Through the Back Loop

Adventures in knitting, fiber arts, and family.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Chocolately Chippiness

It’s amazing that after several “bad” situations, we had a great time and have already started planning the next big trip. There were four major “situations” that arose on this trip. The Beagle was situation number one.

Have you heard that dogs shouldn’t eat chocolate? I have too, but I never really believed that it could make them as sick as people said, until now. On Tuesday night, in a frenzy of suitcases, counted pairs of underwear, hair products, and a flurry of packing activities, I decided to become domestic. I baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I had saved the bag of chips (which is a feat in itself – normally they never see the cookie dough because the bag is violated and chips are stolen bit by bit from the bag in the pantry). Originally I had planned to bake a batch on the first snow day, but there weren’t any this year, so I thought it would be nice to chomp on some homemade cookies as we traveled to Arkansas. Singing a happy tune, I became the “good mom” and baked away. These lovely domestic sounds could be heard throughout the kitchen:

“Damn, where is the butter? We don’t have enough? I am not running to the store at this time of night! I’ll use half butter and half shortening.”

Ok. Back on track, humming away.

“There isn’t any more flour? What the hell is going on? I finally decided to be all motherly and the baking fairies have trashed my supplies!”

I found some cake flour and used that with the all-purpose flour that was left. I baked them up, and they tasted ok. Not as good as normal, but what can you expect with two major substitutions?

We finished packing and went to bed. I had to work a half-day on Wednesday so this meant that DH and the girls would be putting all of our gear into the camper and the van. This was dangerous. It required careful, considerate placement of all necessary items to ensure that nothing important would be left behind (like the time DH treated me to a camping weekend where I didn’t have to lift a finger – he packed everything for our 4 day trip, except underwear for me – I wore my swimsuit while my single pair of undies was washed and dried each day. Now, each trip begins with “Did you pack undies?” I will never let him forget that one. Oh, yes. He did pack underwear for himself on that trip.) Everything was organized for this trip. If it was on the kitchen table, the dining room table, or the “suitcase packing zone” it needed to be put in the van. The cookies were stashed carefully on the dining room table, safe from doggie noses. Or so I thought.
When we woke up Wednesday morning, we found the bag of cookies shredded on the dining room floor. Chocolate chips and crumbs were ground into the carpeting. We found the Beagle resting happily on our bed, stealing most of the space, as usual. She realized the gig was up and tried to look apologetic. I was pissed. Only 10 of the 36 cookies were left, and those cookies looked like they had been contaminated with dog drool, or sniffs at the least. I packed them anyway… my hard work would not be thrown out. We didn’t eat them for three days. That’s the biological limit for doggie contamination, right?

At noon, the camper crew picked me up at school and we were off. I knit away on my mother’s sock, listened to the radio as the girls watched a DVD on the computer (ain’t modern traveling grand?) and we counted off the miles. We stopped in Marion, Illinois – after nine hours of driving. We got a cheap room at the Super 8 and brought in our gear to settle down for some sleep at 10:30. (If you have done the math and figured out that noon plus nine hours does not equal 10:30.. we had to stop for a camper part that wasn’t working correctly – the dealer was right on the highway, we stopped for supper at our favorite travel restaurant, Cracker Barrel, and had two other pottie breaks)

After getting the room and the girls set up and ready, I got my pj’s on and was about to climb into the bed when my youngest daughter announced that the dog had just pooped on the floor. What? She NEVER does that! One look at her and my DH and I both realized that she was miserable. She looked sick. This was not good. We cleaned up the mess, took her outside to have her go pottie again (she didn’t) and then tried to figure out how to prevent accidents while we slept. We left her long leash on and tied it around my oldest daughter’s waist (she volunteered to make sure the Beagle was properly taken care of – she plans to become president of PETA) This way, we would know if she got off of the bed for ANY reason, and we could take her outside BEFORE an accident. Then we tried to sleep. The Beagle whined and groaned all night. She tried to jump off of the bed once and gagged as her collar cut off her air. I jumped to help her out. There was little sleeping going on. In the morning, we packed up and headed out. The Beagle refused to eat (what a surprise.. there was about a pound of cookie dough wrecking havoc in her digestive system), but drank and did her job before we left. On the road again, I happily knit on the sock. About an hour into the drive, the oldest daughter started screaming, “The dog! Oh, my God! Oh, my God! The dog! Oh, my God!”
Why is it that kids will go on screaming like this for 20 minutes while parents scream back, “What is it?” “What is it?” over and over without getting any reply except, “Oh, my God?” Another mystery of life.

