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

Sunday, April 30, 2006

One Girly Apron: Check

Yay! I finished my apron, and it's too cute. It is exactly how I had pictured it, but cuter, since I'm a very visual person, and to me there's nothing like seeing the real thing. It's not perfect though. It took me way longer than I had planned to sew it. This is typical of me, and I'm getting used to that. I learn so much each time I sew (mostly that I've still got so much still to learn). I think I do okay on garment construction (most likely thanks to my knitting habit), but my control of the sewing machine leaves a bit to be desired. This is why it takes me so long.

This time I realized that there is quite a bit I need to learn about setting the proper tension on the thing. Problem is, I misplaced the manual long ago (though, it'll probably turn up when we move). Luckily, I've got a nice all-about-sewing kind of book that has great generic instructions about sewing machines. Hopefully, it'll have something to tell me about thread tension and how to set it for each different need. Because, obviously, I need help with that.

I did get the thing put together, though, and I'm very happy with the results, even if I'm sure it'd look much better on someone who doesn't appear to be carrying a watermelon under it. I'll share pictures soon - watermelon and all.

Ooh, and the best thing about all this time spent sewing at the kitchen table is that I was able to appear to be working (because that's what my father-in-law and husband see sewing as), while really I was just playing with my expensive toys. That, and the fact that I was able to get some easy bakind done at the same time. I made two loaves of brown bread and huge pot of Mexican pot beans. For those who've never tried beans this way, it's the best way to do it. Basically, you slow-cook it (like for 5-10 hours, depending on the beans) in a closed pot in the oven. No need to soak overnight, and it's so much better than boiled beans or even the pressure cooker version. If you've got the extra time, it's worth it, since it's really no trouble. You just have to be around the house all day.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

You Are Your Own Worst Critic...

Nope! Not true here. I don't know whether I can be harsh enough on myself or not. Truth is, I don't even have to be. My husband does it for me. I love the man, but God forbid I show him something I've made. Mere milliseconds after complimenting me on a job well done (or in lieu of), he'll point out a flaw. The other day it was my baguette bread. He's not a baguette fan, so when I told him that was the bread of the day, he wasn't exactly excited. He seemed pleasantly surprised at the flavor when he bit into it. "Pretty good," was his response, I believe. Then, he immediately (and so quickly afterward that I actually didn't hear the "pretty good" till he repeated it a second time) added, "Did you perhaps forget the salt again?" And, no, I hadn't forgotten the salt. I even measured it out as stated in the recipe (instead of the dumping-in-my-hand-that-looks-about-right method that I often use).

Tonight it is my apron. I'm happy to say that it's at least partially assembled (though, the rest will have to wait till tomorrow). I held up the bib part with a smile. The response I got was, "Isn't the pocket a little too high?" Not, "Ooh, those colors look nice together," or "Hey, that'll really accentuate your curves." I'm all for somebody helping me to improve myself, but come on, man, learn when it's best to lie! "Does my butt look big?" "Is my belly too huge?" "Is this bread salted enough?" "Is this pocket too high?" The answer is "No, honey, of course not" (forget the fact that he doesn't call me honey).

I must admit, though, that the subtleties of male-female communication can be tricky for men. I do often ask him specifically how he'd rate my meals (to gauge his interest in ever eating them again). I sometimes go as far as even asking him if he has suggestions for improvement. In these cases, I welcome the criticism. I'm actually asking for it. The sticky part is him knowing when to turn it off. See, when I don't specifically ask, I most likely don't want to know. Just smile and nod, somewhat like if you were a non-native speaker of English whose vocabulary consisted of about 3 words. That's safest, I think.

And, maybe the pocket is a bit too high, but, then again, maybe I would never have noticed or cared had he not been there to point it out to me.

Unfunny... No More

I realize that for quite some time, I haven't been saying anything particularly funny. Being able to express my somewhat offbeat sense of humor (at least for the French) is part of why I blog. So, it's starting to bug me that I never have anything funny to share these days. I'm beginning to suspect that pregnancy has some effect on my funny bone. And, I even think it's had some effect on the stats of my site, though I've been too lazy to click on over to my site counter page to verify this. My readers are surely dropping like flies, though.

Anyway, since I constantly strive for self-improvement (I almost typed "self-importance", I swear), I want to fix this. You know, that when we find shortcomings around here, we try to do something about them (ahem - no comments on that, please). You want proof of this? The lack of knitting content was recently remedied. The fact that I've not been posting more than once a week these days was (at least temporarily) fixed. So, why not do something about the unfunniness of my posts as well?

