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This Blocking Controversy

 


Its crazy but the knitting community has gone through serious infighting over the last few years, sometimes over very serious matters such as racism and inclusivity. I don't feel that any of these matters have been resolved or improved at all, but I could be wrong. This week the issue has been one of less gravity, but still important to me because its has been an issue in my knitting skills for a long time.

Blocking.

For the non-knitters, blocking is the process in which you lay out and shape your finished garment, ensuring the colorwork or fabric texture is shown to its greatest advantage. A few days ago a well-known knitting pattern designer tweeted a short rant: Your project is not finished til it's blocked properly. Don't show your unblocked lace and say you're packing it up as a gift. 

The knitters in Twitter did not recieve this "knitsplaining" very well, and I admit it annoyed me as well. Not only did I not follow this woman (thank you hashtags) but have long been irritated by the handful of designers that take to Twitter to rant about their customers. Her vagebook-style message thrown blindly in the twitterverse landed on hundreds of knitters who do not deserve her criticism. To be fair, she did apologize, but not without the usual wishy washy poor-me messages about how cruel people were to her. 

From the start of my knitting journey up to just a few years ago, blocking was mystifying and frustrating to me. Google searches gave me numerous different answers on how to block my sweaters and lace. Attempts at each one of them gave me varying results. And I really wasn't interested in buying wires, mats and pins to add to my collection of supplies that I truck around the world. I resorted to pinning my sweaters, on top of a towel, on my husband's side of the mattress while he was away on business trips!

Later I discovered the top of my hope chest provided almost enough room and firmness to pin and shape one item at a time, and I've stuck with that method since. If I exemplify the majority of knitters, it means that figuring out how to soak and block is a confusing and difficult process in learning this craft. Criticism IS NOT appreciated, even if you have it all figured out.

For the record, I soak my finished item in a steel bowl filled with tepid water for at least 20 hours. Removing it carefully, I roll the item into a big beach towel to remove moisture, then take a fresh towel to cover my blocking pad (see above). Then, I carefully shape my knit on top of that and pin it at the desired shape, leaving it there until its dry. 

And I don't care what R says about when to show your creation- Its done when you think its done!



Three Little Things for Thursday


 It's a dreary rainy day here in Virginia, but I'm glad I get to snuggle up with some of my favorite things. I'm a big fan of my mother's quilts, worsted weight yarn projects, and I'm back on a green tea kick lately. 

Today I just thought it would be nice to dedicate a post to just three little things. Any little thing, as I'm not in the mood to think up a category. 

  • On The Needles I'm starting up a pretty colorful neckwarmer/cowl called Moonwake, designed by Andrea Mowry, to use up some mini skeins I recieved in a subscription box. It was crazy of me to think I needed a monthly delivery of rando yarn, and it only took me a few shipments to realize this wasn't for me. So yesterday I laid out all the yarn I've held onto on the floor and sorted it by weight, and I plan on knitting up as much of it as I can over the next four months. 

I'm thinking mitts with scandinavian designs, some cowls and intricate winter hats...I also pulled out my one WIP that has been hibernating for a few months, the Reina de Picas top by Valentina Bogdanova. It's always been a wish of mine to attempt one of her lacy beautiful sweaters, and after I finished the trickiest part-the lace yoke-I just stalled.

  • On My Mind The boys just finished another semester of school and its just a relief to see them do well. Even Nate, who tested the art of procrastination this term!! did really well. Philip had his courses readjusted for next year so he can take French and stay on track to study Mechanical Engineering someday. And last night we attended the military recruitment event at his school and learned allllllll about the application and selection process for the military academies. He shook hands, asked questions, and recieved some pretty awesome information about how to achieve his goals. I'm proud of these kids. 

  • On The Horizon Its time to start thinking about our summer plans, summer camps, travel plans, and getting home somehow to visit family. My deep winter retreat with Mom in Freeport -NETA SPA- was cancelled this year and that stinks because I dearly value and need that time with Mom. Its a long weekend where I get her alllllll to myself, and we dine and drink and talk talk talk. And I usually come home to find the boys were up to shenanigans, enjoying a bit of time away from me. I'm just looking forward to getting back "home" and hanging out with Mom this summer. And the rest of our family is cool too. 

I'm also discovering all the interesting things we can do on weekends or long weekends from our future home in Luxembourg. This week I got a map (it helps me, I know I'm ancient) and a journal to start writing down destinations and activities that the kids would like. We were worried that they would get sick of castles and wineries, so I'm finding out about all these incredible fun outdoor adventures we may have. Ever since our time in Bangkok, I also really like finding places to shop, explore and eat that maybe aren't quite as popular as other places. So far, I found a little town that's not even marked on the map that is in a valley of waterfalls! You can hike all around them, and chill out in the town that is away from most of the tourist spots. I can't wait!



Working Through Sleeve Island Amid Friend Drama




 
I've been thinking a lot lately about the kinds of friends we meet in our lifetime. We move so often that we are constantly finding new friends, developing different kinds of relationships, and sometime unfortunately leaving behind people that don't remain true friends at all.

