Thursday, December 27, 2007

Foxy Socks

I've hinted about a Christmas knitting project, which I barely finished before the Christmas Eve deadline, despite starting in November. Well, the were socks for Aaron's mom, Leena, who sometimes reads this blog, so I didn't want to spill any beans. I refuse to knit socks for non-knitters who won't appreciate the work and time that goes into them, and it's also pointless to knit socks for people who knit their own. So, other than for Leena, who is an amazing knitter who hasn't yet delved into the realm of the sock, I don't do a lot of gift socks.

I also don't often repeat sock patterns, but after doing Favourite Socks' Go With The Flow for my Sockapalooza pal, I realized that they're the perfect gift sock. The pattern is easy and can be memorized in about two seconds, and they're so stretchy that they're easy to fit to a foot that is a different size than your own. I won't bore you with any specs, they're just your garden variety Go With The Flows, knit in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the Envy colourway. There you go.

So... Christmas. After all that prep and all the anticipation it was... well, a little bit too crazy. We're going to have to change the way we do things -- hitting both grandparents' house for gift opening on the same day does not make for a restful holiday. I've spent most of the last 24 hours throwing up, I'm thinking mostly out of stress and over-eating. Yuck.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Can you believe it's here?

Christmas Eve, how did you get here so fast? We've had a crazy week, so the big day has really crept up on us. Ruby is already full of beans and pregnant old me has already cried twice in the last 24 hours (watching Rudolph with Ruby and watching her help me make my Grandma's famous pistachio pudding pie, which we always eat on Boxing Day).

Today we will spend our time: baking, wrapping presents, napping, crafting and then heading to Aaron's folks for the fun. What you see above is one last little Xmas craft -- the Wee Wonderful Pig On Wheels. Mine isn't nearly as perfect as Hilary's, but it's so imperfect and funny. It's a pig on wheels!

So, if Christmas is your thing, have a good one. If not, enjoy a day when most of the Western world is quiet. xoxo

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hold Me Close, Tiny Crafter

As I struggle to finish a knitting project before Monday (it's in a dead heat race with an Amazon order that I ordered in November -- and shipped Tuesday -- for my biggest holiday stresser), Ruby hit the craft table today. Nothing heavy duty -- I just bought a little ornament kit for us to do together and she loved it. Just some beads strung on wire and twisted into snowflakes for the tree. It was very sweet because she kept looking up at me and saying "Mama, are you proud of me? Are you?" as she skillfully slipped the beads on. What a girl.

And, I thought this deserved a photo. Some friends came by for dinner the other night and arrived with this gingerbread house that their three-year old daughter made with her grandmother. Since we didn't get around to doing anything like this this year, it makes a very welcome addition to our growing pile of holiday treats.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Getting The Point

You know what's hard? Taking a picture of a tall pointy hat atop your own head. Yow.

Anyway, I did have a little non-holiday project before I left for Hawaii. Aaron and some of his friends performed a live version of Harry Nilsson's The Point!, which for those not in the know, is pretty much the greatest kids' record ever (really -- I can't stand Harry Nilsson's other music, but even I love this '70s gem). Aaron politely asked me to make some Point! hats for the band, and I of course, turned to Bend-The-Rules Sewing's elf hat!

Now, I had to wing this to fit some adult sized heads and I also used cruddy acrylic felt (for cost purposes), but apparently the crowd went wild when the band put them on. So yes, The Point. We bought Ruby a copy of the DVD for Christmas and I was planning to make her a proper kids' size hat (in wool felt), but it'll have to wait for her birthday. I'm scaling down this year, to save my sanity.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Mele Kalikimaka

I realize that this photo is as un-Christmasy as it gets, but our little family just returned from a blissful six days on Maui. Aaron surprised me with news of the trip about a month ago. Now, don't be mistaken -- we're not the kind of people who can afford to jet off to tropical locations on a whim. But Aaron's had some good news at work and he figured that this would be our last time to have a really special family time with Ruby before she loses her reign as an only child. Plus I think Aaron wanted to remove me from a little bit of my Christmas craziness (yes, they do have Christmas in Hawaii, but it's pretty easy to ignore it there if you chose to)

Here's what I did on my winter vacation: as little as possible; beach every morning; pool after nap; read some trashy novels*; ate crab cakes and ice cream almost every day (but not together -- I'm pregnant, but not crazy); gave Ruby millions of hugs; got a tiny tan; showed off my baby bump in a bikini; ordered virgin Pina Coladas; watched Roo play her new ukulele; counted all the reasons why my family is the greatest and I love them more than anything.

So, back to cold and back to Christmas. I can't believe how much there is to do... I'm actually scaling back on my original plans, which is something I wouldn't have allowed myself to do if I wasn't still chilled out from the Maui way.

* after spying a recommendation on Angry Chicken, I picked up Plum Sykes' The Debutante Divorcee at the library and devoured it over the course of about a day and a half in Hawaii. I was so surprised by how much I loved it I immediately picked up Sykes' first book Bergdorf Blondes, which isn't nearly as good. I still read it in, like, two days, but I hated the characters. Which I think was kind of the point (satire, you know), but the Debutante Divorcee is much sweeter. If you're looking to kill some time with a silly book, that is.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Cookie Confidential: Success!

Our holiday open house was today and the cookies were a huge success. The lemon sandwich cookies were by far the biggest hit -- I'm so proud! Here's a picture of our table of yummy-ness (I won't show you an after -- with a houseful of adults and kids, it wasn't pretty).

