Sunday, January 13, 2013

Angry Birds

I was browsing through Ravelry yesterday and found this adorable free pattern for some Angry Bird mittens. A couple years ago, I would sometimes have to beg my son for a chance to play the game on his phone while we were waiting at restaurants and such. (He has a smart phone while I don't. In fact, my phone is so old I figure that I could someday donate to the Smithsonian. It still works so I don't plan to get a new one just yet.) I never really got that great at the game but it is oddly addicting. My son wonders why that game has become so popular when there are so many other games.

My son is too old to wear Angry Bird Mitts, but I know a seven-year old who might. He wore an Angry Bird costume for Halloween and had an Angry Bird themed birthday party so I figured he would love these mittens. I was so eager to try them, that I dropped my current project, ran downstairs to dig through my stash for yarn to make them. I found some Cascade 220 and cast on.

I had a difficult time getting the eyebrows to be symmetrical. I re-did them a couple times on one of the mitts and still didn't really like how they turned out. Finally, I got some black sewing thread and reshaped the black yarn with a needle and thread. Tomorrow I will mail them out.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


A few years ago, I started swapping on Swap-bot. On this site you can sign up to participate in a variety of swaps ranging from exchanging post cards to more elaborate packages. I usually stick to swaps that involve handmade themes. You are assigned one or more partners who can live anywhere in the world depending on the parameters of the swap. You then prepare a package for them based on the theme. I was fairly active on the site but now I only participate every couple of months. There doesn't seem to be as many handcrafted swaps as there once was and I'm not really interested in exchanging store bought items.

However, I recently saw an interesting swap with a winter choose 4 items to send to a partner. Each person has a profile on the site where they can list preferences. I'm sending my package out to my partner today and this is what she will get. First, I knitted a scarf/shawlette in a self-striping yarn I chose because my partner mentioned she liked black, white and purple. This swap is not specifically for handmade items but I included two. The second is a crocheted basket that I filled with a sampler of tea bags. I made several of these little baskets out of dishcloth cotton I have in my stash and filled then with Ghiradelli chocolates for little holiday gifts. I think the tea bags look great, so that's another use for them.

I rounded out the package with some Starbucks salted caramel hot chocolate, a box of Sanders mints, a locally made candy and two unscented votive candles.

I like to wrap gifts in plain, white tissue and attach a crocheted flower as a ribbon. I make them out of leftover scraps and try to have a supply on hand in a plastic bag. I wrapped the scarf up in just such a fashion.

The package will go out in today's mail. I am still waiting to receive one from my partner. I haven't swapped in awhile so this is fun!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

First Projects of the Year

My first project of the year is the Lucy Hat which I knitted with Madelinetosh Vintage. It was the actual yarn called for in the pattern and I just love it. I've been collecting skeins, mostly discounted onesies, from Jimmy Beans Wool  of Madelinetosh Merino Light but I've discovered that I love Vintage as well. My skeins are piled up and I actually am reluctant to knit with them. The colors are so rich and the skeins look so lovely. I figure a project has to be really worthy to use them.

With the yarn leftover from the hat, I made a pair of Waiting for Winter Mittens. I was going to design mittens using the woven stitch band featured in the hat, but I opted for expediency since I wanted to get this set mailed out to my aunt. I had promised her over the summer I would knit her a hat. I don't see her that often because she lives in another state, but she really appreciates handmade stuff.

I read many blogs and most of them contain entries about New Year resolutions or goals. I never have really jumped on the resolution bandwagon. I have to chuckle though because this time last year I actually was pretty serious about a goal of not buying any more yarn until I used up a bin of stash yarn. I'm not sure how long that lasted, but Jimmy Beans Wool just sent me a thank-you gift for being one of their most-appreciated customers.

a thank-you gift

I do have a knitting-related goal for this year though and it is to complete an actual adult-size sweater. I have yarn stashed to make several sweaters but just can't seem to finish them or even start them. I like the quick satisfaction of a small project. I'll see a pattern on Ravelry and want to dive in. This means that my knitting bags (yes, I have several) contain languishing unfinished cowl, a single sock. In a somewhat feeble attempt to organize for the new year, I rummaged through my bags and ripped out some unfinished projects and resolved to complete a couple others.

