home again

Posted on 17 CommentsPosted in designing, food and garden, projects

what a nice surprise to wake up to the morning after we got in from las vegas—a whiteout storm that blanketed our world, giving us a bit of a cushion on which to segue back to work.

we made the most of our last few days with the kids by taking walks to the park to play

getting out in the chilly air was a nice change of pace for those who are used to temps well above 100 degrees as a rule.

back at home and changed into PJs, we baked cookies to replace the ones i brought with me, which were eaten all to quickly.

luckily, i had the recipe on my computer; it’s the one i shared with cookie A’s sock club last year. we made ours with almonds and white chocolate as per nan’s request. we forgot to buy baking soda, but they seemed to fare well despite that omission.

our taste tester seemed to think so anyway (though i wouldn’t recommend leaving it out on purpose)

i did plenty of knitting during these days when the kids were off school—nan got me hooked on watching episodes of once upon a time; we’d watch three or four in a row while knitting and the boys played a video game or watched a movie with david. it was nice.

on our last evening we had our christmas celebration. first a meal of raclette, since nan and amad are swiss and wanted to share a bit of their cultural tradition with us. raclette is both the name of a cheese and a particular type of meal that has similarities to fondue.

nan received a little raclette stove from her employers as a holiday gift and found some cheeses that were nearly the right kind at trader joe’s. this will probably vary depending where you live, but you can usually find raclette cheese in a specialty shop or a good grocery cheese department. it’s a swiss melting cheese with a sweet, nutty flavor; if you can’t find it, then try a substitute from the following: emmentaler, gruyère, fontina, tilsit, comté, appenzeller, and morbier.

anyway, the idea is to roast the cheese a bit underneath the grill until it is bubbly or even toasted (a matter of taste). meanwhile above, pepper strips, mushrooms, tiny potatoes, and other dipping foods have been roasting to doneness; some parties like to have charcuterie or deli meats on hand as well. when the cheese is good and melted, use your dipping food to scoop it up and eat it. drink some nice wine with it, too; the acidity adds a refreshing note and a little holiday cheer never hurts.

like sharing fondue, it makes for a very social party with a relaxed eating experience. part of the fun is figuring out how you like your ingredients to be cooked and then waiting for the right moment to take what you want—you have to be careful or someone may scoop you, haha; ask me how i know.

i’m a slow eater and kept losing out to the men at my left. i eventually had to tell amad and david that i had dibs on one of the shrimp and a certain coupelle which held “my” cheese. and do you know what david said??
“well, you snooze, you lose”


(no worries—i totally said the same thing back to him later when he tried to put his cold self on my warm side of the bed)

after we washed up it was time for a little dessert and the opening of gifts. nan was smart and did not put any name tags on the boys’ gifts—they just shared everything (easy because amad is so generous and sweet).

i love how micah expertly wrangles into submission this gift box  that was literally bigger than he is.

totally worth the struggle.

we flew home on christmas, just ahead of the storm i didn’t know anything about til we got here. but yeah, it came, following right on our footsteps; i’m so glad we got home ahead of it.

it was the middle of the night when we finally arrived, so we were sacked out still when the mailman banged on the door the next morning to hand over a huge tub of mail containing several boxes, small packages, and a stack of cards—i have a lot of thank you cards to write, starting tomorrow; david and  so appreciate all the cards and holiday cheer that people send us.

one box was filled to the brim with fragrant lemons from the tyler orchard—kim, kade, and sam went picking and bundled up this bit of seasonal joy for us. OMG—what a gift. the house is simply filled with the scent of lemons; i’m in heaven. i detour through the room where i’ve placed them as often as i can manage just to smell it, mmm.

thanks you guys—you know i love this!

when i looked outside i realized that some time between going to bed and receiving the mail, we got dumped on, haha!

i had lots of FOs to block, so i stayed inside during the worst of it, soaking and squeezing and shaping woolens. remeber the other day when i asked which DK mitts i should knit? i decided after all to knit the hoegaarden mitts straight from our october club pattern, instead of going with a different one. i had worried they were too involved to work on while visiting, but it turns out, they knit up in a flash—i knit one during an afternoon and the other in the evening. ah, the magic of heavy DK yarn . . .

