Weekend Trip

On our tour of Old Sacramento this weekend, the guide asked..."and what was the major event happening in December 1861?  That's right.  The great flood of 1861."  Wait? What?  I'm confused?  What are you talking about? In December of 1861 the Civil War was in full swing. First shots fired in April.  Do you want me to go on?

Guess what?  It turns our there were other things besides the Civil War going on in 1861. Who knew!?!  Certainly not the east coasters on the tour.  Neither Rob nor I had ever heard of this flood.  Due to a perfect storm of events, over 5,000 square miles of California was under water - up to thirty feet of water!! (I read about it on Wikipedia.)  We had no idea.  

My whole world view is changing since moving to the west coast.  You want to know about the Revolutionary War or Civil War?  I'm your gal.  Anything west of the Mississippi is a little hazy.  I know there are states west of the Mississippi River.  I could even name most of them.  Probably couldn't put them on a map.  (Can't we just refer to them as the Louisiana Purchase?)  It's just a big mass of retangular states with California on the other side. Turns out, there is a whole lot of history that I know nothing about.

We took the boys on an overnight trip to Old Sacramento.  I had heard about the California State Railroad Museum, and it sounded pretty awesome.    The museum lived up to it's reputation!  We were there for and hour and a half and didn't see everything.  My youngest was doing a happy-hippity-hop dance everywhere we went.  It's less like a museum and more like a children's interactive museum.  Why are trains so big here? The Big Four that funded the the transcontinental railroad were in Sacramento.  The terminus of the railroad was in Sacramento.  Fascinating.

What an awesome afternoon.  We climbed in trains, tried our hand at driving a steam engine and a high speed bullet train.  All of the docents were friendly and helpful.  What more could you ask for?  If you have a chance, definitely check out the museum!

The museum is right on the edge of Old Sacramento.  So, you can make a whole day of it.

Old Sacramento is the location of the original state capitol and is a registered historic landmark.  It's a mixture of original, refurbished buildings and reconstructed buildings.  The area was developed during the late 60's and early 70's in exchange for the interstate overpass going through next door.  It's a nice, pleasant, busy, easily walkable area right along the Sacramento River.

The only thing that surprised me was the trash.  For a place that attracts more than a million people a year, I would think they would be a little more on top of the trash in the streets and the over-flowing trash cans.  (You can see the trash all over the sidewalk in the picture.  I was surprised.)  But, I'm being picky.  It's a very nice area and we had lots of fun.

On Sunday morning, we walked around and checked things out along the Sacramento River. Including, one serious draw bridge.  

After our underground tour - which Rob and I enjoyed and the boys thought was way too long - we headed a few miles east to Sutter's Fort.

This is a California State Park and I have to say it is incredibly well done.  The rooms and demonstrations are elaborate and interesting.  They also acknowledge that there will be families and kids here.  We could actually move around pretty freely.  For awhile, we just sat and talked. (One of us was talking to himself.)

Overall, we had a great weekend and opened our eyes to a whole new sense of our country's history.  Plus, I have to thank Rob for all of these photos.  I barely even take my phone out anymore because I have a personal photographer with me. I knew I kept him around for some reason.

Knitting

The goal is to make Christmas stockings.  Ones just like my sister and I have.  Lots of patterns, colors, and our initials at the top.

The reality is a pretty daunting.  I asked my mom to teach me.  "Sure, Boo.  You just do this."  Followed by fingers flying.  Thanks mom.  Maybe one more time...or a dozen more times.

Knitting is completely different from crochet...the language, the hand movements, the control.  It also requires more concentration.  There is no hook on the end to keep the yarn under control. It's all done by pressing the two needles together.  It's slower.  Definitely slower.

I have a ways to go.

I have a ways to go.

I'm going to keep plugging along.  My oldest asked for a Gryfindor pillow.  I made five squares of very basic patterns and stitched them together.  That was a great test for me to get more consistent and comfortable with the basic stitches.  Immediately, his bother asked for a Ravenclaw pillow.  

I plan to use this as a way to learn to change colors in a project.  Then...socks.  This is a little daunting, but I'll get there.  It might be next Christmas, but I'll get there.

