Sunday, 30 December 2012

New Year's Resolutions

Last year, I set for myself two goals: acquire more sock construction techniques and knit two (adult) sweaters. Then, as is often the case, life got in the way. I did fairly well on the socks, trying out several different heel and toe techniques, of which the most recent was short-row heel and toe for a pair of baby socks that will sadly be frogged as I ran out of yarn. Oops. My favourite techniques are most likely the Dutch or square heel and Kitchener stitching a wedge toe. That said, I like toe-up socks best.
I did less well on the sweater front, at least as far as adult sweaters go. My husband's sweater is maybe 70% finished - I've knit the body up to the arms and am working on the sleeves. I bought my husband a pullover for Christmas. My own jumper got exactly nowhere for obvious reasons. I'll take measurements again some point in the future, at least three months post-partum. As far as baby sweaters go I knit 4.5 sweaters, one of which was a pattern I'd done before (teal). Most were knit top down in one piece, one was knit flat in one piece and then seamed up the sides and under the arms (green). As baby sweaters, especially for a theoretical baby, aren't expected to fit the same way adult sweaters need to, I don't count them for my NYR.

I have 22 finished projects for 2012, 4 still in progress, 1 frogged, and 2 hibernating. Oddly, both of the hibernating ones use the same yarn. Most types of projects goes to cowls of which I knit 9 (three using the same pattern) thanks almost entirely to the Great Cowl KAL last February and March. Second most projects was socks, with 5 finished in 2012 (two started in 2011) and another two on the needles. One pair is maybe an hour's work from being finished so I may make it to 6 finished pairs of socks yet.

I am not setting any resolutions for next year although I suppose "finish the things I currently have on needles plus the nursing cardigan" count as goals. That would be 5 projects: husband sweater (70% finished), socks for my mother (almost done with first one), baby blanket/shawl for Little Djinn and the Wishbone socks for me that I mentioned were close to finished, and the just mentioned cardigan for nursing. They're all also things I'd like to have before Little Djinn arrives in 3 maybe three weeks which no doubt explains why I started a new cross-stitch project today.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Christmas & Boxing Day

Christmas got off to a slightly rocky start after a night of not sleeping particularly well. Chris was sad that he'd not gotten me a stocking* or filled it up and then he was frustrated that he'd have to spend half of the day cooking for his father just like he'd done for the last however many years and would continue to do so for the foreseeable future. We have tentative plans to be elsewhere next Christmas, just the three of us, as soon as we figure out where we want to go (hint, somewhere quiet and easy to get to).

Pressies started with exchanging Christmas cards**, in our case the traditional matching Boofle*** cards with messages of preprinted and hand-written affection. In addition to the socks, I gave Chris a new pair of fuzzy lounge trousers and a cable-knit jumper from the kittens. Chris gave me a book of Fair Isle patterns and a mug with a knit Fair Isle design, the soundtrack from a French musical, a potato ricer, a set of rectangular teaspoons that fit into spice jars(!!!), and from the kittens, a satsuma and tickets to see the panto. Chris was sad about not buying things for my stocking, but it clearly wasn't because he didn't think to get me presents. And, while the cooking utensils were "for me", thus far I've been on the receiving end of riced (mashed) potatoes, which are really good - extra fluffy and light, but have yet to use the ricer. So it all works out about even.

Aged Parent came over around 2, shortly before dinner was ready and we had a turkey breast wrapped in bacon and stuffed with sausage stuffing, roasted potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, Brussels sprouts, and rolls followed later by the Christmas pudding I made earlier this month, served en flambé and with brandy whipped cream. After dinner we gave Aged Parent his presents, a warm woolly cardigan and the mitts I knit for him (he also got a folding cane which we wrapped and delivered when it arrived so he could start using it sooner rather than later).

We spent most of the rest of the evening discussing the possibility of his moving into a local community for retired persons, an idea that Chris and I like a lot as we'd been looking for properties with a ground floor in-law unit but had been unable to find anything that wouldn't require selling both our properties. Unfortunately when we went over on Boxing Day, Aged Parent announced that he has absolutely no interest in moving out of his 5 bedroom house and was sorry he'd ever brought it up.

Chris again spent most of the day cooking, making pastry puffs with cheese in, (riced) mashed potatoes, and a sausage and cranberry roast which he cooked at our house and then reheated at his father's. Thus the need to go away next Christmas and avoid cooking altogether****.

Oh, and we gave Oliver and Libby a water fountain to drink out of. It's hand-thrown and burbles up, and they've both drunk from and played in it but Oliver still thinks water should come out of the tap in the bathtub. We're weaning him off of that.

And lastly, I am now 37 weeks along which means Little Djinn is full term. The midwife thinks 41 weeks is the perfect length for gestating so I've still got 4 weeks before it's a diet of nothing but pineapple and days spent jumping up and down. Meanwhile my feet have swollen beyond recognition, sausage toes are the order of the day, and my blood pressure is starting to climb. And getting showered and dressed seems like sufficient accomplishments before going back to bed.

~ * ~

* We don't have official stockings yet. For the last four Christmases I've given Chris a pair of socks, one stuffed inside the other with the rest full of candy. This year he got two pairs of slipper/socks and a Green & Blacks 75% dark chocolate bar and I gave myself a pair of slipper/socks and a multipack of Nerds (American sugar-based candy). I was even able to hang the socks up using my sock blockers.

** Not a tradition we observed in my family. Fortunately(?) the first Christmas I was here Aged Parent was convinced he'd never see us again and gave us our Christmas cards the first week in December, saving me a fair bit of awkwardness Christmas day when everyone (Chris and his father) had cards for everyone (Chris, his father, and me) and I'd be sat there saying in a small voice, "I didn't know we were supposed to get cards..."
Don't worry, there was plenty of other awkwardness.

*** I just discovered that there's a Boofle app. I think Chris is going to die of squee. I see lots of Boofle-addended baby photos in Little Djinn's future.

**** Yes, I could do some of the cooking (and did for Christmas dinner!). I could even do all of the cooking or most of the cooking, or some of the cooking. You know this and I know this and the reasonable part of Chris knows this but somehow when it comes to the day and everything needing to get done, he always puts on his Project Manager torque without remembering his Delegator Apron and locks himself in the kitchen.

Weekend in Edinburgh*

Last night as we lay in bed, before I moved to the nursery so Chris could sleep in peace and quiet, we reconstructed how our overnight to Edinburgh was supposed to have gone:

Our direct train to Edinburgh went directly to Edinburgh. It took the expected less than four hours, not seven, and we didn't have to change over-crowded trains twice all the while being told things about the rest of our journey that, frankly, were lies. We dropped our bags at the hotel and had a quiet afternoon tea before I went for my bra fitting (they were able to see me right away, I didn't have to make an appointment for the next morning) and Chris went to meet with a prospective client (who emailed him first thing the next morning to say "when can you start?"). We wandered around the German Christmas market which wasn't loud with shrieking people and conflicting music blaring from past-their-prime speakers. The weather was lovely, really, not bitingly cold with high winds and an edge of rain, so we rode the Ferris wheel again like we did on our first trip to Edinburgh four years ago and were quiet disgustingly schmoopy.

By then it was time for dinner, Mexican of course, being in a city with a Mexican restaurant, and Chris liked his entrée as much as his starter and I got to have horchata and Mexican hot chocolate, neither of which they stopped serving some years past. We stumbled back to our hotel and spent an snuggling in the bar, ordering fruity drinks with or without rum in. Back in our room, well you don't need to know about that, but it was followed by a deep and restful night's sleep in which I didn't snore at all, not even a little, and certainly not enough to wake myself up and be heard through Chris' earplugs.

Our breakfast place in the morning was as charming as one could hope. We both had the pancakes and Chris' cappuccino was as nice as my Darjeeling and we had pleasantly full tummies on which to face a day of wandering around Edinburgh, visiting yarn shops stocked with the specific size needles I wanted, nibbling and purchasing at the Cheese Monger's, and trying on silly hats at the hat place. We collected our bags, bought a picnic lunch for the also uneventful train ride home, and I was able to read my Kindle and listen to my ipod as I'd not left them in the drawer of the night stand at the hotel.

Home was toasty and warm, the heat having come on shortly before we arrived, the kittens were delighted to see us, and we ate on the sofa in front of the fire having not put half of our planned leftovers in the outside freezer and forgotten about them until everything else was ready. The whole weekend was a rousing success.

To be fair, some of those things did happen if not in the ideal time or manner (Chris had his interview; I was fitted for and bought a bra; we had Mexican for dinner; I got pancakes for breakfast) but a lot did not. We really did not want to be outside in the push and shove or the wind and wet. There's nothing you can do about the weather and the crowds of people were inevitable. Our reasoning for going the week between Christmas and Hogmanay were sound; I'm off work but not likely to go inconveniently into labour, and at my breast-size being properly fitted for a bra necessitates a trip to Bravissimo which isn't going to happen any time soon post-baby. Thus Edinburgh in the busy shopping season.

