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

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


I can't even think of another title for this post. I'm just plain overwhelmed. We were invited to a birthday party at MacDonald's today, and I've never seen anything like it. Not that the party thrown by Mickie D's was anything spectacular - Ronald didn't even show up to say hi. It was the fact that it was a boy's party. Lambchop #1 was one of only two girls invited. All of the other 12 or more kids were boys. And, let me just say that if you've never seen that many 4-year-old boys get together, you're really missing out on quite a show. It was absolute mayhem.

The moment the birthday boy started to open gifts, it became a free-for-all. You'd think we'd thrown him and his gifts to the lions. Claws came out and moments later packaging lay in a shredded heap on the floor. I think he only opened maybe 3 and 1/2 of his own gifts. A real sight to see. My daughter was in shock, I think. She sat calmly to the side waiting to produce her gift at the very end. Is it because she's a girl? Or were these boys just pure animals?

I can now see why the mother chose to throw a party at MacDonald's. I can't even imagine that craziness at her house. As it is, her place is pretty small with no real yard to speak of, plus she's 8 months pregnant. Oh, and there's the air conditioning. Many homes lack that here (better for the environment, at least), but MacDonald's keeps theirs running in the summer. I really couldn't complain too much about that, myself, because our house has been an inferno the past few days. We have a little electronic weather station set up in the kitchen, and the temp has been hovering around 90F all day long. I didn't even cook anything here, today. Imagine if I had! As things are now, I've got no energy to do anything in this heat. The dishes and laundry are calling to me, but I'm having a really hard time hearing them buried under all this sweat.

Another good thing about attending a party at MacDonald's is to see how successfully we are brainwashing teaching our kids. They served juice, ice cream, and then later an ice cream cake. Lambchop #1 had already eaten ice cream this morning on a trip to the beach with her grandfather. She was almost in tears when she saw more ice cream. She didn't want it. We're talking about a 5-year-old turning down ice cream, of all things. One of the other mommies assured her that if she didn't want it, she didn't have to eat it. So, in the end, she neither ate the ice cream, nor the ice cream cake. On the way home in the car, I asked her why she didn't want it. Her response was simply that she wanted to eat a meal at home, because she likes her mommy's cooking. Now how's that for a fully trained child? I believe I may have a couple of nutritionally conscious cartoons to partially thank for that, though. Either way, I ain't complaining.

Oh, and a funny thing happened on the way home from the party. It was one of those times I wish I had one of those camera-phones. I saw a garage or something of that sort named "ASSASS AUTO". No joke. And, you know, maybe it's just me, but I'm not taking my car to be repaired at a place run by not one but two asses. How about you?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Just A Little Something I Threw Together

It's that time of year again. "What time?" you ask. Well, we already know it's the time of year when all the little stinging beasties come out to play. But, even more annoying than that (or fun, depending on your perspective) is the fact that kids seem to have all their birthday parties this time of year. Not so great for the budget.

I've decided, once again, that I can make nicer gifts than I can afford to buy, so that's what I'm doing. This afternoon, there's a party for a girl Lambchop #1's age. I had a pattern I'd yet to use (and it only goes up to size 6) and plenty of cute fabric, so I dove in the other night. I'm quite certain that I could have found something cheaper when you factor in the time I spent on this dress, but it wouldn't have been something quite so nice. I hate those stupid plastic toys people give little kids for their birthdays. They may not cost much, but then again, when they only last a week, you see why. Besides, if she's anything like my daughter, she has enough Barbies to last her through her next ten birthdays, so why add to the mess around the house? A nice dress could be more practical. And, all girlie-girls love a pretty dress.

We got Lambchop #1 to model it, and as you can see, she's already begging for her own (I guess we know what I'll be doing around her birthday). You can't really see the definition of the fabric print very well, but the top section is made of a lighter fabric than the bottom. In addition to being lighter, it also has sweet little flowers on it, whereas the darker is plain. The purse she's holding was meant to be pockets on the skirt, but I thought they were a bit much, so I made a little matching purse, instead. Notice the cord on that purse? That cord was brought to us by a little bit of Patons Grace and my Turkish Drop Spindle. It's the accessories that make the outfit, right?

