Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Beanzilla

So, if you haven't heard yet...

Untitled
Thing 1 presents Thing 2

Are we super excited? 

Untitled
"YES+" is even more than just "YES"

Of course, you want to see a baby picture. You're not made of stone.


How have I been? Pregnant.

Untitled
My bump, my bump, my lovely baby bump.

How has Genevieve been handling it? Very well so far, if you ask me. We're handling this the way we handle (mostly) everything- with books. So far, we've really liked Baby on the Way (by Dr. Sears), When You Were Inside Mommy, The Berenstain Bears' New Baby, and The Birds, the Bees, and the Berenstain Bears (though, this one is a bit dated- they still x-rayed pregnant women).

Mom and I have a difference of opinion on Pecan Pie Baby; Mom didn't like it, I think it's important to acknowledge feelings that perhaps aren't all sunshine and rainbows. Though, I omitted the "Ding Dang" from my reading, because I don't need Genevieve picking up any extra pejoratives.

I'm knitting a bit for Beanzilla (name, courtesy of the brilliant CaffeineJunkie, who dubbed Genevieve "SharkBean" lo those many years ago. Unlike with my last pregnancy, I have knitting mojo- but it's all sweater mojo.

Untitled

The Baby Vertebrae is knit out of yarn I fell in love with at Stitches West; it's "Nothing Says 'Screw You' like a Rainbow" from White Birch Fiber Arts (I know, terrible name) in sport weight. It knit up in about six seconds flat, and once it's blocked, I'll post a better photo.


Untitled

Envelope, by Ysolda Teague, is brilliant, but alas, I am not. My brains are not what they were, sadly. I can't blame Ysolda; even if she was holding my hand while I knit, she couldn't save me from not being able to count. Sad, but true. (But wouldn't it be lovely? A knitting date with Ysolda? I think so.)

Once you get it, the sweater is awesome. The yarn is Berry Colorful Yarnings "Breakfast at Tiffany's", sent to us to review on the podcast. Since I have less than zero sock mojo, I thought this would make a lovely, gender-neutral sweater. So far, I love the colors, and it's holding up extremely well to being ripped out, reknit, ripped out, and reknit.


Yes, we're going to find out the sex. No, we haven't found out yet. Yes, I'll tell you.

Until then, Beanzilla demands tribute.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Genevieve the Octopus

Readers, meet Genevieve the Octopus.

Untitled
Distinctive, isn't she?

The last time we went to the aquarium, Genevieve (the human child) pointed at a stuffed octopus the size of a body pillow and declared that she wanted to buy it.

Since we bed-share (or "co-sleep"), a stuffed octopus the size of a sofa was completely out of the question. It's a snuggly arrangement.

We went to the gift shop downstairs, and I showed Genevieve three or four appropriately sized octopuses she could choose from.

Predictably, she chose the purple, sparkly octopus. (I had lobbied for the more realistic looking one.) That is how Genevieve the Octopus joined our family.

A few weeks later, SuperAndrew, Genevieve, and I went to get our flu shots together, with Genevieve the Octopus in tow.

(At Kaiser, parents/guardians can get their vaccinations at the same time and place as their kids. It's fantastic. As fantastic as getting a shot can be, I suppose.)

After a shot, we always get French fries and milkshakes on our way home. It's something to look forward to after, and is often the incentive for getting the shot done and over with. [Mom used to take us for ice cream after shots, but Genevieve turns into a Gremlin when she has sugar. Sharing a milkshake is really as far as we can go right now.]

We went to a different Kaiser than normal because it was on our way that particular day, and the injection nurse was phenomenal- but that didn't stop Genevieve from screaming down the walls and terrifying the kids in the waiting room before anything had actually even happened.

While Maria the Nurse was extremely skilled (I didn't feel anything when I got my shot), Genevieve made use of her excellent lungs and loud voice screaming encouraging things like, "TAKE ME AWAY FROM HERE!" and "MOMMY, SAVE ME!" I can only imagine what the poor kid in the waiting room thought was happening in there.

Once it was finally done, we did the walk of shame from the injection room, through the pediatrics lobby, and out to our van, carrying a screaming, howling, crying Genevieve.

It took us nearly an hour to calm her down enough to get in the car seat and go home. All of our nerves were frayed, and - if it hadn't been noon - it would have been wine o'clock when we got home.