And, importantly, I can now put Operation: Don't Leave the House into proper effect. I am currently trying to decide if going to the detached garage counts as leaving the house or not. I did go outside to pick up the bird feeder, knocked over in last night's high winds.

~ * ~

* not actually a weekend, but it felt like it and that's what counts. Also, I am so far removed from the notion of weekdays and weekends as to make no difference.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Christmas Letter 2012

This year started with our slightly belated honeymoon to Madeira, a Portuguese island off the coast of Casablanca, in January. We spent two weeks in the balmy 20C/68F sunshine, hiking around gardens and along cliffs (Madeira doesn’t exactly have beaches), reading by the pool and generally being schmoopy. Chris talks about retiring there, sooner rather than later, or at the very least returning time after time and drinking fortified wine amongst the flowers. We returned to the news that my father, John, had fallen ill while on holiday in Mexico and had to be airlifted to a hospital in San Diego where he slipped into a coma and died on February 9th. I flew out to Sacramento and spent three weeks with my mother, Dee, helping her sort through his belongings and get everything organized. Chris came out for the funeral in early March and we flew back together. In May we learned that I am pregnant and I spent most of the next two months in bed, nauseous and feeling sorry for myself. We observed our first anniversary, June 26th, back at Atholl Palace Hotel in Pitlochry, where they’d upgraded our room and provided a complimentary bottle of champagne and exclaimed how they couldn’t believe it had been a year. Some friends had rented a lodge for the week so we got to hang out with them for a bit and finally had a chance to explore the local botanical garden. Mired in a particularly uninspiring summer weather-wise, Chris booked us a week’s holiday on the Greek island of Zakynthos for September/October. It turned out to be a less than ideal holiday for us: it unseasonably hot, the hotel was noisy, everyone smoked, and there wasn’t a lot to do except sit in the sea and befriend stray kittens, delightful though those two activities were. We did eventually figure out a routine that made us happy, but left the following day. We learned a lot about what we need in a holiday destination, ate well, and got to bob around in the Mediterranean, so it wasn’t a complete loss. Three friends came up from London to spend Thanksgiving with us and Chris’ father, Ted and we spent the weekend playing board games and eating leftovers. It turns out the same amount of food we normally make for ourselves will feed twice as many people, if only for two days. We are now in full-on baby-prep mode. We’re attending prenatal classes, have turned my rather underutilized office into a nursery, painting the walls, adding decals, and having blackout curtains installed. We have a bassinet for our room and a crib for when the baby outgrows it, and we’re starting to collect all of the little things one needs to keep a baby safe, clean, and warm. I’m due 18 January and my mother will be flying out for a month to meet her first grandchild. Wishing you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year, Chris & Jennifer

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Almost Ready for Christmas

I'm watching The Nutcracker with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland (which I started when writing my last post but only got to the battle with the Mouse King so that's where I resumed today). It's very 70's, the film quality isn't great, and I know he was an ass and she was not mentally healthy, but lord can they dance. He powers through leaps and turns like it's as easy as breathing and she floats across the stage with such grace. They are both amazingly talented, as are all the dancers in the production, and of course I love Tchaikovsky's music.

I am making cinnamon rolls using the ever-popular Pioneer Woman's recipe. We're at the "dough is rising" stage and the house smells yeasty and lovely. I made a Christmas Pudding a few weeks ago (though apparently it should've been done in November, possibly early November. Ooops) and it's "ripening" in the garage. My first Christmas pudding was a gift from Andy and Charlotte and came with the directions "cook in the usual manner" which meant absolutely nothing to me. When making a Christmas pudding you combine all of the ingredients, steam for 3 hours, and then set aside for days, weeks, or even months until Christmas when it gets steamed for another 3 hours and served en flambé with a variety of cream sauce options. I don't see any other particular Christmas "baking" in our future, though I suppose there's always time to have an overwhelming urge for sugar cookies. We'll do the "Christmas Triffle" from last year's Delicious magazine as a New Year's treat. We've tentatively decided on "Thanksgiving light" for Christmas dinner - turkey breast, cranberry sauce, green beans, mashed potatoes, and hopefully Brussels sprouts if we get them in our veggie box. Brussels Sprouts are the difference between Christmas and Thanksgiving.

We went out to dinner with Chris' Highland Web Developer's group. They meet once a month on a Tuesday night at the same place as my knitting group (though we're in the café and they're off in a meeting room) so it's easy for us to both go that week. Chris hadn't mentioned that we're expecting and they seemed rather chuffed for us. We went to a pub, then dinner at a restaurant, and then to another pub. Chris and I called it a night after that (I'd gone straight from work) but the last stragglers went on to a night club. It was nice to meet Chris' friends.

I am making progress on Chris' pullover. Casting on the sleeves did scratch the start-itis itch and having transferred the body to two sets of cabled needles (freeing up my only 3.0mm for knitting the sleeves, two-at-a-time, magic loop) I was able to have Chris try it on and, luckily, it does fit. I also realized that the pullover was designed by the same woman, Carol Feller, who wrote one of my new knitting books, Contemporary Irish Knits so I guess I've been a fan of hers longer than I realized. I also cast on a little something for my Secret Santa at work which I hope to have finished tonight, though I have until the 24th to drop it off, not that I want to go into town on Christmas eve.

We're all done with our prenatal classes except the partners physiotherapy class on Thursday. Friday I will be 36 weeks with 4 weeks to go, though today also marks exactly a month to my due-date. Count-downs are funny like that. I have an ultrasound scheduled for Friday and need to book an appointment to see my midwife for another (last?) round of bloods. I have two more (half) days of work, tomorrow and Friday; we're having dinner with friends tomorrow and I'm having lunch with another friend Thursday. I am hoping to make it to knit night tonight and that's everything planned between now and Christmas.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

It's Snowing! Also, I'm Knitting!

Just before 1pm today, my husband came downstairs with very important, it can't wait, news for me: it was snowing. Only just barely, the kind of snow where one could count each and every snowflake as it drifted slowly from the heavens but finally, finally, at long last, it was snowing! It took about 15 minutes to build up to a snowfall worthy of the verb and has been snowing at a steady if not heavy clip ever since. I have spent the afternoon doing figurative cartwheels. Over breakfast this morning (after my final prenatal physiotherapy class, though there is a class for both partners next week) I'd asked if it was okay to complain about several days of bellow-freezing weather without snow. I think the frost is lovely, but if it's going to be -8C/17F there bloody well should be snow on the ground. The universe seems to agree with my argument as we finally have snow! I honestly didn't think we'd get any before Christmas. The sun set (at 3:30) without my having taken a picture, so I'll show you this one from last April:
There actually is knitting news this week as I have finally finished the only knitting I really need to have done before Christmas: a pair of mitts for Aged Parent. As you may recall, he was the perfect knitting gift recipient last year , thrilled and touched and bragging to everyone he met about the hat I knit him. The man deserves more hand-knit things. I bought another skein of yarn, really soft wool to last year's camel hair, from the same Scottish yarn company, Shilasdair. I picked Dashing Mitts from Knitty, a pattern I had previously used for my husband and knew would work well. They're quite snug on me, but my FiL lost a fair bit of weight last year with tummy problems that have recently been diagnosed and, he says, cleared up, so hopefully they'll fit him nicely with a bit of room as he regains weight.
That leaves my purple orkney tam which I'm thinking I may give to my mother for Christmas, the self-striping socks I'm definitely knitting for her (I'm past the heel turn and working my way up the leg on the first sock), neither of which need to be finished until she arrives mid-January; the Shetland baby blanket/shawl for Little Djinn with pretty much the same due date; a few small projects for Secret Santa type gifts; an inch or two of a pair of socks that were tight before I got pregnant and my feet expanded; and the pullover I started for my husband. I don't think I've mentioned his sweater since I selected the pattern back in December as part of my New Year's Resolution, beyond a mention that the yarn had arrived. My 2012 has been very different from what it looked to be like from 2011 - which is fine, that's what living is all about - and while his sweater has mostly languished, I did make a fair bit of progress on the (less than interesting) stockinette body before I got pregnant and just tonight split for the armholes, to be followed shortly after finishing this post by casting on sleeves. The most awkward thing has been knitting a 37" sweater on 40" needles, the only ones I have in this size. I don't even have a pair of DPNs in 3.0mm, these are my only needles. This has periodically proven irritating as I've wanted to knit something else on 3.0mm and chosen to table it or go with a slightly different needle size instead. I'm not entirely sure why I haven't purchased another pair of needles except that there aren't any options locally and for whatever reason I haven't gotten around to ordering a pair. So I've been doing an awkward version of Magic Loop with a couple of inches of cord. Fortunately I'll not be dealing with as many stitches from here on out so the going should be less awkward and thus faster.

