Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.34: Two Projects

Joining with Ginny and the Yarn Along this afternoon.

I couldn't help myself.  I have two projects going right now.  Most of the time, I prefer to be a monogamous knitter.  But right now, I need to stray.  Or, rather, I need to have an 'at-home' project and a 'travel' project going on.  Because last week, and next week, my time is split between home and traveling.  And I can't not knit, you know.  (Well, I could, but then I would need something else to do with my hands while I'm seated, like doodle or write or counted cross stitch. . . because I'm fidgety that way.  Busy hands help to keep my mind more calm; in less of a whirl.)

Last week I showed a picture of the Stylish Square lapghan I had started as a combination stash-buster and Christmas gift.  It will actually be a birthday gift, hopefully, if I finish it in September, since it is for DD2 and her birthday is early October.  It's a big, bulky, project that needs room to work on--in other words, not so great for in the car.  I'm currently about halfway through the second pattern repeat (of four).

Then, on Friday, I started a new project, a travel project. I needed something I could work on in the car while on the road trip to and from DD2's college (it was time for her to go back; classes started on the 29th).  It is also a stash-buster slash gift as I have had the yarn for about a year and bought it with the intention of making socks for DH.  (You knew it was going to be socks, this travel project, right?)

The yarn is self-striping, so I wanted a simple pattern to go with it, and settled on Decathlon socks.  It's a great match.  Not just rows and rows of (boring to knit) stockinette, but yet, it doesn't disrupt the nature of the striping yarn.

The yarn is Berroco Sox, and while the colorway is nice (and definitely manly enough), I have to confess I don't really love this yarn.  It just feels kind of scratchy on my hands as I work it, different from all the other sock yarns I have used in the past.  I guess my lesson here is that all superwash wool sock yarns are not the same, some will be softer than others.  I just hope that when this pair is finished, it won't be so scratchy that DH doesn't want to wear them.  But, then again, this is the first thing I have ever knit for him (he keeps insisting he doesn't want/need me to make him anything), so he won't know the difference between this yarn and, say, the yarn I've made my own socks out of.  It's more of a note to self: I should never make myself a pair of socks with this yarn. (I hate, hate, hate, scratchy socks.  Like a can't-wear-them-rip-them-off-my-feet kind of hate. Yeah, I was a joy for my mother to raise. These days they'd probably label me as a child with sensory issues.)

Scratchy or not, overall, I'm pleased with how my two projects are developing this week.

Not pictured, because I actually finished reading it Sunday in the car and returned it to the library all ready, is a book I very much enjoyed.  At first, I wasn't sure I would like Flawed, by Cecelia Ahern.  I have absolutely loved her other novels, but this one started out a bit dystopian  (I'm not into the dystopian genre at all). I'm glad I stuck with it, though, because I did really enjoy the storyline, even if it does end sort of abruptly.  I'm hoping that maybe there is a sequel in the works?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Yellow and Green

Once upon a time, the technology did not exist to identify the gender of a baby before it made it's debut into the world.  A mother did not know whether her womb contained a boy, or a girl.  She prepared for the arrival of her newborn by having generic clothing in the smallest size.  A very long time ago, that meant white, as whites could be boiled for sterilization and cleanliness, and not lose their color.  And when sanitizing laundry became easier than a pot of boiling water over a wood fire, newborn clothes got some color.  Mainly pastel, mainly yellow and green.

When my first child was born, in November of 1989, the vast majority of the newborn size clothing I had on hand was yellow or green.  Because, even though technology, in the form of ultrasound, was able to correctly tell the gender of a baby at about 5 months gestation the majority of the time, I didn't want to know.

In fact, I never knew the gender of any of my four children until the moment of their birth when the doctor held them up for all to see and proclaimed "It's a boy!" or "It's a girl!"

Why didn't I know?  Why didn't I take advantage of the ultrasound's ability to predict for me, whether my newborn could wear pink, or blue instead of yellow and green?  Because to me, it didn't matter.  Didn't matter whether the baby was male or female.  I was going to keep it anyway.  It's not like I was going to say "oh, that's not what I wanted, you can keep it" when the doctor held up that squalling, naked newest human.  And as for that little baby, it cared less what color it's clothes were. It just wanted something comfortable and temperature appropriate to wear.  Besides, babies grow so fast that no matter what color the clothes were, the ones that fit at birth weren't going to fit a mere two months later, so if color really mattered to the rest of us, the next size up (and the next one after that, and the next one beyond that, and so on) could be pink, or blue.

