Monday, 31 January 2011

Only seven more sleeps!

Just one more week until school starts! I'm so excited, I can't wait!! The boys on the other hand...

Still, we've managed to get through another week without anybody being seriously injured, so thats gotta be a plus, right? There were definitely some possibilities for injury, or loss of body - T trying to cross the road before the lights changed (I had hold of his hand, so he didn't get far), X and Deane going fishing on Friday night (yes, night, as in, dark) just as Cyclone Wilma was about to hit the Auckland Harbour (the expedition got cut short by an hour to avoid tragedy), and my skirt getting caught in the escalator at the local mall (I managed to pull it out, avoiding disaster). Life is never dull here!

The 'men' managed to catch a few snapper (although I think they really only caught one (the smallest) and were given two by other people fishing on the same boat):



When they arrived home, dripping wet (the boys, not the fish) they had a nice warm shower, X went to bed, and Deane 'filleted' the fish (translation: hacked the fish into chunks). We had them for dinner last night. T is now looking forward to when he's old enough and big enough to go out fishing with dad too (the charter company won't allow six year olds apparently).

During the week, I've been keeping busy knitting (when am I not?) and reading, and generally fluffing about. I've finished a couple of projects:


Meet Artisan Birch, knit with Artisan Lace in Paua, using the Birch Leaf Shawl pattern


A hat for Deane, which took only a few hours to knit, using Knit Picks bulky yarn I bought last year, thanks to my 'yarn mule' Jill ;-) This hat is super easy to make, and looks really good (don't judge it by the pic, please. It's not the hat's fault...)

And made progress on my Jaden sweater - I've now finished both the front and back, and joined them at the shoulders. I've cast on the sleeves, but have only done about five rows so far. It's going on a bit of a hiatus, while I knit X a sweater (Ravelry link).

I also knit a square for the latest round of the Ron Weasley blanket swap:



Looks good from the front, but the back looked like this:


Ugh. Not pretty. Its okay though, I spent about fifty hours weaving in the ends (haha, just kidding, more like half an hour), and it now looks like this:

Much better, no?

I'm sure there are a few of you out there wondering why I'd knit a square like that. So let me explain - that is the logo for Ron's favourite Quidditch team, the Chudley Cannons (you can Google it if you like, but they're fictional, therefore don't really exist. Pity, they'd probably be really hot). The logo is kinda cool (designed by a fellow Potter fan on Ravelry, specifically for this swap - Rav link here), but since there's over 30 ends to weave in on each square, and I have to knit ten, and I also have to block them so they stay flat, I'm not sure I'm going to go ahead with it. I may be a bit slack and find something a little easier to do. I guess it depends on how I go with other projects as to how much time I can put into the squares... (so many tough life decisions for a stay-at-home mother!! You wouldn't believe the pressure! ;-P)

I only spun a bit more of the alpaca before I decided to ply it and see how it was going to turn out. I'm glad I did, because its awful! Very rope-like in texture, not at all soft :-( Its going to have to be washed and carded before being spun I think. And I really can't be bothered doing that right at the moment, so its been put on the back burner, in favour of some lovely, nicely prepared, hand painted maude and me fibre that is practically screaming at me to be spun! Only in my head, but still... Far more relaxing and enjoyable (^_^)

I've managed to fit in two 3.5km runs in the last couple of weeks, so I'm looking forward to getting back into it once the boys are back at school. Things are starting to get a little wobbly again.

Right now though, I'm going to dig out some yummy fibre and get reacquainted with my lovely - we haven't spent much time together this month, and I think she misses me...

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Pushing the boundaries

My youngest son has been doing this for a while now. I'm not quite sure when it started, I guess there was no real 'start point', more like a gradual process that you don't really notice until one day you come to the realisation that things are far different than they used to be. Things really started to sink in when I observed a few incidents in the last couple of weeks - for example, one evening he refused to eat his dinner (an almost nightly occurrence) and was put to bed. He started complaining that he was hungry, so the usual "the only thing you're getting to eat is your dinner" argument began. He wasn't happy with that solution, and asked for something else. Deane, trying to be 'authoritarian', took him in his dinner, which he promptly dumped on the floor! Needless to say, he stayed in bed, and didn't get anything to eat until breakfast the next morning. That was on Friday last week. He has eaten more in the way of dinners since, but the "I'm hungry" complaints at bed time are continuing. I've suddenly become deaf to such pleas, with the hope that he will soon get the message and eat his dinner, knowing that he won't be getting anything else.

