Saturday, March 17, 2012

Women & Knitting

Have I mentioned my obsession with knitting?
Maybe a bit here.
But to help you fully grasp my love of needle arts, 
and the history behind my passion, 
let me tell you more...  
(And what better month to highlight this little story than Women's History Month!)
My love for knitting was inspired by several different crafty women in my family, even though none of them were knitters.  My grandma Vivian loved to sew and quilt and spent hours and hours bent over a quilt hoop meticulously pushing and pulling the thread along the lines in the pattern.  Her addiction to quilting was so strong that she organized her daily life around 12-1:00 p.m., when her "stories" would come on CBS and she could sit in her rocking chair and work on her latest project while the drama between Victor and Nikki played out on Young & the Restless.. 
Ahh the wonders of plastic surgery...
My mother liked sewing too and made all kinds of neat stuff with her little singer sewing machine.  When I was a little girl she made me all kinds of blankets and toys.  One of my most precious treasures was this little activity book she sewed from scraps of fabric.

the baby lady bugs were always my favorite :)

One of my favorite memories of my mothers sewing was the night we stayed up until midnight working on an extra credit project for my Latin class.  Together we made a wall hanging of ancient Rome that depicted the adventures of Perseus quest to fight monsters in his battle for Andromeda.  It was pieced together from bits of felt and even had a little "ship" that could be Velcro-ed to each continent. 
My Grandma Vivian's sister, Aunt Mildred, didn't sew, but she crocheted and I loved to watch her fingers turn big balls of yarn into lovely baby blankets and hats.  Of course most of the yarn she used was scratchy acrylic and came in crazy colors, but the talent it took to work that little needle in and out of thousands of tiny holes without making a big mess was amazing.
None of this crafty talent really motivated me to try and learn to sew or crochet when I was young, and grad school left me too busy to even think about learning these skills.  But after the mad-rush of exams and job interviews, I started to have more free time.
I also started to really miss my family.  After grad school I took a job that was at least 5 hours away from my hometown.  At this point, my Grandma Vivian and my Aunt Mildred had passed away and my mother was sick with breast cancer.  I was frustrated at the fact that I never took the time to sit down with any of these women to learn from them the how and the why of their art.  I was also longing for a connection, and the ability to produce a handmade article was thrilling.  It would not only make these women proud, it would be a way to carry on their legacy.  
So one night, in the cold of November, I picked up a set of needles and a ball of scratchy acrylic yarn at Wal-Mart and decided to teach myself to knit.  Looking back, I don't know why I picked knitting as no one in my family was a knitter but I do remember wanting a project that didn't require electricity and a kitchen table :). 
I struggled a lot through my first few rows and my first project didn't really turn into anything but I got the hang of it and kept going.  Pretty soon I was obsessed and bought up all the yarn I could find.  I spent hours online looking at videos to make sure I was getting each stitch right and teaching myself new stitches.  I made hats, scarves, mittens, blankets, toys and pretty much anything I could find a free pattern for.  
My first attempt at a hat (that I still haven't finished)
Knitting became a form of meditation that helped me to focus, relax, and most importantly create something.  I found that I really enjoyed giving my knitted goods as gifts and basking in the admiration of friends who would exclaim, "you made that?!"  When my son was born, I found a new sense of pride in my knitting as I wrapped him in a blanket I made myself, or gave him the gift of a handmade toy.

It's an elephant...

and a lion!

Bear's Christmas present :)
To me, each thing I make is special.  It takes me hours, days, even weeks to turn a ball of yarn into something special, something wonderful.  And each time I hold a project in my hands and meditate on what it is going to become, I feel that the piece takes some of me with it to the recipient.  Knitting empowers me to create and allows me to give my love, time, and creativity to other people.  And it allows me to feel a connection to all of the women in my past who took the time to put a little of themselves into the things they made and gave.  It helps me understand how much those women must have loved the people that they made things for.  And it helps me remember how special a handmade gift truly is.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

That time of the year...

Hi there!

Wow, I've been away for a while now.  But I have so many stories to tell!  And I keep getting this tugging in the back of my brain to come back to this blog and fill you in on all the adventures you've missed since I've been away.

