Monday, January 14, 2008

The State of Other Stuff

After doing my State of the Yarn post, I started thinking (especially prompted by Rachel's hilarious comment) about the State of Other Stuff. Thinking about it, I managed to accomplish a lot in 2007--it's just not as obvious as a pile of knitted objects. I still want to increase my knitting output and (for the love of Pete) get back to my writing (dare I say, complete draft finished in 2008?), but I'm not such a slacker, I guess. Scroll down if bragging annoys you, and you can see my knitting progress!

Things I accomplished in 2007:

1. Made it through a full year of baby-related sleep-deprivation, with sanity more or less intact. Lilah is a bad sleeper. A *bad* sleeper. She thinks sleep is a waste of her time. She hates going to sleep, and she hates staying asleep once she's finally succumbed. A friend of mine was talking wistfully about a friend whose baby goes to sleep at 7:00 pm and wakes up at 7:00 am WITHOUT WAKING UP ONCE. I could not comprehend this. "How long does your baby sleep at once?" I asked. He sleeps 10 hours, then goes back to sleep for two more after having his diaper changed. Oh, and he takes two naps, 1-2 hours each. I stared at her, dumbstruck. "And you're complaining? Last night, it took two and a half hours to get Lilah down, and she woke up four times, once for over an hour! And I'm lucky if she takes one one-hour nap." She seems (knock on wood) to be doing a bit better. For the last week, she's had one 6-8 hour stretch of sleep. Not to whine or anything (okay, I'm whining!), but constantly getting a maximum of 4 hours of sleep at once is tough. But if she takes a decent (over an hour) nap, she won't take a second one.

2. Made it through a year of breastfeeding. Lilah has actually never had formula. It was really important to me to breastfeed for her first year. And I made it!

3. Made all of Lilah's food, except for baby cereals (for the iron content). Lilah has never had jars of baby food, and I'm really pleased about that. It took almost no time for me, and she's turned into a great eater. We're transitioning to feeding her our food (sometimes with modifications), and it's going very well.

4. Made it through a year of cloth diapering. It actually isn't that much work, and when she's been learning to walk, the extra padding on her rear end comes in handy :)

5. Moved from Madison to Atlanta. The house is reasonably the way we want it, too, although we still have a few boxes here and there, and no pictures on the walls.

6. Increased our square footage at least threefold, and added a yard. And managed to keep the place, not spotless, but free from Health Department interference.

7. Made friends and got involved in our new community. (Remember all the bake sale posting?)

8. Kept up with my reading, even some literary reading (although the proportion of "comfort reading" (re-reading favorites or reading more fluffy fare) to literary is not exactly where it could be), which is nothing to sneeze at. I also started (and keep up with!) LibraryThing.

9. Lost all the baby weight plus 20 extra pounds that had been hanging around since college. Went down 2 sizes from just before pregnancy.

10. Kept blogging! Not always often, and not always interesting, but I've kept the blog going. I've enjoyed the people I've "met" through blogging, as well as having a record of my main pursuits, even when I just keep posting "nothing new" in the writing column over and over.

Okay, bragging over. Onto the content.

Knitting: I'm on the foot part of Sock #1 of the Waving Lace Socks from Favorite Socks. I'm using Opal, which is not my favorite, but I think the colors, which are vaguely oceanic, complement the waving pattern nicely. I wore my only handknit pair of socks yesterday (Jaywalkers), and I may rip those out after I finish knitting all my current sock yarn (in addition to what I posted last time, I have Opal in Tiger (for my husband), a Sunshine Yarns skein in Strawberry Banana, and Gryffindor stripe). They look nice, they really do. Only it's a huge pain to get them on and off my feet. I read that the pattern was inflexible, but I assumed that since it was a sock pattern, they'd at least be functional, but they're really not. So, I'll be screening my sock patterns more carefully.

I also cast on for the Simple Knitted Bodice with my Malabrigo. My word, this is soft. Knit bloggers are always going on and on about Malabrigo, and I get it now. It is luscious. And the colors are just out of this world. But I knit a few rows on this, then switched to my sock, and the Opal felt like sandpaper in comparison. This sweater has been on my list since I saw Rain's lovely version. And the Malabrigo is perfect. I have four balls and ordered two more. There are no dye lots, so I'm really crossing my fingers and praying to the knitting gods that they look okay together. This may be the worst progress photo ever. The lighting in our house is really challenging, especially on cloudy days, and I need to find somewhere I can consistently get decent photos. The other problem with the sweater is that it's just a couple inches of stockinette right now, and so likes to roll into a ball. But here's an idea, anyway:

Rachel inspired me to get the Winter issue of Interweave and add the Henley Perfected to my queue. If you haven't seen it, check it out here. It's the kind of knitted sweater about which a non-knitter would say in awe, "Wow, that looks like something you could buy in the store!" and think it's a compliment. I have Baby Alpaca from Elann in a light orchid color, and lots of it. I had started a tank, but wasn't really into it, so I ripped it out, and I have more than enough for the Henley Perfected. I stopped getting Interweave, mostly because of a lack of knitting time, but also because there aren't that many patterns I was into. But there are a few sweaters in this issue that I might like to knit (I really like the Gathered Pullover). Although, if the skirt makes the size 2 model's rear look big, there's no way I would ever attempt it. And there's a ruched tank that looks like a maternity top, again on the size 2 model. So those won't make it to my queue.

Writing: You know the story: no time, no energy.