With that stress out of the way, I'm going to take a wee break. See you in about a week.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Apron That Saved Christmas

This year it isn't Rudolph that is saving my Christmas, it's Amy Karol. Not only has the Angry Chicken posted soooo many great links to gift ideas and books to read and such (I'm beginning to feel like I'm stalking her and trying to steal her life -- sorry Amy! I'm not trying to become your clone, I swear. You just have really good taste), but I hit full-on panic mode this morning when I realized that I was a gift short for Aaron's sister's girlfriend, Erin. This is the first Christmas that Aaron's sister Daniella has spent away from our family (she's hanging with Erin's fam in Vancouver this year -- they thought that if they're starting to alternate that next year when Frank is here would be a good one to spend with us), so it's the first time I've had to send a nice big package thousands of km away. I started wrapping their gifts this morning and realized I was short.

Luckily, the item I was planning for Erin took literally two seconds to make (well, not literally, but you know). I dug into my vintage tea towel stash (which is shrinking rather than growing -- why are these things becoming so hard to find?) and whipped up a tea towel apron, as seen in the crazily popular Bend-The-Rules Sewing. Sewed some ribbon on and poof -- a fun Christmas gift in no time flat. I love these things so much -- so perfect for someone who loves vintage stuff and also loves to cook, which is Erin to a T. Thank you Amy, you rock.

Oh, and the tea towel is a calendar from 1971, obviously some kind of souvenir from Australia. I've had it for a while, but I don't remember exactly where it came from.

p.s. Martha Stewart is also saving Christmas. Is it just me, or is she twice as cool since prison?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Game On

Okay, it's December 3 and I'm starting to go into "Oh my god, I have to get ready for our party/get ready for vacation/finish sending out Xmas cards/finish gift packages that should have been in the mail last week" freak-out mode. Oh, and have I mentioned that I'm starting to feel really, really pregnant? Ack.

On a calmer note, here's a little something that I whipped up last week to send to our little friend Lilly, who was born in August, but didn't get a baby gift, since I was in my early "I'm feeling really really pregnant" stage. This is the Bunny Bug from the Aranzi Aronzo Fun Dolls book. I love this bug so much that I started concocting all sorts of reasons as to why I had to keep him for Ruby/myself -- the main one being that he turned out waaay bigger than I expected and it's going to cost a small fortune to mail him across the country. But, off he will go.

I used a really fuzzy material that was a pain to work with and really messy. I think he's done shedding, but I'm going to recommend that the parents use this to decorate the babe's room rather than let her cuddle it in bed, since I don't want any fuzzy particles going up her nose. Still, I really love this guy and he was super super easy to make. Hooray.

Okay, I've got to go. I think Ruby has dumped every toy she owns in the living room and she's eyeing the Christmas tree.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ghosts Of Christmas Past

Last year I decided to make a couple of pairs of Sweet Mary Jane slippers, one for myself and one for a gift. The ones for myself worked out okay (and have since worn out), but my crap crochet skills prevented me from giving away the other pair. I was going through an old knitting basket the other day and found the incomplete slippers and realized that I can crochet well enough now to finish them off. So finish them I did.

Not much to tell here, just your garden variety Sweet Mary Janes knit out of some Lamb's Pride Worsted. The only mod is that I didn't do the button, I just sewed the strap on both ends. Viola! Instant present.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Books: Fun Dolls and Cute Dolls

Okay, these are some books to get excited about. I was so happy to see Aranzi Aronzo's Cute Dolls and Fun Dolls books. I love the previously released English versions of the Aranzi Aronzo books, but the projects in them were all "mascot" versions of the characters, which were felt and only inches high. I wanted some real softie action! These books, filled with patterns for doll-sized stuffies, are both awesome. The projects are super super easy, really cute and wonky enough to look good even if you're not a perfect sewer (i.e. me).

The projects in Cute dolls are your standard Aranzi Aronzo cast of characters: bunnies, bears, monkeys, cats and faves like The Bad Guy and The Liar. Fun Dolls is even better, with totally crazy little guys like Silky Kay (pictured on the cover), a sad little donkey, a pig, cars and coffee mugs. Like I said, they're all easy peasey to make and can usually be whipped together with things you have lying around the house: small amounts of fabric, old towels, t-shirts, whatever. Which means you can make gifts that are hand-made and recycled.

I've already tried my hand at a couple projects: (do NOT click this link if you are related to me, I mean it) this guy is a Christmas gift and I'm also almost done a Bunny Bug from the Fun Dolls book (pictures later this week). They're addictive and easy to personalize, so even if you don't follow the pattern to the letter there's a lot of potential in these books. Expect many more projects from these babies in the future.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

SPC: Wardrobe Week #4

As indicated by yesterday's freeze-out story, it's finally got cold around here. I hate it, but I'm glad. It was just so creepy to go around the neighbourhood in a jacket (no gloves, no scarf, no hat) and see people's Christmas lights on, even though it hadn't really truly snowed here yet (there was a sprinkling before Halloween, but nothing major). I mean, this is Canada. It's supposed to be cold.

And now, man, is it ever. We had a very dramatic dip over the last couple of days. When I woke up this morning and saw that it had snowed, I thought I'd take a picture of my boots in the snow, maybe with Ruby's little booted feet in there too. But I'm not going out of the house today -- not if I can help it at least. So, here are my sock feet, which hopefully won't see boots or shoes until I venture out tomorrow.

You know, while I'm ashamed that this NaBloPoMo thing (or whatever it's called, I just winged that acronym) has got me writing about the weather, I'm glad I'm back on the SPC train. I kind of stopped taking my own pictures once I started contributing to their blog, but now that I'm not doing that anymore I have more time to snap some shots. Hopefully I'll keep up with it once this crazy November is over. In the meantime, check out more SPC shots here.

