Tuesday, December 30, 2014

This is why I knit: Christmas Week Retrospective

It has been rather radio silent over here at Chez Ellen. I think you're all probably aware of a small holiday known as Christmas, whether you celebrate it or not -- for those that do, it tends to sort of suck up a lot of time, focus, money and of course, sanity if you let it.

It is also when we have some really good gatherings. We had a Christmas celebration this year that included my Mother and Stepfather who came in from Kansas, which was a super treat.

I hope you all had  good time and are finding more good ways of winding down the year.

That is what I am doing. I am winding down the year.

This past week was absolutely what the holiday season means to me. Family, friends and sharing. You share time, laughs and food.

The Christmas Eve Spread
The hardest on me is the pace. I felt like I was running the whole time, even during the lulls in the action. I think it is just my nature. I'm tightly wound. I like to put the world into a spreadsheet to see the big picture and to try and not lose the detail. All the mental notes and tricks to negotiate anxiety and to take a step back and figure out appropriate responses instead of just feeling and reacting sort of dissolved into "keep going".

The Manfriend carving the TurDuck (the butcher forgot the Hen)
I am a little sad I guess, because I found myself rather impatient with myself and with everyone.

The Colonel and his two Wiley grandsons at Treasure Island on Boxing Day
This is why I knit.

Christmas Day Endeavors
Many of you have mentioned it's natural we can be hard on ourselves this time of year when we want everything to be just so (and I don't think I expect too much). My mistake is putting a lot of the pressure on myself, thinking it's my job to lead the charge. Though in a way it is. One of the things with people who suffer from varying levels of anxiety is a need for control, to manage expectations for oneself and unless you live a recluse life, for others. I've gotten better through the years, but I've still got some work ;)

The cousins with Manfriend and Moms playing some 5 card draw. What? gambling is just probability and ratios!
As you can see from the pictures I think it was a good time for all.

And now...  now the kitchen and the living room are pretty much back to normal (which by no means means clean, but perhaps a little tidier). The laundry is caught up. The bedroom looks like we've been burgled but ... it's in progress.

The boys went to AZ to visit The Manfriend's eldest brother and Grandparents and Aunties, while I held down the fort.

I'm back at work and the emails and post-its are being managed. We get a new director next week when most of the holiday schedules have returned to normal. The Kid will be back in school. The grind goes on ...

And this is why I knit. (it's also why you should celebrate and give thanks when you can)

So, I have a new spreadsheet. For the last 2 months my spreadsheet has focused on the Christmas holiday. Items return to projects around the house, the school and of course, knitting. (I'm going to finish a bulky cardigan, damnit.)

I did manage to finish my peppermint socks while the Christmas tree is still up and I'll post them when I block them shortly.

From Instagram: my wild night without the boys. 2 nights in total, but it's been cold I could use more bodies in the apt.
Tomorrow I'll post the last giveaway winner of 2014!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The final giveaway of 2014!

I am still surprised it's 2014, how'd that happen? How is it almost over? Well, here we are with a final yarn giveaway.

I've got some knit picks wool/silk worsted blend. Interested? You know the "pattern" (I crack myself up). Leave a ravelry handle or a way to contact you.

I'll pick a winner next Wednesday.

I may also have a surprise runner up prize ...

Monday, December 22, 2014

The holidays and I have to work through some tough times ...


Well, I am a little dramatic. I'm only working 2 days this week and I worked 4 last week. I am trying to finish a lot up, because I hate coming in after multiple days off to pick up work in the middle when I don't have to. Project work often can't be finished, but I would love to be at a tidy milestone, you know, like at the end of a pattern repeat :)

I have managed to obtain presents.

I managed to entertain my friends and my son's friends on Friday, the last day of term. I wish I had pictures but I was prepping a  lot of food and having a lot of fun. We fit 9 kids and 10 adults in my 2 bedroom apartment! Somehow my neighbors are still speaking to us!

I managed to wrap obtained presents and cook a meal for my sister's family and my mother and stepfather who have flown into town.

I have managed 3 different kinds of cookie dough in the past week. What can I say when the pressure is on, I like to completely add to it by wasting time with unnecessary baked goods. 

