Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Baby Blanket

There are times when knitting can be a solace, a lifeline, the very thing that keeps you going when life is not going the way you want. The baby blanket was that knitting for me. It was on display at my LYS, Double Ewe, for a time. It is log cabin blocks with a yellow feather and fan border around it.

My daughter announced that she was going to have a baby and I wanted to knit a baby blanket for the new life coming. So I started the Mason Dixon log cabin recipe from their book Mason Dixon Knitting. At the same time my Dad was declining in health. He had a major surgery and we thought that he would get better. He didn’t. Many days were spent in the emergency room, then in the hospital and visiting in the rehab nursing home. Perfect knitting project! Garter stitch, mindless knitting, knit 9 ridges, turn, pick up on the next side, knit 9 ridges, repeat as needed. Then my husband’s employer announced yet another layoff. He decided to be proactive and take the voluntary buy-out in order to get more severance and so Dad was slowly dying and husband was facing unemployment.

Knit, knitknit.

We found a nursing facility for Dad, moved him in. They called because he was not doing well (I probably was at Friday knitting at Double Ewe when they called, knitting) and we decided to send him by ambulance to the emergency room again. 10 days in the ICU.

Knit, knit, knit.

We took turns staying all night in the hospital. Dad died of MRSA, the staph infection that is so resistant to antibiotics, after a 10 day struggle.

Knit, knit, knit.

Funeral arrangements, coping with a grieving mother, oh my, just writing this brings tears.

Knit, knit, knit.

After the funeral, I couldn’t face the blanket. All I could think of was my father and his long struggle and eventual death whenever I thought about picking it up. It sat for months. I brought it on vacation but didn’t touch it. But babies come on a schedule. So I couldn’t let it languish as a forever UFO. I picked it up again and there wasn’t much left of the body of it – the log cabin blocks. I finished the blocks – four of them, and sewed them together. I had been dreading sewing them together but it wasn’t that hard to do. Then the decision about what to put on the edge. I looked at various edge patterns and eventually found a baby blanket pattern on the knit list with an edging that had no picture so I made a washcloth prototype to test the pattern. Husband still unemployed.

Knit, knit, knit.

I liked how the washcloth turned out so I adapted the pattern for the stitch count of the baby blanket and picked up hundreds of stitched around it and knit, knit, knit. Husband got a job offer, then another one, decisions had to be made!

Knit, knit, knit.

I finished the blanket. My husband has a new job that he loves. Abigail was born a month ago and we’ve become grandparents. A new life starting as we’ve lost a loved one. Life is like that.

Knit, knit, knit.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Home again, home again

It was quite interesting to live for a couple, almost three weeks, with a cleanie. I came home to my er, cluttered home, and I like it, thank you very much! I’ve always known what it takes to be a cleanie as opposed to a messy. And I do try. I just can’t bear to part with stuff that might come in useful some day. And when you do multiple crafts you have lots of junk equipment associated with each of them.

But one of my desires now that I’m retired is to try to get a handle on the stuff in my life. I’ll try not to get too carried away though. I observed that Eric takes care of little things right away. Spill on the counter – wipe it up now. And he’s always moving. He also throws away stuff that I wouldn't dream of throwing away. I’ve been doing some of that. It’s just that I need to do more in order to catch up on years of living free and easy. Some people have asked me how I get so much done (in the crafting area) and I always tell them that I don’t do housework. I’ll add that I rarely watch television either.

I’ve found myself listening for Abigail’s cry since I’ve been home. I miss her (and Amy and Eric of course). While the Compadre was there he spent as much time as possible holding Abby. In the middle of the night when she was fussing he carried her downstairs to the glider rocker that we just bought them, and sat for hours both nights, with her sleeping and him dozing. He had a tough Monday morning this morning as he was still very tired but he said it was worth every minute of it.

Now my list says that I need to unpack, do laundry, go through the mail that accumulated while I was gone, put away the Christmas stuff that the Compadre didn’t get to, and oh, knit on the Sideways Sockyarn Sweater. I didn’t get much knitting done on it while I was gone – there were important things to do like hold a baby. But the two sweaters that I knit for Abigail are too big and I think that this one will be more her size so I need to get it done quick before she grows. I’m looking forward to seeing Mary’s at Double Ewe.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Knit night in Delaware

Tuesday night Eric drove Amy and Abigail and me to Newark, Delaware so that we could attend the knitting gathering of Newark Knitters. It met that night at Panera so we ate supper first and looked for likely knitting suspects while we ate. Amy thought that they would all be middle aged or older and I thought that since we were in a college town (University of Delaware) that they'd all be young. Ha! I was right - well almost right. I'm guessing that I was the oldest one there. We had a marvelous time and met some very nice people.
I got some of the names of the people there (I asked Erin who sat on my left) So, started on the left and going clockwise, Erin, Jen, Bree, Patience at the end, I didn't get name of the last women on the right, another Jen in the pink and Amy wearing Abigail in her sling. Erin and Patience were making string bags for a promotion at their local yarn shop, Stitches with Style. On every 5th Saturday if you bring in a knitted bag made with yarn purchased there and using one of two patterns, you can get 15% off of every thing you can stuff in the bag. Good Idea! Jen on the left was working on a crochet baby blanket and Jen on the right was starting a flower shaped baby blanket by Dawn Brocco. Amy was working on the Ultimate Gift Sweater for Eric. She's just started, it's black and has lots of cables, and she successfully worked on it in a group setting while wearing Abigail in her sling. Sheesh, that's more than I would attempt but Amy is trying to be faithful to one project so that she actually gets it done. The others couldn't believe that she wouldn't have multiple projects going. (Actually when we unpacked some more boxes we found some ancient projects from 15 years ago that she still has unfinished). I was wisely working on a simple sock in 2x2 rib. Boring but good to do in company.

The next day Amy and I visited Stitches with Style. A large well stocked no frills knitting store. It had lots of seating area and friendly staff. We don't understand why it's not open any evenings though. If Amy was working outside of the home she wouldn't be able to go there any time except Saturday's. Makes me appreciate Double Ewe all the more. I'm really looking forward to going back to my knitting group in Minnesota next Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Internet At Last

You should see us now. All three of us on our laptops. As soon as the internet guy got the system up and running we were on!! Can you spell internet withdrawal?

So, since I last posted we’ve traveled 750 miles with a newborn and a mom recovering from a c-section (stopping to visit Eric’s very ill grandfather on the way). My sister Mary drove Eric's manual transmission car and my son John drove the U-Haul truck with all the Most Essential Stuff in it. We almost stayed at cockroach motel when we arrived but my sister discovered the roach before we moved in so Eric found a swank place for us to stay instead. While Eric was dealing with closing on the house, we supervised the movers bringing all of Amy and Eric’s worldly possessions into their new house.

Amy sat on a chair in the kitchen checking off boxes as the movers brought them in. Then we unpacked, and unpacked, and unpacked and still there are more boxes to unpack.

I’ve been making curtains for the windows. We bought 30 some yards of fabric and it wasn’t quite enough so I tried figuring to see if I could make it with what we found. By the way Delaware doesn’t have any sales tax and we got the fabric at JoAnn on sale for $1.50 per yard – yes you read that right! Woo Hoo! I came to the conclusion that it was either make the valances out of different material or make one of the three room’s curtains with different material. But first I thought it would be possible that another JoAnn might have some more so I asked my longsuffering husband if he would be willing to go to our store in Minnesota and see. I advised him to act like I do in a Home Depot (dumb blond act even if I do know what I want – it’s gotten me lots of extra help). He went last night despite bad roads and bitter cold and called me to say “I’ve got the goods”! What a guy. It wasn’t on sale and there was Minnesota sales tax but still $3.00 a yard is pretty good. Oh and he did have a helpful clerk find the fabric for him. He’ll be coming out here this weekend so he’ll bring the fabric with him. Amy might have to finish up the valances but I’ll get as much done as I can.

We visited Eric’s grandpa on Saturday, moved into the house on Monday and on Thursday Eric got the call that his grandpa had just died. Grandpa was so happy to see his new great granddaughter. He really enjoyed the visit and Eric got to see his Grandpa one last time. Eric went to the funeral and Amy and I stayed here.

While he was gone Abigail decided to become a more fussy baby. While I can’t imagine anyone having a family bed I can see how it might work if you have a baby that won’t calm down. For half of the night Abigail slept in Amy’s bed and for the other half she slept in mine. It’s very strange to sleep with a newborn baby. I didn’t sleep very well because either I worried that I would accidentally roll over on her or she was moving and making noises and waking me up. At one point her little fist punched me in the face! We figured out that if we hold Abby on our chest with her head under our chin that she would eventually go to sleep. So I started out with her asleep on my chest and then eased her onto my bed. Since then she’s slept in her own bed and has been less fussy, maybe she knew that her Daddy was gone. Amy has been changing her diaper before she feeds her and then she is in a drunken stupor when she is put down to sleep.

There has been a request to see Abigail in the Tulip sweater. Abigail is a very small baby! The sweater fits Pooh Bear much better.

Oh, and whenever we’re in the south with my son John he has to eat at Waffle House. They just don’t do hospitality in Minnesota like they do in the south. You walk into Waffle House and they greet you like they know you and you’re their long lost friend. It’s like a blast from the past to go to a Waffle House. A juke box playing and either the counter to eat at or a tiny booth. We had the All American breakfast and there wasn’t enough room on the table for the food for the three of us! Mmm, mmm good.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Heading Out

Just a quick post before we head out from Atlanta to Maryland. I'm helping Amy and Eric with new baby Abigail and with the move. It's really fun to hold Abby and that's what a Grandma loves to do!
Abby is doing great! I got to go with them to the pediatrician and he said that they are doing everything right. Abigail has gained weight beyond her birth weight and that's terrific. Amy is feeling fine considering what she's been through.

The movers came and moved the piles of boxes that were stacked all over the apartment.