And, because I promised myself I'd finish the center square of that baby shawl before starting any new projects, what do we have? Why, a new project, of course. I've realized that I have a problem with bland colored yarns. I may like the end product with a fancy stitch, but I've got wandering eyes. I have to have some color in my life, and when I'm working a fancy stitch on natural yarn, I crave stockinette on something vibrant. See? This is that Trekking that I showed in a previous post. I love the pastel quality it has while somehow still remaining very vibrant.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

"Chipmunk" Is the New Sexy

No, really, it is. You know how I know? Last night we went out to dinner at a restaurant to celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday. I may not have been stopping traffic (it is a mostly pedestrian city, after all), but I was certainly turning heads. That's right. People were staring at me. Yeah, you know you're jealous. Because that can only mean I was looking really hot, right? Right?

Don't even try to tell me it's because they were all wondering if I was born with that facial deformity or if I had elephantitis. Because I know better. I know it's because looking like a chipmunk is really hot.

I would have taken a little picture to share with you all (because we all need to know what I'd look like 30-50 lbs heavier), but with playgroup and then dinner out, I never got a chance. And, while I was out, I stopped by the pharmacy to pick up a tube of green clay, which is supposed to help pull the venom out of the skin. Be skeptical if you want, but I've applied it a couple times since, and the pain is pretty much gone. It still starts to itch again after a while, but the clay soothes the itching, as well. Not only that, but the swelling has also gone down significally since I started applying it. So, vive la green clay! Even if it does mean I have to give up my new-found chipmunk-like sexiness.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hazardous Duty Pay

Is there any way I can receive hazardous duty pay for working in my own garden? Is anyone up on the current laws for these types of issues? I know the military pays it when you're in a war zone and everything, but what about when you're battling insects out in front of your own home? I've already got problems with stink bugs and aphids. Then, there's a mystery bug eating the young squash. I'm starting to think it's our monster-size grasshoppers. Actually, I'm not sure they're grasshoppers, exactly. I've never seen one like these in the US, that's for sure. I mean, take a look at these suckers (click here). I've posted my own picture of one of these before, but this guy's really does them justice much better than mine did. Creepy, huh? I think the long tail is for laying eggs or for fertilizing the females. I don't remember which. Looks like one big stinger to me, though (And while we're talking about hazards of our home, I woke up with one of these guys in my bangs this morning. I have to say that that'll freak you out when you're all groggy in a dark room at 6 am. Believe it or not, I got him out without a single scream.).

Anyway, so we're at war. And, though I've killed a few aphids and stink bugs (yes, I braved the smell!), no casualties had yet to be reported for "our side" - that is, not until today. This morning I received my first war-related injury. While leaving the garden today, with a basket full of goodies (we'll get to that) I was stung on the cheek by a wasp. I think it must have been hanging out next to the door and I scared it, because it flew at me - and fast.

So, being careful not to drop my treasures from the basket, I ran to the house. It must have been quite a sight... a seven-month-pregnant lady high-tailing it up the hill with a basket full of vegetables. All I wanted was to get some hot water to stop the venim from spreading too far. Then, it occurred to me that maybe getting my blood pumping fast wasn't the best idea. So, I did the fast-walk that's been made famous in yuppy neighborhoods across the US. When, I got to the house, I put my whole head under the sink with running hot water cascading across my burning cheek. Good thing I did, too, because I can't imagine the damage had I not been able to. As it is, the entire right side of my face from my cheek to my jaw is swollen. I've got that chipmunk look that you get from dental surgery (the painful half-numbness, too). At least now I know what I'd look like if I gained about 30 pounds too many, right? Not many people get a chance to see that without actually having to gain the weight.

Alright, so I know that they say that nobody wins in war. And, I think that's true. I don't mind sharing our crop with the bugs a little. They can have a few fruits and veggies here and there. But, come on, they don't have to start getting all snippy on me. And, they could consider we've got growing children to feed... leave a little for us, too. So, the question we have to ask ourselves is: Is it worth it? I'll just let you judge for yourself...