Sometimes you don't see the red flags until its too late. And sometimes you see them almost immediately. This last year was the former- we made friends that we thought we would love forever, but learned too late that we were replaceable. Last week I saw the proof: a photo posted on social media of four smiling women, on a girls' trip, and I was not there. It stung, and for a day I couldn't remember what it felt like to feel joy.

The greatest coping mechanism I have in my toolbox came out to play the next day: gratitude. It was hard to tune out my feelings of hurt and rejection, but I embraced the good things I had all around me. I chatted with my family. I bought a disgustingly large amount of girl scout cookies. I baked something that smelled incredible for my kids' dinner. I snuggled our big smelly dog. I watched game shows and shouted at the TV with my husband. I made plans to decorate for the next holiday. All the things that brought me joy, I savored and walked away from the things and people that did not.

So I suppose this post is my attempt to close the book or turn the page on this sad chapter and start anew. I've been thinking quite a bit upon all that's happened and I've come up with two lessons learned:
1. Its ok to walk away from the people who have hurt you and not look back.
2. People who speak badly of others are telling you more about who they truly are.

ok maybe 3
3. I'm a really bad liar.


 



WIP Wednesday

Its always bittersweet when the boys go back to school. I love the peace and quiet and uninterrupted time I get to take care of chores, errands and calls. I hate the worries it raises about the boys going off for the day. The older they are, the worries become stronger: are they getting along with their classmates? Are they respectful of their teachers? Are they safe on the bus? Are they happy?

Yesterday we were shopping in Target and my oldest suddenly became very anxious to leave. He had christmas gift cards to spend, and had decided to use them all on a great set of headphones. However, before we finished shopping he wanted nothing more than to leave. Quickly.

It turns out he spotted a student that he seriously disliked, and explained to me later that the boy's friend had pushed one of his friends almost down a flight of stairs at school. And I could see he was mad. It was the first time I had heard ANY details or hint of high school strife and fights. It made me realize how much in the dark you can really be when raising kids, no matter how close you are to them. And we are really close.



 In the mornings after the boys get on the bus or on their bikes to go to school these things run through my mind.

Its relaxing to return to these projects as well, and although it slows me down I've been switching between the Whitmoor Sweater and my Seaglass Tee. Both are mindless knitting, but have been beautiful to watch as they grow so they are very rewarding!

My dearest hope was to have these ready to wear at NETA SPA in Freeport this February, but with Omicron spreading so much, I may only get to model them at home or at my parents' farm for some very uninterested cows. 

moo



My Finished 2021 Projects

 

Happy New Year!!
It certainly was a wild one. It was also my sixth year as a stay-at-home mom, which was EXTREMELY helpful since the boys spent the previous school year mostly remote. Maybe on a later post I'll think through some of the learning experiences I have had in the last year, but for now let's keep it positive with a knitting post!

In regards to knitting, I've come a long way in the past year. I've learned that I tend to be braver about wearing my handknits when I have more amassed.  So I definitely amassed them.  Its hard to count how many I've made in my life, as they're scattered everywhere around the house right now, but it would be approximately a dozen.

I've learned to stick to the colors I love to hold in my hands, not the colors that are on trend or what any color quiz predicts I should wear. 

So here are my precious handmade items of 2021, clockwise from top right:

  • Pagan Sky Sweater by Zanete Knits: I love wearing this softy as its made from baby alpaca yarn my husband shopped for and carried home from Peru. He's sweet like that.
  • Untangled Crop designed by Handmade Closet: I JUST picked up the Flying Fibers Yorkshire Medley and Rosy Green Wool at New York S&W Festival in October and got straight to work on this!
  • Kira Slipover (in the center) designed by Monique Chan: Such a pretty finished vest, from Periwinkle Sheep Highland Wool on Cloudborn Fibers Highland
  • Hinterland by Jennifer Steingass: I believe this is the third design of hers that I've knit and I used a bundle of minis from Dancing Leaf Fiberworks that were perfect for this yoke
  • Sorrel Sweater by Wool & Pine Designs: I cannot lie, I am a HUGE fan of Kim Dyes Yarn, a local indie dyer. This was made with her Brioche DK.
That wraps up last year! Its just thrilling to lay out the squishy soft sweaters I've made and see that they represent a fantastic variety of independent knitting designers and yarn dyers alike. Its easy to grow fond of your tried and true favorites, but not hard to stretch out and support new creators as well. Going forward, I really hope to test out new designers and I still have a cabinet full of yarn to do it!




Why I've Gone Crazy for Shakshouka

Welcome back, my funny little blog! I never believed I would attempt blogging again, until we entered this endless pandemic. I kept reading advice on how to weather the ups and downs, the changing situations our society is undergoing and one suggestion stood out to me: start a journal.

Since the month of March it all began (for us) I have failed to write down a single word, and now those days where we remained completely at home, struggling to get the boys through remote school, being incredibly PAINFULLY distant from the rest of our family, feels like a foggy memory. We're in such a different world now; a place where we take a test before going to a Thanksgiving gathering and friends alert us when they've had contact with someone infected so we can watch our symptoms and act accordingly.

