Harry Potter Vacation

Brace yourselves, friends: this one has a lot of photos! But they’re all super fun, at least if you like Harry Potter (and who doesn’t?). We took an actual family vacation recently, our first real vacation in about three years. The kids and I are HP nuts, and I really wanted to take them to the theme park at Universal Studios before the girl grows up and moves out. She’ll be a senior this year, so my time was limited, and I managed to convince the husband that we should do it this year. We kept it short (only three days in Florida) but managed to pack a TON of fun into those three days.

I wanted to make the most of the experience and do the whole typical tourist thing, so I chose a hotel onsite. We stayed at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which was a super-fun 60s-themed hotel with bright decor, mid-modern furniture and oldies playing in the lobby. There was even a bowling alley and a diner. The kids and I loved it, but found out why it was the cheapest onsite hotel: despite being advertised as “within walking distance”, it was about a mile away. And when you’re walking all over the theme park, you don’t want to walk a mile to and from your hotel. Thankfully, there was a fast and free shuttle that got us there easily. The first two days were spent almost completely at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

We got a first glimpse of Hogwarts as we entered the park, and it was awesome! We started at Hogsmeade and went to Ollivander’s to watch the little show there: Ollivander chose a boy from the audience and went through the wand-choosing with him. Then we went into the shop, where we were overwhelmed by the sheer number of wands to look at! None of us could decide right away, so we moved on. There were a ton of fun storefronts, plus several real shops where you could buy any kind of souvenir you wanted. We went to Honeydukes, had lunch at the Three Broomsticks, tried Butterbeer, had drinks at the Hog’s Head, and rode the rides, and the girl discovered she loves roller coasters! Even the boy rode them, and enjoyed them! I discovered I don’t like scariest ones as much as I did in high school. The Quidditch ride in Hogwarts was scary but fun, the Flight of the Hippogriff was tame but my favorite, and the Dragon Challenge coaster was terrifying for me. I kept my eyes closed and was too scared to scream; the girl and the husband ended up riding it three more times!

A short ride on the Hogwarts Express took us to London, where there were intriguing (but sadly fake) bookstores. We saw the Knight Bus, caught a glimpse of Stan Shunpike, and tried the door at 12 Grimmauld Place. We looked around but didn’t see Diagon Alley, but we did see people going through an alley next to a brick wall…

And there was Diagon Alley! It was amazing! I loved it even more than Hogsmeade. So much attention to detail, so much like the movies. I just wanted every single storefront to be real. We did go into Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes, Ollivander’s, Florean Fortescue’s, and Madam Malkin’s. I wanted the wool store, with the window display of self-knitting needles, to be real, but alas it wasn’t. By then the girl had chosen her wand (Luna Lovegood) and she’d gotten an interactive one to be able to do spells throughout the park.

Diagon Alley was even more impressive at night, when the lights came on and the dragon atop Gringotts roared. The Gringotts ride was fun, but only good enough to ride once. We definitely preferred the rides at Hogsmeade. Still, it was so fun to go through the bank and see the lobby and the chandeliers and the goblins!

Over the two days, we went back and forth several times. I finally chose my wand (Cho Chang) but also came home with a beautiful Death Eater wand. We ate all the food and bought all the souvenirs and candy, and walked until our feet were ready to fall off. It was marvelous.

The last day in Florida was planned for the husband, as a reward for being a good sport about the theme park. We spent most of the day at the Kennedy Space Center, and we all ended up loving it.

My favorite part was seeing the actual Atlantis shuttle. It was immense; I still can’t fathom how things so huge get into space. The husband was in his element, more excited than he’d been at any point at the park. He spent just as much money there as I did at the parks! It was all fascinating, so many shows and exhibits, and we learned a ton about the space program. The girl and I were too scared to ride the launch simulator, but the boys loved it. My only regret is that we didn’t have time to do any of the bus tours. I can see another trip in the future.

From there we drove to Cocoa Beach to see the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.

I took a ton of photos but none of them capture the magic of the ocean so I’ll just share these two. None of us are water lovers, but we all wished we had suits so we could frolic in the water, which was warm and soft and inviting. We learned a very important lesson: when going near the beach, always bring swimsuits just in case.

