Twin Blankies: Pink & Blue Tonal Stripe

I made these blankets with the Bubbles Baby Blanket pattern that I have used many, many times before. It's a very simple pattern stitch, and the sides are always very straight and even. I also love the texture it creates -- these nice bubbles -- and the thickness of the finished blankie. This is the first time I worked longways to create stripes, rather than back and forth down the length of the blankie, and before always in a single yarn.

After seeing an image on Pinterest that led to an Etsy listing (I love to browse the "crochet baby" search term) I wanted to make a tonal blue blanket for someone having a baby boy. When I found out my friend was having twins -- a girl and a boy -- I decided to do a pink version too. Winning set! (Despite the 96 ends I had to weave in!)

I used mostly Red Heart Super Saver yarn, which while economical for the number of colors I needed doesn't give the softest finished product. Some of the pinks were Red Heart Love, which is significantly softer somehow. (It also affected the size, as I did fewer stitches on the pink's length and the same number of rows to end up with a slightly larger blanket than the blue, which I made first.)

I did some searching on how to soften up acrylic yarn, and tutorials suggested hair conditioner. I used most of poor Shawn's conditioner (hey, it's cheaper!) and it did make a difference. I washed the blankets to get the smell out and to allow the scent-free fabric softener to do a little magic too. Will never be as soft as a natural fiber, but they'll keep their color and shape well, and they can take a baby beating and plenty of washings!

Each blanket was about 32 inches wide by 34 inches long. They're laid out here on a queen size bed.

I'm not sure if the twins' mom reads my blog, but just in case I'm not posting this until I'm sure she receives the blankets (mailed them 2-day on Saturday 4/26). I'm prepping everything with photos beforehand, so hopefully no G+ alerts go out with these images before I publish the post. I wish I understood better how that works.

More views of the stitch pattern. It's not quite like the inspiration image, and she calls her pattern "candy stripe." Maybe I'll have to figure that out someday. So much to crochet ... so little time!

Reading Lately: The Goldfinch, American Pastoral & The Racketeer

I stayed up way too late a couple nights ago finishing The Racketeer -- a John Grisham novel. It isn't high-quality literature, but it was a story that made me want to know what was going to happen and it was written in an easy-to-read way that wasn't trying to show off. It also wasn't a typical Southern lawyer facing big business in a huge trial storyline. But it was a satisfying read, and I liked it. I have tried recently to read a couple Pulitzer Prize-winning books, and neither really floated my boat. I'm not sure what that says about me, but I thought I'd record it here anyway.

I actually read all of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, and I didn't like it much at all. It wasn't necessarily hard to get through, but it just didn't interest me. I was more interested in the beginning half of the book, which seems to be a theme running through other reviews that have shown up in my feed reader. But a lot of the time I didn't like the main character and thought every single decision he made was ridiculous. It wasn't as bad at the beginning because he was an adolescent in a tragic situation. But by the end it was just "AH, WTF" kind of stuff. Anyway, I don't recommend it, unless you like different things than me, which you might, so make your own choices. Amirite?

I did NOT make it through the entire American Pastoral book, a 1990s Pulitzer winner by Philip Roth, that I'd seen on several "must read to be a well-read person" kind of lists. I never got into the story, never cared about the characters and found myself slogging through and forcing it. I made it to the halfway point (and this was a paper book I checked out of the library). After keeping the book for six weeks I finally decided "ain't nobody got time for this" and gave myself a pass, returning the book with no intention of ever completing it.

I'm trying to read another Donna Tartt book -- someone who wrote about The Goldfinch (and hated it) said that she loves The Secret History, so I decided to give it a try. So far it's a little weird, and definitely not beach reading/chick lit, but I don't hate it as much as The Goldfinch, so that's a plus.

At the beginning of this year I had a string of great choices books and was devouring several each week. Things have slowed down now that I've hit on a few duds. I've been crocheting a bit more to fill the time I guess? I think I might need to reboot and read some chick lit or similar to shake out my cobwebs. I've got a Nicholas Sparks novel on my bookshelf calling my name...

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Other Back Yard Scenes

We've been playing outside as much as we can before the heat of the summer sets in. Here are a couple of the flowers that are blooming now. That's the kind of plant I like -- no effort and very pretty. Anyway, we also had a scare when Jane got bit by something -- probably a caterpillar sting. It made a big welt and some swelling on the inside of her right foot. About 5 hours after the sting she cried when I put her down and wouldn't walk on it. I called the pediatrician, who said to ice it, put a paste of baking soda and water, and take Advil. It's still a little sore and pink, but overall she is back to normal. Stressful, especially because it happened while Shawn was out of town. Good grief.

A Trip to the Strawberry Patch

I was picking and turned around to see this.
Thankfully she didn't get anything on her clothes!
And thankfully I was packing wipes.
I think we used six!
In an effort to be more social in general and specifically to provide more opportunities for Jane to practice socializing I've joined an attachment parenting group in town. It's mostly a Facebook page and group, and today's trip to a nearby strawberry patch was only the second event we went to. (The first was an Easter egg hunt and brunch this past Saturday.) It is what it is, I guess.

Anyway, thanks to my lack of smart phone and how many people were at the patch Jane and I never found the group or anyone we knew. That was a bummer, but Jane still had an amazing time. Here are some pictures.

