Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Yarn along: A Christmas Sweater in June (well, almost June)

This little sweater's baby's due date is already on the ten day weather forecast....  But I am going to give it long sleeves, so I guess there is really no rush, she won't be wearing it soon. It would be nice to take it to the hospital, though. It is another puerperium, and I am very happy to say that this time I remembered to slip one purl-wise at the beginning of every row. 

That little book is my Knitting Journal. 

For the first time in a long time I am not knitting every day.  My best knitting time is when the children do math, or when they read to me.  Since school is out, I am busy with more hands-on things.  We spend all morning making and playing with play dough, and then moved on to paper machè.  And I cannot really knit while they do that.

I really want to read more, but I did not do much of that, either.  (The house is much cleaner, I should just add.)  I reread a bit of "The Creative Family" by Amanda Blake Soule.  I am listening to "The Borrowers" - I loved the movie (The Secret Life of Arrietty), but the book is a bit darker and ask more questions.  There is a lot of distrust, more than what I am comfortable with, so far.  I appreciate that the author addresses the fact that they are actually stealing, but the characters are just a little bit too flawed.  I mean,  "Because of Winn-Dixie" is not all moonshine and roses either, but at least the characters were likable, and the book had a message of hope.  But maybe I should not judge too soon, I still have to listen to about another hour.  Jean loved the movie, but hated the audio book, so I am not too optimistic.

I am joining in with Ginny's yarn along over at Small Things, again.  I love it, it is like a weekly play date!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Making it Count: Patching Jeans

This month we have decided to really tighten our belts, simply buy less, do more with what we have, and start saving.  We need to save enough for 6 tickets to South Africa, and we have not really been making work of it, since many other things involving green cards, doctor's fees and lawyer's fees made us feel as if we are not in control.  But we are, to an extent, at least if it comes to spending.  (Not completely, I know.)  That, and we have a responsibility to show some self control.  Buying good books, used, is not a good thing anymore if it ruins the budget.  New yarn, on sale, on the other hand... No.  Not even on sale.  I have enough.

I have been reading the "Like Mother Like Daughter" blog for almost 3 years now.  "Auntie Leila" has helped me tremendously - she has wisdom, she is very funny, and she knows how to do things.  So my house is moderately clean, thanks to her, my kids help me carry things when we go anywhere, thanks to her, and I now I also know how to patch a pair of jeans, thanks to her tutorial.

It was a bit more tricky than worn knees.  (One of our children tends to walk into things and tear her clothes, or scratch her face, or break things more often than most.  We love her anyway.) I do not know a good word in English, but it was a real "winkelhaak", as we would say.

But of course, it was not too difficult.  You just open up the seam at the only point where it is not double stitched:  the side seam.  I had to open a good 10 inches, as the tear was so high up.

 Then you simply iron a folded seam around the edge of the piece of fabric you want to use as a patch.

I first machine basted, and then used a fancier stitch, just because I have one and I fear I am not using my machine's full potential.

And the easiest part is simply closing the side seam again.

Good as new.  Actually, when she wears it with her new peasant top that I made out of this fabric, it is even better.  Granted, I only saved about $10, since the jean was not expensive to begin with, but it helps to keep me on the right track.

In her post Leila also mentioned that she never bought shorts  for her boys, that she always just cut the worn trousers and seamed them.  My boys are tall and skinny, so if a store bought pair of pants fit, the legs are already on the shorter side when they are new, and by the end of the season they look very odd wearing them.  So I went into the room, fetched three pairs, and made them into shorts. (I did not take pictures, sorry.)  Another $30, easily.  I know it might sound obvious, but she often says:  "if I can do it so can you", and that somehow helps to get me going.  Don't know why, it just does.

I felt very happy after completing these simple tasks that previous generations probably thought of as part of the daily routine.

I am linking to Sarah's  "Making it Count Tuesday" today. The idea is to make the time you spend online "count", to "take it from the screen, give it life and let it bless your world".  I feel blessed by the people that I visit, often just lurking, since I seldom comment, but many of them have given me so many ideas and have really changed the way I live.

Memorial Day

It happened again!  If I find time to take, download and get the photos in place, I do not find time to write about them.  That is if we manage to "do things" apart from just keeping the fort at home.
But this is what we did on Sunday:  After church, we headed out to Camp Mabry for a WW II reenactment.  This is the third time we went in four years; the boys love it.

Everyone has to wear earplugs.

