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Pink Brutus Knits Blog

Between Stitches June 18

Outdoors, exploring, growing, and learning - I think those are all typical for the month that brings summer, but for us, this June, it has been all of those things on steroids.  Mae's return from camp was a huge moment for us all.  It opened her up and incited conversations and questions that she's never brought to us.  

So, how did she do for her first year at sleep-away camp?

Wonderful.  Life changing.  She learned about the native people that lived on the land her campgrounds are on, she sang in a sweat lodge, she stomped in creeks and covered herself in clay, she learned to cook pancakes over a fire, she danced around the fire while the thunder of horses running, climbed the hill and passed by, disappearing into the woods.  She even took part in "Pecker Seals" which is Navy Seals training camp that is held on the opposite side of the lake.  When she came home, she decided she doesn't need to wear shoes any more (about time, too because I never wear shoes!), she had some serious questions about where the stars are, opening up conversations about light pollution, and most of all - believe it or not - she didn't pull a single hair from her gorgeous little head.

The other day she said she's ready to go back to camp.  Civilized life just isn't as thrilling.  I couldn't have imagined a better outcome and so the plans for next year are already swirling around our heads.  I jokingly asked hubs what it's like to have TWO hippies in the house now and he just shrugged - it's fine by me!  But the truth is, I'm trying to nurture her new-found love for adventure because it's been nearly impossible for us to pull it out of her all these years and now that camp did it, I don't want to let it go.  We went to the tree house park with some friends but it was so hot it was hardly pleasant, so I've been focused on planning our cave trip instead.  Stick to the tried and true, right?

In other news, we've also faced loss this month.  It's almost poetic how I spoke so much about Spring in my last Between Stitches post and the idea of death and rebirth ringing in my head because as June settled in, we lost our beloved cat and one of our hens.  Our kitty showed up on the stoop night after night when I was pregnant with Mae and after months of her returning night after night, hubs just picked her up and tossed her in the house.  She looked old, dingy, generally haggared, so we thought we'd take her in and give her a nice end-of-life.  Well, that was 12 years ago.  Every year that passed we thought, any day now!  And then one day we collectively decided she's a vampire cat and will live forever.  She came and went as she pleased and has never stayed away long enough to miss a meal until right around the time Mae left for camp.  Days became weeks and no one had seen her.  She normally spends her summer days at my mom's house where all the chipmunks are for good hunting, but even mom hadn't seen her and the chipmunk population was booming.  Mom was the one to find her, curled up as if she had settled in for the night in her favorite spot, and that's where she stayed.  We weren't shocked, but it was still a blow.  It was a similar scenario with our hen.  I knew something was going on with her and after watching her for a few days and looking her over, I settled on an egg peritonitis.  I had enough evidence that an egg had broken inside her and within another day, she was gone, nestled in one of the boxes as if she was brooding over a clutch.  Even though I was surprised she went so quickly, I was glad for it.

And I've completely given up on the garden this year because some son-of-a-nutcracker came cruising through and took off with the remaining plants while the chickens did away with the last of the corn and beans weeks ago.  It's all been sort of a mess out there this year, but I'm not sweating it.  The black raspberries are producing at a record rate and the elderberries have flowered and turned already - the little green buds promise a fair yield of berries. I've decided to focus my attention on my perennial plants - the berries, the fruit trees, the grapes, and make some smart decisions about how to tackle the garden next year.  Living in a world with grocery stores really has its perks, ya know?

AANND I know this is supposed to be all about life between knitting - the real stuff that happens and not just the pretty stuff - but I really need to take a moment to celebrate the fact that I'm literally two schematics away from finishing my second book!  Or, as hubs so sweetly reminded me, I'm two schematics away from finishing my portion of the book until the editing begins and the edits/reviews/illustrations become all-encompassing.  Which is totally true, but I'm riding the high right now.  I'm trying my darndest to stay hyped about my decisions and designs since this one is really all on me.  And guess what!  That's the most true, most candid thing about me in regard to my work.  I'm a chronic second-guesser!  I'm forever wondering if I pushed my designs enough while balancing "approachable" knitting.  Was this the best yarn choice?  Are these colors telling the story I had intended?  Are people going to even like these or is it all trash?  I mean, it sounds dark, but ya know... creative types I guess.  I look at the constant state of self-criting as the soundtrack that keeps me pushing and thinking and striving to be better.  Speaking of listening to my little inner soundtrack, I'm still steering clear of social media for the most part.  I'm sure it's dull following my long-neglected pages, but I find that I can think more clearly and zero in on the direction I want to take my work without being bombarded with what's "trendy" right now.  It's such a suck backwards.

So, that's the long and short of it.  June.  Invading butterflies, badminton, naked baby bums, death, growth, and driver's ed.  Still.  With the driver's ed.  Having a teenager trumps every sleepless night and toddler tantrum on record.  And it was all glorious in its own right.

camp nostalgia

As we were scrambling to find something that Mae would want to do this summer and something that wasn't completely booked already, we asked her about this camp and that, basketball?  Swimming?  Are the zoo camps filled? What about this gymnastics or this dance?  Nothing.  She was being difficult and bored but unwilling - I attribute this to her indecisive Libra nature paired with her guarded Scorpio cusp.  Then, Nate had a stroke of genius and asked if Mae would be interested in going to Camp Palawopec.  I thought there was no way in hell she'd agree to a sleep-away camp... she won't even stay over with her grandparents!  But, she surprised us all and said she'd think about it.  Thinking quickly became inquiring and inquiring quickly became interest.  She wanted to go, but was there someone who could go with her?  A friend?  Alizah went to the very same camp in 2012, but her childhood friend was attending also, so it made two weeks easier to grapple with.  Mae said yes with two conditions - a friend has to go, too and for only one week.  We were fine with that since a week lightens the pockets by about $700.  The real questions was, what friend had parents that could slap down that much cash on camp with about a week's notice?  We started listing names - well, even if she could, they're going out of town, and that one won't want to be gone that long and so on until DING!  What about Alizah's other sister?  The girls have always been very close and so when I brought up the idea to them, it was a hit.  We sent off the applications and payments and waited to hear if they were "in" since openings are limited. The daily nagging about if I'd heard back was unbearable but finally, the letters arrived and the girls were set along with a little handwritten note saying the camp was going to make sure the girls were bunked together.

