Monday, December 26, 2005

The most wonderful time of the year...

Last week was a blur: We tried to see Santa 3 nights in a row, but everytime we got there just as they stopped admitting kiddies and their parents because the line was too long. We ended up taking pictures of Julian ourselves to send along with our Christmas cards this year and spent another evening at Wal-Mart trying to figure out how to print wallet-size form the Kodak picture-maker (last time we do that 'cause it was a nightmare). I also spent a lot of time menu planning and grocery shopping for Christmas dinner, and like most of you, did a lot of cleaning and tidying up around the house. I tried to knit the candy cane hat from Handknit Holidays in time for Julian to wear to church on Christmas eve...I finished it at 3am on the 23rd and when we tried it on in the morning, it was too small! Go figure.

There is always sooo much lead up to Christmas and in the end it just flies by and all the things that got you stressed out in the last days before the holiday, don't matter in the end. That's my lesson this year. Next year, we agreed to have a simple spaghetti dinner. My mom will make the pasta, I'll make the sauce, my sister will bring the salad and my mother-in-law will bring desert. The important thing is to get together, be merry and watch the kids go nuts over their toys.

Having said all that, we did have a lovely Christmas. It was extra special this year of course since it was Jubilee Bubilee's first Christmas AND it was his half-birthday! We celebrated Christmas Eve with the in-laws. Despite not having napped at all with all the excitement, Julian was really well behaved at church and was filled with glee. He cooed and babbled along with the priest during the homily and then along with the youth choir. He also made us laugh several times as he flapped his arms about, startled by all the clapping. What a delight! My MIL leaned over at one point and asked if I felt better than last year and I realised just what a year it's been. It was at Christmas mass during the giving of the peace last year that we told our parish friends and neighbours that we were expecting and I was trying so hard to overcome the tiredness and nauseousness I felt...well I'm still tired, but the nauseousness is just a fading memory.

The festivities continued at the in-laws' after Church and Santa sure had left a lot of presents for everyone. Jujube was spoiled with the complete Baby Einstein DVD collection, cute jammies and sweats and lots of teething toys. His grandpa had an especially sweet gift for him: a pressed leaf from the maple planted in their yard the year my husband was born and a leaf from the little shoot that they transplanted this year to celebrate Julian's birth. It was just so thoughtful and touching.

On Christmas morning, my husband, Julian and I slept in and made cinnamon rolls and white hot chocolate for breakfast while we opened our gifts. My husband got me a wonderful Le Creuset teapot which I just love. I gave him this Brian Andreas print. I had gone through all of Brian Andreas' work when I was introduced by Krista earlier this fall and couldn't resist. I know this is probably a terrible habit, but Julian has fallen asleep in my husband's arms every night since he was born and my husband watches him sleep for hours. He loved the fact it made him cry (and I). And Jujube, well, he got a library with lots and lots of cute little board books and Bucket Buddies which he's been playing with ever since. He especially likes to rattle the kitty bucket and doesn't mind wearing the puppy bucket on his head which is very entertaining for mommy and daddy too!

We then kicked it into high gear for the finale: my family came over for Christmas dinner along with my in-laws. It was nice to get together again and we had a lovely meal and a nice time. We also celebrated Julian's half birthday (he turned six months) with a half birthday cake. It was all so cute. Everyone left before 10pm because it started to snow quite heavily and no one wanted to get stuck on the roads. We picked at the left overs and went to sleep happy and content. That's the way it should be.

Today we played with all our Christmas goodies and ate leftover cake and pie. My husband is off for the next two weeks and I am so excited. It's so nice to have him home and now that all the hectic crazy Christmas lead-up is over, we have nothing to do but relax, unwind and spend long lazy days in our jammies. And that is the best present of all!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Plain vanilla

Yippee! I finally finished the last holiday project for my in-laws: plain vanilla mittens for my husband's sister. I knit them from Lopi on US 4 and 7 needles. I'm especially pleased with how the top shaping turned out. This is very close to how my grand-mother used to make them. I used the pattern for the fingerless gloves/mitts from Lopi 24 though I forwent (is that even a word?) the fingerless part and the hood and knit them as simple mittens. This used up all but a few yards of 1 ball of Lopi. That means I still have a full ball left so there may be some of these in my own future...