Exhibit A:
Fresh squash blossoms, of which we have plenty these days. They are wonderful fried up, as I've shown you before, but this day, I had so many that I was able to make a squash blossom soup. Very delicate flavor. Quite yummy.

Exhibit B:
Fresh beets, plus a few herbs. These were the first beets we've had from our garden, and I don't know if it's the particular variety I planted or the soil or something else, but these were by-far the most tender beets I've ever eaten. I've already noticed a difference between organic and non-organic beets, but these even outdid the organic store-bought ones. Delicious.

Exhibit C:
Today's haul. I got enough green beans to feed three adults and two kids, with some leftover. I want to try to keep them picked, so they keep producing more. They could help out a bit by painting themselve bright orange or something, though. Because the camouflage/camellion act just isn't very helpful.

Then, there were some huge Daikon (Japanese radish). I noticed they were popping out of the ground last night and decided to pick them today. They were great pickled Japanese style. I'm impressed by these guys. As with the beets, they were quite tender - more so than any I've ever bought in a store. Very tasty. I had to fight with them to get them out, though. They're long, as you can see, and they hold on to the earth for dear life. You can see I ended up snapping the ends off a couple, but I just couldn't dig any further (I was able to get the broken end out for the most part, though.). And, notice how they're mostly straight! I'm so pleased the rocks didn't cause too much trouble. We'll have to wait and see how the carrots do.

You'll also notice I picked some dill, basil and mint. The dill was sauteed with the blanched green beans. The basil went into a mozzarella and tomato salad. And, the mint became a mint/lemon syrup for adding to water for a refreshing hot-weather beverage.

All in all, I'd say our garden is putting out pretty well so far. I guess if you caress her just right, she's that kind of lady. I'm alright with that. I even think a war injury here and there is worth it. I do think we should take that wasp to the war crimes tribunal, though, because although it wasn't some kind of massacre, I think that kind of preemptive strike was totally uncalled for.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Potty Mouth

One of the best things about living outside of the native English-speaking world is reading t-shirts. It's very stylish to wear English words lettered across your chest. One great one I saw was a 10-year-old wearing the word "SEXY" painted across her still unbloomed rack-section. Yeah, only to a pedophile (we're probably going to get some great internet search hits on this post). That one, however age inappropriate, at least made sense (and could actually be understood by the French, though they don't tend to use the word as much as we may in English, I think).

In Spain, I've seen shirts with random strings of words forming complete non-sensical sentences. The best, though, is when the words make sense together but are totally ridiculous. Today's sighting was one of the best examples of this I've ever seen.

On a t-shirt worn by a toddler:

"Hippie poopy fields where girls rule and boys drool."

I'm thinking it should have read "happy poppy fields," but I really like their version better. I just don't ever want to be caught in one of those hippie poopy fields. How about you? I mean, really, I know that hippies are all for living simply and ecologically, but a toilet wouldn't hurt too much, would it?

Friday, June 16, 2006

One Down, One To Go

Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
As I promised (Wow! Two days worth of keeping promises - what is the world coming to? I'm going to have to stop this or you'll come to expect unrealistic things like promptness and predictability from me), here's a little photo of my first finished Go With the Flow Sock. It's really hard to tell from the picture in the magazine what the pattern should look like up close, so for all I know I did it all wrong, but I like the results.

I really like this dainty kind of pattern with a what I might otherwise call a bland color.

Okay, let's make this short, because somebody has to get dinner on the table...

The details:
Yarn: Knit Picks Essential sock yarn
Color: Fawn
Pattern: Go With the Flow sock from Summer 2005 IK
Modifications: I shortened the leg portion a bit

I give the pattern two thumbs up, for sure. The sock yarn I was a little uncertain about, but I have decided that if it washes well, it's a winner (I have yet to wash it). It seemed a bit scratchy while I was knitting with it, but it doesn't feel bad on my feet. Now I'll just have to wait till it gets cold again to actually wear them - oh, what am I saying? There is no "them". I'd better get to work on the second one. I'm actually itching to do so, but I did promise myself I'd finish at least the center section of that baby shawl first.