Those are the things I currently have permission to work on and I gotta say, I'm ready to cast on about 20 new things. I finally used the gift card Tonnvane gave me for my birthday (back in May) to buy two knitting books: Contemporary Irish Knits by Carol Feller from which I am itching to knit the matching cowl and mitts with some Old Maiden Aunt Alpaca/Merino I have in stash - I figure the sweaters will have to wait till post-Djinn and the completion of the current Husband Sweater; and Essential Knits for Babies by Debbie Bliss who makes one of the best commercially available yarn for babies out there. I figured the book had been on my wish list long before I knew I was pregnant and, while I'd knit things for Little Djinn, knitting is something I do for me so it counts as a present for me rather than a present for baby.

Which brings us to Little Djinn and my progressing pregnancy. I will be 35 weeks tomorrow with 5 weeks left to go. I've started occasionally suggesting to Little Djinn that the outside world is a beautiful place (now with snow!) and wouldn't you like to see it, which Chris objects to but I don't want to shock Little Djinn by saying "stay inside where it's safe and warm!" for 9 months and then suddenly saying, "it's eviction day! Get out!". Also, I'm ready to be done even if Little Djinn isn't. This week is fine, the week between Christmas and New Year's is problematic, but then any time is good for me, though the sooner the better. I think it's useful to communicate this, along with encouragement to be a 7lbs baby.

I have an ultra-sound and an as-yet unscheduled appointment with my midwife next week and that Friday is my last day at work. I am so ready to be done with work, though if I accept my limitations and spend most of my shift sitting on a stool behind the till it's okay. I had to buy larger boots (up a size and in wide) to accommodate my growing and sometimes swelling feet, especially in winter-thick socks. As it is, I'm just about to the point where Chris will have to do my shoes and socks for me as attempts to reach my feet are awkward and trigger heartburn. Not fun. Other not fun things include bending over last week to get something off the bottom shelf at the grocery store and feeling my epigastrum split apart. I asked the physiotherapist about it today as it's still sore and she said it's a soft-tissue injury common to pregnancy (which I knew) and all I can do is rest it, which I also knew but I made the mistake of googling it to reassure my husband and came up with the possibility of epigastric hernia. But even if it is herniated, there's nothing to do until after Little Djinn arrives, and it's nice to hear a medical professional be unconcerned.

The nursery still needs the decals stuck to the walls, though the bed is in place and fully made-up for my mother. I even put a blanket over the duvet to keep Oliver and Libby from shedding it, though it's the fake-fur one that they like to knead and purr on, so I'm probably just teaching them to love the bed. But on nights when my pregnancy-blamed snoring keeps Chris awake he'll be able to relocate to the nursery and actually get some sleep.

All of the Christmas decorations that are going up are up. I finally bought lights for the tree and put the one-off decorations up and a small handful of my plastic icicles. The baubles, fake candy canes, and rest of the icicles can stay off as one less thing to deal with come January. I got our North American Christmas cards posted, though the UK ones need to be signed and assembled.

Yesterday would have been my father's 72nd birthday. I don't think I have an emotional response to that, though I was a fair bit crabby. I think the crabbiness was more to do with having a new Assistant Manager at work and, subconsciously, resenting the fact that I have to take direction from someone I don't trust. Once I came home I was fine, even being up to hoovering and (electric) mopping upstairs and spending an hour making dinner. Though after that I was completely exhausted physically and even took another awkward bath. Did I mention that, as much as I love feeling Little Djinn growing inside me, I'm ready to be the sole occupier of my body again?

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

December is Upon Us

First and most importantly: it snowed! overnight so I didn't get to see it, but we woke up yesterday to a light dusting of white over almost everything. Chris poo-poo'd it, saying it wasn't even the first snow of the year (which I missed as I was at work the whole time, and it didn't stick) but I make my own happy and this time of year snow is at the top of that list. Truth be told, the deep frost over everything on Sunday was prettier and lasted longer, making everything sparkle but don't tell snow that.

My Christmas decorations are going up slowly, the icicle lights in the lounge went up the day after Thanksgiving because they're beautiful and the sun sets well before 4pm this time of year and the extra light makes a big difference. We finally got the outside porch light fixed and even though it's not necessary - we did just fine without it for the three previous winters I've been here and who knows how many Chris spent without it as there's a street light just outside our house - it makes a psychological difference to come home and see it waiting for us. Also, yesterday, it let our neighbour know we were home and she could drop off the amazon boxes that had been left with her. Not that we'd got a "while you were out card" or that we'd, in fact, been out. Or at least Chris hadn't. I ran a few errands in the afternoon but he was home all day.

I also switched to snow flake napkin rings, which we can actually use again as Chris finally (it was supposed to be my job but he gave up on me taking care of it) called a local charity and arranged for the boxes and bags stacked on the kitchen table to Go Away and hopefully be useful, freeing up the table for crazy things like eating off of. I know, right? I hung our advent calendar, a clothes line with alternating red stockings and green mittens, on the wall going up the stairs and filled it with little Green & Black chocolate bars and every morning we split one over tea and coffee. And, by special request (sometime in mid-November) I switched out usual small thistle rhombus quilt for the Christmas wall hanging with the cute little nativity vignettes. Chris wants one for year-round with happy little figures and barnyard animals. I was joking we could get one that shows the story of our relationship but camels, cows, and Bethlehem aside, it kinda does.

Yesterday I suggested that we order a Christmas tree. I want, at some point, to get a fake tree but we haven't found the right one yet (which is fair as we've not put much effort in looking) so for the fourth year in a row we ordered one from a local tree farm that delivers. The first year we left it too late and got a tiny little 4-foot tree and had to put it on an end table to keep it from looking excessively tiny with out lofted ceiling. This had the added advantage of making it really easy to fit presents under it and, if you have a household where nothing will bump or jostle the tree, I highly recommend it. By the next Christmas we'd acquired kittens and they spent that first year chewing the lights (Libby), climbing the tree (both of them) and knocking it over (suspected team effort). Fortunately last year they limited themselves to drinking out of the water bowl and trying to catch the ornaments. I figure this is our one good year where the tree will be safe before we have to buy a baby gate to protect it from Little Djinn. Which is a round-about way of explaining why we ordered a Christmas tree on the third of December and, as they have a new shopping cart this year that doesn't allow one to specify delivery date, we left a "message for seller" requesting it be delivered on or after the 14th. It was waiting for us (under the porch light) when we got home from our penultimate ante-natal class. I don't think this one will last until Epiphany. But the poinsettia I picked up yesterday looks very happy with the company.

Still to do is decorating the tree, putting tinsel around the bannisters, putting up the Christmas Card organizer (our first Christmas card arrived this morning!), and sending out or own Christmas Cards. Oh, and acquiring a 2012 ornament and stockings. We have a fireplace for the second Christmas - we really should have stockings and not my normal trick of buying Chris a pair of socks, stuffing one in the other, and filling the rest with candy. My mother implied that Little Djinn already has a stocking.

Speaking of Little Djinn, I started preliminary placement for the "woodland" scene decals (two trees and a bunch of cute little animals) in the nursery. They're just masking taped to the wall for now until Chris has time to verify that everything is straight and balanced visually. This is slightly more challenging than it might sound as we're currently imagining the furniture as well. I also had my 32 week midwife check-up(yes, I'm 33 weeks along) and all health markers for Momma and Baby were "perfect", including her review of my previous appointment with her substitute. It's nice having confirmation that Little Djinn has Assumed the Position, head down in my pelvis, even if there's still lots of time to turn breech.

Sunday night I had my first real moment of "Get out! Get Out! I want my body back!" as I tried to take a bath and easy my tired muscles (all of them) and mostly just got heartburn and an inability to move. I'm pretty sure I could live with the increasing physical awkwardness if the impediment to my movements wasn't reinforced by waves of acid reflux. Blech. I bought another bottle of Tums so I can have one upstairs, downstairs, and in my bag.

Speaking of bags, I started packing my labour bag and realizing how few things they recommend that I actually have. For some reason I thought I had more, I'd just not assembled it in one place. But I picked up some extra bits and bobs while I was in town and that's more the thing. Now I need to pack one for Little Djinn, but I'm waiting for the dresser to arrive before washing all the little outfits so I can put them Away From Cats. Chris had a mild panic attack the other night that, because we put together a baby registry instead of just buying everything we might need, that Little Djinn would show up and we'd have nothing. I pulled out "Ready, Steady, Baby", the NHS's guide to pregnancy and the first year and went through a checklist of what we have (most of it) and what we need (a few things) for a newborn and he's feeling a lot better. It helps that with amazon prime if we decide there's something we need but don't have it can usually be here the next day.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

T Minus Two Months (give or take)

I am 32 weeks along with 8 weeks to go. If December goes half as quickly as November, tomorrow will be Christmas and I'll be on maternity leave with my feet up. I don't mind telling you that the putting up of feet couldn't happen to a nicer woman.

