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Summertime Catch Up

07. 30. 2014

Summertime has been a blast so far. The boy did his week of mountain bike camp and started doing some small jumps (and making my heart stop), my sister had a beautiful and fun wedding [for which there will be a separate dedicated detailed post, as my sister already called to complain about this], and then we went to Disneyland & the beach!

Obligatory castle pic

Obligatory castle pic

Driving already?! fyi, she was awful.

Driving already?! fyi, she was awful.

Arr matey! Treasure on Tom Sawyer's Island.

Arr matey! Treasure on Tom Sawyer’s Island.

beachy day of relaxation

beachy day of relaxation

Wedding Selfie with the lovely bride!

Wedding Selfie with the lovely bride!

Disney was so fun. It’s been interesting to me that when I told people we were going to Disneyland, the reaction was one of a polar pair. Either people looked at me with pity, and said something about how brave I was and how they could never do it, or their eyes gleamed with excitement and they started telling me about inside tips and how much they love it.  To the former, I was like, really? I’m going to DISNEYLAND, not having chemotherapy. I actually feel sorry for people who can’t have fun there or hate it. Quite a few, though, I suspect, say that because they think it would just be too commercial and anti-intellectual to say that they could possibly have fun there. My husband falls into this category.  To the latter, I say, you are my people. Let’s go ride.

There’s a gazillion blogs about ways to do Disneyland, and I read most of them, which meant that while I was somewhat maniacal about getting FastPasses and checking wait times on my phone, also meant that we waited in no line longer than 25 minutes and had so much fun.The best was the pin trading, which the kids got super into! The kids and I are looking forward to a trip to Orlando at some point in the future. Eric says that he’ll stay home and revel in being a curmudgeon instead.

After getting back, I was honestly depressed for a while. It was 8 total days of fun, and getting back to work and routine was hard. Especially when the rest of my family came back from vacation to…more summer vacation.

It was nice to get back to the garden this year. We’ve moved some things around, so that where we had had herbs in the central circle area we’ve now moved them back to be next to the bean screen. There’s less sun there so it’s a better fit for those plants and we have more room for vegetables. New this year: cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, different types of squash, and different types of tomatoes. I got new tomato cages on the recommendation of my neighbor, and while not cheap have been fantastic. For the first time the plants are happily supported and I’m not spending a bunch of time trying to make the flimsy little triangle cages stay upright by bolstering them with garden stakes.


June 5th. Little baby plants.

June 5th. Little baby plants.

July 1 garden

July 1 garden


July 10th garden

July 10th garden


My vision for the teepee in the middle was to have vines growing up it, and I left an opening to create a little hiding space for the kids.  Sadly, the beans just haven’t grown well there. Maybe it’s the variety I chose, maybe it’s because we’ve grown corn there for the past few years and the soil is depleted. I do fertilize with a natural fertilizer but, well, not everything grows well every year.

July 28 jungle

July 28 jungle


The other thing different this year is that I’ve been spraying with neem oil, a natural pesticide. According to the bottle, it doesn’t harm ladybugs but prevents bad bugs from eating or laying eggs on your plants. I will say that the aphid population has been near zero. The potato beetles don’t seem to care too much and nibble away, but don’t seem to be doing too much damage.


cabbage! No babies growing here.

cabbage! No babies growing here.


Another fun thing with all this rain has been all of the volunteer plants we’ve gotten! Two volunteer tomato plants, a bunch of dill, parsley, lettuce, cilantro. Some of these I just let go to seed so we keep getting more. The overall effect of this is somewhat jungle like given that there are plants popping up all over. I feel like if these plants are tough and determined enough to grow without actual irrigation, they deserve to live.

I have forgotten what kinds of squash I planted, unfortunately. I can’t remember if these are winter or summer squash. I have one that is giant, and am waiting to see if the shell hardens or not. This year again we have practically no squirrels chomping on the squash-two years of a late frost killing the blooms on my neighbors fruit trees has meant a large die off in the population. Thank you, Thomas Malthus.

unidentified squash object

unidentified squash object

We’ve already harvested our first tomato, kale, chard, basil, and of course plenty of other herbs. Should be a great rest of the growing year!

