Friday, October 29, 2010

Without a Trace

I've mentioned before that my biological grandfather (Mom's dad) is somewhat of a mystery.  Supposedly he and my grandmother divorced when my mom was very young.  As the story goes, he was a bad guy, involved in organized crime.  I never met him.  Around the time I graduated from high school, Mom said she called the Los Angeles police department to check up on him.  She said they told her he was still actively being a bad guy.  She wouldn't elaborate, and that's the last I ever heard of him.

So if all this is true, how come I can't find anything about him online?  No birth record.  No death record.  No census records.  No marriage records.  No criminal record.  No military record, though he's wearing a uniform in this picture of him and my mom ...

Also missing?  My mom's birth certificate, which would have at least some information about him that I could track down.  He doesn't look like a bad guy.  But then this is the only picture of him that I know of. 

So, Mr. Frank Hermans... Who the heck are you?  And where and who did you come from?  Inquiring minds are at a loss...

While you're pondering that, go check out Sepia Saturday for loads of other vintage photos!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Work In Progress Wednesday v.12

This week's installment of WIPW (at least 'round these parts) shall be entitled "The Suck:  My Massive Misadventures in Knitting".  Allow me to illustrate...

See this pretty blue stripe?  This is not my burning desire to put my own personal stamp on Mr. Right's Avast.  This is me running out of yarn 7 rows from the end of the sweater. Seven.  Seriously. 

And this is how much yarn I have left for seaming...

Okay, really that's not as bad as it looks because all the seaming that needs to be done is on the sleeves, and they both have pretty long tails attached.

And now for the Big Kahuna.  The Grand Poobah of "Oh Crap"...

No.  My boyfriend did not decide to become a ballerina.  And no, I did not knit a peplum onto his sweater on purpose.  Instead, I picked up too many stitches.  Way too many stitches from the looks of it.  Sigh.  This is my first stitch-picking-up project and the direction "pick up 5 of every 6 stitches" is a little bit lost on me.  Tell me how many I should have when I'm done and I'll get there.  But this way, it's all a big guess.  And boy, did I ever guess wrong. 

I'm about to rip the whole thing out, but my knitting group suggested tacking a piece of elastic into the band first.  I'll give it a shot, but I think we'll be doing some unknitting in the next day or so.  And can we just take a moment to acknowledge Mr. Right and his good-sportedness for modeling this goofy thing?  He's a keeper, that one.

In the grand scheme of things, it's not that much frogging, and I'm sure I'll have a much better attitude about the whole thing tomorrow.  Right now, though, I'm going to go find some chocolate.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

PumpkinFest 2010

Once upon a time, when we lived in California, Mr. Right and I had an October tradition -- we took off early on a Saturday morning and drove to Half Moon Bay, a funky little town on the coast south of San Francisco.  Half Moon Bay is, among other things, the Pumpkin Capitol of the Universe (or something like that).  There are a zillion pumpkin farms just south of town along the ocean.  So every year we'd head off, find ourselves a pumpkin, stop for green chile soup and berry pie at Duarte's Tavern (highly recommend it!) and then bump around town for the day.  I loved it, and it's one of the things I really miss about living in California.

So this Saturday, we decided to start a new tradition.  We (and the dog!) took off (not-so) early on Saturday morning...

made a tiny pit stop...

(I support local coffee houses, really, I do.  It's just that when you live 15 miles from anywhere, sometimes you have to deal with what's at your disposal.  Also, pumpkin spice lattes are yummy.)

...and drove to Penrose, a tiny little town south of Colorado Springs.  There we found Ferrara's Happy Apple Farm.

It's a super cute working farm that produces oodles of apples, bushels of berries and some pumpkins.  The place was packed with families and doggies (pets welcome!) and hay rides and tractors and fun.

We hiked through the orchard to the "pumpkin patch" where they had at least an acre of patch set aside with a total of 50 or so pumpkins in it, and only a few pumpkin plants we could see.  Boo.  Most of the pumpkins were in pretty sad shape.  We wandered around for a while searching in vain for a pumpkin and decided it was not to be.

Since we were having fun, and it was a beautiful day, we decided to wander over to the berry patch, then back to the farm store (amazing apple cider).  Along the back side of the farm, we came across 3 pallets with huge boxes of pumpkins on them.  The secret stash!  It took Mr. Right about 15 minutes to convince me we should go pull a (shiny and new) pumpkin out of the box to buy and take home with us.  I'm SUCH a rule follower, and we were supposed to pick pumpkins from the patch, and not from the boxes hidden by the garage, and... and...'s kind of ridiculous some times. 