I'm well aware that it is our fault, as his parents, that he has become accustomed to getting something to eat if he asks for it enough, regardless of the fact that he's supposed to be going to sleep, and he (more often than not) didn't eat much dinner. I guess we were just happy that he was eating something, as he eats so little food in an average day, and he's so small, we worry that he's not getting enough. We've fallen into that trap, forgetting that children will not starve themselves voluntarily - if they're really hungry, they'll eat. Stubbornness and determination can only hold out so far! (Can't it?)

I was never a big eater as a child, voluntarily going without breakfast most mornings, and lunch (even though my mother made me sandwiches every day, I always threw them out. I think I've already apologised to her for that...), and then not really eating dinner. I didn't like anything green (although I did eat cabbage, and occasionally beans, and ::gasp:: brussels sprouts), so the only fruit and vegetables I ate were apples, bananas, oranges, potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and occasionally beans. Yes, I am relatively small as an adult (only 5'1", and on the skinny side) but I think that's just genetics, not a lack of nutrition. I always had plenty of energy, and never went hungry. T is much the same - his food mainly consists of anything white or yellow: eggs, bread, pasta, rice, apples, cheese, bananas, chicken, potatoes, milk and sometimes fish. He ventures out of this a little with carrots, tomato sauce, a (very) small amount of red meat (although he avoids it - I'm wondering if he'll turn into a vegetarian...) but that's pretty much it. Although he is rather fond of baked beans, as was I. He drinks juice, but doesn't eat green veges (which I guess I shouldn't be surprised about) and its very difficult to get him to try new foods.

T was always a bit of a mixed bag - difficult to feed (from day one!), but well behaved and quiet, and extremely cuddly but not at all clingy. Always happy, in a very subdued way, but such a big personality when he was in a comfortable situation, like at home or kindy. He's small for his age (hell, he's small for a four year old! Bearing in mind that he's six), so his 'defense mechanism' at play group, kindy, wherever he found himself dominated by older or larger children (which was most of the time) was to scream at them. They'd freak out, and quietly sidle away, keeping their eyes locked on him until they felt they were at a safe enough distance. When he was two, about the time this behaviour started, I figured he'd eventually grow out of it so there was nothing to really worry about. After all, how else was he supposed to stake his claim on play areas, toys, the good crayons? Unfortunately though, he didn't grow out of it. He doesn't scream much now, only occasionally. But when he does, boy is he loud! Particularly when we're in the inner courtyard of our apartment building. The echo is quite deafening. For such a small little guy, he's definitely got a decent set of lungs!

But it doesn't stop there. Now he's become a little more... physical. Generally he gets on well with his older brother - for siblings, they're pretty close. But when they fight, if he doesn't get his way, he either hits or throws whatever he can get his hands on. In all fairness, he's a pretty tolerant kid, and its only once his tolerance has been pushed to its limit that he retaliates. X has learned over time how to push his buttons, and become rather accomplished at it. Hitting, although not a desirable behaviour, was not much of a problem because he was so small he didn't have the strength or the power to inflict much pain. He is growing though, and that strength and power is growing too. His punches are starting to hurt. And the throwing thing? We've always discouraged it (as well as the hitting) but he continues to do it. So far, I guess we've been lucky in that he hasn't really broken or damaged much. But I guess its only a matter of time.

The most damage he's inflicted is a nasty gash in his brother's head, when they were fighting over a Nintendo and things got a little heated. X ended up with a trip to the emergency department and a glued up forehead. Not pretty. T's thrown a few electronic devices - XBox controllers, his kiddie laptop - luckily they've come out relatively unscathed. So far.