Lots of fun tractor toys and sand equipment, plus a fun playground.
Milking a "cow"
There was a small petting zoo, although we didn't get close enough to pet anything
Picking strawberries (was QUITE difficult to get her to do it, as she just wanted to "play all day, Mama")
Counting her berries (we didn't fill up a half-flat, but that was OK)
Last thing we did before paying for our berries was hand painting. They also did it on kids' faces, but Jane didn't think that was a good idea. This way she could see it too. She loved it. And it washed right off when we washed her hands at home.
I thought it was a great place, and worth the 40-minute drive (each way!). The little town it's in -- Albany, LA -- reminded me of places in Oklahoma. There were a LOT of kids there, but not so many that I couldn't keep up with Jane. I wished she'd been more into picking berries, the whole point, but I know this is something we'll be talking about for a long time. (Jane asks us to talk about things we've done a lot -- especially at dinner ... "Talk about the museum, Mama. Talk about the party, Dada." etc.)

Seen & Not Heard

Easter Sunday was lovely for our family. We went to church as per usual, and despite a "NO! I WANT TO BE LOUD!" comment from Jane when I requested she be quiet things went OK. Up until last Sunday she had stayed in the nursery during the church service, but we decided to test the waters and find out if she's ready for full-time attendance. (We are decidedly mixed so far.)

During Sunday school we set aside our lesson (starting in Hebrews) to talk about the Easter story -- the differences among the Gospels, the importance of Jesus first appearing to women, etc. It was interesting, although I don't think I learned anything I didn't know. (And I have questions about the evolution of Easter as a church celebration that somehow didn't seem appropriate to ask -- or that those I was with would have the answers.)

Eventually the discussion devolved into parenting advice disguised as general children-today-are-horrible lamenting. Our class is a bunch of retired people and us -- so we're the only ones in the active, day-to-day parenting life right now, and I know that makes me much more sensitive to things they say. And our parenting philosophy is worlds apart from everyone else in the class.

Multiple times I've sat uncomfortably while they extol the virtues of physical discipline -- specifically being popped immediately for backtalk and implying that nothing else works as well. This week someone even said "I come from a time where children were meant to be seen and not heard." (You can imagine how I felt knowing Jane definitely makes herself heard, even during worship.)

Someone made the argument that "I was spanked and I turned out great" to justify corporal punishment. I found myself thinking later about that specifically, and how that line of thinking disregards advances made in understanding children's development. (Such as: spanking doesn't work.) I've read/heard that line of thinking rebutted with the idea of car seats. Just because you survived your childhood riding around without any restraints does that mean all children should live the same way, even now knowing and having access to car seats that save lives?

I didn't remember that until well after Sunday school, but I'm not sure I would have said anything anyway. Sometimes I'm pushed to the limit with things said and I do speak up (racist and sexist comments will always get me riled up), but I know that it's to no effect.

All that said, I really like these people, and when we stick to the lesson and reading Scripture I enjoy our time together much more.

Crocheting Through the Years

Chromium Star blanket in white & yellow acrylic yarn
I've been crocheting regularly for a solid decade.

I learned when I was 16, when my Gran taught me during the long hours in the hospital while she was recovering from a broken ankle. But I never did much until after a heartbreak in late 2003. I started crocheting scarves for all my friends and then my friends started having babies. So I've made dozens of baby blankets over the years. I've kept track of them -- at first in a small notebook like Gran told me to, and then in Ravelry, which allows me to include pictures, specifics and notes as well as connect with other crocheters and find more pattern ideas.

I go on crochet binges (just like I sometimes go on reading binges). And other times I don't pick up a hook for months. (I don't think I crocheted at all while I was pregnant.)

Chromium Star close up
Here's my latest FO, which I made with yarn I had on hand. I found out a friend is pregnant, but I didn't know the gender and thought this would be a good gender-neutral pattern and color scheme. I ran out of yellow at the end, otherwise there would have been a sixth yellow stripe. Also, it turns out the friend is having twins, and I didn't want to make a second star blanket. So this one will be in reserve for the next baby who comes into my life.

The pattern itself -- Chromium Star -- is really easy, but you have to pay attention. That's not something I'm great at, and the first time I made it the star was all sorts of wonky (see photo below from 2008). And I still gave it to someone! At least it looked homemade? My standards have shifted, although none of my work is ever perfect.

My first chromium star blanket, from 2008. WONKY!

Louisiana Springtime

These few pictures of flowers don't do justice to the beauty I've seen in Baton Rouge these last couple weeks. After several rain storms the flowers have fallen off most of the plants, but a few hang on in gorgeous resolve. I like to point them out while we're driving and say "gorgeous flowers" to hear Jane repeat after me. Sometimes a mimicking toddler is a very nice thing to have around.

Crochet: Brown Ribbed Toddler Sweater

I bought this sock yarn on ridiculous sale at JoAnn’s -- probably about a buck a skein for stuff that was normally four or five times that. I was looking for a pattern to use it up, and this one was supposed to. I have a skein and then some left, so miscalculation on my part I’m sure.

The yoke of the sweater is made of floral motifs (basically granny squares), but my motifs seemed smaller than they needed to be to line up with the body and sleeves. I made it work with careful stretching and whip stitching. I sewed on one of the sleeves backwards, basically not paying attention.

I made 12-18 months, although the sweater seems bigger than that to me. It's hard to say though. Jane is too big for it, so I’m not sure who will receive it. It’s not my favorite, although it was pretty easy to make and has a pretty cute border on the sleeves and body.

Edit: I let Jane try it on, and it technically fits her, but just badly. The arms and body are short, but the body itself is way too wide and the neckline is a mess. I didn't add the buttons called for in the pattern (from Little Crochet), and I'm not even sure that would help. I think I didn't crochet tight enough in the body especially -- and I don't have the right tension when crocheting in back loops only (which creates the ribbed effect). I'm thinking of adding some extra rows around the neck to make it a little tighter there. This is so wonky it will never be a gift, so a play sweater for Jane seems about the best I can hope.

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