Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Day!

Did you ever know someone whose birthday is February 29th? The only person I can remember knowing with this birthday is Mr. Glenn. Mr. Glenn was the custodian at my elementary school. He was a sweet, friendly man, tall and thin with a fringe of black hair surrounding an island of baldness. When he had the time, he would sit in his small office and listen to music. Herb Alpert and the Tiajuana Brass. I learned to love that music thanks to Mr. Glenn. It's kind of amazing to me that I remember him so vividly. The last time I saw him must have been in June of 1970 or so. But he was a lovely man, patient with us kids and seemingly always cheerful.

Today Avi and Meital finally made their annual trek to the nearby nature preserve to see the black irises. This preserve is one of the few places in Israel where you can find these stunning flowers.

When we first moved here, we went to see the irises with Liat in her stroller. Then Meital came along, and the four of us went together. But in recent years, it is a special tradition for Meital and Avi to go alone, together.

While they were gone, Liat studied and I stitched. But I was curious as to what they would see (it is a bit late in the year to see the irises - what if they had already started to fade?) and what kinds of photos Avi would take.

I think he did a great job!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Girls' Night In

Avi and Meital are off at the basketball game. What better way for Liat and I to enjoy our time together than to whip up a small batch of Outrageous Chocolate Cookies? I followed the recipe carefully, not wishing to risk another surplus butter incident. But when the dough was supposedly ready for the addition of the final ingredient, 6 ounces of chopped chocolate, it resembled cake batter a lot more than cookie dough. I carefully pondered the situation, then decided I needed to add a judicious amount of additional flour. Okay. Truth is, I panicked! I kept dumping in scoopfuls of flour, stirring frantically until the mixture came to resemble cookie dough as I know and love it. No clue how much flour it was. But it doesn't matter, the cookies are extremely tasty, and that's all that matters at the end of the day.

I had a fabulous time working on the Waving Lace sock today. Once again I got up early so as to have more time alone with my new love. Uh, I mean the sock. I mean, more time knitting the sock. Whatever.

I also worked on Mother's Arms today. It turned out that the corner I wanted to work on needed a great many beads, so I spent the entire time adding beads.

Maybe this view shows where the beads are located better? Or not...

Other than that, my morning was eaten by a lasagna. No, really. I prepared a lasagna for tonight's dinner, and that thrilling and intellectually stimulating chore took up a huge chunk of my morning stamping/crafting time. I could try to fool myself into believing that cooking is a form of crafting, but why bother? I'd never believe myself. Baking, on the other hand... Well, you know how I feel about that.

I went to the community center today to see if anyone needed help with English homework, or wanted to practice their reading. When I got there, I saw that a large group of soldiers had come to play with the kids and put on a show for them. I stayed to say hi to the kids and enjoy the sight of them laughing and having fun in the warm afternoon sunshine, then I headed back home. I even managed to get a bit more sock knitting time in, before I began the stitching portion of my day.

And now, if you'll excuse me, Liat and I have a basketball game to watch on television. And a few cookies to eat.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Having Fun

Wish you were here. Really!

Hoo boy, what a day! We had sunshine and mild temperatures, which was fabulous. Of course, I only enjoyed the sunshine from *inside* the house.

First, I decided Meital needed a better place to keep her cash (she's got more than the rest of us put together!). I got an idea, and went searching for a suitable container. Found an empty baby formula can from back when Meital was a baby. Remember, she's ten now. Have I mentioned that I never throw anything away? I measured, and made a wrapper for the can with glossy paper. Then I decorated it.

Here it is, flat. All of the images are by Posh Impressions.

And here are a couple of shots of the cover once it was attached to the can.

I'm pretty pleased with the way it turned out. I used ink pads called Blending Blox (you can find them here) to make the background. I have eight of these pads (there are more, and of course I want them all!), and I used all of them to do the background. I just rubbed the ink pad directly onto the paper. Each pad has four colors, so it made for a colorful background. You know how much I love color. I still need to practice this technique (it's called "direct to paper" for some strange reason), but I do think I'm getting better at it.

Shhh! Don't disturb my illusions, please!

Anyway, then I stamped all the animals on a separate piece of glossy paper. I cut them out and arranged them the way I wanted them, then glued them down. Meital was delighted, and rushed off to stuff the can full of filthy lucre. I mean money.

I also worked a bit here and there on my other craft projects. They are progressing, but so slowly that you would need time-elapse photography to see any change taking place. Or something like that.

