Friday, May 29, 2009

Souvenier Fiber

One might think that Arizona is a poor place to find warm, soft yarns for knitting. My mom was very surprised that there are, in fact, 4 LYS's (Local Yarn Stores) in the greater Phoenix area.

On my last day in AZ, we did a little fiber shopping (because, as every knitter knows, that's what you buy to remember your travels). We only had time to go to two shops (this one and this one), but they were both really nice. Here's a photo my mom took of me in the second one:
Look at all the yummy handspun yarns!

I ended up with three skeins of bright wool. I'm planning to make a sort of kitschy felted bag. The colors are similar to an Arizona sunset.

And, since I'm still trying to get the hang of this spinning thing, I bought some lovely wool yarn, some assembly required. The fiber I'm working with right now is very, very dark purple, so I wanted something light & airy.

And, despite the busy weekend, I did find some time for knitting. I did one more pattern repeat on Branching Out; I finished two more hexagons for Riley's blanket; and I started and completed one little baby sock:
It seems like everyone I know is having a baby. This particular sock is for a baby who is due in June. She is the daughter of the soldier we "adopted." He is stationed in Iraq, but will be coming home for a bit when the baby is born. I don't know if he'll have an opportunity to buy a gift for her before he gets there, so I'm making these and sending them to him so that he can bring them back when he comes home. They will be very small and easy for him to pack.

Happy Knitting!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Well, I got home at about 1am. I slept for a bit and then got up to get Tyson on the bus. I then spent a fun-filled day of cathcing up on paperwork and preparing for check out tomorrow.

Hmm? What's that? You don't know what check out is? Oh, I see. It's no big deal. Check out is only one f the BEST DAYS OF THE YEAR!!!!!

Check out is the day at the end of the school year where I take all my year-end reports and files and other wrap-up-the-school-year-stuff to my boss and he says thank you and I practically run out the door because MY SUMMER VACATION HAS STARTED!!!

The work to get ready for Check Out is great. There is so much left to do. But it's the last push to finish the year, and then there is FREEDOM. For almost three whole months.

Hmm? Oh, you'd like to know how I will be spending my almost-three-months? I'll be spending it doing absolutely. nothing.

Okay, that's not exactly, precisely true. Tomorrow at about 2:00 pm, my very first SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) Summer will being. I'll be taking over all of the domestic chores, spending copious amounts of time playing with my sons, doing a little light homeschooling with both boys, knitting, spinning, gardening and lots (and lots) of blogging.

I've got a few more photos to share from my trip to "sunny" Arizona, and I haven't shown you the fibers I bought there yet! So check back soon!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Out of My Element

I've haven't posted in a while because I've been out of town. This weekend I am at the ABAI National Conference, in Phoenix, AZ. I flew in Friday morning, and will return to St. Louis Tuesday night (though technically it will be Wednesday by the time I get home).

I got off the plane and heard, "Welcome to Sunny Arizona," and spent the next two days looking at this:
"Sunny Arizona," my patootie! Just when I was beginning to think that the "sunny" thing was just a massive conspiracy spearheaded by the Arizona Tourism Board, the sun did come out. And it warmed right up. And it's true that the dry heat feels much better than the 90% humidity we have back home.

I've had some opportunities to do some sight seeing in the afternoons, after my workshops. I am fascinated by the strange vegetation and wildlife they have here.

They have purple cacti:
(By the way, Blogland, meet Wilbur. Wilbur is my traveling companion for this trip. He goes everywhere I go, and he really enjoys being photographed.)

They also have other pretty plants. Lots of stuff is either blooming or getting ready to bloom right now. This tree really impressed me. It's a Teddy Bear Cholla. From the road it looks fluffy, but up close... not so much. It blooms with these beautiful flowers that are surrounded by big, pointy, menacing looking spikes.
On the way home today we saw some people crossing the road on horses. (We also saw several coyotes walking down the side of the road, but I couldn't get the camera out & on before they disappeared into the desert.)
And then my mom (whom I'm staying with) drove the scenic route home. We saw the Elvis Chapel...
...and a bunch of mountains. This one is south of Gold Canyon (where she lives):
This is the Superstition Mountain:
I have a lot more pictures... mostly of big, majestic mountains and big, blue sky.