The Beagle was peeing in the van. Big time. All over the floor. The carpeted floor. And we were between exits. There was nothing to do. At the next exit we pulled over and surveyed the damage. It was bad. We were lucky that she chose to do this “thing” in a spot where the pee didn’t get on anything else. Only the carpeting. It was soaked. It smelled, and we were driving into warmer weather. It was getting warmer every hour. This was bad. The Beagle looked worse. We started talking about visiting a vet in Arkansas as soon as we arrived if she didn’t get better by the evening. We prepared the girls that this could be very bad for an 11-year old dog. Her eyes were sunken and she looked as though she had already lost weight. We couldn’t even be mad at her, we just felt sorry for her. There wasn’t one complaint from anyone about the smell or the wet carpeting. We drove on.

After setting up camp (more on that story later), the Beagle was perking up. She loves camping. She dug around in the leaves and set her butt down very gingerly to sleep. Obviously, her butt was hurting her and she was still miserable, but she seemed to be through the worst of it. She was pretty much her normal self for the rest of the trip, just a little extra thirsty and a light eater.

What have I learned from this?

I will never bake cookies again! Or, maybe I will find a better place to store them before a trip? Ok. I’ll bake again, but not for awhile.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Spring Break - Arkansas

My children must be nuts. Don't most kids hate riding across the country for hours at a time? Don't most kids call out for potty breaks every 5 minutes, and ask, "Are we there, yet?" every 2 minutes? Mine never have. Maybe it's because they know it's hopeless anyway, we spend all of our time driving around and whining about it won't make it stop. They have been raised on wheels. They are excited by the idea of driving into the wee hours of the night through states we have never been to before. When I told them it will take 14 hours to get here .....

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their response was, "Oh, that's not so bad. Will we get to sleep and feel the road going under the van for a long time?"

They are freaks. I know it. And I love it!

This trip is because of them. At Christmas they begged for a long car ride again. Long for us means 12 - 24 hours. My husband, a few weeks later, commented that it would be cool to see a women's college basketball tournament game. My task was set before me.

The plan?

We leave tomorrow at noon - when my spring break officially starts - and drive to Hot Springs, Arkansas with the camper on the back of the van and the Beagle snuggled up with the girls. We stop somewhere to sleep and Thursday we finish the 14 hour drive and set up camp somewhere. I don't believe in reservations. I'm hoping to find a campsite with a lakefront view and you can't reserve those. We live on the edge! Reservations are too stressful. If you don't arrive at the hotel in the city you reserved at the time you planned, there is anxiety. Without reservations, we can decide when we have had enough, change our plans in an instant, and everything is fun. There are about a billion hotel rooms in the country, and we have always found one when we needed one.

Thursday night, the oldest daughter and DH will watch NCAA Division II Women's Basketball at Summit Arena while the younger daughter and I find some place to go shopping and eat sweets. Friday we will hang out and Saturday there is the championship game. Sunday we will pack up and head for home so that we have a couple of days to do laundry before going back to school.

I'm packing only two knitting projects. The pair of socks for my mother and baby caps for a friend. I plan to do some serious car knitting and camping knitting.

Going on a road trip with the family for a weekend $300
Basketball tournament tickets $60
Sitting outside in March without boots, snow pants or even needing to wear pure wool PRICELESS!

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You can't get this in Wisconsin folks!

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Snowstorm.... my fault

I have finally emerged from the pile of roving to take some time to post. It's been crazy... spinning, knitting, working, cleaning, and spending the weekend as a basketball tournamet mom.