We've had three (of five) pre-natal (I can't distinguish between anti-natal and ante-natal so I'm sticking to pre-natal) classes covering a tour of the pre/post-labour and labour wards and an overview of what sorts of things commonly go "wrong" and how they're handled, and an introduction to the advantages of breast feeding. It is illegal in Scotland to interfere with a woman breastfeeding in public, which includes cafés and other such public-access places, so they're taking the incentive to breast feed quite (US sense) seriously. My first pre-natal physiotherapy class was last week with my second (of four) tomorrow morning, and so far we've covered an introduction to pelvic floor exercises which I finally figured out aren't floor exercises for the pelvis but rather a collective euphemism for the vagina and anus. It only took 7 months and finally hearing someone say "exercises for the pelvic floor" to figure that one out. I am rapidly losing patience with all euphemisms. This week I think we're supposed to start on labour positions. I also, this morning, had an introductory meeting with the health visitor who takes over after the midwife is done between the first and second weeks after delivery and will "look after" our little family in conjunction with the GP until Little Djinn starts school.

I've developed an exciting new pregnancy symptom: Charlie Horses. I've had, periodically, really mild cramps in the backs of my calves during the day, the kind that I'm aware are a cramp but don't hurt at all and aren't really worth even stretching out. Starting this past weekend I've been getting the real thing in the middle of the night, painful cramps usually in both legs that require stretching. One night it was just the right leg but so painful I almost cried out and it ached for another almost 24 hours. On the plus side my heartburn, while still present, has reduced a lot so at least I'm not dealing with both at the same time. Pregnancy, the condition that keeps on giving.

Thanksgiving was last week, which as an ex-pat can be a bit of a downer, but we had three friends (two Americans and an Englishman) fly up from London and spent the weekend with us. Our usual feast (turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, potatoes, green bean casserole, and we bought stuffing and rolls this year as we haven't found a recipe for either that we like, plus whisky glazed carrots) easily stretched to fill twice as many tummies though only a few shreds of turkey survived the weekend. We went out to dinner on Friday, feasted and played card games on Saturday and consumed leftovers and played more card games on Sunday before sending everyone back whence they came. I really enjoyed the company and getting to play games, though Chris, my little introvert, had burned out by Sunday and he and the cats stayed upstairs all day. I think we'll be instituting a "two guests per weekend(month?)" policy going forward.

I have knitting updates, but my my husband has finished work for the day and dinner is ready.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Things are Starting to Come Together

We got a lot done on Saturday. We wandered around looking for a dresser for Little Djinn, both in charity shops and furniture stores, but didn't find anything we agreed on. I liked a squat one we saw in a charity shop but Chris thought it was meh and he liked an almost £400 one in a furniture store, but I'm not willing to spend that kind of money on something that will get treated the way children treat their furniture. So we're still looking. We then went to the curtain place that did the curtains in our bedroom and my FiL's place and made an appointment to get fitted for blackout blinds, both in our room and the nursery. He came around on Monday to take measurements but wasn't able to bring the book of blinds with him as they were being viewed by another customer, so we still need to pick those and curtains for the nursery.

We went to the post office in Tesco's Inshes to pick up the package we missed Friday, which turned out to be from Miss Laura and full of gifts for Little Djinn, including a blanket knit by her mother. Laura also sent us a little stuffed lamb which was on our baby registry which was particularly impressive given that the posting date was before we created the registry. I've always know that Miss Laura has impeccable taste.

We also swung by the new mega craft store in Inshes, though "mega" is a relative term. Certainly larger than anything comparable in the area, though it would be a bit small for a Michael's. I got some sock yarn for Christmas-gift socks (not for anyone who reads this, but one never knows) and some cotton yarn to try and crochet some snowflakes. The secret to happiness here is going to have to be low expectations as the only thing I am less confident in than my crochet abilities is my ability to follow a pattern using UK, and thus different from US, crochet terminology. If only it wasn't the same terms for different "stitches"....

On Sunday we cleaned the house a bit before going to my FiL's for tea (the beverage). He tried to call to tell us not to come as he had a cold, but we'd already left when he rang as I needed to be at work after the shop closed to help prep the shop for a corporate visit which should have happened this morning. My manager was freaking out about getting ready and the only real comfort I could offer was that, given the number of shops they planned to visit in one day, they couldn't possibly stay long. Their plan was to come up Wednesday, visit our shop from 8-10, and be in Aberdeen by lunchtime. Everyone who lives in, and probably most people who have visited, the highlands hears this and blinks. They clearly have no idea the actual distances and travel times involved. Hopefully they'll consider shipping product based on distance it has to travel weighed as a slightly higher factor against volume of the destination store. Promotional material that arrives the day before or day of an event is slightly less useful than one might imagine. Hopefully it went well and my manager can enjoy a highly-deserved virgin cocktail or five (like me, though for different reasons, the poor woman isn't allowed a drink) when she gets home.

On Monday, Chris and I had our first ante-natal class which was mildly irritating in a "why are we using all these silly euphemisms for a straightforward biological event?" kind of way. I'm going to take it on faith that the midwife leading the class (she's not a "community midwife", eg one who might actually be assisting in my labour) did pass courses on anatomy and physiology and is merely operating under the impression that we all failed basic biology. But we got a tour of the post-natal ward where we'll be after Little Djinn arrives, until we're ready to go home. The midwife assured as that being discharged 6 hours after delivery is not SOP here, and that three days is much more common at which I blanched. Three days stuck in a hospital, twiddling my thumbs? Fortunately the recovery ward's own material suggests one day before discharge which seems perfect for learning to nurse and a few supervised diaper changes before returning to the solace of one's own bed and partner.

One of the ladies in my Tuesday night knitting group is also pregnant, a few weeks further along than I am, and her ante-natal class started on Wednesday. The classes normally start around 32 weeks, but they're trying to squeeze us all in before Christmas, so I'm getting an early start.

Speaking of early, they called to cancel my ultra-sound appointment for next week, the one I was so excited about (and impressed to have gotten an appointment notification a month in advance). Apparently it was scheduled in error and they'll send me another letter to reschedule for the week before Christmas. Sadness. Chris suggested we could make private appointment to have an ultrasound anyway, but as much as I love getting to see Little Djinn, I'm not convinced it would be worth it. I'm a lot more used to being poor than he is.

That's the life of a pregnant woman. I'll be 31 weeks tomorrow, with 9 weeks left to go. I didn't take a picture this week, so you'll just have to take my word for it that I continue to look rotund. I'm starting to be exhausted all the time: yesterday I was ready to crawl back in bed half an hour after I got up and I'd actually slept through the night for once. I finished the center panel for the baby blanket I'm knitting for Little Djinn, picked up one of the side panels, and am working my way through the first lace chart (though it's so tiny, I'm using the written directions instead. My kingdom for a photocopier). I also took a picture of the purple blanket I knit way back whenever, blocked and displayed on the bassinet (Moses basket) in the nursery.

Friday, 9 November 2012

30 Weeks Down, 10 to Go

Picture taken sometime in the last week so not quite 30 weeks there. I have tiny tiny stretch marks, but they're extensions of the existing, faded, ones so I'm not worried. I don't want a batch of stretch marks in new places, but adding to the ones I have isn't what one could call a problem. I am thinking of removing my belly ring, though. I bought one of the flexible, plastic ones which I've been wearing since my 12 week scan (the plastic doesn't interfere with the ultra-sound) but the skin above it is looking red and stretched. It doesn't hurt at all, it's not tender to the touch, but it looks unhappy so I'm debating taking it out, letting the hole close, and possibly getting it re-pierced at some point in the future. I'm not sure how likely it is that I'd ever get around to it, though.

My hair has stopped falling out. I used to get handfuls of hair when I wash it and now I get maybe two strands. It's a pregnancy symptom I've been expecting so mostly I'm just surprised it took so long. It'll all fall out with a vengeance once Little Djinn is here and then I'll have to protect little fingers from being strangled by almost invisible hairs. Yippy?

Little Djinn is starting to run out of room and is kicking like a mad fiend. I don't mind the little movements, and I'm getting used to them as a running background to my life, but I really don't enjoy getting kicked. It's starting to hurt, and Little Djinn is quite territorial, protesting any time something pushes against my belly. I know it's cramped in there, but it was my body first and we have to share. I had my 28 week checkup last week (yes, at 29 weeks - I was working all of my midwife's regular office hours weeks 27 and 28) which included having bloods drawn and getting a flu shot. One of the tests getting run on my blood was for diabetes and, if my midwife had mentioned that rather than just a general "blood will be drawn" I would've gotten up earlier and eaten breakfast. My blood pressure continues to be excellent and protein levels in my urine are unremarkable.

