Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Gifts Unveiled

I haven't posted recently not due to a lack of excitement but mostly in an effort not to give away any Christmas presents. But now that a few have been distributed I can share a little.

This is the snowball hat from the fall Interweave Knits. Here it is in Misti Alpaca, Lake Blue and I knit this on #10 needles.

This here is my second baby sweater
which is for my husband's cousin's baby. Stella was born over the summer right around when we were getting back from Africa and it has taken me until now to complete the project but it is making a nice Christmas present. I think this worked out for the best anyway because they live in Los Angeles and Stella was born in July so I am not sure a sweater would have done much good then anyway.

I will update this tomorrow to say what the pattern and yarn was but tonight I am already in bed typing on my laptop and I can't be bothered to go find all of that at this point.

These are those fingerless gloves from Weekend Knitting by Melanie Falick that I love. I made them for a new friend of mine that wanted a pair of gloves that she could wear to play the guitar while caroling. It was a little stressful (as always) to make something for someone that you can't constantly try them on to make sure they are fitting but she swears that they fit perfectly and it is always nice to make something for someone like her that fully appreciates the time and love that goes into the knitted item. As before this is Inca Alpaca

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mrs. McDowell and the Goat

Two weeks ago my preschool class took a trip to a local farm to visit the animals and talk to Mr. Waller about the things he plants and has to do to run a farm. I had been up late the night before trying to finish the hat I am wearing in the photo and I was glad I did because it was a cold blustery fall day. I was taking lots of pictures that day for our bulletin board and luckily one of the mothers in the class snapped this one of me and emailed it to me. It is such a peaceful picture, it is hard to believe that this is in the midst of a preschool field trip where I spent all the rest of my time with hawk eyes on 23 little ones. I like to think it looks so peaceful because I am in my element on a farm!

As a little house keeping, this again is the greenery hat. This time in RY Cashsoft Aran. Still size 7 needles. Love it! This one only took me 3-4 days. I think there are a couple of better photos of it in my Halloween section.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Buy Handmade

I Took The Handmade Pledge!

click here to learn more

Make believe crowns

Recently I knit up some really cute crowns for a very special young lady who is in my preschool class. She had a very fun "Scared Pony and Tyrannasaurous" birthday party at the NC State Fair. I wish I had let myself take the time to get some better photos of the crowns because they were so cute, but you can't win them all. At least her mom (who is the greatest) sent me these pictures of the crowns in use.

The crowns were a free pattern online and were knit with Rowan hand knit cotton dk on size 4 needles.


For Halloween I was Super Knitter, the supper hero of knitting. It was hard to decide what to be this year seeing as I had to wear it to work where I am a Montessori preschool teacher. So my costume had to be both kid interesting/appropriate but I also had to work all day in it. Oh, and no full face masks, scares the kids. It ended up being a great costume because it was a great segue to talk about where our clothes come from and how they are made! Everything can be turned into a lesson! Also fun to show off my new hat and other things that I have knit.

This is a photo of our pumpkin installation this year. First off my husband did a very silly thing. He was so excited about carving his pumpkin that he started carving it before he had even gotten the seeds and guts out. When he finally got around to cleaning out the inside I don't think he did a very good job because even by the next morning the squirrels had been gnawing at the eyes and mouth making his pumpkin look a little rabid while they completely left my pumpkin alone. So, running with the theme, Gabe quickly added stick arms and made his pumpkin look like it was eating my pumpkin's brains. Ah, young love! To make things even stranger, my stepmother sent me a picture of my dad's pumpkin and it looked just like my husbands in the style of turning the pumpkin on its side and using the stem as the nose. Creepy!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Animals of Africa

For a while I thought I would just move on from posting photos from our trip to Tanzania this summer but for some reason the last few days I have been thinking about Africa a whole bunch. Perhaps just enough time has passed to start to long for it again. Just three months ago our lives where so different. While working with the people in Africa is what motivates us, it is spending time in the bush with the animals that inspires us and fuels the fire that keeps our spirits and humility in balance.

Now I am off to bed but tonight I will leave you with the wiley rock Dasie which is actually closely related to the elephant. Personally I find this to be the greatest animal untapped by Disney and the like. Just look at all that personality! You should see them scurry around.


