reine {FO}

Last week, I finished knitting a sweater.  I’m so proud of it, so happy with how it turned out.  And can we all please just pretend like this is the first sweater I’ve ever made for myself?  Can we please forget about the purple-and-gray variegated knitted-tape yarn t-shirt sweater monstrosity that I made back in college?  Ok, good.  So, presenting…my first sweater!

Reine, by Alexis Winslow, using Brooklyn Tweed Loft in Woodsmoke

I used the recommended yarn (Brooklyn Tweed Loft) and followed the pattern to the letter.  I decided not to make the pockets, though, because I wasn’t confident that I could sew them on perfectly or that the extra weight would be very flattering on my hips.  I love this yarn knitted at this gauge…it really lives up to the name Loft, so light and airy.  Alexis Winslow, you are a genius.

beautiful reverse stockinette stripes trim the hem and sleeves

Because I omitted the pockets, I had a full skein of Loft leftover.  I’m knitting a quick hat, Norby by Gudrun Johnston.  I think it’ll be the perfect thing to wear while raking ALL THE LEAVES this fall (because there’s seriously a mini forest in my backyard…3 trees in our yard, plus 3 or 4 neighboring trees that hang over the fence).

I’m not sure what inspired it, but lately I’ve been pulled back into this world of knitting, and I’m amazed by how much it has changed just in the last couple of years.  There are so many more 100% American-made yarns available.  So many more patterns that are really designed to be worn, with great attention paid to proportions, current tastes, and timeless details that will last past the current season — afterall, if you’re going to spend $100 and a month of your life knitting a sweater, you want it to be something you’ll wear forever, right?  When I first started knitting 11 years ago, most of the sweater patterns I came across were boxy, weirdly short, and incorporated novelty yarns.  They looked homemade, and not in a good way.  Not that it mattered much, because it was so rare to find a pattern that was available in my size.  I think that is, for me, the greatest thing about this new knitting pattern landscape — designers who take the time and effort to expand their size range.

I’m already dreaming about which sweater I’ll cast on for next.  My short list:

  • Benedetta, by Carrie Bostick Hoge, using Brooklyn Tweed Loft in Cast Iron or Long Johns.  Another great goes-with-everything cardigan.
  • Sister Olga, by Olga Buraya-Kefelian, using Quince & Co. Lark in Kumlian’s Gull or Fjord.  I’ve heard such great things about Quince & Co. yarns, and I’m eager to try them.  This sweater looks like the perfect thing to wear out to breakfast on chilly autumn weekends.  I can almost smell the pancakes & warm maple syrup.
  • Strokkur, by Ysolda Teague, using…???  I’m not a big fan of Icelandic wool (is this knitting heresy?), so I want to make this in a fabric that I would want to wear every single day.  Maybe Quince & Co. Osprey in Peacoat with Egret & Winesap?
  • Dresden, by Kirsten Johnstone, using Brooklyn Tweed Loft in Cast Iron or Meteorite.  I love the idea of adding a vest to my wardrobe, and a knitted one would be even better.
  • Trillium, by Michele Wang, using Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in Plume.  A simple cardigan from the latest Brooklyn Tweed collection.  I wouldn’t change a single thing about this sweater, including the color.  But dang, it takes a lot of yarn.

What do you think?  Which sweater should I knit next?

xoxo

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backyard surprises

Buying a house in the dead of winter has a few advantages: prices tend to be a little lower, there’s less competition from other buyers, and most of the houses on the market have probably been there for a few months (making sellers more willing to negotiate).  But be prepared for a few surprises in the spring when things come alive…

What we thought were pretty bushes lining the back fence turned out to be 6-foot high weeds.  My beautiful crabapple tree lost her pretty pink flowers the day after this picture was taken, and now she’s dying from a slime mold.  Vines are kind of a bitch.  Clover has taken over the front lawn on one side of the driveway.  So. Many. Dandelions.

But after borrowing some tools from a neighbor to chop down the weeds along the back fence, we were surprised to find a good-sized peony bush.  Because it had been hidden from the sun, the 7 or 8 buds hadn’t bloomed yet.  A few days later, as they were coming into full bloom, Flavio cut the peonies for me to make a beautiful bouquet for our kitchen table.

Now I’ve bought a sketchbook and a field guide to help me record & identify some of the plants growing around our property.  Morning glories, Queen Anne’s lace, and so many green things.  Surrounded by nature’s beauty and the wonder of Creation.

xoxo

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visitors

Memorial Day weekend, we had our first visitors at the new house: my beautiful mom and her dog, Xena.  It was really our first weekend in the house too, because the previous weekend we had been in Wichita celebrating our niece’s first birthday.  We spent two whole days relaxing on the deck, hula-hooping in the backyard, eating lots of good food, drinking iced tea, and listening to Paul Simon.  It was the perfect way to christen our new home!