Ugh. Just Ugh.

04. 30. 2014

Dear Friends, I have done that which I promised never to do.

I have knit something truly ugly.

This is not really the first time I’ve ever knitted something hideous, but the last time was really more because I didn’t know what I was doing. That time I was knitting a little hat with berries on it, and I used a variegated yarn thinking that each berry would be a separate color and oh how cute that would be and really, it was a splotchy mess.  That hat was undone and became some washcloths.

That hat is one of the reasons I’m leery of variegated yarns anyway. I’ve done some other projects with them but have learned only to use variegated yarns that are tonal variations so it’s a subtle color shift, otherwise you end up with a piece that looks like clown vomit.

So for this piece, the intent was there, I used a tonal variegated yarn with a solid yarn to knit with it for strength and thinking that it would add consistency of color. Instead what  I ended up with was this:




What is that thing, you might ask. Well, it is meant to be a fetching little shoulder capelet thing to wear over tanks or sundresses, or flipped around as a scarf.

See how cute it is on the pattern page?


Citron Shawl

by Hillary Smith Callis

Yarns used: Habu A-60 Linen Paper Shoseni, 1 skein

Habu A-1 Tsumugi Silk

Maybe, I thought, maybe it will look better ON. You never know.


I’m too embarrassed to even spend time with it on to take better pictures. It doesn’t help.

Here it is worn as a “scarf”



I was especially excited since it’s with my beloved Habu yarns, a linen paper yarn and a silk held together, which I thought, hey, linen and silk! perfect for summer. But the linen is a paper linen and I thought it would soften with washing and it’s like wearing raffia.

Eric says I look like I’m wearing a bib. And he’s right.

I’ve shown a few people this and said, testing, “This is so ugly!” Hoping that they would disagree with me and say something like “No! It’s beautiful!”

That hasn’t happened yet.  Usually I just get a face and a sucking through the teeth and a slow, knowing, nod.

So it’ll be unraveled and made into something else. Maybe. Or I might just have some knitters PTSD with it and it will languish in my stash, forever.

Nette Sweater

02. 15. 2014


Pattern:Nette by Julie Weisberger

Yarn: Habu Yarns Nerimaki Silk

New Habu yarn project off the needles! I was worried while knitting this thing. The thick and thin silk yarn looks weird and dead while you’re knitting it, and then when it all came together it was just lovely. I love this sweater. I am going to change the button placement though-they are a bit too close together and I’d like it to button a little lower, but other than that it’s great. The yarn is a thick and thin silk so it naturally has areas that are a bit bigger and some are smaller, which creates a nice texture. Here’s a more closeup picture:


A note on sizing – I found the sleeves to be very narrow in circumference if knit according to pattern. They fit around my arms but could be a bit looser. It could also be my knitting. I made the 2nd size which calls for 7 skeins at 130 yards, and I’ve easily got at least one skein left over, so maybe I knit them a bit too tightly? Or maybe that’s because the pattern includes yarn for the optional collar? That collar, by the way, is hideous and I can’t understand why anyone would want to put that on this sweater.  At any rate, now I have to figure out what I can make with 130 yards of silk. The website says it’s enough for a scarf! Hmm…

One more Habu yarns project then it’ll be the last. I swear. At least for a while. Or until I go back to New York to buy more.


01. 19. 2014

The Girl has been famously bad at following directions in a group setting.  This has significantly limited her participation in extracurricular activities.  We tried enrolling her in a dance class, and while all the other little girls obediently sashayed across the stage, she ran back and forth at top speed, cackling all the time.  The instructor sighed at her. We tried enrolling her in karate, and while all the other kids walked across the floor, practicing punches, she sat on the ground and cackled at Sensei. She took piano for a while and despite the teacher’s best attempts at various ways to get her to comply, it was all for naught.

