Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Crocheted Clapotis

Not a success. Not a failure. Somewhere in between. I ran out of handpainted silk yarn and didn't have a way to get any more from the indy seller. I tried to extend the length with fringe, but it only helps so much.

The drape and shine are perfect. I will try again.

I hope you all stay safe tonight. My brother killed himself and my ten month old niece in a drunk driving accident last New Year's Eve. Please don't drive drunk. Please. Somebody has to find your broken car and body. Somebody has to decide what to bury you in. Somebody has to pick out music to play for your grieving friends. Your family will sit in a funeral parlor crying themselves sick and smelling the embalming fluids from your casket.
Public Service Announcement over.
Happy New Year--cheers to hope.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Pretty Awesome, Considering...

We missed David. He plays a great supporting role at Christmas. He has batteries, wire cutters--all the tools required to bring toys to life. He picks up the wrapping paper and takes out trash. He compliments the food. Christmas isn't the same without him.

Faking holiday enthusiasm is a little like faking an orgasm, except that it goes on for months. My kids deserved a bit of joy, so I bucked up. We baked Jesus a birthday cake with a Montana theme, complete with coconut snow. (Okay, I thought I was buying barnyard animals at Michaels, but we made due with what I bought.) We used this recipe and you can't taste the Vegan at all. Isabel dipped all the animals' faces in the icing so they would have Santa Claus beards.
I bought a bunch of brown Lion Brand Wool from the clearance aisle at Walmart. (Don't be jealous of my extravagant military wife lifestyle.) I wasn't crazy about the color, so I dipped it in kettles of Jacquard Vermilion. It's more of a chocolate cherry color right now, but I am not super sure what I think about it. It's still drying. Maybe I'll dip it again. Maybe I'll keep messing with it until I ruin it.

Isabel named the Tiger and Liger I knit for her Edward and Bella. My teenage stepdaughter is obsessive and contagious. I've tried to explain to her that Twilight is a book series, not a lifestyle. She thinks that Harry Potter fans are dorks, but can't see people rolling their eyes when she natters on and on about teenage vampires in Washington. How old am I that I don't get caught up in magical books anymore? Old.

I hope you had a great holiday. I got a 24" Kromski Harp loom, but it's taking forever to get here. I also got a lot of coffee love gifts. My grandmother knit a cute little scarf for me. I got a beautiful mohair stole from a friend back in KC. I seriously need to take some pictures.
My kids need to go back to school. Soon. Seriously. Please.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Carrotcake Pancakes and a Gnome Home

I decided to treat the kids to a fun brunch on Sunday after church. These carrotcake pancakes were a hit. The kids insist that I make these for Daddy the morning after he comes home.

If you want to join in the deliciousness, here are my simple (lazy) directions: To your favorite pancake batter (you know I used a mix), add 1 cup finely grated carrots, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, and 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice.
I used this recipe for the icing, but I left out the margarine. I substituted 1/4 cup of grade B maple syrup for 1/2 cup of the sugar. Very pancakalicious.
I crocheted the Gnome Home for Isabel, but I didn't have anything to live in it yet. Then I got a wonderful surprise in the mail from CJ. She sent us one of her cute little rabbits. Isabel immediately claimed it, so Mr. Bunny will live in the Gnome Home. Thank you, CJ!
I used tapestry wool I found at a thrift store held triple stranded for the house and Mode Dea Dream for the grass. The roof is a bulky hand dye I had leftover. The flower is sock yarn remnants.
The mushrooms felted perfectly. I was sure the stems would turn pink. I saw a dye catching cloth at the commissary and decided to give it a try. It worked so well that I've decided I'm going to use one every time I felt something in the washer.
Isabel will probably never be as excited about handmade gifts as she is right now. I am determined to make her everything I can before she starts requesting brand name items for Christmas.
I am actually looking forward to Christmas now. We bake Jesus a birthday cake every year as our special family tradition. Yup, I'm a Jesus Freak. My kids see church service as one of the most fun and important parts of the holiday. We go to a pretty liberal and fun church, though.
I hope you have a great holiday no matter what you celebrate or how you celebrate. Even if this time of year is usually agony for you, I hope you find a bit of joy somewhere.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Attn: Naysayers

For those of you who didn't think I could knit vomit, I present my first Stashbusher Spiral Socks. After years of working in hospitals and clinics, I can honestly say that I've seen prettier vomit.

Holy crap, huh? In a strange way I really love them, though.
I also crocheted some thrummed slippers for my grandmother. I used my handspun Targhee two ply in worsted weight and roving remnants. I used a size F hook for a tight gauge. I wish I had shaped a heel instead of fudging my way without a pattern. This pair looks like a pair of kayaks, but my grandmother has long, skinny feet. I hope they fit okay.
You should try knitting or crocheting some thrummed slippers. It's like walking around with your feet in fluffy warm clouds.
I really want to crochet some thrummed mittens. I have been to four stores looking for the Winter 2008 Interweave Crochet, but I can't find it here. I guess I'll have to order online somewhere. Marly's pattern is genius.
Inside out and outside in.
These slippers are every bit as warm and comfy as they look. Now if I could just get my lazy self to the post office, life would be great.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas in Korea

, originally uploaded by dawalt71.