Plus, it's that time of year when things are really s-l-o-w at work and I end up on FB a lot anyway - so I might as well go back to sharing the ups, downs, and general chaos that is my life.


Saturday, May 7, 2011


Aaaaaaaaaaand I'm back.

Whoa!  It's been a while!  Did you miss me?

So, what's new at Casa De Rentschler?

Picklebug has graduated from baby to toddler - and so has his nickname.  Gone are his Picklebug days - he is now affectionately known as Bear.  Why Bear?  Besides the fact that he hibernates (my baby is officially the best sleeper ever - just as Guinness) he also lumbers around the house yelling and threatening our cats.

And he is rather cuddly like a bear.  :)

The whole family is settling in nicely to our new house and LOVING all the bonus features.  In fact, MG and I like to play the "what's your favorite part of the house" game where we take turns pointing out all the cool stuff we have access to now.  You know, like back yards, attics, bad-ass-ice-making-refrigerators, the usual.

Home ownership does come with it's downsides.  MG had the distinct pleasure of mowing our lawn last week (and he only did it because I threatened him with the fact that snakes love tall grass).

As you can see he doesn't really like cutting grass.

And me?  I've began knitting again.

In the fall of 2007, just as the leaves were falling off the trees and the temperatures began to drop, I got the urge to make something.

I come from a family of crafters.  Both my grandmothers were sewing machine savvy and my mom was good at just about anything she tried.  I've always enjoyed doing things with my hands, and so in the spirit of my ancestors I went to wal-mart and bought a pair of knitting needles and some blue yarn.  I was determined to succeed and for the most part, I did!

My first finished project was full of mistakes but I was SO proud of myself for figuring out how to do it.  Over the next few months I became obsessed and began hoarding yarn, collecting patterns and started all kinds of knitted projects.

Mr. Goo was a fan.

When Bear came along in 2010, my passion for knitting went on hold - but now that we've settled into a nice routine and I'm finally reclaiming some time for myself, I've picked up the needles again.

I'm currently working on two projects that, so far, I think are turning out beautifully.

First, a scarf for me!

And second, a blanket for baby Grayson!

That's it for now - but hopefully I'll be back again soon!


Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Three Way Switch: A tale of my Dad's awesomeness.

It's true, my Dad can do anything.

For example:

  • He hiked the Grand Canyon
  • He helped me win won three science fair competitions at a 6th, 7th and 8th grade level
  • He built me a tree house without even using a tree
  • He taught algebra to ninth graders in the public school for like, 50 years
  • Did I mention he taught ninth graders algebra in public school?

He's pretty awesome.

So last week when I encountered a major problem with my house, of course he was the first one I had to call.

Me:  Dad, I have a problem with the house.

Dad:  Oh no.  What's the problem?  Washing Machine?  Roof?  HVAC?

Me:  No Dad.  It's the light switches.

Dad:  The light switches?

Me:  Yes, the light switches.  I can't get them all to turn off.

Dad:  You mean you can't turn the lights off?

Me:  No -  they turn off, but one of the switches is still up.  I want them to all be down.

Have I mentioned that I'm a little obsessive-compulsive?

It may seem like a silly detail to you, but this really bothered me.  Something in my gut just wouldn't settle knowing that somewhere downstairs a little switch would be pointing up at the ceiling, like a finger, taunting me all night.

At one point I was pacing up and down the kitchen between the switches thinking that a certain combination of switch flipping would solve the problem.  The next morning I even spent a large chunk of my time browsing the Internet and Googling things like, "how to make your light switches all point down when the lights are off."

That got me no where - so I called Dad.

[note to self: in future crisis, call Dad FIRST]

So Dad then explains to me that I have what's called a THREE WAY SWITCH which is basically a light that is controlled by two switches.  In this case there is a light in the kitchen that is controlled by a switch in the front of the kitchen and by a switch near the back door.

Apparently, whoever installed this three way switch stuck in the wall upside down.  And so in order to turn the light off at night I had to flip one of the switches up.

Very unnerving.

Luckily, Dad had an answer.  Just flip the switch around.

So this weekend when he was in town to help me do a "few things" around the house... that was our very first project.