I have managed to drive my husband and child a little insane with my incessant nagging.

So pretty much holidays are on track.

I sort of vacillate between having a good time and being a bit of a nightmare. I thought I should be honest with you all since I was really trying to tap into the holiday spirit in the last post.

In case you were wondering it's a hard sell if you're telling people to have a good time (damnit) with a clenched jaw and balled up fists. Ha!

Seriously though, most of the pressure is off me now. Christmas Eve is the Manfriend's show. He is going to put on an amazing spread. It's been fun listening to him plan his menu and make his lists. He sparkles a bit like tinsel when he taps into his inner CF (control freak). I just gotta make some short bread and appetizers and keep space in the fridge for him. Easy peasy pudding pie. (I'm not actually doing pudding or pie because they are both things I fail at miserably.)

I came into work today and found a lovely wrapped gift and some cookies and some home brew from Harrigan's family. How sweet is that? I also had visits from some co-worker's children that came by for a hello. The under 10 set is so charming. Lip balm is always a hit with the little girls and then they each get a grab in the chocolate jar.

I admit, I've been hoarding these ...

WHAT? I'm not completely out of hand. The mint truffle kisses things are like horrible. You can't eat just one. HM and I at work have little green wrappers on our desks a little too often. The Dove Peppermint Bark is with dark chocolate and they are just really, really happy. They are a seasonal treat, so I have to eat them NOW, you see? Also they are probably making me a kinder person.

In fact I think that I will stop eating the rest and use them for my shortbreads! BRILLIANT.

Maybe it will make up for the fact that I don't think holiday cards are gonna happen. Oh and I'm not knitting any gnomes either, sigh. Crap, I'm lucky to knit a few rounds of sock at midnight.

Thank you for letting me think outloud.

Tomorrow I will post for the giveaway! 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Trying to catch-up and sending you some happy holidays

Yesterday after work I had a 6pm appointment. It was raining angry cats and angry dogs. My bus passed 2 buses broken down on the route there. I was amazingly only 5 minutes late. The rain gave me a small break but there is no return bus and the boys said they forgot to pick up eggs for my cake. I started walking to the nearest market with organic eggs on the way home. And then the heavens unleashed again, with no bus insight. I snuck into a Walgreens thinking I'll wait for it to either clear up a bit or the bus to come AND get some oversized boxes for some holiday gifts.

Alas the rains and the bus route were still uncooperative. My pants were very wet. I finally caught a bus with just 2 stops between me and home, but it was worth it, otherwise I was going to duck into a local bar: eggs, boxes, and all.

I got in and slammed down some dinner the boys had put together in the kitchen (and already eaten -- its 8pm now). I did the dishes and began making 2 cakes (from mix). I got them in the oven and finally get around to using the restroom. I remembered to get out of my wet pants when I went to bed, because I am stupid.

I am pretty sure for the next week this pace will continue.

I have a feeling I'm not alone in this.

What I am reminding myself, what I ask you to remember is there is a reason for the madness. We are trying to enjoy ourselves. We LIKE a lot of the happiness, celebration and the cake (no matter how ugly) that goes on. We like to share with others, we like to show we care.

At the end of the day you don't have to, but most of it, you want to.

It's not going to be perfect. It's not going to all be done, but if you keep your wits about and remind yourself to have fun, you'll get the most important things done and you'll get the most out of your holidays. And I may sound a little nuts (well, I am.) But I promise you, I'm having fun. I hope you are too.

Clearly I am not knitting right now, and that's just the way it goes. But I will be soon. I miss you all and will visit as soon as I can, but for now, I am going to get a cup of tea, run a quick errand and meet my family to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies :)

If you have the time and the inclination leave me a note and tell me if you're managing your holiday pace and tell me something fun and fabulous happening with you and yours!

Coming soon: The final giveaway of the year!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

DK Weight Socks

So here is the truth. I like my DK weight socks. I enjoy wearing them. They are toasty.

I know you all hoot and holler about the greatness of a slipper. (And yes, I have slipper appreciation, so don't get me wrong ...)

