Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My cardigan gets a time out

It's not the sweaters fault really, it is definitely all mine.  I didn't look at the measurements of the finished pieces and figure out what would work best for me, I just followed what would normally be my size and started knitting.  Unfortunately this plan didn't work out too well as my Nantucket Pink (Ravelry link) has turned out much too small.  Don't get me wrong, it is a lovely pattern, well written and the finished cardigans are beautiful, I just needed to take more care before I started my project.

Once the fronts and backs were finished they looked a tad on the small side so I washed and blocked it then basted the fronts to the back to try on and I just don't like how it is fitting.  In the pictures the sweater is definitely pulled across the bust to close, but mine is just beyond that, it simply looks too small for me.  Plus I am not a huge fan of the stretched too tight look (why I didn't take this into account before I started knitting is beyond me!).  So I guess I will just have to take this as a lesson to not just do gauge swatches (I made 3 for this blasted thing!) but to also check the designers math with the stitches and final measurements (this one was off by about a half inch), and to make sure the final measurements are what I want for my finished garment.

Maybe one of my next projects should be something from Wendy Bernards Custom Knits (Amazon link) to help me learn how to take more control of my knitting.  I know that any pattern can be adjusted to fit better, I just am not really sure how to do that yet.  I will probably do some small adjustment to this cardigan when I reknit it, such as putting in bust darts, I am just not sure if I should go up a needle size or just follow the instructions for the next size up.  I foresee some math in my future!  Now that I have some pictures of the beautiful but too small cardigan now I can begin to frog, sigh.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Veggie Garden, 2 months in

don't mind the overgrown grass, it'll get mown next week

See how everything has sprouted and is growing so good!?  The ones by the fence don't seem too happy about the shade they are getting for most of the day right now, but we are hopeful that as summer progresses they will get enough sun to grow better.  At least the plants further away from the fence are doing well.  I have no idea when to start harvesting the vegetables but boy do those lettuces look good!
About the only problem we have had so far (besides remembering to water daily!) is that something has been eating the cabbage leaves.  In fact every leaf was chewed off of one plant to the point only the stems were left.  It seems to be sprouting new leaves and hopefully will produce something.  I think I do need to thin out the squash though, there are 2 plants in two of the squares and they are soon going to be pretty squished (tee hee, squished squashes!).  The pepper from the back also should be moved into the square towards the front where the seeds didn't sprout at all.  Other than that I only have a few plants that didn't sprout.  Surprisingly the green onions haven't done too well even though they came highly recommended by our neighbor, The Child Whisperer, barely any of those sprouted, maybe I put the seeds to deep or too shallow?

cabbage trying to re grow leaves that were gnawed off

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Slice: upgraded

I don't post about it too often but I do scrapbook and recently was able to upgrade my original Slice machine to the new Slice Elite.  I invested in a Slice die cut machine made by Making Memories a few years ago to make my scrapping time a bit more productive.  I chose it because compared to the competition it was the most affordable by far (only $150 compared to $300-600 for the competition), seemed to have the best ability to change the size of the cuts and was compact in size.  Unhappily all did not go as well as I hoped.  I do agree with many comments I have read on various scrapbooking forums, that the original Slice was rushed to market before it was ready so Making Memories had something to compete with the other electronic die cut machines for sale, Cricut, Xyron, Quickcutz are a few, then there are a slew of manual machines also (but with those you can't change the size of the diecut and then there is a lot storage required for them).

It worked fairly well at first, and then the problems started.  It seemed to rather often have problems with retracting the blade all the way up.  The result of this little bug was that I ended up with lots of tiny pieces of paper as the blade continued to cut even when it was supposed to just be moving to make the next actual cut.  I don't know exactly why it did this but I found ways to work around it, letting it charge for awhile, only using it while plugged in, changing blades, constantly having it 'home' the blade, etc.  Finally about 2 months ago I absolutely could not get the darn thing to cut out the word 'birthday', everytime I tried the blade wouldn't retract all the way and would cut the word into pieces.  After I had ruined a considerable amount of paper, time, and patience trying all my tricks to get the Slice to work I finally gave up and emailed customer service.

