Pumpkins!!!! Adorable Little Pumpkins!!!!!!

Que pasa, calabasa? That's Spanish for what's happening, pumpkin?

I got a Wee Be Little pumpkin plant last spring, because they are just so darn adorable. No other reason.  We just harvested, in time for a jack o’lantern. We have a total of 7, and 6 of them will go to pie and bread.

Don't fear the reaper- actually, there was an unfortunate mishap with the scythe. It got sliced off, but we plan to replace it...

The Girl brought home a lovely cinderella-coach-shaped squash from a bonfire/fall party, and carved an intricate grim reaper scene into it. We roasted the seeds, and they were really tasty- thin hulls and nutty insides. I may try to figure out what variety it was, and plant it next year, because it is so darn adorable, in its own way.
The wee be little doesn’t take up much space, about a 4×4 foot square. I planted it in the former location of the compost bin, so there was a ton of rich compost for it to feed off of. It did sprawl in the wrong direction, I tried to nudge it the other way, but it kept encroaching into the sugar snap peas. By July it didn’t matter, because the peas were finished anyway.
The Boy was able to carve this independently, which is nice- I really hate getting my hands in pumpkin guts. It’s just gross.
We will probably wind up getting a big grocery store pumpkin, so we can have the classic picture of the monstrous jack o’ lantern eating the tiny one.

And when I said we would make pies from 6, I must have meant 5, because the Boy is carving another one.

He said, "write on your blog that I'm performing plastic surgery."


Halloween Assemblage (art?)

They're so in love, and so grave...

Last year we came across directions for very cool Halloween decorations in Cloth Paper Scissors magazine (click here -I’m a little obsessed with this magazine)
The article was by Michael DeMeng ( click here– I just learned how to make these linky thingies!)- an assemblage artist with a spooky sensibility. The directions were to take dollar store cake toppers and chop their heads off, replace their heads with skulls, also from the dollar store, and apply sparkle paint liberally.


Maybe the original directions didn’t say sparkle paint, but we wound up using some. And by some, I mean a lot.

I was reminded that I wanted to blog about them when I found them in the decoration box- the photos have been sitting on my hard drive for a year.

The cake toppers that the dollar store happened to have were African- American. I have to say, it felt awkward chopping their heads off- liberal guilt, I know.

The original directions call for using wire to attach the skulls, so they are adjustable. We decided not to- we just hot-glued them instead. Also, the article called for a Dremel tool to cut the heads off with. I thought this might be my excuse to finally buy one, but tried a handsaw first. Let the record show that a handsaw works fine. I’ll have to find another excuse to buy a Dremel.

The Girl and I mixed several shades of acrylic paint together to get a nice grave shade for skin, and we went beyond just cake toppers, we loaded up on figurines, too. The one that freaked me out the most was the toddler on a rocking horse…one of the rocking-horsemen of the apocalypse? Creepy. But fun.

Heart on my sleeve?

Every year I come up with some esoteric Halloween costume idea- something that no one gets, even when I explain it. One year, I was “objectivity” all black, with a sequined black mask. When people asked what I was supposed to be, I asked them what they thought I was. It didn’t really go over very well. Last year, I was a surfer being eaten by a shark. Two years before that, I was a venus flytrap. I still really like that one…
This year, I had this idea of a skeleton shirt, underneath a shredded wedding dress. I don’t know what to call it, or what inspired it. Although I did find this Frida Kahlo portrait that I know I have seen before, so maybe that just bubbled to the surface?

Unlike Frida, I have been unable to embrace the unibrow, but I like this image of a heart split between the two halves of myself.

The boy asked how I got to be such a good drawer when he saw this. I told him lots of practice.