that hot air vent in our office has become a favorite place to block and dry small items; i can keep an eye on them and remember to reshape often, so they look their best.

i knit the matching cowl back when i was making samples for the club release; i wanted to complete the set for a gift. they look great together; really luxurious. i’m glad i knit the mitts to match and not something else.

near another heat vent in my study, the creel set is laid out drying as well. there was a moment last week when i really wasn’t sure i liked this project, but i kept going because how many times does it happen that i’m not in love right up until i block something, only to do a total three-sixty once we see how it comes out of the wash??

add yet another to that list—i just love it now. the texture totally stands up to the busy, two-tone yarn color of the hat and mitts. and the hat shape, which looked for all the world like a giant (unattractive) baby binkie on the needles

has relaxed nicely with very little coaxing and is now doing exactly what i envisioned in my head.

for good measure, i let it dry completely on my homemade hat blocker—an upturned bowl balanced atop a large jar (or vase).

i dunno; maybe it was the light in that apartment? the mitts were incredibly homely, i thought, when i got them off the needles. but they look SO much better here at home. i mean yes, the handspun baa baa huey yarn i’m knitting with lends its own texture and “voice” to this project, but one that is cozily attractive to me now. and in a sleeker, more consistent yarn, they will be elegant. any guy would love ’em. the pattern needs a last few touches and then it can go off to the proofreader, yay; hopefully, we’ll be ready to launch it some time next week.

and while i busied myself in the morning blocking all the items i’d finished during our trip, we spent the whole afternoon yesterday shoveling snow during the lull; no sooner did we get back inside than it started up again—furiously spewing and redoubling its earlier efforts. david went back out after dark to clear the walks again.

by this morning, the snow had stopped, but the sky still looked ominous—low, dark gray, and heavy. sure enough it started up again just before i had to go out to the dentist. obviously, not a good day to run; hopefully there will be enough clear pavement tomorrow for that . . .  no worries if not; i have plenty to do indoors (and an exercise bike for just this situation).

with so much knitting done, i have lots of pattern writing to catch up on, but there is another project that’s been waving its hand at me for a couple of weeks—seaming up my bloch ness cardigan.

i got my pieces out this morning and spread them over the pressing bench. that’s as far as i got before something interrupted me and i ahven’t been back upstairs since. however, as soon as i’m done writing this post (very soon) i’m heading straight to my workroom to block the pieces.

just look at them all; aren’t they deLISH?? i cannot wait to have this cardigan finished; i am so in need of cardigans in the weight right now—i’ve been wearing the same two or three almost constantly and that’s getting a little old.

ok, now, that’s enough dawdling over a blog post—time to get me back to work. now that i’m home and have you all caught up, i’ll be back to our usual schedule of about every other day. next time we’ll hopefully see a finished sweater and maybe a pattern for that new hat i knit on the plane to vegas. . . for which our friend malin has kindly suggested a name and i like it—we will call it strömming, which means herring in swedish (also sill, but i like strömming better).

ok, good night.

vegas pales in comparison . . .

Posted on 13 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events

our week in vegas with our family has been wonderful, but there are a few things i miss when we’re away from home for the holidays—like the cozy corner neighborhood that we’ve come to love over the last ten years

which is transformed at christmas into a wonderland of colorful, sparkling joy by our neighbors, bret and connie.

i know i’m not the only one who anxiously awaits the time when elves, tinsel, and arctic animals begin to take their places on the lawn and front porch.

readers have been asking for weeks now if they’ll get a peek at the harvard avenue holiday splendor and i’m here today to tell you that i wouldn’t dream of disappointing (especially after hurricane sandy caused me to miss bret’s halloween display)

once again bret has gone all out to make this holiday season unique and special, while incorporating old favorites that we love. i can’t remember if the polar bear was present last year, but he’s got a featured spot this year, where his animated skiing action is on display

bret doesn’t miss even the smallest opportunity to add color and fun to an otherwise forgotten corner.

