Rena -- How I Love Thee!

When Andra first showed off the beautiful Rena Shrug made in Berroco's Softy (one of my least favorite yarns) I was torn. I loved the simplicity of the pattern and the cuddliness of the shrug, but Softy sets my teeth on edge. Enter Furz. Can be knit at the same gauge, is wonderfully warm and cuddly, and doesn't shed at all.

So, two Christmases ago, I knit M a shrug specifically to use as a bed jacket (an item which, along with leg warmers, tops my list of supremely practical garments that get an undeserved snub from the fashionistas) out of #3882 (blue violet), a color she had fallen in love with but couldn't think of anything to do with. She uses it regularly as we often spend Saturday morning lounging in bed with the papers (our two local papers print their "big" issue on Saturday rather than Sunday). I have suffered from shrug envy ever since and finally broke down about a month before I was fired and bought some Furz in #3829 (pomegranate) to make myself one.

It's done, and I love it! In fact, since I have the cold side of the office, I will probably be wearing it in here, too.

Pattern: Rena Shrug from Berroco
Yarn: Berroco Furz #3829, 8 balls
Needles: Susan Bates Quicksilver 32" #11 circular
Mods: Aside from changing the yarn, none. It's nothin' but a big rectangle with two seams

Here's the blue one I did for M:

It's a little bigger than mine partly because it's stretched out and partly because she's got broader shoulders and longer arms.

Oh, and just to add to the finished object-ness, another Project Linus blankie.

One of the kids made a very large square, so we decided to make it the center of this blanket which really looks like stained glass. I believe there are only two more blankets-worth of squares to be crocheted together. M keeps muttering, "It sounded like such a great idea at the time...."

Back to Normal, And a Recipe

You know your marriage is suffering from too much togetherness when you get into a screaming match (and one of you storms out of the house, taking the dog) over a FIG SQUARE. Yep -- that's what we'd come to by Friday. I can certainly relate to how Stephanie feels about having Joe underfoot while he's between situations.

But this morning M went to school for the first time in over a week and a half and only the second time in over 2 weeks. Now the pupper, kitties and I have the place to ourselves and peace reigns once again here at the parsonage. I should be cleaning the place since I haven't cleaned in a week, but for now here I sit at the computer catching up on emails, updating the Church's website, sending out this week's press release, job hunting, and doing a little bit of writing.

Nothing new to report on the job front. I have applied for some things from which it is probably too soon to expect any news. I have applied for some things for which I know I am overqualified and therefore probably won't get anywhere. We'll see.

It's interesting how many people seem honestly worried that I haven't found a job or at least gotten tons of interviews by now. M and I (and a few of our more astute friends) may be the only ones who aren't terribly anxious for me to find another job. I am looking (it is a condition of Unemployment and it is part of my nature), and if the right job came along I would accept it. I am also very aware that M is looking for a new church, and when she finds one it will necessitate moving out of commuting range for any job physically located here.

It is a dilemma, and one which could be solved if I did what M wants me to do and started weaving seriously and trying to sell my stoles. It would also be solved if I could put together a freelance writing/editing portfolio. That is actually my next big project -- organize all of my writing (which is currently spread across three computers), so that I can put together a portfolio and see about getting some freelance work.

I also need to finish that ICL application and return it.

But right now I really need to clean the house and do some laundry. Oh, and put together the exercise bike we bought over the weekend -- yay!

But here's what I threw together for lunch yesterday -- turned out pretty yummy.

Peanut Chicken Stir Fry

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into thin slices
1 1-lb package frozen sugar snap pea stir fry (or an equivalent amount of fresh sugar snap peas and thin sliced carrots, onion and mushrooms)
1 small handful cocktail peanuts
peanut or olive oil for cooking

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup water (add 1/4 cup if using fresh vegetables)
2 tbls vegetable or peanut oil
2 tbls cider or red wine vinegar (or 3 tbls rice wine vinegar)
2 tsp lite soy sauce (more or less to taste)
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
1 tsp black pepper (more or less to taste)

Put sauce ingredients in blender and mix until combined. If you are using frozen veggies, it will be a bit thick -- about the consistency of honey. If you are using fresh veggies it will be a bit runnier. Taste the sauce to make sure it is spiced to your taste.

In a wok (or sauté pan) over medium high heat, cook chicken in oil until juices run clear. Remove and keep warm. If needed, add more oil to pan. Cook vegetables (if using frozen veggies, put them in frozen) until done. Do not drain off the water which comes from the frozen veggies (it'll thin the sauce). Return chicken to the pan, add nuts and sauce and cook over medium high heat until everything is warmed through.

Serve over rice. Makes 4 servings.

Why I Can't Write

When I first lost my job, I had a fabulous morning routine that meant I had time to write, time to clean, time to read, and best of all, time to myself.

We'd be up at 5:30; M would leave for the gym at 6:00, and I would head into the office for a few hours of writing before taking Pupper for a 9am walk and then heading to the gym. Afternoons, I would clean and/or read. This worked great for a week until M realized that without me going to the gym at 6am, she didn't have the motivation to do it herself, so two hours of morning solitude/writing time went out the window. She leaves for school at 8, so I am left with only 1 hour instead of the 3 I had been luxuriating in. Until I can figure out a new schedule, I'll be stealing writing time. Perhaps I just have to disappear into the office or work room at 6:00 anyway. Who knows. I have noticed that since she stopped going to the gym in the morning, so have I because I am looking for a way to regain the "lost" time I'm spending with her rather than "working".