Xena, who normally runs so fast & so free that her vet thinks she’s probably part greyhound, seemed lost in our huge backyard.  It wasn’t until late Sunday evening that she finally found the courage to gallop and play fetch.

I really enjoy cooking for my mom.  There are very few things she refuses to eat (although, come on Mom…cucumbers? how can you hate cucumbers??), but mostly we have a similar philosophy about food, very vegetable-centric.  We both eat meat – in fact almost every day – but we enjoy it best as a component of the meal, not the focus.  I never want to stereotype the Midwest here, and this concept of “meat on the side” isn’t new or original to us, but it’s not popular with the rest of my family.  I get a lot of comments like, “Your food is so fancy.  Can you cook something regular for us?”  And I don’t mind, really.  If you’re my guest, I want to fix something you’re going to enjoy, or else what’s the point?  But I love cooking for my mom because she loves the food I love.

Admittedly, the first meal we had during her visit would’ve gone over well with anybody in my family (my brother’s comment on Instagram: “Finally something my speed!”).  Grilled steak tacos with roasted baby peppers, homemade pico de gallo, lime mayo, and queso fresco.

But the second night?  Probably wouldn’t have been too popular with anyone but my mom.  I made the eggplant ‘pizza’ galette that I wrote about here last summer.

The weekend ended on kind of a weird note, with an explosion at 7am, my first ever call to 911, fire trucks, and a poor squirrel that got caught in the power lines.  Haha, but up to that point it had been wonderful, and I can’t wait for more people to visit us here at the Tree House!

xoxo

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maggie rabbit {handcrafted}

My Maggie Rabbit, wearing the dress & shawl patterns included with the bunny pattern. I knitted her shawl with Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK in Miss Scarlet.

Do you know Alicia Paulson?  I first heard of her when I saw Stitched in Time at a bookstore several years ago.  Her second book, Embroidery Companion, is my favorite craft book and taught me most of what I know about embroidery and cross-stitch.  She also sells many crafting patterns on her website, including this adorable hand-stitched felt bunny and all of the sewn & knitted clothes to go with it.

the Little Raglan Sweater, made with Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport in Ash

I made this little rabbit back in March, when Flavio was in California for a tech conference.  I had wanted to buy one of the fabulous kits that Alicia put together with beautiful Liberty of London fabrics, but they sold out in a matter of hours.  So I just bought the PDF pattern, tracked down the really nice felt she used (so much nicer than the craft felt they sell at Hobby Lobby), and used some fabric from my stash.  And you know, I’m really glad I did it this way.  I’ve seen some pictures of the bunnies that other people have made, and – while the ones made from the kits are beautiful – the ones made from stash fabric just seem to have more personality.

the Little Hooded Coat, made with Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport in Mallard

Anyway, Alicia recently published the first few in a series of Maggie Rabbit wardrobe patterns.  It took me about a week to knit the three little sweaters, and I plan to work on the sewn pants soon.  I did buy some fabric & buttons to sew a couple of the button-down shirts, but after looking at the pattern, I’m not sure my sewing skills are quite there yet.  But I guess I can’t learn if I never try, right?  🙂

the Little Knitted Dress, made with Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport in Sunburst Gold

xoxo

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celebrations

May was such a busy month for us.  Moving, cleaning up our old place so we could return the keys, unpacking, entertaining our first visitor.  And in between all of that, Flavio turned 32, and our niece celebrated her very first birthday.

Flavio’s birthday was on the Monday following the weekend we moved into our house, so by necessity it was a very low-key celebration.  For dinner, I made pasta with bacon & lots of spring vegetables, including fresh fava beans.  I’d never cooked with fresh favas before, and although I knew I was going to have to shell them twice, I didn’t really anticipate how long that was going to take.  Made worse by the fact that it took more than 45 minutes for our stove to simmer a pot of water…I completely gave up on trying to get it to boil.  (Later I discovered that the burner I was using has a switch that can change it from a small burner to a large burner.  It was flipped to “small burner,” so the heat was concentrating on only about a 6″ diameter circle.  And, of course, the switch is broken, so we can’t flip it to “large burner” until we figure out how to fix it.  So, probably no canning happening here this summer…uffa!)

Flavio’s birthday “cake” was an apricot custard tart with almonds.  I made this once before, last summer when we had a little picnic under a big leafy tree at Centennial Park.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have any powdered sugar to sprinkle over the top this time, and it really needed something like that because the apricots were a little too tart for me.  But it was probably perfect for Flavio, who’s not too crazy about sweets.