So it was with some degree of surprise when, seemingly out of nowhere over last summer, she announced that she wanted to learn to play the violin. Eric rented a violin and found her an instructor, a 6′ 1′ tall Chinese woman named Hong who is a lovely person and a good instructor. At the first lesson, we told her that this would probably last a couple weeks and not to expect too much-we certainly didn’t. But the Girl has surprised us-she loves playing, usually is good about practicing and is dedicated to improving.  It’s been a few months now and I think it’s going to stick, at least for now.

Here she is at her first recital! A bit squeaky for sure, an extra few measures that don’t belong, but overall I think she did great!

Dryad Scarf

01. 18. 2014

The scarf is done! I gave it to Eric, who put it on, wrinkled his nose, and asked, “Do you think it’s too long?”

I had to restrain myself from grabbing a pair of scissors and simply slicing off a few inches of the scarf in spite, and then watching it unravel.

I tried to get an “action” shot of Eric as he usually is on a Saturday morning, but my artistic integrity was interrupted.


I love this scarf-here’s a detail of the cabling:


This tweed looks so pretty with the pattern. Perfect for the lounging intellectual reading some relaxing Plato on a Saturday morning.

IMGP5155Pattern: Dryad by Jared Flood

Yarn: Takhi Yarns Donegal Tweed, 4 skeins

Preblocked the scarf was 9″ by 72″, post blocking it’s 9 1/2″ by 80″. So yes, a bit on the long side but not really for someone who’s as tall as Eric.

I did pick up that sweater I’d been a bit bored of, so will try to get that one done before too long.  And then apparently I have to teach someone how to make a sweater with a wolf on it, which as we all know is the sign of an ultimate weirdo, so I may have to refuse for the person’s own good.

Knitting, old and new

01. 6. 2014

So let’s do some catchup on relatively recent projects, shall we?

There’s these fingerless gloves that I made for the kids, waaay too big really but they don’t seem to care. The Boy has already lost one of them anyway. What is it about gloves in our house? We can NOT hold onto an actual pair through a whole season. How do people make this magic happen?

fingerless mitts

fingerless mitts

Next up: the Gretel tank top, knit with my favorite yarn obsession, Habu. This is knit with a cotton tape yarn, which feels like paper when you’re knitting with it. According to the pattern, you only need two tiny little balls for a whole tank top! See how well that worked out?


Or…not.  I used up all 2 balls of yarn that the pattern told me I would need and had nowhere near enough yarn. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the one I wanted anywhere but New York as Fancy Tiger wasn’t carrying this yarn at the time. So I waited for my summer trip, went to Habu, and got another ball of black yarn. You can see how well it matches by looking at the difference in colors in the cowl and the bottom, where I picked up stitches and knit down to make it long enough.


Actually…that looks pretty cool. When it was all done I enlisted my elves to help me take a picture, and they insisted on photobombing me at every step.


IMG_4012Pattern: Gretel, by Julie Weisberger

Yarn: Habu Cotton Gima, 2 balls in black and 1 in charcoal (pattern states you’ll only need 2, this is not true)

It was fortuitous that this lacy, lightweight tank was finished just in time for winter!

Since I couldn’t wear the tank top during that crazy cold snap we had in December, and I needed a warm hat, I made one.


Pattern: Really Warm Hat by Melissa LeBarre

Yarn: Blue Sky Alpaca Bulky, 1 ish skein.

Don’t even think about stealing this hat, people. This one is actually a bit too big around the brim so I threaded elastic cord through the bottom and now it stays on nicely.

And last is the current project I’m working on, another Jared Flood design. I started this sometime over the summer and then actually looked at my knitting.


See how the first pattern section looks nothing like the second? Yeah, that’s a complete screw up where I missed some cables and then did some others backwards.  Since it’s going to be a scarf for Eric, I asked him what he thought, and he promptly replied, “Oh yeah that’s all messed up. It would bug me.” Not cool, knitting recipient, not cool. However, he was right and the whole thing was ripped out and reknit correctly. Color is much truer in this picture.

IMG_3944Pattern: Dryad by Jared Flood

Yarn: Takhi Yarns Donegal Tweed

I’m about 2/3 of the way done with it by now, and I love this scarf. The tweedy yarn works so well with the big cables, and it’s going to be big and cozy and warm and lovely when it’s all done.

