Posted in bento by tchemgrrl on September 27, 2012

Funny, right after I put that post together about the Toddler’s lunches, we got an article from school about lunch packing. It included some general notes about food safety, and a list of 50 food suggestions.

Looking through it, I’m kind of shocked. It’s basically a list of pre-prepared foods or foods which involve very minimal preparation (hard-boiling an egg or cutting a hot dog into nonchokeable bits). No beans except hummus (no vegan protein of any kind except hummus), no rice or any other non-bread grain (and this is a school with a very high first-generation Asian population), no pasta (!), and apparently the only vegetable that any child under 4 can eat is cucumber. Lots of canned fruits, lots of branded crackers and breads, lots of lunch meats. Bleah. It’s not that we never use those things, but they’re mostly what we use when we have no real food in the house. There are so many better, tastier, faster, more environmentally and economically sensible options!

I feel like the most useful lunch packing tip is “make more dinner and pack that.” It’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s faster than making something separate, and you already know what your child liked about it. Plus, I’m really big on kids being served what parents are being served from the get-go (with obvious concessions to chokeables etc), and I think having leftovers the next day ties into that. It’s “our food”, not “his food”. I can’t say that this method would work with an inherently picky kid, but I haven’t noticed him getting increasingly narrow with his options the way I’ve seen some toddlers do, so I think that at least it’s not making things worse.

I don’t think of us as doing anything spectacular; I get fancy with baking and canning now and then, but most of our weeknight dinners are one-pot affairs. T’s not bringing duck a l’orange or perfectly sculpted sushi to school, just beans and rice or avocado on pita. And it’s not like he never eats junk, though I try not to pack that for lunch. So it was surprising to me to see that apparently we’re far enough out of the norm that a list of typical lunchtime foods is way out of our daily experience.

Festival recap

Posted in fun, handspun, knitting, spinning, travel by tchemgrrl on September 26, 2012

The Finger Lakes Fiber Festival was the weekend before last, and I have now recovered enough to talk about it.

First off: Perfect weekend. Mild and crisp and partly sunny, great energy in the crowd, everyone cheerful and chatty and enjoying their surroundings. There was an incredible thunderstorm on Friday evening, but we managed to set up just before it started, and by the time it was going in earnest, we were safely at the hotel eating dinner. The storm cleared the air for the rest of the weekend, and though some things got a little damp overall it was excellent timing.

For the majority of the weekend I was helping out friends with their booth, restocking and answering questions about spindles and spinning and how much yarn was needed for such-and-such a pattern. It was super-busy, but in a cheerful fun way, never in a “oh god so crowded MUST ELBOW THIS PERSON AWAY THAT’S MY YARN YOU WENCH” sort of way.

On Saturday at the FLFF, I took a class on tape weaving, which was really interesting, and which I’ll talk about in another entry.

I won some prizes:


4th and 2nd for my spinning. (The 4th, I will tell you, was out of 4 entries, so save the standing ovation.) The judges gave detailed, useful feedback, though, which I really appreciated. I already have some ideas for submissions next year and ways to improve.

I spun on one of Susan’s batts with my spindle all weekend while helping out, and in spite of the fact that I didn’t feel like I picked it up all that often, I still managed to spin and ply most of a 150 yard, 2-ply, 2-ounce sportweight yarn.

aqualime batt

The evenness is all over the place thanks to the hustle and bustle, but hey. Significant yardage under the circumstances. I have more to say about that yarn, but I’ll save it for later.

Fun weekend, good time. For anyone who’s anywhere between Rochester and Ithaca, I highly recommend going next year. It is my Platonic Ideal of a fiber festival–right size, right number of vendors, right crowdedness, right mix of people. I’d like a few more fiber animals, but as it’s put on by volunteers from the Genessee Valley Handspinners’ Guild, I figure that if something needed to give somewhere then showing animals would be the thing I’d choose too.