In the afternoon, I dug out my next cross stitch project. I started Mother's Arms by Mirabilia during the summer of 1998. Now, two important things happened at about the same time that led to my not giving this piece my full attention. The first, of course, was that I had an adorable baby named Meital who was nearly one year old and who needed lots of attention, and the second was that I discovered scrapbooking. It's not a subject I care to discuss at present. Let's just say that scrapbooking was a real passion at one time and I am convinced that one day I will get back to it. I think. Maybe.

Anyway, here is what Mother's Arms looked like when I dug it out of the bottom of my cross stitching WIPs (Works In Progress) drawer today.

This shows the upper half in more detail.

I spent a delightful 2+ hours stitching on this today, and as far as I'm concerned you can barely tell the difference! Sigh. I decided to save the beading until the end of my stitching session, as a kind of reward for working so much grey green. It's a lovely color (DMC 926 and 927 for you stitching cognoscenti) but after awhile I started developing an unhealthy longing for fire engine red. The beads helped calm me down, however. It's kind of hard to see them, but they're there, along the right side near her hair and starting on her dress below the shoulder. One of these days I'll take a nice close up so you can get an idea of how gorgeous they are.

Warning: Sock Spoiler Ahead! Christine, if you want to be surprised by your socks, it's time to stop reading.

As I told you, I started a new pair of socks last night for my niece. I am using the pink Opal yarn I showed you a while back.

Here is the nascent sock posing with the book in which its pattern appears. In fact, it is the design featured on the cover, the Waving Lace socks. I even woke up - and got out of bed - a full half an hour earlier than usual today, just so I'd have more sock time before I needed to rouse my family. It's a fun, easy pattern. Okay, I say this though I made a mistake (several times) on the second round! It's my first time relying solely on a chart for a pattern, rather than written instructions. But I think (hope) I've got the hang of it now.

The lovely pink yarn keeps calling out to me, telling me to forsake all other, more boring, projects. After all, how can a plain black hat in stockinette stitch (as plain as they get, for those who don't knit) compare with the innocent charm of this pink yarn?

I have no clue.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Show and Tell

Today has been a great day for photo ops! Starting right off with this gorgeous card (above) that I received today from my wonderful friend Laela. Isn't she talented? I wish you could see it in person, because it's even prettier than it looks on your computer screen.

Here is a card *I* made today. It is going off to the inchie swap hostess, Bev. I thought it would be fun, and kind of bizarre, to try to recreate my inchie in a normal sized card. Obviously, I used different flower and butterfly stamps so it would be proportional. The scan makes two of the flowers look purple; in real life, they are magenta. I think from now on I may try photographing cards instead of scanning them...

Then there's this.

And this! The other day, I found a note to myself from the day I originally started stitching the Four Seasons Bunnies. That was 14 February 2003! Still, that's fairly recently, compared to when I started the project I am going to work on next. But that's a story for another day. Because, you see, I also want to show you...

These! Yes, my Waffle Weave socks are finished at long last! And you know I've already started a new pair of socks, this time for my first-born niece. (I started to type "oldest" but it just didn't sound right! Maybe "eldest"? I think I'll stick with "first-born", otherwise I'll be here dithering all night. Hey. Libra, remember?).

I also spent several thrilling hours doing laundry, baking muffins (we seem to be stuck in the bran muffin rut, but if my family is happy, why should I mind?), and mucking about with milk cartons and soap boxes. Will there ever be photos and explanations of the strange and inexplicable goings on in my crafting room?

One can only hope.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Mixed Bag

"Where are the songs of Spring?"
~ John Keats

Our balmy weather is gone again. The sky has turned gray and there are rumblings in the heavens. At least the rain held off until my girls were safely home from school. Oh, there were a few drips here and there, but so far we are waiting for the other drops to drop (in a manner of speaking).

Looking at Summer Bunny makes me believe warmer weather will indeed arrive one day. Won't be long now before I'll need to make a border and figure out exactly what I'm going to do with this long, skinny picture of Four Seasons Bunnies. I have some ideas, so stay tuned.

I got a chance to finish the inchies for the swap I'm in. I actually made ten, so there would be one for the hostess, too. The theme is flowers. This is the first time I have made inchies. They are awfully small, but so much fun! I will definitely be making more.

As for my "mysterious" new project, here's a sneak peak. It started like this, but I soon decided, "It's not enough." (Bonus points for the person who can name the movie this quote comes from. Lizzie, I know YOU know!).

So here's what I have now. After all, if four is good, isn't nine better? Since this is going to be taller than it is now, I tried to think what I could use to weight the bottom so it wouldn't tip over. In the end, I decided to squirt a nice, big puddle of glue into the bottom of the milk cartons, then add some sand. It seems to be working well, but it will take a good while for the glue to dry completely. I hope it won't become considerably lighter once it is dry.