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We dropped them off yesterday and got the tour with all of the new bells and whistles since Alizah's days.  Alizah said it was really nostalgic being back there and some of her classmates are now counselors.  The rain we've been promised and praying for finally made its very inconvenient appearance, so last night I was stressed and worried that the storms would have her wishing for home.  I want this to be a week of wild fun, and connection to self in a way she can't experience at home.  It's an electronic-free camp with no phones or distractions, but with endless  opportunities for adventure.

I'm honestly just really eager to hear how she did with the outhouses!  HA!  But the kids have a lot of freedom and choices as to what they want to participate in and there are dogs running around freely, so I'm sure she'll find one that will be "her" camp dog.  She's just one of those people.  I'll post an update about how it all went at the end of the month with my Between Stitches post.  I leave here now with some 2012/2018 then and now pics from the day we dropped Alizah off and the the day we dropped Mae off.

Whitehorn
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I've been waiting for an opportunity to sit down and post about this shawl for weeks and I finally have a moment!  This is my contribution, the Whitehorn Shawl from Interweave Knits Summer 2018.  I posted a bit about it on IG when it was first released but man, it's one of those pieces that I couldn't wait to see in print.  I was floored by the styling of the entire collection and the palette throughout was on point.

The shawl is worked from the top down and increased every row for a nice, wide, sweeping wingspan.  Some of the techniques used include a provisional cast-on, mosaic or slip stitch color work, and Latvian braids.  The edge is clean, nearly i-cord looking, without much fuss.  I've seen threads on Ravelry from folks looking for more information about the Latvian braids worked flat - if you are also unfamiliar with the technique and you're getting lost in the written instructions, there are many video tutorials available online that will take you step-by-step.  It's one of those knitting techniques that seems far more complex on paper than it is in practice.

I used the Fibre Company's Cumbria Worsted and it was a dream to work with.  Jimmy Bean's has kits available for Whitehorn also which takes a lot of the guess work out of picking alternative color schemes.  HERE is a link to that page. Any worsted yarn will be suitable as a substitute but I suggest something nice and round for crisp stitch definition.

Make sure to tag your posts and photos #whitehornshawl so that I can follow along with progress and answer any questions you may have!

X

Between Stitches May 18

On Primal Virtue.

This body isn't mine, just borrowed carbon and alien.  These breasts aren't mine, I didn't make them, they were made for me, a gift from my mothers gut, dna data programming, lines of code strung together by will or not.  The overwhelming feeling is that energy has been captured in a fleshy tomb to wield for a time before returning to the source.  But, like a perennial flower, fully dying, returning to soil only to re-form and live again I find myself settling into the comfort of an unchanging cycle of rebirth.

"Carrying body and soul and embracing the one, can you avoid separation?  Attending fully and becoming supple, can you be as a newborn babe?  Washing and cleansing the primal vision, can you be without stain?  Loving all men and ruling the country, can you be without cleverness?  Opening and closing the gates of heaven, can you play the role of woman?  Understanding and being open to all things, are you able to do nothing? 

Giving birth and nourishing, bearing but not possessing, working yet not taking credit, leading yet not dominating, this is the Primal Virtue." --Tao Te Ching; Lao Tzu

This month, I've found myself folding within while expanding to do all that needs to be done.  Always, May is hectic and wild with school ending and the transition to summer, the disruption of the routine, and the scramble to tie up loose ends.  It's also the time to venture outdoors and begin thinking again about what will grow and how to grow it... diving back into projects that were put on pause when fall turned to winter and things were left undone.  This month has been particularly chaotic, testing me and my limits or maybe measuring just how far I can stretch.  As I've gotten older, I've settled into a place of being that is very centrist.  I try to stay in the middle and not allow external forces to swing my emotions wildly either to anger or elation.  I am constantly feeling along to stay balanced on the wide stretch of centered, but I am just a person and do slowly grow to anger.  

My usual 3+ hours in the car a day had bumped to 5+ hours and that is a huge chunk of time to be ripped from the day when all else still needs to be done.  I think that stress was just enough to tip the scales that were already precariously balanced.  My gran's health is deteriorating rapidly and even though I'm not her point person, the events unfolding through my mother's perspective have, of course taken their toll.  But, there is always growth to be made.  Every experience is an opportunity.  Every conflict, every relationship, every day gives the gift of learning about oneself.  Something I've been turning over and working out for the past few years is my relationship with the root problem humanity faces - to me the problem being, we're animals with engorged egos.  Surrendering to the animal and returning to the core nature of mother helps me find my footing when I begin feeling overwhelmed and the nagging questions about balancing my needs with the children's are barking in my skull.  And ironically, the concept of Mother's Day is usually a catalyst for feelings of doubt about my parenting and grace when dealing with the rearing of children.  I have a far away friend that was once a blog friend when blogging was much more a part of our long distance connections that wrote about the balance between serving and being a servant.  Dedicating our lives to our children, the most natural thing, is delicate because woman are not naturally born to bend, to yield, constantly to another's will.  I think about her often as our children are becoming more self-sufficient and how that service doesn't end, it only changes and grows into something new.