Monday, November 26, 2007


I had a post all ready in my head this morning, but soon after Ruby and I returned from the library, I noticed it was pretty cold in our house. So I turned up the heat a notch. After lunch I noticed it was still really cold. And I hadn't heard the furnace go on for some while. Yep, on the first really really cold day of the year (we're talking about -15C), our furnace crapped out. So, after my attempts to restart the electric pilot light, we evacuated and headed to my folks' house. Aaron came home and was able to get it going again and we're nice and toasty, but no real post today. Sorry. Keep warm.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cookie Confidential... The Final Chapter

Okay, I'm done. I'm done the cookies. I know some of you probably think I'm insane for calling my cookies done a full month before Christmas, but man, am I glad I started a month and a half in advance (and, if you consider that our big cookie event is our Christmas party, which is in two weeks, it's more like a single month in advance). As predicted, I'm now feeling really really really pregnant and the thought of standing in front on a mixer/food processor/floured workspace is enough to make me keel over. My second trimester energy is over and I'm satisfied that I put it to good use. I thawed out a small assortment of cookies to give to Ruby's teacher last week and they all seemed to be in good shape, so I'm confident everything will stay tasty.

The last addition to the great cookie experiment were these chocolate pecan mounds, which I think came from this year's Canadian Living Holiday Celebrations magazine. Now, if you recall (which I doubt anyone does), the very first batch I made this year were similar shortbread, pecan-studded, chocolate snowballs, but these babies are much better. Rather than using cocoa, they're flavoured with a load of melted bittersweet chocolate, making them unbelievably delicious. Put it this way: I ate three of them before sticking them in my jammed freezer.

So, that's it. I might brave some of the candy recipes in my vintage cookbook collections just for fun, but we'll see. I am intrigued by something called Apricot Fancies. Maybe I'll find a burst of energy and try them... or maybe not.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

In Praise Of The Post

I have a love/hate relationship with Canada Post: I hate how slow they are and that I'm pretty sure there's no one working my route on Fridays, but I love, love, love getting mail. After we moved to Toronto I decided it would be nice to send paper Christmas cards to people we knew -- mainly so that we could keep in touch with all the people back here in Alberta. In the beginning I bought those super cheap but really kitschy boxed cards from the dollar store (you know, 50 Assorted for $2), but as the years go by, it's been harder to find the overstock designs from the 70s that I tend to favour. So, the cards have got a bit nicer (though not handmade -- I'm not a masochist), I've started including wallet sized portraits of Ruby and the list grows every year.

Here's my stack of finished cards for this year, just waiting to be stamped and stuffed with Ruby's picture (from Wal-Mart, which I loathe to support, but they do offer quite the deal on kiddie photos). The stack on the left are the ones that need addresses tracked down, which is always a pain. Since we've lived in a couple different cities, have a lot of friends that have moved around and have massive families, the cards number at about 100 this year. I love this tradition of sending cards -- I know some people think ecards will do, but I totally disagree. Paper all the way.

And of course, if I get some back in return, I don't mind that at all. Not one bit.

Friday, November 23, 2007

America, You Crack Me Up

As I was lounging and watching Miracle On 34th Street yesterday (it was on in Martha's usual time slot -- which is my pregnancy ritual during Ruby's naptime), I was laughing every time a commercial for one of those goofy "Black Friday" doorbuster sales came on. 4 am? Really? Here our Thanksgiving is in early October, so our Christmas shopping season just slowly drifts in after Halloween. There's no "on your marks, get set" kind of day. In some ways, this fills me with relief, in others, I'm kind of jealous of your opening the floodgates mentality. Either way, Happy Yanksgiving.

(Random picture of Ruby inventing a craft for her Nana's birthday party. It's basically smiley face confetti stuck on the end of birthday sparklers in a bouquet)

Thursday, November 22, 2007


I've finally become a member of the iPod generation. I know this may sound weird, since as some of you may know, that pre-maternal bliss I was a professional music writer, on staff at a music magazine. I still write about music, and even though it's pretty much a barely-paid hobby, it seems ridiculous that I'd wait until late 2007 to start using a MP3 player. But, I'm a Luddite at heart and I don't like giving up my CDs (which, until recently, I'd been getting totally for free). We have been using iTunes on our computer like a jukebox since we shelled all our our CDs and put them in those big binder things about two years ago (a baby proofing necessity), but no iPod for me, who usually prefers to listen to CBC radio during the day anyway.

Aaron got a free iPod Nano as a gift at work the other day and I swiftly claimed it (he already has one of those big fancy iPods with a huge memory, so he didn't need it). I've already fallen in love with using this thing in the car -- I love the concept of the mixed tape and iPod shuffle is the ultimate mixed tape. I do find myself skipping over happy songs and dwelling on the sad, though. I don't know what it is, maybe because I've had relatively little heartbreak in my life thus far (BIG knock on wood), I like hearing other people's pain through song so I have a taste of what it feels like. Sick, I know, but don't deny that you do it too.

