Chicken Dinner

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We had chicken for dinner last night. So did some of our neighbor creatures. Our chicken came from the fridge, but theirs came from our chicken house. We are now down to one sad and lonely hen.

“Mommy, is the chicken sad?”
Yes, I think so.
“Why? Because she lost her family?”

In other news, I’m still working on Fair stuff. It’s starting to feel like a bit of a burden, though. Sorry, can’t do whatever because I need to work on this whatever for the fair. It mostly doesn’t seem that way, but sometimes it does. “Fair” is, after all, a four-letter word. But, I also love how I am trying new things and learning new crafts and making neat stuff.

184 | Craft | Art | Misc. Art: Completed

For Christmas, Andy gave me a groupon for a bead-making class at the Jacksonville Center. We’ve lived here six years now, and except for a recent birthday party, I’d never set foot in the Jax. Made me a bit sad. The class was held about two weeks ago, and it was taught by a friend and mama of a classmate of the kid. When we turned on the torches, I felt like I was back in chemistry lab. Don’t I look cool and arty?

Hot glass is fun. When I came home, Andy wanted to know if I was going to add bead making to my crafts. Not for now, I said. This is definitely an activity that requires a lot of practice, and it’s also not cheap. Maybe, I said, when the Fair is over I’ll play with it more.

157 | Craft | Holiday Decorations | Christmas: Re-Completed

When I saw this kit on clearance, I made an executive decision. I took the piece I’d previously made for my Christmas decoration and moved it to Metal Art (see below). Then I set to work on this holiday garland. I was rocking and rolling and thought I would finish the piece in one day, but then I discovered I was missing the pink birds. What is it with me and kits and missing pieces? I did as much as I could, and Andy emailed the company, and a week or so later I got the stuff I needed plus an entire new kit for a “PEACE” garland.

177 | Craft | Art | Metal Art / Metal Jewelry: Re-assigned / Completed

The metal stars I made a while ago and was going to use for 157. Now they are 177.

106 | Needlework | Crocheting | Misc. Crocheted Item: Completed

I am starting to believe that free patterns from magazines, display racks at stores, and included with yarn are bogus. There was that teepee trellis I tried to make years ago, and the great afghan disaster, and the latest, a crocheted market bag. The pattern was on the paper wrapped around some cotton yarn I’d bought a while ago. The directions said it was Easy! After trying for several days to figure the pattern out, I tossed it and went searching online. I found this pattern. It took me less time to finish this bag than it did to realize the first bag pattern was junk.

Sweet Baby Cheeses! (Or, How I spent my winter break)

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The other day when Andy had to stop the car suddenly, Anya blurted out “Sweet cheeses!” At least that is what I am telling myself she said. Another one of her favorite exclamations? “What the hex!” We are definitely doing a great job making sure our kid has a colorful vocabulary.

Last week, the kid had winter break, so she and I packed our clothes, toothbrushes, legos, dollies, and various crafts and drove to Georgia. We did all the usual things one does when on winter break. We drew monster eggs on the porch and waited for them to hatch. We planted and watered acorns in the flower boxes. We made chalk outlines of each other and then washed them away.

We went to Michael’s four or five times, bought little wooden birdhouses, and did a little painting. Anya’s first birdhouse (of 3, they were only a dollar!) was done up in bright, happy colors. After that, I can only figure that she decided birds were goth or emo or something, so she gleefully mixed all the colors we had into a big gray mess. I have to admit her coverage on those last two houses was impressive. Nary a bit of wood showed through the thunderstorm-colored paint.

I re-started my afghan. Anya was very excited when the afghan was big enough for her. It still seemed too small to me, so I plodded on. I really should have stopped. More on that another day.

We helped Gramma with the afghan she’s been working on for about a year now. It’s Anya’s rainbow blanket! We bought the yarn around Christmas of 2010, and Gramma’s been crocheting squares ever since. I was supposed to help with this project, but my squares weren’t. Christmas of 2011, we figured out we needed more squares, so Gramma bought more yarn and crocheted more and then POOF! Now all that’s left is to sew all the squares together. I’d help ya, Ma, I really would, but, um, I have 150 fair items to finish. Sorry!

The highlight of the trip? Mulch! I love mulch. It’s all smooshy and weed killy. One afternoon my mom noticed the neighbors were having some trees taken down, so she did what she does (talk to people!) and by the end of the day, she had three newly trimmed trees and a giant pile of mulch in her yard. I like to put down mulch. It’s sort of like mowing the lawn or vacuuming. Quick, visible change. Anya wanted to help me out (because I forced her to stay outside). She clambered up the pile and quickly declared herself, “KING OF THE MULCH!”

To wrap up the break, I got food poisoning or a stomach bug and spent a day moaning and whining and barfing. Sorry, I didn’t take any photos.

Lost the battle but not the war

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102 | Needlework | Crochet | Afghan: Deconstructed

I knew my afghan wasn’t going to be perfect, but when I tossed it onto the floor last night to check on it’s progress, I knew. There was no way this project would ever be anything at all resembling an afghan.

I put the kid to work. She giggled with glee as she zzzzzzzzipppppped away the rows of crochet. After the yarn snagged a few times, though, she lost interest and left the job to me.

After about an hour of demolition, this is what’s left. I gave up on the last part and left it intact. Perhaps it will become a doll shawl?

Back to the drawing board. Perhaps I will do something similar but just do straight rows. Maybe I’ll try something with a bunch of holes in it.

Hip Hip Hooray for Crafty Slumber Parties!

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111 | Needlework | Knitting | Misc. Knitted Item: Completed

I bought the pattern (Landscape Shawl & Scarf by Evelyn A. Clark) for this project about seven years ago in Tucson (well, okay, my Mom bought it for me). I’ve been working on the shawl off and on ever since. When I first moved to Virginia, I knitted on this piece during lunch at work. That first version was being made with a really pretty hand-dyed yarn in dark purples and midnight blues, which I picked up at the same time as the pattern. For months I struggled: post-it notes on the pattern to mark my place, stitch markers made out of loops of yarn (as recommended by the Tucson yarn store person), somehow ripping out more rows than I put in. Then one day Anya was born, and I pulled the shawl off the needles and crammed it into a drawer.

A few years later, I started a knitting club at work. For our first meeting, we went to the local yarn store for knitting lessons / project ideas / yarn. I bought new yarn for the shawl. This time I chose a yarn in light, watery greens and blues. I also bought real stitch markers. What was that Tucson person thinking letting me walk out of that store with that purple yarn for that pattern and NO stitch markers? Maybe she was hoping that when I failed, I would bring the yarn and pattern back to the store and give them to her. The yarn was way too dark for the design, and dude, stitch markers made of loops of yarn will work in a pinch, but the real ones are cheap and oh-so-much better.

So, I started on the new version of the shawl, and the changes I’d made definitely made things better. That and figuring out the rhythm of the pattern, so that I didn’t have to read each and every line for each and every repeat of each and every pattern. The problem was, there I would be merrily stitching along when I’d realize I was off by one (or sometimes two or sometimes I’d have the right number but they’d be in the wrong place). I’d try to do a little unknitting to correct things, but this pattern has YOs, man. YOs. Unknitting around YOs is … well … just not done when you are me. But, I kept trying and trying. Years passed by again, and I began to glare at the shawl and say, “YOU WILL NOT CONQUER ME!” Then one day, I brought the shawl with me on a trip with some friends, including Super Knitter C. I showed her my work and whined a bit, and she said, “Where is your lifeline?”


See, a lifeline is not always a person you can call when you are on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Sometimes it is a piece of brick red cotton yarn that you slip through the stitches of a row. The line sits there and waits patiently until inevitably you realize you have screwed something up. When you unknit, the lifeline holds that one row secure, YOs and all, so you can remove the bad stitches and start again in a good place. I wasn’t taking any chances. I used two lifelines, and I moved one every four rows. And yes, there were a few times I had to unknit to the second line, at which points I thanked myself for being paranoid and insecure.

I finally finished my shawl at my last scrapbook / misc. crafty stuff gathering last weekend. I almost couldn’t take the suspense while I was binding off. I flung with glee my fabulous-non-loops-of-yarn stitch markers! I cheered and danced! I requested praise from all those present! And then I put the shawl in my knitting bag and started work on my next project.

162 | Craft | Holiday Decorations | Misc. Holiday: Completed

Inspired by this quilled heart, I made a heart decoration for Valentine’s Day. This piece took me an entire day at scrapbook / misc. crafty stuff gathering. I feel like I must have done something else, but aside from making a pot of chili and eating an enormous amount of tasty treats, I seem to have only this piece to show. That’s okay. I like it.

That was easy

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I put the finishing touches on another Fair item this afternoon. That brings me up to a total of 20. Out of 193. Hmm… It’s true that 100 of those are items I can’t do right now: garden produce, canned goods, baked goods, cut flowers and other plant stuff. Still, that leaves 73 craft/art items I really should try and finish in … oh …. the next three months. I am awesome! I can do it!

103 | Needlework | Crocheting | Doily: Completed

Doilies have always impressed me what with the teenyness and the tinyness. When I saw them on the Fair list, I almost wept. Surely I wouldn’t be able to make one. This seems to be a common thread in my Fair adventure. Fear of a project…thinking it will be too tough to do…then POOF. It’s done. Admittedly, I chose what seemed the simplest of the free patterns I could find (Spider Web Doily by Coats & Clark) and there are a couple of mistakes, but still. I crocheted a doily!

The blocking was physically painful, and I think I have a blister on my right index finger from pushing all those pins in. I ran out of energy, patience, pain tolerance, and pins (almost) towards the end and probably didn’t pin as much as I should have. I am okay with that.

102 | Needlework | Crocheting | Afghan: In progress

I think I’m about half done with this item, and it seems small, and very triangular. I love it anyhow, like I love my kid even when her nose is a glob of crusty snot and she’s coughing on my breakfast. Well, maybe even more than that. The yarn is really soft.

104 | Needlework | Crocheting | Infant’s Set: Started

I began this item while I was still near my Mom and her crocheting wisdom. I finished two rows on the dress, and pulled one row back out again. It’s probably more technically challenging than the doily. It definitely is way bigger and more tedious.

Hanging in there

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Don’t mistake my lack of posting for lack of interest in or work on my Fair items. I’m still plugging away. I was sick for a week and a half, and the kid was sick for a few days, and that really put a crimp in my…well, in pretty much everything. I still managed to complete three items since I last posted.

105 | Needlework | Crocheting | Table Linens: Completed

The first item is kinda freaky, but I am very happy with it. It is the first crocheted item I’ve made probably ever. If you can’t tell, it’s a place mat. The pattern is based on Scotty’s Place dish mat pattern. I needed an extremely simple pattern to get started with crochet, and this fit the bill. It took me forever to get through the first few rows, and then I got the hang of it. Special thanks to my Mom, who gave me several crochet lessons.

108 | Needlework | Knitting | Infant’s Set: Completed

I spent way too much money on the yarn for this item because I was caught up in the school’s Local Gifts program. I got a sticker every time I bought something from participating local stores. I NEEDED a sticker from the local yarn store, so I spent way too much on Really Expensive Yarn for this item. I didn’t have enough Really Expensive Yarn to do the hat, so I bought some Really Inexpensive Yarn. To tie the pieces together, I did a little embroidery on the sweater and shoes using the Really Inexpensive Yarn. The patterns are from Baby Knits for Beginners by Debbie Bliss. I learned quite a few things with these pieces. The neatest one…weighing yarn! I read a trick on Yarn Harlot. When you are working on a pair of something (baby shoes in this case), and you finish one and don’t know if you’ll have enough yarn for the second, weigh the finished piece and weigh the yarn you have…and presto, you’ll know! One of these shoes weighed about 11 grams, and I had 14 grams of yarn left for the second. Yay! I also practiced several methods for stitching knitted pieces together. Oh! And I made a sweater!! It’s my first sweater ever. It is super simple and super small, but it is a sweater! This still needs to be blocked, but since it’s getting shoved in a box for a few months, I’ll wait for a while to do that.

119 | Needlework | Embroidery | Needlepoint: Completed

Hands down my favorite project I’ve made for the Fair so far, this pin cushion. While most of the projects I’ve made are destined to be gifts, no one is getting this pin cushion but me. I really, really like it. (The picture doesn’t do it justice. All these photos are a bit blurry.) The needlepoint part has been done for a while, but I avoided finishing it because just thinking about making a cord and tassel scared me. Turns out, it’s pretty easy to do both. The pattern is from Medieval Needlepoint: Twenty-Four Easy-To-Make Projects for the Home by Debby Robinson. (I love the library.)

102 | Needlework | Crocheting | Afghan: Started

My next item is underway. It’s a crocheted afghan using a Lion Brand pattern where the afghan is created on a diagonal. I am crocheting a triangle right now, and supposedly it will end up as a rectangle. I have my doubts, but I keep working while I chant my Fair mantra, “I don’t have to win, I just have to enter.” Is there a rule somewhere that says an afghan can’t be a giant diamond?

Fair semantics

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What exactly is an “infant’s set” in the context of being something I have to knit for the fair? It makes me think of an entire outfit: dress, booties, hat. But what about boys who aren’t dressed in dresses. How about a sweater, booties, hat? Or would that need some sort of pants, too? What about a more summery dress that you wouldn’t want to wear a knitted hat with? And how big is an infant? Would that only be a size 0-3 months? Could it go up to 6 months. 9? Related, how big is a child’s sweater? Is a baby sweater a child sweater? And what is a sweater anyhow? Can it have short sleeves? Is a bolero a sweater?

Who knew this fair stuff would be so complicated.

I started 119 | Needlework | Embroidery | Needlepoint. I am making a really cool pin cushion based on a medieval design. Needlepoint kicks cross-stitch’s bootie.

I also plan to cast on tonight for something that will either be a knitted child’s sweater or part of an infant’s set. I am leaning towards the latter because I think I’d like to make a cool sweater for Anya.

I can show you anything on my belly belly belly screen

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Things I’ve Learned in My Fair Quest – Months 1 and 2:

  1. Wing it.
  2. Read (and follow) the directions.
  3. As much as you want to cut the darned infernal ties off the baby bib you are cross-stitching, resist. It’s possible they may be needed at some point.
  4. Joann’s has better stitchy stuff than Michael’s.
  5. I cannot resist sparkly paper that is on sale even if I already have lots of sparkly paper and even if sparkly paper doesn’t really have anything to do with Fair stuff.
  6. Plastic mesh canvas crafts don’t have to look like the ugly kleenex box covers you remember from your youth.
  7. Just because you finish the cross-stitching doesn’t mean the item is done. You absolutely may not mark it off your list until you sew on the back and add the hanger.
  8. Apple jelly requires patience. And a thermometer.
  9. Canning apples in Virginia is more difficult than in Michigan.
  10. Apple leather should be on the Fair list. I’ll make it even if it isn’t.
  11. Chik-fil-A beverage carriers make great craft caddies.
  12. Don’t casually toss your stitching floss into your great craft caddy unless you like to either (1) keep buying new floss or (b) spend precious Fair crafting time unraveling tangles your kid’s hair would be scared of.
  13. Stitching floss is really cheap. At least the cheap kind.

No huge projects completed so far, but I have done several smaller ones. I’ve also been busy working on the bags of apples that have been living in our dining room for far too long. I made 10 or so quarts of canned apples, a ton of apple leather, and a batch of dried apple rings. The leather seems to be the winner. So, in case you’ve been eagerly hitting “refresh” on this blog to see what work I’ve done for the Fair…wait no more.