Baby Sweater

Posted in FO, handspun, knitting, made with handspun by tchemgrrl on September 20, 2012

I mentioned last week that a Baby Sweater Emergency jumped on me recently. A coworker is going to be a first-time grandmother soon, and I had some yarn I spun up a while ago that I thought would be just perfect for this particular little dude.


The pattern is Paxton (Rav link) in the newborn size. I’ve actually knit this pattern before, when the Toddler was in utero: this seems to be the Year Of Knitting From the Same Pattern More than Once for me. As I did with Hitchhiker, though, I made some changes the second time through. I put cables along the raglan decreases, and then from the underarm to the hem. Not only is it decorative, but I felt like the added density of cables at places where hems usually are would add some stability to the garment.

The yarn is a handspun, chain-plied merino-tencel blend that I apparently never blogged about, being spun in the very early days of the Toddler’s life (mostly in the brief moments he happily laid on his diaper changing table, amazed by his mobile oh my GOD how was he ever that small.)

baby sweater yarn

One interesting thing about the yarn was that I specifically spun it for a baby sweater. I knew from my experience with the other Paxton that a newborn size sweater would use about 4 ounces of DK weight handspun, and that the sleeves would take up a little less than a third of the total fiber. I also knew that the sleeves would be about 1/4 the width of the body. Because I wanted the stripes to be of roughly equal width, I spun the singles for the body from the full width of the dyed top, but split the top destined for the sleeves into 4 equal-sized pieces. The length of each color for the sleeve yarn, therefore, was about 1/4 the width of the length of each color for the body, making the sleeve stripes approximately equal.

This was a fun experiment, and a successful one. (It’s also the one that I thought about when I started working on the rainbow cardigan, and one of the reasons I was thinking about this yarn at the moment I realized that this soon-to-arrive baby was Dangerously Undersweatered.) One thing I didn’t fully account for was that I should have adjusted the length of my chains as I plied to minimize color mixing–you’ll notice that there aren’t as many distinct light areas in the sleeves compared to the body, and that’s because they were so short that they ended up getting mixed with the colors to either side. I’d certainly consider doing this again, and would try to remember to adjust chain length accordingly next time for better matching between sleeves and body.

On the road!

Posted in fun by tchemgrrl on September 13, 2012


For anyone in the Upstate New York region, you ought to know that the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival is happening this weekend! I actually like this one a lot more than Rhinebeck; it’s closer, and it’s of a scale where I feel like I can actually explore new things rather than have one or two very specific things to purchase and then wander around in a fibery haze for the remainder of the weekend.

I’ll be working in the Spinning Bunny booth most of the time, so stop on over and say hi!

I’m also excited to be taking a fiber related class for the first time ever! I’m taking a class on tape weaving. I’ve done some things with my inkle loom, but I’d like to learn more, and I thought this would be a fun way to start. I also submitted a few yarns to the skein competition. I haven’t done that since one time at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool festival several years ago, and I’m looking forward to the feedback. My fiber stash is overtaking its home right now so I’m not planning to buy any fiber, but that doesn’t mean I won’t end up with some anyhow. 🙂

Mystery Knitalong Update

Posted in knitting, WIP by tchemgrrl on September 11, 2012

I’ve made some progress in the Trapeze Knitalong, although unblocked lace being unblocked lace, and unblocked lace in a linen yarn being even more unblocked than usual, one gets the impression that I’ve made some very poorly wrought dishrags:

Trapeze KAL

The instructions for the first few sections asked us to knit three of these shapes. I got through two and then had a baby sweater emergency. (Emergency, I tell you. It certainly had nothing to do with getting tired of stockinette quadrilaterals.) The next clue–Huzzah! Involved only two of the previously-knit doodads, and also involved beads which I’ve been excited to try. So I skipped ahead, a little. If I start knitting zippily, I might be able to catch back up to the correct clue soon.

Here is my yarn and bead combination. Since I was working with a uniformly-colored yarn, I thought I’d go higher-contrast on the beads. I wanted the beads in my first beaded project to be obvious!

