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16 posts from December 2013

31 December 2013

Let there be light.

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2013. It was the best of times, it was the worst.

2014. Will undoubtedly be the same. Hopefully not worser; most certainly BETTER!

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In case you've forgotten, January 12th is the official due date... which pretty much means any day in January! Zim could be born on the 1st, share my nephew Daniel's birthday on the 16th, our wedding anniversary on the 20th, sister Annie's birthday on the 23rd, or even my mom's on the 31st!

I was delighted to take some for-the-record photos for Ali & Rod over the weekend. She bought that (perfect) striped dress very early in her pregnancy and we talked about taking monthly photos, as people do; other than a phone pic here & there, that never happened. This is good.

Top-Shelf

We took all of the photos in Zim's nursery. The bookshelf is already well-stocked with reading material, thanks to the "bring a book instead of a card" idea for the baby shower. (Click for big!)

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Books1

Teddy says, "We're ready!!"

Teddy

Happy New Year!!

 

25 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

Cherub

Wishing you all the happiest of holidays.

 

24 December 2013

Christmas... it's just about here!

I am completely unprepared in some areas of Christmas, and amazingly overprepared in others... some of it is due to the general weirdness of this holiday season, and some is due to the weather.

Yes, I'm blaming the weather.

Anyway, I got up early to get a 7-lb pork roast into the slow cooker for company that is now not coming until after the holidays.

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Lactation-cookies-baking-ingredients

Thankfully, I know just what to do with a bunch of extra/leftover pulled pork. Along with the Lactation Cookies that I made the other day, they'll help to stock the freezer to help with a few meals after Zim's birth.

I've finished knitting another Cloche Divine! Humorously pictured above, almost finished. I am thrilled with v.2 and will soon be casting on v.3.

Cloche-divine-2

I used (and will use) some stashed Rowan Calmer and it is perfect! I made the medium size this time, made the brim 6 rows deeper, and knit it in the round. I'll do all that again for the next one, but in the large size (and black).

I wish I had more Calmer.

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Remodeling progress!! Door hardware is being reinstalled today. The only thing left to do is the baseboard trim on the other side... more old monkey business & matching to deal with there. But this side -- the living room side -- the side into which I wished more light to flow... nearly FINITO! It's awesome.

I do believe there's yet one more store stop on my way home today. How about you, ready?

 

 

20 December 2013

Chili All Day

The main reason I cooked our spatchcocked turkey well in advance of Thanksgiving was because I needed to make Turkey Soup for our family gathering after Saturday's baby shower and that's how the timing worked!

It turned out that Maddy was such a huge help with party prep on Saturday morning that I actually had time to run home and get a pot of Chili All Day started before the shower began. I'm so glad I did, too, because even though "turkey soup" is different than roast turkey or turkey sandwiches... it was still only two days after Thanksgiving and some people were turkey-ed out! Guests were gracious and tried both soups, but were very grateful for the non-turkey offering.

The get-together was the perfect cap to a rather drawn out and different Thanksgiving... more like a season than a day, with cake and baby gifts. Maddy, my sister Karen, brother Mike and his wife, Ali and Rodney, Rod's two brothers and their families, and his parents all came over... it was pretty great.

Christmas is going to be drawn out and different this year, too, but I'm sure it will also turn out pretty great!

So, I started writing this post on December 2nd and nearly had a heart attack when I went to link Abbey's Chili All Day recipe, as I have countless times over the years, and found that her long-neglected blog has now been entirely removed! I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later; that original post is from October 2004! Thank goodness for the Wayback Machine! I don't want to depend on that, though, so I'm sharing it here for all time (which is, obviously, a relative term in blogging).

Chili All Day

1 ½ - 2 lb. beef stew meat, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 large onion, diced large
6 cloves of garlic, minced (optional)
2 Tbsp. dark chili powder
3 Tbsp. ground cumin (more or less)
2 tsp. salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
¼ tsp.(or more) ground cayenne pepper (if you like it hot)
½ bottle of beer

1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 14 oz. can of Bush's chili beans w/sauce
2 14 oz. cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 8 oz. pkg. of sliced mushrooms

In a large pot, over high heat, sauté beef in olive oil until browned. (Or roast it, as I sometimes like to do.)