My husband went to the aquarium in Seoul. It's interesting to see how other cultures interpret Christmas.

Want to send a holiday greeting to David? His email is: dawalt71 {at} yahoo {dot} com. Send him an a quick email or a free Christmas ecard. He's all alone over there. I have three yelling kids to distract me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cheesy Mittens

It's cold in Montana. Cold. It finally warmed up to -16 F (-26 C).

If you have never experienced this kind of cold, it's intense. Walk out the front door and the artificial fibers in your coat freeze and make it crackle as you move. Take a deep breath and the air is so cold it burns like thick smoke in your chest. After you chip through the ice on the car door, you sit on the foam cushion of the driver's seat and it's stiff. You sit several inches taller. Turn on the car to warm the engine (plugged in all night to a block heater to prevent a frozen engine) and the CD player sounds satanic and warped and the cold machine attempts to play. By now your snot is freezing in your nose. Your lips feel like cracking. Your toes are numb. Your forehead stings like an ice cream headache inflicted from the outside.
My poor little girl endured my bundling this morning. I wrapped her in as many layers as she would tolerate. Still, she stood at the front door with tears in her eyes. She didn't want to go into the cold. She said that her mittens aren't warm enough and her hands hurt. I rubbed her hands, blew warm air on them, and tucked them into the pockets of her snowsuit. I hugged her and tried to give her as much of my warmth as I could. (She refuses to wear high-tech ski mittens. They are too crispy and her hands can't get any air. She's a pickly little thing.)

Cold is not an excuse to miss school here.

The thrums look like little hearts.

As soon as she walked out the front door, I cast on for these mittens. I finished the first one before I took a shower. Now she will have the warmest mittens I can give her. Isabel is excited to wear them tomorrow. She loves the thrums. She said they feel like pillows full of fluffy cheese (???) and she loves cheesy mittens.
Obligatory inside-out $$$ shot.
The pattern is my Tip Down Mittens with Gusset (see Patterns tab.) I used handspun remnants and tiny bits of roving too small to sell. The colors match her snowsuit. I used size 3 needles and only increased the palm to 32. They look huge on her, but the roving needs room to trap warm air.
No child of mine will fear the cold. Not allowed.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Touched by Human Hands

Look at what my baby made me in church today. It's a sheep! It's the prettiest, smartest, most perfect Christmas gift ever in the whole history of all time. Ever.

She made it with her beautiful little hands.

I sent out David's Christmas package last week. I knit him a bunch of stuff. The kids drew pictures. I foolishly fell in love with a shiatsu massage pillow in Bed, Bath, and Beyond and bought him one. (I broke off the pillow affair before Bed, Bath, and Beyond could file for a restraining order. Ooh, it's so nice.)

There is a little flap over the moving parts that adjusts the depth of the massage. Not one to leave well enough alone, I decided to put my touch on it. I didn't print out a font or anything. I wanted my own handwriting on it. It's 100% wool felt with cotton floss.
It's such a joy to give and receive gifts touched by human hands.
In response to Marissa from my last post... You're right, my husband is a gentleman. That's why I fell in love with him. David's kindness gave me faith in mankind that I didn't have until I met him. I guess "redneck" wasn't the right word. I should have said "hero." Thank God for heroes and gentlemen.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I accidentally felted a sweater. Sad. Very sad.

I reworked it with a zipper and cat patch into a jacket for my 5 year old. She wore it enough times to get dirty, then outgrew it.
I threw it into the washer again and felted it tighter.

I was going to make some more slippers like my pink (the handmade item I wear more than any other ever) ones, but decided to try something new. I shoved one of Izzy's shoes into the armpit of the sweater and traced it with a marker.

Then I traced her shoe flat for a sole.

I shoved one cut out sleeve into the other and traced it.
I flipped the sole over and traced. Then I cut everything out. I decided that the sleeves were too long (did not want gogo boots for house shoes) so I trimmed them a bit.

See how the arms make booties?
Then I dyed the pieces in my crockpot with some Jacquard dye.

I sewed the tops to the bottoms with dental floss and a silk ribbon embroidery needle. I used blanket stitch.

Now I have booties for Izzy. She likes them even though they are a bit big like "big lady shoes."

If I were to make another pair, I would nip in the ankles a bit with a dart.
It's below zero outside. There were 3 ft snowdrifts blocking our door this morning. Since I am stubborn and stupid, I did a half-assed job scraping my windows and I drove right into a snowbank in the middle of the street. (I would have seen if I'd defrosted the windshield properly.) I and spent an hour digging myself out of a snowbank with a windshield scraper.
In my infinite wisdom, I managed to leave the house in sneakers and a light jacket. I, an avid knitter and wool enthusiast, didn't have a hat or gloves or boots or a heavy coat on.
A man with the license plate "BIGDADY" saw me struggling and pulled my car out of the drift.
My friends gave me a lot of crap for marrying a redneck. Sure, I make fun of David for the belt buckle collection, obsessive NASCAR watching, and Larry the Cable Guy jokes, but a true redneck won't drive past a woman with no coat digging out her car with her bare hands. I know in my heart that my husband would do the same thing for anyone. Merry Christmas to all the "Big Daddy"s out there. You give me faith in humanity.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

(Food) Black Eyed Peas

I finally broke down and bought a new slow cooker. My old one was was contaminated with dye. I finally moved it downstairs to the laundry room so it won't be in the way. Now I can conduct my diabolical dyeing experiments in a basement, like a true evil mad scientist.