Recently I was looking at my stepmother's blog and learned about freezer paper stenciling. This is a super cool method of making really easy stencils that are perfect for ironing on to fabric, painting away and then easily removing the temporarily adhered stencil. It was perfect timing to read about this cool method because it made for really fun decorating of onesies for the many babies that have been born recently. I think our next door neighbor's baby was born yesterday judging by the flutter of cars that has been in and out and watching one young woman literally run from her car to the front door. Here are the first couple of ones that I made but since have made more for three other babies! Hopefully I will post some more images if the parents end up sending me photos of the kids in their garb. I love to knit for a baby if I can but if I don't have the time or if it is someone that I don't know that well but would like to make some kind of gesture this seems like the perfect solution. It also has been fun for jazzing up my hunny's hospital scrubs!

Monday, October 08, 2007

getting back

getting back on the blog which is long over due! It is not that I haven't been having fun. It's not that I haven't been knitting. I have just been just too darn busy to get on the blog. This hat is a pattern that I had been wanting to try for a while and it was also my first cable knitting project ever (little yeah for me!) This is the greenery pattern which is available for free. I can't find the name of the yarn I used but I picked something that was a pretty generic 100% wool to be worked on size 7 needles as the pattern called for. It only took me just under a week of working on it when I could so it was a good amount of time that I will certainly make it again for a gift.

I really have never been quite as busy as I am right now. I have been busy and crazy at times when we are moving or going through exams when in school or things like that but this is the first time I just feel super busy and there is nothing in particular that I can point to to blame. People keep saying "welcome to your adult life" or "wait until you have kids". Gulp! Well, even though I am exhausted I do keep saying to everyone that at least it isn't that anything is "bad," just all happening at once. We have had lots of people visiting out of the blue which has also added to the chaos to have house guests on top of our schedules. We do have a very very fun one right now which is my very best friend from junior high. There was a time in our lives that you couldn't have pried us apart with a crow bar but we went to different high schools and colleges time and space drifted us apart. Even though we haven't spent more than a dinner once a year together in ages she has popped in our neck of the woods for almost a week as she is in the process of making a major life/career/location change and it is just a real joy and super easy to have her here. I couldn't say the cliche thing that it feels like no time has passed, but it does remind me of all of the reasons why we were so close and special to each other and makes me feel really lucky to have this time to reconnect.

Alright, I have to go figure out what I am going to wear for Picture Day at work tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

2nd Anniversary

Two years ago yesterday! When someone phrased it as 730 days it felt like a short amount of time somehow. We sure have lived a lot of life in that time though. Couldn't be happier!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

juggling oranges in the Serengeti

Scenic Knitting

I did actually do a bunch of knitting in Tanzania. I had brought yarn only for sock knitting because it was the easiest thing to carry and also I couldn't really bare the idea of having a hot and heavy project sitting on my lap. The knitting ended up being the perfect thing to have with me for all of the "hurry up and wait" which is what we called the constant start and stop and adjustment of plans that was required behavior in Tanzania. The saying "Man makes plans and God laughs" couldn't have been truer in Africa. So having a little busy project while you waited 2 hours in line just to withdraw money at the bank was necessary to my sanity. Sadly my knitting is always something that goes so undocumented in the process so even though I am sure I was often knitting is such odd or beautiful places that I really wish I had some photos of but at least here are a few.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Birthday and Montessori visit in Mwanza

Well, another year older and a lovely birthday it was! Coincidently we had two friends visiting from out of town. It was a treat to have lunch with Darlene that had been working with us in Tanzania who lives in Minnesota but was passing through the Triangle to bring her daughter back to Physical Therapy school at Duke. Then one of our bestest friends came down to visit us and stayed the night. It was a really special treat to see Michael because he has just returned from teaching English in Japan for the last two years and he is getting ready to leave again to work with an organization doing voluntourism in Cambodia. We were lucky enough to visit Michael last year in Japan while we were teaching English in Thailand and it felt extra lucky to see him on my birthday. In the evening yesterday we got together with a bunch of friends and had a potluck picnic in a park that shows outdoor movies on the weekend in the summers. We watched Ratatouille which was really fun. Thanks everyone for such a great birthday! I have to say though that one of the biggest treats of all was just having my birthday fall on a Saturday and to have the day off. Back to a little bit of Africa updating. I wanted to share some of the photos that I took of one of the Montessori classrooms that I visited.

While in Tanzania I visited several different schools doing special days of guest teaching with children of all different ages and leaving behind large amounts of art supplies when I went. With each school I made sure to spend some extra time with the teachers to do some teacher training of how to use the materials that I left and how to integrate more creative learning into their curriculums.