I will report that I was very pleased with the response I got, it was quick and the customer service rep, Valerie, really seemed interested in resolving my problem.  We ran through quite a few steps at first, making sure the machine was charged, that it wasn't overheating, that there was a fresh blade, etc.  Then she had me add some oil in the bottom to see if lubricant would help, nope, it didn't help at all.  Next she sent me a new blade housing unit to see if that would resolve the problem.  After receiving it in a few days I installed it with high hopes, but sadly it didn't work either.

Since nothing we tried seemed to fix my machine and it was out of warranty I was given two options, I could send in my non-working machine (at my cost for shipping the whole thing in, ugh!) and they would assess what the problem was, for a small fee of course and then I would be advised what it would cost to fix it, or I could take advantage of the Slice upgrade program for current Slice owners.  The upgrade program would require me to send in a piece of my current Slice, making it inoperable, and then I would be able to purchase the new machine for $75.  Hmm, let me think about this, pay to have my old Slice fixed, which although I liked just did not perform as I hoped, or pay for a new machine at 50% off?  Yup, where do I send in the piece of my Slice, and how do I pay?

I will admit, it's not the best solution as I now have a paperweight and a new machine that I essentially paid a premium for if you count in the cost of my original unit, but at least I now have one that works.  And wow does it work!  Of course the first thing I cut out was 'birthday' and it did it with no problem at all.  I was able to use it unplugged and everything I had it cut out it did so without any problems.  Lil' Miss was very happy as we also used it for a school project of hers.  The new Slice Elite is also much quieter and faster, I am loving that!

Elite on the left, the poor cousin on the right

Visually the biggest difference is that the part of the machine housing the blade is larger on the Elite and seems to have some sort of gear inside, otherwise they appear identical.  We'll see how it works as I continue to use it, but as of now I am one happy customer.  Now maybe I can finally get caught up on my scrapbooks, right now I am still finishing up Fall of 2010, wow, how did I get so behind again!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Knitting for Lil' Miss

Jiminy Christmas it's been awhile since I've chatted about knitting! I recently finished up two items for Lil' Miss and I didn't even have a chance to wash them before she snatched them fresh off my needles and put them on.  Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining, I mean who complains about someone who is so delighted to wear items knit for them?  There were 2 projects I was working on for her, a pair of rainbow knee high socks I talked about earlier in this post and a summery cotton top, Sourpatch published in Petite Purls last summer.

I had fallen in love with the top as soon as I saw it but didn't get to it until last month.  I seem to have trouble knitting a season ahead, which is probably what I should be doing but I just don't want to deal with wool in summer or little cotton tops in winter.  Anyway, I used Knit Picks shine for this top and the colors and sheen of the yarn are perfect for the design, of course Lil' Miss helped to pick out the colors for the top and had great fun doing so..  In spite of  the original being done in wool I chose cotton as the wool seemed a little counter-intuitive to me, I mean, who wants to wear wool in the summer?    I had a devil of a time getting gauge and now that it's done I think I should have gone down a needle size for the color stripes as I did for the stockinette portion.  The biggest hiccup occurred because I didn't fully read the pattern, for all larger sizes there are more color stripes and I just looked at the picture and bought according to that, oops!  So I got knit up to the last strip with the yarn I had and set it aside while I waited for the final color to arrive.  Once it did the knitting went fairly quickly, if rather repetitive once I hit the stockinette portion, knitting only knit stitches endlessly in a loop can get, well, hellishly boring!  I did enjoy a few movies while doing that part I must say.

After the rough start with her rainbow knee highs they went pretty quickly the final time, taking about 2 weeks to complete from start to finish after the third cast on.  It is so much fun to watch the color changes as you knit, really alleviates some of the boredom with doing endless rows of ribbing.  I'll say it now, her next socks will not be knee highs (I'm thinking of either Hermione socks or Socks for Little Witches out of some felici in tiki I couldn't help but buy) and it will probably be awhile before she gets another pair of knee high socks!

