Monday, May 28, 2007

when life hands you lemons

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my little PeeWee is a cancer survivor. In tribute to our marvelous little fighter, our family is hosting our 2nd annual fundraising lemonade stand to benefit Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF). Our real-life stand will be June 9, but our virtual lemonade stand is up and running and can be found here. We'd love it if you'd stop by for a cup! ;)

I first learned about Alex and "met" her parents through an online support group for parents of children with neuroblastoma. Alex had a dream to raise money for cancer research, so she did what any little kid would do when they want to make some money: she set up a lemonade stand.

"ALSF is a not-for-profit organization that evolved from Alex's front yard lemonade stand to a nationwide fundraising movement for childhood cancer. For four years, despite her deteriorating health, Alex held an annual lemonade stand. Following her inspirational example, thousands of lemonade stands have been held across the country by children, schools, businesses, and organizations, all to benefit ALSF. To date, her national campaign has raised over 10 million dollars for pediatric cancer research."

"Alex passed away in 2004, but her giving spirit remains the driving force behind the foundation she established. Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, guided by Alex’s parents, supports childhood cancer research with a focus on improving the availability of new treatments for children currently undergoing treatments for difficult to cure cancers—such as brain tumors, leukemia, lymphoma, retinoblastoma, neuroblastoma, Ewings sarcoma and Wilm’s tumor—among others." (from the ALSF website)

When PeeWee was diagnosed, I spent a lot of time researching treatment options, and I was surprised by some of the things I learned. One in every 330 Americans develops cancer before the age of 20! Look around, I'll bet you have a family in your neighborhood which has been touched by some form of childhood cancer. Perversely though, funding for pediatric cancer research is scarce. I had assumed that money going into cancer research benefits all ages. But it turns out to be a little more complicated than that since many cancers—such as neuroblastoma—are found almost exclusively in children. Since children make up a relatively small percentage of all cancer patients, childhood cancer gets an extremely skinny slice of the funding pie from government and charitable cancer organizations. Research is crucial to finding new and more effective treatments for cancer. Nobody should have to go though chemotherapy, especially a child. Not only is it dreadful to intentionally pour poison into your baby, it often doesn't even work. I'm convinced that there are better alternatives on the verge of discovery. There are advancements in biotechnology and immunotherapy, for example, that could bring stunning changes to cancer treatment, if we can marshall the resources needed to fund their investigation and application.

The beauty of using a lemonade stand to raise money for kids is that it makes it so accessible and easy for anyone of any age to help. Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation has a great website with all the information you need if you'd like to host a lemonade stand, too.

I'd be ever so grateful if any of you would like to spread the word about our lemonade stand. Marly, bless her, talked about it on her podcast, but I'd like to repeat it--If we could get a bunch of knitters on the case, I know that we can have a fantastically successful lemonade stand and do a lot of good for little sweethearts like my PeeWee.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Here's the latest installment in the series--Pitty-arn III: Strawberry Fields. I love it when PeeWee carries the hank of newly spun yarn around and pats it and loves it. I finished this up last night from Spunky Club fiber for April. It's 4 ounces of corridale that ended up as a sport-weight.

I messed around with all kinds of different drafting techniques and I even (gasp) did a wee bit of long-draw! Long-draw seems so magical to me, pulling out that fiber just ahead of the twist. Ah. Spinning this wool seemed almost effortless after the shorter staple merino that I did last. I'm not so great at it, but I'll keep working on it!

I wanted to hurry and get the Strawberry Fields done because I'm so impatient to see what my weekend dye project will spin into. I'm glad I didn't let it languish on the bobbin any longer. It's such happy yarn! LB wants me to make something for her, but I don't know what--it will need to be outerwear because the corriedale is a bit scratchy. (LB is an alternate nickname for Little Sister, or Leela as she is sometimes called--I think I like LB best; it's stands for Little Bitty which is what Boberly calls her. Who are these people, you ask? Boberly is my 13-year old and LB is my 6-year old. If you look closely in the last post, you can see LB standing next to the table in the picture of undyed wool. She has on one of her many fancy dancy leotards. Ever read the children's book Fancy Nancy? That's LB. End of aside.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

seven things (a meme)

I did it! I started a Flickr group called "Presto Chango baby sweater". If any of you are knitting the sweater, you can post your pictures for us all to see. Yay! And if any of you gentle readers have followed the link over from Jimmy Beans and would like to read the design story of the Presto pattern, it's in the post right before this one--Thanks for stopping by!