After the scarf I have a sweater to finish up that I’ve lost some interest in, so we’ll see if I pick that back up again or start something new. Part of me wants to make a big crazy throw out of all the yarn scraps I have, something to snuggle under in our basement when it gets to be cold, but that might  make me feel like a 70s afghan knitter, chevron pattern and all.  Am I that person? Maybe so.

Skiing and Fear on the Mountain

01. 6. 2014

Well, we’ve just gotten back from 2 days at Copper Mountain which were largely just great.  This has been the first winter break where I haven’t been absolutely counting down the seconds where the kids went back to school. Overall, we had 4 days of skiing, my sister came out for a whole week, the kids basically made the pierogies this year for our Christmas Eve dinner and Santa made it by the house. My schedule has somehow allowed me to be off for almost all of 2 weeks, and since Eric is home on winter break also, it’s just been a lot of good family time. Not that there haven’t been a few moments where I think we were all a little sick of each other, have separated the kids, have created spurious reasons for early bedtimes, or have had tantrums (both kids and myself). But for the most part it’s just been really, really fun.

Skiing over the break was huge. The boy and the girl made huge leaps in their skiing this year-the girl went on her first lift and the boy is even skiing some blue runs!  One of the things we’ve been looking forward to is having them be able to ski with us and not have to be in lessons. Since I snowboard I can’t really help out with teaching them to ski, and Eric didn’t necessarily feel comfortable teaching them either. This last time, I agreed to pick up the boy early at 2pm to ski a run or two with him after lessons since he’d made so much progress.  So on Saturday, we picked him up at 2 and I went up a lift with him for a run.  Eric was going to wait at West Village for the girl to finish her lesson at 3pm, and the boy and I were going to ski over to Center village where our lodge was.

[A note: this is long. If you want the brief version, I couldn't find the Boy and was panicky. Scroll down to the asterix break to find out what actually happened. Otherwise read on to share my two hours of terror.]

Now the boy likes to ski through the trees, which I find nerve wracking when I ride with him-one moment he’s there, then he’s not, then he pops out of some trees. So I’d asked him not to go through trees on our ride down. A note about the weather-it was cold. 15 degrees cold and dropping. We were both tired and getting chilled so agreed to just do the one run. We got off the lift and headed down the run to take us to Center Village, and then suddenly, he simply wasn’t there.  I thought he had maybe taken a little tree path, so followed it down, but didn’t see him at the end. I waited there, looked up and down the mountain and just…no child. At this point, I got worried that he had hit a tree or gotten stuck, so I unstrapped myself from my board and walked up the hill, but didn’t see anyone in the trees. I flagged down a ski instructor and told them what I was worried of-he skied the path and looked from below and assured me that there was no one in the trees.

This wasn’t really all that reassuring to me, as my big snowboarding fear is getting stuck in a tree well, low enough that rescuers can’t see you and getting hypothermic and suffocating to death. I hightailed it down the mountain to Center Village, looking for the boy the whole time and not seeing him. At this point, I was in almost full panic mode. I found someone who eventually directed me to Ski Patrol and I hoped that he was just sitting in the office, but he wasn’t there. I told the Patrol officers about what had happened, and expected them to say something like, “Oh we already have him,” but they didn’t. I was now in full panic mode.

As they called their units into action and reassured me that they had never lost anyone, I was frantically trying to call Eric, but cell service wasn’t working. I was able to text him and our friend, who was with him, about what was going on, and told him to wait there and have our friend take the girl back to the lodge. The Ski Patrol people asked me to walk around the base of Center Village, which is a large place if you’ve ever been to Copper Mountain. I walked around, into the restaurants that he’s been familiar with, and still no boy. I went back to the office and the Ski Patrol guy said we should re-ski the run we had been on, though part of me suspects that he did this to get me out of the office and feel like I was doing something. The temperature was dropping rapidly-someone in the ski patrol office commented that it was now 5 degrees outside. It was snowing and getting darker too, all of which made me more and more terrified.

