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.

Big Projects Ahead

Big Projects Ahead

So I’m finishing up a couple little projects I started the year off with and planning and preparing to start the year’s Big Projects.

The first Big Project I am so excited about I can hardly contain myself. Who remembers these sweaters?

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I’m making them! Eep! This weekend a very, very exciting package arrived all the way from the New Lanark Yarn Shop in Scotland, containing the actual pattern and yarn used to make the sweaters for the film. I know, I know, I’m still geeking out about it.

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Three kits, one for each of my children. The pattern comes with the chart for a letter H. It’s so convenient that our last name begins with H. H’s all around! This will be a Christmas present. The only part of this that might give me a bit of grief is knitting in the initial. I spent some time this past weekend clicking around tutorials for intarsia or colorblock knitting and I think I’ve at least got the basics in my head. We’ll see about the execution, however.

The other Big Projects on my list will also be Christmas presents. How adorable are these?

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It’s Purl the Little Knit Girl! You make the doll, Purl, and then there are different outfits for her for each of the little things she goes in. For example, she wears the daisy hat and jumper and fits into the little felted flower pot, so she just looks like a flower in a pot. Then there is a coordinating daisy hat for the child! I thought they were adorable, so each of the girls (my daughters and nieces) will be getting one of these for Christmas.

I’m already worried about budgeting my time. I think I have to plan a month for each sweater and probably a month for each complete Purl set…. which makes a total of 10 months already and it’s the end of January, yikes! I hope I’m over-estimating the time required.

Now, obviously I have to also do something for the boys (my son and nephew). I don’t think they’d be into having a Purl, even if I made it a boy doll, so here’s my plan for them. A football hat and a scarf in Redskins colors to go with it. Not so much a Big Project, but I think it will go over well, and thank goodness, because I have enough of those for now, I think.

Hats and Scarves and Critters, Oh My!

Hats and Scarves and Critters, Oh My!

All the holiday gifts have been given, so I’m at last free to share a bit about all the knitted things I created in the past several months.

IMG_4309My final count was 37 knitted gifts. Mostly I made hats. I didn’t intend to make so many gifts; it happened almost by accident. I made a hat for a hat loving friend. I showed it off a bit and the person who taught me to knit thought it turned out so well that I should make more of them. She proposed that I make the same hat in different colors for each of my sisters-in-law for Christmas. That sounded like a lovely idea, so I made a second one in a different color.

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My second first hat. It’s a slouchy style. Hard to get a good picture without a head beneath it.

After making two, I decided I was bored with the pattern and instead of all the same, each sister in law would get a different hat and different yarn. Then I ran into a bit of a mistake. That bright pink hat in the picture? It turned out a bit small. I decided that would work better for a niece. So the nieces and nephew were added to the list. I also kept hearing how much the guys liked those silly bearded hats. So I added beards and guy hats to my list… and so on and so on until I had a pretty long list of knitted gifts to make.

I really had lots of fun making all these things and I learned so much. What follows are some of the ones that stick out as highlights of my knitting experience from the last year.

IMG_4314The Spock hat. I was really worried about the ears turning out right. My ears don’t have quite as defined a shape as the ones in the pattern picture, but they’re nice and pointy and I think they get the point across just fine.

IMG_4316The Feather and Fan hat. I just adore the scalloped bottom. Mine came out more pronounced than the one in the pattern picture, and as it first appeared beneath my needles I thought I’d made a mistake somewhere. I was delighted to discover I was wrong about that.

IMG_4312The King Charles Brocade hat. The pattern is very subtle, but oh so pretty, and continues nicely into the decreases.

IMG_4318The Tri-Peak. The directions for making the peaks almost scared me off from attempting this one. So glad I went ahead and tried it. It’s actually quite simple and so cute. One stitch at a time. That’s my motto when I get scared of a pattern.

IMG_4311Shilling. I did my first cables here.

IMG_4328Scarves. The one to the right is the mistake rib – the same pattern I used for my very first completed project. I changed it up and added a buttonhole. Confession: that wasn’t my plan. The scarf turned out a bit on the short side and I wasn’t able to get more in the same color. Adding the button seemed like a good solution because then you don’t have to have the length for wrapping. I think it turned out pretty nicely. The infinity scarf pattern is called Diagonality. It looks like traditional stockinette rows except they’re running on an angle. The pattern was really fun and just knit up beautifully.

IMG_4325Smokey the Bear…. er, Granger the Ranger Bear? This was the project I was most nervous about of all, but I think he turned out rather well. He was worked on size 2 needles, which was enough there to scare me just by making me think it would take an eternity to finish. I did a couple other little critter type projects also. I’m glad Smokey was worked flat; I found I greatly prefer that to doing teeny tiny things in the round. I did run into a few errors in the pattern. There were a handful of places where the instructions and stitch count did not match. I made the decision to match the stitch count rather than the instructions and that seemed to work out well.

IMG_4322And some beards. Just because. These were a quick, but slightly challenging project. I found that it needed to be a single sitting project. If I walked away from it in the middle, I pretty much had to start over.

And I’m already making out my yarn list for next year’s projects…

Yarn Addict

I wish I could share all the exciting projects I’m working on. Alas, they’re all Christmas gifts (and one baby gift that hasn’t been given yet). I was just taking another look at my list and all my supplies and planning things out. Since I cannot share what I’ve been working on, have a peek at the lovely, luscious yarns I’m working with.

Some of these are just the remnants of already completed projects, but I needed to look at everything to satisfy the over-planner in me. I tend to get a little nutsy about Christmas. I love Christmas like a little kid and I love giving gifts. I’ve never been a particularly crafty person so learning to knit and being able to give people hand-made gifts has been this incredible revelation to me.

Something funny happened in the last couple weeks, though. I had made my list of knitted gifts back in… oh, June-ish. I’ve been knitting ever since, and feeling as though I were falling farther behind all the time. So I printed out a calendar, sat down with my list, and made a schedule. Next thing I knew, incredibly, I was flying way ahead of my schedule!

So, I did what any crazy person would do. I added way more things to my list! Oh dear. The lady at the yarn shop knows me way too well, now. (And my boss, and my children, who all have accompanied me on yarn and needle buying missions.) I went back one. more. time. today. Perhaps the last before Christmas? I think I finally have all the supplies I need for all my projects – at least all the ones I have planned right now.

I need to finish knitting so I can get back to reading. I used to rationalize my compulsive book buying with the excuse that it was the only thing I was so compulsive about. I’m thinking that cozy, colorful pile on my coffee table might mean I can’t argue that one anymore.