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December 2011

The Island of Misfit Knits

Remember this?


As a kid, I always wondered what, exactly, was wrong with these toys.  Misfits?  Not in my book!

My slipper knitting this fall, though, produced some REAL misfits!  (It was so hard not to blog these bloopers as they were happening. . .)

First, there are these.


Last August, when Erin was home for a few days, we checked out Ravelry for slipper patterns.  I showed her the duffers.  She didn't think so.  She wanted something that would cover her whole foot.  She wanted something a little . . . "fun" and "wild."  She was more interested in . . . jester feet!

So I knit them for her.  They looked like this before sewing them together. 


It took a surprisingly long time to do the actual kniting.  (Some careful planning, too, because I wanted to knit the slippers to be mirror-images of each other.)  Then, there was the seaming.  What a pain!  It was like putting together origami swans or something!  But, eventually I had a pair of slippers.

A pair of slippers that were huge.  HUGE, I'm telling you.  So I felted.  And I felted.  And I felted some more.  And then. . . some more.  And again.  (15 felting sessions, all total.)

Because of the unique, origami-like construction, there are also several seams on the bottom of the slipper.  Despite my being a good "seamer", the slippers feel sort of . . . lumpy.  And, the shape is . . . odd.  Given that you've folded what looks like a scarf. . . into slippers.  Not the most comfortable, really, when you come right down to it.

Generally, I was Not Happy with the result.  Kind of cute.  Definitely "fun" and jester-like.  And the mirror-image thing worked out.  But, those seams!  I couldn't imagine wearing them comfortably!  Plus, after 15 agitation cycles, they were still far too big for Erin's size 7 1/2 feet!

I was not at all confident about giving her the jester slippers.  I broke down at Thanksgiving and showed them to her.  She recoiled in horror!  She tried on the adorable duffers I had made for my niece.  Much better!  Oops.  Now she wanted duffers.

So.  The jester-slippers were sent off to The Island of Misfit Knits!

Then, there is this one.


When I first decided to knit duffers, the pattern was different than it is now.   It was also called 19-row slippers, and was (then; not now) a free Ravelry download.  I knit up my first duffer.

It looked mighty small!  Small. . . and a bit mis-shapen.

Duh!  Turns out I missed that all-important line in the instructions for the sole . . . "K every other row."  Oops!  This one was off to The Island of Misfit Knits!

Second attempt.


Now, that's better!  Still knit from the original, free version of the duffers pattern.  Problem is. . . that version of the pattern only has 3 sizes, and all three are small!  I thought I might get by with the largest of the small sizes for my niece with some careful felting.

But . . . Oops!  Too small!  For anyone on my Christmas list, at least.  Another pair off to The Island of Misfit Knits!

By this point in my knitting process, the designer had released a new version of duffers --- with greatly expanded size options!  I tried again. . .


Looking MUCH better! 

But . . . Oops!  I ended up not having enough yarn to knit the matching slipper!  So, again. . . Off to The Island of Misfit Knits!**

Now, if you're counting, that's SIX slippers I sent to The Island of Misfit Knits!  SIX!!! That's THREE PAIRS!!!!   Oh, brother! 

It's really a wonder ANYone received slippers this year.

But I perservered.  Eventually, I got it right!  In the meantime, I wasted weeks and weeks of knitting time to the Island of Misfit Knits!


** Since my Mom only needs ONE slipper right now, I've decided to finish this one up and felt it for her "good foot."  (I feel slightly better about it now.)


FREE TO GOOD HOME:     One pair of Jester-slippers; approximately women's size 8 1/2; quite wide; prominent seams on inside.  AND . . . One pair of  19-row duffers; approximately women's size 6-6 1/2; very adorable.  Let me know if you might want either pair.  I'd be happy if they could get some use!

Oh, Those Chestnuts!

Finally!  I can share!  Hit it, Nat!


If you remember, back in October I joined "SocktoberFest."  Not to make socks.  No.  To make slippers for the people I love!


Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. . .


(for my brother-in-law, Kurt, and Erin's boyfriend, Keith)

(back view)


Jack Frost nipping at your nose. . .


(for my sister, Di)

Yuletide carols being sung by a choir. . .


(for my niece, Jes)

And folks dressed up like eskimos. . .


(for Erin)

Everybody knows some turkey and some mistletoe


(for my Dad)

Help to make the season bright. . .


(for my Mom)

And then. . . the song ends.  For now.  I have two more pairs of slippers to complete -- one for my friend, Sandie (nearly finished) and one for Brian (but, really, who wants to knit for a size 13 foot???). 