Crocheting My Way to California - Part 6 - Finally Arrived

Finally Arrived and a Peace Offering

We are getting settled in here.  The boys started school this week. They are super excited to make new friends.  It will be good for them to have a routine and make friends.

We have a regular grocery store right around the corner.  We know where the nearest Target is.  We have been making the rounds of all the local ice cream shops and deciding on the best ones. (It's a tie between Popbar and Penny Lane. I'm 100% sold on Popbar.)  We are doing our best to make things normal.

Otherwise known as heaven on earth.

Otherwise known as heaven on earth.

My parents got on a plane this morning to return to Virginia.  I cannot believe they flew across the country.  This is a big deal!  They love their grandsons soooooo much!  

This move has been more challenging for me that I could ever put into words.  Leaving my family was beyond hard.  It's been hard for them, too.  So, we are all making an effort to make this work.

Regardless of what's going in my head and how much I want to crawl into bed and hide, I still have a family.  My boys need me.  It's generally a good idea to make sure they have food to eat, reasonably clean clothes to wear, etc.  The projects I've been working on can be picked up and put down numerous times.  They sit in a bag (or several) beside the couch.  I can come and go as I need to, or as I'm able.  Crochet is something that I found at the right time and works with my life.

I have been working on a peace offering for my mom.  The idea started some time at the beginning of the year, and I actually started working on it...in March...I think...it's still a little hazy.  My mom's favorite flowers are daisies, and I had a vision of giving her a field of daisies.  I thought it would be something happy for her to think about and focus on instead of thinking about the move.  It's finally finished and I put it in the mail and sent it off.

IMG_5409.jpg

There are 40 granny squares.  I made these in groups of five and kept them together with some stitch locks.  This made it easier for me to keep track of the squares since I worked on them off and on for several months.  I could easily count them and see how many I had done and how far I had to go.

I used the join as you go method for the last round of each square.  I played around with several different colors to join the squares.  Any color besides the green made it look choppy and pieced together.  Continuing the dark green completed the field of daisies look that I really wanted.

The yarn is Caron, Simply Soft.  I absolutely love this yarn.  It's easy to work with and it's soooooo soft.  Michaels and Joann's both carry it.  Although, I discovered that the stores in California carry different colors than the stores in Virginia.  The most obvious differences, of course, were the greens and the yellow I had selected.  Did I mention I had already started a bunch of squares in these colors and it was too late to turn back? 

Since I was working on this while dealing with so much anxiety and stress over the move, I didn't write anything down.  I was just charging ahead with reckless abandon.  Along the journey, the paper wrappings around each skein fell off and were lost - the wrappers that record the color.  I went to Joann's website and ordered what I thought was the correct light green.  Sigh...I now have three skeins of a lovely blue/green that I can use for some future project...sigh.

IMG_5400.jpg

This was the kick in the butt I needed to finally start recording my work.  Now I have a notebook, and every time I start working on something I write down the yarn and colors.  The entire blanket is made of only four colors:  Dark Sage, Pistachio, Gold, and White

Yes, I have started even more projects since we got here April 1st.  I have my own ideas and the boys keep giving me "yarn challenges."   But, when I take a step back and look objectively at what I've been doing, I've changed since the beginning of the year.  I've taken the time to write out my ideas and record patterns as I go.  To me, it means that my thoughts are more organized, I am moving at a thoughtful pace instead of running ahead as fast as I can - only to come to a complete stop.  I can think about the future, and I'm not just living one agonizing minute to the next.  The clouds are parting.  The fog is lifting.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Believe it or not, this is somewhat like coming home for me.  I have stacks of sketchbooks from college.  They're full of drawings, lecture notes, and lists.  Required equipment in architecture school.  

notebook.jpg

The border is completely made up from a bunch of pictures. The white and yellow ruffle on the edge was a last minute decision.  The daisies are three dimensional, and the rest of the blanket is completely flat.  I felt that it needed something more dynamic and with some depth to finish it off.  I was very happy with the result.

So there it is.  The last project that I started and completed on this journey.  It is truly a peace offering and I hope that my mom will like it and appreciate it as a gift of goodwill.

