Friday, July 05, 2019

July Yarn Along: Ends and Beginnings

Somehow the "new" year is already more  than half-way through, and I feel like I am in between ends and beginnings.

I finally finished my Balta top (hurray!), which I need to get photos of. But before that, I need to sew a camisole for it -- I knew I'd need a camisole, but thought my simple white tank top would do. Well, it doesn't "do." It looks quite odd, and I'm hoping that I can make something that will work -- the alternative would be to frog the armholes of my Balta and re-knit them with extra rows. Which does not sound appealing at all at this point! At any rate, it's good to have finished a project and cleared 4 skeins of yarn from my stash.

While I prefer to have two projects going at once, I'd been focusing exclusively on my Balta. Which meant that I was at a bit of a loss when I finally cast off the last stitch -- "between projects" is a limbo I do not enjoy. I decided to start my Ninni cardigan, which meant dealing with a dyeing issue I had with my KnitPicks Capra (a delicious blend of merino and cashmere!). So I started a pair of socks for Rosa, but I'm not sure if those will work out... Anyway, I think I have the dye issue worked out, but only have a few rows to show on my cardigan. I already love the feel of the wool, so I'm eager to see how it works up. Once again, I'm making my life more difficult by using the wrong yarn weight, the wrong size (partly to compensate for the former issue), and I'm altering the cardigan from crew to v-neck. Apparently I'm a glutton for anxiety?

Never fear, the pink yarn is just a provisional cast-on! 

I've also been "between books," but I've settled on to Beatrix Potter 1866-1943: The Artist and Her World, which I found last year at a local used bookstore. It's part biography, part artistic analysis, and all-around good reading. Beatrix was quite industrious, and I hadn't realized how much work she did even prior to having her books published. This book is rather thick and lavishly illustrated, much to my delight.

I'm also reading Kiss the Wave by Dave Furman -- not pictured, because I have it on Kindle and tablets don't photograph well. I've loved everything I've read by his wife, Gloria, and this book certainly does not disappoint. Dave's persistence in pointing to the Gospel as the source of hope is a very timely message, and has been such an encouragement to me. Though I suppose the cross of Christ is always a timely message!

Joining Ginny's Yarn Along:

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

May Assortment

The Great British Baking Show finally spurred me into action, and the littles
and I had our first attempt at macarons. I was shocked that they actually turned
out pretty well! I definitely piped them too big, but they were still a (delicious) 


Waiting is hard...

An American classic for Memorial Day. My pie crust game could use some work...

One of many house finches that frequent our feeder. I have to fill it at least twice a day --
it's been a bit more popular than I'd anticipated!

Black chinned humingbird at the feeder -- you can see his gorgeous purple throat. 

A resident of Little Man's "Beetle Sanctuary" -- a plastic box filled with gravel and rocks

Misty morning -- this is the view out our back yard (I only notice the chain link fence when I try to take a photo! Grr)

Laddie has his own Redwall book, which he "reads" regularly. We're working on his "sounds," as he calls his 100 Easy
Lessons reading book, but he has a long way to go before he can handle Lord Brocktree!

Quail are exotic birds to us suburbanites, so we're thrilled whenever they visit the bird feeder!

The Biker Gang -- Rosa and Laddie have been using a balance bike for the past few
weeks, and when we finally replaced the worn-out tires on their "big kid" bikes, they
were off! I'm a true fan of the balance bike now.

May is somehow over, and June has arrived with a burst of warmth and sunshine (though the morning are still chilly -- we had a few in the 40's recently). The high desert temperature swing still throws me for a loop. Forget April showers, May was the wettest month we've had here so far. We had several hailstorms, rain almost every afternoon (and sometimes all day), and chilly temperatures. I've never been so eager for summer before! But we've certainly enjoyed the resulting green all around.

Much of my sewing time last month (not that there was much!) was spent altering clothes -- pants to shorts, long sleeves to short sleeves. A little too soon, as it turned out! A warm spell early in May convinced me that summer was on its way, but no sooner had I adjusted wardrobes than the cold set in again. We made do with the few warm clothes I'd left out, and now I think we're in the clear.

I've decided to give Instagram a go, and so far I'm enjoying it immensely. There are so many little moments that I'd never take the time to blog and it's lovely to have a little space to document them. I don't use any other social media, so I'm also enjoying the opportunity to connect with friends (including some former bloggers that I used to follow, but had lost track of). You can find me here if you're on Instagram!