I won't show any boring progress shots of that, because, well, they'd be boring, but I've got about 10 pattern repeats left to go before I've finished that section and can start picking up stitches for the borders. I haven't stopped to calculate the enormous number of stitches I'll be picking up, but I'm pretty sure I don't want to know for now.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

As Promised

In yesterday's post I teased you with the prospect of photos. I know sometimes it takes me a little while to get around to that sort of thing, but this time, I was prompt. Okay, well, that's a lie, really, because most of the things you're about to see have been hanging out, waiting for me to actually take pictures of them (some of them for a really long time). But, I was still prompt in uploading them and posting them after actually getting around to taking the pictures, so that's something, at least.

Okay, here we go...

First up, we have some wonderful sock yarn that it is taking every ounce of will power in me not to cast-on with. These two balls were sent by Anmiryam along with some sock needles. I knew the needles were coming, but this yarn was a wonderful surprise. Can't wait to start a pair of socks with this yarn! But, I must refrain. I'm still trying hard to get myself to finish that baby shawl. What was I thinking in making it with natural colored yarn? I love the stitch pattern I'm working with, but the bland color makes my eyes wander to cheerier projects. After having made that huge cable baby blanket with cream colored yarn before, you'd think I'd have learned my lesson. Apparently, I'm one of those people who needs to have the lesson slap her around a bit and maybe even bitch-slap her a couple of times before she gets the point.

And, speaking of colorful things that are distracting me these days, I present to you the beautiful fiber my sister-in-law slipped into a care package of such necessities as mini marshmallows and chocolate chips (the needs of an American abroad are hard to meet - especially a pregnant one with cravings). I have no idea what this fiber is, nor where it came from, since it was packaged without a label. All I know is that it's soft and gorgeous. The picture doesn't really do it justice, though. It's more purple and silver than the blue I see on my screen here. Wonderful stuff! Now you see why it was absolutely imperative that I empty the bobbin on my spinning wheel. I mean, a girl must have her priorities. Now that the bobbin is all ready to go, though, I'm having second thoughts. What if I'm not worthy of this fiber yet? I'm so afraid of messing it up. I'm sure the urge to see how it spins up will soon win over these feelings of inadequacy, though, so I'm sure to have some spinning photos soon.

And, as I mentioned the other day, I was frustrated by the fact that my antiquish spinning wheel, unique as it may be, only spins well in one direction, because the wheel is warped. Not one to be deterred by an inanimate object's mockery, I decided to circumvent the use of the wheel for plying the yarn and use a drop spindle instead. I have had one drop spindle for quite a while. Unfortunately, however, as many spinners will tell you, the name for that contraption is very fitting - you do end up dropping it a lot while learning. Mine didn't seem to like such abusive treatment, and the wood split at the point where the hook is. I "fixed" it, but it's certainly not ideal. This is why it's pretty cool that Renata sent me a Turkish Drop Spindle a while back - okay, a LONG while back. I was remiss in posting about it, because my son took an instant liking to it (it's a stick, after all), and I had to hide it before any damage could be done. Don't worry, I was not remiss in thanking her, only in thanking her publicly. So, thank you, Renata, for allowing me to actually ply the yarn I plan to spin on my wheel. Without you, this would have been a huge pain in the neck, if not impossible. This is the object I was desperately searching high and low for the other night. It was finally found, and here it is for you to see. Kind of cool, even if I haven't exactly mastered the technique yet.

And, by the way, please notice the stylish little doodad in the background - the blue one (I think doodad is the only way to describe a car like this). After driving this borrowed vehicle, I am thoroughly convinced that avoidance of cars like this are why people buy gas-guzzling monster SUVs. My theory is that for every 10 SUV owners, at least half must have a car like this lurking in their past. Seriously, I can't feel totally safe in a feather-weight object of this size when I'm couched between a delivery van and a semi.

Okay, and a last little point of randomness: fried flowers. We still don't have much that is edible in our garden yet, but there are lots of flowers everywhere. There are flowers on the tomato plants, on the green bean plants, the potato plants, the melon plants, and best of all there are some on the squash plants as well. What's great about these flowers is that you can actually eat them. They're yummy stuffed with goat cheese and deep fried. I didn't have any goat cheese on hand last night, but I didn't want the few blooms available to go to waste. So, I battered them up and fried them plain. Not bad. The kids enjoyed them, too, but then, as my brother told me on his recent visit here: anything can taste good fried (even the eggplant he hates). I served them next to a yummy dinner omelette and some pasta salad (not pictured here). Pretty darn good for a quickie dinner.