Yellow and green weren't just necessarily for newborn clothing.  Yellow or green could easily be the paint scheme of the baby's room, if the baby were to have it's own room (none of mine did as infants, the crib typically was in the master bedroom for at least the first year).  Yellow and green were easy to pass from one sibling to the next, no matter if the gender changed.  Because, really, does each baby need it's own personalized wardrobe and interior decorating scheme?  Must the clothing, bedding, and wall paint be discarded rather than used again when baby number two (or three or four or. . . ) comes along?

What I find kind of ironic these days, when it seems that everyone must find out the gender of their baby before it's birth so that they can decorate the baby's room 'appropriately' with cars and trucks, or princesses and ponies, and they can have all pink or all blue clothing on hand right from the time the child lands on this earth, is that many of these same parents a few years down the road don't want their child to be labeled by gender.  They let their sons wear their hair long and don dresses, or their daughters have short hairstyles and traditionally male clothing, and let them choose what name they want to be called by.

In other words, the same parents who delight in having a 'gender reveal' party or photo session, with a box that explodes with pink or blue helium balloons when opened, or a cake that when cut, spills blue or pink candies onto the table, seem to end up being the parents who are most vocal about letting Billy be Betty if he so decides at age four, or Veronica be Victor once middle school arrives.

Maybe I'm just too old fashioned.  Yellow and green baby stuff worked for me.  So did letting my boys occasionally clomp around in my high heels or do up their hair with barrettes or paint their fingernails (although nail polish was pretty rare in my house, since I don't like the way my fingers feel with polish on them).  My girls wore not just pink and dresses, but also overalls and jeans and blue and red and black. . . in fact, most winter outerwear was navy or burgundy or hunter green or some other color that could be passed from brother to sister, saving money from having to buy a 'boy' pair of snowpants and boots and a 'girl' set of snowpants and boots in every single size my kids wore from birth to adulthood.

My boys learned to cook and clean and wash laundry and iron just like my girls did (a bachelor's got to be able to take care of himself, right?).  My girls learned auto care, and home repair and how to operate a chainsaw, and how to hunt and to be good at math and science and hold a job and go to college just like my boys did (a single woman's got to be able to take care of herself, right?)

Sometimes I think Americans get too caught up in defying labels--boy, girl, man, woman--and stereotypes--breadwinner, housewife--that they lose track of the yellow and green.  They forget all the common things that both boys and girls, men and women can learn and be good at.  They think pink and blue, but don't want themselves, or their children to be 'stuck' as a pink or a blue.

What they should really focus on is yellow and green.  Things that work no matter what the gender is of the person wearing them, or doing them.

I wear pink.  But I also wear yellow, and green, and blue, and black and red and astonishingly I can really pull off brown.  One of the most complimented dresses I owned was brown.  Which is not typically a color you'd think of for a woman's formal occasion outfit.

I cook, I clean, I sew, I birthed and raised children. I am a woman and part of my 'work' is traditional female tasks. I also harvest and butcher animals for my food, do construction work as needed, operate a chainsaw, cook darn good on a grill, and at times have been the sole wage earner for my family.  Traditional 'man's work'.  To me, it's all just tasks that need to be done, and as long as I am able bodied enough to do them, then I will.  That's the way I've raised my kids.

As I told my husband, when we were expecting baby #3 and he was worried that it would be a girl after two sons (he confessed that he was worried because he had no idea how to 'raise a girl')

"You raise them all the same.  They all need to learn to be adults who can take care of themselves and help others."

Yellow and green.  That's where it's at.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.33: Big Fat Yarn

Joining Ginny for this week's Yarn Along.*

I have something new and very unlike me this week.  It's a project made in super bulky yarn.  Oh my!  For someone who normally works in fingering, and thinks worsted is thick, I feel like I'm knitting with rope.  Soft, fuzzy rope, but rope nonetheless.

It is yarn that I actually bought well over a year ago, with the intent to make something for DD2 because it has the most beautiful shade of turquoise in it, and that's pretty much her favorite color.  But, as often happens, life gets in the way, and all that yarn sat in an overstuffed shopping bag in a closet, not being made into anything.

I came across it last week, after finishing the pair of socks I had been working on, and decided that I should get it knit up and out of my house.  Kind of a destashing, purging, cleaning, jump on Christmas present-making kind of decision.  So I went to Ravelry to see what I could find in the way of lapghans made of super bulky yarn.

And I came across this pattern.

One thing I do like about knitting with clothesline rope super bulky yarn is how quickly I see results, LOL.  This thing is growing quickly.  110 stitches per row, I am almost 50 rows into the project, and its already more than a foot tall.  Then again, I am on the fourth skein of yarn, since there are only 64 yards to a skein!  It is definitely going to use up all that yarn I had stashed.  I might even need to pick up a few more skeins.

