Sunday, February 07, 2016

Jacinda, This is For You (And Anyone Else Who's Reading Along)

I don't think you ever saw "before", so we'll start there. You know we took a long weekend to NC, and accidentally bought a house. It needed love - still does need more love, but it's coming along. If it hadn't been for Rebekah it would be some slow going. Thanks to her help the biggest things that needed doing right away (carpet, paint) are done. The bigger things, like a new kitchen and removing a wall, adding lighting, changing up the footprint a bit - those things will wait for a year. For now I want it to be as pretty as it can be, and then I can take my time and live in it and decide how I want it to be in the end.
Without further ado, I present the "before":
 This is the "big bathroom". I initially wanted to paint out the cabinets, but you'll see later that a little hardware and a new color really made a huge difference. It's kind of a bummer that you can't see the whole wall - the light bar was a 1980's classic brass with 5 round lights. I fixed that just about first thing. It's a totally changed space now.

Den/living room. The fireplace is to the left, just out of frame. The hallway ahead leads into the bedrooms. It's really nice to be able to close off the sleeping area from the living area. 
Dining room empty, after they'd moved out. There's a picture below of it with furniture in it. I am too tired to reorder these pictures! 
Den that I am making a living room. Behind the shooter is the kitchen. If you could pan left, you'd see a door to the deck. Nice little deck. I got it a pressure washer the other day, so when it's a bit warmer I can wash it up and coat it with something durable. It overlooks a wooded brook-ish space. The bugs and birds and such make a racket - it's SO peaceful and sweet!   
 1963 called...they want their kitchen back. And I can't wait to send it along. Look familiar? Shades of Last Owned House, but with less Eau de Schnauzer. Built in cabinets, all too tall for me. Can't wait to get rid of this and start over. For now it just got a facelift.
 This was a formal living room - now it's just a big empty. It's going to be a dining room and an entry space in the future. Right now it's just empty/full of boxes.
Into the dining room from the kitchen...the table is back north, so for now this room is really a holding area for painted cabinet doors and craft room stuff.
Front entry - the closet to the left is on the deletion list. It will come out with the wall it's attached to - there's an "after" picture below that shows the wall from the living room side.
 The Master bedroom...very Carolina Blue, and looking tiny. 
This is the house itself. Mr. Wonderful always wanted a full brick house - now he's got one! The shutters need some work, and I want to pop color on the front door. I haven't decided what just yet. I am going to replace the solid door with one with some glass. First, it will bring more light into the entry/dining room area, and second I'll be able to see who's here. It also needs new light fixtures. The ones there are quite old and small. I want something with more presence, and more wattage.
So now I assume you're slightly curious about the "after". Really it is the "in progress", because there is still much, much to do. For now, it's livable and much cuter. Ready?
 This is the dining room, where nothing has changed except that the carpet is GONE and my plants are wallowing in southern exposure. It's become a staging area for boxes and such, sort of a catch all area. I am very glad we didn't wait and move everything at once. 
Living room with a facelift. When we pull out the kitchen and a wall and rejig the entry, the paneling will come down in here. For now, it has been transformed with color. Totally changes the feeling of the space. I have taken two shelves out of the built-in, and my plan is to finish it as an entertainment center. It's in process. I need an electrician for a couple of things, one of them is running an outlet into the built in so there's no visible cords on the outside.
Kitchen, phase one...the doors will go up this week. We wanted them up before Rebekah left so she could see it, but time just ran out. I am resting today (and blogging!) so it's on the menu for tomorrow. NONE of the old hinge holes are usable because I am swapping out the hardware. So I am in for a fun, fun time. Luckily, the door and drawer pulls go on easy.
 This is just my orchids. I got them at Ikea for cheap. They make me happy. And my crock pot, currently full of curry, because I can - Gene hates the stuff!
Another view of the fireplace - I love it so much. I had thought to cover it, paint it, re-tile it; something. But now that the wall color has changed, it pops and I won't change a thing except to add a gas or electric insert at some point. We won't burn here. Snakes love woodpiles, and snake here doesn't always mean cute little garter or corn snake. 
 Closer shot of the built-in in progress. Gene may have to get a bigger tv now to fill the space. I am sure he will be heart broken...
 Guest room - this was white and now is peachy. These floors are almost everywhere n the house, under all the carpet. Most are in AMAZING shape. I have some scrubbing of old paint in spots, but they mopped up beautifully on the first pass.
Office/Craft/Stamp room - this is the worst floor, and I am just going to leave it. Between our work chairs rolling all over, dogs scratching, my own potential paint and glue spills, it doesn't make sense to put money into this floor. I wanted to spatter paint it with all the colors from the rest of the house, and then poly it...but Rebekah convinced me not to. Kind of wish I had just done it, really!  
Master bedroom - still blue, but more like heron or hazy beach day. The linens and furniture will change this - for now it's just all gray velvet drapes and camel colored old bedding. The duvet is coming! The duvet is coming! And I can't wait to hang our art here. 
Big bathroom - total transformation with such simple steps! We painted it green, changed out the hardware, and changed the lighting fixture. I no longer feel the need to paint the vanity. This bathroom can sit as it is for a few years now. Initially it made me twitchy. Now I love it. 
See, just pretty. I LOVE the mirror, love the new lighting, and love that the hardware saved me from a long painting job. I took out almost all of the brass hardware, towel bar stuff. The toilet paper holder appears to have been attached with super glue, so it's staying. Luckily I can't really see it most of the time.
 Boys! And living room toward kitchen. To the left is the wall destined for deletion. The wall ahead is what the cabinets will look like when I get the doors on! 
Another look at the fireplace. I should have shut the shades. I have curtains and hardware, but I am not sure I want to hang them because I love the light. There's so little space on either side of the windows that I am afraid curtains will choke out the sun. 
This wall straight ahead, and the closet visible just beyond it are totally going. We will carry the hardwood from the dining/entry through the whole rest of the living space, create an entry space, and reno the kitchen. Just not this minute! If you look closely at this picture, you may notice something...new....
This is Violet (formerly Priscilla...I changed that). I went to PetSmrt one day and accidentally came home with a cat. Rebekah loves her. Yoshi loves her. Bradley is just scared of her, and won't make eye contact with her. He stands with his head down and shivers a little if she gets close. 

