crazy big news

So, I rarely post. The two or three people that read my blog know that, and might appreciate it that way. But, when I do have something to post about, I ponder for awhile about how I want to do it. This time I don't know how I want to say it or photograph it or whatever, so I've waited far longer than usual to spill the beans. So...

I'm pregnant.

I'm 17 weeks and 1 day. I'm due May 30th. Yes I have a bump, and no, you may not touch it (if you are a stranger, you'll get slapped if you try). And, I'm excited. I'll be more excited when this heartburn goes away, (who ever heard of getting heartburn from a grilled cheese sandwich?), but I am very excited. I'll share more pics and knits and other bits later, but the blanket on the couch is calling now.

Dear Grandma

Most of my friends have heard me refer to Crabby Grandma S. She earned that title well if you saw her frowning in most of her pictures. I got used to her response when asking her to go to a movie or her favorite place, Kmart, "...........Well,.......(big sigh)......I s'pose......" Grandma was a tough, very private and fiercely independent person that was hard to get to know (if you asked her two questions she'd accuse you of being "nosey"). In the years since my maternal grandparents passed on, I made an effort to take her out to movies and for dinner or ice cream whenever she would allow it. She never learned to drive and still walked or took the bus everywhere, no matter the weather. She'd occasionally accept rides to the store or to the doctor's office, but she'd often turn them down. She hated having her picture taken, but I was one of the lucky people that could get away with it. I'd have to set up the photo and then tease her that it wouldn't be over until she smiled. I'd then be informed that I was a pain in the ass, but she would smile and even laugh a little.

I got a half smile out of her for this picture. Here she is holding all of the teddy bears that Haille can find in my mom's house. She's a good sport for the little ones.

Grandma was famously hard to shop for. She had strong likes and dislikes, she already had everything, and then the task was complicated by a birthday that fell three days after Christmas. But, if she like your gift, her highest praise was that she'd hide it away, never to be seen again because she wanted to keep it nice.

She'd save her best smiles for her great-granddaughter, Haille, and her granddaughter, Brianna. Last Christmas she watched them play for hours, laughing with them from her spot on the couch.

She was very practical, but she also liked pretty things. She had at least fifty pairs of orthopedic shoes, most of them from rummage sales, but she also had about forty purses that might or might not match her outfit. When I was little, I always received a pack of underwear for Christmas and a necklace or locket. My mom would later have to explain to me why a pack of underwear is a very nice gift while she clasped the locket around my neck. Once I married, she'd give me pillowcases and dishtowels, but she'd also include something hand-embroidered or a pretty Christmas pin.

She loved clipping recipes. We've found thousands in her home. Some taped into little notebooks or journals, some piled on the kitchen table with the magazines and bills and some tucked in between couch cushions and in the coffee table. But she always stuck to the tried a true fruit and marshmallow salads for family gatherings.

Grandma loved a good romance story. I took her to all of the movies with "wedding" in the title: Four Weddings and a Funeral, Wedding Singer, Wedding Crashers, Runaway Bride, Wedding Planner, Made of Honor, etc. I'll never forget taking her to see Titanic in the theaters. Everyone knows how Titanic ends, but she was so invested in the characters that she kept gasping over and overfor the last hour of the film, and I thought I'd have to give her CPR in the theater.

She spent a lot of time thinking about her family. She clipped coupons even more than recipes and had envelopes for every family with the things she thought they'd need. I think she started saving tampon and maxi pad coupons just for me when I turned fourteen. She also collected clothes at rummage sales for every member of the family. It was always entertaining to see what she thought we'd like or what she thought might fit us. In my teenage years I remember getting a lemon yellow terrycloth jumper that was three sizes too small and the next visit I'd get an extra large sequined Christmas sweater. The rummage bags from Grandma were always a treasure hunt.