*Joining the Yarn Along a day late; but better late than never.  Right?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.32: Done and Done

I am joining Ginny this afternoon for this week's Yarn Along.  And, I'm happy to say, that while the sun is shining brightly, the weather is cooler than any Wednesday for the last month!  "Only" in the low 80s today!  Dare I say, looking at the long range forecast, that our extreme hot spell is over.  I think we hit the 90 degree mark more times in the past four or five weeks, than in the last five summers combined.  I'm glad to be done with that.

Speaking of done. . .

I finished my Solar socks over the weekend.

I also started, and finished, my dishcloth for August.  The pattern I went with came from Knit Picks, and is called Phyllis and Marian.  It's super simple, and knits up very fast.  It looks a little wonky in the picture, but it's not that bad in person.

Now that I've finished the socks, and the dishcloth, I find myself wondering what to cast on next.  I have a car trip coming up at the end of next week, so should probably choose a portable project, like socks.  However, I find myself with the urge to knit something bigger. . . a sweater, a lap blanket, or a shawl.  I might just have to get out of monogamous knitting mode, and cast on both a big project and a pair of socks.

That's one of the best things about doing the Yarn Along with everyone; I can see a bunch of knitting options.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.31: Lots of Progress

Joining Ginny for the Yarn Along on another very hot Wednesday (What is it with Wednesdays this summer?!?  Another 90+ degree middle of the week. . .  I think we've hit 90 more times this summer than in the last five summers combined!)

I spent quite a bit of time knitting over the weekend.  Knitting in the car.  Knitting by the campfire.  Knitting at the campsite while waiting for the rest of our group to be ready to go canoeing and kayaking.  I spent almost as many hours knitting as I did in my kayak floating the Jordan River and the Sturgeon River in northern Michigan.

As a result, my second sock of the pair of Solar socks I am making has grown phenomenally. At last week's yarn along, it was barely cast on.  Now, I'm halfway through the heel flap and starting to feel like I'm heading for the home stretch.  Could I possibly finish this sock in the coming week?  I think maybe I could.

I've just started reading A Distance to Death, a horse related murder mystery.  It is by the same author as Murder, She Rode, that I read and really enjoyed in early July.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

I'm Not Sure. . .

I'm not sure who is loving being at the dressage farm more this summer, me or the Quarter Horse.

There are many reasons I'm glad I asked, back in March, if the owner might have a need for someone who would clean stalls in exchange for lessons and/or board.  Not only am I glad I asked, and glad she said that yes, in fact, she did have that need; I'm glad I decided to move the Quarter Horse there.

For one thing, he is getting fed properly there.  The lack of following feeding instructions, and the  Quarter Horse's ongoing weight problem (too skinny) at the other farm had been a real bone of contention for nearly a year.  Especially as I was providing his feed, in more than adequate quantities, so there was no need for him to continually be decreasing in weight.  It just wasn't getting fed to him in the needed amount.  Having to remind the barn owner and staff at the other farm once a month of how many flakes of hay he should be given each day, and continue to watch my hay pile decrease at only 60% the rate it should be, was very frustrating.  Especially as he got thinner and thinner.

For another, the people at the dressage farm think he's a great horse.  I have not heard one single complaint about his stall habits (which actually have improved since his move), or his being difficult to lead in and out of turnout (which he is not) like I did on a regular basis at the other farm.

The indoor arena at the dressage farm is kept groomed and at the right moisture level.  It is never dusty, not even during this ongoing  hot spell that has made everything dry out so rapidly.  The footings are also level; no deep spots, no thin and hard spots.  Nice and consistent, no matter if you are on the track, in a corner, working quarter lines, or doing figures somewhere in the middle.

The barn always smells fresh and clean, even when I arrive late morning to muck out the stalls.  No underlying mustiness.  All stalls have large windows (with grills for safety), and the big doors on each end of the barn are kept wide open for ventilation. There are even full length screens over the openings to the two big doors to keep flies out of the barn as much as possible!

The boarders are all friendly, and offer to help each other.  No dressage divas here!  My 'little' 15.3 hand Quarter Horse is just as admired as the larger (and upper level) warmbloods.

The horses are allowed to be horses.  They go outside for as long as possible each day.  They eat grass while outside, and roll in the dirt/mud.  They run and play, or stand and snooze, depending on their personality and what their turnout buddies are doing.  They might be expensive (and some of them definitely cost a pretty penny) but they are still horses.