I returned the Ashford Elizabeth II wheel and asked to rent a Schacht Spindle for a month. The owner told me that they really only rent wheels for class times, and have never rented a wheel for someone "out of class". She made it very clear that they want to sell wheels, not rent them, and my use of one of their wheels would depreciate the value for a future sale. I understood this, but was perturbed none-the-less. I want to seriously try the wheels before I make such an investment. I want to know what I like and don't like before I shell out a few hundred dollars. Is that too much to ask? Apparently so, because after calling a few other places that had spinning wheel "rentals" I had been scoffed at enough when I asked if I could rent a wheel. After some negotiating, Yarns By Design allowed me to rent a Schacht for two weeks, and no more after that.

I like the Schacht, for the most part. It is much easier to treadle than the Ashford Elizabeth (this model is a double treadle), but for some reason I have been having a hard time getting the wheel started. Plying was SUPER EASY on this wheel. Actually enjoyable. There was no need to change the tension, I only reversed the spinning direction. I have spun 8 ounces and plied it in three nights. I'm almost ready for the next guild meeting where we dye the wool with commercial dyes. I don't like changing the bobbins. It's a pain to unwind the tension and "pop" out the bobbin. It is really difficult to match up the pins at each end because the eyelets move easily. I also don't like to hang my tools from the crank, and most of the people who have this wheel do this. It's convenient, but I personally don't want my tools dangling from anything. I like the brands that have built in storage for the hook better.

I have finished the Latvian mittens and wore them to the Wisconsin 6th grade girl's state basketball tournament. Lots of compliments. The reason we got 8 - 9 inches of snow on Friday night was because I needed an excuse to wear these mittens. Sorry to everyone else who had to travel in that, it was because of my mitten desires! Our trip took much longer than normal, but we made it. Synopsis of the tournament? Our girls were shook by the stiff competition. They lost their first game 29-20, won their second game (can't remember the score), lost their third game by 26 points (awful, awful game), and lost their fourth game (they never recovered from that third game). We went back to the hotel, ate pizza and let the girls use up what little energy they had left by swimming in the pool. Today they played two games. They won the first game by 3 points and lost the second game by 1 point. They had such an exciting last game... a foul on a shot to bring the score to within one point with 2 seconds left on the clock. She didn't make either of the free throws, the poor girl was so shook. I was super proud of our team. They have never really had tough competition, and have never been down in a game by more than 5, so this was a new experience, and they held up well and learned a lot. The games they played today already showed a lot of improvement. All I have to say is watch out next year! As fifth graders last year these girls didn't do well in two tournaments and this year they came back to win them both. They are fighters. My daughter had the best games of her little career. I'm still bursting with pride. DH actually welled up with tears after one of the games when we were talking about it in the car. She is the sixth woman on the team, the first sub to be called out, and she wants to be a starter. She played so hard that she was left in for the majority of every game. I feel bad for the girl who sat and isn't used to that, but most of the parents were impressed with how well my daughter did, and the coaches were amazed and pleased as well. They hope this is a sign of what she has to offer in the future. The snotty, competitive, clicky, in-bred locals who made snide comments about why she was out there instead of the other girl will never realize or see that my daughter played better this weekend. The next tournament could be different. I just wish that our parents could be better team cheerers. It's crystal clear after this weekend that we will never get along as adults, but I sure wish we could be more positive as spectators. One of the coaches had hoped to win the sportmanship award, but after the first game today, she told me that it would never happen because of the parents. The ref glared several times at our bench as the parents screamed about the calls. I'm embarrassed to say that I'm a parent of this team because of the other parents, not because of the girls. I'm so proud of them!

My new knitting project is a pair of socks of my mother for Mother's Day. Details to come.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Happy Blogiversary!

One Year!

One whole year!

