Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Behind in Blogging, Ahead on Knitting

I have been a bit behind in blogging lately.  Can you blame me?  As the holidays approach, not only do I have to contend with the usual holiday preparations, but I had a gift list of knitting to tackle.  As of two nights ago, I am officially done with knitting gifts.  Yes, one more pair of socks needs to be blocked, but that is all!

It's a good feeling of relief to know that I finished with plenty of time to ship my gifts out.  The next question is, will I get them shipped on time?  As many of you  know, getting to the post office with a preschooler and a toddler can really be a challenge.  In fact, just yesterday I found a package in my car that I would have sworn had shipped the week before! 

Other winter-related news includes:

seeing our first bald eagles of the season over the WI river
Surviving a 10" blizzard with style
cooking and eating our first 3 venison meals
wrapping Christmas gifts with the preschooler
taking both children Christmas shopping separately so they could buy gifts for each other
writing Christmas lists

The Christmas list writing was especially entertaining.  I spelled words out and A wrote them down.  She was so proud of herself!  I will have to post pics of them later.  I think Santa and family will be able to find at least one item from each list.  However, I do think the "electric car" may be a bit beyond our means this year.  Oh, and no new baby sisters, either.  Sorry, girls!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

This Week's Ramblings

I was gifted with some unexpected personal time last night.  Thank you, hubby!  On a whim, I decided to spend my hour at one of the bookstore/coffee house establishments that seem to be everywhere these days.  Well, okay, everywhere big enough to merit a Walmart, which meant that I was in town, not at home in the country. 

Regardless, I was sitting there in the knitting section practically salivating at seeing so many lovely knitting books in one place trying to decide if any of the books they had needed to come home with me.  A number of the stitch dictionaries on the shelf are in my Amazon cart but without seeing them in person, I refused to press the "confirm order" button.  After looking at several of these books in person, I think I'm justified in saying that I won't buy a craft or cooking book ever again without seeing it in person first.

I absolutely love the new wave of artistry being put into craft books these days.  I love the crisp, clear, full-color photos that are actually big enough to allow you to see all of the details.  I appreciate that the editors are making a real effort to make the books not only informative but also pleasing to the eye. 

HOWEVER, I deplore a craft book that chooses artistry of the book over usability of the information contained therein.  Mistake #1 of today's craft book publishers is to format the book with a standard paperback spine.  Any how-to book that is intended to be referenced while one's hands are full with a project MUST be spiral bound or in flashcard format.  The book needs to stay open to the correct page while you work or else it will be useless to the crafter.  Who wants to knit five stitches, put down her knitting, open the book, find the page, read and memorize the next five stitches, put down the book, pick up her knitting, and knit again?  Especially if she knows she'll have to go through the whole process again in 20 seconds!  So, to sum up,  publishers?  Take a hint.  Print your craft books with spiral bindings.

Mistake #2 is something that I think has been becoming more common over the past 10 years.  Making the pictures bigger and putting less info on a page is a great idea.  But please, please, PLEASE, make sure the info is still usable.  I'm finding more and more books where the publisher's main goal seems to be creating an attractive book at the detriment of the info inside.  To illustrate my point, one of the stitch dictionaries I saw last night ALMOST made it into my shopping basket... until I noticed that the publisher had chosen to present the instructions in a format that was nearly impossible to follow.  Which set of instructions below do you find easy to use while knitting?

Set A:
cast on:
co 38 with the long-tail method.

ankle:
R1: sl1, P6, sl1, P to end
R2: sl1 K6 sl1 (K1, sl1) until there are 7 stitches left, k7
Repeat R1-2 until 12 rounds total.

heel:
Place first 7 and last 7 stitches on holders.
continue heel piece in (sl1, K1) pattern as above until a total of 15 rounds or 30 rows have been knit.  

turn heel:
Turn heel (P14, P2tog, P1, turn, ETC.) until 14 stitches remain.  For a quick tutorial on how to do this, look here.  Since this is a standard technique, I didn't write it all out.  What can I say?  I'm lazy sometimes.


Set B:
cast on: co 38 with the long-tail method. ankle: R1: sl1, P6, sl1, P to end, R2: sl1 K6 sl1 (K1, sl1) until there are 7 stitches left, k7.  Repeat R1-2 until 12 rounds total. heel: Place first 7 and last 7 stitches on holders. continue heel piece in (sl1, K1) pattern as above until a total of 15 rounds or 30 rows have been knit. turn heel: Turn heel (P14, P2tog, P1, turn, ETC.) until 14 stitches remain.  For a quick tutorial on how to do this, look here.  Since this is a standard technique, I didn't write it all out.  What can I say?  I'm lazy sometimes.

Both sets have the same exact information but I find the first format much easier to follow and work from.   The only advantage to Set B is that it takes up less space on the page.  If you're trying to fit more patterns on a page, then I understand that choice, but when the page has more blank space than writing or pictures on it, there's no need to compress the instructions!  In this case, the publisher was trying to make his book look pretty at a casual glance. 

I was truly disappointed in this particular book.  I loved the stitches they chose to include.  I loved the pictures of the stitches.  They were so crisp, so clear, and all done on off-white yarn.  It was truly beautiful, but in the end, it was too beautiful.  It looked great but would be a nightmare to work from, as the publisher not only compressed the written instructions but also chose to eliminate all of the charts.  I understand that there are fewer and fewer knitters out there who prefer charts to written instructions, but as a knitter who prefers to knit in the round, charts are really handy and eliminated the need to retrofit all of the wrong side row instructions both in stitch type and stitch order.

I suppose that I may eventually break down and purchase a craft book that is poorly formatted if the information inside it is worthwhile, but I'd really like to see publishers educated as to what their customers really want.  There are a few publishers out there that get it right. I have seen stitch dictionaries in flash card format or spiral bound.  I take heart in the knowledge that it can and is being done by a few select publishers.  Maybe, just maybe, the others will figure it out evenutally.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Sweater Pattern

A few weeks ago I wrote about working on a sweater pattern.  Since then, I have completed the first draft and done a few edits based on preliminary comments from my testers.  There are still 3 people who are working on their testers who need to give me feedback before I finalize it.

I have to say, I feel remarkably good about this project.  It's been a lot of work, but the satisfaction at seeing it take place has been great.  It has been every bit as difficult as I thought it would be in some ways and in others, it's been much easier than I hoped it would be.  The two biggest challenges, beyond dealing with a dinosaur of a computer, have been doing the math to create the different sizes and figuring out how to turn a Word document into a PDF.  I'm proud to say that neither challenge stumped me.  Yay!

I am looking forward to getting the last comments from my testers and finishing up a final draft of the pattern.  I can't wait to see it out there on Ravelry for people to dowload!  The next question becomes, do I sell it or give it away for free?

In other knitting news, I have about 5 projects on the needles right now.  That's a record for me.  I have total Knitter's ADD this week.  Seriously!  I'm working on:
  • A's tube socks
  • M's mittens
  • MIL's Christmas gift
  • FIL1's Christmas gift
  • step-father's Christmas gift
  • my own sweater
  • extended legs on capris
I also need to finish writing up my pattern for the pumpkin seed hat and do another sweater from my pattern to test the largest size.  No one else seems interested in testing that size.  It's a good thing that size will fit A so my knitting won't be all for nothing.

Here are a few pictures:








Yep.  Doesn't look too exciting, does it?  I think that's why I have knitter's ADD.  None of my projects is really all that interesting.  Most are actually the sort I usually stuff in my purse for days when I know I"m going to be riding the bus or waiting in line somewhere.  Sigh.  Maybe I need a little excitement!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Knitting Stitch Encyclopedia

BKW, please forgive me, but I may have just found a new best friend in the realm of knitting stitch encyclopedia. 
I just found an online stitch encyclopedia that sorts stitches both alphabetically and by stitch number.

It will never be as portable as my paper copies of BKW's Knitting Stitch Encyclopedias, but for a fast search of what stitches will fit my project, I may turn to my new online friend!

Well, here it is!