Yesterday, Avi suggested I do some reading in Hebrew, to brush up my vocabulary and spelling skills, which will be very helpful in our translation work. Today, Meital brought me this book to read. I don't know how many of you are familiar with Enid Blyton's series, The Secret Seven, but it was translated into Hebrew long ago and has been a favorite with Israeli children for years. The book shown above is an Israeli series based on the idea of Blyton's books. The series is called Our Secret Seven, and the whole first chapter of this book, the first in the series, is devoted to praise of the original series and an explanation of how this series owes its existence to Blyton's work. We have one of the original Secret Seven books in English; I've read it and enjoyed it. It's a bit dated, but then it was written at least forty years ago. So far, I've read two chapters of this book. It's not too easy, nor too difficult for me. I almost never read anything in Hebrew, except the occasional headline or subtitle. It's a revelation, seeing the words I know aurally in print. I don't know why I didn't do this years ago, but I suppose the time wasn't right.

It seems that now, it is.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Busy Day

"What is a weed?
A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I'm pretty sure this is a weed (and aren't my gardening skills pathetic!), but those little yellow flowers are so cheerful, I couldn't bear to yank it out this morning, during one of my desultory attempts at clearing out the weeds in our front yard.

I did some errands in the morning, including a brief stop at the Art Center, a nearby art suply store. I picked up a whole bunch of those little bottles of acrylic paint. Then I had the pleasure of reorganizing my stamping room a bit, making a tidy home for my new paints. I threw away some old stuff and things I never use, and gathered all of my paints together on one shelf, sorted into recycled containers and labeled. I was pretty pleased with the results.

Then Avi and I got a rush translation job which was, mercifully, not too many pages. Not great from an income point of view, but considering the rush, it was better not to have too much to accomplish in too short a time.

I made yet another batch of pecan bars, and although I checked and double checked my measurements, they came out softer and more crumbly than in earlier, successful attempts. That may be because I had to use light corn syrup instead of dark. We checked about 6 different stores in Netanya, including one shop exclusivly dedicated to baking products, and could not find dark corn syrup at all. That happens sometimes here. It either means that the importer no longer buys dark corn syrup, or that another shipment is on the way and I need to be patient. No way to know, so I went ahead and got light syrup, of which, for some reason, there is an abundance.

I worked a bit on my inchies again, but they are not yet interesting enough to show you. I also worked on my latest craft project, which also isn't terribly interesting just yet. I finished adding lacquer to an earlier project that had stalled, and I hope to add the trim and do the inside of the box tomorrow. Finally, I got another card ready to submit to yet another stamping magazine. That package will, I hope, go in the mail tomorrow.

In the afternoon, I worked a bit more on Summer Bunny. Now I think you can probably guess that he is jumping rope. I'd hoped to actually stitch in the rope today, but I ran out of time.

This evening Avi and I went to a basketball game. My preparations for going to games always include readying my fanny pack with my current sock in progress. We got to the game just moments before tipoff, but I did manage to knit a couple of rounds during half-time.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sleepy Saturday

I worked on a lot of different things today, but don't really have much of anything exciting to show you. I got a fair amount done on my sock, worked on some backgrounds for cards, started my inchies for the swap, and started another craft project.

I also worked on Summer Bunny, and as you can see he's lookin' good. I've started trying to figure out how I want to finish the picture. I don't want to frame this one. Instead, I'm thinking about piecing and quilting a fabric "frame." I spent a pleasurable several minutes looking at one of my (many) quilting books, trying to decide on a pattern. I also discovered a small stash of triangles already cut out, for a long-abandoned project (there was, of course, a small note in with the fabric and triangles, indicating what the project was supposed to be).

Otherwise, it was a mild and sunny, lazy and thoroughly enjoyable Saturday. I hope yours is the same.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Another Friday

This morning, when we returned from our walk, Avi pointed out this beautiful hyacinth growing in our front yard. In Hebrew, the name is Yakinton, which also happens to be the name of our street. Many of the streets in our neighborhood are named for flowers. The rest are named for old, dead guys. Sure glad I live on a flower street!

I did a bit of stamping today. This card is one of two I did. The scan came out horribly: the card base is more orangey-yellow, and on the white background is a lattice-like grid of grey lines. This card will be going out to a friend who could use a friendly hello. I have more things I want to do, but they will have to wait until tomorrow. Among them is to make a set of nine inchies (one inch square mini works of art) for a swap on one of my stamping groups.