When we (finally) got home, Mom suggested taking Genevieve along the next time she needed to get bloodwork done. [Mom is on cardiac meds, and has to get coumadin levels checked fairly regularly. She is a human pincushion.] That way, Genevieve could watch Gramzie get a shot and be okay without having to get a shot herself.

[With the dogs, this is called a "happy vet visit"- where they go in, get weighed, get a cookie and belly rubs, and go home. We did these with our dogs, once a week for a few months, and it made a HUGE difference with vet anxiety. I highly recommend it.]

In the meantime, Genevieve the Octopus had mysteriously gone missing.

"Clean up your toys and she'll turn up," I told Genevieve, repeating what my mother told me at least seven million times. (It bears mentioning that she was always right.)

About a month passed, and it was time for Gramzie to get her bloodwork. We went to the Kaiser that was on our way (the one we rarely go to), and told Genevieve the deal that day: no shot, no milkshake. (She was due for a vaccine; we weren't just getting her jabbed for the fun of it.)

Genevieve decided that she wanted a milkshake, and she was ready to get her shot. Just our luck, Nurse Maria was there again, and unfortunately, Genevieve started howling like a siren as soon as her sleeve was pushed up. As I held her there, feeling like Mother of the Year, I looked to my left, and-

"GENEVIEVE THE OCTOPUS!" I exclaimed, as if I had come across a lost loved one by accident. (I had, I suppose.)

Genevieve stopped screaming (just long enough for Nurse Maria to get the shot in) to look and see what I was talking about.

"Genevieve, LOOK!" I said, "We found her! You must have dropped her the last time we were here, and she's been waiting for us to come and get her!"

After a series of questions confirming our ownership of Genevieve the Octopus (because, after all, we couldn't run off all willy-nilly with someone else's purple, sparkly octopus), Genevieve and Genevieve the Octopus were reunited at last.

I'm glad I didn't insist on the more traditional octopus; anybody could have left behind a regular octopus on accident. Thank goodness for her sparkly tentacles.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Of Elsa-s and Olivia-s

This year, Halloween was FULL of parenting triumphs. (Late, I know, but worth the telling.)

First, a little backstory:

A couple of months before Halloween, Genevieve, Mom, and I took a trip to the fabric store, and bought a pattern and fabric for an Elsa Dress. Maybe for Halloween, maybe for regular play, maybe both. No biggie.

Genevieve and I talked about Halloween, and I made a few costume suggestions.

"You could be Elsa," I suggested, "Or Olivia the pig-"
"I want to be Olivia," she answered.
"Are you sure?" I asked, "Because Mommy needs time to make your costume."
"I want to be Olivia."

Ah, to be so young and so sure. In any case, as it happened, we got a copy of Gramma Nancy's Animal Hats to review on the podcast. How timely! (CAVEAT, we gave it a very mixed review. Listen here.)

One of the great things about Olivia is that she has a fantastic wardrobe- so we had a lot of material to choose from. So, Genevieve and I looked through the books, and we came up with this for her Olivia the Pig costume:

DSC_0008

What you are seeing are: striped pajamas (which I got on SALE! Also, double bonus of just taking off the outer clothes before putting her in bed that night), a red corduroy jumper from Nantucket Brand, and of course, the pig hat that I knitted for her. [Also, rain boots because it rained right up until it was time to go trick-or-treating.]

A month before Halloween, I checked in... Genevieve still wanted to be Olivia.
Two weeks before Halloween, I checked in... Genevieve still wanted to be Olivia.
A week before Halloween, I checked in... Genevieve still wanted to be Olivia.

And then, I made a tactical parenting mistake.

I went on Facebook (on my phone) while Genevieve was snuggling and slowly waking up from her nap. (This can take up to an hour sometimes.) There, Genevieve saw my friend Julie's daughter in the MOST AMAZING Elsa dress. Why so amazing? Because Julie sewed it herself, and it was bomb-diggety. Julie has skills and skillz.

The following exchange will likely not surprise you.

Genevieve: I don't want to be Olivia. I want to be Elsa.
Me: We are going trick-or-treating with the neighbors in ONE HOUR.
Genevieve: I don't want to go.
Me: Hmmm. Well, we don't have an Elsa costume, and we *do* have an Olivia costume.
Genevieve: I don't want to be Olivia. I want to be Elsa.