The one drawback to the online version is that it does not organize stitches into useful categories such as knit/purl, cables, ribbing, textures, YOs, lace, etc.  For that, BKW, you will always be my best love!!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Toddler's Dictionary, version 2

Some of M's favorite words:

Maa = banana

Yehyah = shoes, socks

oh-oh = oatmeal, yogurt

oo-oo = oscar the grouch

myah = cat

Emma = Elmo

baba = Papa, bottle, baby, goodbye

mmmmm  = moon, smoothie, cow

bwwoooo = spoon

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Gifts

These are horrible pictures, but I recently knit this shawl and delivered it to my mother-in-law as a gift.

I also worked up this baby sweater as a gift for a friend's grandson.
And finally, finished up this hat as a gift to my youngest.


The Crocs Socks


Here's a little pattern I worked up last weekend.  I don't know if my notes are clear enough for someone else to follow.  If you knit this, please feel free to send me comments either here or on Ravelry.com.  I'd love to hear what you think.  I plan to add pictures as soon as I can.

These socks fit an average woman's foot.  You could use DK weight and decrease your spi to make them fit men.

Materials:
I used one 2oz ball of fingering/sock weight yarn and size 2 needles, both 9" circ and DPNs.
Also needed: stitch markers, stitch holders or spare DPNs to use as holders, tapestry needle.

gauge: 
7 stitches per inch in stockinette stitch

cast on:
co 38 with the long-tail method.
ankle:
R1: sl1, P6, sl1, P to end
R2: sl1 K6 sl1 (K1, sl1) until there are 7 stitches left, k7
Repeat R1-2 until 12 rounds total.

heel:
Place first 7 and last 7 stitches on holders.
continue heel piece in (sl1, K1) pattern as above until a total of 15 rounds or 30 rows have been knit.

turn heel:
Turn heel (P14, P2tog, P1, turn, ETC.) until 14 stitches remain.  For a quick tutorial on how to do this, look here.  Since this is a standard technique, I didn't write it all out.  What can I say?  I'm lazy sometimes.

constructing the arch section:
R1: pick up+ 9 stitches along side of heel flap, K1 stitch off holding needle, slip previous stitch over this stitch knitted off the holder (the last stitch picked up on side of heel.) turn.
R2: sl1, P to top edge of heel flap (9+14 stitches) pick up 9 stitches along other side of heel. K1 stitch from holding needle, slip previous stitch over as before.
R3: sl1, K to 1 st before holding needle, sl1, K1 from holder, psso. turn.
R4: sl1, P to 1 st before holdling needle, sl1, P1 from holder, Psso. Turn.
Repeat R3 and R4 until all but one stitch has been removed from holder.
complete R3 again but instead of turning, pick up 6 stitches along the edge of the ankle piece knit with the initial 12 rows. turn.
(K1, P1) 3 times, P to last stitch on needle and complete this row as R4 above. DO NOT TURN. Pick up 6 stitches along the edge of the ankle piece, turn.
(K1, P1) 3 times. K to last 6 stitches, (p1, K1) 3 times. CO 13 stitches and join in the round with ribbed section on opposite side of the ankle, placing a round marker.
 
Working in the round:
R1: (K1, P1) 3 times, K to ribbing, (P1,K1) three times, continue ribbing pattern across to end of round.
R2: (K1, P1) 3 times, place marker, K1, ssk, K to 3 stitches before ribbing begins, K2tog, K1, place marker, (P1,K1) ribbing to end of round.
Repeat R1-R3 until 49 stitches remain in total.  Yes, 49.  You cast on 13 stitches across the top of the foot to keep in K1P1 pattern so it's uneven.  Now you'll remove the asymmetry by K2tog once at the center of the bottom of the foot, roughly 12 stitches from the ribbing section.
Continue in pattern until sock measures 2” less than desired length.

Toe decreases:
one row of K and then decrease as standard and kitchener graft to seam up.
If you don't know how to do this, read on!

You will want to switch to your DPNs now.  Place a marker  on either side of the ribbing.  Now remember, you have 25 stitches in ribbing pattern and 23 stitches in stockinette.  You'll want to place your markers just slightly off so that you have 24 st between each marker.  Designate one of these markers the round marker.

R1: K
R2: K1, ssk, K to 3 stitches before marker, K2tog, K1, sm, ssk, K to 3 stitches before marker, K2tog, K1.
R3: K

Repeate R2-3 until 8 stitches remain between each marker, a total of 16 stitches in total.

Use a kitchener graft to close up the toe.

DONE!

The story behind this pattern is this:  My family and I were perusing a local yarn shop a few weeks ago just for fun and my husband saw a pattern for socks similar to the above.  He said, "You should make some of those for yourself!"  I wasn't sure if I'd like them or not so I didn't want to spend the money on the pattern.

Fast forward to this past weekend when we were on a road trip.  I had packed a sock project to work on and thought that was all I'd need.  Lo and behold, my husband decided he didn't want me to use the yarn I had with me to make a gift for someone else ("It's too nice, you should make yourself something with it."  See?  He's always looking out for me because he knows I don't make much for myself.) So suddenly I had a 10 hour car trip and no busy work!  We stopped at Hobby Lobby and picked up a ball of sock yarn and I decided I'd take a stab at something like the sock pattern we'd looked at a few weeks prior.

The pattern above is the result.  I wasn't sure I'd like them still, even when I had them done!  Until I wore them with my crocks.  LOVE!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Working Out a Pattern

I've taken it upon myself to write my next pattern in multiple sizes.  I wasn't intending to.  Really, I'm far too busy to want to challenge myself in that way.  But then it just happened.  I thought I was working on a size 18-24mos sweater pattern and suddenly the resulting sweaters were snug on my size 18 mos child.  What?  How does this happen?  Did she grow?  No, she's still a size 18 mos.  Alas, the sweater is simply snug.

So here I am, frantically recalculating cast on stitches, landmark stitch counts, and final measurements.  Phew, math done, I feel really good about offering this next pattern in multiple sizes from12 mos to3T.  Oh, but wait, after blocking one of my original pattern sweaters, it GREW!  A lot.  So I guess that sweater really was sized 18-24 mos. 

Ha!  The joke's on me!  And yet in the end, I really can't be upset because I got a multi-sized pattern out of that one small error in planning.  I also realized that doing the calculations for each alternative size really isn't as scary as I had believed.  Yes, I still need testers to knit from the pattern and tell me if it fits their children, but now I have more to offer and a better feeling that people will be getting their $5 worth when they buy my pattern.

For the sneak peek, the following sweater designs will be included in the pattern, along with a lot of ideas for customizing it with additional stitch patterns and small details:

 
I'd be interested in a few more test-knitters, so if there's anyone out there who'd like to be involved, please leave a comment including where to reach you.  Alternatively, contact me via ravelry.  Look up Maggie's Flower Tunic and send a message to me from there.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

And Just In Case You Weren't Bored by My Knitting Projects...

here are some more...  First is a pink sweater.  A REALLY pink sweater.  The yarn was payment for some knitting I did as part of an organized swap.  I didn't have a say in the yarn or I probably would have asked for something less, well, less pink.  In the end, it was kind of nice to have a yarn I wasn't too attached to for this project as it was a completely new pattern that I was working up as I went along. Unfortunately, it turned out cute and I will never get to use it on M because it is just WAY too shockingly pink on her.  The photograph makes it look like a nice warm hot pink but it's a bit harsher in reality.

Next up are a pair of mittens for M that go with the knitted helmets I made for each girl for this winter.  I guess I never showed off the hats, either, so here they are.  I have plans to make A a pair of matching mittens, too.















And a few that are finally finished:

First up is the Koolaid sweater.  It needed work on the neckline, so I added 1x1 ribbing to make it fit better.

Next up is the longies I knit with Malabrigo Twist in the terron color.  I think they turned out nice but I don't love them.  In fact, I have yet to block and lanolize them.  I doubt M will wear them more than once or twice.  They just aren't the right color.  I wanted dark choclate, not burned grape. I think I'm going to have to open up an online shop just to offload the items that I finish but don't like... even if it's just to payback my yarn investment!

Currently on the knitting needles is a sock.  I have 8oz of sock yarn in 2oz cakes, each hand-dyed a different color.  Each sock is using about 1.5oz, so I anticipate about 5 socks will come out of it, each mis-matched to all of the others.  I'm using the same knitting pattern for each and heel and toe blocks of each will be done with one of the other colors.  I'll post pics when I finish.