Another mother nestled in and flexed her power this month.  The battle began with a screeching bark, our lady dog, frantic at 3am.  I was working on things for the kids, for the bills, managing the mundane tasks late into the night, then collapsed into bed.  When Mar woke me up, I didn't have a startling fright of intuition, I just told her to kindly shut the fuck up.  She didn't, and after a few minutes I got up to let her out.  It was then that I noticed the hen house door standing wide open like the mouth of a cave.  I ran out in nothing but a jacket and boots, legs bare against the chilly, wet air to count the chickens.  Three missing.  I stood and turned on my axis, surveying the yard with the flood lights casting long shadows.  Suddenly I noticed Violet standing next to me, mirroring my stillness, a grey little statue frozen under the blackness.  I asked, "Violet, are you okay?"  And with that she squawked and bolted in a winding way with feathers streaming behind her.  She stopped at the far fence line and tucked her head into the ground.  I looked around for the other two and found one, my beloved Chunk, lifeless at the back fence, but the other was gone without a trace.  I went back to Violet and placed my hand on her back.  She didn't move.  She was stiff and still and I thought the fright killed her.  I as texting hubs who was just wrapping up at work and he told me to take Violet into the house.  I got a towel and went back to get her.  I draped the towel over her and she didn't move.  I began lifting and she squawked again, flapping violently, and took off, hiding under the hen house.  Hubs moved Chunk to the fill yard and we discovered the mounds of feathers, connecting the dots of the story.  The next day, mama came back.  Mama fox spent a week patrolling my yard - front, back, sides. And each night we saw her babies in the yard behind us and they would come out from their hiding place to look at us looking at them.  I cried and first, poured into hub's chest when he got home, but soon came to appreciate the fact that mama fox has babe's to feed, too.  Us mamas, just doing our best.

I finally started my audible The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck and even though I'm still a few minutes shy of finishing chapter 1, I know this is going to be killer.  From what I've gathered in my small glimpse is that this book sings my heart song.  I am a broken record ticking on about choosing battles and letting go of the little shit.  I drive hubs crazy with my empathetic views on people driving too fast or too slow and asking what could be going on for them to be blocking or jockeying.  It is so my nature to not give a fuck, but it's a skill I've been practicing, not one I've mastered.  I'm really looking forward to having a bit of quiet time (when will I have a bit of quiet time exactly?  You should see my calendar right now.) to put in the headphones, listen to a guy read a book about not giving a fuck, and finish up the last samples and patterns for the book.

And so, as stagnant as April was, May made up for it tenfold.  I watched a new Netflix documentary called End Game which was a poignant film as we're talking about hospice in regard to my gran now, and quality of life in those final days has been at the forefront of my mind.  It's funny how Spring paradoxically makes me think of the death that the world is being resurrected from and how wholly beautiful it is.  The cycle is really deep for me right now and I'm feeling it.

The end of the month has shown us that true spring won't be had this year though.  Heat set in quickly and we seemed to have missed the usual tornado season that rips through this middle part of the state.  I actually sort of missed the wetness, the sirens, the threats of power outages... and watering the garden doesn't seem enough.  The plants are just sort of listlessly standing there, too hot to create new cells, so I have rather low hopes for the garden.  I think I've finally named my predominant attitude toward all things (thanks for reminding me, low hopes!)   If I was one of those self-help types that have word wells that never seem to run dry, I would write a book with the title: Pessimistic Pep-Talk.  I gave hubs one of those the other day.  I said, you are always pissed off because you're in an endless cycle of disappointment.  You need to lower your standards and expectations.  Why do you think I can be rather content with my life, and you're all still alive?  It's because I expect the worst all the time.  He thought this was totally pessimistic and had a knee jerk reaction to the idea. 

See, I used to be the one working full-time and he was home with the kids.  I know we're really living the Leave it to Beaver dream now (wink), but it wasn't always that way.  Anywhoooo, I would get off work after another crap day and sit in traffic for ages while the sun vanished and night settled in, and while creeping along the road with the masses, I would hope that for once the house would be picked up, the dishes wouldn't be piled up in every room, the floor would be swept, maybe even dinner was started!?  Wouldn't that just be amazing?  And you know what?  None of those things ever happened.  My husband is the most shit housewife ever.  I would be so pissed every single night because once again, all of my expectations were being stomped.  One night I had a new mantra: The house is going to look like a bomb went off and the three little assholes waiting for me are all going to say the same thing when the door swings open - "what's for dinner" - because that's what they do.  And when I got home, it looked like a bomb went off and they all just looked at me and asked, "what's for dinner?" and it didn't phase me because I lowered my expectations so low I couldn't be disappointed. I know that this probably sounds crazy, and that family arrangement was clearly not working for us!  And so even though we did eventually get to a point where we could change all of that and hubs could go back to school and get a job that pays as much in a day as that crappy job paid in a week.... and I could stay home and do things like pick up the house, do the dishes, sweep, and cook... expecting the worst literally saved my marriage. 

But, there are things that grate about his job, and it's always the same story.  So, I was like, how about you try to just expect the worst?  Expect that the schedule is going to be changed for loads or that someone is going to show up and throw the system out of whack?  The worst that can happen is that those things do happen and you'll be ready.  The benefit is that if those things don't happen, it'll be a nice surprise. 

So, ya, that's how I don't murder my family or loose my mind on a daily basis because life is full of opportunities for disappointment.  And that, my friends, is a pessimistic pep-talk.