Tomorrow (well, don't quote me on that - let's say "soon"), you may look forward to a little shot of the one Go With the Flow sock I currently have finished. I love this sock!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

So Bad

I swear I could eat my weight in Rice Krispie Treats. I made an entire 13"X9" pan of them last night, and they're almost gone now. The problem with them is that they aren't the least bit filling, they're addictive, and they bring back fond memories of my childhood. Luckily, the whole family seems to have the same problem I do with them, despite the fact (HA! That word came out as "fat" the first time I typed it - coincidence? I think not!) that they don't have the childhood memories attached to them.

I'll just keep telling myself that they are a treat for all of my many decluttering accomplishments of the day. I'll be ignoring the fact that they aren't the least bit good for me (aside for the fact that they're made of a vitamin fortified cereal that is supposedly low(er) in sugar). And, no, I don't want to know what's in those marshmallows. It couldn't be good, and I most likely wouldn't be able to pronounce the majority of the ingredients.

Luckily for me, we're in the best fruit season of the year with yummies such as fresh melon (the French Charentais melon is by far the best), cherries, apricots, nectarines, peaches and, if I'm lucky, I can still find some strawberries here and there. If not for that, I'd sure be tipping the scales at 200 lbs by now, because the sweet cravings just keep coming these days.

And, a bit of good news:
As we all know, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. My husband doesn't have the time necessary to be as squeaky as I would have liked, but I badgered him till he remembered to call the car insurance company several days in a row (because, not only do we still not have a new car a month and a half after the accident that totalled the old one, but we don't even have the check for the old one yet). They finally called back this morning saying the check would be in the mail tomorrow morning. Good thing, too, because this could actually mean we may have a real five-seater before we even need a real five-seater.

And, a little teaser:
I've taken tons of pictures and have some fun posts planned for the next day or two. Till then, you can find me hovering over the pan of Rice Krispie Treats.

So Disappointing...

I've got lots of things to post about, most of which deserve pictures. Since I don't have any ready, I'll skip those for now and get on with the disappointing stuff. Long ago (a little after Christmas), I wrote about receiving an old spinning wheel for Christmas. I was very excited at the time, and I was actually able to (with the help of a handy hubby) make it spin some reasonably decent yarn. The problem came when my sister-in-law sent me some amazingly inspirational fiber to spin up. It's got lovely colors (for which we'll be needing a picture) and gave me an instant itch to spin it up.

There was other fiber already on the wheel waiting to be dealt with, and since I've only got one bobbin, I had to think on it for a while before finally deciding to wind it into a ball and attempt to ply it. While trying to do a Navajo ply with it, I was quite happy to know that this was just practice fiber that was given to me because of its lack of softness and beauty. Why? Because it made hideous yarn. And, it's not the fiber's fault, I'm sad to admit. I did start to finally get the hang of the Navajo plying technique, but in getting a decent rhythm going, I realized something else. My wheel is warped enough that it spins alright in one direct (the way I spun the yarn in the first place) but badly in the other (the way I need to spin in order to ply). So, I've decided that my wheel will be for the purpose of spinning only in one direction. When it comes to plying, I guess I'll just have to get out the drop spindle. I can handle that, really. I like the thickness I'm able to get from the wheel and the fact that it doesn't tire my arms out as much as with the drop spindle. The plying will be less work, I think (since I've plied with the drop spindle before, and somehow it seemed easier than the initial process of spinning up the fibers to make a single ply).