Althought it's been said many times, many ways. . . Slippers make a great holiday gift!

(Ravelry details here, here, here, here, here, and here!)

Reports are in:  The slippers seem to be a hit with all recipients.  This photo (sent by Erin) warms a Mom-Knitter's heart:


I'm ready to put the slipper patterns away for awhile -- but it was fun to give warm feet for Christmas!


Hit the Road, Jack!

Ten on Tuesday is officially on vacation this week.  But I can't seem to get out of the habit of thinking of ten things on Tuesdays. . . So, join me this week for an unsanctioned, one-of-a-kind Ten on Tuesday list!


Despite my complaining, I really do like Christmas.  I like the decorations, the gifting, the memories.  I like the parties, the dressing up, the festive-ness.  I like Christmas music.  I like Christmas movies.  I like snow.

And, despite the fact that I really do like Christmas, I'm never sad when it's over.  Because . . . by the end of December, I'm ready for the excitement and the hub-bub and the stress to cease.


This year, especially, I'm ready to call it quits on Christmas!  In fact, this one will go down in the record books (tied, perhaps, with my chemo-Christmas) as Worst Christmas Ever.  It's tough to do Christmas . . . when you're also playing Florence Nightingale.  It's tough to enjoy Christmas. . . when you're living in an altered state with your leg in a cast. 

So.  Let's say goodbye to this one. . . in ten different ways:

  1. Stick a fork in it; it's done!
  2. Put it to bed!
  3. Turn out the lights. . . the party's over!
  4. Hasta la vista, Baby!
  5. That's all she wrote!
  6. It's all over but the shouting!
  7. It's gone 'round the bend!
  8. So long, sucker!
  9. Don't let the door hit you on your way out!
  10. You . . . and the horse you rode in on!


So glad this one is over! 

Steeped in Tradition: The Pepparkakor

Like most Americans, I have a mixed-bag when it comes to heritage.  A little English.  A little Scotish.  A touch of Irish.  Maybe a hint of German.  And a whole lot of Swedish.


My great-grandmother immigrated to the US from Sweden as a 19-year-old.  Alone.  She came to Rockford, Illinois (a community with a large and established Swedish population) to meet her brother, who was already settled.  She met and married her husband -- another Swedish immigrant -- and they had one child, my grandmother.  Although my grandmother did not marry a Swede, my Dad was raised with significant Swedish influence.

I was also born in Rockford, and spent my childhood there -- surrounded by my Swedish family.  Our Christmas traditions were heavy on Swedish heritage. . . especially when it came to food!  Inlagd sill.  Pannkakor.  Lutfisk.  Lingonberries.  Smörgåstårta.  Isterband.  

As a kid -- an American kid -- I didn't really like or appreciate much of the Swedish fare served up around me.  Never could get past the smell of lutfisk.  Or the texture of the herring.  I really liked lingonberry jam, though, and the pannkakor (pancakes).  Mmmmm.  But what I especially loved . . .



Thin, crispy, incredibly tasty Swedish gingersnaps.  My favorite cookie of all time!

Once my family moved away from Rockford, we left family gatherings full of Swedish food -- and a community of Swedes -- behind.  My Mom (who is not Swedish and doesn't care for most of the foods) embraced tradition and made pepparkakor every Christmas using my great-grandmother's translated-from-Swedish recipe.


When I grew up and left home, I took the pepparkakor recipe with me.


They are not an attractive Christmas cookie.  When I put them out for parties or holiday gatherings, most people are . . . not tempted . . . to pick one up.  But when they do?  YUM!  They never hesitate again!

Tom (not Swedish) and my kids love pepparkakor!  When Brian was little, he used to call them "popper-cookers."  It really wouldn't be Christmas for me . . . without pepparkakor.

Which is why today, on Christmas Eve morning, I was up early to bake this year's batch.  Although we've cut out a lot of fluff for this year's celebration, I needed to keep the pepparkakor in the mix!


Really.  It wouldn't be Christmas without it!  (Sorry, though, Dad.  No lutfisk this year!!!)

***NOTE:  You can find many recipes for pepparkakor online.  Beware of those that don't include cardamom.  "Real" Swedish pepparkakor includes cardamom.  (My recipe - above - is translated from my great-grandmother's original pepparkakor recipe.)


Mom Update:  Surgery went very well and she's in recovery mode.


Steeped in Tradition: The Christmas China

It all started with this little candlestick holder. . .


back in 1984.

