, and they are fun. The kids love them. Basically, somebody had the brilliant idea of putting natural flavoring (not sythetic, they mean) and sugar on tapioca beads that slowly dissolve while milk is sipped through little holes in each end of the straw. I even had one myself, and it wasn't half bad. Funny concept, anyway.

Ooh, and I almost forgot. You see the yarn on the left? I already dipped into that, as well. Can you believe it? She doesn't appear to knit, and she sent me yarn. Nice yarn, too. It's Patons (made in Australia, of course) 100% wool crepe. I played with it a little, but I don't know what I'll end up doing with it yet. It might just be asking to be made into a scarf. The two colors of green complement each other very well, and the yarn looks like it may have a nice drape that will be well-suited to scarf making. We'll see. Any suggestions?

Anyway, thank you so much, Cin! You sent loads of fun for the whole family.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Disappointing Three-year-olds

That post title is ambiguous. It could have two meanings. If you ever doubted my background in linguistics, here's your proof. I know how to analyze completely useless phrases to show you that, they, indeed, are meaningless capable of having more than one interpretation.

I won't bore you with mathematical semantics equations, throwing lambdas around in an effort to show you the tiny scope of my intelligence the... yada, yada, yada. We're all yawning already, so I'll get to the fun part. The layman's term explanation (speaking of which, have you laid your man today? Just askin'.)...

So, disappointing can be an adjective, right? Like, "Oh my gawd. Your preschooler hasn't learned to read and write yet? What a disappointing three-year-old." (Use proper Valley Girl intonation pattern here for best effect)

Then, there's the other meaning, where disappointing can be a verb. Like, "Why, yes, I often spend my free time disappointing three-year-olds. It's one of my favorite hobbies." (Most likely spoken in a courtroom setting by a proudly dead-beat dad - or mom).

So, why the linguistics lesson today? I'll tell you. I don't have any three-year-olds around the house at the moment, so I think we can safely rule out interpretation number one. So, how could we have disappointed any three-year-olds today? Here's how (and I'll give all the necessary details, so you can duplicate the process on your own). We all know I've got this head cold or allergy thing (leaning toward the allergy explanation, by the way), right? So, I've been living in a where'd-I-leave-my-brain, it-was-here-a-minute-ago haze for a week or so now. I can't even blame it on the meds, either, because that foul-tasting stuff got neglected days ago due to lack of effectiveness. Even without the meds, I'm just not myself. I can barely function. Can't even really knit much. It's awful. The only thing I've been able to concentrate enough to do is cleaning, which is really strange since I normally can't even bring myself to do that.

Anyway, long story short... we went to playgroup yesterday, and I sat there in my foggy stupor listening to others chat. When it was time to go, I said good-bye to people and told them I'd see them tomorrow at the birthday party. *Ding Ding Ding Ding* I think you can see now where the three-year-old fits in. I even gave an approximate time for when we should get there, which is why the three-year-old's mommy called this afternoon to see where I was. Unfortunately, I didn't get to the phone fast enough. I got the message, though. Only one problem there. She didn't leave her number, and after ransacking my desk, I realized I'd lost it. Then, there was the little detail of me not remembering how to get to her home. That would have been resolved yesterday when I saw her at playgroup. Well, it would have if only I actually remembered that I was supposed to ask her.

This all brings me to ask how on earth you can sit and watch a three-year-old play, chat with her mommy, tell them you'll see them tomorrow and totally forget you don't know how to get there? Really. That's bad. And, that's how I've been feeling for days. I've decided to take a little trip to the doctor's office about this. I'm thinking the allergist would be my best bet. Haven't seen one in years, since pregnancy and breastfeeding don't mix well with popping allergy pills. Never seen one in France, so I don't even know how to go about it. Do you just make an appointment, or are there the "proper channels" to go through like in the US? Guess I'll find out. I'll try the direct route first. This ain't no HMO, after all. Wish me luck with the red tape.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Happy Belated Birthday!

Alright, that's really annoying. I just wrote several sentences and watched them vanish without a trace for no apparent reason. I must have hit a key I shouldn't have (typing at warp speed when you're not a professional typist can cause that).

Basically, I was complaining about the head cold/allergy thing I've had lately and using it as an excuse for not posting. Yesterday, I got out the big guns (went to the pharmacy and bought a decongestant) to try to get out of the haze I've been living in the past few days. Seems to be helping so far. Let's cross our fingers that I don't have to take it for long, because I really hate taking medicines - not to mention the fact that this stuff is nasty. It is loaded with sugar and what tastes like an artificial sweetener. I realized this morning that it's because they're trying really hard to hide a horrible bitter flavor. Yeah, not a success. If it works, I can handle the nastiness, though.

I haven't gotten much knitting done in the past few days, either. I had started a wool/cashmere hat for my brother, but it was quickly snagged by my husband. What was I supposed to say? "No, sweetie, once again, this cool, hand-knit object is not for you." I caved, and he'll be getting a new hat. It's only fair, really, because he's been watching me knit a nice, manly scarf out of the same yarn for quite a while. He keeps wishing it were his, but he knows it's not. I have to do some Christmas knitting, don't I? We can't keep it all. Or, can we? That doesn't really sound all that bad to me.

I guess, in the end, my husband actually deserves that hat. Well, that and a lot more, because while I was feeling sick and sorry for myself on my baby's 2nd birthday (the actually date - the last celebration was a little early), I was in no mood to cook. So, he did it for me. He made a delicious dinner and even agreed to bake a cake. I have never seen this man bake anything other than bread, so it was a real treat to see how he'd do with sweets. And, I have to say, if there were any doubts before, there are none now. This man's a keeper. I mean, not only is he cute, but he can bake a mean birthday cake. It was actually better than I've ever had that recipe turn out myself. This is most likely due to the fact that I am utterly incapable of baking sweets without altering the recipe to make it healthier. I obviously have not yet mastered this art, otherwise, I might come up with fluffier cakes. But, hey, at least they're healthiesque, even if they may be a little bulletproof dense, right?

Now, I will leave you with a picture of the joy of birthday cakes (especially those not baked by me - though I did contribute by having him pull some leftover frosting from the freezer). Don't you love the 2-year-old logic you get a glimpse of here? "If I can't blow it out, I'll just snuff with my dry fingertips." Needless to say, we stopped him before things got dangerous.