Eventually I caved in, found the perfect pumpkin and we were on our way.  After we paid for our cider and our pumpkin, we bundled back into the truck and drove into town for some lunch. "Town" in Penrose's case is a feed store, a couple of tractor shops, a bar and The Gooseberry Patch...

We stumbled on this cute little restaurant on the way home from a rafting trip this summer and had been wanting to come back.  It's a buffet restaurant (which automatically makes me suspicious, as buffet food is almost never good), but we thought we'd give it a try.

Turns out that every. single. thing. in this buffet is homemade, from the salad dressings to the mac & cheese to the fried chicken, to the banana pudding and cookies for dessert.  And it is all kinds of awesome.  Everyone there is incredibly nice, the food is fantastic and we ate too much.

If you're ever in the neighborhood of Penrose, Colorado, you should go visit.

After lunch, we headed back up the highway toward home, stopping along the way at a little gourmet market to buy 2 more huge pumpkins.  Please, like one was going to be enough?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Knitted Hem: The (raw & unfiltered) Tutorial

Okay, so I keep yapping about how cool it is to knit a hem in instead of turning it, pinning it and sewing it.  And now I've done it for one sleeve, both fronts, the collar and the waist band of Mr. Right's Avast, I'm ready to share my utterly knit-geeky excitement for this handy trick.

(If you don't give a rat's hiney about knitting, save yourself now and come back tomorrow for news about our pumpkin-picking adventurefest on Saturday.)

For anyone still here, please forgive the shoddy photography and scary alien hands.  What can I say, I'm a first-timer and it turns out that this is harder than it looks.  Anywho, here's how this works:

You can work a knitted hem at the beginning of a piece (for example, starting with the cuff of a sleeve, then turning and attaching it and working up from there) or at the end of a piece (for example, adding an edging to something then attaching the hem and casting off).  Either way works like a charm.

For our purposes, let's start with a piece of stockinette.  If you'll be asked to hem something, you'll knit in a turning ridge a certain number of rows in, which means you'll purl a knit row in a piece of stockinette, then go on your merry way.  Once you have as many rows after your turning ridge as you do before it, it's time to knit yourself a hem.

Here's what your piece will look like (assuming you're using some leftover acrylic in a weirdly lit room):

Then fold your piece in half along the turning ridge and eyeball the line of stitches where the pieces will naturally meet:

Take a crochet hook, and coming from above the stitch, pick up a purl bump.  The biggest trick here is to pick up the purl bumps in a line that's exactly straight.  If you don't, you'll have a big, swear-word-inducing mess.  Ask me how I know.  Anyway, the stitch will turn when you pick it up, so before you put it onto the hook, eyeball the one next to it to make sure you know where you're headed next.  I tend to run my index finger along the line of stitches as I go to make sure they're all lined up.

Using a standard-length crochet hook (one that's smaller than your knitting needle size by at least a bit), pick up a pile of stitches and leave them on the hook.  I find that 15-17 stitches on the hook at one time seems to work best, but do what makes you comfortable.

Once you have a number of stitches picked up, you're ready to start knitting your hem.  First, insert your working needle into the first stitch as if to knit and hold it there.

Now, you'll be using the back end of your crochet hook as a knitting needle.  Use the working needle to pick up the first stitch on the crochet hook, as if to knit.

Wrap the yarn and knit the stitch...

... off of the crochet hook:

Now pull the newly worked stitch through the front stitch from the knitting needle. 

You should have one loop on your right-hand needle now, and you're ready to work the next stitch in the same way. 

NOTE:  If you're working the end of a piece, you can cast off as usual once you have 2 loops on your right-hand needle, and proceed this way across the row.

I typically keep working across the row until I have 3 stitches left on the crochet hook, then pick up the next batch of purl bumps.  This makes it easier (at least for me) to make sure I continue with the same line.

As you get to the last 8 or so stitches in your row, count to make sure you have the same number of stitches on the knitting needle and the crochet hook.  If you've picked up stitches in a row, you should be relatively close.  If you have one or two too many on the needle, just knit them without picking up a stitch from the crochet hook, and space them a few stitches apart.  If you have too many on the hook, just drop one or two of them without knitting them (again spacing them a few stitches apart).

Once you get to the end of the row, you can either break the yarn and bind off or turn and keep going with your next row in pattern, working up from there.  Here's how your super-professional knitted hem will look from the back side.  Nice, no?

Easy peasy, too.  So now you know.  And I promise to use a better camera next time...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Work In Progress Wednesday v.11

Welcome to the 11th (!) installment of Work In Progress Wednesday, where every week crafters from around the world, working in different mediums, make more progress on their projects than me!  Exciting times. 