Speaking of things that are big, my mom picked these out of her garden today:
It's hard to tell, but the tomatoes are hugemongous (think bowling ball), and the squash is ginormous (think caveman club).
I'm sure I'll post some more photos later this week, too. There are some interesting pieces of art all around the Convention Center, and a few others from around the house.

I hope you all are having a safe, relaxing holiday weekend.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Weedless Wednesday

It's a little late on Wednesday, I know. But work has been busy and unfortunately my job doesn't do itself (but wouldn't it be great if it did?).

Things are growing pretty well around here, especially with the bad soil everything is planted in.

My lamb's ear is throwing up shoots that will soon bloom into beautiful purple flowers.
And speaking of things that bloom in pretty colors, I got my hair done. Same style, just a lot more pink. Yes. Hot. pink. The picture just doesn't quite do it justice.
The sweet peas are my stars. All four pots are putting out flowers that will soon become peas.
The pepper plant has bloomed its first flower & is working on its first pepper.
The okra is coming up. (You can tell quite clearly from the row marker that I planted this only because Matt & Tyson wanted me to.)

The tomatoes are coming along.
And there is one lonely cucumber that sprouted.
The lettuce is doing really well.
And the corn will hopefully be plentiful this year. I planted sweet yellow corn and ruby corn. I have no idea which is which right now, though.
This is either carrots or crab grass. Given that it seems to be coming up in a row, I'm guessing carrots. Or just really organized crabgrass.
And lastly, there is broccoli in my future. Sigh. Another request from the boys. Ick.
Happy gardening!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tidy Up Tuesday

This week's Tidy-Up post gives props to Matt. He completed this week's Tidy-Up Task, all by himself, and without me asking.

Last Saturday I had a workshop from 8am to 6pm. It was a long day under fluorescent lights (which gave me a migraine). Since I work in special education, the end of the school year brings tons of stress and extra work tasks. The unfortunate side effect is that my home duties sometimes end up neglected. I left the house pretty messy Saturday morning (especially my kitchen... I'm not sure which is worse: the dishes, the mail, or the junk...) and came home to this:
It was all clean! And he didn't stop at the kitchen. He also dusted and vacuumed, and cleaned the bathrooms. He hates. to. clean. the. bathrooms. Thank you Matt!!!!

It felt so nice to have a clean, lovely kitchen that I was inspired to bake ahead a couple of things for this week: Sweet Potato Biscuits and some mostly natural, healthy-ish double chocolate mini-muffins.

Oh, and remember the cabinet I cleaned out last week? It's still looking good!

Menu Plan Monday

This week's menu is short. I will be leaving town on Friday (at 4:30 in the morning) and hubby resists my attempts to plan and prepare meals ahead of time. I would prefer to plan and prep dinners for most of the 5 nights I will be in Phoenix, so that he only has to pull things out of the freezer or fridge and heat as instructed. He prefers to make a daily run to the store (or to the Chinese/Pizza/Sub/Fast Food restaurant, depending on what he and Tyson feel like. (Riley's requests are limited to the foods he can sign: milk, fruit, cereal, french fry, bread and cookie. BTW, the "fries" and "cookies" are almost always healthy versions of the classics. I try not to load my kids up with junk food most of the time.)

Matt & Tyson call this "batching it up," and I mostly try not to think about how my rules, plans and routines are thrown out the window in my absence. So, here is my menu plan for this short week:

Breakfast - fruit, whole grain toast
Lunch - Culver's
Dinner - Grilled tilapia, green beans & potatoes, sweet potato biscuits

Dinner - "Brinner" (Breakfast+Dinner)
scrambled eggs with spinach, fruit smoothies

Dinner - BBQ chicken in the crockpot, baked beans, garden salad, sweet potato biscuits

Dinner - grilled hot dogs (turkey), ranch potatoes, green beans

Dinner - Leftovers

Breakfast all week - yogurt with granola and fruit
Lunches all week - sushi, tuna salad, or turkey sandwiches; crackers; cherries or apple; pudding

For now, during the school year when we are all gone during the day, we just choose one meal for breakfast and lunches, and stick with that throughout the week. When the school year is done and the First SAHM Summer has begun I'm sure I will plan all three meals each day with a little more variety.