Now the challenge is my own family...there's a lot of folks and not nearly enough time to knit for all of them. So far, I've got the branching out scarf for my mom and nearly one completed sock (the first of the pair) for my sister. I also have a one skein wonder for my neice. That leaves one brother-in-law and my 5 year old nephew without knitted gifts. What to do? What to do? There is no time to finish all these projects. I'm thinking of giving them birthday knits instead...that should spread out the projects nicely and give me more time to knit them thoughtful (rather than last minute) gifts.

I'm sure they don't expect knitted items anyway. Other than my one sister (who's got socks in the making already) none of them have showed any interest in my knitting anyway. I still feel guilty though. But hey, there's only so much time and with Jujube around the amount of time I can devote to knitting varies greatly from week to week which makes it really hard to knit against a deadline. Okay, I'm making excuses. I shouldn't. It's really gonna be okay. At least I have non-knitted gifts for everyone. Plus it's really too late now to worry about it. I still have to scrub the house, grocery shop and cook for Christmas dinner. I've got bigger fish to fry (so to speak) so I am going to release the guilt: one...two...three...there, I feel better already!

Okay, but I still need to finish my husband's sweater and would love to knit a candy cane hat from Handknit Holidays for Julian to wear to church on Saturday night...maybe a scarf too? My mother-in-law gave me a great big ball of unidentified red wool this weekend. It looks like DK and the pattern calls for worsted weight but I'm thinking perhaps a double strand would work? I also have an unidentified ball of white DK yarn. Could I be lucky twice? I'm keeping my fingers crossed.


Friday, December 16, 2005

A billion little pieces of tape

My husband took the day off yesterday so that we could spend the afternoon downtown Christmas shopping and I am soooo pleased to report that we are done done! A million pieces of tape and nearly all of the wrapping paper in our closet later, I also finished all the wrapping! I love to wrap gifts and always challenge myself to use as little tape as possible (mostly because I hate having to prepare all those little pieces and I'm too cheap to buy the pre-cut type). It took me all evening and it was a good thing I ended when I did...I was pooped after all that shopping (a lot more excitement and exercise than I usually get in my new role as stay-at-home mom) and I was really giddy while wrapping the gifts. Everything cracked me up and I giggled and giggled and giggled. I made up songs about cutting paper and curling husband looked frightened.

You'll notice from the picture that our tree is also up and trimmed. We're just missing a "baby's first Christmas" ornament and a tree topper. Julian doesn't seem to be as interested in the tree as we thought he would be. I guess he doesn't know yet that trees belong outside! He does seem to enjoy the blinking lights. He was kicking a lot while we were untangling them on the floor. So cute.

So other than the knitting, we're all set for Christmas. I've even planned Christmas dinner which is a really big challenge in our family because my husband is allergic to poultry, fish and sea food and my brother-in-law can't eat pork or any meat that is not hallal for religious reasons.

So I thought I'd make the Boeuf Bourgignon from this month's Martha Stewart Everyday Food since it uses beef cubes which are good and easy to procure hallal from our libanese market...problem? My brother-in-law can't have wine which is central to this dish. So I figured I would make a big batch and split out a couple of portions before adding the wine. Problem solved! I think that'll work and the recipe seems easy enough and, bonus, can be prepared in advance. Now I just need to figure out desert...

And now for the knitting content. Sadly, all I got is an incomplete sock for my sister. It is my first foray in sock knitting on two circs. So far, I'm finding this method less fluid than DPNs which is cramping my style though I like only having two ladders to worry about at the joins - I still haven't figured out how to avoid them completely, even on DPNs.


PS: For any Apprentice fans out there...can you beleive how much of a jack ass Randall is? I could not beleive that he told Donald not to hire Rebecca as well. I'm shocked at how selfish that move was, especially from him. I wonder what his family thought about that and weather he is now having second thoughts. I hope he is. Ugh, that makes me sooo mad!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Greetings from Montreal

Today is Creative Genius?'s "Show us a picture of you wearing clothing proper to your climate" day.

According to the Weather Network, here are the details for this day in Montreal:

TEMPERATURE -10 celsius
CONDITIONS Light snow.
FEELS LIKE -17 celsius
WIND GUSTS N 17 km/h

I'm wearing my HBC signature 100% wool coat which is actually one of the warmest coats I've ever owned with matching wool scarf. It's not cold (or slushy) enough yet to warrant my Ice Bug boots so I'm still wearing my hiking runners. Hats? They are so not becoming on me and my huge head thus the nice big hood on my coat that I pull up when it gets cold and windy. I also have some earmuffs for extra warmth as required.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Nano warmer

I made an iPod Nano warmer for my neice last night. She's spending some time with us getting math help from my husband. He is from a long line of math smarty-pants (my father-in-law is a revered math tutor in these come from all over, several a day for math saving). So while they're studying, I decided to make a wool sock for my neice's nano. It was going to be a simple sleeve but it was so much fun that I ended up adding a button closure, earphone pocket and earphone jack hole. I used left over fleece artist yarn with a gauge of 6 stitches per inch.