I started a hat today, using the London Beanie pattern. It is in black, because it will be going into a care package for a soldier. Almost every year, one or both of the girls have taken part in a drive to donate care packages to soldiers in the IDF. I like to include a handknit hat along with the tea, instant soup, Ramen noodles, and candy. It was nine years ago that I first prepared such a package, and now I realize that in just a few short years, Liat and her classmates will be new soldiers in the army. When the time comes, I hope they will all get care packages, too.

I didn't get as much done on Summer Bunny as I had hoped, but it is fun to be working with a new color (not to mention that it's my favorite color!). Below the blue at the bottom will be his foot and a couple of rows of grass, so you can see that I am getting close to finishing! Any guesses as to what he is doing?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

B is for...

A brand-new, beautiful baby boy!

Avi walked into the house Tuesday morning, after a trip to the supermarket. I could tell that he was talking on his cell phone, but couldn't tell who was on the line. After he hung up, he told me that his cousin Ron and his wife had had a baby, and the bris would be on Thursday afternoon. As you can see, the first thing I did was pick up my needles. I cast on the first bootie at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, and by yesterday afternoon I was finished with the set. If I'd had more pale blue yarn, I probably would have tried to make a sweater, too.

Today I turned my attention to the card. The shimmery paper is wrapping paper, the same paper I used to wrap up the booties and hat.

When we arrived, Avi told his aunt how I'd worked to make the booties and hat in time for the bris. She then told the new mother, who quickly took my gift off of the pile on the floor and tucked it into the diaper bag on the baby's stroller. No sooner had we arrived home this evening, when Avi got an SMS from his cousin, thanking me and exclaiming over the wonderful hat and booties, and how quickly I had made them. It's always such a great feeling to be appreciated.

When I caught Meital in this pose last night, I realized I'd been neglecting my duties in the kitchen.

Today, I found the time to make these Cream Cheese Marbled Chocolate Brownies. The recipe was rather fiddly, and I forgot to let the eggs warm up to room temperature, so I had a near disaster with the chocolate seizing up. Luckily, everything came out okay in the baking, and these brownies have been endorsed by Meital, Liat, and Liat's friend Michal. I think they're pretty darn yummy, too. Very rich, but delicious.

Today was the first day in nearly two weeks that I didn't do any stitching. I hope to make up for lost time tomorrow...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Signs of Spring

I noticed a few things in my garden today. Some new blossoms, and some new sprouts:

I'll bet that's not the right word, but do you see what I mean? Tender new shoots making their debut. Of course, we didn't have any snow here (we never do, we're too close to the Mediterranean Sea). But still, I love seeing these little guys make their entry into the world.

Yesterday I forgot to show you my progress on the Summer Bunny. The above photo is from yesterday, and here:

is today's picture. I couldn't resist starting the backstitching. It adds so much, and that way there's less to do at the end.

We got some wonderful news yesterday, and tomorrow's post will be about that. I'm waiting until I've made a card before I show you how I spent most of today and yesterday. Meanwhile, the last remaining soldier from the Baking Wars has sent me a message:

"Send reinforcements!"

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Brown Blob Revealed

When last we saw our brown blob, it was in a near-embryonic state. We could see that it was brown, it was on double pointed needles, and it came to a rather unattractive point at the center.

And as you can see, it still has the point. You can also see that there is an added bit of fluffiness to the blob now. I've figured out what to do to correct that unpleasant point at the center, but for now let's move on.

We need to make the brown base of our blob stable, so let's put a plastic cup inside. Oops! It's too tall; we'll need to mark where we need to cut it. I pressed my finger against the cup at the point where the brown yarn changes to pink, and started my mark around the cup from there.

At first I thought I'd use a craft knife to cut the cup, but in the end I used my kitchen scissors. Then, because I'm a nut about such things, I put some masking tape around the cut edge of the cup.

Next, we want to get rid of that point. I used a push pin to poke a hole through the center of the cup. Then I threaded a tapestry needle with the tail left by the cast on, and pulled it through the hole. I tied a couple of knots in the yarn as close to the bottom of the cup as I could. Then I taped the yarn down with a piece of masking tape.

Now, let's add some stuffing (fiber fill).

I finished up the knitting, added a few sewing pins, and voila! This is what our blob grew up to be:

What a lovely cupcake! I made several modifications, and here they are:

Round 20: Kfb, K2 (48 stitches) - to make the frosting "poof out" more
Round 31: P6, P2tog around
Round 33: P5, P2tog around
Round 35: P1, P2tog around
From there, her "row" (round) 35 becomes 36, her 36 becomes 37 and her 37 becomes 38.

This was a quick, fun project with a couple of awkward parts to it that fortunately were pretty small. Be sure to check out the links she has after her pattern, to cupcakes made by others. Some are absolutely beautiful!