Anyway, I usually keep my music life out of this blog, but here are some of the songs that have been affecting me in my car lately. If you want a good pre-Christmas cry, feel free to make a similar playlist of your own:

Belle And Sebastian "The State That I Am In"; Bob Dylan "A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall"; Bright Eyes "The Calendar Hung Itself"; Neutral Milk Hotel "King Of Carrot Flowers"; Johnny Cash "If You Could Read My Mind"; Evan Dando "The Grass Is All Wine Coloured" Damien Rice "The Blower's Daughter"; Elvis Costello "I Want You"; Liz Phair "The Divorce Song"; Neil Diamond "Red Red Wine"; Nick Lowe "Only A Fool Breaks His Own Heart"; Bevis Frond "He'd Be A Diamond"; The Zombies "This Will Be Our Year"; R.E.M. "Everybody Hurts"; Ryan Adams "Come Pick Me Up"; Rufus Wainwright "Dinner At Eight"; Simon And Garfunkel "America"; Townes Van Zandt "Poncho And Lefty"; Neko Case "Margaret Vs. Pauline"; Gram Parsons "$1,000 Wedding"; Weakerthans "Left And Leaving"; Stars "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead"....

I could go on. Forever. What are some of your favourite heartbreakers?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Books: Toys To Crochet

As you may know, I only really started to teach myself to crochet about a year ago, and much of my inspiration to pick up the craft came from my huge attraction to Amigurumi style crochet toys. I still haven't got much beyond crocheting trims on knit items or my every growing crochet afghan (a perpetual work in progress), so I thought Claire Garland's Toys To Crochet would be a good way to get me into the world of crochet toys. I've had this book for a couple weeks now, though, and I have yet to feel the urge to pick up the hook.

It's not that Garland hasn't done a good job with this book -- it's full of nice pictures (and at least a couple dozen animal, doll and mobile patterns) and the instructions certainly seem clear enough for even a novice like me to follow. I'm just not in love with the patterns. Some of them are just clearly not my personal style -- the bears and dolls are long and lanky rather than the squat characters I tend to favour. Others don't really seem to suit the medium of crochet -- because the stitches are so square and bulky, toys like the lobster, the monkey and even the plush cars don't look very polished... in fact, they're kind of messy looking. Again, not really for me.

With that said, there are a few things -- mostly larger, cleaner looking items -- that I would like to try after Christmas once I have some spare time. The mama pig on the cover is super cute (and very baby appropriate) and there's a horse puppet that I think would be perfect for entertaining a young baby. So, not a total loss, but not the right place to go if you're looking for hipper or quirkier art piece toys.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

SPC: Wardrobe Week #3

I'm sorry I'm using Self Portrait Challenge as an excuse to show the state of the bump, but this blogging every day thing was bound to get desperate sooner than later. Anyway, here's another example of my non-maternity maternity wear, another item pulled from the juniors section of H&M.

Speaking of H&M, is it not great? Back when I was a younger woman, I exclusively wore vintage -- I'd regularly go to a rock show or something wearing a '50s cocktail dress. But, as I moved out of the 119 lb weight range and ebay pushed the price of vintage clothes through the roof, I was forced to settle into the weird stuff that ended up on the Gap and Old Navy sale racks (you know, those few items that the designers managed to push through alongside the classic pocket ts and ribbed sweaters, yet, unsurprisingly, few people actually wanted to buy). Once H&M finally came to Canada, though (maybe three or four years ago), I was sold. The Calgary store just opened this summer, blissfully within a year of my arrival here.

Still though, I sometimes feel that at 32 I might not be best suited shopping in the junior trendsetters department. I once ran into another thirty-something friend at a Toronto H&M on what happened to be a holiday or something and I couldn't believe how many teenagers were in the store. My friend looked at me like I was crazy and said "You know, this store is for them, not us, right? I mean, I shop here too, but it's marketed at teeny-boppers."

Ouch. I used to live across the street from a junior high school and I'd cringe whenever I'd walk by with Ruby's stroller and realize that a kid was wearing the same outfit as me. Oh well, if I'm feeling youthful, I should dress the part right. I just am glad they haven't brought Forever 21 to Canada. I wouldn't be able to stop myself.

Check out more SPC here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Handmade By Other Hands

So, I'm actually feeling pretty confident about my Christmas shopping. Now, in the olden days, I never started shopping until December 1. But, as I grow (larger and older), I've felt the need to start earlier and earlier. The reasons are many. First off, kids want certain things from Santa. These things often sell out of stores fast. You can not explain to a three-year-old that the elves sold out. So, you buy in October if you're reasonably sure the little one isn't going to change his/her mind. Secondly, as extended families grow older, they tend to scatter throughout the world. The post is not a particularly efficient system this time of year. Gifts must be sent at least a month in advance (and that's when you're willing to shell out for airmail. The surface deadline overseas is somewhere in October). And thirdly, I like to give handmade or unique gifts. Which means either making stuff or sniffing through Etsy and the craft fairs like a pig for truffles.

On that note, I don't have a ton of time to make stuff this year, what with our vacation coming up and the creature growing in my belly, so I'm letting others do a lot of the work for me. I've been on Etsy like mad (again, the whole issue of the post comes up) and the craft fairs here all seem to be happening, like, this week. Most of the stuff I've picked up can't be discussed or shown on such a public forum (what's Christmas without secrets?), but aside from Ruby's much coveted Snow White doll, I'm trying to stay away from the whole made-in-China thing. Here's something, I can show you, a super-cute little bunny necklace for Aaron's cousin, from TV Tray Art. Cute, no? There's another big craft fair this week and I'm hoping to pick up some ornaments. Since American Thanksgiving is only days away, I'm ready for the Christmas flood gates to open (as if they haven't already).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cookie Confidential... Part Three

Oh my, I am exhausted. Between Leena's birthday party yesterday, Aaron's work Christmas Party the night before (yes, in the middle of November it was a fun time, but not very Xmas-y) and more family fun today, I'm ready to keel over. Needless to say, the cookie baking has slowed this week. In fact, it may soon be grinding to a halt -- nine batches in, I barely have any room in my freezer. But, I did manage to do some production since we last spoke cookies.