Now, I could have freaked out, and cried. I could have yelled. I could have canceled Halloween.

Instead, I summoned Andrew to the bedroom, and had him change Genevieve while I took some deep breaths and collected myself in the living room.

I had an epiphany. A straight-up, lightbulb-over-the-head moment. I went back in the bedroom.

"You know," I said to Genevieve, "Olivia is pretty great. *I* bet that Elsa would want to go as Olivia for Halloween. So, how about you go as Elsa, dressed as Olivia?"

Sold.

SuperAndrew looked at me with wide eyes, and we shared a moment of non-verbal communication done only with eyes and eyebrows that translates to something like this:

I can't believe that worked. (Andrew)
Be cool, or she'll catch on. (Me)

I couldn't believe it worked. THIS was my magic water moment. Less than twenty minutes later one previously-distraught child was now ecstatic. WIN.

IMG_0024
*Literally* jumping with joy

DSC_0010

The other huge win is that I pre-gamed her trick-or-treat bucket. I bought a big bag of lunchbox pretzels and put a few in her Elmo bucket. She trick-or-treated, I let her eat the pretzels, and MAGICALLY when she went to bed, all the forbidden candy turned into pretzels. You would have thought Genevieve won the lottery she was *so* happy. PRETZELS FOR ALL!

And now, the obligatory aging sequence. Brace yourselves.

DSC_0223
Halloween 2012

DSC_0077
Halloween 2013

DSC_0005
Halloween 2014
Fun fact: Our pumpkin looked like grumpy cat a week later, and Mom got a picture. (I'm just so proud that Mom knows about grumpy cat.)

Monday, January 5, 2015

A little knitting

Mom has been knitting tube socks for Genevieve since she was just a SharkBean.  It's a very simple tube sock.

Untitled

You don’t actually have to buy the pattern, we give it away (verbally) in Episode 258, towards the beginning of the episode.

But.

We've gotten loads of requests to write it up, and write it up I have. Every cent we make on this pattern (priced at $1) will go directly into Genevieve’s adventure account. She would thank you for that, but she’s busy (still) freezing Arendelle at the moment.

Untitled

Enjoy!


** A fun variation- the hat-top toe from Lara Neel's (FREE) Fork in the Road socks. (Pictured above)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Under the Mistletoe

This year, Genevieve was crazy excited about Christmas. I don't know how it started, but a week before thanksgiving, she started asking about Christmas- specifically, the tree.

DSC_0215
"Our" tiny tree- borrowed from Mom's house

"First we go to Thanksgiving at Auntie Laura's house, THEN we set up the tree," I explained (over and over again, like one does with kids her age), "Christmas doesn't start until AFTER Thanksgiving."

SuperAndrew manfully set up the half-tree (phenomenal if you have dogs, small children, or both in our case) the weekend following Thanksgiving, and per German tradition, it was decorated on Christmas Eve. (Certainly not because we waited until the last minute. German tradition is the story and we are sticking to it.)

[In case you're looking to buy one, Mom says that she bought it at Michael's ONE MILLION years ago. This one is the closest one I've seen online.]

Genevieve directed the application of the decorations, which consisted of sheep, Star Trek ships, and of course, Frozen Ornaments (courtesy of Auntie Laura, who loves Genevieve all the way to the moon and back).

 DSC_0219
Anna, Genevieve's favorite


DSC_0222
Elsa, normally played by Andrew
DSC_0217
Olaf, who loves warm hugs

Of course, we have a few fake Mistletoe Balls (because real mistletoe is VERY TOXIC), which are normally placed strategically around the house for maximum surprise kiss-age, which SuperAndrew keeps with the ornaments.

Genevieve, being a toddler, insisted on hanging ALL THREE of them on the Christmas tree. In hopes of moving the mistletoe to a more... high traffic area (rather than under the tree), I explained that when someone is standing under the mistletoe, you have to give them a kiss.

[OBLIGATORY PARENTING BIT: Yes, we are teaching her about consent. Yes, we are teaching her that she doesn't have to hug or kiss anyone she doesn't want to.]

Every ten or fifteen minutes following that conversation, a little voice would call out, "I'm under the mistletoooooooe!", and it was a RACE to get to be the one who kissed Genevieve first.

(The best part of this is that- since the tree is still up, we will still periodically hear the call of "I'm under the mistletoooooooe!" It is So. Great.)

