0911_patio3 When we moved to the Little Gray House (eight years ago now), I bought all sorts of gardening books. It was our first time not living in an apartment or condo, and I thought gardening might be my thing. Turns out, not so much. I like being outside. I like plants and planning things for the yard, but I'm not passionate about it. I don't have the knack. Neel does. It's his place. It took him awhile to figure it out, but our yard and building our garden has become his passion. I was all too happy to hand over the reins. Turns out I'm the house person. We tend to do things pretty much in conjunction with each other (e.g. In Ikea last week I desperately wanted a gorgeous cream shag rug, but bowed to his better judgement and didn't get it. We do have three dogs and an almost 12 year old boy, you know.), and I don't think there's a thing in the house that he hates or a thing in the yard that I don't love. But still, the yard his his space and the house is mine. Where we each call the shots. Where we each have dominion.

0911_patio4 That doesn't mean I don't get to come play along sometimes. Right now, Neel is in the process of building us a patio, based on an idea from this blog. In addition to the 2x2 squares (and lordy there are a lot of those to pour), he decided to also pour four 4x4 squares in the center of the patio. My dad helped pour the first, which was clearly the most arduous (sorry, dad!), and our neighbor Tyler showed up in time to pour the second (it went a lot faster...sorry dad!).

Yesterday, Callum managed to go golfing just in time to pour the third. That left me.

Each 4x4 requires about 12 or 13 bags of concrete, which Neel pours one at a time. That part comes after  excavating and placing and leveling the mold. I helped dig. I helped square the mold and level it too. Then I was in charge of watering the concrete and scraping it out of the wheel barrow into the mold. It didn't take long for us to get a rhythm going, and it was fun! Hard work, sure, but so satisfying too. The concrete part took us less than an hour, and all told, I think we worked on it about an hour and a half. Not a bad Labor Day's labor.

0711_patio1 Three down with one more (big one) to go. It's exciting to see Neel's vision take shape, and it felt so good to be working on it together. I think we make a good team.

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last day

IMG_8101 My dad got us a gorgeous faux fur throw for Christmas (no dogs allowed) to make it bearable to watch tv in our chilly family room. Yesterday was Callum's last day of break, so after a trip to Target where he spent some of his Christmas money on Nerf gun # 9, we came home and bundled up underneath it to knit a hat for Neel and watch Despicable Me (twice). I felt safer knowing one of us was fully armed.

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ottoman empire

IMG_1850 I've had this ottoman for ages that I dearly love. (Do you recognize it Mark? It's from that chair and ottoman that Fern gave us) It came to us from a friend after a serious envy problem I had. The chair is no longer with us, and I'm still missing it. And now the ottoman. Serving as seating and end table for years can do a number on a piece of furniture. A cinder burned a hole in the top and a beagle got a hold of a corner. Who could that have been, I wonder? Anyway, we were in need of a recovering, big time.

IMG_1855 So I ordered some fabric and assembled my tools. I realized after I started that I should have taken a "before" photo, but at that point there was NO WAY I was going to undo the work I'd done. Apparently I have little patience for projects such as these.

IMG_1860 Still, I muscled through, and look! A whole new piece of furniture. The colors seem really vibrant to me after the faded stripes of the ottoman of old, but I have enough to cover a floor pillow, so hopefully after that it'll be less jarring. But hey! After a major drought, I made something.

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(some of) what I've been doing lately

Body I know I told you guys I was taking a Photoshop class. It's fun, but tricky too. It's taking awhile to assimilate all this information, and I don't have much time to practice. Maybe someday. On our second class we made this franken-person, and after that it got really quirky and fun.

Cans, history brush In this photo, I leached out all of the color and added back in the green of the cans. I can't remember how.

Layerscans Same cans, only this time I added a layer on top of them. See if you can guess what it is.

Artichokeskylayer Remember those artichokes Callum and I had for dinner a couple of weeks back? They're there. Under the big blue sky. Yeah, I think this is going to be fun.