Now that I have a crockpot that's safe for human food preparation, I can cook more warm, stewy comfort foods. Seriously, this is way better than scented candles. My kids come home from school and sigh about how delicious the house smells.
Another effortless (lazy) meal...
1 lb (2 cups) dry black eye peas
2-3 quarts water
1/2 lb (1 cup) pearled barley or brown rice
1 package taco seasoning (read the label, many are vegetarian/vegan)

Put peas and water in the crockpot and cook on low all day. An hour or so before dinner, throw in the barley and taco seasoning. Turn cooker up to high until grains are cooked.
I served my peas with a green salad and pickles. (I grew up in Texas. I was taught that pickles are required with black eyed peas. And BBQ, burgers, holiday meals, baby showers, etc.)

I took out half of the mixture and put it in the freezer to make Southwestern Burgers next week.
The tree is up! The kids had a good time fighting over the ornaments.

Scrapbooking for Ghetto Mamas

If you have a photo book sitting around and a bunch of children's homework, you have a scrapbook waiting to happen.

My husband and I have been trying to pawn off this album forever. Seriously, who prints out their vacation pictures in 5x7? I would be willing to bet money that this thing has been regifted at least 3 times.

Here is my lazy little idea.

I put Isabel's school portrait in the front. Then I cut her homework into 5x7 pieces, making sure to catch good grades, her name, the cutest bit... A guillotine type cutter makes this easy work, but scissors are fine. Then Isabel stuffed the pages into the plastic pockets. I'll write a letter for the last pocket for her to read when she gets older.

The good handwriting gene is absent in my family.
It's an easy treasure.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

(Food) Gingercakes

I am going to start marking my food posts so those of you who aren't interested can skip them.

We didn't go to church today because 9 minutes before it started, Isabel still hadn't gotten dressed or brushed her teeth. I know I'll feel guilty for not going, so I decided to actually do something Christmas-y and quit being such a Grinch.

Izzy and I have been busy making Ysolda's Gingerbread Cupcakes. My modifications to the recipe were that we used fresh ginger instead of powdered, added 1/2 tablespoon of orange zest. We also used leftover soy nog as a milk substitute. We use fake eggs--the substitute I buy is easy to use and eliminates a lot of fat and cholesterol. Plus you can let your kids lick the bowl without as much worry about foodborne illness.
Ysolda's recipe was delicious and easy. My 5 year old was easily able to stir the loose batter. I totally recommend it as a winter treat.

Here is my icing recipe. My teenage stepdaughter loves this stuff. (Loves! It!) She thinks it tastes a little like cream cheese frosting.

Creamy Icing:

2 Tablespoons fine nutritional yeast flakes
2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons apricot preserves
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Splash of soymilk (scant Tablespoon?)

Mix first 4 ingredients together. Add a few drops of soymoo at a time until the right consistency for you.

As you can see, I am not a food stylist. I'd rather have a great time with my kids than worry about how something looks. All three kids inhaled these.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Slinky Crochet

I am still on a quest to crochet a Clapotis-inspired shawl. I made yesterday's scarf as a practice swatch and have started working in laceweight silk now. I will post directions for the Crochet-o-tee later.

These gray-green photos are of the shawl. The silk is luscious to work with. The drape is amazing. The chain sections make a kinetic fabric that biases and twists. It's really fun and will be very wearable.

The scarf was inspired by this Finnish pattern. English directions aren't available, so I went rogue. I didn't want tassels or wide chain sections because I have a tendency to snag my scarves on just about everything.

Here are my modified English directions, with all props going to Ulla Magazine. Their copyright page allows me to post translations as long as I don't charge you for them.
Yarn: Cascade Venezia Worsted, 2 skeins (436 yards)
Hook: US Size F
Worked sideways.
Chain 236.

Set up row: Skip first 2 ch, dc 9, *skip 5 ch, chain 5, dc 10* Repeat between ** to end.
All other rows: Ch 2 (counts as first dc) dc9, *skip 5 ch, chain 5, dc 10* Repeat between ** to end.

My finished scarf was 20 rows wide, counting the original base chain. I blocked it out to 8 inches wide.

The last dc in each row is worked in the turning chain. I add this because nobody told me when I first started crocheting.

Block the finished garment like you mean it. The drape only intensifies.
I also whipped up a Lacy Girly Fancy Hat. The yarn was rescued from a failed sweater and it took 8 separate pieces to make this silly thing. A smarter person would have thrown the yarn away, but I've never bragged about being too smart. It still needs to be washed and blocked, but I like it. I left out the eyelets and ribbon. It took me 3 hours, including considerable time spent weaving in ends.
This is a gift for someone who wears this color all the time.