Archive for December, 2008

Hyper-focus: ACTIVATE!

It occurred to me today that I am always caught off-guard when asked about New Year’s Resolutions.  The truth is, I never have any.  In fact, I usually feel like I have no control over my own resolve whatsoever.  The way things usually happen is that I will suddenly be overcome with the urge to take on a project (painting the living room, knitting a blanket, losing weight, cleaning out my closet, etc), and then work on it feverishly until it is done.  This is the only way I ever get things done—long periods of total inactivity randomly punctuated by copious output.  I call this phenomenon “hyper-focus” and use it to excuse my lazy procrastination.  So now you see that my crazy mind makes it own resolutions and follows through with them regardless of the corresponding holiday. 

 

That being said, I want to at least pretend to have some resolutions on hand to tell people when they ask, so here they are:

 

My list of imaginary and futile resolutions:

 

1.) Knit a blanket (this is not really fair, since blanket fever is already going strong and I’ve already cast on for this)

2.) Learn to knit fair isle stuff and make some mittens

3.) Sew a party skirt

4.) Make Pad Thai and macarons (also not fair, since I’ve been obsessing over these for some time already)

5.) Move out of ritzy apartment and into cozy, old house

6.) Buy more shoes

7.) Finish the bird mobile that I started for Ellie before she moves into a big girl bed

8.) Get internet at home and take better care of the netflix cue so we stop getting stupid movies in the mail.

9.) Reupholster a piece of furniture like these folks did

 

Well, there they are.  By the way, this post was inspired by Andrea, whom I have voted Most Likely to See Her Resolutions to Fruition.

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Oh, and Denise’s Interchangeable Knitting Needles have changed everything. Thanks, David.

Christmas is over, and we are ready to celebrate the New Year already!  David and I returned from our holiday travels last night and, while it’s always nice to see family and friends at the holidays, it is certainly a relief to walk through your own front door and into your own 57 degree apartment.  On the drive to and from Ohio and New Jersey, we listened to two audio books, Me Talk Pretty One Day and Naked, both by David Sedaris.  There is nothing better than an audio book in the car and, since we are very familiar with David Sedaris’ unique voice and humor from our constant NPR-ing, we felt pretty confident that we would enjoy these stories.  And we did.  There is honestly nothing funnier than hearing the clumsy translations of his bad French, which dominated almost 2 entire chapters.  When inquiring about the cow brains in a butcher’s shop, he asked, “Is thems the thoughts of a cows?” How can you not be laughing right now? 

 

Oh well, one thing I will say for both of these books is that I don’t think I would enjoy reading them as much as I did listening to David Sedaris tell them.  There’s just something about him impersonating his own parents that we can really identify with. 

 

So other than driving endless hours between Kentucky, Ohio and New Jersey, we did stop long enough to actually celebrate Christmas.  In Ohio, we dismissed the rest of my family in favor of our 4 month old niece, Ellie.  She just learned to smile, so we spent most of our time there making fools of ourselves and talking to her in our best supersonic voices in an attempt to bring out that gummy grin that is so sly and sweet.  When Ellie was sleeping, we talked to my parents, sister and brother-in-law about…Ellie. 

 

Then we went to New Jersey, where we celebrated Christmas with David’s family.  Maxwell, our pit bull mix, met Franklin, a sweet little pug puppy who has taken over the lives of David’s brother and his wife.  Maxwell and Franklin got along very well and thoroughly wore each other out.  Maxwell is still sleeping it off. 

franklin 

Franklin is ready for more.

 

As far as gifts go, David and I made the Charlie Bag, non-toxic all-purpose cleaner, and boxes and boxes of grown up sweets (almond and cinnamon biscotti, Italian wedding cookies, chocolate covered pretzels).  To me, grown-up sweets include all confections that taste best with coffee, which all of these goodies do, and are therefore enjoyed more by adults than children.  I also made this hat in olive green for my mom and a tiny matching one for Ellie that makes her head look like a little mushroom cap. 

moms-hat

I know it looks sort of pope-y here, but it actually drapes very nicely when the wearer isn’t trying to hide her identity from Minions of Unkown Internet Predators.

Anyway, the handmade gifts went over very well and we may just have to make this a tradition.  One thing that will make this easier for next year is the Kitchen Aid Mixer that David’s mom got for us.  Probably our most useful gift of the year. 

 kitchen-aid

and it’s so SHINY

 

Other very useful gifts include these eerily spot on shot-in-the dark books from David’s sage mother:

knitting-books

HOW DID SHE KNOW?