So this Christmas when we were making our wishlists I had a big request: I wanted a tablet and keyboard so that I may get back to sharing my thoughts and experiences on here. With three years in Luxembourg in our future, I'm hoping to get away from Instabragging and Facegarbling, and get more into sharing helpful travel hints and experiences. 

But back to the present. 

Our family has since relocated to Northern Virginia, right in the middle of the pandemic, and has settled in despite all the challenges. We found a great place to live, right on the cusp of horse country, great schools and activities for the boys, and a wonderful group of friends for ourselves. Myles the diplodog is still limping around, and doesn't realize he's in his elder years at all yet. In fact, with a daily stream of anti-inflammatories and CBD treats, he's living his best life.

One of the things I love the most about living here are the incredible Thai and Vietnamese restaurants that are plentiful out in the burbs. Its also fantastic to live in a diverse community, and we are just 10-15 minutes away from two international food markets. I really like to explore with food, and my current fave flavors are garam masala and anything sweet yet spicy. Its easy to cook healthier meals without becoming bored when you can change the recipe with a few special ingredients, and I'm always keeping in mind that my husband prefers things spicy/hot, whereas I favor spicy/flavorful.

Which brings me to shakshouka, which I've read is a Tunisian and Isreali dish that is absolutely delicious. The base of this stew-like meal is a simple combination of simmered tomatoes, peppers and onion with flavorful spices and eggs dropped in to poach lightly. My husband had it once over the summer and I've been obesssed with recreating it ever since. The best part is that the base is simple and delicious already- all you have left to do is season or tweak it the way you like. So Mr. Spicy/Hot can get exactly what he likes, and I do too!

I don't have an exact recipe that I follow anymore, but you can find a great version here:


Now that I have my trusty skillet, I have a few ideas for creating some delicious twists on this that will help us eat healthy and fresh:

  • This morning I seasoned the tomatoes with garam masala, salt, chili pepper, cumin and garlic. When it reached a boil I turned down the heat and added diced potato and chopped fresh kale. After the eggs were finished, I topped the dish with a tiny bit of crumbled bacon, chopped cilantro and some avocado.
  • Sriracha and green peppers with a side of steamed bok choy?
  • Season with Sofrito soup base, cumin and chili powder and top the finished dish with a crumble of cotijo cheese
  • Add fresh spinach, zuchini noodles or top with microgreens for crunch

With a side of toasted whole-grain bread to soak up the juices, this meal is always satisfying and filled with nutrition. I'm just hoping this will help us recover from all our holiday indulgences. With New Years Eve just a few days away, I thought we'd focus on some healthier habits so we're all in high spirits for 2022!
 



If You Were To Ask Me

If you see me around, I hope you don't see anything to be concerned about. There's not much reason for me to not be smiling. I feel full of hope, energy, and most of the time motivation. There are some major events coming up, including my husband coming home for a few weeks, a major exam or two, a beach getaway, and of course my first half marathon. Finally.

These are pretty much the fuel I am using to get through each day. If you add that with the love and companionship of my boys, my friends, and my family, you can be sure that I will get through this. But its not always easy.

If you were to guess that is not the entire story, you would be correct.

If you were to ask me what is on my mind I would tell you I'm frustrated and worried. We have only half a year left in Thailand, and don't know where we are going next. We submitted our "wish list" back in August, and watched some of our favorite spots drop from the list week by week. And still no word for us. But I am trying to be patient and flexible. It isn't easy though, when you are anticipating moving a family, dog, all your posessions and career to a completely different country. There are questions about renting a house, buying a car, locating schools, locating job openings. Imagine doing that every three years, and not until about a month or two before you actually move. Yuh.

If you were to ask me what is on my mind I would tell you I'm a little heartsick. Both my boys are doing well in school, but both get frustrated easily and lash out. I call it the "mountains out of molehills" effect, because most of the time they are just fine. They make friends. They're happy. They are always in good moods at home. However, if someone cuts in front of them, bumps into their table, you name it-they lose their cool. But only at school. I wish they could tell me why. I wish I could help them, but I can't be there all the time. I wish I knew what leads to this negativity and anger, but I do the best I can to support them and work with them.

If you were to ask me what is on my mind, and have a little more time to spare, I would tell you I'm nervous. Two years of an unaccompanied tour is something challenging to adjust from. I build walls when my husband is gone so I can cope. Some people let their feelings flow, but I just cant do that. So I embrace having that "stiff upper lip" and soldier on until we are through. The walls have to come down though, when he returns to us, and thats hard. Its good at the same time. Yet, its not always smooth, and sometimes you worry if you have any feelings left at all.

In the end, I would tell you that this is all alright. We chose this, and I would rather have these challenges and always have the unknown twist around the next corner. We are fortunate, and as tough as I get inside, I never stop thinking that. I'm lucky to have such a wonderful life and such loving family.