Still a bit disappointed about all that, but at least I've come up with a solution of sorts. Now, I just need to locate that drop spindle. It fell out of my knitting cabinet the other day while I was reorganizing. I noticed that it slipped under the cabinet and told myself I'd pick it up later (the belly causes procrastination with that sort of thing). Before I got a chance to remember to do so, my husband did it for me. The problem with that is that he can't remember where he put it. Anybody out there giggling with the knitting gods right now (because we know they are)?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Emergency Knits and The Joys of Gardening

The other day, I wrote an email to my mother. It was long, and I don't think you need the entire details of the chatter that goes on between my mother and me. There was one thing I said, though, that could be revelant to almost any knitter. I told her that I was still working on that sock. I then said that I planned to finish the sock and force myself to finish at least the center square of the baby shawl before I allowed myself to work on any other project (including the second sock). Not 24 hours after having actually put that in writing so that it could come back and haunt me later, I started a new project. I swear it was totally necessary. It was totally unexpected, too.

See, Lambchop #1 was scheduled to go the the aquarium (and, the beach along with it) yesterday. I got the details of what she needed to bring on Monday. That's when I realized that she needed a summer hat that actually fit her. I considered going to the local second-hand kids' store (not where you buy second-hand kids, by the way), but I just didn't have the time while I was out that day. So, instead, I pulled some cotton blend yarn (Dune by Bouton d'Or or is it Anny Blatt?) from my stash and cast on to make a hate of my own design. It took me probably somewhere under 5 hours total, though I can't say for sure how long it really took, because I wasn't counting. I'm guessing somewhere between 3 1/2 and 4. This shows you how slow of a knitter I am, because that's a pretty thick yarn. No matter, the point is I made her something with my own hands and lots of love. And, it fits (a key point)! She seems satisfied with it, too. Don't you think?

I love this picture, because these days she tends to be a little shy and unsure of herself at times (toddler angst?), and she rarely clowns around in front of the camera like this. As a little side note: We always talk about how innocent and pure the lives of young children are, and that it's the best time of life. I have to say, though, there's nothing easy about that period in a person's life. There are so many things about society and life that need to be learned, and it can be very stressful for some kids. I mean, this is the age when girls start saying things like, "fine, I won't be your friend anymore then." 'Nuff said.

(Oh, and yes, Mom, I do plan to post a picture of Lambchop #2 for you. I just haven't gotten him to sit still in decent lighting long enough for that recently.).

Now, on to the joys of gardening. This is cool stuff. Seriously. You ought to try it. Think back to kindergarten at Halloween time. Remember when your teacher roasted pumpkin seeds for the whole class to enjoy? Or maybe it was your mother, father or some other grown-up. That was pretty good. But, here's what I've learned. Those seeds. The ones that tasted so good with some salt on them. They have another purpose. Seriously. No kidding.

See, if you put them in soil (you know, that brown stuff you're always telling the kids not to track into the house) and give them sufficient amounts of water, they'll grow into beautiful things with big green leaves and all (I believe they're called plants, if I'm not mistaken). Who knew, huh? And, what's really cool about pumpkins is that, unlike some other "garden variety" plants, they're really easy to grow. They're not too picky, and they get so huge that there's an enormous amount of satisfication reaped from the sowing of that one little seed. Oh, and what's even cooler is that later on, we'll actually have real, honest to goodness pumpkins to eat from that one little seed we planted (that's what they say, anyway). Pretty darn nifty, doncha think?

Same thing goes for potatoes. They aren't just good for baking and smothering with fattening stuff like butter and sour cream (though, I'm all for that). You know when they start to sprout all sorts of ugly eyes all over them. I know you're not supposed to eat them, but all is not lost after all. You can plant that bug-eyed sucker and watch it grow. Getting some good eating potatoes out of the plant may be slightly more complicated than the squash, but it's pretty cool to think that somewhere just below the surface of the ground, you've got a bunch of little tubers hiding out. And, they make pretty little flowers, too. So, even while you're anxiously waiting for the day when you can dig 'em up, you've still got something nice to look at.

By the way, notice the gigantic rock next to that potato plant. You see what I have to deal with in my garden? Such hardships. Really, it's a good thing the soil is fertile enough to make up for it.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Go With the Flow Sock

Go With the Flow Sock
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
For some reason I can't for the life of me think of a post heading better than simply stating what's in the picture. Lack of creativity today, I guess. There will be days like that, right?

Anyway, just a little bit of quick info here...

