Sunday, August 24, 2014

Dog days

I want to thank everyone who left a comment or mentioned to me that they still read my blog.  Thank you...I clearly needed to know that this was still worth doing.  As a thanks to the knitter folk who have hung in here with me, I wanted to let you know that have a 20% off pattern sale for the dog days of August going on until the end of the month…this applies only to the patterns available on Ravelry.
The Ravelry coupon code is:

This is a good deal on some of these downloadable patterns!

  In order to honor one comment, most of the photos of this post feature Sally, my pointer-mix.  She came to us at around 8 months-1 year in 2005, which makes her 10 this year.


Sally has always been hard to photograph.  She is a very bright, skittish, high energy and loving dog.  Since my boys were born, the dogs get less time to laze about outside...because if the dogs get to barking at people beyond the fence, neighbors could complain.  So, we call them in quickly most of the time.  (and juggling 2 3 year olds and 2 dogs in August, by myself, has sometimes been tricky.)
Sally likes to sunbathe, and she likes to roll in the grass or snow to clean herself.  She comes in smelling good, either way, and watching her relax and roll is a real pleasure for those who know her.  (She's wary of ever being caught in a submissive pose.)

Most of the time, she is "on guard."  When my boys were infants, she would act as a dog nanny, guarding them.  She'd also rush over to their diapered bottoms and bark when they needed changing.  This wasn't ideal; it sometimes woke the boys up, but mostly it alarmed anyone who was trying to help me with the babies.  Sally did not really trust the nervous, non-dog people who tried to help, and she let them know she was worried about her babies.

Sally had to be taught a new command--"upstairs"--so she would have a way to be off duty and rest on my bed while others were over.  This summer, both boys have been home alone with me a lot, or with one or two other people Sally trusts.  As a result, she's often right near by these days, and I feel like she's back where she belongs, resting on a rug in the living room or patrolling the yard as we play.

Although I am really worn out from being on constant "mom" patrol with few breaks, I did have a couple of surprises.  One is that when there is no one to help, I HAVE to sit around with the boys in the playroom or in the yard.  I have to be the one who takes them to the park or the wading pool.  As a result, I've had more time both outdoors and sitting down--time to "rest" as compared to rushing about behind the scenes to get things done for the household or my work.  I often bring my spindle out to the yard to spin...and it can be surprising to see how much yarn gets made while they play in the sand box.  (nothing sweater-worthy, but better than nothing!)

In other news, we are in the midst of transitioning to "big boy beds."  These are really toddler beds, but the amount of chaos twin boys can cause when loose in their bedroom, alone, is unreal.  We have created a sleep time chart (color coded for boys who don't read!) and they get stickers and prizes when they settle down to sleep quickly and quietly.  That means--no yelling or sitting on or hurting your brother, no taking apart the furniture or destroying your get the picture.  Naptimes go smoothly, most of the time.  We're still working on bed time.  As always, sleep is still a challenge here.  I am still up with somebody 1-4 times a night.

Making food in August has been hard.  With no summer camp and only a mother's helper some afternoons, it is difficult to find 20 minutes to make a meal.  I have developed a loving relationship with my slow cookers and Stephanie O'Dea's books...
365 Slow Cooker Suppers and

 Make It Fast, Cook It Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking
These two books have enabled me to throw together a lot of dinners in a hurry, and everyone seems to like them.

Last but not least, I succumbed to something I swore I would never do.  I started baking bread as a 12 or 13 year old, and when I went to college, my mom bought a bread machine "to replace me."  I really love the process of baking bread and miss it dearly.  However, it is really hard to manage rising times and a hot oven between the competing needs of two very different preschoolers and two dogs while by myself.  Also, flour is very cheap in Manitoba (on sale, I can get 22.5 lbs of white flour for $6.50 CAD, and whole wheat is not much more), but decent wholegrain bread with no preservatives is expensive by comparison.  So, I got this bread machine on sale, and it has been churning out 2 or 3 loaves a week for us.  I was lucky; my bread baking experience meant I concocted my own whole grain recipe straight away and have been innovating since.  Sometime when I have more time, I will post some of those recipes.