So, here goes (hope all the hype doesn't ruin it). This is not actually something that I came up with, myself (hey, we're making an effort, at least). But, my offspring said it, so that should count for something, right?

I was at the grocery store, waiting for the fishermonger lady (and, by the way, I don't find monger to be a very lady-like word, do you? In the US, I wouldn't usually call the person behind the fish counter a fishmonger, because they're really probably just a salesperson of precut fish filets, but here the lady behind the counter knows how to scale, gut and chop up an actual fish, so... fishmonger). Anyway, I'm standing there with Lambchop #2, when a tall, overweight man with a beard walks by. He was a little on the ummm... aging side, but hardly old. Lambchop, however, saw an instant resemblance - to Santa Claus. So, for the next few minutes, he sat there in the cart saying, "Look, Mommy. It's Santa Claus." Over and over and over again. It would have been quite cute if only he had actually said it in English instead of French (oh, and if he knew how to moderate his voice yet). But, he didn't (and he doesn't), so it may have been a little bit embarrassing. Luckily for us, though, maybe Santa Claus is starting to lose his hearing, so the fishmonger, Lambchop #2 and I were able to have our own private laugh together. It was quite a bonding moment, really.

Ooh, and while we're on the subject of funny things kids say and do, I've got a good one from playgroup yesterday. Some of the older kids wanted to perform a little play to entertain the mommies (not my Lambchop #1 - she's quite the shy one). The boys went first (apparently after much rehearsing). Theirs was a strong-man show. They lifted chairs and large pillow-like toys above their heads. Pretty funny, but the best part came next. One of the little girls (who is about 5, just for your information) wanted to do a little circus-type number. So, she stood up on a chair with both arms out to her sides like an airplane. She stood very erect in this pose, while shaking from head to toe. Normally, this would not be such a difficult feat that it would require shaking to stay in place, but she was imitating something she'd seen many times before.

See, here they have gypsy circus families that sweep through the small villages, often with silly acts and even sillier animals, while ripping people off of ridiculous sums of money to watch it all. In the middle of the show is always a small girl who does things like standing on her hands on top of a chair. You always get the sense that she's too young to be doing this (even though Daddy is always standing beside here to spot her in case she falls) and that she's terrified of messing up. You get this idea because, while she's upside down, putting all her concentration into the act, she's shaking - a lot. So, this little girl at playgroup had gotten the idea that the shaking is a necessary part of any gymnastics trick in a play or circus. Why not? It was definitely entertaining, at least.

And, just a little serious news (not too serious, though - but not funny, really)... I've decided to make myself an apron using a combo of leftover and new fabrics. I've already made up my pattern and washed the fabric. Now all I need to do is cut and sew. I've been meaning to do something like this for quite some time. It's a definite necessity for me, because the women in my family are well-known for "catching things" on their "shelf". See, when you've got body parts that protrude far enough to keep you from fully reaching the table, you tend to catch any food that drops on these body parts instead of the lap-napkin, as intended. Pregnancy has added a new and larger shelf to the first, and I'm beginning to spend a fortune on stain-removers. Something must be done, so I'm going to make a cute little apron that I can cook, clean and eat in. I make have to make another if this one turns out the way I'd like.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

What Would You Do?

Baby Shawl Beginnings
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
I am finally nearing the end of one of the most tedious projects I've ever knitted. I've never been a huge fan of garter stitch. Sure, it has it's uses, but I don't particularly enjoy doing it for a whole sweater - even if it is just a baby sweater (Chris guessed correctedly, by the way, that my mystery project was the baby kimono from IK). So, since I've only got one little section to finish (that last shoulder/arm bit), what am I doing? Casting on for something new, of course.

For quite some time now, I've had a huge desire to knit a larger lace project with some real interest to it. I just hadn't been sufficiently inspired by the patterns I'd seen and the yarns I have on hand to go for it (plenty of patterns have interested me, but none of them are suitable for the yarns I already have on hand - and this has to be knit from my current stash). Then, last night inspiration struck. I could make a baby shawl! Sounds time-consuming, but I've still got about 4 months till my due date (and, certainly some of that will be sitting-down-time toward the end).

I've made a baby blanket before, and it turned out lovely, I think, but I love the look of a light, feathery covering for a baby. It suits the delicate nature of the baby, itself. I found a pattern for a baby shawl online, and it seemed pretty simple. It just wasn't quite exactly what I would have chosen, myself. That's when it hit me that I could design my own. I've got two Barbara Walker stitch dictionaries to sift through, so I should be able to come up with something, right?