We’re settled in back at home now, but I’m still wishing I could go back.

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Vintage Crochet

Last night we had dinner with my mother, and she gave me a few potholders made by her mother back when my mother was young. I knew my grandmother could crochet: I have a fluffy loop dog as well as an afghan from her. But I’d never seen these little treasures before!

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These three potholders are all two layers crocheted together, and I’m sure it was thread with steel hooks. The intricacy is amazing. I can’t imagine how long it took her to make each one. And these were definitely used; you can see the one in the top right is soiled. My mom remembers her dad cooking with one of these hanging out of his back pocket.

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But these beauties don’t look like they were used at all! Each one is a real dress (I guess so you could slide it over the pot handle?) and they’re all done with perfect precision. I’m in awe. While I know I have the skills to make these, I definitely don’t have the patience! If any of you are inclined, there are some neat patterns here.

I would love to get these cleaned before maybe framing them to hang in my craft room. Anyone have any tips or recommendations? Keep in mind they’re over 50 years old!

Bonus: Baby Knits

Thanks to the holiday, I can make an extra post today and show you the wee baby knits I’m working on. This is the preemie-sized Yoda hat from last week:

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I finished a tiny rolled-brim beanie too, and it’s so very tiny that I’m a bit worried it won’t even fit his little head! But as we all know, handknits are forgivingly stretchy, so I’m remaining optimistic.

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I used leftover sock yarn, the Frolicking Feet by Done Roving in color Dancing Leprechaun, and it only took about 17 grams so I’ve got enough left to make another, slightly bigger version too. That one might be for another new baby I know, one of a set of twins. But first I’m determined to make them each a blanket, because I’m crazy like that. Before they were born, I said I wouldn’t make blankets because I always get bored making blankets and take forever to finish them, and to make two would drive me batty. Then the babies came and they’re adorable of course and they deserve pretty handknit blankets. I took advantage of the Knit Picks summer sale to get some Swish Worsted and have cast on the first blanket.

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This pattern is Raishan and it’s going well so far, with a pattern that’s intricate enough to keep my interested. It won’t be a travel project, but if I keep on track in the evenings, I should be able to get both blankets done before it gets cool. I’m aiming for small blankets, ones that will fit nicely in a car seat or stroller. And hopefully if I balance it with sock knitting on my lunch breaks, I won’t completely lose interested in the blankets! Anybody else get bored with blankets?

Much Knitting!

I knew I would have some FOs to show this weekend! I finished two pairs of socks recently, which brings my total for the year to nine. Thanks to Missy at Missy’s Crafty Mess, I’ve discovered the Boxosox KAL and I’m already close to the goal of twelve pairs for the year. Now I just need to find a good box for them! You can follow along on Ravelry or on Instagram with #boxosox2017. First I finished my Sparkle Stripe socks.

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Pattern is my current favorite, Vanilla Latte socks, and the yarn is Plymouth Yarn Stiletto. I loved the sparkle in it, but it wasn’t quite as soft as I’m used to. Still, I think they’ll be nice and warm when cool temps return.

Most recently I finished my Sylphrena Socks. Yarn is Frolicking Feet by Done Roving in the color Dancing Leprechaun and I loved this yarn! It’s soft and so squishy! And the colors are stunning, albeit hard to photograph well.

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And after that, I looked at my stash and was so sad, because I had no sock yarn left!! I mean, yes, I have four skeins of sock yarn, but three are so beautiful I want to make shawl/scarf type things out of them instead of socks. The fourth is my Zauberball, and after reading all the comments on Ravelry that talk about the fuzzing and felting and delicacy, I’m hesitant to use it for socks. I did wind it into a cake and though I didn’t find any knots in my skein, it was a pain to wind, lots of tangling and the yarn sticking together. I set it aside and it might become a shawl as well.

So two pairs of socks done left me with only three WIPs, and no new socks to start. I worked a bit on my sweater sleeve (stockinette. YAWN.) and a bit on Miss Winkle (little loops: cute but fiddly and kind of annoying) but I needed something new. I whipped up a preemie sized Yoda hat for a baby in need, bought yarn on KnitPicks’ summer sale for two baby blankets, and perused my stash in hopes of being inspired. And last night it hit me: I DID have more sock yarn! Sock yarn perfect for socks!