We - and by we, I mean Chris - finished painting the nursery. We plan to go look for a dresser (chest of drawers) and curtains this weekend. And travel to the next town over where the delivery company left a parcel they couldn't deliver because neither of us was home yesterday. They couldn't leave it at the little post office up the road or the sorting center from which we could have it re-delivered (or just pick it up, it's right in town). No, they had to take it to the post office in Inches which is very awkward to get to what with us not having a car and all. It's close to the hospital where I will be spending a lot of time later this month, when my pre-natal (ante-natal) classes start (next week for the couples classes but those are late at night, end of November for the "mother" only classes during the day). Not that you can leave a parcel waiting until it's convenient for you to get there in a fortnight. On the plus side, a large craft (hobby) store opened near the post office so I can go take a gander and see how bad it will be for my wallet (pocket book).

Once I have a dresser, I'll have a place to sort out Little Djinn's clothes and see where the gaps are. My mother has been relaying requests for a gift registry and it'll be a lot easier to put one together when I know what I actually have. I suspect the parcel in question has more baby stuff. Part of the problem with building a registry is that I really don't know what all we need and at what point in Little Djinn's development we'll need it. We've only just started looking into it, now that we're in the third trimester. My mother has already made comments about some of the things I have on the registry like a tops and tails bucket ("just use the sink!") and the only onsie I added, "Keep Calm and Cuddle Me" in a summer size ("Is that going to be warm enough?" Yes and if it's not we'll put a sweater (jumper) over it. Same as I do with my t-shirts.). Oi.

I've been knitting and finishing up things that were almost finished. I have two baby cardigans (the burgundy one and the teal one) and one pullover with ends woven in and buttons attached. I have another cardigan that still needs buttons (the yellow one) and another one that I think is premie size and thus hopefully will go straight to the doll wardrobe. Note to self: acquire a doll. I also wove in the ends on some baby legwarmers and a blanket that I knit for other people's pregnancies and never got around to finishing up. The blanket has been sitting in a cupboard for a good 5 years, knit in the days before I was comfortable weaving in ends. I also knit a newborn hat with the leftover yarn from Chris' Greece socks, being modelled by my very patient husband. Mind you, he wouldn't let me use Ginger Kitty as a model which I figure is the same thing as volunteering.

Autumn watch continues. We're down to 8 hours of daylight (7:45-4:15) and after two months of unusually cold weather, we've had an unusually warm week with temperatures around 10C (50F). I wore a scarf chosen for its aesthetic appeal, not it's warmth and had to put the aircon on at work because the shop was too hot for me in my shirt sleeves, let alone the customers in their coats. The picture bellow was taken on Halloween, the orange leaves have turned russet and the yellow ones are starting to drop. Because it was a question, that is the view from our bedroom. Our garden (yard), which is shared with the housing association, ends at the hedge and then it's the river and the island with the trees. I love our garden and our view.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Size of a Small Bedsit

I am now a little over a week into my second trimester (though the picture is from last weekend) and still going strong. I have an appointment with the midwife on Friday and I got a letter for my next ultrasound appointment, the last week in November. I know, right? I'm shocked, too. Normally the appointment letter shows up on Tuesday informing me that my appointment will be on Monday. I actually have time to reschedule before having to switch shifts so I can make it. Though, in fairness, the short notice appointments have all coincidentally been on days off. And yes, I have my work rota through the end of November already. Technically it's written out through mid-January but A) I won't be working that long and B) I highly doubt it will survive the first skirmish with the enemy. I keep telling Little Djinn to stay inside until January, any time in January is fine but not a moment sooner, but I'm comforted to know that if it has other ideas it's viable. Still, my preference is a 2013 baby who shows up in January and I'm not shy about saying so.

Of amusement to me and Chris, every time I tweet my weekly progress update ("28 weeks down, 12 to go #gestating" usually accompanied by a picture of either my pregnant self or an ultrasound of Little Djinn) at least one more person twigs that I'm expecting. I've been tweeting about it for 4 months now, and not just the weekly update. I complain about kick boxing lessons when I'm trying to sleep and near constant heartburn and say how weird it feels when Little Djinn has the hiccups (very weird). I talked about the swollen sausage flippers that replaced my feet when we were on holiday and there has been a lot about the joys (or rather lack there-of) of trying to find maternity clothes. I don't really expect people to notice every little thing in my life, but it is a source of amusement and wonder in our household when people who actively use twitter miss it completely.

We're finally getting around to "nesting": we've cleared out the nursery (but not the cupboard/closet!), washed the walls, plastered the holes and, today, added the first coat of paint to the walls. We're using the leftover barely-there peach from when we repainted the lounge after having the fireplace installed. We got our local handyman to do it while we were on our honeymoon and it looks lovely, adding just the slightest hint of warmth to the walls. The paint is also supposed to be "light reflective" which is not to be scoffed at when you get as little sunshine as we do. The nursery...doesn't quite look the same. We're not entirely sure if it's because of slight paint transfer from using the same brushes Chris used to paint one wall of his office red, or if it's because the room is smaller and the colour is bouncing off itself, or just because the paint was wet, but the nursery is looking a bit pinker than the lounge. I'm not overly bothered, if Little Djinn has a problem with the colour of the walls we can paint it again in 5-8 years, and I'm confident that yellow curtains and/or bedding will pull the room back towards peach. I'm also hoping that a second coat of paint will even out the colour. It turns out that love and enthusiasm are not a substitute for skill and professional tools.

In autumnal news, I made pumpkin cake using a third of a tin of Libby's pumpkin purée sent to me by the lovely Miss Krissy. With another third I made pumpkin butter (cup of pumpkin purée, cup of yogurt except I only had 3/4ths a cup left, and a cup of powdered sugar, spice to taste). In the picture above the cake is served with brandy whipped cream, which my husband implied through grunts and eyebrow waggles made him love me twice as much as before, on Aged Parent's seasonal china. It's his every day tea service that he uses year round, but currently it's seasonal and I thought it particularly suitable for pumpkin cake.
Here's another picture from last week, the view from our bedroom windows. The yellowish trees are now mostly gold and rust. I'll take another picture for Autumn-Watch 2012 when the sun actually comes out. It snowed on Friday but not enough to stick or, really, for me to see it as I was at work in a windowless room all day. But I got the satisfaction of correctly predicting it would snow in October, so that's something, right?

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Husband Knits

These are things knit for my husband, not things knit by him. I did try and teach him to knit but he got a few rows in and decided he didn't care it wasn't for him.
First up are Husband Socks, specifically the Firestarter Socks by Yarnissima knit in Opal's van Gogh sock yarn colourway "Red Vineyard" from Sock Yarn Shop. I love this pattern and plan to knit them again sans modifications (I added 4 stitches after the toe and another two for the cuff to size them up and switched the cable to a braid which I'm not sure added anything) for myself. The Red Vineyard colourway turned out a bit less red than I anticipated, more of a burgundy than the rusty red I was expecting. Fortunately my husband has no problem with "pink" socks and is delighted with them. According to Ravelry, I started them on 22 September and finished them on 15 October. I almost entirely faithful knitting the first sock, but my attention wandered on the second (Oh siren of casting on new projects, I am susceptible to your wiles!).
Having finished the Husband Socks, I polled the internet if I should cast on something new or work on another project in progress. My single respondent, Yochannah, voted for something new and I gave myself permission to cast on a project that had been dancing in the back of my head for a while, The Perpetually Persistent Cowl by Liz Abinante. I knit one back in March as part of the Great Cowl KAL using the only super bulky yarn I had in stash, Rowan's Big Wool in brown (it was a gift). I modified the cables on that one slightly (adding another cross to tie it all together like a chain-link fence) and then gave it to my Aunt Kathleen, a redhead who shows to advantage in autumnal colours and lives in Alaska where things like chunky merino cowls are useful. I ear-marked the pattern for future use and bought some yummy bulky alpaca from a farm when wine tasting with my mother with the intention of knitting one up for myself, but at 11pm when I was looking to cast on I decided that winding the skein into a cake was somewhat excessive and instead grabbed another ball of the same Rowan Big Wool I'd used before and cast one on for my husband who had also expressed interest.* Half an hour last night and less than 4 hours today and I have a finished cowl. I did the cables as written this time but added a third repeat to make sure he can wear it up over his ears as his fedora doesn't shield them from the wind.

This pattern is my recommendation for holiday gift knitting - they're simple, they're fast, they're cozy as all get out, and they use less than a skein each. Churn them out!