It was one of those evenings where having a toddler in the house made the holiday MUCH more fun.
And definitely more kissy.

... And then, it was Christmas morning. Genevieve got eight million small gifts (we don't do Santa here**, just presents from people who love her).

DSC_0263
"Cover me in the snow!"

DSC_0253
Gopher grin!

DSC_0227
The cold never bothered her anyway
When all the holiday dust had settled, and we were all snuggly in our fuzzy pajamas, I asked Genevieve what her favorite part of Christmas was.

Instead of listing off a favorite new toy, or that we let her eat a sugar-loaded breakfast (normally, COMPLETELY verboten in our house), she floored me in that way that only a toddler can.

"Spending time with people I love," she said.

My heart grew three sizes. File this one under "things we are doing right".


** Speaking of consent and parenting things, we approached the Santa Situation by reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas! first, and getting across the message of Christmas that way. I'm not comfortable telling Genevieve that it's okay for a stranger to come into our house. KidBrotherSam and I weren't raised with Santa; we celebrated family and presents. Also, chocolate advent calendars. Your holiday mileage may vary.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Problems and solutions

** To skip the story, and get to the dye fixing solution, click here

We've all been there: you finish a pair of socks, wait three months, weave in the ends, wait for the weather to cool off, and FINALLY wear your beautiful socks. Then, if you're like me and have made a proclamation about *not* handwashing socks (and shopped for yarn accordingly) the next step is to throw them into the "wash with like colors" laundry basket.

Once the laundry is done, you go to fold the laundry and find that your vibrant, rich socks are now, well... not.

Disappointment doesn't even *begin* to describe how I've felt about it, especially given my recent (and drastic) reduction of crafting time.  Add to that the guilt over having enabled a few other folks into buying the same yarn.

So, I Instagrammed and Facebooked about it.

Untitled

I did this for several reasons. Let's start with the main one- I Instagram-med, Facebook-ed, Tweeted, and talked about these socks on the podcast for about two months during the 30-odd hours it took me to knit them.

Instagram and Facebook are strong enabling tools, and I have bought a lot a completely reasonable amount of yarn based on photos I've seen on both. I have been known to enable others as well, which is really only basic courtesy.

I don't contact dyers privately before posting photos of my socks-in-progress, or when I finish socks. If I remember, I'll tag them in the photo, or tweet at them, because dyers are artists and like to see the fruits of their labor.


Podcast listeners frequently buy yarn they see on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter based on what they see. It is for this reason I think it is even *more* important to show how the yarn washes and wears.

I would like to start by pointing out that the label tells you that machine washing is fine. Otherwise, I wouldn't have bought it.  I have been known to be extremely vocal about *not* hand washing my socks.

Untitled
"Hand wash only"
I have a responsibility to my listeners. A company's response to quality issues should be public, visible, and accessible to its customers. Louise from Biscotte & Cie was *extremely* prompt in her response- responding mere *minutes* after I had made my post. [HUGE kudos, Louise & Biscotte & Cie.]

UPDATE/RETRACTION:

I wrote this post when I thought that the issue was done and handled. In the interest of being honest and transparent about the entire process, I am disappointed to have to include the following.

Within a day of the original solution (and blog post) Louise (the dyer) has gone from apologetic (on the podcast Facebook page- public) to aggressive in the comments field of my blog (public, but less visible). This includes changing what she says should be the care instructions, to a full out attack, alleging that I don’t know how to handle my woolens (including changing the story on how I launder to fit the individual she’s contacting). Screen caps, all from public places she’s posted, in order:

 photo Response1_zps621d489e.jpg
 photo Response2_zps47df471e.jpg
 photo Response3and4_zpsaf322746.jpg
 photo Response5_zps31b63fae.jpg
A superwash yarn should be machine washable and dryable, especially if the label says so. The re-statements above are clearly for the purpose of covering up her own short-cut, which is unprofessional and extremely poor business.

There are multiple comments about others having the same issue- regardless of laundering on our facebook page as well as on the original post on Instagram (you can see all the comments on the mobile app: http://instagram.com/p/tqmW-uLZRR/?modal=true). I was also contacted by other knitters via PM on Ravelry who had the same issue.

