Thursday, December 22, 2011

A level situation

Paul's favorite tool is a level.

He uses it for everything. (And he has more than one.  I think maybe he has more than two.)  I never knew there were so many uses for a level.  He uses it to hang pictures; make sure something is up-and-down straight like a door; shelves.... and other stuff -- I'm always surprised at the things he pulls out the level for.  Most of them, things I would just eyeball (especially the pictures).  Last weekend, we worked on our entryway:

There's the BIG, long level, as opposed to the little short level above. (I have no idea why this is sideways.  I adjusted it in my computer...)

What the heck?  Still sideways.  Sort of ruins the wow factor.

Several level-using opportunities for this project.  This was my Pottery Barn inspiration, done on a mega-budget.

And this is my favorite part:

We used a Groupon recently to purchase this.  In case you can't see, it is a series of pictures of objects/things in nature that spell Cassidy.  How cool is that?  We thought it was very cool.  Go to the Frame the Alphabet site (click there) to see.  It's quite pricey but we got a good deal with the Groupon.  [We've used several Groupons in the area - mostly for food, but sometimes there are other good deals like this one that are online, not local.]

In other home improvement news, we've finally gotten the sideways tree decorated:

.... and other holiday decorations:

This looks so sparse in the picture.  It looks very nice in person.

Love this kissing ball!
Ooh! and I made some cookies!:

I made three different kinds but for some reason this is the only picture I took.   That's weird.  My brain has too much in it at this point. Once I make up a plate of them, I'll take another picture.  But these are my very favorite cookies ever, and I usually only make them at Christmas.  They are called Jewel Cookies and are in an old Martha Stewart Christmas book.  LOVE.  THEM.

And Paul has some time off, so he is working on two other projects.  Details to come.

We are "ready" for Christmas, except for the wrapping party we are having for the two of us tonight.  Soon it will be a whirlwind Connecticut/New York weekend and before we know it, it will be over.  It always passes by so quickly, despite the weeks and weeks of preparation.  I'm most excited to see if my neice and nephews like their slippers!

In knitting news, I started and finished the Seamless Baby Kimono by Carina Spencer:

Full disclosure:  Those buttons aren't sewed on yet.  Big surprise, I know.   I'll give someone $5 to sew them on for me.  Any takers?
The colors were a collaborative effort, picked out by myself and all the other knitters hanging out at the shop last weekend.

This was a quick knit (especially since I knit the 3 mos size) and fairly simple.  I started it on Sunday and finished it yesterday.  Great (as the pattern notes, too) for a first top down sweater.  I'll be teaching a class for this in January or February.  It has sizing up to 2T which is nice.  Very cute - it got lots of oohs and aahs at the knit-in last night where I was weaving in all the ends.

And last night, I succumbed to the yarn bug and purchased some yarn for the Sycamore Vest by Hannah Fettig.  It's a nice lightweight vest that can be worn in the spring.  I got Cascade 220 Sport to knit it with:

Ha!  NOT purple!
Hopefully next post will not be sideways.

Happy Holidays to you all!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Baby Whisperer and a surprise review

Yesterday, while I was babysitting Benjamin and Michaela, I came up with a new way to make babies fall asleep:  Talk to them until they are so bored, they have to.  Benjamin was tired and being a little fussy.  He didn't want to play under the gym.  He didn't want to practice rolling over.  He didn't want to look at pictures in books.  But he was tired - droopy eyes and all.

I had recently had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my lunch so I started talking to him about how much I loved peanut butter.  Love pj&j.  Love peanut butter and fluff.  Love peanut butter cups.  My favorite panini ever that I had in Vermont - peanut butter and banana (warm!). Love peanut butter cookies, especially the sandwich kind.  Don't really love peanut butter flavored ice cream or peanut butter bread.  But, love peanut butter sauce on ice cream.  With Resees Pieces.  Benjamin was very intent at first, even smiling.  Then he started yawning and getting more droopy eyed.  I had run out of peanut butter things, so I moved on to pizza, another favorite.  I named all the places that Uncle Paul and I go for pizza and whether or not we like them and why.  And he fell asleep!*  You can just call me the baby whisperer.