Earlier this week I did a pan of yummy lemon bars, but did not photograph them, since they just look like some lemon curd on a shortbread crust. You've seen it before. The recipe I used (I think it was from last year's Chatelaine Christmas baking special, I don't remember) called for more lemon juice than I had, but they still turned out to be sour to the point of puckering, which I kind of like. I'm craving sour these days -- so if they're too sour for others, I'll be the crazy pregnant lady scarfing them down.

I also made about 150 of the Chewy Molasses Spice Cookies from the current issue of Chatelaine, which are delicious. Of all the cookies I've made, these are the first ones that I think will become a family gotta-make-em every year classic. They just taste like Christmas. Ginger-y and full of molasses, they have just a few chocolate chips in there for an extra surprise. There are the kind of cookies worthy of leaving out for Santa. Ruby is pleased.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Happy Birthday To My Baby's Nana

Today is a milestone birthday for someone really special in our life: Ruby's Nana (and Aaron's mum) Leena. A beautiful knitter and absolutely devoted Nana, we love her more than any blog post can express. Today feels like Christmas -- family from all over the world flew in to surprise her yesterday and I best be getting back to the celebration.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Now We Are Two

I'm a little surprised that I haven't had a lack of stuff to write about with this blogging every day business. In fact, I missed celebrating my own blogiversary because I was blabbing about other stuff. On Wednesday, Elizaboothy turned two. Hooray. Since then I've watched Ruby grow from baby to mini-teenager and expanded my realm of craft beyond knitting. Oh, self, you've come a long way.

Speaking of which, here is a picture a sock that belongs to the second pair I ever made (Mata Haris). I've worn a hole in it. Strangely, I'm not miffed about this -- it kind of feels like a right of passage. Like I've somehow arrived.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dishcloth Dish #2

Okay, so I know that dishcloths aren't the most exciting knitted items to look at, but I'm actually quite enjoying them. I think I've mentioned this before, but I sort of love the crazy variegated colours that Sugar and Cream comes in. Maybe I'm just telling myself this so I can embrace the cheap yarn. Either way, though I haven't been living up to my promise of knitting three dishcloths before picking up a new project, I have been chugging along. Also, because we'll be going on a last minute vacation a couple of weeks before Christmas, I'll be missing some planned holiday parties, so I have a few less hostess gifts to knock off.

Above, another of the Banana Boat cloths from Lion Brand's Just Gifts. Every time I do this pattern I think I should be making it bigger, but then I don't. I do like the double coloured slipped-stitch pattern though and this one is a little more mindless than the Mason-Dixon Ball Band cloth.

Next, something called Kitchen Cotton Dishcloth from the good old Dishcloth Boutique. It's basically two rows of garter, then two rows of 1by1 rib. Easy peasey and textured enough to scrub.

And finally, the Short Row Dishcloth, also form DB. I like this one -- it was really fun to knit, but I refuse to ever knit another dishcloth with a seam. It's jut silly.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Book: Boho Baby Knits

Usually when book titles include words like "boho," "groovy" or "cool," they're anything but. So, I approached Kat Coyle's new book Boho Baby Knits: Groovy Patterns For Cool Tots with hope, but also with a fair bit of trepidation. Surprisingly, these knits are everything the title promises: cute, stylish and yes, really cool, while still being kid-appropriate. For years Zoe Mellor's Adorable Knits For Tots has been my go-to for Ruby knits (mainly because it was gifted to me right before her birth and it's the only kids knitting book I actually own), but I think Boho Baby Knits has bumped it to become my new handbook for knits for my kids.

Like I said, the best part about this book is that the patterns are stylish, but not in that "my kid is cooler than your kid" kind of way. I for one could never imagine dressing my kids in the precious pastels that dominate so many of the more genteel pattern books -- these are for real kids who like to have fun. The book is divided into patterns that fall into various categories of cool: At The Cafe (which features a pretty eyelet skirt, a very handy nursing shawl, cute dolls and a boyish boatneck sweater); At The Bookstore (amazing lace fairy wings, an adorably over-the-top "poet coat", and a super cute knit picture book); At The Gallery (Picasso-inspired lounge pants, a mobile and, of course, a beret); and my fave, At The Concert (a honky-tonk jacket, Cheap Trick-inspired checkered leggings, and a band t-shirt). While there is some whimsy (I'm dying to make the Poet's Coat, but I doubt I ever will get to it), most of this stuff is really functional, which is a big plus.

I also appreciate that Kat has included plenty of boys' knits (she has a son herself), which will come in handy, since we found out that Frank will indeed be a boy. I really want to make him the Modernist Stripe Sleep Sacque before he makes his appearance and I think I can probably churn it out between Christmas and his March due date. There are also cute vests and socks and sweaters and soakers that are all very boy appropriate, plus a few skirts and dresses (not to mention those fairy wings!) for the girly girls. I really think I'm going to have a lot of fun with his book -- I just have to wait until my holiday crafting is over to really sink my teeth into it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

SPC: Wardrobe Week #2

I broke down and bought a maternity winter coat. I'm weirdly stubborn about not spending a lot of money on mat clothes. As much as I very much want this baby, I think I'm in denial over the fact that I'm entering the final four months of my pregnancy. When I was pregnant with Ruby (who was a February baby, so the pregnancy followed a similar time line to this one) I refused to buy a winter coat. I instead borrowed an a-line dress coat from my mother. Because of the a-line cut, it fit over my belly, but I felt ridiculous wearing this huge swinging coat everywhere I went. As I road the streetcar and subway to work I really looked like a Dickens-esque street urchin -- it was very silly. To make matters worse, I just looked large, not pregnant, so I couldn't even get people to give up their seats on transit when I really needed them. It was not one of my finer moments in fashion.