Here's my pattern:

  1. Cast on 23 stitches and join in the round (or you could knit it on two needles and seam the side if you prefer though if you do, you should cast-on 25 stitches to allow for the seam and bind off 12 stitches instead of 10 in step 3).
  2. Knit straight until it measures 3 and a half inches
  3. Bind-off 10 stitches and work the remaining 13 stitches on two needles as follows for the flap closure
  4. On right side rows: slip 1, knit to end.
  5. On wrong side rows: slip 1, knit 1, purl to last two stitches, knit 2.
  6. Continue until flap from bind off measures 1 and a half inches ending with a wrong side row.
  7. Next row (right side): slip 1 knit 5, yarn over, knit 2 together, knit to end.
  8. Next two rows: slip 1, knit to end.
  9. Bind off all stitches.
  10. Using the tail end from the cast on (or another piece of yarn if the tail is not long enough) sew up the bottom leaving a gap the width of one stitch on the left side (for the earphone jack).
  11. For earphone pocket (optional): pick up and knit 10 stitches on the bottom front of the pouch 1 or 2 rows from the cast-on edge.
  12. Knit back and forth on two needles in stocking stitch increasing by 1 stitch at the beginning and end of every alternate row (twice) until you have 14 stitches then continue knitting straight until pocket measures 2 and a half inches.
  13. Knit two rows and bind-off.
  14. Sew up sides leaving another quarter inch gap on the bottom left side (for earphone cord) if desired.
  15. Sew button to pocket.
  16. Voila! A very cute and functional nano cozy.


Friday, December 09, 2005

My knitting spot

All right people, let's see your knitting spot! I saw this meme on Scout's blog this morning (her Dec 7 entry) and it sounded like fun. So here's my knitting spot and why yes, that is knitting progress on the armrest! I've completed the first sleeve for my husband's Hringur sweater . One more to go and then it's the homestretch on the yoke.

It's kinda funny looking at the picture now because it can play like a page from the Ikea catalogue with 7 1/2 Ikea products in this shot only! Other than the books and stuff in the bookcases and my folding knitting basket (?), the only thing in the picture not from Ikea is the Persian rug my husband and I invested in using the money we received as wedding gifts. Evidently, we're addicted to trying to fit huge flat boxes in our Civic, driving through a metropolis trying not to loose any, and assembling our own furniture with a so not ergonomic allen key :0) What's that about?

Everything, and I mean everything in my old appartment was from Ikea: affordable high style. When we got married, we started investing in custom Quebec pine furniture and had a solid wood dining table made and a king size bed frame and armoir for our room...then we ran out of money and finished furnishing the Ikea! We love and hate that place. What keeps me coming back is that their stuff is affordable, current and fresh. What gets my husband are the hot dogs they sell by the tills. I must admit, the Montreal Ikea makes the best hot dogs!

Enough about Ikea. Go on people, flash your spot...

Oh, and Monday is "SHOW US A PICTURE OF YOU WEARING CLOTHING PROPER FOR YOUR CURRENT CLIMATE" day. Check out Creative Genius' blog for more details.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Knitting blahs!

I've got the knitting blahs. I had a plan. I was on a roll. For the past couple of weeks I've been cranking out those Christmas knits. But now, with 19 days to go, I'm feeling the pressure and can't seem to knit anything right.

I've spent the last 3 days trying to knit some purple mittens for my sister to match the cabled scarf I knit her last year (I think I have just the right amount of yarn left over). The first mitten I knit ended up looking like a fish. No really. A fish. I had inserted the same cable as in the scarf in the back of the hand and hadn't accounted for the extra tension created by the cable which made the mitten curve out. While it was hysterical, it was a wasted day and a half of knitting.