*Ok, he only slept for a 1/2 hour and woke up very hungry, earlier than expected.  Why do you think that was?

Here are their finished, so so so cute Christmas presents!:

These are the thumbless mittens, His and Hers Mittens, from 60 Quick Baby Knits.  So fast to knit.  Each mitten took me a little less than an hour and the icord took what felt like 80 hours, but really only about a 1/2 hour each.

And, surprise!, I have another book review!  Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin (see link below)
Loved this book - read it in just a few days. It is about a shy young woman who lives in Ireland (post WWII) with her mother and her sister, but ends up moving to Brooklyn,  in order to have a " better life".  She struggles with homesickness and creating a life for herself in Brooklyn, then with staying in Brooklyn versus Ireland, so her  mother won't be lonely.  The events that happen to Eillis are written such that it seems she does not have control over them, or is just doing what she thinks is expected, and she keeps stumbling along with them.  The reader stumbles along with her, sometimes frustratingly so, wishing you could make the "right" decisions for her, or keep her life from going in a certain direction.  Oh and there's a love story in there too.   A completely engaging book.
Here is the link if you'd like to take a look or purchase:

Busy weekend ahead - teaching the Mobius Cowl class at the yarn shop, then helping customers with finishing projects.  AND, we have our home improvement project that I hope to have completed by the end of the weekend to show you.  And Christmas shopping. And tree decorating.  And hanging lights outside.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Review and a Conversation

I finally finished The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson....

This non-fiction book chronicles the development of the Chicago World's Fair (dubbed The White City -  all the structures built there were painted white) alongside the actions of a serial killer in Chicago during the same time frame.    Lots of interesting information about all the troubles associated with creating this World's Fair and the things that were introduced at or created for the World's Fair including Cracker Jacks, the Ferris wheel (designed by a guy named Ferris), the first zipper, Aunt Jemima's pancake mix, and Juicy Fruit gum.  There was also a giant map of the United States on display, made entirely of pickles!

Interspersed with the timeline of the creation of the fair is the story of a serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to him.  A very creepy portrait of this man is relayed and gets your spine tingling.  When I was reading these parts, I kept remembering, incredulously, that this is a non-fiction book.  This guy was horrible!

Overall, I enjoyed the book, and would recommend it, but it was a slow read for me.  While the parts about the World's Fair were interesting and I had lots of , "Huh!  I never knew that" moments, some of the sections were dry and I was losing interest, feeling bogged down in all the details.  I couldn't wait to get to the sections about the serial killer to see what was developing next.  I tend to like reading murder mysteries, so that's what was I was interested in.  

If you would like to purchase it click there:

Meanwhile, Paul and I had a conversation last night about "chick flicks" that went something like this:
Me (while watching tv): "Hey that's Hector Elizondo. He was the hotel concierge that was nice to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman."
Paul: (blank look)
Me:  "You haven't seen that movie ten million times?????"
Paul: " No.  It's a chick flick."
Me: "You've seen Legally Blonde ten million times.  That's a chick flick."
Paul: "No, it's not. Pretty Woman is a romantic movie.  Legally Blonde is a comedy."
Me: "Legally Blonde is a romance too.  She falls for the Wilson guy."
Somehow I wasn't convincing.  I think we silently agreed to disagree.

And, we're doing something here:
Hopefully to be completed by this weekend!
A quote to go along with a home improvement project:
"Ability is what you're capable of doing.  Motivation determines what you do.  Attitude determines how well you do it." - Lou Holz

Monday, December 12, 2011

And so it begins....

Two weeks before Christmas and now it feels like the season is beginning.  Paul and I drove to Cooperstown for a late lunch at Sal's on Saturday:
 We had our usual pizza and garlic knots.... Mmmmmmmmm:
 It was finally a very cold day and even though there wasn't any snow, it felt like winter.  Even the lake (Otsego) looked cold.(Although all the birds swimming around didn't)
 And on the main street, Santa was "In":
 What a cute little house they had for him.   Everyone had to stand outside in the cold, though, waiting their turn.