Have a great week!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

April Showers...

... really do bring May flowers!

I planted these last year... I think this is Sweet William, but I'm not sure. When I planted these last spring, they were all these scrawny little flowers that I had hoped would fill in by the end of summer. They sort of filled in, but I wasn't all that impressed; I decided to try something else this year. And then these pretty flowers came back. All by themselves. With a vengeance. Imagine my surprise since I had no idea they would come back! And they didn't just come back on their own; they are fuller, bigger and have about two hundred times more flowers on them! And seriously, I didn't do a thing. I didn't even cut them back last fall. That is so cool.
Also making a fabulous return this year are my irises. Yes. They are brown. Actually, if you really look closely, they are purple and yellow/orange, which apparently looks brown when mixed. I'm thinking of adding a few other colors to them next year.

And now, on to the veggies! The potatoes are doing very well. (Yes. they are in a pot. Yes. I know they will not likely grow any actual potatoes in a pot. But, I had to get them in some dirt and they are pretty and I still feel really successful because they are actually growing!)
The sweet peas are also doing really well. I have three pots of them, and these are the happiest. They are climbing up the remains of the hibiscus I killed last winter.
I love to see how they are attaching themselves to this dead tree.
And what about the garden in the back? The very big garden in the back yard? Well, my Dad gave me some peppers, which are growing pretty well. One of them looks like it's about to bloom!
And the rest of it? Well, not so much. I do have a few tomatoes (also contributed by my Dad) that were started indoors. Other than that, nothing is coming up so far. It's okay; it's only been a few days. I'm not worried yet. Really. It's gong to be fine. I'm not worried... why? do I sound like I'm worried that my husband put in a ton of work and I have made all these fabulous plans to grow enough produce to start my own farm and can enough veggies to get us mostly through the winter... but I'm not worried about the fact that I realized too late that the soil we filled the garden with was really just dirt and resembles something as hard as the salt flats when it's dry and I cannot imagine anything managing to force its way up through that concrete block I'm trying to call a garden... but I'm not worried.
And I am certainly not freaking out.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Frugal Friday

I don't know if this actually qualifies as a "Frugal Friday" post. But I solved an organizational problem without running out to the store to buy a new 'widget.' Having been inspired by the many brilliant Frugal Friday contributors that I've read over the last couple of months, I looked around my house and used things I already had. In doing so, I also re-purposed two items that would have been trashed. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

So, here was my problem. I don't have a good place to keep bibs near our dining room table. They have cluttered kitchen counters, dining chairs, kitchen cabinets & drawers and multiple other places in our home. Always they are in the way.
My first reaction was to go to the office supply store (or Target or Lowe's) and buy something new that I could affix to the chair somehow. Instead, I descended into the depths of our basement and looked around.

These are the materials I found:
It took me a few minutes to make this, but probably no more than it would have taken me to drive to the store, look around and maybe buy something (or maybe drive to another store if I didn't find what I was looking for).

After some cutting, gluing and muttering to myself, I had finished it. It's not anything huge... not a cure for stupidity or anything, but it's a start. I had to trim the box and the bag quite a bit, and I even used the bag's handles to tie it to the back of the highchair.

It's working out really well. All the bibs fit, and when it's time to eat, we put him in the chair and just grab one from right behind him. They're right there... which means they're not cluttering up other areas of my house.

Tidy Up Tuesday

Okay, so I know it's actually Thursday. I'm still figuring out how to do a day-of-the-week themed post... I think that if I'm going to do a Tidy Up Tuesday post each week, I should actually write it on Monday evening so I can post it on Tuesday morning... anyway, it's here now. Deal with it.