Don't get me wrong. I love my wife, and I love spending time with her in the morning. I just need to re-schedule my time. The whole thing is complicated even more, as well, by visits from our dog walker -- who no longer really has a job since I've been fired but misses our dog and needs the motivation to exercise. She is lonely, and most days she plops herself on the sofa and stays here chatting for a couple of hours in the afternoon. She is a great person, and I enjoy spending time with her, but I also need to get stuff done. M says I need to be blunt and tell her that I have things to do; I have a hard time doing that.

I will get better at this, I know I will. But until then, I may not have as much time to write as I wish.

Of course, this past week has been even "worse" since between sick days (that stomach thing) and snow days, M has been to school one day. And next week is February vacation, on top of that. I hadn't realized how much I enjoyed my solitude until I lost it completely. Boy, I really AM an introvert, ain't I?

Now, I'm off to listen to "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" -- the absolute greatest game show ever.

But I leave you with this:

It's the penguin sweater to go with the Jelli Beenz Socks I made my niece. I forgot to photo the thing before we wrapped and gifted it. Mom sent this pic a couple weeks ago.

Pattern: Plymouth D025 - Penguin Sweater
Yarn: Cleckheaton Country 8-Ply #2277 (4 balls), #2167 (1 ball), #6 (2 balls), #1805 (1 ball)
Needles: Brittany walnut 10" #4 and 6
Mods: Picked up way more stitches around the neck than the pattern called for as the child in question doesn't like stuff at all tight around her neck.

Project Linus

Blankets have been a bit of an obsession here at the parsonage for the past couple of weeks. I've been finally getting this very simple blanket finished:

Pattern: The world's simplest baby blanket. Pattern below.
Yarn: Red Heart (yes, I know, but it was hanging about)
Needles: Addi Turbo 32" #10

The Baby Blanket
Materials: 700 yards worsted-weight yarn, divided in half for the square (add another 350 yards in a second color for the larger rectangle); size 10 needles or size required to get about 4 sts=1" in garter stitch
Gauge: 4 sts=1" in garter stitch

Cast on 4 sts
Increase Row: K2, YO, K to end
repeat Increase Row until you have used up half the yarn (or half the main color for the rectangle)

For square blanket, skip to Decrease Row, for rectangle blanket, work with contrast color in straight section.

Straight Section Row 1: K2, YO, K to end
Straight Section Row 2: K1, K2tog, YO, K2tog, K to end
repeat these two rows until you have used up all of the contrast yarn, then return to main color and work decrease rows.

Decrease Row: K1, K2tog, YO, K2tog, K to end
repeat Decrease Row until 4 stitches remain

Bind off.

And M and some of her students have been busy with these:

These are two of the Project Linus blankets her mini-course students have been working on. These kids range from Kindergarten through 8th grade, so the knitting is inconsistent, but they're all very sincere.

The kids have knit squares, and M has been joining them together with crocheting, then putting borders around them. I really love this one:

These will all be sent off to Project Linus next week.

What I Did With My Snow Day -- by The K-Man

So, in the house we lived in when we first moved out here we had a wood stove. A very nice wood stove which was inset into a gorgeous (it's why we loved the house) stone fireplace and chimney. K-Man's favorite place in this house was as close to that wood stove as it was possible to get. It seemed he could not get warm enough. Now, we haven't such a luxury, though we have what may be the next best thing: forced hot air heat -- that means that there are these things in the walls and floor which blow hot air sometimes, and the kitty is addicted.

So, here's where K-Man spent much of the morning of the Valentine's Day Blizzard:

What you can't see (or maybe you can -- it's to the left of the bag) is that under the baker's rack where this bag (our paper recycling depository -- yesterday was dump day, so it's nearly empty) lives is one of the heating vents. Often Mr. K can be found worshiping at the altar of the baker's rack, but this pose was new.

Later (after we'd gotten the mail and finished the newspapers so the bag wasn't so empty), we found this:

What you may or may not be able to see is that he's leaning (with one "arm" on top, like it's a bar) on another heating vent behind a chair in the living room. It reminded me of this picture that I took of him shortly after we adopted him. I call it his "little man" pose.

What did Mommy do with her snow day? Mommy got cranking on this:

It's Fantine from French Girl Knits in Rowan Big Wool #31. Color is fairly true in the picture. It's a quick knit and quite warm. Poor M has had to doff her sweatshirt to try it on a few times today (it's for her). She keeps claiming it's too small, and I keep reminding her it's a little jacket-ette. We'll see when it's done what she thinks.

Number 4!!!!!

Okay, I actually assembled this a while ago, but I've been away from the computer (more on that later) for a while, so I haven't posted. But here it is:

This really is my favorite of the 6.

Pattern: Again, Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket, available from Schoolhouse Press
Yarn: The blues are Debbie Bliss Merino DK, the white is Debbie Bliss Cashmerino DK. I'm so bad with ball bands, so no color numbers. Color is quite true at the top of the sweater. Buttons are these cuties:

Needles: The same trusty Suzanne Ebony 32" #6 I've used for all of the Baby Surprises.
Mods: I did two rows of single crochet around the cast-on edge and slip-stitch crocheted the shoulder seams from the right side.
I do hope that the Rev and the baby Z like it.