The sourpatch top I knit for her fared better than the socks without being washed before wearing.  The only issue with it is that it turned out a bit on the large side and since I thought a shirt that falls off one or both shoulders probably isn't too appropriate for school I wove a narrow pink ribbon through the top just below the cable cast on to nip it in.  Although not part of the design the little ribbon and bow look totally adorable and make me even happier with my result!  As for the socks, well, I felt kind of bad for her when I picked her up at school the day she wore them for the first time as they were sadly around her ankles.  Hopefully that won't happen again as they have now been properly washed however if it does I think I may need to run some elastic thread around the tops to help keep them in place, at least I will if it bothers her enough!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

School questions

Parenthood is not for sissies!  The most unexpected issues crop up and cause stress/anxiety where you never imagined it would, like where to send your kid to school when they are already in school.

I just found out this morning that the two little girls we walk to school with are transferring out to other schools next year and Lil' Misses best friend Miss E is also transferring out, as are the majority of the kids in her little group in class.  I had decided with Mister Vonkysmeed to keep her in our neighborhood school in spite of it's problems because well, it is our neighborhood school.  But now with hearing about all these other kids transferring out I am second guessing myself, am I really making the right decision?

I'm feeling like maybe I am being lazy since I really don't want to have to drive her to another school instead of walking to this one.  However we have had a very positive experience so why change?   Lil' Miss is doing well, very well in fact, and we have been beyond happy with her teacher.  'The other parents are understandably concerned since our school is a Title 1 school (meaning at least half the students qualify for a free lunch-meaning they are poor, and mostly Spanish speaking) and is currently earmarked for Program Improvement (meaning their test scores have fallen-in my opinion due to the large percentage of ESL kids whose parents do not provide any kind of help to their kids at home).  For these reasons they are getting their kids into other schools in the district that are higher performing schools.  In spite of our schools problems Lil' Miss has a fantastic Kindergarten teacher and I know the first grade teachers are also very good but I still wonder if this is the right decision. 

This is not a dilemma I ever thought I would have to deal with, I just assumed we would go to the neighborhood school and all would be fine.  I never thought it would become an issue of whether to stay in our school or not.  However I didn't realize we were not in the school district I thought we would be in when we bought the house, whoops!  Maybe I should talk to Lil' Misses current teacher for some much needed reassurance that I am making the right decision. In other words, please don't let me screw up my kid!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Destructo TALKS!

Finally, he is starting to talk to us!  And now that he is started it's becoming a little flood of communication.  It seems like every day a new word pops up, or words are being used together that never were in the past.  Both of us seem to be feeling much better with the new communication being used.

The past few months have been, in a word, difficult.  I found myself wondering why Mister Vonkysmeed and I decided to have another child, I mean Lil' Miss was never this difficult, was she?  Then all of a sudden about a few weeks ago the boy started using new words, daily, sometimes several words in a day.  And he continues to use them which is the biggest step forward.  Don't get me wrong, we don't have many sentences yet, but he does seem to have finally grasped the notion that if he uses a culturally agreed upon word for something he will get results.  Although we sometimes get the most interesting Destructo-Boy interpretation of a word that takes several times to decipher, that is if we are able to at all.  My personal favorite is when he brings a book to someone and says "TO" most urgently.  Um, run that by me again?  He hasn't quite figured out that the operative word in "read to me please" is not 'to' but 'read', but it is awfully cute!

Most of the time the new communication is working just fine, sometimes not so much when he is trying to desperately say something and for the life of me I can't figure it out.  Then the tears start and the volume increases, just fun all around (yes, he cries too).  I must say it is so much easier to handle a child who is willing to communicate with us instead of the grunting and pointing nonsense that has been going on (I think I am really lucky to be alive since I was a grunter/pointer until almost 3 years old, thank goodness the boy isn't taking after his mommy!).  Now that we have started to communicate we can begin to think about the next big step, shudder, potty-training!
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