My old bike

Many years ago, when I was dating this American lad long-distance, I bought a bike for $15 to use during my visits. So-called friends have laughed at my old bike.  My husband (yes, I married that American lad) likes to point out Victorian Age bicycles and tell me that my bike is probably older than they are.  Complete strangers have yelled out things like "nice bike!" in a tone that suggests that they do not appreciate my old bike at all.  Still, this is my favourite bike that I have ever owned.  It has these lovely curved handlebars, so that you don't have to slump forwards to ride it.  It also came with the world's most comfiest saddle:
Not too long ago my husband slung out my old bike basket (I don't know why, he doesn't know why...), so he was sent off for a replacement. 
It's a great size, but it felt a little bit too black on black on black, so I decided to brighten it up a bit.  One ball of twine, a short bit from another ball of twine, a small crochet hook and a couple of baseball games later:     
I like it.  My husband said, "sure, it looks nice" in a disinterested voice, but who's going to worry about the opinion of someone who laughs at the world's most comfiest bike?  

Not sewing a rope bowl

The memory book for school is finished - all that is left is for me to worry about whether UPS will now try to deliver it to a school on a Saturday now that one of their trailers was delayed.  It's a school: they're not just going to leave it on the porch like they do at our house, right?  Right?

Anyway, it was about time that I climbed back on the proverbial horse and started crafting again.  It's been way too long.  So, when my daughter stepped on the tin that holds her hair stuff (mainly beribboned hair bands from her various football - you know I mean soccer when I say football, don't you? - teams.  I don't get why every team feels the need to have matching hair bows, but maybe I'd be more into it if it wasn't like trying to put a hair bow on a squirming cat.  She asked if she could shave her head the other day...) and it fell apart, it seemed that a new container was in order.

I've seen a few of those sewn rope bowls about the place - even Target sells them - so when I saw some clothesline at the store, it seemed to be a sign.

Then I got home and remembered that I am scared of my sewing machine (yes, still) and that I am a tad worried about putting a rope through it.  

Not to worry, I'll crochet around the rope!  That'll work!  Ah, only thread on hand is variegated.  Hmm.  Ok, a little worried about how it'll turn out, but let's give it a try.

30 minutes later, I'm thinking to myself that it would have been finished by now, if I had used the sewing machine.

1 rugby practice later my fingers are feeling a little raw from the rope and crochet thread.

2 rugby practices later I'm wondering why on earth I didn't just sew the darn thing.

3 rugby practices later I'm thinking that I might be the world's slowest crocheter.  Although, in my defense, a lot of time was wasted each practice trying to find an unlocked bathroom in the high school.  Apparently 'going before we leave' isn't an instruction that gets followed by my offspring...
Ta-da.  A bit of a weird shape, but it has to fit on the end of a crowded shelf.
Next time I'll sew one.  Or pick one up from Target.

Husband, what have you done?

Apple blossom in the garden
So, it's been a while.  I've been busy putting together a book.  No, don't go and get all excited - not that kind of book.  I'm putting together the memory book for my son's 5th Grade graduating class (that's the last year of junior school to all the UK folk out there.  Yes, I know, calling it 'graduating' seems a little silly, but Americans like to have LOTS of graduations.  I didn't get to graduate 'til I had got my Bachelor's degree, but I've been informed that some preschoolers have been known to sport a mortar board and gown over here.  Hmm, at least I don't think that they go that far at my kid's school.  They do have special t-shirts and a knees-up, though).

Where was I?  Ah yes, the memory book.  The PTA pays for every 5th Grader to get one.  Every spare moment has been used to beg for / download / scan / organise / select photos for the book.   It turns out that some of the parents have been taking a LOT of photos.  Thousands.  And thousands.  I underestimated how many photos I would be wading through.  I also underestimated how many parents will not complete and send back a form containing only one question.  Teachers must be saints to deal with this all the time.

Still, it's almost finished.  It's been fun.  I must admit, my main motivation in taking on the job was just to make sure that ALL the kids were represented in the book and my tally chart (I'm being ridiculously organised) tells me that that objective has been met.  In fact, the only hiccup in its progress had been my husband walking through the door with a puppy under his arm.  With no warning.  Oh, and it's a Saint Bernard.  A mischievous Saint Bernard.  Goodness, I had forgotten how much work little puppies are...
By 'little' puppy, I mean, bloomin' huge puppy.  He's been putting on over a lb in weight every day... gulp.




One month later he's house trained, but I just this minute caught him nibbling the ends of my oven gloves.  It's a good thing he's cute...
Translation of the day:
UK English: knees up = party or celebration (usually including dancing) in US English

Hopefully I'll be dusting off the sewing machine soon...  

My dog

One week ago we had the oldest of our two elderly dogs put down.  He had had a rough weekend, rallied briefly, then went into a decline on the Tuesday night.  I stayed up with him and can tell you that it was at 2:10am that I made the decision that it was time to let him go.

2 years earlier, on Christmas Day, we went to the Emergency Vet with him and were told that he would likely not last more than a couple of months more.  It has been a worrying few years.  We had to keep his breathing under control, so he had to be kept calm and cool.  We stopped inviting people over, as he would get too excited to see them.  I didn't go on any of the family overnight trips, as I didn't think that he would cope with having someone that wasn't in our little family caring for him.  It was worth it, though, as most of the time he was happy, friendly, and pretty much his usual self.  We took care not to get him riled up and he seemed to rather like the chilled out life.

Humidity did give him trouble, though.  June was a worrying month last year, but then the humidity levels dropped and he was back to his usual self.  I worried about how I would know when it was time to let him go, as once an attack had passed, he would revert back to his usual self.  He gave us some scares, but they could be followed by months with no problems whatsoever.  Surely I would always be living in hope that another recovery would follow.
Tuesday night was different, though.  I had stayed up with him on Sunday night and he didn't calm until past 4am, but was fine the next few days.  Then humidity levels rose to over 90% on Tuesday and he was struggling a bit.  I stayed up with him again, but could tell that it wasn't like the night just 2 nights before.  At 2:10am it was if he was tired of fighting it any more and wanted to give up.  I had always whispered to him that I wanted him to let me know when it was time and he did, for which I'll always be grateful. 

Almost 13 years ago I had just landed at LAX and was walking over to the parking lot with my then fiancé, when I saw a few people gathered around around his truck.  There was a little bundle of fur bouncing around the cab.  My first pup.  I had always loved dogs, but we could never convince mum to get a dog while I was growing up.  It was love at first sight.  I married my fiancé a couple of months later: there was now no way that I could get back on a plane to England and leave them both.
He was massive dog, with lots of thick fur, which needed sweeping up after daily.  He was so very gentle and patient, especially when our kids were babies and toddlers - he never reacted if they were too rough with him or pulled his tail.  It probably isn't too surprising that both kids' first word was 'dog'.  He did have an attitude, mind: when he was a puppy I once shut him in the kitchen behind a child gate while I was sorting through some papers that I didn't want him to knock over.  He proceeded to turn his back on me and ignored me until he was freed an hour or so later.  
I took him to the city's dog obedience classes while I waited for immigration to send a work permit my way. The instructor, who had been training Golden Retrievers for over 30 years, said that she had never come across a Golden with an attitude before...  Still, he passed the course.  It took a while for him to accept, but he did eventually learn to heel on a slack leash and obey hand commands.
He would play fetch for hours on end without let up.  He would turn excited circles in the car when he saw that we were nearing the dog beach.  He was too laid back to ever bark at other dogs or to try to chase any cats that we passed on our walks.  He was everyone's friend.  He liked to have his back hips rubbed, even more than a belly rub.  He would follow me from room to room.
That's one of the reasons why I am missing him so very much.  There's no dog sat at my feet as I type this.  Our other dog is not too far away, but he's not following me about the house while the kids are at school.  He's not so close to the chair that he's lying between the wheels.  He's not letting me know that he thinks it might be dinner time.
He was such a good dog and I miss him so much. Even if we do now know that it was him that was the one sometimes nosing through the trash while we were out.  Well, who could blame him?  That bland homemade diet we put him on during these last few years didn't look appetizing at all...
(sorry for being so long winded)

Happy 2014!

Happy belated New Year to you all!  

It turns out that I probably should have had a 'flu jab, as I got to start the New Year all feverish and aching.  The good news, though, was that I was healthy during my parents' visit and over Christmas.  Although mum would have probably been more helpful around the house than my dear husband was last week.  If we could all just take a moment to be grateful that my husband didn't choose nursing for his career...

I did mange to finish the last couple of handmade gifts in time.  Nan got a couple of pot holders, as a little extra to go with her gift:
while mum got a peg bag (that she's been gently reminding me to make ever since her last visit...):
Hopefully it will prove functional - I based it mainly upon my childhood memories of the peg bag that our elderly next door neighbour made for her when I was a child.  

My kids were put to work, as usual, making some new ornaments for the tree.  I had found these glass beads on clearance and thought that they would be perfect as 'icicles' on the tree.  It turns out that my Californian-born offspring have not seen an icicle before...  
Little wonder, given that it was 83 degrees on Christmas Day here...  
They were dubious about whether these ornaments looked anything like icicles, but that's probably to be expected when your frame of reference is some plastic lights on a neighbour's house.
I'd better get going.  My husband's ill today (and possibly wishing that he had been more sympathetic when I was ill).  

Translation of the day:
British English: jab = shot or injection in US English
As in, it would have been easier to get to sleep last summer if I had had my tetanus jab on the same side as my shingles blisters...

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

I've finally got a quiet day ahead of me today: I should be getting started on the last couple of Christmas presents that I plan to make (thank heavens that the shopping part is over).  Still, what's another 10 minutes of procrastination?
On one hand, I'm pretty prepared for the holidays: the decorations and tree are up; the Christmas cards are sent; even some of the gifts are wrapped.  On the other hand, the daughter's pig sty of a room is yet to be cleaned ready for visitors; a couple of gifts are still to be made; the Christmas cake awaits its icing; and I'm ill, which is most inconvenient.  My husband has made a smug comment about how I should have had a flu shot.  Is it wrong of me to kind of hope that he gets ill, too?  No, scrap that, he's awful to live with when he's feeling under the weather.

I don't have time for feeling ill.  Which is probably why yesterday I could still be found listlessly poking around the local park looking for pine cones for my wreath.  It's a bit sad looking, but it's only cost me $1.38 (cheap fake wreath for the wreath form, then covered with stray branches from the bottom of the tree, a clump of fake berries and the above-mentioned pine cones).  My husband (aka as Scrooge at this time of year) wouldn't let me ask them for the branches that they had trimmed off at the tree lot.  We keep having worryingly warm days, so it will probably just be a pile of needles on the doorstep come Christmas day...
Not all present-making was left to the last minute.  Things that could be made at soccer practices were even made back in November!  I think that I peaked too early.  My friends' kids (that live in a somewhat colder place) are getting these hats (made using my own tutorial). 
 
It took me a while to work out what the tutorial was saying - I'm not very good at crochet-speak, even when I'm the one that's written it, apparently - but once I worked it out, these hats don't half come together quickly.  

There's a little of the yarn left over, so I might make myself one.  Hmm, I really need to stop making myself hats and handwarmers and accept that, as long as I live in LA County, just a couple of warm things for trips will probably be sufficient...
Ok, I ought to get going.  Let's hope that the sewing angels are looking down upon me fondly, as I feel too weak to deal with the usual flying broken needles and knotted up threads today.

Translation of the Day:
UK English: Mince pie = a sweet pie served at Christmas that contains mincemeat. Way back when, it used to be a spiced meat pie, containing some fruit, hence the name. These days it's just dried fruit and suet. Not a ground meat pie, as I had to reassure an American the other day.  I'm even seeing them in some of the local supermarket these days AND crackers!  It's getting easier and easier to have a British-style Christmas over here.

Take care all,

It was a good summer

It's probably not a good sign when you glance over your last blog post, notice that it mentions a baby blanket in progress and you can not remember who has had a baby recently...  Has it been that long?  I know my summer plans got a little derailed when I came down with shingles for a couple of weeks.  It's supposed to be the over 50 crowd / cancer patients / stressed out individuals that get it - none of which applied to me this summer.  It was a pain (quite a bit of pain, but luckily I got it around the hip, so, could have been worse).  Might have been more pleasant during school time, mind...

Still, lots of day trips and the garage did eventually get mainly cleared out, which has been on the to-do list since we, um, last stuffed baby gear in there.  My youngest is 8.  Yeah, it's been a few years since we could cross the garage without having to follow a 'path'.

After that I had a spell of madness at the start of the school year / soccer season and went a little volunteer-crazy.  Luckily most of the tasks that I signed up for are now completed, leaving me with just my usual weekly stuff... and, um,  the 5th grade memory book...  I've made a mental note to stop putting my hand up when they're asking for dupes and to practice avoiding eye contact in future.

I'm feeling like I am getting back into the groove, though.  Churned out a couple of Halloween costumes AND I have a hand sewing project on the go for when I'm watching yet another soccer practice.  I feel like I'm spending about half of my awake hours at the local park at the moment.
So, Halloween costumes: bless my lovely children, for they picked easy costumes this year.  So nice to for once not have the 'I think a storm trooper costume will take more hours and care than I am willing to put into a costume for one night' conversation.  My daughter wanted to be a surgeon - YES!  Pretty much PJs, a mask, a hat and Bob's your uncle, you're done:
As for my son, he's Ricky Vaughn (aka Wild Thing from the 80s movie Major League).  I'm thinking that 95% of people won't get the movie reference, but he'll still look like a kid that's dressed up as a baseball player.  Plus, he was already on an Indians little league team, so we already had the cap.  All I had to do was mock up a baseball jersey.
When he picked out his glasses at the opticians, I might have told him that he ought to at least be Clark Kent or Wild Thing for Halloween, if those glasses were going to be his choice...
A little reluctance was shown about the haircut, mind.
I had a weird moment when drafting out the patterns for the costumes: it was a moment of calm.  I used to be measuring and re-measuring and pinning and draping when making things up as I went along.  This time it was a quick measurement, followed by a quiet confidence that what I was drafting would turn out the way I was hoping.  Ok, this was mainly because they were such easy costumes to draft and were not 'fitted', but it was still a nice moment.  The sewing was still littered with the odd flying broken needle and machine trying to eat the project, but the calm prevailed.  Well, a few choice words were uttered here and there, but, in the main, the calm prevailed.  Maybe I am starting to actually have a clue about how to do this sewing lark after all.
Oh, and I did eventually remember who had a baby: my husband's workmate's wife.  I didn't feel so bad for forgetting once I realised that it was a baby that I had never met (the blanket is a boring and practical navy, but the photo's colours look different in blogger: hmm).

I need to get around to planting some herbs in those pots

It's as though there's a RSS reader conspiracy.  They messed with Bloglines, then deleted Google Reader.  I wasn't too convinced by Feedly, then someone mentioned that The Old Reader was similar to Google Reader. Barely moments later The Old Reader are talking about going private only, so now I've found InoReader - but now The Old Reader might be continued in some way...  We'll see.
I don't know how many of the blogs that I've followed over the years have survived the numerous switches.  I've noticed that quite a few seem to have died out lately anyway.  Any recommendations for replacements?
Meanwhile, there's not been much to blog about here, either: I've had lots of visitors, but not much time for crafting.  A half-finished baby blanket and this wood bead trivet is about all I have to show for this summer, so far.  
So easy to make.  Depending on how well the trivet holds up, I'm thinking that this might be something for the kids to make as small gifts for some of the adults in their lives.  

Time to eat.  Hopefully I'll be back soon - or at least catching up on my blog reading.  Take care,

and the rest of the 5...

Luckily my challenge to myself to complete 5 projects in 5 weeks did not include the proviso that I blog about it.  You'll just have to take my word for it that I did complete the challenge in time.  I won't lie, it probably helped that the deadlines for the projects were all set by outside factors...
So, project #2: end of year gifts for 2 teachers.  The tote bag was just a little extra in addition to the class gift.  It seems to be a compulsion of mine to use apple fabrics when making these tote bags for teachers.  I do make them reversible, though, in case they need a break from all things apple:  
Hopefully they come in useful in a city with a plastic bag ban.
The other teacher had had the misfortune to have my other offspring in her class a couple of years ago, so for her I switched things up and made an Emmeline Apron to go with a bag of British food stuff etc.  I've made several of these aprons now, so I've had my money's worth out of this pattern.  She's a fan of Disney, so I went with the polka dots on the one side and this for the other:
Ok, project #3: a prop torch for the same class play that I made the masks for:
Next up, project #4: 3 witches hats also for the play (probably the most fiddly of the projects, as the interfacing was so stiff that I ended up just hand sewing them)
Finally, project #5: 3 small lace capes for the good witches.  I was a little nervous about sewing with lace, thinking my machine would probably chew it up, but it was a doddle.
The class did a great job.  Here's a couple of snaps of the witches in action:

In the background you can get a peek of my unofficial project #6: helping to paint the scenery backgrounds. Any dodgy looking bits were probably painted by me: I'm better at drawing than I am painting and large scale painting is a completely different kettle of fish.  I hadn't picked up an artist's brush for a couple of decades prior to this...  
It's been a busy few weeks, especially helping out with all the end of term stuff etc.  Still, summer has started now and the task of keeping my kids from being idle has begun.  Luckily my parents will be arriving tomorrow for a long visit.  I'm a little nervous, as our eldest dog has been having a lot of bad episodes lately, but hopefully having visitors that he knows well won't set him off.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed: I'm not ready to say goodbye to him just yet.

Hope you all have a lovely summer.  Hopefully I'll be back before the end of it, but I won't make any promises that I can't guarantee that I'll keep.  Take care all!