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olympic event

The Olympics have been on nonstop around here. I know that everyone is critical of the coverage and the IOC and is Ice Dancing a sport, blah, blah, blah. We don't care, we love it. Callum's been explaining curling to be, and my dad wants us to form a four-man bobsled team. Last night was the closing ceremonies, and I hate that it's over.

IMG_2865 But what to do with all that time cuddled up in front of the TV? Knit, of course! I picked up my raspberry Clapotis which has been languishing for maybe two years now (gasp!). And despite the grousing that I love knitting more that him (Callum) or that my lap is unavailable (Violet), I powered on. The result? A finally finished Clapotis. I threw it into the lightbox (!) just before I finished to get this shot, and I'm blocking it now. I might even get to wear it this week!

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I'm as surprised as you are.

IMG_6170 I am so overwhelmed right now.  My head feels full to bursting with thoughts and ideas, fireflies of light flitting across my brain too fast to catch or latch onto.  It's not just the kitchen. It's a lot of other things. (Number 9, I'm looking at YOU.)  Something compelled me to creep upstairs to the Blue Rain Room yesterday afternoon where someone had forgotten to turn off the air conditioning (!) and grab this lap quilt.  It's from Bend the Rules Sewing, and it has languished, draped over a closet door for two years.

Languish no more little quilt.  I've finished the machine quilting, and it's on to the binding.  Those rows and row of straight lines set a rhythm that settled my mind, at least for the time being.  Who knew?

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stashed (also known as eye-candy friday)

So last weekend when the temperatures soared spring-like, and I had ample opportunity to sit idly and recover from my bout with the flu did I do so?


With the prospect of a house guest coming this week and a party for the faculty of the school where I work the following weekend, did I attend to my housewifely duties and clean and dust and mop?


Based on a suggestion from friend Megan inspired by a blog post she saw here, I decided to organize my yarn stash by color.


IMG_1956 I'm so glad I did!  The Blue Rain Room is just bursting with color.

IMG_1946 I simply cannot get enough of it.


I feel sure I've described the situation of my little studio, but please forgive me if I don't go digging through blog posts to see for sure.  It used to be the master bedroom of the little gray house, but when we bought the house an addition was being finished that included a kitchen and master bedroom and bath.  The old master bedroom became obsolete, somewhat of a walk-through room.  You have to go through it to get to our bedroom.  It would have made a lovely nursery had we still been in nursery days.  It's hard to know what to do with a walk-through room.  I think we have visions of someday including an upstairs laundry/closet, but that will have to wait until we redo our master bath which will incorporate our present closet.  And that will have to wait until we have money.  You know, when Callum's out of college. If ever.  But you know how houses do that to you.  Especially the old ones, it seems.  We're always saying things like, "If we took that wall out and moved the water heater out to the utility room..."  Presently it's the kitchen inspiring these conversations, but that's a story for another day when I've been folding the laundry in front of HGTV while I'm recovering from the flu.  How I ramble on...

IMG_1969 Anyhoo.  The walk-through room makes perfect sense as a little studio, and I took this picture while standing in the doorway of our bedroom.  This is what get to look at when I get up every morning.  Lucky me.


IMG_1955 For the real eye-candy, I dedicate these last two photos to my friend Marianne.  She's a brialliantly-gifted jewelry designer who won't let me buy any more of her jewelry in any shades of green.  I think you can see why.

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I did some holiday knitting.
IMG_1138 Hat and socks for the nephew.

IMG_1140 More hats for the kids in the 'hood.

Of course there was more.  Scarves for my mom and dad, both of which, like an idiot, I forgot to photograph. 



And that little red scarf is still smoting me, but the friendship socks are done.  It's my fastest sock ever, but the gauge seemed a bit big.  They'll end up scrunchy, cozy, Monkey socks.  Here's hoping they keep going fast.   I've cast on for the pair for my mom, and I'm anxious for a pair of my own. 

And still there was more.  I did end up with a Christmas knit, but now that Alfie is gone it's blocking on our guest bed.  You'll just have to check back for that one.