One of the schools that I worked with actually has two Montessori trained teachers in the nursery school. I was totally amazed to talk to them and find that even though we had such different lives we had this common ground of teaching in our classrooms with the same principals and using the same materials. But when I saw the poor condition of the materials or the fact that almost all of them from the number rods to the continent puzzle maps were made by hand by the teachers I had to fight back tears. Chipped and cracked their pink tower only stands five blocks tall now and many of the works are made out of cardboard. Here as a part of your teacher training you learn how to make all of the materials yourself and many of the ones I saw were quite impressive. I am really hoping that in the future this school can be the recipient of older materials that we are ready to retire at the school that I teach at but would be ever so valued here in Tanzania.

All of the schools that I visited, whether public, private, or religiously run have very few resources. Some floors are cement, others are simply dirt. Some have chalkboards on the wall and others are just leaned against the wall or on the floor. Many have desks but in others the children just sit on the floor. None of the schools have electricity or glass in the windows. But in all schools the children are fed at least lunch if not breakfast also. This alone is a wonderful thing about schools here.

So please enjoy another little slide show of images from my visit to the Montessori class in Mwanza.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Inspirational Women

One of the really unexpected treats during our time in Nyakato was getting to know an amazing woman named Mama Lukamisa. Her real name is Shangwe but after a woman gives birth to her first child everyone from then on refers to her as Mama and then the name of her first born.

Mama Lukamisa is the Women's and Children's Development Director for the East of Lake Victoria Lutheran Diocese in Mwanza. She works tirelessly to improve education and health care for women and children and is quite outspoken in her crusade to empower women to stand up to oppressive husbands as well as encouraging them to be financially independent and to start their own small businesses. Mama Lukamisa has mentored several of the areas women's micro-loan groups which I had the pleasure of visiting.

In her spare time (I swear this woman must not sleep) Mama Lukamisa also has her own business doing small scale food canning, as well as making tea and a nutritious porridge blend for children and lactating mothers. She also runs small workshops for women to teach them the food processing skills that she has learned as well as proper sanitation for a business dealing with food products. She even runs a small shop in town where she sells her products.

I could not be more thankful for the time that I got to spend with Mama Lukamisa, getting to follow her around to visit the micro-loan groups and to visit her small business. It was fascinating and inspiring to pick her brain about the issues that women in Tanzania face and to be inspired by a woman who is filled with such a fire to empower these women to change the frightening conditions that they are living with.

I am testing out a new feature of my blog which is the bellow slide show where you can look at photos from my visits with Mama Lukamisa. You can play the slide show as is on my blog page and there is a small text box on the left hand side that will show you captions that I have put on some of the photos. Also you can just click on the slide show and it will bring it up in a new window so you can view the images larger. My husband showed me this feature so that I won't use up all of my blog memory putting the photos directly on the blog. Thanks Honey!


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Where to begin?

Where can I even begin to start the first blog in almost three months?
On this tiny little blog I will try my darndest to offer a few little vignettes of what I have been up to for the last 2 months that Gabriel and I spent in Tanzania. Hopefully over the course of a few scattered blog posts a patchwork of photos and words will sew themselves up into a small taste of what my life has been like during my months of silence.

For those that don't know, my husband and I just spent the months of June and July working with an NGO that is doing mainly medical work in the Lake Victoria region of Tanzania but is also involved in other community development projects. Gabriel, having just finished his first year of medical school, had his only free summer of this several year school experience and so we went big and high tailed it for the far reaches of the Earth. Gabriel spent his days assisting in the small community medical clinic that our program runs. My days really ran the gamut. I had expected to mostly use my talents as a teacher but soon after we arrived in Tanzania most of the schools closed for a month long vacation that lasted the rest of our time in country. This was disappointing at first but I still managed to do several craft projects with a few schools before they closed and I was able to work with a nearby orphanage. Ultimately I filled my the rest of my time with several other projects that I hadn't expected but those will have to wait for another blog posting.

I am off to make some dinner but I will leave you with some photos from a couple of the craft projects that I did with a nearby orphanage called Hands Of Mercy.

The bellow photos are of a day that I brought home made play dough to the orphanage, a day that I brought materials to do tissue paper stained glass pasta beads, and the children's toothbrushes hanging on a tree all labeled with their names (no running water inside).