At this point, Eric was over at West Village and waiting to hear something, but his phone had died. He called me from someone else’s phone, but I didn’t really have much to tell him. As we were taking the lift up to get back to the run, the ski patrol had the boy’s tag scanned-he had just gotten on the West Village lift at 3:17, which was now! Relief flooded over me, as at least he was alive. He must have taken a wrong turn, I reasoned, ended up at the wrong village, and gotten back on the lift to try again. As it turned out, the timing on the chip was off by an hour so my relief was unfounded, but I didn’t know it at the time. We hightailed it down to the top of the Union Creek lift and waited for him to get off, which he never did. Maybe we missed him again, the Ski Patrol guy reasoned, and we headed back down the original run. Somehow on the way down I lost the ski patrol person again.  By this point, my phone had died too. Usually I keep it in an interior pocket of my jacket but had just stuck it into a side pocket and it had frozen too cold to work. So now I had no way to reach Eric either.

I ran back into the office at Center Village near 4 pm, almost 2 hours since I saw the boy last. I started babbling how I’d lost my kid and now I’d lost the ski patrol person and honestly I don’t remember what else. The kind man there told me to hold on and said that the boy had been found-he was at our ski lodge and our friend had called it in. Sheer relief and happiness flooded over me. The man asked me what my name was, and it took me a full 10 seconds to remember my name. I’m not kidding here. He drove me back over to the lodge, where I found the boy calmly playing Plants vs. Zombies on a cell phone. He looked up at me and said, “Hi Mom!” and went back to playing.


As he told us the story, what had happened was this, in his own words as much as possible: “So, I was skiing and then went into a little curve, but not in the trees, and then when I looked around Mom wasn’t there. So I skied down a little ways and waited, but didn’t see Mom. So I started to freak out a little, but then said to myself that I had to make a plan. I didn’t want to just stay on the mountain because of, well, strangers, and also because it was getting cold. So I made a plan to find anyone I knew. I skied down to Center Village, and followed the signs so I didn’t go to Union Creek. When I got to the bottom I still didn’t see Mom, so I looked at Center Village and saw Jack’s and the big snowpile that was next to our lodge and went there. I climbed the snowpile to get higher up and see if I could see anyone from higher up. I got into the lodge but didn’t have a card to get up to the room so waited for someone else to get in the elevator and then took it up to our floor and went to the room, but no one was there. So then I remembered that you had talked about going to use the hot tub at the fitness center, so I went outside and asked someone to show me where it was. I walked to the fitness center [note: this is about 1/4 mile away, across 2 streets, and he was still wearing ski boots] and asked them if they had seen you or our friends. They looked but didn’t find them. I told them my story and they said that if I couldn’t find my way home to come back. I walked back to the lodge and then remembered that there was a hot tub on the second floor, so took the elevator again and saw that it was still closed. As I was walking back to the elevator to just go back to our room and wait, I heard Sister’s voice downstairs. [Note: that floor is open to the ground floor below, so sound carries up] I said, ‘Sister?!’ and then Aunty said, “Boy, is that you?!” and they met me at the elevator and let me in!”

At this point, our friends called Ski Patrol to let them know he had been found, and our stories match up.

I cannot believe how composed the Boy was and how he was able to devise a plan for himself, find his way back to the lodge, walk 1/2 a mile around Copper looking for us, and really take care of himself. I was so impressed by his independence and resourcefulness, and am astonished that he didn’t simply start weeping at the side of the mountain. After it was all over I identified with the mom in “Home Alone,” where she was frantically trying to get to her son, who had it all under control. This experience made me feel like we are doing something right as parents. :)

I also cannot believe that he told the adults at the fitness center that he was a lost child and they simply sent him back out into the cold weather instead of calling Ski Patrol immediately. I am so grateful that my daughter never stops talking in the loudest voice possible so that the Boy heard her from a flight up and called back. Mostly I’m just so happy that the Boy is safe, alive, and back with us so we can all go on more skiing adventures.

But this time with a plan for what to do if we get separated.


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