My husband's grandmother died the Saturday after Thanksgiving. She got to spend a last Thanksgiving with her family and died in the presence of those who love her. She was 90 and her health had deteriorated to the point that she had hospice care, so it was probably for the best. Still, she's going to be missed. She was a really lovely lady, with a great sense of humour (I think that she'd have been laughing away at the stories told at her funeral). She kept her wit to the end and blatantly spoiled her great-grandchildren. I hope that they treasure their memories of her. She'll be missed.
So, things are still a little behind around here. I've decided to have my giveaway on my 99th post, as the 100th is just taking too darn long to get here, so keep an eye out for my next post. My poor neglected blog, blog reader and inbox. Christmas is really starting to sneak up on me, but I've made a large dent in the Christmas gift list today. At last count, I have got 2 presents to buy and 6 left to make by the 18th. That's doable, right? If I whip up some straitjackets for my kids first, that is... Oh, that reminds me: I need to take a picture of my kids and sort out some Christmas cards.
Can you keep a secret? This is one of the Christmas gifts that I have knocked out. After a year or so of procrastination, missing both a Christmas and a birthday, I finally made my daughter a rag doll.
The pattern is the Amy doll by Joan Russell, given to me, um, a long, long time ago by the ever so sweet Mr Monkeysuit after I told her how much I adored her version (later given a new 'do). I did shorten the neck (I had previously ended up with a slightly upturned face, that suggested the far too innocent expression of wonder for a doll that was supposed to look a little like my daughter).
It took me ages to find yarn that was similar in colour to my daughter's hair. That wasn't helped by my not being sure what colour hair my daughter actually does have, as it can look light brown, blondish and ginger all on the same day, depending on the light (I tossed a coin to decide what to write in the hair colour box on her passport application form...). Unfortunately the only thing similar was these patches in a variegated yarn - I just managed to squeeze out long enough strips to copy her short hair (the result of her repeatedly giving herself the odd haircut - you see now why an innocent expression would not have been suitable?). And then I nicked the idea of using a Waldorf doll face from Mr Monkeysuit, as it looked a lot easier than trying to embroider on an expression. Ok, a hint of a smile did sneak on.
I had plans for multiple outfits, but had forgotten that sewing teeny, tiny sleeves etc. would be bloomin' fiddly and time-consuming. They'll have to wait.
Translation of the day:
UK English: nick = to steal in US English.
Take care,

Too tired to come up with a title

Snowman. Because I'm unlikely to get a real one around here.
I really hate weaving in loose ends, but I did finally got out the yarn needle and sit down the other evening to finish off a couple more gifts. Here's a crochet scarf made using this pattern:This one's a baby blanket for a wee boy: I really ought to come up with something a bit more interesting for the baby boys. Oh, that reminds me - I've had quite a few people ask me for the pattern for the baby blankets that I make based upon the Rhubarb scarf. I'm happy to share it, but the stitch pattern came from a stitch pattern book. Is it violating copyright laws to share the pattern, or is the book taken as just being a teaching tool for various stitches? Does anyone know if you are allowed to share projects made from those stitch patterns?
While I'm asking questions, I've had a couple of people mention that they've had trouble commenting on this site. Has anyone else had issues? E-mail me (address is over there at the top on the left) if you can't comment. The 100th post giveaway is slowly approaching, so I'd like to be sure that all is well by then.
It's been at least 25 years since I last made a pom-pom.
I had better run - busy day today. Take care,

Last-minute knit mitts (for beginners)

I heard a shop playing Christmas music today, which made me smile. I know that some people think that it's too early, but I kind of like going around singing Christmas carols for a couple of months, even if my family dearly wished that I didn't...
Anyway, Autumn is pretty much passing me by. The local weather is not 'Autumnal' yet and, what with me and my daughter getting ill, we didn't even carve a pumpkin for Hallowe'en this year. I grew up with harvest festivals (where schools and churches get decorated up and collect food to give to the needy) rather than Thanksgiving (nice meal, but could really do with some roast spuds and Yorkshire puds, if you ask me). Christmas, on the other hand, gets me all nostalgic. AND I've already started sorting out some presents for Christmas (I know, I know, you're wondering who I am and what happened to the procrastinator that usually posts on this blog...).
One wee present that I've made is these ever-so-simple mitts. I was going to try the toast / toasty pattern, but didn't have the correct sized needles and couldn't get my husband off the PC so that I could check out what type of yarn was used etc. So I decided to make something up as I went along instead. Nothing ground-breaking, but I thought that I would share it, as it would be a great project for a beginner that hasn't knit in the round before. The ribbing would hide any join line and the thumb hole is simply made by switching to rows. The stretchy ribbing improves the chances of a good fit. Plus they do not take much yarn and can be knitted up quickly, even by slow-pokes like me. And I like the way that they look more like the ends of a layered jumper (sweater) poking out from your cardy sleeve than mitts.
Here goes:
Last-minute knit mitt version 1:
Ravelry link
Yarn: less than a ball of Bernat Soft Bouclé
Needles: four US size 5 double pointed needles (3.75mm)
Cast on 30 stitches (I cast on using the long tail cast on method as I have some vague memory of reading that this is a stretchy cast-on stitch. My memory might not be reliable. Feel free to correct me).
Divide the stitches onto 3 double-pointed needles, so that there are 10 stitches on each needle.
Join, taking care not to twist the stitches. Mark the beginning of the round (ok, I never do this - I just look for where the tail of yarn dangles from the cast on edge and judge it from that).
Work in a knit 1 purl 1 rib (*knit 1, purl 1, repeat from *) for 5-8 inches, depending on what length that you want the mitts to be (measure your arm from 1" below the thumb joint to the desired length). Then, when you reach the end of that round, STOP - do not join. You should have ended on a purl stitch
Thumb hole (stop working in the round, and work back and forth in rows for 10 rows):
Row 1: Turn the knitting around (facing the inside of the mitt), and start with a knit stitch (in that previous purl stitch), then purl 1, then continue in the knit 1, purl 1 rib pattern to the end of the row, turn.
Row 2-9: Starting each row with a knit stitch to maintain the rib pattern, knit 1, purl 1 rib to the end of the row and turn
Row 10: knit 1, purl 1 rib to the end of the row, then join.
Top of mitt:
Knit 10 more rounds in the knit 1, purl 1 rib.
Cast off (I used the sewn cast-off method - again, vague memories about stretchiness).
Done. Make another one. Ta da.
I wish I had thought to use the self-timer when photographing previous mitts.Here's some green paper inside the mitt to show the thumb hole better. It's that hole being pointed to by my scruffy-nailed finger.
Last-minute knit mitt version 2 - the green mitt:
Yarn: less than a ball of Red Heart Plush (bought way back when during a closing down sale and I have never seen another ball of this yarn since...)
Needles: four US size 5 double pointed needles (3.75mm)
I made this version a fraction looser. Cast on 36 stitches, divide onto 3 needles, 12 stitches to a needle. Join and knit in a wider rib of *knit 2, purl 2, repeat from *. Continue knitting in the knit 2 purl 2 rib, following the pattern for version 1 mitts. ie. knit up to the thumb hole, then knit back and forth in rows, keeping the knit 2 purl 2 rib, for 10 rows, then knitting 10 more rows in the round.
Translation of the Day:
UK English: cardy / cardie (abbr.) = cardigan in US English.
I shouldn't get me started on the different clothing terms again...
PS. Don't worry - I am still a procrastinator. I haven't even taken a photo of my kids in their Halloween costumes yet...
PPS. I apologise in advance for all grouchy comments concerning the local weather. I get disappointed all over again every year about California's lack of seasons. Maybe I'll accept it as a given one day and stop singing "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas" all December long...

All dressed up and nowhere to go

My brother-in-law just held a reception to celebrate his recent marriage. This triggered a rush to the closets to see whether there is anything halfway decent that fits anyone, as, well, smart casual is a step above what normally passes for attire around here. My daughter was in-between dresses. Even though she gets several hand-me-down dresses each year from her cousins that do not get worn as, well, jeans and shorts are just so much more practical. Especially for a girl more likely to be found hanging upside down from a climbing frame than playing tea party. So I knocked out something on the quick, for cheap.
Yep, just a longer version of the smock top. With fewer pleats as I changed my mind about which side of the fabric was the 'right' side halfway through. I estimated instead of measuring the pleats. And did a horrific job on hemming the lining, as I was rushing it at the last minute.
Still, it turned out ok.
Then we arrived at the reception and it was whipped off her, as apparently they had a dress for her that matched her cousins'. It turns out that they had bought some little girl dresses for the cousins back when they were considering a church wedding. So, I had a late night of sewing for nothing. Still, at least I was spared the stress of having my daughter be a flower girl in front of a crowd of people. I didn't even know that they had been considering it. I wouldn't have put it past her to cartwheel down the aisle...
I might shorten it into another top. Otherwise it will probably gather dust like the other dresses.
Regarding the flour: it's not that 'English flour' is a special variety, it's just that American flour is made in a different way to English flour. Something to do with the weight of it or whether it is bleached or how much protein is in it or the amount of salt or whatever - so that the same recipe will turn out differently depending upon whether you used the American variety or the English variety of self-raising flour, for instance. I had been wondering why everything that I baked over here turned out awful, when I happened to see it mentioned that a cookbook author travelled to England to use their ingredients for the English version of her book, because of the differences. Now the difference in the sugars is fairly easy to see, but I had been unaware that there was a difference in the flour.
So I did more research and came across a wonderful article that went into the exact composition of the different types of flours in each country and how they differed and what you should add extra / how you should adjust the weight etc. to compensate for the difference, so that your baking will turn out as planned. Then I forgot to bookmark it. I have been searching for it ever since. So, in the meantime, I am just buying the imported flour, as that is the one my English cookbooks have been written for. Hopefully I'll find that article once more - or will at least replace my English recipes with American recipes that use the American ingredients on hand...
I'm supposed to cleaning the house, so no translation of the day today...
Take care.

Just a little bit hungry

I had to take a 'cultural snack' to my daughter's preschool today. This is the kind of task that makes me nervous, as I have the ability to even mess up a cake mix (nb.English Muffins were included on their list of ideas from previous years. I hope they were meant to represent American culture, as further research into finding out what on earth they are turned up that they were invented in America).
I decided on scones, as my mum is from Devon (and I took a battenberg cake last time and decided that the likelihood of my making another one turn out as well was poor). Luckily for the preschoolers the import store was out of English flour, so I just bought a scone mix to make the scones with. They look ok. Hopefully they taste ok. I felt a bit daft using a mix to make something as simple as scones.
You might have noticed that I mentioned that the import store sometimes carries English flour. Yes, they are ridiculously tiny bags for a ridiculously high price, but while my search for an American sponge recipe continues, they at least mean that I can produce this
instead of this
See that? There's even a gentle rise there!
And once they are dolled up with some English cake decorations (very generously sent by Ali - what a sweetheart!), they disappear quick...
I made quite a few snacks from my childhood for the kids this summer. I'm not sure what has happened to me, but despite still not enjoying cooking, I've been spending more time in the kitchen lately and, gulp, even trying out a few new recipes for dinners! These are just a few old favourites, though, like chocolate crunchies
and flapjacks
as suggested by my golden syrup can.
I'm not showing you a picture of my Bran Parkin Cookies, mind. I'm still trying to figure out what went wrong there. They turned out looking more like rock cakes...
While on the subject of disasters, I finally tried dyeing. No, not my rapidly appearing grey hairs. Fabric. Luckily I didn't start with the bag and did a trial run on some old t-shirts instead. The process seemed a lot easier (and cleaner) than what I was expecting, but I think that I should have left them in a lot longer. What should have been navy turned out the colour of surgical scrubs. That wouldn't be so bad, except that I chose to dye a loose fitting v-neck t-shirt that, well, now looks like surgical scrubs. Now I'll never be able to wear it in public, for fear of a medical emergency happening in my presence and everyone turning to me with expectation in their eyes. It's probably been about 20 years since I earned my First Aid badge...
My mouse-wielding (the computer variety - not rodents...) arm is still giving me grief. So, I've been spending very little time on the computer. Ah, I miss my blog-reading. I will one day reply to e-mails and comments, but it might not be soon (ask my mum - she hasn't been getting replies to her e-mails to me, either).
Plus I've apparently got arthritis, because the rapidly appearing grey hairs just weren't making me feel ancient enough...
I'm off to eat some leftover scones. All these food pictures are making me a wee bit peckish.
Translation of the day:
UK English: peckish = hungy in US English. Well, moderately hungry. Not starving, just a little bit hungry. That doesn't mean that 2 scones will be enough, of course...

(Somewhat) Satchel

The bag that was going to be a scarf. Carefully cropped so that you can not see what a mess my garden is. It's been too darn hot to do any gardening lately...
I found a new yarn shop, full of what seemed to be very impractical yarn. Still, I found myself unable to leave without purchasing a couple of skeins of this yarn (#1 and #22, I think). I do not normally even wear pink. I started a scarf, but soon realised that it was going to be itchy. This is weird yarn - it felt really soft when balled up, but felt kind of rough and scratchy when I was actually working with it. Maybe it's just me. Even so, I knew that I didn't want it around my neck, so I hoped that there was enough to make a bag from instead. The (Somewhat) Satchel was knocked out.
Disclaimer: I don't know what I am doing when it comes to crochet and often wonder if I am just making things up as I go along, but I thought I'd attempt to share the pattern with you anyway. If you do try making one, I'd love to get some feedback about any errors (I'm awful at counting stitches and rows) and ideas for better phrasing or the correct way of doing this etc.
The bag body is made in one piece, starting with the base. You will add a row of single crochet around the edge of the base, then work in the round up the sides. The flap is then worked back and forth in rows. The shoulder strap and buckle straps are made separately in contrasting yarn and sewn on at the end.
You will need:
approx 180 yards / 160cm of heavy worsted yarn (I used 2 skeins of Savanna by GGH)
1 skein of yarn in a contrasting colour for the straps (I used Vanna's Choice by Lion's Brand)
2 buckles (I bought a couple of dirt cheap cat collars and removed the buckles)
US size K 10.5 hook (6.50mm)
US size I 9 hook (5.50mm)
Yarn needle
Abbreviations used (nb. I'm using the American stitch terms):
ch = chain
sc = single crochet
dc = double crochet
fpdc = front post double crochet (a search on the 'net shows lots of great tutorials for this easy stitch - it's the same as a dc, but you put the hook behind the 'post' of the stitch)
sl st = slip stitch
rep = repeat
gauge: 30sc = 8" or 20cm
finished bag measures approximately 8" x 2½" x 5½" or 21cm x 6cm x 15cm
Row 1: (Using the larger size K hook) ch 30
Row 2: ch 1 to turn, sc in second ch from hook and each ch across =30sc
Rows 3: ch 1 to turn, sc in each sc across
Rows 4-10: rep row 3
At the end of row 10 you will work down the side of the piece (ie. along the short side of the rectangle), and then around the first edge (row 1) and then up the other side:
Turning the corner, sc in last sc of row 10 again (marked ** on picture), then sc in each of the gaps (marked *) down the edge (9sc). Turn the corner, sc in each of the ch of row 1 (30sc). Turn the corner, sc up the remaining edge (9sc).
BAG SIDES (worked in the round):
Round 1: sc in the back loop (furthest loop from you of the two top loops that make a single chain) of each sc all the way around = 78sc
Round 2: (switch to smaller size I hook) dc in each sc all the way around = 78dc
Round 3: fpdc, dc in next 28dc, fpdc, dc in next 9dc, fpdc, dc in next 28dc, fpdc, dc in next 9dc (the fpdc are at each of the corners of the bag)
Rounds 4 - 13: rep round 3
Round 14: fpdc, dc in next 28dc, fpdc, dc in next 9 dc, fpdc, dc in next 28dc, fpdc, dc in nect 8dc, sl st in last dc
BAG FLAP (worked back and forth in rows):
Row 1: ch 3, (continuing along the long edge of the bag) dc in next 29 dc
Row 2: ch 3 for turning chain, dc in next 29 dc
Rows 3 - 11: rep row 2
I then did a row of sc down the side of the flap, around the top of the bag and up the other side of the flap and along the top of the flap. This gives it a nice neat edge, but isn't necessary.
In contrasting yarn:
Row 1: ch 200
Row 2: ch 1 to turn, sc in each ch
Rows 3 - 8: rep row 2
Sew strap on outside of bag using the yarn.
BUCKLE STRAPS (nb. The inside edge of my buckle was equal to 3 rows of crochet. You may need fewer or more rows, depending on the width of your buckle) :
Make 2:
Row 1: ch 10
Row 2: ch 1 to turn, sc in each ch
Row 3: ch 1 to turn, sc in each sc.
Sew buckle onto the end of this strap.
Make 2:
Row 1: ch 21
Row 2: ch 1 to turn, sc in each ch
Row 3: ch 1 to turn, sc in each sc
Sew the 2 straps attached to the buckle onto the front of the bag, then (making sure that they are in line with the buckles) sew the longer straps onto the flap of the bag (use the picture as a guide)
You're finished. As modelled by a pyjama-clad kid in a garden that needs raking:
Wow, it seems a lot more complicated when you're writing out every step, but it's not a hard bag to make.
Translation of the day:
UK English: purse = small coin purse (feminine version of a wallet) in US English
UK English: handbag = purse, handbag or (apparently) pocketbook in US English.
I had to look pocketbook up after reading that word the other day. I had no clue what was being referred to, but guessed that they weren't talking about a paperback book. Is it in common usage over here?
nb. I have a lot of catching up to do. I am way behind on replying to people, but I have an old wrist injury keeping me from spending much time on the computer. A police dog bit me 10 years ago (no, I wasn't on the run from the law - I just knew the dog handler) and it still keeps playing up (my wrist, that is. Hopefully the dog has stopped playing up).
Not too long to go 'til my 100th post and a giveaway. I'll give you a clue - there'll be some fabric up for grabs. It seems like I bought it ages ago now. I was under the illusion that I would be posting regularly and often over the summer... Take care all.

The report

"The report of my death was an exaggeration" ~ Mark Twain.
When I said that you might not hear from me for a while, I didn't think that I would be disappearing for the rest of the summer. Well, the first half of the summer was spent without a car, with two stir crazy kids confined by heat and a poorly designed public transportation system to the house / local park / backyard paddling pool / supermarket (which involved a less than a mile walk, but you would have thought that it was a death march with the way that the kids were complaining. Ok, it was hot, but I'm pretty sure that the one carrying the shopping while dragging along two kids had the worst end of the deal...). Then the second half of the summer was spent rushing around trying to squeeze in all the things that we missed out on during the first half of the summer.
By the way, I love that the cities around here put on free concerts and movies in the park during the summer. One group of people had set up a table, with a table cloth, napkins, fancy meal, dessert and wine at one of the concerts. What a great way to dine.
So what did we do this summer?
My parents visited and we went camping.
My friend visited and we went sightseeing (although, if you ask me, I'd advise steering clear of many of the local sights).
We did a bit of time-travel.
Played baseball.
Then checked out how the big boys play it.
We made sandcastles.
that turned out nothing like this.
We splashed.
There was lots of courage displayed at swimming lessons.
There were busy days.
and then there were quiet days.
Summer holidays have come to an end now, though. The swimming pool and wading pools are closed. My son calmly started first grade last week (it was his mum who had first day butterflies). My daughter goes back to preschool next week (she's disappointed that she's got to wait another year before she gets to go to kindergarten). I'm back.
Translation of the day:
UK English: holiday= vacation in US English
UK English: bank holiday or public holiday = holiday in US English.
American publishers have marked a lot of special dates on my calendar, but not all of them get you a day off school or work. I'm still trying to work out which ones do. Do we get a day off on Columbus day?
Ooh, I almost forgot. Talking of calendars: I'm in one! Well, to be more precise, my pear pincushion pattern is in it. The calendar is a collection of simple sewing projects - two a week, I believe. I had no clue what to expect, so I was really excited to get my copy. Some really talented bloggers and sewers have contributed projects to this calendar. I feel very intimidated by the company that I've found myself in.
I hope that those of you in the Northern hemisphere enjoyed your summer. Take care.