Add onions and continue to sauté until golden.

Reduce heat to medium and add all spices, stirring well and sauté until garlic is tender, but not browned.

Add beer and stir well. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes, beans, and sliced mushrooms.

Stir well and let simmer with cover on for 30 minutes or longer (longer is better....the meat will be more tender).

* If the chili is too thick for your taste, add the remaining ½ bottle of beer (if you didn't already drink it).
* If the chili is too thin, add a small can of tomato paste.

Enjoy!

And here is the summarized story of Chili All Day, in a nutshell (because my kids people always ask):

Abbey's kids were getting ready for school one cold morning in 2004, and as they were waking up she told them, "Dress warm because it's going to be chilly all day."

After dropping the kids off at school, Abbey decided that it would be the perfect day to cook a pot roast for dinner.

When she went to pick the kids up from school that afternoon, the first thing her daughter said was, "I can't wait to have chili for dinner!"

Abbey said, "I didn't make chili for dinner."

Her daughter replied, in that pre-teen argumentative tone, "Yes you did! You told me this morning that you were going to make chili all day!"

Ha! If she had made chili that day, she'd have used the recipe shared above.  :)

Bon appetit. And happy weekend! I feel unsettled with a weird work schedule and not really prepared for next week. There's sort of a plan, but it's very loose and then there's the weather throwing a slippery layer of ice and snow on top. It'll work out, I'm sure, and perhaps some clarity will come over the next couple of days. Let's be merry!

 

19 December 2013

Year In Review: 2013

It's that time again! As I've done the last few many years sometime in December, it's time for a review of the year. I do it in words (the first sentence of the first post of each month) and in pictures (a favorite posted photo from each month) -- one is not necessarily related to the other.

January:

The last knitting I did in 2012 was a hexagon.

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February:

I quickly passed through all of the airport security lines without problem, retrieved my luggage and peeled off the last little bit of "Wisconsin winter" clothing along in the process (except for the leggings and compression knee-highs, which, you can be assured, I took care of ASAP), looking for familiar faces... which I did not see!

02-February-Dois-Irmaos
March:

Perfect morning to head to the beach!

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April:

Oh. {Hi! Yeah. So remember me? I used to knit.}

04-April-baby-knitting
May:

Obviously, I finished this months ago!

05-May-Roasted-Asparagus-and-Shrimp
June:

On the first of June, my irises bloomed!

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July:

I didn't finish them in time for the wedding.

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August:

Here's what's happening for me . . . Right Now!

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September:

It was not a bad day to be at the market yesterday.

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October:

When Ali messaged me a few weeks ago that she didn't have anyone available to work the market with me on a particular Saturday, my wheels immediately started in motion.

10-October-Farmer-Market
November:

Day 1. I haven't officially signed on (yet), but it seems a shame not to participate in National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) for the fifth straight year -- even though I'm crazy busy today and nothing is coming together on-the-fly quite as I'd like.

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December:

While I could have drowned Ali with the handknits at her baby shower, I decided to include only the projects I've started *and* finished since learning about Zim!

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* * * * *

I like how I stretched the posting of a mid-January week-long visit to Rio all the way into March! That's the way to make a vacation last!! I also travelled in '13 to Chicago and Door County with various of my girls, as well as get-aways to Milwaukee and Lake Geneva with Rusty.

Ali's wedding was the definite highlight of the year! It was so much fun -- and I guess, having just finished that little photo book, that I must like to stretch out and savor the good stuff. Ha.

The baby knitting sort of took over the second half of the year, and now I'm concentrating on hats while I wait for a baby to be born!

 

 

18 December 2013

Baby's Room!

I went over to Ali's on Sunday to see Zim's room! There's been a lot of work in the past couple of months getting this once very dark room in shape for a new baby.

