Friday, March 2, 2012

Spring is Sprung

     Not really, I'm being optimistic. But it's just around the bend, and I can already see its green little fingers winding around in the natural world. This past Winter has been insane in Virginia! Not at all like Winter, actually. We've had about 3 days of any sort of snow, and one of them was in October, and they've all been pretty pathetic... Weird. I am not looking forward to our pending allergy season, with so much pollen already in the air. And any Climate Change deniers better watch out! I know some nervous fruit growers that are all riled up already (since January-ish) around here.... I am anxious to see how many of our Fall-planted Buttercups and tulips will have made it up and blooming this year. So far, I have one bright yellow Buttercup already out and spreading its glorious sunshiny face in the otherwise brown, shaggy early Spring front plot. I'm so happy to see all the new life poking up! Not bad for a couple of bags from Costco, and a day or two weeding, planting and mulching the sadly neglected patch of mud in front of our townhouse!
     We've also tried to have a jump on Spring Cleaning here. After two years, it's really more like unpacking, and FINALLY organizing this mess we live in, a little bit. I made the executive decision that we should get jumping on it early, and use those long dark nights for painting and fixing up the place, so that come longer, sunnier days, I can take the children and run amok outside, without any sense of conflict or divided priorities. So far, so good. I've tackled that freaky front room (the wanna be Dining Room that is too small for our dining table) and converted it into more of an open Kitchen Annex and Mama Office. It's coming along famously! The Living Room is halfway complete. We got rid of the HUGE old chairs and old purple couch (sniff, sniff) and replaced them with a large, open L-shaped sofa from Ikea. We've added a few bookcases and turned the kitchen table 90 degrees to accommodate company a little easier, and it's actually starting to look like a place that WE live. Yay!!!
     We've also used the Winter as a time for more experiments in the Kitchen. I've learned how to roast almost every vegetable on the Earth, and that they taste AMAZING that way!! No really. Even Brussell Sprouts, Riley's newest favorite thing ever!!! I've been reading up on vegetables and we've been randomly adding a brand new to us vegetable to the table about every ten days or so. Up this week, I have Kolrabi and Parsnip. I have no idea what to do with the Kolrabi, but the Parsnip will be tried thin-sliced and fried like chips, and also roasted with Carrots and Shallot Butter. We shall see, we shall see. If either come out anywhere near as good as the roasted Cauliflower has, I will be thrilled! (Thanks again, Margaret Hill!!!) We've also been trying to reintroduce some basics back into our menu. Our Tex Mex rotation had gotten a little thin, so I discovered and have been rocking out the old Austin flare!!!! God, it makes me equal parts in love with my kitchen, and homesick for Austin. DEFINITELY worth a read, and a recipe list!!!
     The single thing I may be most excited about is the NEW SEED PACKETS we picked up!!! We've tried seed vegetables before, and failed on an epic scale. But this year, we've dome research, made our own supplies mostly, and are ready to try this again. We are also going to be building a raised bed for our backyard, to increase the amount of space for gardening at our disposal. And hopefully, a community plot will come up for grabs through the Reston Association. But I expect a year on that Wait List....
     I am also starting to plan Camping Season 2012. I tend to favor Spring and Fall camping, with Summer reserved for sheer desperation campouts (Heat is NOT my friend). I have noted that I am most comfortable between 40-75 degrees, day and night. So, now that the days are reaching the upper 50s with some regularity, it's time to start researching and reserving campsights for the next couple of months. And I'm itching to add a few dates in Wisconsin when we head back up North for our next trip to Chicago. I'm thinking April, but possibly May....
     Hope everyone out there is enjoying the last cold-ish days before the Spring Explosion is upon us!


Friday, September 16, 2011

Simple Kids' Cabled Leg Warmers

Simple Kids' Cabled Leg Warmers
Designed by: Mickie Gelling


1 Skein of Worsted Weight Yarn
US #3 DPNs, or 8" US #3 Circular Needle
Cable Needle or extra DPN of same size
Darning Needle or Crochet Hook


CO = Cast On
C6F = Cable 6 Forward, Put 3 st. on a Cable Needle, and let them hang in the Front of your work, Knit next 3 st., Go back and Knit first 3 st. off of Cable Needle
C6B = Cable 6 Back, As above, but let Cable Needle hang in back of work, etc.
rpt. = Repeat


CO 48 st. (16 st. on 3 DPNs) and join in round.
Rows 1-14: *K2, P2, rpt.
Row 15: Knit all st.
Row 16: K17, P3, C6F, K3, P3, K16.
Rows 17-19: K17, P3, K9, P3, K16.
Row 20: K17, P3, K3, C6B, P3, K16.
Rows 21-23: rpt. Rows 16-18.
Row 24: rpt. Row 15.
Rows 25-27: rpt. Rows 16-18.
Row 28: rpt. Row 19.
Continue this repetition of rows 16-23 until leg warmer measures 10" from Cast-On edge.
Repeat Rows 1-14.
Bind off loosely, leaving plenty of stretch in the ribbing.
Cut yarn off 3" below Bind Off, and weave in ends.


-These are a good fit for children aged 3-8. You can size down by decreasing the # of st. cast on. You can make them larger by adding to the number. If you size them up for adults, I do suggest making your cable larger as well.

-Use larger needles. I used small needles for a very air-tight, extra warm fabric. I designed these for a good friend in Chicago, and that windy city needs insulation and warm shins! For a warmer climate, or just as a fashion accessory, you could easily jump up to a US#5,6, or 7. For even thicker leg warmers, you could knit 2 pieces of yarn together at the same time.

-Use a solid colored yarn. I do NOT recommend using a variegated, self-striping, or self-patterning yarn on this project. The texture of the cable would get over-powered and lost by all that color.

-Wear these as sleeves as well. They look awesome under plain white T-shirts! You could even add a thumb hole, and make them fingerless gloves.

By: Mickie Gelling

Friday, August 19, 2011

Summer Pasta Dinner

     So, Graham and I listened to the audio recording of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, written by Barbara Kingsolver on a recent long drive. EXCELLENT book, I must say!!! My short summary: A family of 4 spends a year in Southern Virginia living on a farm, eating only things that have been locally, organically, and seasonally grown, harvested, or produced. They give themselves a 100 mile radius from home to include as "local" and they documented their experience as a rebellion from industrialized farming (think Monsanto's intellectual monopoly of engineered seeds, exploitation of animals in huge feedlot/slaughterhouses, etc.) and a simpler way to connect to nutrition on a personal level. We were both inspired.
     We are nowhere near as hard-core as that family. But we've committed to trying to focus on our food choices, and making better decisions for our family and the environment. We're going to try to buy as much local, seasonal, and organic food as possible. And we're going to try to eat 2 vegetarian meals a week, strictly for environmental reasons.
     And, the fact that I just learned how to can has been very helpful to give us some Winter options as well. It's easy to eat seasonally-appropriate local produce at the height of Summer, living in Virginia. However, we are trying to look ahead now, and set aside some preserved vegetables and fruit, so we buy less off-season fakers, brought in from other countries, using a ton of fuel to move them around the globe. There is also a taste difference. Graham has discovered that Summer tomatoes that we grew, at the perfect ripeness are actually delicious. This may not seem like a surprise to some of you, but this man has avoided raw tomatoes for 34 years, due to exposure to mealy, off-season, tasteless mush that he'd sampled for years. We grew a HUGE organic Heirloom Brandywine beefsteak tomato variety in the backyard this Summer. We harvested the first ripe one yesterday. A pretty, pinkish-skinned, heavenly-scented tomato the size of my fist. It was so fleshy and sweet, you could instantly see its roots in the Fruit family of produce. So, now Graham likes tomatoes. Late to the party, but I am delighted!!!
     We've also been hitting our Farmers' Market pretty hard lately too. My favorite one on the Earth in the Green City Market that we left behind in Chicago. It taught me how much a good seasonal selection and committed community can offer a home cook. But here, my heart has embraced the Eastern Market in DC, near Capital Hill. This Farmers' Market is full of local food, plus, art and other handmade goods, as well as AMAZING meat offerings. Gorgeous stuff!!!! LOVE it!!!! We also frequent the Reston Farmers' Market. That's where we got our tomato plants, a ton of our fruit and most of our vegetables.
     I went to Whole Foods today to get a jump on some heirloom tomatoes to can, and I came home dry. They had plenty of organic options that each looked like perfect red orbs, but they were ALL flown in from California. WHY?!?! There is absolutely no shortage of perfectly lovely Virginia tomatoes available, but none found their way to WFM. Not one. What the Hell??? So then, I kept a closer eye out on all the WFM signage in the produce department. I am pissed. I do appreciate what they are doing for American growers, but we are lucky enough to live in an area of the mid-Atlantic that is extremely fertile, and has a looooooooooong history of agriculture. Why in hell is Whole Foods asking us to pay for jet fuel, and less ripe fruits and vegetables?
     But I digress. I finally dug around and found a few Squash, Eggplant, and Zucchini from a farm in Pennsylvania. So, I brought them home and threw them in a stew pot with 5-6 huge heirloom tomatoes we bought bulk at Eastern Market. I let the tomato sauce simmer for hours, adding oregano, fresh basil, cilantro, cinnamon (yes, cinnamon) and garlic. Pinch of salt and pepper to taste, and a dash of honey to sweeten the eggplant a bit. Threw on some pasta, and garlic Naan. We killed it!!!! One vegetarian meal for the week down, one more to go.

     Now, my other food distraction this week is tiny pies. I want to experiment with baking single-serving pies, while I have all this fresh Summer fruit at my disposal. I have research to do....


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Independent Days

So, for those of you not caught up on my recent details, I have taken a part-time job at a local yarn shop in the District. It's lovely, and I have been filled with inspiration and glee at all its wonderous artistic possibilities. The owner wrote my favorite knitting book. No, seriously. She totally did! My first favorite knitting book ever was Kat Coyle's Boho Baby Knits. But then I found Marie Connolly's The Expectant Knitter. And I was in love as soon as I saw the pattern for the knitted pinwheel baby quilt that was backed with an antique embroidered pillowcase. LOVE!!!! So now, I am teaching classes, knitting even more than I did before (shocking I know,) minding the shop, and commuting 4 days a week. All this in the blink of an eye.

Today's post is about the impact that this new position is having specifically on my sense of self as an artist, my domesticity, and on my Motherhood. Yes, I consider my children to be MickieMade. Or, at the very least, MickieInfluenced. And I am now gone from home almost as much as I am home (when they are awake.) And I am noticing a profound gap. Or two.

Now, let me get my concessions out of the way, right off the bat. Yes, I know EXACTLY how lucky I am that I can afford to choose a side job that is: 1) Part-time, 2) Fulfilling to my personal interests, 3) Helpful to the community in which I participate, 4) A relaxed, supportive, positive work environment, and 5) That Graham is able to work from home everyday to be a steady and consistent presence for The Boys. These are not details I take for granted. Nor can I ignore that there has been an unsubtle shift in my family since we took on this new situation.

Well, Riley is old enough to look me straight in the eye and tell me that he and Everett "miss-ed me while I was at work." And he crawls in my bed in the mornings and says that he wants to just "have a talk and catch me up." You know, as if I've been back-packing across Mongolia for decades.... My Mom was sitting for us one afternoon when Graham had a business trip come up, and when the baby started really crying about something, Mimi asked Riley what he thought would be upsetting to Everett. His reply, "Well, maybe he's sad that his Mom and Dad are gone." Dagger. Heart. Death..... But mostly it's the "average" times that wound me. Like when I watch him boldly fly up our sidewalk on his red scooter, finally daring to lift his timid left foot, and glide. I realize that this trick is a new risk, that has been calculated while I was away at work. It was only a few short months ago that he dared ride the scooter at all, and that was with me by his side over every square inch of pavement. He's learning to be self-sufficient, to need me less for the little things. And that makes me so proud, and so sad at the same time. I do not wish to cripple his will to be independent, but the kid is FOUR YEARS OLD. And, I like him. I mean, I enjoy hanging out with him. All day, everyday. He's a cool little dude. I do not want him to believe we have a friendship, or that I relate to him as a peer, but I would definitely call myself a fan. A lifelong appreciator, if you will.

And I do feel the same basic feelings about leaving Graham at home all day while I go create beautiful things that feed my artistic soul. But I also think of him as a grown man that can balance his missing me and his appreciation that I help earn some bread around here too now, and his support that I am lucky enough to do something so special.

And then there is Everett. 13 months, 10 days old. He already receives different parenting than Riley did at his age, simply because he is the second baby. I have to split my attention between the two of them all the time. But I don't feel like I have the freedom within our new schedule to explore the world with The Boys the way I did when I was at home full-time. I used to jokingly refer to myself as the "Director of Childhood Development" instead of a stay-at-home-Mom. But there's a grain of truth in that reflection. I took Riley to playdates, on grand adventures as we got acclimated to our new city (Chicago at the time,) and we were extremely active in a Moms' Group up there that gave us some of our closest friends to date. And each of these little lifestyle choices helped shape parts of Riley's view of the world. He's still pretty sure that the world is fascinating, and full of cool details that you can find at museums, which should be visited regularly. And that people are awesome, because even in conflict, there is always somebody around that will help you navigate the choppy seas of social structure. Everyday is a chance to reach out into the world, and learn something completely new and exciting. Just pick a direction and boldly go forward. Enjoy the ride. We still behave this way some of the time, but it doesn't have the same heady sense of exuberance when I'm squeezing in these adventures on the 3 days a week I'm home, filling them in around the mundane details of dental appointments, errands, and minimal house-cleaning. There is less hedonistic appeal since we've begun "flying by the seat of our Dayplanner."