On the way there and back, I worked on bitty mittens:

On Sunday, we ventured out bright and early to do our Christmas shopping.  The plan was to get to Boscov's at 9, since that's when they opened.  Then hit shops in the mall when it opened at 10.  The plan worked beautifully and we even mall walked in between since we had time before the mall shops opened.  Not many people there yet and we plowed through our list.  We rewarded our efficient selves with an early lunch at Five Guys.  Mmmmmmm... Five Guys.  We didn't quite finish our list but, fingers crossed, it won't be long before we do.

Speaking of Five Guys, this one was newly installed at the mall and they have this way excellent soda machine.  It is a touch screen and you can choose from 50 million coke products.  For example:  Choose the "Coke" button and you get a screen that has six types of coke (cherry, raspberry, vanilla etc....).  Same with the "Powerade" button and the "Fanta" button.  In case you were wondering, I had Cherry Coke with my lunch and Grape Fanta to go.

Also on Sunday was the Altamont Holiday Traditions day in town with lots of things going on (including Santa arriving on the train at the old train station!).  I was meeting someone at the yarn shop to help them with a project so I walked around town a bit.  I went to the Festival of Trees and voted for my favorite:
The Spinning Room's of course!  All the ornaments were knitted by Deirdre's customers.  Here is a (blurry) close-up (gotta get that photography class....):

 And there were gingerbread houses:
 And then, while I was at the shop, a group of Girl Scouts came in to do some caroling:
 Very festive weekend!

In other news, car related.....  Paul pulled the motor out of his car this weekend.  And I helped.  I worked the engine hoist and various jacks, as directed.

 This stuff always makes me nervous because everything is so big and heavy.  That engine is about 650 pounds!
Big hole in the engine compartment now.
 And now Paul will work on the engine.  Doing stuff and checking stuff and fixing stuff and replacing stuff.  Then I imagine I'll help put it back in.  I'm vital to this operation, I tell ya.

In other news knitting related, I knit up the Bandana Cowl in about 6 hours!  Really quick knit and it's great.  It's a Christmas gift, so I'm not saying who it's for.  Hopefully I'll get a picture of the recipients wearing all the knitted gifts and post them.

On the evening I finished it, I immediately gave it a soak:
 I set the timer in the kitchen so I wouldn't forget about it because I was working on mittens.  The timer went off when I was in the middle of a row or something and because it was going off for so long, Paul turned it off.  I promptly forgot all about it and kept on knitting, then went to bed!  So, apparently a 12 hour bath does not hurt because it turned out fine:
 I really can't wait to take a picture of the person wearing it because right now it just looks like underpants to me.

And, I think I've solved the problem of the Mukluk bottoms!:
This is Puffy Paint (not the Slick) by Tulip.  I did a test spot on my mukluks (which I'm not showing you because it involved peeling off some of the Slick dots and the others that are left are dusty, so you'll just have to trust me) and it turned out great.  The Puffy Paint isn't as hard as the Slick and has a little more give to it.  And this time I did it in lines, not dots, so that helps with not being able to feel it when you are wearing them.  In my opinion, you can just leave the paint to dry, and that's that.  OR, you can actually activate the "puffiness" with an iron, as directed.  I tested it both ways and it works fine.  Activating it with an iron will make the lines wider and taller.The picture above was taken just after applying the paint.  They are still drying.

Later this week, a book review of Devil in the White City!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Biebs

Just a quick post to show you a finished project and to vent about something.  First the venting.