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Things that can't be seen, such as insulation and heat, have been added, along with some new windows, flooring, and lighting.

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In a pinch for nursery wall decor? Frame a gift bag. Seriously. This one and the one next to it (above) are gift bags from the baby shower. "Poppies" is an original painting by Aunt Maddy!

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Zims-Room3

She had a cute arrangement on one of the window ledges, but it's since been replaced by this:

Zim-window

A wonderful stained glass window that was Sharon's. It's been hanging at the coffee shop, but now it'll warm the morning light for Zim. Lovely!

When I was there on Sunday, the crib was in pieces on the living room floor, but my busy-bee daughter went to work and here are the photos she shared on Monday:

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Zim-sofa

Um, yeah. READY!!

 

17 December 2013

Smooch

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I miss you every.single.day.

Sharon Jean / June 15, 1960 - December 17, 2010

 

16 December 2013

Cloche Divine

I love cool-to-execute knitted-in details, such as this bow:

I love cool-to-execute knitted-in details. #knitting

I started this hat on Thursday and finished on Saturday night. I always forget how quick hats are to knit!

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I have no modeled shot. I knit the smallest size and it's a wee bit small for the recipient, but that's okay! No. 2 will be knit in-the-round and it'll be so much quicker.

I'll also knit the brim just a few rows deeper.

 

15 December 2013

Wedding Photos

I accidentally wrote "Weeding Photos," and it's not far off the mark. Culling through hundreds and hundreds of photos to make a reasonably sized and priced photo book is PURE TORTURE. And, yet, that's how I (almost always) gladly spent most of my weekend.

View larger here (patience).

I didn't even have to take the photos -- granted use of the images taken by my niece, J(ena) Schleis Photography -- it's still an enormous undertaking. For months I've been promising my mother that I'd put together a book for her of photos from Ali's & Rod's wedding... and I finally buckled down.

Such is the glamorous life in photography: I left the house exactly once all weekend; ate cereal for supper on Saturday, tuna out of a can for lunch on Sunday (and a very late lunch, at that, pretty much negating the need for supper); finished a little knitting, watched 5 minutes of the football game, and now...

Waaaaa! I need more weekend!

 

13 December 2013

Whoooosh!

Hear that? It's December flying by at a mile a minute!

Bookmarking The Yarn Whisperer for later listening. I was unable to listen live when Clara Parkes spoke with Anne Strainchamps on 45 North/Wisconsin Public Radio this morning -- the show should soon be posted at the link!

I am looking forward to a fairly low-key weekend. Except for yoga with Ali on Sunday morning, there are no obligations or parties, so I can hunker down and get to some of the other things on my list -- things that I didn't even mention on Tuesday's To-Do List!

  • Finish Cloche Divine -- this project flew in under the radar! I cast on last night, using Rowan Softknit Cotton and, oh my, it is definitely soft! I'm just a few rows in for the main body of the hat, about to begin "bow gathers." It's very fun, so far, even though seed stitch is pretty much "torture" in my book.
  • Dye some yarn!! Or at the very least reacquaint myself with my wool and dye studio -- and get a grip -- there are projects in the hopper!
  • Plan (and possibly begin to make) some cook-ahead meals/soups/stews for the Zim family, and some Lactation Cookies for the new mumma!
  • Knitting Yarns is on the way to Carrie, winner of the random drawing here, but I still have some other mailing to do!
  • ETA:  I need to design and order a small book of wedding photos for my mom! (My sister Ann's photo calendar -- the 3rd or 4th I've made for her -- was finished & ordered last weekend!)
  • I also need to do some sewing!!

Speaking of Zim... I can hardly believe we're on the downhill slide. A month to go!! It's been about that long since we've been to yoga, and Ali said that it was amazing how different her body feels now. Oh, it was so good, though... for both of us.

The baby's room is also nearly complete -- new floor (partially heated), new windows, some insulation, fresh drywall and paint, wall decor -- I can't wait to see it all finished! A nice, comfy couch will be moved in and it's going to be so warm and cozy.