I'll miss all of these things and more about Grandma. When I wasn't allowed soda at home, she'd offer me a glass at Christmas visits just like all of the adults. When my brother and I slept over at her house, we had instant oatmeal for the first time for breakfast and we were allowed to watch TV while we ate it. She had a light up fireplace with a lightbulb and a rotating brush drum under plastic made to look like burning coals. She also had a hanging lamp with a water wheel in the center that turned with oil and the filaments around the lamp dripped with oil like it was raining. She used to collect rotating, color-changing fiberoptic flowers that glittered under the glass. All of the light sets on her Christmas tree blinked to a different pace and I could watch that pattern for hours. I'll miss her sneaking me candy from her purse, I'll miss telling her to button up her winter coat, I'll miss her stories about her country music stars, and I'll miss helping her with her seatbelt (she never mastered those).

This loss was very sudden, partially because she was so independent and wouldn't accept help, but, she wouldn't have wanted it any other way. She wouldn't want us to see her sick. She wouldn't have wanted to go to the hospital because they'd be "nosey." She took care of herself all of her life and preferred time spent alone. She refused to tell us her age and still colored her hair regularly to look younger. We found out later that she would have turned 79 years young (and stubborn) in another month. So, we wish you well, Grandma. May heaven be filled with gossip magazines and coupon flyers and rummage sales and blue light specials.

Love always,
Your Granddaughter, Melinda

Fall Beginnings

Technically, my fall started the last week of August. When kids everywhere go back to school, I want to start new things and learn cool stuff, too. This year I signed up for "independent study" in the following subjects:
  • jogging--I've always hated it because it made me want to puke. I'm pretty much over that after a few weeks. Ben is a very patient instructor.
  • a push-up challenge--this lasted 2 weeks only and I dropped this "course" for now.
  • private swimming lessons--I thought I couldn't swim, and now I'm doing laps! Thanks, Ann!
  • documenting all of the hostas in my yard (62 if you don't count the ones I want to dig up and give away)--This is in preparation for the spring project of rearranging the hosta beds into a "garden" look rather than chaos.
  • tearing out the garden on the side of my house and replanting it--This involves gnashing of teeth and ripping out roots and then hauling dirt in for grading and, lastly, planning where the bulbs, perennials, grasses, etc. will go. Keep in mind that this garden is at least 40 feet long.
  • and redoing the front garden--Here I have to removed the railroad ties and 1/2 wine barrel and will replace with quarry stone over buried limestone.
All of this plus the tomato and apple picking and canning that I started last fall and will continue this year. So, I have a busy semester planned out for me. Do other people do this? I'm curious as to what you may have signed yourself up for this fall.

Blessed are the Gleaners

For those that have never heard of Madison Moving Days, allow me to explain. The student neighborhood apartment owners all set their leases to end on August 14th and begin the next day on August 15th. This leaves most students renting a U-Haul overnight or camping out on the curb next to their pile of stuff to move.

Unfortunately, in our disposable culture, many students don't value the monetary value or environmental costs of their stuff. Furniture items are tossed from second story balconies and then put to the curb broken and unusable, the entire contents of many fridges are put out in torn garbage bags to rot in the sun, and nearly new buckets are found with a wadded bath towel and of dirty water from apartment bathroom "cleaning".

Now, this could be seen only as disgusting and depressing, but a brave few treat this as a holiday and an opportunity to save items destined for the garbage dump. It is a different kind of recycling and all it takes is some vision and soap and water.

The first year Ben and I were outfitting our first apartment together. We picked up some furniture and kitchen items and celebrated our first Hippie Christmas. The second year, we had just moved into our house in Beloit and filled the hatchback to capacity with 6 lamps, an end table, various linens and a work desk. In 2007 we made a major haul for us and for Tina's new apartment. Last year's best and most used items were 2 down comforters, 2 backpacks, some hipster T-shirts for Ben and a soft-sided cooler.

So, today, I post our 2008 Hippie Christmas Haul.....drumroll please....