I also intend to release my two sweater patterns (the koolaid and the pink) soon if I can get someone to test knit for me.  Any takers?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Little Bit More Knitting

Here is a finished project from a recent Yarn For Woolies Swap I participated in.  It's a size small longies and hat set done in Purewool's Aqua y Crudo.



Also in the knitting bag is this set of longies, knit from Malabrigo Twist (Terron color):
 I think they turned out just fine but they aren't what I wanted by a long shot.  I wanted deep chocolate brown, not brown with lilac in it.  I also wanted a celtic knot cable but that just looked awful when I tried it.  Sigh.  Now if only I could sell these and get some money for new yarn...


And finally, another finished project.  This was a test run of my Maggie's Flower Tunic pattern with a number of modifications.  I used half-linen stitch instead of eyelet and carried it throughout the body.  At the sleeves I did put the stitches on my DPNs and picked up stitches under the armpit.  I knit another inch or so, in pattern, and then bound off with a crochet scallop.  Oh, and the body is hemmed with a band of butterfly stitch.


On my upcoming projects list:

sweater for myself
2 xmas gifts
hat for A
mittens and hat for M
mittens for me
socks for me
testing my Lofty Charlotte pattern (I have GOT to come up with a better name!)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Matching Hat

Here is the hat I knit to match the Kissy-Fish longies.  It's Small Mama, Sweet Sugar's pattern, found here.  The first time I knit it, it was the wrong size.  Luckily, it's a quick knit so it wasn't hard to redo it.  I always run into size issues with patterns as I tend to be a loose knitter.  Generally, dropping needle sizes 1-2 steps corrects this, but not this time!  I think I'll miss this hat when I ship it to its owner.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Knock This One Off My To-do List!

I finished the first pair of my two Yarn For Woolies swap projects.  Yay!  I'm super pleased with how they worked out.  Everyone likes them, including the mama who will receive them.  What's best, though, is that even though I made a mistake in the cable, the mistake didn't ruin them.  In fact, it spurred a whole slew of ideas for future projects.  I love a happy accident!

I am now working on a matching hat to go with them.  Non-cabled this time as I'm not sure how much time I have to finish it before my next yarn shipment arrives! 

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Knitting Binge Continues

I've been on a knitting binge since the end of June. I've completed 4 pairs of longies, 3 sweaters, a hat, and a pair of socks. I have all of the completed garments sitting in my china hutch and every time I walk by, it amazes me. My knitting speed has increased exponentially. Once upon a time, it took me nearly a month to complete one pair of very simple longies. Now, it's less than a week, and that's with cables and alternating skeins. I am kind of shocked. I always wanted to be as fast as the little old ladies I would see in the airport, fingers flying as they knitted their layovers away. I think I might be catching up to them!

It's a very good thing that my speed has picked up. I have a very full project list and several of the garments have to be finished in a very short time frame. Tomorrow evening I will start the first "yarn for woolies" swap longies that are due September 30th. Next week I will start the second pair for the same swap, also due September 30th. The week after that, I hope to start a knitted dress that I volunteered to be a pattern-tester for. The dress is due by late September or early October as well.

Next up on the list is a re-knit of my Koolaid Upchuck sweater, which definitely needs a new name. Maybe I should call it, "Arise, Charles!" Maybe that will help me stop seeing the image of spaghettios and blue moon ice cream after it has returned from a vacation in the gastric tract of a 3 year old. It's not a picture I relish. I'm reknitting the sweater to test my written pattern. If someone else out there would also like to test it, please let me know. I"ll forward you the current draft. It's another sweater that with just a bit of lengthening in the torso and arms would fit the 18 mos to 5T range.

Also on my list is a sweater for myself. I've never knit myself a sweater. Socks and a hat, yes, but not a sweater. I'd like to. I even have the yarn and the pattern in my hot little hands. But alas, other projects take precidence.

The next item on my list is a set of wool socks for myself again. I have 4 balls of yarn, all the same weight and brand, but all different hand-dyed colors. The idea is that I will use the same basic pattern to knit four socks (probably 5 with the fifth being a scrappy sock) and mix and match them. Since I only wear my wool socks at home in the winter and hate the boredom of knitting a second identical sock, this idea seems brilliant to me. Plus, the first pair of socks I knit this summer is also the same yarn, so really, I'll have 7 socks to intermingle.

My daughter has been begging me for a knit stuffed animal as well and I have a ton of toy patterns in my queue. I'd love to get one done for her by the holidays. It would be a perfect stocking stuffer.

Oh, yes, and lets not forget the stockings I wanted to knit last year... and this year as well, apparently.

And finally, on the needles right this moment is a test of the Maggie's Flower Tunic pattern with a few design modifications just for giggles. I'm finding a few errors in my posted pattern, but I am up to date in correcting the posted pattern. If I've found the error in this test knit, I've corrected the online pattern. Rest assured, the errors were small, indeed. I mislabeled which color yarn to use in a few places, which the knitter could figure out on her own just by looking at the pictures, and there was one place where I directed a K2 when there was only one stitch left in the row. A simple fix.

I'm starting to think that I have too much going on. Perhaps I should take a knitting vacation after my September 30th deadlines. Errr.... after I finish proofing Arise, Charles! and Maggie's Flower.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Chameleon Sweater

One of the cloth diapering/parenting forums I frequent online has a very healthy community of crafters and artists on it. While on my most recent knitting binge I came across the forum where the group of knitting parents hangs out. Hooray! I have a new place to hang out that won't disappear when M potty-trains later this year! What a relief!

This particular group of parents is a great group for a number of reasons. They have a daily chat thread where people can post what they're working on and throw out any questions they may have. Some people need advice on pattern reading, some need help with a design option, some need help with yardage and other supply issues. It's a great place to get immediate replies to your knitting questions.
It's also a great place to simply chatter about your life. We don't stay on topic always and there's always someone around to lend an ear or a shoulder. It's like having a local yarn shop and a mommy's group all in one place.

This month, the group is running a sweater knit-along. The basic premise is that anyone intersted in playing picks out a sweater pattern and knits it. There are two patterns that are recommended for the knit-along, but any sweater is welcome. I think they like to pick a couple of patterns to spotlight in order to increase the chances that questions about said patterns can be answered quickly. If we all get confused at the same point in the pattern, one of us is likely to figure it out and help the others. It's a great resource.
This month's feature patterns are:

The Sleuthing Hoodie
Ridinghood Sweater

I have always been a fan of the Ridinghood Sweater, but just don't have enough DK weight yarn on-hand to knit one up. SO, I decided that I will knit a Sleuthing Hoodie.

Originally, I was going to knit for M and chose the 18mos-24mos size. After knitting 11" down the body, however, I realized that it was big enough for A! Since I was using scrap yarn and the colors are actually better suited to the blonde than the redhead, I quickly switched gears and am now knitting the 5T size. Wowsa, that's a lot of knitting.
Here is an early "work in progress" picture from the sweater. As of this morning, the body is complete and one arm is 2" from completion.

I plan to do a pink hood with brown trim and brown pockets with pink trim... or maybe a brown hood with pink trim. It's hard to decide! Instead of one kangaroo pocket in front I will do two pockets that open from the top. I'm considering putting owl cables on the pockets or perhaps a cable and bobble flower. I can't wait to see the finished sweater.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Learning to Love Flat Diapers


I recently was forced to make drastic changes to our cloth diaper stash. I'll be the first to admit that I'm always up for trying new diapers, but this time, I was forced into using a diaper that I had tried time and time again with both of my girls and never found any love for. The Flat Fold Diaper.

Traditionally, flat diapers were made of cotton birdseye or cotton gauze. In fact, when I was expecting my first child, my mother gifted me with 2 dozen gauze half-flats from my own childhood. I was excited by this gift because half of the reason I wanted to use cloth diapers was because it was the "traditional" way to do things. If it worked for Mom and Grandma, why shouldn't it work for me?

Well, my firstborn turned out to be a heavy wetter. And I do mean heavy. I could not get the gauzy cotton flats to hold enough pee or create a tight enough seal to keep the pee in if I doulbed them up. So I used them for burprags. They made great burp rags.