So, Paul and I were waiting for The Biggest Loser to come on last night and we watched the last few minutes of the Michael Buble Christmas special.  Justin Beiber (or The Beibs, as Brian Williams on NBC calls him --- I just love Brian Williams.  He's so funny.) was a guest singer.  He came out on stage to greet Michael and when he reached up to hug him, his sweater rose up in the back and you could see his underwear and the fact that his pants were buckled/belted below his butt.  On purpose.  I. Hate. That.  (On national tv!  Isn't his mother watching out for him since he's only like 12.  Ok, I know he's older than that.)  And as he was singing, he had to hold on to the front of his pants so they wouldn't fall off.  Ridiculous.

I just don't understand this "fashion statement" and why it's actually persisting.  It looks terribly uncomfortable and who wants to go around holding onto their pants to make sure they don't fall down?  Actually, they don't... I was in a nail salon once and another patron's (who was sitting in front of me) boyfriend came along to sit down and when he did, his pants were so low that I could actually see through his legs.  He apparently didn't feel like he needed to pull them up, even a little bit.  I bet as the day went on they were down to his ankles and he was still walking around, thinking he looked cool.  Ridiculous, I tell you!

I've been thinking about that all day.  On to other stuff....

Mukluks are finished!

YAY!  Cross them off the list.  Boy does that feel good.  I was getting a little (a lot) tired of knitting the same pattern over and over and over and over.  And over (made 5 pairs).  But they came out great and I'm excited to gift them at Christmas to all my little friends.

Only a little more Christmas knitting left to do.  One small adult project and then two small projects for my two littlest friends.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ready and waiting... be decorated:

....for cold, frozen ground:
This is what happened when Paul tried to put the trailer away for the winter.
Paul and I met our friends at the Red Lion Inn for lunch over the weekend.  Meet Elaine (aka "Sticky Fingers") and Steve (aka "The Surveyor"):
They are so much fun and we always have a great time when we see them.  I first met Elaine back in 1995 when we worked at the CT Dept of Children and Families.  And Steve is a land surveyor in CT, so if you live in CT and need a surveyor call Hodge LLC!.  More on Elaine's nickname soon....  

The Red Lion Inn is halfway between us so it's a great place to meet up and keep in touch.  Plus, Stockbridge, MA is beautiful this time of year.  The Inn, goes all out with their decorating.

And, one of Elaine's favorite things are the free spiced gumdrops in the lobby (hence one reason for her nickname....):
We had a nice lunch and I got to open a birthday present from Elaine and Steve.  Some yummy smelling cranberry candle things and..... as I was digging around in the gift bag, Elaine suddenly said, "Oh wait! you can't take that one out because it's stolen!"  What the heck????   In actuality, while it was stolen, it was for a really good and sentimental reason (which makes it ok).  Almost five years ago when Paul and I got married at the Inn....
In case you needed a reminder picture.
...Elaine took a spoon from the table to give to us on our 1st anniversary.
But she forgot.  If you look really closely, you can see a little stamp on the end of the spoon with a lion and "The Red Lion Inn" on it.  And that's the real reason for her nick name.

After lunch we shopped around and walked around town.  Check out this book we saw:

And Steve found this:
.... which is an:
I loved, Loved, LOVED that band!!!!!  One summer when I was 14-ish and we went to Cape Cod on vacation, and we listened to the High Infidelity tape the whole time.  My mom, my sister and I knew all the words to all the songs.

Then we went back to the Red Lion Inn for hot cider:
A wonderful day with good friends.  Can't wait to meet up with them again.

Meanwhile, on the trip there and back, I worked on my Daybreak shawl:

And the next day I finished it!  Here it is being blocked:

Then, that same day I started the Encompass cowl, which will be another class I will teach at the shop in January.  And I finished that this morning!:
Don't even think about it Pheobe! (she wants to snooze on it)
I'm hoping to have a book review for you soon....

And for those of you who didn't see it on Facebook, check out this picture:
Love. It.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend (whew!)

A great Thanksgiving weekend!  We had a yummy meal at my mother-in-law's (with my mom too!), a great visit with Paul's brothers and their families (including the twins at their first Thanksgiving), a successful trip to the mall on black Friday (more on that later) and a whirlwind trip to New Jersey on Sunday.