113 | Needlework | Cross-Stitch | Christmas Item: Completed
141 | Craft | Handicraft | Plastic Canvas Item: Completed

112 | Needlework | Cross-Stitch | Baby Item: Completed

64 | Food | Jelly | Misc. Jelly (Apple): Completed (No picture. Jelly is shy.)

Moving right along

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Last night I finished the dread number 114. I am relieved. I am lighter and free and full of joy and song and dance. Or that could be the candy corn.

This is a piece called “Dragonfly Duo” by Dimensions Crafts. It’s a kit I got 50% off at AC Moore. I think the 50% I didn’t get had my sanity in it. I think it should be renamed, “Damned Dragonflies Bleepity Bleep Bleep.” I sent my suggestion to the manufactures, but I haven’t heard back from them yet.

Being the sadistic crafter I am, I started on my next project this afternoon: 113 | Needlework | Cross-Stitch | Christmas Item. For this piece I am using a pattern I found online called “Shades of Christmas,” from Crossing Montana. I chose this pattern because (1) it was free, (2) it only had 3 colors in it, and (3) it is small. Do you remember Unhelpful Store Lady from a month ago when I went to the local craft store to find cross-stitch supplies? I said, “Hey, I’m a cross-stitch newbie and I want to make this –show lady pattern–. Could you help me get what I need?” And Unhelpful Store Lady grumbled and led me directly to the 32 count Aida cloth and never once said, “This is not really for newbies,” or “You need magnifying glasses to stitch on this,” or “Whatever you do, do not try and stitch on this when you are in a car being driven by your crazy-driver husband going along wavy, windy, hilly roads with your whining pre-schooler in the backseat.” Not one word about any of that.

Strangely, once I had the magnifying glasses and a chair on solid ground and peace and quiet and a bowl of candy corn, this piece became not only much easier but actually pleasant. I think I can dig 32 count Aida. It’s more like real fabric, and the finished product doesn’t look like it is stitched on a piece of graph paper. And I definitely can dig the simple, small, three-color pattern that lacks half stitches, back stitches, and the insidious french knot.

10 Down, 180ish to go

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Days 31-35: Continued 114 | Needlework | Cross-Stitch | Wall Hanging.
Day 36: Completed 161 | Craft | Holiday Decorations | Fall; Continued 114 | Needlework | Cross-Stitch | Wall Hanging.
Day 37 (today): Completed 21 | Food | Canned Fruit | Apples.

Today I decided to work on some canning since the canning stuff is still spread out all over the kitchen. I need to redo the apple jelly and work on a mixed fruit jelly, but jelly sucks. I don’t even eat jelly often. Darn jelly. Last week I used the last of our canned apples from 2005 (Anya, these apples are older than you!!), so I decided I would can more apples today. I peeled, cored, and quartered 18 pounds of apples (Andy helped peel about half). [After making cider, dealing with only 18 pounds of apples seems like sewing doll clothes.] Although it took forever to get everything boiling and assembled and into the processor, I was pleasantly pleased with the jars when they came out of the canner. I went and had dinner and came back to oogle, and I noticed that two of the jars (including the one I planned to enter into the fair) were half empty. The lids didn’t seal, and all the liquid was gone gone gone. I had lots of liquid left over, so I filled the jars back up, put on fresh lids, and popped them back in the canner. Hopefully they behave this time around.

With less than 330 days to go, I have only completed 10 items for next year’s fair. I thought it was more. Surely it was more?? Darn cross-stitch sucking my life away. Stitch, stitch, stitch, that was 20 days of my life sucked away. At least the end is in sight for 114. I think 115 | Needlework | Cross-stitch | Afghan is going to be the last thing I work on. Whoever heard of cross-stitching on an afghan?!? I think that would not only suck a few months of my life away, but it would probably also suck out my soul and put it in a jar and make it into jelly.

Look, we got rid of our windows!