In praise of real dishes

In praise of real dishes

If I wanted to, I could figure out when the big kitchen/bathroom renovation began. I don’t want to. Not at all. We’ll just say it’s been a long time and leave it at that. During this long time, we’ve lived with a temporary kitchen set-up in my dining room while the “real kitchen” (as the kids call it) basically became Alan’s workshop. There have been some inconveniences to this arrangement, but none so difficult as the lack of a kitchen sink (or any other plumbing downstairs). The rest of it, I can deal with. I find a recipe I’d like to try, but it’s just not possible without a full sized oven – as opposed to the toaster oven we’ve been using – okay, we’ll have something else. I need the use of two burners, but I only have one? I’ll make things in succession instead of concurrently and use the slow cooker to help keep the first thing warm. I’m pretty adaptable. But dragging dishes upstairs to be washed in the bathtub and then back down? Running upstairs anytime you need water for a cleanup or even to make a cup of tea? Oy vey iz mir!

But look! My Valentine’s Day present! A working kitchen sink in my (getting so very close to done) REAL kitchen!

IMG_4596I know this could possibly come across as sarcasm, but I was really, really genuinely happy. Now, if you ask Alan, he’ll tell you that this is all part of his elaborate plan. Buy a rundown house with potential (always beware the word potential), and renovate it slowly, taking away all the conveniences of modern life long enough for me to get used to doing without them… Then buy a boat! Amazingly, the little galley on the boat seems wonderful! Also, our house had ZERO closets when we bought it. Zero. Connection to storage situations on the boat? Hm….

At any rate, we’d been using a lot of paper dishware for convenience during the dark, sink-less days. Today, I finally had a chance to dig our our real dishware from it’s hiding place in the attic. Hallelujah! What a wonderful thing real dishes are. They make me feel so civilized. There was a bit of a mystery, though. I couldn’t find our glasses, anywhere. There are boxes of kitchen things that got packed up, waiting for the day when I had a real kitchen with cabinets to store them in again, and I’m sure the glasses were among them, but that box must have somehow gotten put in a separate location than all the other kitchen boxes. I did, however, find a treasure. I had forgotten that at some point I was given my grandparents’ “H glasses,” as I always called them. They just got packed away with the rest of my kitchen goods – until now.

IMG_4627My grandparents’ surname begins with ‘H’, and as it happened they had only daughters, and among all their progeny so far, I’m the only one to end up with an ‘H’ name. Good thing, because I loved those glasses and I probably would have wanted them even if that wasn’t the case. I remember using these glasses at the *special* dinners at their little house: somebody’s birthday or some other little occasion to celebrate. It was such a treat to get them out tonight and celebrate the return of real, solid dishes to our dining experiences.

Arrr, The best playhouse in the world!

Arrr, The best playhouse in the world!

Felicity said it better than I could: “We’re going to have the best playhouse in the whole world… even in Chinese!”

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Alan is building the kids a pirate ship playhouse. A pretty massive, awesome pirate ship playhouse. He used plans here as his basis, although he has modified them somewhat. Our version is longer to allow for the addition of a second mast so the kids can climb the rigging between them.

Construction began early in January, when the ground was still frozen.

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IMG_4439Our clever neighbors began to ask if we were concerned about floods.

IMG_4479One suggested that years from now, when the kids are done with it, we take it to the Bay to “see how well it floats.” I’m pretty sure there would be some hefty fines associated with that experiment.

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IMG_4593IMG_4594 IMG_4595At some point after the boat itself is complete, he’ll cut down that tree and add a swingset to the side coming off one of the masts.

Time management

Time management

I’m supposed to finish the first Harry Potter sweater by March 4. It’s written on the calendar in permanent marker and everything. So far I have the back finished and just a few inches of the front. I’m thinking it’s not going to happen.

My knitting pace has slowed waaaaay down. There is only so much free time, and after the frenzy of Christmas knitting, I’ve been wanting to use more of mine with my first love and obsession: reading. The problem is, with the big plans I’ve already made for next Christmas, I kind of already have a schedule to keep to. Now, I’m well aware that multitasking is not very efficient. However, it is really good for silencing the part of my brain that’s nagging me to do whichever activity I’m not currently doing. So, while I may be both reading and knitting slower than normal if I do both at the same time, I’ve found it’s highly satisfying to do so. How does one knit and read at the same time? Well, you need a book that stays open by itself. The Kindle is obviously great for this, but at the moment I’m reading an old fashioned print book, so a binder clip helps keep it open. Also, quite obviously, this only works with a totally brainless pattern. The Harry Potter sweaters are all stockinette stitch – the bits that need shaping and the intarsia for the initial of course call for strict attention, but great swaths of it can just be done on autopilot.

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With the book held open, one need only stop to turn pages. Multitasking accomplished. Knitting pace may still be slow, but my free time satisfaction rate is high.

My first sweater

My first sweater

I finished my first sweater! (Hooray! Hooray!)

…It’s not one of the Harry Potter sweaters. (Boo! Boo!) I’m falling rather behind schedule on those.

I made a little orange shrug for myself.IMG_4533

IMG_4530Mostly, I’m quite happy with how it turned out. It’s perhaps a little wider than it should be for my size, but I moved the button over farther to compensate. I think the extra width came as a consequence of not really using the correct weight yarn for the pattern. The  kind lady at The Yarn Gallery worked out the conversion for me and really, it’s amazing to me that she could figure out the adjustments in needle size and stitch count to get it as close as it was.