I really did hope to have the sweater finished this week, honest.  But there was no knitting over the weekend.  And very little during lunch and after work.  And that combination doesn't make for much week to week progress.  Here's the thing with Mr. Right's Avast... This is a super cool cardigan with almost no seaming (yay!).  What it does have is hemmed pieces.  Both sleeve cuffs are hemmed.  The waistband is hemmed.  The collar is hemmed.  The bands on the left and right front of the sweater are hemmed.  It's hem city, people. 

But, as I mentioned before, I learned a new skill with this sweater -- the knitted hem.  Instead of sewing the hems, you actually knit them together as you go.  It's incredibly cool, and the finish looks super-professional.  The other upside is that once you're done knitting, there's almost no finishing work to be done (all I'll have to do is seam the sleeves and add the zipper).  Here's a close-up of the inside of the collar...

That little line of bumps there is all you can see of the hem.  Not bad, eh?

The trade off is that you have one row that takes a good 20-30 minutes to knit together.  Kind of a drag, but still much faster than hemming for someone like me, with my ham-fisted sewing skills.  Anyway, I'm so excited (yes, I am a geek) about it, I'm planning a knitted hem tutorial for this weekend.  Hopefully, other folks will find it useful, too.

And, here's one of the front bands in all its finished glory...

Pretty cool, if I do say so myself.  And Mr. Right fairly happy about it, as well.

Now comes the part where I promise that next week, you'll be looking at a finished sweater (save the zipper which I can't order until I finish the bottom hem and know the exact length).  And maybe the beginning of something else.  But I'm not dumb enough to promise that...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday Night Fever

We've been out and about for the last several Saturdays, either goofing off (fun), running errands (less fun) or, in the case of last Saturday, fixing my fence (way, way not fun).  Regardless, I haven't been able to participate in Sepia Saturday for a while and I've been missing it.  Mostly because a few weeks ago, I found this:

There's an album in my pile which, from the looks of it, whas put together some time in the 60s by my Grandma Ruby Day for my dad.  It's an odd mixture of his baby pictures, his grandparents on both sides and his children.  Some are marked, but most, like this one, aren't. What a shame.  I think, judging from other photos, that the gentleman with the worried look on his face (2nd from left) might be my great-grandfather.  Here's hoping he was a really good bluffer and that his hand isn't quite as bad as his face makes it look.

Regardless, I love this shot -- the liquor strewn over the table, the tipped hand that you can see belonging to the guy who's been cut out of the picture, the utter concentration.  It's all pretty much awesome.  This is what I expect your typical Saturday night might've looked like in Kansas farm country way back when (1910 or so?).  If anyone can better place the period based on the clothing or scenery, I'd love to hear about it.

Party on!

(and check out Sepia Saturday for tons of other cool vintage photos)

Friday, October 15, 2010

October's Public Service Announcement

Your attention, please...

Stop what you're doing and immediately (or at some time in the relatively near future, if what you're doing is important) go buy a bag or 3 of these...

They're called Popchips.  Do you know about these things?  They popped up (hee!) around these parts some time this summer, and are slowly working their way into every store we shop at.  And they are all kinds of awesome.  They're chips, but not greasy.  And not bad for you. And they come in a variety of yummy flavors (like cheese and BBQ and salt and vinegar) which are all very nice.  But the Salt and Pepper variety is To.  Die.  For.  I wouldn't kid you people.  They're amazing. Salty and spicy and everything nice-y. 

And you know the very best part?  If you lose all of your self-control and shove a whole grocery-store-sized bag in your face, it's only a 360 calorie discretion.  Not that I would ever do such a thing, but that's less than one of those itty bitty bags of chips that come with you deli sandwich.  Just sayin'.

To recap, Popchips = Yum.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled lives.

ps.  This is not a paid endorsement.  Really.  I just like these things.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Work In Progress Wednesday v.10 (!)

I don't know what's more surprising -- that we're already at week 10 of WIPW, that I haven't missed one yet, or that I'm still working on the same blinking sweater that I was when this whole collection of craftiness started.  I'm going to go with option C.

Don't get me wrong, I really do love Mr. Right.  And I'm so happy to be knitting a sweater for a recipient who's super worthy, and who gets excited about every smidge of progress I make.  But I'm pretty much done with olive green yarn and stockinette stitch at this point.  Really, really done.  The good news is that I'm almost (actually) done.

Let's have a little 10 week recap, shall we?  Here's what Mr. Right's Avast looked like on week 1 of WIPW...

Nothing more than a 40-odd inch long cabled band with stitches picked up along one edge.  I love that it laid out in a heart shape, by the way. 

And now, a whole season and 6+ skeins later, here's the latest...