Finally, I give you Husband Convertible Mitts from the Borough pattern in Knitty's Winter 2011 issue, knit with Noro Kochoran in peach-purple which, again, turned out more pink than expected. These took a week last December but have languished since for want of buttons. I still don't have the "right" buttons for them, but on the grounds that any buttons at all is the difference between them ever getting worn or not, I am adding buttons now. I don't remember much about knitting them and I didn't add notes in Ravelry so we'll assume they were easy and straight-forward and that I didn't make any modifications.

~ * ~

* This is the man who asked me to knit him a nose-cosy (and has since found any number of excuses to keep from having to wear it). He is generally in favour of me knitting anything and everything for him.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Greece 2012

Back in July, when the Scottish weather was being particularly "meh" my husband snapped and booked us a 7-night holiday on the Greek island of Zakinthos for the end of the season. Oliver and Libby left for Summer Camp on Tuesday, we took the train down to Glasgow on Wednesday and flew out bright and early Thursday morning, landing around 2 in the afternoon local time. Highlights from the trip down included a visit to what I've come to think of as my LYS (local yarn shop), The Yarn Cake and chatting with the proprietress over tea and cake (and yarn!). I was afraid my holiday knitting project, Firestarter Socks in Opal's van Gogh "Red Vineyard" colourway for Chris, wouldn't last out the week as I'd kinda cast on in the days leading up to the holiday and had already turned the heel on the first sock. I didn't have any comparable yarn that I could count on being able to knit up with the same needles (and possibly even pattern, it's a lovely one) should I finish the second sock, so I bought another skein of Opal in a tealy-blue varigation that I figured would remind me of the Mediterranean ocean. I was, of course, overly optimistic about my knitting prowess though I was correct that the colourway is perfect. I'm not sure what it says about me that I bought my Greek souvenir in a Glaswegian yarn shop...

Also, for reasons unknown to us, our hotel bumped us to an "executive suite" which, near as we can tell merely meant the presence of a (singular) bathrobe and a bottle of wine (two glasses) that may or may not have been complimentary. Though we'd paid for the room in advance so I'm not sure how they would have billed us for it had we drunk it. After dinner we discovered that the aircon/heating unit was borked and they bumped us to a queen size room, again with a bathrobe and bottle of wine. We had to get up at 4:30 the next morning so we didn't have a chance to find out if they have rooms with king-sized beds.

Zakinthos has the best border control I have ever experienced. There were two guard stations with the agents standing rather aimlessly in front of them, waving through anyone with an EU passport. They weren't even looking at the pictures, just matching the quantity of passports with the quantity of people. Which brings me to a side issue - when travelling as a group, even if you don't trust your kids or wife to keep their own passport without losing it, pass them out as you approach the agent. Tell everyone to hold it open to this page and don't use it to hit your brother and collect them again as soon as you reach the other side, but really, the number of blustery men I saw jealously guarding all of the travel documents and then trying to juggle them all, find the photo page (which, again, the agents weren't even looking at), and match a passport to a person was ridiculous. I got to watch this farce a couple times, waiting for everyone to get waived through so that the senior agent could go back to his booth, find the entry stamp, make sure it was set to the correct day, and stamp my passport. A similar holdup with the added drama of "no, I don't have a vignette for my passport, my visa is this entirely separate biometrics card" played out a week later when we tried to leave.

As for the holiday itself, it was a bit of a mixed experience. Between my heartburn away from my fortress of pillows, Chris being the world's lightest sleeper in a place that was hardly quiet (the hotel bar closed around 3:30am, which is when the cockerels started), and rock hard beds we didn't sleep well. Every tourist and her brother smoked (I only saw one Greek person smoking), it was supposed to have cooled off to the upper 20s by this time of year but they were having a heatwave and it was still in the mid 30s for most of our trip. The whole experience was oddly English - English pop music being played everywhere, English football games on the telly, menus full of English food... It wasn't quiet what I'd envisioned, not that we'd given it much thought beyond "sunshine and warmth, please!"

The last couple of days were the best: most of the tourists left on Monday so it was a lot quieter, and we'd worked out a routine where we'd wander down to a fairly secluded beach after breakfast and wade about 30 feet out into the sea where the water was 2-3' deep and we'd sit on the bottom and bob gently in the water for an hour or two before heading back in, drying off a bit and wandering back up the shore to a small restaurant with an overly-friendly ginger kitten who picked us as big softies from the second he lay his little yellow eyes on us. Chris would drink beer, we'd have lunch, and with varying degrees of success defend our food from the plaintive ball of fluff.

In the afternoon, Chris did a little work on his laptop (things Chris needs on a holiday - a learning project he can work on) and I knit while drinking milkshakes (they ran out of smoothies the second day) and allowing myself a tiny little bit of direct sunshine, and then in the evening we'd go out for dinner and then retire for another almost sleepless night.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Productive Morning

I should go on holiday more often: we woke up before 7 and after a leisurely lie in I managed to dispense advice to and from Captain Awkward's blog, eat breakfast, unload and reload the dishwasher, unpack our suitcases (in the dump-everything-on-the-bed sense, not the actually-deal-with-everything sense - that's crazy talk, though I did sort the laundry), put the suitcases (both those we used and those we didn't) back in the attic, start a laundry rotation, hoover upstairs, wash the hand-knit socks, and have everything ready for Oliver and Libby when they got home at half 10. I am currently sat on the sofa, elevating my sausage-flipper feet. So much better than putting everything off until "later".

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Actual Knitting Content

I was finally feeling well and inspired enough following my 20 week scan (ironically the worst day of my cold which continues to linger) to knit again, casting on and finishing a little baby sweater in a week. I say "finishing" but it is still waiting for the perfect buttons and an I-cord button-hole band to be attached once they're procured. I have my eye on some adorable ones but need to wait until I get paid later this week to acquire them. Decent pictures will have to wait until there's a nice sunny day: as you can see, my current attempts are all dark.

The pattern is Garter Yoke Baby Cardi by Jennifer Hoel and I knit it with one skein of Ripples Crafts Sportweight in "Red, Red Wine". Not the most gender-neutral colour in the world, but I love that maroony-purple. Chris wants me to knit baby sweaters in mustard and moss but they're not colours I enjoy looking at. I highly recommend both the pattern and the yarn as they were a delight to work with.

Having started and finished an entirely new project, I decided I should really finish some of my languishing projects, if for no other reason than it shouldn't take long and I was out of project bags. First up were my Narcissus Pseudo-Narcissus (daffodil) socks from The Knitter's Curiosity Cabinate by Hunter Hammersen, knit in Old Maiden Aunt's Superwashed BFL colourway Emerald City. Again, a delightful pattern and a lovely yarn which together created a fairly eye-popping pair of socks. They were supposed to be a pair of spring/early summer socks as I started them back in March as soon as the e-book came out and I acquired appropriately coloured yarn but I am enamoured of them enough to wear them as often as they're clean even though I'm otherwise feeling very autumnal.

My current project resurrected from the bottom of the of the UnFinished Object (UFO) pile was Royal Blue Zum Dirndle socks I cast on a year ago. They're a Yarnissima pattern being knit with Wollmeise Twin 80/20 (no link as the page is all flash and in German). I ran into problems when my yarn cakes, wound without the assistance of a swift or ball-winder, started getting tangled and then I realized I didn't have nearly enough yarn and wouldn't be able to find more from the same dye-lot and I couldn't bring myself to work on them. I've since made my peace with having crew socks, not knee-highs and they're growing again.

I went to the knitting night* at Eden Court, my local performing arts center (Tuesdays, in the cafe) last week as it was also Chris' monthly Web Developers group meeting (Normally somewhere in the Bishops Palace but that night in the Green Room). It was a small gathering, only five other people while I was there, which was actually really nice because we were all able to participate in the same discussion and I felt very welcome and included. My enjoyment of previous knitting nights I've attended has largely depended upon whom I found myself sat next to and the accessability and inclusiveness of their conversations. There have been nights when I've been sat between two conversational groups, part of neither, and those aren't much fun. For mindless, conversational knitting I chose Husband Pullover from Interweave Knits Holiday 2009 issue, knit in Jamieson & Smith Shetland Aran in a mossy green. We're starting to have temperatures where Chris could actually use such a warm jumper. I'm not overly enamoured of all the garter stitch but I'm almost ready to split for the front and back, at which point it should be interesting again.

Chris' sweater is one of my New Year's Resolution knits (knit a sweater) and that my resolution to do so for myself is postponed owing to my rapidly expanding waistline. But I've got my eye on some interestingly constructed socks to continue the other half of my resolution. Speaking of my rapidly increasing waistline, because there's been interest expressed else-net, here's me at 23 weeks:

~ * ~

* I say knitting but only two of us were: one woman was using a sock "machine" and I use the term loosely, and another two were cross-stitching

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The problem with not blogging...