But I like these "touch of cashmere" socks. They bring comfort like a warm shower after a winter walk. (not a long shower people, storm or no storm, we're still in a drought out here in Cali)

So thank you everyone for your support in convincing me to see my sock vision through. I'm pleased.

And I'm even more pleased that I've got another ball of this stuff tucked away for later. hehe.

I've just reached the gusset on my peppermint socks and bound off on the body piece of my kid cardigan. I'll progress with the socks, but I think I'll rotate a sweater project and get a coffee cozy or two done.

Oh who am I kidding? I don't know what the heck is next.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Weekend Bites

I was determined to do one test bake this weekend and this is my chocolate pound cake from The Joy of Baking.

It is much lighter than I anticipated when hearing the words "pound cake". It wasn't too chocolatey and too sweet, which makes it a great vehicle for ice cream, and whipped cream and fruit :)

I spent a lot of this weekend, "tidying". You know, putting this here, and that, there, making clean "spots" without really feeling clean. There was full family participation at least! It's always nice when everyone puts in an effort.

But one of the weekend highlights. It may not look like much, but it really made me "enjoy".

Thinly sliced mortadella (like tissue paper) from Whole Foods (1/4 lb ran me about $3.40, but yielded a lot more than you would think) on lovely sliced Acme bread and toasted to perfection with a little mild cheddar. If I had been thinking properly and not quite so ravenous, I would've put a baby bit of Dijon mustard and arugula on there.

This with tea was really just a fantastic little weekend moment.

I knit a few rounds on my peppermint socks and FINALLY knit a baby hat in plain blue and am trying to finish the body on a 4T cardigan. I don't know why I'm knitting it now, I've got until February. I guess I started it and I want to see it move forward.

I decided the only specific Holiday gift knitting I'm going to do is coffee cozies.  I'm already feeling beholden by this baby sweater.

Do you ever know you have your knitting priorities mixed up but can't seem to change gears? I have so many things I want to knit, but I can barely keep up with what I already have on the needles! 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

WIP Wednesday: 'Tis the Season

I think that Araignee and I were on the same wave length as we kicked off December ...

I finished my non pareil socks (I'm working on getting you a photo of them weaved in) and immediately cast on these happy kickers. Seriously, the color way is called "Cheer" in Felici, by Knitpicks.

Can we discuss this colorway for a second? Part of me is surprised at the pink instead of the white with the red. It's ... pepperminty, but feels a little bit polluted, like they meant to do white, but they messed up. I like it, but straight white and red would've been nice too.

Now can we talk about this self striping yarn that KnitPicks seems to have discontinued? They brought back a few colorways for a hot second. I'm guessing someone in the warehouse discovered they had some "extras" laying around, but I'm sad there isn't a proper offering of this fun stripey yarn. It's no secret I have a problem with self striping yarn :)

I have other things on the needles, but nothing that is really making me as happy or as excited as these, so we'll focus here today.

Tell me, do you have anything festive on the needles? Or is there just something that is making you happy for whatever knit reason that you don't want to put down?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Holiday Weekend Recap

The Kid had Wednesday off so he put me in Turkey Day training. We went for a run/walk around Chrissy Field out by the Presidio and Golden Gate bridge. Always a beautiful place to be about. After our little active out and about, we got some lunch and moseyed back home.

Thanksgiving I did my Turkey run for the local food banks and earned my gravy so to speak. Mmm. delicious gravy. My Sister in Law across the bay smoked a magnificent bird and baked the best homemade bread that she also used in her homemade stuffing. Dream City. I wish I had photos of her lovely feast, but I was too busy stuffing my face.

Friday, I stopped fretting about exercise for a day. The Kid went to the car show with some besties for a birthday celebration and sleepover. The Manfriend was back at work. I tried to catch up on some housework and then it sort of devolved into trying to pick up dropped stitches while a new to me Poirot was airing on PBS.

Saturday was some light exercise, baking, and laundry and then we had some friends over to play and for an easy pasta dinner. We drank some wine, we laughed and slept in on Sunday before more exercise and chores. There was dungeness crab. There was knitting and math flash cards and copious amounts of Indiana Jones on t.v. Maybe a cat nap or two ...

It wasn't chaotic, but it went by very quickly. I'd gladly do it again. :)