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little red scarf, how you smote me

I've done a lot of knitting this Christmas.  I'd been on a bit of a hiatus, but the bug bit back with a vengeance, it seems.  I go through these creative spurts occasionally, obsessively working. I hope it doesn't go away.  I'm having fun. 

So I finished with the Christmas knitting, officially, on Sunday (but not the finishing, I need to pay attention not to lose that part entirely, it's so much  It's been ages since I've made anything for myself.  When I started knitting, a few years back, I started leaving myself a project under the tree, new yarn, maybe new pattern to gift to myself in the event of the eventual post-present and food orgy letdown.  When we were in Atlanta for Thanksgiving, I went to this amazing yarn store and bought myself some Manos (first time ever) and thought it would pair nicely with this pattern, and there you go, "Happy Christmas to me."  I'm looking forward to it.

When my mom was here we went to my local yarn store (Closing this spring, to my...well I have mixed feelings, but that's a story for another day.), and I bought a lovely Berroco red to make a scarf and she went a little crazy, buying sock yarn for herself, a friend, and yarn for a vest.  All for me to knit, of course.  That evening I finished up the Christmas knitting and promptly cast on for a red scarf for myself.  I'd spent some time on Ravelry looking for appealing patterns, and I knew pretty much what I wanted.  But it was all fiddly, and I ripped it out and started over.  And again. And then I tried different needles.  And I ripped it out again, and again.  I'm not kidding. 

It will sound totally dorky to say that I try to listen to my knitting.  If I'm having to rip it out, maybe the needles are wrong, or the yarn won't work for the pattern.  Or maybe I should be knitting something else entirely.  This is a long way of saying that some part of my mind thinks I shouldn't do any knitting for myself until Christmas. 

So last night I gave up the ghost and cast on a Monkey.  It's the yarn for my mom's friend, and man I love this pattern.  They had a funny little thing, my mom and her friend, one of those "I think she's mad at me..." moments, and I don't know, if I'm not going to knit for myself just yet, I may as well knit this, because hey, we all have moments like that.

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gasp! actual knitting content

Yes, I know it's been awhile since I've picked up my needles.  There were some projects scattered here and there that I neglected to mention (and more importantly, forgot to photograph): a pair of socks for my mom's birthday, a scarf or two.  Nothing too exciting.

I'm enjoying this baby sweater though, intended for my new nephew who we will meet for the first time over Thanksgiving. It's the child's placket neck sweater from Last Minute Knitted Gifts.  Man, I love that book.  There is project after project that I'd love to tackle in its pages.  The yarn is a trip:  Kollage Corntastic.  Made out of corn!  How crazy is that?  Corn!  And you know what else?  Machine washable!  And dryable!  The color is moonstone, kind of a deep purpley blue, and I'm thinking of adding perhaps yellow stars or red firetrucks for the buttons.  One sleeve and the lower body down.  I'll keep you updated.  Promise.

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sometimes done is better than good

I'm not angry, really.  I know it looks like I'm hollering something like, "And mister you better come when I call you.  I have been on this porch calling your name for the last ten minutes.  Now get in the house and wash your hands for dinner."  But I'm not.  I'm actually very happy to have finished this apron that I started, oh, four months ago.  I wanted to make it for when my mom came to visit at Easter, and here she is during summer vacation and I'm finally done.

It's the Emmeline apron from sewliberated and I knew I wanted to make it as soon as I saw it.  Oh my gosh, I love this apron.  There were some parts that tripped me up for a bit, like the first time I cut strips on the bias.  I know, I know, how easy?  But when faced with something new, I tend to avoid until I'm feeling really brave.  The neck ties sat for weeks and weeks.  When I finally got up the gumption to sew them on, the universe was against me:  snapped my needle, bobbin ran out, stitching all wonky and needing ripped out.  So she sat again.  Until this weekend and the impending visit from Ama.  I just had to have her finished this time.  In the end I didn't follow the directions completely, opting to machine instead of hand sew some parts, and the sticking is still wonky in some places.  But she's done!

Best part?

She's reversible!

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(03/30): bag


Up close.


Full on.