With them being outside for most of the daylight hours, the barn owner is willing to put on and take off blankets, rain sheets, and fly sheets.  It's not a big deal, unlike the barn I previously kept the Quarter Horse at.  At the other barn, not only wasn't blanketing and unblanketing an offered service, blankets weren't allowed ("too much trouble"), which meant horses stood in their stalls on cold days, snowy days, or rainy days rather than being turned out for fresh air and excercise.  Fly sheets also weren't allowed, even though in the summer most of the horses lived out in large paddocks or pastures with run-in sheds.

So, since I didn't own a rain sheet or fly sheet, it's been a little bit of an expense getting the proper 'clothing' for the Quarter Horse once I decided to move him to the dressage barn.  With my frugal ways, I didn't run out and get the first sheets I found; rather I watched sales and eBay for about a month before each purchase.  Which paid off, especially in a like-new fly sheet with detachable neck that retails at over $100, but I found on eBay and won for a mere $20 and change.

And what a difference it is to the Quarter Horse having that flysheet protect him from bugs.  Being a thin skinned redhead (aka, a chestnut) he is like a bug magnet and typically sported hundreds of welts of varying sizes all summer no matter how much (or how strong) bug spray I put on him at the other farm.  This summer, he wears his flysheet which covers just about all of his body, and he's been welt-free.  That means a much happier horse.  No more itchies!  I even got him a set of fly 'boots' for his legs, although when the weather is in the upper eighties and nineties (like most of the last three weeks) they make his legs sweat so I don't have him wear them in really hot weather.

fully dressed in his fly gear

not bugged in the slightest
(super fly spray on his legs when he is sans boots)

Overall, I think being at this particular farm is a great opportunity for both of us.  We are making progress in our riding, and the Quarter Horse has pretty posh accommodations where he can still indulge his intrinsic horseness.   Oh, and I'm making friends who have the same perfectionistic riding interests as me.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.30: One Done

It's Yarn Along time again!  Joining Ginny today to see what everyone is reading and knitting.  I get so many ideas of patterns to knit and books to read from seeing what other people are working on and/or reading from week to week.

As for myself, I'm reading the current issue of Dressage Today magazine, completed sock number one of my Solar socks last night, and have about five rows of the cuff done for sock number two.

Now that our big time sucking July project is finished (see yesterday's blog post if you don't know what I'm talking about), I'm hoping that this second sock will go much faster and I'll be able to wear them before August is over. Well, wear them if the weather cools off enough to need socks, anyway.  :0)

I couldn't resist putting on my finished sock last night, just for a minute, to see how the design looks on.  It looks good, even if the camera overexposed it a little--I promise you my legs are not that white!  More of a perfectly roasted marshmallow tan.  Or a "it's been so dang hot I've been wearing shorts with my work boots for nearly an entire month" kind of color.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The July Project

"Let's stain the deck and front porch," he said.

I'd been waiting years, probably a decade, to do exactly that.  Neither one had gotten stained--and thus, 'finished'-- when we built the house in 2003.  Stain was always on the 'someday' list, and we'd talked about it several times.  Viewed color samples at least three times.  I'd picked out the color I wanted twice (same color both times).  DH had even power washed both the porch and the deck four years ago.

But that's as far as we got with our staining project.  So I was kind of surprised, and a little unbelieving, when DH said that since we couldn't have the grandkids for all of the vacation time we both had off of work at the beginning of July, we should get a good start on staining the porch and the deck.  I watched in amazement as he power washed again.  I was nearly speechless when he brought home a brochure of current color options for stain.  I jumped right on it when he wanted to go to Home Depot and actually purchase the stain.

(One thing I've learned during the 25+ years I've been with DH, when he finally decides to move on something I've been wanting and waiting for, it's best to drop everything and take advantage of DH's current interest in that item or project.  You could say that going along with his interest is in my best interest, LOL.  In other words, if I just wait long enough until it's his idea, I get what I want.)

So we began staining the deck one evening in early July.  We'd decided we needed to do the railings first, and the floor boards afterward.  We didn't realize just how much time it was going to take to stain those railings.  Every single 1.5" wide spindle, all four sides.  There are hundreds of spindles, because they could only be 3" apart in order to meet code. Which meant staining the spindles took hours.  And hours.  And hours.  All by hand.  And the outside of the railings required climbing on a ladder to reach.  Then back down the ladder again, move it another two feet or so, climb back up, and stain the next part within reach.

When we'd gotten about half of the front railing on the porch done on the second day--working on the front porch in the mornings while the sun was on the back of the house, and the deck in the evenings when the afternoon sun was on the front--we realized just how huge of a task this was.