My creative juices haven't been flowing very steadily lately. The Balta is still underway, and I'm nearing the end of the back yoke. Then I have the front yoke and the edging to finish. I was able to kind of try it on, and I think it will work! But I'll be a little nervous until it's actually done. Anyway, I'm hoping my sewing motivation comes back soon, so I can work on my stash a bit more. I'll have more time once we finish up school in a few weeks -- the move West set us back about a month, so we'll finish up at the end of June. I think we're all looking forward to a bit of a break!

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

June Yarn Along: Knit, knit, knit

I feel like I'm holding my breath with my Balta top. I'm doing everything wrong with this pattern! I'm using the wrong weight yarn (which I also don't have enough of), I'm "shortening" the pattern because I don't want it quite that long (and again, not enough yarn!), and I don't think my gauge is even correct. I'm hoping that three (or four?) wrongs make a right, and that this top surpasses my wildest expectations. Well, fine, I'll be satisfied if it fits! The fabric seems to be quite stretchy, so hopefully it will be forgiving.

I'm knitting it in the round, which means less seaming at the end and few purl rows (my least favorite part of stockinette!). It's been nice to have something so mindless; all I have to do is keep track of rows so I know when to decrease. But it's also been a bit tedious to just knit, knit, knit, and I'm very happy to have started the armholes and (at last!) the twisted rib and lace sections. I'm trying to actually read the chart this time, rather than just writing it out. 

I purchased this KnitPicks Lindy Chain years ago for a cropped cardigan, but the project was a bit ambitious for my skill level, and by the time I could have tackled it the cardigan didn't seem as appealing. I just noticed while opening a new skein of yarn that the colorway is "Sagebrush" -- a plant totally unfamiliar to me when I bought this yarn, but which is now a definitive feature of my current landscape! It was a happy little discovery, and made me feel that the timing is just right.

My current reads are Return to Gone Away and Knights in Training. The former is the sequel to Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright, written in the late 50's. It's honestly one of the most delightful children's books I've ever read, and Return to Gone Away is just as good thus far. I bought the sequel for Little Man and Rosa because they enjoyed Gone Away Lake so much, and Rosa proceeded to finish the entire book in one afternoon. It's taking me considerably longer than that, so apparently my six-year-old can already out-read me! I'm just remembering that I first found out about Gone Away Lake through Ginny's blog, so it's appropriate that it features here for Yarn Along!

Knights in Training, by Heather Haupt, is a book that's interested me for quite a while. As the younger of two daughters, any help in the "raising boys" department is much appreciated!

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along:

Friday, May 17, 2019

In This Valley

It's Spring in this valley that we now call home. Our little corner of the world is so beautiful, so unfamiliar to me. Before this move I'd spent all but three years of my life in the eastern United States, ranging from Key West, Florida, to Chester County, Pennsylvania. While there was some diversity in climate and landscape, this is entirely new. New animals, new birds, new vegetation, new climate -- even new elevation, at just over 4,000 feet above sea level!

I feel a bit out of my depth here, I'll admit. I'm not used to being quite so clueless about my surroundings. Our community relies on irrigation for farming, and they "turn on" the water in the Spring. I've never lived in a place where water is a seasonal commodity! There's a livestock sale building not far from us, and there are cows in every direction. And goats. So many goats. People still ride horses and rope cattle here, and "Ag" (agriculture) is an abbreviation I've quickly learned. It's a different way of life than I've been used to, and I'm eager to learn more while we're here.

Spring has brought an amazing transformation to the landscape, which was almost barren when we moved in January. Barren, but in a beautiful kind of way. I associate lack of foliage with drabness, but there was still so much color, even in the dead of winter. An unfamiliar palette, as so much here is unfamiliar. Now I miss the snow-caps on the mountains and the pale, leafless branches of the trees that I can't yet name. But I also love that the hills are purple now, that they change color as the sun shifts in the sky and the clouds form shadowy patterns on their flanks. And now that the silent winter calm has been replaced with bird song, I'll gladly wait a few months for those snow-caps to return.

Our back yard is entirely dirt and gravel -- in fact, landscaping with rocks is a bit of an art form here! It makes for easy maintenance, and our community center has a nice grassy patch when I'm craving some green. We do have a lovely little tree that's big enough to provide shade, and I like to park my folding camp chair under it and knit while Scout explores the yard. We've just put in two bird feeders, both seed and nectar variety, and within a few hours there were house finches and chickadees flocking to the feast. We've had a hummingbird visit several times now, too, so my avian joy is complete. Rosa was able to pet a chickadee the other day, lucky duck. Laddie also found a bird and brought it to me, but unfortunately his was deceased... cue thorough hand washing.

We've had to look up some of the other birds we've seen. I'm still startled every time I see quail scurry across the road, their little black head feathers bobbing up and down. I spotted a kingbird the other day, though I had no idea what it was -- and couldn't even see it clearly. I just snapped a photo with the zoom lens and identified it at home.

But far and away the most striking (and noisy) birds here are the yellow-headed blackbirds. They're quite stunning to look at, and I love to spot them down among the rushes in the ditch. Goodness, they can screech, though. Apparently we live in an Audubon "important bird area," so I hope to become familiar with many other species, too.

We're settling in to our new home, and the progress is encouraging. I am trying to minimize our belongings and figure out good ways to store the things we keep. It's been wonderful living in brand-new base housing, because I have no urges to "improve" the house itself. We can hang as many pictures as we want, so we'll be depending on wall art to personalize our home. It's lovely to be free of the desire to change things (which inevitably involves time and money), though I'm sure I'll be glad to have that opportunity again if we move back to Virginia after this tour.

But for now, we're here in this valley, and we plan to make ourselves at home.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Tea and Scandal

My second pair of "selfish" socks are officially done and I'm feeling pleased, indeed. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the Tea and Scandal pattern from This Homemade Life. I do like the lace pattern, but it was the Miss Marple association that really caught my eye, I'll admit! Toe-up was new for me, and I have to admit that I'd have preferred a wider toe. It's just about an inch wide at the tip, and I suspect it would look better with more initial stitches and fewer increases. Then again, I do have a very wide toe box.

Socks are still a mixture of mystery and magic for me. I don't know enough yet to make them work; I just cross my fingers (or my needles, perhaps?) and hope for the best. This pair was partly experimental, because I wanted to try Palette yarn for socks. It's inexpensive and comes in so many gorgeous colors, but I have my doubts about its durability. And considering the amount of time invested in a single pair, durability is an important factor! I've only worn them once, but they were quite comfy. No red flags so far, but one trial wear is hardly an adequate test. Hopefully they'll work; I refuse to buy superwash wool, and so many sock/fingering yarns are superwash.

I'm inclined to try a pair of Afterthought Heel socks, perhaps in child size since my growing littles are more in need of new socks than I am. The idea of just knitting a stockinette tube and adding the heel in later sounds pretty good to me!

Of course, I've finished these just as the weather has grown too warm to contemplate socks (classic me). But unless my feet undergo radical changes before Autumn, they'll be ready to keep my toes toasty when the temps come back down!

Raveled here.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Little Love

A dear friend from Virginia is getting ready to have her second baby. In other words, an excuse to sew and craft! I suppose I used a variety of materials for this gift -- leather, wood, linen, and silicone. 

I'd wanted to try making one of these balls for some time, and now I had the perfect opportunity. It's simply 12 pentagons stitched together. Construction gets a bit confusing, and it's a LOT of seaming -- but I love the result. The size of the pentagons will (obviously) determine the size of the ball, and I love that you can make it as big or as small as you want. I literally made a pentagon shape in Microsoft Word, copied it 11 times, and printed it out. 

My friend had pacifier leashes on her registry, so I dipped into my wood and silicone bead stash to make one:

I also included a Baby Believer board book (which I just discovered, and absolutely love!), and Gloria Furman's Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full (a favorite of mine when I'm in need of Biblical encouragement as a mom -- which is always).

A little handcrafted love to welcome this new, little God-crafted life!

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

May Yarn Along: Almost

I'll admit, I was disappointed when I realized that May was going to start on a Wednesday -- for no better reason than that I'd hoped to have a new project on the needles for this Yarn Along! I'm still on the Tea and Scandal socks that I was working on last month. Within a few days of my last post, I'd almost completed the socks. Then we went on vacation (and while I brought my yarn, I didn't touch my knitting the entire time!), and then my husband was on leave (cue long-neglected home projects). On the plus side, I think one more good knitting session will finish these up! The sock on the right only needs a bind off, and the other is about fourteen rows away. I'm hoping today might be the day? But then again, I've thought that all this week...

I've just started another Book Girl recommended read, A Landscape With Dragons (which I managed to find on Thriftbooks!). I'm barely into it yet, but so far I'm very pleased. I really like Michael O'Brien's writing style, and I think the content will be equally satisfying. I though I'd finished up my book on Puritan meditation, but I just realized I still have more to read! I need to finish that up before I get the urge to start another book -- I have quite a list at this point.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along:

Monday, April 29, 2019

A Traipse Through the Seasons

When the Navy summoned my husband to San Diego for a week (closing out a particularly busy season for him that we're all happy to say goodbye to!), I decided to take the littles on an impromptu road trip. After all, we'd traveled all the way from the Atlantic Ocean; why not finish off our cross-country travels by seeing the Pacific?

We set out the day after an unexpected (albeit brief) snow flurry, and after a tiring drive we arrived in Coronado. I've only been once before, almost ten years ago! That was shortly before our wedding, and it was strange to think of the contrast: then single, now married with four children by my side and two in God's care. But while much has changed for me, Coronado was just as beautiful as I remembered it. Balmy temperatures, sunny skies, and lush greenery -- it's easy to see why so many people consider this to be "paradise."

Pablo wasn't flying this bird, but it flew right overhead as the littles and I lingered on the sparkly sand:

Scout thoroughly enjoyed his time on the beach, and found a tangled piece of seaweed that he toted around for most of our jaunt. It took a little sleight of hand to finally part him from it when we were ready to leave!

We had to stop by the Hotel del Coronado, so I could show the kids (and Pablo, for that matter). Rosa was quite taken with the beautiful lobby, and the ice cream shop met with hearty approval!

The littles and I also explored Old Town San Diego, which was colorful and delicious and educational all at once.

Of course, I was most interested in the fibers in one of the museums:

The interiors were dark and cool, and so very peaceful.

We couldn't visit San Diego without going to the zoo! It was as busy as a Spring break Saturday could be, but it was our only opportunity and I'm glad we took it. There are many animals there that the littles have never seen -- so many, in fact, that we didn't even come close to seeing them all. I was delighted that the littles were able to see many of the animals we've studied in zoology this year. We also saw one of the giant pandas (Xiao Liwu), not even realizing that they were being shipped back to China at the end of the month.

Pablo snapped this shot of two "affectionate" Gerenuks, which I just love!

Little Man wanted to see gorillas (which we did), and Rosa wanted to see koalas. I was so excited to get a shot of one awake -- you can tell it's awake, because... well, no. It still looks like it's asleep. *wink*

With accommodations for two adults and four children both scarce and expensive, I looked further afield for our last night in San Diego and ended up booking a room in the very same Navy Inn in Point Loma that I stayed at with my family a decade ago. I wish we could have stayed more than one night -- the view incredible, and this was what we saw looking down from our balcony:

Not a bad setting for morning devotions! 

After church on Sunday, we had lunch at Cafe Madeleine (their North Park location) -- absolutely delightful, both in ambiance and flavor! There were even two musicians in the corner to serenade us during our meal. I had a beef Crepe Salees, and would gladly eat another. I wish we had a place like this just around the corner! 

We couldn't leave San Diego without stopping by La Jolla:

I'm not sure how I managed to exclude most of the sunbathing seals from this photo of the children's pool (which should really be renamed "Seal Pool," because there were no children and dozens of seals!), but you can spot of few of them on the right:

We did venture down to the water (though hampered by our "Sunday best"), and the children had so much fun exploring the rocks and tide pools that I wish we'd had more time there. 

 But it was time to be off, because our adventures were far from over -- having sampled a tantalizing taste of summer, it was time to visit a different season.

The foothills just west of Sequoia National Park are absolutely lovely! Spring has kissed the landscape here, and we passed dozens of citrus groves laden with fruit.

But as we wound our way up through the park, the temperature steadily dropped.

Snow was forecast for the next day, but there was already plenty of it on the ground high up in the Sierra Nevadas. It was quite the winter wonderland at 7,000 feet! We donned our winter gear and trekked (and by trekked I mean "slipped" -- it was quite icy) our way through magnificent groves of trees. The General Sherman tree was our ultimate destination; it's the largest tree (by mass) on the planet, and weighs over 4 millions pounds.

Such a majestic forest monarch! What a testament to the beauty and splendor of our Creator God.

Can you spot the cascade on the left in this photo? I'd brought along our Geography from A to Z book, which I purchased a few months ago but haven't really included in our school yet. Little Man found it in the book bag, and helpfully supplied is with the names for some of the water features we saw.

We drove through El Dorado National Forest on our way home, and feasted our eyes on even more mountain grandeur -- we only managed a few snapshots from a moving car as we wound our way through vista after vista, but we are determined to return one day and explore this corner of God's handiwork.

 And then, home again, where the weather can't decide between Spring and Summer, and chilly mornings give way to blazing afternoons. Our high desert landscape has grown suddenly green in the past few weeks, and we're enjoying chilly mornings before the summer heat finally sets in.

A week of leave for my husband has put our house (more) to rights, and now it's time to settle back into familiar routines and rhythms -- with a few more memories tucked away, and anticipation of more to come.