I was going to try to get away with sassy sweater coats this time, but I've come to terms with the fact that I now live in Calgary, not Toronto, and it gets colder here. Plus, as my friend Kathy gently pointed out the other day, even though I'm due mid-March, I will probably need a winter coat here through April and, ahem, I may still be wearing mat. clothes through the spring (she just gave birth to her second child a couple of weeks ago, so she's entitled to make such observations). So, I saw this number in the Old Navy maternity section the other day and I returned to the mall yesterday to buy it. Because it's Old Navy, it was, like, $50. Which means it's also not the warmest thing in the world, but it'll do. It's cute and the lining has deers on it. That's good enough for me.

See more self portraits here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Spherey The Third

Oh, predictable me. A baby is born and I turn to the Jess Hutch book Unusual Toys For You To Knit And Enjoy. Again. This here is Spherey, the third, which was finished just hours before we met its recipient, a tiny little gal named Stella. I started knitting this for a little friend named Lilly, who was born way back in August, but then Stella appeared and needed a welcome gift. Since the colours worked (with Stella being a girl and all), off it went. I'm going to try to make Lilly a Dolly to send off before Christmas, since I don't think I have any Spherey mojo left in me.

And here's Spherey the Third with Spherey The Second, who is still waiting for his recipient to be born (unless the child is being born as we speak -- it has been a couple days since I spoke to the mama-to-be). I must say, that Jess Hutch booklet is getting good use -- did you know that one just sold on ebay for over $200? That's so crazy. But I ain't parting with mine. So don't ask. There's too many babies in these parts for me to part with it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cookie Confidential... Part Two

My cookie mania continues, much to the chagrin of everyone (okay, well, Aaron) around me. Since we last spoke cookies, I've whipped up four more varieties. The fact that I'm treating this more like an experiment than a chore is what's keeping me going -- though Aaron has told me that if I don't start doing other things like cleaning out the basement before our party, I'm grounded. Not really, but you know how these things can get when you're in a relationship.

Okay, again, I'm drawing mostly from the Better Homes And Gardens Christmas Cookie mag (email me if you want the recipes). I started the week with Lemon Cream Cookie Sandwiches. Now, I don't usually do sandwich cookies because they a) need to be rolled and cut b) you get half as many cookies as you bake. Since these are sliced out of the icebox, they were actually very easy. And delicious. As is my usual practice, I added lemon juice to the frosting as well as the required lemon rind, for a much more lemony experience. When I was a kid I was obsessed with lemon curd tarts that my Grandma made at Christmas, so I need a lot of lemon in my life this time of year.

Next, Coconut Lime Meringues. I'm not usually that attracted to meringues, but when I saw that these had lime and coconut, I couldn't resist. And they're super easy. And yum.

And then, moving onto the newest issue of Chatelaine magazine and drawing from their Cookie Contest winners, Cranberry Shortbread. Pretty straightforward: a shortbread with craisins and pecans. 'Nuff said.

I also did a pan of Coconut Candy Bars today (not pictured), which is basically a graham crust with a layer of almonds, condensed milk and coconut, topped with melted dark chocolate. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm anticipating perfection. We have a lot going on in our lives over the next few weeks, so I don't know if I can keep up the pace, but I still have about 10 varieties on my list, which I know I'm not going to complete. But I'm still having fun, so I figure I have at least a few more batches in me.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Books: Last-Minute Patchwork And Quilted Gifts

So, I decided to treat myself and order Last-Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson (owner of the lovely little Purl yarn and fabric shops in NYC). Joelle's other book Last-Minute Knitted Gifts has served me well over the last couple of years and though I didn't love the other book in the series, Last-Minute Fabric Gifts (which was actually written by someone other than Joelle), the previews and reviews I'd seen of this new one looked pretty good. Plus there's a pattern for a Hillary Lang toy in here, so you can't go wrong.

I'm drawn to pretty much every single pattern in here (I love the birds on the tree hanging quilt the best), but there's one problem: I've never quilted. I know it can't be too hard, but since sewing doesn't come as easily to me as knitting, I'd really like to take a quilting class before destroying all kinds of expensive fabric. Of course, with a baby due right after Christmas, there's no time for that. In fact, I can't see myself making many of these projects for the next few years. But I'm still glad to have the book for inspiration, because it is really beautiful and full of great ideas.

With that said, there are a few little things I can see myself making sooner rather than later. I love the little pincushions pictured above and since they don't actually involve quilting, I think they may be a good place to start. Ditto for the tiny bird ornaments, which I'd like to try before Christmas hits (though, on a side note, due to some crazy circumstances, I'll be out of town for a full week before Christmas, drastically cutting into my Christmas craft time). There are some really sweet baby blankets in here too, which I'd like to try, perhaps before Frank's arrival. We'll see how far I get.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Christmas Mania

I swear I don't steer Ruby towards my all-encompassing obsession with Christmas. I swear. But look what she dug out yesterday and insists on wearing constantly, even though she can barely squeeze her feet into them. Her baby Rudolph slippers. She says it's almost Christmas time (could it be the constant aroma of baking cookies?) and she needs her slippers.