With all that longing addressed, there are reasons that I did reach out and grab the chance to work again as well. And financial gain is FAR, FAR down that list. I truly feel like the more time I spend in my work environment, the better I am at making art. Through osmosis or opportunity, or both, I know my knitting, and crafting have improved dramatically. And so has my interest is expressing myself creatively. (Thus a blog.) I mean, it's like this place has just opened a sun roof to my creative self, and I'm driving fast while blasting rock music. I feel curious, alive, helpful, inspired, intellectually stimulated, respected, and valued. My crafting blood is bubbling.

I get the feeling that I have some tweeking to do to improve my work/life balance. But I must say, I do feel a certain tugging at my heartstrings in both directions. And I needed to think it through in a linear sort of way. Hope I didn't drag you too far into my Working Mom Longing. I think it snuck up on me, unaware. So, I am surprised by how torn I do feel, and how entrenched I am at the same time.

~ M ~

Monday, June 20, 2011

Open Sesame

So, I'm here to write my first ever Mickie Made post. Guess I'll just start with what I'm already making.

1) The second of 2 Mardi Gras socks for Riley. His favorite colors are Red, Yellow, and Green. But he likes rainbows too, so my yarn is a jumble of a million shades together. The fabric resembles Mardi Gras to me. I heart Naw-luns, yall! Pattern is from Spud and Chloe. Find it here:  This is my first attempt at something other than plain-jane sock texture patterns. It is super easy to understand, and follow.

2) A lovely Aubergine Pima Cotton/Silk tank top. My first experiment in short rows, and fitted knits for myself. Taken from "Cherry Bomb" in Big Girl Knits.  Has been on my needles for over 2 years... This is the very first knitting for adult sizes (especially Plus-Sized) that I ever started.

3) The softest thing on Earth. Seriously. I do not kid. I'm rocking out a Alpaca/Silk blend Summer-weight cardigan. It's oyster-colored from the silky sheen in the yarn. And after stalking many yarn stores, I've discovered that my favorite blend is from Alpaca with a Twist. The fabric simply floats, and feels super soft, ever shoved down at the bottom of my purse, where the project is being neglected even as we speak. Also, the most expensive single project I've ever undertaken. So far.

4) Nursing Shawls/Baby Blankets: Okay, here are intended recipients.... Jenny Stew, Simone, and Kelly S., I'm looking at you! Your babies deserve these wonderful things I make. I WILL complete them before your children have children of their own. This is also Everett's favorite thing I make. The interesting detail about this pattern is that it is the first one I've ever written "by my own self." I intend to put it up on one of these days...

5) Intarsia Heart Hat: I took a class at with Marie, and am eagerly awaiting another delivery of Blue Sky Worsted to finish this bad boy. So sweet, it almost hurts my fillings. But not quite. Has inspired me to knit a lobster onto a sweater for Everett in the Winter. Color work was easier than I thought, and now I have the confidence to try something else. I'm thinking this: but I am also quite tempted to try using a grid and designing my own lobster pattern for the sweater..... We shall see in good time.

6) I am tinkering with my recipe for Fried Chicken over the Summer too. It's still just not quite spicy enough yet. May try a seasoned buttermilk soak on the next round of breasts.  I finally overcame my sheer exasperation with trying to get a decent temperature on the electric stove. I HATE electric. I LOVE gas. Stupid townhouse.

7) Clams. I was just on vacation on Cape Cod, in Chatham, Mass. and I discovered that I LOVE Steamers. My brother-in-law is also an amazing cook, and made this fabulous butter/shallot/beer sauce, and I am a total convert. I'm 34, and I just found something completely new to really enjoy. It was a really cool thing. My husband is thrilled, and it looks like we'll be hunting around the area to find good clams to try this out at home.

I think that's everything for this little chunk of Heaven. And minutia. Welcome to my world, people.

~ M ~