 

So what’s next on our agenda?  New Year’s Eve.  We plan to have a small get-together possibly featuring a fancy dinner (coq au vin? Possibly…), a fancy dessert (macarons?  Possibly…), and a fancy cocktail (something containing prosecco? Definitely.). 

My home. My sweatshop.

Just a very short post today because I am very very busy at work and don’t have time to dilly dally around here for too long, even though I do immensely enjoy blogging. 

I wasn’t even going to post today because I’m in the midst of a huge crafting binge which does not allow me time to post on my crafting blog, oddly enough.  Seriously, though, after Christmas, there will be a crafting break because I’ve got about 64 trillion projects going right about now (I just counted over 20 in my head. And now I have to pause for a Xanax break because I feel an anxiety attack coming on).  I am a slave to Christmas.

So, what induced me to poke my head out of the frozen center of crafting hell to post for you today?  Well, I took a little peek onto my blog stats today, where it tells me what google searches led people to this blog and do you know what one of them was?  CHRISTMAS KILL.  What could this mean?  What kind of blog am I writing here??  Certainly not one about killing on Christmas, or killing Christmas itself, or being killed on Christmas.  Right?  I’d better go read through by previous posts to sort this out.

I will be posting pictures of all the craftiness very soon, possible in installments, and I’m sure Raven will do the same, since she’s got some pretty cute stuff coming together over at her place as well.  I realize that over the course of the past few months, I’ve promised several pictures and have consistently broken those promises.  Not this time, though.  I promise.

Two Words: Slipper Socks

That last post was actually written last Friday, so this post is to catch you up on the weekend’s activities (which were many and varied) and then we will be all up to date.  For organization’s sake, I will be blogging in list form today:

 

Activity #1: Knitting the Cottage Socks

 

I had really been obsessing over these slipper socks all week last week.  As soon as I saw Raven’s adorably modified Urchin Beret (which comes to a little point at the top like a little pixie hat AND has a bow—too cute!), I knew I had to make something with that super chunky yarn.  Then, I found this pattern on Ravelry and knew that I had to have them.  Immediately.  So I bought the yarn last week and sat down to make them at noon on Friday and by bedtime, they were both completed.  INSTANT GRATIFICATION (for knitters, 6 consecutive hours of knitting is about as close to instant as you can get). 

 

cottage-socks 

 

Activity #2: Tannenbaum

 

We went out and sort of cut down our tree.  Does it smell like oranges?  Not really.  Did we actually cut it down ourselves?  No, but we did remove it from a spike in the ground, which felt very authentic to me.  Am I disappointed by this?  Absolutely not. 

 

xmas-tree 

The tree is a vision of beauty and I love it.  Everything looks great on it and, while it doesn’t have that citrussy smell that I was hoping for, I underestimated how awesome the regular old pine smell can be. When I close my eyes and breathe it in, it’s like I’m 10 again.  So, I’ve been huffing the tree since we got it.  David keeps asking me to please get my face out of the tree, but I really can’t help myself. 

 

This year, we put a cranberry garland up.  I am a little worried that it will eventually rot and stink up the house, but it’s going strong for now.  It was surprisingly quick to string up—we just used a regular sewing needle and cotton quilting thread and did it in an evening. Not sure why these pics look like they were taken through a screen door, but here they are anyway.

 

xmas-tree-collage1 

 

Pics: Clockwise from top left: (1) David felt that the best way to untangle lights is to shake them around.  Very effective method. (2) Stringing cranberries. (3) Bowl of cranberries—make sure you don’t use the soft ones! (4) My favorite ornament from Mulberry and Lime in Lexington. (5) Me trying to get Maxwell to sit still in front of the tree.  He’s extremely docile and accommodating, as you can tell.

 

Activity #3: Miscellaneous Baking

 

Of course, David made bread.  On Monday, Maxwell escaped from his crate and ate one entire loaf.  Again SO VERY DOCILE AND ACCOMMODATING.  We just love him.

bread-again 

 

First batch of Christmas cookies!  David got a recipe from his grandma that called for 2 sticks of butter and a block of cream cheese.  Do you think they will let us schedule our angioplasties in advance? 

cookies

Quality Merchandise

 

Circular needles have saved Christmas!  If I am to be honest with myself, that first produce bag was not looking so hot, so I have classed it up for the family in my effort to create something that they might actually use without feeling embarrassed.  Also, using size 13 needles for that was just lazy.  It looks much better in the size 8 circulars—the holes look more organized and there are no unsightly seams.  Finally, instead of a too-short twisted rope, I have opted for a festive red I cord.  The funny thing is that this version took a fraction of the time that initial ugly one did—all because of the magic of circular needles—no seaming OR binding off necessary!  I am now able to totally complete one bag in a matter of hours and will definitely finish them all by Christmas.  Yay! 