Tom and I were living in Austin, Texas at the time.  He was doing a post-doc at the University of Texas, and I was working on my accounting degree.  We were very poor.  We didn't have many "nice" things.  (But we were really, really happy.)

I never dreamed of owning Christmas china.  (Shoot, at that point, I didn't even dream of owning ANY china!)  And, although I already loved blue transferware, back then I had never even heard of Spode.

So I was surprised when I opened my Christmas gift from Tom that first year in Texas and discovered this little Spode candlestick holder.  Apparently, he'd been shopping in a mall department store, and the candlestick had caught his eye.

The next year, he bought me a second candlestick holder.

And, with that, my collection of Spode Christmas Tree china began!


Each year, he chose a piece for me.


Now, I have a full "service for 8."


A tea set.


Various serving pieces.


Even a gravy boat!


I love getting out my Christmas china every December, and setting it up in my china cabinet.  We use it daily -- not just for special meals -- throughout the holiday season.   I love remembering how Tom "discovered" the pattern -- and how he liked it so much that he splurged on a piece for me . . . way back when.  But I especially love using the candlestick holders.  They will always be my favorite pieces.  I think their candlelight glows brighter and longer than any other candlelight. . .


Mom Update:  Surgery tomorrow.  She is comfortable . . . but miserable.  I thank you all for your kind words of support.  They mean a lot to me -- and to my Mom, as well!  Many thanks!

Caught in the Whirlpool


We've reached that time of year. . . that point in the season. . . where it feels like we're caught in the whirlpool.  Too much to do.  Trapped.  Spinning round and round.

And today, you'll be reading lots of last-minute holiday to-do lists.  After all, Carole has suggested the most perfect Ten on Tuesday topic for the season . . . the Ten Things We Need To do Before Christmas.  My list, at first glance, looks much like all the other lists you'll read today. 

But then I diverge. 

Because . . . as you've read here in the last few days. . . I've had Priority-ReShuffle.  And, you know, that's okay.  Christmas really doesn't have to look like a Hallmark commercial. . . or a Martha Stewart layout. . . or a Norman Rockwell painting.  Christmas . . . is a time to share.  Whatever it looks like and in whatever state of "done-ness."

So, despite all the harried tasks and to-do lists and plans, please remember to sit back and appreciate your families and friends and enjoy . . . each other!


With that . . .my list. . .

  1. Finish last-minute shopping (just a couple of things!).
  2. Finish wrapping (or not. . .).
  3. Finish that Christmas letter and get those cards in the mail (or . . . perhaps these will be New Year's cards this year).
  4. Cookies?  (Maybe.  We'll see.)
  5. Finalize meal plans and send Tom off to the grocery. 
  6. Hang lights and cards for my Mom and Dad - make their "new digs" look a little festive and bright.
  7. Agonize over the fact that I'm so close. . . yet so far. . . from finishing the last of my gift knitting.
  8. And then. . . just. . . let it go.
  9. Open a bottle of wine.
  10. And be grateful - oh, so grateful - for all the love and support I'm feeling right now.

And. . . as an added Ten on Tuesday BONUS . . . I'm adding TEN WISHES FOR A VERY SPECIAL BIRTHDAY:


Happy Birthday, Tom!  I wish you. . .

  1. Smooth sailing.
  2. Tight lines.
  3. Cold beer.
  4. Good jump.
  5. Fast feet.
  6. Clear translations.
  7. Fine dining.
  8. Fast ice.
  9. Down time.
  10. And love.  ALL my love.

Happy, happy birthday!  You are THE BEST!



Dem Bones: A Riff


  • Last week, my mind was full of Christmas plans and to-do lists, a Gingerbread House decorating party I was throwing, last-minute shopping, a grant proposal deadline.
  • All-in-all, I thought my holiday plans were progressing well; that I was nearly out of the woods as far as stress and hassle and busy-ness goes.
  • Last week, my Mom was going to Zumba, and taking care of her own plans for Christmas.  Wrapping.  Cards.  A party or two.
  • My Dad, too, was focused on his own plans for the upcoming weeks.  Some hobby work he's in the midst of completing; some get-togethers planned with friends. 
  • Tom was winding up a crazy-busy year-end wrap-up kind of month at work; meeting with consultants, finishing employee evaluations, getting ready for a much-deserved vacation - a quiet week at home.
  • Last week, Brian was taking finals and packing up to come home for break; returning his orthopedic scooter and getting the go-ahead to walk without his "boot."
  • And then. . .
  • And then. . .
  • And then. . .
  • My Mom fell off a counter stool.
  • At my house.
  • 911.
  • Paramedics.
  • Emergency room.
  • Ankle fracture.
  • Several days in the hospital.
  • And surgery coming up later this week.
  • In a flash, our plans changed.
  • Immediately.
  • Intensely.
  • Now, my home is full of medical equipment.
  • My Mom is full of painkillers.
  • My Dad is settling in . . . down in the lower level of my house.
  • For the duration.
  • My Mom needs a "team" of support right now.
  • Brian is a trooper.
  • Tom is a wonder-man.
  • And I'm trying my best to keep it all together.
  • Dem bones. . .
  • Dem bones. . .
  • Dem . . . dry bones!
  • I'm becoming all too familiar with orthopaedics.
  • (My poor Mom. . .)