Yes, you read that right.  We went to New Jersey, for the day, on Sunday.  The Sunday at the end of the busiest travel holiday weekend of the year.  It was the last drag racing event of the year for Paul, usually scheduled two weeks earlier but postponed for some reason.  Leading up to the trip, I kept asking Paul if he was sure he wanted to go.  Because, you know, the traffic could be (read:  will most assuredly be) horrendous.  He said "yes" every time I asked.   I must have asked a few times too many because he eventually said, "You don't have to go with me, you know." But,  he wasn't going with Rob and it was a 4 hour car ride (on a good, non-holiday-horrendous-traffic day) and I wanted to keep him company.  I just didn't want us both to be miserable when we got stuck in traffic at the end of  long day of racing.

So..... off we went very very very very very early in the morning:

 The trip down to Atco was entirely pleasant.  No. Traffic. At. All.  We got there in the expected 4 hours.
It was "Buick vs. Ford Day"

Unfortunately, Paul was having trouble with his timing and was out in the first round so we were back on the road by 2:30pm.

So, I guess his unfortunate-ness was sort of fortunate for our driving situation.  We took some alternate routes to avoid the New Jersey Turnpike (drove through some scary parts of Trenton, but the beautiful town of Princeton) and some accidents closer to home, so we made it home in 5 hours, by 7:30pm.  Not bad really.  All that belly-aching and whining and worrying for nothing. What else is new?

And did you know there is a Mercerville, NJ (in Mercer county!)?:
I have no idea why these things thrill me - probably because I never saw my last name anywhere when I was growing up.

One of the things I like about going to the races with Paul is that there is usually lots of down time for knitting and reading.  So I worked on another pair of Christmas Mukluks.

AND, I read my newly acquired Nook!

I got the bare bones version which happened to be $20 off on black Friday only -- and I used my birthday money.  Hence, a trip to the mall that I swore I was not going to do on black Friday.  We went at around 4pm, which was apparently a good time to go, as there were no lines at all in Barnes and Noble.  I had done my research so I knew what I wanted and I was in the store all of 5 minutes!

And I LOVE. IT.  It is very light and the screen is big enough and it's so portable (fits right in the pocket of my knitting bag) and great.  Of course, I had to purchase a book so I got the most recent Janet Evanovich book:  Explosive Eighteen: A Stephanie Plum Novel (Stephanie Plum Novels)  --- that's the link to the physical book.  Here is a link to an e-reader version:Explosive Eighteen: A Stephanie Plum Novel  Loving the book - very fun, funny and exciting as always.  And the saga of Stephanie choosing between Morelli and Ranger continues. [Jan, I'm going to figure out how to lend this to you since you lent me the last one!  Hey, you can borrow my Nook!]

In knitting news, I'm on my 4th pair of Mukluks, which is my final pair, since I revised my plan --- I realized the babies would not keep them on their feet.  So I'm making them thumb less mittens that have the string between them so you can put it through their coat and they won't fall off and get lost.  Like this:

  The pattern is in 60 Quick Baby Knits, which has a million (ok, only 60) great patterns in it for babies and toddlers.  I think I will be using it a lot for my new niece and nephew, but also two new cousins. You can get it at The Spinning Room! And there are many small projects that would be quick to knit  for the holidays.

However, all that is being put on hold since I need to knit a shawl for a January class I'll be teaching. Have to get the sample knit up and down to the yarn shop asap so people will see it and sign up.  It will be the Daybreak by Stephen West.  That's a link to the pattern but here is a picture:
Pretty, don't you think? Mine is also going to be purple-y (of course) but it will also have some light and dark blues and teals in it).  I have a tonal purple and a self striping yarn:
*This is NOT what the colors look like in real life. I really need that digital photography class...
I think it will be great. WIP (Work In Progress) pictures to come.... but beware, I'll be knitting it really fast so the pictures might be blurry.  Ha!

Finally, a few pics of the car.  Just because I was trying to be creative: