Thursday, October 19, 2017

Leaf and sky











Oh, glorious October! It seems like the whole world consists of nothing but brightly burnished trees and wide-open blue skies. Inside, the light is all changing angles and unexpectedly lit corners. Outside the back windows: golden locusts lining the north side of the arroyo as far as I can see, to where it bends under the road behind it. Outside the front window: golden olive tree glowing brighter throughout the day as the sun moves around it. The weather has been just about perfect; this is the nicest fall we've had in a few years. The afternoons are warm and bright, the nights properly chilly. We haven't had unnatural heat this fall, just pleasant warmth you can enjoy all the more because you can tell that it's fleeting. There isn't that no-end-in-sight feeling to the heat that we sometimes have, just a sense of needing to appreciate the nice days while they last, which is exactly how I want my autumn to feel.

Life has been a little difficult in general these past couple of weeks, in spite of the loveliness outdoors. There have been medical appointments with somewhat concerning news, an extracurricular activity scheduling change and a change at school to get used to, a not-unexpected but still very sad death in the extended family, and a miserable, lingering cold that we've all suffered through. We had fall break last week, but very little fun happened; we were all feeling too poorly. I barely left the house all week, preferring to take it easy on the couch or in bed, whenever I wasn't helping some other poor sick soul. Tomorrow, I'll be having some (minor) dental work and consequently, my anxiety is (irrationally) through the roof.

On the positive side, I've continued my run of unusually good library books, I found out that Amazon Prime carries both The Cosby Show and Roseanne in their streaming offerings (great for convalescing), and I've been able to make very good progress on Maybelle - I'm now more than halfway through joining the squares. I'm really excited about that. To celebrate my survival at the dentist, I plan to order Chinese food on Saturday night for our at-home date. I'm going to bake a pumpkin pie this weekend too. We have big plans for Halloween, it's all in the works!

Oh, and I bit the bullet and made a reservation for Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant this year. YES. I wouldn't do this ordinarily, preferring to make the whole huge meal myself, but this year my birthday falls on Thanksgiving Day for the first time in eleven years (I was also born on the big day), and I'd rather not do all that work on my own birthday. I'm also just looking forward to doing something different for the holiday. My family doesn't mind either way. Sometimes you just have take what you want for yourself.

I have to get going now, need to pick up a library book before I pick up the children at school. I hope you're doing well and enjoying a fall break if you're having one where you are. Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Permanent pumpkins


For the past couple of weeks, I've been crocheting some little pumpkins and squashes when I feel like a little break from Big Mama Maybelle, which is fun to work on but also a bit overwhelming at times. I mentioned these pumpkins recently; I decided to make them instead of buying mini pumpkins and squashes like I usually do in the fall to make a table display in my living room. The minis are so cute, and they come in so many surprising shapes, sizes and colors. I really love them. But I can't seem to keep them fresh for more than a week or so, and I always end up needing to buy more, which is a hassle and not especially economical.

I considered buying some realistic-looking plastic-covered foam pumpkins and squashes that I saw in a craft store, but then I thought of crocheting some instead! People (like my friend Gillian) crochet cute and realistic fruits and veggies all the time! So I went looking on Ravelry for ideas and came up with two very nice amugurumi patterns for pumpkins and squashes, sorted my yarns for the most autumnal colors possible, and got to work.


The pumpkins are made with a pattern called Amigurumi Pumpkins, designed by Mevlinn Gusick. This pattern comes with instructions for making pumpkins in three sizes; I made one of each. Aren't they cute? I just love them. The design is really clever; you crochet sort of a tall bag closed at the bottom, fill it with toy stuffing, and use decrease stitches to close up the other end. Then you run long stitches around the outside from top to bottom and pull them tight to create the segmented shape. You can make them squatter or taller depending on how you do the long stitches. I made stitches for eight segments on the medium and large pumpkins, but only six on the little cream-colored one, just in keeping with the sizes. It's really open-ended; the pumpkin shape comes through no matter what. The pattern also includes instructions for making different-sized stems, as well as leaves, which I didn't add (I thought they looked just fine, and a little more natural, without them).


I like the squashes too, but I felt a little less successful with them. They're made with a pattern from Lion Brand Yarn which is part of a larger bundle that you can use to crochet a whole "cornucopia" of harvest fruits and vegetables, including the horn itself! I'll admit right now that I'm very much an amigurumi beginner, and I'm not always good at following the patterns, even with an eagle-eye on my work and a stitch marker. This pattern is also challenging because it has you adding stuffing as you work, which I find difficult because the stuffing gets in my way. These squashes are supposed to have much longer, skinnier stems on them; mine ended up pretty short and chubby. But squashes are usually funny-looking in real life, aren't they? Mine are...unique. :)


My display is on the coffee table in our living room. I laid out a patchwork table runner that I sewed when we were newlyweds (it's reversible, made with two fat-quarter sets, the other side with Christmas fabrics; I'm sure you've seen both sides in my posts). The pumpkins and squashes are arranged on a large, decorative glass platter. I think it looks nice - bright, fun and seasonal. Everyone loves them; I keep finding a small girl rearranging them to her own liking, which is fine with me. Why crochet fun veggie toys if nobody is allowed to touch them? I'm glad I made them and I'm looking forward to using them again and again in the future, when my favorite season rolls around.

Permanent Pumpkins (and Steadfast Squashes)
Yarns: Stylecraft Special DK in Tomato, Khaki, Meadow, Gold, Mocha and Walnut; Baby Bee Sweet Delight (DK/baby weight) in Apricot Jam and Naked
Hook: Clover Amour G/6 (4.00mm)
Patterns: Amigurumi Pumpkins by Mevlinn Gusick; Squash by Lion Brand Yarn


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Have you joined in with my Winter Project Link Party yet? I hope you will join in with our first party of the season. Please add your link soon; the party ends on Saturday! There have been questions about what I mean when I ask for new posts. To clarify, I'd just like to keep the party fresh, and encourage support, by sharing current works in progress or very recent finishes. If you've just written a relevant post in the last few weeks before a link party, that's fine to add. You're welcome to add as many posts as you like in any month's party. Link parties will take place each month, October through March. I don't mean to be bossy, I just want the party to be fun and supportive for everyone. Thanks! And thank you to all who have joined in so far, I'm really glad to have you.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Winter Project Link Party


Welcome back to the Winter Project Link Party! This is my third annual link party and I really hope you will want to join in with sharing your current works-in-progress (and your current projects as your finish them!) over the next several months. I'm so excited to be back to the link party. I always try to have a project going through the winter months, and I have found that our link party really helps me stay focused on my projects as the seasons progress.

To join in with my party, please see the information at the bottom of this post. If you've joined in before, everything is about the same as in previous years. There is one new thing this year: I'd really like to make sure we're keeping our link party fresh by adding NEW posts. Please refrain from adding older posts from your blog. Otherwise, the party is simple and straightforward: show us what you're working on right now, get (and give) encouragement!

As for me, I'm now joining my Maybelle squares to make a big (erm, gigantic) blanket for our queen-sized bed. This blanket really is huge, but that's how we want it, for warmth on top of the duvet in the colder months. It should be about 90 by 90 inches square before adding a border, which at this point I am thinking will be pretty narrow. This blanket just won't need a lot of extra area by the time it's all joined together!




I'm enjoying the joining process so much. It's really soothing and relaxing, and it goes by really fast. I have found that I need to sit in the deeper, wider living room chairs instead of the smaller recliner in the family room, where I sat to crochet individual squares for many months. The blanket is getting so big that I need the extra space around me to keep the blanket on my lap, or pushed to one side of my lap, as I work on it.

I'm using the joining technique suggested in the Maybelle blanket tutorials written by Annette, of the blog My Rose Valley. Annette's Maybelle blanket design is lovely, simple and very easy to follow. I really like the way the joins look. My blanket is a little lumpy (as it shall stay, since there is no way I could ever block such a humongous piece of crochet), but you can just see the pretty, lacy central join, where four corners meet. I'm sure that when the blanket is stretched and smoothed over the bed, the lacy look will show up better. For now, I'm just happy to have an easy, intuitive join method to watch develop as I work.


This is all just so exciting to me! I was really beginning to despair about ever making this blanket when I remembered the Maybelle pattern. I love the flower design in this square, and I'm actually finding I like it even more with the additional round of gray in the joins. I think the colorful flower stands out even more nicely this way.



I've made a lot of blankets, but watching this one actually become a drape-able, fold-able piece of fabric has been especially exciting. I think I'm working a little more feverishly right now than I have in a long time - I'm just so eager to use this blanket on the bed. With any luck, I will NOT be working on this project all winter long!

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It's link-up time! Please read the link-up guidelines below. To keep it fresh, please add your project posts about current works in progress or very recent finishes. You can add as many posts as you like.

Be sure to link back to this post in your winter project post to help spread the word about this link party!

Grab a link party button (code is below) to display on your blog!

 
Thistlebear

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

This and that














Hello! Happy October. I love October, it's just the best around here. Balloon Fiesta starts this weekend. I've been looking everywhere for the little, happy things, to take my mind off the news. Everything is such a mess. Yesterday, I learned of the horrible news from Las Vegas when my children switched on the kitchen radio at breakfast, as normal. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I put down the container of cottage cheese I had in my hands and walked into another room to compose myself. Then I came back to the kitchen and switched to a no-talk station. I didn't check the internet until late in the afternoon, and then I learned that one of my favorite musicians had died.

Too much death, too much bad news. Too much of everything. I made vegetable-barley soup, baked chocolate-chip cookies, crocheted and watched old DVD's from the library. We learned about riding the rails during the Great Depression. We learned about animals on the African savanna. We talked about what we'd heard on the radio, since it clearly hadn't left their minds. We came to no conclusions. We're just going to do the best we can to treat people nicely, be fair and kind, and try to remember to be grateful for what we have. Then we talked some more about lions and trains because what else can you really say.

We've been busy with a big science presentation for school. There have been dentist's and doctor's appointments. We've been starting to feel the change of seasons, with a big multi-day storm last week that brought lots of rain, wind and colder temperatures. We've been enjoying the changes very much, me most of all. I sure love my autumnal weather. I've been joining my Maybelle blanket, reading a lot, cooking all my cool-weather favorites - soups, stews, frittatas, pasta sauce and roasted vegetables. I've been baking a bit, and I made jam too.

I've been reading a biography of Elizabeth of York (Henry VIII's mother). The Bear and I watched Ken Burns' The Vietnam War, which was amazing and sad and infuriating. I've also been watching something (streaming on Amazon Prime) that I never thought I'd get to see again: Unsolved Mysteries, my favorite TV show when I was roughly 12 to 15 years old. I never missed it. The Bear thinks it's cheesy, but I don't care. I've been cleaning a lot and changing the beds and dresser drawers over to cool-season stuff. We haven't had the furnace on yet, but it could happen any day now. Nights in the forties are now firmly in the forecast.

What's new with you? I hope you're well. I've been a bit behind on blogs lately. Will you be joining in with my Winter Project Link Party? I will be posting the sign-up this weekend, probably Saturday. There will be more info in my post. I hope to see you there! 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Twelve




Over the weekend, our LB turned twelve. We celebrated with dinner at Jason's Deli (his choice, he loves the salad bar), and presents and ice cream sundaes back at home. He didn't want a Funfetti cake after all. Instead he wanted ice cream with everything, and he gave me a list: cookies and cream, hot fudge, Snickers pieces (I chopped up a bar), whipped cream, sprinkles and cherries. Whew. We put candles in his ice cream for him to blow out. Actually, it was really fun to make and eat sundaes for a birthday, I recommend it highly. He received books and electronics components for his presents, along with a really nice flashlight; it was a very LB birthday.

I can hardly believe he's twelve years old! He's becoming such an interesting person. The things he can do! I can barely explain most of them anymore, he's way ahead of me. He's good at everything and he gets along with everybody. He is remarkably kind to his sister, even when he doesn't need to be. He is just so nice. Long may it continue. I'm beginning to think that his growth can be measured in where I'm able to kiss him. In the past year, he has grown so tall that I can't put my chin on top of his head anymore. I used to kiss his cowlick. Now, his forehead is exactly where my lips are. Next year, I'm pretty sure it will be his cheek.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Making fall


Lately, I'm happily getting deeper into the autumn spirit. I know it won't officially be autumn until tomorrow, but I love this season so much that I always start acting like it's fall before it really, technically is. It isn't my intention to rush the seasons, I just get so excited. This week, I've been doing some autumnal making, so I've been getting even more into the mood. I'm also excited because the weather looks like it will cooperate with my fall feelings, at least for the forecast period; next week is supposed to be quite cool and wet. I hope that really happens - I'm looking forward to staying inside doing cozy, homey things as much as I can.