It is a skimpier haul than usual, but this year's gems are a like-new office chair, a great pair of tennis shoes for me, a DVD player and a working vacuum (one is broken and will have to go back to the curb). This was also the first year that we heard someone was greeting the curb gleaners with calls of, "Happy Hippie Christmas!"

Proud Mama

I am soooo proud of my first toe-up (short row toes and heels) socks!! I just have to share a picture or three:

thanks, Ben, for modeling your socks so beautifully

I am also pleased with my tomato plants, some branches nearly 8 feet tall!

Lastly, I'm proud of my mama. She's 4 and 1/2 weeks post total knee surgery and she can ride a stationary bike. Go mom!

Monster Post for Garden Photos

It has been awhile since I last posted... obviously.

I've been pondering what to write about since it has been so long. Then I toured the backyard this morning after a heavy rain and everything looked so fresh and new. Then I realized that so much is new to our backyard this year.

New garden bed (the one on the right)

New garden fencing (to keep the neighborhood cats and their poop out of my vegetables)

New growth

snap peas, shelling peas, kale, chard, cilantro, lettuce, red peppers, orange peppers
and a tomato plant from my aunt, Nonabelle

beans and 6 varieties of tomatoes

New garden features like the now established garden path

New lights

New garden swing (note it is on the patio that has been buried under 2 feet of brush since we moved here--all new clean patio)

New rain barrels to replace the "crazy bush"

New flowers

zinnias grown from seed and ranunculus buds grown from bulbs

And that doesn't include the front yard, the side yard or the inside of the house. No wonder I've been too busy to blog lately.

I'm Back

I'm back from hormonal insanity, from blogging laziness, from knitterly hibernation on the Ektorp, and I'm back from vacation!!

Ben and I went on a camping trip along the Mississippi River in Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. We left shortly after his semester ended but before the state parks get crazy with people on summer holiday. Ben is a bird watcher, so a trip near a major bird migration pathway made the most sense. (He is on bird #205 on his life list and #144 for the current year--just FYI.)

I set myself up for an experiment. Before the trip I was knitting like a fiend on a number of worsted weight projects (5) all too big to take on a camping trip. For this trip, I needed a small, portable a sock. I've knit 3 pairs of socks before, but (I hate to admit it because it feels like I'm offending the knitting/yarn gods) I don't like knitting socks. I love sock yarn. I love handknit socks. I just don't like the tiny needles or the (in my knitting experience) saggy, ill-fitting socks. That said, I got a new basic pattern, some size 1 needles and a ball of sock yarn and that is the only project I brought on the trip.

I lasted the entire drive to the first state park (Nelson-Dewey State Park in Wisconsin, I highly recommend it) and the first 2 days of camping without knitting. I talked to my husband (he's been in exam-writing, exam-grading mode so long that I forgot how much I liked talking to him.), I hiked, enjoyed the scenery, and swore while choking on smoke while cooking over a campfire, but I didn't knit. Then, on night 3, I couldn't hold off any longer.

and by the time we got home 6 days later I had this

and it seems to fit well. I started sock two last night and I plan to make some homemade sock blockers soon. I have to knit another couple of pairs before I tackle the (in my opinion) prettiest sock yarn ever.

Collinette Jitterbug in Dusk colorway

Back to our trip. I have to share a photo of the best view from the campsite ever (yes I know I'm full of superlatives today),

Nelson-Dewey State Park in WI, walk-in site C

and a pic of the man who is such a great sport when I'm taking trip pictures:

This is on a stop on our way home for some minigolf in Wisconsin Dells.
I love the logger/golfer and the stoic look on his face.

Lastly, I'll share one finished knitting project:

Fiber Trends Felted Clogs in Cascade 22o Heathers in Mystic colorway

Gardening for my sanity

After the last post, I thought that I'd better share some pretty flower pictures with you. Hooray for springtime bulbs!