My goal for my first SAHM Summer is to systematically go through our entire house to clean and organize it. I hope that if I can do this over the summer, the school year will go a little better.

I'm getting a jump on the project because I need things to be organized now. I started with one of the areas that's a little more difficult for me. One of the kitchen cabinets. It's the one where we store all the baby bottles and other baby equipment. This one was a little challenging for me because the baby isn't a baby anymore, and it was time to get rid of his baby stuff. But getting rid of the baby stuff means that it's real and my baby really isn't a baby anymore.

This is what it looked like before:
That white box was full of bottles, nipples and collars, but many of them fell on my head in an avalanche when I opened the door.

I began by removing everything from the bottom shelf, and this was all the stuff I found:

And this was some of the stuff I threw out:

Before you recyclers out there get upset, let me clarify. I identified two crates like this full of stuff that could no longer live in that cabinet. Much of it went into the sand table and toy boxes for the boys to play with. A lot of it did get thrown in the trash because it had been saved from Tyson six years ago and was damaged. Many of the bowls had been microwaved to within an inch of their lives. And yes, anything that could be put into the recycle bin was put there.

Once the crate was empty, I used it to corral all of Riley's dishes. Is it just me, or are the baby bowls, cups, plates, etc. the worst things to try & store? They're all funny shapes and sizes and nothing really stacks together very well.

And here's how it looked when I was done. No more avalanches of plasticware. No more throwing things on top of the pile and slamming the door shut before it all cascades out onto my head.
There are a few bottles left. Those are what I use to send Riley's whole milk to school each day (the school uses 2%, but his Dr. wants him on whole). I also find that they're really useful for storing other things as well.

I'm not sure what I'm going to work on next. There are other kitchen cabinets to be organized & purged, so I'll probably just keep going on that. I think it would be best to just stick with a room until it's completely done before moving on to the next room.

This project will also include redecorating Ty's room, as well as decorating our bedroom and Riley's room. (I say "decorate" those last two rooms because the truth is that, despite living in this house for 8 years, I've never gotten around to doing anything to most of its rooms.) But I'll go more into that later.


Yesterday was the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis! And because we are sort of a family of nerds (cool nerds, but still), we celebrated. When Tyson got home from school, we read through all the information that his Aunt Heather (who works for NASA) sent him a few weeks ago. In anticipation of this launch, I saved the big envelope of stuff until yesterday. We learned a lot about the shuttle, its missions, and about baseball in space.

After that, we turned on "NASA on HDNet," which we recorded (thank goodness for the DVR!). We watched all the pre-launch coverage while we built the Space Shuttle Discovery glider:
We decided that since it is glued together, this particular glider will actually have her maiden voyage this afternoon. It was determined that the wet Elmer's glue made the hull structurally unsound and we felt that to attempt to fly it before a thorough drying period would result in a mini-disaster.

We completed the glider with about 4 minutes to spare, so we snuggled up on the couch and watched the launch:
Tyson was really excited about the whole thing. We will be following this mission... Ty is especially interested in the space walks the crew will be doing. I'm so happy he's finally old enough to understand and be interested in this kind of thing.
And on the knitting front, I spent a few minutes over the weekend winding this lovely fiber:
For this lovely project:
I actually had to frog this bit of progress, but I cast on again and have actually done two additional pattern repeats. I think I'm doing it right, though it's hard to tell because when I'm working on it... well, it resembles a big knot of yarn. I dry blocked it briefly yesterday, and it does look like the picture, so I'd say I'm on track.

This will be my airplane project for my upcoming trip to Phoenix, so I need to learn the pattern well enough to do it while listening to an audiobook and praying in a state of panic from having to fly. I'm hoping that knitting on a project I actually have to pay attention to will help my cognitive brain take over a little and distract me from the paralyzing fear my irrational brain will be experiencing. Well, we can hope, anyway.

I've got three or four additional posts on deck for this week, so check back often!