They wear the real uniforms and they explain about the guns (how far they could shoot, how many shots per minute etc). Then they demonstrate shooting with them.

They compare German and American weapons.

And then they reenact the whole battle scene, shooting blanks, of course.

Afterwards, you can go onto the field, collect casings and touch the tanks.  Jean knows a lot about Sherman tanks.  Martinus got lost for a moment, and the officer had to announce that there was a little boy whose parents are lost. It was okay, I was only a few yards away at that point. 


By the end of the presentation, we were very hungry and approaching very hot (92 degrees on Sunday, hot enough to be uncomfortable, not hot enough to kill the chiggers yet).

We stumbled onto this exhibition the first year we were here, and I think the last time we went we missed the actual reenactment and only saw the displays, but we are planning to do this again, especially as the boys get older.  The older children play a game on the box that I have mixed feelings about, called Battlestations:  Midway.  (The little ones watch.) They love building airplanes, and talk about pieces of furniture as "carriers" rather than, say, beds.  We also live near the greatest museum if you are interest in these things, The Pacific War Museum in Fredericksburg.  So, all in all, I think we should take this topic and become experts!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

If you put a notebook in a make-up bag, is it still a make-up bag?

One of my friend's children recently celebrated her birthday, and nowadays I want to give the little ones something handmade - poor kids.  I guess at some point they will realize that it was well-meant gift, but even I can see that an 8 year old might not be thrilled with this.

Her mother said she liked writing, and by the time I was 90% done I knew that this is probably not exactly what she meant.  It is something I would love, now, mind you.  But I am going to give it to her, since at least the notebook and the eraser are appropriate, and maybe we can all laugh about it when they are big and we are really old. 

I loved this project, even though I am possibly the youngest person ever to knit it. (Seriously, I looked through the projects on I will knit it again - it will make a great gift for anyone, say, over 30?  So if you do not need a make up bag for Christmas, give me a heads-up or start thinking of wonderful uses for a little knit bag apart from keeping make-up in it.  (I can tell you that keeping a notebook in it is a hard sell.)

Even if it fits.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Six Flags!

I'd say!

Amusement parks involve a good deal of waiting...

Every year, the older children can choose between a birthday party or a trip to Six Flags.  Today we finally went for Melva's birthday that was in April.  I managed to avoid all rotating rides;  Jacques was not that lucky (bur fortunately they sell motion sickness medication).
This was the twins' first time at Six Flags. They were exhausted by 3pm, but bravely soldiered on.  I think Melva and Jean could have stayed for another day...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

So, what do you think about America?

They said that it would be about 3 years before we felt at home, before things would start to feel normal again.  I thought it would not be that long, we are, well, good at taking things in our stride.  They were right.  The move derailed me completely, and I try to avoid even thinking about the first year we spent here.  It was gut wrenching.

A week or two ago I met someone who lived in South Africa for three years.  Just a normal person, who lived in a normally abnormal suburb (Midstream), and drove on the same roads and went to the same shopping malls than we did.  We left in December 2008, they returned to the US in 2010.  Her husband started a business there, and is still there.  She decided to come back, for many understandable and complicated reasons.

She described my people and my country to me in a way that sent me into a momentary tailspin. " I tell my children", she said, "to put on shoes, this is not South Africa." 

(My kids never wear shoes, and I guess I make it a bit difficult for friends who visit - they always have to explain to their kids that they have to wear shoes, even though we do not.  When I put on shoes, the twins ask where we are going.)

She told me about visiting, how they would be hungry, but arrive only to find that the food is still being prepared, that mealtime is at least 2 hours away.  That a visit with anyone would start at 4 and end late, later than 10pm.

She also told me about the bad stuff, the things that make me cry, that I want to forget but feel a responsibility to remember. 

She had a very realistic opinion of South Africa, although I think she only met people in the upper middle classes.  I am reminded that I have only met Americans who live in Austin, Texas.  She had some blind spots, that I did not challenge because it was not really necessary.  I hope that my blind spots will decrease, although it is a bit hard to get to know people outside of your circle - in my case, I know about homeschooling families in Austin (a very "diverse" group, to use the clichè), and I know people from our church.

She missed South Africa, and had a very positive opinion of Afrikaners (although she did say that they tended to drink too much and that grown men would go to the store without shoes, and that we take "Potjiekos" competitions a bit too far).  I told her that we would miss America, if we had to leave.  And that we would not leave if it is left up to us.