 

The perks to using a knitted produce bag are innumerable, but the ones that stick out to me are:

1)    More environmental smugness: it’s not every day that you can one-up those prius-driving, reusable-grocery-bag folks.  A good feeling, friends.

2)    No more plastic touching your food!    

 

Want to make your own?  Here is the still simple, but more sophisticated pattern.

 

{Picture will be posted HERE tomorrow}

 

“Clean up the World Produce Bag”

 

Materials:

 

Size 8, 16” circular needles

2 size 6 dpns

Tapestry needle

Worsted weight natural cotton yarn (I used Peaches & Cream)

 

CO 46 sts and join

Rounds 1-4: Knit

Round 5: *K2tog, YO* repeat until end of rnd

Round 6: K

Repeat rnds 5 & 6 until the entire piece is 10” long.

Continue in stockinet stitch for 3”—do not bind off.

Cut the yarn, leaving a 12” tail

 

Thread the tapestry needle with the tail of the yarn and pull it through the loops still on the knitting needles. 

 

Pull all sts off knitting needles and pull the tail to cinch the bottom closed.  Tie off tightly.  Weave in all ends.

 

I Cord:

 

Make a 20” I Cord following these instructions.

Thread finished I cord through the first row of holes at the top of your bag with a tapestry needle.  Tie ends in a knot.

 

Of course, I cannot be satisfied with this small victory.  I must move on to knitted goods more worthy of my obsession, such as the Denise Interchangeable Knitting Needles and THESE.  The tizzy that these two items have triggered is absurd, but what can I say?  There is something wrong with me.

 

How 70s are these??

How '70s are these??

 

 

 

 

This one seems to be about Christmas Trees…

Here’s hoping that your Thanksgiving was better than mine!  Of the 14 family members who ate dinner at my mom’s house, a whopping seven were afflicted with the stomach flu by Saturday (myself and David included), making us the only family in America who lost weight last week. Although those of us who hosted the super-bug discussed our symptoms in GREAT AND NAUSEATING DETAIL, I will spare you from that information and move on to future plans that, hopefully, do not involve unwelcome bodily fluids.  Such as chopping down a Christmas tree!

 

I have been researching this very topic for the past hour or so in an effort to find the perfect tree farm that will allow me to recapture my childhood experience of hayrides, hot beverages, cheesy gift shops, possibly a petting zoo featuring elderly goats, and, most important of all, a Christmas tree that smells of citrus fruits.  I have discovered that there are several cut-your-own tree farms in Lexington, so that’s a start.  Unfortunately, the websites for said farms are totally useless inasmuch as they do not provide pricing information which is the ABSOLUTE DETERMINING FACTOR since we (like all other People of the World) are poor this year due to the impending great depression and also Sallie Mae, who we despise.  So I suppose I will have to actually call these people to find out. Oh bother…

 

Just as a side story, when I was around nine years old, we left our newly cut tree in the garage for a few days before setting it up.  When we finally got it into the house, 8 giant mutant amazon flies came buzzing out of the warmed branches, sending my sister and me running out of the room, covering our heads and screaming.  (BTW: I would have that exact same reaction if that were to happen today, which is how I know I’m not ready to procreate.)  My parents remained calm and beat the whole fly family to death with rolled up magazines (merry Christmas).  According to Dad, they were very difficult to kill. End scene.

A rough sketch

A rough sketch

 

Anyway, so I cannot for the life of me find which tree it was that had that lovely citrus/evergreen scent, so we may have to go for that old standby, the Douglas Fir or the Fraser Fir.  One thing that I learned via Extensive and Professional Internet Research: get a fir or spruce, not a pine—they hang on to their needles longer. 

 

This will be our first real tree, since we have always used a hand-me-down fake one from David’s mom, which had to stay in NJ due to limited moving truck space.  I was sad about that, since I really loved that tree and also because it was pre-lit (although stringing lights will not be my job. Ever. This is a matter closely related to my general-hatred-of-threading-needles issue.)  David’s mom will be shipping our beautiful ornaments to us (and we love her for that!).  Our ornaments are all clear because we had a little fit of indecisiveness at Target when we were purchasing our first Christmas stuff and determined that clear would go with whatever we decided in the future.  But then we put them on the tree and I loved them because they looked like bubbles, so clear it is.  Forever.  Sorry future children—stick with the theme and your homemade stuff might make it on the back of the tree.