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So that’s what I’ll be casting on today when I take the mother to get her hair cut. I’m so pleased I remembered it, and relieved too, to be honest. Being without sock yarn made me feel a bit like an addict wondering when I’ll get my next fix!

Finally, before I go, let me share the beauty shots of my newly blocked Chevrione shawl. I love this one so much, can’t wait to wear it. It’s super long and the colors are rich and vivid. The length made it a bit hard to photograph but I think you get the idea.

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Wishing my American friends a safe and happy holiday weekend! Happy knitting!

Not much knitting

What do I write about when I have nothing concrete to share? I have finished no socks this week, though I have one that is close and will be done either today or tomorrow. I have a beautiful finished shawl, but it’s currently blocking and is not ready for its close-up. I can show you progress photos; they do hint at what a stunner this one will be.

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The pattern is the Chevrione Shawl and I enjoyed the knit, once I got used to the lace pattern. It was still a pattern I had to focus on, so if the TV was on, I could only pay half-attention to it. I used as much of my Done Roving Frolicking Feet Mini Gradients as I could and got through the pattern as written. I think it will be gorgeous!

Oh, I know why I’m lacking in FOs: we had to rebuild part of our fence! Remember we had that huge limb come down? Well, it took two sections of fence with it, and with that large gap we had to go back to putting the dogs on chains. If you’ve done that before, you know what a hassle it is. They get tangled in each other and around things, they forget they have it and run too far and get yanked back, and I don’t trust them out there by themselves for very long, lest they somehow pull the anchors out of the dirt. So the husband and I worked quickly and had the fence repaired with two nights’ work. We felt very tired clever afterward. And the dogs (Grace especially) were delighted.

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Strangely enough, I’ve been reading a lot this week, which also might account for the lack of FOs. I finished The Secret Place by Tana French, which is a gripping, tense thriller that I couldn’t put down, and I’m in the middle of The Mermaid’s Daughter by Ann Claycomb which I don’t want to put down, but is so good I don’t want to finish it, so I’m trying to ration myself. It’s got folklore, intrigue, mermaids (of course), opera, and Ireland, and so far it’s both dark and beautiful.

One more fun little thing: my knitter friend at work is a new pen addict, so I took her to The Pen Place over lunch break last week. I can’t go to the pen store without buying something of course. Look at my new pretty purple Parker pen!

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Here’s hoping I have more fun knitting to show you next time!

The Joys of a Fixer Upper

Summer in Missouri often means thunderstorms. Spring brings tornadoes; summer brings thunder and lightning, hail and strong winds. You put those against a giant old tree, and sometimes the thunderstorm wins. We had just turned off our lights at 9:30 pm Thursday evening (we’re getting old, we get tired early) and were listening to the wind beat hail against our windows when suddenly we heard a crack and a loud bang. We jumped out of bed and were heading downstairs when we realized the power was out. Thanks to the flashlight on the phone, we could make out a large limb laying across our back yard, and while we couldn’t really see the power lines, obviously the tree had pulled them down. We called the power company and they came out within an hour or so. It was hot and stuffy inside, and too quiet at first, since we sleep with a ceiling fan and white noise. Then as the guys started working, it was too loud. It was a long, mostly sleepless night for me. I was up around 5:30, going out to investigate. This is what I saw:

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Yikes, right? It had pulled down the lines, which in turn pulled down at least one pole, so they had to replace the pole, plus chop away some of the branches to free the lines. At least four of our neighbors were out of power too. I could shower, but not blow-dry or straighten my hair. I could eat cereal, but not make tea. It was an interesting morning. The dogs were quite delighted with their new stick, though.

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So, yeah. That’s fun. Even now, it still surprises me a little when I look out and see it out there. It’s just so … incongruent. We’ve contacted someone to haul away the broken limbs and are going to get an arborist out to see if we can save the tree. It really is a magnificent tree, and I’d hate to lose it. Plus, well, that would be damn expensive and I’d rather avoid it if possible.

