Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Knit me a sweater!

I remember mentioning last summer (I'm too lazy to look it up and link to it) that I wanted to try new things with knitting and crocheting.  And I have been.

After spending a couple of decades knitting scarves, I'm ready to try new things and use what little spare time I have in a really productive and creative way.  I don't just knit something to keep my hands busy while I watch television on DVD.  I knit something because I have the right yarn or the right pattern and I want to try something new or because I have a very specific person in mind who should receive the finished product.

More often that not, that person is Evelyn.

People used to see me knit when I was really young and say "Knit me a sweater!" and it would set my teeth on edge. I don't know if they were trying to be encouraging, and implying that I would go on to knit more complicated and interesting projects, or if they were doing that thing that non-knitters do when they see you knitting and assume you would love nothing more than to spend your time and resources making something for them when they don't understand its worth.  Either way, I didn't want to knit them sweaters.  I mean, it's a sweater.

 I stuck to scarves.  They kept my hands busy and the handy "I just knit scarves." is a nicer response to "make me something!" than saying "I'm sorry, I don't want to knit for you."

But then there was Evelyn.  I never knew I could feel this way about a person.

Forget the (supposedly) unconditional love and service to a demanding being who couldn't appreciate the worth of your work.  Forget the late nights and early mornings and all the interruptions in between.  Forget the inopportune bouts of clingniness and fussiness and hungriness.  Forget the willingness to give up my life, or even a Saturday soak in the tub with a magazine because the baby wants me more than her dad and only I will do.  That's just the standard mom stuff.

No, what I was feeling was so much more than a sense of obligation and responsibility to this beautiful creature. It was more than a feeling of love and joy that this glorious being was in my life. It was powerful and unexpected.

I wanted to knit this girl a sweater. 

This is a big deal.  

I had never--and I do emphatically mean never--thought I would ever want to knit a sweater.  I had thought hats would be challenging enough, and there were plenty of cute hats to make.






I even thought I might want to try some fancy-stitch afghan at some later date, and I still think some day I will.

But for now, I felt the need for a sweater.

I read a fair amount of Elizabeth Zimmerman books last year, and decided I liked the simplicity of a baby Tomten Jacket because it didn't have a lot of sewing pieces together.  I wanted to make something special, but I knew my limits.  I bought the yarn back in October in preparation.  Then I knitted some baby hats for other people, worked on a Christmas gift or two, made some cute little ornaments that I never photographed, and another hat or two for Evelyn.

She's my baby.  She should get more hats than anyone.

And THEN!

Baby sweater time.

It wasn't disastrous!  Aside from the time I misread something and nearly made a rather ugly baby bolero jacket, it's gone fairly well.  I already know what I'll do differently when I make this again (in a bigger size for Evelyn, or for some as-yet-to-be-born niece or nephew) just like a real knitter.  And actually, the experience has been fun.

I completed the body in January:

Front view.


Side view.

Then I finished a sleeve:



Then I found a nice way to do the sleeves and so I had to unravel it and start all over.  But now the sleeves are the proper length and the decreases don't look so awkward.

And this is the finished product:



Next to a note pad so you can guess the general size.


And now, I have met my goal!  I have knitted a sweater!  I haven't sewn in the zipper yet, but I don't think this is going to fit Evelyn until she's 3 or 4.  Still, it's finished and I'm incredibly happy that the first sweater I've ever knitted is for her.

And that's why I've already started another one.

Knitting, like love, can be a funny and all-consuming thing.

I will make any sweater this girl asks me for (or doesn't) because knitting is fun. 

And because I want to knit her a sweater.


How could I not?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Frugal Friday: (Almost) All You Need is Vinegar

You know what I love about green cleaning?  It's generally pretty cheap and lazy.  You buy a few cheap products in bulk and then, ta da!  Clean house.  Or at least cleaning products available should you decide to clean house.

I'm a big fan of Clorox Cleaning Wipes (on sale and in bulk--we have a baby and my husband is a messy cook. It doesn't matter if it's flour or animal blood--it's going to be spilled on the counter tops) because they're easy, but when I do take the extra second or two to grab a washrag out of a drawer I usually use vinegar mixed with a little water in a spray bottle.  One gallon of vinegar usually lasts us a month or so for both cooking and cleaning.

So, you take your spray bottle of vinegar and use it on your counter tops*, your shower walls, your stove top, your table, your mirrors and windows, and your high chair.  Then you wipe it off.  Then the vinegar smell goes away after a few minutes.  That's my favorite part.  No trees, no lemons, no luaus lingering in the air hours after you've stopped cleaning but your eyes still burn.  Just cleanliness.

One gallon of vinegar is (I think) around $3ish.  Sorry to be imprecise, but looking for this online was challenging.  Just get the store brand and go wild with all  your cleaning needs.

Borax is amazing.  Just google it to find all about its glorious cleaning properties.  We don't have the time or space over here.  I should totally do (another) all-borax-all-the-time post in the very near future.  For now, let me just say that I use it to clean the toilet (just shake the box in there and then scrub after you ignore it for a while) and the shower.  To clean the shower, I just shake some onto a scrubber and rub it on the walls and floor of the tub WHILE WEARING GLOVES.  I can't emphasize the gloves part enough.  Borax is a heavy metal and I've eased up on using it so much since Evelyn came along.  A box of borax lasts us around 6 months and costs a little more than $10 (I think).

That's pretty much it for me.  I use Bar Keeper's Friend for polishing the sink and bathtub, but borax works just as well.  I probably won't buy another container once this one runs out. 

Salt is also a pretty good grime-destroyer because it's abrasive.  It rinses easily because really hot water just dissolves it and sometimes I use it in our bathtub. I know I'm talking about the bathtub a lot.  It gets grimy pretty easily because I use conditioner and lotion, and then Cody comes home covered in cooking grease.  If I can keep the bathtub pretty clean, the occasional (every other week or so) spray of vinegar or a wipe-down with a Clorox wipes takes care of everything.

I know this all looks really lazy, but I think it's a smart move.  We keep a jug of bleach on hand for some kind of worst-case supergerm scenario, but all we generally need is to keep things clean. They don't have to be completely sterile and we don't need a glass cleaner and a stove top cleaner and a bathtub cleaner--especially because all of those products choke me up a little.  If I can save some money and space under the sink while avoiding an asthma attack, I'll totally take the lazy way out.

*Don't use vinegar on marble surfaces because it eats away at things.  But I'm guessing if you have marble counter tops, you're probably not too concerned with frugal cleaning.  Sorry to stereotype you.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Jeff and Faith's Space Western Shower

Jeff and Faith had a shower yesterday!

Yes, they're getting married in less than a month and that means they've had a lot of showers by now.

But I like to think ours was one of their best. 

We had chili!  We had friends coming in from out of town!  We had the theme of cowboys in space!

I made sheriff stars for them that read "Bride" and "Groom."
Thomas hosted the party in his home and bought flowers.  Then Jessi used a lot of star decorations.

Space-age gift table!

Branding irons and robots.



Jessi and me, feeling awesome about our decorations.

Guests! People came!


Cody made chili and corn bread!

Brook made cupcakes!
The guests of honor loved it!

Evelyn enjoyed visiting with everyone.  I'm pretty sure she and Jason are friends now.





After tons of visiting and eating, they were ready to open presents.

Evelyn and I clapped for the wonderful presents!  Travis obviously did not realize what a show he was missing.

Brook graciously took most of the pictures in this post.  She's the one in the foreground while Mandy daydreams behind her.

Alana took detailed notes while Thomas the good host looked on.





Brad and Cody and Cody.  Look at how happy they are to view Jeff and Faith's new kitchen appliances!

Sisters-in-law-to-be!

It's Bryan!  And Lynn!

We all had an absolute blast planning and executing the details of this party, and I'm very happy that Jeff and Faith had a good time. 

Thanks for being such a good sport, you guys!  Many happy returns!


Evelyn's first Flower and Garden Show!

I'm sure you're not surprised that I didn't take many pictures of the Arkansas Flower and Garden Show.  Even when I wasn't holding Evelyn, I was distracted by her or by exhibits.  I wholeheartedly enjoyed myself, though.  I went with Mom and Dad and my sisters and we had a great time.  There were plenty of displays and vendors and we all left with tons of ideas.

 Dad wore Evelyn part of the time and she really enjoyed the front-facing view.  You know what else she really enjoys? Hugs.  Mom got too near her and Evelyn needed to share the love.  She normally likes to pat Mom's hair or arm, but she kept a nice long grip this time.


Sara, Laine, and I all took turns holding her.  She helped Laine and Sara pick out yard decorations.  She helped Dad do some business on the phone....on a tractor.

They're just enjoying some milk and farming implement-browsing.
We bought plants and seeds and enjoyed all the exhibits.  The show's theme this year was Floral Notes, and so there were a lot of musicians playing in rotation at one spot that we had to visit repeatedly.  Oh man.  As far as this little girl was concerned, they were as great as the great big train set-up. And those trains were great. I wish I had taken video of Evelyn watching a man play the guitar while Laine said her name over and over until Evelyn finally looked at her and blinked as if to say "Oh, you're still here?"

But here's a picture of her enjoying Sara's bracelet and another act.


Violins really get her attention.

Then Levi came into town and we ate at Five Guys!  She just ate baby food, but made a good effort to steal my bacon cheeseburger.

She also really enjoyed catching up with her Aunt Laine...when she wasn't starting at those boys behind her. 


Sara was just biding her time until we went to Books-A-Million.  Once we got there, she held Evelyn for well over an hour.  She let that sleeping baby sweat all over her (and she really dislikes being warm) and then she bought her a Fancy Nancy book about Easter.

Levi knows he'll never get to play with Evelyn while her aunts are around.

 I don't have any pictures of our trip to the bookstore, but at least I have this:


 This is my new favorite picture and it perfectly sums up our day, which was really, really, fantastic.  Evelyn skipped all kinds of naps (with the exception of her brief rest at the bookstore) to enthusiastically bask in the attention of everyone and was the happiest baby you've ever seen.

I'm calling the day an absolute success.  She loved the flowers (which Laine let her touch before she noticed the dozens of signs saying "Please do not touch!") and she loved the music and she loved the company. 

I can see why.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

It's almost time!

The Arkansas Flower and Garden Show starts tomorrow!

There will be presentations and vendors and, best of all (I think), exhibits from groups.  Plants and things all set up in a convention center like it's spring. 

Perfection.

Here's the important information (copied from the home page):
February 24-26, 2012
Statehouse Convention Center
Show Times
Fri. 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Sat. 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
TICKET PRICES
Adults $8
Seniors (60+) $6
Children under 12 FREE

 
List of events here.

I mentioned going last year at thirty-eight weeks pregnant here.

Pictures from last year 
(I didn't take many. I was distracted by my constant need to sit down and catch my breath):



Pitcher plants are all the rage now.

And from the year before that!






Always with the pink flowers. Always.

I love, love, LOVE the flower and garden show.  I've been looking forward to it for 2 months now and I'm so excited that it's finally time to go.  It's looking like we're going to have a girl adventure time with my mom and sisters (Evelyn's participation will depend on her mood and nap status) this year.  I'll be sure to tell you all about it.

Or you should go yourself and enjoy the awesomeness.  Because I think everyone will enjoy it and I think you should go.

Did I mention that I love the Arkansas Flower and Garden Show?