I posted this marathon blog entry on a rainy Sunday morning while the Professor took the boys out to visit with the turtles and fish at the Assiniboine Park Conservatory.  This is the first time I have been alone, without twins, for any length of time, in 16 days.  I shared it with you.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

The sleepy sweaters

Time is short...the boys have summer camp in the mornings in July, but it's all me and twin three year olds every afternoon.  In August, our mother's helper will be back to help  a bit(she's away this month), but there's no camp and no preschool in August...just me, filling up the play time as best I can.  That means there's very little time for blog posts, no time for, say, complicated cooking or vacuuming up the copious amounts of dog fluff (honestly, it could be a new breed of dog!) on the floors. 

When I do have spare moments, I am mostly trying to fill them up with things that keep the household afloat, are enjoyable for someone or give us pleasure in the long run.  More on that in another post, I think...but in this one, I present:

the sleepy sweaters

Yes.  Even in summer here, we wear sweaters to bed with some frequency.  With the windows open, it can get chilly at night, and both boys throw off their covers with some frequency.  In an effort to get more sleep by helping them sleep through the night occasionally, I came up with these. 

This starts with either felted wool sweaters (from the thrift store) or cashmere ones that I bought to make into wool soakers or longies.  (Wool is very absorbent and ideal for cloth diaper covers; it is what my boys have been wearing at night for most of their lives.)  My mom helped out by making the first soakers and wool pants when the boys were born.  Some of the soakers are handknits but most are made from felted, repurposed sweaters.  The wool pants, (also called longies) worn over their clothes, were great for winter time warmth when going outside and a lot easier than getting a couple of infants into snow suits.

Over time, I got a stock pile of beautiful sweaters felted or washed and ready to go.  The professor really likes the thrift store sweater hunt!  The sleepy sweaters in my house come in two styles:

1) a long sleeveless one, sort of like a sleeveless tunic.  This goes over a short or long sleeved tee-shirt and a pair of pajama pants at bedtime.  (and underneath those pjs, we are still wearing cloth diapers and wool soakers at night.)

2) When it is really cold, in the winter, we wear long sleeve sleepy sweaters.  I repurpose felted adult sweaters or cashmere ones by hemming up the bottoms and sleeves so they fit my (still pretty small) three year olds. 

Recently, the purple cashmere sleeveless sleepy sweater was deemed the "ballet sweater."  Leo, the older twin, is a great fan of dancing.  He particularly enjoys twirling and stomping in his sleepy sweater before bed.

I began to get worried because this particular sleepy sweater was looking a bit ragged. When would I fix it and where would I find another perfect purple (CASHMERE!|) sleepy sweater?

I had a very lucky helper.  My friend Rachel, who owns Wolseley Wardrobe, a local consignment shop, kept her eye out for the perfect sweater.  The stars aligned and we just landed a second, long sleeved cashmere purple BALLET sleepy sweater.  Hurray! 

I get enormous pleasure out of seeing my guys cozy and ready for sleep, outfitted in woollies made or repurposed just for them.  It is time well-spent because sometimes, just sometimes, I get to sleep 5-6 hours in a row when they both are warm and comfy enough to sleep through the night at the same time.

I took advantage of a sunny morning to air these out and I wanted to share it with you.  Hope you can imagine the twin ballet dancers twirling here. 
PS: I am wondering if the blog is something I should keep doing? If you are reading, why do you read?  Are you a longtime reader?  Would you like me to post something different?  I just read this article and wonder if I've missed the boat on blogging.  Should I have made mine into something money making?  Is it time to let it go completely, as I cannot update it weekly anymore?