Oh boy. Also, as with most years, I'm trying my best to buy local/handmade this year, and while I've certainly poured some cash into the Etsy economy already, Ruby's gift from Santa will indeed be made in China. By Disney, no less. From the Princess line. I know, I know. Well over a month ago, Ruby and I were strolling through a department store, when she caught sight of this. We've since been back and Ruby runs up to it, points, and says "This is what I'm asking Santa for." Yesterday she pointed to the corner of our living room and said "That's where our tree is going to go. We're going to leave Santa cookies and he's going to come in and eat the cookies and leave my Snow White doll under the tree." The Snow White doll has come up in conversation at least a dozen times this week. And this is a kid who doesn't forget.

Luckily, after searching through three stores that were sold out of said dolls, I finally found one lone doll at Walmart (I know, I know). But it's part of the magic of Christmas. Even though it hurt to hand over my money to the big box people, I know a little girl who will be grateful to Santa for a long, long time.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Lazy Organic

So, we started doing something a couple of months ago that has revolutionized our lives. And I mean it, really revolutionized. For years I've been toying with the idea of organic grocery delivery, but have always worried about the logistics of getting a big box of produce dropped off every week. I know that some services don't give you much choice in what you get, and while I like the idea of only eating local produce, Western Canada doesn't always offer a huge choice of bounty, especially in the winter months. Basically, I didn't want to be stuck with a ten pound box of onions every week. Anyway, we found a service that offers local and non-local produce (ie: year-round avocados!) and also does organic dry goods like breads and snacks and the like. Every week a big box of food (pre-approved by me -- no surprises) arrives on our doorstep and it's made me so much happier.

Less trips to the grocery store. Less having to rely on my local Safeway's terrible produce selection (they rarely have limes. Or zucchini). More organic. Plus, I feel like I have to use everything by the end of the week (except the long shelf life stuff like potatoes and onions), so it's forcing our family to eat more fruit and veg. Which is good, seeing as I'm in the family way and all. It'll be especially great when the baby comes because I'm pretty maniacal about only using organic to make my baby food, so this will make it that much easier.

See, our family doesn't survive on cookies alone. Honest.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Warm And Fuzzies

So, after much ado, I finally finished Veronik Avery's Short-Row-Hat, which appeared as a web exclusive on the Interweave website a couple years back. I missed this pattern when it first appeared (I was birthin' a baby around that time), but discovered it recently when puttering around on Ravelry. It's such a lovely knit and it was nice to truly challenge myself with something I'd never really tried before. This one's been sitting idle for a few weeks (damn that finishing), but after seeing Wendy's recently finished hat, I decided to finish this guy off. Here are the specs:

Short-Row Hat by Veronik Avery (from Interweave webknits)
Yarn: Ami-Ami Faith in red/black/white/camel
Needle: U.S. #7 straight
Mods: I found the finishing rather wonky, so rather than picking up 32 stitches at the end to close the crown, I picked up about 14 and knit two together until I was down to three stitches for the i-cord.

I love this hat. It was hard for me to get the hang of it, but after frogging the first section about three times, I just went for it. I'm not convinced that I got it totally right (I always had a few stray stitches that I had to fudge), but it looks right, and that's what matters. In a rare move on my part, I actually used the suggested yarn, which I had to mail order. Because the way the colours play out is so unique, I thought this was a good choice and while my colourway is a lot more varied than the one used in the sample photo, I think it worked pretty well. I think this would work well in Noro too. Wendy used Silk Garden and while she lamented that her hat turned out pretty big, even with the suggested yarn, mine turned out plenty big and I have a really large head. All in all a very successful project. Hooray!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Self Portrait Challenge: Wardrobe

Dressing a baby bump is hard. Maternity clothes rarely fit well, and are often super expensive. I found one store with lovely stuff -- but really, I am not paying $300 for a pair of mat jeans. Really.

So, usually you can find me schlubbing around in a pair of Old Navy medium mat. jeans -- and when jeans come in small, medium and large, you can't expect a good fit. Especially when you're working the elastic waist. Luckily, there is an alternative for me this time out, at least for the first six or seven months. For some reason, the young, thin ladies of the world are finding it fashionable to wear really loose clothes this season. Clothes that look like maternity wear. Clothes that you can throw on with a pair of leggings and pass off as maternity wear. Clothes that are allowing me to actually feel halfway fashionable.

This number is an H&M dress, not to be found in their relatively cruddy mat. section, but in their "junior trendsetters" or whatever they call it there. And, at about five months along, I still have a lot of room to fill out this sucker. With boots, a pair of leggings and a houndstooth sweater coat, I actually look kind of mod. Like a pregnant mod, but mod still. Thank you, young ladies of the fashion world for covering up your bodies so that I can show mine off in style.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Bye Bye Love

This week, we lost a member of our family. No, don't worry, no one died, but we decided that we had to put our beloved BMW (who goes by the name Remy) to rest.

Or, actually, Remy made the decision for us. He's Aaron's car and since Aaron went on a crazy road trip earlier this fall to buy a rust-free version of Remy in Phoenix (yes, Arizona. Yes, that's a very long way to drive a late '80s model car), Remy has been sitting idle in front of our house. The plan was to drive Jefferson (the new BMW) until the end of October and then store him in the garage. Remy would be our winter car, the one that we didn't mind getting pelted with snow and salt, since his poor body was already so rusty.

The problem is, Remy didn't want to be our winter car. He didn't want to zip around in the cold weather. He just wanted to rest.

When Aaron got back from Vegas last week he went to start old Remy up, the old boy coughed a little and then gave up. Since both the purchase of Remy himself and Jefferson has been a very contentious issue in our home (I'm not going into it), we decided that it wasn't worth the money to try and get him fixed. Hence, Remy will donate his organs to sustain the lives of other BMWs, and Jefferson will become our year round car.