She then asked that very dangerous question:  So what do you think about America?  I have answered the question so many times, and it is very hard not to offend, even if you point out the positives.  Because people are touchy, and Americans love America, as they should.

I think at first I loved feeling safe.  I loved driving, checking my blind spots at intersections, just to be sure.  Because if being vigilant meant that you were safer in South Africa, imangine how safe you would be in America if you're vigilant. I loved seeing old people walk in the streets after dark.  You did not see people walk in the streets after dark where we lived.

Now, I love the "can do" attitude.  It rubs off.  I love that my children are with me all day, that I clean the house, sew a bit of their clothes, prepare their meals. (I even bake bread sometimes!)  Back home we employed a nanny, a "domestic worker", and a gardener.  I know, what did I do?  I still did a lot, I worked part time, and I guess the house was cleaner that this one. (Although, not on a Monday morning after a long weekend!)  We visited and played more.  And that was good, but doing so much on my own gives me far more satisfaction that my real work (Occupationa Therapy) ever did.  And that was a pretty rewarding profession.  But I never felt as if I did anything at home. 

This reflects on me, not on all South Africans.  I remember the neighbours laughing when Melva asked my friend what she was doing when she was shortening the kids' trousers (i.e. using scissors and a sewing machine.)  After the explanation, Melva, then about 6, asked - "Wow, can you do that?"

But now, take Saturday morning:  Having been here for long enough, I cut the comforter that was too big for the childrens' beds in half and simply stitched two rows of zig-zag stiches to close it up again.  Ta dah, two comforters.  And I did the same with the cover,  added some buttonholes and buttons, and now they each have a managable bed cover that fits perfectly onto their beds.  I would not have tried that in South Africa.  I would have payed someone.

While I was busy, I decided to add buttons and butotnholes to the ends of the pillowcases, since Americans do not have envelope style pillowcases, and I hate the gaping end at the side of the pillow.
And I added vintage, mother of pearl buttons, because I bought some on Etsy and it was delivered to my door. We never had that in South Africa.

I cut the boys' hair.  I watched a ton of you tube videos (I could not do that in South Africa, the connection was too slow and data was too expensive), bought scissors, and snipped away.  I did that because a decent haircut in America is between $15 and $20, and then you have to add a tip.  It is not even always a great cut, and it is still stressful to take the boys to the salon.  In South Africa I never paid more than 40 Rand.  (The exchange rate is about R8 to $1).


 It is not perfect, but it is good enough.

The lady I talked to asked me if I kept a "South African" house - meaning, is it very clean?
Well, no.  Especially not the windows.

But it is good enough, and being the only person who puts stuff away, means that I know where all my stuff is.  So I focus on the flowers and ignore the windows.  On the other hand - they may be dirty, but there are no bars in front of them, nor do I ever wonder if we should get some.

And of course, I discovered Knitting.

Baby bonnet
And I learned to sew a bit too:

Melva's peasant blouse - I whipped it up yesterday.  No big deal. (Feel free to compliment me anyway.)
I guess there is always going to be something missing.  I will always cry after I spent time with someone who misses South Africa too.  But I am getting much better at not crying in front of them.  And I will always feel guilty for loving America too.  But Texas is really growing on me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

working in colour

The boys have been waiting patiently for their pockets, while I went off and finished the one button cardigan, knit the puerperium, and a rabbit.
Then I decided to use the pockets to practice techniques:  stripes, (twisting the yarns on the inside in a very pretty twirl), and a slip stitch pattern.  It was much easier than I expected, and the boys love their designs.

To Jean they all look the same.  I thought that the blue would be darker than the grey to him, but no - he cannot see which one is his. That is really no problem, the little ones quickly tell him if he has one of theirs, but I found it fascinating that he could not distinguish between these two colours.  After 8 years he still surprises me with what he can and cannot do.

I have found that I like photos slightly desaturated.

I have not read much, with all the knitting, but Jacques has been reading GK Chesterton at me at night after the children went to their rooms.  (Yes, I meant to say "at").  We worked our way through the best parts of Orthodoxy and Heresy.   I downloaded "The Wisdom of Father Brown" onto my Kindle, but have really only read the first couple of pages.  I like Chesterton, although he did not agree with my theology. (I think it would be fair to say that he was a staunch Roman Catholic that disagreed with Calvinist ideas?)  I, however,  agree with him on most things, although I would often simply replace his "the Church" with "the Bible". I would not tell him that, though, he would mop the floor with me when it comes to discussing serious matters.