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Friday, July 04, 2014

A little Sumpin Sumpin

I have finally found summer.  Here.  In Winnipeg.  A couple of days ago, we could even shut our tap off and it isn't dripping anymore.  (yes, frozen pipes were still a concern until after Canada Day.  Oy.)  Even though I am thrilled to see flowers, greenery, heat, all of it...we're still very covered up here.  You see, we've had torrential rains, massive flooding in the Province (but not in my basement, thank goodness...) and now--MOSQUITOES.  One of my 3 year old boys (the smaller twin, for those who know us in person) has a terrible allergic sensitivity to the bites, which is not surprising, given that the Professor and I are both allergy-prone.

Well, he has had three bad bites near his eyes since the beginning of June.  Yucko.  This requires lots of "loopy sleepy medicine"(kid Benadryl) as well as "sauce"(cortisone cream) in order to keep from having the yucky antibiotics, which he had the first time he got a bite.  Anyhow, the boys wear long pants, socks, shoes, button down long sleeved shirts sprayed heavily with bug spray, and Tilley sun hats, also perfumed with bug spray...and even so, they get bitten on their hands, their wrists, their's bad.  The city will start spraying tonight and to be honest, I am just grateful.  It is terrible when you can't play in the sandbox, enjoy a slide, or try out your new tricycle because of bugs.

Also, morning preschool (mornings) doesn't start 'til Monday, and our mother's helper went away to visit her family.  So, we are having 10 days without any childcare.  In order to sell this to the boys as something fun and not an alarming sentence (which is what it sometimes seems to us--3 year old twins, without any help or breaks or anyone willing to watch both of them while they are awake but us...and oh, did I mention they still don't sleep through the night too often?!)...anyhow, I sold it as a "Holiday with Mommy."  Every day, we tried to do something fun together and I tried to tire them out.

Meanwhile, I relied heavily on precooked food from the freezer, the slow cooker, and deep calming breaths to get through all the potty breaks, accidents, tantrums, and random assaults on one's brother...

OK, on to the good stuff.  At night, when I should be sleeping, I was working on this.  As one of my brothers would say, with a sort of mischievous smirk, a little sumpin sumpin.  Here's a link to Sumpin, my latest knitting design.

It's an easy cellular lace pattern, only 4 rows long, and absolutely lightweight and airy in something like silk.  (This is Handmaiden Sea Silk, in Ivory)  It's meant to dress up a t-shirt, or, in my case, to cover up stains!  If I ever have to look nice again, I might want to wear/knit/own something like this.

The Professor shot these photos of me outdoors one evening after the twins were finally asleep.  It is light here until 10 or 11 pm this time of year and our twilight lasts a long time.  However, the mosquitoes were also thinking that this scarf was "sumpin" and our photo shoot was actually very fast.

This shot of me with my face all crinkled up and laughing was really like "Get on with it!  Hurry up!  Do you want to be eaten alive?!"

If you're curious about how I could possibly be designing or knitting now, well, I wonder that too.  I shot a photo of a chair in my bedroom...stacked with my knitting bag, a copy of Knit Green so I could answer somebody's question, and this last project, this silk scarf.  Knitting gets done in the tiny windows of space when I'm a passenger in a car, when the boys are drinking their milk before bed, and in the few minutes during naptime or before bed when I am trying to calm down and stealing sleep time to do it.

It is a time that is hazy around the edges, just like these shots...but a few minutes of knitting (or spinning) a day really keeps me feeling just a little bit sane when trying to sell 10 days without childcare or playdates or any local family or even any babysitting while someone is awake as...umm, a holiday with Mommy. :) 

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Saturday, June 07, 2014

Mary Jane Socks + ModeKnits yarn= Fabulous!