The on-going saga with my body care continues (something I'm trying to give less of a fuck about)... I've made some changes though that have been extremely beneficial.  First, I swapped the baking soda-based deodorant with Little Seed Farms Deodorant Cream which I may have mentioned before... but I am still using and loving it.  My mama picked some up also but was a little put off by how liquid it became as the house has warmed in this surprisingly hot May weather.  I quite like how it melted down.  I just use the little stick that came with the jar to mix and apply it as if I'm waxing, then I gently smooth it around with my fingers.  Done and done!

My hair routine, too has changed.  It was becoming very dry and dull so I tried mixing up some coconut oil and essential oils, working it into my hair, and rinsing with hot water.  This is a bit tricky because a tad too much and it just looks like you have greasy hair again!  I found that just a teaspoon for all of my waist-length, moderately thick, coarse hair is plenty.  I work it into my hair, then brush thoroughly so that the oil is evenly distributed, then rinse very well in the shower with warm water.  My hair suddenly has shine again and the frizz is cut way back.  I'm 100% sure Argan oil would probably work better than coconut, but until I get some, I'm just using what's on hand.

My very small circle of ladies (and by that, I mean my one friend, Tina, and my mom) have been swapping around Fire Cider recipes lately and I think I struck gold with the Foodie with Family (recipe HERE).  The first batch was a hit and with the changing season, everyone was teetering on the edge of unwell.  My oldest had a persistent, wet, nasty cough that cleared up in a few days after taking 2 tbs of this recipe daily.  The flavor is not as intense as some other recipes that are sort of a punch in the face, but I think it comes down to two very small details.  The cider and the peppers.  I used the cider with mother which seems to have a ... smoother? flavor.  And the habaneros bring the heat but in a slow, rolling way that is pleasurable if not addictive.  Of course, the citrus adds a freshness to the cider, too.  My first batch was made when Meyer lemons were in season so the cider had a natural sweetness to it. I'm on my second and third batches of it already and using regular old lemons *insert sad face*.

See y'all in June - hopefully I won't be melted and I'll have some funny stories about Maela's first year at sleep-away camp!

 

 

Feeling a bit flushed

I find myself working with Knit Picks on a regular basis for their collections and there are a number of reasons for it.  First, they provide multiple calls at a time which is nice when one might pique your interest and not another.  They're one of the easiest companies to work with through the entire process.  The yarn they send designers is for their own personal samples and for working out patterns, then they have a sample knitter that creates the garment photographed for the collection.  This means the pattern goes through many hands before being published and designers have an opportunity to work with a sample knitter who might point things out along the way that others will ultimately question during the knitting process.  Of course, as I learned so well with Nineveh, somethings come together easily for me and the sample knitter without question (THEM POCKETS!) and yet, we're the only two knitters on the planet to do so.  And that's okay too!

The Flush Shawl is just one of those fun little knits that is simple in design, easy to execute, not too serious, and in the end, rather quick to whip up.  You can find the collection on Ravelry or HERE. The entire collection is very sweet and the patterns all feel approachable.  I look forward to seeing every collection come together since I am only privy to my tiny corner of it for so long!  I just love the surprise.

And while we're on the topic of knitting and design - one I've been posting an alarmingly small amount about....

My new life motto is this: Life is serious enough, take knitting lightly.  It's tough in any industry where creativity is the driving force.  I've written about this countless times, and yet it remains true.  I think the difference is me - I've changed, my perceptions, and what I decide should carry weight.  Little things strike me, and I think I'm getting too old to worry about it.  I'm getting too old to fret.  I'm getting too old to care.  As the years tick on, my drive to knit and design have fluctuated wildly and I went from the ever-pleasing-designer to a more settled version of that, one that is growing back into the core, finding home base.  I guess that's just a fancy way of saying I'm unearthing a long-buried voice.  Since I was so focused on just getting in the door with publishers, I was a chameleon designer who would produce what ever they asked of me.  Now, rather than submitting for every call that passes through my inbox, I choose, and more often than not I'm choosing to let it pass on by.

But, now that I'm finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with the new book, I'm preparing to get back on the horse as they say.  The trouble is that I'm going to be ever-aware of that line between designing for a call and designing for myself.  That can bring out the defeatist Scorpio child within me and she's a nasty little bugger.  I think I only have one more pattern queued for release this year though and that's a crazy thought!  With the publishing schedule, this is all stuff I was doing before I got started on the new book back in August.  I suppose I can start poking my head out of the sand again. 

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Between Stitches April 18

The coldest April on record, they say.

I'm slowly tunneling out of the moodiness that March carries in anticipation of real spring - warmth and growth.  So far the sun is rising before we are and the birds are back to chaotic song but it's still pretty damn chilly, growing warmer. 

Alizah had her Junior prom this month and she went with her BFF.  I was on the verge of being the over-emotional mental case mama but I reined it in.  She and I are so similar and can tumble into emotional together - I was good.  I held it together.  Her bestie's mom took tons of pics but I'm only sharing a few of my absolute favorites.  They're very "them".

And all of the biopsy results were a-ok as we had expected.  Now that the hospital bills are arriving, I'm totally annoyed at the cost we still owe after hubbie's actually good insurance through work covered much of the costs.  I hate bills.  I was filling out forms for additional financial discounts through the the hospital (since apparently you qualify for a family of 4 if you have a gross income of less than $95,000!) and hubs, being the guy he is, hugged me and said it was best that we had the procedures done.  What if it had been breast cancer?  It's better this way.  Me, being the lunatic that I am, was like - HA! ya right, I'd rather just not know than be dealing with this BS.  Mae and I then got into a full-blown argument about her dog barking at the neighbor (the nice lady with the raspberry garden) - and she fully yelled at me.  It was one of those teeth gritting moments of fury and shock.  I asked her to get the dog for me and she shouted that she couldn't because she was wearing her expensive sneakers - to which I explained the concept of taking off shoes like, can you take them off and get her?  Or, I can just get rid of them because this is ridiculous.  Her response was like, you'll be throwing your own $150 away *at the top of her lungs* and I've never wanted to shove my own money into a trash can more in my life.  We've been saying she would put us through the wringer since she was a tot, knowing her teen years were going to challenge us in ways we never had been with her sister.  I just didn't know that "teen" was code for 11.