Pretty good, right?  I just have a couple more rows of collar to go (I'll finish that tonight), then all that's left is knitting the hem around the bottom, the zipper casings on the fronts and seaming the sleeves.  That's not so much, right?  I should be able to get most of that done in a week (Please, God... let me be able to get it done in a week...).

And then we'll all have something shiny and new to look at on Wednesdays.  And none of us are more excited than me.  Promise.

Since we're done here, run over to Tami's blog and check out all the other WIPW folks.  And while you're there, tell Tami how cute her crocheted socks are.  Because they are seriously cute.

Now, if you'll excuse me I have a very cute boy who's taking me out to dinner.  We're celebrating because I just passed (with flying colors) a medical test I was fairly sure I was going to flunk big time.  Yay for being healthy!!

Monday, October 11, 2010


One of my favorite scenes from one of my all time favorite movies, The Princess Bride.  Ah, mawwiage.  It's an institution my family has a real love for.  I mean a REAL love.  One of my first posts here was about my utter shock that my mother had been married 5 (!) times.  Turns out that this is a time-honored tradition in my family...

Grandma?  Twice, as far as I can tell.
Nana (my great grandmother)?  Twice for sure, probably 3 times.
Her mother? Four times.  Four.  Seriously.

There they are, all four of the marrying fools.  That's Mom, Grandma, Nana and Gammer.  They look awfully innocent, don't they?  I've been doing family tree research lately, trying to find out more about these folks since I don't have much to go on.  One website in particular has been super helpful.  Go check out Family Search if you're into this kind of thing and not familiar with it.  It's awesome and totally free.  Which makes it even more awesome, but I digress...

Jessie Lair (aka Gammer) was my great-great-grandmother.   She was born and raised in Iowa, part of a farming family.  Given their spotty census records, I'm guessing they were itinerant farmers.  So where did I find everything I know about Jessie?  Iowa marriage licenses.  Lots of them.  She married the first time at the age of 20, when she was about 5 months pregnant with Nana.  Oops.  I'm not sure how long that lasted, but 5 years later she married again.  Okay, I knew that she'd been married twice.  It happens. (Heck, it even happened back then.)  But she also listed this marriage as her first.  That must've been awkward with a 5 year old running around.

Imagine my surprise when I found a 3rd Iowa marriage license for Jessie -- this time about 20 years later.  She had the good grace to list this marriage as her 2nd.  Not quite true, but closer.  I'm not sure how long this husband lasted, but everyone I know who knew Jessie knew her as a single lady, going back to the early 1940s.   And, since her last name was Lair when she passed away, and husband #3's last name was Dean, there had to be a 4th gentleman in there somewhere, though I haven't found any evidence of him yet.

What a handful she was.  That's her on the left with my great-grandmother and her brother.  Apologies for the quality of the photo, but I love that she's cracking up.  This must've been taken around 1940. Everyone who remembers her (my mom when she was around and cousins now) talk about how great she was, and how fiercely independent.  No surprises there, as the rest of us all followed in her footsteps.

My next project is tracking down husbands for Mom and Grandma.  I know they exist, there's just no trace of them on the interwebs that I've been able to find.  I'll get to that in a bit, but for now I feel compelled to go watch The Princess Bride.

Have fun storming the castle!

Friday, October 8, 2010

I'm a cover girl!

If you don't know me in real life, you probably don't know that I'm a children's book editor.  I used to work on staff developing and writing books for a pretty big publisher.  I loved it.  Now I work on staff editing and writing picture books for a small publisher.  I love that too.

In the course of my job, I've written about a dozen books.  Some of them have sold a zillion copies and done really well.  Others, not so much.  All of them have one thing in common:  They either have someone else's name on the cover, or no name on the cover.  Until now...

Coming this Fall to a bookstore near you!  How cool is this?  No links for you though, since no one at work knows I blog and I'm not overly anxious to advertise it.  But, you can click on over to Amazon and type in the title (use my name or the illustrator's name along with it, otherwise you'll get some eye-opening results), you can see it in all its pre-order-able glory. 

Really, I can't take much credit for this, since the super-cool concept and the amazing artwork both belong to the illustrator.  The words definitely take a backseat in this book, and that's fine by me.  I'm just excited to finally see my name in lights!

Happy Friday, everyone!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday v.9

Clearly, work is getting in the way of my knitting time.  Every Tuesday night, I have a little panic attack about my lack of visible progress to report on Wednesday.  Not that I'm competitive or anything... ahem. 

Anywho, without further ado... welcome to the 9th installment of Work in Progress Wednesday, where crafty bloggers from around the world (seriously -- how cool is that!?) share their superior craftiness!  As promised, Mr. Right's Avast is now all in one piece...