So, I have drawn and colored an anatomical human heart, and started embroidering it, because I am a fiber art nut, apparently, and I have a black long-sleeved tee shirt to attach it to, so I can wear it to yoga, because naturally our yoga teacher encourages us to dress up…I have decided to skip the wedding dress, and just have a white shirt that I can shred. I’ll probably skip the white skirt and just wear jeans. Not for yoga, of course, I’ll wear yoga pants for that.
I am a little panicked about time- just over a week, plus costumes for the kids (the boy wants to be a deer in the headlights! how do you make that?!), and DH is thinking about dressing up as Octupi Wall Street, and the girl is wavering between a couple of things, which pretty much guarantees a last minute request. I can live with that uncertainty, but I’m just wondering, for my own costume, what to call it when people ask me what I’m  supposed to be. Any suggestions?

You can’t tell the difference from a galloping horse

I’ve been agonizing about this blue scarf (agonizing for me, which entails mentioning it once or twice, but thinking about it all the time) and I have finally decided to just suck it up, finish it, and wear the thing. What made me turn the corner was a friend posted a super cool video on Facebook, with demos of 25 ways to wear a scarf. I was like, man, I wish I had a sca….wait, I do.

The pattern is "Madeira" from Knitting in the Sun, in Gloss, a laceweight wool / silk blend from knitpicks, in Cyan.

My mom always tells stories about her grandmother, who worked for a milliner before she was married, and would make the most creative hats, but that same carefree style didn’t work for making clothes.

Actually, DH will tell you that this is not really Cyan. He's in the business, he knows.

On a hat, you want the flower placed artlessly, casually, as if it just grew there, right on your hat. If you use that same casual artlessness on the side seam of a skirt, you have a problem. My mom always quotes my great-grandmother as saying “well, you can’t tell the difference from a galloping horse!” and declaring that whatever sloppiness in her clothing was just not that big a deal.

I never really understood if I was supposed to be on the horse, or the person looking at me was on a horse…or maybe the horse will be wearing my scarf. That’s a nice image. Anyway, I will artfully twist and knot the scarf I made, and declare that it is not that big a deal. In fact, it is really pretty.

Bear Sweaters

My mom likes to take the grand-kids to lunch and shopping for birthdays. She has more fun doing this than shopping alone for something that might not be just right. The kids look forward to it, too.  She was in town recently, and took the Girl out for Chinese food and a motorized hamster habitat. I mean, a habitat for a motorized hamster. Then she took my nephew to McDonald’s and Build a Bear Workshop.

I hate going to Build a Bear, but I appreciate it as a distributor of magic.  I’ve recently learned a definition of magic as the “change of consciousness in accordance with will.”  When I heard that definition,  Build-A-Bear jumped into my mind. They help change the consciousness of their core customer base. Purchasing a bear (or monkey,which is what my nephew picked) involves a ritual of wish making and swearing fidelity and secret sharing that helps hold a child back in childhood. Some days it seems like the Girl has the pedal down to the floor trying to be a teenager. She’s  not wise beyond her years, because she doesn’t have the wisdom, but she’s too smart for her own good sometimes.  Somehow, a pink bear, named Pinky ,naturally, slows her down a little.

In addition to being an outpost of magical thinking, Build a Bear is also a money factory- My mom was appalled, “$3.50 for a pair of underwear, you can get a six pack of underwear at Walmart for 5.99!”

But this underwear has tail-holes…

World, meet Eliabeth. Elizabeth, this is the world. Sorry, no underwear...

It gives me an excuse to knit. I have made several bear sweaters, and they are pretty quick and easy. My nephew picked a brown monkey which he named Elizabeth, and when my mom told me about it, I cast on a sweater immediately.   Elizabeth’s monkey sweater may be a touch tight- I probably should have done a gauge swatch, but I hate to do them, especially when the sweater itself is so small.

I had leftover sock yarn- I don’t know exact yardage, but less than a full skein- there was some unrolling and starting in strange places on the ball to get the stripes to line up- if you use a solid color, you can just go straight. Certainly less that 200 yards of yarn, maybe around 100?