So yesterday, I started fresh. I decided to knit 2 strands together and follow the Fleece Artist mitten pattern I used for my mommy mitts: a no-frills quick knit. It took a while to get the gauge right but it finally looked like it was going to work. I decided to get creative and monogram the back of it by purling the letter "H" in the otherwise stocking stitch mitt. It also puckered and looked awful. So I frogged it back and knit it straight to the top this time. I decided to get creative again and try to knit the top in a point like my grandma used to. It kinda worked. I got excited. Trimmed the yarn and weaved in the ends. Then, I tried it was too short. Another day wasted.

This afternoon, I decided to use the Lopi pattern for those great fingerless glove/mitts since the gauge I was getting with the double strands of worsted weight looked about right. I got the cuff done, tried it on this time and found it way too big. Argh! I quit. She doesn't even want mitens anyway. She wants socks. I want to get rid of the purple stash. Doesn't look like either's gonna happen before Christmas.

Sat down to a nice dinner with my hubby and Jujube and felt a lot better. So after dinner I decided to edit my Christmas knitting list. No one on my list expects to get knitted gifts, since I've never really gifted anything for Christmas before. So why did I put all that pressure on myself anyway. I decided what mattered most to me was to finish the sweater for my husband and knit the initial baby blanket for Julian. Those are the two gifts that matter the most. Oh, and maybe also a Christmas sweater for the little being his first and all. More reasonable. Less pressure and love in every stitch (much more romantic than all the resentment that went into those stupid purple mittens).

So I cast on for the baby blanket using the great yarn I ordered from Elann for this very blanket. It was the right colour, right gauge, right price. Plus it's merino...yum! Alas, it is S-T-R-E-T-C-H merino and after casting on 130 stitches and knitting and evening's worth, it occured to me that not only do I hate knitting with the stupid stretch yarn but it also looks like crap. So I frogged it. I've got nothing.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

Loving spoonfuls

Julian had his first meal yesterday and like his daddy, he didn't stop 'til his plate was empty.

He seemed quite content for the rest of the fact we visited our friends and their new baby (so tiny...oh my gosh) and then a few hours at the bookstore and then a stop at the restaurant and all that time, he was full and happy. Success! Of course he was still up every couple hours for milk last night. We're still working on it...


Friday, December 02, 2005

Irish Hiking Scarf: Check!

It's done! It's finally done! After over a year on the needles, my Irish Hiking scarf is complete and ready to be gifted to my father-in-law this Christmas. I can now knit other projects on my US7 circular! Yay!

I knit my scarf out of Classic Elite 03 Tweed and love the way it turned out (these photos represent the colour pretty accurately). I used up just over 2 skeins and have another 2 left over in my stash...maybe I'll knit a matching hat once the Christmas knitting rush is over.

I've grown a lot as a knitter during the first 6 months of my maternity leave. For instance, I discovered that I had been knitting wrong all these years: I used to purl and knit through the back-loop - a habit I was able to break pretty easily. I learned that there are different ways to increase and different ways to decrease and when to use which. I learned the German and long-tailed cast-ons. I learned to pick up stitches around a collar or button band. I learned to knit socks complete with heel-flap and grafted toe. I learned fair isle and duplicate stitch embroidery. Branching out taught me to knit lace. Lopi taught me how to knit gloves and keep stiches live for later thumb-knitting (the way my grandma used to do it). I learned to weave in ends properly. I learned to seam properly and invisibly from the right side. I learned to steam-block. I discovered "real" yarn. I discovered lots of online yarn shops and "I think I'd rather spend the money on yarn" has become a mantra when shopping for anything else.

My Irish Hiking Scarf taught me to cable without a needle and to persevere...that even though it often doesn't feel like it, given enough time and committment, any project is finishable. And for that, thank-you Hiking Scarf!

In baby news, our college friends just welcomed their second child (Theodore) into the world on November 29th. We're going to visit them tomorrow. I wonder if I'll be overwhelmed by how small a newborn's been 5 months since Julian was that brand spanking new and though I think he's still a little baby, seeing a really new baby might make me realise that my little Jujube is growing up. I know he is but I can still be in denial about it can't I?

We're going to feed him solids for the first time tomorrow morning. We wanted to wait until he was six months, but we really think he's ready now (he is 5 months and a week which is close enough isn't it?). He's really interested in watching us eat (he even pretends to chew along with us...too cute), he can sit up in his high-chair and the biggest clue is that he's been nursing every 2 hours for the past few days including 2-3 times a night (in case you're wondering, that's expressed milk in the picture). I think he's ready. He's growing up!