Apologies for the flash pictures.  It's been dark and cloudy around here all day, and even with all the lights in the house on, this was the best I could do.  Ah well, at least it's starting to come together.  The first few rows after joining the sleeves are epic -- almost 400 stitches in a round.  They're also super fiddly, and I kept having to check to make sure the cable wasn't twisted or anything.  I'm in the thick of the raglan decreases now, where we go from almost 400 stitches at chest level to 88 around the collar.  I can't wait to get this done!

I've also made a teensy bit of progress on my cable/lace/vest/thingy (ravelry link), which is a smidge bigger than last week...

Turns out I can't successfully watch The X Files and knit the first repeat of a lace pattern, no matter how simple, at the same time.  I've had to tink each row of lace so far, and at the end of the current row, I'm one stitch short.  Sigh.  Unknitting 236 stitches of fuzzy yarn is not so fun, especially when it's every right side row.  Hoping once I get a full repeat under my belt it'll begin to make more sense and I'll have to concentrate a bit less.

Looking forward to seeing everyone's successes at FO Friday this week, I'll have to live vicariously through the rest of you for a couple of weeks!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Road Trip!

Some time in January, probably during a snow storm, Mr. Right and I sat down and made a "to do" list of trips for this summer.  Some were pretty local (a 4 x 4 trail, camping in Moab), others were more ambitious (Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone).  As of last weekend, we'd managed to complete a measly 2 of 6 trips.  Pretty embarrassing. 

So on Saturday morning, we suited up and headed out for Grand Lake, #3 on our Summer list. 

Grand Lake is a little town just west of Rocky Mountain National Park, with wooden sidewalks lining the streets.  Everything is situated around the lake, and the whole place is beautiful this time of year.  The aspen trees are the most incredible shade of yellow, though they're mostly done now.  I'm glad we got to see a few of them in full Fall mode.

We stopped for lunch at the Dairy King, serving you since 1953 (I'd give 'em a link, but they don't appear to have a web site).  What they do have are outstanding onion rings and pretty good burgers.  We also spent a couple of hours poking through cute little shops and walking along the lake.  I'd love to go back for a long weekend just to hang out. 

From there, we headed out of town and into Rocky Mountain National Park.  There's one particular road that cuts across the center of the park, and is only open a few months out of the year, typically late June through late September.  No snow yet this year, so we lucked out and were able to drive it.  Trail Ridge Road runs along the mountain ridge and climbs up to about 11,000 feet.  The views are spectacular.  Check it out...

 Near the summit, just above the tree line.  Not a bad shot for just waving the camera around outside the truck window!

A little lower on the mountain.  I love the fall colors mixed with the evergreen.

Here's Mr. Right and me at an overlook somewhere along the way.  We asked a really nice guy to take the picture for us, and his 3 year old sidled up and threw his arm around me, held up his train book and grinned for the camera.  Too funny.  We had to take 4 or 5 shots to get one of just the two of us.  It's terribly sad that the poor kid is so shy...

Once we crossed the park, we ended up in the town of Estes Park for the afternoon.  It seemed more crowded than I remembered it.  Turns out it was Elk Fest weekend.  Someone forgot to invite this guy, though.  He was camped out on the lawn of a motel just outside of town napping the afternoon away.  He's definitely the biggest elk I've ever seen, and by far the up-closest...

Eventually he woke up, but we decided to clear out at that point since these guys can be territorial and those are some serious antlers.  Super cool to hang out with him for a few minutes, though.

There was quite the party in town, complete with a visit from a local wolf rescue.  This guy was a bit worked up about the Native American drummers who were performing nearby.

There was also a street fair and craft market...

It took me almost an hour to find the local yarn store, and I ran up the steps about 15 minutes before closing.  No dice.  The door was locked and the woman inside pretended she couldn't see me waving.  Boo!!  I was ready to buy yarn for a new sweater, but didn't get the chance.  Also, now I won't go back.  It was really the only bummer in an otherwise perfect day.

Estes Park is a cute little town (home of the Stanley Hotel where Stephen King wrote The Shining!), so we wandered around a bit...

There are a zillion candy shops here, but this one's my favorite.  I'm a total sucker for these old-fashioned signs.  Also, candy.  Mmmmm... candy!

I'm also a sucker for cute little streets lined with flower beds in bloom.  This town always looks like someone loves it, even in the dead of winter. 

This is where we stopped for dinner.  The ambience was way better than the food..

But the company was outstanding!
Really, it was pretty much the perfect Saturday, and I hope we get to do it again.  Soon!

The end.