Trapeze KAL

Two beaded rows in now, and am really happy with how it looks. I’m also really happy with the setup of the pattern. Laura has relatively short pattern instructions that are perfectly understandable for experienced knitters, but with links to very detailed video tutorials. I haven’t knit with beads before, and I knit the first row of beads in without watching her video, and got really confused when I got to the next row, because I’d arranged the beads in an odd way. Her video was clear enough that I was able to flip all the beads to their correct position without tinking and felt totally solid on what I was doing after watching the video. I’m about 20% through this beaded section and have had no trouble since.

The Morrreee You Knooowwwwww

Posted in Uncategorized by tchemgrrl on September 7, 2012

At a recent visit to the in-laws, they gave us an old box of crayons that had belonged to my husband as a child. We brought them home and threw them in our own crayon box, and enjoyed using the new colors and noticing the now-retired Crayola shades (I missed you, Burnt Sienna! I used to use you to draw my mom’s hair.)

I grabbed a greenish-blue crayon with a wrapper that didn’t go with the other blue-green crayons, and read the name.

Copper. Huh.

I got curious.


Apparently, the copper Crayola color uses actual copper, and ~15 years of sitting undisturbed in a box of crayons is long enough to tarnish the outside. The crayon wax provided enough of a coating for the metal flakes to protect the stuff on the inside–the patina extends about 0.5 mm into the crayon itself.

I went digging through the box for the other two metallic shades. The gold is also patina’ed, though it’s a slightly greener color, so it’s either some kind of alloy or they mix the copper flakes with yellow crayon. The silver looks just about as shiny as it would have been in the early 90’s; I assume they use aluminum and not silver.

There, now you learned something today. You can go take the rest of the day off to knit.


Posted in bento by tchemgrrl on September 4, 2012

For some reason, people often ask us how we deal with the toddler’s daycare lunch. For a month or so now, I’ve been taking a picture of T’s lunch when I think of it, so that I have a more concrete answer than “Well, food, mostly.”

Monday Lunch
(Tofu fajita, rice, canteloupe.)

We’re lucky in that T’s not a particularly picky kid. Leafy greens and spongy foods like fresh mozzarella are the only things that consistently give him pause, though like everyone he goes through love and hate phases. (Sunday night: ate half a sweet pepper right off my cutting board. Wednesday night: saw sweet pepper on his plate, said “eew”.) We recently went out for Vietnamese food, and he dug into fried squid, stirfry, and spicy pho with gusto. I wish I could attribute his adventurousness to our lackadaisical following of baby led weaning, or to having dinner as a family or trying to be low-drama around food or any of the other things that we’ve made a family priority of, but it’s probably just that he’s him, and we didn’t get in the way too much.

Theo Lunch
(Pasta with cheese, tomato, and sweet pepper, and a slice of Daddy’s leftover birthday cake. He only ate the cake.)

I got interested in bento boxes a few years before T came along, so these containers were already in my collection. It is very unusual for me to invest more than a few minutes into putting these together, though, so these aren’t the more decorative-style bento that shows up in the mainstream media now and then. Just some little lunches. (These are pretty representative of the lunches he gets. I’m less likely to take a picture on a busy night, and on a busy night the fruit is more likely to be a cup of applesauce or a little box of raisins, but that’s the main difference.)

Theo Lunch
(Grapes, Tofurkey sausage, corn, couscous. Corn looks frozen because it is; he likes it right out of the bag, the wierdo.)

I have a few general rules when I’m putting these together:

-At least one guaranteed winner, at least one thing he’s iffy on, or didn’t eat for dinner.
-One serving of fruit, veg, protein, and starch.
-Everything cut up/arranged for a minimum of fuss on the part of the teachers.
-School rules: no chokeable bits, no nuts.

I don’t always hit all of these, but they’re useful organizing principles when I’ve put all the leftovers in and still have a gap.

(Ravioli, cucumbers, and tomatoes, with watermelon and blueberries. )

Theo’s response? Pretty good. He usually eats most of his lunch.