But you know what, that's real life.  We have just as many moments of pure pride and joy in our girls as we do frustration.  A couple weeks ago I was trying to diffuse an argument over something stupid and reminded everyone that we're all WIPs (gotta get that knitting lingo in).  Parents and kids alike are all works in progress and we need to remember that about ourselves and each other.  Mae said, not you mama - you're not a work in progress - you're good.  I was a little surprised that she would say that, and flattered, and assured her that I am indeed a WIP.  In fact, I can learn so much from Nate and the girls.  Even after our little blow up about the dumb dog and the dumb shoes, she was the one to drop it and get the dog without being pissy while I was still festering about the whole thing.  I used to be the one telling her to stop a moment when she was in the midst of a fit and make a choice to be an angry person or a happy one.  I constantly told her that she has a choice.  I should take a page from her book now and take my own advice.  

Honestly though, this entire month has been a little static. Not to say I've just been staring at a wall for 30 days, but static.  So, what else has been happening in the past month? The little greenhouse my nephew and I erected flew away in a storm even though it was staked down and was pretty damaged after going over the fence, down the hill, and almost half way down our neighbor's drive.  It's now propped up over the garden - how I had initially wanted it - to hopefully keep the hens out of the raised beds.  It was a real make-it-work moment. 

I am still not using shampoo.  This was such a big thing for me the first few weeks, especially when my hair went from sleek to oil slick, and pushing through each day was harder than the last.  I used my hog bristle brush daily, I bought a scalp exfoliating scrubber for the shower, I washed my face more than ever in my life, and I told everyone about it.  Once the oil balanced and my hair became normalized, the excess oil was not exactly gone but invisible.  The best way I can describe it is like the lanolin in wool.  I love natural wools that aren't dyed and that have those pesky bits of roughage spun into the strands.  They have a special sort of feeling, the result of natural oil or lanolin, and the yarn coats your fingers lightly in the stuff.  That's how my hair feels now.  It looks fluffy, and it doesn't have that tell-tale oily look, but you can feel the coating on my hair.  This really doesn't bother me at all.  It's like a secret life hack that is so socially questionable that few dare to push through the re-balancing phase.  I mentioned before that I was considering the use of essential oils on my hair because I was afraid of having that dirty hair smell.  I do occasionally use a bit of tea tree and peppermint in my hair, but not often.  I also don't feel that itchy urge to scrub my scalp at the one week mark as I had before.  There is certainly still a "clean" to "dirty" feeling, but it's far less drastic.

And while we're on the topic of my non-conformist hygiene... my lymph nodes were severely inflamed in my underarms after my biopsy.  I couldn't bear to touch them, even to pat a bit of deodorant on. I can't remember if I've talked about this before, but I had switched to a baking soda deodorant a while back that was effective, but I didn't love it.  With my inflamed nodes, I used coconut oil mixed with frankincense, lemon, peppermint, and cypress essential oils and applied liberally to my underarms and chest.  Within a day they were less sore and within two days they were completely drained.  I'm now back to using my new cream deodorant from Little Seed Farms which you can find HERE.  I've been using the grapefruit lemon - perfectly bright and fresh smelling.  I use it about every other day, alternating with the coconut oil/essential oil blend.  Hubs called me a hippy the other day and I was almost offended.  Then I found out he had been secretly using patchouli and I didn't even notice.  Honestly, the goal for me here isn't to be smelly or weird, I'm really just trying to be healthy, avoid toxins that are actually avoidable, and endure less pain than my norm.

Which brings me to my strange Lupus flares of the month.  I had a slow-start flare before my biopsy that seemed to resolve in a few days.  I thought it was a huge win, and then it flooded back in.  It wasn't one of my worst, but I couldn't use my hands for a few days and I was exhausted.  But, we rode it out and came out the other side rather quickly.  Some new info on Lupus has surfaced, along with a list of foods to avoid that cause inflammation - tomatoes, peppers, white potatoes, and eggplant top the list.  I'm also thinking about adding Astragalus Root tea to my arsenal.  The Astragalus Root is supposed to balance the immune system rather than suppress or boost which is basically what meds or other natural remedies do. If I decide to try it, I'll post about it.  I know Lupus isn't a well-understood ail but it's a huge pain in the ass and anything that helps shorten or stop flares is worth its weight in gold! 

Though, immune boosting is still one of my favorite things so, a new batch of fire cider is on deck. I used THIS recipe which sounded really punchy with all that citrus.  Fingers crossed. And I'm starting to tool around with my sourdough starter.  My levain is a separate, more liquid entity that I'm still trying to work out.  My first tasty loaf was a bit over-done and under-risen because I plopped my dough by accident when I transferred it to the pan for baking, but there were heaps of air pockets and the texture was divine.  Then, I mistakenly left it on the stove and the big dog hopped up and quickly gobbled up the entire loaf.  We had each had a slice, which I'm grateful for, but damn.

I have some knitting pattern updates ready to go, so I'll be here to post about those soon. 