I am linking to Ginny's yarn along again, and looking forward to all the inspiration from around the world!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

let's meet at the pool!

Jean's "I am really happy and listening to everything although I look bored and unhappy" pose.

See - raising my child in a bubble. 

I just do not think they will be dancers one day, look at that Mr Bean pose!

Sharing Sorbet

My kids never drink soda - they shared this tiny can and did not finish it.  They really do not like it.  Martinus did like the icing on the birthday cake.

It is almost summer in Texas, soon we will spend all our afternoons the way we did today, because there is really very little else you can do when it is 100 degrees outside.  At the moment we are enjoying perfect days.  Just as I thought that we were in for the long haul and that everything outside will die, soon, we had a week of rainy days, with some more in the forecasts for next week. The average day temperatures have been around 80 degrees (26 in Celsius), and it cools down at night to around 65 (18) degrees.

It still feels wrong that the year winds down in May.  PSIA state meet is over (Melva won fourth place in Music Memory), and math team try-outs are behind us too (she made math team).   The choir performances are coming up this week, and if Jean did not accidentally break our piano teacher's husband's favorite lamp, the piano recital would have been this week too. 

I had a feeling from the beginning that she was a bit highly strung for the likes of us, but she really overreacted and although she apologized afterwards, I opted to pay for the damage and resume our quest for a piano teacher.  We need one who can teach a squirmy girl and a very near sighted boy, both with strong opinions and no ambition to become pianists.  And we want them to be serious about it. I think I am starting to see why we have not yet found that perfect person...

I still have energy, while I see my friends slipping into the vacation mood the way we do in November in the Southern Hemisphere.  But with the end of the school year, I am hoping that everyone will adjust their pace of living to what we maintain for most of the year, and I cannot wait to spend more time with friends, just visiting.  I am also making plans - I want to teach knitting to the older girls, I want to build a doorway puppet theater and perform some plays with the bigger kids for the smaller ones, I want to sew bags for every activity that we have planned for next semester... If I manage to do just one, I will be happy.

In the mean time, I have been knitting a rabbit. Melva said we should not embroider facial features, apart from the eyes, then it can be a Waldorf bunny.  You can pretend that it is either happy or sad.  I laughed, but I guess it is true.  It looks a bit cross in this picture, and if I knit a bunny again I will first sew on its limbs before I finish the face, it kept looking at me while I was pushing the needle though its torso.  This little one was a present to the girl whose birthday party was today, and I think she really liked it.  I started looking for bunny patterns the moment I we finished  "The Velveteen Rabbit", about two weeks ago. I will now cast on to knit the boys some bunnies too.  Jean wants a blue one.

Melva knit her own bunny, with yarn she dyed after researching online (she followed Elizabeth from Keep on Spinning's tutorial)

Amazing.  She did it all by herself. While working on it, reading the tutorial, she called to me: " Hey Mom, this is L's friend, the one who once sent her a package." (in Afrikaans, but I translated)  This online community is in many ways very real, and the people I "meet" have are such a positive influence in my life.  Because really, she did not do it without any help.  Elizabeth taught her.

Have a good week, dear friends and family!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Who said knits for boys are boring?

I finished my first puerperium! I wish I could put it on the little baby boy that it is intended for, and hold him for just a few seconds (okay, maybe minutes, until he sleeps).  We are all still waiting for him, though, he is being woven himself as we speak.  He will not be close enough to hold once he arrives, we hope to meet him around Christmas.  He will be a southern hemisphere spring baby, so I knit the newborn size in cotton.  The next size I could knit would probably have been the 9 - 12 months, but there is still a lot of time for that.  I love the buttons - Jean woke up the morning after I finished it, found the sweater on the kitchen table, and ran to me: "whoa Mamma, baby armor!"

The book we have been reading is one recommended by Ginny - The Three Little Dassies by Jan Brett.  It is, as she described, beautifully illustrated, and the boys love reading the story again and again.  And every time we get to the part "and when you travel to Namibia today", they ask - "Ouma bly in Mamibia, Mamma?", and I can tell them the story of the one Easter when the Dassies ate the chocolate eggs the Easter Bunny (Paashaas) hid. Then they get all confused and think the Dassies will eat the "Paashaas"...  I reassure them that we will be back home in Austin before Easter, so they do not have to worry about that.

I am planning on posting more often, and not only on yarn along Wednesdays, but for the moment I am just doing a lot and and taking pictures, I am sure there will be time to catch up! Any other homeschoolers out there who suddenly remembered about science...?