I'm still working on Pepita, but ripped a bunch after discovering that my gauge was off even worse than I thought. I guess I knit about a million stitches per inch with fingering weight yarn on size 0 needles! I did a little fudging so I didn't have to completely rip it out, and the math to figure out how to proceed, but it is slooooow going. After the finishing flurry of November, I feel like a real slacker.

Heh.

Hey, have a great weekend!

 

10 December 2013

Ten on Tuesday: To Do!

Ten on Tuesday:  10 Things On My To-Do List Right Now!

1.  Yoga! Tomorrow morning right before hair appointment? Maybe. Thursday evening & Sunday morning with Ali, for sure! I really need to get back in the groove.

2.  Mail call! There are two or three packages to ready for mail pick up.

3.  Book club! Party tomorrow night.

4.  I need a book for the gift exchange at aforementioned party.

5.  Knitting group! Party next Tuesday night.

6.  I need a gift to exchange at that party, too; it probably won't be a handknit!

7.  Shopping! Maybe? I think there are a few things I need to buy... It's another nontraditional holiday season around here, and it's sort of hard to wrap my head around it and get a grip on everyone's timeline. There might be one day after the New Year when all three kids are here, so I guess I need to figure that out and plan around it.

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8.  Finish our little remodeling project! Framing is done, drywall is up, plastering is underway. Unfortunately, circumstances (ductwork) dictate that there will be only two doors, not three as I'd hoped and dreamed. If there's one thing I've learned in all these years of old house remodeling, it's how to roll with the punches and understand limitations and pick my battles. That's more than one thing. It could probably be done... ductwork can be moved... but in this particular instance it's not worth it. You can't always get what you want. Don't worry, be happy.

9.  Baby stuff! The childbirth classes are over, the baby shower is over, and now all that's left is the waiting... knitting, waiting, knitting, waiting... it's a HUGE DISTRACTION! I wouldn't trade it for the world... already the world is revolving around this baby!

10.  There will be life after Zim and, as much as I hate the thought of being away from him/her, there's a vacation to the Scottish Highlands to plan! Spring or summer? I'm leaning toward spring... later than our last visit to the UK, but not yet full-on summer tourist season. Oh, I do love to plan a good trip.

06 December 2013

US 0

US 0 needles... I have quite a few but this may be my first actual project using them. #knittingforzim #imaybeinsane

I have an amazing number of size US 0 double-points, considering that I've never finished a project that uses them!

Looks like that'll change! It's Martina Behm's Pepita, using the little bit of leftover yarn from the baby leggings and some of my dyed sock yarn.

 

04 December 2013

The walls come tumblin' down

Indeed. Here's the before:

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That's a drawing of Sharon on the left that Maddy did about 3 years ago; a collaborative project of Katie's & Rusty's from several years ago on the right. Until last week, there was a tall Globe Wernicke Art-Mission bookcase between them.

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I'm really glad we placed those recessed lights correctly for this project that, at the time, we had no clue was coming.

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The plan was for three french hens doors (I couldn't banish the thought of Harvey Wallbangers this morning, either) but, alas, and as adamant as I'd like to be, measurements and, more importantly, duct work, dictates that it will only be two.

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Or an inch taken off of each side of all three doors in order for them to fit. The one on the right? Someone lopped off a big hunk at the top and then crudely stuck it back on... so that one will be eliminated. I don't know -- I go back and forth. I really wanted three doors. These are 1st World/Old House problems. There will be some reconfiguring.

Meanwhile...

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I think that gypsum board was scented -- it was very perfume-y.

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I was in charge of clean up.

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And the views!! Trippy. We've never ever.

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Naturally, there are artifacts! It's one of my favorite parts of remodeling an old house.

From the quality of the work, it's been decided that the original doors were removed and the hole closed up a) in a hurry and/or b) begrudgingly. It's the poorest workmanship we've seen here... and we've seen a lot!  :)

Stay tuned!