Between Stitches March 18

March has always been my least favorite month of the year.  BUT Spring, right?  and this year, the week of spring break for the girls was also the week a whopping 12 inches of snow dumped on us which felt like a special sort of kick in the teeth.  However, it's also a time for dreaming about warmer weather and I can collect an abundance of eggs in nothing more than a long sleeved shirt even if I'm clogging through snow and mud.  I have seeds ordered and placed in the little pop up greenhouse, but I haven't watered them/activated them yet.  And it's a good thing, too since a storm with heavy winds kicked up a corner and some sneaky squirrel got it's paws in one of the grow tubs.

I'm really sort of enjoying these monthly updates - how long can it possibly last!?

Anyways, I've been riding the spectrum hard - days of deep cleaning and mopping and wiping down all of the light switches, door frames, cabinets... and days of laying in bed watching shows about hoarders and being thankful that my house is so neat and tidy (as I stuff trash in an empty box next to the pantry because the trash is full and I can't drum up the energy to take it out).  I'm extremely fortunate to have found the absolute love of my life.  He gives me the room to ride out March without passing judgement.  Ordering in dinner again tonight?  No problem, it was delicious.  Staying in bed and drinking beer? No problem, I'll put the chickens up.  Not feeling well?  No problem, I'll bring you some snacks.  He says he's so supportive because he knows this isn't my usual routine.  He can easily tolerate these brief bouts. 

March also happens to be the time of my yearly lady exam and that never ends up going well.  This is year three of knowing for sure I'll be back in a week or so for a cervical biopsy.  If you've never had a cervical biopsy, I'll just assure you here and now that it sucks ass.  However, I was in unusually high spirits on the day of my appointment and my doctor is the absolute BEST, so we were chatting away and having a mighty fine talk about what a turd my lupus is and went down the list of all the things I could be prescribed for my early menopause.  And then she found a lump in my left breast. No big deal.  It's probably just a cyst but here's an order to go directly downstairs and have a mammogram like... right now.  I felt totally fine with this and headed down.  They got me in really quickly and then a ridiculously kind woman man-handled my boobs for about 30 minutes.  After the mammogram I was ushered into the ultrasound room and we talked about ultrasounds with our pregnancies.  She said, "I don't think we'll be hearing a heartbeat today though!" and I said, "OMG if you hear a heartbeat, you better just send me directly to surgery!" and then we both laughed and laughed.  It was great.  She said the little bugger was no cyst and was in fact a very solid mass.  The doc took a look and decided to schedule a biopsy because it doesn't look like cancer, but because I'm so young, we need to know exactly what's going on rather than just monitoring it visually.  I'm totally okay with that.  Err, I was totally okay with that.  For some reason, as the days tick on I'm feeling less and less casual about a big ass needle getting stuck in my boob and having a tumor tagged with a piece of titanium.  Call me crazy.

I took a mini-break from my true crime obsession/binge listening because it was making me a bit paranoid... and the kids had a mini intervention.  Mae was like, so.... I can hear your podcasts from my room and they're freaking me out.  Alizah was like, I'm really worried about the fact that I go to get a drink and on my way back upstairs I realize you've fallen asleep listening to stories about murdering people.  Fair enough, girls. 

And ya know, that's basically all that's been going on.  I did a fair amount of knitting for fun, taking a week off from working on the book but I'm back at it now and these posts aren't for knitting updates so.... I think I'll leave it here.  Tomorrow is the great April Fool's Easter so, that should be interesting. 

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PASSIFLORA part 1

It's easy to lose track of what knitting was like when knitting was a hobby, something done on lunch breaks and in the early morning before the house was alive or late nights after everyone else had settled.  Taking photos and sharing every stitch along the way was par for the course and each project was posted about in length on the blog or Ravelry.  Shit, I remember when Ravelry hit the scene and it seemed like this magical world for us that had limitless opportunity for testing out design.

Everything I have worked so hard for - struggling, faking it and hoping that would transform into making it, investing time and money and tears in the hope that it was all going to work out in the end and be worth something, fearing total failure - it's all disappearing in the rear view.  I really have deadlines, I really have people to report to, I really knit for a living now.  And this has a price.  It's a price I'm happy to pay so that I can be home with the girls who are suddenly becoming young women.  I can toss some cash into the bank account for saving or spending on non-necessities and that makes me feel like I contribute more to the family than just being the cook, the maid, the bus driver, the accountant, the therapist.... because if we're going to get real, money is measurable where all those other things are not.  But I don't normally have time to knit for the joy of it and I certainly can't share all of the details of what I'm working on while I'm in the midst of it.  This is hard because by the time a pattern is published and ready for the public eye, months or even years have passed.  What I may have had to say or share at the time is long lost to the wrinkles and folds of days past.

I've slid past my interim deadline and have been grinding non-stop since August so, with Spring Break coming up, hubs has requested I actually take a break from the book.  He (rightly)  believes I could use a mental break, allowing myself to bend.  How many patterns and samples are left? he asked - Five.  How many months? Five.  You know you can finish two a month, so how about a break for the rest of March? This seems completely reasonable.  But, what am I supposed to do with all of this free time?  Well, I've caught up with laundry and cleaned the little monster's room, done most of the yard clean-up in back and filled the little greenhouse I popped up a couple weeks ago with plants and seed trays.  SO, that's one weekend down!  I really have a hard time just taking it easy.

That's where Passiflora comes in.  Last week I posted about the new Malabrigo yarn, Dos Tierras.  I decided to cast on a little Pi shawl as I had mentioned was my possible plan in that post.  This is knit off the cuff - something I used to do a lot and something I haven't done in years!  I basically just cast on with a vague idea and see where the knitting takes me.  It's so freeing, meditative even? and I highly recommend giving it a try if you've never done it before.  So, in these cases, I don't "write" a pattern because that would defeat the purpose.  Instead, I may take mental notes or jot down brief actions as I go.  I'm having a lot of fun with this little Pi Passiflora though so I've decided to pop in and share my notes in sections for anyone interested in meandering along with me.