My "cup" was full.  Right to the brim.

Now, though, something has happened to make it overflow.

I'm taking a bit of a break to deal with some . . . mopping up.  I'll be back -- hopefully sooner than later.  But for now, I just need to deal with the overflow.

(And, please.  Some healing thoughts for my beloved Mom -- who has just broken her ankle.  Badly.  Trust me. . . I've had enough broken bones this year to last a lifetime.)


Unwrapping: The More Things Change. . .The More They Stay The Same

Last week, I explained that I have been a "journal-er" for a very, very long time. 

When I was a young girl, I loved the notion of keeping a "secret diary."  I was totally enchanted when I got my first diary -- the kind with a locking tab and a tiny key -- for one of my birthdays (probably when I was 9 or 10).  I remember it was gold, and it was embossed with some flourishes and the words "My Diary."  The key was tiny and silver-colored, and I kept it in my jewelry box. 

I loved writing in my little diary.  I remember tracking "important" things -- like what I ate for dinner, what I was going to buy with my allowance, why I hated Certain People at school, and how I wanted a dog.

It seemed pretty magical at the time.  I don't know what ever happened to that particular diary.  I know I kept writing in it - off and on - for several years.

A few years ago, I was going through some old boxes of junk at my parents' house, and I stumbled on to this . . .



It's my journal from 1975!  I was 15 when I started writing in this journal; a sophomore in high school.  I gotta tell you. . . it is humbling - and slightly nauseating - to read what you wrote when you were 15.  Mortifying. . . yet compelling.  I mean, there I was -- raw and uncensored -- on the pages of 1975. 

What did I write?  Well.  Most of it, you just don't want to know. . . but,  I suppose . . . just what you'd expect to find in a 15-year-old's diary.  Lots of He Said-She-Said (to the point of actually documenting dialog).  Hopes.  Dreams.  Heart-wrenching life.  WAY too much about boys and cheerleading and swim meet results.  (Really.  WAY too much on the boys.)  Excruciating details about who-I-saw-where-and-what-they-said-and-what-that-probably-meant.  Real-life drama about learning-to-drive and daily updates about my summer job at the Dairy Queen. 


Here, on Friday, June 6 (the last day of school), if you squint really hard (because I'm just too mortified to actually show the whole page. . .) you can see that I was having a "red-letter"-day --- because (a) I got my driver's license; (b) I got a job (DQ); and (c) "Kevin saw me drive."  Now, I don't remember the "Kevin" I was referring to ---- but it was, apparently, a Big Deal (a really Big Deal) that he saw me drive.

You might also see. . . if you work hard at it . . . that the rest of the entry is a list of the resolutions and goals I had for myself that summer.  Yeah.  I know.  #1 is "get a great tan" (and I did!).  I was 15.  And vain.  And most of the other goals are equally . . . trite.  But.  I also had goals about reading and sewing and working hard at my swimming and keeping up with my French.


Sort of . . . like me. . . now.  (With the goals in general; not the back handsprings in particular.)

The other book in the photo above -- the one with the maroon cover -- is another type of journal I started when I was a senior in high school and continued through college.  It's not so much a journal. . . as a collection.  Of quotes and "sayings" and poems, song lyrics and doodles.


I remember loving this "blank book" -- the first I had ever seen back in 1977.  No lines!  You could just . . . draw or write anything you wanted.  Free form!  I loved it!


It is full of . . . all kinds of silly things.  And even though it's not a "journal" detailing the day-to-day of my life, I can look back on what I wrote and what I drew and remember who I was and what I was thinking.


The most amazing things about looking at my journal from 1975 (once I get past the mortification) and my "quote collection" from my college years . . . is . . . how much like ME now. . . I was then.  How I used my journals - then - to work out frustrations; to test out new ideas; to think through goals and hopes and dreams; to record poems and quotes and ideas.  Just like I do now.

Some things change (thank god).  And some things . . . just don't!