Now, since you're all a little tired of me talking about Me and My Pattern, I'll talk about just plain Me! Marly tagged me for the 7 Things Meme, plus I've been pondering my summer knitting list for Ali. Let us begin with 7 random things about me that happen to be on my mind right now. And to liven up all this talk about Me, I'll plug in some pictures of my recent mad dyentist experiments in my kitchen (using Paas Easter egg dye).

1) When my husband is out of town, I usually stay up all night. There's no romantic reason for it, like not being able to sleep without my love by my side--I'm just irresponsible.

2) Sometimes I buy a pint of Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia and I save it in the back of the freezer for when Eric is out of town. I eat it all by myself and watch Silverado.

3) I once counted up all the instruments that I've played in a band, orchestra, or ensemble and it was 18--but it's only 11 if we don't count the percussion instruments seperately. (My favorite was the marimba.) I used to spend a lot of time on music; I've let it slide for the past 12 years, though, and it is a regular souce of guilt.

4) While rehearsing the clarinet solo in the 3rd movement of Beethoven's 9th symphony, I figured out how to speed up and slow down my heart rate by thinking about it (13 largo measures without a breath can do that to a person).

5) I'm trying to learn Italian by listening to Italian language CDs in my car. My kids speak it better than I do. They all know how to ask if you're thirsty and if you would like to have a beer.

6) When I was little, my dad would rock me in his La-Z-Boy and sing me tender songs from the 30's and 40's. My kids are perhaps the only ones of their generation who can sing "Mairzy Doats" and "Comin' in on a Wing and a Prayer". And has anyone else out there ever heard the "Breathless" song? (If I had a dictionary/ I would read the customary/ complementary phrases/ When I want to sing your praises/ But I'm up to here in trouble/ My adversity is double/ And to make the matter worse/ I'm breathless!) Anyone? Didn't think so. I can't find anything when I google it, either.

7) My best friend when I was a child had a fantastic 14-letter-long Greek last name. I'm still proud of how fast I can spell it. When she got married, she took her husband's last name; it's Jones. She has an older sister--and she's now Smith. Couldn't they at least have hypenated? Then they could have 19-letter last names! The two were often polar opposites in many ways and now as adults, one lives in Alaska and the other in Arizona. Yeah.

This fiber turned out much more pinky-purple than I thought it would; I was aiming for purpley-brown with a lot more bluish-gray. I like it though. I'm dying (har har) to get it spun up and see what happens to the colors. I think I'll probably need real fiber dyes if I expect to have predictable results.

Ali, I'm going to save my summer knitting goals for the next post, but I promise I'll get them listed!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

prizes, yours and mine

***Long, wordy post, not very many pictures, maybe an interesting story or two...

Who got the frog and the yarn? The handy integer generator at spit out numbers 20 and 14, so that means Laura will get the frog and the mysterious S gets the yarn. I hope you are checking back to see if you won, because I don't have email addresses for either of you! Please email me (see the "contact me" link) and I'll get these items sent to you. If I don't hear from you by next Saturday, I'll pick another number. Fair enough? I'm so sad that I don't have prizes for every one of you. I think I'll have to institute regular prize drawings to help me feel better.

The first installment of my prizes from Jimmy Beans Wool arrived on Thursday. I've spent the past three days chauffering and applauding at various recitals and ball games, so I haven't had the chance to set everything out and take a picture, but I'll do that when the second box arrives next week. I did empty the contents of the white bag onto my bed last night and in the course of settling down to sleep, I might have rolled around in it. (Hey, the yarn smells fantastic and I'm a little lonely; Eric's gone to a show for the weekend.)

In her comment on the last post, Brynne pointed out something else that I had considered along with add-on cuffs for Presto, and that's knitting up a wider panel to accomodate an older, wider baby. (Lately I've been feeling cosmically aligned with other knitters. Is it the position of the stars? Is it the power of the wool? Is it the fact that I read your blogs and then forget what I've read and then read it again and it all seems so familiar? Sorry, what were we talking about?) Then Ali mentioned that the stitches could be pickup up around the cuff and just knit the sleeves longer, perhaps with a contrasting yarn. Good thought, Ali--and then you could knit a new panel in the contrasting yarn!

Also in the comments on the last post, Jen mentioned that the Presto pattern had been mentioned on the Knitty boards. Naturally I had to go see what was being said and a very nice person who goes by "lindydiva" suggested that the body of the sweater could be knit in a multicolor with pink and blue (or whatever) panels--handy if you don't know the gender of the baby for whom you're knitting. So many possibilities! I was thinking of perhaps starting up a Flickr group for all these Presto variations. I would love to see these great ideas coming to life.