* * * * *

CONTEST HERE!

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03 December 2013

Ten on Tuesday: Hit the high spots

Ten on Tuesday:  10 Favorite Housekeeping Shortcuts

This may seem like a silly topic to some, but it occurred to me late last week when I was in the throes of cleaning my house, coming down to the wire with a million things to do, and feeling desperate... so I suggested it to Carole.

You see, not only did I throw a baby shower on Saturday, I had the BRILLIANT idea to invite all of the families up to our house afterwards -- most of them for the first time!

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Though I grumbled and wondered how I could do such a stupid thing, I realized that it actually was quite brilliant because now my house is clean and spiffy and ready for the holidays! We'll dirty it up a little tomorrow when we bash through a wall, but the dust will soon settle (and, plus, that's so exciting!!).

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My house is actually cleaner and more put together now than it's been in years. We've had an extended period where the kids -- and their stuff -- have been fluid and unsettled, shifting between living situations, and a whole lotta stuff landed in temporary storage at our house. With only so many places to go, a fair bit ended up invading our living space and, well, it didn't look that great.

Nor did it inspire.

My mother keeps an immaculate house -- with help; at one time "the help" was my siblings and me -- so I've been very well trained. That training has served me very well over the years, but I use it as seldom as possible. I love a clean house, and sometimes get in the groove, but I generally hate housecleaning.

Even with a house that to most of us would seem ready for a House Beautiful photo shoot at any given moment, there were (and are) times that my mom's house was less than perfect, so every once in a while, when company was on the way and time was limited, she'd give us each a room and say...

1.  Hit the high spots! We'd do a quick pick up & dusting of the things most visible -- only the tops of the tables, not the bases or legs.

2.  Clean off & wipe countertops. I've been using Meyer's or Watkins spray cleaner -- wonderful scents!

3.  Load the dishwasher.

4.  Sweep/vac the floor and shake the rugs. We have mostly hardwood and four cats. Regular furball battles are a given.

5.  Gather up everything in a room that doesn't belong. Part of my battle was/is finding a place for everything. We've removed some storage in readiness for wall-bashing and, while I'm a firm believer in "a place for everything and everything in its place," getting there can be torture.

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6.  Related to the above, if I pick something up and have to think too hard about it, I get rid of it!! My constant companion has been a bag/box/basket designated for giving away, and we've made a ridiculous number of trips to various donation sites. I also took a load of books to Half-Price Books and walked away with some cash!

7.  Multi-task. After a morning flush, I squirt in the toilet cleaner. I wash up & brush my teeth, apply powder/blush/mascara. Before leaving the room, I swish the toilet bowl and flush again -- hardly any extra effort.

8.  I've also been wiping the bathroom sink & mirror with more regularity. It seems to help.

9.  Oh, I'm exhausted!

10.  I think my next shortcut is going to be hiring some regular help!! I've had it in the past, but it's been ages. Now is the time!

* * * * *

CONTEST HERE!

* * * * *

02 December 2013

It's December -- and a contest!

It's on to other things! I've actually been reading something other than -- or, rather, in addition to -- books about childbirth and labor support. 

Knittingyarns

I recently received two copies of Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting, edited by Ann Hood -- one to keep myself and one to give away! I was only vaguely aware of this book a while back, and then read Barbara Kingsolver's "yarn" in the November/December issue of Orion magazineWhere It Begins -- I love this part about friends:

It begins with the circle of friends. There is always something beyond your beyond, the aged parents and teenager who crack up the family cars on the selfsame day, the bone-picked divorce, the winter of chemo, the gorgeous mistake, the long unraveling misery that needs company, reading glasses and glasses of wine and all the chairs pulled into the living room. Project bags bulge like sacks of oranges, ripe for beginning. Cast on, knit two together girlfriendwise. Rip it, pick up the pieces where you can, along the headless yoke or scandalously loose button placket, pick up and knit. Always, you will have to keep two projects going: first, the no-brainer stockinette that can run on cruise control when the talk is delicious. And the other one, the brainer, a maddening intarsia or fussy fair-isle you’ll save for the day when the chat gets less interesting, though really it never does. Knitting only makes the talk go softer, as long as it needs to be, fondly ribbed and yarned-over, loosely structured or not at all, with embellishment on every edge. Laughter makes dropped stitches.