Really, this house is doing its best to bring me down. Before this tree incident, we had a smaller tree lose some limbs, we’ve had raccoons in the attic, we’ve had birds and/or squirrels in the soffits, and we found out the addition in the back of the house needs significant work, like possibly even demo and rebuild. I am discouraged. I love the potential this house has; I think it has gorgeous bones. I love its history. Here’s a photo we just got of our house in 1925, when it was a mere five years old.

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How wonderful it would be if we could restore it to its former glory! But there’s just so much. The back of the house needs renovating, the floors ALL need repair/refinishing, the windows need work, the exterior badly needs to be painted, the porch and stairs need to be fixed/replaced. The landscaping needs to be redone. The upstairs bathroom needs to be gutted and redone. And those are just the big jobs; there are tons of little ones that add up and overwhelm me if I think about them. Lately I’ve just been seeing this house as a money pit and wondering how long I can put up with it.

I’ve been told not to worry, told that if I’m overwhelmed, it’s because my depression has crept back into my brain and I just need to deal with that. (Which I am. Better living through drugs. They’re helping quite a bit.) But I disagree. Yes, I have recognized that my anxiety has been stronger/quicker lately, and I’m trying different ways to manage it. And I know the depression/anxiety don’t help me deal with the worries. But the truth is that I would worry nonetheless. I am a worrier. Always have been, always will be. Is it really that unusual, to be overwhelmed by a large number of big/expensive list of projects?

I do agree that being overwhelmed can make one stagnant. It’s hard to tackle that list if you don’t know where to start. So we’ve picked a starting point: the front stairs. They’re cracked, sagging, and peeling, and we see them every day when we come home. Plus they’re not totally stable. We just need to find a good contractor and get a bid, and hope that we have enough money to pay for it once we pay for this darn fallen tree thing. And maybe once we fix one thing, it will motivate us to keep going, and we’ll just slowly go one job at a time. Bird by bird, right? And someday maybe we’ll get the house close to as beautiful as it used to be.

Sorry, this post was a bit more of a downer than I set out to write. I’ll finish with something happier: new socks! Apparently I can make two socks per week, so I have one easy one for travel knitting, and one more complicated one for home.

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This is the easy one, just finished this morning. Pattern is Vanilla Latte Socks, yarn is Plymouth Yarns Stiletto. I love the little metallic glint!

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I really love this one! Pattern is Sylphrena Socks, yarn is Done Roving Yarns Frolicking Feet, which is so squishy and marvelous. I’ll definitely take better photos once I get the second sock done.

And speaking of second socks, I have two to make! I better get to casting on!

Stuck on Socks

I seem to be stuck on socks. My brain can’t seem to push itself beyond those four tiny needles making a tube, a heel flap, a heel, a foot, a toe. And repeat. I’m on autopilot with my knitting right now, and socks are small, easily transportable, quick to finish, and quite adorable. To that extent, I am enjoying my sock knitting. But at the same time, I miss having a bigger expense of knitting creativity. I’m not dreaming of other projects or color combinations. I’m barely feeling the pull to buy new yarn, because I can’t imagine what it might become. But I can’t NOT knit. I can’t watch TV with empty hands, or have a lunch break with nothing but lunch, or take a long car ride with only my family to keep my occupied. So, I make socks. And when one sock is done, I immediately start another.

I do have WIPs waiting. I have two shawls that I’d love to wear, if I could bring myself to finish them. But Miss Winkle has those loops that are annoying to make, and the other has a lace pattern so complicated I have to really concentrate. I have a whole cardigan waiting just for a sleeve and a half. And I have a blanket, but to be honest, I’m fine letting that hibernate until cooler weather comes back. I haven’t even blocked my beautiful Orbit scarf; it’s too much bother, and I can wear it fine as is.

Is this me saying I’ve lost my knitting mojo? Maybe. Probably. I don’t really know. I can’t put my finger on it. I know I’ve lost it in the past, and it always comes back, and I believe it will this time. And until it does, I’ll make socks. In fact, I finished two last night, and looking at them on my feet brought me much pleasure.

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The upside to not being knitting-obsessed is having more reading time, so I’ve been doing a lot more of that lately. My best recent read was I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi. Not exactly the happiest of books, but I found it engrossing.

Here’s hoping your knitting is going better than mine, friends!