So far, so good. In this picture, you see the stitch pattern I have selected for the center square. It's the English Mesh Lace from Walker's first book. I've done some calculating and know how many stitches to cast-on and how many rows to knit for this section. Now, I just need to find and swatch for the border section(s) that look nicest with this. Wish me luck in my hunt!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

What's Your Favorite Casserole?

I have to admit right off the bat that I'm not a huge casserole fan. I didn't grow up on them. Mom never really made them much, for whatever reason. I guess I would have been pretty thankful of that at the time, since having tuna casserole at a friend's house once almost traumatized me, I thought it was so nasty. I have recently, however, found a need for them in my life.

The fact that we chose to bring a new person into the world at the exact same time of year that the kids start back to school AND my husband is harvesting his grapes seems a little insane. To deal with the insanity and try to actually keep the family together during that first month of the baby's life, I've decided to stock the freezer with casseroles and one-dish meals to last us a couple of weeks at least. I've scoured the internet and found some interesting possibilities from which I've compiled a list, but I thought I'd ask my readers what their favorites are. I've seen food on many of your blogs, and it always looks good, so I think I can trust your tastes. If you have a good one that always goes over well with the kiddos, especially, leave me a comment so I might be able to get the recipe via email. Know that in doing so, you are doing a very good deed. Not only will you be ensuring that the children continue to be fed throughout the month of September, but you are also contributing to the prevention of a divorce by relieving stress in advance.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Mystery Knit

The Mystery Knit
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
I know I have to try to put my money where my mouth is a little more often these days. This photo represents an effort at doing just that. I said I had been doing some knitting. I said I'd try to post a picture soon, and hey, for once, it has actually happened. Yay for me!

So, any guesses as to what this funky little piece of knitting will be? I'm not telling till it's all done and put together. As a little hint, I'll at least tell you that not all three of those needles are needed. I'm only using the one in the middle. The other two are just place holders, because I didn't like the way the traditional stitch holders kept me from understanding the layout of this knit.

Also, take a little peek at the clean floor behind that chair. The plan, this morning, was to get back to work on planting in the spots I prepared yesterday. A different task began calling to me when I awoke this morning, though, and I went with it.

We have this linoleum floor all over the place in this temporary home, and it's really hard to keep clean (especially if you've got kids). It takes on stains like nobody's business. A red note-paper fell on the floor and got wet once. Before it was picked up, it had forever left its mark.

I usually don't get the time to fully scrub at all these stains. What I usually have time for is a quick swishity-swoosh around the room with a wet/soapy mop after having spot sprayed the bad spots. I always tell myself it's better than nothing, and that I'll get to doing it more thoroughly later, but it rarely happens. Today it did. I actually got out the scrubber brush and everything. I even cleaned under the kitchen sink, which between you and me was a little scary from - you know, we don't even want to get into that. I even decided that I'd give the curtains that usually hide that under-the-sink mess a good washing. They'll probably never look brand-new again, but I'll settle for clean.

I'm telling you, people, there really is nothing like pregnancy to get a house clean. Now let just see if I can maintain the kitchen as well as I have been able to maintain the bedroom (over a month now, and still tidy and clean).

Good Intentions...

I swear my intentions are good. I tell myself I will blog - and even throw in some pictures, but it just doesn't seem to happen these days. We'll blame it on pregnancy and the never-ending urge to nest. Don't get me wrong, it's a helpful urge, and by the time I finish my pregnancy, we may just have a house that you can live in without having to step over junk to walk (that is my dream, no matter how modest it may seem).

Then, there's the gardening. The hard part of gardening (to me, at least) is the beginning. There's all the planning out of where things will live. Then, there's the digging for rocks, rocks and more rocks. After that, you have to actually plant the seeds if you ever want to see them grow. I'm hardly an expert. Barely an amateur, actually, but this year, I'm very ambitious. My goal is to not have to go to the store to buy veggies for a good portion of the summer. It may be unrealistic based on my gardening skills, but we can only hope. So, I'm planting almost every food we tend to eat, plus some we usually don't (got to try to something new to spice things up a bit).

I figure that if I do this right, I can kick back in late pregnancy and chow down on the fruits of my labor. Okay, well, maybe not kick back, exactly, because if we're lucky, and all goes right, we'll have plenty of stuff to put up in the freezer for this winter. That is what I'd really love. Imagine a life with only minimal trips to the veggie store with the three little ones in tow. Yeah, I think you're starting to see where the motivation comes from. It's somehow easier to tend to them in the fenced in garden than the citrus aisle at the store. And, then there's something that just feels right about putting your hands in the dirt and watching things grow from your efforts. Even better is watching your children take interest in the land and the food they consume. All good reasons to garden, but really, I'm in it for the grub. So, let's hope we get lots of good grub.