All of the sunshine and 70 degree weather has cheered me up considerably. That and I took a week off of work, so I've been able to enjoy the weather and do some old-fashioned physical labor. Specifically, I decided to redo the garden path in the backyard. Here is what it looked like before. Note the bricks cracked by weeds, weather and overzealous hosta roots.

First I had to move the offending hostas to other parts of the yard. I changed the route of the path (the old one led to an old stump instead of the patio), removed the worst broken bricks, and turned the bricks with the holes on their sides. I had to dig a deeper trench, lay down landscape fabric to discourage weeds, spread leveling sand and wedge the bricks in.

Then I had to add more sand under any low bricks to level the path as much as possible. Lastly I spread paver locking sand and brushed it in between all of the bricks. The locking sand has polymers in it, so I had to hose the path 3 times to lock it in. I'm not sure how stiff the locking sand will be. We'll see. For now it looks pretty great.

Tomorrow I'll trim the landscape fabric and mulch.

Lastly, I forgot to post a picture of the Koolhaas hat when I finished it. It was done in time for the crocuses, but the picture turned out poorly, so you'll see it on my sunroom floor instead.

Rain and Sunshine

I've been waiting and waiting to post some important news on here. For 11 weeks, I was pregnant. Most of my thoughts and my knits were baby-related, which has made it very hard to come up with non-baby ideas for blog posts. 3 days from now would have been 12 weeks, thus 2nd trimester and a big sigh of relief. Unfortunately I miscarried yesterday at 3am. This means that all of the baby knits have been tucked away for the time being.

Thankfully, it is late April in Wisconsin, and we've had some good weather for gardening. The sunshine, fresh air and moist soil have helped. The bulbs planted in fall are popping up, and my plant starts and spinach sprouts get bigger everyday. I even had some friends over to knit in the backyard until it was dark enough to head inside for tea and dessert.

I hope to again find myself in the predicament of waiting to share news and not having much else to write about. Until then, it will be knitting, gardening and home renovation news all the time.

goats, yarn and sprouts

I have lots of pictures, but not much to say. Last weekend, Ben and I went to the Fiber Jubilee at Tall Grass Farm. They raise mohair goats there and it was shearing time.

The goats looked like they might be cold after the shearing, but otherwise put up very little fuss. Ben was glad that Rod the barber didn't have to wrangle him like that to get a haircut.

Then we went on to Needles 'n Pins yarn shop, right in the neighborhood. Many other knitters from the Fiber Jubilee were also spotted there picking up more for the stash. I had to get a photo of the Wall of Koigu. It is quite a sight to behold.

We missed Studio S due to crowds, but all in all, it was a great fiber day.

Lastly, I wanted to post a picture of my sprouts at 10 days old. Welcome to the world!

Spring and the world is mudluscious

There is NO snow in the backyard, AND the squirrels did not eat all of the bulbs we planted last fall! Here are some crocus sprouts!

I started my sprouts indoors (tomatoes, kale, chard, rosemary, sage, butterfly weed, calendula and zinnias), and I finally got somewhere on the hat for Colleen.

This is the Koolhaas pattern from Interweave Knits. All the cool knitting bloggers say it is an easy knit while I'm finding every fourth row to be cabling torture. But, it is a pretty springy color! I'll try to finish it in time for the crocus blooms.

Vacation Pics

For Spring Break, we went to Whittier, CA, where my in-laws live. Despite my father-in-law's insistence that it is paradise, Southern California is just a strange place. In the morning, we'd go walking around in the neighborhood, and it didn't seem right. Everyone had perfectly manicured lawns and beautifully tended plants. Everything was green or in gorgeous bloom. Occasionally fall would have come for one tree on the block, and it would have lost its leaves to the grass below. The sidewalks would still be wet from the lawn sprinklers, and the mockingbirds would be singing their strange little song. Then midday would come and the sun would be unnaturally high and hot and bright for March. If you ventured into the hills beyond the trimmed lawns, you'd actually see a weed or two and an abundance of succulent plants. Then you'd realize, it is all pretend. For Midwesterner skin and eyes, the sun is brutal. For most fruits and vegetables and lawn plants, it is the same. They'd be parched in a day. But with enough water, anything can grow with all of that solar energy. And it will grow worse than a weed. Your shrub will need constant grooming so it won't take over your house. It seems like a precarious battle between dehydration or being swallowed in the jungle of house vines.