Jimmy Beans of Jimmy Beans Wool is actually a lovely person named Laura. We've been emailing back and forth and she asked me what my inpiration for Presto was. I gave her the short version; would any of you like the long version? You would? Okay! (I like having these little imaginary conversations with you. You always say just the right things.) This is already one of the longest posts I've ever written. Let's just keep going!

My precious darlin' PeeWee, who just turned 2, was born with a tumor in her abdomen. Between the ages of 1 and 5 months, she had chemo to shrink it and treat the metastases in her legs. The chemo and subsequent tumor removal surgery did the trick and she is now, blessedly, cancer-free. She does have a few little residuals. They're not major and I do not mind them; they are an easy trade for the priviledge of being with my PeeWee. She's a terrible sleeper--prone to nighmares and easily startled--and she has a very touchy gag reflex. She doesn't throw up nearly as much as she used to, but we still have to be vigilant about foods that don't readily dissolve in the mouth.

Last fall, during one of those long pukey nights, I wished for all of her clothes to have interchangable front panels. Moving her around to change her clothes was often very uncomfortable for her and it would have been so nice to only have to unbutton the front and switch it out. This spring when I read about the pattern contest and saw the prize pack for the pattern contest, I zeroed in on the prize from Lantern Moon: a pair of Exotic Wood Needles, an Origami Bag, and a ball of 100% Silk Gelato. I promptly declared that I was going to enter that contest and win that prize, by gum! (Every day I fight the urge to spend all of the grocery money on Lantern Moon needles, and have you seen the Silk Gelato, have you?!?)

Now do you want to hear the story of the pattern writing and submission? Allrighty, then! During another of PeeWee's wakeful nights, I figured out the construction of the sweater in my head and then sketched it out the next morning. I had been wanting to try Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton ever since reading about it on Ali's blog, so I ordered some and got knitting. I finished the prototype on April 28 then spent time on the 29th working out the other sizes. I got the final draft of the pattern written up on the 30th after my kids were in bed, then started trying to email it to Jimmy Beans at around 10:00 PM. I spent the next two hours trying to figure out why my blasted email program (Microsoft Outlook) wouldn't send, finally dissolving into tears at 12:10 AM, having missed the deadline. At 12:17 AM I had a brain wave: I opened up my yahoo email account, copied the entry into a new email and sent it off, telling Jimmy Beans that I'd had "connection issues" and would they please let me know if they could consider the entry for April's contest or not. Then I went to bed. I was sure I'd missed it.

The next morning, I had a reply from Jimmy (Laura) that the pattern had come through just fine and in time. The time stamp on my email was April 30, 11:20 PM!!!! Hooray for Nevada and the Pacific Time Zone! So if you read in their newsletter that I got my pattern in just before the deadline, you'll know they're not kidding!

Wow. That was long.

Edited to Add: I can't believe that I got so busy with telling stories that I didn't say this first-- Thank you so much for the kind and complimentary things that you've said about the Presto pattern. I appreciate it very much!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

more Presto

PeeWee: size 24 months; Presto Chango: size 6 months. Marvel with me at the amazing stretch of the knit. Of course the sleeves are rather short--but fashionably so, don't you think? I tossed around the idea when I was coming up with the pattern of putting buttons on the cuffs and including instructions for extender cuffs that could be buttoned on later in a child's life, but I didn't do it. Maybe I should write that up. Any opinions on that?

Yes, the two photos in the last post are of the same sweater, same yarn. The top one is of the sweater on the lid of my piano next to an east window with late morning light. I put a copy of the picture through a Photoshop warming filter before I sent it to Jimmy Beans, but the one on this blog is the unfiltered copy--It's all washed out. The second shot of Kristen's beautiful baby and today's picture of PeeWee (though a little dark) more accurately represent the color of the Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton (#82-Nut).

I think that its time to spread the love. I have two things to share today. Firstly, I saw these little critters on Sheep in the City and I couldn't help myself; I ordered two. One will stay with me and the other one shall be sent out to one of you. They're made by Clover and there are some other versions besides frogs--CUTE!

Secondly, I have a hank of 4/8s merino, hand-dyed by the nice ladies at Yarn Today. It's 560 yards of 100% merino wool in a colorway called "Autumn Twilight". If anyone would like a little froggy case or a big hank of yarn, leave me a comment saying so and I'll pick the recipients with the handy online random number generator.

ETA: I'll pick the winners on Saturday morning (May 19). Yay! I think giving prizes is as fun as winning them!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Presto Chango!

I'm stunned speechless. We'll just have to go with a link or three.

Jimmy Beans Wool

Pattern Contest

Pattern contest winner: PRESTO CHANGO!!!.

And you're right, I didn't have the buttons sewn for the photo shoot, but isn't he beautiful? "No pictures, please!"