Thursday, May 10, 2007

First Baby Sweater

Well, well, well!
A couple of days ago I finished my first baby sweater which is very fun and exciting for me. I was shocked by how much time the "finishing" of a sweater takes. This is the first time I have made something that took so much sewing up and it really was the most consuming part of the project. It took me a only a week to knit all of the parts and then it took a whole other week just to sew it up and put on the buttons and collar. I guess part of it was finding the time to be motivated to do this part though which isn't as much fun for me as the knitting.
The most fun part though was that a friend with a 9 month old baby let me try the sweater on her little one and it was so neat to see the sweater in action. It magically fit him perfectly and I was really pleased.
I have no idea why the pattern called for such huge buttons but I guess they are sort of fun, and maybe less of a choking hazard.
When I tried the sweater on my friend's baby there was just one loose thread still left and of course it ended up showing in the photo but oh well.
Anyway, just getting to the point of high stress before leaving for Africa. So much to do and only two weeks to do it so not a lot of time for knitting but I do have a VERY long plane flight to look forward to.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

How sad

to think that I waited all this last winter to start knitting. Sigh...
I love my new fingerless gloves but I won't even wear them once until at least November, but oh how soft and yummy they will be!

I whipped these out in just a weekend which was sort of shocking. This was the first thing I made after knitting socks on size 1 needles so it was kind of nice to go back up to what felt like huge at only size 3. The pattern came from Weekend Knitting by Wendy Falick which I am borrowing from a friend. A lot of the patterns look like there is no way that you could actually complete them in a weekend but I knocked these out in three days. I like the book a lot, and coincidentally I worked with the photographer, Erika McConnell, a bit when I was working in the photo department at Sunset Magazine and she has also done some shooting for my stepmother who is a professional baker. Also, the main model who is used repeatedly in the book is a model that we also used a bunch for a while at Sunset. Small world I suppose. Anyway, the gloves where knitted with Classic Elite, Inca Alpaca which I totally love. It is 100% alpaca and came in a whole bunch of great colors. I don't know if you can see it but this purple is flecked with a green that is really fun. The color was #1132.

I am almost done with my first baby sweater which I will post when it is finished. The knitting is starting to slow down a bit which frankly may be a good thing. With Africa almost a month away there is a lot else that I should be putting my spare time to as well as the fact that now we are consistently having 80 degree weather. My palms were sweating just to wear the gloves for the photo shoot.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bottle Feeding the Babes

Gabriel with Corona, Rumi and Niku

I have to do a little catch up...
This weekend was such a wonderful and beautiful celebration of spring. What a wonderful Earth Day!
But first, this post really has to be about last weekend. Last weekend we went back up to the in-laws to see the first of this years baby goats. Oh how fun they are. Every year I am surprised at how small they are and how sweet... Things that can only be said about goats for a very short window of time.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Don't Be Upset

if you didn't get a call from me on my recent trip to California. It was an impromptu shorty brought on by a bit of a family urgency, but all is well and it was so great to see my family and to embrace a few wonderful spring days out in the Golden State.

My first memory of knitting was when I was in the third grade and I took an afternoon elective knitting class. I really wasn't any good at it and I remember barely being able to crank out a small yellow rectangle that I remember punching my Barbie's arms through so she could wear it as a shawl.

Then there were several years without knitting and then I remember starting up again in high school when I made one of those baby hats that looks like a strawberry except I made mine to fit me and it was purple with a green top. I wore that hat lots but I insisted that it was NOT a grape but instead an eggplant. The edgy irony being that I have never liked eating eggplant.

Not a lot of other knitting went on in high school but then in college it picked up again. Mainly I have memories of this really fun yarn shop in Florence, Italy where I studied abroad my junior year. I remember knitting on trains as my friends and I criss-crossed the Italian countryside while little old Italian ladies ran running commentary about my technique from across the aisle. Occasionally I even had my knitting plucked from my fingers by ladies that just couldn't bare my haphazard technique and they would try to show me how I could do it better.

So, many years of knitting a hat or a scarf and then maybe a year of no knitting at all and then another hat or scarf again. Starting and stopping so irregularly meant that I never graduated to anything other than the hat or scarf. Finally I did start trying some lacy patterns or basket weaves but I never had the courage to jump to a bigger project until a couple of months ago.

It is sort of hard to put my finger on exactly why this has ended up being the time and place that I can now really call myself a knitter. As I sit here finishing a pair of fingerless gloves and prepare to start my first cable knit hat as well as pick out yarn for a baby sweater I am just amazed that I feel like I have just burst through one of those large paper screens at the circus and entered the world of some real serious knitting.

As Gabriel and I travel the world, it is textile that is so often catching my attention these days. The labor of love, passion for tradition and the deep meditation that is held in the repetitive nature of weaving and knitting is very powerful for me. It has also been so lucky for me to have women like my stepmother and my mother in-law to help and encourage me as we swap knitting patterns and wisdom. It is so much fun for me to join the women in my life as a peer and I think they feel the same.

Here are some photos from California, Carolyn and I knitting/crocheting together and a nice walk we all took together while my sister played hookie from school to enjoy the spring wild flowers.