For my second child, I was inspired to try flats again when she was tiny when I learned about the origami fold. I love origami and thought that maybe that fold would work better than what I had been trying with my older child. Also, my second baby was NOT a heavy wetter so I had better chances of loving them. In the end, I did not. Using traditional birdseye flats, the origami fold was too small for her waist and using flannel receiving blankets with the origami fold created diapers that were not only too big but too absorbant and bulky. I just couldn't find a happy medium.

Flash forward to a few months after our move into the new house. A new house means a new washer and dryer and a new water supply. All of those things, means a new washing routine. I struggled to find a washing routine that would conquer the stinkies in my daughter's diapers. It seemed like I could go only about a week before I had to do something drastic like stripping them or using bleach on them. I wasn't willing to do that many intensive washes. It was making cloth diapering much less appealing!

While searching for more hints on handling the stinkies, I came across a thread on my diapering forum extolling the virtues of flat diapers. Again, I thought, it's too bad I don't like flats because they would be easy to keep clean. One single layer of fabric would come clean for sure, no matter what my washing routine was! But I remembered hating flats. Ugh.

As I read through the thread, I noticed that a lot of mamas were using a folding pattern that hadn't been publicized when I had last tried flats. After looking at it and trying it out on the flat diapers I had at home, I realized that I just might like it enough to try flats again. So, out came the receiving blankets. Out came the flat diapers. Out came the pins.

And wouldn't you know, after only one small modification to that RoPo fold, I was loving the flat diapers on my younger daughter. Seriously, I love the act of folding them. I love the sense of tradition in using flat diapers and pins. I love the fact that laundry is a breeze. The stinkies are gone and flat diapers dry in a single cycle of the dryer, unlike other diapers which can take up to 2 hours in the dryer plus overnight hanging to dry.

The added bonus to using flannel receiving blankets as flat diapers is all the fun color that shows up in your stash! I have been picking up blankets at garage sales and resale shops all summer long and am really enjoying the different colors and prints. Since I"m buying used, a lot of my blankets are available in colors and styles that I couldn't find in the store today.

As I've added new blankets to my stash, I have come to have a great appreciatioan for the art of gender-neutral prints. There was once a great need for gender-neutral blankets as no one knew whether they'd have a baby girl or a baby boy. The prints in these older blankets are by far my favorites as they are so carefully drawn and have some truly great color schemes in them. Take a peek at some of my favorites!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Yarn and Its Story


IMG_4196
Originally uploaded by LittlePoopie
Please forgive the format of this story. I decided to write from Flickr rather than Blogger and am regretting it big time. To see the entire story on this piece of handywork, please scroll down several entries, then read upwards to here. Thanks!

The Yarn


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Originally uploaded by LittlePoopie
Oh, Baby! Now we're talking! I like this yarn a LOT more now!

The Yarn


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Originally uploaded by LittlePoopie
Balled and skeined, it looked a little bit better, but I wasn't convinced yet.

The Yarn


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Originally uploaded by LittlePoopie
Fresh out of the crock pot, this is what it looked like.

Kettle-dying Wool Yarn with Koolaid


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Originally uploaded by LittlePoopie
I am LOVING this yarn. Really, how can I resist loving the play of colors on this swatch?

Amazingly enough, I hated it when I first finished dying it. I was highly disappointed and felt that I had ruined $15 worth of yarn. It looks marginally like my mental image of what I wanted, but it wasn't close enough and I felt bad. I had been saving this yarn for a year, waiting for just the right project and felt that I had failed myself.

Let me back up a bit. I was talking with a friend about some custom knitting that she was having done. She is getting a very good deal on the work and I was contemplating sending some yarn to the same knitter. I thought I would dye some natural wool yarn that I had and send it in, but in the end I realized that any hand-dyed yarn would need to be knit with alternating skeins and I wasn't convinced that the knitter in question was experienced enough to do so in a manner that would satisfy MIss Perfect.

Nevertheless, I was stuck on the idea of dying some yarn. I came across the following tutorial and fell in love with the yarn that the author had produced.

I wanted that yarn. I checked my Koolaid stash. I had almost exactly the same colors that she used!!! I made a few substitutions and viola.

I hated the yarn.

I thought it looked muddy and orange and yucky. So I put it back into the crock pot and added blue and purple Koolaid to every light spot and I also added black cherry to some of the larger orange patches in hopes of toning it down a little.

I still wasn't satisfied with it, but figured I'd wind it into a cake and see if I liked it any better. I did like it better.

But it wasn't until I started knitting a sweater for M that I decided that I really REALLY like this yarn. I would absolutely do this project again and maybe pick a few different colors or perhaps just mix the ratios differently the next time.

Kettle dying wool yarn with Koolaid is fun. It's easy. It's satisfying in a way that traditional variegation dying isn't. It's unpredictable and that is the true joy in it.

Tonight, I plan to start another dying job with my older daughter, A. She has picked out a large assortment of pink Koolaid and Klaas packets to use. And a single blue one to spot in for a few purple flecks. I can hardly wait!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Kind of Garage Sale I Hate

Yes, in fact there are garage sales that I hate. In case you're thinking that the garage sales in question are the ones with only "old people stuff," you'd be wrong.

Oh no, there is something much worse than a sale full of mildewed furniture from the 60s.

There is something worse than the sale that consists of one card table with 20 items on it.

Yes, there is even something worse than the sale that reads as fantastic in the online ad but turns out to be nothing near as it was described.

That would be the sale full of items you'd love to buy but won't because the people running it aren't garage salers themselves. Now, I don't mean to sound prejudiced. I'm really all for people trying something new and definitely behind the concept of making some money off of your off-cast belongings. The problem lies in pricing. If you don't frequent garage sales yourself, you can't price them correctly. Additionally, if you only go garage saling in the rich neighborhoods, you'll learn the prices that are fetched there, not the prices that are appropriate for your own neighborhood.

Let's take for example, the garage sale I found today. I live in a fairly rural area. Our town has 3000 people and the prices at garage sales are generally half what they are in the neighboring bigger city. Today, I saw the following laughable prices: (the appropriate price is in parentheses.)

  • onesies $1 (25 cents)
  • sleepers $4 ($1-2)
  • flannel receiving blankets $1.50 (10-25 cents)
  • outfits for infants $4-6 ($1-2)
They had a lot of very nice things which is odd for this town this late on a Friday. Is there any wonder why?

Monday, July 12, 2010

dyed vest

just a quick update as I'm being begged to cook lunch:

Also pictured is my first successful pair of socks! Rock on!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

knitting and dyeing with Koolaid

I have been knitting a lot lately. It's like I suddenly woke up to the realization that if I don't start my girls' fall and winter wardrobe NOW I'll end up making the same mistake I made last year. That is to say, put off making my own family's items until I have so many custom orders for other families' items that I just can't fit my own in!

Last year, M wore only hand-me-down longies. I shouldn't say ONLY because there was one pair that I knit for her. Amazingly enough, I frogged them this afternoon so that I can REknit them into a size that will fit her this year. Sounds silly, I know, but when I knit them last year, I had never knit with cestari yarn and it was about killing me to try to figure out how many stitches to cast on. And then there was the pooling. I have never seen yarn pool so much before. I must have started them about 5 times before giving up and letting it pool. I decided today that we weren't going to put her in those again this year. Never mind the fact that the legs aren't long enough. LOL.

So right now, I have the unknitted yarn dripping dry in my bathroom. I washed it to not only clean it but also to take the kinks out. After it dries I will twist the skeins to get the last of the kinks out and then later on I'll ball it up and knit. I want to do slimmer longer longies with owl cable pockets on them. I can see it now... Ha!

There is also another last year's failure project on my work table today. I had purchased some Purewool yarn in the Arara colorway to make linen-stitch longies for M. I must have spent 6 weeks worth of knitting time on them only to frog them this winter. They just weren't working. Plus, C didn't like the colors. I can't blame him as olive green, rust orange, and powder blue don't necessarily the best blend.