The redeeming thing about visiting California in the spring, is citrus. As a person that eats local food and freezes or cans for the winter, an orange tree in the backyard is something magical. I almost cried when I tasted how fabulous an orange right off the tree could be. It really was that delicious. Here is the tree in Ben's parents' backyard:

if you look closely, you can see one of the avocados from their other tree at the top of the picture

Here are some citrus pictures from the Whittier Farmer's Market.

there were plenty of other vegetables and some humongous strawberries at the market, too, but fresh citrus was all that these Midwestern eyes could see

I took a ton of photos, but I already shared the traffic and knitting photos. (That seemed like the majority of the vacation.) We went to Little Tokyo, but I forgot to take pictures. The pictures of the mammoths at the tar pits are a little sad.

poor mommy mammoth

The other ones that struck me enough to share them are from the Huntington Library gardens.

a fairy

a woman and cherub

my favorite photo of Ben and I on this trip,
in the Terrace of the Jade Mirror building in the Garden of Flowing Fragrance (Chinese Garden)

California Knitting

Ben's Spring Break was this week and we traveled to Whittier, CA (outside of L.A.) to see his parents. While packing for the trip, I stayed up until 1:00am to knit swatches for several projects so I could decide what to take. I was afraid that the sheer number of needles in my carry-on would set off some alarms in security, but the lady behind me left a water bottle in her bag, and that was much more threatening.

I frogged the scarf that I made as my first knitting project.

I made this scarf 3 times, and it was still too wide, too short, too thick, etc. so I decided to make it into simple garter stich potholders. I started a baby hat out of Koigu on 3's and was surprised how much easier it knit up on the knitpicks needles. Did I mention how much I love them? I love them so much I may retire all of my others due to the hand cramps they give me. Anyway, the best part of knitting in L.A. requires a driver. You too can have plenty of commute time looking at this:

instead of this:

It seems to take an hour to an hour and a half to get anywhere, and that is NOT during rush hour. I am missing my boring little Beloit where you can get anywhere in 10 minutes. But, then again, Beloit doesn't have many destinations of choice, unlike L.A. For instance, the Knitter's Studio on West 3rd St. was fantastic. They have knitted lingerie and a knitted wedding dress (scroll down to see it) on display. Their yarn displays are organized by color, which is luscious and inspiring, but very difficult to organize a project around if you are me. But you are not, so you may like it better.

I bought some Jitterbug sock yarn while I was there.

I am so stuck on variegated yarns right now. I absolutely adore this yarn and am looking for a "worthy" sock pattern (on 2's). Feel free to leave suggestions.

In other news, we fly back tomorrow, and I get more time to knit on the plane. :) I'll post some vacation photos after we return.

Done Done

The lace hat is completed, washed, dye set, blocked and dry.

Now I've picked another hat above my current skill set. It is the Koolhaus hat that all of the cool bloggers are knitting. I want to make it for a friend that was recently diagnosed with cancer and will start chemo soon. I picked a pretty periwinkle heather for her. She wears bright funky jewelry to cheer herself up, so I think a springy hat might be good.

In other news, the kitty is not happy that the obsession with knitting has continued. She likes to sit on top of whatever I'm currently knitting, so she has been kicked over to Ben's lap every night for weeks now. Here is how she feels about it:

taken by Ben

Kiwi will also not like us leaving for Spring Break for 8 days. We are going to sunny California to visit my in-laws. I'm excited for sun and warmth, but I'm more excited to knit on the plane and to visit yarn shops. Is that strange?