As is always the case, when we get something new, we've got to try it out as soon as possible, right? A while back, I mentioned that I was in need of some needles for a couple of projects, but that purchasing them would just have to wait. Well, the very generous Anmiryam over at Gromit Knits sent me some (she, like most knitters and unlike me, has a healthy stash of needles to go along with her healthy stash of yarn), as well as some sock yarn I'll have to show off soon. Now I can make socks on needles smaller than 3 mm (I remember back when I used to hate to knit anything with needles smaller than that). This is wonderful, as it actually opens up many possibilities for me in the way of yarn and patterns (both of which I already have a few options for).

So, after a rocky little start (for some reason, my brain could not work out which should be the right and which should be the wrong side of the sock for way longer than I care to admit), I got going in the right direction, finally. Now, they're just flying along at an alarming rate - or maybe I've been knitting for an alarming number of hours these past few days. Either way, I'm very pleased with the progress. I think I will very soon be ready to turn the heel, which, for some reason, I really love doing (I accidentally just typed "dong" instead of doing, which brings back memories of the Sixteen Candles Chinese exchange student character - giggle, giggle - this also reminds me of calling FedEx to track a package once and ending up with "Hung Lo" on the other end of the line. Him: "Hello, I'm Hung Lo. How may I help you?" Me: "Well, now, are you? I'm sure we can find some way for you to help me." I didn't really say that, but it took a lot of courage not to giggle like a teenager on that one. *Please excuse the inappropriate aside).

Anyway, this is the ever-popular-in-knitblogland pattern for the Go With the Flow Socks from Interweave Knits (I can't remember which addition right now, and I'm way to lazy to actually go check). I'm knitting them with Knit Picks Essential superwash sock yarn. It's a little scratchy feeling for now, which I'm concerned about. I hope it'll all come out in the wash, as they say. I love the color, though. It's "fawn". I kind of like the combination of somewhat bland, not-so-feminine colors spruced up with a cute lace pattern. So, I'm really falling in love with this pattern knit with this yarn.

Well, I should end this here, partially because you can only blabber on for so long about an unfinished sock, and partially because, as is always the case around here, we like to follow one child illness immediately with another. It appears that Lambchop #1 has contracted something new (You have to admire her for originality - she couldn't just have the sore throat her brother brought into the house. She had to come up with something new to wow us with.). I'm not even really sure what the symptoms are yet. She was extra whiny a bit earlier and took a long nap, which is always a good sign that she's sick. When she awoke, she complained of a sick tummy that she now says isn't so bad. All I can say for sure is she's got some really rosey cheeks and a warm little forehead that'll probably turn out to mean she's got a fever. When does this stuff end? Is there some point when stop bringing home every friendly virus they meet at school or playgroup? Should I just lock them up till their about 10 and hope it's all over by then?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Happy Birthday: The World Is On Fire

It's been a really busy week around here, though I can't exactly say what I did with the week. Not that it's some big secret. It just doesn't seem to amount to much when taken all together. We were on the tail end of a round of antibiotics with Lambchop #2 for an ear infection caused by a recent viral sore throat. And, as seems to always be the case around here, just when we finish up with one illness another pops up. Actually, it was the same illness, just different people. That's what family's all about - the sharing, right? So, since Lambchop #2 was generous enough to pass on his virus, Lambchop #1 and I had it this week. I had a better time of it than she did (pregnancy immune systems are really something). We're all better now, but the missed days of school add up to a huge amount of overtime for mommy.

Then, I spent the entire afternoon on Thursday preparing dinner. It was a special dinner, and I wanted it to be just right, because it was my husband's birthday. We don't really get to do much for birthdays around here. There are lots of summer birthdays in the family, which means no real parties, since everyone is gone on vacation. I grew up with that. No fun. But, then my family always made the effort to celebrate with cake and all, even if it was just for the immediate family. Growing up with that tradition makes me always want to have a cake for anyone's birthday, whether much else can be afforded or not (and, really, do you ever need an actual excuse for cake?). I've actually been known to bake my own birthday cakes now that there's no one there to bake one for me. That may not happen this year, though, since I'll be bigger than a house by that time and probably ready to burst at the mere idea of baking. I guess we're lucky the hubbie's birthday comes a little earlier, because we had quite a feast.