Here's one that I rescued. It was probably two years ago that I started these granny squares.

granny square scarf crocheted with Noro Silk Garden sock

Now it is almost done but not before I was distracted by a new purchase. I bought eight  balls of Crystal Palace kid merino for only $2.60 at Jimmy Beans. As soon as they arrived I started in on another flower scarf. I don't know what I'm going to do with all these flower scarves!

This one is very soft and lightweight.

I'm taking these pictures at 5:30 am and it is pitch dark outside. I get up with my teenage son who has swim practice at 5:45 am at his high school three mornings a week. I used to have to drive him but now he gets picked up by a friend. I make him coffee and a lunch. Parents take turns bringing in breakfast for the team. Yesterday was my turn and I got up at 4:45 am and made two large pans of hash brown casserole, baked 32 cinnamon rolls that I had made yesterday, and cracked 3 dozen eggs that I scrambled on site with my electric skillet. Another mom brought in chocolate milk, applesauce and yogurt. Those boys are certainly well-fed but I figure they deserve it. If I had to jump into a pool at 5:45 am, I would certainly look forward to a nice breakfast afterward. By noon, I was getting pretty sleepy at the office. And those boys had another practice from 3 to 5:30 pm! I don't know how they do it.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Holiday Trip

the famous Golden Gate Bridge

This year my family did something we never do...take a vacation over the Christmas break. The four of us flew from Michigan to San Francisco, California. It was the first time in California for my kids and about 15 years since I was last there. One of my co-workers, who owns a business there, warned me to expect rainy weather and boy, was he right. Despite the rainy weather, we had a great time.

Sausalito, CA houseboats
We stayed three nights in Sausalito, where my husband is enamored of the houseboat communities there. That would be a dream come true for him to be able to live in one of these.

Then we head about 40 miles south for a couple of nights, including Christmas, in Palo Alto. My son, who is in the middle of his high school swim team training, arranged to attend a practice at Stanford. While he swam 9500 meters in very chilly weather, at an outdoor 50 meter pool in the pouring rain, my daughter and I headed to the Stanford Shopping Center.  We dodged raindrops as we darted into the stores...more upscale than are typically found in our neck of the woods. My daughter bought a Kate Spade purse, at a significant, after-Christmas discount and she was thrilled.

We then trekked south to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a lovely drive, where we passed fields of brussels sprouts and artichokes. I was transfixed by the jellyfish exhibit at the aquarium.

Despite spending the day at the aquarium, my kids were in a serious mood for a sushi dinner back in Palo Alto.

Port Reyes National Seashore
Our final stop was back north to Bodega Bay. I loved the Port Reyes National Seashore. It was one of only two sunny days we had and the scenery was stunning. I wish we had taken the time to hike the Earthquake Trail, which follows along a portion of the San Andreas fault...but I only read about afterward. We did see some beautiful sights, though.

Sea lions plopped on the beach

On our last day, we headed to Healdsburg in Sonoma county, a pretty town chock-full of art galleries and restaurants. And there was a yarn shop, called Purls of Joy, which I think is a cute name. In this picture, you can see a sign advertising a 25% off sale. In the window, the igloo is made of plastic milk cartons, covered in cotton. I was relatively modest in my purchases...only two skeins of Noro Taiyo sock yarn.
yarn bombing in Healdsburg, CA

Rodney Strong winery, Sonoma Valley
 We visited a couple of wineries on our way back to our Bodega Bay inn. The grape vines look rather forlorn in the winter.

Kendall-Jackson winery

I appreciated this single blossom of color, although there is much more greenery in California at this time of year than in Michigan. We returned home to a coating of snow on the ground, a modest 4 inches or so...hardly anything compared to my friends in Vermont and New York who had to cope with 14 inches of the white stuff. My kids still have the rest of the week off from school, so vacation hasn't ended for them quite yet.