Earlier this summer I had used the yarn to test out a new pattern I was dreaming up. The pattern worked reasonably well and the tunic vest was cute enough to dress the children in but the colors are still awful. So tonight, I pulled out my Koolaid and searched through my colors to see what I had. I had 7 packets of Berry Blue and one packet of Blue Raspberry Lemonade. The vest, which I had washed this morning was mostly dry, but still slightly damp. Weighing it inaccurately, I had about 4 oz of yarn to dye with 7 packets. For those of you who know nothign about Koolaid dying, that's not a good ratio. Normally, they recommend 3-5 packets per oz of yarn.

Oh well, into the pot it went! Amazingly, I think that was the perfect amount of dye. The olive green looks closer to kelly green, the rust is now a chocolate brown and the blue is aqua. I can live with those colors! We'll see how it turns out after the dye has set, washed, and dried, but I think it has amazing potential. Yay for a saved project!!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sharing a Room

For about 6 months now, our eldest daughter has been asking to share a room with her sister. We always told her, "when M gets older, you can share a room with her."

Well, it finally happened. M got older and A moved in with her. We test drove the whole shared room concept over the holiday weekend while on a road trip and the girls did marvelously. They both went to bed easy and slept all night. We decided that it was time to give the girls what they had wanted, or at least what A had wanted. A shared room!

When we arrived home, we put the bunkbeds in the larger room (previously M's room) and the toys and rocking chair in the other, smaller room.

The first morning, M woke up at 7 (which is sleeping in for her) and did not wake her sister when she called out to me. M and I had breakfast and played while waiting for A to wake. We played, and played... and played.... and played.......

FINALLY, at 8:30am A woke up. I think she slept just fine in her new room. LOL.

The second night, when it came time for bed, I went to put M to sleep before I got A ready for bed. This is how I've done things pretty much since M first moved to a set bedtime, with a few small exceptions. As I was singing to M, she kept opening her eyes, saying, "Abbah?" As in, where's A?

I told M that A would be coming to bed soon. It was time for M to sleep. "Abbah?!" Yes, M, A will be to bed very soon. "Abbah?" Yes, A will sleep in here with you. We'll be right in. Finally, M believed me and went to sleep. She woke once in the night. I know because I heard her peep, but she must have looked over and saw her Abbah because she was quiet after that. No fuss, no muss, just sleep.

I knew that A wanted to share a room with M, but it surprises me that M wanted it just as much. She's not very verbal yet, but she does communicate fairly well. She clearly didn't want to go to sleep if her Abbah wasn't coming to bed with her. It's nice to know that they comfort each other.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Behind on Messages


Every now and then I find that I am behind the times. Usually, this is in reference to messages: email, voicemail, snail mail.

Then there is the every present problem with Private Messages and Blog Comments. I really do need some sort of automatic notification that lets me know I have new messages. Some of my online fora have this feature, but enough do not that I find myself a day late and a dollar short.

Case in point:

My previous blog about doll-making

I just today, 2 years later, noticed that I had comments from several people inquiring about purchasing similar dolls. Had I known that, i would have replied. I might not have been able to provide the dolls they needed, as I was about to enter my "I'm pregnant and turning my sewing studio into a nursery" phase, but I could have at least replied.

I feel like a putz when I realize I've done something like that. Of course, with blogger, there's no way to leave the commenting visitors messages in reply other than to post an additional message to them on the blog entry itself and here.

So, here's the message to you all:

Yes, I can make more. My studio is set up once more.

Yes, I'm willing to make more. Yes, I can customize.

And, last but not least, I will be updating my settings to notify me of all comments so that I can reply in time.

Cook Ahead, round 2

Last weekend I embarked upon round 2 of the cook-ahead lifestyle. This time, I invited my next door neighbor over to share the joy.

Really, truly, I do not say that sarcastically. We did share the joy. For $66 each and 3 hours of work (including diaper changes, napping babies, answering phones, and playing with the kids) we each came away with 8 meals for our freezers. And by "meals" I mean recipes because each recipe will provide 2-4 meals for our family of four.

So if we assume that each recipe feeds our family twice, then we got 16 meals out of $66. that's $4 per meal or $1 per serving. I can smile about that one!

We cooked this round from the Once a Month Cooking: More Family Favorites again. However, instead of simply using her pre-planned cycles, I picked the recipes that I thought we would be most likely to eat. It worked out just fine.

I also invested in The Freezer Cooking Manual from 30 Day Gourmey: A Month of Meals Made Easy. It arrived after we had finished our cooking but after perusing it quickly, I'm pleased with the investment. Not only is it chock full of workbook-style pages for making your planning process easier, but it comes with free membership to a website FULL of additional recipes and fora. Yay!

Even better, we've been informed that we're inheriting a stand-alone freezer! It is scheduled to arrive on Saturday. We couldn't be happier about it! Maybe for round 3, we'll tackle 30 recipes and each have a full month's worth of dinners in the freezer...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Recognizing Defeat

I had a brilliant stroke of luck today. It's the first day of Vacation Bible School, so A is away for the morning. M, bless her heart, decided to take her nap 30 minutes early, so I had a full hour of ME time! yay!

I decided to get a jump on a doll order I have in. Drat it, the stuffing is buried in a box in the garage. Well, I can get that out! So, I go to take a look. Nope. It's buried under a lot of HEAVY items. I'll have to wait for C to come home to help.

Next, I decided to work on some charity sewing. One of the parenting forums I belong to has a group of ladies who are sewing up cloth menstrual pads for young ladies in African orphanages. I volunteered to send in a few since they're so easy to sew and cheap since you can use small scraps from other projects.

WRONG! The serger needle broke. I replaced it. It broke again. I replaced it again. Oh no, now one of the other threads needs rethreading. For those of you with no experience with sergers, let's just say that rethreading the bottom threads can require a PhD and a 20 page instructional manual as well as good eye-sight, a pair of tweezers, and an allen wrench. Oh, but it gets even better. It serged for 6 inches and then came unthreaded again. Sigh.

I fixed the serger, finished the pad I was sewing and called it quits. Some days, I'm just not meant to sew.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cook Ahead and Freeze in Experiement

May 19th. That was the day I began this experiment. Today is June 10th. That's three weeks, for those of you without a calendar in front of you.

Three weeks ago, I cooked what was supposed to be 14 days worth of meals. As of today, I have 4 more meals/recipes in my freezer yet to be thawed and eaten. That's another full week! I have found that even when the recipe says it serves 4, we get up to 8-10 servings out of it. That's an awful lot of food, guys!

What I have learned so far:

I like cooking ahead. I like thawing out my meal and just tossing it in the oven as I play with the girls.

I like a lot of the recipes from the book More Once a Month Cooking. BUT most of them do not include enough vegetables. Most are not complete meals. HOWEVER, knowing that and accepting that, I find it's still quite restful to only have to deal with the side dishes each night.

I like having fewer dishes to wash after dinner each night.

I like having lots of leftovers for lunch. However, I do not like eating one recipe for 5 dinners in a row. I kid you not, I ate Chicken Scampi for 5 nights in a row. Thankfully, the girls loved it so they were happy to have their request for it granted, FIVE nights in a row. I finally tossed the last two servings. I couldn't do it any more.

Note to self, cut recipes in half or package each meal divided, to be thawed on two different nights.

Don't Pay

"Don't pay for what you're not using." This has become my new mantra. I repeat it to myself every time I find myself being wasteful. The idea came from The Penniless Parent blog. I enjoy reading her blog and like that she's frugal to the extremes. She's much more frugal than I am... maybe more frugal than I want to be, but still, I like to read her posts.

The post she wrote about wasting utilities got me to start thinking about wasting and how wasting is bad not just for the environment, but also the wallet. Then that thought morphed into other things I could be wasting.

Commonly wasted:

  • time
  • energy
  • electricity
  • water
  • food

These are all fairly straight forward areas for wasting. But what else is there that I'm wasting? My mind has come up with an awful lot of ideas over the past few weeks.

What am I paying for/buying that I don't really need? Buying things I don't need is definitely wasting. I understand money wasting when applied to things like latte, junk food, fad clothing, 100 pairs of shoes. I understand that buying in excess equals wasting money. But what about things that I buy and consider "needs" that aren't really needs? What can I do without? What am I paying for that I don't really need?

Paper products:
  • Do I need paper towels and napkins? What I'm wiping up is usually spilled food of some sort. That's not so gross I can't throw it in the washer. Plus, I have a ton of old cloth towels.
  • Do I need toilet paper for wiping pee-only potty bits? No, that's not really gross. Think about it. Urine is aseptic. The flora on your skin are on your skin everywhere so what goes onto the cloth toilet wipes? Aseptic fluid, skin cells, and flora. It's no different than washing your own underwear now, is it?
  • Do I need paper pantyliners for non-period days? There are some pretty easy patterns out there for sewing my own and I am very happy with the results.
What about Penniless Parent's idea of electricity:
  • Do I really need to turn on the light to change a diaper? I can change a diaper in the dark at 3am. Why do I turn the light on at 3pm to change the baby?
  • Do I need the stairway light on when I can see all the way to the bottom without it?
  • If it costs me $1 every time I run the drier, as Penniless Parent claims, then I'm costing myself $1 any time I don't get the laundry out of the drier before it wrinkles. That's wasting.

Here's where it gets a little hinky. Space and potential profit. It's possible to be wasting both space, with unwanted crap, and potential profit at the same time.
  • Do my children play with all of their toys? No. Is it costing me money to hang onto them? No. BUT... I could be earning money from the things we no longer use if I would stop hanging onto them and sold them. See? I'm wasting money by not making money because I don't want to sell something I don't use.
  • Do I really need skinny jeans and fat jeans? Do I need to hang onto the pants I wore before having two children? I'm unlikely to fit into them before they go out of style. I am wasting closet space on them.
What else is there that I could stop paying for without changing my lifestyle?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Toddler's Prayer

Dear God,

I wish that you and me could every day play and see dinosaurs and monkeys in the jungle. Mmmm... It's a good place to be, with me!

Amen

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Princess Pants

A now has two pairs of Princess Pants to wear under her sundresses. She went from refusing to wear her sundresses because she couldn't stand the cotton knit bloomers I made her wear under them to refusing to wear shorts because she NEEDS to wear her dresses and princess pants.

Sigh. Yay!

A even got to sew one pair herself. Well, okay, she really didn't do all the sewing herself, but she got to be in charge of the speed pedal for the serger and she also got to pick out the button that now decorates the front. She really got into it. We have plans to make a pair out of white cotton flannel for the wintertime since her mama accidentally threw her wool knit pair into the washer this spring. Fisherman's wool really felts up. A lot. Oops. They were a size 2T-6x. They are a size 12-18 mos now.

On a good note, M now has a pair of felted wool bloomers for under her dresses this winter!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How Hard Can It Be?!

How hard can it be to find a sewing pattern for girl's bloomers. I'm not talking about the simple pants that come with every dress pattern. I want something a bit more tailored, a bit more refined. I want something more like the bloomers of vintage era costumes. Maybe a bit of tucking, a button or two in either strategic or decorative places... something that uses elastic at the top and gathering into a sewn band at the bottom.

Oh, and did I mention that it has to have either a gusset or extra fabric in the crotch? I want something that doesn't come to a sharp seam right at the most uncomfortable point. It has to be something my girl can run, jump, roll, swing, and otherwise rough-house in with comfort.

I know I'm a bit of an anachronistic soul, but my girl doesn't like to remain upright and has comfort issues with every under-dress solution I have tried. And I refuse to let her hang out with it all hanging out, as it were.

Do I really have to draft my own pattern?! Really? Sob.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Meal 3 of My Cook and Freeze Experiment

We've moved into the part of the experiment where we get to actually EAT the food I slaved over. It's quite nice. Really, it's quite nice.

So far, we've eaten:

1. Pillsbury pizza, ick.
2. George Romney Meatballs, TDF!
3. Coronation Chicken

The two meals that even stood a chance at being any good were actually great! I loved the minimized cooking. I can handle heating and serving it up. I can handle washing lettuce and ripping it up. The girls will let me do that much cooking, easily! And, oh, the GR meatballs are heavenly. C has demanded that I add the meal to our monthly rotation and told me under clear terms that I am to never even consider using light sour cream in it. Or else. HA! How's that for recipe success?

The whole meal plan iss proving to be a success, I think. There are a few other cook-ahead style cookbooks that i want to check out, but I think that I'm going to try to continue this style of meal prep. As long as I remember that these meals are going to require fresh veggies to be added, I can plan ahead for that and be entirely pleased with the amount of cooking time I spend in the kitchen on a given night.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Done Cooking!

I finally finished my 2-week cook. It took me 4 hours including cleanup, all told. In the end, all but one item fit in my freezer, and that item didn't fit because it was too wide (a pizza). We had to eat the pizza right away and I have to say, I will NOT be repeating that one. Ugh. Pillsbury pizza dough. Ick.

So far I think I"m liking this set-up but there is one big drawback. If you forget to thaw dinner the night before, you're out of luck and eating out.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Once a 2-week Cooking

I began my once a month cooking experiment yesterday, as you must have already read. :D Last night, after the girls went to bed, I started cooking. I knew I wouldn't be able to get all14 recipes done, but I wanted to do what I could before bedtime.

I was able to accomplish much more than I thought! In 90 minutes, I managed to cook 5 of the recpies AND do the cleanup! I was amazed at how easy it was. A few of the recipes required no more than simply combining ingredients and packaging them for the freezer. Easy peasy!

Tonight, I'll continue and try to put in another 90 minutes, and then tomorrow night as well. In the future, I'd rather get someone to play with the girls and simply spend a whole afternoon working on it and get it done at once. It's not bad to do it in blocks, but the payout of 14 days of meals for 3 nights of cooking is lower than I would like.

Gas

No, not that kind. The CAR kind.

My mother in law mentioned to me that her car gets better mileage on the ethanol-free variety than on the regular unleaded, so I decided to run a little experiment. Oh, yes, I am FULL of experiments these days. It must be the new house thing, what with needing to realign our lifestyle to accommodate all of the changes.

SO:

Here's what I did. I filled up my tank with ethanol-free gasoline and Wayne's Automotive in Monona. I set my trip meter to zero and drove until my tank was low enough to require more gas. I noted both the mileage on my trip meter and the amount of new gas I put in. The new gas was the standard ethanol-filled gas at mobile. I reset my trip meter and then drove my car until the gas gauge was low and refilled with ethanol-free gas at Sinclair.

Want to know what I discovered?

My mother in law is right.

Really really right.

Using the following handy dandy equation, I calculated how far each gallon of gas gets me.

  • # miles driven / # gallons required to refill tank = miles per gallon

Realize, though, that I didn't quite empty my tank after filling it with ethanol-free gas, so the ethanol-filled tank was actually lower in its ethanol ratio than is true to what came out of the pump.

My results:

  • Wayne's gas, ethanol-free: 317miles/9.8gallons = 32.34 miles per gallon
  • Mobile's gas, ethanol-filled: 241 miles/ 13.6 gallons = 17.7 miles per gallon

Can you believe that? I can't. Well, I wouldn't be able to if I hadn't actually written down my mileage and kept very close track of it. From now on, I'm definitely buying the ethanol free gas because even the 10% markup I have to pay for it is swallowed up in the amount of benefit my wallet sees to the mileage for that same tank of gas.

ETA: You may pause here to ask, well, what was my driving style over the 4 weeks of the experiment? To answer:

I drive 60 miles round trip to work 5 days every 2 weeks. This is 80% highway driving.

I drive to town, 50 miles round trip, probably once in that same period, and it's 90% highway.

I drive around town, maybe 2-5 miles each time, about 3-5 times over that period.

So, largely highway, and largely consistent over the period of the experiment.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Cooking Experiments Continue

Most of you have by now read on my facebook page that I'm starting to play with the "once a month" cooking concept. IF you haven't and you have no idea what I mean, let me spell it out. For Once a Month Cooking, you spend one per month cleaning out the fridge, shopping, stocking the fridge, and cutting up vegetables and meat ingredients. The next day, you devote and entire day to cooking all the meals you will need for the next 28 days. Then you go out for dinner to celebrate. For the rest of the month, you haul out a frozen meal every night at bedtime and the following evening bake, fry, or cook it as directed.

The idea is that you cram all of the hard work into one day so that most evenings you can simply set the stove and relax with the family. I will take all the relaxed evenings you can give me! Where do I sign up? HOWEVER, having said that, the next two weekends are particularly bad for me to institute this new cooking policy as next weekend we have a garage sale and the following weekend Dear Husband is out of town for 5 days.

I lieu of a full 30 day cook schedule, I will start with a 2 week, 14 meal cycle. I checked out Once A Month COoking and the companion book More Once a Month Cooking by Mimi and Marybeth... something. I can't remember their names. SIgh. Anyhow, I've elected to cook Meal Cycle C from the second book. There are a few meals in that cycle that I"m really not that excited by, but in the end, I think that in order to give the system a full trial, I have to simply knuckle under and do it.

This morning, I went shopping with the girls. It was a 90 minute adventure that didn't hurt the pocket book NEARLY as much as I expected. We got out of there for under $130 and only missed 4 ingredients, 3 of which they just don't carry there. :D $130 for 14 4-10 serving meals? WHy, that sounds delightful. That's about a buck a serving.

I have taken the time today to chop the vegetables but not to cut the meats. I am leaving that for after the girls are sleeping. I'd rather not be slinging a butcher knife wet with meat juices while I chase the baby out of the cupboards and corral the toddler into TIME OUTs for some creative use of language, as I had to do while chopping veggies this afternoon. LOL. Ah, this is the life and these ARE the days.

Summary of My Menu Experiment

Well, the week has passed and my experiment is over. I have to say, all in all, we did pretty well. We often ate the meals on different days than I had planned, but I did serve them all and we even made it through the leftovers. Of course, I still have that second half of the chicken casserole in the freezer, but I can think of good ways to use that!

Some of the meals from the week that went over particularly well were:

Cheater's Tuna Casserole
1 box of whole wheat Velveeta Shells and Cheese
1 can of tuna
random fruit and raw veggies to suppliment

You can probably figure out what to do.

Bangers and Mash
2 packages of chicken sausage
1/2 of a green cabbage
4 red potatoes
one onion
salt to taste
butter for the potatoes, for whipping

In the crock pot place the washed and cut potatoes, the chopped onion, the sliced cabbage, and the sausages. Add enough water to almost cover the sausages. Turn it on and let it go. After all is cooked (5 hours on high or 8 on low), remove the foods and whip the potatoes with butter.

This coming week, I"m doing an even more extravagant experiment in pre-planned cooking. Read on above for the details!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Monday's Cooking

So, last week, I posted that I had a menu plan for the week and would update it as to my success with keeping to the menu. On the first day, I broke it. oops. We had pizza rather than whatever I had planned, which I can't even remember. On Saturday, I served leftovers.

On Sunday, I returned to the planned menu. We had dinner with the family.

On Monday, I cooked the chicken casserole. Here's the recipe:

Chicken and Rice Casserole

1 can Campbell’s Cream of chicken soup
1 can Campbell’s Cheese or cheese and broccoli soup
For creamier version add
1 can Campbell’s cream of mushroom or celery soup
3 cups Minute rice
3 Cups chicken Broth or water (add salt to taste)
1-½ cups chopped broccoli (we use frozen I would steam it first if you use fresh)
½ lb - 1lb chopped or shredded chicken
2-3 cups Shredded cheddar cheese

Boil chicken broth/water. Add rice lower heat and cover for 5 minutes or until there is no more liquid left. Add cans of soup, Broccoli, and chicken spread into 3qt casserole pan and cover with cheese. Place in the oven for 20-30 minutes (or until cheese is melted and golden brown). To spice it up add Salsa and sour cream as a topper.

I cannot take credit for this recipe as I snagged it from a $5 Meals thread on a forum I visit. To modify it, I added a bit more chicken and cooked jasmine rice in my rice cooker with water rather than chicken stock.

Verdict: Definitely doable. Everyone ate it and liked it. King Crafty said, "that looks sinfully delicious." I split it into two 2 Qt casseroles and froze one for later eating. It still served 4 adults, even cut in half. We'll keep this recipe.

Childhood Memories

Now that we've moved into our new house in the country, we find that we're reliving a number of childhood experiences. By this, I mean that we are suddenly living a lifestyle which more closely resembles that of our childhoods and are now providing for our children experiences that parallel our own.

For example:
  • newer subdivision with lots of young families
  • undeveloped land nearby
  • parks within walking distance
  • Sentry withing walking distance
  • carpeted home
  • space for a dog
  • fenced backyard
  • carpeted kitchen

and so on. This week, however, I found myself reliving one more very small childhood memory in a way I didn't expect to. I bought 2 half-gallon bags milk and as I plopped one into the white plastic pitcher provided by the dairy I had a sudden moment of disorientation. I was wondering why the pitcher wasn't red. Mom, do you remember when we drank milk from bags and the plastic pitcher that held the bag was red? It's been 30 years since we poured our milk from a red pitcher, but I still remember it.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Meal Plan

I have a meal plan this week. We'll see if I follow it. I've only listed dinners here:

Friday: Salads with hard boiled eggs, ham, cheese
Saturday: Chicken casserole
Sunday: family dinner
Monday: Saturday Night Supper
Tuesday: Bangers and mash
Wednesday: cottage Pie
Thursday: leftovers
Friday: Tuna noodle casserole

Dear God

Every night before falling asleep, my daughter starts her prayers with, "Dear God," and then continues to list out who she loves and is grateful for. My husband and I decided long ago that the easiest way to teach about praying was to start with who you love. As she gets older, I hope to start including other items and less tangible aspects of life for which she can thank God.

While thinking about National Prayer Day yesterday, I realized that I have a lot to be thankful for this year. My life has really come about 180 degrees over the last 4-5 months and I need to make sure that I take none of it for granted.

Dear God,

Thank you for:

my family: both near and far, and the special roles they play in my life. My life would not have half the joy in it without them.

my job: it may be unexciting, but it's steady and comes with great benefits and allows me a good amount of time with my family.

my husband's job: A new job has gone a long way to helping both him and us in so many ways. I am grateful for the new level of confidence and self-worth the new job has brought. And yes, the added income doesn't hurt.

my home: I may be currently houseless, but I am not homeless. Thank you to everyone involved in our recent move and soon-to-be-ours new home. We weren't looking for a shift in dwelling space but were wise enough to say yes to the opportunity when it came knocking. Thank you Grandpa and Grandma for wanting us to have your home. Thank you to my in-laws for helping orchestrate it all and for keeping on top of things so that everyone is getting the good end of the deal.

my belongings: I have more than what I need and am seeing the value in having less. Cleaning out the new house has been a good lesson in material goods and their proper place in our lives. We may have a long way to go to get down to what we really need to own, but we're moving in the right direction.

my health, my family's health: We have had a relatively smooth winter this year and I greatly appreciate that. I also appreciate the traumatizing brush we had with the stomach flu this winter for reminding me of the true value of our health.

my security net: friends, family, you know who you are and how important you are to us. Knowing that you're there for us has made it possible for us to take the leaps of faith necessary to bring us to where we are now.

my good fortune: we may not be rich, but the things we need have fallen to us when we needed them most. We do not go without.

my life: a gift well-appreciated.

Amen.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Butter Talk

A: Flower butter comes from yellow flowers. Real butter is made from containers.

Me: Real butter is made from cows milk and put in containers.

A: No, real butter is made from white cheese, cow milk, and rice milk.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The National Weather Service Has Issued a "Time to Poop" Memo

The other night we had bad weather. It was lightening and thunder with tornado watches. Ooo fun! So I packed up the girls and went to the basement to wait it out. I had turned on the TV to stave off complaints of boredom.

For those of us who know our older daughter, what I'm about to describe may sound familiar. Bear with me.

We potty trained our older daughter very early. By 4 months, she could stay dry all day as long as we took her to the toilet every two hours. We did this mostly by verbal cues which we tied to her bodily functions. She first learned to expect the cues (grunt, grunt, grunt) while moving her bowels at 6 weeks of age and it all progressed from there.

We have been trying to do the same with our younger daughter since 6 weeks of age as well, but with pretty much NO success. She simply didn't give us any signs that she was filling her diaper and so we never managed to get her to associate the cues with her bodily functions.

So, back to the stormy night. As we were sitting there, watching Sid the Science Kid, the Weather Service broke in with another tornado watch. It began with those horribly discordant buzzes, three short ones, to get our attention.

M's head whipped around and she stared at the TV. She cocked her head to the side and said, "ghhn, ghhn, ghhn," (Grunt grunt grunt), squatted, and proceeded to fill her diaper.

So, apparently, the National Weather Service is better at toilet training that I am.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Ride Into Town

I see a cow!

Some cows are eating.

Some cows are pooping.

Mama, do you see the cow pooping?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Holy-Poop-I'm-Rich Garage sale

Holy poop! I'm rich! No, seriously. I held a one-day garage sale today and made over $550.

That's over FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS.

I'm gonna faint!

And I still have more to sell. Sigh.

I decided to throw a garage sale, kind of spur of the moment this weekend. We're closing on our old house in less than two weeks and all of a sudden we're drowning in things. We've got the equivalent of two households crammed into one house. It's NUTS. I had:

4 twin beds
7 twin bed mattress pads
2 toddler beds
2 cribs
3 crib bedding sets
5 microwave carts
6 ceramic Indians (yes, 4 foot tall ones. If you search my blog for photos of the new house, you'll see the "drag queen" Indians, as we like to think of them.)
2 dining sets (table and chairs)
3 l0ve seats
8 rolling office chairs

and the list goes on and on. I needed to downsize majorly in order to even feel remotely in control of my house. So, I threw together a quick garage sale with all the child items I had already decided to sell plus a few of the more obvious items from Grandpa's household.

They say that if you build it, they will come. I put together the garage sale with that hope in mind. If I organize a sale, the buyers will come. I placed one ad on Craigslist, one sign in our front yard, and one sign on my car, which I parked out front. We had customers before 8am and the last set came after 4pm.

I had people duking it out for my child's outgrown items. No fistfights, thankfully, but people standing in line to inquire about items who were honestly disappointed when the items sold to someone else. It was SHOCKING.

I sold over $75 of M's used cloth diapers to more than one person and then had to go back into the house to see if I could scrounge up some more to sell. I didn't sell anything that I really wanted to keep, mind you, but people were asking for things that I suddenly remembered were still in a box waiting to be processed. This didn't happen just once, either!

I am very much less weighed down by excess belongings now. M has a bedroom with only a few boxed items waiting to be dealt with. A's room doesn't have ANY excess items.... oh, wait, her closet is still full of Grandma's things. Sigh. That's the thing. Even after a very successful garage sale, I'm still in a position where I can turn around and literally TRIP over something I should have, could have, and would have sold if I'd remembered to put it in the sale.

I guess I'll just have to have another sale this summer!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bath

Apparently my youngest would rather take a bath than nurse. So much so, that she created her own sign to tell me she would like a bath.

"M, do you want a bath after you drink milk?"

She looks up at me, pops off, sits up. She looked back at me, then at her arms.

"M, nurse first or bath first?"

She lifted her arms in front of herself and rubbed on hand on the other forearm.

Bath.

Bath it is!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Toddler Dictionary

New this month in our 3 year old's vocabulary:

Mr. Contato Head = Mr. Potatohead
Eernoculators = binoculars
treemotes = remote controls

Hybrid Diapers

Okay, so we've finally tried all three MAJOR brands of hybrid diapers. There are smaller brands, but we've tried the big three:

Grobaby
Flip
gDiapers

I have to say, each has some nice feature which draws me, but no one has a clear advantage. I like them all in some way. Each system has a fabric cover and both cloth and disposable inserts. We have used all of the insert types with the exception of Flip organic inserts and gCloth inserts. We can't get our hands on the gCloth and simply haven't needed Flip organic inserts with our other prefold and preflat stash avaiable for use in the Flip cover.

A quick peek at Grobaby:

PROS of Grobaby's shell ($17):
  • available in snap or space-aged aplix and snap-conversion is offered
  • very well made
  • dries quickly
  • narrow crotch
  • available in prints or solid colors
CONS of Grobaby's shell:
  • poop gets caught in the mesh lining
  • non-KAM snaps means moms can't do in-home snap repair if needed
  • colors fade with washing
  • fabric gets pilly where aplix attaches

PROS of Grobaby biosoakers (disposable inserts) ($0.40 each):
  • flushable inner materials
  • elasticized leg gussets
  • adhesive holds insert in place
  • waterproof backing keeps messes from shells
  • stay nicer in the diaper bag, do not pick up lint or get fuzzy
CONS of Grobaby biosoakers:
  • flushable inners are difficult to get out of the outer casing. You have to tear the casing on at least three sides and risk dumping wet inner material all over the floor.
  • adhesive transfers from the biosoaker onto the shells
  • harder to get positioned in shell, due to elastic and folding in of edges
  • most expensive insert

PROS of Grobaby cotton soakers ($8.50 each):
  • snap in place for easy use
  • 100% cotton
  • does not require folding for smaller sizes
CONS of Grobaby cotton soakers:
  • take a very long time to dry, as in 2 drier cycles and an overnight line-dry
  • fleece top layer gets rough over time and stains fairly easily

A quick peek at Flip:



























PROS of Flip covers ($13.50):
  • snapping
  • one-size (this can be a con, though)
  • thin and flexible
  • soft fabric and soft leg elastic leaves no red marks
  • wipe-clean inner
  • can be used as a cover over ANY diaper

CONS of Flip covers:
  • only available in solid colors
  • loose leg elastic can make getting a good seal difficult on a skinny baby
  • one-size means folded-over material, which can be awkward

PROS of Flip inserts ($0.28 each):
  • can double up for extra absorbancy because there is no waterproof backing
  • no plastic at all
  • inserts lie nicely in shell when preparing the diaper
  • less expensive
  • easy to fold down to fit into the shell
  • least expensive insert (comparable to regular disposables)
CONS to Flip inserts:
  • no elastic legs, so poo can get on cover
  • when thoroughly soaked, we found fluffy, fibrous material stuck to the baby's bum
  • narrow insert bunches quickly

PROS of Flip stay dry inserts ($5):
  • microsuede top feels dry and resists staining
  • microfiber absorbs quickly without bulk
  • dries quickly in the drier
CONS of Flip stay dry inserts:
  • man-made material
  • does require occasional bleach added to the wash to control stinkies (1T in the hot load every 2 weeks)
  • has to be folded to fit, which leaves a bulge
  • does not snap in place, which means it can slide out of place while applying to baby's bum
A quick peek at gDiapers:































































PROS to gDiapers "little gpants" ($15):
  • soft and silky to touch and pat the bum
  • snap out liners means you can keep the outer pant that matches the outfit all day, even when baby poops on the liner
  • aplix closes in the back to keep baby from undoing her diaper
  • easily available at non-diapering stores (grocery stores, coops, Babies R Us)
  • fully-elasticized liners really hold the liner in place
CONS to gDiapers "little gpants":
  • snap-in liners mean you have to take extra time to prepare the gpants if it's not pre-loaded
  • waistband has sharp corners which dig in and leave red marks on baby's waist
  • back placement of aplix makes it difficult to put on
  • uses real aplix of the superstrong variety. Close the laundry tabs or else risk destroying your laundry.
  • NOT available in snaps

PROS to gDiapers "flushies" (disposable inserts) ($0.50 each not on sale, $0.36 each on sale):
  • flushable
  • compostable
  • entirely non-plastic which is great for the environement AND for doubling up inserts if necessary
  • wide inserts completely fill the gpant
CONS to gDiapers "flushies":
  • not very soft, but not really much rougher than Flip's.
  • most expensive insert unless you buy on sale (which is fairly easy to do)

I have not had an opportunity to try gCloth, as my local stores are sold out. If you would like to donate a few gCloth inserts to me so that we can try them out, please drop me a message! LOL.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Is She Still a Redhead?


That seams to be the question these days, as we've passed the one year mark. Is M still a redhead? I like to think that yes, while it's not as clear when you look at the back of her head, she still has enough red to be considered a redhead.

Speaking of redheads, she did get the red-hot personality that is rumored to go with red hair. You can't tell by looking at THIS picture, but we're starting to think that perhaps she inherited her daddy's ADD. She's a climber, a runner, and down-right determined to get her way in every little thing. A challenge, for sure, but worth every minute.