I asked him if he wanted something fruity or something chocolatey or something else for his cake. He chose fruity, even though he didn't see any fruit that could be baked into a decent cake (or pie). Little did he know that I had several lemons and was armed with a great Cook's Illustrated recipe for Lemon Tart (the French way). I know he loves that pie, so I thought I'd give it a try (ooh, poet and didn't know it). It turned out really well and used so many egg yolks that I had the perfect excuse to make an Angel Food Cake (again, who really needs an excuse?). Just a little warning about putting candles in a Lemon Tart, though - they don't stay up well. It was quite a feat to light and blow them out before they fell over and burned holes in the pie. We were determined, though and tore up the top of the pie with them anyway. By the way, can anyone guess how many years are represented by those candles (hint: he's not a vampire who's 352 years old)?

While that cooled and readied itself for dessert time, I threw a little something else together. Another thing Muttonchop is very fond of is lamb. I do like lamb, but as meat goes, it's one of the more expensive ones to buy, and it's not so great for your health. As a result, it gets left off the menu quite a bit more than he'd like around here. I made his birthday an exception. I went all out and purchased a rack of lamb to cook up. I'd never done this before, and it seems pretty difficult when you look at the end product. However, with the exception of the part where you spend an hour taking fat off the thing and cleaning the bones of meat, it was pretty simple, really. And, boy was it good. I served it with a sauce of Moroccan spices and orange juice over a bed of couscous (compliments of Cook's Illustrated again). And, since I have a bit of trouble serving a meal without veggies, I threw in some ratatouille (French stewed eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes and onions) to round the meal out. It all went quite well together and Muttonchop proclaimed it a success. He even pointed out the fact that we'd have had to pay a hefty sum for a rack of lamb at any restaurant that serves it. So, I was happy with the relative frugality of my splurging on such a fancy meal.

And, as a birthday present, some unknown person has been presenting the area with "fireworks" all week long. I admit it's really quite a sight to witness the firefighter planes swooping low and being lost in the smoke as they release a pond's worth of water in an attempt to douse the fire (you think any fish are thrown in when they do this?). These planes are enormous and really are very impressive, but nothing strikes fear in the heart of a country dweller like driving home from playgroup to see a fire off in the distance. Off in the same direction as their home. And, when they've already seen four other fires in the immediate area in the past four days. I was all willing to believe it was accidental (I'm trusting and naïve that way) the first couple of times. My more jaded husband assured me that most forest fires are not accidents. I hate to say he appears to be right. I also hate to say that the close proximity of some of the fires to our land makes me a bit nervous. When you depend on the land for your livelihood, as we do, fire can be a very serious thing. And, when someone is setting them day after day in all the communities nearby, you have to start to wonder when your luck will run out.

The picture taken here is of a fire on my husband's birthday. It consumed an old local landmark and the greenery around it. The building, which I'm not sure is still standing, is an old sheep barn, I believe. It's now used as a community center for the village our kids go to school in. The spot is probably just a few miles away from our place if you cross the hills and brush instead of taking the roads. My husband recalls planting trees at this site when he was in school in the village. Now, sadly, it appears that my children will have the opportunity to do the same in the coming years.

The first of this week's fires took place in the community that bumps up against the other side of our property. You can see now why I'm a little nervous about it all. I do have to applaud the firefighters, though. I'm sure they're on red alert with one fire a day around here, but they've done a great job of containing these things in what have been horrendously windy days lately. I just hope they can stop the idiot who's setting them, before someone gets hurt or too much is lost.

And, for those of you who don't come here for the food and fires, I'll have some knitting pictures soon enough. This week I quickly put together a little summer shirt for Lambchop #1. I used some yarn I bought long ago at Michael's on a visit to the US. It has been earmarked for this kind of project for ages, but I've never gotten around to it. Don't know why, since it's turned out to be one of the quickest knits ever. Then, I've got a sock that I've started. It's been a very long time since I knitted any socks (and, the first time I've ever actually used a pattern to make them), so we'll see how that goes... I've got lots of gardening and housework ahead of me now, though, so that'll have to come another day.