So, in a biggish nutshell, that's where we are at. Now for a little "memorable days" action, because you don't do the Facebook... 
This was the day we discovered what was under the (old and really gross) carpet. It was a very, very good day. And for the most part, they all look this good! 
This was the day I accidentally got a cat. Or actually a couple of days after. We let her adjust to the chaos by sticking her in the big bathroom for a few days before she met the boys.  
This was the day we bought an awful lot of paint at Lowe's. That was a day where I questioned my sanity. That's a lot of paint. 
 The day of these guys!! So, we were supposed to leave on a Friday, but then there was snow coming in, so we wanted to leave Wednesday. Problem was I'd gotten food poisoning on Sunday night and was still on rice and broth. Walt, Cindy, Rachel, Nathan and Rebekah came out on Wednesday morning and stuffed the truck. That meant Gene could work as much as possible to make up for the two days early departure. We left MA around 3pm Wednesday and drove till about 10, staying the night in PA, then drove to NC Thursday. We got here after dark. Our across the street neighbor was in our driveway before the truck was parked. I love him. He gave us directions to a Food Lion so Rebekah and I could shop before the storm. Once it started, everything stopped. Nothing was open, the roads were covered in ice and sleet. No plows, no sand, no salt after the initial "brine" that washed away in the first hour of the storm. It was an adventure, to be sure! 
The day I bought myself a lamp! I LOVE this. It's all mirrors and shells. Love love. 
The day I discovered that I probably should have stocked up on maple syrup before I left Dodge City. 
The day the luck ran out in hardwood land. The kitchen and living room side are a mix of 90's-ish vinyl and this...stuff. :P It's in great shape. And I am gonna rip it right out and make it hardwood one of these days! 
The day Violet got to see the rest of the house. She spent a couple of days in the bathroom, then a few more in the bedroom/hall area, and then was let loose. Curiosity, thy name is Violet. 
The day I realized we were commingling roller cages, lunch dishes, and putty knives, and I didn't even care one little bit. We JUST got here. And we've ripped 800 pounds of carpet and pad from 6 rooms, and prepped and painted six rooms. At this point, not much bothers me.
 The day these guys reminded me that they used to go for a walk EVERY DAY for THREE MILES, and hadn't done that more than twice since we got here. I took them today. They were most pleased.
The day that Yoshi admitted that he loves his kitty. We've referred to her as "your kitty" since she got here, and I am convinced that he believes she's really his. Brad remains terrified. 

That's the update in a really big nutshell. It's been amazing and fast and hard work. Rebekah is gone, and I've slowed down a bit. Still getting a lot done, just at a more controlled pace because now I have the time. The big stuff is done - big furniture bought and assembled, big carpet and paint jobs done. Now it's stuff I can do alone - put the cabinet doors back on, I did pop in a bit of trim on one wall where the carpet removal revealed a big gap between the floor and the wall, I still have the office/craft room to finish up with shelves and the addition of my stuff, and curtains to hang. Then I can move on to repainting shutters and cleaning up the yard. I'm hoping to get chicks, but they need a shed, and am hoping to build a pedestal for the washer and dryer we just bought. And a garden - we need to decide where it is going to go, and break some ground SOON, before it's tomato time! Comes early here.

More as we go along, but for now, this is where I am at - and I am thrilled to be here! 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Punishment or Consequence?

About two years ago now, I think it was, I walked into my doctor's office just a month shy of my first 5K race with a calf about 10cm bigger than it's nearest neighbor, and a pain that went from what I called my hip down to my foot; sometimes sharp, sometimes numb, always there and always uncomfortable. My calf was particularly painful, waking me up in the middle of the night. I'd start every morning limping, then force myself to keep a stable gait as I headed out for a run. The run would be a limping disaster. I'd crawl home, blaming myself for this obvious weakness of personality or character that made me too wimpy to run. Before this happened, I was averaging 8-9 minutes a mile on a lazy day - not bad for an old lady new to the sport, who'd spent her whole life insisting running was torture, only to discover it's really near-heaven when those endorphins kick in. I was proud of what I'd done - I was a couch to 5K success, and I had plans, baby, plans! First a 5K, then 10, then the World (literally, Disney Princess Half Marathon, which I thought would be a fantastic birthday present to myself). My doctor, a former runner herself, shook her head and said "You've got a pretty severe calf strain, and some problems with your SI joint...this one feels loose, and that's probably putting pressure on your sciatic nerve which is causing the leg pain...or it could be priformis...." She drifted off and looked kind of sad, which made me say the words I needed to say - "Can I run again?"

The answer, she strongly felt, was no.  She referred me for pt and recommended I learn to swim, which I did. I swam a mile or two a day for over a year, until we moved here (where the pool at my gym just doesn't do it for me). But when she said "No" to running, although I think I heard it, and I know I SAID it out loud to more than one person (including, but not limited to, a drunken sob-fest in my back yard around a fire in which I begged my daughter in law to run "for me, because you can..."), I really didn't accept it. I sought alternatives. I rested and iced and compressed and elevated. Over and over. I went through a course of PT. I saw a host of people from spine to sports med and back again. I was x-rayed, prodded, poked, MRI'd, and massaged. I did two rounds of pt, following the instructions to a T. Every now and then I'd throw a run into a walk, just a short jog. Or on vacation I would run from coaster to coaster. Or maybe find an excuse to run across a parking lot. Anything to try. Every time I'd get hit with pain, and every time I'd tell myself I was an idiot. Stupid. Slow learner. Any negative thing I could throw at me.

Then came the bargaining with God: "Lord, just let me run, and I'll do whatever you want. I don't even want to win. I just want to run." or "Why can't I run? Is it because my running doesn't glorify You? Then show me HOW to do that, and I will! ANYTHING!! JUST LET ME RUN!!". This, of course, then turns into the self-loathing voice of the enemy "You suck. That's why God won't let you run. Because you are a horrible human being, and not worthy of running. You suck. You're weak. You're worthless. That's why."

Over and over and over.

I've sat on the hill here and watched the end of 5K's with a rock of bitterness in my heart. I've thought mean things about women who look about my age who run by, all thin and smiling. I wanted to smack them, steal their shoes, and RUN AWAY. RUN. Just let me RUN, GOD WHY CAN'T I RUN?

All this time it's been about punishment. I have, obviously, pissed God off SO much and He is SO mad at me that He is going to just stab me in the ass (literally) and chew on my calf until I have been punished thoroughly. Because it's all about me, and all about my failures, and all about my weakness of character.

But.

What if I am wrong? What if there's a bigger purpose to my NOT running than to my running? What if my not-running has led me down a path that I never otherwise would have followed, and brought me to people and places I never would have come to know? What if I'd never met Ann at the Y in Greenfield, who's 83 and mostly blind and swims every day? Or John, my favorite life guard? Or Marcia, who's Dad was also a Mason, and who taught me to swim in the first place? What if I'd never been compelled by the lack of running to fill the space with strength training and dancing lessons, and met Caitlan at the gym and Angel at dancing school? I love those people and I love that I've met them.

This weekend Gene and I were slated to walk Grumpy's Cranberry Harvest 5K. And when I say walk, I mean walk. I was all prepared to avoid temptation. I chose a "race" that had a clear "walker-friendly" vibe. I ate a big breakfast, and drank coffee, and topped that with the cranberry chocolate bar out of my swag bag just before we started. I never eat before I run. I wore my super baggy pants and enough layers for a fall morning walk - but WAY too many for a run. I wore my weakest, lamest sports bra. I took Gene with me - a man who's life motto is "Gene No Run". We crossed the start line and I was set in my head for a relaxed 5K walk. No big. I can do this.

But then the day seemed too perfect, and the substrate was so blissful (soft dirt and sand, not concrete or blacktop which have particularly been forbidden me) and I thought "Maybe I can get Gene to just jog a little...not a real run...". I pointed out this little kid that was ahead of us and said "We can totally take him if we just jog a little...." We alternated jogging and walking, passing specific targets.. Girl with pony tail. Lady in tutu. And so on. Each time I'd think I should stop, there'd be another target on the horizon, one more person to pass. This went on until I felt a familiar snap and a sharp zing from my calf up to my butt , or from my butt to my calf - one or the other or both? Calf strain, or sciatica? Who knows. I slowed to a walk. I walked backward up the hill toward the end.

As we approached the line I just couldn't do it - I let go and I ran. Not full throttle, but enough to send my leg into a very dark place. I crossed the line, walked around a little, and laid down on the pavement to try and stretch out my SI joint, relieving the pressure on the piriformis, and sending sensations of a slightly better nature down to my foot. Sunday I checked my calf  - only a half a centimeter bigger than it's neighbor. Since then I've rested, cancelled plans for a long drive, stretched, foam rolled, stretched some more, strength trained the things that didn't irritate it, and so on. It will be a week or so before I feel up to a full 3 mile walk with the boys, if I am careful. It will be longer before I have any desire to sit for more than five minutes! So now I pay the fiddler for my short, short dance in the November sunshine.

I've pondered gratitude a lot since Saturday. I am so grateful for having been there, proud for having tried, thrilled that Gene jogged with me a little (even if Gene No Run). It was a beautiful day, and I am so grateful to God for it. Maybe a little bitter watching women my age smile and laugh and take their prizes, knowing that a couple of years ago I ran that fast if I worked at it, knowing I could have at least kept pace with them, but mostly, overall, grateful.

This morning as we headed out for our walk, about half of our usual 3 mile loop, I warned the boys that it would be a short one. I said, out loud, "Sorry, boys, but mommy was stupid Saturday, and now she's got to pay for that."

And I heard a still small voice inside of me, the one I have come to recognize as God, whisper "No. Mommy challenged herself this weekend, and now she is experiencing the consequences of that."

It is amazing how God can, in one millisecond, change years of wrong perspective. I'm not being punished. I'M BEING GROWN!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Playing Tourist Again

First I wish to announce that the winner of the FREE copy of Judith Durant's One Skein Wonders for Babies book is.... Nadine Foster! (thank you random number generator!) I will be on touch soon to get your details so I can ship it out to you. Congratulations, and enjoy knitting for the wee ones in your life! 

We decided before we came here that we would take every opportunity of stuffing ourselves with as much of Massachusetts as we possibly could, knowing that we will probably move on from here to places unknown. And having never lived in the eastern part of the state, there's a lot of things we've never seen or done that I've always wanted to see and/or do. 

For example, I have always wanted to see a cranberry harvest. I have seen them on television before, but that's just not the same as BEING there.

This weekend was Columbus Day weekend, and there were festivals and celebrations a-plenty.  At the Cranberry Harvest Festival, hosted by A.D. Make peace Company (the world's largest cranberry grower!), there were activities, samples, crafters, and food trucks galore! There was live music, and a ton of things for kids to do from free pony rides to dry harvesting of cranberries and making your own take-home "bog in a cup". For bigger kids there were beer and wine tastings, and helicopter tours for a reasonable $50 per adult. The event encompasses two areas - the Frogfoot bog where the harvesting takes place, and the farm where the majority of vendors were camped out. 

After we paid our $10 per adult entry fee, we followed the map to the bus loading area bound for the bog. We boarded old-school yellow buses (flashback!) and headed into the unknown (or the woods, whichever). After a short ride we popped off of the bus outside of a barn containing a variety of cranberry related merchandise and a display of the photography of Robert "Grumpy" Conway. Conway was a longtime employee of the A.D. Make peace Company, and a nature lover and amateur photographer. There is even a race held annually in his honor - Grumpy's Harvest 5K Walk/Run - the proceeds of which go to the Cranberry Educational Foundation's Scholarship Fund. We bought some fresh raw cranberries - two pounds of them. They look amazing. It's not like I haven't seen cranberries before. I mean, I was born and reared in Massachusetts. But these berries look NOTHING like the ones found in the produce department in November.
They are full and bright and bursting with goodness. I can't wait to make them into something, although I have developed a habit for them au natural now, too. I ate about a cup of them by the end of the bog experience.

The Frogfoot Bog area hosts a bunch of activities and educational opportunities. We started with a ride around a bog in a tractor-drawn trailer; think hay-ride sans hay.
We got a great education about the berries and their history - cranberries are native to Massachusetts - about as native as it gets. The Wampanoag's taught the Europeans about them. They were essential as a food source, and were recognized medicinally as well. There are bogs in Massachusetts that have vines that are as old as 150 years.  A farmer rarely has to start a new bog in this part of the country, because the vines and bogs are well established. The berry requires specific conditions to grow, both in terms of the substrate they prefer to the climate, and while Massachusetts may be the home of the cranberry, they are now grown as far away as Canada and Oregon - although we, of course, still grow the majority of them.

Bogs are not water-filled during the growing season, and the berries do not grow in water. Rather, the water is allowed to flow into the bogs for harvest, so that the fruit can be parted from their vine hosts, and then the berries are rounded up and floated, then pulled into a giant vacuum (for lack of a better term). 
The water from that bog is then drained to the next, and the process is repeated. As the berries are lifted from the water by vacuum and hoisted onto a conveyor system, the water from the process is returned to the bog. 
I was surprised by the water conservation involved in cranberry harvest. Rather than "flushing it all down the can" so to speak, the machinery is all arranged in a way, and the bank tarped, so that as much water returns to the bog as possible. 

I love the process - berries released from their moorings, rounded up and sucked up, conveyed up and into waiting trucks, and on and on until the bog is empty and the next ready to be filled with water and beaten. My favorite part probably involved the handfuls of cranberries I got to munch down.
I've decided I like them better than raw rhubarb, and I like raw rhubarb pretty well. Maybe it's a tie.

Today, the conveyor - tomorrow a can of cranberry sauce on your Thanksgiving table. Thank your farmers. The guy who led our tour sells half of his berries to Ocean Spray and half to a farmer's co-operative. Literally, I may have seen berries that Gene will be snarfing down from a can in a few weeks. He does love his cranberry sauce (canned, jellied - not whole berry - and with the understanding that one can is one portion).

After we watched the wet harvest operation we took a short break for lunch. I had a disappointing cup of indifferent soup that tasted less like butternut and more like leftover macaroni and cheese. I ditched it after the first couple of bites. But I did get free Crasin samples from Ocean Spray, and a sample of their new cranberry tangerine juice.
And Gene had a fried sausage with peppers and onions.
Sometimes being an 80% vegetarian and 100% gluten free stinks - today was one of those times. At festivals I have a hard time finding anything other than french fries. No gluten, no meat...way too confusing. I am always glad when Gene pulls out the kettle corn.

Did I mention the free samples? Ocean Spray was giving away a stack of sample sized bags of various dried cranberry based snacks. Love a freebie. AND you got to build your "bog in a cup" here, too, layering rock and sand and adding a sprig of cranberry vine on top.

Also, Bigelow Tea was there with their Big Tea Bar handing out samples of hot tea and a bag to take home for later.
I got the Thin Mint tea (tastes just like the cookie!) and Gene got his favorite Pomegranate Green. I also tweeted from their and won a prize - a "tea-shirt"!

Then we went and saw dry harvesting - or more accurately, participated in dry harvesting.
Most of the berries in the supermarket bags are harvested this way. Instead of flooding the bog with water, then beating and rounding up the berries, in dry harvesting they are pulled from the vines with rake-ended collection devices, sort of like the Maine blueberry harvesting tools of yore.
We got to walk onto the bog, and experience dry harvest first hand. Kids loved this. I preferred to find a quiet spot and grab a handful and reflect on the humble berry that has probably saved countless lives, and assisted in the development of this country in ways we really don't fully appreciate.

We returned to the farm via shuttle bus, and wandered among vendors and displays and demonstrations. Johnson and Wales gave cooking demonstrations. One chef made a lovely seasonal plate featuring short ribs, kale with cranberry and pecans, and a root veg puree with a lovely little butternut pickle that I really loved. I was too far back in the pack to get the kale. He also lauded the glories of the VitaMix, which I also adore - AND I found out that any pan that a magnet can stick to can be used on an induction burner. So if I wanted to experience induction, I can buy a single burner and slap my cast iron on it just to try it out. Tempting.

We sampled some strange botanical teas from Vermont, a nice selection Vermont cheeses, and some wine from Westport Rivers Winery (may I recommend the Cinco Caes?). Then I found RIPE. They make craft juices. They also make craft bar juice. They were giving away sample bottles of both. As a general rule I do not drink juice. I don't like the extra wasted calories, I don't like that it usually is watered down or sugared up. This isn't that kind of juice. The cold pressed (never heated, never pasteurized, fresh, fresh, fresh) cranberry apple was just stunning and pure and fiberful and amazing. Madly in love. I also got a sample of 100% cranberry - nothing added! No sugar, just cranberry juice! We did get some Agave Margarita bar juice as well, but I've got no idea when we'll use it (we have 75-80 days, according to the website). We did taste a sample and it was pretty amazing, and there are recipes, both virgin and not so much virgin.

In all this was just a really fun day, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Between the free samples and the cran-u-cation, and the Johnson and Wales demo, and the oysters (I forgot about that - so there's these oysters around here from Big Rock Oyster Co in Harwich and they are just wicked freaking amazingly delicious and are probably the BEST oysters I have ever had in my life and I have eaten a lot of oysters - I've been stalking these guys at every festival and event all summer, and I got an invite to visit the farm and get a tour and learn to shuck!!) and the requisite kettle corn and sausage and pepper and onion thing (which has become a thing since Dad died and Gene now thinks it's his job to eat all the sausage that Dad would if he were still here) it was a really great day. If you're ever local to Wareham on Columbus Day weekend, I highly recommend it!

Next post maybe there will be some knitting or at least something handcraft-y. It's fall here and so easy to get lost in the season. The last hurrah before the long winter ahead. We're told it snows less here. But after last winter, I am not sure I believe.


Monday, October 05, 2015

BOOK GIVEAWAY!

I am gonna give it away, yes I am, one copy of this sweet book from Storey Publishing, edited by Judith Durant, featuring a collection of charming, knittable patterns for babies and toddlers - all using just one skin of yarn! 

Because there was a mix-up in shipping, I have an extra copy of this adorable book. And while I had no intention of parting with my own copy, I am willing to let the second one go. So we will have a giveaway. This contest (if you can call it that) will end one week from today - Monday October 12 at 6pm EST. Comment on this post and one random winner will be drawn - one entry per reader, please! You have a week (and about 46 minutes). Comment away! And be sure to tell all your knitting friends, so they can have a chance as well!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Babies, Babies, Babies.

I do love a good baby knit. So when Judith Durant and Storey Publishing came knocking, asking for submissions to her latest "101" book, I was all about it. Happily my submissions were chosen, which means I get a copy of the book to review, and I get to see my name in print again - always a fun thing - and YOU get to see this blog post in which I review "One Skein Wonders for Babies"!

First let's talk about me. I have two patterns in this book. The first is a lovely little sweater set called "Birthday Baby" that I designed with one of our grandbabies in mind. (FOUR! We have FOUR grandbabies now!). It's a pretty simple knit and would make an excellent gift for any new little one. It knits up quickly from the top down, and I personally love it. The basic design is my go-to for new babies, and I alter the pattern stitch on the body and sleeves as desired - for this occasion I chose a textured ribs sort of pattern, but you could change it up pretty easily to a lace pattern, or even a cable if you're using a solid colored yarn.
My second design for this book is "Wee Britches", a pair of (conveniently, for this purpose, color-coordinating) footless tights or pants. I find them adorable, a quick little knit, and so useful on their own, or for layering in colder weather. I sometimes knit a bootie into the leg to create footed tights, but for this incarnation there's no foot on the tights, just TOES! Who doesn't love baby toes?
 Now about the book - true to the "One Skein" series, this book is conveniently sized, 287 pages long, and has a comprehensive glossary of knitting terms, and a useful chart of abbreviations inside the back cover. The patterns run a wide range and are organized into chapters - "Little Tops", "Little Bottoms" and so forth. But don't think it's just tops and bottoms - there's the sweetest little hats, some completely adorable toys, and a host of accessories and blankets. 
If you've got babies about, or have babies on the way, or just like to knit things for babies that may show up someday (because they're so fun to knit for!), this is a great little book to add to your knitting library. Like all of the One Skein books, the yarn commitment is low, which makes it perfect for those times when you're left pondering what to do with this or that single ball.

In other review-type news...It's not a secret that I am kind of an obsessive dog mom, is it? I mean, the boys are a huge part of my life. Last year when Gene was "out here" and I was "back there", a lot of my life revolved around these dogs. Some days they were my only reason to get up in the morning. Have to get up. Have to walk the boys. Have to get moving. Have to walk the boys. Walking the boys has it's ups, but it also has some downs. Last year I dropped a leash on an ice cold day when I couldn't feel my fingers. That led to the acquisition of a wide nylon belt that I could run the leash handles through so that there would be no more inadvertant dropping incidents. But that led to another issue - two leashes around my waist, one two feet longer than the other. Constant juggling and tangling and occasional tripping was the outcome. But then last week at a Scallop Festival in Bourne, I ran across The Black Leash, a small company that hand makes nautical rope leashes and horse leads, handcrafted leather products, and reflective collars. They had a double dog leash that I fell in love with. It looked a little bit like this:
Except that the rope was thicker, and the leash latches were both swivel hooks of polished brass. I loved the idea, but I had reservations. Yoshi once managed to get the thumb press part of a convention leash latch open. I'd only had him for a couple of days, and I nearly lost him. He was torn - woods. New mom. Woods. New mom. It was a terrifying minute, and if a truck or car had come tearing down the road, he would have been gone. He did not like motor vehicles. Since then I refuse to walk him with a conventional swivel hook, preferring a trigger type mechanism - and even then I am edgy about it. 
You may have figured out by now that I got a leash, right? I mean, all the pictures, it's kind of a dead giveaway. I got a leash all right - a custom leash, just for me, made to my specific needs! Bradley has a convention swivel hook of bronze - harder than iron! - and Yoshi... Yoshi has a high speed Kong Frog cable connector, rated to suspend mountain climbers in thin air without dropping them. 
One hopes this is sufficient to put my mind at rest. 
And it mostly is...now I can worry about his collar links snapping, instead. I LOVE this leash! I had it made 5' long, rather than 6' which is what a "normal sized" person might use. It has a second "handle" about halfway down so that I can grab them closer if I need to. The two separate leash ends work perfectly - Yoshi generally is on the inside and Brad on the outside as we walk. There is no tangling. The only problem I had, and it wasn't really a problem, just a user error, was when both boys were going potty....one finished, and I didn't realize that I needed to stop the "finished" dog from trotting off, dragging the "not yet done" dog off balance. But now that mommy has gotten smarter, we're well past that, and I simply. LOVE. This. Leash! 

I started knitting with the Plymouth Knitters Group, which meets once a week, and knits items for the Plimoth Plantation interpreters - the folks who wander around the village in 17th century garb, speaking as if they'd just fallen off a boat from 1620. (For fun, ask them a question to which the answer is "zombies". The word didn't exist! It's fun to ask modern questions and get answers from a completely different time)
I am knitting a waistcoat. The yarn is spun by Harrisville and is called New Plimoth Worsted and I love it. The patterns used to create garb for the 17th century village are from a book called "Knitted Garb - Inspired by Originals: Designs for Plimoth Plantation and Beyond". The book is a labor of love and a collaboration between The Weavers' Guild of Boston and The Greater Boston Knitting Guild. It included 12 patterns, ranging from stockings and garters to waistcoats and caps, mittens and gloves - everything a chilly Pilgrim might need for the beginning of a mini ice age. There are no knitting patterns as we know them from that time period, but there are some examples of garments or pieces of garments from which patterns had been extrapolated. This book brings those patterns together and standardizes the language, streamlines the directions, and makes the items knittable by a modern knitter. 
Today we are peacefully diffusing Young Living oils - Abundance and Envision. It's delicious in here, with a little breeze outside reminding me that summer is waning. Yoshi is resting at my feet and I am FINALLY knitting my Tilted Duster - Interweave 2007. That's how long I've held on to this yarn and pattern. Since 2007. And finally now I can make the thing - hopefully while there's still enough fall left to appreciate it.
I am loving the pattern. Not sure how I feel about the yarn, and I think I would like to remake it in something plied. I am just not a single ply fan - unless we are talking about Silk Garden or Kureyon, but that's Noro and so falls into a different category. Noro is the exception to every rule.

Hope you had an excellent weekend!