The problem with not blogging is that not having blogged becomes one more reason not to blog. "I should write something. But where do I start? There's so much to catch up on..." and I find something else to do with my day

The easiest place to start is why I stopped blogging: I'm pregnant. For a while there, it was all I wanted to talk about but I wasn't ready to tell the world yet* so I didn't blog. It's just as well really as it would have been one "Yay, I'm pregnant!" post followed by two and a half months of "I feel so terrible, I've never felt this terrible in my life, I'm constantly nauseas, how could feeling like this have possibly been selected for, oh, I feel terrible." Looking at my computer (or phone, or television) screen made the terrible feelings worse, and knitting gave me headaches (the kind that make one nauseas, of course) so mostly I spent that time in bed reading, and trying to sleep. You weren't missing much.

Around our twelve-week ultrasound (of which I posted a picture but half the internet missed it) I started feeling better. Better is in no way related to "good" mind you, but I was mostly able to spend the day out of bed and had learned how to eat enough, in small portions, to not wish I could have my entire digestive system removed and live on an IV. Computers still made me woozy and knitting was off the agenda, but there was at least reason to hope everyone would be correct about the second trimester being easier. Oh, wow, has it been. I felt good. My skin and hair are doing weird things, my finger and toe nails are growing too fast, but everything else was finally behaving itself. Until a fortnight ago when work went to heck in a handbasket** and I found myself working lots of hours and, oh yeah, that exhaustion and post-nasal drip? Not just pregnancy symptoms*** - after a few days my husband turned to me and said, I feel like you described. I think we're sick. Oddly enough this came as a relief. Being sick meant I wasn't a wimp and Most Pathetic Pregnant Lady Ever. I was really worried that there's no way I'd make it through Christmas at work 'cause when one works in retail Christmas is a big deal. So yeah, being sick was a relief because a cold would go away and I'd feel better. Right? Um, not so much. I was increasingly exhausted for a couple of days, then miserable and congested for a few days, and then I slowly felt better. The exhausted and first of the miserable days were while working, then I had the (English) Bank Holiday weekend off and my rota got changed giving me a few extra days off, and by the time I was back at work I was feeling pretty good. I'd be exhausted about 6hrs into my shift but feel better once I got to sit down and put my feet against a hot water bottle so I was doing okay. On my fourth day of working in a row, I started coughing. Not bad, just a little bit throughout the day. That night, as we were drifting to sleep, I suddenly had a huge racking coughing fit, the kind where I cough so hard I throw up and still can't stop coughing. We eventually got to sleep but I slept restlessly and every time I turned over there was more coughing. Dear Husband reports that I was coughing a lot even when I was asleep, and I woke up feeling fairly terrible.

It got worse through the morning and by noon I was on the phone to the GP, convinced I was having asthma attacks that wouldn't stop. I was on hold for over 10 minutes before someone finally answered (and in panicked tears by that point) and was told to come right there. I got my neighbour to drive me, was seen within minutes and, after a thorough examination, told that it wasn't asthma (which is good, because the oral steroids for treating major asthma attacks are Not Good for developing a developing fetus), it's just a viral infection that's triggering light asthma attacks and I just need to wait it out. Antibiotics, obviously, were out of the question but I was given a script for a preventative steroid inhaler and granted permission to take 6 puffs on my rescue inhaler as needed (previously 2).

The best part was having time to fill the script, eat food for the first time that day, and collect Dear Husband in time to make our twenty-week ultrasound appointment. Part of the panicked tears was needed to get to the ATM to get cash to pay for a taxi to and from the hospital when the buses were against me (half a mile to go and it would take two hours round-trip) and I couldn't breathe and now I also needed money to take a taxi to the GP and I wasn't even sure if I should call the GP or just go straight to A&E (ER). I was a bit of a mess. But it all worked out and we got to the obstetrics ultrasound department 15 minutes early and despite being warned that they were running late we were seen before our appointment time, in an out faster than either of our previous appointments.

And what an amazing appointment it was. We're convinced we got the most talented technician that time as she whipped around Little Djinn's body, measuring bones and brains, blood flow and who knows what all else. We saw all of Little Djinn's bones, even its little spine, and the major organs, got good looks at the limbs and the face. Little Djinn wiggled and waved and was sucking in fluid. I've been able to feel Little Djinn kicking for about a week but being able to see it on the screen is just incredible. I feel very blessed to live in a country where I get these peaks at Little Djinn's development, these reassurances about its health and mine, and its all paid for. I've had three ultrasounds so far with at least another two to come and all I have to pay for are the taxi trips. When I was panicked about not being able to breathe, I got an appointment in minutes and a script and the one thing I wasn't freaking out about was how much it would cost me. When I compare the NHS in Scotland to the US system I feel like the luckiest woman in the world.

Two days later and I still feel just as poorly but no longer panicked. The euphoria of seeing Little Djinn held out a few hours against the misery of coughing. Its picture is in a place of honour on the mantel and I even cast on a new baby sweater.

~ * ~

* Our window cleaner did that for us. We told Aged Parent, Aged Parent told Window Cleaner and he told, as near as we can tell, everyone he knew. After the first couple of people responded to the announcement with "yeah, Window Cleaner told me. Congratulations" we stopped telling people.

** not in a FUBAR way, just in a confluence of events leading to staffing issues way

*** though they are pregnancy symptoms. I have trouble believing how random pregnancy symptoms can be. I swear people got drunk, took all the pages out of a symptom diagnosis book, and threw trimester-coloured darts at them to get this random collection of ways gestating can make one feel poorly

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Summer and Winter in Spring

The last week in March had some of the nicest weather I've experienced in Scotland. Scotland was setting record Highs for temperatures in March and nearby Aberdeen was the hottest place in the UK for a couple of days running at almost 23C (73F) and Inverness was not far behind. Chris and I spent the weekend outside: we went for walks (in shorts! Without sweaters!), we cleaned the patio, we had a bbq, drank Pimm's and Lemonade, and had lunch in the garden.
Daffodils were in full bloom, we opened all the windows, and I lived in sun dresses for three days. It was everything you could hope for in a Scottish summer and more! So a week later it snowed:
I had to dig out our daffodils and a week later they're still half horizontal. From shorts to three layers of wool almost overnight. Clearly we'd had our summer and it was back to winter, except an oddly bright winter with the almost 14 hours of daylight we're currently getting. On the plus side, when I saw that thermal underwear was half price, I was in the right mindset to buy a few pairs, and I got to wear my newest knitwear, my Blueberry Scowl.
This was the final cowl in Liz Abinante's Great Cowl KAL, a challenge to knit five cowls in 50 days. The above picture of my cowl being modelled by an uncharacteristically affectionate Libby (she sat on my lap, trapping me on the sofa, just as I finished sewing on the buttons) was taken the evening of the final deadline and it was a near thing finishing at all.

I'd signed up for the KAL in the days between returning from our honeymoon and learning that my father was dying. When I flew out for the funeral I had just cast on the third cowl and I packed appropriate yarn and needles for the fourth cowl which would start while I was in California (along with two sock projects). The last cowl, the Blueberry Scowl started around the time I flew back and was the only project for which I didn't already have a suitable yarn. I checked with my LYS (local yarn shop) but Worsted Weight, which falls between Aran and DK (double knitting) isn't readily available in the UK for whatever reason and my LYS isn't known for its extensive selection, and there was nothing suitable. I searched online and eventually found a suitable yarn on Etsy and ordered it. We were a week into the three week deadline, but I had finished with time to spare on the other projects so I wasn't terribly worried until another week went by and there was no sight of my yarn. It turns out the dyer I'd purchased it from had gone out of town for the week and hadn't had a chance to post it before leaving. Gah!

I kept waffling about what to do: on one hand I had other projects, lovely projects, crying out to be knit; on the other hand the Blueberry Scowl was my favourite looking pattern going in; on the first hand, that meant I had the prize I wanted; but on the second hand to have come so far and give up at the end; I'd get around to knitting it eventually, right?; or would I get distracted and leave the yarn and pattern to languish like so many projects before them? What to do?

Obviously I knit the Scowl, but not as written and not with the yarn I'd ordered. The day it arrived I CO with the half skein of Malabrigo Worsted - which is actually an Aran - I had leftover from the mitten and hat KAL on G+ (which, now that I think about I never told you about. Um, oops?). Not enough yarn to knit a full-sized Scowl but enough to knit one that would just fit around my neck and button snugly. Just before going to bed, I realized that I'd not actually read the pattern, just skimmed it, and left off a section so I frogged it and started over now with only 3 days to go. Good thing we already know how the story ends or this would be getting tense, right?