It might be hard to believe, but in Winnipeg, one can wear wool socks this time of year.  Today, for instance, we were wearing cardigans outside...a high of about 65F.(17C)  This is a great excuse to post about a collaboration about which I am excited.  ModeKnit Yarn is a brand new yarn company, producing hand-dyed yarns in really artistic colorways.  Annie Modesitt, a longtime knitwear designer, is the dyer extraordinaire, so the yarns are truly something to see.

These folks kindly provided my friend Deb with some of their yarn so she could knit up my pattern for Mary Jane Socks.  This is the result!  What I love most about it?  It is a colorway I could not have imagined and a dyeing, knitting and designing collaboration that went right across international boundaries and many years.  Deb is a friend I made at a special spinning guild, still in existence, in North Carolina.  I left North Carolina in 2002, but some of those folks are still in touch with me.  This project gave me the chance to connect with Deb a bit more often....and a whole new way of seeing one of my patterns from my book, Fiber Gathering.  All good. :)  Enjoy the photos--they remind me of kicking back on a sunny cool day like today.

(At my house, we spent a lot of time today playing outside, walking around the neighborhood, and enjoying the sunshine.  Hope you did, too!)


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Saturday, May 31, 2014

I am mother, hear me roar

I am mother, hear me roar

This is my newest op-ed, published today in the Free Press.  In general, I am proud of it-the editing was fine and I believe in what I said.  I love that it ran in the weekend paper, so more people might see it. However, writers never get to choose the headline.  I am upset about this one.  If a man wrote about getting good and equal access to healthcare, childcare, job equality and its effects on the tax base...everyone would say, "oh, right, of course, that is entirely reasonable and logical."  If I write about it, as a woman, as a mother, as a (gasp) feminist, I am roaring.   I am somehow making an (implied inappropriate?) loud noise and by implication, a statement about what women have to do to request a fair and equal status.

Really?  That makes me sad.  Not as sad, of course, as the struggle to get a fair wage, to have good access to the kind of healthcare I'd like, or to have decent and affordable childcare....but sad that the editors decided that what I wrote was somehow full of lioness rage, rather than full of a sort of legitimate frustration and an obvious logic about how to boost the tax base.  Boo.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

3 cheers for spring!

A week ago, we had a lovely day--warm enough to wash and hang out almost all our winter woollies...or at least all the (mostly handmade) mitts, scarves, and hats that the twins and I had piled up.  The weather has been unpredictable...everything was in use just a few weeks ago.  In fact, it sometimes flurries in May, and our kitchen sink is still dripping, as the ground is still frozen 8 feet down.  While it is warm on top of the soil, there are still reports of properties whose pipes are frozen.  (522 properties without water, last I heard)

All of Winnipeg is rushing around in practically no clothing to enjoy the short season of warmth...and I have finally gotten to wear short sleeves. :)
Here's a series of shots of the warm day, the clothes on the line, and the bits of green as we begin spring.  It's all a celebration for me as I used to wash wool and sweater type things every spring, before twins.  Clean woollies, packed in airy, sunny places and rotated frequently, are best for avoiding moth damage, as per the advice of my Professor husband, who does actually study butterflies and moths for a living...
Right after the twins were born, I tried using the clothes line, but it was too hard.  I had not recovered sufficiently healthwise, and I could not manage carrying heavy things up and down stairs or outside.  I also could not bend and stretch too well, and it's all even harder to do while wearing a baby.  (or two) 

So, the clothesline has not been out in quite a while.  Of course, doing extra spring cleaning was also not on the agenda.

I am surprised by and enjoy small things these days.

The last bit of news was knitting related.  In April, I was surprised by wonderful online pattern sales on Ravelry.  I have no idea why.  I'd done no advertising and only one new pattern in the last several years.  The only different thing was posting those new pdfs from Knit Green and Fiber Gathering.

So, I seized upon the opportunity and decided to do a small notebook ad on Ravelry to see if good sales continued.  As May closes, I can conclude that it did absolutely NOTHING and I have sold almost no patterns in May! 