Hadley’s birthday was the very next weekend.  Boy, that little girl sure does have a lot of people who love her!  I was happy we got to spend a little one-on-one time with her the day before her party, to give her our presents on her actual birthday.

The party was Hello Kitty-themed, with lots of pink balloons & streamers everywhere.  So fun & girly!  Hadley had a ball eating her sparkly Hello Kitty cake.  Because, wellcake is awesome!  Some of the truest things in life are learned the earliest.

xoxo

 

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settling in

Today we officially Moved In.  We still have a few odds & ends (and almost all of our food) at the old place, but our furniture is here.  Our cat is here.  Our life is now here.

After weeks of eating convenience foods because we were too exhausted for proper cooking, it was nice to finally slow down and enjoy the process of making dinner for ourselves.  Nothing fancy, just a bunch of random vegetables that sounded good to us, tossed together in a bowl.  Tender leaf lettuce, shaved carrots, radishes & cucumber sliced paper thin, green onions, crunchy bean sprouts, tomato, avocado, roasted sunflower seeds, and tangy crumbled chevre.  All dressed very simply with salt & pepper, olive oil, and white wine vinegar.  It was exactly what we needed.

Now Flavio and I are sitting out on our deck – sipping sambuca, listening to music – while the sun sinks low and twilight sets in.  We’re surrounded by bird calls and the lingering smoke from an afternoon barbeque competition at a nearby park.  Perfectly peaceful.

xoxo

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moving

I hate moving.  The packing, the in-between-ness, the overlapping bills.  This will be my 4th move in the last 3 and a half years…you’d think that by now, I’d be a total pro at it, but nothing could be further from the truth.  I am a terrible mover.

This time around, the worst part seems to be the effect that all of this chaos is having on the cat.  Poor little thing.  We’ve stripped away her sense of security, and she’s been very clingy in those rare moments that we’re home and sitting down.  Whether it’s curled up in my lap on the sofa, or sitting under my chair at the dinner table, or even perched on the edge of the bathtub while I use the toilet…she just wants to be near me.  Hopefully she’ll be back to her aloof self once we move her into the new house this weekend.

Only three more days until I get to live in my pretty little house!! 🙂

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{FO} sparkle chucks

My youngest cousin is having a baby next month, and I wanted to make something for her.  Usually I knit a little stuffed animal for someone when they’re having a baby, but between painting, packing, and moving, I just didn’t think I could fit in a project like that this time.  But I still wanted to make something, and then I remembered seeing the baby Chucks that Julie had knitted for her daughter.  Perfect!

I used some sparkly purple yarn by Bernat.  Because every girl needs a pair of sparkly shoes!

Sparkly purple sneaker booties, for Andromeda. {raveled.}

I think these turned out super cute, and the pattern was so quick & easy…each bootie probably took about 2 hours, including sewing seams & weaving in the ends (my least favorite parts, and there were a LOT of ends to weave in with these…ugh!).  Can’t wait to make some for my own baby someday!

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the home ownership learning curve

I’ve learned a lot over the past month.  No matter how many shows you watch on HGTV, or how many issues of Better Homes & Gardens you read, or even how many other homeowners you talk to…there are just some things about owning a house that you don’t learn until you do it.  And there are some things that people will warn you about, but you still don’t really learn the lesson until you live through it yourself.  But in case you’re more the advice-taking type than I am, here’s a list of the things I wish I’d known going into this.

1.  Home inspections don’t catch everything.  The inspector will warn you of this – you’ll even sign a contract to that effect – but you’ll still be shocked to discover that something as major as a wall that is literally falling apart can be missed.

While stripping wallpaper in the downstairs bedroom, we discovered crumbling drywall, caused by major termite damage. The drywall had to be torn down, some 2x4s had to be replaced, and then new drywall was hung.

2.  Wallpaper covers a multitude of sins.  When you buy a house that’s full of wallpapered rooms, you think about the time it’s going to take you to remove it all.  And you remember all of those HGTV shows that tell you, “Oh, it’s just paint! It’s just wallpaper! It’s all cosmetic! So easy to fix!” and you think…ok, I’m not afraid of a little hard work, I can see the potential.  But what you don’t know – what you can’t possibly know – is what’s under that wallpaper.  If you’re lucky, it’s just more layers of wallpaper.  If you’re really lucky, it’s white walls that are in pretty good shape.  But wallpaper can also hide huge cracks, multicolored walls that require multiple coats of primer, crumbling drywall, or huge holes that were never properly patched.  If you’re not prepared to deal with these kind of projects, don’t buy a house with 5 wallpapered rooms.