I guess my point is, I'm going to have to up my game. We're going to have to get into the nitty gritty of tough parenting here. No more "You hit your brother again, you'll be going to time out", or "You throw anything else you'll have no more games today". Threats don't work on this child - time out? He doesn't care. A day without games? No big deal. Withholding dessert until he eats his dinner? He just goes without, and then we feel bad because we think he's not eating enough. Our punishments have escalated to the point where, after throwing his drink bottle in the car while Deane was driving, he was banned from playing XBox for a week. When he hit his friend on the head with a Nintendo after they were arguing over who could plug in their charger, he got another week's ban. I figured the punishment fit the severity of the crime, but Deane complained last night that it was getting beyond a joke, and we were running out of punishments. Ones that actually have an effect. How much further can he push those boundaries, before we can't push back?

I'm trying to come up with a game plan, which I'll discuss with Deane before putting in place. A structured 'cause and effect' type thing, where each misdemeanor has a consequence, and everybody's aware of what will happen. I've taken a leaf out of a friend's book - a friend I have always admired. She's a single mother with two boys a little older than mine. Their routine was always structured, both hers and her boys', and any misbehaviour wasn't tolerated. They're such lovely boys, but like any boys, they misbehave. When they do, they know what punishment they'll have to wear, because she's always been open, and consistent. Structure and consistency is something I lack when it comes to raising my boys.

Ooh, what's this here? A big, giant black hole full of parental guilt? Let's just try and sneak around that one... oh, argh, whoops! ::trip:: Aaaaaaaagghhh - I've fallen in!! Where does it eeeeeeeennnnnd?????

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Out with the old, in with the new

My dear friend Margaret kindly gave me a ball winder, after getting me hooked on knitting (its really all her fault, a ball winder was the least she could do ;-> Just kidding! You're awesome, Margaret.)

If I remember rightly, she had bought it second hand off Trade Me, and over it's lifetime, it had been very much used. So much so, that the wee handle had broken off at some point, and been replaced with medical tape to avoid the user developing nasty blisters. She had upgraded to a snazzy electric winder, so passed on the ageing ball winder to me.



I have used it a lot in the last year or so (and I mean a lot!), and now its on its very last legs. It winds inconsistently, and makes horrifically loud crunching, grating noises whenever its in use. I dearly loved it, but had been thinking for some time about replacing it before it fell apart completely. Unfortunately, to buy a brand new ball winder here in New Zealand, it would cost around $65-$70. They're much cheaper in the US, but once you add on conversion rates and shipping charges, it just didn't seem worthwhile. I was planning on waiting until I could organise delivery and shipping of a batch of Knit Picks yarn with a friend in the US, and would add in a ball winder at the same time (because of course they don't ship outside the US, so you need a friendly, generous person willing to take delivery of your order, then send it on to you). So I persevered, trying desperately to wind yarn making the least amount of noise possible, and hoping against hope that it would last until then. I was using it one evening, while Deane was trying to watch something on TV. He got so annoyed with the noise, he practically insisted I have it replaced! What could I do but oblige? I mean, who am I to deny the man some peace and quiet (not only from the horrid noises emanating from said ball winder, but also the horrid noises emanating from the wife with the decrepit old ball winder)?



I shall now be able to happily wind skein after skein of gorgeous yarn in preparation for knitting gorgeous snuggly things, without inconveniencing family members. Its a win/win!

While waiting for my brand new ball winder to arrive, I had to hand wind a few balls of yarn (so as not to disturb the family peace) - one of which was a 20g skein of Artisan Lace. This stuff is t h i n !!! It says laceweight, but I'm going with something between cobweb and 2 ply laceweight. Its presenting a bit of a challenge, because you really have to pay attention to what you're knitting. Its so easy to accidentally pick up an extra stitch! But I'm enjoying it all the same.