And now today we start the 750 mile trek with a u-haul, newborn, convalescing mother, and two cars. My sister and my son arrived last night to help with the transfer. If all goes as planned Amy and Eric will have a new house on Monday!

Added on Saturday morning from South Carolina. Lost my internet connection before posting yesterday and so here we are in our hotel with free internet access and I can send this.

Abby was very good in the car yesterday. It took us a long time to get going and so didn't get quite as far as we had hoped but we're still on schedule.

Friday, January 4, 2008

My Recipe Collection

Miss T reminded me that Ann and Kay of Mason Dixon Knitting are having a contest. While I can't compete with the sheer volume of recipes that Miss T has, I do have a lot and I'll show you.

First we have the bookcase at the top of the steps that crammed full of my recipe books. Note the ones stacked up to the ceiling on the top! Oh, the unknown potential for fabulous meals. I've used many of them and have my favorites but most are untried. Once in a fit of misplaced guilt over how many cookbooks I had, I sold some of them at a garage sale!! I've regretted it ever since. If you look carefully, on the very top left is the 3 ring binder with the recipes that I took off the backs of the cupboard doors when we remodeled our kitchen. Those are the most precious of my recipes.

Then we have the pile of unorganized recipes. Some are in a box - lots of good stuff here too. I've been meaning to organize this. I've got the mimeographed copies of the recipes that Aunt Ann used in her home ec classes in this box. Now, that's good eating!

And last but not least are my two recipe boxes. I asked my husband one year long ago for a big recipe box. He went to the store and got me the top one. It's a recipe box for big recipes. Hee, hee. I do have some of those but I needed a BIG recipe box. Ann came through and gave me the one on the bottom. Both are full. I have many recipes that friends gave me in those boxes. It's like reading family history to go through them. Memories of meals eaten together with friends, potlucks, desserts brought to special occasions. Mmmmm. So the recipe I'll share from the bottom box is from our friend Ted. We make this fudge every Christmas - it's a family tradition. In fact as far as family history goes, this is the fudge that I passed to my sorority sisters when my future husband and I announced our engagement. Thanks Ted!

Ted’s Fudge

Combine and set aside:

18 oz. choc. Chips

1 sq. baking choc. (1 oz.)

½ lb. butter

½ c. chopped walnuts

1 tsp. vanilla

Grease large cookie sheet or 2 13 x 9 pans

Combine in a large kettle and bring to a rolling boil:

1 can evaporated milk

4 1/2 cups sugar

Boil for 9 minutes while stirring constantly. Then add dry ingredients and stir until completely mixed. Pour immediately into cookie sheet. Makes 5-6 lbs of fudge.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A Cup of New Year's Coffee

Everyone needs to have an Aunt Ann in their lives. My Aunt Ann has been a wonderful presence in my life. I’ve looked up to her all my life. She’s been a mentor, buffer, encourager, and teacher for me. Ann spent 36 years as a home economics teacher in a mid size town in Minnesota. She understood teenagers and my own parents were clueless (or so it seemed at the time). She was the person to go to with my parent troubles, joys and all around teenage angst. During my college years she taught me a lot about how to get along in life, how to cook, and how to be a generous and nice person.

On New Year’s Day we traveled the distance to visit with her and had a wonderful time. Her special gift is cooking and so even though she’s 80 some years old she cooked up a storm. We always come home with a load of “extra” food – it’s required to bring a cooler to her house. She loves coffee and always has the coffee pot on. We sat and drank coffee and visited and ate and visited and ate some more.

This time while I was there I brought my lap top and copied some of her recipes into it. We talked about how I should come up now that I’m retired and copy all of her favorite ones. She likes the idea of making a book of them. I think that’s a great idea too and I’m looking forward to doing it. So, in honor of my Aunt Ann here is one of her recipes. She often sends us home with a loaf. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Ann’s Banana Bread Recipe

½ c. (1 stick) butter or margarine

1 c. sugar

2 eggs

3 well ripened bananas, mashed

1 ¼ c. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

Generously butter and flour a regular size loaf pan. Blend together butter and sugar. Add eggs and blend. Add bananas and mix until well blended. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in bowl. Add to banana mixture and blend well. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes or until done. Check with a toothpick. Cool on rack in pan. Remove and cool completely. Makes 1 loaf. Freezes well.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Retirement Blues

It felt really weird to stay home this morning and not go to work. I miss the people that I worked with. I wonder how their holidays went, how they're feeling and I miss the kids. I suppose that it's a common feeling. But still... Do you know that it was order day and I didn't have to put away pallets of food! And I don't have to worry about whether we made enough to feed everybody without having too much! And I don't even know what the menu for today was! I believe I'm going to be able to cope after all.

My daughter and Abigail are doing well. I'm counting the days until I go to help them. This picture really shows how little Abigail is.
And I continue to knit! I've started the Sideways Sockyarn Baby Sweater
I am confident that I can finish it before I leave. Wow I can knit all day every day now. Abigail is going to be the Most Knit for Baby Ever.

Oh, and thank you for all the wonderful comments about my exceptionally cute grandbaby!