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First Raksha Bandan!

08. 12. 2014

Let me start by saying that growing up we never really celebrated the Hindu holidays much. I remember once we went to temple for Holi which was a lot of fun, and one trip to India for Diwali, which was fabulous, lighting firecrackers every night. Some of them I’ve only learned about when my Indian family and friends start wishing each other a happy something-or-other on Facebook, and I’m sent to Google it and figure out what it is I’m supposed to be celebrating. (Case in point: Dussehra, which I only learned of a year or two ago.)

So when, a few days earlier, my new and very cool cousin Shefali posted something about asking what traditions people do for Raksha Bandan, I thought it would be a good place for our family to start celebrating some of these traditions. Raksha Bandan, for those of you who don’t know (or haven’t already gone to Google) is a day to celebrate the bond between sister and brother. In my Googling, I learned that it is to celebrate the chaste bond between brother and sister, so sometimes girls will tie a rakhi (bracelet) onto a boy that they think is getting too interested. It’s like a ritualized friendzoning.

Of course, I didn’t really know how to celebrate other than to tie a bracelet, so back to the internets. I did call my mom the day of, but no one answered the phone. Most of them agreed that you have the sister perform a puja (prayer) to the brother and then tie a bracelet on to him. He is then supposed to say that he will protect her and give her a gift.

Rakhi in India range from simple to very, very elaborate, even with some using gold and diamonds.  We opted for the simpler route and I thought it would be more meaningful if the kids made bracelets for each other. One of the advantages of being a mercurial crafter is that you have a lot of random supplies around the house from well-intentioned crafting excursions. From the time that I thought I was going to start making friendship bracelets again and also thought I’d take up embroidery (um, yeah), I had quite a bit of embroidery floss around.

I had the girl make a simple braided bracelet with beads, and the boy made a simple knotted bracelet also with some beads (from that time I thought I’d start making my own jewelery).  I figured, it’s 2014 and it seemed to make sense that the brother and sister do puja for each other and give each other bracelets instead of just sisters to brothers. (sorry for the lack of good pictures in this post-I was too involved with actually participating to focus on taking good images.)

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On the day of Raksha Bandan, Eric pulled out the puja set that my parents had given me some time ago. I started by lighting the oil lamp, which I learned is supposed to use clarified butter. I didn’t have any on hand so just used vegetable oil. I quickly learned that this burns through fast and had to use tweezers to remove the wicks before they set off the smoke alarms. Then, I needed some incense (“to provide a pleasing aroma for the deity,” says the internet)  but we didn’t have any. I leaned over our backyard fence and asked our cigarette-smoking neighbors if they had any, and they did! It takes a village, no?

The puja tray looked a little bare, so I put Ganapati on it for good measure. I figure, what can go wrong if he is watching on? The Girl insisted that he wear his “necklace,” which is the strand of pearls that Eric and I wore around our heads when we got married and that usually live draped around Ganapati on our mantelpiece. Why not?

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Then we went outside for the ceremony. First the girl and boy did puja for each other and tied bracelets on each other, saying that they would love and protect each other.

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Two of their friends were over and so they participated as well, with the the girl tying a simple cord onto their wrists. It was all very sweet and I’d like to think that it was why they played so nicely for the rest of the evening.

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It was really, really lovely to do and to see them with each other, even if the kids didn’t take it quite as seriously as I would have liked. It’s made me think that we should be more intentional about celebrating other Hindu holidays as well. Maybe Diwali this year? Or I’ll get really into things and figure out what Dussehra is and how I’m supposed to celebrate it.

Musical Chairs

08. 8. 2014

My parents really tried to get me to be a musician. Five years of piano lessons, but the truth is I’m just not that musical and I hated playing.

I can’t believe how different the kids are in that regard-they’ve gotten Eric’s musical talent (thank goodness) and actually enjoy playing. Today the boy disappeared for a while and when I went to check on him, this is what I found him doing:

Not sure how I got so lucky to have such a great and talented kid, but I’m grateful every day.

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:

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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

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.

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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”

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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

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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:

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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.

Violinist

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.

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

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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.

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