After exactly one year of blogging, what have I learned?
1) Blogging is publicly personal. I started my blog to help myself complete some projects that had been hanging around on needles for a long time. After a few months, I became aware of how my entries really told the story of me. Me knitting. Me contemplating a big move. Me with my family. Our family excursions. Knitting in a canoe.Me struggling with money and helping DH keep upbeat about his job search. Me being a proud mom. Me becoming introduced to spinning. Me making new friends that I would never have met if it weren’t for blogging.
2) I can make Latvian mittens! But my first pair don’t compare to those beautiful mittens made by Stephanie.
3) My knitting obsessions are not unique to me. Before blogging, I never knew how many people also planned trips based on LYSs in the area. I mean, how can you go to a new city without looking up what yarn shops are in the area? It’s not possible!
I also know that I’m not alone in packing necessary items for a trip like underwear, toothpaste, shoes, clothes, and pajamas only to excitedly close up the suitcase and devote some serious time to packing the true essentials. Which projects will come along? Will I need extra skeins? How about these needles? Do I have all of the patterns I will need?
4) Even though there are nearly thousands of knitting bloggers, the average knitter still doesn’t know what a blog is. At my spinning class, I mentioned some of the things that I had learned online, and when another student asked me where I had gotten this information, I told her the blog name, thinking that she would immediately reply, “Oh, sure! I haven’t been to that site in awhile. I’ll have to check it out.” Instead, she looked at me with that face. The face where eyebrows crinkle, noses twitch, and heads tilt to the side as if to say, “What the hell are you talking about?” Us knitting bloggers have a log of work to do to get the word out about how great blogs are!5) I finished quite a few projects in the past year! Here is the list:God Awful CardiganSecret Sock Sisters Swap SocksAt least 5 baby caps6 pairs of fuzzy feetFelted cap for my DHOne and a half Argyle Socks that don’t match – these were for the TKGA Masters that I never finished and don’t plan to finish anymoreA pair of Latvian Mittens (they should be done tonight)

I like this blogging stuff!

Friday, March 04, 2005

Step Aside, I am a Professional!

After three weeks, it's official. I'm hooked. I'm a spinning pro!

I wanted to post some pictures of my spinning, but I left my spinning at work yesterday and now I'm home with a sick daughter (the younger one) and I have nothing here to take pictures of. Gasp!

In three weeks I have spun over 1 1/2 pounds of roving. The first two skeins were ghastly, but at the spinning guild meeting one of the women told me that after a few washings it might be soft and nice. I sincerely doubt it, but I'm up for the challenge! This will most likely involve "before" and "after" photos.

The next 4 (count, two three four!) skeins got better and better. I couldn't get the scotch tension to work on the Ashford Elizabeth, and swearing was involved as I plyed a few feet and then stopped to wrap it on the bobbin by hand. What a pain. I was determined that the wheel was to blame, until - my new spinning friends moved the whorl band to a different place. Hmmm. I thought I had sat down and mathematically calculated every possible combination. Obviously I missed this one because not only did it now ply wonderfully, but it also drew so much nicer when spinning a single.

Now I really like the Ashford wheel, but it is a bit too big and difficult to transport. I felt a bit funny at the guild meeting where everyone had a nice compact castle style spinning wheel and I marched in with the "mother of all wheels" bumping against doorjambs and stair railings. But still, they were impressed with my new spinning dedication.

Knitting? No, not doing that. Well, I hadn't until today. I figured that a "child" sick day entitled me to rent a good kid movie and work on the mitten. Shrek 2 with the DirecTV "all day ticket" is just the ticket! Plus popcorn. With butter. Oh, yeah - this child is totally unwell. She did cough a few times while she watched the movie, and I have decided that she must be really sick because she has stayed on the couch all day except to go to the bathroom or get something to drink. If she were well she would be playing in the other room and bugging me to build a fort or watch her new-fangled dance moves.

Tomorrow is the championship game for the older daughter. They won their first basketball tournament and tomorrow they play a tough team for first place in their second tournament. I'll have to take my Metamucil to calm my stomach. Basketball has become our life. When we're not at one of her games, we have watched boy's tournaments at her school and we have been watching college pre-March Madness. We're thinking about going to Hot Springs, Arkansas over Spring Break to watch Division II women's Elite Eight games. DH and the oldest daughter would go to the game while the younger daughter and I found some nice LYSs. And shopped. And found a great coffee shop. And ate lots of gooey sweets. Definitely the sweets! Maybe I can find some new roving? Hmmm.. that would be good. Anybody ever been there?
I'm totally open for suggestions!