Front porch: length of the house, plus the mudroom between house and garage, plus about 6 feet of the south side of the house (because it's a wraparound porch).  About 43 feet in length.  The width is six feet.  Plus the stairs, all six of them, at six feet wide, that lead up from the yard to the porch.

Deck: length of house at 30 feet.  Width of deck is 12 feet. Larger than the surface area of the porch by more than 100 linear feet.

most of the deck,
all cleaned and ready for staining

Spindles, oh my the spindles!
This is just one small section of the whole.

That's a heck of a lot of stain.  And a whole lot of time spent with little brushes in hand doing those skinny spindles, plus all the 'trim' work around the house itself.

The very first section to be stained.
We used an old flannel sheet as a drop cloth, moving it as we worked on each section.

At the corner, clearly showing the difference between stained and unstained.

Did I mention that I'd decided that, while I still envisioned the railings the same deep green (to accent the trim and the shingles on our home) I had decided on while building the house, I now wanted the floorboards to be a more natural wood tone?  Kind of a honey color?  Which meant doing more detail work around each and every post, stair tread, and riser, with the little brush.  Because the green stain could not get on the floor, no way, no how.  I didn't want green drips and runs on my to-be honey colored floor.

The wraparound portion of the porch, partially done.

Couple all that detail work, all those spindles on the railings, with heat.  Weeks of heat. Days so hot that the wood didn't cool off enough before the sun went down and so we couldn't do any staining on those days.  The unrelenting sun and humidity were broken only by a day or two of rain here and there.  Rain, meaning water, meaning the porch and deck were wet and, yes, unstainable.  The result: it took us all of July to get this project completed.

On the plus side, we had a wide cloth pad that attached to a handle (kind of like a Swiffer type thing) that we used to stain the floorboards with.  That went really fast.  Although I did need to edge around the posts, and where the floor met the siding on the house, and do between each board (so you couldn't see 'naked' wood in the gaps between the boards) with the small brush I'd used on all those spindles.

But it's done now and it sure looks nice!

the front stairs (blocked off while drying)

front porch


Now that the porch looks so wonderful (DH really loves the colors, even though he was completely skeptical of my color scheme when we bought the stain), I'm hoping to convince him to finally purchase the lattice (which I'll stain green) to close in under the porch and be a more appealing backdrop to the flowerbeds than the cinder block walls of my cellar are.  That's another project that's been waiting 13 years. . .

Monday, August 1, 2016

I Didn't Raise Princesses

Hopefully this post won't turn into a rant.  I'm hoping it will be more informative than that.  But I have to confess, this topic--girls being princesses--has been on my mind off and on for quite a while (years, actually), and something I read in passing today has set me off.

So. . .

I don't want to be a queen.  I don't want to be a princess.  I didn't raise my daughters to be princesses, and I sure hope my granddaughters won't be taught to be princesses.

What's so bad about princesses?  Well, from the way I've observed it, there is a trend among modern females, to want to be princesses (or queens).  In other words, they want to be treated like royalty, spared from drudgery (say, housework and any other task they'd rather not do), and pretty much spend their time sitting on their pretty butts when they aren't otherwise engaged in primping, shopping, or socializing.

Princesses (and queens) think the world should revolve around them, and that they should be served (taken care of) by the people in their lives.

No, I don't want to be a princess.  That is so opposite of what I've always wanted to be.  I have striven  to be independent. Self-sufficient.  Humble. Charitable (as in, giving of myself, not as in tossing money [someone else earned] at things rather than spending my own elbow grease and sweat).  Knowledgeable.  Capable.

That's a biggie: Capable.  Capable means I can handle whatever comes my way.  Either through physical effort, mental effort, or in knowing who to call on to assist if something is just out of my realm of abilities.  I don't expect my life to be without struggle and challenge.  It's those things that teach us, that strengthen us, that make us wise and, yes, capable.

That doesn't mean that I have to be coarse, or without tact.  Quite the opposite.  A beautiful woman is not one who has physical attributes that are pleasing to look upon. A beautiful woman has grace, has poise, has deportment.  Who speaks the truth, but does so in a way that does not wound.  A beautiful woman knows that the world does not revolve around her, but yet realizes everything she says and does affects the world (via the people she interacts with).  And so she weighs her words and actions to be beneficial to others was much as possible.

I raised tomboys, not princesses.  But those tomboys have grown to be beautiful women.  Kind, knowledgeable, humble, charitable, independent, self-sufficient, capable women.

In my opinion, American society today needs more females who are raised tomboys, not who are raised to be princesses.  A tomboy is an equal.  A princess has no intention to be equal, she wants to be above.