many parts of the display are handmade by bret, who loves crafting. he even gets connie hooked into it sometimes (the painted tree on the left is hers).

the elves are some of my favorites; i love their impish expressions.

all of it, of course, leading up to the most featured spot of all—the one occupied by santa claus. but not just any santa—he’s a dancing santa (which totally startled me the first time i saw it, haha)

during the day it’s all gorgeous and sparkly enough, but it’s after dark that the fun really begins

when—presto, change-o—all comes to life in a swoosh of lights

and so much more shows itself, from the candy cane lane

to a cloud nebula of tiny fairy lights with the north star at its center.

i love how those white snowflakes are transformed into popping fireworks—at least that’s how it looks from across the street.

or how this garden trellis become a seaside lighthouse, guiding ships in the night as they travel to the north pole.

every shrub, every tree—even the smallest, most  seussian plants—are festooned with colorful lights.

and that’s just for atmosphere, haha.

there’s our polar bear, skiing his way across the yard, scarf whipping in the night wind.

and the elves, carting wrapped gifts and sacks of toys to santa’s throne

where he awaits the whispers of the neighborhood kids, telling him their christmas wishes.

by this time today, of course, he’s busy loading his sleigh with all manner of fodder to fulfill those lists—in just a few short hours he’ll be taking off through the dark night sky to begin his christmas eve rounds.

while visions of sugarplums dance in our heads.

from canton to vegas and austin to schenectady; from pasadena to great neck and albany to seoul, from our family to yours—have the merriest and most blessed of holidays y’all!

(this post is made possible by connie and bret; thank you dear neighbors!)

live, from vegas

Posted on 13 CommentsPosted in designing, projects

on tuesday, i got up extra early to finish up my last preparations for traveling. but since i’d taken care of nearly everything the night before, i had little else to do besides bake some cookies to bring.

oatmeal chocolate chips are david’s favorite so i was betting the rest of the whitfield boys would also enjoy some. i pretty much always use the recipe from the back of the oatmeal box—it’s an oldie, but goody. to that i add chocolate chips to about three-fourths of the batter for david.

i prefer my oatmeal cookies with fruit, so i stir in some dried raisins, cranberries, apricots, or cherries to the remaining batter for me
(i cannot hope to keep pace with david in the cookie eating department; he’s a champ!). plus, i was pretty sure the boys would prefer the chocolate ones about three to one . . .

our friend susie picked us up at 2:30 and off we went to the airport (thank you susie!!)

our plane was delayed a bit, but so was our connection; no harm done there. for me, that really only means one thing—more knitting time, haha

i had cast on a very simple hat in class the previous day to prepare for the trip—i wanted something super easy to knit that did not require extra tools or a complicated pattern. it’s basically a redesign of the slöfock pattern, with new calculations for a brim in herringbone twill rib.

such a quick knit—by the time i arrived in vegas it was done and by the next afternoon, it was washed and blocked; we just need some modeling shots and a final pattern, haha (coming; they are already in the works)

i’m working with the new breathless DK yarn from shalimar in the dirty jeans colorway. the luscious merino/cashmere/silk blend makes a gorgeous slouch hat with the perfect amount of drape and a deliciously soft hand.

up til now, david’s slöfock in shalimar honey worsted has been his fave, but i think this new one (i’m calling it herring, at least for now)  just might come in from behind to win the hat wars . . . time will tell; lara may have to fight me in a duel to keep her beloved slöfock at the top, haha.

anyway, the delay was certainly not a problem and in the end, everything went smoothly, save that we arrived in LV about 45 minutes later than planned.

there were nan and the boys; our visit was their christmas surprise. amad was thrilled, but micah had no idea who we really were, so i’m not sure he was as enthusiastic. he seemed to enjoy running all out in the wide open spaces of the arrivals area though, haha.

into the car we piled to head home. we were pretty beat, so after just a little knitting and chatting over cookies and milk, we all headed to bed.

on wednesday, everyone else went out very early to work and school, while david and i stayed home to explore the neighborhood and do our own thing. we had a completely relaxing day off, doing nothing but what we felt like doing. it was pretty great, haha.

i worked on secret knitting while david slept in—the creel mitts and hat i’m knitting for his christmas present. this project is going more slowly than i’d planned; i’m not sure why, but it just seems to take more effort for some reason. plus, i keep making changes to improve them, which requires backtracking and reknitting—not exactly the way to keep the momentum up.

david just adores anything made from handspun yarn and this set is exactly that; i’m knitting with baa baa huey, a handsoun DK from new hue handspuns. cheryl has put together yarn kits for hats, mitts, and cowls that provide the right amount of gradient yarn for each plus a bit of the solid main color for accents. i’m using the two-tone pine/natural colorway for the hat and mitts, while the cowl is knit in the pine on pine gradient.

the texture change between the lower part of the hat and the upper is creating a bit of an odd look for the moment, but that will all smooth out when i wash it. i plan to block it with ribs stretched enough to match the size of the basketweave portion.

i am in the homestretch on the hat; i’m just waiting to free up some 4.0 mm DPNs which are currently employed elsewhere (i know; i should just break down, find a LYS, and buy some). the mitts need about a day’s more work.

nan is all excited to learn to knit fingerless mitts, now that she’s seen some. she’s knit socks and hats during our last couple of visits, so it’s natural that she’s ready for something new. in anticipation of this very event, i brought some extra yarn and leftover amounts in my suitcase so she could knit with me during our visit.

i’ve got her fixed up with the handsies pattern and the start of a mitt for micah last night. she’s really fast; you should see her knit ribbing, wow! she knit this cuff in about five minutes. then a whole bunch of kids noise from the bedroom called her away, haha.

the yarn she’s using is miss babs yummy 3-ply sport in colorway outback. i’ve had this in my stash for a while, just waiting for the right project. mitts and hats for nan and the boys is the perfect use. the colorway may not be available any more, but miss babs has so many other great ones, you won’t be too sad to have to choose from those.

anyway, handsies go super fast; with luck, she’ll have them ready for stocking stuffers, i think. we’ll do what we can to make sure she gets some knitting time this weekend.

i have a ball of our october club yarn (studio june andrea mae DK, yum) along to knit a quick pair of fingerless mitts for a friend, but i can’t decide which pattern to use. i could go with the club pattern for that month, but i think something less textured might be more fitting. maybe tabata or slöfock? what’s your favorite mitts pattern for DK yarn?

i’ve got two secret knitting projects i’m working away on as well; they are pretty good travel knitting, so i’m hoping to get lots done on those before i get home.

david and i could easily sit inside and knit all day, enjoying each other’s company, quietly chatting about this and that, and doing only enough work to keep things afloat. however, it’s much too nice and sunny to hide away from the outdoors for long and soon enough, we got the itch to go exploring.

as soon as we stepped outside the flat we saw gorgeous red hills in the near distance—red rock canyon national conservation area. hopefully we’ll get to go over the weekend and for sure, we are going to hoover dam on sunday. nan is working as a tour guide now and is excited to show us around on her days off.

in the meantime, there is plenty to enjoy within walking distance of the flat—nan picked a great spot to rent, with everything they need nearby in the way of shopping, school, and library.

there are several nice areas to go for recreation and running as well—small lakes in one direction and pueblo park in the other, where i ran yesterday and took these photos. pueblo park is a narrow strip of parkland carved out of the center of town that links up with a grand chain of recreational parks strung throughout las vegas.

you can bike or run for miles if you like in a clean, safe environment. great for someone like me who, isn’t familiar with town and can get lost if i’m not careful. no danger here of ending up in a high security area that i’m not supposed to be in . . .

we found the grocery store and starbucks with no problem—haha, toto, we’re not in kansas anymore.

the boys have had school all week, but things are winding down for the holiday. yesterday, micah’s preschool had a little holiday show, which we attended.

micah is the reindeer in the argyle sweater, hee-hee. i’m pretty sure he had no idea what was going on; while normally quite boisterous and a good singer, he stood in the crowd and pulled on his lip most of the time, getting jostled this way and that.

he was pretty glad to head for the safe haven of mommy afterward.

uncle david filmed the whole thing so amad could watch it at home afterward; i took a few photos and knit on my waffle creams sock before and during the performance.

i finished the cuff and am ready to start the leg pattern now, woo-hoo. this is a project i keep in my shoulder bag and though it does not see airtime frequently, it grows in spurts. once in a while it gets and extra-long session in a waiting room or airport lounge. i’m just always glad it’s there.

oh hey, i bet you’re wondering how we’re doing on our red scarf fundraiser to make a scholarship for foster care 2 success happen again next year.

we are SO rockin’ that—go blog!!

we have sold 330 patterns for a total of $2310—just about 30 more patterns to go and we have til the end of the month. a super turnout; let’s bring it home now: tell anyone you know who may not have heard or who may have forgotten they intended to take part.

it’s very simple to participate—buy a fall line scarf or cowl pattern in our knitspot pattern shop or our ravelry pattern shop and we’ll put 100% of that $7 pattern price toward the scholarship.

as a bonus, the pattern is a super-quick knitting project which you still have time to knit for christmas; you can’t go wrong.

well, that’s pretty much all i have for today; i’ll try to get back over the weekend with an update; we’ll surely have more cute kid photos to share by monday, haha. i’m going to try to get amad interested in doing some cooking together as well, so as to give mom some knitting time. we’ll see how that turns out, haha.

have fun!

Countdown to Christmas

Posted on 11 CommentsPosted in projects

I can’t believe Christmas is six days away. Weren’t we just carving pumpkins and eating turkey and stuffing? Time is in fast forward in this house. It seems like yesterday we were a ball of nerves and excitement at the hospital, awaiting a baby boy.

And now Baby Knitspot is four months old.

Every day is a new adventure; a new first. We are experiencing his first coo, smile, laugh, grasp of a toy and even a head turn towards our voices. It is beyond exciting. Needless to say, not much else gets done. My knitting time is some spare moments in the passenger seat, in a waiting room, or when visitors steal the baby away from me.

It did take me a couple weeks, but I finished my Matterhorn Hat!

I knit this hat everywhere I went! Even waiting in line to vote!

I just love small, portable projects. I used to keep a pair of socks or a hat in my carry-on when I flew a lot. I never got to the airport with a sudden chest pain realizing I had packed ALL my knitting and I had nothing to keep me occupied. Also, it was a nice surprise to see an abandoned project in my bag. It felt new when I picked it up again. And I felt a huge sense of accomplishment when I happened to finish that project when the landing gear touched the tarmac of my home airport. I still practice this, but the spare project resides in my diaper bag.

Once my hat (details on ravelry project page) was done I wanted to cast on something else. I kept making lists of knitspot projects that could be finished in a few evenings (or a month in my world…). Then I realized there probably were other knitters seeking out the same projects. Especially around the holidays.

That inspired me to do a Countdown to Christmas KAL on ravelry. I started on December 10, posting doable projects by Christmas. I encouraged knitters to share their ideas and post pictures of their finished objects. I sweetened the deal by offering a knitspot gift certificate to a random winner. It’s been really fun watching all the FOs get posted. It’s not too late to join the fun! I post new project ideas daily on the knitspot facebook and twitter pages, plus in the ravelry thread. All you have to do is post a picture of a finished knitspot gift by Christmas. I’m drawing the winner on December 26. You can also pop into the thread and start queueing ideas for the next holiday season!

Though these bags are FULL of patterns, needles and wound yarn that were supposed to be gifts,

I’m thinking I’ll be happy if I get Baby Knitspot’s oh,Baby finished.

Isn’t that yarn just too, too much for wee little Christmas feet!?

Happy holidays and if you want to find knitting inspiration on your own, browse the knitspot pattern shop. You could get lost in that archive!