I'm knitting a Birch Leaf Shawl (Ravelry link) with it, although its going to be on the small side. There's 297 metres in a 20g skein which is a decent amount, but I'm knitting on 2.75mm needles so the fabric isn't too holey, which is making the pattern quite small:



Also, its not a colour I'd pick for myself, as I'm not a fan of pastels. It came in the Blendy Sampler Box I bought before Christmas. So once its finished, I have to decide who to gift it to. Seems I'm making quite a bit of stuff like that lately... No complaints though, the joy is in the knitting, and I absolutely love giving people stuff, especially when its something I made :-)

My other WIP at the moment is my Jaden sweater, which I've named (for the moment) 'Aubergine my butt'. The yarn colourway is called Aubergine, but I've never seen an eggplant this colour. (Actually, thinking about it, Chinese eggplants are kinda this colour, I think...) Still, as far as I'm concerned, aubergine is supposed to be a deep, rich dark purple. And this ain't it!! Anyway, I've completed the back section, and I'm taking a wee break from it to knit the shawl (above) before starting on the front. There's no rush for this as its currently summer, and I have a completion deadline of 31st March. No reason to panic yet ;-)



Quilting plans have been put on hold until after the kids are back at school because there just isn't enough room in our apartment to have all my gear out and have room for the boys to play. I have however, been at the wheel a few times this week. Only short bursts of about 20 minutes or so, but its better than nothing. I've started on the chocolate brown alpaca fibre, and spinning the locks as they are. They're a bit grubby (I've heard alpacas like rolling around in the dirt) so I get dirty hands, and a bunch of dust and dirt in my lap by the time I've finished, but its an interesting experiment. I haven't got much done so far, but I guess if I keep spinning a bit at a time, I'll reach the bottom of the fibre bag eventually.



I have this horrible feeling I'm overspinning it, but I suppose I'll find out when I go to ply it. The plan for this is to make a pair of fingerless gloves for Deane. Hopefully I'll get them done in time for this winter. We shall see...

Sadly, I haven't been for a run for a couple of weeks now simply because I can't fit it in before Deane heads off to work in the morning, and I've learned from past experience that running in the afternoon does not suit me unless I want to be sick for the next several hours :-( So I'm going to make a concerted effort to get to the gym this weekend for a 5km.

The boys are keeping themselves busy playing with all the new toys they got for Christmas, and hanging out with a couple of other kids in the building they know from school. We went to see Yogi Bear in 3D yesterday which they thoroughly enjoyed, despite having it interrupted by several toilet stops throughout its duration. Only two and a half weeks left of school holidays! I think we're going to make it...

Monday, 10 January 2011

Legen... wait for it.......

dary! That is what I call my latest feat - knitting a pair of socks in three days!


Leyburn socks, knit in Three Irish Girls Arboretum. What is even more awesome, is that I also knit this hat within the same three days:


My Methylated Thorpe - so named because the purple in this handspun reminds me of methylated spirits. I rather like this hat, inspired by another legendary person, miss tracee. She dyed the fibre, and got me hooked on the Thorpe pattern. And she gave me the yarn that the socks (above) were knit with. See? Legendary!

Another legendary person is a lady over in Germany, by the name of Alex. She knits the most amazing lace shawls and scarves, and other various items (socks, sweaters, etc). I was lucky enough to get her as a swap partner some time ago during a Ravelry scarf exchange, and she sent me this most gorgeous creation:


(And all the fabulous goodies with it!!)

As if that wasn't enough - we've kept in touch via Ravelry, and for Christmas she sent me this:


Score!! I have awesome friends ;-)

And since we're on the subject of legendary-ness, a few fellow knitters I find inspiring are:

The Yarn Harlot - this woman knits ridiculously large amounts of stuff, and writes books, and still manages to keep thousands of people entertained with a regularly updated blog. Amongst all this, she helps organise a yearly knitters and spinners retreat, and Sock Summit (which I'd love to go to one day), and helps fundraise for Doctors Without Borders, through an offshoot group Knitters Without Borders. Fabulous.

SouleMama - in 2010 she knit 14 (yes, 14!!) sweaters, among other stuff. She also looked after her four children, created another one, moved into and helped renovate an old farmhouse, and she writes books too! Stunning! Her blog is also very entertaining, and very heartfelt.