This is Amy Butler's Nigella Yoga bag.  I made it for this person:


This is my friend Jean, and today is her birthday!  Hooray Jean!  You're getting older.  In this picture she's dong what she does best.  Hanging with her baby while balancing her famous hot wing dip.  Really, making her hot wing dip is another thing she does best.  Callum just came to read this post as I write it, and he instantly accused me of eating Jean's hot wing dip without him.  That's how much we all love it.

We love Jean too.  She is one of my favorite people in the world, and it's hard to imagine my life right now without her in it.  She make me laugh, she listens and she "gets" me.  Who could ask for more in a friend?  We started taking yoga together a few months ago, and if anything, we're growing closer.  I wanted to make the yoga bag for her birthday to celebrate Jean, but to also celebrate this thing that we do together. 

Thank you for taking the journey with me, my friend.  And many happy returns of the day.

Namaste bee-atch.

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raindrops and rosebuds

I've been knitting some too.


This sweet hat is for a baby girl born to the block about six weeks ago.  Another neighbor of ours threw a shower for her on Sunday. 


As sweet as "rosebud" may be, it seems a bit impractical, so I whipped up a plain old stripey to go along.  Both hats are from Itty Bity Hats, my current go-to when it comes to knitting for the infant set.


There was a lot of discussion around the hood about what to wear to this baby-shower.  I have learned that baby showers in the South are quite the event.  What you wear is almost as important as the gift you give.  Back last week when it was spring, the general consensus was pretty skirt, tee shirt and flip flops.  There was a flurry of e-mails detailing all sorts of outfits (drawn, by me at least, mostly from go fug yourself) and amazing helicopter hairdos.  By Sunday it was sleeting and all any of us wanted was to stay home in our sweats.

We persevered though and all wore pants.


There was some concern that a certain former neighbor of ours would be present at said shower, and we all felt that some pre-party fortification was in order.  This is where we're discussing all the amazing baby-shower food we had to look forward to. 


Gorgeous cake.


Beautiful table.  Fruit salad.  Cheesecake thingys.

And that's all.  No decadent quiche.  No chicken salad.  No meatballs in sauce in a chafing dish and no crustless sandwiches.  And all this time I thought chicken salad was required at baby showers. 


Sigh.  At least there was champagne.  And all our worry about the former neighbor?  She never showed.

It was still a really nice shower for a really nice person who had a girl after three rough and tumble boys.  And we're really happy for her whole family.

Less than ten minutes home another flurry of e-mails:  "Are you in your sweats yet?  I am."

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knitted bliss

Never, in a million years, did I expect these words to come out of my child's mouth:


"I am obsessed with knitting."

And you know what?  He pretty much is.  I'm thrilled about this on several levels, not least of which is that the first time or two I tried to teach him were most decidedly unsuccessful.  For my dexterity challenged son, this is a huge accomplishment, and I'm proud to say that he has more than risen to it.  Given what a lousy teacher his mother is, his feat was even more momentous.


Not wanting to stop there, we decided to teach Ama how to knit too.  We spent several lovely hours in front of the fire on a chilly Easter morning just...knitting.


Callum really wanted the whole family to be knitting, but alas, this is as far as Neel got.  (And really, why "alas"?  He was bitching and moaning the whole way.  Much better to keep his hands free to poke the fire.)


Despite the inevitable tangles, I couldn't be happier.  It's thrilling to hear him say, "Oh good!  We can knit while we watch the basketball game!"  And as we were reading The Phantom Toolbooth last night, I looked down to see his hands trying each gesture, his index fingers as needles.  It's more than just the knitting really, it's this boy getting his fingers to do the little things he wants them too.


Of course none of this would be possible without the dedicated assistance of our noble friend.

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hooray for headbands, and I mean that, really

You can't imagine what it's taken to get me to this headband-loving place in my life.  First I had to get rid of the headaches.  Seriously.  And this is probably a whole other "before/after" kind of post, one I've been thinking about writing for quite awhile, but, in brief, headbands used to give me headaches, and I had to stop getting headaches in order to be able to wear headbands.  There was a whole long twenty three years of non-headband wearing there for me.  Sad, but true.