Then, there's the knitting - yes, actual knitting. I know I've not done much of that lately, and I do miss it. Part of the problem is the fact that I need to purchase a few sets of needles in sizes I don't already own. This would get me started on the projects that interest me most at the moment (like socks... baby steps - it's been a while). I do have one project that is lingering but nearing completion. I worked hard on it last night and a few nights ago, and it's finally coming along. I plan to snap a little picture of it later when the sun is out in full force. I won't tell you what it is. It'll be more fun to guess, since the putting together of this thing is a real mystery to me. So, be on the lookout for a real, live photo here very soon - at least that's my intention.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Cross Your Fingers...

For three things:

First, that I'm able to move tomorrow (and not like some little crochety old lady) after having spent two hours digging rocks out of the portion of the garden that will soon hopefully sprout up some root veggies. Normally, I think I could probably handle such a task, but with my ever-expanding belly, and the overly-extended tummy muscles that come along with it, I was not prepared.

First, I tried crouching like a baseball catcher. The problem with that is that I don't have the best knees around. Lots of sports as a child and teen saw to that. After half an hour, I abandoned that posture for something a little cosier. I ran (well, hobbled, really) over to the winery to grab my handy stool. It sits pretty low to the ground and was ideal for such a task. I must have looked like the world's laziest gardener, but it was just thing I needed to help me last the next hour and a half. Then, after coaxing my back and legs into a standing position, I drew some crooked rows in the dirt and haphazardly tossed some seeds in the furrows I'd made. It won't be a garden to brag about, but hopefully it'll produce some food for us to eat (even if that does include crooked carrots because I didn't get all the rocks out).

Second, that my energy level will remain high. With illnesses floating around the house day in and day out for the past few weeks, I've not have too much energy for housework or anything else. A few days ago, though, after a particular ugly fight with a stomach bug, I had my first burst of energy since probably close to a month ago. It allowed me to get large amounts of household chores done, though that still doesn't catch things up. Since it really would be nice to actually get things caught up, let's just hope the energy sticks around for a while.

And, third, that I'll get the time to share a picture or two with you tomorrow. I baked a lovely chocolate zucchini cake, which was the ideal way of tricking my veggie-hating son into chowing down on something green. I caught him with his hands dirty with chocolate, so I'll try to post that soon. Then, there's the still-yet-to-be-snapped shot of my belly. I am still pregnant, and appearing even more so by the hour, it seems. My very patient mother is dying for a peek at my mid-section. I don't do those bare belly shots, because, well, I've got a little pride, but I'll get a photo taken soon enough of me fully dressed, anyway. See you then!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Joys of Parenthood

My brother is still here visiting, and he swears he loves my kids. He also swears his conviction to NEVER have any of his own is a lot more... um... convicted?? He has yet to encounter a part of the parenting process that he'd like to do full time. The whining? He'll be glad to be rid of that when he leaves. The poopy diapers? Yeah. Need I say more about that? Then, there's the incredibly fun FUN we had last night.

The little ones are both complaining of earaches these days. I've got an appointment this afternoon to deal with that, but till then, the whine continues on. That's not the worst of it, though. Last night, little Lambchop #2 awoke and ended up being shifted over to Mommy and Daddy's bed. It happens. We're used to that. What we're not used to is the piercing scream a couple hours later (at 4 am, for those who are interested in the details) followed by a coughing fit so violent it induced vomiting. This is where it comes in handy that Mommy is still not fully organized. A couple weeks ago when Lambchop #1 had the flu, and the allergic reaction she had to Advil seemed to have caused her to lose her lunch, we brought a large metal bowl to the bedroom. There it has remained, all clean and shiny from disuse, taunting me to bring it back to its real home. Last night, though, coupled with my quick thinking, it saved us from having to completely change the sheets. The episode did, however, force me to get up and get a wet cloth to clean little Lambchop (Daddy kindly disposed of last night's dinner, because I just couldn't stomach that part).

Amidst all of this commotion, I heard a muffled groan from the futon in the livingroom. See, my brother cherishes his sleep. So, yeah, maybe parenting's not for him, afterall. Because last night's excitement definitely left me feeling like I was beaten in my sleep. No bruises, though, so I guess not.