And my daily inspiration and motivation comes from all the people participating in the Harry Potter Knit & Crochet House Cup (HPKCHC for short) - they're a lovely, friendly, funny, inspiring and helpful bunch of people (men and women!) and I love chatting to them online and seeing all the amazing stuff they make. They're scattered throughout the world, so I've only met one in person (she lives in Wellington) but perhaps one day I'll meet some more.

In the mean time though, I'm keeping busy knitting stuff for HP cup classes - like the latest project:


Endpaper Mitts, designed by Eunny Jang. I measured my hand, and decided to make the medium size. However, I accidentally (because I didn't fully read the instructions) made the small size. By a happy coincidence, the small size actually fits really well, so I'll carry on making the second mitt to complete the pair. Hopefully by the time I'm finished, my OWL will be approved, and I can start on that.

Hope you're all keeping busy, and 2011 is going well for you so far :-)

Friday, 7 January 2011

Just for you, Jill

A picture of the ring (well, the best picture I could get anyway):

Snapshots

I'm appallingly bad at remembering to take photos, but I did manage to get a few of our holiday in Napier, and the trip home.


Visiting with Wellington school friends at the Napier aquarium


Deane being all 'manly' and tending the fire/cooking dinner on our anniversary


Marshmallows prepped and ready for toasting over the coals


One of the many stops on the drive home to Auckland - Castle Pamela in Tirau


Half of the pair of fingerless mitts (Rav link) I knit while in Napier (yes, I finished the pair) - using a 40g sample of yarn from Flagstaff Alpacas, which was in the latest Blendy Sampler Box I bought at the Auckland Art & Craft Fair just before Christmas. If I'd known I'd have heaps of yarn left, I would've made them longer. Oh well.


My other holiday knit, a baktus (Rav link) scarf made with my Summervilla Blue handspun (fibre originally purchased from Anna Gratton)

Turns out, two small knitting projects and three books is a good amount to take on a not-quite-two-week holiday. I finished both the knits, and most of the books - Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (which I'd started reading before Christmas), A Quick Bite by Lynsay Sands, and How to Kill Your Husband (and other handy household hints) by Kathy Lette, which I finished just the other day. So all up, I read a total of 40 books in 2010. Not bad. Now to start the new, 2011 list!!

Since we got back on Tuesday, I've managed a 5km run without killing myself (yay!) and knit one sock (in a day and a half - bless the rain and XBox!) and 1/4 of a Thorpe hat.

Here's a pic of the lone sock:



And just in case you can't see it, a close up of the pattern:


The pattern is Leyburn Socks , knit in Three Irish Girls Arboretum on Beckon Stretch Merino sock base. This yarn (which is out of my usual price range) was kindly given to me by my favourite fibre dyer, miss tracee, of maude & me. fame. She is a special one, that girl.

Now, since it's raining and Deane's gone to work, I shall carry on catching up with washing, tidying up the miniscule apartment, and knitting up a storm ;-) Have a good day!!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

Okay, so I'm a little late, but we just arrived home from our holiday in Napier with family and friends, and although there is internet there, we're usually too busy having fun to do such mundane things as update blogs ;-)

This Christmas, I have to say, was definitely one of the better ones. We drove down to Napier really late on Thursday night, arriving at about 2am Christmas Eve. Phalumphed around for the day, dropping off the various presents and catching up with family. Christmas day was awesome! The boys were very well behaved for, I think, the whole day (quite a miracle I must admit). Breakfast at mum and dads with my sister, her partner and their kids. All the presents were opened and loved on sight (yay!!), then played with for a while, until we all had to pack up and move on to the next location.

In our case, that was Deane's mum's place, where we commenced the preparation and organisation for Christmas dinner and the following dessert. Mmmmm, roast turkey and lamb, yummy veges, crackers popping left right and centre, laughter and clinking glasses continuing throughout the meal. The only dampener to the day was Deane's allergic reaction to... we don't really know...

From the time he woke up that morning he was puffy-eyed and stuffed up. Over the course of the day he took several anti-histamines, one or two pain-killers, and a few glasses of alcohol. Not a good mix. Straight after dinner (at about 4.30pm) he fell asleep on the couch. We managed to move him down to the spare bedroom at about 6.30pm (not that he really woke up for that event) and he missed dessert (half of which he'd made) and 'Silly Santa'. Luckily we'd opened all the main presents before we had dinner, otherwise he'd have missed that too!