And now you see that the light is off...

And the switches are down!

Tonight I will rest easy knowing all those stupid switches are facing DOWN.

And just to further impress upon you the AWESOMENESS of my Dad, check out some of our other weekend projects:

hang wind chimes

paint back deck

(okay so the credit for this really goes to MG, my bro Justin and my friend Matt - but Dad totally could have done this if he wanted to)

pour concrete slab at base of back steps

hang Picklebug's shelf and wall decor

install TWO deadbolts
(not an easy task - just ask our babysitter who helped me watch him do it)

and install additional shelf for storage in guest room.

Dad is coming back again in a few weeks to knock out some more projects including:  installing a second electrical outlet in master bath, landscape front yard, install shelf in kitchen and continue hanging pictures.

While he's at it I might see if he wants to pave my driveway, dig out my basement,  install hardwood floors, build a garage and end world hunger.

You know.  'Cause he could if he wanted too.

P.S. Special thanks to my brother Justin, who, in addition to painting my deck (and he HATES painting by the way) managed to assemble this lovely Ikea bookshelf.  So I guess he's awesome too. :)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunny Sunday

Today we took advantage of  the beautiful sunny day and went for a walk around campus.  It was great to get out and enjoy the warmer temperatures and the fresh air - especially considering how chilly and rainy it was yesterday.

It also gave me the opportunity to finally catch up on my photo-taking project (I posted two new pictures on the 52 Photo's page).

There were a few signs of spring in the form of early buds on trees and new flowers pushing up from the earth.

Pickle especially enjoyed the warm weather and took the opportunity to stretch his legs.

I captured a few love-ly images...

And of course when Picklebug saw me messing with the rocks he wanted to help.

He enjoyed playing with the rocks so much, he was kind of mad when we told him he couldn't bring them home with him...

... but despite his frustration, it was a nice little adventure.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Go Dog, Go!

Picklebug turned one last Sunday.

And while I'd love to blog about the stark contrast of this January vs. last January I'm not quite sure I've finished processing all of that emotion enough to coherently convey it to you at this point.

So instead, I'll tell you about Picklebug's Go Dog, Go! party.

Picklebug's FAVORITE book is Go Dog, Go!  This book is a big hit with Picklebug because of all the sound effects MG makes when he reads it.  Picklebug's favorite part is when the dogs "go around in cars" and MG makes lots of "vroom!  vroom!" noises.

The idea for this party came to me when my parents bought Picklebug a Cozy Coupe for Christmas:

I would love to show him enjoying this awesome gift...

but when we brought out the camera he retreated to the box.

Once he became bored with the box, we sat him down in his new car and pushed him around the house shouting: Go dog go! Vroom! Vroom! - which eventually led us to choose the  theme Go Dog, Go! for his birthday party.

In case you aren't familiar with the book, Go Dog, Go! (by P.D. Eastman) is a fun little book about dogs.  Big dogs, little dogs, red dogs, blue dogs, dogs wearing hats, dogs in boats, dogs in cars [you get the idea].

The important thing to know for this post is that at the end of the book, all the dogs go to a big "dog party" in the top of a tree.

I did my best to replicate this scene in the with the cake:

All the guests received their own "dog ears"...

... which we forced them to wear for a quick photo!

Picklebug (just like his mom!) was all about the food...

... and employed his "cuteness" to persuade Nana to share.

He had lots of fun playing with Grampa! 

And loved all of his presents.

(P.S. What gift do you bring to a Go Dog, Go! party?  A puppy of course!)

And the best part of all?  THE CAKE!!

Uh... I mean... SHARING the cake!

After cake, MG read the book of honor to the guests.

And the big finale was a motorized tractor from Grampa Tom...

Why do I get the feeling that next year we'll be having a Farm party?


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Let's do 52!

I don't do resolutions, but I do have some goals for 2011.  One of them was to get a "real" camera and become more familiar with it.  And what better way to do that than to challenge myself with a photo project.

So I'm going to create a tab and add a new photo each week.  I haven't decided on a theme and I'm not going to make a lot of rules to keep this easy - but please check in from time to time and feel free to leave comments!

Here is my first picture!