This construction method works for any size sweater, I have made them for myself, the kids, babies. I learned it from “Knitting without Tears” http://www.amazon.com/Knitting-Without-Tears-Easy—Follow/dp/0684135051/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318000347&sr=1-1   I checked it out from my local library.(also, I get no money if you follow the link- Amazon won’t do business with Colorado bloggers because of our tax laws)

Once you understand the technique for bears or dolls, you can scale it up.  If you have made hats, you can do this- the only tricky part is grafting the armpits, and you can find Youtube videos that show grafting. Just search knitting grafting, by the way, if you look for grafting armpits, you find weird stuff about hair transplants…

Percentage System Bear Sweater

Figure out the bear’s chest size- 16″ is pretty common. Don’t forget a little ease- extra space for the poor monkey to breathe, and dance, and move in.

Figure out the stitches per inch on the yarn you have and the needles you want to use. I was using fingering weight, and size 5’s, which gives me a gauge of about 3.75 stitches per inch.  I cast on 60, which I thought would be perfect, but it’s a touch tight. Oh well. With bigger needles and thicker yarn, 60 would probably be perfect.

I did about 1/2 inch of 2×2 ribbing. I changed to stockinette when the color changed, and increased 6 stitches evenly around.

Knit up the body about 4 inches.

Cast on 30 stitches for one sleeve- use two circulars  or double pointeds  I like the circulars better, but I couldn’t find any size fives available, so I used the doubles. Do the ribbing to stockinette switch the same way as the body, increasing by 10% when you get done with ribbing. I knit the sleeve until it looked about the right length and also matched up with the color changes on the body- it would have bugged me if the stripes had been way off. Did second sleeve same way.

Here’s the tricky part- put the sleeves and body on the same needle, with waste yarn on the 6 armpit stitches. So here’s how it looks- 28 arm stitches, 27 front of the body stitches, 28 arm stitches then 27 back stitches. Knit 2 rows, then at each place where the sleeves meet the body decrease 2 by knitting two together, then knitting 1, then knitting another two together. Do this every other row until you have decreased to 40% of the original body. Actually, stuffed animal heads are crazy big- I don’t think I did 40% on this one. I asked Pinky for help and tried it on her when it felt like it would be about right. Then I forgot to count, and I have already given the sweater away.

My nephew loved it, and Elizabeth seemed to like it, too. She’s very verbal for a stuffed monkey.

"OOH OOH! AAH AAAH!" that means she likes it.

The armpits for this are pretty tricky, but not impossible- they take grafting, which to me is like magic, (except not according to the above definition) because you are using a sewing needle to create a row of knit stitches. Take the stitches off the waste yarn and put them back on two needles. Thread the tail of yarn onto a large-eyed tapestry needle. Take a deep breath. Hold the knitting needles parallel in one hand. Then insert the needle knitwise into the needle in front, drop it off the knitting needle, and insert the sewing needle purlwise into the next stitch, but don’t drop it off. Then insert the needle purlwise into the first stitch on the back needle,  drop it off, and insert it knitwise into the next stitch. Repeat this until all six are off the needles. Check out Youtube- it is probably easier to see it than read it.  You can stitch up the roughly triangular holes that form at either end while you weave in the ends of the yarn. This same technique can be used for sock toes. I also used it for the sucky shawl I made but still haven’t figured out what to do about.

get them before they go to seed FAIL! thistle edition.

Doesn't it look pretty, glowing in the late afternoon sun? Yeah. It's a thistle.

I went to a part of the yard that I hadn’t been to check out for  while (no, the yard isn’t that big, but I’ve been busy with school, and taking people to soccer and play practice, and the Girl just started Tae Kwan Do classes, and it was really hot until a few days ago…)

Anyway, the thistles have bloomed. Crud.

Some seed have scattered, some are still attached, so my mode now is to carefully cut off the seed heads and put them in a bag, then put the bag in the trash. My compost doesn’t get hot enough to kill weed seeds, so I avoid putting them in the compost bin.

Philosophically, are my weeds providing me a service? They are holding on to soil, bringing up nutrients from the subsoil, harvesting rainwater, turning atmospheric carbon into fodder for the compost pile?


They do all those things. And more.

But, I don’t want many more of them. Especially the prickly ones. Oh well.