I managed to wake him up enough to get him to the car at about 9.15pm, in order to drive back to mum and dads for bed (don't panic, I drove!) and he went straight to bed as soon as we got there. He didn't wake up again until after 10am on Boxing Day. And he was still tired. On the up side, he was feeling much better :-/

On the 27th we were lucky enough to have a night without the kids (X stayed with his cousins, T stayed with his nana) so Deane organised an early anniversary outing. We went to the Black Barn Open Air Cinema, and stayed at Te Mata Lodge Motel for the night. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Deane had bought tickets for the movie, even knowing that Eclipse was playing!! It was awesome, and just before the movie started, he presented me with my 10th wedding anniversary present, a gorgeous ring he'd designed and had made, with 36 mini sapphires, 30 mini diamonds, and a big black star sapphire from Thailand, that we'd bought in Chanthaburi while we were there in March. He even set the main stone himself, with a little help from a jeweller friend. Bless him. When I can get a good picture of the ring, I'll post it so you can see how lovely it is. I'm rather besotted with it, snatching glances of it numerous times throughout the day. As I was unaware of the early anniversary plans ahead of time, I didn't have Deane's present to give to him that night, but he was given it the next day - a voucher for a one hour trial flight at the North Shore Aero Club. He's always wanted to learn how to fly, and this was something I've wanted to give him for quite a while now. I think he liked it, but did warn me that I'd probably just opened a rather expensive can of worms. Yes KJ, if you're reading this, 'you told me so' ;-)

As if that wasn't enough, on our actual anniversary we managed to have a kid-free evening again! So we swung by the supermarket and loaded up on supplies, then we headed to the beach for a mini bonfire dinner, and toasted marshmallows. Once the sun had completely disappeared (about 9pm) we headed back to mum and dads for a relatively early night.

On New Years Eve we headed to a friend's place for a barbeque dinner once the kids had gone to bed at their nana's, and got to see in the beginning of 2011 watching the fireworks on the Napier waterfront, from a fabulous viewpoint up on Chaucer Road. They were good this year, lasting about 20 minutes - twice as long as previous years. We headed off to bed about 1.30am, knowing we had to pick the boys up fairly early so their nana could go to work.

On the 2nd January, the whole family - mum, dad, my sister and her family, and us four, headed off to White Pine Bush for a meandre through the woods, then on to Lake Tutira for a picnic lunch and a swim - with a few insect bites thrown in for good measure.

The 3rd saw us enjoying a chauffered tour around several of the Bay's wineries, and the Te Mata Cheese Factory - a Christmas present from my MIL's partner, Robbie. It was a great day out, ending in dinner at Cafe De Laos with another couple we'd met while on the tour. Not to mention we purchased a few gorgeously yummy bottles of wine and some cheese for later consumption. My SIL Shahn had the boys for the day, taking them to the local pool for another afternoon of swimming.

Somewhere in the last week we took the boys out to Waipatiki Beach, but I can't remember what day it was. Deane and the boys enjoyed swimming at the beach, and the wee lagoon next to it, while I read my book and knitted. Maybe next Christmas, I'll remember to pack my own swimming gear so I can enjoy the fun a little more!!!

This Christmas/New Year, we managed to visit everyone we wanted to visit while in Napier, including meeting up with some school friends from Wellington at the Napier Aquarium - they were calling in on their way through to Gisborne, so it was really great to see them. The boys were so excited to see each other, I'm so glad we managed to arrange the little get-together. It gave me a chance to catch up with their mum, one of the friends I'd made while in Wellington. Another friend from Wellington, one of my knitting friends, was staying with family in Hastings, so again I managed to have a good catch up. I'm hoping to be able to arrange a trip down to Wellington around Easter, but as Deane's birthday is during the Easter weekend this year, it may be a little difficult. We'll have to see...

An altogether very enjoyable week-and-a-half, and now that we're home again, I must get to the gym to work off some of that wonderful Christmas food!!

I hope everyone had a good break :-)