"Cast on, knit two together girlfriendwise...."

I never thought I'd like knitting in a group with other people, and now I can't imagine not knitting with friends! My knit night attendance has been scarce of late, but that's life... and it will change.

Anyway, the list of authors is amazing, naming a scant few more of my favorites: Elizabeth Berg, Jane Smiley, "our own" Ann Shayne, and even Andre Dubus III! I've barely begun because, you know, there's still childbirth and labor support happening in a few weeks, but it is a nice respite from that -- even, in a way, a part of it because many of these are stories about knitting and how it helps us get through.

I am pretty sure I'll be knitting while helping Ali through her labor and delivery and, then, in the following days, I'm sure it will help to keep my head and heart from exploding all over the room as the reality of my first grandchild sinks in... that I'm a grandmother, and that Ali is a mother, too. Ka-BOOM!

Alphabet-scottieOne more shower photo - a slightly better look at the adorable alphabet sleeper and scottie dog hat direct from Aunt Kate in Edinburgh!

So, it's a wonderful book and I am savoring it, and I can't wait to share! With five knitting patterns by Helen Bingham, as well, it would make a wonderful gift for a knitter -- and I'll get it to you in plenty of time for Christmas giving (or to keep for yourself).

And there will almost certainly be yarn.

* * * * *

LEAVE YOUR COMMENT ON THIS POST!

Share a tip for a new mama & papa AND/OR tell me your favorite holiday movie!

Deadline is Friday, December 6th at 11:59 pm CST.

A winner will be drawn at random from all comments on this post.

Tell your friends.  :)

* * * * *

(Meanwhile, I can't wait to hear whether LoLa will be in The Big Game!!)

01 December 2013

Baby Shower

While I could have drowned Ali with the handknits at her baby shower, I decided to include only the projects I've started *and* finished since learning about Zim!

Not the ones I've knit & stashed over the years.

Not the ones I started years ago and finished in the last 6 months.

Not the ones I've started in the last 6 months but haven't finished.

(There's an alarming number of all!)

There was a minor panic when I couldn't find all of the items that I wanted to include in the shower gift -- with all of the shuffling and rearranging around here, I put them someplace "safe." I knew they were somewhere and persevered, finding them all together in the yarn cupboard. So, meeting the criteria, there was this:

Chevron Baby Blanket

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garter yoke baby cardi

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Chunky Hoodie

I chuckled to myself as I finished the bonnet and sewed the buttons on the hoodie the other night, Kay's recent comment on an Instagram post echoing in my head while I added them to the stack.

"I'm worried this child will not have empathy for those who wear ordinary clothes."

And I must admit, even I began to wonder whether having a grandmother who likes to knit is really such a good thing!!

I've given it some thought over the past few days and have concluded that until Zim can voice his/her opinion and/or make his/her own wardrobe choices, IT DEFINITELY IS A GOOD THING!!

I will take full advantage of my woolly window of opportunity.

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The shower was so much fun! I've only ever been to two and barely had one, myself, so I just winged it with input from Ali and inspiration from Pinterest. Maddy helped me with putting together favors and prizes, decorations and decorating, and it all turned out quite nice.

I really do have fun planning things... whether it's a trip to Vegas or Scotland, a wedding or a baby shower... find a theme, set some guidelines, and GO!

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Here's one photo of Ali from the shower. She's holding a little knit cap that Katie sent from... why, Scotland, of course!! In her lap is an ADORABLE one-piece with the ABCs all over it. Katie wrote that she couldn't resist, and that it reminded her of the sort of thing their Nana would buy for them. So true. My mother always found the cutest clothes for her grands.

 

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