I've been crocheting something different here and there, still working on my Maybelle blanket, of course. My in-between project is to crochet some little pumpkins and squashes for the season. Fun! I usually buy a small pile of fresh mini pumpkins and squashes to display on a glass platter on the coffee table in our living room. They always look pretty for a week or two, then they start getting moldy or dried-out. I end up having to throw them away and buy replacements at least once, which gets a little expensive. I know you can do things with bleach solutions and Vaseline and other stuff, but I decided that this year, I'd make myself a more lasting collection, that I can use all season and pull out year after year. I've started with a couple of pumpkins so far, using a pattern from Ravelry (click here for a free download), Amigurumi Pumpkins by Mevlinn Gusick. It's a great pattern, you can make little pumpkins in three different sizes.


I plan to make some squashes too, using a different pattern I found on Ravelry, from Lion Brand yarn (also a free download, found here). I had fun going through my yarn stash to find good colors for pumpkins and squashes. The tiny cream-colored pumpkins are my favorite ones to buy fresh, but the cream always deepens to yellow after a few days. Crocheted creamy pumpkins stay that way for good!




From pumpkins to apples...I baked an apple pie, my first of the season. I used apples from the store, since our apples didn't do well this year. These were Golden Delicious apples. Now and then, I make my own crust, but I'm rarely happy with the results, so I often use Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust, as I did with this pie. I'm glad to take help where I can get it.


I feel like I've truly opened the door to fall now that I've baked this pie. It was delicious, especially warmed-up, which is my favorite way to eat apple pie. Everyone enjoyed it. One of the best things about apple pie is how it makes everyone happy.

Pssst...(!)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Riding the Tram













Two weeks ago, as part of the GB's birthday celebration, we all took a ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway. The Tramway, or "Tram," as we call it here, is a popular attraction. People take the Tram to ski the Peak in winter, or to hike in warmer weather. We hadn't been on the Tram in a few years and we decided it was time for another trip. Our Tram is pretty amazing, actually, a true engineering marvel. There are two tram cars, each able to carry 50 people. Riders are carried nearly 3 miles along the cables, ascending nearly 4,000 feet to the Sandia Peak - at 10,378 feet. From the Peak, you can see the entire Rio Grande Valley and beyond, to points all over the state of New Mexico. The panoramic views encompass about 11,000 square miles. You also get a sweeping view of the entire city of Albuquerque. We always try to look for our neighborhood, but it isn't easy to find with the naked eye. Binoculars help - at least you can find the major thoroughfares.

If you'd like to read more about the history and technology behind our Tramway, take a look here.

The day we rode the Tram, there was a lot of smoke in the air from the fires in Oregon; the smoke made our air quality quite poor, as you can see in my photos. Of course, the smoke was nowhere near as serious as the fires, and people in the Northwest were on our minds for days while the smoke lingered down here. It was very hot too, even up at the Peak, and the sun beat down. We didn't spend all that long at the Peak because it was SO very crowded, and so hot, but it was fun to look through the little lens-less "telescopes" that direct your eye to about a dozen different points of interest along the horizon and closer in, near the city, without actually bringing them closer. It's one of my favorite parts of visiting the Peak, actually. There's a lot to see around here, and so much of it is very, very old. It's easy to think of the Western US as being "new," but this is actually one of the longest-inhabited places on the continent.

Taking my children up the Tram reminds me that this place will be their childhood home, the place they will remember when they are grown. They're from here. Maybe more importantly, they will be from here, later on, whether they stay or leave. They'll recall a place that is old and new at the same time, quirky much of the time, maligned some of the time, praised a lot more often than some people realize. A place that is beautiful and harsh, crowded and sprawling, roasting hot and freezing cold, stormy and still, brown and blue.

(If you're local and you're reading this, please, please make the time to vote in the Mayoral election. I almost never say anything political here, but I'm making an exception this time - please vote). 
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