The inspiration looks like this: a Pi shawl inspired by the Passiflora flower.  That's it.  Easy as (I'm not going to say Pi).... This is what you're going to need:

The first color I used is the Malabrigo Dos Tierras in Paris night (C1) - 1 hank; US 6 DPNs to start, then change to 16" and longer needles as needed; markers. 

You can cast-on for this however you want, I used the circular cast-on with a crochet hook.  You can Google all sorts of tutorials, but HERE is one that looks pretty good. 

We're also going to use the Loop stitch or fur stitch.  HERE is a tutorial for that.

All of the M1 (or Make 1 stitch) actions, I used the lifted leg increase - you can also use a left slanting M1L lifted bar increase.

HERE WE GO!

Using C1, CO8, place a contrasting marker, join for rnds.

Knit 1 rnd.

Inc Rnd: (K1, M1) to end—16 sts.

Knit 2 rnds.

Rep Inc Rnd—32 sts.

Knit 4 rnds.

Inc Rnd: (K1, yo) to end—64 sts.

Work 8 rnds of 1x1 ribbing: (K1, p1) to end.

Inc Rnd: (K1, yo, p1, yo) to end—128 sts.

Knit 16 rnds.

Inc Rnd: (K1, yo) to end—256 sts.

Work 4 rnds of 1x1 ribbing: (K1, p1) to end.

Next rnd: (K1, p29, k1, p1, pm) to end.

Lace

Rnd1: *[Ssk, k4, yo, k3, yo, k4, k2tog, p1] twice, slm; rep from * to end.

Rnd 2: (K15, p1) to end.

Rnd 3: *[Ssk, k5, yo, k1, yo, k5, k2tog, p1] twice, slm; rep from * to end.

Rnds 4, 6, 8, 10: (K7, p1) to end.

Rnd 5: *[Ssk, k3, yo, k2, p1, k2, yo, k3, k2tog, p1] twice, slm; rep from * to end.

Rnd 7: *[Ssk, k4, yo, k1, p1, k1, yo, k4, k2tog, p1] twice, slm; rep from * to end.

Rnd 9: *[Ssk, k2, yo, k3, p1, k1, yo, k2, k2tog, p1] twice, slm; rep from * to end.

Next rnd: *K1, purl to 2 sts before m, k1, p1, slm; rep from * to end.

Next rnd: *Knit to 1 st before m, p1; rep from * to end.

Loop st Rnd: *K1, work Loop st to 2 sts before m, k1, p1; rep from * to end.

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This is where I'm going to leave you for today.  In the next section I'll introduce the second color (C2) Malabrigo Rastita in color Marte - 1 hank.

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Dos Tierras
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I want to be clear before diving in that this isn't a "review" of a product that was provided for reviewing purposes.  I've had the great fortune of working with Malabrigo Yarn a couple of times and they have asked to used some of my patterns in promotional material in exchange for yarn - I mean - already published patters so, the work is done on my end and they use the pattern for a single event, compensating me for the use in the form of yarn.  Does that make sense?

Well, the other benefit is that they let me choose the yarns and colors up to a certain weight.  I saw that they had recently released Dos Tierras and it was an interesting little twisty thing made up of a 50/50 merino/alpaca blend.  Here are the specs: 210 yds/100 g; 20-22 sts = 4" on US 5/6 [3.75/4 mm]; Color 052 Paris Night.

I used US 6 needles to swatch a little strip of eyelets, ribbing, cables, and dropped stitches to get a feel for how the yarn behaves.  Since it is a bouncy little two ply that is made up of 4 strands - the first four plied into two strands and the two resulting strands are plied.  Still with me? I was expecting some texture with this structure, but I thought the yarn would be round enough for some good stitch definition.

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Honestly, I shouldn't have been surprised by the amount of bias the stockinette st and eyelet sections had (bias is the amount of slant in the fabric; it creates more of a parallelogram than a square or rectangle).  It was quite slanted, probably from the way the yarn is plied.  There's a whole lot of twist in one direction.  However, as you can see, the bias blocked out easily enough.  The ribbing and cabled section didn't have any bias and the drop stitch at the bottom was also very straight.

SO, other than the bias issue, the yarn ended up much as I had anticipated except for one thing - the cables - man, I thought the cables would pop a lot more since the yarn is fairly round and balanced looking.  They just don't really sing, ya know?  The ribbing looks fantastic, the eyelets and drop stitch opened nicely, and the stockinette is actually very even and neat. 

I'm supposed to be taking a mini break from the book (husband's orders) until April, so my way of getting around that is swatching and writing most of the pattern out before casting on.  Sometimes I can do it and sometimes I still really need to sit down and work my way through the shaping before I can put it to paper.  Anyways, the point is, I think if I'm taking a break from the book patterns for a couple weeks, I'm going to whip this skein of Dos Tierras into a Pi Shawl.  Is it ironic that today is Pi day?  Is this leading to a mom joke?  I had better quit while I'm ahead.

I'll share if and when I do finish what ever it is I'm going to make out of this little jewel.

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Between Stitches February 18

Alright, February is coming to a close and I've somehow managed to make my way back here!  In January, I shared a bit about my Italian and my plan for searching out some movies - I'm happy to report that I found one on Netflix called The Wonders (La Meraviglie) that was downright fantastic.  For something a little darker, packed with twists and turns, Deep in the Wood (In fondo al bosco) is a good one, too and is available on Amazon Prime Video.  I'm also listening to the Coffee Break Italian podcast in addition to my reading and writing - it's extremely helpful for conversation and pronunciation.  But let's be real here people, it's been driving Nate and the girls a little crazy.  Because of this, I'm tempering my learning and avoiding the use of the "I" word in regular conversation (as soon as Ital... passes my lips, the eyes start rolling).  This isn't to say they're stifling me - even if it really felt that way for a few days while I was teetering on the edge of a flare up and PMS-ing at the same time - because, admittedly, I was all in all day.