Goodbye Remy. Even though I protested your existence, you served our family well for the year and a half that we knew you. Rest in peace.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Cookie Confidential... Part One

Okay, I know I'm three days late on the whole NaBloPoMo thing, but I'm going to jump in anyway. I've been slow with just about everything lately, so there's no reason this should be an exception.

I must say, November is an excellent time to blog every day, because there's so much going on. Christmas season starts on November 1 for me (mind you, just the prep. I'm not one of those crazy people who puts up their tree and lights or switches to non-stop Xmas music at the earliest possible date). We like to have our Christmas party the first week of December, so I'm already on the cookie train, starting with recipes that'll freeze for up to three months. I figure I have about three more years until I have to perfect a set of mom recipes that will be ingrained in Ruby and Frank's memories, so this year I'm trying to knock off as many small batches as possible, sort of subjecting my family and friends to a taste test.

I'm a sucker for those Holiday magazines that come out this time of year, so most of my recipes will be from those kinds of things. Being a professional writer, I'm pretty mortified of copyright infringement, so I won't post the recipes here, but if you can't track down the mags and are dying to try these out, drop me an email and I'll be happy to share. All of today's recipes come from Better Homes And Gardens 2007 Christmas Cookies mag (on stands now!)

Okay, first up to bat: Mexican Hot-Chocolate Balls. I'm drawn to anything ball or drop-like in nature: I am definitely not the kind of girl who has the patience for too many cut-out or sandwich cookies. So, these babies are simple to make and don't even call for a whole lot of ingredients. Unfortunately, in this case, you get what you pay for. They're basically just a shortbread with loads of cocoa, pecans and some cinnamon. They taste okay, but are a little too crumbly and despite being chocolate, Aaron gave them a thumbs down for being too dry. Luckily the recipe only yielded about two dozen balls (I tend to make my cookies a tad to big), so they won't be my main attraction.

Next, Pistachio-Lime Balls, which are pretty much the same recipe as the Mexican Hot-Chocolate Balls, only with pistachio and lime instead of the cocoa, pecans and cinnamon. For some reason, these turned out much better, possibly because I added some lime juice along with the lime rind to make them more limey. The taste is pretty unique and they're much more moist than their cocoa cousins.

And finally for this week, Strawberry Shortbread, reminding me why I hate rolling out dry shortbread and cutting it and watching my uneven baking either burn or stay raw. Ugh. These took me pretty much all day to make, but man, are they delicious. They're basically just a standard shortbread with some strawberry jam thrown in (and strawberry icing), but the thing that makes them is a generous amount of almond extract. Crap, that extract is good. And, since there's going to be a ton of minty and chocolaty and nutty cookies on my table (I'm already feeling guilty for those nut allergy kids out there... sorry friends) a strawberry flavour will make a nice addition.

So, that's it. I'm going to try for three batches a week... wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween From A Little Queen

Ruby loves her queen costume -- though she won't let anyone call her Queen unless the crown is on, as the dress alone is not transformation enough. We did an early trick or treat at the mall this morning and we might take her out to a few houses tonight, though probably only a few. The good news is, it seems I have a kid who doesn't love crappy candy. I let her choose one treat to eat when we got home and after opening, tasting and rejecting a red lolly and a pack of sour patch kids, she finally settled on an Oh Henry bar. So far, of the limited amount of candy (and it is limited, I'm a super mean mom), she likes chocolate and caramels (and the odd tootsie pop) but dislikes cheap suckers, red licorice and most jelly beans. Not bad.

Monday, October 29, 2007

This Charade Is Over

According to my notes in Ravelry, I started these socks in June. June! Last night, after months of pretty much exclusively knitting these babies while waiting for Ruby's preschool classes to let out, I finally finished off the toe to my Charade socks. Hooray. Here are the specs:

Charade Socks by Sandra at I May Be Knitting A Ranch House
Yarn: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Downey
Needle: US 1 metal Addis
Mods: none

These socks didn't take so long to finish because of the yarn or the pattern (I looove both), just because of my summer of doing nothing and the heat pushed the idea of wool socks to the bottom of my priority list. The pattern was super easy and super fun and I'd recommend it to anyone (I'll also point out that it's super free). I will mention that while Sandra is responsible for both the pattern and the yarn (she bought the same colourway herself for a different pair of socks and led me to the shop that carried it), they may not be the greatest match in the world. She did warn against using self-striping for Charades and since I'm such a terrible judge of how a colourway is going to turn out, I didn't realize this was going to stripe like this. Oops. The pattern doesn't show as well as it could, but since I made a bunch of mistakes (and carrying it in my purse caused for some weird needle-sliding and stitch-dropping), the busy-ness of the yarn hides my gaffs.

And I do dig how very fraternal they are. Same dye lot, but the red is much more prominent in sock #2. Since I'm keeping them for myself, I don't have to worry about anyone else not appreciating this as much as I do.

In other news, I just returned from my first ever trip to Las Vegas. Wow. We had fun, but man, I never have to repeat it. We (by we I mean me and the very lovely Aaron) did have an amazing and romantic dinner and went to a really campy showgirl show, but we are not Vegas people. I can still hear the slot machines ringing in my ears and I was only there for two days. On a side note, I'm never taking non-direct flights again. Or flying that stupid Ted airline. What should have taken three hours (and was scheduled to take five) ended up taking 12 and a half hours. I could have gone to Europe in less time than that! Gak!