This is my first published pattern. I'm a little worried that the directions make sense to me because I wrote them, but will be confusing to anyone else. Anybody want to look them over and tell me what you think? That third link up there takes you to the pattern on the Jimmy Beans Wool site.

And while we're talking about Jimmy Beans Wool, they are a fantastically wonderful online yarn store--Try them out and see! They have a great website, a superb inventory, and lightning-fast shipping and customer service. (No, they didn't pay me to say that, really!)

I've got to go call my mom. She's the whole reason I submitted this pattern, because she always told me that it never hurts to try... I hope I can be as encouraging for my children as she has always been for me. Isn't it perfect that tomorrow is Mother's Day?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

way too many pictures of spinning

PeeWee is playing at her little friend's house and Leela (That's not her real name--that's what PeeWee calls her. I'm torn about the whole "using my kids' real names" issue. I think I'm going to go the Precious Nickname route. In fact, I think I'll make sure there are double E's in eeach namee. So we'll have Bebee, Joee, Tedee, Leela, and PeeWee. End of aside.) is off to kindergarten. My plans? I'm going to practice my mad housekeeping a minute. Firstly, though, Way Too Many Pictures of My Spinning:

We started with 4 ounces of 21 micron merino top called Darling, dyed by the fabulous Adrian of Hello Yarn. I was in a bit of a hurry spinning it, because I'm an eager, impatient beginner, AND I was trying to get it done in time to knit a birthday scarf for my mother. She bought a new red coat this winter, and I know it's spring, but her birthday is in 1 week and I really want to make something for her. Back to Darling... So I didn't spin it as fine as it could, or possibly should be spun, but it is luscious, bouncy, and soooooft. I tended to err on the side of looseness in spinning it and so it's very fluffy. It's probably a heavy worsted weight. I think my mommy will like it.

Must go scrub toilets. Then I'll get started on the scarf. Any suggestions for pattern? I considering linen stitch--I'll have to swatch and see. (Swatchency, isn't that just north of Trenton?)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

I am glad for many things

Yes. I am glad for many things. It's not just a song, it's a way of life. Call me Pollyanna if you will, but this morning I woke up to the wonderful sight of snow on the mountains! I love spring snow! That's a shot of the mountain behind my house. Isn't it beautiful? Doesn't it make you want to dye some yarn? Ooooo or maybe some spinning fiber. :D

Enabler Monica of my local fiber shop opened an account with Henry's Attic (wholesaler of undyed yarn and fiber). She offered to let her regular customers have a substantial discount on the initial order so that she could have enough for the minimum first order. I now have an embarrassingly huge amount of white yarn and spinning fiber hiding in my closet. I want to try to replicate the combination of that purpley-blue-grey of the snow on the mountain with the spring greens. I bought 20 boxes of PAAS egg dye after Easter, and I'm hopeful that there's some purple in there that will look better than grape Kool-Aid. I've also been wanting to see what purple-copper-brown colors I can achieve. Yes, I'm still in love with purple and brown. So what's my point? I'm going to dye some fiber today and I believe that I will use the view from my backyard as inspiration! See the crab-apple tree that's ready to burst into bloom? Voici le beau printemps...

I won a contest! Brynne sent me a ball of Opal sock yarn because I had the best guess for when her new baby would be born. Thank you, Brynne! (I just guessed my own birthday and luckily for me, that's the day he made his entrance.) He is one adorable baby, and the handknits that boy has?! Beyond cute.

Last week Marly sent me a FULL BAG (that's 10 hanks!!) of Noro Blossom as a thank you for her blog buttons and banner. Thank you Marly! I didn't even know that Noro made such a yarn! I think I'm going to make something like this with it. Marly started a podcast at the end of last year that is so fun. Marly can tell a story like no other and she has a great voice. (Love you, Marly!)

Did you see the bit of sweater peeking out in that last photo? It's a sweater that I submitted to the Jimmy Beans Wool pattern contest. I think they're running it as a monthly contest with deadlines for submission at the end of each month. I got this little sweater done just in time and submitted at 11:20 PM on the last day of April. If they don't pick it, I'm not sure what I'll do with the pattern, but the sweater is going for Kristen's new little sweetie. I got to hold him on Saturday and he's so angelic. Mmmmm. New babies are yummy! No, I'm not baby hungry. I'm quite certain that five is enough.

Besides, I still have this precious darlin' and I'm treasuring every moment with her. You'd never guess what she's been through, would you? (Stage 4 neuroblastoma, diagnosed at 4 weeks of age, treated with chemo and surgery between the ages of 1 and 6 months; she's now off treatment and only has quarterly physicals with blood and urine tests. I am very glad for this particular thing.)