The projects I've worked on in the past nine months have helped me maintain some small amount of sanity.  Crochet helps me focus on a single problem.  It requires just enough attention to keep my mind from wandering too far, but doesn't require so much attention that I can't let other things creep in around the edges.  It's like a stop gate.  I can open the gate and let a little bit in and close the gate when things are too overwhelming.  There is also the added benefit of having a goal.   These projects aren't indefinite.  They have a beginning, middle, and end. This does so much to give some order to my thoughts.  Once I reach the end, I have something to show for it.  For a natural born list maker, this is a huge added benefit! 

Now my mom is teaching me how to knit...I have a ways to go.

Well, Boo, if you just keep practicing you’ll get there eventually

Crocheting My Way to California - Part 5

The Great Wall of Yarn

If I say that I tried to build a wall of yarn around myself after we decided to move, you would probably think it was a figure of speech.  You would be wrong.  I took over an entire couch.  I had yarn stacked on both sides of me, at my feet, and on the coffee table.  I was trying to keep reality, and people, at bay.

It started with this great book my sister got me for Christmas.  Boho Crochet:  30 Hip and Happy Projects by Martingale. This is definitely a book for more experienced crocheters.  There are no diagrams.  Just written patterns.  The patterns also assume a certain amount of knowledge and experience.  Definitely not a beginner book, but very good for mid-level experience. 

Inside is a pattern for a really cute pillow cover with chevrons in many different colors. I had enough leftover yarn from other projects to make it work.  I just had to buy more of the field color.  For that, I chose Vanna's Choice in Oatmeal.  I really like working with this yarn.  It's inexpensive, soft, and very easy to work with. 

I took no notes or pictures as I worked on these.  There just wasn't room in my head for the fear, anxiety, earthquakes, packing, cleaning, earthquakes, and taking pictures

I did two chevron pillow covers first.  It took me four or five rows to get the hang of changing colors and carrying so many strands through each row.  This is not the type of project you can just throw in your bag and carry around with you.  It takes quite a bit of work and space to keep the strands from getting tangled and mixed up.  Obviously, learning this incredibly vital life skill was much more important than anything else I had going on.

I also seriously underestimated how much of the field color I needed.  I went to Joann's and AC Moore about every other day.  After all, what else did I have to do with my time?  Those trips were my only little forays into the world.  Sometimes one store.  Sometimes the other.  Just for a little variety.  Other than the things I absolutely had to do to take care of my boys, this was my only interaction with the world for about a month.  I was helped along by the snow and bad weather.  A foot or two of snow on the ground can help you justify almost anything. 

In all honesty, with the amount of yarn I had piled around me, it was almost too dangerous to leave the couch.  Almost...

I started to run out of the field color as I reached then end of the second cover, so I tried to just wing it with what I had to make the button holes.  I'm not thrilled with the way it turned out.  As you can see, it was not as successful as the first cover.  But, I was out of the field color and it was snowing (a legitimate 30" of snow in one day).  It works.

Well, the thing is, I had four throw pillows and only two pillow covers done.  Obviously, that's a serious problem that needed to be solved.  Who cares about the moving company, school calendars, and fixing up the house.  I had a very real problem to solve.  And I did.  I kept on crocheting.  I decided to try granny square covers this time.  I didn't want four of the same thing.  Plus, juggling four balls of yarn on each row was getting a little old. 

The colors and yarn are the same on all four pillows.  I didn't buy anything new - just kept on working with what I had.  These covers have buttons as well.  Since the granny covers have a little bit of a 70's vibe, I got some awesome 70's buttons at Joann's.  It was a big decision.  I think I spent about thirty minutes trying to make up my mind.  Boxes?  Real estate agents? Moving dates?  Seriously people!  I have buttons to select.

I made four panels and then stitched them together with a row of single crochet.  All four panels are different. 

I like the look of the covers and the boys like them because they're softy.  They like anything softy. 

In the end, we moved.  It happened despite ignoring everything and doing as little possible to help.  It happened.  The moving company showed up with boxes.  I did do some house projects in the couple of weeks before we left.  That's about it.

IMG_4665.JPG

What I am thankful for...