The pattern is nearly seamless, as it just goes up and over at the shoulders, which was a very good thing. Seems I need to work on my seams. (haha.) I have no idea what the stitch I used for my first seam is called or where I found it. I thought I’d seen it on Pinterest, but if I did I must have neglected to repin it. Oy. I took the pictures of the seams without a flash because that actually made the seam more visible. Here is my first seam.

IMG_4570I wasn’t entirely happy with that one, so I tried a mattress stitch on the second side.

IMG_4568Look at that, it’s worse! The first seam, that I wan’t entirely happy with – the one that I have no idea what kind of stitch I used – is much less visible! Good grief. I could definitely recreate the first seam, but I wish I knew what it was… At any rate, in my internet searches trying to figure out what the heck kind of seam I used the first time, I found many good resources for how to make better seams – ones based specifically on what kinds of stitches you’re joining. I’m still learning that when doing something new it’s best to look for a variety of tutorials before beginning. Always nice to get a sampling of ideas, so you have a sense of where the best ones are. I’ll be better prepared for my next seams. For now, I’m comforted by the thought of just how difficult it would be for someone to simultaneously see both seams while I’m wearing the sweater. Maybe no one will notice that they’re different.

Pining for spring

Pining for spring

The other night Alan and I watched the movie Captain Ron. I hadn’t seen it before, but I’d recommend it, it was pretty funny. Man oh man, did it ever make me ready for spring, though. Now, I’m pretty much guaranteed to be ready for spring just about the day after Christmas, being one of those people that always seems to feel about 20 degrees colder than everyone else. But a movie about a family learning to love sailing together?… I want to be there NOW. Where I can neglect laundry and cleaning, and the kids never ask to watch TV or play on the computer because it just isn’t an option, and we’re all (stuck) together without all the distractions of home… Sigh.

I can’t wait til we get Green Eyes back in the water. My brain is bouncing around all the relevant topics – sandals and bathing suits, cooking aboard, storage solutions, kiddie entertainment aboard, can we still make all the kids sleep together in the v-berth? Okay, in reality, Alan is taking care of the most relevant concerns – the necessary repairs and upgrades… but someone has to think about the day-to-day living concerns.

I’ve been reading The Boat Galley Cookbook, which I received as Christmas gift from Alan. I’ve already filled a small notebook with notes on food storage and preparation aboard. I’ve also perused some of Alan’s books on cruising and living aboard and picked up other useful tips for general storage and managing living so very, very close to one’s loved ones. We may not be ready for long-term cruising yet, but taking advice from those who do can make even a weekend go so much smoother.  Bits I’ve read plus just one season’s experience has given me a feeling of being much more prepared this year. I have a lot more note and list writing to do, and I’m sure my confidence is rooted in my novice and naivety but I’m feeling very… “Let’s do this!”

In addition to whatever weekends or weekend-length trips we can manage, we have two one-week long sails planned, plus our two-week long trip to Jamestown, which I am most looking forward to.

The other by-product of watching Captain Ron  – I asked Alan if he’d like it if we referred to him as ‘Captain.’ “Captain what?,” he wondered.

IMG_3434Captain ‘Stache. But of course.

Birthday Girl in a Fluffy Skirt

Birthday Girl in a Fluffy Skirt

Felicity, my middle child, turned 5 on Sunday.

IMG_4549This was the first of my children’s birthdays that I managed to knit a gift for, and it was a long time coming. Way back in… September-ish-time, I stumbled upon the pattern for Smokey the Bear. It was one of those I need this yarn immediately moments.

(Aside: This is akin to the I need to own all Neil Gaiman’s novels and children’s books immediately moment I’ve been in for a while now. I must be growing some self control since that hasn’t happened yet.)

Now, a yarn shop is not usually a place I like to take the younger kids if I can help it. They like to touch everything. Okay, can’t blame them much there. It’s a very tactile experience. But it’s very distracting trying to pick out the yarn  I actually need whilst simultaneously ensuring that don’t totally rearrange the store… However, it was one of those addict-needing-a-fix moments, so Sammy and Lissie came with me to The Ball & Skein Shop.

There happened to be a ruffly purple and green skirt on a mannequin in the window of the shop. Lissie thought it was SO BEAUTIFUL! So, after Christmas, the ruffly skirt became one of my top priorities in time for a February birthday.

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The pattern calls for one of those ruffly novelty yarns like you most often see used for scarves to make the ruffles. It turned out pretty cute, but I don’t think I’d do it again. It was kind of a pain to work with. I did measure her waist, but you can tell it’s still rather on the big side. It does at least stay up, though, and should fit her for a good long time.

IMG_4564I must say, I’m rather glad that Savannah didn’t show interest in having one of these for herself.

Hermione Hat

Hermione Hat

After knitting many hats for Christmas, it began to get depressing to put on my old $5 Target hat every day. I decided to make a hat for myself. Of course, it had to be geek chic. That’s just how I roll.

Isn’t this hat lovely? Hermione wore it in the Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince film.

hermione hatI used this pattern of an interpretation of the hat. I made it as written, not using the possible modifications at the bottom. I think mine turned out quite nicely.

IMG_4497 IMG_4483I think my gauge must have been a bit off because my brim is a lot longer than it’s supposed to be. It’s all good though. I like a rolled brim anyhow. I am very bad though, I rarely check my gauge. Who wants to spend time doing that when you could be beginning the project?

Now I have a hand knit hat, too. 🙂