Mae and I did a takeover of the Habit Aware Instagram at the beginning of the month.  This was a big step for her - even though she's not afraid to share her Trichotillomania (and as she puts it, her friends know so, whatever), it's still a big deal to talk about it transparently and publicly.  I'm so proud of her for her willingness to share her story and some of our process as far as coming to terms with a coping with her Trich.  The response we had was incredible - SO many people showed their love and support on Mae's post that even the founder of Habit Aware e-mailed me and was like, so that was awesome... I also had DMs and e-mails rolling in from parents of trichsters and trichsters themselves, just reaching out, asking about the Keen bracelet, sharing stories of triumph and sorrow.  I cried a lot.  It was a lot.  If you're reading this and you're like, whaaa?  Here is a link to some info about Trichotillomania.

The saddest news of the month though, and something I wasnt' even able to share outside the home and with my parents until recently is that we lost our sweetest, most beloved hen this month - likely to the group of juvenile hawks that have taken up residence in the neighborhood.  There is truly no trace of Melly at all, but she was just a teeny tiny thing and would easily carried off, unlike our Orpington that I saved from the grips of talons just a few weeks ago.  She's a fatty and that hawk was going nowhere fast.  Mae was devastated - like guttural sobbing over her best girl.  If you aren't familiar with Blind Melon (Melly) from my IG posts, she was our little black Silkie and one of our very first hens.  She even hatched Mae's duck over this past summer and was such a good mama to him.  When it was below zero, Melly stayed in the house and slept in a dog crate.  She had just finished molting and had begun laying eggs again when she was lost.  I was pretty torn up, too as I always am, but I think because she has always been my best gal, too.  She would often snuggle up on the couch with me and my fluffy black baby dog or sit and look out the back door with our lady dog.  She would pitter patter around the house and show up in bedrooms unexpectedly. When it was cold out but not too cold out, I would carry her around in my coat while I did my outside chores. My mom (and Nate too) were like, um... you guys can't get so attached to these chickens.  We have SO many predators!  But, we're not attached to any of them like we were to her. She was just a damn fine bird. 

And obviously there is no replacing that girl, but we are dampening the sting a bit with our new snuggle bunny....

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This is Mr. Indigo Rabbit. Now, we've had such a strange collection of animals come through these doors over the years and every time there's a day or two of introductions between the predator and prey members of the family.  Normally, this whole thing goes very smoothly and everyone catches on to the idea of not eating each other, basically ignoring that the others exist.  Indigo Rabbit has been the exception to the rule in a of couple of ways.  First, Carter, fluffly little baby dog, is obsessed with this rabbit.  The first couple of days we kept him in his cage or on the lower level until he was acclimated, but baby dog would sit at the cage and watch him for hours, cried all night at the top of the steps because the gate was up... I mean, it was getting ridiculous.  Once it was time to make introductions, our lady dog was all about making Indigo stew.  Carter would get between her and the rabbit, snapping and snarling until she backed off.  Our old man dog just sort of sniffed him and laid back down (thinking, again with this crap?)  So, I finally got our lady dog on board and she no longer pays the rabbit much mind.  Carter, however, is still following him around constantly and insisting they snuggle every chance he gets.  Near the end of the first week though, the cat - who had previously just sort of stared at him - came stalking from the kitchen with her eyes set on the rabbit.  To my surprise, it was our lady dog who jumped up and chased the cat away, then sniffed Indigo and made her way back to the couch.  There is just something about this bunny!

And, of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't include an update on the ole hair washing situation.

So, I'm still not using shampoo.  I mentioned last month that I was considering the use of essential oils in my brushing routine because I don't want to smell like... well, dirty hair.  And even though warm water rinsing really does keep it from having an odor, I'm still of fan of smelling good!  There has been a fair amount of trial and error here, especially because my hair is so long and thick that I over-did it on my first go.  When members of the family walk in the house and shout, good lord, what is that smell!?  Um, that's an indicator that perhaps a few extra drops aren't needed.  I have found a balance that I like though - after rinsing my hair, I use a couple drops of tea tree, sometimes adding a drop of lemongrass oil and massage the oils into my scalp, then brush as usual.  Every other day between hair rinsings I use either a couple drops of tea tree, peppermint, and rosemary or rosemary and lemongrass, on dry hair, massaging into the scalp and brushing well.  I use these particular oils for two reasons.  First, they're all very refreshing, clean scents if you don't go overboard.  Second, they're all known for soothing the scalp and tea tree especially has anti-microbial/anti-bacterial/anti-fungal properties.  I think I'm really finding a balance and routine that works! As I said last month, my hair is really re-balancing and my, I don't know, old?  hair texture is returning.  I have that thick, curly, coarse, Sicilian hair that's has been the source of much anguish in my younger days, but now, with those same properties returning, I'm feeling totally at ease with it.  The frizz is far less than it used to be which helps!

A quick update, too on my true crime addiction!  I finally listened to Serial Season 1 about Adnan Syed.  I'm glad I waited because since the podcast, his case has had some breakthroughs and being able to see it all take a new direction is really intriguing.  I've been listening a bit to True Crime Garage also, but they ramble a bit.  I just have a soft spot for my local gal at Crime Junkies I guess.

Let's see if I can keep it going and see you again at the end of March!

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