A really ugly blanket

1st New Year's Resolution completed: finish the lap blanket made of leftover scraps of yarn.  It's not the prettiest of blankets, not least because the scraps come from about 8 different projects.  Still, it should do its job:
I know, I know, Catherine Wheel stitch.... again...  What can I say?  It's a quick stitch and an old favourite.
My daughter has also been busy, making a 2D (not to scale) model of the solar system - that spins.
and I've been trying to put off doing the taxes, but jewellery making clearly just isn't going to cut it.  This necklace only took 5 minutes to assemble.
Hmmm, so what else is new?  Well, it's a New Year and a new job for me.  So far so good.  I don't think I've mentioned the cause of our needing a new sofa blanket, either.  We got this little pup half a year ago or so.  He's sweet, but did eat the old blanket.  See, the blanket might not be very pretty, but I'm not buying new yarn until he can be trusted!
Don't be fooled by those innocent eyes

Making the kids make ornaments again

It's that time of year again, when the kids are put to work to make yet more ornaments for the tree.  This year's inspiration came from these guys. Theirs are cooler, but I a) don't have a scroll saw and b) don't trust my kids to use my drill.  So, instead of cutting our own circles we used wooden doll bodies for some of them and various sizes of wooden toy wheels for the others.  Add in some #8-32 x 3" machine screws, some #8-32 hex nuts and some #8-32 wing nuts and you've got yourself some tree ornaments.
I may not post here very often, but I do have an Instagram account that I sometimes post to: @uklassinus  I won't promise anything, but one of my New Year's resolutions will be to post more craft stuff there.
I hope that you all have a very Happy Christmas!  Take care and best wishes for 2016!

Horrible ticks

A whole year?  

Well, it was a tick bite.  They tested me for a couple of tick-borne things - it wasn't Lyme Disease, but another test did come back positive.   It's been a year and a half of attacks of joint pain and fatigue etc., with a few weeks in between of trying to catch up on all the stuff that I let slide while feeling under the weather.  I hopeful that it's improving.  We'll see.

So, less time for crafting, but I haven't been completely idle.  There's a few projects in the works.  I'm always best with a deadline, though.  So, out of the few things that have been finished, the kids made sure that the Halloween costumes were one of them.
Vampires.  They wanted to be zombies, but I didn't think that my make up skills would be up to the task.  Pretty sure that I was right about that, given my attempts to draw blood drips.  You'll have to take my word for it that the dark circles around the eyes didn't turn out too badly, though.  Covering up dark circles would be more of a useful skill around here, mind...
Also did my last chalk drawing for the school's Halloween night photo backdrop.  Can't believe that my youngest will be off to a new school next year... Sob.
Her teacher decided that they would also be doing a book report in costume that Friday, too, so another quick costume was needed.  I'll admit that I put pressure on my daughter to pick a book that would only need an easy costume.  Her report was to the 3rd Graders, so Malory Towers it was.  After digging out my old school tie and finding a straw boater, all I had to make was the pinafore (in the wrong colour, but I don't think that many Americans are familiar with Enid Blyton, so I think we got away with it)
I'm a little worried that I have so much fabric in my stash that I didn't have to buy any for any of the costumes.  I might have a stash problem.  The red panel on the vampire dress was a little wider than planned, mind - it turns out that my daughter has grown in the last year.  Who knew?  A little nerve wracking, sewing with no margins to spare after all this time, but it felt good to get back in the saddle again.  As for blogging, we'll see.

delayed blogging

Sorry for ignoring you for so long.  I haven't even bored you with my road trip photos.  I've had a few months of not feeling well since my trip (probably from a tick bite).  Finally started getting some energy back at the end of October - luckily, as I didn't have a back up plan for Halloween costumes.  I'm still trying to catch up on all the things that I let slip as I spent those few months doing the bare minimum to keep the household going, though.   

Anyway, Halloween costumes.  From, um, a few weeks back.
My daughter wanted to be a dog.  A Saint Bernard.  Like our ridiculously big 9 month old pup.  Making the barrel was my favourite bit.  I added an opening in case I ever use it on the pup and want him to carry something.
My son wanted to be a roman soldier.  Actually his first choice was Iron Man, but I let him know that there would be little chance of my sewing that, even if I was feeling 100%.

Ok, off to clean the ceiling fans.  I have managed to do a large proportion of my Christmas shopping already, mind - most uncharacteristic.  Maybe I'm not feeling back to my normal self quite yet.

Dusting off the sewing machine

A few weeks back, before setting off across this great big country in an RV, I finally got around to dusting off the sewing machine and putting it to use.  This was mainly because I could not think of what to give the offspring's teachers as an end of year gift, so decided to go with the old faithful: a tote bag along with some British chocolates etc.  Not very exciting, but useful in a place that has a plastic bag ban, I hope.

I felt a little silly about waiting so long to get back on the metaphorical horse, when it all just seemed so easy and natural once I got started.  That might have been because I was being a tad slow and cautious, for once, as I didn't have any room for error.  I hate it when there's a mean lady at the fabric cutting table.  Not only did she not give me an extra inch or so of fabric in wiggle room, I got home and found that she had not even cut the edges straight.  The orange-y bag is slightly smaller than the blue-y one, as I apparently have OCD and could not bring myself to not have all the circles line up.  It pained me to have half circles on the straps, but it was the only way.  Mean, mean lady.

Flush with the bag-making success, I decided to make a new casual top for my trip.  Over a decade of living in California has taught me that, while I might tan easily back home, here I'll sometimes veer dangerously near burning.  As such, my clothing choices have evolved from vest tops (US translation: tank tops) to t-shirts (finally a clothing term that both sides of the Atlantic agree on) to longer-sleeved light-weight tops worn as I flit from shaded spot to shaded spot (often with a wide-brimmed lifeguard hat on my head).

By this point, slow and cautious had gone out the window - I didn't have long left to clean the house ready for the dog-sitter's stay.  A few measurements, no rough pattern, just hoping for the best.  Well, it's not like it's a complicated shape, anyway.
Verdict: I like it.  Very comfy.

As an aside, I always have to wear sunglasses here too, even on overcast days, despite being able to go without them east of here when there is not a cloud in the sky.  Is it the smog that makes this place so darn bright??

Well, I'd better get back to keeping the kids busy.  My son asked to help cook dinner yesterday - I'm trying not to get my hopes up, but can't stop myself from fantasizing that he might take to this cooking lark and make the odd dinner here and there...

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...