The help and support that I received from so many people.  The awesome military moms that gave me advice about helping my son transfer schools.  The bus stop moms that gave me hugs, moral support, and some great lunches out.  These amazing women helped me so much and made the move much easier.  It was so hard to leave them.  Damn them for being so awesome.

My phenomenal parents did so much with the boys and around the house - despite being just about as upset abut the move as I was.  None of this would have been possible without them.  Now I'm working on a peace offering for my mom.  This helped me get in the car and go on an adventure for Father's Day.  I could think about this instead of everything else.

My sister provided so much moral support from afar - for me, and my parents.  She had the hardest job of all.

My boys kept right on going and didn't miss a beat.  They are resilient, confident, and adventurers at heart.  I'm so proud of them.

My husband.  It's all his fault.  But, I'm proud of him.  As soon as he told me that he had been approached about an interview, I knew it was all over.  He was nervous and doubtful.  I wasn't.  I know he is brilliant and phenomenal at what he does.  Of course he would get his dream job.  He earned it.  It's all his fault.

All of these people helped me.  If I didn't have my family, these amazing women, and crochet projects, I would have crawled into bed, pulled the covers over my head, and stayed there.  Believe it or not, I had to make a conscious decision to get up, get the boys to school, and then sit on the couch and crochet.  Even that was hard.  Mind over matter to keep myself out of bed.  It's not logical.  It doesn't make sense.  It's not something that I can even explain.  But I did it.

In California, we have a yard.  I do have other talents, you know...

IMG_4652.JPG

Crocheting My Way to California - Part 4

Shark Attack!

By now, It's probably pretty obvious that not much of my life has been planned recently, nor have I given much forethought to my actions.  There are times that you just put one foot in front of the other to keep moving forward.  It doesn't matter what forward is.  You just have to know that you're moving and it's not backwards.  My forward movement included something fairly obvious...shark blankets for my boys.  What else.

When I made the mermaid tail blankets for my niece and sister, I just put two and two together.  I had some beautiful yarn that I wanted to use to make something for my niece.  My sister told me about my niece's dream to be a mermaid.  Next logical step...obviously...a mermaid tail blanket.  And if she needed one, then her mom shouldn't be left out.  One blanket and then another.  One foot in front of the other.

While I was surfing the internet, looking at pictures and patterns of mermaid blankets, I saw some shark blankets.  The boys also saw the pictures.  Mermaid blankets and then shark blankets.  One blanket and then another.  One foot in front of the other. 

IMG_4331.jpg

The shark blankets turned out really well.  For the first one, I chose a mottled gray: Bernat Blanket, Silver Steel.  I thought it would look more "shark like."  I was informed that I was wrong.  Very, very wrong.  Sharks are solid gray.  Period.  We had a lengthy discussion - me defending my decision against the confidence of an all knowing seven year old, and the four year old that believes everything his "brudder" tells him.  We pulled out the "National Geographic Sharks" book for the ultimate authority.  Salvation!  Did you know that whale sharks have white spots?  Now we both know it.

I was saved by the skin of my teeth with the first blanket, but I learned my lesson.  Let me tell you!  The second shark blanket was solid gray. Bernat Blanket, Dark Gray.

The blood red gums and bright white teeth really make the blankets.  They give a nice contrast to the grey. 

My boys love their father.  They were so worried that he needed a shark blanket just like theirs.  They didn't want him to be left out!  One blanket and then another.  One foot in front of the other. 

The last blanket was a little thrown together.  I had a shawl I had made several years earlier.  It was - mostly - solid gray.  I never liked the shawl, but a liked the yarn.  So, I started with that for the top of the blanket and added on the cocoon part and the fins.  You can see the change in the stitch halfway down.  The yarn is Homespun, Clouds.  Again, I started with an idea and

It probably sounds pretty dramatic - almost like a joke - the way I've written about our move.  I assure you it's not a joke to me.  It feels as if I've lost control.  My life isn't my own.  I'm making decisions about other people, for other people.  I'm just along for the ride.  Doing the best I can along the way to make it from one day to the next.  Crocheting projects have helped me do that.  The patterns are enough to give me something to focus on.  I can keep my hands busy.  I feel as if I've accomplished something at the end.  Not to too taxing.  Not too demanding.  Plus, I made some fun things for my friends and family.