Yes, friends, I finished the cowl and got a picture of it draped across Princess (I wanted it buttoned around her torso but she made it clear she doesn't like me that much) and submitted with hours to spare. And then it snowed and I even got to wear it! Unfortunately my buttons are too small so it won't much stay buttoned, but that's okay because I can replace them with larger buttons when I find the right ones.

And the rewards for finishing? For completing the Blueberry Scowl I got another cowl, the Like Honey Cowl, and for completing all five cowls I get to beta test Liz's (after this I feel like we're on a first name basis, Liz and I) new Members' site with access to future patterns. All of that in addition, of course, to the free patterns and beautiful cowls that made up the competition.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Not a Good Month for Green

I follow a lot of knitting-related blogs, though I'd be hard-pressed to remember how or when I found any of them. One of them, the fabulously named Violently Domestic Hunter Hammersen recently published her second book, The Knitter's Curiosity Cabinet: Twenty Patterns Inspired by Vintage Botanical Prints. As the name suggests, it's a collection of ten sock and ten accessory patterns inspired in turn by ten botanical prints (one sock and one accessory pattern per print. Got it? good.). Having watched her blog for some time about its creation, I gave in to temptation and pre-ordered a digital copy (print copies will be available some time this summer) and had it in my hot little hands (aka iP*d pdf viewer) a few days latter. I pored over the patterns and the Narcissus Pseudo-Narcissus Socks (Daffodils) begged to be knit. The cheery green, the growing leaf pattern - what's not to love?

Well, the saga of finding an appropriate green sock yarn, for one. I searched high and low, coming up with very few options. On etsy, there was a seller in Ireland that seemed possible but a touch on the dark side, but my last etsy transaction had taken a week to ship and I was feeling gun-shy. A friend pointed me to a yarn shop that had a green sock yarn, but it looked a little too variegated and, well, I wasn't feeling the love. A dyer I follow on twitter had a green in a yarn I'm familiar with but it's a bit thin for my purposes so she offered to dye another base up for me, but I don't know how that went (pst, if you're reading, I'm still interested!). Finally, an indy dyer I'd been watching, Old Maiden Aunt restocked her shop to the point that I could bear to look through it.

This brings us to a familiar rant: I hate having to click on an item to see if it's in stock, especially if the answer is mostly "no". If I've clicked on 10 things and 7 or more (let alone all) of them are out of stock, there's a good chance I'm going to take my marbles, in this case my credit card, and go home. You want to show off your range of inventory? Mazel tov! I really am happy to see them. I'm excited to see yarns that may someday be mine, if I come back. But not at the expense of seeing the yarns that can actually be mine now. Especially if there's no way to say "ping me when this yarn/colour is back in stock!" As previous rants have established, quantity is also a plus.

Anyway, OMA had restocked her sock yarns and I pored over the colours and decided on "Emerald City" in a superwash BFL plus another rusty red of the same. If you're looking for blues and purple jewel tones, OMA is your woman, but I'm trying to cut back (my three finished socks are all purple). She's also got a lot of earthier tones if that's your thing. It's not mine so I spent a lot less time drooling over them. But I found my yarn and I ordered it and while it's not a shade I normally think of as "me" it's as beautiful as I could hope. Truly stunning.

I kept the yarn in the envelope until Sunday, when I untwisted my Emerald City skein, put it on my equally lovely umbrella swift, and started winding it with my ball winder. Around 85g into my 100g skein, it became hopelessly tangled. I spent the next hour untangling and winding the last 15g. Very disappointing, but I'm willing to believe it's a one-off. I wouldn't even mention it except it's part of The Saga of the Green Socks. Things are finally going according to plan: I had my yarn wound (in two 50g balls even!) and my pattern queued up, and now to select my needles. My 1.75mm carbon fibre DPNs are in the middle of finishing my second Wishbone Sock and my 2.0mm are still holding my languishing Zum Dirndl socks. My 2.25mm were too loose, leaving my 1.5mm needles:

Isn't it beautiful? Mind you, that's after I had to rip back one of the leafs and reknit it after I *ahem* made an error while watching Battlestar Galactica. A couple rows after taking that picture, just as the pattern was starting to come together for me, I tried it on and... couldn't get it over my heel. Horror. Dismay. Despair. Waah.

Options? Order duplicate needles in other sizes, finish knitting my other socks in progress (or continue knitting the other socks while waiting for duplicate needles...)or add more stitches - tricky because the ribbing on the cuff flows into the leaf pattern. I'm probably going to split the difference - finish my Wishbone Socks (closest to done and I don't want to go much larger on needle size) and add two stitches in the back or inside seam. Thoughts?

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Frogs in the Falls

I have bad news guys: I'm going to frog my Pfieffer Falls Hooded Scarf.
Look at how far I got! I knit the body of the scarf and the pockets (and seamed them!) and am at least halfway through the hood! That's when it became obvious that something was wrong: the hood is too small! Not the end of the world, I know, I could frog the hood and pick up more stitches and make it larger. Only, confronting that the hood is too small made me face something I hadn't wanted to admit to myself, that the fabric of the whole scarf is a little too stiff. It's not perfect and I don't love it.

This is when I know I'm a product knitter and not a process knitter, when the idea of finishing something I don't love, however much I want to love it, mires my feet in mud, weighs down my hands with stones, and tangles my needles in glop. If I don't love what I'm making, I just stop working on it. Worse, when I'm not willing to admit that I'm no longer in love with a project, rather than working on something else, I just don't knit. I've too many things to knit to let my needles languish like that, so it's time to face the facts and frog it.

Except my husband thinks that frogging is the worse thing that could ever happen to a knitter, her project, or her husband. When I confessed my intentions to him, he begged me to reconsider. He insisted that he would love and wear the scarf as-is (minus the unfinished hood) and please, please don't frog it. We've reached a compromise: I won't frog it (yet!). I will set it aside for now, and when I've had some time to reflect on things, I can start the scarf again with the yarn I still have (note to self - find rest of yarn) and then when I'm sure I'll love the reknit scarf the way I want to, then and only then can I unravel the existing scarf.

Friday, 16 March 2012

FO: Knotty Honeymoon Socks

Back in December I announced that my New Year's Resolutions would include learning new sock techniques. Yarn Harlot keeps pointing out that socks are a small canvas on which to practice (or show off) knitting techniques. Don't have time to commit to a fair isle sweater? Knit a pair of stranded socks! Want to play around with cables? We have sock patterns for that, too! But I specifically wanted to concentrate on the different ways of constructing socks: casting on, turning the heel, binding off. For my first socks I selected Nancy Bush's Knot Socks from Ann Budd's Sock Knitting Master Class and took them with me as my Honeymoon Knitting Project*.

The Knot Socks called for three techniques I'd not tried before: Double Start CO, Dutch or Square Heel, and Three Point Toe. I really like the Double Start CO. It creates a slightly decorative edge and the stitches cast on in pairs making it really easy to count and make sure one has the correct number of stitches before joining in the round. I absolutely love the Square Heel. The slip stitch "ribbing" extends through the short rows for turning the heel and offers a little extra padding and extra reinforcement to the heels. Cute and practical! I am less enamoured of the Three Point Toe. I knit a little long in the pattern so, rather than rip back, I increased the rate of decrease stitches and the three points come together under my toes. It's not uncomfortable, but I'm not aesthetically pleased. I'll try it again, starting the decreases when I'm supposed to, and see if I feel any more warmly toward it, but I predict in the future, should a pattern call for a Three Point Toe that I will be substituting a different one.

As for the cabled "knot" pattern, I'm not 100% satisfied. I felt like the cables were "cheating" and that a double-sided cable would have created the same effect but more in keeping with the illusion of plaiting four individual strands together. I'm sorry I can't explain it better than that. I didn't want to play around with the cables in the middle of knitting a pair of socks, but should I make these again, or knit something similar, I'll sort it out to my satisfaction.

I was also less than completely enthusiastic about the pattern being isolated on the front with the ribbing on the back of the leg. In a perfect work the knots could have been worked all the way around and then flown smoothly into the slip-stitch heel. I don't know how that would actually work with the heel, but my inner perfectionist wanted it. At the very least, I would've preferred that the extant ribbing flowed into the slip stitch heel.

These are not intended as criticisms of the designer or the pattern. I enjoyed knitting my socks and I enjoy wearing them (they're lilac btw, not the blue pictured though I like the blue more than the actual colour). I'm sorting my feelings out so that I know what I like, what does or doesn't feel "right" about a given design or construction. I prefer all-over designs; I prefer heels that flow from the pattern. I prefer a more complicated cable that follows rules I invented in my head to an easier to describe one that gives identical results. That leads me to my only deliberate modification: I mirrored the cables on the second sock to create a symmetrical pair.

~ * ~
* My husband talked me down to packing three pairs of socks to take on our honeymoon. I got through one Knot Sock and started the second. I consistently over-pack knitting projects.