I am trying to embrace unpredictability.  It goes against my nature, but then, life with almost three year old twins is different from one moment to the next.  (Potty training, for instance, is a truly unpredictable enterprise--different with each kid and from day to day.)  Time to try to enjoy any small positive the first cherry blossoms and flower bulbs blooming this spring.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

wool consultant?


I thought you might be interested in some of my latest adventures.  A little while ago, I heard that someone was giving away "free wool" but the story was more complex than that.  The short version?  A local stable was going through a transition and had an empty arena and a lot of empty loose boxes indoors this winter.  The province animal welfare folks seized a flock of sheep, plus 2 guard llamas.  I have no idea of the details, but this farm ended up with 40 sheep.  The flock was not in good health; there were dead animals in the field.

 The flock was cared for by the provincial vets and animal control folks and stayed indoors in the arena, warm and dry, during our very cold winter.  (-20 to -40 can be too cold for sheep to be outside without any sort of shelter, too!)  Before the sheep were sent on to their new home, a shearer came in and helped out.  Some (or all?) of those 40 fleeces ended up in a loose box in the stable in March.  Although I think the shearer did do brief skirting, there was no sorting or careful containment as this shearing was entirely for health reasons. 

Sheep who have been stressed often have breaks in their fleece, and some of these sheep had serious health concerns.  The stable had very caring horse people there, but they knew nothing about sheep or wool.

By the time I got out there with a friend to really help go through the fleeces, it was maybe 2 months later.  To our surprise, it was, in some part, a wool flock.  There were a mixture of breeds, Jacob and Jacobs' crosses, Icelandic, and some fine wool white sheep. 

When I was a kid, just learning to spin, a huge pile of free raw wool seemed like a good dream.  Unfortunately, adults know those pesky details can get in the way.
 What happened?  My friend and I managed to salvage 4 fleeces that looked ok.  One dark brown/reddish Icelandic fleece, a Jacob, and a couple of fine wool (one was maybe a Finn cross) fleeces.  We were making good progress on a very windy, cold day on the prairie.  We were indoors, but it was cold and wet and we had only a couple hours before I had to head back to town for preschool pick up.
I stepped into that great mound of wool to retrieve half a fleece and (if you are squeamish, please sit down now) mice TEEMED out of it.  I screamed, of course, it was surprising.  Not really surprising, in retrospect, as I would choose that place to nest if I were a mouse, but...when I described it to my boys, they said, "TWO mice?" and I said no.  They said "TEN mice?" and well, I said, "Ok, ten."  It was more than ten.
Worse, after that moment, the next 4 or 5 fleeces were checked were damaged beyond repair.  There was water penetration in the stable from a large snow bank and the fleeces were very wet.  We're not sure how many fleeces were from sick sheep, or if the water or the pest infestation was the problem.  Short version?  The rest had to go to the landfill.  Sad, but true, especially because getting rid of those mice was important, too.
What happened to the fleece?
I ended up parking 4 fleeces on my front porch.  I washed them all--not to get them spotlessly clean, but clean enough so someone would be willing to bring them into their house.  The Icelandic and Jacob fleeces have gone a new home for $15 a piece, to benefit the Manitoba Fibre Festival.  I have two white (ish) fine wool fleeces left....good for felting or maybe for spinning.  They will require a thorough second cleaning and do still have vegetable matter in them....  Drop me a note with contact information if you are interested.
I know that many spinners these days focus almost exclusively on cleaned wool roving and even hand-dyed roving.  Some people never process a raw fleece from scratch.  Meeting sheep and being at shearing day, starting from scratch?  This has been one of my great joys as a spinner.  I have more than one garment from a friend's sheep--and I was there to catch it when it was shorn, I washed it, I teased, carded or combed it, I spun it, I knit it...I like this process.

I also like being there to try to save something from nothing.  These rescue sheep have gone on to a better home.  I hope now a small fraction of their hard work, their wool, can be made worthwhile.

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