The master bedroom. The bottom half of the wall was gray, the top half (under the wallpaper) was white, and the corners were a dark teal. There were also a couple of large cracks near the ceiling that had to be spackled.

3.  You get what you pay for when it comes to paint.  In our house, we’ve used Sherwin-Williams, Behr, and Glidden.  Sherwin-Williams is a little over $50/gallon, and Behr and Glidden are each around $25/gallon.  The Sherwin-Williams paint is thick, almost like mud, and it goes on smoothly.  We painted our master bedroom and bathroom using their Duration paint.  We didn’t prime at all in the bathroom, and we did one coat of primer in the bedroom.  We did one coat of paint in each room, and besides a few little areas that needed touch-up, we’re very happy with the coverage.  We’re especially happy with how the colors turned out, very multi-dimensional and sophisticated.  Not only did they match the color cards, they matched how I imagined the colors would look.  The Behr and Glidden paints, which we used in Flavio’s office, the guest room, and all of the main living spaces upstairs, are much thinner.  Even after two coats of primer and one coat of paint, you could still see the old color in many places.  We weren’t happy with how the Behr colors turned out in the office or the guest room, so we ended up buying new colors (a darker shade of the Behr for the office, and a switch to Glidden for the guest room).  Still, we weren’t 100% satisfied with the color in the guest room, but at this point I’m exhausted just thinking about repainting it.  Bottom line, you end up needing twice as much of the cheaper paint.  And with Sherwin-Williams frequently having 30-40% off sales, you can actually end up saving money by using their paint vs. the stuff from Home Depot.

The master bedroom (background) was done with 1 gallon of Sherwin-Williams Duration matte in Drizzle. The en suite bathroom (foreground) was done with 1 quart of Sherwin-Williams Duration satin in Watery.

4.  Pink is a really hard color to get right.  Unless you’re painting a nursery, or really love the color of bubble gum, go with the palest shade.  Beige is also a really hard color to get right.  Unless you really want white walls, go a shade darker than what you like on the color card.

The guest room was originally done with Behr Premium Plus eggshell in Pale Shrimp, but then redone with Glidden Premium eggshell in Ballet Slipper Pink.

5.  When you buy a house that somebody else has already lived in, they mostly leave you with a lot of dirt.  (Trust me, no matter how nice that carpet looks, rent a RugDoctor and shampoo the crap out of it.  And try not to puke when you see what comes out in the tank.)  But sometimes, you inherit beautiful, special things that make all of the dirt, grime, cracks, and crumbling drywall totally worth it.

A lovely little hand-painted ceramic light switch plate in the dining room.

The beautiful stained glass window in the master bathroom. I didn’t discover this until the third or fourth time we went to the house…the previous owner had it hidden behind a pair of dark, dusty curtains!

The best surprise of all! This prairifire crabapple tree was bare when we bought the house, but just erupted into clusters of the prettiest pink flowers in the last week.

I hope this post was helpful.  In spite of all of the problems we’ve come across, I’m in love with this house.  With every strip of wallpaper that comes down and every slick of paint that goes up, the place feels more and more like our home.  I’m just looking forward to finally being able to sleep in again!  🙂

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home sweet home

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  After moving three times in the first three years of our marriage, I’m very happy to announce that Flavio & I are finally setting down some roots.  A few weeks ago, we bought our first (and — fingers crossed! — our last) house.  It’s a lovely old bi-level in a friendly neighborhood on a quiet, tree-lined street.  We’ve already met most of our neighbors, and we haven’t even moved in yet.  The house needs some work…something we discovered on our third day of home ownership, as we stripped wallpaper in the downstairs bedroom and discovered a wall that had been badly damaged by termites and needed to be rebuilt.  But we’re excited to make it ours.  For the past three weeks, we’ve been busily tearing down wallpaper, priming, and painting.  Four rooms are done, with many more to go.

Today we took Zoe, our cat, to visit the house for the first time.  She’s pretty skittish by nature, but she seemed fairly comfortable wandering from room to room.  I think her favorite part of the house will be this window in the basement, which looks out into the front yard.  We’ll set up her little perch here, where she can spend all day watching the squirrels and robins do their squirrel-y and robin-y things, hidden by the flowering bushes that are planted just in front of the window.

All of the nonstop work at the house has me feeling a bit run down, and I’ve caught a nasty stomach bug, but I’m hoping to be feeling much better by next weekend so I can slap some sunny yellow paint on the dining room walls.  Goodbye, brown…hello, yellow!

Can’t wait to share before & after pictures with you all!  xoxo

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