Reading: Not Just a Witch by Eva Ibbotson: Heckie can turn anyone into an animal and Dora can turn anyone into stone. The two are best friends until a falling-out over a hat. They end up duped by a furrier looking for exotic pelts, but join together to make everything right in the end. Not her best effort, but a cute story nonetheless.

Which Witch? by Eva Ibbotson. Tired of waiting for the next dark wizard to take his place, Arriman the Awful decides to marry. He auditions all the local witches with a contest--whoever performs the darkest magic wins. Belladonna desperately wants to win, but flowers and fluffy bunny rabbits tend to spring up all around her and she finds dark magic impossible to perform. With the help of an orphan named Terrence, she comes up with a plan. This one is really cute and charming. Terrence is adorable, and Belladonna's inadvertent white magic is very funny. Arriman is a hoot. This is one of my favorite Ibbotsons, and that's really saying something.

Books 2 and 3 in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. The first is The Lightning Thief (the author is Rick Riordan), and 2 and 3 are NOT a disappointment. If anything, they're even better than the first.

I also read Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich. Everyone says the between-the-numbers Plum books are not as good, and they're right. But this was still fun. Grandma Mazur at the slots, Lula modeling underwear, a guy who thinks he's a leprechaun...what's not to like? And it's a fun diversion while waiting for Fearless Fourteen to come out.

Cooking: From this month's Cooking Light, I made Tomato-Braised Beans Over Polenta and Orange-Cranberry Wheat Germ Muffins. This beans were really good. Every year, they tweak their format a bit, and for 2008, the Inspired Vegetarian column is looking at a different world cuisine every month. This month was the Veneto, the region in Italy that includes Venice. The recipe calls for cannellini beans, although the notes say that cranberry beans are authentic if you can find them canned. I found dried cranberry beans with no effort at all, and prepared them. (Seriously, how hard is that? You dump them in a pot with water and leave them overnight. The next day, you drain them, add more water, and simmer them for an hour and a half or so.) Lilah LOVES cranberry beans, as it turns out. Matt thought the muffins tasted rather healthy for him, but I like them. They're not big, though, for 200 calories per muffin. I could eat three pretty easily. From the December issue, I made
Peanut Squash Soup. I'd made this before, but this time I started out doubling the recipe, and made it thicker, like a stew. I only had one squash, so I added a sweet potato. I also took some out for Lilah before adding the peanut butter and chile. She loves the mild, peanut-free version. She's getting really insistent about eating what we're eating. She'll point vigorously past her own dish to indicate ours. My little brother mostly pointed and grunted until he was, like, four, and then we couldn't shut him up, so I'm trying not to worry that Lilah mostly points. She says Dada, Mama, Ki-Kat (for kitty cat), and Meow. When Matt comes home, she rushes to the door, saying "Da-Da!" and smiling up at him. She yells "Mama!" and pounds on her tray when I'm not making her dinner fast enough. Hmmm. Anyway, I also made oatmeal cookies. Nothing fancy, just the recipe from the barrel of Quaker Oats. But yum!

Peanut Stew (adapted from Cooking Light)

1 TBL peanut oil (I used canola for Lilah)
4 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (1 medium)
4 cups cubed peeled sweet potato (1 very large)
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
4 cups vegetable broth
3/4 cup natural peanut butter
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add squash and next 6 ingredients (through coriander); sauté 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add broth, peanut butter, tomato paste, and pepper, stirring well to combine; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes or until the squash and sweet potato are tender. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve over brown rice.

Note: Cooking Light called for reduced-fat creamy peanut butter. I have never seen the point of this. It has the same calories, and they just replace the fat with sugar. Or high-fructose corn syrup. Once I tried natural peanut butter, I can't even eat Skippy or Jif, with the corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils (or palm oil). It's completely different, and it's real food. Worth the slightly higher fat content.


Annie said...

My baby is not the greatest sleeper either, but I have a feeling that is because she is still in our room! Not really our choice, our new apt isn't ready yet. I have also exclusively breastfed, but yo, you cloth diaper, make your own baby food, moved, get little sleep and STILL got some knitting done? It's not bragging, you deserve an award!!!!!!!!!!!

YarnThrower said...

WOW - I got tired just reading about all of the things you did last year...Very awesome! I hope you start getting more sleep soon, too! The "physical" demands seemed to really diminish as my kids got older, though there are different things to handle at every age, so I'm still needed... :-)

Stefaneener said...

Oh, honey, you so rock!

My first one was a rotten, rotten sleeper. My fourth -- better. I think I got much tougher on them much earlier as I had more. The book about sleep -- The Healthy Sleep Habits book -- helped me a lot. But you're doing great.

And cloth diapering is great! I'm looking forward to weaning my last child this year. I don't think I'll miss it -- toddler nursing is not like cute baby nursing at all. The knitting blows me away. You really do very very much and it takes a lot of energy to do so.

Atta girls for you -- I wish I could bake you some bread or something.

Knittypants said...

Wow! You've done an amazing amount of things this year! And all on no sleep, which amazes me even more.

mle said...

Wow, I'm very impressed with your accomplishments in 2007!! That is awesome!
Your sock is very pretty and I can't wait to see your SKB!

KnitPastis said...

Knock me over! I love how this sock is turning out!! Love it! I won't even attempt Jaywalker sock, heard the fit is not forgiving. Seriously, take a look at that sock book I mentioned before. I do love these socks you are knitting.WOW!

You so impress me with what all you do and never cease to make me hungry for your homecooked meals:)