Now that I can wear headbands, and in fact need to wear headbands (thank you hot yoga, my sweat tastes DELICIOUS), I have discovered something very interesting.  I must have a really small head.  Any headbands I've tried, including the super-tight, intense sport-grip headband, slide up the back of my head.  (It's either the smallness of my head - whatever - or the slope of the back of my head.  Seriously, can you believe I spend time thinking about these things?  You all probably know me well enough by now to make that much perfectly believable.  Ahem.)


Heather Bailey to the rescue.  She has a great headband tutorial that has, get this... TIES in the back in addition to the elastic.  TIES!  What a great idea.  They were super fast and easy to whip up, and gave me the perfect excuse to A) keep on keepin' on with the sewing thing and B) use the awesome pincushion ring that Megan gave me for Christmas this year.  I think it looks like a funky little alien on my finger and I love it.

Almost as soon as I trimmed the threads, I yanked back my bangs with it and headed to yoga for a test run.  Can I say that my headband rocked?  It rocked.  Just tight enough, because of the TIES, I suspect.  So perfect that I went straight home and made one for Jean.  That's the one you see up there.  She was tired of eating her own sweat too.  So hooray for headbands.  In all sorts of ways.  If you know what I mean.

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rice-pillow row

I've been inching my way back into the Blue Rain Room.  Ever so slowly.  Despite our damp and chilly weekend, it must be a spring thing.  Have I said it before?  I've been in a bit of a funk lately.  Whine, whine, whine.  My friend Marianne, who makes jewelry, makes these beautiful labradorite necklaces and earrings.  I have a pair of earrings, and the stones have a beautiful blue-grey iridescence.  Labradorite is supposed to help you find your true purpose, and seriously right now those earrings are not enough.  I want her to make me a freaking tiara. 

Part of me says, just accept it that you're a crafting dabbler.  The urge comes and goes.  You can put colors together and make some nice things, but as far as any real skill, eh.  Would I love to be an Alicia or an Amy? And write books and have a little shop?  To spend my days thinking about my life and writing about it on this blog and capturing it on film.  To write books?  Books?!?  God, yes.  Oh, god yes.  But instead I get lazy and knit rectangles of scarves rather than challenging myself to do more.  I rush to go to work and cook dinners and watch Project Runway, and I yell about homework and I don't vacuum enough.  And I think that if I had a real creative spark, I'd be up in the Blue Rain Room every second I could.  I wouldn't just pass through on my way to fold laundry.  I'd have genuine ideas of my own instead of shades of copies of everyone else's. 

I'm hard on myself, I know.  This is where my friend Sarah and I would say, "If I'm not going to be hard on myself, who will?"  (Hey buddy!  I'll e-mail you back soon, I promise!)  But I've been thinking this way a lot lately.  Thinking more than doing.  In my more rational moments, I realize that I've had a strong creative push at work this fall and winter, and that it's hard to be creative in too many places at once.  So, okay.  I don't feel okay about it, but I guess I have to be. I'm still trying to figure out what the heck I'm doing here, anyway.

So this weekend I dipped my toe back in the work.  I saw these rice pillows over on wisecraft, and I loved them.  So of course I stole the idea (totally giving credit, of course, and hey, she posts instructions right there on the blog).  I made one as a quick birthday present for a friend who's having a rough month, and after that we were off and running.  Back in another life, when I was a labor support doula, I made literal rice socks for all of my clients.  I wish I could have sewn these back then.  Super-duper easy.  Seam, seam, seam, you're done.  I have one with lavender, and two without.  I'll send one of the unscented ones to my sister-in-law who is on bedrest and due with her first baby in a few weeks.  If I had more lavender, I would have made about a million more.  As soon as I pick some up, I will. Rice pillows for everyone. 

Maybe if I drape one over my own shoulders (2 minutes in the microwave), I'll slow down and relax a bit.  It's just the tiniest bit possible that I could go a little easier on myself.

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