So, it’s a known issue. When I contacted the shop I bought the yarn from, to let them know about the issue with the yarn, the owner responded,  "As I mentioned before, I haven’t had a need to do any dye-setting with the socks I’ve made out of Biscotte, so hopefully there are plenty of skeins out there that are just fine.”

The operative word there being “hopefully”. Given the response I saw on social media, “hopefully” really just isn’t. I don’t think the shop should be responsible for a dyer’s mix up, but there was no mention of letting other customers know that this is a known issue.

To sum up: the dyer is trying to brush this under the rug, and has no plans to change, and the shop selling the yarn is keeping quiet as well. I am not keeping quiet. As someone who promoted this yarn for two months while I knitted this yarn, I have a responsibility to every knitter I enabled to let them know there is both an issue and a solution.

As for the “solution” of sending me replacement yarn? I don’t want it. I want the socks I knit to be as promised in the skein, finished the way they should have been before the yarn reached the shop. Nobody offered to compensate me for the time lost, because they can’t. END OF UPDATE/RETRACTION

Finally, as a customer I have no obligations to the company. I don't want to recommend a product that has problems. Our money and time are valuable commodities, and I can't in good conscience have my socks come out of the wash looking like they did, and leave it to the company to deal with. This is a much more transparent way of dealing with the problem, and showing the solution from the company's side.

[As an aside, when I've reported dye/felting/knot issues to companies before, I haven't seen *any* kind of public response. I have had *one* dyer do a pre-emptive public blast to her customers letting them know about a potential issue with bleeding, including a generous solution.] 

 There is value in posting to social media; mostly, social solutions. I am lucky to have many brilliant friends, including the incomparable Kate of Gourmet Stash. With nothing to gain personally, she devised a solution so that people who buy beautiful handpainted yarn can solve this issue on their own, preemptively. 

So, there's chemistry.


Chemistry and I have a complicated history.

Fortunately for all of us, Kate broke it down to the simplest parts (after a lot of technical dye information). The following are her instructions (which I road tested and documented with photographs), which I have digested into four simple steps, with a few caveats.

---------------------------------------------------------

Fixing/Re-fixing dye:

The following is good for 4-6 oz of wool (so, a pair of socks, and then some):

Step 1: Take 1 tsp of Citric Acid. You can buy it at Whole Foods, but the link I posted is a much better value. (For MCN, use 3/4 tsp).  Dissolve it in steaming/hot water. Then, dilute it in about 3-4 cups of tepid water.

Step 2: Let the yarn soak for 10 mins or so and then wring out and "jelly roll" (wrap in plastic wrap), and microwave it for 2 mins on high. If the yarn is discharging dye into the water (turning it a color), follow the following additional steps:

  • Step 2a: Squeeze out excess water. Soak in SOAK wool wash in cool water for 15 mins. Squeeze out excess water. (Water will be very pink. Breathe. It will work out.)
  • Step 2b: Repeat the dyefix instructions in Step 1, *except* do 1/2 tsp Citric Acid instead of a full tsp.
  • Step 2c: "Jelly Roll" (wrap in plastic wrap), and microwave it for 2 mins on high.
  • NOTE: For non-superwash yarns you would want to space out the heat via the microwave. (By that I mean, 1 minutes on heat, 1 minute off, etc. ). You can easily felt your yarn/fiber in a jelly roll format if you have the heat & steam get too high.
  • CAUTION: If you microwave for too long on high, you can fuse the plastic saran wrap to the nylon content in yarn. (You want to be aware of the microwave you're using as well as how high the heat is and the length of time it is in the microwave.)

Step 3: Allow to dry.

Untitled
Step 3, citric acid mixture treated swatch (unwashed) against the untreated and machine washed sock

Step 4: Launder as per usual.

Step 5: Rejoice.

 Untitled

You may notice that we did the citric acid soak on the swatch instead of on the yarn. That's to show that if you've already knit your socks, you can still treat them without worry.

This is also if you are overwhelmed with the need to start knitting your sock without a) fixing/re-fixing  ("pre-treating") the dye on your yarn (just in case), or b) don't want to knit a swatch and launder normally to see if pre-treating is necessary.

And? The brilliant and lovely Kate said "I can't think of any reason why doing a basic citric acid soak and wring it out, jelly roll it up and nuke it for 2 mins for ANY [protein] fiber or yarn would be bad." [Said, with the above caveats, of course.]